A young Devillian boy screamed in pain, anger and confusion as he chased after a young girl.
“Don’t take her away from me!” Nalithor begged.
The robed Angel paid the male child no heed and continued dragging the young girl by her long dark curls. No matter how the girl struggled, she couldn’t dislodge its scarred hand from her hair. Whimpers of pain escaped her every time the kidnapper yanked. She was too young, too small, to reach the Angel’s wings. Her eyes searched for something to injure, but the Angel seemed oblivious when she clawed at his wrists.
“Let me go!” she dug her booted heels into the granite floor, “Nali, my sword! Where–?”
Nalithor, the boy, was pale. His straight long white hair fell around his shoulders and down his back messily, threatening to fall into his eyes every time he stumbled. His frosty blue eyes were wide and frantic as he chased his friend across the throne room, desperately trying to grasp the hand she reached out to him.
They were so close, yet they couldn’t reach each other at all.
In the back of the room, a man with short, dark brown curls roared in fury at the shorter man that stood in front of him. The shorter man wore a hooded white cloak that bore faint luminescence. Both men were livid as they argued with each other, causing onlookers to shrink away.
The children were so focused on each other that they couldn’t hear what the men were discussing. Nothing existed to them aside from each other and the twisted Angel.
Nali’s scent comforted and calmed her despite the situation she was in; he smelled like home. Pale white markings glowed along the skin of his throat, wrists, hands, and probably elsewhere too, under his princely attire. If the girl had similar markings, her frilly dress hid them.
He managed to grasp the girl’s hand. She clenched back tightly. There was a brief moment of relief as Nali attempted to pull her away from her captor, but then the Angel ripped the girl upwards out of the boy’s grasp by her hair. Sneering, the Angel dangled the girl above Nali’s head.
Pain tore through the girl’s chest. An elaborate sword pierced through her back, her heart, and then blossomed out the front of her torso. She began coughing up blood as her head spun. Something clinked to the floor below her. She struggled to focus her blurring vision. A small crystalline lotus came into view for but a moment, but she lost sight sight of it when Nali scampered after it.
Nali caught the crystal and clutched it to his own chest protectively. He looked up to glare at the Angel. A look of grief and then anger crossed his features as his eyes fell on his friend. She wasn’t breathing.
He roared with loss, terror, and intense hatred. The girl couldn’t bear hearing such a tortured sound from her friend. It broke her heart. She wanted to cry, she wanted to reach out for him. The girl’s mind spun as she tried to move, to reach for him, something, anything.
Nali’s powers of darkness, lightning, fire, and earth spun out of control, ripping the palace apart around them. Seeing her home destroyed couldn’t compare to the pain she felt as her heart broke for her dearest friend. He was in so much pain, and yet the Angel kept her from going to him, from embracing him, from comforting him.
On the right side of Nali’s body, his glowing markings grew dark. In seconds had grown pitch black. They still glowed with light, but it was now the colors of darkness instead of soft white.
It suited him, the girl thought, but why had they changed? The other gods and demigods all had white markings, as far as she knew, so what had happened to his?
‘N-Nali its okay, I’m still alive-’ the girl attempted to reach out to him telepathically as she always did, only to be met with an unfamiliar wall, ‘Nali, please, don’t cry! I-I can’t bear that look on your face… please…’
The girl couldn’t even twitch a finger as she attempted to reach out for him. Nali let out another heart-wrenching roar as the Angel dragged her through a portal and out of the boy’s sight.
Nalithor cautiously opened his eyes as he awoke, staring blankly at the ceiling above his large bed. Two hundred years had passed, and yet he still relived those moments every time he closed his eyes. In recent years, he had begun to see her last moments from her perspective, instead of his own; he didn’t know if it was his mind playing twisted tricks on him, or if her crystalline heart had begun to affect him. Sighing, he shifted in bed to sit up, the dark satin sheets sliding down his nude, muscular form as he placed a clawed hand over his heart briefly.
Withdrawing his hand, he pulled the crystalline lotus from his chest, levitating it in front of his face as he stared at it with a vacant expression in his eyes. They had both been so young when the Elder Gods and two of their Angels took her away, but she had already become everything to him by then. He desperately wanted revenge against the Elders responsible, but he knew that was impossible. The Elder Gods had created this universe, and even the sword known as The Godslayer couldn’t kill the Elders.
‘It has grown…’ Nalithor thought to himself with a slight frown as he examined the crystalline lotus, before reaching out and prodding it hesitantly with his energy.
He watched carefully as the crystal grew warm in his palm, pulsing faintly with energy like a heartbeat. Swirls of darkness, fire, ice, and wind floated lazily within the crystalline petals, showing no hint of slowing their hypnotic dance. It was the heart of a goddess, he knew. However, it should have grown dull and powerless long ago, separated from its owner as it was.
Shaking his head sadly, he let the crystalline heart sink back into his chest where he had kept it safe alongside his own heart for the past two centuries. Nalithor had considered ending everything many times in his life, wondering if perhaps that was what it took to see her once more. Even though those had been some of the darkest phases of his life, something inexplicable had kept him from taking his own life. Warmth would radiate through his chest from the crystal, calming and soothing him even in his most distraught moments.
Pushing the thoughts from his mind with a muttered curse, he pulled himself from bed and began to busy himself with bathing and getting dressed. The Court expected Nalithor to attend their session in the Imperial Palace of Dauthrmir today, and having Lucifer angry with him for being late was the last thing he needed. That the Emperor hadn’t slain him as punishment for being unable to save his daughter was already a minor miracle, as far as Nalithor was concerned.
As he shrugged on his long, dark robes that identified him as an Umbral Archmagus, he swept through the hallways of the granite and obsidian palace. The ornate silver, platinum, and sapphire decorations of the palace had fascinated him when he was a child but now they were all of little interest to him, as with many things in this world.
“General Vraelimir, they’re expecting you.” A guard bowed deeply as Nalithor approached a pair of large doors.
Nalithor glanced up at the intricately carved ebony doors briefly, before pushing his way into the new throne room. The original throne room, which he destroyed, had been left that way; Lucifer had kept it sealed off completely in remembrance of that day, and wouldn’t let anyone inside. The new throne room looked drastically different compared to the old, decorated with dark, grim paintings and artifacts, while the original throne room had been a cheerful and colorful place.
Looking wearily around the granite room as he slowly approached the waiting figures, he examined the bloodstained banners, weaponry and armor that decorated the room. Much of it was the spoils of war. After the death of Lucifer’s heirs, the enraged Emperor had gone on a bloody rampage, conquering the last of the surrounding Devillian tribes. Nalithor wished for a moment that he had been old enough to assist at the time, before focusing his attention on the well-dressed people that were waiting for him.
“You all look absolutely livid.” Nalithor commented as he approached the dais at the back of the room, examining the gathered Royal Families and several dignitaries he didn’t recognize, “What happened?”
“You tell us.” Lucifer stated firmly as he crossed his arms over his chest from where he sat on the central throne, his mismatched emerald green and electric blue eyes glaring intently at the white-haired Incubus, “The Elder Gods have formally requested your presence.”
“The Elder…” Nalithor trailed off as a scowl twitched across his face, and he glanced toward a trio of people in white cloaks, “Unless you’re here to tell me I can execute the bastard that took Her Highness and her brother away from the palace, I have no interest in speaking with you.”
Glaring maliciously, Nalithor watched as the smallest of the three Elders approached him, his bloodlust rising to near intolerable levels as he considered tearing into the god with claw and blade alike. He wanted nothing more than to drench the throne room in their blood. Even if it didn’t kill them, he’d certainly feel better.
“Then you have sensed it, have you not?” the female of the trio inquired with a smile as she lowered her hood, revealing delicate features, blonde hair, and solid golden eyes which were void of sclera or pupils, “She was not meant to die, therefore she did not.
“You have kept her heart, yes? It still beats within you, I can hear it.”
He watched with his scowl still set on his face as the female Elder circled him in silence, her expression warm as she examined him and the dark Brands of Divinity that covered the right side of his body. The Elder appeared incredibly intrigued as she examined him, and Nalithor could feel her poking and prodding at his magick with her own.
That this woman would taunt him in such a way infuriated him. ‘Claiming that Her Highness isn’t dead? I should rip this woman apart for expecting me to believe such a farce.’ He had seen the princess stop breathing with his own eyes, seen the amount of blood that spilled from her wound and her mouth. There was no way she was still alive.
“Cut to the chase.” Nalithor growled icily, his scaled tail snapping back and forth irritably as he glared at the trio of Elders.
“You already know that only deities have crystalline hearts, yes?” one of the male Elders inquired, and Nalithor simply nodded in silence.
“We would speak with you and you alone, about the events that transpired that day.” the other male Elder continued, “What we have to say is no concern of the Lesser, Middle, or Upper Gods, but it will be of concern to you.”
Nalithor frowned deeply at the Elders; what could they possibly have to say to them that they didn’t want the other gods to know of? Before he could question them, blinding light engulfed him as the Elders transported him elsewhere, bringing him to unfamiliar, grassy green terrain beneath a brilliant blue sky.
Looking around wearily, Nalithor quickly took in the unfamiliar terrain. It seemed as though it was a small strip of land hovering in the air, but the blue sky above indicated he was no longer in Dauthrmir; a sunny blue daytime sky such as this was nonexistent in the Vorpmasian Empire, where it was always night.
“The twins were meant to compete over the role of Balance,” the female Elder began as Nalithor continued to survey his surroundings cautiously, “You worked closely with the girl, so I am sure you noticed the way she seemed to ‘sense’ things that were wrong in the world. Things that should have been beyond a child’s knowledge.”
‘The Elder isn’t wrong; she did truly sense strange things.’ Nalithor thought to himself begrudgingly as he listened to the Elder speak. His partner in play and in training always seemed unusually aware of the events of the world, despite her lack of interest in political lessons. ‘But…it is supposedly for that very reason that the Elders deigned it necessary to execute her.’
“The Middle and Upper Gods have become unruly, and bicker among themselves. Balance’s role is to manage the Upper Gods, particularly Good and Evil, so that the Upper Gods can function properly in their roles.’ the Elder continued as the face of the Archmagus before her twisted in thought.
He frowned slightly as he examined the female Elder once more. She hadn’t even bothered to mention the Lesser Gods – also known as Racial Gods. The Middle Gods represented and ruled over lesser things, ideas, and concepts, such as flora, fauna, artistry, and labor. Meanwhile, the Upper Gods represented major concepts such as good, evil, chaos, temperance, time, and emotions.
Nalithor wanted to know why the Elders were speaking with him of all beings about such matters. He was simply the firstborn son of the God and Goddess of Incubi. While he was a demigod in his own right, such beings were not uncommon in this world. Nor were demigods privy to the workings of deities.
“Our intention was for one of our candidates to become the God or Goddess of Balance, while the others would be free from the responsibility. I won’t go into the details of our selection process – we have not the time for such a lengthy discussion.” The shortest male Elder continued, making subtle motions with his hands as he spoke.
“In short, a divide has formed amongst the Elder Gods. Several of them rebelled against the plan of finding someone to fill the role of ‘Balance’ and chose to eliminate the dozens of candidates the three of us had selected.” the female stated with a sad expression on her face, and the three Elders fell silent as they watched the Archmagus.
‘Dozens of candidates…?’ Nalithor thought to himself incredulously as he stared at the elders.
Certainly, what they had said so far mostly made sense to him. That the Middle and Upper Gods had been slacking in their duties had not gone unnoticed by the Lesser Gods, or even by mortals. It seemed logical, to him, that there would be someone in charge of keeping such beings reined in; but as with the rest of the world, he had assumed that was the job of the Elders.
The news that a rift had formed between the Elders was disturbing, however. He had been so intensely focused on Their Highnesses that he hadn’t even considered that the same thing might have happened elsewhere, to other people. It enraged him that these “rebellious” Elders would take such drastic measures but on some level, he still couldn’t believe it.
“You mean to tell me the other Elders went as far as to kill dozens of children who could have been The Balance, not just-?” Nalithor trailed off as the Elder gave him a sad smile and nodded her head.
“We thought that all was lost…but it would seem her heart has changed you, has it not?” the taller male Elder questioned, motioning toward Nalithor’s chest, “You have begun to sense things the way she did. Perhaps not as strongly, but you sense them all the same.”
“I don’t like where this is going.” Nalithor muttered as he crossed his arms over his chest, an intense glare directed at the Elders before him, “You couldn’t possibly expect me to take on the role of a god in her place.”
‘What are they thinking?!’ Nalithor’s mind was racing despite his calm and icy exterior, ‘A role as they have described would be between an Upper and an Elder God, in importance! How could they even insinuate that I take on such a role?!’
The Incubus dug his claws into his forearms as he attempted to calm his racing thoughts. Even if the princess’s heart had changed him in some way, that hardly made him qualified for such a heavy burden. He couldn’t deny that over the past few decades, he had begun to see the world in a different way. It wasn’t a conscious thing. At times, he simply seemed to know where a problem lay, and how to fix it.
“With the things that are about to happen to this world, we need your help desperately.” the female Elder sighed heavily, “We will need your help to fix it.”
“Even if I did agree to help you, I don’t see any upsides to this.” Nalithor stated flatly as he continued to glare at them icily, his tail snapping back and forth angrily, “How could you expect me to-?”
“We are not giving you a choice in this matter, Nalithor.” one of the males interjected plainly as he lifted a hand, summoning a prison of golden light around the Incubus, “Desperate times call for desperate measures, and you are the only one with the instincts she possessed.
“You are the only one that can truly save her, and we need your help fixing what is to come.”
“Save…” Nalithor trailed off as he stared at the Elder that had spoken incredulously, before gripping the bars of his bright cage with a snarl, “You’re telling me she’s alive?!”
‘They…they weren’t simply taunting me, then?’ Nalithor thought to himself, nearly panicking as his mind raced.
How could she be alive after such an injury? Did they simply mean they reincarnated her soul? Or, had the other Elders lied when they claimed they were going to execute her and her brother? Was she a prisoner somewhere? Did she remember what had happened? Did she…remember him?
Nalithor staggered back against the bars of the cage as his pulse raced, and lifting a hand over his face. His eyes were wide as he stared blankly at the grass under his feet. The Archmagus was completely overwhelmed by the flood of thoughts and emotions racing through his head, but the Elders were clearly indifferent to his pain and confusion.
“Sit down and listen, boy.” the female Elder ordered firmly, ignoring the threatening look Nalithor shot at her, “We have much to disclose to you, and precious little time to do it. You need to know the rules of being a God without a Goddess, the rules of Balance, and the risks we are all taking.
“After that, then we will tell you of your precious princess and what has become of her.”
Nalithor shot the Elders another begrudging glare, before nodding his head sharply. He wanted nothing more than to rip all of the Elders and the Angels apart for what had happened, but if she was still alive… Then, perhaps there was still a faint sliver of hope. For now, he would shelve the whirlwind of questions and emotions running through his head, and listen to what these people had to say to him.
After two hundred years, he could only hope that no one had made her suffer.