Chapter 23: Inside Shadowmere

Death. Time. Weakness. What could he have seen in the darkness that subdued him? There was once wealth, and also benevolence. But the throne refused to have him there, to have him seated. The people rebelled, and the region tore away from what made it glorious. Friendships turned stale, sour, and resentful. Does it make much sense?

Cast away and sealed from the World of Transition, Shadowmere existed between realities, devoid of meaning. It was important, yet trivial; powerful, yet weak; eternal, yet fleeting. But there was one word often synonymous to Shadowmere, even to those who may have forgotten its purpose. A prison, unlike any other – forged and fortified with Godvildian magic.

“Not as impervious as you had imagined, Zane,” whispered a weak voice, overwhelmed with the crutches of time and decay. “I wonder what helped me march back into reality.”

Aeterna never reached Shadowmere, after all. But the cracks had begun to show, and sunlight did follow. In time, the darkness showed promise to recede. But the World of Transition, it trembled. An aura spurred to life – royal, magnificent, but dipped entirely in the blackest of nights. It was from a man denied justice and honour, deprived of common sense and the concept of reality; pushed into madness.

The vines around his arms loosened, as did the magic that held him. He moved his arms, shrivelled and diseased. For a moment, the man craved food above all else. His skin felt papery, deprived of nourishment and care. He blinked, trying to adjust to the darkness. It wasn’t necessary. The light, it eventually did reach him.

He had little strength to stand as well, but the warmth – it was enough. Three thousand years; that’s what it took. He struggled to his feet, almost a corpse, and fell right after. He returned to sleep a little later.

As the magic continued to fall apart, the cracks widened. It was brighter, and the dormant soul-fires stirred. Driven towards escape, they travelled within the towers of light. Outside, they sought Aeterna. But a few did wander with worry, puzzled by the mystery of their imprisonment. Some sought the man deprived of freedom, the same as them. They moved, but faded within inches around the almost corpse-like being.

He greedily consumed the soul-fires, without restraint. His body suffered through the emotions and the pain, but he persevered. The soul-fires did attempt escape, but the man held them hostage around an aeter-built net, constructed with what little strength he had left. He continued without remorse, until his body adapted, and until the soul-fires’ demise. But it didn’t help, at least not immediately.

There was resistance, a rejection towards everything new. His body tore apart from the inside, and the blood – there was a lot of blood. He turned to his side, choked around the throat, and vomited. His limbs twisted, controlled by a force beyond comprehension. It was a cycle without rest. But in his determination, the man continued. He fished for the soul-fires, extending his net to trap more. Many escaped, but fortune – it’s a tricky thing.

He repeated his self-inflicted torture incessantly, until the soul-fires ceased to exist. And in silence, he suffered through the punishment. He needed the nourishment, he needed the colour to return to his cheeks, and for his body to regain some of its former strength.

Hours passed; it felt like an eternity to the man that slumbered. But he survived, as gruesome as it was, as deathly as it was. Now on his feet, he lowered his head to assess what was accomplished. He was stronger, not by much, but more human-like. He looked around and wandered without thought, reaching what appeared to be a stone-made wall.

He brushed along the circumference to reach a door – an exit to the outside, to the wilderness. It smelt different, absent any form of life or value. He continued to walk and later reached an old storehouse. Further still, there existed an abandoned village – lost within the embrace of Shadowmere. It held remnants of those long forgotten, but the man remembered. Through all of the soul-fires and their memories, the man remembered.

Within the storehouse, he found some rags; it helped against the cold. Out of curiosity, he cast his aeter-made net across the entirety of Shadowmere. It offered insight and nothing else, not even a route to the outside world. How long would he have to wait, the man wondered.

Skyward, there existed cracks that allowed for the light to venture inside, almost mockingly so. But there was also movement, a movement of change that allowed for freedom. He could wait, as long as it took. After three thousand years, how much would four days matter? He wandered some more and reached the centre of Shadowmere – an area with blood-soaked soil, and uncomfortably strange trees.

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“All I did was move in favour of my world,” the man whispered, with a sad expression on his face. “Was there any other way for me to have resolved the matter, Zane?”

An aura danced into existence with the man at its core, redder than the hottest of coals. He raised an arm and redirected much of what he had toward the cracks. The aeter seeped through to reach the World of Transition, altering the sky and its shape to something picturesque and beautiful. It meant a lot more though; the man sought to make a declaration – a declaration of his awakening, that is.

Shadowmere retaliated, fearful of its prisoner and his influence in the outside world. It failed in the endeavour.

People shuddered from the pressure of what was released, which reached as far as the Kingdom of Suntaria even. Everyone noticed, from the Pillars to the Grandmasters, from the Relictan Lords to the demi-humans. An era of bloodlust, war, death, and carnage; it had arrived.

How will you welcome me this time, Mioverold?” the man wondered, dissipating his aura through the thought. “I suppose it doesn’t matter, not after witnessing what I did.

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Four days…


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