Just a small nugget from the novel I’ve been working on. This is from a middle chapter. People always say the middle is the hardest, but the ending is the hardest to me. 


 

Dark shadows hung in the corners of the chapel. Light from the many candles littered across the altar did very little to combat the life-like darkness. Chandeliers hung low and dim, and heavy curtains were drawn over the windows. A priest knelt at the front, before the altar, with his hands clasped and resting across the top. He wore dark robes and a hood drawn tightly over his head. Around his waist dangled several gold trinkets from a rough brown rope.

 

“Is there a funeral?” Keleir asked, sitting on the front pew with a heavy sigh. He drew his cloak around him like a blanket, admiring the bleak architecture. “It is dark in here.”

 

“I like the dark,” the priest said. He rose, coal gray robes washing around his ankles. “At least, when I pray. It helps me focus.”

 

“I never understood the point of praying to the Living God,” the Fire Mage sighed. “If he is living flesh, how does he hear your prayers?”

 

The priest smiled and sat next to the future king. “Ekaru Priests do not pray in hopes that the Living God will hear them. We pray because it keeps us faithful. It keeps us connected to what has yet to be delivered, but has long since been promised. We pray so that we do not waver in our commitments.”

 

Keleir turned his eyes up to the painting of a marking, a monstrous face formed from a thousand rope knots. It was painted on a red banner that hung from a golden pole, spilling behind the candlelit altar. He knew the mark well, as he’d been born with it on his chest. “You await the Vel d’Ekaru, the Living God.”

 

“We await the redemption of our universe and the universes beyond ours.” The priest smiled and followed Keleir’s gaze to the painted banner. “When was the last time you attended service, Lord Ahriman?”

 

“I’ve never attended service. Yarin’s religion was not mine, and not my peoples’. I have ignored your teachings, for the most part. I was raised in this palace, but not under this roof. I know some of your beliefs, however.”

 

“Do you know the origins of the First, the Second, and the Third?”

 

“I know legends.”

 

The priest smiled. “I’m Brother Povish, by the way. We didn’t get to be introduced earlier during the ceremony.”

 

Kelier froze, turning a surprised look on the priest. “I didn’t even realize that was you. I was… distracted.”

 

“It is not your fault, Lord Ahriman. There was a lot going on. A lot of blood. It is easy to be distracted by decay.” The Priest clasped his hands in his lap and turned his eyes to the altar to begin his tale. “Each land, each people, has their own legends about how the universe formed. Some are based on science, some on myth, and some on faith. But, all legends, no matter what view, begin with one initial spark. One loud bang, if you will. We know that there are universes right next ours, alternate realities where we exist or don’t exist. We know of three of these realities, for sure. The First, a lush world full of magic, where the life of the planet is thriving and only just beginning to hear the call of destruction. The Second, new to greed, and already seeing the toll it takes on a dying world. Then, the Third, well acquainted with greed. They killed their planet. They mined it dry.

 

“The Three are without name, as no one lived at their birth to name them. They were born of power and light, and the Origin God gave each a soul, locked with a Key. The First Key is the Body of Life, the power to create or destroy. The Second Key is the Hand of Strength, with the power to control the Body. The Third is the Carrier of Power, which cradles them both. When combined the Keys have the ability to tear apart universes or create them.

 

“The Origin God created the first universe, and though I call it the first I don’t necessarily mean ours. We could be the hundredth or the thousandth, but because we haven’t found the right combination for unlocking those worlds, we have only the Three. The Origin God created the first universe, and from that sprouted others. Each with their own life. Each a copy of the next with infinite possibilities. All things have a purpose, even down to the smallest particle. Each particle has the power to shape the future of that world.”

 

Keleir sighed, trying not to seem bored by the origin of the universe. “And what about the Raukes, the spirits between worlds?”

 

“Imagine bubbles floating in water. Imagine each bubble is a separate universe, a separate world, and the water is the matter that floats between those worlds. It binds them together. But, when one bubble floats too closely to another, if the matter moves, the bubbles merge. They become one. The Raukes are the spent remnants of energy that float in that matter. They are fragments of time and space that were lost or ejected at the formation of a universe. They are trapped, tortured creatures without real form, connected, and yet separated, to the life force of a universe. Every now and then one finds its way into our world, but without any real form of its own it is merely a ghost and does not survive long. That is why they merge with the child carried in its mother’s womb.”

 

The Fire Mage glowered at the floor. “The consciousness isn’t developed yet, so it is easier to take over the form.”

 

Brother Povish smiled. “Not so easy, it seems. You shouldn’t hate the thing inside you, Lord Ahriman. It is a gift.”

 

“This is not a gift,” Keleir hissed, touching his chest. “This has brought me nothing but misery.”

 

“You fight it. Pain always accompanies futility.”

 

“And I should just embrace it and let it take me over?”

 

“It wouldn’t hurt anymore, would it?”

 

Keleir scoffed. He turned his attention away from the man to the heavy curtains blocking out the moonlight. He’d already tried that. He’d given in. He’d let the creature run him for nearly thirteen years, and for what? He’d murdered. Slaughtered. Killed. He’d brought destruction and war. He’d been exalted and worshiped for it, and he hated it. His only redemption came in the form of a woman, who’d braved fire and agony to reach inside and make his soul whole again. He would never be that creature again willingly.

 

“You were never meant to exist in the first place, Lord Ahriman. You are a vessel for something that has been desired for a very long time. You are a vessel for our redeemer and the savior of our universe, the liberator of the Rauke. It hurts because you are not meant to be alive.”

 

The Fire Mage froze, turning his gaze slowly to Brother Povish. “All this thing wants is death and destruction. How is that your redeemer? It would sooner see you flayed.”

 

“Not I,” the priest smiled. “Others perhaps, like your wife.”

 

Keleir growled. “And how is that a good thing? How should I accept that, and let it win, if it means to murder someone I love?”

 

“Because it is for the best. You can’t see it. I understand that. My words will do little to shape your view of the matter. Your human emotions cloud you.”

 

“My human emotions are far more reliable than the instability of a creature not equipped to handle them!”

 

“What I mean,” Brother Povish began patiently, “is that your sentimentality toward your own life, to the life of the people around you, and to the world itself, clouds you from seeing the truth around you.”

 

“Then, explain to me what the truth is, Brother Povish. Help me see it.”

 

“You know the truth. He has told you, hasn’t he? Shown you?”

 

Keleir gave a tight smile. “I’d like to hear it from something other than the voice inside my head.”

 

Brother Povish took a deep breath, ending it in a pleasant sigh. He shifted in his seat, as a child would right before receiving a present. The joyful look on his face turned Keleir’s stomach. He felt ill and angry. Part of him wanted to kill the priests for relishing in such a thing, and the wiser part of him knew that road led exactly where the Priest wanted him to go. “The Origin God created the universe and its planets and it sprouted life. From that life grew plants and animals. Creatures that existed in a cycle that was ever revolving. It was perfect and beautiful, and then it evolved. From the ooze grew a parasite. It started small and innocent enough, as they always do until it grew intelligent and strong. Humanity, Lord Ahriman, is the parasite of the world. It is an infestation. It is a virus that rots what it touches. The world revolves in a cycle and humans spit in the face of it. They under appreciate and over consume. They destroy the world with little thought or remorse for their actions. Just like the damaging cells of a disease in your body, it seeks out the healthy cells and destroys them. Humans devour everything, Lord Ahriman, until there is nothing left. They are selfish, greedy creatures. Even the best of them.”

 

“You speak of yourself.”

 

“Yes, and no. I’m only half-human. My father was a Rauke. You are a Rauke, but you refuse to let your human nature be consumed by the righteousness of your redeemer. You think the Rauke is evil and you hate it because it made you murder, because it craves blood. But, you do not realize that what the Rauke does isn’t evil at all. You know this too because he has shown you. It is a culling. It is the same thing as squishing the beetle that threatens to ruin the crop. Humanity, is the beetle, the Rauke is just the gardener trying to keep the crops alive.”

 

“If your father was a Rauke, why didn’t you worship him as the Vel d’Ekaru?”

 

“There are many Raukes in the world, but only one of them has lived many times over. The Rauke inside you has seen the end of the Three repeated, and has attempted to save it time after time. You are the prophesied one. You are the vessel, the body of the Living God.”

 

“But, how do you know?”

 

Brother Povish grinned. “Why, because you told us so, Lord Ahriman. A long time ago, when you were a boy.”

 

Excerpt WIP, The Living God
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