The goddess of time fixated her golden eyes on the orb in her right palm. Unmoving, not even blinking, they observed the scene within, blurred by a fog which did not manage to obscure the meaning. The sounds came dull and slightly slurred, only partially due to the orb's nature.

Her throne room laid in heavy silence. Chandeliers cast a dim and sparse light which did not help the eyes of another her, already hazed by smears and tears, to recognize the woman in front of her. All she could make out was her hair, as black as her own was silver, and amidst those wildly flying strands sat large round eyes the stare of which did not let her go. She staggered. Fell. Her eyes met the marbled floor, its pristine pattern soiled by crimson rivers. Faintly, the sound of steps occurred; the woman rushing towards her?

"Don't get any closer!" a male voice yelled behind her duplicate. The steps ceased. Her vision trembled as a cough sent more blood spluttering towards the floor.

"But-!" It had to be the woman's voice, trembling and fearful, and yet radiating with the same power the spectator called her own.

"No buts! I can't lose you again!"

Her replica roared, blood gurgling from herthroat. She thrashed around herself and the man behind her cursed. The sound of steel cut through the air, tore through pliable flesh and made her jerk,sending the vision into a hazeof colors and shapesas everything dimmed.

"Guys!" Another male voice, but she could not locate its origin, could barely catch the words which drifted into a slur as she lost all consciousness. "We gotta hurry the heckout of here and make our way back to the Garden before-"

The black tattoos supplanting eyebrows rose slightly oncethe performance faded, the sphere left empty save for white swirls which caromed off the perimeterto curl around themselves. A sigh left her maroon lips as she set the item on its opulent pedestal, her violet talons scraping against the material which looked like glass but in fact was none. She leaned back into her throne, a masterpiece of decadence and luxury, red velvet spanned across a tallbackrest and seat, golden decorations adorning the frame and arm rests in endless swirls and turns and globes, and allowed for it to caress her slender figure through thetight dress.A smile twisted her tattooed visage.

She was remarkably collected for a woman who had just witnessed her own death. But perfect composure was of the essence, and she would not let her foolish emotions cloud her judgment. Sentiments were but a remnant of the past whenshe had been human. A past long, long forgotten. So instead Ultimecia lifted her claws, snapped her fingers and waited in perfect stillness for the doors –beautiful, enormous constructs high enough to almost touch the ceiling to theendless expanse ofher throne room – to swing open.

A miserable creature rushed in, clad in rags stiff from dried blood. It buckled before her, as close to the ground as possiblewithout scraping its head along the marbled floor, until it reached the base of the podium her throne rested upon, eight meters high. "Goddess..." it whimpered, unable to raise its head and meet her cold stare. But it must have peeked up through its lashes nonetheless, for when Ultimecia elongated her arm and pointed at its pathetic stature, it shivered and whined. Tears streameddown its face, pooling down and soiling her palace.

Shecurledher talons, purple and crimson sparks spraying from the gesture, and sent aball of pure energy towards this foolish thing. It did not even have the timeto gasp as the magic surrounded its heart and slowedit. Its blue eyes widened, almost popped out of its head and it began togurgle, dying sounds leavingits useless throat. "God—dess… Forgi-"

"Silence." Her voice was velvety steel. She rolled her wrist and drank up the desperation the lowly creature expressed with contorted features, felt in her nerves how its heartbeat fought to pump blood through veins despite the iron-grip her magic pressed against it. With each successful pulse, she increased the pressure until the beating was faint and weak. The head of her slave turned blue, foam smeared across itspleading lips, but she only sneered, holding up her horrible grasp until a final, frail jerk ran through the body before it slumped.

With a flick of her wrist, Ultimecia propelled the corpse aside, burning it to ashes before it could hit one of her ornate pillars supporting the endlessly high ceiling. Seeing the gray particles float through the air, a laugh spilled from her lips, echoing in the empty room, and she threw her head back. Her silver hair, styled into two extravagant horns,pushed against the backrest, her almost fully exposed chest shook as she enjoyed herself quite delectably. But then, the perimeter of her golden eyes caught hold of the inconspicuous orb to her right, and she stilled.

Her death. It was ridiculous, outright ridiculous. Eight hundred years ago, itmight have been a feasibleoutcome, but now, with her powers only ever accelerating, her worshippers and slaves cowering to her feet and the whole world trembling in awe and fear alike, this was merely a farce. She did not even need to take this seriously. Not when she was so close.

And yet, Ultimecia frowned at the sphere within which fog swirled about lazily. Her convenientdevice had never failed her so far, had always informed her dutifully of the many paths the flow of time could take so she could interfere with them in due course. After all, time was such a fickle thing. Easily manipulated. Easily distorted. With her weaving the greatest spell in the world's history, altering but this minor event would be naught but a cinch. Indeed, it was just the opportunity for her to test out her newest creation.

Her smirk returned and she snapped her fingers once again.

The next slave entered. It was just as disgusting, just as ordinary, but it did not make a single sound while crawling across the ground, and when it addressed its master, its voice was nothing but devout and submissive. "The goddess has called for my mundane appearance?"

"Fetch me my most loyal pet," Ultimecia ordered.

This object was remarkably well-trained. It simply nodded, squirmed backwards until even the stray strands of its brown, filthy hair left the circumference of her throne room and closed the door. Ultimeciaalmost felt like rewarding it.

While she waited, her gaze turned to the giant clock above the doors to her residuum. The hands did not move, never have since five hundred years, but she still enjoyed marveling at its immense dimensions, the golden ring and the diamond letters. They caught the sparse moonlight which dippedin through the roof, reflectedit in gorgeous glimmers and flickers which danced across Ultimecia and her flawless skin and gotcaught in the tattoos that covered her legs and abdomen. She arched her back against this light, lips slightly springing open as she basked in it.

Close. She was so, so close. Soon, she would not have to deal with these lowly creatures anymore. She would ascend to something even higher than a god. Take the place that was rightfully hers, as it had always been, escaping this repugnant, vile space which she could never quite form perfectly to her liking. Not with the teeth of time gnawing endlessly, mercilessly. Her eyes darted down to that one spot beneath her right wrist, and she clicked her tongue. Tugged her blood-red sleeve over it.

A metallicroar shook the entire castle. Stucco crumbled from the walls and ceiling, but she easily created a barrier to shield herself fromthe dirt. When the majestic doors swung open and revealed her prized pet, Ultimecia opened her arms.

A monster of light and dark and death neared her on its clawed feet. Despite its mass and the pointed tail it dragged after itself, the only sound it made was the flapping of wings at its upper back. A morbidfusion of a rider and a wild beast, it had four legs, two arms, two mouths – both partially open to exhale steaming breath – and two pairs of red glowing eyes void of any sentiment. The top head, of a triangular shape, twitched restlessly, the horn atop sharp and deadly like a spear and lowered in submission; the lower head, beneath the torso, was a squashed and brutal thing, teeth endlessly gnawing. The moonlight reflected on the silver mythril, was devoured by the black voidil and enhanced the deep blue of the peiril she had fetched from another world.

It was a wonder of creation – her creation. Ahorrific synthesis of two entities forced to become one, filled with pain and misery and hate, and it was all hers. The strong arms which had no need for swords but only pure, vigorous magic, laid flat against the torso, wrists crossed devoutly. Each movement was performed quickly and yet with unmistakable pain, and the closer the monstrosity got the more it lowered its heads, until it finally stood before her, reaching up to her pedestal with ease. Releasing a metallic, dreadful sound, it offered its horn to its master's clawed feet.

"My Omega Weapon," Ultimecia purred as she stepped on the offeringwith one foot. "So swiftly by my side. So obedient." The lower mouth, remnant of the former beast, panted, and a shred of human skin dangled from teeth that could crush diamonds between them. She laughed. "Oh, and so greedy. It was quite a docilevariant, too."

Omega Weapon flinched, as much as it could with its body consisting ofunearthly material that allowed for no bents and jerks. Armies had fought against her masterpiece without leaving even a scratch. It spread its arms, taloned palms directeddownwards, and opened both mouths.

"God-dess..." It was its only word. The only word it would ever need.

Ultimecia howled a laugh. "Oh, my Omega. Do not fret. It was a replaceable item. I will not punish you for feeding on it. The strong devour the weak, and so you shall devour them all. Soon, you can ravish the lands again, crush their last slums and bask in their blood, polishing this perfect armor."

She removed her foot from the horn and the creature looked up with impassive eyes that could not tell the pain. Ultimecia cradled a cheek the size of her head with her claws, relishing the scraping sound. "Ah. But today, I called you here to watch. You are my grandest creation, and you ought to witness my next divine masterpiece." She leaned over to take the spherical device into her palm again, rubbing one violet digit acrossthe surface. Immediately, the object lit up, colors and shapes swirling before her narrow eyes. A feral sneer lifted the corners of her maroon lips and she whispered a simple command.

While the whirl slowed down, Ultimecia leaned back. The two silver rings at her fingers clacked unpleasantlyagainst the golden arm rests and her pet growled. "I know," Ultimecia uttered with the slightest of frowns. "Such dissonance." She strokedthe creation's head in an almost comforting mannerand set her gaze back on the object that could grant her every desire, if only she knew how to utilize it correctly.

Of course she did.

"First, we gather our tools..."

A/N:Welcome back to this story! As you may or may not know, this story had been started under a different name, but a handful of chapters in, I realized that my framework had been unsatisfactory to my own standards. Perfectionism be damned, but I had to re-do it. After several months of planning and plotting, I have reached a stage where I am comfortable with the overall theme and structure and ready to write. For those of you who read the "original" version, fret not: While major plot points will of course be taken over, much of the story and style is changed, so even the beginning should stay interesting for you.

Without further ado, have fun heading into the first proper chapter after this rather short prologue. Remember to leave a review, even the shortest line inspires and motivates me - if just one person reads and enjoys this, that is enough reason for me to continue.

~ Ruska