A past reforged

November 10, 2016

I let my gaze fall upon the stars. Where I had once found comfort and hospitality, I now found nothing but pain and sorrow. I saw the faces of the Lost Ones contorted in agony and bellowing in anguish, but it was all in vain, for not one could hear their pleas.They might as well have been buried deep within the ground, shrieking and clawing at the earth that traps them. Someday, they would be set free. Someday, they would march against us. Someday, they would be my doom.  
Someday—I saw the embers of the blazing white fire looming over us like a forgotten monolith towering over a barren desert, and that snapped me back to reality. I had to stay focused. I had to let him know.
The priest was in the midst of a chant, a cruel, twisted chant. It sounded like the dying screams of the innocent, fire raining from the sky, the snapping of bones and tearing of skin, a chant that ruins lives, a chant that kills.
The dancing of the women grew frantic, sweat rolling down their bronze, branded bodies, their eyes a silent cry for help. The dancing and chanting suddenly ceased.
The sound of footsteps and clanking chains could be heard from just beyond the woodline. I felt a pain deep in my chest trying to burst through.
Damn it! I thought. No, not now, it can’t happen now.
My eyes rested upon the violet sky, and I looked beyond the stars. Beyond the solemn expressions of sorrow and the raving faces of madness, beyond the glistening golden sentinel watching vigilantly against the terrors of the darkness. Beyond the reach of man or god, I saw them. The others. I saw them as glowing orbs tinged in green and blue, looking down on me in disapproval from the stars. We are no longer the same. We are now divided, and I am uncorrupted by the Lapis and Jade. They cannot stop me from the sky.
I looked away from the stars. I had to remain focused.
A band of cultists had arrived, a young woman in tow. To those around me, they saw her head raised in defiance, her eyes staring forward in determination, but not I. I saw her for what she really was, broken, lonely, and terrified, trying to appear strong in her final moments.
The lead priest turned to face the assembled crowd, and he began to speak in their horrible, wretched tongue. The language was unknown by all but the cultists.
I knew it, of course.
“My family, this, is a very special night. Tonight, we will gain another.” The priest turned to the women in chains. “Tonight, we will offer her to our lord, our Serpent.”
Those around me began to yell and scream. I joined them, because that’s what I had to do.
“She will dance with the others to appease the Serpent, and she will do so for eternity. Tonight, she will join us.” He pulled her closer to the fire, and her mask of defiance broke, panic and fear showing in her eyes. “We have gone without a twelfth dancer for too long, but tonight that will change,” The priest met her eyes “Fear not, my child. Tonight, your suffering will end, and you will live a blessed life so as long as the Serpent lives.”
The shouting and screaming grew intense, and the priest grabbed the woman by her hair.
She let out a blood-curdling shriek as her face was thrust into the fire. The fire entered her mouth, nose, and ears. Black tears streamed from her dulling eyes as the fire burned her insides. White flames wrapped around her, burning an image of a white serpent onto her reflective bronze skin.
The crowd roared, craving blood.
The fire receded as the cult leader withdrew a bronze dagger and raised it high. “Tonight, your suffering will end!” He turned her back to the flame, and plunged the dagger into the back of her neck, and slid it down the center of her back.
Remnants of her liquified bones and internal organs spilled from her back, and the women began to dance once more, welcoming their new sister.
A glint of bronze caught my eye, and the priest put a needle and thread into her back, beginning her repairs.
When he was finished, he thrust his staff into the flames and pressed it into her flesh. Odd markings and symbols were burned into her skin.
It was almost time— the pulsing in my chest returned. I could not resist it now. It was happening. The priest cut the thread, and the woman took her place at the head of the serpent. The women danced even faster, and the serpent was clearly visible on the bodies of the dancing women.
I let out a painful cry and ran to the fire. They all watched me, the cultists, the priest; they all watched except for the dancing women, unaware of the situation.
I finally reached the shadow of the white flame, and I dissolved into the darkness. I was there again. Home at last. I felt the ruby break through my chest, and I let out a sigh of relief as my power returned. My skin was now white as ivory. I felt the cool metal of my blade materialize in my hand. My power was back, and it was time to wreak my havoc. 
I returned to the shadow of the flame, and I felt hundreds of eyes on me. I rushed into the crowd, and I began to kill.
My blade nicked the arm of a young man, and he exploded into flame, searing others seated around him. He knew what was happening, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
Cultists ran for their lives, and I cut them down. I swung my blade at another, and she became a statue of crystal. They would not escape. They would pay for what they had done. As I slaughtered the men and women, I heard the voice of the priest rise above the cries of the cultists.
“Jump into the flame! Die by the hand of our god, and not by the hand of this—this thing! You will be accepted by the Serpent. He will embrace you!” The smell of burning flesh reached my nose, and I laughed as an elderly woman threw herself into the flames.
“You pitiful fools! You will not be accepted by this ‘god’ of yours. The Serpent isn’t even a god! You will be lost forever in oblivion. Your suicide is in vain, and I laugh at your foolishness.” I drove my blade into the priest's neck, and he froze into a statue of clay. I looked around the clearing. All of the cultists were gone. All except the row of dancing women.
“I would end your suffering, if I could, but I’m afraid I can’t. I will return for you someday. Someday.” I turned to step into the shadow of the flame, but the flame moved and shifted to reveal a serpent’s head.
“There was no need for you to kill them. They weren’t hurting anything”
“They had to be stopped. They were killing innocents, and I had to stop them. I’m coming for you next.”
“Alone, without the others? You can do nothing without them. What have I to fear from you?”
I stepped into the shadow of the flame, and when the shadows enveloped me, I willed myself to appear at my monolith. I was unable to go to the grove, so I went to the next best place. The forest. There was one of them there, one of the gods. I could have ended her, but I didn’t care. The Serpent would pay for what he did.
I felt another creature lurking in the shadows of the dead trees. It was loyal to the Serpent for sure. I looked around the dead forest. It looked like I couldn’t go right to the grove. I began to work on making my way through the forest, enjoying the nice stroll in the crisp morning air. I heard the whispering of the trees and felt hands through the fog.
I saw a hand. It was doing intricate gestures, and I heard the murmuring become intense. I would not stay there any longer than I had to. I shoved my sword into its palm, and a mournful cry rose from the trees.
It didn’t matter. They had completed their ritual, but they were still whispering.  Can’t they just shut up? How big is this place? Well, if I already waited this long, I can wait a bit longer.
It took a while, but I finally found my way through the forest. Some defense. I raised my head to look at the sight before me. A massive white snake baring glistening silver fangs coiled around an immense obelisk built of midnight onyx. While I despised the Serpent, it sure was a beautiful sight. Too bad after today, he would be no more.
The Serpent looked down at me. “You believe you can best me?” he said. “I am older than this planet itself. I am older than even you. I witnessed your making, and I have witnessed your undoing. I have relived the day I cursed you, and I will again and again. Time means nothing to me. I hold Time in chains, right next to your brother’s prison.”
“Why do you hold them? They are no threat to you. Just release them.”  “Release them? Even when you know it will be your doom?”
“It is how things should be.”
“Don’t tell me how things should be. You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t exist. I have lived through the history of this world countless times, and never have you been involved until recently. The history of this world is changing, and it is all your fault.”
“I am changing this world for the good of these people.”
“You will destroy the lives of not just everybody on this world, but the worlds beyond.”
“Lies! This is the only world!”
“Then you really are ignorant” The Serpent’s eyes began to shine an intense silver, and the air thrummed with power. “Look upon the destruction you have wrought!”
The air before me began to shimmer, and then it showed a far-off landscape. Remnants of towers and palaces lay scattered about the landscape like the toys of a young child. Shadows burned into the planet’s surface. They were humans. For whatever reason, tears filled my eyes as I looked upon the long-forgotten ruins.
The Serpent’s voice grew soft. “You destroyed those people and many others. That is why I have to do this.”
“You will do nothing to me!” I raised my blade, and I saw the Serpent wince as it began to glow bronze.
“I must. You have brought nothing but pain and destruction in your wake, and I must put an end to that.”
“We both know tha— that you can’t kill me.”
“I must rid this world of you. Someday, you will return to this world. You will march against both me and the gods, and then you will fall. Then you will rejoin the others, and lay waste to what remains of this world. Until then, you will suffer.”
I jumped high enough to look him straight into the eye, and I struck. I froze in midair, my blade just inches from the Serpent.
“I’m sorry, but it must be done.” I felt an intense, overwhelming heat, and I began to vanish.
“You can’t do this! It’s all your fault! It’s all your fau-”
Then I was here. Darkness. A deep, dismal darkness that threatens to consume me. I feel pain, so much pain. So alone, so dark. My only savior will be death, death until I do it all over again. Death until I rejoin the darkness.

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