There was nothing like the sound of silence, of existence forgotten by the passage of time or the bother of living. Death was silence and yet, it was peace and fulfillment.
Until the silence was broken again and whispers sneaked around him like snakes slithering in the darkness, looking for a place to sink their teeth in. Slowly, they grew louder and louder until the voices could no longer be ignored.
Ozias opened his eyes, staring at the darkness that surrounded him. The voices kept whispering, fading in and out behind the quiet hum of his wards that now sang in urgent alarm.
How long had it been since he was last awake? Few decades? Few centuries? A millennium? The last thing he remembered was sending his loyal servants to take away the bodies of the others so they would finally be quiet and stop their attempts to leave. They were so persistent, they never learned, no matter how many chances he gave them. Why couldn’t they just live peacefully by themselves and enjoy the quiet? Why did they always need the voices of the others praising them and worshiping at their feet to fill their ears, preventing them from finding true contentment?
Ozias moved his arms, pushing himself up into a sitting position. His muscles protested and his strength faltered for a second, but then his body slowly woke up, signaling every cell that it was time. Time to rise again.
He looked around the small stone chamber he had chosen for his rest, his eyes stopping on the pale, flickering wards around him. There were no foreign traces on them; nobody had even tried to penetrate them - not that he expected those cowards to dare, even if they somehow found new bodies.
He had realized that this world was not perfect, and it was not entirely separated from the land they had left, so, occasionally, through a supernatural event or a powerful ritual, humans would appear, sometimes even with their bodies. But there was no way for them to return, so even if one of his family took control of that body, it would be useless to them. Possessing a human would only diminish their power, since humans could not channel the true power of a god. Not unless the human was made a god, but for that to happen, the god inside of them had to die and none of his family would ever give their own life for others to ascend.
A low growl came from the other side of the barrier and Ozias locked his eyes on the blurry figure waiting for him outside. The whispers were coming from it, but it was hard to hear with the ward between them.
Ozias got to his feet, stretching his limbs until they started cracking with loud noises that reverberated through the chamber. He felt relief spread through his muscles, his body slowly returning to its functions. He could hear his heart beating hard and strong, his blood flowing through his veins again, his brain quickly waking up as memories from the past flashed through it, reminding him of all that he had witnessed, all that he had done, all that he had saved. All that he had to do again.
He raised his hands and slowly untangled the threads of his spell, allowing the protective dome to disintegrate into a rain of golden sparks. The figure on the other end shifted, taking a small step forward, then lying on the floor with its giant head resting on its paws. Its red eyes locked with Ozias’ and the little puppy whimpered happily, wiggling its tail. Ozias smiled.
“Come here.” He said, beckoning it with his fingers. The wraith dashed forward without hesitation, stopping in front of him. The creature was taller than him and a few times bigger; its gaze had scared many powerful gods, but that was because they were cowards that feared death. Once you have conquered that fear, this magnificent being looked more adorable than scary.
The wraith lowered its head, and Ozias patted it gently. Touching the shadows that made the coat of the creature was still as strange, like running your fingers over foam that made your skin crawl. It was not a bad feeling, though.
“Good girl,” Ozias said, touching the wraith with his other hand. “What have I missed?”
The whispers returned as the creature started talking excitedly in Ozias’ mind. More humans appearing. Gods claiming bodies. Rift opening. A sword. Humans and gods leaving through the rift.
With every next thought, Ozias’ smile faded and his shoulders dropped. He ran his hand over the side of the wraith where the sword had hurt it, looking at the silver scars of the wound. There weren’t many things that could hurt his creatures, just several objects that the other gods had created before he destroyed their original bodies. And there was only one in the form of a sword.
The Asi sword. An object imbued with so much potent energy, he could easily open a door to this place. But who would want to come here? He had taken with him all the gods when he came to this place. He was sure of that. Thousands of years would have passed since then. No human could remember what happened, let alone know how to use the sword. But that was not the concerning part.
The others had left; they had entered the world of the humans again. Even though they knew what the punishment for that was going to be.
“All of them left?” He asked, and the wraith looked back up at him, his mind confirming. “You kept the rift open?” He asked, and received another confirmation. He raised his hand and the wraith froze, closing its eyes in fear. Ozias sighed, petting it again. “Where are the others?” The whispers rose again, speaking excitedly as he stared into the distance, trying to feel them. His senses spread further and further, bouncing off every tree and stone out there until he felt it. The tear that shone brighter than the sun, louder than any voice, wide open for both sides to touch and die at each other’s hand.
All because of their greediness.
But it wasn’t them that opened the rift, it couldn’t have been. It must have been the humans. They had grown beyond their place again, reaching for things that were not meant for them. Like naughty children, both humans and gods, they never learned.
Ozias patted the wraith again, then moved around it, heading towards the door where it had come from. He climbed the steps, ignoring the flurry of dust that rose in the air, and pushed the trapdoor, which opened with a screech and fell apart under his touch. He stepped into the simple house he had built for himself so long ago, looking around. Everything was covered in dust and cobwebs, and the floor was littered with dark holes. Most of the roof had fallen through and two of the walls had crumbled outward. The front door was still standing somehow, but as he turned the handle, it fell apart at his feet.
All things died, sooner or later, and those who tried to live beyond their time turned twisted and ugly and troublesome. Like his family. They spread like the plague of this place and devoured all that was good and beautiful, sucking in its energy and leaving behind nothing.
He should have vanquished their souls as well, instead of letting them roam the world they destroyed. Now the balance was broken again, just like before.
“Such a pity.” Ozias sighed, stepping over the threshold and walking away from the house. He took the overgrown path that was going to lead him to the edge of the cliff where he had built his house, ducking under the low, thin branches and stepping through the black bushes that looked both dead and alive at the same time.
Once he left the trees behind him, he stopped, staring at the light in the distance. Flickering in sickening green stood the portal, tall and wide, to fit at least two wraiths side by side. He could sense his pets guarding it, hear their voices and sense their impatient thoughts, their excitement in sensing him wide awake again.
I’m coming, he told them, and they let out their excited howls that reverberated far and wide like an endless echo. He looked aside and in the blink of an eye, a portal formed next to him, the runes flickering readily at his command. Ozias stepped in front of it, staring at his energy pulsating in the dark, feeling his wraith’s disgust at his bright energy.
“Time to restore the balance again,” he whispered, stepping towards the portal. “Once and for all.”