Into the Rift

Once more into the Rift . . .
Led by the elf prince, Adros, a group of heroes returns to the Dead Worlds in a last ditch effort to find the living. But instead of survivors, they encounter beings more ancient and evil than even the foulest of Dead Gods.
Meanwhile, the Goddess Alana begins her own quest -- a journey back to the world of her greatest failure, the elven home-world, the land where she left her true love die. There, she must face her greatest fears -- and an enemy more powerful than anything she has ever known.

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. . . Once more into the Rift . . .

An incredibly long, thin leg stepped out of the Black Door; the flesh translucent, a maze of bluish veins dimly thumping within.  Another leg followed, carrying the slender and glowing being into the world; her silver hair flowing wildly amidst the dying storm. 

Another dead world . . .

Blue flames flickered around her.

More ruins . . .

She stood dead center on a mound of sand; below, a field of gleaming metal slabs spread out before her

. . . the trail of the Dead Gods’ conquest continues.

She had seen it all before . . . too many times.

Yet . . .

She sensed something different . . . something living . . . or at least the remnant of it.

Another Chosen?  she pondered  Perhaps . . .

A residue of great power hung in the air, its fading signature nearly as palpable as the stench of death.  

Possibly even an Elder God?  She thought, more than a little impressed by the amount of the Oneness necessary to create such a lingering aura.

She had come across other Chosen in her banishment – even an Elder God or two . . . but such encounters never ended well.  Many saw her as a pariah, a traitor to the entire mission of the Elders.  They blamed her for what had befallen them – befallen the universe.  From those she encountered, she learned the Treaty was no more.  The one thing keeping the Dark Army from freely ravaging the living worlds was broken, betrayed by none other than herself.  Alana had forsaken the Treaty; in her desire to save one world – the world of her love – she had condemned the universe to death. 

Deservedly, she had been exiled by the Elder Gods. 

Briefly, she debated tracking the Chosen into the Rift, to perhaps enlist their aid – or at the least look into the eyes of another living soul -- but in the end, she was too ashamed to face them.  She knew full well there was no going back now . . . no possible way to right her error.  Besides, the Dark Army could not be stopped no matter who fought at her side – a lesson she learned the hard way. 

Adros . . .

No . . . she could never rectify her error.

Nor stop the Dead Gods . . .

She would suffer the consequences and remain in exile; alone, walking the Dead Worlds until the day she died.  Such was her fate, and she had no desire to fight it . . . but the Dead Gods on the other hand . . . she would fight them until her dying breath. 

If she was to live in banishment, she vowed to at least make her life count for something.  Her mission had never been so clear -- she would cleanse the universe . . . eradicate the Plague for as long as the Maker allowed. 

One dead planet after another she had done exactly that – turning the unholy into ash whenever she caught a hint of their stench. 

There is a great deal to be done here, she mused, noting that in the current world, the stench of death was stronger than ever.

She also noted the wet sand upon her bare feet . . .

Alana looked at the ground below to discover blood-red sand seeping between her toes.

Fresh blood . . .

The mound of sand was soaked with it . . .

All thoughts of tracking the Chosen into the Rift were abandoned; the bloodied mound an obvious sign of their grisly defeat. 

She drifted into the air; drops of crimson falling from her feet.  Her body became pure energy; her long limbs branching out in coils of blue-flame.

Time to go to work . . . 

No sooner had her feet left the bloodied soil then hands of bone rose from the hill – reaching, grasping . . . desperate . . .  In a frenzy they clawed their way from the earth.  In no time, the mound was squirming with skeletal bodies, climbing over one another to tear apart her flesh.

She barely allowed them time to stir.  She slammed back down to the earth, her power a wave of blue-flame blasting out in all directions.  The mound of blood, sand and bodies erupted around her in a pile of ash.  As soon as the ash settled, in the distant field of metallic slabs more of the unholy were awoken, creeping from the ground.  Empowered by their hunger, they were coming fast – but Alana was faster, much, much faster.  Nor was she content to wait for them to come to her.  The undead may as well have been standing still as she entered their ranks, her blue flames lashing out around her like whips, incinerating whatever they touched, while her fists pounded her enemies to dust.

Half-hidden behind the sky of broiling dark clouds, a dim, piss-yellow ball of light passed overhead . . . again and again.  She fought on . . . crushing . . . smashing . . . burning the hordes of slow-moving dead.  For how many hours did she fight?  How many days?  There was no way to measure time in the ruined world.  The planet’s sun was useless -- its passing an arbitrary measure of time, while providing little heat and light.  Her blue flames were the true light of the land, and she had long since ceased tracking time on this or any world.  The standard year meant nothing to her, as did the rotation of the dead world in which she stood.  It was meaningless.  For Alana, life was measured by how many undead she sent to hell, and how many Dead Worlds she cleansed.

So many . . .

She moved through time -- fighting, killing -- until her power was no more and the only weapon left to her was her own flesh and blood.  Yet still she fought on, battering their bleached-white skulls with her bare fists -- punching, kicking . . . screaming.

Damn them!  Damn them all!

Her fists dripping with her own blood, she stood up . . .

It was over, nothing stirred . . . the dead were no more.  The planet was cleansed.  The gleaming bi-metal graveyard was all that remained.

“There’s nothing left . . .” she said aloud, knowing full well there was no-one out there to hear her.

Her work complete, she turned her back on the Dead World and stepped into the Rift . . .

Another dead world . . .

More ruins . . .

. . . the trail of the Dead Gods’ conquest continued.

 

 

Thank the Maker, the being thought.  For a moment, I was certain she would follow them. 

Had Alana done so, it could have led to catastrophe . . . the Maker’s work undone.  She was not meant to unite with him . . . not yet.  Worlds of suffering awaited her before that came to pass.

Strange though . . . the being wondered.  Of all the worlds bound to the Rift . . . that they should happen to come so close . . .

She was wise enough to know it could not be mere coincidence, but part of the Maker’s path.  A path both parties now walked.  For Alana, her trials in the Dead Worlds had only just begun.  For Adros and the others . . .

Her ethereal form shivered at the thought of what was in store for them.

“She must remain on the Dead Worlds -- and there she must suffer,” Anon had once commanded.  “Make her days in the Dead Worlds a constant trial. Make her stronger than any Elder god that has gone before her – yourself included. Let her power grow, so that when the final battle comes she will have the strength to stand against it.”

Wherever Alana went, Dona’Cora had been certain to fulfill Anon’s wishes, sending her to the foulest of worlds.  On each world she was tested to the utmost . . . but always she survived . . . and returned to the Rift stronger than before.  Yet, as much as she struggled thus far, her next world would be her first true test.  So much so, Dona’Cora almost feared sending her there.  But Alana had to see it for herself . . . Ki'minsyllessil, the land of the elves.  She had to see first-hand the cost of failure and the resulting nightmare her lover’s world had become.  If she survived that land, she would have strength beyond measure . . . far greater than even that which Dona’Cora possessed in her own youthful life.  But if she failed once more in the elven home-world, the lesson would be at an end – and possibly the universe along with it.

She truly feared for her, but if Dona’Cora had learned anything during her vigil of Alana, it was that the woman was not to be underestimated.  She met every challenge Dona’Cora thrust upon her, head on, and always came out on top.  Dona’Cora was beginning to admire her.  She saw much of her young self in the woman, but admittedly there was even more.  Alana’s virtue was pure.  If Dona’Cora could have claimed the same, perhaps the ruin of the universe would have ended a long time ago.  But vengeance had once clouded her mind, so much so that it was all that drove her.  Her entire stay at the Sanctuary was devoted to building an army.  For ages she bred her Chosen to fight in a final, glorious war that would have eradicated the Plague and satiated her vengeance once and for all. 

How could I have been so wrong?

The truth was so clear to her now . . . evolution, immortality -- the Maker’s path could only be found in the eyes of a child.  Yes, life had to endure . . . but to what end?  For vengeance?  For glory?  She had evolved her Chosen to be stronger, to win her war.  But what the path led to was perfection – the embodiment of the Maker.  Like all aspects of existence, the Plague was but another test – some would say the ultimate test.  For those strong enough to survive it, perfection awaited. 

Her Chosen had been so close to that goal and she was utterly blind to it.  Now, most of them were dead – failures, not because they lacked the ability to succeed, but because they lacked the proper guidance.  If it hadn’t been for the teachings of Anon, likely none would remain.  Only Anon held steadfast to the Maker’s path – perhaps even foresaw the future.  Because of his foresight, the path remained . . . though it was treacherous and heavily obstructed.  At the end . . . the obtainment of the infinite was at hand.  If all went according to plan, it would be achieved in the so-called Seventh World.

Until then . . . the road was winding, dark . . . and the possibilities of failure were limitless.

For a time, Dona’Cora remained in the Dead World, staring vacantly at the smooth metal slabs protruding from the earth.  Even as the tornados raged around her she remained . . . unable to summon the will to reenter the Black Door and watch Alana’s next test.

The possibilities of failure are limitless . . .

Even though she trusted wholeheartedly in the will of the Maker, she couldn’t help but feel like she was sending Alana to her death.

 

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