A very foolish man had once inquired of his esteemed pirate captain; why he continued his reign of terror when he had amassed wealth and power to live like a king for ten lifetimes and then some. Every ring of the universe already knew his name and feared it, he reminded him. There was no treasure great enough left in the entirety of creation to be worth his pains to acquire. It would be all too easy just to take what he had and retire into the comfortable obscurity of omniscient, ever-present terror without the exhaustion of sustaining his iron fist. He had later slaughtered the brazen lowblooded peon for an unrelated offence, but his words had remained long after his death, nagging and cloying in the back of his mind like the stench of rot and decay. What point would there be, indeed, to amassing power, riches, fear, or cultivating a legacy and a name only to have everything he fought for, shed blood for, crumble upon his inevitable demise; picked apart by slithering scavengers until nothing but a broken legend remained. His story was fathoms beyond a garbled cautionary tale told by intergalactic sailors in a drunken stupor before setting out on another long sojourn.
The very utterance of his name made the cosmos quake in terror. Children wept at the mere flicker of a notion that one day, their guardians would run afoul of the shadow of his dread vessel Neptune’s Gambit and be swallowed into its fiery path of destruction. His bloody conquests were blessed and contracted by the Condesce herself. His cruelty and prowess in battle were unmatched by any in recorded history. The mere screech of his Crosshairs was said to open a void into the maw of oblivion for all who heard her fatal refrain, and a far worse fate awaited those unlucky enough to be obliterated by the shot. With his rifle, his leer, and his crew of heartless cutthroats he sailed upon the swiftest stardust and left darkness, destruction, and bitterest woe in his gruesome wake.
He was Orphaner Dualscar.
And he should never be forgotten.
Life obeyed the ebb and flow of fate, of that much he was certain. Never had he been naïve or foolish enough as some of his lesser consorts to believe he could truly live his mortal life forever. One day, his mighty flame would be extinguished and the last breath would leave his chest with his essence to rejoin the energy of the universe in molten, malleable creation. That fate was inevitable, but unlike most, Dualscar was wise enough to realize there was in fact one way to achieve the ever-elusive fantasy of immortality. For immortality, he realized after ponderous sleepless nights awake, lay not so much in the obsession with the time-weary and doomed aspiration of preserving the physical body, but with the preservation of ideas. Ideas could be timeless, ageless, and only intensify in power and mystique while a body could do nothing but wither and shrivel until it crumbled to naught but dust. A name, a legacy, a dynasty like no Troll had ever enjoyed in Alternia’s belligerent annals of history would ensure that even long after his death, his shadow would still stretch across every sun that lit every world in every galaxy of space and time.
All he needed was something to create in his image; a wet lump of innocent clay to dig his claws into to scrape and tear until all fleshy layers of kindness and compassion had been stripped away and all that was left was the stony core for him to bleed his malice directly into. He needed a Troll of his own blood, of his own class and disposition. He needed a youngling snatched from the safety of its Lusus so early his would be the only face his chosen descendent remembered, his voice, his dark lullaby. He needed a ruthless warrior who would one day bow upon one knee and take from him the weapon with which he had built his empire of terror and take it up to continue seamlessly where his own reign had ended.
What he needed, was an heir.
A proper heir would ensure he lived on forever in the consciousness of existence and would never be erased. The only obstacle was actually returning to his home planet and procuring one. The permission of her Imperial Condescension was certainly an unnecessary trifle for a short trip back to Alternia. Despite the fact all fully-grown Trolls were still decreed banished, she needed not be bothered with his own personal agenda. Even if she somehow became privy to his minute transgression at some point, he knew her anger at him would be short lived and he could charm himself out of trouble with hardly any effort at all. The decision was a simple one, and with an unfettered direct order, nothing more, Dualscar ordered his mighty vessel back in the direction of home nearly forgotten. Neptune’s Gambit made the journey before it could be detected by any of the Condesce’s imperial security and made its way straight for the vast seas to seek out the hive of a worthy young seadweller.
It was easy enough to spot such a distinctive dwelling, even from the air, but even Dualscar was impressed that the very first domicile they chanced upon happened to be an old shipwreck perched cozily above the surf among the rocks of a tiny island. He alone descended back to the land, Ahab’s Crosshairs in hand and stony purpose etched into his scarred face. His boots crunched in the cool sand and the tumultuous ocean air rumbled overhead as he watched the silhouette of the doting seahorse flit and flicker across the orange glow of the hive windows. So much like his own Lusus, comforting, calming, and yet the sudden twinge in his chest and the stall of his feet surprised him. Thousands of Trolls had been made orphans at his hand without a single iota of conscience to perturb him afterwards. How odd, he mused, to have a flash of remorse. Perhaps it was because it was to be a senseless killing; a robbery with no greater purpose for the life of noble custodian of a fellow seadweller. Perhaps in the furthest recesses of his psyche, Dualscar doubted himself and his grand design. Or perhaps he knew he could never hope to replace the companionship and protection of a true and nurturing Lusus. Either way, he rapidly extinguished all glimmers of hesitation or doubt, steeled his black will, and marched toward the door of the hive.
The seahorse sensed the shadow that had fallen over their home and danger approaching. Dualscar should have known to expect it. The very moment the door exploded and splintered into a thousand deadly missiles at his weapon’s devastating blow the great beast was upon him. His charge safely stowed and hidden elsewhere in their home, he came at the intruder with the unbridled fury of a tempest, hissing a banshee wail with fins flared and bristling. The coiled tail sent the pirate reeling before he even saw the flash of pure white armor, and he crashed down amidst the rubble of the front door, smirking and impressed. It truly was a pity to destroy such a magnificent creature. The seahorse charged again, only to meet the butt of the Crosshairs as it whined and recharged for a second blast. Dualscar rose to his feet, a blur of blinding blue and purple satin, grinned at his opponent and flew to meet him in combat once more. Two bodies clashed and tangled violently. Glass shattered, two warriors cried out in pain, there was a scuffling of boots and scales on the ancient ship’s floor planks, then finally a deafening blast cracked like thunder and rocked the crumbling ship to its foundations.
A spray of royal purple spattered across the floor.
Heavy footsteps shuffled past a broken, coiled white body that whickered its last and strained its muzzle toward the respite block where the door was open just an inch. Dualscar paid it no heed. He pushed the door before him open slowly, the creak of it shuddering and echoing coldly into the darkness, light bleeding in a sharp angle and spilling across the child’s room. Fantastic adventure books lay scattered across the floor and piled on a stand near the recouperacoon. Elaborately carved wooden and bone wands, capes, and spangled wizard hats dotted the cozy little block, along with treasures, tattered old maps of worlds long forgotten, bangles and sentinel figurines of wizened sorcerers holding crystal balls and powerful staves.
Dualscar’s lips quirked wryly to the side, amused at the sight, and he took one cautious step across the threshold. An unseen wand snapped loudly in half under his foot, staying his trek, but the sharp sound caused a yelp of terror and a purple cape draped suspiciously over the desk to flutter and jerk frantically. Shrewd yellow eyes hooded, and he made his way slowly over where something small and trembling coiled tightly around itself underneath. Crouching down on one knee slowly, he reached one hand out, gathered the silken fabric into it finger by finger, and gently pulled to unveil the terrified little Troll trying in vain to hide.
No more than two or three sweeps old, by the look of him, the boy gasped and turned frightened, wide golden eyes up toward his would be assailant. His hair was midnight black, like all of their kind, but Dualscar was pleased to see a shock of deep, rich purple at his forehead. His black shirt bore the same jagged insignia emblazoned on his chest that he did and the budding horns arcing back over his head were already sharply angular. His fins were drawn in close in abject terror, but the tears standing in his wavering eyes were unmistakably tinted with exactly the blood caste he had hoped to find. However, Dualscar was pleased when shock faded quickly from his face and the boy grit his jagged teeth, eyes flicking around his imposing form and around the room for something, anything, a way to defend himself, a way out, a way to live or go down fighting. Just what he longed for. He was perfection.
“Don’t be afraid, lad,” he crooned soothingly as he reached a hand out to card his strong fingers into the wavy black and purple locks, “I’m here to rescue you. To save you from a dull, pathetic life… To take you on the adventure of a lifetime… I’m here… To make you into everything you ever DARED to imagine… To make all your dreams come true.”
The little Troll relaxed under Dualscar’s soothing touch and his deep, rich voice that promised adventure and a life unparalleled by any other. Much to his delight, he even sat up, the fear on his face melting away into innocent curiosity as he wiped the tears from his eyes and studied this strange, brash explorer that had appeared, so very like magic, that fateful evening. In silence, they studied one another, master and apprentice, forging the unspoken bond that would spirit a boy away from his home and everything he had ever known.
“What’s your name?” Dualscar asked at length.
“E-Eridan,” the boy replied in a tiny voice, which he promptly corrected with an air of aristocracy, “Eridan Ampora.”
A grin split the craggy, scarred face in twain in the darkness.
“Very well then, young Master Ampora. Shall we go?”
Eridan nodded and accepted the strong arms that gathered him up, swathed him in the cape, and hid him from the grisly wreckage of the life he agreed to abandon to the mists of memory. Later, Dualscar would tell the boy the heroic story of how he had rescued him from a terrible monster just keeping him to eat when he grew big and strong. Later he would show him everything that would one day be his; the ship that was the throne of his vast empire, his subjects that bowed with utmost reverence for their new prince as they walked by hand in hand, and the limitless vibrant ocean of the universe they would sail together. But in that moment, both were content in their newly blossomed trust, their arms around one another, the promise of something incredible, and the jeweled devotion of the greatest treasure the greatest pirate that had ever lived had plundered.