As the moon rose to take its place amidst the stars, the aeter flow at Mel Ficarum altered, now unstable and corrupt in its composition. Through the night, it affected the Noxun people, mostly those of weaker descent. Fatigue at first, and then disease, the effects spread as wildfire would through a forest. It worsened with time, with the Noxun King seated atop his throne, bound with conflict and misery.
Ceraunus Antiochus struggled to hold onto his sanity, against the unified souls of Themistokera. With a fever, and under constant stress, he continued to display an odd level of poise. But the cracks, it had begun to show. The restraints that had once restricted Niall had shattered, through the False God’s unification with the Noxun King. It now travelled with destructive effect – the aeter, outside the borders of Mel Ficarum, eating away at fertility and life.
For a moment, the aeter appeared to move as if untethered, but halted under pressure from a force of immeasurable strength. Hechased the aeter back to its source, forcing his way past the guards, under the might of his former title as king. At Caradus Castle, when the doors to the throne room opened, Ceraunus Antiochus welcomed his guest with a weak smile, drenched in sweat.
“It’s good to see you, old friend,” said Ceraunus. “I haven’t given up yet; not on your people, King Argonaut.”
“Did you decide to complete the Mimicry of Gods on your own?” asked Mallan, scornfully. “I do not recall consultation with either Lord Zane or I.”
“I do what I must for our world,” insisted Ceraunus, returning to his feet. He staggered in his approach, but persisted to reach and wrap his arms around the once king among High Humans. “We can still reach the Altar of Seraphina and rewrite the laws of this world.”
“You’ve become delirious, Ceraunus,” said Mallan. “I sense an evil in you; perhaps not entirely, but the souls from Themistokera, it could warp the core of your intentions.”
The Noxun King slowly lowered his hands. As silence settled into existence, Mallan attempted to step away from the Ruler of Mel Ficarum. In his effort, he noticed a twitch, something those of ordinary minds would have perceived as an attack. Ceraunus grabbed the High Human King and pulled him closer; the former tilted his head, wearing the mask of insanity in a grin that reeked of bloodlust. And then it stopped, almost too abruptly.
At the sound of a whisper, Mallan leaned to understand the nature of the words conveyed.
“Could you say that again?” requested the former king of Themistokera.
“It’s Niall!” yelled a voice from within the Noxun King’s body. Having lost control momentarily, Ceraunus slammed his palms into prayer and drowned Mallan in what could be described as an illusionary space.
The High Human King awoke amidst blackness, trapped in a world without apparent exit. He shook his head and rose, finding Ceraunus Antiochus take shape in front of him. From behind the latter, an aura emerged, devoid of the influence of Baha and not unlike the High Human’s aeter of free will. It changed form, an embodiment of corruption, to coil around the Noxun King.
“Do you recognize me, us, King Argonaut?” asked the voice. “We represent what you betrayed; you are in no position to blame us for having taken this stance.”
“You’re winning, despite the Noxun King’s best effort,” said Mallan, with a gulp. “I suppose the guilt of bringing ruin to Themistokera, it weighs on him.”
“How very perceptive of you, Mallan Argonaut,” said the voice. “Once I’m finished with Ceraunus, it wouldn’t hurt to consume your soul as well. I, we, value intelligence above all else.”
“Niall, was it; what is it that you desire?” asked Mallan. “Given the world’s condition, your pursuit of power is meaningless. Mioverold is nearing its end, faster than you can imagine.”
“You misunderstand me, Argonaut,” said Niall. “I’m here to save this world; with the Mimicry of Gods, I, we, seek to reach the Altar of Seraphina and rewrite its laws. The only difference is in our desire to rule in its aftermath.”
“Without power, then,” said Mallan. “It appears to me that you’re not aware of how the formula works for the Mimicry of Gods.”
“But you only have the Noxun King’s word on that matter,” said Niall. The aura stilled, relishing the expression on the High Human’s face. As the wheels turned, Mallan fell into deeper despair, to the delight of his former citizens. “I implore that you not blame King Antiochus, though. Would you have agreed to the solution if fully aware of the consequences?”
“Why would he allow me to become the god’s vassal, then?” argued Mallan, frustrated in tone.
“I imagine out of pity,” guessed Niall. “Ceraunus Antiochus was never ill-intentioned, but Seraphina, she never intended for you to inherit the power of a god. Nothing matters to her more than the safety of this world, and for that, you, Lord Zane, or anyone else for that matter stands as insignificant. My, our, existence fulfils that desire – everything, a calculated move to ensure the survival of Mioverold.”
“Are you implying that the creator of this world simply did not care for her children, for my people in Themistokera?”
“But she does, Mallan; do you not see it?” said Niall, excitedly. “In exchange for our service, she’s offering us the chance to become god! You must join us, for the sake of Themistokera.”
Rendered speechless, Mallan Argonaut stared into the vacant blackness above him, absorbing pressure from both Niall and Ceraunus Antiochus. He reached into the depths of his mind, in search of answers, to understand if it ever made sense even – the desire that pushed them towards revitalizing Mioverold. In time, his eyes opened once more, but with clarity; he had managed to separate friend from foe, puppet from mastermind.
“It’s a pity; I almost once considered you a brother, Ceraunus,” said Mallan, with a sad expression on his face. In his address towards Niall, he added, “I must thank you for helping me put everything together. Seraphina, a creator locked out of interfering with her own creation, a collective presence deformed into having a twisted mind of its own but with power, and a king – chosen and loved by the gods; did you really imagine that Seraphina would choose you over her prized choice, a worldly inheritor?”
“What are you getting at, Mallan Argonaut?” snapped Niall, uncoiling from Ceraunus to reach within an arm’s length of the High Human.
“You’ll understand soon enough.”
Now bound by the curse of suspicion, Niall attempted to hasten his consumption of the Noxun King. But in the moments that followed, an aura paused progress – a hue of green bursting with immeasurable vitality. It clashed against the unified souls of Themistokera, overwhelming the latter’s effort with relative ease.
With the tables turned, Niall noticed his mind lose the knowledge once acquired within the vaults of Seraphina. He attempted to stabilize, but felt even his personality corrode, succumbing to the wrath of the Noxun King. As the seconds passed, Ceraunus announced his awakening with a roar; he wrestled control away from Niall, shattering the illusionary space to offer escape to those trapped.
From a distance, Mallan noticed his once friend overwhelm their momentary adversary, nearing the state of a god with newfound power. The green meshed to a darker shade, but the aura continued to strengthen with rapid greed and unstable form. In time, Ceraunus eradicated Niall in his consumption of the latter, returning to reality, and a with spell of silence. It broke when the Noxun King erupted to roar once more, in pain this time. His fingers clawed to spill blood from skin, foreshadowing an unnatural change.
The walls of Caradus Castle resonated in response to the transformation, enough to alert Inaya Antiochus from the depths of her chambers. Having identified the aeter source, she fell into the shadows, re-emerging at the throne room. With caution, she moved to Mallan’s side, gulping as she did.
“What is this?” asked Inaya.
“I’m not entirely sure,” said Mallan, truthfully. “It could be a good thing; but it’s more likely bad than good.”
As the tremors calmed, Mel Ficarum fell into a lull – a slow, almost non-existent motion of time. The aeter swirled into refinement, reflecting a dirty shade of green. With the stabilization, Ceraunus reeled his mind into reality. He took a step towards Mallan, uncertainly pausing to observe the flow of energy in his body. It moved with a will of its own at first, but submitted to the Noxun King without hesitation. His eyes returned to the two people in front of him, cold and unfeeling. There was a difference, evident, and yet shrouded in mystery.
“I heard the truth, Ceraunus,” said Mallan. “With everything out in the open, tell us, what is it that you truly wish to achieve now? You’re closer to completing the Mimicry of Gods than any of us.”
“With Niall, I saw the world with greater clarity,” admitted Ceraunus. “I wish for nothing more than peace, but I’ve also peered into Earth and its state-of-affairs. I see war, death, disease, decay, everything I seek to eradicate from this world. Dialogue, it isn’t going to solve much; but fear? Fear that rules with an iron fist soaked in blood, fear that ensures none rebel, fear that crushes hope of disruption – that is what I will become. What Mioverold needs is a supreme power to regulate peace.”
“I never imagined Niall would corrupt you to this extent; you describe a tyrant,” said Mallan, sounding a little disappointed. “And what of us then – Lord Zane and I; are you going to steal from us as you stole from my people?”
“No,” said Ceraunus, unfeelingly. “I will restore your race from the Altar of Seraphina; all I ask is that you submit your aeter to me. I will request the same of Lord Zane as well. The new world will need leaders of governance, and I would like for the both of you to guide your people however you see fit. When I return, I will no longer be confined to the role of merely leading the Noxun.”
“Then what of your people, Ceraunus?” interjected Inaya, struggling to keep her emotions in check.
“With the completion of the Mimicry of Gods, I will become the single most powerful being in Mioverold – comparable to Ehedus and Baha even,” informed Ceraunus, shifting his gaze to the former princess. “You were once an Antiochus, Inaya; I wish for you to lead our people.”
“This is b*******!” yelled Inaya. “You expect us to sit atop thrones knowing that you wield the ultimate power of decision; I may have considered this if you were the old Ceraunus, but with whatever it is you consumed, I see nothing but darkness bubbling inside of your heart. You wish to control us with fear, but that is not peace. We will never feel equal with you reigning atop us as a god would, but with the freedom to intervene as you see fit. We will not conform to your forced rules or ideals.”
“You disgust me, Lady Antiochus,” said Ceraunus, harshly. “I suppose I should have followed in the footsteps of my predecessors in my handling of you as I ascended to the Noxun throne.” With a pause, he turned his attention to Mallan, asking, “And what of you, Former King of Themistokera; are you also of the same opinion?”
Mallan Argonaut turned to his side, consoling Inaya Antiochus into a state of calm. He took a moment to fall into a trance, diving into an old memory of when he was merely a student to his father, the then King of Themistokera. It helped him smile, the happiness of it – an emotion of old, long forgotten.
“You know, I was once allowed to peek into Earth as a child; funnily enough, I heard something that made me laugh quite a bit – an expression of speech,” said Mallan. “I’ll side with Lady Antiochus just as I am sure her lover would, and I don’t think there’s any better way to express it than to say, f*** you!”
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