The path sprawled before him, hewn into the rock with obvious deliberation. There was no sign of tool or maker’s mark upon its surface, carved so smooth it was as if he was walking upon a sheet of glass. He marveled at the architecture beneath his feet, How could one cut through the mountain with such precision? Such masterful perfection? He remembered the clumsy structures of his creation and doubted the path he was about to tread could be of their design.
He gazed down at the path, and for some reason, was filled with a dread more profound then what he felt in the wastes. The path before him should fill him with hope, it was, after all, his salvation. But as he looked down at the uncannily smooth surface carved upon the shale, at the absence of a single blemish or dent upon its face, he felt a crack form within him. Anger and confusion began to chip away at his foundations. A flaw in his perfect omnipotent psyche had formed, left untended the whole house was sure to fall.
“No”, the Aspect murmured to himself, “whoever created this path is not of my creation, this must the remnants of my forefathers, long discarded before my birth”. He did not want to address the nagging thoughts within his skull, that lingering doubt that tugged at the threads of his rationality. He knew, if he did, it would unravel, like a well worn tunic frayed from a millennia of over use.
Shoving the prying thoughts aside he continued onward. In the distance were two pillars, spires of slate grey piercing the bleak skyline. Their tips disappeared into clouds that swirled around them in a swirling vortex. He could not see how tall they rose up but he knew they must be taller than any building or construct he had knowledge of. More importantly, they must be ancient, far older than his creation, perhaps older than the God himself.
Again the tugging came, the pulling at the back of his mind. He realized that he hated those towers, hated how they rose up to defy him with their perfection and obscurity in these uncharted lands. The more he looked up at them the more the clouds swirling about seemed to oscillate faster and faster. Spinning like a spinster’s loom weaving a tapestry that would reveal the truth of his very nature. The Aspect centered himself as best he could but he could feel his world teetering and spinning on its axis and he was forced to avert his gaze from the towers.
Along the sides of the path lay discarded structures, crumbled remnants of monolithic cathedrals and places of worship. Midnight was drawing near, and in the darkness that hung in the air like an obsidian fabric he could make out the shapes of blocks and bricks carved with perfect symmetry. Dilapidated monoliths and cyclopean shrines erected to beings long before his time lay strewn about. Abandoned to crumble in the elements by a people he would never know. He stepped closer to one and gazed upon it. All along its surface were concentric circles and lines, they seemed to comprise some sort of language. Only rather than written from left to right, the words were inscribed in an elliptical fashion starting from the center and working their way outwards. In the very center was a blank space, for some reason he felt compelled to place his palm upon it. He felt the cold granite beneath his hand, its rough surface filed and ground velvet smooth. All at once the structure seemed to pulse, a warmth spread through it and the lines were set ablaze with an ice blue light that traced from his palm to the edges, setting alight the unknown language carved beneath his hand.
The Aspect cried out in shock, he tried to pull his hand back but found it was stuck fast. Panic filled him but before too long he was filled with an immense calm, a serenity he had not known since the moment of his conception within the womb of the firmament. He gazed at the structure in wonder and watched as the surface of the structure rippled, like still waters disturbed by the first drop of coming rains it seemed to undulate and pulse in and out from the realm between dimensions. He gazed at it for a while and suddenly felt a voice within his head. All at once the writing upon the block made sense and he could feel words being spoken to him from within his skull.
“Fear not, for even the eternal must find rebirth someday”
Humbled and shaken the Aspect snapped from his reverie when his hand slid from the structure as if repelled. He stood there for a long time struggling to reconcile himself with the voice he had heard and the message it had imparted upon him. Discarding his thoughts once more he set his eyes back towards the path.
For the second time in all of his eternal existence the Aspect cried out in shock. The pillars were much closer than they had been before, close enough to walk to before the coming dawn. In the middle of the pillars what had appeared as some kind of dome was in fact an immense tree. It stretched up towards the sky, disappearing in the clouds above. Its branches shown with innumerable strands of translucent silver that glimmered and reflected in countless array, catching the light of the firmament above. Cliff walls were erected on either side as if to funnel any who came along the path towards the tree and the pillars that crowned it on either side.
The path grew more and more rugged underneath his feet as he approached, pebbles and chunks of dislodged shale crunched and cracked beneath his feet as he approached. The fine craftsmanship before made way for neglect and disarray the further he walked and before long all that was left of the road was a strip of discarded shale and mason’s detritus. The path wound around a barren knoll, a rocky outcropping that rose up between the two pillars. Concentric circles lay carved upon the hill, the language etched upon the face of the structure before now lay beneath his feet. He stopped and crouched to his knees, tracing his hand along the elliptical writings apprehensively seeking out the voice that spoke to him before.
Finding only silence, he looked back up towards the pillars, inset further between the two was a gate of sorts. Immense and ancient it barred his passage forward and to the shimmering tree that stood just beyond, he walked forward and inspected its architecture for some sort of sign of entry.
Smooth and obsidian black it stood before him. Just as the path before it bore no sign of makers mark and seemed to be birthed into existence rather than fashioned by mortal hands. More cyclical writings adorned its face, though he did not know the language, he understood it as a warning of sorts in the deepest recesses of his psyche. A primordial understanding that what lay before this gate was not to be taken lightly.
As he scanned the gate he noticed that along the center where the groove should be concave dais were carved instead. Within the dais different gemstones were inserted. They were fashioned into palm sized orbs and fit perfectly into the holes carved in the gate. At the bottom he saw an amethyst, which made way for a jade, a sapphire and a pearl. He stopped as he noticed that two of the holes lay dormant. The ground below him lay bare and empty, other than some scattered pebbles and course, mountain dirt there was nothing laying discarded beneath his feet. Considering the immense height and scope of the shrine around him he doubted the gemstones had simply neglected to be inserted and further still, he could not imagine any robbers or bandits traversing these lands.
Stepping away from the gate he walked back along the hill to get a better view; the full moon hung high in the cloudless sky like a lantern and shown upon the writings on the hill with unnatural luminance. Peculiar shadows sprawled along the cliff face like raven’s wings enveloping the ancient stone, his divine eyes so sharp that he could observe their minute growth as the moon continued its journey across the stars. He remembered the pagan tribes of his creation and the many monolithic structures they erected to worship and follow the stars. “Whoever created this place, intended for the moon to shine upon this exact spot” He murmured to himself. However he was to press forward, he would most likely find his answer from the heavens.
As he looked on from his vantage point at the crest of the hill he realized there was something in the center of the glyph traced upon the earth. A glimmering object twinkling in the middle of the intricate symbol traced upon the earth. Thinking he had found the gemstones the Aspect strode forward and knelt down before it, a look of confusion and wearied frustration furrowed his brow as he found himself staring into his own face half obscured by the dry earth. Realizing what he was looking at he furiously wiped the earth away from his face and saw that rather than a gemstone, a mirror lay surmounted upon the earth. He reached down to remove it but found it was stuck fast, bolted to the earth in some manner.
He stared down at the mirror in frustrated silence, searching for some sort of hint or sign but all he found was more of the strange writings. As he gazed longer, he noticed there was a hole carved into the middle of the mirror, a tiny reservoir intended to catch something. He looked further still and just along the edge of the reflection, he could make out another distinct glimmer, this time on the top of one of the towers.
Stepping back he could now make out archways set along the top of the towers. Within the archways two more mirrors were erected, rotated to face down towards the center of the hill where the other mirror lay. Once he saw this he noticed that the writings upon the hill matched the writings on the gate.
All at once it hit him, looking up at the moon he saw that it was nearing the center of the towers, it’s light refracted as two beams that grew closer and closer to the mirror in the center of the glyph. Quickly he ambled over and knelt down before it, keeping one eye on the moon’s path across the sky. The air began to grow heavy as he waited, anticipation hung with an electric palpability. All that lay about had been waiting for this moment in solemn eternity and now anxiously counted the minutes for fate’s promise to be fulfilled. Glancing into his reflection he scowled at the haggard and worn face that stared back, eyes heavy with exhaustion and blood coagulating on his face from the slaughter before.
Finally the moon reached the very center of the two towers. The mirror below him shown with a translucent pale blue and set alight his face with starfire. He quickly drew his sword and ran its keen edge across the star etched upon his palm. Scarlet blood dripped down onto the rivulet carved on the glass, filling the reservoir to the brim.
The earth below him trembled, the air cracked with electricity and a resonant humming could be heard. The land had been enraptured with anticipation for this moment and now that it had been fulfilled it roused from its stasis.
He looked back down at his blood upon the mirror, it had been endowed with the powers of the firmament and turned a vibrant cerulean blue. It hissed and smoked as the shaking earth caused it to drift along the glyph, filling the rivulets carved in the earth with a blazing stream of blood spiraling out and around, the spell that had been cast so long ago had been fulfilled.
He could hear screams and shrieks of various spirits bound to this land being released into the night. A fine mist rose up from the ground baring twisted faces in varying states of despair and agony at their age long interment within the earth. They rose up and flitted here and there around him settling above his head. Briefly they hung there, as if expressing gratitude to their savior before they cast off into the night seeking unfortunate souls to blindly extract their vengeance upon.
He looked back towards the gate and saw that the stream of blood had split off into two rivers, each heading towards a tower in the distance. He walked forth and stood where they had diverted and waited to see if the gate would open.
Abruptly the night was silent, the tremoring had stopped and a peculiar, untrustworthy quiet hung in the air. He looked at the gate and at the two empty sockets along its face, wondering if it had all been in vain.
Suddenly to either side of him a whirring, grating sound filled the air. Mechanical groans and creaks of ancient clockwork rousing after an eternity of neglect. Looking to the tower to the right he saw that its base was oscillating, a door was sliding back revealing some hidden structure within. Taking several furtive steps forward he saw that within the tower a throne lay, obsidian onyx polished to a sheen that glimmered in the moonlight.
Suddenly two pale lights shimmered above the throne, they shifted and abruptly shifted up into the air several feet above his head. The Aspect let out a startled cry and took several steps back, his severe features furrowed in grim apprehension, drawing his sword he made his way back towards the glyph shining on the ground, hoping the ancient spell could provide some sort of protective shield against whatever he had roused from its age long slumber.
He looked back and saw that a towering being had risen up from the throne; half obscured in the ephemeral moonlight an immense beastile head wreathed in matted fur and curved, forbidding horns raised its chin, panting and gnashing its teeth at the sky. A terrible howl emitted forth from it’s immense jaws as the creature warned the very earth of its awakening, its mouth stretched wide threatening to devour the sky itself.
Gripping his blade tighter and planting his feet firmly within the ground the Aspect could hear the beast’s cloven feet scrape the earth as it approached. Heavy chains around its neck and wrists tossed about as it moved, heralding it’s ponderous approach with every step. A dreadful gnashing and heaving and panting emitted from its mouth in plumes of black smoke, as if an undying fire burned within the terrible creature causing it unending agony and filling it’s primitive mind with a blind and thoughtless hate. He remained within the glyph waiting for the beast to approach closer. Reluctant to combat the creature in the pitch dark, he stood his ground, using the arcane light to his advantage.
The shadow marched forward with surprising speed, heavy footsteps tromping upon the earth, chains clanging as they swayed about clamoring in the air like iron wind chimes. Smoke billowed forth and filled the air as it panted and heaved down the path and towards the hill where he stood. Eyes alight with pale fire fixed on he who dared pass through the gate that was his eternal charge. Readying himself the Aspect shouldered his sword and raised his hand, closing his eyes and uttering a silent incantation, entreating the spirits of the air to manifest his bidding. Listening as the beast charged up the hill to rend his body atwain and cast his remains into the wastes.
The beast was but a breathe away when the Aspect shouted forth the incantation and met the creatures gaze. From his outstretched palm a seering white light emitted, casting its penetrating glow directly into the beast’s face and outstretched jaws.
Howling in pain and seething with rage the creature recoiled back, it’s eyes unaccustomed to the light after aeons of slumber and it gnashed and pawed at the air with unholy vehemence. In the lingering flicker of arcane light the creature revealed itself to him, its jaw was that of a lion that gave way to an oxe further up its massive skull. Half rotted and covered with necrotic lesions that oozed and pulsed from beneath its blood soaked mane. The left side of its face corroded entirely with decay, revealing the bones and decomposing muscle underneath its festering skin. Jaw rotted away in parts to reveal jagged, dagger long teeth that protruded crookedly from its jaw while two long, forbidding tusks jutted forth from his frayed cheeks. Its shoulders were immense, sinewy trunks of muscle and fur and adorning one was a crumbling stone pouldron, the face of a lion etched upon its cold, grey surface. He clawed and rubbed at his face with one hand while the other gripped an immense stone maul, nearly six feet in length and crowned with a rams head at the top. All about him the oppressive stench of death lingered like a shroud, serving as a reminder of what was soon to come to those who challenged the guardian of the gate.
The Aspect quickly struck side long with his sword and pivoted to the right, relishing the chance for the first strike. It had been many an age since he had indulged in violence, but his body was taut, his will unwavering, and a God does not forget.
His sword slashed across the beast’s mottled stomach, inscribing in crimson the script of warfare upon it’s stomach. The matted fur and tawny muscle served as a natural armor but the Aspect noted the blood dripping down it’s abdomen and knew his sword had struck true.
Howling in pain the beast righted himself and jutted forth, slamming his shoulder into the God’s chest like a battering ram. The air left his body as the God felt his back slam into the hard, unforgiving earth, skidding back atop the pebbles and detritus strewn upon the ground. His chest plate had cracked from the force and tore through the chain mail beneath, he could feel the cold steel cut into his body, warm blood trickled down his chest and soaked into his clothing. Knowing he could not take another blow like that he looked and saw the moon shine off the horned head of the maul and rolled to the side just in time. Dust swirled and stones cracked as the club hit the earth with terrible strength, sending a plume of dirt and pebbles into the air about him.
Leaping to his feet with breathless grace the Aspect rose his sword to block another strike, the impact reverberating across the blade and the handle shook in his grasp. The blow would have broken the arm of a lesser man, but the God absorbed the impact and returned with a jabbing thrust of his own. His eyes hardened to hewn sapphire, gleaning with satisfaction as he saw blood flow freely from the gash rent upon the creatures hand.
The two circled one another for a time, the arcane light of the glyph illuminating their features momentarily as they stepped over the ancient spell beneath them. The creature loomed over him and gazed down, starfire eyes blazing in rage, curled horns and splintered tusks catching the moonlight with their sharpened tips. Grey smoke billowing out from its nostrils as it snorted and panted and tossed its mane to and fro. His strength was returning, where before his movements seemed clumsy and labored from a millennia of neglect now seemed lithe and even graceful as his slumber was shaken off. His cloven feet crisscrossed around him with unnatural grace, his tail cracking and snapping in the air like a bullwhip. Now and then he would strike out with his club with unnerving speed hoping to catch the Aspect off guard.
The Aspect bobbed and wove around his strikes, grasping his sword with both hands he looked up and met the creatures lidless gaze as the two circled around one another. Anticipation flooded his mind like a fermented spirit, he had forgotten how intoxicating bloodshed could be. The journey before had filled him with doubt and uncertainty, he had no answer for the crumbled ruins or the path or even the gate that barred his path. But this? This required no origin or questions, only the cold steel between his hands and the divine judgment to end life that was his birthright. Though his body was weakening and his powers were waning he was still a formidable force and in all his eternity of existence every being who challenged him met the same end.
He made his way around a boulder, putting it between him and the creature as a natural buffer to obstruct the sweeping strokes of the great club. With a resounding crash the beast struck the rock with both hands, swinging the cumbrous weapon as if it were a broomstick. The rams head crashed through the showering him with sharp bits of stone and flying rock.
The Aspect brought his hands up just in time to save his eyes from the shrapnel that pelted his body like missiles, feeling the sharp fragments embed into his skin and into the cracks in his armor. The beast let out a feral cry and charged forward, head lowered to skewer the God upon it’s formidable tusks. The God held his ground and gripped the horns that came at his chest with alarming alacrity, digging his feet into the earth he wrestled and lurched with the creature’s bowed head trying to topple it over so he plunge his sword into its vulnerable stomach.
With a feral cry the beast twisted and plunged its tusks into the Aspect’s Silver raiment. Entangling it into the plate mail as it tried to skewer the soft skin that lay beneath. The two were melded together, the tusk caught in the God’s armor and threatened to pierce his heart as the tusk twisted and pivoted, searching for the right position to drive home the killing blow.
Scrambling for his sword the Aspect slid and skidded about, keeping his breast as far away from the sharp tusk he was entangled upon. He felt it slide against his side, knowing that one wrong move would spell certain death.
To his right he saw the gate, their combat had lead them all about the hillside and now the barred gate was directly next to them, bending his knees to a crouch he summoned his strength and hurled himself sidelong, trapping the tusk between him and the doorway he so earnestly sought to enter. With the tusk trapped his grabbed his sword with both hands and drove it into the ivory tusk, piercing through and splintering it against the stone wall.
The beast let out a feral cry, howling and gnashing its teeth as the God twisted and rent the tusk to splinters that fell harmlessly to the ground. Writhing in agony the creature shoock its head back and forth, its blood soaked mane sending crimson deluge upon the Gods face.
The aspect stepped back, catching his breath before picking up his sword and circling the beast as it writhed and howled in pain, clutching the exposed nerve in its broken tusk. Uttering words in a language only tongues of flame can utter the God ran his hand over his sword and immediately white flames engulfed it, sparking and fizzling along the keen edge of the blade in brilliant array, illuminating the scarred battleground.
The creature looked back at him and suddenly snapped out of its agony. All at once the animal barbarity left the beast, replaced with a peculiar wisdom. With a calm forbearance the creature stared at the Aspect. It rose up to its full height, looming above the God with a gaze that was terrible to behold. He carved a circle around himself with the handle of his club making a rhythmic grunting sound. As he went strange runic inscriptions upon its stomach and chest begin to shine a pale blue, illuminating ancient glyphs and spells tattoed across the creature’s body. He raised his weapon up with both hands and slamming it into the earth. A pale blue fire flowed from the circle, entwining around the weapon in vermillion tendrils of arcane light. The eyes of the goat upon his maul shown fiercely with the spells power and white smoke billowed out from its mouth.
The two faced each other with their enchanted weaponry. The Aspect did not expect the creature to know his occulted powers but readied his blazing sword all the same. With a feral cry the beast rushed forth, sweeping his flaming maul forth in a long arc. Instead of ducking the God stood his ground, rasing his blazing sword up with both hands. They stood locked there, their weapons hissing and sputtering soul fire sending their shadows dancing upon the arcane gate and stretched tall on the mountain side.
With a ferocious kick the creature sent a cloven hoof into the God’s chest sending him reeling back. Instead of righting himself the Aspect allowed himself to be flown back a couple steps, catching his balance before raising his sword. The beast charged forward, head lowered to finally skewer the intruder knowing this blow would finally end the battle.
Crouching low the Aspect gripped his sword with both hands and plunged it forth into the creature’s path.
Their eyes met and for a brief moment a heavy acknowledgement was shared before the blade slid into the creatures throat.
The God remained crouching, the beast impaled upon his sword. At first all was silent and the creature remained motionless, its hot breath panting against the God’s face. A thin rivulet of blood dripped onto his hand and spilled onto the earth.
The God grasped the creatures head and withdrew his sword, sending a geyser of blood spilling onto the rocky ground. It stood straight for a while, trying to breathe as blood gurgled and bubbled out of the gash on its throat. With a look of pained gratitude the creature fell to the earth with a last, mournful howl before bleeding out onto the earth.
Panting and shuddering the God composed himself before walking over to the dying creature. Lifting his head up he hacked through the beasts neck with one, fluid motion. He raised up the creatures head and stared into its dying eyes. The God reveled in his victory and opened shouted an incantation into the coming dawn. The beast dead mouth opened and from within its soul came forth, flowing into the God’s mouth and nose with a shrieking hiss as he breathed in the creatures essence. The God devoured its soul hungrily, taking and pillaging its strength and essence as it’s own to delay his death a while longer.
When the deed was finished the God reached into the creatures eye sockets, the soulfire had left its eyes but within the lidless sockets two gemstones resided.
Clutching them in his hand the God walked over to the gate and looked at the two vacant pockets along its surface. And as the dawn peered over the horizon and the first gold beams of morning warmed his face, the God placed the gems into their proper place. As the ancient gate stirred it creaked and groaned, granite sliding upon the rocky earth. With a rekindled confidence and the newly devoured soul mingling with his own the Aspect stood, waiting as his path opened once again