COMPONENT 00: THE RITUAL
“I’m sorry my son; there is no other path.” The beastly minotaur loomed over the defenseless youth of only ten dark moon cycles.
The restrained boy wasn’t different from others his age. Except for short, steer horns. Two races’ blood rushed through his veins.
Only having just discovered the laboratory of his father, he now lamented his journey.
Angon stared at the humanoid bull. His terrified tear-swollen eyes trembled.
He feared him, maybe because he had never met a full-blooded monster? Because he didn’t accept that his mother paired with something ugly? It was probable that his fear derived from his so-called ‘father’ attacking him at the gate, knocking him senseless and binding him above a glowing runic circle.
“I know...” the beast choked. “You assume I’m an evil minotaur.”
Azteron thought referring to his species made him less sinister, but it only caused the child’s eyes double in size. He oft failed with words.
“You understand what is at stake here, don’t you?”
Angon, panicking, looked around the room.
Such a laboratory should’ve only existed in nightmares. Dirt composed the walls, ceiling, and floor, with loose vines curling out and grasping for victims. Only a few pieces of furnishings stood; the ritual dais, filled bookshelves, and a lonely wooden table against the far wall; complete with vials of bubbling, colored liquids.
The jars with things both dark and stagnant scared Angon. He feared it to be blood.
“Am I better than our people? Am I no less murderous?” The beast waited for his son to respond, but the boy did not. “My weapon is alchemy, while our kin use brute force and blades!”
“Please don’t kill me!” The child struggled. “Mom—the town—they’re all dead!”
Behind his customized bifocals, Azteron’s eyes changed. They glazed over, and a tear dripped into his fur. His wide mouth frowned. His old love and boy’s mother, no longer of this world. But that didn’t change his creed. The minotaur artificer trusted in his decision.
Angon struggled as his father regarded him with despair. Such a young child. He should’ve enjoyed the full life ahead of him; fate said nay.
“Please stop!” a woman’s voice carried from the stairwell.
A shadow came first, followed by a petite, orange-haired sol elf. She descended the groaning stairs and into the lab.
Azteron saw her, and on reflex his fingers curled around an oversized scythe leaning against the nearby support pillar.
The weapon was ready for the ritual, but he wondered if he should use its divine properties on her. Not distractions. No changing of the mind.
She stormed over to the seven-foot-tall humanoid and slammed her fists on his chest.
It was intriguing to the great man-beast she thought to harm him. A tiny thing in a violet dress; should he snap her in half? No, she was his only friend left. The gods had taken everyone else.
“Silvia, my son must make this sacrifice.”
“You dare call him your child?” She grabbed his arm. “You plan to murder him! It’s not a choice!”
Angon had fallen unconscious. The serum was taking effect.
“Was I not there at his birth?” the minotaur’s voice rose. “Was it not I that delivered him? It was not my fault I had to leave him and watch from afar. His mother became the Angel Outpost’s princess. They did not accept my kind!”
“Do not blame my sister!” Silvia eyed his scythe. She meant to stop him.
Azteron, battle weather, didn’t take chances. His hand shot out and engulfed the woman’s lower arm. She struggled but his grip was iron, but he felt no resistance.
“The people of Angel’s Outpost?” He held on tight. “Angon told me they’re dead. The gods took them too!”
“We can fix everything.” Silvia stretched out her fingertips, trying to grab his magical weapon.
On the table, the boy twitched. Azteron noticed. The world soon might claim revenge.
The elf touched the scythe. “No matter how powerful he becomes, he cannot succeed!”
“What makes you believe such nonsense?” The minotaur calmed and pushed her to arm’s length. “He has the artifact hidden in his soul.”
The scattered candles flared and transformed in color.
Silvia’s eyes widened. “You infused your son with the Philosopher’s Stone?”
She tried to throw herself towards the doomed child to prevent the inevitable.
“We need to fight.” Azteron gazed into his mind.
Her tiny wrist slipped through his massive hand, and she dove for Angon, screaming, “You can’t turn him into a weapon!”
“I already have.”
He watched Silvia get thrown back as fire rose around his son. Inside, there only existed a silhouette. Carnivorous flames consumed his flesh, muscle, and bone; his being. It took away Syndel’s and his boy.
Azteron had the smallest tinge of guilt. “I’m so sorry.”
Magic encroached the alchemy design and rebounded. Something was wrong. They were leaving the circle!
“Get back!” He minotaur guarded his eyes.
The woman saw a ray of fire coming for her. There was no way to prevent it. The beam struck her breast and then she vanished, gone forever, replaced by a pile of smoldering ash.
Azteron dove to the ground and scooped the ashes into his hand. “No!”
Silvia was dead. He hadn’t meant for her to die! The last person he had on the face of Anhsook Del Iris. She perished by his doings.
An insurmountable weight of despair landed on his shoulders.
“How…?” Tears soaked his fur.
He stood for a moment, his head hanging. But there was nothing he could do. He needed to shake off the pain and embrace the brutal nature of his kin.
But he couldn’t become that again.
Silvia had died, and it was his fault. He wanted to stop it and save hers and Angon’s souls.
Multiple rays of fire shot out in random spurts and everything they struck or even grazed immolated. The lab now smelled of burned wood and brimstone; each wall turned molten. How did the God Forge Ritual fail?
What he learned was he shouldn’t have taken a moment to grieve. He had waited too long. It was a failure, and no one could put an end to the tyrannical rule of the self-declared gods.
Azteron cracked. He never wanted to be his kin. He fell to his knees, and no longer fought the sobs in his throat. The Philosopher’s Stone was too powerful for a boy’s soul to contain. He’d spent his entire life in search of the mythical artifact, and after finding it, what was he to have done?
No. No conceding. There had to be a way! He climbed from the floor. The weapon had the potential to alter the alchemical formula just so, but it needed more.
He snatched a silver vial from the dirt and poured it on the shaft of the scythe until it ran onto the curved blade. A flame ray blasted from the fire and sizzled through his horn. Azteron felt no pain, but the force jolted him off his hooves.
The Minotaur stood, and another beam fired into the air. He shifted and deflected the death shot, which burned the only support pillar.
Without the wooden post, the ceiling gave way. Chunks of stone and dirt rained and barricaded the only exit, but that was fine. He didn’t plan on escaping.
With a great heave, he brought the scythe above his head. The disheveled father shed a tear for the world. If he failed, this was it.
Azteron roared and struck circle’s core, planning to use his own soul as a catalyst.