The Djinn Trials
Temujin (From his perspective)
I was brought up in a cruel world. The times were consumed with turmoil, and barbaric acts were typically considered acceptable behavior. We were raised to be strong enough to withstand any obstacles that would come our way, and we were always told to respect the strong warriors. Many times, it was this way or death. Once I accepted the way things were, I knew it was only a matter of time before I’d become the greatest of them all, and I never doubted that for a single moment.
My early years were tough as I was traded around from family to family, causing a detachment from my peers. I imagined a world where I could live with my family without having to worry about being traded as if I were a piece of meat. At one point, I even killed my half-brother during a hunting expedition just over a simple little argument. It was infuriating to jump from one family to another, to the point where I lashed out on the warriors I had once respected. They didn’t allow much of this and disciplined me to the point that I couldn’t even move my body from the pain they inflicted.
Performing this ritual many times, each time I grew stronger. Yet I knew greater strength was achievable. The warriors who performed the punishment saw that potential, so they took me under their wing and taught me the ways of the warrior. I understood everything they taught me, and I accepted all of their teachings with great enthusiasm. It was a way to redirect my anger.
Throughout my younger years, I had seen many warriors leave without coming back. It was the way of our people, and no one ever thought otherwise. Their wives and children would be upset, but it was tradition that once you reached a certain age, you were to join the warriors, if you were male. Each of the masters I had learned under eventually left the clan and joined the heroes of distant lands. Once in a great while, one would return to tell us stories of huge battles where many warriors had died. This news would always sadden the clan, but the sadness was alleviated when they heard of the honor those warriors received.
It was such a strange thing to hear, and I didn’t understand why anyone would be happy that their relatives died for a cause that was not necessarily their own. So as time went by and many of these occurrences seemed to blur together, I soon thought it was time to give myself a cause. I knew I’d be the person to unite a nation. I idealized the thought and centered myself around it, and it was the one thought that pushed me through the hardest times in my life.
I joined the great army of the Mongolian Empire and proved my worth to the superiors. The generals were pleased with my ruthlessness and ability to push boundaries. I hacked and slashed my way, and proved my skill with the sword, defeating many foes in honorable combat. I chose not to kill or maim any of the women or children because I never believed that was the right thing to do, which couldn’t be said for the rest of the army. Very few rules were in place, and frequently the ones that were, went unenforced. Many times I stopped the brutal attacks on the innocent only to be punished myself, many times to the point of near death. I still stuck to my morals.
One day, we arrived in a village that had been controlled by the Naimans, a group that was separate from my own. Word had traveled through the lands that I could not be defeated in combat, and I soon encountered a strange man who decided to challenge me.
Somehow, I could tell something was different with this man, because he could read me in a way I never knew another could.
We fought in a battle of blades that was long and grueling. He effortlessly met every single blow I attacked with, yet he never pushed the battle. He let me exhaust myself, and after more than an hour of fighting, the man rested his sword. I was exhausted from the epic fight, yet the man hadn’t even shed a single drop of sweat. He was impressed with my skill but didn’t want to fight me tired, so he waited until I had caught my breath. Once I realized what he was doing, I charged at him and he jabbed his sword into my side and I fell to the ground. My cheap shot had just cost me everything.
The crowd gathered around at the unimaginable defeat that I had succumbed to after such a long, victorious reign. I thought all was lost and I was wounded beyond repair since he had struck a vital organ. The pain I felt was unbearable and death was near, but I was closer to death than I dreamed.
When the last moment of life approached, and the coldness of the afterlife waited, the general bent down and whispered into my ear, “You are to do great things. This is not your time to die, so wake and arise.”
I rose, but couldn’t believe my eyes. He placed his hand over the wound and healed it with magic that frightened me and my people. We didn’t know where this sorcerer had come from, and although he appeared to be a great general, he was actually a man of magic.
He beckoned me to have a talk. The others had run off due to their fear of the unknown, and even though I feared this man, I overcame my terror and walked with him. We walked a long way before he spoke as we found ourselves at the edge of a river.
He said to me, “I have a power for you, Temujin, a great power if you wish to have it. You may call me Diabolos, and I have this immense power of strength and clarity, and you will be able to see things you couldn’t even imagine right now. You will be able to defeat many more foes and become the greatest general of your time. I’m willing to give this all to you in return that you only extinguish those who deserve the punishment.”
“Why me? Why am I the chosen one?”
“I need you to be my sword here and now. Your blood is that of the ancients, the Magi. I need you to send the wicked to me by taking their life force before they can do more harm.”
“How will I know which ones are evil?”
“The smell will tell you. The essence will fill your mind with images, allowing a clear fate for you and your peers. Will you accept this gift?”
Diabolos didn’t give me any time to think about the ramifications of the decision. I didn’t want or need any more time. He knew I desired more power and that I’d do nearly anything to achieve the next pinnacle. Once he placed his hands on my chest, I felt a rush like no other. Power electrified my blood, each limb gaining a strength that had never been known.
Unfortunately, this amazing gift turned into a curse, which I soon understood. The world I knew was not nearly as innocent as I had once believed, even in its brutality. The men I had once proudly acknowledged as my superiors disgusted me, and the politicians were some of the most despicable humans I could have known. They would use their positions to frivolously engage in filthy activities, and it drove me insane.
I had become so powerful in the political world, as well as the military, although I was no longer able to distinguish guilt from innocence. I started killing the innocent alongside the guilty, and in turn had become what I so despised. I was a pawn of the devil, and he had me at his disposal. Diabolos helped me create the greatest Mongolian Empire to ever exist, yet never was I to enjoy it. The thought of bringing the world together as one no longer meant anything to me.
Over the years, many assassination attempts were made upon my life, and they had little chance of ever being successful because I could sense them coming. After a few years, the scent turned into a sensing ability. I no longer depended on smell alone because I could feel the presence of others, and I used it as a tool to make others think I was a military genius.
Once this trick of the mind developed, I became less heartless and allowed tribes and villages the option to join me without resistance. They didn’t even need to convert to our religion. Everyone was allowed freedom of their spiritual guidance. If they denied my offer of assimilation and attempted to oppose me, I was completely merciless in their destruction. It wasn’t a morally right thing to do, but it was necessary for my vision of unity.
Knowing that for me to gain the backings of the entire army, I had to be fair, yet unopposed, and I couldn’t just allow those who resisted the Mongolian Empire to be free. They would try to destroy part of what had been created, and even those who joined the ranks were never far from my all-seeing eyes. I’d leave spies in each one of the villages that joined us just to make sure no one wanted to resist my power.
The treacherous groups were all to be killed if any opposition was foreseen, but fortune shined on me. There wasn’t much resistance, especially when word spread that I uncannily exposed lies. Not only were the rebellious villages punished, but those of my army trying to deceive me were handed the same fate.
I allowed my warriors to take what they wanted from the villages that we did destroy, and this turned out to be a marvelous idea. The horde reveled in it. That is why it was soon universally good to join rather than oppose. The proposal of spoils for doing what they were told became the highest motivation, but it also led to villages that gave in suffering the same fate because of my horde’s greed. This was one detail I had a problem with controlling because there were far too many under my power.
Paying attention to every aspect of war was about the only way of coping with my gift. As the years progressed, I became stronger and more focused and they considered me a great ruler, ever-expanding my kingdom. My desire to make one world overtook my desire to kill eventually, which pleased me in words I cannot describe. The fury had not decreased, but I had something to continuously distract me from it.
I’d allow free reign of my people as long as when battle time came they would come to assist, and I was always at the frontlines of the battles which always impressed my fellow warriors. I showed no fear and so they should not. Soon, I understood the motives of the opposing tribes, and for this reason, I knew the Mongolian nation would never fully become one nation with our neighbors.
It went so quickly and yet during those days, it seemed to never end. Death came much quicker than I had ever imagined, and Diabolos was there to watch me fall. He never smiled, only watched, and it seemed that the end of my life provided no enjoyment to him. I never knew if anyone had ever seen him besides me, but he was waiting for the moment I died to tell me how I failed. I failed to suppress the urge of killing the innocent.
My death came at a battle with a group called the Tanguts who had studied me and my abilities far better than any other opposing group. They were the only group to completely overwhelm my troops as I wasn’t properly prepared from complacency. They rained down enough arrows to turn day into night and massacred all my people. I couldn’t have imagined how they knew I was coming until Diabolos approached me immediately before my passing moment.
“Look upon the army that laid you to waste. Look at the general that caused your defeat.”
I scanned the area, and at the center of the horde, I noticed a black smoke surrounding one man. “Is he Death? Did Death finally come for me?”
Diabolos nodded, “Yes, that is my brother of the Old Ones. You used your gift on the innocent and now the innocent have taken it from you. Do you have anything to say?”
“I only wanted one world together. It was my one wish.”
“I’m not bringing you with me. You are to watch as the world continues without you, separate from your body. You are to watch as the world shows you things you never could imagine and soon, others will come. Warn them of your own ways to keep them from the same fate.”
I knew at that moment that all the mistakes I had made over the years were coming back to haunt me, but I couldn’t be angry. The moment my head was removed from my body, my spirit entered the state I exist in now, not dead or alive, but an existence in Purgatory.
I watched as my heirs squandered away the empire I helped build. Greed and corruption soon followed my death, and they never performed the duties they were passed down to perform. They became excessively cruel leaders who only wanted to tax and live in luxury, tarnishing my family name’s reputation. Never valuing anything I held near to my heart, they caused me great distress as I could do nothing about it. They had fooled me in my life as I kept myself distracted and I could only see their true hearts after death.
Occasionally, I was able to jump in their dreams, attempting to give advice. My warnings were placed on deaf ears as they didn’t believe otherworldly words. Dreams meant little to them other than something that happens when a person is sleeping. Money, power, and women ruled their worlds and nothing else mattered.
Not all who became heirs acted this way and as one of my sons expanded the empire well after my death, I was most proud of him. His honor far exceeded my disappointment with the others, and I followed him until his death, watching and waiting, always hoping that I would be able to leave this sort of existence. So I drifted through the years, time becoming meaningless. I learned to follow the Old Ones, understanding their ways. They asked numerous times if I’d like to move on, but I always declined, accepting Purgatory as my home. I realized that to atone for my past discretions, I’d warn those who were given the same deal as me.
The moral of my tale is to treat others with the respect that life deserves. Visions of a greater future are wonderful driving forces, but if they require the elimination of innocence in the process, what good is actually being done?