The Power of Blood

To them, being broken made me the perfect sacrifice. I was swathed in bandages, held fast to the obsidian altar. It was almost midnight; the moon neared the throne of the heavens. The men started chanting, beating hard against the ground with their staves. The crones began to sing and walk slowly around the chamber, casting dust into the nine braziers along their path; the golden flames turned a bloody crimson. Next were the virgins, wailing in pain and desperation. They danced round the altar, their naked nubile bodies twisting sinuously and seductively until one could no longer tell where one girl ended and another began.

The moon grew closer to its pinnacle.

The chanting grew frantic. The dancing increased in tempo.

They painted me; I could feel the strange patterns of the brushes upon my body.

Women screamed in exultation.

They cut me with cold iron blades.

There was so much blood….

"Blood for Blood"

The beatings grew faster, the voices louder. Something was happening.

The moon was directly above me.

All was silent, and the hushed blade slid into me.

White sky, a black moon, trees carved of bone around a glassy red lake. In the center was a figure crouched like a frightened child. The figure, wings of shadow spread wide, stared with one silvery red eye open. Black lightning danced across his skin and a sickly aura emanated from him, leaching life from all it touched. Naught could be heard but a broken whisper. "They….savior….a monster…"


He wakened from the dream with little fanfare; he did not sweat, scream, or moan-he only lay silent and stared blankly at the ceiling above him. When he was sure he had gained full control of his mind and emotions he slowly rolled off of the bed and walked silently to the bedroom door. Upon reaching the hall he glanced at the broken mirror shards affixed to the wall. Thanatos D'skeru, as he was then called, was not entirely a handsome man, but he was not entirely a wretched sight either. He was a modest height of five feet and seven inches, with a lean and wiry build. His storm-cloud grey eyes rested above high cheekbones and were framed by feathery raven-black hair that reached downward and ended at the base of his neck. "Another lousy morning, neh?" he whispered to his reflection.

The morning soon found him lounging languorously behind a poorly carved wooden desk in the rat's nest he called an office. He sighed, completely and utterly bored. No new work had come for three months, not since he killed that ahyera in western Kaieshalahmon. He was an Ahkharad'soura, a Slayer of Beasts, and had been for the past two centuries, ever since the day he set aside his assassin's blades. Lining the walls of his modest office were various trophies taken from his many quarries; the horned head of a khractus, the wing bone of an azphelus, the six foot tooth of the Nachtresper to name a few. Thanatos rubbed his arm at the memory of the Nachtrespar; he still was not fully healed from that encounter. His arm still gave phantom throbbing. He sat idly; reminiscing and watching gnats float past his lonely gaze.

Suddenly his door cracked open and a young woman poked her head in. He gave her a quick once-over as she approached him. She walked much to slow to be here to enlist aid, and she was much too young and pretty to be here to woo him. Even still, there was something strangely familiar about her. "Grandfather?" she stated. He looked up at her and gestured for her to continue. She breathed deeply and continued. "I'm here about the job you posted a few months ago." He stared. "The secretary position?" she continued.

He blinked in sudden recognition and held a hand to his forehead. "If only I could grant that position at this time. As you can see from the lack of activity here," he said, gesturing to the almost empty room, "I haven't had work in quite some time; therefore, unfortunately, I am incapable of affording your salary." The girl sighed. Thanatos shrugged. "Sorry, the best I can say is-"

His words went unheard as the door to the office slammed open. In stepped a monster of a man, bellowing in a deep voice "Is this the office of Thanatos the Ahkharad'soura?" Thanatos stood and grinned. Clearly the man was here about a job, and by his girth and raiment, he seemed to be prepared to reward him quite handsomely.

"Yes it is," Thanatos stated, walking to greet the man, "and I am he." The man looked down upon him, his face contorted in what seemed to be a disbelieving grimace.

"You're Thanatos?" he asked, staring hard at the man over his enormous nose, "I expected someone a little more-" before he could finish, the man found the flat of a small dagger pressed hard against his throat.

"Powerful?" Thanatos whispered, "Let me assure you, good sir, one does not need to look powerful, only be. I tell you this, I have battled against many Ahkharad, many that men fear to speak the names of, and I have conquered every last one. Tell me then that I am not, in fact, powerful." Thanatos stepped away and allowed the man a chance to breathe again.

"Now," he said, "you came here for a purpose. What beast is it that plagues you?" Thanatos walked back towards his desk, gesturing to the chair that sat before it. The man sat.

"We at the Temple of Akronos are haunted by a vicious creature we call Reaper." Thanatos sat in his chair and listened intently. The man grew silent and watched Thanatos a moment before continuing. "The creature is of variable height; some moments it appears to be as tall as you or I, sometimes as tall as this building. It walks on two legs like a man and moves like one as well, though faster and with more power, even in the smallest of movements. It is shrouded by writhing shadows, making it quite difficult to get an accurate description."

Thanatos looked up at the man. "Could you see any weapons or armor? Natural or Manifested?" The man looked thoughtful for a moment.

"For armor it appeared to be wearing some form of plate armor carved from purest white bone, except for the bone covering its right hand. The bone there was black as pitch and emitted a soft blue eldritch glow. The bone claws on that hand were long and tipped in silver. Upon its head w as a faceless helm of bone, bearing only two small slits for the eyes and what appeared to have possibly been a hole in the back due to the long black hair that sprouted from it."

"Clearly manifested…." Thanatos muttered to himself, for no creature he knew was born with the armor of a man. "What color were its eyes?"

The man trembled. "What they are naturally, I do not know, but from most accounts the glow from within the eye slits is a bloody red; some say almost like silver, but tainted with blood." Thanatos looked up, startled. The figure, cocooned by wings of shadow, stared with one silvery red eye open…

"Say no more" Thanatos whispered, "Is there anything else I need to be aware of prior to acceptance?" The man leaned forward and spoke softly. Thanatos frowned and threw a quick glance towards the girl. She looked back at him, a quizzical look upon her face. He looked back at the man, sighed, and nodded. "I will take the job," he said, "I will meet you at the West Gate at dawn. We shall discuss payment then." The man nodded and left quickly. Thanatos stared at the doorway long after he had left.


He looked thoughtful for a moment and whispered, "I never asked his name…" He shook his head. "…makes for poor business." He stood and looked at the young woman still standing nearby. "You know, I never did find out what your name was either."

"Alyrra," she replied.

"Well Alyrra," he said, "if you still want the job, go pack a week's provisions for two. You'll be coming with me in the morning. Make yourself at home, and I will see you later." She nodded and turned to leave. "And stop calling me Grandfather! I don't look that old," he called after her. She smiled. "Yes Grandfather." He growled softly and waited for her to leave.

After she had left, Thanatos knelt behind his desk and slid aside a panel hidden beneath his chair to reveal a hole wide enough for a man to climb into. Thanatos lowered himself into the darkness and descended slowly, cautiously grasping for handholds in the wall with practiced ease. When he reached the bottom he turned and peered into the darkness. Slowly, torches lining the walls of the chamber flickered to life illuminating a small arcanist's lab. He walked directly to the back and opened up a small cabinet. Inside the cabinet were three syringes filled with a strange glowing liquid.

Here were his Augmentation Serums created from the blood of the Ahkharad he had slain over the years. He reached for the first of them and slowly withdrew it. "Blood from the Stormrunner for agility…" he plunged the needle into his right arm and pressed the syringe down, watching as the syrupy green liquid flowed into his veins. He shuddered and gasped in slight pain. He could feel his body changing. He reached for the next one and repeated the process. "Blood of the Ahkhra-mar, for strength…" He cringed and watched as the muscles in his arms and legs quickly bulged then shrunk back down to their usual size. He hesitantly reached for the third and final syringe. The syringe contained a black inky smoke-like substance suspended in clear liquid. He looked at the syringe warily. In all his years, this was the one serum he had sworn never to touch. For all the others he knew exactly what they would do, how long they would last (if not permanently), and what their side effects would most likely be. Of this, he knew nothing. He knew he shouldn't, but he knew he must if he was to survive the coming encounter. Quickly, he plunged the needle into his arm. "Essence," he whispered, "So that the hunter may become as the hunted." The veins in his arm bulged outward and turned black, then reverted back to their usual blue and sunk back below his skin.

Thanatos breathed deeply and closed the cabinet. Quickly he walked to another cabinet and pulled it open forcefully. The cabinet was his private armory, containing everything from long knives to bastard swords and battle axes. He slid his long coat off, letting it drop with a soft thud to the ground, and quickly began to arm himself with the weapons from the cabinet. Long daggers were slid into a leather harness, throwing knives into thigh sheathes; two swords were strapped onto his back, and a long clawed gauntlet was fitted onto his right arm. Thanatos slipped a wispy black cloak over his shoulders and climbed back up the hole. The torches flickered out behind him.

Upon reaching the top, Thanatos climbed out and carefully slid the panel back over the hole.


Thanatos watched silently over the sleeping city. He crouched down, perching on the ledge of the tallest tower of Cahaerra yr Wa'lahyrra, the Alabaster Bastion- home of the House of White, the ruling family of Rienra. He dropped down and skittered down the smooth tower wall, deftly finding handholds with his gauntleted fingers. He leapt off the wall and glided down to the curtain wall, his cloak of shadows acting as wings.

He walked the battlements like a silent specter, fulfilling the duty of his blood. He was a scion of the House of Black, sworn guardians of the House of White. Their families signed a pact in blood centuries ago, forever binding their families together. Wherever there was a member of the House of White, a brother of Black stood within their shadow. Thanatos stopped and looked over the edge of the battlements. It had been two hundred years since the last true-blood member of the House of White dwelled within the Caherra's walls. Alerria Wa'lahyrra was the last to rule from the Caherra, abdicating when she became pregnant with an assassin's daughter.

He gasped as a lance of fiery pain tore through his chest. He clutched at his chest as blood soaked his shirt like a crimson blossom. He fell to the ground, his body wracked by tiny shudders. Slowly he pulled himself up as the shudders came to a stop and the blood receded. "Perhaps…the serum?" he whispered. Supported by the battlements, Thanatos waited until an hour before sunrise.


Thanatos waited beside his office door; it was half an hour until sunrise. After a few minutes, Alyrra came running into the room in breeches with two packs in her hands. "Sorry I'm late, Grandfather!" she said quickly as she stopped next to him and handed him a pack. "Here's your pack." Thanatos nodded and accepted it.

"Are you ready?" he asked her. She looked thoughtful for a moment then nodded with a surety that reminded him of his lover of so many years before. He nodded in response and opened the door. She smiled gratefully and walked out. He followed her, shutting and locking the door behind him. As they walked down the crowded city streets, Alyrra questioned Thanatos incessantly about every possible detail of their upcoming journey. Finally, she came to the big one. "What exactly is it that you're supposed to kill?"

Thanatos stopped and turned to face her. "A Spirit of Greater Chaos," he whispered, glancing around to be sure no common folk were listening. If they had been overheard, there would be panic in the streets; talk of Spirits tended to instill fear in the commoners. At her questioning look he continued, "Spirits of Chaos tend to cause harmless mischief that is easily reparable. No one dies due to a normal Spirit of Chaos. But a Spirit of Greater Chaos is a literal force of nature. It is these spirits that cause catastrophes: earthquakes, meteors, black fire, and the like. They exist only to cause destruction."

They resumed walking. "Are they evil?" Alyrra asked.

"No," Thanatos replied, "simply forces of nature, as I have said, and nature is neither good nor evil, it just is." Alyrra looked thoughtful for a moment, and said nothing for the rest of their trek to the city gate.

They found their client waiting with three horses for them as they arrived. Thanatos and the man spoke quickly and quietly, discussing the terms of the agreement. When both men had come to an apparent decision and mounted the horses, Alyrra mounted her own and whispered in Thanatos' ear. "So, Grandfather, have you acquired his name yet?"

Thanatos shot her a quick glare, obviously annoyed at the grandfather comment, and replied. "His name is Maehros." Thanatos turned and nodded at the aforementioned man.

"Hyah!" Maehros cried and kicked his horse into motion. Thanatos and Alyrra followed suit, leaving a cloud of dust in their wake.


They journeyed for a week through the western wastes with little rest. By the end of the journey, Alyrra looked upon Thanatos and their client with awe and wonder. She stared down at her blistered red skin and looked back at the two men. Their skin was not touched by the blistering fires of the desert sun. Noticing her stare, the two men laughed. She blushed and looked away. Thanatos smirked. "Travel the wastes enough," he said, "and you'll develop a tolerance for the sun as well." Alyrra looked around, there was nothing in sight. All she could see was more sand. Where was the temple they were looking for? Was it destroyed already?

"Wait for it," Maehros said, "It is almost midday."

As the sun reached its peak, the air shimmered. Suddenly before them stood a lone archway carved from a deep, glassy black stone. "What is tha—"

"Obsidian," Thanatos stated before Alyrra could finish. They nudged their horses forward.

"This," Maehros said, "is the Arch of Akronos, the gate to the sacred temple."

The black archway loomed ominously over them as they slowly walked beneath it. Inscribed along the inner ring was a flowing script that glowed softly above them. "Sal'aehros Mohahre. Akronos Lusiae Mae Drenadre."It read, "Behold the Returning Path. Akronos guards the gate." Noticing a golden glint, Alyrra dismounted and knelt beside the archway. Set deeply into the glassy black stone, so it was almost hidden, was a figure of an old man holding a small golden dial. The dials' small sapphire pointer was pointed up toward a star-shaped ruby. Alyrra reached out to touch the dial and turn it to the crescent cut amethyst below. "Touch nothing!" Maehros roared from behind her, voice akin to the rumble of a thunderstorm. Startled, she turned to look up at the suddenly imposing figure of the man. He stared down at her, eyes dark and beholding shadows of a raging fury. With a softly murmured apology, Alyrra returned to her horse. Thanatos watched the interaction with a critical eye. Something was highly suspicious about Maehros, if that was even his real name. He seemed to be more than a simple priest of Akronos, the God of Time. "It is said," Maehros whispered, "that by touching the dial, one can control the flow of time. But, if the one who controls the dial is not a Chosen of Akronos, the power within the gate will tear them apart."

Maehros led them down the steep pathway into the temple proper. The city was small, as far as temple-cities go, and was wheel-like in nature-all roads leading to the main temple in the center. Thanatos looked around warily as they proceeded. Something was wrong here. Why were fires not burning? Where were the screams, where were the broken buildings? There was no danger to be found here. Thanatos remained silent until they had stopped before the temple and dismounted. After tying the horse to the post, he turned angrily to Maehros. "Why?" he asked, "Why have you brought me here? There is no danger here; there is no Ahkharad; there is nothing!"

Maehros looked at him with pity in his eyes and a solemn look on his face. "All will be revealed in due time," he said. Thanatos clenched his fists and growled softly. "There had better be a good reason for bringing me here under false pretenses, good sir," he replied, voice oozing with furious politeness, "I do not appreciate my time being wasted." Maehros nodded and ascended the temple steps, beckoning Thanatos and Alyrra to follow.

"Come," he said, "you will find the answers to all your questions within."

All was silent within the bare halls of the temple. The few flickering torches cast an eerie glow within the passages, lending an air of mystery to the very building. Thanatos followed close behind Maehros as they descended down a narrow set of stairs. Thanatos noticed that the deeper they went, the coarser the walls became, until they were clearly naturally formed stone. He ran his hand along the wall, feeling the hardness and remembering.

"Alright you maggots! Get back to work!" the master roared. "The ore is not going to mine itself!" I pulled hard on my pick, just barely lifting it. Why can't I lift it? I should be strong enough by now. I stumbled under the pick's weight and almost fell, but father caught me. He wrapped his hands around mine and helped me finish the job.

The master's men whipped us for that.

Thanatos blinked and continued walking. The air began to grow warm with an almost tangible thickness. The temple was darker than pitch at the bottom of the stairs. Maehros lit a torch and lifted it high. The light from the torch shone brightly and reflected off of the surrounding stone. They were in the entrance of a cavern. Thanatos' breathing quickened. Alyrra looked to her grandfather concernedly. "Grandfather, are you alright?"


He wasn't moving; he was just lying there, bleeding everywhere. The master had him beaten earlier-he found him helping one of the others again. Master did not like that. "Ninety-Nine lashes" he told them, "Whip him until his skin comes off like ribbons."

Father is asleep, and he will not wake up. They did this. Someday, they will pay.


Suddenly brought from his reminiscence, Thanatos spun and almost hit Alyrra in the face. "What!" he shouted. She cringed. "All I wanted to know was if you were alright…"

"I'm fine," Thanatos replied as they walked deeper into the cavern.

I found her one night, with a broken stalactite piercing her chest. She was lying so it looked like she had fallen, but I knew better. Someone killed her. Someone killed my sister. She was only six…

"We're almost there," Maehros said. Thanatos clenched his fist. Hopefully the Ahkharad he was hired to kill was here, then he could get out of this godforsaken place. He had not been here in almost two and a half centuries, and had never intended to return here.

I found Mother yesterday. I found where they've been keeping her since Father was killed. She's been in the Master's chambers. I watched him try to force himself on her. She was already heavily bruised. It appeared that he did this often, but she would have none of it this time. She bit him. He swore and cut her head off with his naked blade, all while his other hand cupped his bleeding groin.

They entered a large chamber, and Thanatos stared in shock. In the center of the room was a flat table of brightly polished obsidian surrounded by a ring of nine braziers whose fires had lone gone out. Thanatos stumbled towards the center, his entire body shaking like a leaf.

Alyrra leaned close to Maehros and whispered, "What is troubling Grandfather?"

Maehros stared at the trembling Ahkharad'soura. "Memories. This is the place where they changed him, stole his future from him.

"What do you mean?"

I tried to kill the Master today and did not succeed. He had me beaten for my failure, but refused to kill me. He believed that killing me would be too great of a reward- said so himself. Instead he had his men break me. My arms are shattered, my legs are in pieces. I can barely breath, my ribs are crushed. I can't see anything; my blood is in my eyes.

There were people in these mines before we were brought here, people that still believed in the old ways. They came for me. They lifted me from the ground and whispered to me that I will be the one to save them. That they would make into a hero, the perfect warrior, to set them all free.

It is almost midnight. I know this because they told me. "The position of the moon has power", they said, "especially for one such as you." They told me the old tales as they bound me, swathed me in bandages. They carried me to an altar and bound me there. I could see it was obsidian. Nine men in shamans' dress entered the chamber and stood in a ring around the edge of the chamber, staves in hand. The nine wise women stood around me. Six of them stepped back close to the braziers. The men started chanting, beating hard against the ground with their staves. The crones began to sing and walk slowly around the chamber, casting dust into the nine braziers along their path; the golden flames turned a bloody crimson. Six young women entered, wailing in pain and desperation. They danced round the altar, their naked nubile bodies twisting sinuously and seductively until one could no longer tell where one girl's ended and another began.

I screamed. The first crone who remained slashed my arm with a cold iron dagger. The second started to paint designs upon my skin. The chanting and the beating increased in tempo as the dagger cut into me eight more times. The screaming grew louder. There was blood everywhere. Then there was a silent scream. The crone's dagger slid through my heart like butter, but I did not die. They said they wanted a savior, but they made…

Thanatos trembled, small shudders rapidly growing in strength. He fell to the ground before the slab. "Leave now!" he cried out. Alyrra stepped forward, hand outstretched, trying to comfort him. Maehros quickly pulled her back. "We must do as he says," he whispers in her ear, "We do not want to be here when the change comes upon him." Maehros turned and ran from the room. Confused, Alyrra followed him. When they had reached the main temple level, Maehros pulled Alyrra into a side corridor and into a small room. He slammed the door shut and locked its twenty seven locks. He turned, and nodded, verifying that the magic circle he knew to be here was still unmarred. He dragged Alyrra to the center of circle and forced her to sit as he did.

"And now it is time for us to talk," he said wearily, "much will soon happen, and much you will have to do before it is over."

Alyrra slapped him; the flat of her hand left a stinging red splotch on his face. "How dare you," she said, "didn't your mother teach you how to treat women right? You don't just go around grabbing their arms and dragging them around with no explanation." She rubbed her arm, "that hurt."

"My apologies," Maehros said, "but it was of the utmost importance that we reached this room before the change occurred, Alyrra Wa'lahyrra- Granddaughter of Thanatos D'skeru, the Black Guardian and Assassin-King."

Alyrra turned a fiery gaze towards Maehros. "How did you know? I had thought I had succeeded in my anonymity, not even Grandfather could tell we were related." She shook out her hair and her blonde tresses quickly darkened to raven-black. Maehros stared at her, with an eyebrow raised quizzically. "I only wanted to meet him, perhaps even learn under him."

"So you thought you'd use his own infiltration techniques on him to learn his secrets."

Alyrra nodded then stared straight at Maehros. "Now, once again, how did you know, and what is this 'change' you speak of?"

Maehros looked towards the door. "Your grandfather is the monster I hired you to kill… the ritual he underwent over two-hundred years ago changed him, all he needed was that final push to finish the job."

Alyrra raised a hand questioningly and then stopped. Her eye widened then narrowed. "You're him aren't you? Maehros'amarr- The Walker." Alyrra growled angrily. "You knew all along didn't you? You knew this would happen! How can you be so calm? Your people are going to die because of this, because of what he is becoming, and what did you do? Nothing! All you did was hire your monster and his unskilled granddaughter. Why did you do it?"

"Because I had to."

Frustrated, Alyrra stood and paced around the circle. "But how are we supposed to stop him if he was the one you hired to stop himself?"

"I didn't hire him."

Alyrra stopped, "but you just said…"

"I hired you to kill him. As for stopping him," Maehros smiled and spoke a soft reply, barely above a whisper, "it will come to you. It has before and will again."

She stopped pacing and faced Maehros. "Tell me what you know about my grandfather." Maehros smiled and she knew she had asked the right question.

"He is a scion of the House of Black, blood-bound guardians of the House of White- your house. His family was arrested when he was ten summers old; no one knows why, not even him, I think. They were brought here as slaves for the mines that once existed below this temple, before this temple was here. Great evil occurred within those depths, and there were those who wanted their freedom at any cost…"

Alyrra smiled and looked at her hand. "Blood bound you say?" she interjected, "I think I know what we must do now." Maehros nodded and replied, "Do tell."

"We must begin the ritual again, but with myself as the subject. The magical aura of the ritual should prove to be a tantalizing beacon to my grandfather. He will come to the ritual and when he gets close, I will inject him with a vial of my blood. Hopefully the magic of the blood bond will reverse the changes as well as prevent him from killing me."

"And if that fails?"

"I will have to kill him, use his own blade if I must."

Maehros nodded and stood. "Very well," he said. "Let us be off." She nodded and he opened the door.


The Reaper roared in triumph; he could feel the changes beginning. He could feel the black power flowing through his veins as a milky white substance seeped from his skin and coalesced to form armor of bone. The gauntlet he had been wearing fell away as his own black gauntlet formed. He held out his left hand and felt the black power surge as a massive scythe of bone formed within his grasp. He slammed the butt of the scythe on the ground and breathed deep, drawing the shadows from the recesses of the chamber to wrap themselves around him. The Reaper could feel the Black God stirring within him, and by sheer force of will forced him back into slumber. It was not yet his time.

"Ku Lukta Mokrenar, Maktosh Mattiesena," he called in his rasping wraith-like voice as he ascended the stairs. Meat sacks were running around like chickens without their heads. The Reaper took great pleasure in gouging out the eyes of the first pathetic creature to come near him. He smirked beneath his mask when it smashed its bloody head against the stone corridor. He was the Reaper, he was superior and all creatures were merely pests.

He frowned; the other humans' screaming was beginning to annoy him. He reached out his gauntleted hand and pulled back sharply. He laughed when their heads simply fell off their shoulders and blood spurted from their necks like fountains. By the time he had reached the entrance to the temple, the walls were already painted bright crimson with the blood of all who dared to stand in his way.

The black power surged through him and he grew to the size of ten men. He laughed, and swung his scythe with great force, smashing it through the sides of five human dwellings. He frowned. As satisfying as that was, it was not as fun as tearing off their heads. The black power diminished and he returned to walking through the city streets.

"There's the monster! Get it!" he heard a man cry. The Reaper turned and came face to face with a small militia of the foolish men waving swords around. They lunged for him, but he was ready for them. "Khaza Maruk!" he shouted as he raised his gauntleted fist. A concussive force blasted forth and threw his assailants into the air. He slashed diagonally to the right with his scythe and a blade of sickly violet energy flew forth and sliced the airborne bodies into pieces. The Reaper grinned.

Suddenly the black power pulsed and the Reaper shuddered. Something was not right. He could feel faint beats from within the earth and a strange gathering of energy near the temple. He looked up at the moon. It was almost midnight. He roared and charged back toward the temple and did not stop until he had reached the entrance of the ritual chamber. He hissed at those he found in the chamber, beating their staves and chanting their spells. Sitting on the slab in the ritual ring was a young female wrapped up with a small glass bottle in her hands. The black power screamed within him, commanding him to destroy them all, for they were a threat to his existence.

"Khaza Uru Lukdn!" he shouted. The beating stopped and the other humans backed away; all but the one in the center. "Grandfather," she said and lifted the glass bottle in her hands. It was filled with blood. The Reaper's nose twitched as he breathed in the sweet smell of the blood in the bottle. It was the female's blood. He stepped forward. She seemed to be offering the blood to him. Did she hope to appease his wrath? To take the offering or the succulent fruit sitting helpless before him, that was the choice he must make. The Reaper growled; his mind made up.

He charged.

Glass shattered, and the floor was stained red…

Sight of the two was obscured by a whirling cloud of raven feathers.


A lone figure stood before the Arch of Akronos. He reread the arch's script. "The Returning Path?" He knelt beside the dial in the wall and slowly turned it until it pointed at the amethyst moon. He passed through the arch and descended into the darkness. He passed unnoticed by the workers and into the secret chamber. He walked through the ring of beaters and the ring of chanters. He passed through the ring of dancers and stood beside the crones. He watched them cut the bound boy. He pulled a bottle from within his satchel, the red elixir, the final serum. "Blood for Blood," he whispered and poured the liquid into the boy's open wounds. The figure passed back through the ritual rings as the tempo increased. He was at the chamber opening when the blade thrust down. He turned and faced the large man he found waiting for him. "It is finished. The ritual is finally complete." The other man nodded and disappeared. Thanatos turned back towards the ritual chamber.

"They wanted a savior," he whispered softly, "but, they made a monster."

Black sky dotted with silver specks, a white moon, trees carved of alabaster around a glassy black lake. In the center was a figure crouched like an unborn child. The figure, cocooned by wings of shadow, stared with one silvery eye half open. The eye fluttered shut. The Black God slumbered peacefully once again.