The Exile King, the Mad Mutant


Exile to the surface is one of the most brutal punishments that can be levied against those who spend their entire lives deep in the caverns, safe from the burning sun or storms of blight. It is a wasteland of mutant horrors, radiation and the endless yawning sky-chasm above. Many die to any of the countless hazards of the wastes, others adapt and cling desperately to survival. A few even thrive, carving out tiny irradiated fiefdoms, ruling over other Exiled and slaves.   And then there's Ahad.   The Mad Mutant and the Exile King, the vicious wars he brought still scar the city-states that he ravaged. He made them look at those they had exiled and fear gripped their hearts.    

Forged in Betrayal

  Once the son of a smith and the officer in a militia in a wealthy city-state in the Outer Shell, there are differing accounts of the crime that saw him branded, chained and banished to the surface world. In the most popular retelling of his story, Ahad was duped by more powerful men who coveted his position and riches. They gained his trust and betrayed him, blaming him for a catastrophic defeat that they themselves had engineered. When their assassins failed to slay him, they convinced his peers to turn against him and he was damned to surface exile.   At that first moment as he stood blinking in the sun, Ahad swore revenge.   Revenge drove him to surpass mere survival. He adapted and waited, even as radiation twisted his flesh and warped his mind. He thrived in the wasteland, fighting and killing and gaining in hatred every day that passed beneath the blighted sun.  

A King of Wretches

  Ahad's quest began in earnest as he stumbled upon a splinter of the Third Eye Tribe. Cannibals and mutants, these were Exiled who had spent generations on the Surface and been warped by life there. Ahad beat their leader to a bloody pulp and claimed his place. They were his first disciples and he ruled with an iron hand. With them, Ahad begun to expand.   Every Exile that crossed his path was given the same choice - join his warband or join its larder. Prospectors, miners and adventurers that came to the surface in search of wealth were taken as slaves or eaten, their weapons added to the horde. What was first a band of wasteland marauders began to grow and so did Ahad's dreams of bloody vengeance.  

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  Things came to a head as Ahad first clashed with the full Third Eye Tribe. The ravenous mutants were skillful and vicious fighters that knew they land and were able to strike then disappear without a trace. But Ahad's will was greater and after a particularly bloody engagement, he caused an avalanche of ice down upon the Tribe's Chieftain and his main force. In full view of both camps, he tore the chieftain's heart from his chest and devoured it. With that, a warband became an army.   By this time, Ahad's mutations had grown steadily worse and while his genius remained undiminished, his ravenous hatred had become almost uncontrollable. He had become king of the irradiated wasteland and now his thirst for blood had become too great to restrain.  

The Mad Mutant's Crusade

  Ahad's home had long since forgotten him and resumed their regular routine of bickering, assassination and petty ploys. When Ahad's army of mutants and scavenger first loomed on the gash in the earth that connected their realm to the surface, they saw opportunity and not danger. They figured they could betray their rivals to the horde and then route them.   The Exile King quickly showed them the error of their ways, waging a terrible campaign of retribution. The first force sent against him were goaded to follow him out into the surface, then made to stay where the sun would blind and weaken them. Those who made it back to the caverns spoke of a terrible slaughter: cannibals who devoured their still living prey as the battle still raged, of weapons poisoned by blight and worse. Then they returned to the surface and the first settlement - Yahl - was sacked and its inhabitants slain or enslaved.   Meanwhile, his enemies bickered. No one wanted to risk their own resources so that a rival could take advantage. Assassins were sent and failed, all but cementing Ahad's aura of invincibility to both his thralls and foes. Their response was slow and insufficient, and by the time they had realized the severity of their error, it was too late. Ahad razed the city where he had been born and his army tore its citizens apart in a week-long feast of violence, looting and terror. Those few who survived were driven out into the deserts of the Surface.   The Exile King had gotten his taste of blood and victory. He wanted more.  

The Seven Year Slaughter

 


From here, Ahad's army started to fracture. Many of the Exiles were eager to return to the life they had known before and settle in the ruins to enjoy the spoils of victory. But Ahad had come to see himself as a force of divine retribution, an avenging storm that would drive every soul out into the sun to be burned by its rays.   Nothing remained of what had once been a blacksmith's apprentice, a loyal officer and dutiful father.

   

A Return To The Deep
Most of the Exiled wanted nothing else once they had returned to the depths and escaped the harsh, unforgiving surface. Ahad's crusade saw the greatest number of Exiled ever escaping back into the caverns with many deserting as soon as they could.

    The city-states that surrounded his first victim were beginning to take notice of the carnage as more and more outlying settlements and travelers were condemned to cages and cooking-pots. The city-state of Thalarn was the second to fall and face the butcher's blade and its king fled with warnings of the storm to come to his neighbors.    

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    At first, he was met with disbelief. Few city-states could imagine that Exiles could wage any sort of war, let alone against them. The horde was met and repulsed at the subterranean defenses of Ruâ by the quick-thinking engineers who collapsed enough tunnels to threaten the cannibal-horde to be cut off from its supplies, causing them withdraw. Disbelief was replaced first with fear, then with terror and tunnels clogged with those seeking to escape the slaughter that had now grown well out of Ahad's control. Splinters had gone in all directions, killing and looting indiscriminately while Ahad focused his attention on the cities.   The struggle continued for years as individual city-stated waged independent campaigns the rampaging armies of Ahad. The Exiles forces had taken to forcing their captives to take up arms and form the front line, with mixed success. Raids and skirmishes were frequent enough that aid and arms begun to arrive from more distant city-states.   In the end, the story of the Mad Mutant's defeat is often exaggerated. Attrition, from battle and desertion, was beginning to tell and the Exile King was forced back, cavern by cavern and tunnel by tunnel. Finally, it seemed like his crusade would end.  

The End of the Exile King

  Almost as soon as Ahad's retreat into the surface wastes began did the campaign against him begin to disintegrate. Waging war on the Surface was harsh and dangerous, with more falling the its many hazards then actual battle. Those more distant to the fray begun to pull their forces back while others argued among themselves and squabble about the glory.   In the end, betrayal doomed Ahad to the surface and it doomed his conquests to fail. Once his defeats begun to mount, those who had begun as loyal followers smelled blood. In the battle of the Bloody Glacier that followed, those closest to him turned and left him against an overwhelming force. When the battle was over, the armies of the Exile King scattered in all directions and the Mad Mutant was nowhere to be seen.    

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Aftermath

  As much as the idea of punishing the Exiles might have been discussed, none of the victors had the stomach for such a campaign. The seasonal storms had begun in earnest and blight-poisoning was running rampant among their ranks. Life returned to normality, but those who dwell in the caves were reminded of those whose lives that had condemned to the surface and that they had not forgotten, nor forgiven. For a time, exile ceased to be a popular punishment for misfits and malcontents. Slowly but surely, things returned to cruel normality.  

A Looming Specter

  Among the victors, at least three scores claim to have slain the Mad Mutant but his body was never recovered. To this day, there are those who claim that he lives still and every decade or so another warlord attempts to claim to be the Exile King. So far, none have succeeded.   But the Third Eye Tribe still waits. They remember the spoils of war, the conquest, the feast of fallen armies. They remember and wait for the Exile King to return so the feast can begin anew.  
Third Eye Tribe
  After generations on the surface, the Third Eye Tribe's degeneration through mutation and more insidious terrors have remade them entirely. They're one of the largest and more dangerous tribes of Exiled to ever roam the waste and since Ahad's defeat, they've replenished their numbers.   Read more about the Third Eye Tribe
   

Tyrant's Legacy

  Not all are content to simply wait.   Where the Exiled had once seen nothing beyond daily survival, the Exile King's tale have ignited the fire of ambition and fury in the heart of wasteland warlords. Ever since his passing, splinters of his horde have survived and formed tribes of their own. These tribes are different than those who came before, more organized and more willing to engage with each other and those who come from the deep.    

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The Ice-Howl
  A small band of enterprising Exiled used the chaos and fear left in wake of the Exile King's war to stake a claim on the easiest path to a glacier for which a cavern-city relies upon for its water. Even the threat of disruption to the daily supply of water and ice have been enough for the cave-dwellers to deal with the Ice Howl tribe.
  Below, attitudes have changed too. Before the Mad Mutant, the Exiled were rarely thought about and never a threat. The Seven Year Slaughter forever changed the way the Outer Shell viewed those banished to the surface and the tribes like the Third Eye have earned a special place in campfire tales and horror stories.   Now, every city that borders the Surface that know of the war have been forced to reconsider the Exiled who live just above them. Some policies have lead to trade, cooperation and in the precious rare cases even reintegration, while others champion extermination raids to "cull" the Exiled.

The Exiled   'The Exiled' is a catchall term for those unfortunate souls sentenced to be branded and forced into the Surface World, never again to enjoy the sanctuary of the caverns below.   Some band together to survive the harsh elements and horrific beasts, while a rare few survive for generations past their initial exile, like the infamous Third Eye Tribe.   Read about the Exiled
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Comments

Author's Notes

2018-07-10: Updated the opening passage. Proofread, fixing embarrassing errors. :D   2018-07-12: Added sidebar about deserters, links to placeholder articles, quote for Third Eye Tribe. Added more political-y bits/consequences in Legacy section.


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9 Jul, 2018 19:44

First, the artwork is gorgeous and heavily detailed in a way to have a precise tough about the "altered", "mutated" aspect. And that, it's a key into the creation of a character who is extremely important visually for our idea of "him". What other is gorgeous ? The entire article. Each part is deeply developed, and have its importance. Just for that, you merit your lil'hearty like.

10 Jul, 2018 10:03

Thank you kindly!

9 Jul, 2018 20:47

cool! I love the detail you went into for his history

10 Jul, 2018 10:08

Thank you kindly!   I tried treating it as a historical event as much as the tale about a person. I believe the thought that started it all was something like "what if Genghis Khan was a cannibal-mutant and really angry about it". :)

9 Jul, 2018 21:45

An excellent article with a great amount of detail about the Exiled Warlord. One bit of constructive criticism I can give is to make sure you proofread your articles to check for spelling errors and typos (mine are usually chock-full with them). I see a lot of potential in your story-telling and look forward to seeing more. Well done!

10 Jul, 2018 10:04

That's what I get for rushing things out in my excitement. ;)   I did a pass on grammer and typos, as well as tightened up some of the language at the top of the article. Thank you for commenting and pointing that out!

9 Jul, 2018 21:50

Dang. That's impressive. Sounds like a really compelling story there too, with lots of interesting political aspects.

10 Jul, 2018 10:06

Thank you!   I wanted to focus more on the events rather then details of the personality, to make it something for players or in-universe characters to now have to deal with, one way or another. :)

10 Jul, 2018 12:03

That's a very clever way of doing that! Good call.

12 Jul, 2018 15:04

Hi Kaleb!   Since you specifically mentioned the political aspects, I thought'd be worthwhile to expand upon that even if it was only with a paragraph or two. I put it under the Legacy piece. Hopefully, you'll find it was the kind of interesting political changes and consequences you talked about! :)   Thanks for inspiring that!

13 Jul, 2018 09:40

Well-done! It was well thought out and very plausible consequences for the events of the war. Appreciated the addition!

13 Jul, 2018 10:10

Thank you for asking it! :D   I wanted to have something that would both change the existing power dynamic and also provide story hooks, both for other entries and for potential player stories. So, thanks for inspiring it! :D

15 Jul, 2018 22:11

Glad to! Always a pleasure to help give people new ideas!

12 Jul, 2018 16:27

This is an excellent article. He's exactly the kind of mad king that you want to have on your side. But maybe at arm's length. Because you never know if he'll just turn around and kill you on a whim.

12 Jul, 2018 16:42

Immortan Joe meets Genghis Khan, inside a mutagenic vat.   Thank you kindly :) He's not a nice guy, but it's questionable whether or not the people who exile innocent people for greed or pettiness are worse or not. It doesn't really excuse the slaughter, but it adds some complexity to the situation. Or that's the goal, at least! :D

12 Jul, 2018 16:30

Ooooh, I love your writing style. This is incredibly well done, seriously - I could see this being published. The formatting makes it easy to read without being a block of text, and I'm at a loss to find any possible criticism. I love that you left his final fate vague, so that none truly know what happened - do you have plans in this vein further along, by any chance?

12 Jul, 2018 16:36

Wow, that is very high praise, thank you! :)   For the Mad Mutant specifically? I'm not sure. In the same way the Shrike, my hero, became a larger then life thing that spread well beyond the initial acts. Araea is very much a world of incomplete information. Will the Exile King rise again? It's possible!   Was that what you meant, or were you thinking about a different vein? :) I'd love to know so I can answer better!

13 Jul, 2018 00:19

Exactly what I was thinking! You have a brilliant plotline there, and I'd love to see it develop later down the line if you plan on placing stories in your world. The use of incomplete information is such a good tactic!

13 Jul, 2018 05:57

The adventure hook for the players: "The Return of the Exile King" could definitely be a thing. It might even be the hook I use for the "story that could happen in your world" prompt, now that I think about it.   But I am most pleased that you enjoyed the read :) Thank you

12 Jul, 2018 17:21

i really like how you divided up this characters story into sections, and each of them is greatly detailed. fantastic job on the article! this guy definitely makes for an interesting villain.

12 Jul, 2018 17:23

Thank you kindly! :)   I wanted to focus more on the beats of his story then the details of his being. Seems to have worked!

12 Jul, 2018 17:22

Good pick for artwork! I like the block about the exalted. I'd love to see more blocks like that up and down the side to get a feel for it all! Great work!

12 Jul, 2018 17:23

I still need to figure out some of the BBC and CSS stuff, for sure. :D Thanks!

12 Jul, 2018 20:25

I really love how this article evolves over time, moving from his unjust exile to him turning into a man that would have been justly exiled. It's a little sad!   I think the part of him ripping his foe's heart out is metal as hell, and I love it. I also adore your formatting! The little quote snippets read like a newspaper or magazine article re-telling of this, and it inspires me! : D

13 Jul, 2018 05:58

It's very much a world of moral grey and, as you say, heavy metaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaal!   I'm glad you liked it, even more so if it inspired ya. :) Thank you!