Out of nowhere, there was a duck. There’s always a duck. Every place.
“Is that a duck?” asked Jack, who was nibbling on some sugar cane.
“That’s the duck.” Fred said. “The Reticent Duck. They’re like the groundskeepers of the three domains.”
“So, that’s why there are always ducks.”
And no one ever mentioned that duck again.
The sun was setting. The hour, or perhaps the minute, was at hand. The seas grew horribly reddish in hue. They churned and bubbled like the belly of a beast that gorged itself on rotten flesh and felt guilty about it. A pillar of formless horror. It emerged from the shifting sea. It rose to the height of the mountain-top in one motion. From within the troubled waters two deep red eyes glistened like the shiny bits on an angler fish without the fish attached. Fortunately, Fred had insisted that everyone wear their 3D (which of course stood for 3-Domain) glasses. Had they stared directly into the eyes of Immolon they would surely have… well… some things are better left to the imagination. And, that was who was before them. Immolon, the Deity of Death and Darkness. The light faded fast and a shroud of shadow was consuming the mountain.
It was then that a crack formed in the clouds. A crack through which a brilliant light bloomed. It grew until it shattered the clouds allowing a new light to shine. This light bore wings and descended with the grace of a thousand goodnight kisses. There a simple bird hovered before them. Simple in that it was easy to understand that it was the greatest and most loving of all things. Golden light that didn’t hurt the eyes so much as soothe them shone out from this being and melted their fear and anxiety away. And, the wondrous being took on the form of a winged woman. One that appeared so familiar to each and every one of them. Salvatora: the Deity of Life and Light.
Salvatora looked to Fred and spoke. “It is time.” Her voice was like the heart-string section of your love’s orchestra. Fred passed his pastilles to Dojima who accepted them with deep appreciation.
Fred stepped forward. The placement of the gods formed a trian…
“Fred. Step over. A little to the right.” Immolon said. His voice drew a serrated steel string through the spine. Fred stepped over a little to the right.
The placement of the gods formed a perfect triangle. The Reticent Duck cleared his throat.
“Ahem.” he quacked. “Salvatora, Immolon and Fred. Ye’ve gathered here to see what domain ye shall inherit for the next 50 years. But, before we get to that. Some, announcements. Firstly, Fred… Secondly, Salvatora. Do I need to remind you that the miracle cap is at 50. The three extras you used will come off your next Age. Thirdly, Immolon. It was a rather low blow to destroy Flockboast right before the end of the Age. Not against the rules per se. Just a bit douchey.” Immolon shrugged. “Well, that’s me. Does anyone have any announcements they’d like to make or grievances they want to raise? Fred?”
“Nah. I’m just keen for my next Age!” Fred said.
“I have a request.” Salvatora said in a voice that melted already-melted butter. “I would ask that Immolon doesn’t kill or hurt anymore.”
“I have a request.” Immolon said in a voice that turned butter into cheese. “I would ask that Salvatora doesn’t give life or heal anymore.”
“As we’ve agreed countless times: agree to disagree. Anything else?” the duck quacked.
“Oh!” Immolon exclaimed in a voice that shattered broken glass. “I forget to mention that the fridge isn’t working.”
“We’ll look into that.” the duck quacked. “Now, is everyone ready for the ceremony? All good then.”
“How dare you!” Immolon said indignantly in a voice that flickered your torch.
“Oh, apologies. All good, all evil and all other. Now, without further ado…”
The duck quacked and sigils appeared above each of the deities.
Salvatora’s sigil shone out a beam of light.
Immolon’s sigil unleashed a dark haze.
Fred’s sigil grew two arms wielding a bow and shot an arrow.
The three projectiles met in the middle just above the Reticent Duck. Upon impact they fused into each other. The shifting alchemy shrunk and deformed. Smaller. Smaller. Until finally, it took on the shape of a simple coin. The Reticent Duck took the coin and held it high above his head, which wasn’t particularly high considering he was a rather quite small duck.
“The end of this Age is nigh. The coming of the next is imminent. We stand on the precipice and await fate!”
The coin was flipped. It rose in slow motion. Every eye was on it: Even Yours!
It reached its zenith and slowly sank back down. Flip. Flip. Flip. Voetsak! (The sound of a coin hitting a Reticent Duck’s outstretched palm). The Duck cleared his throat and spake thusly.
“It is decided. To Salvatora goes the Sea, to Fred goes the Air and to Immolon goes the Land. See you in 50 years. Sayonara-Ciao.” And the Reticent Duck flew off. The coin shattered into three and zoomed back towards each of the god’s sigils.
Immolon drew a deep rattling breath and the water that surrounded him fell back to the sea. It rose again and engulfed Salvatora but now it glowed a healthy transparent blue. Immolon fell to the mountain top with the great legs of a terrible beast. Fred looked the same as before, except now he had some wings.
“The land is mine. It has been so long. There are so many to kill.” Immolon said in a voice that drove a needle deep under your fingernail. “But, better yet. So many I can encourage to kill.” And he was gone.
Down by the Student Affairs Office Reza sat with her eyes shut. Immolon appeared behind her and whispered in her ear.
“You let them down. Felix, your knights. They all died because of you. You have disappointed them, your friends, your family, everyone. But, you can still redeem yourself. You can avenge them by destroying the ones that killed them. The Desert Dwellers. Prove your strength, Reza. Avenge them. Then their spirits will be able to rest satisfied.”
“Verskoon my?” Reza said.
“Oh, jammer. Jy het hulle in die steek gelaat. Felix, jou ridders. Dis jou skuld hulle gesterf het. Jy’t hulle teleurgestel, jou vriende, jou familie, almal. Maar, jy kan nog steeds dinge regmaak. Jy kan nog steeds wraak neem as jy die moordenaars verwoes. Die Desert Dwellers. Wys vir ons jou krag. Dan sal hul geeste in staat wees om tevrede te rus.” Reza closed her eyes and took a deep breath. But, the air that filled her was of Immolon’s cloud.
“Jy’s reg!” Reza said. When she opened her eyes they had turned red. A deep red full of malice and hate and pain at the loss of her friends and contempt for herself.
“Genoeg is genoeg.” Reza said. Then she let out a terrifying roar. It was a sound greater than her small frame would have seemed able to produce. But, her body was changing. The roar seemed to have awoken something terrible within her. Her head grew to many times its size and her body was close behind. It swelled to huge proportions. Her small arms and legs expanded and rippled with muscles. Her tail lengthened and buffed up. But, the most impressive transformation was that of her wings. One wouldn’t have known she had wings in her usual form. They had been small and concealed by her clothing. But, now they shot out into the sky like the fast growing roots of a tree until they achieved their full fairy-like form. Reza stopped growing. She had reached her full size. A mighty blue dragon. Her body started to pulse. Dark red lines travelled down from her eyes and before long her entire body was covered in the pulsating red veins. Where Reza had once sat a terrible beast now stood. Her red eyes were transfixed on the desert in the distance. She stretched her wings wide and readied to take off. But, something stood in her way. Responsibility (who had left briefly to get some tea from the Student Affairs Office).
“Responsibility.” he/she cried. Reza looked at the knight. But, she didn’t see her guardian and friend. She saw only an obstacle that stood between her and her vengeance. She swung her mighty tail. Responsibility dodged it. He/She spoke pleadingly once again but Reza was crazed by Immolon’s corruption. Responsibility raised his/her arms and stood between Reza and the desert. Reza struck him/her with a powerful claw and he/she smashed into a nearby cliff. The helmet shattered with the impact. Her helmet.
“Wag!” Responsibility cried. Reza turned around.
“Die Reza wat ek ken sal nooit so iets doen nie.” The others arrived just in time to do running translations. “The Reza I know would never do something like this.” Jack translated.
“Ek is nie meer die Reza wat ky geken het nie.” Reza said in a deep troubled voice not her own.
“I’m no longer the Reza you knew. Oh, ah.” The Seer said.
“Ek glo dit nie.” Responsibility said.
“I don’t believe it.” Jack said.
“Die ou Reza was swak. Sy kon niks selfdoen nie. Almal het doodgegaan omdat sy niks gedoen het nie. Maar nou gaan ek iets doen vir die mense wat gesterf het!” Reza said.
“The old Reza was weak. She could do nothing herself, oh. Everyone died because she did nothing, ah. But, now I will do something for those that died.” The Seer said.
“Dit gaan niemand help nie, Reza. Jy’t self gesê wapens bring net pyn. En nou is jy net ‘n wapen vir Immolon. Moenie hom jou laat misbruik.”
“It will help no one, Reza. You said it yourself, weapons bring only pain. And, now you’re a weapon for Immolon. Don’t let him use you.” Jack said. And then the Seer noted. “Well, actually misbruik is more like abuse.”
“Yes, but contextually I thought it made more sense.” Jack said. Reza shot out a jet of red energy, a red cloud that blasted a chunk out of the mountain. Dojima had been quick enough to grab the two bickering translators.
“Genoeg. Ek is opad. Ek gaan ‘n verskil maak.”
“Enough, oh ah. I’m on my way, oh. I’m going to make a difference.” the Seer panted.
“Dan is ek jammer.” Responsibility said and drew her sword.
“Then… I’m sorry.” Jack translated.
“Een van my verantwoordelikhede is… om jou te keer. As ek moet. Jy sal my nooit vergewe as ek niks doen nie. ”
“Wh… you can’t be serious!” Jack cried.
“If I understand correctly…” Siphokazi said. “Then Responsibility’s duty is…”
Reza flew into the air with her eyes set on the desert. Responsibility leapt after her and there was a flash! She landed in the snow a short distance away. There was a pause as everyone held their breath. And then Reza fell from the sky, her wings severed. She landed with an almighty crash that sent snow flying in all directions. She cried out in pain. Her blue blood mixed with the pale snow. Responsibility dropped her sword as tears ran down her face. She ran to Reza.
“Ek… ek is jammer!” Responsibility cried.
Immolon stood above the severed wings. “A fitting immolation.” The wings sparked into flames and burnt away.
Reza’s screams of pain turned to cackles of laughter. The same red clouds from before began to envelop her. To their astonishment and horror the clouds formed new wings on her back. She stood up and looked at them. Her red eyes shone dangerously.
“Niks en niemand gaan my keer nie.” Reza said. Behind them they could see the shadowy figure of Immolon. He hung there like an evil puppeteer manipulating Reza for his foul purposes. He grinned the grin of death. Reza’s new wings extended high into the sky and when they came down the mountain was engulfed in the red cloud. They coughed and spluttered as the airborne bile filled their lungs.
“To the sea!” Dojima shouted. “Jump to the sea! It is Salvatora’s domain! She will protect us!” Siphokazi could see the sense in this and was the first to jump. The wind whistled in her ears and her eyes watered. As she neared the ocean below a pillar of water shot out of the sea and grabbed her like an arm. She landed softly. She beckoned to the others but they were too far up to see. Dojima coughed convulsively. He could hear Immolon’s tainted whispers.
“You will fail them like you did her. What use are you to anyone, old man?”
He could bear it no longer. He grabbed the nearest person and leapt off the cliff. Dojima looked up at the cloudy mountain above as they fell further and further away. The wind thundered in his ears. He turned his head to see who he’d grabbed.
“You!” he cried. And then a mighty pillar of water enveloped them both.
All was dark in Jul’Dor. The only light came from the flames that still burned. Everyone was still awestruck by the giant that had appeared and then frozen moments ago. They stood facing each other wondering if they should continue fighting. In the distance red clouds approached. It was mere seconds before Reza appeared above the city. The Knights that beheld her collapsed and thanked everything that she was still alive. The Jul howled with terror for the dragons had surely returned to destroy them. Reza spoke.
“Nooit weer gaan hulle asem haal!”
She roared with immeasurable rage and the city of Jul’Dor was no more.
Siphokazi floated dreamily in the ocean. It was like being in the womb. An embrace beyond comforting. She opened her eyes and found that she could see forever. The water was so clear. She realised she was on the back of a jellyfish. A rather large one and the others were there too. Except for… Wait. There was something large in the distance. The Jellyfish brought them closer and they were greeted by countless sea creatures of all types imaginable. But, Siphokazi’s eyes were drawn to a dark figure. It was black except for its hind paws that made it look like it was wearing shoes. He approached her.
“Siphokazi! Good to see you.”
Polite as ever.
ARC 2 Ending Theme: Fire on the Mountain – Asa