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Chapter 1

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“If legends are to be believed, the Tyrants were like us once. Ages ago of course and in the sense that they were born mortal before their ascension, once made of flesh and blood no different as we are today. It was only after they became the focus of worship that they began to change, first in power, yes, but gradually from within their very own minds until they drifted so far from their once mortal selves and ideals that they might as well have been born a new. But how could this happen you ask? How could the very core of their self, change so drastically? That is a question I look to answer in this work, beginning first with the nature of mana itself…”

—Charred page from Delving Into Divinity, Konstan the Heretic, the Age of Tyrants, circa 3894

Vincent’s heart raced in his chest as he sprinted through an infinite night filled with countless stars on either side of him, his feet soundlessly taking him up the floating stairs before him, the pure white light that they had been carved from gleaming brightly in his vision. On either side of the ascent, he could make out the Ivory City below him, its once pure light now rapidly fading to grey. A worrying sign that he knew would be the end of everything if its cause wasn’t reversed. Feeling a burst of rage shoot through him at the thought, he forced his gaze back up towards the pinnacle of his climb, towards the very pinnacle of his realm where the gods of old once birthed it.

How would they weep if they saw this, Vincent thought acidly as he ran, eyes fixated on the disc of light at the end of his journey, its pure white marred with the same streaks of darkness as the city below. How would they weep if they saw what we have become.

It was an all-consuming thought that kept Vincent’s rage simmering as monstrous shapes begin to spill forth from his destination above, wasting not so much as an instant before flexing their wings to dive down towards him. 

Not that they had much opportunity to anything else.

His Will already raised from the moment he had begun his ascent, all it took was a single thought and lines of fire, ice, and lighting sprouted into existence to rend his would be attackers apart. Yet for as quickly as he cleared his path before him, even more of the creatures appeared in the distance, first replacing those he slew, then doubling and tripling their number in quick succession. Against any other, such a thing would have been enough to stymie, if not completely stop, their advance in order to deal with the colossal swarm above them.

For Vincent however, all it took was a single word with the entirety of his Will behind it.

No.

And in a blink, the swarm was gone, the mana that had forged it rebelling against its creator’s comparatively feeble Will and exploding out to form a rapidly expanding confluence, tearing apart the sky in the process. However by the time the first lightning bolt had gained enough strength to split the air, Vincent was beyond it, having finished his ascent to the top of the stair and spotting the man who had so desperately tried to slow his arrival.

“They’re here!” Was all the glowing and armored figure could get out before his body abruptly dissolved in an explosion of black and white hued motes of energy, ripped apart by Vincent’s Will. An instant later he then arrived inside the Vestibule of Creation.

Finally, I was starting to become worried.” An all too familiar voice greeted as Vincent’s foot stepped down, the infinite night that surrounded him transforming itself into a grand chamber of sharply cut white light in an instant. “I can think of no others that I would rather have witness this moment. To witness our moment of triumph.”

 Yet before Vincent could say anything in response as he slowed, his attention fixating on the lead figure who stood within the circle of incarnates ahead, another voice called out, its tone desperate and panicked.

Malvis, stop! What are you doing?” He heard Zera shout as she too arrived a step behind him. “You’re tearing the realm apart!

We are doing what should have been done millennia ago,” came the reply from the Avatar as they turned his attention away from the brilliant prismatic orb at the heart of the circle, the tattered robe of night that enshrouded their gleaming, violet body billowing wildly from the storm of mana that surrounded him. A storm of mana that Vincent couldn’t help but notice continued to intensify with every second that passed as more and more was siphoned out from the spinning sphere. From the Seed of Origin that empowered their very realm. “We are breaking open the gates of Heaven.

Working as he spoke, Vincent felt Malvis’s Will surge as he directed the mana that he and his clergy had stolen directing it towards the looming archway at the furthest end of the chamber away from them. Shifting his gaze ever so slightly, he saw that within the white cut silhouette of the chamber stood a truly colossal door of prismatic light.

The Door of Eternity, the Gateway to Heaven and whatever else lies Beyond, Vincent thought, whatever reverence that he might have had for the door being replaced by a mental gasp as a wave of mana reached out to slam into the centermost part of the door, an intricate seal of magic flaring into existence. Yet even as the barrier appeared the force of the magic’s impact caused the entire chamber to shake violently. Moreover, Vincent also felt something else change in the fabric of the world around him, something that his mind picked up as a chorus of screaming agony, almost just beyond his hearing.

One that he immediately recognized, the rage in his heart intensifying beyond anything he thought he’d been capable of.

He’s burning souls to break the seal!” Vincent shouted at the sight as both he and Zera continued to rush further into the chamber, the woman’s azure and gold body appearing right beside him. “Damn it Malvis, stop! This…this is beyond the pale! This is—

Necessary.” Malvis answered with a growl as the power from the seed intensified. “For far too long have we remained trapped here, locked away by the Old Ones after they left. All while we sit here abandoned, left to rot and wither while they enjoy all that creation has to offer. No, it’s past time for answers, past time for vengeance.

Your vengeance isn’t worth our realm Malvis!” Zera shouted from beside Vincent as they closed on the central circle, the simple movement prompting another wave of conjured creatures to appear before them, though this time with a noticeable weight to their presence. “We won’t let you destroy it!

You will try,” Malvis answered as the shaking only continued to intensify. “And you will—” 

“—damn it, watch where you’re going!” 

Vincent startled at the thunderous shout that abruptly split the air over his head, the sheer volume of it causing him to yelp. A yelp that quickly turned into a whine of pain as he became aware of something lancing deep into his heart, filling him with nigh unimaginable agony.

W-what? W-where am I? He thought in confusion as the pain ripped through him, the sight of the Vestibule of Creation, along with, Zera, Malvis, his clergy, and everything else completely having abruptly vanished. Instead, all he could see was darkly stained wood just inches before him, its presence accompanied by an unmistakable metallic smell. Is…is that blood? What happened to every—

His thoughts were cut off as the ground lurched up from under him unexpectedly, the motion causing his head to rise up for a split second before coming down harshly on the unforgiving wood, filling him with another explosion of pain. It was enough to cause him to roll onto his back, revealing that he was in some sort of cart with a ratty blanket draped half over him.

A cart that unless his battered head was mistaken was moving, very, very quickly.

How…how did I get here? He wondered as torrent of pain shooting through him mercifully started to abate, becoming a cold and all too wet sensation in its place. Regardless, it left him with enough focus that he attempted to try once more to make sense of what was happening, to find out just where he was and why his body felt so weak and alien to him. Why…why can’t I sense my mana? Did…did Malvis do something to—

Once again the thought was abruptly ended before he could finish it, a gasp escaping his mouth as an ash skinned man with hair of burning fire appeared over him.

“The rip did I just tell you, Zane?” Vincent heard him snarl in same tone he’d heard a moment earlier, the words accompanied by an orange veined arm reaching down towards his head and roughly turning it to the side. “You trying to hit every bump and gutter there is? He’s already spiralin. Doesn’t need more of your help to bash his gourd in and send him off!”

“Piss off, Hanner! I’d like to see you drive this stupid thing blind while pulling a fade with the kind of heat looking for us!” A second, even angrier voice answered back, its source just barely visible as Vincent’s eyes immediately tried to find it, eventually landing on a pale face half hidden away in a cloud of shadow above him. A cloud of shadow that a second later he noticed blocked out everything beyond it. “Already gonna be close enough to get him patched up, and that’s even assumin he even can be! So how about you get the rip off my back!”

“You know, Zane, I’m getting mighty tired about that scorn-stained mouth of yours,” Hanner replied in a dangerous tone.

“Then be you’d best start cheerin, Hanner,” the other man replied flippantly. “Because after tonight, I’m done. I’m out. He’s gone too far this time. Gone too far while expectin us to clean up his shit with a smile.”

“You need to stop talking right now, Zane,” Hanner stated, his earlier tone only deepening. “Stop talking and don’t lose your nerve. This is the bounty of a lifetime if you don’t bugger it up.”

“This ain’t about losing any rippin nerve, Hanner, and if you’ve got an ounce of sense in the lump of coal that’s in your head, you’d be best thinking to jump too.” The enshadowed man replied. “I’m all fine and dandy when it comes to peeling threads, but only when it’s not gonna catch us something worse than a noose. And let me tell you, this is worse than a noose.”

The words were enough to prompt an immediate curse from the flame-haired man above Vincent who simply said, “damn, you know, don’t you.”

“Ripping right I know,” Zane all but growled back, his face turning into a scowl as Vincent glanced up at him. “It’s a play that Thorn would have never dared risking, and something that—”

Without warning, a bar of fire interrupted the man before he could finish speaking, Vincent seeing it lance from Hanner’s hand and into the shadows where he had last seen Zane’s face, instantly slicing it apart. It was enough to immediately cause the cart that he was riding in to immediately swerve and once again slam into something hard. However this time, the impact was so great that it sent the entirety of Vincent’s body bouncing into the air. Or at least that is what he thought in the split second before gravity reasserted itself and he began to fall, a short, panicked scream escaping his mouth.

Then he hit the water, and everything around him turned black.

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