WITHIN THE NURSERY, SOMEWHERE BEYOND MIDWORLD
Shapes, Oaths and Laws — these were the tools of order used by Gods and Archons.
Creatures like the Demon were unbound by such trivial matters. He preferred the malleable word, the obscuring shadow and a lawless reality. Of course, he had uses for Pacts, just as even the greatest of liars and thieves had uses for steel. He always believed that those who cannot be constrained cannot help but also be contrary.
And so, when the Demon entered the Nursery, with rain and battle clangouring nearby, it cared little for the wards and runes that sought to keep it out. Once, he had the strength of a hundred thousand devoured souls to lend him power enough to turn the Wards. But without the Tome, older methods had to suffice. After all, had he not witnessed its creation thousands of years ago?
As he stepped through the spaces between spaces, he remembered the time when Mortals discovered runes and writ. They thought that they had found a way to forever preserve their words. “Here was a way to stay immortal” they believed “Our thoughts and our speech would last for as long as these writings would. We have defeated death!”
But even engraved stone and runed steel turns to dust and rust in the end. The ages themselves eat away at purpose and definition. And there is also the glory and power of Context. With it, words change their meaning. They can lose their worth.
It was in this way that the Demons turned the very Wards meant to keep him out of the Nursery against the place’s Warden.
Breaking the Warden was easy. Even her taciturn features showed shock when he arose from the darkness before her and shattered her back against the wall again and again. She held true, of course, but she failed in the end – just as he had foreseen.
Then, he sent the Warden tumbling back into Freehold – a message that the Demon hoped they would understand. In this case, the Context was right but the Freefolk were always too feebleminded to know when to quit and to surrender. Nevermind that so many of them drank power from the Demon hungrily and many more bought from his markets. And with their souls and their coin, he grew and festered in the underbelly of civilization.
Casting the broken Warden upon the doors of their precious Inn was merely a warning, naturally. It was always better to give the warning first, for the spineless many that would be dissuaded by it and flee instead of fight. It would be they who lived while the brave died by the droves — as it always had been with the Demon.
When the Warden returned to do battle once more, the Demon was only slightly surprised. He should not have been. Was she not once Freefolk? Had she not sacrificed everything to contain the evils of this place? Had she not even deny herself the rest of the Afterlife to save her kin?
It was natural then that the fly would return to the spider’s web — foolish, weak and resolved, to be bound by him and crippled. The Warden was the Nursery after all – it would not do for the Nursery to be destroyed. He had work here to do and it was drudgery of the worst sort.
In the end, he had never meant to breach the Nursery. He had never meant to unleash its inmates upon Midworld. Destruction and desolation were never his goals – only his tools. Yet, the Freefolk had forced his hand, just as the Justicar had done decades ago.
They put him to this.
After the destruction of Freehold was over and done, the Demon would move on and start anew. Eternity was a long time and the only deathless thing in Midworld was chaos.