Chapter 45 - The Battle of the Gods (Part 3)
The Fields of Aiakos
Outside the Walled City of Arcadia
June 11, 1645
Argyll was right...
Finally, we’ll have everything we’ve ever wanted. He might’ve used his powers on me but it was only to cement our goal. And everything was right here. The Gods were kneeling before us and the King of Ilyia is powerless and about to die. And Selene was standing right beside me, waiting for me to claim her after all of this is over.
I walked towards Aiken... Seth, the King of Ivaris, who took my Adrienne away from me in this life. The hilt of the dagger felt warm in my palm as if urging me on to finish this once and for all. I smiled as I reached Seth.
I looked into his eyes but there was no fear in them. There was only sadness in their golden depths. He was not looking at me and pleading for his life. His eyes were trained towards Adrienne who was now crying and trying everything she could just so she could escape her captors.
She looked at Seth as if her heart was breaking...
The look in her eyes stirred something in me but I tamped it down and forced my feet to move. She will mourn Seth for a while but in the end, she will be mine. I raised the Silver Dagger and saw Argyll’s face widen with a smile of triumph.
“Goodbye, Seth.” I whispered and brought the dagger down.
But suddenly, there was a blinding flash of white behind me. The light flooded my entire body and I felt as though I was paralyzed. Then, the light vanished and I heard footsteps from behind me but I found that I could not turn around.
“Hello, Azrael...” a hauntingly lovely voice whispered. I knew that voice! I heard it in a dream!
I heard the footsteps get closer and closer and suddenly, she was standing before me. Her hair was pure silver and so were her eyes. Her skin was so pale and it looked as if it glowed. Her lips and cheeks, on the other hand, were pink and it was a beautiful contrast to her pale features. She wore a gown made of pure white and on her head was a crown made of gold which was shaped into rays.
She waved her hand and I was forced to kneel before her. I looked all around me and noticed that everything else was frozen in time except for Cosmos and me. No one moved and there wasn’t even wind to ruffle my hair or any kind of sound to be heard.
“Cosmos...” I whispered when the shock and surprise wore off and I was finally able to speak.
“What are you doing, Azrael?” she asked in that beautiful melodic tone. She inclined her head as she awaited my answer.
“I am fighting for what I want. And this is what I want! I want the Gods to acknowledge me and respect me now when they have wronged me before! I want to be more than a Minor God! I want Selene for myself! And this is the only way I will have all of it!” I shouted.
Cosmos’ face softened but she did not look at me with anger or disgust. Instead, she looked at me with love and understanding.
“I have already given all that you wanted... I gave it to you in this life, Azrael. You were given a fresh start. I watched over you from the beginning... And you have changed so much. You have made a better life for yourself. Are you going to throw it all way again and take the path of darkness once more?” she asked softly.
“This is the only way.” I retorted.
“No... It is not... I have given you the choice long ago... But I cannot stand by and watch you fall towards evil again... I am offering you the choice again now... Heed Selene’s words for they are the truth and it is what is right.”
“My answer is still no!” I shouted.
Cosmos stepped back and snapped her fingers. Instantly, the battlefield melted away and I was transported to another place.
This place was familiar but it was also very different. The place was filled with darkness and everything was in a state of decay. There were not trees and the water was black instead of clear. I also didn’t see a single animal.
“Look there.” Cosmos said and pointed towards something in the distance.
“That is the Golden Palace of the King of the Gods... And this is Elune’s Meadow.”
I was not able to contain the gasp that spilled from my lips. “This is Ilyia a few years from now if you continue on the path you wish to take. Evil shall take over the light within the Gods and all of them shall fall to its lure.” She whispered.
Suddenly, I heard the rustling of leaves and both the Cosmos and I turned around. A dark creature walked towards us. It stared aimlessly ahead as though it did not know where it was going.
“What is that?” I asked.
“A Celestian. A star from the heavens who was robbed of her light. When this war is over, the Celestians which are the second most powerful beings from the Gods shall fight. And they will also lose and darkness will take over. They will lose their light and a when that happens, they also lose themselves.” She explained.
Celestians were creatures of light and ethereal beauty. They were the stars in the heavens who were tasked to watch over the Nine Realms and help the Gods bring everything into order. Seeing one now without her light was something I never even imagined.
“And this is only the beginning.” The Cosmos whispered as she snapped her fingers again. And with that, a barrage of images filled my mind. Images of destruction, war, blood, evil, decay...
“Everything shall fall apart until there’s nothing left for you and Argyll to rule...” she whispered in a very sad voice. She snapped her fingers again and we were returned towards the battlefield. I looked around and everything else was still frozen in place.
“Choose the right path and Ilyia will restart the Golden Dynasty and exist in peace for the rest of eternity...” her voice trailed off as she ran her fingers towards the Silver Dagger that I held in my hands.
“As I’ve said before, the choice is yours. Will you choose to gain your happiness? You will have it but only for a short while before the balance is tipped and everything falls into evil... Or will you choose to sacrifice selflessly for the good of all? The choice is yours...” her voice faded away and she waved her hand.
Everything around me unfroze. I saw all heads swirl towards the Cosmos. They all caught a glimpse of her before she waved her hand again and vanished in a flash of blinding white light.
Slowly, I started to stand. I felt weak after everything I’ve seen and my hand trembled while gripping the Silver Dagger. I raised it once again and looked into Seth’s eyes. Again, there was no pleading there. He was simply waiting for me to kill him. Even in the last moments of his life, he was still a warrior and refused to beg for his life. Instead, he was welcoming death just like any other soldier who went to battle.
And as I slowly raised the dagger again, words came back to haunt me:
“Will you choose to gain your happiness? You will have it but only for a short while before the balance is tipped and everything falls into evil... Or will you choose to sacrifice selflessly for the good of all? The choice is yours...”
“...Look deeper inside you. This is not who you are anymore. Azrael belongs to the past but Duncan belongs to the present. You are Duncan, the Captain of the King’s Guard of Amaranth, a noble and honourable man who also happens to be a God. Make the man influence the decision that the God in you shall make in this war. Don’t ruin your present by choosing the same path you did in your past...”
“Someday you’d find the love that’s for you. I believe in that wholeheartedly. And when you do, you’ll know how obsession and possessiveness differs from love. What you feel for me is obsession and possessiveness for if you truly loved me, you’d want the best for me. Even if it pains you, you’ll set me free. I love Seth... I want to spend my eternity with him. But if I can’t, I’d rather not spend eternity with anyone at all for every second of that eternity would be like a torture to me...”
Happiness or the good of all?
Selfishness of sacrifice?
War or Peace?
To be a King? Or a Wronged God?
I looked into Selene’s eyes and my heart stopped at what I saw. She was looking at me and her gaze did not contain anger or revulsion. Instead, she looked at me with hope... Even if I was about to kill the one she loved the most, she still looked at me with hope. She was still waiting for me to change my mind and choose the right decision...
She still had faith in me...
And with that single look, I’ve made my decision. A decision I should’ve made a lifetime ago instead of letting the darkness take over me and lead me to the wrong path...
I opened my fingers and let the Silver Dagger fall uselessly towards the floor.
Argyll’s jaw fell open and he looked at me as if I’ve gone crazy. I felt him directing his power towards me but I already knew how it felt. I already know how to separate reality from the false emotions he wanted me to experience.
When he directed his power at me, I raised my hand and absorbed it. Then, I flung it towards the battlefield. This time towards the Golden Army and not towards Sylvan’s soldiers. I’ve made my choice. It’s time to let the others know.
I saw surprise flicker across Argyll’s face and then it was followed by rage.
“Azrael! What is the meaning of this?!” he shouted.
“Change of heart.” I replied and then raised my palms to call back the darkness that bound Adrienne and Seth’s powers.
I saw Argyll’s eyes widen. He knew that if I freed Adrienne and Seth, two of the most powerful Gods in all of Ilyia, then he wouldn’t stand a chance. He may have all the powers I stole from the other Gods I killed in the last life but he still won’t stand a chance.
When the bindings were lifted, I watched as Seth struggled against those who were holding him down. I saw his eyes glow before he unleashed a very powerful explosion which sent all of us down towards the ground.
Seth turned his back on us to finish off those who were holding him down.
And suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I watched as Argyll lunged for the Silver Dagger that I dropped on the ground. He picked it up and then went towards Adrienne who was still being held down. She still hasn’t managed to free herself and she had her back turned, making her vulnerable.
And suddenly, it was as if everything was in slow motion...
Argyll lunged towards Adrienne but it was only me who saw it for Seth was still busy with his own battle. Without another thought, I jumped forward. I barrelled into the elite soldiers of the Golden Army and then pushed Adrienne out of the way...
I succeeded... But then I felt a slight throb in my side. My breath caught as I saw the long gash that was made when the Silver Dagger cut me instead of Adrienne. I fell towards the ground as I felt my essence start to fade from me and return to the Cosmos.
I felt weak and my vision started to blur...
Is this it then?
Is this the consequence of choosing the right path?
-King Seth Liam Ivaris XV-
“Selene!” I heard Sylvan shout. He was looking at something behind me. I quickly turned around and my knees weakened as the scene unfurled before me.
I saw Argyll with the dagger glinting in his hand as he jumped towards Selene. But at the last second, Duncan also jumped and pushed her out of harm’s way. My breath exhaled in a hiss as I saw that Selene was safe.
But Duncan was hurt...
At the last moment in battle, he chose not to kill me. He chose to side with us and he showed it by using Argyll’s power on the soldiers of the Golden Army and not at our allies. I do not know what made him change his mind but it was a most welcome change.
And now, the blade wounded him...
He was slowly fading away...
Argyll ran towards him to finish him off but I blocked the Silver Dagger with my steel. The Silver Dagger was so powerful that it snapped my sword, Conqueror, in two. It was my sword in this life. It was given to me by my father, King Anstruther of Ivaris. The halves of the blade fell uselessly towards the ground and something inside me broke too...
I growled and then pulled out my other sword, Destroyer. This used to be Sylvan’s sword and it was forged by Lira, the blacksmith of the Gods. If there was something strong enough to fight the Silver Dagger then I hope this is it.
Argyll lunged towards me but I brought my sword up to deflect the blow. It absorbed the blow but just like Conqueror, it also snapped in two. I growled while Argyll smirked. Behind me, I could hear Adrienne’s cries as she tried to soothe Duncan.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Duncan lift his hand and use the last of his power to take away the bindings on the other Gods and Goddesses of Ilyia so they could fight once again. I saw Adrienne smile at him and hug him close.
“I’m dying, aren’t I?” he asked her.
“No! No you’re not!” she shouted back.
“Princess, if I die... You’ll remember me as your hero, won’t you?” he asked. I saw Adrienne still for a moment and then more tears poured from her face. She rocked Duncan in her arms and whispered soothing words to him.
“You’re not going to die! I still have to blister your ass for scaring me!” she shouted. Then she looked frantically towards the battlefield.
“Lai! I need help!” she shouted amidst her tears.
I turned back to Argyll and snarled. “You are going to pay for making my queen cry.” I vowed. Argyll stopped in his tracks and then lifted the Silver Dagger towards me again. It was the only weapon that could kill a God and I planned on taking it from him and using it to cut his own heart out.
All around me, the sounds of battle echoed again as the Gods started fighting. I also heard the sound of bone snapping and reforming as Sylvan’s shifters were freed to assume their wolf form once more. Magic reared in the air as the Gods were free to use their own powers.
Argyll sensed all of this too and more anger flared off his body. He crouched towards the ground and plunged his hand in the dirt. And then I felt it... He was using the power Azrael stole in the last lifetime before he killed the other Gods. Before Azrael died, he gave all those powers to Argyll so he could finish everything.
He had the powers of: Zoran, the Keeper of Death, Lira, the blacksmith of the Gods, Griss the God of Builders and Craftsmen, the Ten Gods of Justice, Feria, the Goddess of Nature and also my power.
Right now, he was channelling the power of Zoran, the Keeper of Death. The ground underneath me rumbled and then it split open and the souls of those who have already died emerged.
“Attack them!” Argyll commanded and pointed to Sylvan’s army who were only mortals.
I growled and then braced my feet wide apart. I summoned every bit of energy within me. I also drew the Sun’s energy and channelled it into my body.
I opened my palms and then directed it towards Argyll. I let the power in me build up and when I can’t hold it back any longer, I released it towards Argyll. He seemed to have sensed my intent for he too summoned the power of the Sun he was able to steal from me. He also flung both hands towards me and met my attack with his own.
When our powers met, there was a very loud and wide explosion which left a crater in the ground where we were standing before. Most of those near us were also burnt to their deaths.
“I am more powerful than you, Aiken!” Argyll shouted.
I roared and lunged towards him again. This time, I summoned an even greater amount of power and hurled it towards him. He erected a shield in front of him and it absorbed the impact of my blow.
I roared in frustration once more.
I could not lose! Many lives are counting on me to win this war! Losing is simply not an option!
I had no more swords for they were both broken. But I still had my daggers. I pulled some free from the straps on my chest and then threw it towards Argyll. This time, he wasn’t able to escape it for my daggers were very fast. However, what they did was to only wound him. He was an immortal God and he would be able to heal fast. He could only be killed through a sacrifice or through the Silver Dagger of the Ten Gods of Justice.
“You are more pathetic than I remember, Aiken.” Argyll taunted. I knew he was trying to manipulate my emotions. He was trying to anger me further so that I would lose my calm in the battlefield and he can kill me easier.
I shrugged and refused to give in to his taunts.
“Look at everything around you! You are losing! One by one, the Golden Army and the Souls I’ve summoned to serve me will finish the creatures from Xathos that your pathetic brother brought. And when they are all gone, only the Gods and Goddesses will be left. And then it would be very easy for me to kill all of you.” He declared.
His words pricked my temper but I willed myself to calm down.
I threw more daggers towards Argyll and I managed to make him stumble. I ran and then jumped high into the air to land beside him. I stabbed him again with one of my enchanted daggers and then lunged to pry his fingers away from the Silver Dagger.
He struggled and I lifted my body and straddled his waist. I clutched his neck with my left hand and tried to cut off his air supply while my other hand punched his evil face. I managed to punch him quite a few times to make one side of his face turn blue before he managed to bring his knee up and hit me on the groin.
It incapacitated me for a second. Argyll shoved me and he managed to roll me off him. In a heartbeat he was standing up again. He crouched towards the ground to bring the Silver Dagger to my chest but I managed to roll away.
I twisted my body so that I could stand up again. Then, I bent my body to the side and aimed a spinning kick towards Argyll. I managed a powerful hit and I heard the bones on his wrist break. The Silver Dagger fell towards the grass a few feet away from us.
“You bastard!” Argyll shouted while he cradled his hand to his chest. I did not waste any more time and lunged for the Silver Dagger. Argyll ran for it too and we raced each other towards our goal.
We arrived there at the same time. I kicked the dagger away once more and then faced Argyll.
“Fight me like a man, you coward!” I shouted and raised my fists in front of me.
“I am not a man. I am a God!” he shouted and then raised his palm and did what he did best. He cheated. And he cheated by blasting me with the power of the sun instead of fighting me face-to-face.
I was unharmed by the surge of magic for it was the same kind of magic that pulsed in my veins. However, it managed to knock me off my feet. A cloud of dust flew over us and then I felt this heavy weight on my body.
I blinked and when the dust cleared, Argyll was straddling me with the blade of the dagger just a breadth away from the skin on my chest directly above my heart.
I tried to make him move but he used Griss’ power and summoned some bindings to my arms and legs. I tried to squirm and called on my own power to melt away the bindings but it was useless.
All I could do was lie there while Argyll laughed evilly.
Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw more streaks of light fly down to my left. I felt Argyll still when the light cleared and we saw who just arrived. I blinked to make sure it was real for I couldn’t believe what I am seeing.
Standing before me was Duncan’s crew.
They were the ten mercenaries who were also members of the King’s Guard of Amaranth which was headed by Duncan. The same soldiers I imprisoned and threatened to kill so that Adrienne could marry me...
It was them yet at the same time, it wasn’t. For they were different.
Instead of the usual blue uniform they wore before, now they wore the scarlet robes of the Ten Gods of Justice.
And standing beside them was Lira, the blacksmith of the Gods, Zoran, the God of Death, Griss, the God of Builders and Craftsmen and Feria, the Goddess of Nature.
And they all looked pissed...
“Argyll. You have been accused of murder and treachery towards your King and to your fellow Gods and Goddesses. And we have found you guilty.” One of the Ten Gods of Justice who I knew to be Rurik in this life spoke.
Argyll blanched and he quickly raised the dagger in an attempt to finish me. But all the Ten Gods of Justice moved as one and raised their palms. The Silver Dagger flew away from Argyll’s grasp and towards its rightful owners.
“And you have been sentenced to die.” Rurik continued. They all walked towards him. Argyll quickly moved away from me and started to run. But the other Nine Gods began to circle him while Rurik walked towards me.
“Pretty bizarre, don’t you think?” Rurik greeted. I only managed to nod in reply for I still couldn’t quite accept the fact that everyone was here. We’ve all been reincarnated and we have met in this life.
I saw as Zoran touched the ground and the Souls that Argyll summoned vanished into thin air. Lira, the blacksmith of the Gods, jumped towards the place where the pieces of my sword lay. I saw as she ran her hands over the blade. I watched as the blade turned molten red and then cool quickly under Lira’s touch.
And after a few moments, both my swords were whole again.
I heard Zoran shout his battle cry and then plunged his hand into the ground as he summoned his own soldiers to help us in this war.
“We changed and remembered everything when we heard your call to battle... But we could not respond for we were trapped in a different realm and the Portals were closed. But we came as fast as we could.” Rurik explained.
Then, Rurik handed me the Silver Dagger. “My King, the honor is yours.” And then he pointed towards Argyll who was now using every bit of the powers he stole just to escape. His face now held panic. The other Gods who were fighting now all were here beside us and they were also closing in on Argyll.
“Please! Don’t kill me! I swear I’ll change!” he pleaded.
I gripped the Silver Dagger and looked at Adrienne. She whispered something to Duncan and then nodded to me. I knew what that nod meant. She was giving me her consent to kill Argyll. And as my queen, her advice was very valuable.
Two of the members of the Ten Gods of Justice were now holding Argyll down. I looked him straight into his eyes and raised the dagger. Then with swift strike, I buried it into his heart and watched as his essence quickly faded away.
Then, it was as if the air suddenly changed.
Silence fell across the battlefield as the Soldiers of the Golden Army stopped their attack and lay down their weapons at their commander’s feet. The other Gods and Goddesses and Sylvan’s army turned to look at us.
And suddenly, there were loud roars and cries of triumph that echoed throughout the battlefield and beyond.
Lira approached me and handed me my swords. I retrieved Destroyer, Sylvan’s old sword which he gave to King Rashad and which Rashad gave to me when I became King. I lifted the blade and touched the flat of it on the tattoo of the sun in my arm.
“I am Aiken! The King of Ilyia and I claim the control of the Golden Army of the Gods!” I shouted. Instantly, the Golden Army picked up their weapons and began to form neat lines according to their ranks once more.
They all stood in attention as they waited for my command.
“The battle is over!” I shouted and my heart felt very light at being able to utter those words. I pressed my tattoo again and the Golden Army which was spread out before me disappeared.
There were more roars of triumph and tears of joy all around as everyone cheered over our victory.
Finally, after thousands of years, everything was starting to be set to right. This marked the new beginning of the Golden Dynasty of peace and prosperity over all of the Nine Realms of the Cosmos.
Finally, we’ve won! Adrienne and I are free to have our eternity!
I was startled out of my thoughts when I was carried by Griss and Zoran. They marched me towards the others and I felt many pats of congratulations and heard many cries of happiness.
And this time, I let myself be truly happy. I let go of my worries and revelled in the celebration that was happening all around me.
-Queen Almira Adrienne Ivaris-
“This is it Duncan... We’ve won!” I said to him while still cradling him in my lap.
“Great...” he whispered weakly but he still managed a smile just for me.
From the corner of my eye, I saw shadows as some of the Gods moved towards us. I quickly shielded Duncan with my body while I prepared to attack whoever it is that approached.
“Princess... It’s us...” Brodie said to me. He grinned and something inside my chest shifted. Earlier in the battle I watched as they all emerged from their forms of light and I heard it when Rurik explained everything to Seth.
Still, I could not get over the fact that the people I grew up with were none other than the Ten Gods of Justice.
“Are y-you here to punish me too?” Duncan asked.
“No captain! Why would we do that?” Rurik replied with a wink. I noticed that he still used Duncan’s title as the Captain of the King’s Guard.
“Captain?” Duncan repeated.
“Yes. You’re our captain, aren’t you? And we’ve had many grand adventures together!” Angus chimed.
“Now, captain. That’s just a little wound and you won’t die from that or so help us we’ll go to Draugr and pester your afterlife.” Brodie teased. Duncan smiled again.
“Lira is out there looking for Lai so that she could help you. She would be back quickly.” Colin stated.
Suddenly, there were two streaks of light that appeared before me. I saw that it was Lira and Lis, the goddess of Healing. The two of them quickly knelt beside Duncan and Lai quickly opened a flask of her water and poured it over Duncan’s wound.
“Good thing it was only a flesh wound and that it was far from his heart. I can still heal this.” Lai whispered and then placed her hands over Duncan’s wound. I felt her power in the air and watched as Duncan’s skin slowly knit together.
Duncan opened his eyes and looked at Lira. Then, I saw his eyes widen. “It’s you!” Duncan hissed. Lira laughed. “Me, who?” she asked.
“Lis... The blacksmith who helped get us out of our chains when we escaped Ivaris... It’s you!” Duncan repeated.
Lira laughed. “Yes... It’s me... Small world, huh? Yes, I am Lira, the blacksmith of the Gods but I prefer to be called Lis now.” She said with a smile. Tentatively, she touched Duncan’s arm and I saw his eyes soften in response to her.
I smiled as I felt the passion flare between the two of them.
Only a few minutes ago, I told Duncan that he’d find love... And now, I think he already has.
“You still owe me for helping you out of those chains. And you have to repay that.” Lis told Duncan.
“How?” he asked her in a breathless tone.
“First, you have to live and recover... The rest will follow.” She replied with a tinkling laugh. My heart warmed at the scene unfolding in front of me.
Duncan tried to sit up when Lai finished healing him. She quickly vanished to help the others who were wounded in the battle. Duncan swayed a little when he moved and Lis quickly moved to help him. Again, I smiled.
I looked at the Ten Gods of Justice and they too were smiling. It seems they already knew what was going on. “Princess, why don’t you go over to your King? He’s celebrating the victory without you.” Rurik told me with a wink and a darted gaze towards Duncan who was now staring at Lis as if he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“Lis... Please take care of Duncan...” I told her. She lifted her head and bowed. “Yes, my queen. I will.” And at her reply, I saw something stir in Duncan’s eyes. It was the same look he used to give me back at Amaranth. It was his look of passion, desire, possessiveness and love...
He doesn’t know it yet but they’re perfect for each other... I could feel the passion between them and it almost matched Seth and mine... I smiled and then rose from the ground. I was sure Duncan was in good hands.
He doesn’t know it yet but he’s already found what he’s looking for... And maybe Lis is just what he needs to help him rebuild his life and move away from the evils of his past.
I took one last look at them and then started to run towards the other side of the field where everyone was busy singing and dancing. Seth turned and our eyes met from across the field. I smiled at him and started to run faster.
He shoved everyone away from him and also started to run towards me to meet me halfway. I slammed into him and he bent his knees and picked me up in his arms. Then, he swung me around and around as I giggled with happiness.
“We won.” He whispered into my ear as he slid me down his body after our spin.
“We did, my King.” I replied. I was rewarded with a huge smile from him. The carefree smile which I haven’t seen in a really long time...
“Now, we get to start our eternity together.” He vowed.
“Now, we get to start our eternity together.” I repeated.
Seth threw back his head and laughed at my audacity. Then, he bent his head and claimed my lips in a heated kiss...
And the last thing I heard before I was fully consumed by desire for him was the other Gods and Goddesses lewdly cheering us on as Seth kissed me...
Then everything faded away except for the feel of his lips claiming me and the heat of his body as it was pressed against mine...