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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The stump smoldered.  Black blood spewed from the top like a fountain.  Circling around it, an audience of empty eyes watched as Ostedes went through what seemed to be his death throes.  The faces of those watching were in various stages of decay, but all were equally impassive – their expressions so bored and uncaring they may as well have been looking at an actual stump. 

Eventually, the liquid ceased to sputter.  It frothed and bubbled instead.  The slimy substance thickened; the bubbles hardened and multiplied, spreading from one another like a fast-growing fungus.  Thin, black filaments burst from the boil-like growths.  Thousands of such strands emerged, sprouting from the stump like coarse, wiry hair.  The stump grew . . .

A glow filled the land . . . pure and golden.

Its brilliance even drew a reaction from the Dead Gods, forcing several of them to step out of the way as the glow neared.  As the circle of the Dead Gods parted, a hunched figure appeared, limping towards the grotesque stump.  Its small body was encased brilliant light.  Soft, grey hair covered the being’s arms, face and head.  A pure white robe was draped over the rest of its frail form.  Beneath the mane of grey hair, a pair of beady yellow eyes regarded the scene with obvious disgust.

As the being neared, the black filaments went mad, flailing about and growing faster than before.

‘YOU!’ a disembodied voice telepathically thundered. 

The tendrils swarmed the being . . . only to pass through her golden frame.

The wizened being ignored the attacks, shaking her head at the efforts.

“You’ve lost your chance to destroy me,” she said, her voice worn and weary.  “As I once lost my chance to put an end to you.”

Some of the tendrils thickened and elongated.  They began scouring the ground, latching on to any bit of rotten flesh from either the fallen Dead Gods or itself and pulling the scattered bits to the trunk.  A sick slurping emitted from the creature as it absorbed the pieces.  Some of the black tentacles even took hold of several of the blank-faced Dead Gods standing motionless nearby.  They didn’t stir a muscle as they too were taken to the stump.  The slurping sound grew louder, accompanied by the crunch of bone, as the Dead Gods were consumed by it.

The stump became a tree . . . a pair of white orbs ignited like fires on its dark surface.  The trunk heaved up into the air, over a dozen feet tall.  Burning white, the glowing eyes stared down at the diminutive woman. 

Enraged, it lashed out at the being with its larger tendrils.  But they too passed through her as if she was air.  It took some time, but finally, the tree-like being gave up. 

Its rage vented, comprehension set in.  Wet, gurgled laughter came from the monster.

‘AH . . . THE GREAT DONA’CORA . . . YOU TOO HAVE DIED,’ it said, slinking toward her.  Its body bent down, the white eyes burning inches from her form.  “BUT UNLIKE ME, YOU HAVE NO POWER.’

It turned from her, rising up, taller than before.  The white eyes flared as they regarded Alana’s path.

‘SO BE IT THEN.  BECAUSE OF YOUR PRESENCE, I WILL ONLY GAIN GREATER PLEASURE WITH HER DEATH.  LIMB BY LIMB, I SHALL RIP HER APART.  AND AS I DO SO, NEITHER YOU, NOR YOUR PATHETIC MAKER WILL BE ABLE TO STOP ME.’

It slithered down Alana’s path, heading towards the Dead Tree.  In a perfect, single-file line, the pack of Dead Gods followed.

Dona’Cora had no reply.  What could she say?  Ostedes was right, she was powerless to stop him.  Nor would the Maker intervene. 

In this battle, Alana was utterly alone . . .

“You are strong enough,” she whispered.

But she knew that just speaking the words wouldn’t convince Alana it was true . . . To pass this lesson, she would have to discover the truth of it for herself.

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