AGE OF EMPYREAN (IV)
There was palpable stillness within that singular moment as the whole world came to a halt. Something drifted and changed within the air itself, with even reality growing tepid and limp. It was abounding cascade of quivering silence as a singular body fell off a blade and began crashing toward the earth. Blood sprayed behind her, her arms and legs flaying about freely. No one could quite process the scene, or at the very least their minds refused to process it. It was, after all, beyond mind-breaking; thousands... hundreds of thousands watched the being they called their Mother get impaled and skewered like a rat and then thrown aside like garbage.
Time froze, as did the breaths of millions -- both inside and outside the dome that the formation had created. So rapidly... so easily... so savagely... she fell. She couldn't even resist, couldn't put up an ounce of a fight -- wasn't even given a chance to savor her last breath. There was something absolutely horrifying about the reality of it all, something that could not be quantified quite properly. The scene which not a single soul to live past today would ever forget was life-altering on far too many levels. The invincible Mother fell, the calm Empyrean went mad, the skies bled with the cries of her children, the Spirits themselves woke from their eternal slumber and wept... it was not the world they had come to believe in.
Erebus stood just off to the side, barely ten meters away from the Empyrean, completely frozen in place, unable to utter even a sound. His mouth agape, eyes like saucers, he, much like everyone else, couldn’t believe what had just happened. Though they all expected the Empyrean to go for a kill, they never, not even in their wildest dreams, expected him to immediately go after the Mother, disregarding everything and everyone else. It wasn’t an act of simple madness -- madness, however loose and chaotic, always had a meaning, an idea behind it. No, this could not be called madness, as it far surpassed it, reaching the realms never reached before -- not even by an Empyrean.
After all, this was the first time the Mother was ever felled. Even if it was just one of her Avatars, it changed everything. If even during the most heated and tension-filled times of the past, no one ever went after her... what did today signal? What kind of a shockwave would resonate throughout the world after the word reaches the distant ears not privy to the events of today just yet? For the first time in his life, Erebus experienced the fear that could not be put into words. It didn’t stem from the Empyrean’s strength, or even his Will... but from his mind. Erebus gazed into those eyes and he didn’t see blind anger, wrath and rage. He didn’t see the fury which had turned his thinking ability into a mush. He saw entropic clarity, determination, knowledge. Those eyes knew what they were doing... yet Erebus didn’t. Why? He couldn’t answer. Every other aspect of the attack he could -- the how, the when, but not the why.
He was no different than all others currently surrounding him. They expected to put their lives on the line today, but that was all -- only their lives. Not the life of their Mother. She would, after all, be safe, in the far back. He would be too busy dealing with them to even think of harming her. Yet, just now, they had watched her listless body splatter against the roofs, bouncing over like a bucket before falling onto the street, disemboweled beyond recognition. Her light, grace, beauty, warmth... vanquished. She was undoubtedly dead. In a singular act beyond reason, she was felled by a single strike of a man who suddenly turned his eyes toward them.
They all, collectively, felt a chill freezing their spines. Those eyes... were beyond inhuman. Black swirls, like worms, rounded a white pock in the center that kept spitting out fumes of holy, white light, whilst the corners shot out jets of black smoke. At that moment, he seemed both like an Angel and a Devil, like Good and Evil incarnate, like the blending of two extremes that should not be physically possible. The sky trembled and the earth quaked, every restless spirit quivering, shaking, breaking. Thump hearts went. Thump. Louder and louder. Thump.
It was the rhythm of fear and terror blended together in the symphony of dread. Thump. They could hear their blood gushing through their veins, their pulses beating back against their minds, their breaths growing ragged, quick and short. Thump. Thump! Their eyes grew red, swollen, teary. Their hearts bled. Their souls mourned. Their Wills whimpered. Thump. Like wet, beaten dogs they drew back, fearfully looking at the invisible leash in his hands. Thump.
Never would it be known who was the first, but someone broke at last. A shriek broke past the barrier of sound and bellowed out into the empty sky. And then another. And another. And another. Cries like the ones of the howling wolves who've lost their leader soon blended into an orchestra, putting on a performance connecting every and any end of the world. The Mother died, and her children broke. One by one they fell on their knees, the earth beneath quivering underneath the sudden impact. The buildings shook. The mountains moved. The seas rose and the waves rolled. Thump.
All hearts seemed to beat as one, yielding the scene never seen before. Too many emotions. Too many thoughts. Too many words, yet not nearly enough. All they could do was bite their lips and cry. Weep like newborn babes beneath the clouded sky. Weep beneath his maddened feet. Beneath his empty, cold eyes. Thump.
Wings suddenly sprung out behind him, bounding over two hundred meters across. One breathtakingly golden, the other abhorrently dark. One embodying the beauty of the day, the other the horrors of the night. Thump.
Wails ceased. Cries stopped. All eyes opened and looked up and pondered. Was he a human? Was he a Devil? Was he an Angel? What, exactly, was he? Alive? Dead? Good? Evil? Sagacious? Foolish? They didn't have answers, just a myriad of questions eating away at their sanity. Be it the experienced ones, who have weathered the storms of millions of years, or the young saplings yet to fully emerge into the world, they couldn't fathom any of it. Do they fear a man or an idea? Do they fear his strength, or do they fear his capacity for terror? Do they fear him at all?
His lips suddenly strung out into a grin, a faint chuckle, bordering a whisper, skewing out into the world, into each ear who would listen. It was filled with mockery, derision, disdain, contempt, and scorn. It was filled with open, honest ridicule. He was laughing at them. Surrounded by millions, he laughed so freely, as though he had no care in the world.
"... look at you lot," his voice was certainly not that of a human. It was deep, abysmal, choral. It echoed on its own, blasting away at their hearts, souls, and minds. It was empty of any emotion. Incomprehensible. Thump. Louder, once more, their hearts beat. They awoke at the sound of his voice. The blood gushed out through their veins once more like a river. Thump. "She lives still, yet you cracked," he was looking down at the world from far above. He didn't care, it seemed. He didn't care that he'd turned the realm of reality, the dominion of the living, against himself. He drew all eyes on him freely, accepting it all indifferently. "What did you think? That she cannot be killed? Nothing is eternal," he added, suddenly looking up to the sky and extending his arm into the empty above. "As nothing was or ever will be."
No one responded. No one moved. All they could do was listen to the sound of their hearts. Louder and louder. Thump. Thump! Blood was no longer gushing -- it was boiling. Like a lake set ablaze from inside out, it boiled beyond reason. Fear and terror vanished. They were freed of their chains and shackles. It was replaced by fury. By wrath. By unbridled, unending rage. The expressions of horror vanished in veer of distorted faces, scrounged into folds of skin, features barely discernible beneath the anger. Hatred consumed everything else, feeding itself on all their other emotions and thoughts. Hearts, one by one, cracked as the realization finally dawned upon them. They had all watched their Mother get murdered like an animal in front of their eyes without doing anything. They let it happen. They were to blame. Yet, why blame themselves, when her murderer still stood there, jeering at them, taunting them, mocking them? No, he is to blame. He who struck is he who sinned.
It was too much. Too much to hold in. It burned too hot. It hurt too much. The pressure was beyond something they could handle. Like glass, their hearts cracked as their throats opened. What once were the cries of anguish were now roars of utter resentment. They consumed all other sounds the world made at that moment. The thundering seas went silent. The screeching rivers turned mum. The boiling lakes hushed. The trembling earth turned mute. The collective roar of hundreds of millions of souls exploded out into the world, consuming everything, creating enough energy to shake the entire planet momentarily.
Lino stood still, taking it all in. Despite it all being aimed at him, he had to admit it was a breathtaking scene. He pondered, inwardly, when was the last time the world had ever united over something? When was the last time so many souls cried out in the same name? For the same goal? For the same idea and belief? And with the same emotion? If ever, it was too long ago for anyone to truly remember. He had woken in them the link which bound all living, though it was hardly his goal. Chuckling bitterly, he realized he may have made things far worse for himself than it was necessary. After all, the only reason he actually went after Gaia so early was that he knew that would be the only opportunity. He had also hoped to turn quite a few of the souls here into frozen watchers, though his plan backfired... spectacularly. Perhaps, now, he'd finally understand what it was like to truly be hunted by the entire world. Or, he mused, the world would finally understand what it was like when an Empyrean finally abandoned all moral inhibitions. Only time would come to tell.