It is a common saying that life is a journey, but if it is, it is a journey too long for one such as I. All things are meant to die; humanity, this world, even the goddess herself. If not sooner then later. Nothing lasts forever. Neither war, nor peace; love, nor hate, can withstand the inevitable passage of time. But... how we can fight for these few precious moments that we have, how we are willing to give our time, a portion of our short lives, so that others can go on living longer. And for what? What purpose is there to extending those lives? Is there something that we do that makes it all matter in the end?
Far too much time had passed since my blood burned with conviction and desire. I suppose death does that to a person, makes one realize that there is little else to do but accept what has happened. There is no burden greater than the kind one brings upon himself. Acceptance can be reluctant, and I have been reluctant. However, unlike most men who have surrendered their lives to death, I have been given a second chance.
I have always been unusual, with my pale skin, silver hair, pointed ears, and catlike eyes. I am Ghaleon.
"My lord Zophar."
He had summoned me to his audience chamber, a small, hidden room where the banished god could speak to his subordinates in private. It was a small affair, sparsely decorated with ghoulish tapestries and a small rug which covered the stone floor just before the altar. When the god manifested himself it was as a small ball of darkness above the altar. Zophar could manage no more at this point in time, though that would no doubt change if he had his way.
When this black ball appeared at the sound of my words I bowed. I never liked to do so. Bowing meant acknowledging another's superiority over one's own self, a token that few in this world could claim over me. Not even the goddess's dragons, vaunted protectors of Althena, could stand against me. I had killed one with barely a motion. I was the most powerful mortal alive.
Dead men generally do not walk among the living. For all my might, even I must bow to death.
And so I must bow to he who has the power to lift death's shroud from my body and restore me to life. My lord Zophar. He was not yet substantial in this world. He needed a general. Someone with sense. Someone with power. Someone who hated Althena with every fiber of his being.
He chose me, and thought me pleased to kneel before this altar of his. After all, he offered me a chance to wreck vengeance against Althena and this world that had wronged me.
"Hatred was your greatest strength in days gone by," said the god. "It fed your soul when nothing else would suffice. It lifted limbs when you could not otherwise move."
Zophar was right, but it was a hatred I no longer possessed. A hatred that I eventually turned from the goddess and directed towards myself. I once thought Althena wrong, but in the end realized that I alone was to blame, and the pain to my pride and my spirit was great.
"I want you to call on that hatred again when you visit each of the four dragons," said the god.
"You want me to kill them?"
The voice laughed, mistakening my concern for bloodlust.
"No. Take their auras from them. Maim them, break them, do what you will, but leave them alive."
"What will we do with these auras?"
A blast of anger tore the air throughout the chamber, ripping the tapestries from the wall and gouging the stone floor. I alone avoided damage, though the winds whipped around me like a dustdevil and clawed at my being. Zophar spared me no more than the rest of the chamber, but I was once known as the Magic Emperor and was strong enough to diffuse most of that power. Centuries ago I had enslaved Althena to my will. I feared no god, especially one prone to tantrums. Zophar's only power over me was that he controlled whether I lived or died, which was a trifling thing to one who had already been dead for many years.
"You will see!" said Zophar, spattering the chamber with acid that melted the stone into an oozing slag.
I bowed my head politely until the sphere of darkness had vanished. Then I left the chamber. I found Mauri waiting patiently outside. The beastwoman possessed a sharp gleam in her eye and cruel curl of her lips that made her as dark as any of the monsters in Zophar's domain. And no wonder, for she had the blood of Zophar himself flowing through her veins. Once a kind priestess who honestly believed in Althena, she now served Zophar with the wild relish of a starving beast.
"Find someone to clean up that mess," I told her, gesturing inside.
A frown passed over her face, quickly replaced by a malicious smile. "Certainly," she said. I wondered what poor fool would be slain tonight. Perhaps a disappointing acolyte would be brought in to clean, then sacrificed so that knowledge of the chamber would not spread. The thought saddened me, but I could not afford to save one life when balanced against the many. I have been wrong about many things in my life, but always I have held to that principal.
I walked outside, out on a reclusive balcony of the cathedral overlooking the ocean. It is said that when people die, their lives flash before them, and they see all the things they wish they could have done. I saw none of that when I died. Now that I live, I see what I want to make of the time that I have.
When I turned my hatred away from Althena I directed it at myself. My hatred in me was meant only for myself, for I was the one who lost faith. I was the one who could not trust. I was the one willing to endanger the world because I had not researched the matter thoroughly. Dyne, I don't know if I can forgive you for not letting me know you were alive. You must have had your reasons, but if only I knew, so much could have been avoided.
But now, that hatred had left me too. Being dead calms a man. I have only one wish now, and if for nothing else, second chances are for wishes. I want to atone. I nearly destroyed this world once. Perhaps, by helping the innocent out there under the guise of aiding Zophar, I can make up for my sins, and there will no longer be reason for me to stay.
Back to the Library of Vane.
Back to the Shrine to Ghaleon.