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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Damn them!

The Oneness . . . it was fading . . . and it wasn’t coming back.

Damn . . . damn . . . damn.  Damn them all to the Seven Hells!

Beneath her robe . . . it burned.  At first just the bite on her shoulder, but now her entire back was on fire.  She felt it . . . filling her veins, the black blood winding its way to her heart with its every beat.  As she always did, she faced the Plague with pure, unbridled rage, forcing the darkness back by flooding her heart and veins with as much hate as she could muster.

Damn you, not yet! 

She knew she was dying . . . sort of, but she wouldn’t give in to the Hunger, not yet.

I am the scourge of the dead! she cursed.  Their annihilator!

After all she had been through . . .  To end her days like this . . .

I had such high hopes . . . such dreams.

She had always envisioned herself at the final battle; standing atop the Red Wall, surrounded by legions of dead, her power spreading out . . . burning them all to dust . . . the Dead Gods begging for mercy at her feet . . .

It was her destiny . . . or so she thought.

She had put an end to so many of them . . . yet she had barely put a dent in their army . . .

I have so much left to do . . .

Her life’s work would remain unfinished . . . and to think . . . a single bite was all it took.  All her hopes, her dreams, and her power extinguished with a single damn bite.

How could I have been so careless? 

On the last planet, the giant tornado had been almost more than she could bear.  To keep it from ripping them all apart, her power suffered a heavy toll.  When she finally dove into the Rift, one of the bastards must have slipped through her weakened shield.  Before she knew it, its fangs were sinking into her back.  In an instant she turned him to a cloud of dust, but that instant was all it took for the infection to set in.

Dear Maker, it burns so . . .

No matter her rage, the Plague continued to spread through her body; not only spreading through her veins, but her very cells . . . even her soul.

She wondered if she could have fought it off, if she had her full strength.  Others had done so before . . . the Elder Anon was one such being; some even said he defeated death itself, and had returned to the worlds, reincarnated as the very embodiment of the Maker.  And, of course, there was the deformed healer, Jakkar.  His healing ability was renowned, and often equated with the blood-born immunity of the elven race – their natural resistance to the Plague.  Without question, her faith in the Maker was no match for Anon’s, nor were her blessings of the Oneness suited for healing so much as they were for destruction.  But with her body brimming with the full might of the Oneness, she felt as though anything was possible.  Her abilities made her renown in her own right.  So much so, many considered her as great as those legendary Elders; and those who didn’t, felt she was their superior. 

Assuming Alana, and the famed Dona’Cora were no more, she could very well be the most powerful Mage in existence.

The most powerful Mage in existence . . . feebly, she chuckled at the notion. 

What a joke! 

The most powerful Mage in existence -- taken down by the bite of a meager infected.  She always assumed her end would come atop the Red Wall, preferably in an epic rematch with the foul, former Elder God, Ostedes.  What she wouldn’t give for another chance to destroy him.  She was so much stronger since last they met . . .

WAS, she reminded herself.

Now, the small bit of Oneness she had left, she used to maintain her shield.  And after it left her . . . it left forever . . .

In its absence a darkness emerged . . . a hunger.

She dared not satiate it, yet every moment she resisted the urge grew stronger.  In time, it would devour her resistance, as it simultaneously devoured her flesh and blood.  Very soon, the Plague would own her, body and soul.  The best she could hope for was an honorable – and quick – death.  If her death didn’t come soon . . .

Her companions marched alongside her . . . Ollius, her love; his visage grimmer, more worn and weary than ever.  His face as pale as she imagined her own dying flesh to be.  She dared not let him know.  To escape their previous planet, he extended himself far beyond his abilities.  He was weakened as well, but thank the Maker, unlike her, he was recovering.  If there was to be any chance of escape, he needed to be strong.  She dared not jeopardize that . . . the lives of the others depended on his recovery and his ability to tune the Black Door.

She would do what was necessary; deliver her companions safely to the pyramid, then die.  Regretfully, she accepted her fate, knowing her life would end without meaning, and all because she suffered a fool’s wound.  There would be no revenge – there was none to be had.  The only honor she would find in death would be to die before becoming a servant of the Dead Gods. 

She vowed to the Maker and all that she held dear . . .

Ollius . . .

. . . she would never let that happen. 

But oh the pain . . .

It was building inside her, so strong now her entire body shuddered.  Soft moans escaped her lips, more akin to pleasure than pain.  Wave after wave of pain filled her body.  At first, she begged the Maker for it to pass, then, oddly, once it did, she realized she savored the sensation, and all that she desired was for it to roll through her body, again and again.

No . . .

Her legs weakened.  She stumbled and fell.

Not yet . . . 

Strong arms took hold of her, lifted her up . . . held her close to his chest.

Thump, thump . . . Thump, thump. . .

Dear gods, what a sound . . .

She brushed her fingers over his bicep . . . wrapped them around his wrist where she felt the rhythm of his life against her finger tips.

So warm . . . so alive.

He pressed her head against his heart; its strong beat beaconing her to feast.

I must resist . . . just a little longer, she thought, knowing they were so close.  When they arrived she would tell him, tell Kalan.  Of all her companions, she entrusted him most to do it, and do it quick.  Whereas the others may hesitate . . .

Ollius . . .

And any such hesitation could be perilous – for them. 

She loved them . . . Ollius especially.  They were each powerful, unique crusaders against the Plague; they were her companions . . . her friends.

She would fight, and die for them.  The last thing she wanted to do was hurt them . . .

But oh that sound . . .

The very essence of life was in its song . . . and it was hers for the taking.

That wonderful rhythmic thump . . . 

How she longed to rip out the man’s powerful heart, to bite down upon it as the blood-filled organ exploded in her mouth . . .

She lifted her head, guided her lips to Kalan’s powerful chest . . .

With her teeth bared and inches from his flesh . . . they made it to the cave . . .

With far more care than she deserved, Kalan laid her upon the cavern floor.

As he did so, the Oneness forever left her. 

Her lips still opened and eager, she instead found the will to speak the words . . .

Kill me . . .

It left her as a whisper . . .

Unfortunately, Kalan didn’t hear her.  He had already moved on . . . another evil arrived . . . something she never felt before.  Unlike the twisted souls in rotting bodies of the undead, this new enemy was an empty shell . . . an automaton.  A puppet on strings . . .  And what hid behind the façade was an evil so ancient its existence lacked description or meaning.  It was alive . . . but so close to death that even in her blood-thirsty delirium, it was not worth feeding upon.

Fearless, brave . . . and utterly ignorant of his enemy, Kalan went to face it at the cavern entry.

Too weak to join the fight, she watched as her companions were easily overcome by a squadron of gleaming metal giants.

If only she had her Oneness . . . she would have scattered the metal men into a million pieces . . . then ripped the final remnants of life from their masters. 

One by one, her friends were felled; beaten senseless but not killed – even though it would have been easy for the beings to do so. 

Strange . . . she thought.  Suddenly more fearful that they were kept alive instead of dispatched outright.  She sensed a hunger in their new enemy . . . one far too closely akin to her own new-found cravings. 

The former farm girl, then thief, then crusader of the Rift, Alicia fell next to her; unconscious but alive – she could tell by the sweet, harmonic thumping inside her creamy flesh.  Blood poured from the cut on Alicia’s head, pooling in her direction.  The sight and scent of it was more than she could take. 

She could no longer resist . . . she lapped it up . . . her face covered in crimson, she raised her head to the heavens.

Such power . . .

The greatest Mage in existence . . .

Again, the thought of it made her chuckle . . . this time for entirely different reasons.  She would be far more powerful than ever before . . .

Death?  Oh no . . . 

She felt every cell come alive.

This was life . . . sweet, savory life . . .

Before she knew it, her lips pressed against Alicia’s neck . . .

Kendal bit down, moaning in ecstasy as warm blood poured into her mouth.

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