Oh, what is this?
Axel growled, squinting against the burst of light. There was someone standing there, having smashed through a barrier in the higher realm of dimensions. The effect scattered cosmic energy filaments. It certainly looked dramatic. It also blinded Axel's ability to perceive with his Seed. Sometimes he forgot that basic foundations of space and time could interfere with his power.
The girl—Narse—lie nearly finished at his feet. She had little left of the energy source she called Vitality; her Seed clung to it desperately. Axel had consumed the better part of it, and now he had enough strength to push through the haze of cosmic filaments. Who the hell was crashing this party?
South strode forward. She wasn't wearing her usual getup. She kept the white blouse, but she actually wore some kind of pants that shimmered between silver and gray. For the first time, Axel was aware of the energy and force surrounding her. She was more powerful than he realized. Her Seed…he couldn't begin to comprehend it. It twined to a dozen energy sources from a dozen other worlds.
Axel used his Seed to cast up a barrier, separating himself and Narse from her. All he really had was the salvaged Vitality from two worlds, but it was enough. That stopped South dead in her tracks. She genuinely looked worried.
Oh yes, marvelous bitch. Take a look at the new god. You should have stayed with your Traveling buddy. You have no idea what you've created.
This was why Axel endured Traveler. This moment—this beautiful opportunity. It astounded him that these things were possible. That he could snare other gods and stand against people like South. But over the relative millennia he spent in this Sphere, his mind had expanded and evolved from its pathetic mortal beginnings. Not only enough to set a retroactive trap for Narse, but to comprehend the weavings of Eternity itself.
South looked down at Narse, wincing. "Axel…why?"
Axel straightened up. He smiled. "That's all you can ask?"
She hardened her gaze. "You are better than this. You don't need to destroy her for your gains."
"You're right, I don't need to." He laughed. He enjoyed the disgust it elicited on her face. "But I can."
"Save the speech, you dumb broad. You knew exactly what I was the day you slinked into my life. You tangled your life in mine and still you brought me here. You don't know what I am, and now you act surprised when I take my rightful place in Eternity."
South clenched her jaw. Axel could almost feel the unsaid words brimming beneath. But she, too, had barriers he couldn't penetrate. It didn't matter. Not now. He may not have finished Narse, but he had enough. Enough now to stand against the bitch.
"And that old name is meaningless," he cut in. "Your friend—the Traveler—he taught me all about Agnomina. Forgot to mention that in the beginning, didn't you? I've truly ascended now, South. The mortal Axel is gone. In Eternity, you will call me Wrath. Wrathful Seeker of Peace."
South staggered back. "No…Axel—"
"Wrath, my darling. See how easy it is? Now I have a cutesy title to go by just like you and your not-boyfriend."
"If you do this, there's no going back. You're sealing your destiny."
Wrath grinned. "Say my name. Don't be shy."
"I refuse to call you by that name. Not while you still have a choice."
No. The choice is made. And I am far more powerful for it. "I am Wrath, South. And you can't pretend you didn't see this possible destiny."
Her gaze dropped. "I saw it…but I hoped I could prevent it."
Wrath extended his Seed—spread it out much like an expanding wing span. It shoved poor little Narse away, but also pushed back South. Severed the last tendrils of her Seed plugged into him. He was no longer under her control. Maybe not nearly as powerful, but now her true equal. And there was nothing she could do about it.
"Farewell South. If you know what's best, you won't follow me."
She glared at him. "If you know what's best, you'll stay far from the worlds I watch."
Wrath laughed again. "You're not God, South."
She hadn't seen him here. Hadn't watched him arrive in the centuries before Narse. Hadn't seen him build up an image and religion among these people. Created the order and temples where they would worship him. And South certainly hadn't watched as he mastered the particular energy source of these Spheres in order to consume it from the very essence of life. To sacrifice untold generations for his gain.
It prepared him for this moment. He could see it in the weaves of Seed energy surrounding the girl, Narse. She would have grown more powerful than him. She had the will and fate to do it. But her pitiful desires were his to leverage, and now he had nearly consumed her singular source of Vitality. As if it were the only power her Seed could touch. The understanding of small minds in a world that couldn't understand the potential of gods.
He grinned at South, watching as the horror dawned on her face. She hadn't seen it before, but she saw it all now. Understood. And like Traveler, she was not omniscient. She was not God.
"You can't watch them all," said Wrath. He winked at her.
And then he was gone.
Narse dreamed of Amber.
They stood together in the black and green canyons where Narse grew up. It was a familiar place; one of the few where she ever felt safe in the world. Amber liked to climb the shallow walls here. The green moss that grew in the volcanic rocks made the surface softer. The sharp stones didn't bite when they climbed. They could spend all day in the canyons, finding ledges to sit on and bask in the sunlight above the mists.
Narse hadn't been there in nearly six years. Not since Amber went to the cities in search of Vitality. She died later that same year. Then Narse started gathering Vitality as well. Hoping against all hopes that she'd see her friend again.
The dream began to change. Amber disappeared, but in her place, a far way off down the canyon, Narse could see two figures. She-of-Divinekind stood silhouetted in soft white light. The man beside her was taller, clad in dark robes. She didn't recognize him, but somehow she felt safe seeing him beside She-of-Divinekind. And she could hear them talking, though little of it made sense.
"Will you stay long, South?"
"Only until I'm certain of her recovery. He…he hurt her."
"You should never have brought Wrath here."
"Don't call him that, Traveler. He hasn't yet earned his Agnomen. There's still a chance to shape him for better."
"South, you can't keep deluding yourself. We knew what he was in the world we plucked him from. We knew the temperament and predisposition that monster carried. You played with fire and now worlds will burn for our mistakes."
"It's not so simple. When we were mortal, there were those who would have said the same of you. Mortal or deity, we all have seeds within us. I know what I saw in him—he had manifold destinies. The potential to become anything."
"He also had a choice, South. And he made his choices; in two lifetimes before you snatched him from fate. How many others will you snatch from death because you can play god?"
She-of-Divinekind didn't reply to the man in black.
Then the dream changed, and Narse slept for a long time. Slowly she came to her senses and the world of the waking returned. She turned over in bed, feeling worn. The same way she felt after she caught the Kamish Flu as a child, lying in bed for two months too sick to do anything. The weight of mortality hung on her bones.
Her Vitality was nearly all gone. She openly wept when she discovered it.
"Don't cry, little one."
Narse rolled over. She-of-Divinekind sat in a chair across the room. Her room. Narse was startled to be back, never mind the Divinekind sitting so nonchalantly with her. The radiant glow from before had nearly vanished. She-of-Divinekind wore a simple white blouse with black trousers. If Narse hadn't known what she did, the Divinekind could have been any other woman in all of the world.
Narse remembered her place. She weakly crawled out from the covers, making herself prostrate on the bed before the Divinekind.
"No, you will not worship me." She-of-Divinekind stood, placing her hands tenderly on Narse's face. She lifted her chin. "For a moment, you were nearly my equal. I did not come for your adulation."
Even without the radiance of heaven about her, she was the most wonderful being Narse had ever met. There was so much kindness and compassion in her bearing. It reminded Narse of being a young girl, looking to her mother with same devotion. She truly was Divinekind. And Narse loved her for it ever more.
"I have searched so long for you," she said, tears streaking down her cheeks again. "If I knew you were here in this world, I wouldn't have…"
The weight of her sins came crashing down. All those lives she took. She hid her face, too ashamed to show herself before such a pure creature.
"What's done is done," said She-of-Divinekind. "And believe it or not, though your motives were focused inward, the repercussions of your actions made a lasting impact. There are many crime lords and syndicates in this world disbanding and dispersing for fear of you. It may well be that the power you call Vitality spreads among the masses. Too centralized and they fear it makes them a target of your hunger."
Narse looked up. She knew this woman was Divinekind; that she couldn't lie. But it seemed too good to make up for what she did. There were consequences.
"But I can't have my lost friend," she guessed aloud.
She-of-Divinekind shook her head no. "She is a soul far beyond my reach, unfortunately. Even as a god, there are things I cannot do. But do not let your separation in this life separate you in death when it is your time. I have lost many of my dearest friends as well. One day we shall all be reunited. Don't let Amber's death be your end. Not when you have life still to live."
It was a half-comfort. But it came from She-of-Divinekind, so Narse would believe it. It would take time to accept it; to fill the ache of the years without Amber. But for now, in this moment, she could believe that an end to that ache would come. It was more than she could have hoped for.
She-of-Divinekind smiled. She stepped back, the space around her trembling and shimmering. She was leaving. And Narse had one last question.
"What about the one you call Wrath?"
She-of-Divinekind's face dropped. She sighed. "Do not fear him. You lack any place in his present concerns. He won't come for you again."
"But he will come for others."
"I hope not. Believe it or not, he's much like you. A lost soul who acquired power and a means to accomplish his ends. He may be a deviant force in the heavens now, but I have hope that will change in time."
Narse nodded, sitting up in bed. She watched until She-of-Divinekind had faded away into the deepest of folds. Far beyond her sight and the sensations of miniscule Vitality still clinging to her. Just enough, Narse suspected, to get her back into the first fold.
It wouldn't take long to recover. Unlike the Kamish Flu of her childhood, this rest would see her to strength now. There was a lot to do with old pursuits far beyond her reach. There was an empty place to fill. And Narse had far too many new truths to keep her from thinking too long on this present world.
Today there was a new deviant force. But Narse could be a new honorable force.
She slipped into the first fold.