The Wizard's Maxim
 




The Wizard’s Maxim

By Michael Lenahan






















































“Power earned is power uncorrupting. Only through absolute discipline can absolute power be absolutely pure.” – Fourth Wizard’s Maxim


“Justice with Passion is simply Vengeance. For Justice to be true it must be as the blade: Sharp, Silent, Decisive, and ultimately Cold.” – Third Line of the Code of the Paladin.

























Able stood behind the banister of his porch, a pitch fork in his hands and his eyes intent and grim on the horizon. Able was a meager farmer who lived on the very edge of the Empire and not five miles from the beginnings of the Great Cancer. He had farmed his patch of acres as his father had, and as his father before him. He had a wife who had borne him three children, one of which was old enough to have left for the cities to make his own way. His middle child was a boy who would do as he and his ancestors had. His youngest, a daughter, was barely five and would be married off to one of the boys in town. She would be beautiful, as her mother, and get a handsome dowry in exchange.

Provided that everything went on as it had.

Strange times were in swing here on the edge of the Cancer. People this far from the Imperial capital of Damascus had to mostly fend for themselves. The people out this far hadn’t seen a tax collector in a generation and a soldier in even longer. The people where a tough bunch and of hardy and dependable stock. Some times horrible and warped things managed to crawl their way from the depths of the Cancer, and driving these monsters away had made the people strong.

The Cancer was a vast and blasted wasteland created when the very top of the Tower of Babel had exploded, taking its demon master Nebuchadnezzar with it and poisoning the land for miles around. Nebuchadnezzar had hoped to use the tower to harness the very energies of the world itself and ascend to Godhood. The Gods, for his arrogance, had in turn smited his tower and turned his lands into a forsaken hell. Men who entered the Cancer grew sick and died while beasts, sterile and unnatural stalked it. The tower still stood. All but the very top had withstood the blast. What was left could still bee seen over the horizon by Able at that very moment.

But things had grown dark in recent times. First one of the night watch had been attacked by a demon. The thing had ridden a great lizard and bore the resemblance to a lich. The monster had struck the poor man down and had been seen riding away into the Cancer enwrapped in a dark purple light eating the corpse of the damned soul. Then, the next morning not four hours hence a paladin, a knight errant of the Ruby Crown, had rode through town. The paladin had only slowed enough to confirm that the ghoul of the night past had been through the village. Without pause he had rode into the Cancer after the black thing.

And now clouds had begun to gather around the Tower of Babel. First a ghoul, then a paladin, and now a darkness gathering at Babel. Able did not like it.

“Eve.” He called to his wife, who looked up from her knitting beside him. “Call in Mary. I shall get Jacob and have him warn the town. A storm is coming.” Without another word he placed his pitchfork on then ground and turned and moved back into the house. Able did not like this at all.


~*~*~*~


Thomas dismounted next to the half eaten corpse of some poor militia man and the body of the lizard beast he had killed with his last arrows before reaching this cursed spot. The Tower of Babel. The legends of the cursed spire made from demon magic and old world machinery were told everywhere. The story of the black wraith Nebuchadnezzar and his bid for Godhood was an old and well known fable, but Thomas would never have imagined he would end up setting foot at the center of the story. But there was no time for wonder now. No time to gawk. Destiny was moving, and as it was said in his home, when Destiny made her move, the world but could tremble at her whims.

Thomas moved with a swift pace towards the door which had been left open. Without a word and a grim swing of his armored fist he smashed the ruined wreck of a gateway out of his way and into the black tower. He turned and looked up, and, staring back down at him from a step upon the stairway was his goal. A ghoul was no better description for the twisted creature that stood before him. It had once been a man, but what it was no longer. The skin had been stretched tightly over the skull from weeks of not eating. The black robes the man had worn where now tattered and stained with dirt, blood, and piss. His legs, skeletal, pale, and crusted with feces could bee seen through the tattered bottom. The worst part though, was the face. The skin was cracked and covered with sores and scaly patches from malnutrition and the sickness of the Cancer. The eyes bulged from the skull like face, almost as if something was inside its head that was to large to fit properly. They stared madly as an unholy purple light boiled from their depths. The smile was a thing of nightmares. The bloodstained lips where curled back in an animal’s snarl with the teeth clenched together like to the point where they had begun to grind. The grisly grin was enough the haunt those who had seen this poor creature to their graves. The whole wretched thing was enwrapped in an aura of bright purple light.

“Nebuchadnezzar!” Thomas shouted at the wretched thing. “Give him back Nebuchadnezzar!”

The ghoul stared down at Thomas, and then with the jerky movements of a puppet, shook its mad grinning face in an answer of no.

With a scream Thomas charged up the steps, steel broadsword flashing from its sheath with a practiced flourish and speed. The ghoul was faster though. It brought its hand upward in a horrible gesture and spoke in a tongue no human could have spoken, coughing up blood as it did so. The aura that surrounded it twisted, and then lashed out in a bolt of darkness. Thomas brought his shield up, but was too slow. The blast of energy caught him in the chest and sent him backwards over the scaled stairs and into the void. As he fell, one word fell from his lips as the pain drove him consciousness.

“Brother…”

With that, Thomas slipped from waking and into memory.


~*~*~*~


Thomas had had a brother. A brother named David. The two of them had been born too a peasant shopkeeper and his wife. The four lived in a small pastoral village, out in the idyllic farming lands to the north of Damascus and Jericho. The family had been happy, leading a simple life for its first few tenuous years. But the father had been old, pushing fifty at the time of the boys’ birth. He had passed on while they where young, dieing in his sleep one night. His passing had been sorrowful, but easy. The mother had inherited the store and kept it running while the boys grew.

The two children had been twins, born at the same time, but not alike in face and body. As they grew, the differences grew with them, but the two remained close. Thomas grew large and strong, but agile as well. David became lanky and a little clumsy, but he loved to read and devoured knowledge. While Thomas was out playing games with the other young boys, David was inside reading any books that fell into his mother’s store. At night, Thomas would come home and wrestle with his brother, and David in turn taught his brother all about the things he had read. The history of Damascus, the old world, myths, legends, even the Tower of Babel and the Great Cancer made it into their talks. Thomas was a quick learner and David a good teacher. The two still fought with one another, and fought viciously, as young boys at a young age will do, but they remained close, none the less.

As the two grew older and matured, they both came to realize that their fortunes would not be tending their mothers shop when she passed away. So, the two of them packed up their things, and, at the age of fourteen, left to see the world. David had a clear interest in the Imperial Wizard’s Guild. The arcane had attracted him since he had been younger, and he had even begun to try out beginner’s spells, with varying degrees of success. Thomas told everyone he planned to join the Home Guard, but he had long since learned to read and had read David’s books after he had finished with them. He had fallen in love with the Paladins, knight errants to the Imperial Throne. Armor clad warriors who patrolled the lands, protecting the people and dispensing justice, but Thomas also thought, deep down in his heart of hearts, that he would never been up to the task, so he kept his dream to himself.

So, the two young men set out on the road to Damascus, neither knowing their fates, but both feeling that Destiny was on the move.


~*~*~*~


Thomas opened his eyes. Pain. It was everywhere. His head hurt, his arms and back hurt, all covered in bangs and bruises from his fall. He thought one of his ankles may have twisted in the fall. The only thing he couldn’t really identify was his chest, which was just as well. He couldn’t look down and see it, but the scent of freshly forged metal mixed with burning flesh was enough to tell him it was bad. All and all though, he supposed he was lucky he hadn’t broken his neck.

He tried to shift his position, more pain. He tried once again, slowly this time. Tolerable. He managed to get to one knee. Then, using his sword as a crutch pulled himself to his feet. The ankle was twisted, and his legs and been bruised and beaten in his fall. His armor, at this point, was only slowly him down. He shed the outer layer, and discarded his bent and scorched shield.

Thomas looked up. Gray light poured through the ruptured top of the tower, a small spot of light at the end of a long dark tunnel. And he could see, slowly making its way up the spiral staircase which wound around the inside of the tower, another point of light. This one an eldritch purple.

In silence, clad in only chain mail and leather and using his trusted sword as a simple crutch, the mighty paladin named Thomas climbed the first step.


~*~*~*~


“What’s the matter dearest?” Eve asked, her face worried as Able moved around the room with nervous energy. He had begun to place their most valuable positions into a large bag, along with food, and water for nearly a week. Ever since he had sent Jacob off into the village he had been like this. Michael’s death had shaken him. It had shaken everyone. Living near the Cancer meant that deaths like his were not unheard of, but this is the first time anything had ever killed someone trying to get into the Cancer. In the thousands of years since the fall of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon, only the desperate and stupid entered the Cancer, man or demon. The ghoul had ridden towards the blight with intent and purpose, and now something appeared to be happening at the Tower of Babel.

Then there was the paladin.

The presence of one of the imperial knights chasing the demon gave heavy weight to the idea that the danger was grave. The last paladin to come this close to the Cancer had only passed through more than twenty years ago.  But, even so, the Tower of Babel had been ruined when the Gods destroyed its peak and Nebuchadnezzar with it. Even if the demon planned to use the tower for its intended purpose, it would find a sterile ruin where the stairway to the heavens once stood.

There was something Eve didn’t know though. She couldn’t read, few could this far from the center of the Empire. Able could though. He had read all the books in the village, one of which was an ancient tome that gave as close to a historical account of the events surrounding the rise and fall of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon as could be made. In it they made mention of the legend of an artifact known as the “God’s Eye.”

Nebuchadnezzar had made the Tower of Babel in seven days using his sorcery alone. Able felt, no, he knew, that the ghoul that had seen had been no simple ghoul or lich. If his suspicions where correct, some poor fool had opened the God’s Eye, and, if that where true, only a miracle could save them from what would come next.


~*~*~*~


Thomas stumbled.

He had been limping for the gods knew how long up the near infinite stairway, chasing after that one burning point of purple light. He had gained ground, and he had lost ground. The point always seemed to stay at the same spot ahead of him, no matter how fast or slow he went. The point of light that was the sky above grew larger and larger at a pace so slow it was unnoticeable if watched.

Thomas regained his footing and took another step. He stumbled again. This time he fell to his knees and did not get up. He used all of his will to keep himself from falling forward and crying until he died. He wanted to give in and let everything die with him.

He sat like that for some time. Slowly and steadily he managed to shake off his feelings in utter silence. He did not make a sound, and he did not cry a tear. If he had started he would not have stopped. As he sat there, he contemplated how things had come to this. Where had it all started to go wrong?

The answer to that question was simple, really. It had started to go wrong just when everything went right.

It had started with the Sodom and Gomorra war.


~*~*~*~


There had been dissent throughout the Empire for years now. After the early death of the last Emperor, Solomon XV, there had been contention over the throne. The Duke of Gomorra, the Emperor’s brother Judas, had wanted his fifteen year old son Sampson on the throne. The Emperor’s son, Solomon XVI, was only ten at the time and still a boy. There was a lot of political infighting, until finally; Solomon himself, a young genius, was able to prove that his father had been murdered using a poisonous plant that only grew in Sodom, Gomorra’s neighbor and closest ally. While the boy could never pin the murder on Judas, or the Duke of Sodom, James, the implications where strong enough to force Judas and his son Sampson to leave Damascus in disgrace.

Since then there had been much tension between the Duchies of Sodom and Gomorra and the Ruby Crown. Neither forgave the other for their actions, supposed or not. For a while the tension lessened, but it grew steadily again until about threes years after David and Thomas came to Damascus.

It all came down to a summer’s day.

Damascus was a beautiful city. The buildings where tall towers made of white stone and red wood, each one made of levels, all with sloping black tiled roofs. There where beautiful marble temples, the grandest of which was part of the Imperial palace. It was the temple of Solomon I, a grand marble dome topped with two colossal winged men, symbols of the old world, facing one another. The Imperial Mage’s Academy was a giant tower made of stone, smooth as glass and black as night, and resembled a giant tree with many smaller arms and towers branching from the central shaft. The arms and towers where curved to resemble tree limbs. That is why the Mage’s Tower, the Academy, was also known as the Tree of Knowledge.

Thomas was staying in none of these glorious places. He had taken up residence in the city’s Home Guard barracks. He had graduated from the training corps with above average scoring, and was given a captain’s rank after helping to quell a riot in one of the neighboring cities. Rumor was the riot had been instigated by agents of Gomorra.

On that summer’s day the emperor himself, Solomon XVI, had come to inspect the barracks and talk with the barracks commander, Peter. All of the guard had come out and stood in file. Since Thomas had rank, he stood in the first row and got to watch as the Emperor, his two guards, and Peter, walk past.

The four men strode down the center of an aisle with soldiers on either side.

“My Lord, I do not think it wise.” Peter said, quietly, looking straight ahead.

“It is the only way.” The Emperor, no longer a boy of ten, but a man of twenty five and still as sharp as ever, replied. “If I put anything other than Home Guard in Gomorra, Judas will grow suspect and may do something stupid.”

“I understand, My Lord, but my men are simple keepers of the peace, not professional soldiers or spies.” Peter replied, nervous.

“I will only need a few. Smart, silent, and loyal. Surely that is not too much to ask fo-.” Solomon never got to finish that sentence. 

What happened next was over before it almost began. Solomon turned as one of the guard shouted and charged. The two guards, both Paladins, rushed between him and the guardsman, shields raised and broadswords drawn. The guardsman came on, ducked under a swing of one of those great swords, and ran right past the bewildered paladins. The guardsman ran into another from the opposite rank, not two steps out of file. There was a crash, a struggle, the smaller of the two went up into the air, down again, and didn’t get up.

Thomas stood and stared down at his former comrade. He begun to turn, but a broadsword point in his back stopped him.

“Who are you?” The paladin snarled.

“I am Thomas, son of Jason, Captain of the Home Guard.”

“What have you done?” The other one barked.

“I have saved the Emperor’s life.”

“What!?” Said the first.

“I have-,” but Thomas was cut off when the second paladin struck him across the back of the head. He fell forward, and the first paladin readied to strike him as well when a calm hand on his shoulder stayed him. He turned to see the emperor staring down at Thomas.

“You forget yourselves, my children.” Solomon calmly chided as he pushed the two paladins out of his way. He reached down and helped Thomas to his feet. As he did so, he looked down at the fallen guardsman. The man had his fist clutched around the same dagger driven through his chest. A dagger design popular in Sodom.

“Thomas,” Solomon began, “How did you know that man meant to kill me when my guard’s noticed nothing and he had not even begun to move?”

“His eyes sir. When you passed he looked away from you as per decorum and the instant he fell out of your guards’ line of sight, he turned and looked at you and his eyes lit up. Hate, my lord. I’ve seen it before.” Thomas also kept his eyes away from Solomon. His rank had been no greater than his ex-comrade.

“You speak well and your eyes are bright. Do you read my child?” Solomon stared straight at Thomas as he spoke.

“Yes, My Lord. My brother taught me.”

“Do you know the Code of the Paladin?”

“By… by heart, my Lord.”

“… Can you recite to me the third line, then?”

“…”

“…Well?”

Thomas stood silent for a few moments, and then began in his strong and deep voice.

“Justice with Passion is simply Vengeance.” He stated as fact. “For Justice to be true it must be as the blade: Sharp, Silent, Decisive, and ultimately Cold.”

“And this would be assassin was a comrade of yours?” Solomon asked, almost too quiet to be heard.

“Until today…”

Solomon didn’t speak right away. Instead he began to walk around Thomas, sizing him up. After making a full revolution, he stopped.

“Sharp, Silent, Decisive, and Cold.” He stated plainly, and then turned on Peter. “Commander, may I ask why this man is not in the Paladin Corps?”

“My Lord?”

Thomas turned and looked at Solomon directly for the first time ever, his eyes wide with surprise.

“You heard me. Why is not Thomas son of Jason in my Paladin Corps?”

Peter simply stared, dumbfounded into the sky, not daring to look at Solomon. 

“Well then.” Solomon said with a smile and turned toward Thomas who was too shocked to look away. “I want you to gather your possessions and be at the temple of Solomon I by nightfall. Your training begins tomorrow.” With that, Solomon turned and began to walk away.

“Training?” Thomas repeated, confused.

“Yes, training.” Solomon said without turning. “Michael, Gabriel, come.”

The two paladins turned and followed their emperor. Peter also turned and tried to catch up.

“Training for what?” Thomas called to the departing figure.

Solomon stopped and turned, looking Thomas directly in the eye. Thomas was unable to turn from that arresting gaze.

“For the Paladin Corps, of course.”


~*~*~*~


“A Paladin, huh?” David said, smiling as he stirred sugar into his tea. “Your dream come true.”

Thomas looked up, surprised.

“What? Do you think I didn’t know? Come on brother, almost all of the books of mine that you read more than once are about paladins. When we were young and you would play with the boys, you always wanted to be one thing: The paladin. Playing at the legend of the Luciferian wars? You played a paladin. The story of David III and the dragon Leviathan? You where David’s loyal friend, the very first paladin, Michael. Don’t think I didn’t notice. I didn’t earn these for nothing.” David gestured at the bright red robes he wore. Not a week before he had been granted a title of Master Fulminator, an imperial battle mage. There were four classes of mages. The Fulminators of the red robes, the Restorers of the yellow robes, the Clerics of the white robes, and the Ordinators of the black robes.

The four classes denoted a certain class of spells which must be studied. The fulminators used offensive magic, bending energy and the elements into weapons of battle. The restorers where another class of battle mages, they focused more on battlefield healing and defensive magic. Clerics where master healers and could summon and control otherworldly beings. Ordinators where the most feared of the mages. They are masters at controlling the dead. They can speak with spirits and puppet corpses. They are used as judges and consult the minds of the recent executed to see if a verdict was true or not. They are also masters at curses, causing disease, pain, and quiet or horrific deaths, making them the best at any form of capital punishment. For these skills and duties, they are feared by the public and have come under the hateful name of Necromancers.

To earn the right to wear the robes of the chose color, one had to achieve the rank of Master. If one gained the rank of Advanced in a color, then one could wear a band of the color on the sleeves of their robes. David had been granted Master in the red, and was well on his way to achieving Advanced in the yellow.

“So, your first week has gone well?” David asked, nonchalantly as he sipped his sweet red tea.

“Yeah, well.” Thomas replied, stuffing a handful of bread into his mouth. This, of course, was an understatement. Thomas was flying through the sessions. He knew the code and the rules by heart. Being an ex-member of the Home Guard he was already trained in several forms of combat. He was naturally strong, quick, and surprisingly agile. His previous Spartan living style had already endowed him with a sense of discipline and toughness. In short, he was a natural.

“That’s good then.” David replied, putting down his tea while standing up and stretching. “If you must excuse me though, I must go. I have a class to teach in the hour and one to take afterward.” He picked up his satchel and began to walk away, but then paused and turned and looked at Thomas.

“It’s… kind of had to say…” He began, smiling nervously. “But, congratulations. I’m proud of you, brother.”


~*~*~*~ 


The ghoul stopped.

For three weeks it had neither slept, nor rested. It had only stopped a few times to drink large amounts of water, and paused once towards the end to procure food for itself and its mount. It had been pursed relentlessly by that paladin since it had awakened. It knew that he, by some luck, had survived its attack. Nothing had changed. So why was it stopping-?

The ghoul’s body shook with an involuntary spasm. It shook again. A third time. There was a pause, and then the ghoul looked up with an expression as close to wonder as its mad ever grinning face could muster. Then it collapsed on the floor, thrashing around as its muscles rebelled and acted of their own violation. All the while its aura thrashed with its body while it screamed curses in its own language, spraying blood everywhere as it did so.

Then, finally, all of its muscles clenched. Its aura flared outward in an explosion of purple light, and then was gone. For the first time in three weeks, David opened his eyes.

The simple transformation of the expression on the man’s face was startling. It changed his whole body. His eyes no longer bulged and glowed madly, but instead shrunk with sorrow and regret. His mouth no longer grinned insanely, but was a frown of both despair and determination. The scars and filth on his body were no longer marks of long standing madness, but of long standing torture. The ghoul had become human once more.

He had to act quickly, he knew. He also knew that it was that thing’s will alone that had allowed his ruined body to stand. He was vaguely aware of the damage that had been done to his body, but did not dwell on it. To do that would cripple him.

David quickly began to crawl his way to the edge of the stairwell. They had to be miles up in the air by now. He didn’t know if or when the wraith could renter his body, but he planned to make sure it had a surprise if it did so.

He crawled to the edge of the step, and looked over the edge. He paused. Several revolutions below him was something silver. Something shining. A sword. A man leaning against the sword. Thomas.

“Brother.” He whispered, a tear coming to his eye. “I’m sorry. I’ll fix it now, I promise.” With that, he prepared to drag himself over the edge once and for all, and take his demonic host with him. 

But there was one problem.

He couldn’t make his body move.

He screamed. It screamed. Two screams, one human, one not, came out of David’s throat. His body began to spasm and jerk. There was flash of purple light, and then Nebuchadnezzar opened its host’s eyes, dark purple light flooding from them. 

Slowly, with the jerky motions of a puppet, Nebuchadnezzar got to its feet. Somewhere within the struggle, the body had defecated upon itself and the slimy refuse slid down its legs as it stood. Nebuchadnezzar didn’t care. It only needed this body to move. Everything else was pointless.

The demon looked up and smiled. Five more hours. Maybe six. Then it would reach the end of the stairwell. After that it was only a matter of time.

The demon then looked down at its pursuer, who had gained ground while it was distracted. It spat out one last curse, along with a hefty glob of blood. Then, it turned and began to make its way upwards again.


~*~*~*~


The war called the Revolution by one side, the Rebellion by another and the Sodom and Gomorra War by history, started not six months after Thomas had graduated from the Paladin corps, no more than two years after Thomas had saved Emperor Solomon XVI’s life, and not more than two moths after David achieved the rank of Restorer Master. 

Judas, in short, had made a misstep. By the scrying of the mind of a failed assassin by the High Ordinator Paul, it was found that the Duke of Gomorra had indeed been trying to kill and usurp the imperial line that stretched all the way back to David I. Judas was accused of multiple accounts of treason. He, in turn, declared that the Duchy of Gomorra succeeded from the Empire. James, Judas’s political right hand, declared the same for Sodom.

The civil war was short, violent, and bloody. It lasted two years, most of the fighting occurring outside of the actual Gomorran plains where the Duchies of Sodom and Gomorra were established. The valley was surrounded by the high and nearly impassible Sodomite Mountains. This made for an easily defensible position.

For nearly two years the small armies of Sodom and Gomorra, with the help of supporters and political dissidents, held off against the might of the Imperial Army, the Home Guard, the Mage Academy, and the Paladin corps in the narrow mountain passes.

Ironically, it was David and Thomas who broke the siege. Thomas led a surprise raid through a newly found path and broke the siege lines from behind, leading the invasion of Gomorra from the west. David, in turn, used a spell of his own creation which sent a vortex of wind and fire through the pass, killing almost the entire defense force, and led the invasion of Sodom from the east.

Once the far larger and better trained armies of the Empire poured out onto the Gomorran plain, there was little hope for the small rag-tag army that defended the twin duchies. In months the city of Sodom was in flames. The Fulminators’ fireballs rained from the sky for three days, filling the air with scent of sulfur and brimstone. David’s now infamous burning whirlwind destroyed the last of the defenses around James’s palace. The Duke of Sodom surrendered to none other than David himself.

Judas was not so lucky.

The Duke of Gomorra, knowing the Solomon would not rest until he had died, and died horribly, swore to fight to the bitter last. Gomorra lasted a month longer than Sodom had. It had all ended in a single night and one daring and horrifying raid. The High Ordinator Paul led the raid, along with Thomas, thirteen other paladins, six Fulminators, four Restorers, two Clerics, and two other Ordinators. They broke down the gates and charged through the Duke’s palace in a storm of magic and blades. Paul himself killed thirty men with his curses alone. As the legend goes, when the raiders made their way into the ante-chamber of Judas’s private quarters, his wife had leapt from the shadows and tried to kill Paul with a dagger. Paul, in turn, supposedly turned her into a pillar of white dust with a word and the touch of a single finger.

What is known is that Paul had accompanied the raid to personally execute the Duke of Gomorra on the spot. When they broke through the chamber doorway, they found Judas, Son of Solomon XIV, hanging by a noose from the central ceiling beam. Even in death, Judas had wished to spite his nephew and enemy.

As punishment for his attempted treason, James and his closest family and allies were cast into exile. They where drive into the Great Cancer and ordered never to return under pain of death. Legend has it that James called back that Judas had been the fortunate one as he and his companions made their way into the blighted wasteland. As far as anyone knows, they all died out there.

Many heroes had been created during that war. Thomas and David were both awarded Ruby Stars, the highest rank of military achievement possible and sign of the personal favor of the Empire, among many other honors.

But, as often the case, wars leave as many crippling scars as honorable ones. In the years following the Sodom and Gomorra War there were several outbreaks of disease. 

The worst was an attack of Ghoul Skin, a horrible disease left over from the old world. Its true name had been lost, but the symptoms were well documented and feared. First was pain in the head and back. Then the eyes would turn red and the flesh yellow. Next followed madness and a rotting of the skin. Finally came the most horrible part. The victims would begin to thrash and spasm while constantly vomiting and defecating. Only no vomit and feces would come, but blood and the half rotted organs of the victim. It was a horrible disease, killing in weeks and leaving only one out of ten to live. The fear of this sickness caused most victims to die alone and insane with no one to comfort them.

The most terrible outbreak of the disease came a year after the war. It started in the northern end of the Duchy of Jericho and spread north and east. Twelve months after the end of the Sodom and Gomorra war, David and Thomas were living it in high style in the city of Damascus as only recently made war heroes can. Thirteen months after the war, both David and Thomas where racing at a breakneck speed towards their old home.

The Ghoul Skin outbreak had reached their home village, and their mother had fallen ill.


~*~*~*~


Thomas looked up. He was gaining on Nebuchadnezzar. He had lost sight of the demon for a short while a few hours back, but, sure enough, the unholy purple aura had appeared again, this time closer to him than ever before.

He was gaining on the demon.

But would he have time to stop him?

Thomas had read all of the legends of Babylon. He knew what Nebuchadnezzar was capable of, from both historical accounts and first hand experience. He had a feeling if the demon made its way to the top of the stairwell, he would lose all chance of leaving this tower alive, let alone save the life of his brother.

He turned his head forward. He would think of that when the time came. For now, he had to keep moving.

Relentlessly, his legs moved forward while his mind at the same time moved backward.


~*~*~*~


Thomas stared at the fire. He and David had arrived four days ago. They had come into the store and found their mother, rotting and insane, crawling around the top floor. After the first day she had stopped moving and had simply functioned. She had gone into spasms and the final phase of the illness an hour ago. Since then David had locked himself in the room with her and nothing but horrible wet sounds and magical incantations had come from behind the door.

Thomas’s head snapped up. The sounds beyond the door had gone silent. The only sound that could be heard was the noise of the thunderstorm that had been raging outside for the past two hours.

Then another noise started. Footsteps. Slow, steady. The door opened with horrible creak that made Thomas’s skin crawl. The door opened, and David stood in the doorway, but did not step through. Black blood, ichors, and bits of gore slid off of the magical shield that had protected him from his mother’s poisonous blood.

Thomas stared at his brother, and the room beyond. He could only see a corner of his mother’s bedroom, but what he could see was covered in blood. It was everywhere. He had fought beside the High Ordinator, and had seen the kind of horrors a Necromancer’s curses can do. The wrath of the black robed judges was nothing compared to the fragment of a nightmare he saw sprayed on the walls behind David. David himself only stared blankly at the wall before him.

“Is it… is it over?”

David turned and stared at Thomas at the sound of his voice.

“Yeah…” He replied. “…over.” With that, David dropped the shield, letting the remaining waste matter drop to the ground. He stepped over the foul black puddle, and then slowly made his way toward the stairway and down it, staring straight ahead the entire time. Thomas simply sat in his seat and stared ahead blankly. His mother was dead. Their mother was dead. Dead of Ghoul Skin.  David might get it. He might get it. Their mother was dead. David might get-

Oh Gods.

David.

Thomas leapt out of his seat and bounded down the stairs. He was out the door in a matter of seconds.

He rushed through the muddy road and out of the village. Thunder rolled and lightning flashed. Out of the tumult, he could see a point of light. Someone was standing on a grassy knoll bathed in light. It was David, and he was casting some sort of spell.

With a shout, Thomas dived and tackled his brother, knocking him off of the knoll, just in time to avoid the bolt of lightning David had tried to call down upon himself.

“WHY?!” David screeched, tossing his brother off of him. “GODS DAMN YOU! WHY?!”

“BECAUSE I WON’T LOSE YOU-!” Thomas’s retort was cut off as David slugged him in the jaw. Thomas didn’t bother to finish what he had started; he just punched David back, twice as hard.

Within seconds the two brothers were thrashing around in the mud, punching, kicking, biting, and clawing at one another in the thunderstorm. The fought hard and viciously, and then, just as quickly, they went from fighting and kicking, to hugging and crying.

The two went back inside. David used his magic to burn and sterilize their mother’s room and destroy her corpse. He then used his knowledge of herbs and chemicals he had gotten at the Academy to wash and sterilize their clothes. He had told Thomas to go to sleep. Told him to get some rest while he finished his work.

When Thomas woke up, David, his horse, his clothes, and, of course, his childhood books, were gone.


~*~*~*~


After that, Thomas did not see or hear a trace of David. Oh, he heard stories of him of course. Word was he had begun a hard course of study at the Tree of Knowledge, and was rising in rank and power at a rate that excited and frightened his collogues. It was not all David’s fault, of course. Thomas himself had hardly tried to get in touch with him. Thomas had buried himself in the duties of a paladin, and was riding to and fro across the Empire trying to do as much good. He broke up bandit gangs, exposed corrupted leaders, and helped convict, and pardon, many people he had met. He defended the weak, and brought justice to the wicked. His name spread like wildfire in the countryside. Little boys who a month before his coming had told their friends that they wanted to grow up to paladins now told everyone that they wanted to grow up to be “Thomas.”

He was called to Damascus for many meetings with Solomon. The Emperor offered him a general’s rank, a personal and permanent spot on the Imperial guard, and many other things. Thomas refused each time with the same sad smile on his face. Through theses talks the two had become friends, Solomon admiring Thomas’s simple resolve and humility, while Thomas took comfort in the aging Emperor’s wit. Solomon’s second son, a boy of thirteen by the name of Phillip, hero worshipped the humble paladin.

For three years this went on. Thomas become more famous and more humble, while David becoming more powerful and more hermetic. The two often heard of the other, but neither made direct contact. It was probably just as well. The two of them were really just doing the same act, only with different methods. While Thomas was becoming famous and David infamous, both were simply burying their grief in the only ways they knew how. For three years the two remained apart and in each other’s ear. It was only chance that brought them together again.

Or, simply, destiny was on the move.


~*~*~*~


The wizard hit the ground with a thud. He struggled to get up when the second of five men of varying ages kicked him in the stomach. The attack caused the scrawny man to flinch and sent the contents of his satchel flying everywhere. The attack was happening in broad daylight, but the wizard’s black robes were a stigma that would not draw help. None wanted to become involved with a Necromancer, even to save them.

“’Eh Necs?” One uncouth old bandit spat down at the black robed victim, “’eh ya dartay lattal cully?” The famished old worm raised a metal bar like a primitive’s club and prepared to bring it down when two hands reached out and grabbed him. One from above and the other from below.

“STOP!” A voice bellowed, to the necromancer as much as the bandit.

All six turned and looked up at the towering and infuriated paladin. Two recognized Thomas on the spot and ran. The other two, not wishing to cross a paladin, tried to bolt as well. The old man, the leader, let go of his club which Thomas still had in his fist. He made it about three long steps when the club flew into the back of his legs and knocked him over. The old man hit the ground with a more of a splat than a thud.

The Necromancer was already on his feet. He had let go of the old man’s leg when Thomas had bellowed at him. Thomas followed. The wizard was not just a Necromancer. He had bands of white, red, and yellow on his robe sleeves. This wizard was either very well learned, or extremely powerful. When the old man saw the black robed apparition bearing down on him, he screamed.

“KILL’D AM!” The old bandit shrieked. “KILL’D MA BROTHAR! MARDAR’D ‘EM WITH GHOUL’S SKAN!” 

“And that’s how you’ll die too then!” The necromancer shrieked back, his hand upraised, readying to strike and bent like a claw.

Before the killing touch could fall though, Thomas grabbed hold of the necromancer’s hand and forcibly whipped him around to face him and not the old bandit.

“I SAID STO-!” 

The shout died in Thomas’s mouth.

David stared back at him balefully from under the black silk hood.


~*~*~*~


“I told you too stop.” Thomas said, staring with mixed anger, wonder, and fear at his brother across the café table. The Home Guard had been called and had taken the old man, who was weeping with thankfulness at his fortune, and four of the other vandals to the stocks for holding until trial. The entire time the Home Guard troops had given Thomas looks of veneration, and David looks that amount to a combination of wariness and fear.

“I was within my rights.” David spat.

“Just because it was legal didn’t mean it was right!” Thomas spat right back, raising his voice.

“What’s really bugging you Thomas?” David whispered, a malicious smile lighting up his face. “Is it the fact that I wanted to do what needed be done, or are you just happy to see me?”

Instead of replying, Thomas brought his mailed fist down on the table with a crash that startled everyone in the café and wiped the smirk off of David’s face. Everyone turned to stare, but no one said anything. Thomas ignored them, and David was too stunned to notice.

“For a year, I have heard stories-” Thomas began, but then stopped, trying to choke something back. Rage, perhaps. “…I have heard… terrible things. I heard, that you had donned the black robes. That you were experimenting with the creation and resurrection of life. That you were vicious in the court and that you executed people using… using Ghoul’s Skin of all things!” The last part came out a high pitched shout, lighting up his eyes in rage. David simply stared back grimly. 

“Why David?” Thomas suddenly pleaded, going from rageful to pitiable.

“That old man was a bandit and most likely a cutthroat. His brother had been a pedophile and a murderer. I was attacked. I was within my rights.” David’s voice was cold and passionless. His eyes were two ice marbles in his skull.

“Isn’t it your order,” he went on, “that promotes cold, swift, and decisive justice?”

“There is a difference between justice and terrorism, David.”

The two sat in silence, staring at one another. The match dragged on, and it was David who broke the standoff.

The mage sighed and leaned forward, placing his head in his hands. His shoulders shook once, and then didn’t move again.

“…It’s been hard!” He suddenly burst out, he sounded on the point of tears. “I have been trying… trying to learn how to stop it. How to bring people back! How to fix it! The clerics don’t know, their healing can’t stop a disease like Ghoul’s Skin. The Ordinators don’t know, their magic of resurrection is only a mockery, a puppet being run by a ghost or simple will. The fulminators and mindless and the restorers are idiots!” He flung one arm up and grabbed hold of the multi-colored sleeve. “See this! I am an Arch-mage of all four colors. I am the single most powerful man in the whole Academy, in the whole world! But it’s not enough Thomas, it’s not… enough to… to…”

David trailed off into silence again. Neither spoke. The sadness in David’s voice had softened Thomas’s anger, but there was something else to it. His sorrow was edged with… expectation? If so, what was David planning?

“Listen…” David began, swaying his head back and forth a little. “There is something… that I’ve found. I need your help.” He looked up and into Thomas’s eyes for the first time that day. Thomas stared right back, unsure of what he was seeing.

“If you want to help me Thomas, meet me at the very center of Leviathan’s Wing. Meet me under the monument to where the demon general Mammon surrendered to Solomon I. Bring a horse and supplies.” David rose from the table, his black robes billowing, while his face was hid in shadow, giving him a phantom-like appearance.

“In a month Thomas. Meet me there in a month. No more, no less. History does no wait for those who are not punctual.” And with that cryptic statement, David turned and left.

Thomas simply watched him go.


~*~*~*~


The demon Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful being in the world. It has always been. It had had power over life and death. It had created the most powerful empire in history. It had even cheated its own demise. People had worshipped it as a demi-god. The dragon Leviathan and her beastly brood had cowered in its presence. Baal, its successor and ancestor had had nothing to it. It was the most powerful thing to ever walk this world. It had tried to become God. It should have become God! Ah, but a mistake, a simple act of arrogance had cost it so much.

But now, now was its chance. The fates had corrected themselves. Life had been given back to it by a simple fool. The tower still stood and was almost completely unharmed. Finally, after all these years of content slumber, it could grasp its right. Its divine right to control this world, to own this world!

Seven steps. Seven steps until the world was reborn!

Some, its own kinsmen, had asked it what right it had to rule this world?

Six.

By the right of power. By the right of right. Who should rule this world? The demons?

Five.

The demons were fragmentary and corrupt. Decadent and un-loyal to all but those who could best them. Nebuchadnezzar had gleaned from the fool’s mind that his empire had fell upon itself almost at the moment of his death. The only time they had united since then was under that fat pig Baal.

Four.

The humans then? Hardly. They had had their chance. They had ruled this world by their own power, and they had fouled it up. Fission. Gravity. Thunder. These had been man’s weapons, and they had failed him and he had returned to the rock, the club, and the arrow.

Three.

The dragons? They had their run. That fat sow Leviathan had sized the northern half of its empire not a week after its death. They had ruled for a time, but they had been overthrown, by the weak and primitive humans of all things. Great Babylon’s slaves had beat down Leviathan and her six children using magic that they had stolen from their old masters, and technology they where regaining from their past lives.

Two.

No, only the most powerful had a right to power. The best had the right to the best, and Nebuchadnezzar was the best. Born of the chaos of the end of the old world, Nebuchadnezzar had lived for millions upon millions of years, moving from body to host to body. It was the perfect being. It had seen the old world science at the height of its power, and it had been one of the first to tap into the power of magic. It stood a head above the rest of life, in one fist it held the powers of atomic fission and gravity manipulation, and in the other it held the forces of sorcery and magic. With these two awesome powers melded into one ultimate and unified force, it could and would bend the powers that hold the planet together and control every nuance of life to its will. It would become God.

One.

Nebuchadnezzar stood at the last step left on the Tower of Babel. A halo of black clouds surrounded the hole that had been the pinnacle of the Tower of Babel. The sky beyond was gray. Like the sky just before dawn.

It was said that when a butterfly flaps its wings, a mountains crumbles on the other side of the world. No butterfly would fly tonight. No mountain would crumble. No, the true and final God would shake its wings this night, and then entire world would be made over in its splendor.

Nebuchadnezzar prepared to finish what it had started millennia ago. But, there was one small problem.

Its body refused to move.


~*~*~*~


Thomas’s head snapped up. His eyes could see that Nebuchadnezzar had stopped. That its aura was flashing wildly, that it seemed immobilized. But Thomas was not paying attention to his eyes. One thought was flashing through his head. Without word or sound he lifted his crutch and began to run. His bad ankle caught him and he stumbled. He didn’t bother to try and get up, but instead ambled along on all fours much faster than he had limped previously. All the while that one thought pounded through his head.

David was in trouble.


~*~*~*~


Nebuchadnezzar was struggling for its life. These humans amazed it. So willing to toss away their one life on something as silly as the meager few years of another. The bargain wasn’t even a fair trade. This one that it was struggling with was even sillier. It seemed to think, wrongly, that Nebuchadnezzar would destroy the world, or something primitive along those lines. It was a fool. It believed that every human, as if the only thing capable of thought was humanity, oh the arrogance, had the right to do what they wanted. That was fine with Nebuchadnezzar. Let them do what they want, up until the advent of the new age, then they would cease to exist. They would end the way they had begun, knowing only half of the world and killing one another for the rest. Nebuchadnezzar would wipe this world clean of life, and then start over again from scratch, from the first cells, and then mold up its new race of perfect beings. And all that stood in its way was one human that didn’t even have control over its own body.

And, yet, Nebuchadnezzar could not advance.

That little human was fighting Nebuchadnezzar with all of its will. It refused to stand down. Its will was impressive, but its logic flawed. The perpetuation of inefficiency was far more evil than then prevention of the untimely replacement of it. 

Nebuchadnezzar prepared to bring all of its will down and eliminate the original host once and for all when David struck a surprise mental blow which crippled Nebuchadnezzar and, for the first time in hundreds of thousands of years, angered it. Nebuchadnezzar retaliated with all of its mental force and it was all David could do to hang on by the skin of his teeth. All the while, Thomas came closer and closer to the last step.

David’s body stood irresolute on that last step. Its arms where raised halfway into the air and the aura that was Nebuchadnezzar, once calm and an unearthly shade of purple, was now violently thrashing and shot through with bright streaks of translucent orange that shot from David’s body like the light of stars. That was David.

The two colors, the two minds, struggled with one another, each looking to overpower the other. Nebuchadnezzar was powerful and ancient, but David had one advantage over his foe. He didn’t have to win to succeed, and Nebuchadnezzar did.

Slowly, the orange light began to outshine the purple. The eldritch purple aura of Nebuchadnezzar was being forced from David’s body and out into the open air where it would be reclaimed by death as it should have been many centuries ago.

Thomas cleared the of the revolutions between him and his fallen brother David. With a roar, he got on his two feet and charged the demon infested ghoul that was both Nebuchadnezzar and David at once. He would not fail his brother a second time.

Then, there was a flash of light. In a moment of white brilliance, both the orange and the purple light were gone. Thomas halted his charge not five steps from his brother. David turned to give Thomas a smile of love and victory. Thomas’s face loosened for the first time in three weeks, in three years maybe, and his sword arm lowered.

The black robed figure turned, only it was not David’s ravaged and weary face, but the ghoul’s bulging glowing eyes. Thomas tried to lift his sword, but it was too late. Nebuchadnezzar lifted its arms into the air with a shriek no human could reproduce. Lightning lanced from the halo of darkness at the demonic lich while unholy purple light flooded from its body in all directions. The two forces met each other. There was a crack as power met power, and the forces at work hurled Thomas backwards from the top of the tower and back down the way he had come.

Thomas was blinded and deafened by the forces let loose in front of him, but he didn’t really care. Everything that happened now was but a symptom of the most horrible thing he had ever seen in his life.

David had failed.


~*~*~*~


“Able, I will not have you panicking the town.” Ezekiel, the only wizard in the village, stated as he slammed his staff down onto the ground. “You and I both know that no matter the demon, the tower is sterile.”

“What of the God’s Eye?” Able said, gesturing with his hand back into the Cancer. “You know the legend. What if that was no lich, but really some poor fool possessed-”

“Legends and poppycock!” The old mage spat, waving his staff. “I never pegged you for one to believe in wives tales Able, but in all serious…ness…”

When Jacob had roused the town to Able’s warning some had taken precaution and begun to prepare for the worst. Then Ezekiel had come and challenged Able’s warning and had dragged the whole town out to watch. The old man  had bickered with Able for a half hour that could have been spent preparing for what was to come, but now he stopped. It was because he, and everyone else in the town had, on some instinct, turned and looked to the south.

The tip of the tower was visible beyond horizon. The halo of dark clouds had begun to spin around the tower rapidly. Lighting flashed down the sides of the tower, intermingled with bright purple light. But the most terrifying thing of the spectacle was not the dance of energies let loose by the old master of the tower, but by the fact that the Tower of Babel seemed to be growing.

What was once sterile was quickly proving itself quiet virile.

“David’s failed.”

Everyone turned at Ezekiel’s two words, only to see the old mage topple over and die of heart attack with a look of utter terror on his face.

Able looked down at the old and beloved man, shaken. Seeing an old man die of fright is one thing, but to see him do it speaking the same thought that was in your head with the same look of terror that was in your heart was something far more disturbing.

Able turned and looked back at the tower. When you were right, there was really one thing left to do.

“Come on!” Able shouted, beckoning to his family. The preparations were set. It was time to go to ground.


~*~*~*~


“Damn…” The wretched and shriveled creature spat. It was a diseased and shrunken apparition. Even though the man had been forty not too long ago, he had the appearance of a man of eighty. His skin was loose and wrinkled. The Cancer had stripped him of his hair and most of his teeth. It had killed most of his servants, his wife, and his second son. All that where left of his band now lived in the caves behind him, too fearful to go south because of what might or might not still be the Luciferian States, and not suicidal enough to try north again. And, while the elderly young man didn’t know it, the Cancer had blessed him with the wasting sickness of the stomach as a parting gift. The small aches he felt daily now would soon progress and take his life in a year.

James, the once proud Duke of Sodom, sat on a rock and brooded.

He had awoken a few minutes ago and come out side. He couldn’t stay in the cave. It had felt like everyone else had been awake too, and that, for some reason, had unsettled him. Shaken and for some reason afraid, he had gone outside to think.

For some reason, he couldn’t stop thinking about that cocky fulminator he had surrendered to. What had his name been?

Ah, that was right, it was David.

And, it seems, David had failed.

For some reason, this thought, which should have filled him with joy, filled him with a nameless sort of dread. The once Duke turned his gaze behind him to the north and saw that the black horizon glowed with an unnatural purple light.

“Gods help us…” he muttered. He had long since stopped believing in the Gods, but the sentiment felt appropriate.


~*~*~*~


“Emperor!” Paul shouted, rushing through the doors, “Emperor! Solomon! To the south-!”

“I know.” The aging Solomon XVI stated calmly. “I feel it too.”

Both aging men stared through the south facing window, to the eerie purple light that had filled the horizon.

“Everyone in the city is awake, My Lord.” Paul said, running his hands through his hair. The High Ordinator’s long luxurious hair, which had only been gray at the temples during the Sodom and Gomorra war, was now pure white.

Solomon also knew this fact, but didn’t say anything. The room was filled with the Emperor’s immediate family, his closest advisors and servants, and six members of the Imperial Guard. All had woken up at the same moment, and all of them had felt the event happening in the south.

“What do you think it is…Paul?” Solomon asked, quietly.

“My Lo-I mean… Demon magic, Solomon, demon magic of the highest order mixed in with no small amount of human magic and natural energies. I can also feel something else at work there, but it is so faint I can’t detect it yet. All coming from one spot to the south.” Paul paused and took a deep breath.

“Demon Magic, natural energy…and something else…” Solomon mused to himself. He then turned and looked Paul in the eye. “Could it be Babel?”

The High Ordinator gulped. It was what he had feared, and he had no need to say so.

“So it is Babel then.” Solomon turned and looked back at the purple light.

“Paul.” He said after some time and assuming a commanding tone. “Rouse the Tree, we need all of are wizards ready in case someone really has opened the God’s Eye.”

Paul turned to leave, but a motion from Solomon’s hand stopped him.

“Paul… when you woke up, what was your first thought?”

“My thought?”

“Yes, your first thought.”

Paul stood in silence a long time before speaking.

“My first thought? It was David, my lord. David has failed.”

Solomon nodded, his face morose for the first time that night. With another wave he commanded Paul to leave. He remained silent and stared southward.

“David has failed… but Thomas will fix it?” A small plaintive voice spoke from the large couch. Solomon turned and saw Phillip staring at him, his eyes big and afraid.

“…He will, won’t he?”

Solomon walked across the room, and swept his youngest son into his arms and held him. He didn’t want to let the boy see his father cry.

“Yes my son.” Solomon XVI, the most powerful man on the continent, whispered into a little boy’s ear with tears in his eyes. “Yes my son, Thomas will fix everything.”


~*~*~*~


All across the world, people woke up at once. Some animals woke from their slumber and many paused in their constant dance of life and death, all to look in all directions and at one point. Humans heard words in their heads, saw things in their dreams, and all of them felt the fear of an animal cornered by a thing without mercy or hunger. The fear of facing extinction for simply being.

When a butterfly flaps its wings, a mountain crumbles on the other side of the world, but when the dragon takes flight, the whole universe feels the force of its wrath.

Some humans went back to sleep, others to what they had been doing before the sense of dread had come upon them. Some animals fell into uneasy sleep and others moved back into the chase and the hunt, but many, many stood and watched, watched the purple light on the horizon and the strange skies above. Many watched nothing at all, but felt they were looking toward something great and terrible beyond their sight.

The entire world watched the Tower of Babel with breath drawn.


~*~*~*~


On the black and twisted plain of the Cancer, a storm was in full force.  Wind, lightning, and magic whirled around the growing Tower of Babel. A typhoon of wind, rock, and light had formed around the spire, which was growing at a frightening pace. At the center of chaos, controlling a reaction of power vast enough to topple mountains and screeching inhuman sounds of amusement through David’s now almost totally ruined throat, was Nebuchadnezzar. The human legends have a way of either seriously exaggerating or seriously underplaying facts. In this instance, there was a serious reduction of truthful fact. The humans claimed that only the very top of the tower had been destroyed when the energies being filtered through it went awry.

In reality, the entire top half of the colossal tower had been vaporized by Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall.

The demon screamed its triumph as its stairway to Godhood grew, and grew, and grew. The black spire rocked upward into the sky, penetrating miles and miles into the atmosphere. Years of experimentation, study, and engineering, all gone in a flash, was now being restored again in nearly as quick a time.

Down on the ground, Able rushed his family into the storm cellar. It was not uncommon for a large funnel storm to roll off of the plains, sometimes carrying poison from the Cancer. In those times, farmers had special underground rooms to wait out the storm. Able looked over his shoulder ones last time. He saw a nightmarish vision. Just over the horizon was a cyclone, a mile wide and many miles tall, black as ink and laced with purple and blue lightning, rising up from the ground and making a horrible unearthly wail that would have befitted the death knell of the bloated and insane Leviathan.

With this glimpse of Armageddon in his mind, Able descended and closed the heavy stone door behind him.


~*~*~*~


There was a jolt, and Thomas was lifted into the air, and fell down again. With a start, he opened his eyes. He had been dreaming. Something bad had happened. He couldn’t recall what, but he knew Phillip had asked him to fix it, and that Solomon, strong and wise Solomon, had been crying. A lot of people had been crying, now that he remembered. A lot of people had been watching. Everyone in the world had been staring at him, at him and-

… and David.

Thomas got to his feet. He remembered everything now. As the shock of the recent events set in, the details of the strange dream were forgotten. His ankle didn’t seem to be bothering him anymore, but he was weak, weak and beaten. His chest was a constant dull ache, and the rest of his body hurt. He couldn’t move well. There was also something… wrong here. Thomas sensed he was much higher up than where he had fallen unconscious. The air was thin here, hard to breath, and seemed to be getting thinner constantly. That wasn’t the thing, though. His head felt strange. The hair on his body stood on edge. His memory seemed foggy. Slow. His vision was blurry. Time didn’t seem right to him. It seemed to ebb and flow, one minute too thick, and the next too thin. Power filled this place. It flowed through it, and it was doing strange things to the space around it.

Slowly, Thomas made his way up the stairway. The place seemed newer. Cleaner. He paused and shook his head, trying to clear it. He had to keep moving. As he moved, his thoughts thickened as time drew out. Images filled his head. Images of his whole life. Of his childhood, of the war, and of the final catastrophe in a long line of bad events.

Dreaming, Thomas trudged on.


~*~*~*~


“Good.” David called from behind Thomas, startling him. “You’re on time.”

Thomas turned and looked at his brother. David was mounted on a midnight black and well bred stallion. He was wearing his black robes.

“David?” Thomas asked, leading his own white stallion, an imperial war horse, around to face David and his mount. “What is this about?”

“There will be time later to explain.” With that, David turned his own horse, and began to ride away at a walk. Thomas quickly remounted his and rode it away from the monument at a trot until he caught up with David.

“What do you mean brother? Where are we going?”

David did not reply, but instead turned and looked behind him. Thomas also looked behind him. He quickly realized that David was not staring at the golden falcon monument, but beyond it. He was gazing into the imposing mountains of Leviathan’s wing.

“I have found something.”

And with that, his brother turned forward again and rode off towards the nearby town across the grassy plain at full gallop.


~*~*~*~


Thomas looked around. He, David, and a contingent of local workmen had been traveling for a week now. Ever sense the cryptic statement back at the monument, David had barely spoken. He was in constant reverie and withdrawn to the world. It had only been this morning that his face could be seen looking out from under the hood of his robes.

There were more workers at the camp. They all smiled and worked, but there was a nervous air to the place. Thomas could see that these people were afraid, and, even more disturbing, they were afraid to show it. They did not want to be here.

When Thomas had asked David about it later that night, he simply commented that they were frightened by local legends. Stories of demons living in the mountains, and of something darker still lurking in the caves. That explained half of their fear, and the way they shied away from David when me moved as explanation enough for the other half.

David explained that same evening that he had stumbled across this place by accident. Thomas knew a lie when he heard one, but said nothing. David went on to talk about how he had explored the cave and found the beginnings of some sort of temple in the rock. Thomas asked David who he thought the temple belonged to, and he claimed ignorance, but Thomas knew that was lie, plain and simple. He had looked at the entrance to this temple, and had recognized the ancient Babylonian script instantly, and he knew damn well that David would have as well, but, as before, he said nothing.

That night Thomas did not sleep well, and woke up many times from strange and disturbing dreams which he could not remember.

When David came for him early the next morning, he found Thomas wide awake and filled with the same nervous tension as everyone else.


~*~*~*~


“Why aren’t they following us?” Thomas said, looking over his shoulder as he realized that the working team had dissipated and ran off gradually the deeper they got into the ruins. The temple way huge, and David had paid a huge number of the local villagers to help him excavate it. He paid them well for their work, but they still worked with trepidation. One thing David hadn’t been lying about, these people were scared.

“They refused to go much further than this spot. There have been accidents.” David kept his head down and his cowl up, despite being deep into the mountainside ruins. A small orb of light floated in front of him.

Thomas calmly noted the fresh bloodstain on the walls. He had a feeling that nothing that happened in this place was an accident.

The entire sprawling structure was buried deep inside the mountain. David had called it a temple. He was wrong. The whole place was more of a citadel than a simple temple. Thomas didn’t like it here. The entire complex had a malign feeling too it. It felt old, secret, and savage. There was something of both a haunted house and a beast’s den to the place. Like something dark and wild had lived and died here, and had not quiet stopped living.

David moved ahead into a wider room, and stopped. Thomas moved after him, and then looked around with growing horror.

The room, which was more expansive than the view from the hall conveyed, was some sort of horrific cross between an altar and a throne room. At the far end of the room was a large and tarnished golden throne, covered in rubies, sapphires, amethyst, and cobwebs. Remnants of decayed banners hung from the ceiling. In the center of the room stood an altar, a long marble table covered in Babylonian script and ornate carvings. A stone scaffold like structure hung over the table, while a drain surrounded the bottom. The entire marble table was a dark red, almost black. It took Thomas a second to realize why.

“Oh Gods…” He muttered, stepping back. “David, what is this-?” Thomas trailed off. When he had turned to his brother, he had seen that David had been staring at something. Thomas had turned to look, and his exclamation had died in his throat. David, and now Thomas, was staring at a huge fresco which dominated the northern wall. The image depicted would haunt Thomas’s sleep for the rest of his life.

The entire wall was dominated by one central figure. Tall and with the body frame of a human, the silhouette of the eight winged creature stood in the center of the massive work of ancient art. The entire dark figure was outlined in a surprisingly vibrant shade of purple. In one six fingered hand the monster clutched a spear with three points, a trident, while the other was swept out before it in a gesture of command. At its feet lay the figures of thousands of human and hundreds of thousands of not quiet human figures laying in prostration while stars and the moon and sun swirled around its black face. Two winged men, men identical in body and pose to those atop Solomon I’s temple, hovered to the left and right of the towering figure, framing its terrible majesty. Its body stretched from the sunlit ground at its feet, into the cosmos which swirled around its head. The whole image gave off an almost visible aura of unnatural power, fanaticism, and tyrannical worship on a religious scale. It was beautiful in both the way of a dying sun, and in the way of a bloated and venomous spider. It was beautiful because it was grand, and it was beautiful because it was horrifying.

Thomas, deathly pale now, tried everything he could to keep to his feet as he stood with his eyes locked on the physical and metaphoric portrait of Nebuchadnezzar the First and Only, God King of Babylon.

“Amazing, isn’t it?”

Thomas managed to tear his gaze away from the fresco and stare at David, who kept talking.

“He was so powerful, Thomas. More powerful than you could imagine. He ruled over the demons and the humans like a god. He lived for millennia, unaided by constant magic like Leviathan had been, and he held the power of life and death over the entire nation of Babylon, which at the time of the fall, covered nearly the entire continent. He could stop death, Thomas.” David began to move, looking at the other artwork which decorated the walls, all of them depictions of Nebuchadnezzar, but none as grand or as powerful as the first.

“It’s true though. There are many historical records of his power. He kept his mistress, The Harlot, alive for a thousand years before he tired of her and killed her. He could alter life with a touch. He kept a pet beast, a seven headed panther. This demon was a God who walked the world like a mortal.”

“B-but if-f that was true than w-why did he build the Tower of Babel?” Thomas was normally well spoken, but the feeling of old evil that permeated the entire citadel, combined with the fresco and the naked hunger in David’s voice had shaken him. He wanted out. Now.

David turned and looked at Thomas with the same look one gives a slow witted child. He turned away and didn’t verbally respond, but continued to pace the room, looking almost lovingly at the frescos. Then, he suddenly spun around and glared at Thomas.

“Don’t you know what this place is?!” He shouted, waving his hand, causing the orb of light to flutter madly. “Don’t you remember the old verse? ‘God’s throne in mountain keep / North of Ur you seek / There rests the place doth God’s Eye sleeps’? Don’t you see?” David turned and flung his arms wide in a dramatic gesture of frustration. “I’ve found it Thomas! I’ve found the God’s Eye!”


~*~*~*~


Thomas moved in a daze. David dragged him along by the arm through the dark and winding secret passage that had been hidden behind the throne. David was giddy with excite while Thomas was stunned by shock. The God’s Eye. They had found the source of Nebuchadnezzar’s power in this world. The ancient artifact that held all of the knowledge and power that had been in the God King’s soul, even at the point of his demise. The thought of finding such a powerful artifact drove all other thought from Thomas’s mind. The old evil of this place, David’s blatant thirst for power, all of these things were driven from his mind by the simple giddy joys of wonder and discovery.

The winding tunnel opened up into another large room. This one was smaller and far less ornate than the throne room. The only decoration was a towering and ornate pedestal. At the foot of this pedestal, Thomas noted the pile of bones. He quickly realized they belong to a large cat, and a quick count revealed just enough for one body, and seven separate skulls.

At this point, nothing surprised Thomas.

David rushed across the room towards the pedestal. The tower of black marble was carved in the likeness of a thousand grasping hands, reaching for, and at the same time, uplifting the prize. Thomas moved in closer at a slower pace than David to observe the artifact. It was an orb. It was ebony black with an irregular surface. Upon closer inspection, it was seen that the irregularities were actually wings, eight in number and bat-like in structure, that sprouted from the very back of the orb and wrapped around it like flower petals. A faint purple light shone from the small gap left where all of the wings overlapped. The descriptions of the God’s Eye had always been vague, so Thomas didn’t know what to expect. He studied the legend come to life for a few moments longer. Then something intruded into his vision. It took him a second to realize it was a hand. A pink hand reaching for the God’s Eye.

His daze shattered, Thomas moved with an agility the belied his size and had both impressed and frightened his teachers. He grabbed the reaching David and forcefully ripped him from the column. David let out a shriek of frustration.

“GODS DAMN YOU!!” He wailed in fury, “LET ME GO YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF FODDER!!!” The thin and pale wizard thrashed in his brother’s grip with a strength bourn of fury and desperation. It was all the Herculean Thomas could do to hold is lanky brother in his grip.

“ITS DANGEROUS BROTHER!” Thomas shouted back, trying to restrain his wild brother. “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT WILL DO TO YOU!”

“HE COULD STOP DEATH THOMAS!” David shouted, reaching one arm defiantly outward towards the unholy rose. “HE COULD HAVE SAVED HER! I COULD HAVE SAVED HER! I CAN! I CAN… can… I can… save….”

Slowly and steadily, David stopped fighting Thomas. He then curled up into a ball, and began to cry in his brother’s arms.


~*~*~*~


Thomas laid awake on his cot. David had fallen asleep in his arms down there in Nebuchadnezzar’s crypt, and Thomas had taken him back up into the light and put him back into his own tent. After that he had come into his own and tried to think. It had been high noon when he had come out of the crypt, and it was now past nightfall, and not a single idea had entered his blank mind. Ever since he had graduated from the Paladin corps, every problem he had been placed before could be solved through quick wit and skill, and those that could not be solved with his sword and his word could be bared. But moral justice could not beat lust for power. The sword could not vanquish mindless greed.

Thomas laid there in his tent, staring at the canvas in morose silence as the night dragged on.


~*~*~*~


David on the other hand, was wide awake and filled with purpose. He moved through the deserted demonic citadel with the speed and grim expression of a black wind. Silently, his black robed form slid through the darkness, another magic orb of light showing the way. Down the tunnel, into the throne room, behind the throne.

The legends had warmed against opening the Eye. The Eye was said to house the “will of Nebuchadnezzar.” But David was not scared. He was the most powerful wizard alive today, and young at that. He was more than confidant that he could fight off the will of something that had been dead for millennia.

David slowed as he entered the chamber of the Eye, and came to a stop a few feet before the pedestal. He stood there for a long time, just staring at his prize. His glory. For so long he had waited. To hold sway over life and death. To be able to stop disease. To be able to hold the spirits of death at bay. He would turn the world into a utopia. He would make everything better. He would make the world over in his splendor.

David lifted his hands upward, and sent a silent command to the flower of God before him. Of its own will and power, the black orb lifted into the air. It rose above the pillar, and then lowered towards David. As the orb fell, the rose bloomed. The wings unfurled in a grand display, revealing the depthless glowing purple orb that they had hidden. David stared as the orb landed in his open and waiting palm.

It was beautiful.

David smiled in child-like wonder. The orb was beautiful, and he could feel the raw power coursing through it. There was no mistake. This beautiful object of power was none other than the God’s Eye.

“Nebuchadnezzar!” David shouted in his joy, “Nebuchadnezzar, come to me!”

The orb began to pulse faintly. David’s grin became a savage smirk of hunger mixed with triumph and wonder.

“Nebuchadnezzar, come to me!”

The pulsing grew stronger and the light brightened. David readied his will.

“Nebuchadnezzar! Come to me!”

The orb throbbed in his hand. It was now or never.

“NEBUCHADNEZZAR! COME TO ME!”

The orb flared brilliantly, and then turned dead black in his hands.

“… What?” David said, staring blankly at the God’s Eye. Surprised by the anti-climax of his actions, he relaxed.

By then it was too late.

The orb exploded in his hands, and something black and ancient flew from the center of the artifact at him. David tried to ready his mental defenses as his mouth fell open in shock, but it was too late. The black thing flew down his throat, and the arrogant mage fell to the ground choking and thrashing as Nebuchadnezzar seized control of his body.


~*~*~*~


“Thom… as.” A thick voice said from the entrance to his tent. Thomas looked up and saw David standing in the entrance.

“Wha…? Come in David.” Thomas muttered as he began to stand. The robed figure entered the tent with a jerky gait. Something was wrong.

“What’s the matter David?”

“Bab… el. Where… is… Babel?” David muttered in a thick voice.

“You mean the Cancer? It's to the south, you should know that!”

David paused and tilted his head to the side, as if trying to recall something.

“You… are… right Thomas. My…mistake…”

There was a tension in the air. A feeling of wrongness. That’s perhaps what saved Thomas’s life.

David’s hand came up inhumanly fast despite his previously jerky movements. Thomas, on instinct, rolled off of the cot and grabbed his shield and sword as he did so. He had not taken off his armor since that morning. There was a flash of purple light, and the cot and the entire side of Thomas’s tent, and the entire one next to it where gone. Thomas brought his shield up as David turned. There was another flash. Something his Thomas’s shield and rebounded off of it with a lot of force. The killing purple light struck the roof of the tent and sent it into the air. In that moment, Thomas saw David’s face under his hood. David’s eyes bulged out of his skull and glowed with an unholy purple light while his face was split in two by a grin of something insane beyond conventional lunacy, a grin red with fresh blood which trickled from David’s lips.

An eldritch purple aura flared around David, enshrouding him in a corona of vibrant purple light. Thomas recognized it instantly.

“Nebuchadnezzar!” He hissed as he moved backward and to his feet with his shield raised.

The ghoul that had been David let out an inhuman noise that was its equivalent of a laugh. Blood gushed from its mouth. Its eyes bulged and its grin widened.

The whole camp was awake now and those that where not fleeing where coming to watch. A crowd had gathered around Nebuchadnezzar and Thomas.

Nebuchadnezzar’s smile widened as he began to move his arms. He placed one over the other, leaving a space of a few inches between the two while it curved its wrists to touch the fingertips to the elbows, creating an eye-like shape. It then began to chant. Thomas recognized the spell-form instantly. He had only seen the spell used once, but that had been enough.

“David, don’t!” He shouted, but the ghoul went on chanting, heedlessly. It was too late to try and stop him now. His shield was enchanted to repel and reverse magical attacks, but he doubted that it could halt one of this size. Only one chance…

The ghoul finished its incantation and Thomas dived forward and to the side, hoping to avoid the main thrust of the attack, but too late he realized the ghoul’s intent.

At the last syllable the black robed demon had spun on the workers assembled behind it. Some saw what was coming. Some tried to run, some tried to duck, but it was all futile. The vortex of molten red fire erupted from the ghoul’s arms and swept all of them away indiscriminately. Thomas watched in stunned horror as a hundred men where lifted into the air and reduced to ash in seconds.

Thomas was doubly shocked as the ghoul began to move away into the burning chaos at a quick, if jerky, pace. The only time he had seen David cast that spell his brother had become so exhausted he had been unable to walk. Thomas recovered quickly though, and charged after the monster, but something caught him from behind.

Thomas went into a roll and used his attacker’s momentum to fling the monster over his shoulder and onto the ground in front of him. David stood and looked down at his attacker, who was none other than a seven headed panther with ten horns sprouting across five of the heads.

At this point, nothing surprised Thomas.

The panther roared and dived at him. Thomas used his shield and the monster’s momentum to knock it away from him as he sidestepped the charge. The panther landed on all fours, whipped around, and launched itself at Thomas again, only with much more force. Thomas used the same trick to knock it away, albeit it was more difficult this time.

Thomas knew he had to end this quickly. The beast was only a distraction meant to buy Nebuchadnezzar time. The panther landed gracefully and spun around once more, this time slower. It turned and gathered all the force that it could into one leap, and then sprang forward. Thomas lifted his shield as if to knock it away again, but instead, at the last instant he dropped it revealing the tip of his broadsword. With a roar to match the beast’s, he rammed the blade forward as it rammed its body onto the blade. The force knocked Thomas over backward, but it impaled the beast through the central head and all the way down the middle of its body.

With one last roar of pain, the monster died.

Thomas shoved the monster’s caresses off of himself and, with some difficulty, removed his sword from it. He turned and stared into the raging inferno behind him. In the red haze, he marked a figure draped in black robes ridding off to the east on what looked like… a giant lizard.

Unperturbed, Thomas raised his head and whistled a high and long whistle. In seconds, his horse was by his side. Thomas sheathed his broadsword, and with a mount that would have befitted a carnival show, Thomas got on top of his horse.

“Yah!” He shouted, shaking the reigns and kicking the stirrups. “Yah! Onward Nero! Onward!” With that, his stallion charged into the inferno at full gallop, the two of them chasing after Nebuchadnezzar and David at full speed into the flame lit night.


~*~*~*~


A full three weeks later, Thomas looked up. Only a few more steps to go, and then it would be over.

Time was strange here. Some steps took hours, other flights took seconds. He wasn’t quiet sure how high up they were, but it was getting hard to breath. So hard to breath…

Thomas shook his head once again, and moved forward through the thin air and the thick and fluid time. Three more steps. Two more… One…

Thomas cleared the last step and came into the very top of the spire that was the impossible Tower of Babel.

The first thing that struck him was the view.

The entire room was a large glass sphere, and beyond its edge, he could see the whole world stretched out before him in its vast and majestic view. He could see the ocean, for the first time in his life. He could see the mountains, the rivers. He could see the edge of day and night, and he could see the city lights beyond that edge. Cities on other continents! This was life he saw, and it was beautiful in a way that outstripped all others.

Then other things came into focus. Metal spikes lined the outside and inside of the bottom edge of the room and the top edge. Where the paths of the tips of the spikes intersected was an orb of perfect midnight black laced with a cocoon of purple light that hovered, suspended, in the very center of the glass dome. 

Nebuchadnezzar.

Then Thomas felt it. Power. Lots of it. Power being drawn from all ends of the earth. He could see some of it now. Light, lightning, simple disturbances in the air. Strands of power, some miles thick, some to small for the eye to see, where all being drawn through the metal spines, and consequently, through Nebuchadnezzar, and, no matter the size or color, when they came out on the other side, they where all black. The dark flow of power had created a nightmare black cloud over the beautiful planet.

“So that’s it.” Thomas snorted. He almost laughed. “This is the grand Tower of Babel. Here I was expecting something grander. This isn’t a stairway to the home of Gods. You aren’t becoming God, your just corrupting the world!”

-If by “corrupting” the world, you mean the process of filtering the universal energies that hold the planet and all life together through my consciousness, then, yes, I am corrupting it, Thomas, son of Jason-

Thomas didn’t even blink at the sound on Nebuchadnezzar’s voice. He began to move forward. Lying about ten feet away from Nebuchadnezzar on the other side of the room was a body. A broken and twisted body wrapped in tattered black robes. Thomas moved right past Nebuchadnezzar’s floating mind and scooped the body of his poor brother into his arms. David covered in blood, dirt, and feces, looked broken. His body was curled into a position reminiscent of that of a dead spider. His eyes where glassy, but he still breathed. By the Gods, he still breathed.

“What’s wrong with him?” Thomas muttered.

-He is brain dead-

Thomas turned and looked at Nebuchadnezzar.

-I could not leave his conscious mind intact, not after the last two times. When I took control, I wiped him from existence. I only needed his body-

Thomas cradled David’s crippled body as he turned to fully face Nebuchadnezzar. His eyes were nearly as dead as David’s. His face was grim. Clutching David close to his chest, he took a step directly towards Nebuchadnezzar, and, for the first time sense Thomas had entered the room, a ripple moved across the surface of Nebuchadnezzar’s mind.

-What are you doing, Thomas, son of Jason?-

“I see it now. I understand what you are, my dear God King of Babylon.” Thomas took another step forward.

-I warn you Thomas, I can destroy you!-

“Then why don’t you?” Thomas replied, a grim smile spreading across his face. “Why don’t you strike me down, like you did that militia man?” Another step. “Or all of those workers? You made it look so easy that night, just killing them and running off?” Another step forward.

-Stand down paladin!-

“Also, why did this whole plan fail once? And why are you so sure it will work now?” Another step. The surface of Nebuchadnezzar’s mind was frothing. A wind was picking up inside of the glass dome.

“I think the best question is simply ‘Why does he need David?’” Another step. “I think I know the reason. The reason is that Nebuchadnezzar, the First and Only, Isn’t all that he says he is.” Another step. “He claims he is a demon. No, he isn’t. He claims to be a kind. No, he isn’t. He claims to be a God.” Another step. “But, of course, no, he isn’t.”

Thomas took another step defiantly forward.

“All Nebuchadnezzar, the First and Only, God King of Babylon, is, is a just another filthy disease!”

-I warn you paladin--

“-NO! I WARN YOU, YOU FILTHY VIRUS!” Thomas roared back, taking another two steps forward. “FOUL ABBERITION OF NATURE! UNDYING THING! I CURSE THEE BACK TO THE CHAOS THAT SPAWNED THEE!!!”

Nebuchadnezzar seemed to flinch.

“I wondered why you need David to leave that crypt, why you needed his body at all. The answer came to me while I was thinking of how mother died. You need a host to live. Otherwise, your just a bunch of loose malice on the wind.” He took another step forward. Nebuchadnezzar trembled, and then lashed out, tearing a gash along Thomas’s cheek, but dared to do no more. Instead of scaring the paladin, it emboldened him.

“… And you still need him now.” Thomas advanced another step. “I think I understand completely. The last time you built this place, you tried to put your old body in the streams. That’s what caused the explosion. Now you know better, but, still, you need David’s body alive until you can infect a new one. The planet. That’s why you can’t stop me.”

-Listen paladin! Stop where you are!-

Another step.

-You are about to turn back millennia of progress and evolution!-

“Ask me if I care.” Another step.

-I’m not going to destroy this world; I am going to make it better!-

“Enslavement, rape, and death certainly sound better to me.” Another step.

-Look! I can do whatever you want me too! Any wish, any desire! I can make it happen!-

Thomas came to a dead standstill not a foot away from Nebuchadnezzar.

“You can?” He asked, almost too frightened too speak.

-Yes! I can! Anything!-

Thomas stood, staring at Nebuchadnezzar. His eyes were big, and, for some reason, afraid, but there was something else there as well. Something that calmed Nebuchadnezzar. There was hope.

“Can you make the clocks all run backward?”

Nebuchadnezzar faltered.

-What!?-

“Make the clocks run backward. Make time turn around.” Thomas said, resolutely. “Turn back the movements of Destiny. Make it so that the Sodom and Gomorra war never happened. Make is so that Judas never killed Solomon. Make it so mother never gets the Ghoul’s Skin disease. That way, the disease of guilt will never enter David, and he will never catch the disease of Nebuchadnezzar.”

There was a long silence.

-I… I can’t do that Thomas.-

“… Just as I thought.” Thomas’s eyes darkened again, and he looked down. Then, without word or warning, he cast David’s ruined body away from him. Nebuchadnezzar gathered itself to strike, but Thomas moved much quicker. With the speed and agility that turns his size and strength into deadly weapons, Thomas drew his sword, and struck down with it, driving the blade through both Nebuchadnezzar’s mind and David’s body.

Nebuchadnezzar unleashed its attack in turn. Before it struck him, Thomas looked down at his brother. David’s eyes were alive, and he was smiling at his brother. This filled the rest of Thomas’s life with an irreplaceable bliss. Then Thomas, son of Jason, and brother of David, was destroyed in such a manner that it was though he had never existed.


~*~*~*~


Nebuchadnezzar moved like lightening. It could save itself by healing David. As long as David lived, it lived. But something was wrong. Its will was being siphoned off. No matter what it did, its power would not enter David’s body.

Then it realized the answer. The sword.

The presence of metal in the nexus of power had altered the flow of the energy. The cosmic forces where being pulled back through Nebuchadnezzar, and they where taking its mind and power with it. Instead of making him a God, the Tower of Babel was now tearing him apart.

Instead of its consciousness being spread across the world, the world was absorbing Nebuchadnezzar into its vast lay-lines of power. The reversed flow of energy was fragmenting Nebuchadnezzar’s consciousness. Breaking it apart and scattering it too the four winds. Thomas’s words about loose malice came back to it with scorn. What parts of its mind that weren’t being broken apart by the reversed torrent of power were fading as David’s life faded.

For the first time in its long, long, life, The God King of Babylon was afraid.

Nebuchadnezzar thrashed and wailed. It gave out shrieks and struck with its power. The glass shattered and what little air was inside was sucked out into the void, furthering David’s decline. Memories were vanishing left and right. Countless millennia, eons, of life were fragmenting and vanishing all at once.

Now the main part of Nebuchadnezzar’s consciousness was being pulled through the sword, that damned sword, and down through the tower. Now he was flying down, down through his lost pathway to Heaven. He couldn’t remember anything that had happened a hundred thousand years ago. Now a thousand. Now a hundred. Now ten years. Now ten months. Weeks. Days. Seconds.

What was left of Nebuchadnezzar’s mind struck the floor of the Tower of Babel in a torrent of energy and an explosion of pure white light. Nebuchadnezzar’s last fully formed thought was a curse against Thomas and David, without being able to recall who they were or why they deserved to be cursed.


~*~*~*~


“THEY DID IT!” Solomon shouted, thrusting his fist into the air and laughing. He jumped into the air, was completely unsurprised when he didn’t come down.

“Thomas did it father!” Phillip floated through the air into his father’s arms. “THOMAS DID IT!!!”

The father and son danced together, floating on thin air, laughing. Everyone in the whole room was floating and laughing and cheering and crying. Then a bright light shone across the southern horizon, replacing the dark cloud that had covered the sky. Every piece of glass in the entire palace shattered at once, and whatever force that had held the people up vanished. Solomon and Phillip fell to the floor in a storm of cutting glass, but they didn’t stop laughing for one second.

David and Thomas had done it!


~*~*~*~


“THEY BEAT HIM!” James roared heedlessly as he rocketed into the air. “THAT BASTARD AND HIS BROTHER BEAT HIM!!”

Rising fifty, now sixty feet, into the air, James felt the best he had since he had been forced into the Cancer. The best in his life, probably. He flew into the sky, and laughed and shouted all the while. His aches and pains had left him. He felt young again. The dreaded pall of oncoming doom had lifted, and he could fly!

James spun in the air and saw the rest of his family and followers rising into the air after him. He could hear them laughing with him. James then turned to the north and saw it. The light. A massive wall of pure white light rushing across the Cancer towards him. He knew what it meant, and he didn’t care. He laughed and embraced the warmth and the coming heat.

The wall of power struck James and wiped him from existence, but that didn’t matter. 

James, Duke of Sodom, had died happy.


~*~*~*~


All across the world, the pall of dread lifted and joy, seemingly causeless, spread about the globe in waves.

People in the streets laughed and cried and danced. Old and bitter enemies sought each other out and hugged and kissed in front of laughing onlookers. Some people floated and flew, others just felt like they where. Dark secrets where told with a laugh. Long hidden passions came to life as friends, neighbors, and old lovers began to make love where they could, heedless of a heedless public. People who couldn’t speak a word of English where singing David and Thomas’s names.

Birds sang, heedless of falcons. Falcons soared, heedless of storms. Cats purred with pleasure and lions roared with righteous joy. Dogs howled and barked. Flying things of every color and kind took to the sky, all of them making noise. Spiders built webs more beautiful than ever while the flies caught in them didn’t even budge. Snakes reared up and hissed their salute to two beings they could never be able to understand. Flowers bloomed and trees grew.

All life on the entire planet, for at least one moment, celebrated the very fact that they where alive, and left it at that.


~*~*~*~


The old man sighed. It had been a long morning. The old man had slept poorly. He had nightmares all night long. Dreams about two boys from this very village. David and Thomas. Their mother had died when the Ghoul’s Skin had swept through the little village three years back. It had been a sad time.

He had dreamt about the two, and couldn’t stop thinking about them when he had awakened in a cold sweat. His wife had lay beside him, still asleep and still struggling with her own nightmares. The old man had gone out onto his porch to watch the sun rise, but he had felt no better. Dread had filled his body, and his bones, normally sore from arthritis, ached and burned. The view was worthless. The sun was not rising and, despite, the cloudless sky, there was not a single star in the entire cosmos for him to see.

Then suddenly, the dawn had appeared. The sun shone across the horizon, brighter than ever, and all the stars appeared as if revealed by the dawn light. The old man had said something at the sight of the sun, but he couldn’t remember now.

The old soul now sat in his favorite chair, looking at the brightest sunrise he had ever seen. His eyes were old and tired, and the bright light did them good. His bones no longer ached, but instead felt lighter than they had ever been. His heart, dreary all morning, now basked in an inner warmth.

“This is how it should be.”

And then the old man fell into a blissful sleep.


~*~*~*~


Able walked out into the dawn light.

He and his family had been trapped underground, crying and praying was the forces that be struggled in some conflict that they couldn’t fully understand and never would. Then, suddenly, all of the fear had vanished. Nebuchadnezzar had lost, and David and Thomas had won. Able couldn’t quiet remember what had happened then. He had just been so happy. He could almost distinctly remember floating, though.

Then there had been a horrible roar, and the entire cellar had shook. It lasted only a second, but his family had not come out for another hour.

Now that he was out, he could see the damage. Nothing was left. His house, his field, his property, the Tower of Babel, all gone. He didn’t feel bothered in the least though.

Then Able looked down. The ground at his feet, though visibly lifeless, was black, but not black like the poisonous sand of the Cancer, but black like fertile soil.

Able leaned over and ran his hands through the dirt. Incredibly fertile soil.

“Papa! Look papa!”

Able looked up at his daughters cry. The sky was full of light. Bright luminescent snow, like a billion falling stars, was drifting to the newly blessed earth. His children began to laugh all over again and run through the descending lights. He could now see other people coming out from their own cellars. Other children who came out and began to play in the light.

Able looked down at the ultra-fertile soil in his hand, and then at the falling stars from the sky. He couldn’t help the smile that split his face. Everything was going to be all right.


~Fin.


Comments:
There are no messages yet
Nyronus
Novel / Novella
Super-natural
writing Nyronus
Bookmark and Share

You must log in to rate.
Rating: 10.0/10

Synopsis
Set in a fantastic world, two brothers, Thomas the noble knight, and David a powerful and guilt-ridden wizard, struggle against themselves and an ancient power. The stories of both the past a present intertwine as David struggles against his guilt and Thomas fights to save them both, all the while the ancient demon Nebuchadnezzar draws ever closer to the top of the Tower of Babel, and the power of God.
A Word from the Writer
Very Dark. Also needs some editing for typos and grammar.
Published In
School Assignment
© 2014 WritingRoom.com, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WRITING | POETRY WRITING | CREATIVE WRITING | WRITE A BOOK | WRITING CONTESTS | WRITING TIPS