Chapter 44 - The Battle of the Gods (Part 2)
The Fields of Aiakos
Outside the Walled City of Arcadia
June 11, 1645
-Queen Almira Adrienne Ivaris-
“Remember.” Seth commanded before his head swooped down and his lips claimed mine for a brief but heated kiss.
Before he kissed me, I was overcome with despair. I knew it was Argyll’s power and I tried to fight it but it was too much! I tried to fight harder but before I knew it, tears were falling down my eyes and I was slumped on the ground helplessly while the battle raged all around me.
Also, my mind was flashed with images of us losing and of Seth dying in my arms. I cried harder at the scene and Argyll’s compulsion gripped its claws on me even deeper.
But then Seth kissed me...
“This is real. What you feel for me is real. What I feel for you is real. Separate reality from that of Argyll’s power and you will be able to break his compulsion.” Seth added.
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. I can do this... I can fight Argyll’s power. I felt Seth wrap his arms around me and I felt his tug on my waist. I felt him turn and I heard the clash of the steel of his sword against those of the Golden Army.
I concentrated harder on trying to break Argyll’s compulsion. I fought against the despair and tried to clear my mind of the images of Seth’s death and Ilyia’s distraction. A moment was all I needed. And when the images faded, I quickly summoned memories of Seth.
I chose to remember memories of us in this lifetime for it felt more real... I remembered the jolt that went through my body the first time I crashed into Seth during the slave auction in which I was sold to him for two hundred gold. I remembered the way he first took me and how gentle he was. I remembered the look on his face when he took me to the ball. I remembered how worried and gaunt his face was after I awakened from the fever due to the plague. I remembered how he told me the story of the Sun and the Moon as we were on the beach. I remembered how he looked as he stormed towards the beach in Djinn as Aiken, the God of Warriors, so he could claim me from James Murray. I remembered how well he fought and how my heart felt both pride and worry with every strike of his blade...
And I remembered how much I love him... And how our love transcended both time and death...
And then it felt as if something shattered inside me. The grief and then despair was gone! The images of destruction and Seth’s death also vanished from my mind! With that, I opened my eyes and summoned my power as the Guardian of the Fountain of the Gods and the Gateways.
“Viola! Open the portal!” I shouted.
She appeared before me and then bowed. Then, she transformed herself into a silver mist which floated to one side of the battlefield. Sylvan recognized it and he quickly fought his way through as he retrieved the horn that will call his own dark army.
The horn sounded, the glass shattered and the earth trembled with the might of Sylvan’s army. And I was rooted to the spot with both fear and awe as creatures from Xathos poured forth and obeyed Sylvan’s command to pounce on the Golden Army and take down as many as they could.
From the corner of my eye, I saw Seth launch himself in the air and towards Argyll. He had this determined look in his face and as he landed, he lunged and his blade slashed a wound in Argyll’s arm.
That was all it took to break Argyll’s concentration. And when his concentration broke, so did his compulsion for the other Gods and Goddesses. One by one, they all stood up and now, there was a single pervading emotion in the air: anger.
And it’s all directed towards Argyll for manipulating them and almost costing them their lives in the heat of the battle. I was snapped out of my thoughts when Kellen barrelled into me as soldiers closed in around him.
I helped him to his feet and quickly summoned my fire. I raised my palms and it glowed with the light of the sun. I poured in more of my power and watched as my entire body grew brighter and brighter until. Then, I unleashed it...
A loud explosion shook the ground as my power radiated away from me and blasted outwards. Those near me were incinerated. All the soldiers of the Golden Army a long distance from me were burnt while our allies were unhurt by my flames. Still, they looked stunned and ran their hands through their bodies to make sure they were really unhurt.
I would’ve laughed but I had no time for that since there were still many to be fought.
I looked at Seth and he was busy fighting Argyll. Argyll kept on slashing his sword and brandishing the Silver Dagger but Seth moved very quickly. Argyll wasn’t able to catch him while he was able to land many blows.
“I trained you, Argyll! I know all of your moves!” Seth shouted. Argyll roared in anger and charged towards him again. Then, I watched as they traded blows and my heart tightened inside my chest. I prayed that Seth wouldn’t be wounded by the Silver Dagger or else he would die...
I was so distracted with watching Seth and worrying over him that I didn’t notice that many soldiers were now behind me. I only realized it when I felt the cold steel of a knife pressed against my throat and then the tip of a sphere on my waist.
I summoned my own power and I felt my body glow. These bastards are wrong to think that they could capture a Goddess. But before I could unleash my power fully, they already turned to dust.
I whirled around and came face to face with Duncan.
“Duncan! Oh gods, no! You have to get out of here! It’s not safe!” I shouted to him because the battle was too noisy. He just smiled at me and tucked his sword in the scabbard tied to his back.
“No! You have got to go. Duncan! I can’t explain everything right now... But I am not who you think I am... And I have to stay here and fight but it’s too dangerous for you. So please, go! I’ll explain everything later!” I shouted frantically.
But Duncan just crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the battle all around us. And it frustrated the hell out of me. So I marched towards him, clamped my hand on his arms and gave him a push.
“No... Adrienne. I can handle myself. I can help you.” He replied.
“It’s not what you think! It’s not safe for you here!” I exclaimed. Again, he just smiled. And that was when I sensed something was definitely wrong...
There was something different about Duncan... At first I thought he was under Argyll’s compulsion for there was too much anger and malice inside of him. I stepped closer, intending to help him but he suddenly lifted his head and the look in his eyes froze me in place.
I’ve seen those eyes before... And I looked at them as I was fading away... I looked at them and remembered everything we’ve been through, throughout the years. But he changed... And yet, in the last moments of my previous life, I found it in me to forgive him...
I stepped away... “No...” I whispered and prepared myself to run.
But his hands clamped down on my arms like steel and I wasn’t able to move away... “Selene...” he greeted.
“No!” I shouted again and tried to escape his grip. My mind still reeled and refused to accept everything. Yet the truth was staring me right in the face!
Somehow, Duncan was Azrael...
But he was different. His face was different! He was reincarnated just like Seth and me but we still had our own faces and bodies in this life... But Duncan’s was different.
I swallowed the lump in my throat. And then I shook my head to try and dispel this image. I also tried to close my eyes, thinking that this was some sort of trick form Argyll.
But when I opened my eyes, he was still there and he was still holding me very tightly.
“Azrael...” I whispered.
“Yes... It’s me. And I know what you’re thinking. I think I have a more handsome face in this life... I changed everything for you, Selene.” He replied.
I jerked against his hold and tried to free myself but he just pulled me until I was plastered to his chest. I tried to scream but he placed a hand over my mouth.
“Before I died, I asked for another chance... And the Cosmos gave it to me by giving me a whole new body and a new start. She also gave me the chance to meet you first. And we did... We fell in love in this life, Selene. But he managed to get you again. And that is something I shall never understand.” He said.
“Duncan... No... Don’t do this!” I pleaded.
“No? Can’t what, Selene? Can’t be with me again? You’re mine. In this life, you’re mine.” He growled.
“Duncan no... Please don’t. Let go of me! I don’t want to hurt you!” I threatened him amidst my tears and the pain I was feeling at realizing that my best friend in this life is also the same one who killed my child in the past life and unleashed all the evil in Ilyia.
I tried to turn around but he still held me closely. Then, I summoned my power. I tried to burn him with my fire but he only smiled. He wrapped my body with his darkness and I felt my powers start to be drained.
“Quit fighting me, Selene. Or else, I’ll drain you dry.” He threatened and gripped my arms harder. I winced from the pain but stopped drawing on my power so that he wouldn’t be able to get it.
He raised his left hand and I saw that it was glowing. He summoned a fireball using my power and threw it across the field and into Sylvan. There was a loud explosion which caused dust and soil to fly everywhere. When the dust settled, I saw Sylvan and he was back to his human form. He glared at Duncan as he stepped closer to us.
“Hello, Sylvan.” Duncan greeted and his eyes were lit with more anger. Instantly, I remembered that he held a huge grudge against Sylvan for gaining control over Xathos.
“Duncan, no... Please. Don’t do this again!” I pleaded with him but he didn’t seem to notice me.
“Duncan... It was as you said... The Cosmos gave you another chance at life! And you did better in this life than you did before! Please don’t let the darkness in you take you again!” I shouted.
He looked down at me. “Come away with me, Selene. Choose me in this life. I... I’ll change... I promise. I’ll forget everything as long as you’re with me.” He offered.
“Duncan... I can’t!” I sobbed. The tenderness in him was instantly gone and all of it was replaced with anger. His grip on me tightened again. Before I could blink, he bent his knees and launched both of us in the air.
Both of us landed beside Argyll and Seth. Argyll smiled at Duncan while Seth glared at both of them.
“The saying ‘history repeats itself’ is true, is it not?” Argyll sneered. Duncan laughed and then nodded.
“Yes. Thousands of years and here we are again. Same goals as ever.” Duncan replied. My heart broke as I realized he has really changed. Gone was the Duncan I knew and in his place, Azrael was back.
“Let go of her!” Seth shouted. He lunged forward but the elite soldiers of the Golden Army blocked his way.
“That, I can’t do, Aiken. I already told you that Azrael asked for Selene in return for his help on this war. But I can assure you that she will live. If you give me what I want.” Argyll offered.
“What do you want?” Seth asked.
“Oh, I think I made that clear a long time ago. I am tired of being second-in-command. I am tired of being called a minor God just because I was not one of those who were created first! I want it all... I want to be King! I want to own all the power of the Nine Realms! I want the Fountain of the Gods!” he shouted.
I shook my head at Seth even as tears poured down my face. “No...” I told Seth. He stilled for a moment and then his eyes burned with anger.
“Very well, then. You shall die. And I’ll still manage to take the throne. Then, I’ll leave Azrael to coax Selene into giving me control of the Fountains. I’m sure he’ll have his ways.” Argyll declared casually.
I heard Seth growl and saw him struggle against two of those who were holding him down. In the blink of an eye, two of the guards from the Golden Army flew into the air as Seth kicked them. He was about to kick another set of guards before all the elite swarmed into him and held him down.
Just like me, Seth couldn’t summon his power or else Azrael would take it and use it against our allies.
When Seth moved again, Argyll tossed Duncan the Silver Dagger and he pressed the blade to my neck.
“Try something again and she dies.” Argyll hissed. Immediately, Seth stopped fighting. Without letting go of me, Duncan lifted his hand and I felt his energy pulse in the air.
And then suddenly, there was this huge vacuum which began to drain the powers of the other Gods and Goddesses who were still fighting. I saw Duncan’s body glow with all the magic he was draining from the others...
“Duncan, stop this! This isn’t you!” I shouted.
He stopped but he hauled me to him and glared. “And pray tell... Who am I? If you know me so well?” he spat.
“You’re Duncan! You’re my friend! You left your life as Azrael behind and you got this chance! And all of it was going well... I knew how you yearned for honor and prestige before but the rumours destroyed you. But this time, you were the Captain of the King’s Guard of Amaranth! Every warrior looked up to you! And you had Rurik, Brodie, Angus and the others!”
“But what I wanted the most and what I never had was you, Selene.” He whispered.
And at that moment my heart broke for him again. “But Duncan... You had me. I loved you in this life. But some things really aren’t meant to be.”
Again, his eyes hardened to steel. “If I can’t have you, no one can.” He snarled and then began to press the blade of the Silver Dagger closer to my neck.
Truth be told, I didn’t think it would all end like this. We were given a second chance yet nothing we did ever seemed right. I always thought we’d win this time and then Seth and I can be together again with nothing else in our way. I thought we’d have our happy ending. I never thought I’d die because of Azrael again. I never thought Duncan, the one I trusted the most in this life would betray me.
I closed my eyes and simply accepted my fate. I have already given the Fountains the instructions should I die in battle. If I die, the guardianship would be transferred to Seth and if he dies, everything will go on lockdown again and their magic will never see the light of day ever.
If I die, at least that accomplished one thing... Another hindrance to Argyll’s goal of wanting the power of the Fountains for himself...
“No!!!” Seth shouted.
The anguish in his voice ripped apart my control and I sobbed helplessly as Duncan held me tightly. “You’d die rather than be with me?” Duncan asked me. I lifted my face and gazed into his eyes.
“Duncan... Someday you’d find the love that’s for you. I believe in that wholeheartedly. And when you do, you’ll know how obsession and possessiveness differ from love. What you feel for me is obsession and possessiveness for if you truly loved me, you’d want the best for me. Even if it pains you, you’ll set me free. I love Seth... I want to spend my eternity with him. But if I can’t, I’d rather not spend eternity with anyone at all for every second of that eternity would be like a torture to me... So yes, I’ll choose death for it will not only stop Argyll from gaining control over the guardianship, my death would also set you free from this love you think you feel for me.” I said sadly.
I saw Duncan’s eyes fill with tears before he shook his head. And suddenly, all his emotions were erased and I saw his face become contorted with rage once more.
“No...” I whispered as I had an inclination of what was truly happening. I looked at Argyll and he was gazing at Duncan with a fierce expression.
“Duncan, no! He’s using you!” I shouted as the final piece of the puzzle clicked into place. Duncan’s face flashed with confusion before he was enveloped by rage once more. His hand gripped my arms and I saw his fist clench around the dagger.
“Duncan! Argyll’s using you! This isn’t really you. It’s him and his using his compulsion against you! He’s using your vulnerability and your pain to fuel your rage! You have to fight him!”
“Shut up!” Argyll shouted. He was calm as he looked towards Duncan.
“She’s lying. You know I won’t ever do that to you.” Argyll said. But I felt a thread of his power in those words. It was small enough to not be noticeable. But my father taught me everything. He taught me how to detect the barest hint of magic when it is being used. And Argyll was definitely using his compulsion on Duncan.
“I am telling the truth! It is he who’s lying! He’s been controlling you from the start!” I shouted.
“Lies!” Argyll shouted. “You were the one who asked me to remove all your emotions, Azrael. And that’s what I did long ago.”
“No! You used his vulnerability against him! He never wanted to be King of Ilyia from the start! He was just someone who was wrongfully accused! But you used it to your advantage. You took away his emotions yet left him burning with anger! And it was you who fed him thoughts of power and of being King!” I shouted.
Seth looked at me and I saw understanding in his eyes. He also knew I was right. Then, he turned towards Argyll and I judging from Seth’s expression, I knew he was plotting how he’s going to kill Argyll in a thousand different ways.
“Believe me, Duncan! I’m your friend! Both in this life and the last! I was the one who listened to you! I never believed what everyone else said about you. You have got to listen to me now and find it in yourself to break his compulsion!”
For a moment, Duncan’s grip on me loosened and I knew then that he was considering my words. I just have to keep talking and convince him about everything.
“Tell me how you awakened.” I prompted.
Duncan took a deep breath. “Argyll gave me Healing Water from Lai’s Temple. I drank it. There was pain in my head at first. And then the pain moved to my entire body. And then there were these voices and images. And at first they didn’t make any sense. It was hard and there was so much pain that I screamed through everything. And then suddenly it was over. Suddenly, the images and the voices made sense. And I knew who I was.”
“How did you feel? When I first awakened, there were all these emotions inside me. Disbelief, surprise, hope and then gratitude at being given a second chance. What did you feel?” I asked him. When he said that Azrael was the one who gave him the potion, I had an idea that from that point, Argyll already started controlling him.
“I felt angry at everything. Rage... That is what I felt.” He replied.
“See! That’s Argyll placing you on his control right from the start! It was him all along!” I laughed as hope surged inside me... This is not the Duncan I know for he was under Argyll’s control.
Like Seth and me, Azrael has been given a second chance. And in this life, he was happy and contented. He was also a very honourable man. And then he suddenly changed just because he remembered? That is what I refused to believe until now. Even if he remembered being Azrael, he was also Duncan and that part of his life won’t go away no matter what...
There’s still hope...
“Duncan... Please... Listen to me. Do something to distract Argyll. Hit him with one of my weak fireballs... Just enough to distract him and you’ll see I’m telling you the truth. His compulsion vanishes when he loses his concentration.” I whispered to his ear.
“Please... Believe me.” I pleaded and touched his arm tentatively.
Then, I felt him summon my power. I saw Argyll laugh for he thought that Duncan was about to attack Seth or me. And then I saw surprise in his face as the fireball zoomed towards him. He fell backwards towards the ground and Duncan’s grip on me slackened.
Argyll’s concentration was broken and so was his compulsion on Duncan which appeared to be stronger than the one he used on me, Seth and the other gods and goddesses.
For a brief moment, Duncan’s face became calm as Argyll’s hold vanished over him. Then, it was replaced by disbelief and then unparalleled rage.
“You used your power on me!” Duncan roared.
Argyll quickly leapt to his feet and assumed a defensive stance.
“I only fuelled what was already there. I only added a little push to get you going.” Argyll replied with a shrug.
“No! You replaced everything I felt with what you wanted me to feel so that you could use me! And that is unacceptable! I should have been able to make my own decisions!” Duncan bellowed.
“Azrael. What is the problem here? I don’t understand what you are getting at. The God in you was awakened. I gave you rage to help you get your revenge. You died because of them! And now you are here and Aiken has stolen Selene from you again! Now, we are here to fight for what we want! And we’re nearly winning so stop this nonsense immediately, Azrael!” Argyll hissed.
Duncan growled and took a step towards Argyll.
“What’s your problem? I gave you Selene as promised! Stop this and let us finish the war!” Argyll commanded.
“Duncan... No... Please... Don’t do this... Look deeper inside you. This is not who you are anymore. Azrael belongs to the past but Duncan belongs to the present. You are Duncan, the Captain of the King’s Guard of Amaranth, a noble and honourable man who also happens to be a God. Make the man influence the decision that the God in you shall make in this war. Don’t ruin your present by choosing the same path you did in your past...” I whispered to him.
I saw conflicting emotions cross Duncan’s face before he hid it into an expressionless mask. He seemed to be struggling with a decision. He looked at Seth and then he looked back at me and his expression hardened again.
Argyll walked towards him and Duncan made no move to attack or stop him.
“I do apologize for using my power on you. Like I said, I just added that extra push. You and me, we can win this war, Azrael... Selene is yours and so is Xathos. Together, we shall kill Aiken and Sylvan and all others who refuse to bow to our reign.” Argyll whispered.
I tensed against Duncan’s hold on me but he ignored me and continued to listen to Argyll. Argyll touched Duncan’s other hand which held the Silver Dagger and raised it.
“Now, we start our reign. And finally, we’ll have everything we’ve ever wanted.” Argyll promised.
He nodded his head to the elite soldiers of the Golden Army who were holding Seth. “No! Don’t!” I shouted as I saw them drag Seth closer to us. He resisted with all his might but he wasn’t able to free himself.
Duncan opened his hand and tendrils of darkness emerged from them and coiled around Seth. I felt Seth’s power completely vanish from the air. There was no trace of it left.
“What did you do to him?!? Release him!” I shouted at Duncan.
“I bound his powers.” He replied tersely.
Argyll grinned and then clapped his hands. He turned towards the other Gods and Goddesses who were still trying to fight. Duncan let go of me and then also bound my powers with his darkness. Then, he pushed me towards more soldiers who were now the ones who held me tightly.
After that, he turned around and faced those who were still locked in battle. He braced his feet wide apart and then raised both palms. More darkness escaped from him and wound its way towards the battlefield. Slowly, it travelled over the field and wrapped around everyone who was fighting.
“Duncan, no! Please don’t!” I pleaded.
“Shut up!” Argyll shouted at me. Then, he tossed a scrap of cloth towards the soldiers holding me. “Use that to gag her.” He instructed them. They wadded the cloth and then tied it around my head.
And now... All I can do is watch in horror as everything I cared for is about to disappear.
Duncan’s power now almost encased the whole battlefield. The shifters who were part of Sylvan’s army lost their form and reverted back to their human forms. The spells the witches casted were now losing its power. The vampires lost their ability to walk in the Sun and they were now starting to burn. The other Gods and Goddesses were also encased with Duncan’s power and their powers were also bound within them.
The Gods and Goddesses are immortal and they can only be killed with the Silver Dagger. The soldiers of the Golden Army surrounded them and hauled them to their feet. They were then placed in the middle of the battlefield where they were forced to kneel.
The soldiers of the Golden Army surrounded everyone else and their swords and spears were already raised and prepared to kill Sylvan’s army. They were now just waiting for Argyll’s command.
“Isn’t this a beautiful sight? All the Gods and Goddesses of Ilyia kneeling before us...” Argyll asked Duncan.
Duncan grinned as he scanned his surroundings. “Now who shall be the first to die?” he was the one to ask Argyll this time as he twirled the Silver Dagger around his long fingers.
“I think that the first to die should be Aiken... Don’t you think?” Argyll asked Duncan.
“NO!!!” Sylvan shouted. His anguished cry echoed throughout the entire battlefield. Argyll and Duncan only laughed.
I tried to shout through the scrap of cloth they placed in my mouth but it was so tight that all I could do was shout incoherent sounds. Tears poured down my face as Duncan stepped closer to Seth while wielding the Silver Dagger in his right hand. Everything seemed to slow down while my heart started beating faster...
I thrashed against those who were holding me and tried my best to summon my power. I tried drawing on Ruadan’s power but still, Duncan’s binding over me never wavered. For the few seconds it took Duncan to walk towards Seth, I tried everything I could...
But it was no use...
“Li’eras, look at me...” I heard Seth’s voice call out to me in my mind.
I opened my eyes and tried to see through my tears. Seth was looking at me. His golden eyes were filled with so much sadness that it made my breath catch in my throat.
“It wasn’t supposed to end this way!”I replied to him.
“I know... But we don’t always get to choose...” he whispered sadly.
“I can’t lose you again!” I screamed at him through our connection. I heard him sigh and he lowered his head for a moment. Then, his eyes met mine once more.
“Vel eras mira, Selene... Even through death, my love shall always be with you.” He said the words in a very sad tone which spoke of finality.
“Vel eras mira veo, Aiken... I am thankful for the love and time we shared in this lifetime... But if I had the choice, I’d ask for another one... And thousands more after that so I could be with you...” my heart ached so much after I said those words that even the simple act of breathing became difficult.
My vision blurred with tears as Duncan raised the Silver Dagger while Argyll grinned mischievously beside him. Silence fell over the entire battlefield as all turned towards us to witness the death of the King of the Gods.
The silence was punctuated by growls from Sylvan’s army and some sobs from the Goddesses who were forced to watch
“Close your eyes, li’eras... I don’t want you to see my death...” Seth commanded. I looked straight into his golden eyes and shook my head.
“I will be with you even in the last moments...” I answered. He smiled and I tried to commit to my memory every inch of his handsome fac)e.
This was it... This is already the end... We failed... Another chance and another lifetime were given to us. But we still failed... We failed our fellow Gods and Goddesses and we failed the Cosmos... Now, all of the Nine Realms will fall to Argyll’s evil schemes...
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