A breeze followed the man. It surrounded him in an invisible shield. Leaves parted at his approach, tree bows bent. Where there was only dense forest a path was cleared. The breeze brushed his mossy green cape, stirring the many silver bells sewn into the cloth and filling the air with their gentle ringing. Birds echoed the sound throughout the canopy.
There was even a rainbow breaking through the trees . . .
. . . He stood in the ruins of a once colossal structure. Slabs of rubble etched by the elements closed him in. They rose to the sky; giant grey monoliths hundreds of feet tall. On the horizon there was a sun, a blood-red ball that seemed too decrepit to fully arise. The dying light cast the land into shadow. The shadows of the monoliths became warped replicas of their creators, stretching over the man.
There were shadows all around him . . . one of them even moved, and it drew near.
“Have you made contact?” the man asked as the humanoid silhouette shuffled over to him.
“Yes,” the being replied, his voice half echo, half whisper.
“And yet you live?” he chided the being.
“Ha . . . so it seems. It appears their hatred for the new enemy has trumped their hatred of me.”
The being was wrapped in darkness, he wore it like cloak. His face was shaped like a human, but his features were an indistinguishable dark blur.
“There was but a few who would meet with me,” the being continued. “I wager that many of my Brethren have either succumbed, or been reclaimed by the Void. Even those who are yet free were willing to say little. They fear their fate will soon mirror that of their lost Brethren, and rightly so. It was only when I mentioned the great Anon that they spoke at all. They think you, and only you, can save them from the Void.”
“They are forsaken. Nothing can save them now,” Anon bluntly stated.
“I know the truth of it . . .” the shadow said, performing an elaborate bow. “But felt the knowledge should be withheld. An act of kindness perhaps, for those who were once my brothers.”
“Kindness?” The man said, arching an eyebrow in mock confusion. “I didn’t think you were capable of it, Imorbis. Nor are your brothers deserving of it.”
“We, the Makii, have much to atone for, Anon. Those who are free, only wish to set things right with the Maker.”
“Their time will come. One day they will meet the Maker, let them beg for atonement then. The Maker may be blessed with infinite kindness, but after what your people have done, my guess is they will only be granted suffering.”
“To stand before the Maker is more than we deserve. No doubt, his punishment will be just.”
Anon nodded. His head was bald on top and had a clump of hair on either side.
“What then, have you learned from them, these brothers of yours?”
Imorbis withered away as though the shadows were drawing him in.
“It is as you feared, the Dark Army will move against the Sanctuary. In this, we will need all the allies we can get, even the free Makii.”
Anon wasn’t so certain, he already had a difficult time trusting just one of them.
“I knew it would come to pass, but sought to deny it. Only one empowered with the Oneness can reach the Sanctuary . . .”
Anon lowered his head, pondering the meaning of his own statement.
“Surely we have been betrayed by one of our own. But why would an Elder seek our destruction? Why would they dare open a Gate into the Sanctuary?”
“There is but one who would wish such a thing, but he is an Elder no longer. We thought him dead, killed by your own hands. But it seems we were both greatly mistaken.”
Anon raised his head, his bulging brown eyes filled with white fire.
“Even if what you say is true, the Oneness has left him. He cannot create – not even a Gate. Death is his only power.”
“Not his only power,” Imorbis replied.
Imorbis was right, Anon remembered the evil being’s telepathic abilities all too well.
“And my Brethren say his powers have grown. He doesn’t plan to create a Gate himself, but force one of your kind to do it for him.”
Anon’s flesh disintegrated in a burst of white flame. He was a faceless man of fire – in front of him hunched the shadowed being that had once been a Dead God.
“The Sanctuary’s loss will be unavoidable.”
Anon’s voice came from every direction, from everything.
“But we may yet save many lives . . . if we can free them from the Sanctuary. However I fear such a task could prove as difficult as a direct confrontation with the Dark Army. Any attempt to rescue them could very well become a suicide mission.”
The Dead God’s face warped into a shadowed grin.
“Yes, Anon, I know. Of course, I have already given the matter thought, and believe I have a plan.”
“Of course . . .” Anon replied, dreading to have to go through with another one of the Dead God’s plans. The last time he did, he had died.
But, as it was then, he had little choice.
“Alright, Imorbis. What do you have in store for us this time . . ?”
And so it began . . . Imorbis discussed the plan with Anon. He went into great detail, describing what should and would happen, when and where. Though he never once lied to Anon, he omitted one immensely important detail – Sevron. He spoke truly when he told Anon the evil force behind this attack was one he had defeated and left for dead. What Anon didn’t know, was that Sevron survived because of Imorbis’ sin. In his longing to be free of the Hunger, he resurrected the greatest evil the universe had ever known. He unleashed him upon the Elfin God-Tree, the Graelic, and in doing so, he unknowingly imbued Sevron with unimaginable powers – powers that Imorbis should have possessed.
But now Imorbis sought another power, had another plan to be free of the Hunger. Now, Imorbis walked a different path.
No, he would never lie to Anon, to do so would make him a prisoner to the Hunger for all time. On the other hand, he couldn’t help but wonder how Anon will feel when he discovers the truth. Sooner or later he’ll see it for himself. Will he continue to forgive Imorbis’ sins? Or will he send him to hell alongside his old friend, Sevron?
Either way, he’ll be free of the Hunger. Either way, he’ll hold steadfast to the Maker’s path.