With the preparations in place, the three most powerful men within Mioverold gathered at Sol Sanctum. It marked a possibility, of an era associated with peace in its purest form. The Godvildian leaders had succumbed to the reality, as did much of the Noxun nobles. Amidst them, stood the High Humans, open in their thoughts – sceptical, but with renewed faith over strong coexistence.
Vetus guided the three men towards a circle, governed by an ancient formula, remembered merely through the eyes of Seraphina. It held an odd power, overwhelming in its pressure – almost threateningly alive. Some of the more sensitive denizens of Mioverold felt it even, kilometres from the site. It coursed through the paths that often guided the soul-fires to Aeterna, foreign in its form, and yet strangely familiar in its behaviour.
The Great Healer assumed his position at the centre, well-aware of the procedure given his own glimpse into the future. He held a staff, a gift from the gods not unlike the Halberd of Kings. With a wave, the magic activated, strengthened by the formula at its core. It spread through to the participants present, each of a different race, powerful and of great vitality.
At first, it tugged at Zane, tearing away at what made him fierce. The Godvildian Lord felt his soul stripped of power and struggled through the pain that came with it. His will weakened, and then some more, until the injuries surfaced. Everything broke, bone and flesh, healing in rapid succession, only to start the process all over again. As Zane’s vision blurred from the blood over his eyes, he screamed to retain sanity, strengthened only by the thought of his lover.
In time, the magic calmed, extracting what it desired – a large, godly, but unrefined pool of energy. It left Zane without much of anything, emotionless even; he moved his fingers only to realize an absence of all the gifts once bestowed upon him. A shell of his former self, the Godvildian Lord turned to notice Ceraunus fall to the same fate. The two then moved their eyes toward Mallan Argonaut.
“We believe in you,” reminded Ceraunus. “Lord Zane and I couldn’t have found a better representative for Mioverold; ensure that you alter the laws as discussed.”
“Don’t fall prey to the power, King Argonaut,” said Zane, almost a whisper. “You deserve this opportunity more than any of us, a witness to the past deeds of oppression. This is your only chance to change our future; make it better.”
Mallan exhaled in acceptance, embracing the pain that had conquered his two comrades. But the pressure affected the High Human differently. It stirred and took shape, wrathful in its demeanour. With a touch, the magic rejected the aeter around Mallan and moved for blood instead. It poured into the High Human’s mouth, merging with the crimson within.
The pain subsided, slipping away to give Mallan momentary control. He wondered if the magic had worked in his favour but realized otherwise at the sight of his comrades’ aeter essence floating a little above him. Puzzled by the results, the High Human turned to address Ceraunus but failed to give voice to words. He lowered his head, noticing what appeared to be a hole in his chest – imaginary in its construct; it spread as wildfire would, and with unimaginable pain.
“What is happening to me?” asked Mallan, in a stammer.
Sol Sanctum trembled violently in reaction to the magic as well, causing the aeter near the circle to ripple across Mioverold with destructive effect. Mallan battled to keep his mind from tearing into insanity but felt the pressure abruptly dissipate in the moments that followed. He returned to his feet, finding the aeter essence above him break and retreat to its two different owners. The magic, it had failed.
Ceraunus rushed to the aid of his battered ally, with Zane close behind. They offered support to the High Human, but struggled in the attempt given their own state of weakness. But as Vetus guided the three men to comfort, Mallan broke away to stride towards the edge of Sol Sanctum. It took every bit of strength, and the endurance of his mind. With a little effort, he retrieved a dark shard from one of his pockets and waved it at his two comrades.
“I need to return to Themistokera,” said Mallan. “This, it doesn’t feel right.”
“You require rest, King Argonaut, all of us do,” said Zane. “We’ll make the trip first thing tomorrow.”
“I must leave,” insisted Mallan. “It’s evident that the magic failed because of me; I was unworthy to stand amongst the two of you during the ceremony, let alone obtain the power of a god. But in that rejection, I felt something strange, something that stirred a dark emotion within me – fear. I do not expect you to accompany me on this journey, but as king, I am dutybound to return.”
As Zane attempted to protest once more, he noticed the Noxun King raise an arm for silence. Ceraunus shook his head at the Godvildian Lord and then turned to Mallan, “We shall accompany you; we are your allies, after all.”
With the shard broken, the three men found themselves at the outskirts of Themistokera. From the surface, nothing had appeared to have changed. But through the cracks, Mallan noticed an oddity, something powerfully different – a stillness, almost as if at the threshold of death. His eyes turned toward the sky, finding a large mass of energy. It swirled without restraint, raw and of high quality, not unlike what Mallan had seen at Sol Sanctum.
“Is that what I think it is?” asked Ceraunus, with a gulp.
Now overcome with a surge of adrenalin, the King of Themistokera sprinted to the heart of the city. As he reached a market, however, Mallan bumped into one of his citizens. He apologized on instinct, but paused at the sight of his fears taking shape; in front of him stood a woman, with her child, merely a husk of their former selves. Along with several other High Humans, they represented a form of insentience – a suspended state of death.
Upon reaching the gates of his castle, Mallan slowed to a walk, moving past the now motionless guards to enter the courtyard. His eyes shifted to a large tree and the group of children underneath it. He noticed a familiar face beside them – his minister, Majid. At the sight, Mallan staggered, crumbling under the weight of his failure as king.
“How could this have happened?” said Ceraunus, watching Mallan mourn from a distance. “Our negligence, it has destroyed this nation. I should not have listened to Seraphina, not in blind faith.”
“I’m not sure,” said Zane, with his eyes skyward. “There is still hope; from what I can tell, the Mimicry of Gods strayed from predictability after drawing aeter from an incompatible source. But given King Argonaut’s inclusion in the original formula, the spell must have attempted to correct course by absorbing an identical aeter form – equal in value, but from a source that offered little to no resistance.”
Ceraunus nodded after some thought, in agreement with the Godvildian Lord’s explanation. “But how does knowing this help Themistokera?”
“I noticed something else, actually,” revealed Zane. “When the spell failed, our aeter essence returned to us without negative effect. I believe that it might be possible for us to replicate this for the people of Themistokera and restore normalcy.”
With a deep breath, King Antiochus relaxed his shoulders and broke into an expression of genuine happiness. As he rushed away to break news to Mallan, the Noxun King felt a hand on his shoulder, urging pause.
“We’ll have to be careful, and efficient,” said Zane, slowly. “What’s up there, it’s aeter. And I wonder for just how long Aeterna will allow it to exist outside of the natural flow of Mioverold.”