Rugiel (Protector)

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CoH Game Icon.png Rugiel
Level 50 • Originicon mutation.pngArchetypeicon blaster.png
Fire Blast / Fire Manipulation
Flame Mastery
Flight • Medicine • Teleportation 

Rugiel's badges


"Muah-hah-hah-hah!" laughed the crazed-looking fellow in a stained lab coat, as he threw levers and jabbed buttons all over the place. Within the impervium-braced glass enclosure, his hands bound in orichalcum manacles suspended above his head by a crackling stream of energy, a nondescript young man stared fearfully at his distorted image through the thick glass. It would be nice to say that his captor had carefully studied his victim for days, watching him from afar and making sure he wouldn't be missed — but in truth the mad scientist's thugs had simply dogpiled the first unsuspecting young man they came across while driving down his street and hauled him off to this lab.

The mad scientist never asked his name; he simply cackled gleefully, snapped the manacles on his wrists, and suspended him naked in the glass tank, chortling all the while. Another look around revealed nothing more hopeful than the last look. If anything, the ominous glow from the intricate, arcane-looking etching under his bare feet served only to make his heart pound faster.

"Now," the mad scientist cried, loud enough to be heard within the tank, and then he said something else, but the hideous screeching that filled the young man's ears drowned out the words. The luminous etching underfoot pulsed, flared blindingly bright, and then a ravenous red-stained darkness lunged upward and drowned out the view from inside the tank. The young man struggled desperately, suffocating in terror and despair. His whole body ached with helpless despair, cruelly suspended just at the threshold of pain, as if he were being menaced without quite being thrust into searing flame and glacial ice and rending glass and thundering lightning all at the same time. And his mind was drowning in another mind, full of hunger and evil.

A demon was trying to steal his body.

He heard — or thought he heard — a mocking, triumphant laugh; an ugly sound that sapped the last spark of hope from his soul, for in that laugh he heard the demon's victory and his demise.

Unexpectedly, the young man remembered the moment his mutant power had first manifested, a long time ago when he was the quiet one in class and a bully would pick on him. It had frightened him, but the older boy had never tried to touch him. One day, unwilling to tolerate the bully's taunts any longer, he had forced himself to ignore the bully flat out. His heart pounded with terror fit to shake his soul, and as the blood drained from his face he thought it was never to return, but somehow he kept himself from acknowledging the bully at all. Provoked, the older boy grabbed his arm — and screamed, and let go an instant later, holding his scorched hand. Only then did he turn and look, not with anger nor satisfaction, but pure astonishment. It was one of the few times when justice was served, since there was no logical way to explain how he could have possibly burned the older boy's hand. It was the first, but not the last time, he had made himself too hot to touch.

Had he had time to think it through, he might well have died, giving up his physical body to the demon's will to wreak havoc with as it chose. But all he had at that moment was instinct, compelling him to defend himself in a time-tested manner. He made himself as hot as he could, the way he had practiced. A sharp jab of fear from the demon encouraged him to fight back more fiercely, but then he heard a savage roar and a horrid scream, his voice and the demon's welded together. The demon's lust for a physical body became its undoing; it clung to him with rage and disbelief, still striving to subjugate its weak human sacrifice.

Yet the sacrifice was not so weak as either the demon or its summoner thought him to be. His voice was not all that was being fused, but also his body and psyche. He and it both realized, far too late, that this was a very, very bad idea. An instant later, there was no more demon, and no more sacrifice.

Like waking abruptly from a nightmare, the young man found himself back in the glass tank. Except he was no longer a young man. His distorted reflection showed him impressions of a monstrous nine-foot scarlet-skinned muscular demon with flaming eyes, a long, lashing tail and huge leathery wings wedged awkwardly within the confines of the tank, crushing the pieces of his shattered manacles under thick black hooves. His mind struggled to make sense of itself. He could barely remember anything, save an interminable agony of heat and fear, and a strange unnerving sensation of being too big.

Outside the tank, the mad scientist had stopped cackling. He had stopped doing much of anything at all besides staring at the demon in the tank. It was probably fortunate for him that the ritual had left his victim disoriented, or things might have gone very … differently. As stubborn as the demon whose summoning he had enacted, the mad scientist stuttered the phrase that should have bound the demon to his will. When he saw it did not have the intended effect, he repeated it, even less confidently.

Rugiel — for the young man had no choice but to take the demon's name as he had obtained its body, having no memory of his own — pressed both huge, black-clawed hands to the glass. Instantly it glowed, red, then white, and began to melt.

The mad scientist fled.

It only took Rugiel a few more moments to melt his way out of the glass tank. An echo of the demon's rage drove him to slag the mad scientist's otherwise empty lab in a thorough and methodical manner. While he did that, the part of his mind that had been human firmly subdued the part of his mind that wanted to be demonic, absorbing memories of terrible infernal deeds, but at the inexorable cost of memories of his human life. By the time he was done, the lab lay in sparking heaps of scorched metal and glass, toxic fires burning everywhere and spewing huge clouds of thick dark smoke. Rugiel, a great part of his human memories sacrificed to annihilate the demon's, stood amid the ruins, naked and lost, all but the faintest glimmer of his humanity consumed to quench the infernal hate.

While he wavered, some relentlessly cruel bit of the demon he had overpowered whispered to him, tried to seduce him into exacting his revenge on the man that had left him in this state.

Rugiel's conscience, repulsed at the thought of cruelty, at once found this final remnant and crushed it mercilessly. A moment later, Rugiel realized the demon's final act was to prove as ineffectual as all its previous efforts, for it had pointed to a path he had no desire to walk. Instead, he determined that his path lay in the opposite direction, in proving himself worthy of trust. Besides, the mad scientist's ill-considered abduction still rankled, and he didn't want to be like that.

The sound of approaching sirens introduced an element of urgency. Rugiel's first impulse was to flee, but he quashed it at once. It would not do to make a bad first impression … or, at any rate, it would certainly not do to make a bad first impression worse. Besides, he needed help, and running as though he were a fugitive would afford him no help at all.

A look around (whereupon he realized just how thoroughly he had trashed the lab) revealed a stairwell, which led to a small basement, where Rugiel serendipitously found an old tarpaulin. Putting his claws to good use, he tore the tarp down to a suitable size, wrapping it around his waist and covering himself. On his way back to the stairwell, a movement in the corner of his eye induced a moment of panic; but it was only a large, cracked sheet of glass, his reflection clearer than what he had seen on the inner surface of the glass tank. Thick, powerful muscles rippled beneath his scarlet skin, his massive body framed between huge, furled wings. Where his nose and mouth and chin should have been, there was only a thick column of blank, dark flesh, the color of dried blood. The stain, or mark, whatever it was, covered him from cheekbones to shoulders, appearing to spatter over his bare, muscled chest like a starburst. The sight did not unnerve him greatly (considering what else he had just gone through, the discovery was minor by comparison) but he did realize what effect it might have on others, and he turned back into the dimness of the basement.

A few moments later, he emerged into the wrecked lab with the shredded tarpaulin wrapped around his hips and a strip of canvas wrapped around his shoulders. Beneath the canvas, a phantom smile curved his nonexistent lips — like the phantom sensation attributed to amputees — for he realized he couldn't smell the old, mildewed cloth, not merely because he lacked a nose to smell with, but because he seemed to lack the need to breathe.

Outside, there was commotion and shouting and sirens; a row of windows had been knocked out and a broad stream of water was pouring through them onto the burning slag. A few feet away, two firemen were struggling to right the charred, twisted remains of a large cabinet. A number of scenarios ran through Rugiel's mind; most ended badly. After a few moments he settled for lowering himself to the floor at the top of the stairwell, obscured by the smoky haze, and rested his elbows on his tarpaulined thighs, fingers interlaced between his knees. Bracing himself, he tapped a hoof on the cement stairstep, twice, loud enough to hear distinctly over the crackling flames and rushing water.

The firemen looked at each other, surprised. A convenient billow of smoke drifted between him and them just at that moment, possibly saving them from dropping the cabinet and injuring themselves. Then the smoke thinned again and he saw them lowering the cabinet to the floor; they turned and approached the staircase. Rugiel did his best to look as passive and harmless as he could.

The firemen saw him. And yelled, and turned, and hightailed it out of the lab. Had he been able to, Rugiel would have heaved a sigh. That could have gone worse, he admitted to himself, and continued to sit and wait with his hands between his knees.

Shortly, there was another commotion from where the firemen had fled. A gust of wind parted the smoke, revealing half a dozen uniformed policemen advancing cautiously toward him, sidearms drawn and ready; the moment they saw him, the weapons came up. "Don't move!" shouted the foremost officer.

Rugiel noted with amusement that he was not the only one to shoot a look of exasperation at him.

Although they kept the weapons pointed at him, the policemen seemed more curious than hostile or frightened. All things considered, that was a good start. "What the hell is that?" one officer asked another.

"Beats me," answered the other, squinting through the thinning smoke at Rugiel.

He had just realized he wasn't sure he'd be able to speak. With no mouth or breath, what was left? He couldn't even clear his throat. Nonetheless, instinctively he felt that he still could speak, that he still knew how, even if the mechanism now eluded him. Carefully allowing autonomy and desire to take over, he heard himself say in an unnervingly flanged growl, "Hullo."

He blinked. They blinked, and tightened their hands on their pistols. Carefully, he tried to modulate his new 'voice.' "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." He felt and heard his voice softening and smoothing somewhat as he spoke, its dissonance vanishing, the last words coming out in a much smoother and, he thought, less threatening tone.

"Put your hands on your head," said the officer on the far right. His tag read 'Sterling' and he seemed to be the commanding officer. Rugiel unhurriedly raised his hands, fingers still linked, to his head, resting them on the curls of his ram's horns. "Get up." Rugiel did. The other officers shuffled nervously away from the towering demon, raising their weapons, the tension in the air growing and fading as Rugiel merely stood and remained still.

Sterling started to recite the Miranda warnings, but Rugiel interrupted. "No, this was me. I wrecked the place. But I had a good reason," he explained calmly. His voice seemed muted now, the overtones damped, which was probably a good thing; it made him sound less threatening. Sterling gave him a curious look. After a moment, he safetied and holstered his pistol, followed gradually by the rest of the officers.

"Why don't you explain down at the station," Sterling said slowly, half suggestion, half command. "Collier, please go see if you can find a blanket." As an afterthought, eyeing Rugiel up and down, Sterling added, "or two."

"Yes sir." Collier made his way to the doorway and out. Sterling, Rugiel and the other officers followed more slowly.

"You can put your hands down."

"Thanks." The flange was back, but more harmonic than at first. "Uh ... I'm Rugiel."

Sterling turned and looked up at him. "Rugiel what?"

Massive shoulders rose and fell. "I don't know."

Sterling looked skeptical, but he didn't press. Collier returned a few moments later, carrying a navy blue bundle under each arm. Sterling took one and passed it to Rugiel. The bundle unfolded into a large blanket, or at least large for someone Sterling's size; the one blanket would have swathed the officer from head to foot and then some, but Rugiel found it an adequate replacement for the tarp around his waist. All the officers gaped and then hastily averted their eyes, some of them gulping and muttering oaths, refusing to turn back around until Rugiel covered himself properly, and even then he caught them glancing at him. The other blanket replaced the mildewed canvas around his face; now only the upper half of his head, his midriff and forearms, and his hooves were all that the blankets left uncovered. Tucking his hands beneath the blanket over his chest, Rugiel nodded to Sterling, and the six officers and the demon trooped out of the ruined laboratory onto the street.

During the next few days, discoveries came fast and furious. First, shortly after he presented his statement at the precinct, he discovered that there was actually a whole division that specialized in demon summonings, and of course were very interested in talking to him. He then discovered that he was good and stuck with his new body, when the ritual they attempted to banish the demon failed spectacularly. A few hours later, he thought he discovered his human name had been Roger when a man arrived, desperate and sobbing, to file a missing persons report; but it turned out he was looking for someone else. This prompted Sterling to grill Rugiel on anything he could remember of his relatives, friends, coworkers, or anyone that knew him at all; but all those memories were gone. No names, no phone numbers, no addresses, nothing of the sort came to him. Rugiel's mood darkened.

Sterling surprised him, however; he arranged lodging for Rugiel for the night and referred him to the foremost organization in the country with experience dealing in situations like his own: the Federal Bureau of Superpowered Affairs, in Rhode Island.

With Sterling's recommendation in hand — or in pocket, rather; someone from the precinct had finagled for him a proper pair of pants made from plus-sized jeans, altered with a tail slot and everything — Rugiel flew out to Paragon City. Literally flew, on his own two wings. There, the FBSA directed him to one of their branches, the Modern Guild of Arcane Investigation. But MAGI said they couldn't help him; he was magically nonreactive. As far as they could tell, there was not so much as a trace of magical residue on him; it was as if he had been born wearing that body, which was why they thought to hand him off to the Genetic Investigation and Facilitation Team.

There, too, briefly, it seemed as if GIFT was also going to be unable to help him, and would just refer him right back to MAGI; but then they reassured him that genetic testing was only a formality, one that only sometimes gave conclusive proof, and introduced him to a much more reliable analysis: a young man named Travis Reed, whose mutant ability affected only other mutants, suppressing their abilities while he maintained skin contact.

The test was simple. Right then and there, using an inexpensive digital camcorder, one of the GIFT staff filmed Rugiel's hand bursting into flame and a lump of fire coalescing in his palm, puffing out as Travis placed an ungloved hand on his bare shoulder. After an obviously futile effort on Rugiel's part to reignite his hand, the test was complete.

Smiling, Travis led Rugiel upstairs to the registration counter. Rugiel, too, was smiling, at least with his eyes. He could have asked for no better proof.