Slayer of Gods
End of Magic Book One
The end of magic.
The world is in its death throes. I can feel it. Just a little bit more, a few more centuries, a couple of millennia, and it will all be over.
My predictions were wrong. I remember discussing the end of the world with my brother. We both held that it would be a creeping thing. A slow dimming, a quiet fading, a gentle dying. Something that would happen while our sights were elsewhere. The last of us would continue in a world that had ended, unaware until it slowly, very slowly, dawned on us. And then our choice would be simple – for what breach of logic allows for life in a world that has breathed its last?
But we were expecting too much from life. There had been no indication of the existence of justice, and somehow we thought it would make up for its absence by appearing at the end.
Justice. My calling, my whole existence. Look where it got me.
But who am I, who is this man that’s neglected an introduction? Call me your unwilling narrator, for now basking in the light of anonymity. Call me the only possible narrator, and believe my promise that I will hide nothing from you.
Nevertheless, I won’t give it to you all at once. You have to understand. After all, if I told you how it ends, you might feel it’s all pointless. If I told you everything at once, you might despair.
Luckily, there are many endings to choose from before the actual end.
Take for instance the end of magic. Yes, that was him as well.
Yes, why don’t we start with that?
The man who would be God.
Year 917 of the Nhemerian-Mael Duin war.
He was blind for the next few moments. Blind from sheer pain, and yet, through it, he could almost see. He had only to clear his mind, to focus on the worst of it, on the parts of his body that seemed to be on fire. Those were the parts that were changing the most, expanding beyond comprehension, and through them he imagined he could see the world around him shrinking. Scattered boulders became mere rocks, the great tower built by now extinct Elder Gods, with its smooth unevenness and oily surface, was now only twice his height, and even the jagged peaks seemed to have grown smaller.
Pain aside, it was a world of freedom. For what else was freedom, but the power to stand above all others? And freedom… that was all he had ever wanted. What did it matter, then, if he’d had to abandon his humanity for it? A few more centuries of hardship, maybe a millennium or two, and then he would live forever, untouchable, respected, almost an Elder God himself. Free from the other realms and the never-ending cycle of life and death. Free to lower the boundaries between the worlds and roam as he will. Free to finally be who he was meant to be.
Oh, he was ready. Ready for freedom, of course, but also ready to make whatever sacrifices were asked of him, to endure as much pain as needed, and, naturally, to grovel. To plead and bow and kiss their feet and promise to serve them now and forever. ‘Please, make me immortal, please, make me a god, please, don’t trample me too hard, and please, oh please, let these coming years pass me by fast.’
He was no longer blind. He was no longer small. He was no longer human. “See?” he breathed out, unprepared for the fire that flew from his mouth. One of the dragons stamped it out with his gigantic claw, but all the others kept their eyes on him, showing as much surprise as dragons possibly can.
The biggest of them all, their lord and king, Rhak’voruk, shoved them aside with his powerful tail as he made for the center. “Godslayer.”
“Yes,” he responded to his widely used pseudonym, wondering if there remained anyone alive that remembered his real name. “See? I told you I could transform.”
Rhak’voruk was silent for a few moments, his powerful shadow cast twice under the light of the two suns of the realm of Hardatha. The man known throughout the world as Godslayer couldn’t help but stare at it, entranced, as he always was, by the oddities of the other realms. He rolled his massive shoulders, enjoying the mere bulk of his new dragon body, despite the pain that still lingered in his extremities. At least now the extreme heat of Hardatha no longer troubled him, and his reptile eyes could somehow see through the smoke that rained incessantly from the sky. Rather than having to climb the thousand boulders scattered around this barren land of snow-capped mountains and old ruins, he could simply walk over them, even crushing them under his claws. How insignificant must I have seemed to them in human form? He wondered.
“Yes,” replied Rhak’voruk finally. “You did not lie. Yet…”
Dragon-speech was slow, and the words tasted like ash in Godslayer’s mouth. He cleared his throat, resulting in another spout of flame. “Yet?” he prompted, losing his patience. He still had centuries, maybe even more, of labor ahead of him, and, with usual human haste, was eager to get started.
“I cannot help but wonder where your heart truly lies…”
Oh, come on.
“…With us, or with the humans?”
Godslayer tried scoffing, only to find dragons can do no such thing. “Elder One,” he bowed his head. “I spent no less than five hundred human years learning how to transform into a dragon. Spent them at your command, I might add.”
Rhak’voruk looked skywards, at the outline of the first sun beyond the cover of raining ash. “What are a mere five hundred years?” he rumbled.
You little asshole.
“Are they enough,” continued the lord of dragons, “to inspire loyalty?”
“I’m more dragon than human now,” lied Godslayer.
Rhak’voruk shook his head. “Five hundred years as a dragon – that is a mere blink of an eye. How many years as a human?”
“The human years weren’t good years.”
The lord of dragons emitted a low grunt.
“You have my unwavering loyalty,” insisted the Godslayer. And you promised, you bastard. “Besides…”
“How can I know you won’t serve the interests of your kind, rather than ours?”
If you could feel the pain of shifting your body, you’d understand how much I’ve staked on this. Godslayer ground his fangs. Five hundred years… I should have approached the demons instead. “You have to take the risk, or face extinction like the ones that built you that tower.”
The lord of dragons stared at the second sun, the one that traveled from south to north. He beheld this broken realm of his, breathed in the tattered air, stared at the cracked ground. Godslayer imagined that Rhak’voruk wished he could cross into the other realms once more, or maybe undo time and burn Ferryun, the human realm, to the ground. “Very well, Godslayer, we’ll put our trust in you.”
Godslayer almost collapsed from joy. He was about to receive power the likes of which no mortal ever dared imagine. “I have to go back to human form for this.”
“So be it.”
He was blind once more, but the excitement numbed the pain entirely. This was it, the completion of centuries of work and planning. He almost wished he hadn’t outlived everyone he cared about so he could share it with someone. But who would understand? Who could grasp the magnificence of what was about to take place? Only him, only Godslayer, soon to be the most powerful of mages.
The world had grown. His two shadows were eclipsed by those of the thousand-odd dragons huddled around him in the only clearing in Hardatha that could hold them all. The raining smoke clouded his vision and filled his lungs, making him cough pathetically. And the heat… For a moment, Godslayer wondered if he had strength enough to do the sealing. He’d hardly ever performed the ritual in one of the other realms. And Hardatha was as hostile as they came. “I’m ready!” he screamed at the massive creatures staring down at him.
The dragons cleared off, all except Rhak’voruk. Godslayer stared up at the darkened outline of his massive figure, wondering if the lord of dragons felt fear. He imagined he could notice tension in the only part that was at eye-level – the lower muscles in the dragon’s huge legs.
Well, here we go. If it killed him, then it killed him. It if killed them both, then it killed them both. “Here we go!”
Godslayer ran a slim finger across the runes in his left arm, activating them. He ran the same finger across the mark on his lower chin that was the physical representation of the seal between him and a wayward spirit from the realm of Oburih. He destroyed the seal. After all, he needed space now, and he could only hold so many creatures. The power of the lord of dragons would surely make up for any he lost. He also destroyed his seal with a long-since dead mage assassin from the Age of Absolution. And with that demon from Ikvarah that had taught him how to draw energy from the dying.
Godslayer was tired already. Between breaking seals and mutating his body twice, he was ready to collapse where he stood. But that would have been worse than death. With clear expertise, he visualized the path from Ferryun, the human realm, to Hardatha, realm of dragons, along with the shortcuts he’d discovered. He opened the gate to Ferryun in his outstretched right palm, holding the one to Hardatha in his left. He sent the energy through the proper path, consuming the souls he’d devoured for this very purpose. He felt them pass through him, experiencing their anger and passions, hearing their laments and curses. Godslayer could only hope theirs would be enough life-energy for this. Just in case, he opened a third path, drawing energy from Oburih, realm of entropy. He almost felt it slip from him, but he regained control of his mind, channeling the darkness through the runes in his arms.
Godslayer let out a deep breath. The connection was established. All that remained was the seal. He opened his right eye, cutting through the flailing winds that surrounded him and the raining smoke of the barren land to Rhak’voruk. The dragon’s head was lowered, his whole body ready to pounce. Don’t fight me. He couldn’t subdue him, not while keeping the pathways open. Not when he was this exhausted.
The lord of dragons submitted. Godslayer could feel the new marks and runes appearing on his own body, and could see them ensnaring the dragon. They seemed to spring out of the earth, the color of ice, and surround Rhak’voruk’s entire body. Then a few settled into place, leaving purple runes all through the dragon’s snout. As for Godslayer, they were settling all over his face, exactly where he’d made space for them. He locked them in place, setting wards that he had collected for this particular use. He did the same for those on the dragon’s skin – this one particular dragon that had never been branded, never been tamed, that no mage had ever managed to subdue and force into a sealing.
Until now. Despite the pain and exhaustion, Godslayer smiled. He dispelled the winds around him, closed the paths in both his hands, and opened his left eye. Rhak’voruk was sprawled on the ground, collapsed from the pain, but Godslayer remained on his feet. His arm had dislocated; he fixed it with healing magic from Arnanda. Same went for the broken fingers and ribs. And now he turned around, taking in the scene of thousands of dragons staring bewildered at him. All was still except for him. Even the raining smoke had momentarily stopped.
Godslayer smiled wider than he ever had before. He felt energy pulsating through him, and he knew his body would recover eventually. He could already feel the healing magic restoring tissue and organs inside him. And so he skipped about merrily towards the sprawled dragon, mesmerized by those markings running down his snout. That sign of ownership. Not that he’d ever explained it that way to his newly ensnared dragon. He laughed.
“Rhak’voruk,” he said loudly. “Now I go.”
The lord of dragons stared sadly at him as he tried to rise to his feet.
“It’s alright,” went Godslayer, “you’ll feel better soon enough. No injury is permanent.” But this, he thought, looking at the markings, this is.
“We put our trust in you,” Rhak’voruk roared pathetically.
“I know, I know,” Godslayer gave a comic bow of the head before turning around and beginning the long walk out the clearing on his broken feet. “It is not misplaced!” he screamed over his shoulder.
The dragons followed his steps in utter silence. He smiled at his success, channeling healing energy into his body as he went. Beyond the clearing, after the forest of trees as tall as mountains, he opened the path to Ferryun, too happy to even bother stopping for breath. He glanced skyward at the two suns, then farther down at the impossibly large mountains, and he thought he could make out the figure of a flying dragon in the distance.
This truly wasn’t his world. But it was a beautiful realm nonetheless. One of massive things and massive powers, and he was only too glad to leave it behind for now. He stepped into the pathway he’d opened, trees and rocks shrinking around him as went deeper and deeper into the world he came from, the world of smaller things.