The Crimson Monster
The Crimson Monster is a tale of battlefield horror. Of what happens when people lose themselves to bloodlust and carnage. It is a grim tale and most variants lack a happy ending. For many it is a warning, for some an inspiration. The Crimson Monster is an embodiment of all the pointless cruelty of war and all the bloody tragedy that follows in its wake. It symbolises all who call for such conflict, be they profiteers, crusaders, patriots or madmen. The Crimson Monster is the bane of the common soldier and the patron of killers. When it descends upon the battlefield, only death and madness is to be expected. Their red realm is one bereft of honor and compassion. No quarter is given and none will be asked for.
Around their campfires and huddled in their barracks, soldiers tell of the Crimson Monster. When blood flows like wine on the battlefield and gore lies so thick men must wade through it, then the very skies avert their eyes from the carnage below. And as everything good in the world disavows the folly of mortals, a new sky opens up. One bereft of all light but a great, crimson moon, said to be forged from the bodies of all who have been lost to war. Under its cursed light, the Crimson Monster descends. It feeds on death and decay, desiring only to see the horrors of war multiplied a thousandfold. Under the cursed light of the dread harbinger moon, mortals are consumed by madness. The slaughter increases, as all sense of decency, compassion and mercy are excorsized from the world by the baleful crimson light. The massacred orchestrated by the Crimson Monster is such taht the ground is left tainted, a stain of death that leaves behind a corrupt and twisted mire of corpses. And so soldiers warn one another that one should be careful not to lose one's head in battle or take too much joy in the bloodshed. Or else the Crimson Monster might come for them.
People who study demonology are fairly certain the Crimson Monster is a demon, specifically Dahlia, Queen of Blood. The attributes associated with the Crimson Monster correspond fairly well with some of the powers she has demonstrated. As for how it happened, the most common theory is that the story comes from the reports of survivors. Throughout the Age of War, Dahlia has been called upon in a number of battles and no ordinary soldier would be a match for her. Given her powers and the confusion that often follows, it's easy to see how hese tales grew. These tales then merged with classic morality fables, becoming a warning against indulging in bloodlust and carnage. In this sense, the Crimson Monster became a sort of embodiment of the worst sides of war, an ultimately impartial force that only cares about spreading as much death as possibler without thought of honor, loyalty or any actual accomplishments.
The tale is popular, not helped by Dahlia being summoned more than once. Through alliances and the occasional P.O.W, the tale then spread to countries who've never had the misfortune of being on the wrong end of an archdemon. It would also be spread by traders and civillians who worked with soldiers, allowing the story to wander even further.
Variations & Mutation
In some versions, it's the Crimson Monster that does all the killing, in others, they purely get maddened soldiers to kill for them. Sometimes, there's more than one Crimson Monster, each of which may have their own distinct flavour of battlefield horror ascribed to them. A few more hopeful variants of the tale ends with the Crimson Monster slain by a brave warrior, one who fights not to kill, but to protect home and kin. Or sometimes, in more patriotic versions, to defend whatever country the teller thinks is right. These versions are affirmations of a soldier's ability to rise above common bloodlust. Some variants also has the Crimson Monster in a less antagonistic role, being more a muse for carnage. In this role, the Crimson Monster still favours no side, but does give their blessings to soldiers who show bravery, valour, hate or rage, depending on what virtues on associates with the battlefield.
In countries like Regalweald, the stories of the Crimson Monster were heavily morality fables about not succumbing to bloodlust. The Crimson Monster was a villain, sometimes laid low by the righteous as an ultimate affirmation of the power of virtue. In the Surune Empire, who had much more dealings with demons, the Crimson Monster became associated with a number of battlefield patrons. One that soldiers should listen to, but not obey. On the Silver Isles, the Crimson Monster was heavily associated with barbarism. A bloody idol of more primitive cultures, worshipped by wild savages and crazed berserkers. In this way, the Crimson Monster almost became an incarnation of their most hated enemies. Among the Sarkine, the Crimson Monster was viewed with a mix of fear and awe. They acknowledged that one should fight with courage and valour, with acceptance of death in mind. But they also rejected fighting without mercy or dignity. The Crimson Monster thus became a sort of enigmatic figure, one with a foot on both sides of the spectrum. Capable of great deeds, capable of great horrors. Soldiers were often warned to watch where they stand on the battlefield, that is, to be careful they didn't let their eagerness to fight turn them into monsters.
The Crimson Monster was noted down in a number of books focusing on military culture. When it got a bit of traction, the Crimson Monster also featured in a number of stories as a villain or a challenge for a fair hero to overcome. The Crimson Monster also featured in a number of horror stories focusing on the military, a popular subject during the long Age of War.
A number of artist, especially those who found the seemingly endless wars more terrifying than exciting, often used the Crimson Monster as an element of their art. Political artists would often depict more warhawky leaders as having the Crimson Monster right behind them, grinning hungrily and with a hand on their accomplice's shoulder.