In Ettin Town, the inhabitants were forging steel armor and spiked clubs, apparently preparing for further invasion. How long would it be before the ettins reached the shores of Peregoth, and sailed in their black-sailed ships to plunder the capital of the greatest nation in the world? Would they eat the men and women of Peregoth too? How long before they killed mother and father and all Varda was under the dominion of Lord Vexor?
Pietro shuddered. He crept carefully through the streets, careful not to touch anything or anyone so that his invisibility would not be betrayed. Step by step, he drew closer to the great Stair that led into Vexor’s palace.
Suddenly a trumpet pealed, and the gates flew open, and a creature who could only be Lord Vexor came walking through. He was taller than the other ettins, and his skin was a darker shade of grey; his eyes were red rather than yellow, and his flowing robes were dark as physically possible. The darkness of the robes seemed to suck in and drain all the color around them, and around Lord Vexor was an incredibly powerful aura; an aura that made Pietro’s skin crawl and nausea fill him, and he felt the urge to vomit.
Vexor was carrying Lefty by the nape of his neck. Pietro followed Lord Vexor into the throne room of the dark palace, and there was an altar. Vexor set Lefty down upon it as if he were as light as an ocean sponge.
“Lefty Lefty,” said Lord Vexor in a gravelly voice. “What poor decisions have you made, letting the pure sacrifice escape. I am powerful in the way of the wise, and the boy’s blood would have been sweet, and there – that thing over in the corner – would be gone.”
“Please!” Lefty screamed. He was crying. “Please! I’ll get him back. I’ll kill him, I’ll gut him, I’ll do anything you want, just don’t hurt me! Please!”
“Little by little I’ll cut off your fingertips, Lefty Lefty,” said Lord Vexor. “Little by little I’ll cut off your toes. The sacrifice you brought may have been better, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun.”
“Please!” Lefty screeched like a dying parrot.
Pietro looked over into the corner. There, on a table, was a giant black paw. As Lord Vexor tortured Lefty, Pietro walked silently over to it.
He heard drums. Then a voice – the voice of Hex – called out, “Grab the paw of Jhub-El.”
Lefty gave out his last shuddering screech, and Lord Vexor turned to the paw.
“The sacrifice did not work,” the ettin lord said. “Lefty Lefty has killed before; his blood is worthless. And I sense… I sense the blood of a pure one near. One who has never killed or hurt another. But why can I not see him?”
Pietro edged toward the paw.
“No one but the ettins have power over the wise way. With what could he be invisible?”
Pietro dropped the cloak. “With the souls of all those you murdered, Lord Vexor. The souls of who perished because of you, the ones you ate.”
Then he grabbed the paw and was transformed.
“What is this, Hex? You said… you said I’d go back to Peregoth.”
“You alone can purify the land.”
“What is this? I’m becoming… a beast!”
“You are becoming Jhub-El.”
“I don’t want to—”
“You wish not to be a god?”
“No, I don’t want to be a god!”
“You alone can heal this land. You are the only one here in this jungle who has never killed.”
“Stop it! Stop the transformation!”
“When I said we killed and ate all the people of Molkoro, I lied. One was set off to sea in a basket; it was a girl. She was swept through the seas to a great city. She is your grandmother. A part of you is here. This is your home.”
“No, I’m not one of them.”
Jhub-El shredded Lord Vexor and gobbled him up. Then he ran through Ettin Town and killed the inhabitants. The process took all day and all night. But soon there was no living thing stirring within the city and the black blood of ettinkind ran up to Jhub-El’s thigh.
Then Jhub-El bounded through the jungle and ran wild. Again, he was sovereign over the land of Molkoro. Again, he was god of this land.
“I’ve committed a terrible deed! I have murdered… thousands.”
“You are now a man,” said the voice of Hex once more. “You avenged your people and the ettins’ threat is no more. Be proud; your people, at last, can rest.”