Chapter 29: 3,000 Years into the Past (3)

It was an odd situation for the Godvildian Lord, to hold title as prisoner, but with freedom; to remain shackled, but with servants in attendance. Zane Morgul felt his body twitch – a little with pain, and more with disgust. With a grim expression on his face, he eyed first the restraints that had crippled his abilities, and then his injuries.

In time, the door opened, with three attendants on the other end. They waited outside, masking what appeared to be a tremble.

“This is your home,” reminded Zane, politely. “I am not one to show aggression without meaning.”

With a nod, the attendants entered and handled their tasks within the room. One of them appeared to hold a tray, with much of its contents hidden underneath a large cloche cover. But despite an aroma meant to whet the appetite, Zane waved the food aside. Time passed, and the Godvildian Lord found himself alone once more.

Without much to do, Zane fell into slumber, but awoke to the sound of a gentle knock. He sat upright to find a woman in front of him; she tilted her head and smiled, wearing the expression of amusement. An odd scent followed in her wake, fragrant and well-suited to someone of her stature and reputation. She captivated with her features, with her bewitchingly beautiful divinity. At the sight, Zane merely scratched the back of his head, unfazed by what could have charmed the most impressive of men.

“Daughter of the former king, Lady Antiochus, if I’m not mistaken,” said Zane, slowly. “I wonder what encouraged your interaction with this lowly prisoner.”

“This was previously my room, Lord Zane,” said Inaya, matter-of-factly. “I only handed it over upon request from King Ceraunus. But it appears that I may have forgotten something here of value.”

“Please feel free to search this place as you see fit, then,” said Zane. “I see no reason to withhold access to something that you might require urgently.”

“You are a reasonable man, Lord Zane,” said Inaya. “But it’s a shame to find you reduced to the same state as your leaders, an embodiment of rigidity and stagnation.”

“Bold words for a first impression,” said Zane, with a smile. “Our leaders are chosen by the will of our people, and I serve as their sword. If anything, we stand against stagnation, and drive towards progress.”

Zane paused for a moment, eager to add to his response. He sighed, and then leaned against the wall, restoring to a calm state of mind. His eyes searched for intent, but moved away in eventual resignation. There was nothing to press for, to understand.

“I apologize for having raised my voice,” said Zane. “It is not my place within these walls to offer opinion to a former princess.”

“Come now, Zane,” said Inaya, disregarding her prisoner’s title. “You’re respectful, not cowardly. All we want is to show you something; allow us a chance to change your opinion just as you did with our king.”

“What do you mean?”

“King Ceraunus has ceased all campaign against our world,” informed Inaya. “Your speech, it moved him to peace.”

“And yet I sit here, in Caradus Castle, a prisoner,” said Zane, laughing as he did. “You need my influence to sway the Godvildian leaders. The Young King moves with political motivation; I do not blame him for it. But the kindness and respect despite my current situation, isn’t that what it is?”

“You speak a lot for someone without information,” said Inaya, harshly. “Would you speak the same way if you knew of his present situation?”

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“What situation is that exactly?”

“The surviving Generals from the battle against the Kingdom of Suntaria had requested your immediate execution,” said Inaya. “King Ceraunus delayed that request by as much as three days under condition of a successful alliance with the Godvildian people.”

“That isn’t really a situation,” said Zane, without emotion. “What’s the worst that could happen upon failure, my beheading perhaps?”

“And the loss of our king’s throne and power,” said Inaya, curtly. “King Ceraunus Antiochus is putting everything he can in this wager of his. Your life, his legacy, that’s something that the both of you can work on. I urge you to consider momentary friendship; hear us out and make your choice with that information. Do not dismiss us or our concerns for past mistakes.”

Zane frowned at what was shared; it bothered him, an enemy king’s attempt at persuasion. His mind moved towards dismissal, rigid in its ideals – hammered through by years under Godvildian care. But his youth wished to diverge; his instinct pushed towards forgiveness and reason. After a brief struggle of thoughts, Zane conceded, wearing an expression of annoyance.

“I will listen to your king, Lady Inaya,” said Zane. “Let him know that I am ready to meet with him.”

“Thank you, Zane,” said Inaya, as she moved towards the door. “I shall arrange for a meeting at the earliest.”

“I’m curious, though,” said Zane, interrupting the former princess’ exit. “Do you often neglect title when speaking with someone?”

“Don’t forget that you are a prisoner here,” said Inaya, with a smile. “Then again, we may have no need for titles between us in the future. Don’t let it worry you, and yes, I found what I was looking for.”

***

Sol Sanctum stirred with unease, having witnessed a glimpse into the future. They remained far from the war, but within earshot of information. Among the Healers present, their leader – Vetus, slowly slipped into the embrace of the gods, as part of an important ceremony. They watched him lose the colour in his eyes, and later turn blue.

Vetus searched within the abyss, for answers unknown to most. In time, his body weakened, burdened by the knowledge of their world. His followers trembled, struck with fear around the fate of their leader; he raised his arms in a plea after repeated attempts to the conclusion of failure, shrivelling, as the life drained from his soul.

And then it occurred, an opportunity – a sliver that led to something significant. Vetus followed, desperate in his pursuit of answers. The Healers of Sol Sanctum chanted in encouragement, rejuvenating a body that had succumbed to frailty. For a moment, uncertainty had resumed once more; Vetus slumped to the ground, losing the odd complexion that had possessed him through the ceremony.

But with a gasp, the Great Healer returned to normalcy, struggling for air in a body deprived of nourishment. Hours passed, and the Healers tended to their leader, helping him to a state of good health.

After a glass of water, Vetus dismissed most of those present from his room, but urged for one of them to remain – his closest confidant.

“He is not wrong, my child,” said Vetus, with a tired expression on his face. “King Ceraunus Antiochus, we must advise the Godvildian Council to ally with him.”

***

Inaya opened the door and stepped aside, allowing her king access to the room. Ceraunus thanked the former princess and turned to greet Zane; the former bowed respectfully, and remained unfazed by the latter’s disinterest. King Ceraunus pulled two chairs and placed it in front of his prisoner. He gestured for Inaya to take a seat, and followed right after.

“Thank you, Lord Zane,” said Ceraunus, genuinely. “I’m glad that you agreed to this meeting.”

“I heard from Lady Inaya, of your present situation,” said Zane. “She educated me about being a little flexible when it came to the opinions of others.”

“She certainly does have a way with words,” admitted Ceraunus, smiling as he did. “I can’t praise her enough for having convinced you.”

King Antiochus turned to Inaya and bowed in gratitude. Despite the gesture, he noticed the former princess turn away, feigning indifference to the compliment.

“Now, I suppose it is time you told me why I ought to put differences apart and form an alliance with your people,” said Zane. “I heard you even wagered your throne on this.”

“Lord Zane, you must first understand that I do not seek an alliance for the sake of power,” said Ceraunus. “There is a great threat coming our way, one with the potential to destroy our world in its entirety.”

“And where exactly did you come upon this bit of information?”

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“It’s difficult to explain, but perhaps I can show you,” said Ceraunus, with a short clap. At the sound, an attendant entered the room, holding – with care – what appeared to be his king’s weapon. “This is Seraphina, the Halberd of Kings. As a concept, royalty doesn’t exist amongst our people; king or queen is a title granted by Seraphina – she chooses an inheritor in a way.”

“This speaks to my irrelevance as well,” quipped Inaya. “I may hold the Antiochus name because of my father, but I’m far from royalty at the moment.”

“That’s correct,” said Ceraunus. “But Seraphina is more than a weapon, it’s an artefact as old as our world; in fact, some believe it to be a gift, from the creator of Mioverold.”

“I’ve heard stories,” said Zane. “But what does your weapon have to do with our present discussion?”

“Seraphina grants its inheritor several unique abilities,” said Ceraunus. “There’s one of particular importance to us – foresight, the ability to see the fate of our world. But the weapon allows for viewing only as far as your time as king, which explains the lack of priority from my predecessors.”

“Interesting; for the sake of being reasonable and understanding, I’ll agree with whatever you’ve just revealed,” said Zane. “But tell me something, does the weapon also allow for you to gaze into your own future, to see your death, perhaps?”

“I can see my fate to a certain degree,” admitted Ceraunus. “But the future is fluid, and I’m not exempt from those laws. I could die sooner, or even later than what I am able to witness presently. I have little control over the actions of others and their impact on the world. In a way, I’m just trying to do my best here.”

“That’s an agreeable explanation,” said Zane, sighing as he did. “It’s a pity, however, that there is no reason for me to believe in any of this. It’s just your word, nothing else, and I don’t trust it.”

Ceraunus watched Zane turn and walk to his bed; he remained calm despite the gesture, lowering his head instead. With the Godvildian Lord seated once more, Ceraunus rose with his halberd in hand. Zane noticed the Noxun King approach, but without hostility, stopping within arm’s length of the former.

“I insist that you let me finish,” said Ceraunus, offering his weapon to the Godvildian Lord. “What I had narrated, think of it as a warning. Your choice here, it decides the fate of our world.”

“You’re rather persistent,” said Zane. “Is there truly anything to be gained here?”

“At the very slightest, it might prevent your beheading and my dethroning.”

Zane scratched the back of his head, uncertain still. But with another push from the Noxun King, he relented, accepting the weapon by hand. At first, the Godvildian Lord felt little more than a minor reaction. With a puzzled look on his face, he turned to Ceraunus, and Inaya right after. But as time passed, Zane experienced a pull, odd, and yet powerfully so.

The Godvildian Lord succumbed, overwhelmed by the power of Seraphina. His aura retaliated, almost on reflex, failing in every attempt. He clenched his teeth, bound by the shackles of unthinkable pain; it ate away at his existence even. Zane’s mind slipped slowly, from the room, and from the company of the Antiochus family. He woke with a start, at the sound of something loud.

Zane hurried to his feet, now trapped in space of cosmic proportions. At a distance, he spotted what appeared to be a window, and beside it – a woman, treading between the realms of reality and non-existence. She urged for the Godvildian Lord to look past the window, and he did, without question.

On the other end, Zane found nothing at first, and then everything. It poured into his head, generations of information, without consent. The Godvildian Lord struggled to hold onto his sanity, but prevailed through the effort. He reached a state of calm with the sight of his world in front of him, growing, evolving, touching perfection even. But something occurred to change that state of progress – a crack, a flaw.

Further into the future, Zane witnessed Mioverold crumble, fading towards inevitable end. In its destruction, he watched his fellow denizens suffer without discrimination. It was close, the conclusion, and the thought of it terrified the Godvildian Lord. He stepped away from the window, noticing the woman beside him. She touched his cheeks, tears in her eyes, and with an apologetic expression on her face.

“Who are you?” asked Zane, barely a whisper.

In response, the woman pushed Zane, and with enough force to snap the latter into reality. A blur at first, the Godvildian Lord blinked to hurry his vision into clarity.

“You have shown me something very dangerous, King Antiochus,” said Zane, in a stammer. “Was that what I think it is?”

“Whatever Seraphina chose to reveal, it is the truth,” said Ceraunus. “You could call her the creator of this world, and the halberd – a vessel that holds a portion of her soul. She weeps for her children, having failed in her role as a mother.”

“You have my attention,” said Zane. “Finish your narration.”

“Seraphina blessed us with great vitality; we are able to live long lives, loved by the gods – some more than others,” said Ceraunus. “But in her love, she made us a burden to this world. Its resources are limited and slow in replenishment; Aeterna also suffers through a flawed cycle of life. With peace, and an absence of death, we weaken her. It’s almost laughable, to think that war kept our inevitable end at bay.”

“The destruction, it was rapid and fierce,” said Zane. “I saw it with my own eyes. How have we never managed to notice this?”

“Seraphina is not allowed to supersede the laws of this world despite being its creator,” said Ceraunus. “I’m only fortunate to have seen this with my eyes. Our world has been suffering for a while now; I’m afraid things are going to change, and soon. When Aeterna fades into nothingness, Mioverold will crumble.”

Zane returned to his seat in silence. He raised his arms, requesting freedom from the chains that bound him.

“It appears to me that you may have saved both my head and your throne,” said Zane. “And for the sake of our future, I promise to persuade the Godvildian leaders for an alliance with your people.”


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