Then's Shadow

In the realm of Aeril, some people are born with monsters that only they can see. These monsters torment their hosts, sometimes to the point of insanity or even death.
When the fate of their world suddenly hangs in the balance, five of the Darkened must come together to find a way to save their home - and defeat their monsters for good.

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Author's note

This concept isn't fully fleshed out yet, and I don't know if this is a story that I'll finish. I certainly want to try, though! This is something that I plan to dedicate a lot of time to, and I am eager for feedback! I will be editing chapters even as I publish them, to be sure to nail down the right feeling.
AA

1. Prologue

 

When the world was created, it was pure. There was no darkness, no evil. There was nothing to torment the creatures that inhabited this beautiful plane.

    Until Then.

    Then was one of many great gods. He created humanity itself. He crafted the first humans with such care. He placed them on the pure plane we call Aeril and watched them grow. He watched them with a deep fascination. They exceeded every expectation. He began to envy them. He could only sit and create and observe, while they were able to live freely.

    Eventually, he grew tired of this.

    He disguised himself and set foot on Aeril, the first god since Justene to do so. He spent a full sun-cycle with the humans, living their life. He conversed with them, danced with them, drank with them. Eventually, the moons rose, and he returned to his own plane.

    But Then was now dissatisfied with his life. He yearned for the life of a mortal, for the freedom of a short life with no burden.

    He visited Aeril again, this time staying even after the moon rose. While he was there, he laid eyes on a mortal woman whom he himself had not created, but was born of the daughter of one of his recent creations.

    He saw this woman, and felt something he had never felt before. Confused by this new sensation, he approached her.

    Her name was Luniara, and they spent the entire night discussing just about any subject that could be discussed in a full moon cycle.

    He kept returning to Aeril after that, and slowly realized that he was falling in love with Luniara. Eventually, they made love, and she was soon with child.

 

    By this point, another god had taken notice of Then’s actions. Rosine, who ruled over love and motherhood, of course knew exactly who had blessed Luniara with child. She was furious at Then, and confronted him privately. “How could you betray your duty in such a way?” she accused him.

    “Perhaps I am no longer meant for this duty.” he responded simply, turning away.

 

    Furious, Rosine called upon the other gods. They were equally furious with Then.

    “To suddenly cast yourself as one of your own low creations - it’s ridiculous!”

    “How could you fall in love with this fragile thing? She’ll be gone from this world before you know it!”

    “You are a traitor to your duty.”

 

    Then still refused to leave Aeril and Luniara. The other gods angrily retreated. “You will be punished for this betrayal, Then.”

 

    Eight months passed in peace. Then was happy living as a human, and eagerly awaited the arrival of his child, but the gods’ warning always hovered in the back of his mind.

    

    Eventually the day arrived for his child to be born. Then raced to the nursery as soon as he received the news.

    Rosine was waiting for him outside, invisible to the humans. The expression on her face was one of angry sorrow. “I am sorry, Then. I didn’t want to have any part in this, but you left us no choice.”

    “What do you mean? What have you done to my child?” Then roared, pushing past the goddess and into the nursery. He entered the room and watched in horror as his love gave birth. A human baby was not what left her womb, but instead a dark creature, the likes of which had never been seen by Aeril before. The creature turned and sliced a claw down Lunaria’s throat, and Then cried out, “NO!” He raced forward, drawing a sword and swinging it towards the monster. It simply grinned and vanished seconds before impact.

    Then fell to the ground, heartbroken. Grief flooded his being and darkened his heart. He turned and fled the nursery, and suddenly vanished.

 

    This is how the first monster came to be.

 

    After Then’s child, more monsters were born. They flew from nightmares and fell from tears as humanity began to feel sadness and fear. The humans grew scared as more and more monsters terrorized their race. Some humans began to go crazy, some flew into murderous rages. Several even took their own lives. And all the while they all kept falling to their knees and pleading to the gods, begging for help.

 

    The gods watched, unsure of what to do. They were furious and lost after Then’s betrayal. He was the only one who really understood the humans, the only one with the real power to help them. But no one knew where he was, and some were too furious to even want his help.

 

    Eventually, a younger goddess named Kiba could no longer stand watching the humans suffer at the hands of the creatures. She descended to Aeril in secret and set off in search of Then. Her falcon familiar, Horell, scanned from the skies as Kiba made her way through towns. After ten months of searching, Kiba finally found him in the city of Ratekk, working as the owner of a wood carving shop. His incredibly life-like carvings sold well in the city and beyond, which was what allowed Kiba to find him.

 

    Kiba approached the god, who looked tired and very mortal. He almost looked as though he’d aged like a human would.

    Welcome.” he said with a warm smile. “I am Svennith, and this is my shop.”

    Kiba pulled her hood down. “You are not Svennith.”

    His smile vanished. “Whatever do you mean, miss?”

    Her golden eyes met his deep indigo ones. “You are Then, god and creator of humanity. And we need you.”

    Then’s eyes widened. “Explain yourself.”

    Kiba then proceeded to tell him about the monsters. “If something isn’t done, humanity will eventually be wiped out by these creatures.”

 

    Then’s eyes darkened. “This is all my fault. This is my punishment, continued.” He sighed. “I know what I must do. I must find my offspring, the first monster, and destroy it. I must toss its body into the Redrin Sea...and myself in after. It will not eradicate the creatures completely, but it will limit their power and how often they spawn so that they will be manageable.”

 

    Kiba frowned. “The Redrin Sea is fatally poisonous even to gods...you will be killed.”

    Then looked away silently. “My time has come. I would have gone in sooner or later. I grew weary of immortality long ago. You know this already.”

 

    The god and goddess departed the city. Then knew just where to find the monster he called his kin. “I’ve been watching it. Hating it. Grieving over it.”

 

    When they found the creature, Then did not attack. He simply approached it and fell to his knees at its feet. The monster huffed, bared it fangs, and leaned towards its surprisingly easy meal.

 

    It was caught by surprise as Then’s blade sliced right through it, killing the monster instantly with its poisoned tip. Then tossed the body over his shoulder, and a small tear could be seen quivering on his cheek.

    

    Kiba and Then made their way to Redrin quickly, and it wasn’t long before they were standing by its deep red waters. Then hurled the monster’s body into the waves, and looked back at Kiba. “Keep them safe for me.” He handed her his sword, then turned and dove into the sea.

 

    A red mist rose from the surface and spread quickly through all of Aeril. Humanity watched as the monsters disappeared.

 

Kiba felt a wave of relief, but then remembered Then’s words: “It will not eradicate them completely.” Kiba leaped back into the plane of the gods to observe the mortal plane. It wasn’t long before she knew what Then had meant. As a baby was born in the mist’s aftermath, a dark figure came into existence with it. The creature leered down at the child before fading away. Kiba watched as this occurrence repeated with multiple other infants, noticing that not every newborn had a dark counterpart.

 

Kiba spent the next lifetime observing the humans who’d been born with dark spirits. She watched them grow, and their monsters grow with them, tormenting them more and more over time. Each monster seemed attached only to the human it was born with, and each had a different way of making its host miserable. As the decades wore on, the afflicted humans grew weary of their monster counterparts, whom could not be seen by any others but themselves. Some took their lives, unable to bear the suffering.

Kiba grieved for these lost humans, and wondered what she could do. She started visiting the Aeril plane at night, dressed in midnight robes. She left tiny golden orbs in the rooms of the afflicted humans. When they awoke in the morning, they looked upon these orbs and felt safe, happy, and hopeful.

 

And so the monsters continued to be born, but the humans’ suffering was eased by Kiba’s light.

 

These monsters still exist with many of us today, but you cannot see them. You can only see your own monster, if you have one. Every night, Kiba’s glow fills the rooms of the Darkened, and brings them some comfort. But they still suffer, and many still wish to die, for even Kiba’s light can only do so much.

 
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