Anon had been to a thousand worlds, had seen the Age of War at its worst. He had fought alongside countless armies to stop the spread of the Plague. He had watched as all his companions died or joined his enemy’s ranks.
He killed his friends, purified their corrupt souls with the flames of the Maker.
How many worlds had he watched die? In how many ways was their manner of death?
All those previous horrors paled in comparison to what he found at the Idrllian Altar.
Anon had always faced his previous trials with confidence, knowing that the Maker was with him, guiding his path.
But this was different . . . the Maker was most assuredly with him, but what Anon saw on the altar couldn’t possibly be part of the Maker’s path.
Anon was afraid.
He caught himself before his grip on the young boy’s hand turned to bone-crushing force. Mistakenly, he thought to find comfort in the child’s tender grip. The boy was pure and good – Anon wanted to hold onto the child’s innocence as long as he could. But the scene before them took away all that – both Anon the boy would never know innocence again.
“SEVRON! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?” Anon raged.
He let the child go. There was no place for innocence here, only death.
Bodies covered the tiers of the altar -- thousands upon thousands of them. Not all of them were dead, but not a one of them had flesh. Crying in pain and anguish, those unfortunate enough to be alive crawled up the blood-slicked steps. A dozen tiers higher, the World Door pulsed, a final vision of hope and freedom. They dragged themselves over the bodies of their companions to reach that goal. But the sanctuary of the World Door was an illusion . . . none of them even made it close.
Every second, the pile of dead, fleshless bodies surrounding the altar grew.
And then . . . there was the undead. A swarm of them. A world’s worth of infected humans. Their tongues had been torn from their throats, their jaws ripped off, their hands crushed to useless pulp. In a Hunger infused frenzy, they stumbled through the pile of bodies, terrorizing the living as they sought to fill their empty souls with warm blood. They never succeeded, though the blood was all around them they drank not a drop.
They were driven mad by it.
The undead gnawed and pounded on the living who fought to pull themselves up the altar toward the World Door.
Lastly, there was Sevron -- his frame a patchwork of body parts stolen from the many worlds he had conquered.
His feet were black hooves, his legs the powerful hindquarters of some wild beast. His left hand ended in a massive pincer while seven snake-like tentacles sprouted from his right hand. His body looked like it was carved from rock – humanoid in shape, but composed of some sort of black mineral exoskeleton. The same skeletal material covered his head like a helmet, from the top of which a pair of red horns sprouted. One was cracked in half prior to where it began to form a spiral. The other was fully formed, nearly four feet long and ending in glistening black tip. One eye was a red oval surrounded in black. The other was merely an empty black pit.
Sevron stood next to the throbbing Gate. . . . next to him was a pile of human skins. He rummaged through them as though searching for a clean shirt in a pile of dirty garments. When dissatisfied with what he found, he flung the desecrated flesh into the Gate.
He didn’t stop his search, even when Anon’s roar momentarily silenced the screams of the living and the howls of the dead.
Anon took a step up the altar – his light flared out, setting all those he neared free. Still Sevron ignored him. He took another step – the throng of undead surged toward him, diving at his halo only to collapse as a pile of ash. Anon took another step and another . . .
At last he stood before Sevron, his flames went out to the Dead God, demanding his attention.
He got it . . .
In a roar of flames, Anon bathed the Dead God in fire. He wanted nothing more than to send him to the Void and put a quick end to the waking nightmare. But it wouldn’t be that easy.
As the flames began burning away Sevron’s ‘borrowed’ flesh, he uttered not a sound. He slowly arose from the pile of skins and faced Anon.
“You wish to leave this world, false one?” the Dead God said, his body growing covered in a charred black crust.
Anon continued to pour fire at Sevron, his stone-like skin flaked, black blood bubbled from the cracks, but he seemed otherwise unharmed.
“Then you must pay the price . . . your soul, or your flesh. One of them will be mine.”
“I have another offer!” Anon replied, his flaming fist barreling toward the Dead God.
Sevron was fast . . . damned fast! He easily dodged the blow, and in an instant he was at Anon’s side. His pincer latched onto Anon’s blazing arm and clamped down. Anon didn’t think it was possible to be hurt in his current form, but the pain nearly caused him to lose touch with the Maker entirely. The claw nearly severed his fiery arm. With the snake-like limbs of his right hand, Sevron took hold of Anon’s body and pulled him down to his knees. Fortunately, Sevron wasn’t entirely immune to Anon’s flames, the shell of his pincer began to crumble. But even so, Sevron was determined to sever Anon’s arm and refused to relinquish his grip. Even as his claw turned to dust, he continued the attempt, and very nearly succeeded . . .
Then the boy came forward, covered in a solid blue bubble.
“No, child . . .”
In his disgust, rage, and haste to put an end to Sevron, Anon had forgotten the child, and the final commands he had put forth to the boy. He had done as he was told – he had followed Anon, no matter what. Now he would die because of Anon’s command.
Perhaps both of them would . . .
Anon felt the power of the Maker leaving him as Sevron’s pincer continued to clamp down. The fire, and power, of the Maker poured like blood from the wound.
“Leave him alone,” the boy said, somehow summoning the courage to face the Dead God. There wasn’t a hint of fear in his brown eyes.
“No, leave here!”
Anon’s voice roared through the area like a thunderclap. He knew the best thing he could do at this point was keep the Dead God from tearing the child apart, so with his free hand he grabbed Sevron’s arm of tentacles. He didn’t try to burn them, just keep them from striking out at the child.
“This is wrong . . . I was wrong. He will kill you,” Anon screamed, focusing his remaining power on holding the Dead God’s right arm.
He no longer burned the pincer – nor was it necessary to do so, predictably, Sevron let Anon go.
“Oh . . . what have we here?” Sevron asked, his bony exoskeleton glowing red like an ember. “Another traveler who wishes to enter my Gate?”
The boy ignored the question, he spoke to Anon instead, “I trust you,” he said.
The tentacle heads of Sevron’s arm began burrowing into Anon. Even though his body was pure flame, he couldn’t burn them fast enough before they entered his body. Sevron swung his pincer arm back in Anon’s direction, but it ignored him, clamping down instead on his own tentacle arm. There was a spurt of black blood and a loud snap as he cut his own arm off. With little left of it other than strands of tendon and skin, Sevron pulled the arm from his body.
Anon fell to the Altar, the tentacles continuing to burrow inside him even though the arm was severed. He continued to burn them. . . but not fast enough.
Blood seeped from his amputated shoulder as Sevron approached the boy.
“You wish to leave, then you must pay the price . . .”
The dark haired child seemed as sure of himself as ever -- even when Sevron’s claw came at his face . . .
“From you I desire flesh,” Sevron said, his pincer sinking into the child’s eye.
The air erupted with the child’s scream . . . but within his mind, Anon sensed only calm. And he heard his young voice . . .
If I make it strong enough, nothing can harm me . . .
The child’s halo flared – strong as any Elder God’s. Sevron’s arm was caught within. Anon’s power had weakened it, burnt it to a crisp, but the child’s shield of blue finished the job. The pincer’s shelled exterior sloughed away, turning to ash as it fell. Even the black, fluid like substance beneath bubbled and blistered.
Now it was Sevron’s screams that surrounded them – a high-pitched, maniacal howl. He pulled his arm back, but only a managed to escape from the shield with a slimy black stump.
“The Maker’s path,” Anon said, slow to rise to his feet. Sevron had injured him, perhaps even severely. But in the end, the Maker’s power proved the stronger. The tentacles were no more, and Anon’s wounds were already on the mend.
Now Sevron was all but defenseless. Anon had underestimated him to start the confrontation, but he wasn’t about to repeat that error. He was in motion before the thought even entered Sevron’s mind . . . Sevron dipped his bony head low and charged the boy, the blackened tip of his good horn guiding the way.
He was too fast to see, but Anon anticipated his intentions, and had already teleported in front of the boy.
“This is the Maker’s path . . .”
Had he hit the child, the horn would have impaled the boy in his forehead, but for Anon’s giant body of flames, the horn only reached his hip. Though the pain was intense, Anon knew he would survive the attack, and this encounter as well. His flaming hands grabbed the horn; one hand grabbed it at the base, just below his waist, the other reached behind and took hold of the spiraled tip protruding from his back. He focused every ounce of the Maker’s power on his strength and twisted the horn. With a sickening crunch, the horn broke free from Sevron’s head.
Flames spurted from his hip as he pulled the horn from his body. Without a moment of hesitation, he promptly returned the red horn from where it came – the glistening black tip led the way, back into Sevron’s head. He thrust it in, and didn’t stop pushing it downward, not until the entire length of the red horn was buried deep in Sevron’s skull and the twisted tip sprouted from his bowels.
Anon stepped back, watching as a geyser of black blood erupted from Sevron’s head. The Dead God toppled over, his body wracked with violent spasms. Anon patiently waited as Sevron continued to spew blood and thrash about the altar. When his corrupt form finally grew still, Anon grabbed the child’s hand and gently guided him into the Rift. He made sure the boy was safely on his way before turning back to the Dead God and the scene of carnage he had created.
The air filled with waves of white hot flames, cleansing the altar and freeing all those Sevron had corrupted.
Once the Idrllian Altar was fully engulfed in fire, Anon limped into the Rift . . .