by Paul Alex Gray
Izztheltyr the Impure stirred, his ragged wings quivering, sloughing off the blood of mortals that over centuries had dried to dust. Heavy were his eyelids, but he opened them a crack, eyes as black as midnight peering into the glare of the prismatic chamber that bound him.
A servant imp, little more than skin wrapped over bones, moved before its master. “Great one,” it hissed, “your name hath been invoked.”
Izztheltyr clenched his jaw, his jagged teeth crunching together, listening across the planes. It was true. From beyond its prismatic prison, the demon heard the pull of its name. An arcane chant that sent power coursing through the unholy beast.
Occulteum. A decentralized, community-enabled digital cryptocurrency built for disaggregated value creation and shared trust.
The words were cryptic, their meaning unclear, but the world of mortals had no doubt changed through many epochs. The invocation faded, and the bonds ached around Izztheltyr's body. His eyelids closed, and he returned to slumber.
* * *
“Master, awaken. Listen,”
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Izztheltyr opened its eyes and lashed out with a sudden energy, the crystal bonds that held his arms breaking into a million pieces. He cackled with hatred and delight. “How long have we been imprisoned?” he barked.
“Eight centuries, Dark Lord.”
The demon squinted, turning to the prismatic walls of the gemstone that bound it. He was not fully free yet, and he focused on the invocations beyond, tuning his thoughts to those that called his name.
With the investment that you, our loyal backers, we will secure the gemstone of Fieri from the museum of Althetikstan, and use the energy of a long-enslaved—
“What sorcery is this?” asked the demon.
“We have listened to the chants of their magi,” said an imp. “They speak of decentralized ledgers and proof-of-work, heralding a new era of exchange and the disruption of market incumbents!”
The imp continued, but Izztheltyr's thoughts shifted with the sense that it might be free once more.
It had been trapped within the gemstone by the Knights of Fieri, in an epic battle on a mountaintop. There had been blood — the stains on Izztheltyr's wings and claws were a testament to that — but the mortals had succeeded in subduing the demon and imprisoning it in the shard of diamond.
The knights had told the beast it would be banished forever. Perhaps they were wrong.
* * *
It was the nature of Izztheltyr's imprisonment that only a mortal could free the beast.
As the invocations continued, Izztheltyr's power strengthened, his imps transmogrifying into terrible monsters. They raged against their imprisonment, gnashing razor-sharp teeth, and flailing suction-cupped tentacles against the walls. They longed to inflict pain and suffering on the world.
“Destruction we seek!” they cried.
“Patience, my spawn,” Izztheltyr rumbled, until at last there was a sign.
The walls of their prison shook, shadow and light dancing around the beasts.
“They hold the gemstone,” said a monster, its many eyes flickering with hunger.
“Ready yourselves,” intoned Izztheltyr.
Beyond the confines of the gemstone, human voices came, their words growing louder, echoing all around.
“They called us morons! All those VC douchebags in the valley laughing at us!”
Another answered: “And those Reddit trolls! They're so annoying. We'll show them, bro!”
“I'm going to record a quick video... Hey guys, it's Jamie Huberts here, in the crypt of Izzelthyr, a cold-as-ice literal crypt on a mountainside somewhere in Althekistan. Check it out, spooky huh? Why would we come here? Well, it's where the ancient demon was imprisoned in the gemstone of Fieri. Sweet, right? Should be! We spent all the ICO money on this.”
Inside the gemstone, the demons howled and shrieked in anticipation.
“Occulteum is a revolution powered by blockchain, a decentralized system of interoperable exchange amplifying trust and enabling applications in all aspects of our lives. Unlike rival cryptocurrencies which require vast amounts of environment-destroying electricity, Occulteum will be powered by the demonic energies of an ancient demon that we are about to summon. We'll start in just one moment.”
Izztheltyr opened its mouth, row upon row of jagged teeth glimmering as the chamber shook around it. Dark patterns appeared on the walls of the gemstone, and then a surge of light flared.
“See,” said Jamie, “the demon is a manifestation of energy, it's not some nightmare like in the movies — all horns and evil. Ha! That'd be cray. Yo, check it out — we're getting a power signal.”
The gemstone buzzed, and cracks appeared in the walls, causing the demons to howl.
“Hell yeah! Bro, you can even hear the gemstone humming! We're mining Occulteum right now — look at that throughput rate! Incredible. And this is all electricity-free! We're drawing the energy directly from the gemstone!”
Izztheltyr turned to the demons that swarmed with anticipation. “Our time hath come!”
He pounded against the walls of the chamber, fragments of diamond shattering and tumbling inwards over the hordes.
* * *
“Woah, the power's too strong, Jamie. Can you tone it down?”
“I... don't think so. Uh, it looks like it's gonna—”
The gemstone exploded, sending fragments of diamond around the empty crypt. The men screamed and fell back against the walls of the crypt, turning to gaze in shock at the place where the gemstone had been.
A shape was taking form, writhing tendrils of smoke tugging themselves into strands of bone and muscle. Cloven hoofs clomped on the rocky floor as the thing shook itself, sending out a shower of red dust.
Jamie squeaked in fear as waves of terror wracked his body.
Izztheltyr stared at the scene around him and commanded his minions to step forth. They soared out, flashes of un-light that spread like shadows.
“Who hath awakened Izztheltyr?” the demon said to the trembling man before it.
Commanded, the words came from Jamie's mouth, although he could not control his lips and tongue. “I am James Huberts. I am CEO of Occulteum, a crypto-startup that seeks to—”
“I am Ajay Singh. I am CTO of Occulteum, a crypto-startup that seeks to—"
“Enough!” said the demon, relishing the sensation of the air. The world tasted different: chemical scents and a stench of smoke and carbon that was not unwelcome.
“You are weak. Pathetic,” said the demon, gazing at the cowering mortals before it.
“Yes, dark master.”
“But... you have ambition. Greed. Resourcefulness...”
“You shall be my dark priests,” he said. “You shall spread my message. The reign of Izztheltyr begins anew.”
The demon snapped its fingers and a scroll and quill appeared before Jamie.
“You shall record my manifesto, and the commands that dictate my will to the world. The first order, 'All shall—”
“Excuse me,” said Jamie, his confidence growing as the fear fell away.
The demon glared, furious at the interruption.
“A scroll might not be the best way to get the message across.”
“What dost thou propose? Tablets? Shall we bring some sacrificial vassals and mark my words in blood?”
“Well, maybe. But I think a Medium blog post would be better, and we could live-stream right now, but the lighting in here isn't that great. Can... you make some fire or something? It'd be an amazing shot, we'd get a tonne of views. Really get your message out there.”
The demon considered the proposal. The spirits of these mortals were perfect, as greedy and as selfish as the queens, sultans and emperors of before. This world had changed, but people clearly had not.
“Okay, live-stream is ready, dark master. Just speak into the camera and try to be upbeat; people love high energy.”
Izztheltyr smiled. He was back and ready to rule once more.
Copyright © 2019 by Paul Alex Gray