(A/N): This will be the last purely info-dump chapter of this story.
Chapter 11: Broken Wings
"How do you visit the realm of an Overdeity who has distanced himself from all creation? How do you move a father who stood by and watched while your siblings locked you away? How often do you think these doubts crossed Raven Huer's mind while he traversed the void between worlds on his way to Sanctum?"
Alteara barely heard the spell speak. She watched, almost in a daze, as her master changed back into the twisted, monstrous form he had started with. There was something in his form that made her stare and ponder. Right now, he was flying through the darkness of what she assumed was the "void between worlds". She was staring from his side as he steadily flapped a multitude of oddly placed wings. His single, gigantic eye glowed blood red; the only source of light within the void that served to highlight his blade-like feathers. Everything about him seemed malformed and unnatural. None of his wings were of the same size; they jutted out of his body at every direction, some flapping steadily while others beating madly. His feathers lacked any sort of arrangement. They reminded her of his hair, Alteara couldn't help but smile at the thought, in how they just stuck out messily in all directions. She saw a pair of bird-like claws extending from his front, a third one from his left side and she could see the silhouettes of what appeared to be two more coming from his right.
Despite her master's misshapen form, Alteara felt neither horror nor revulsion. Perhaps it was because she only saw it through a spell's image or, perhaps, it was because she had known him as her master before seeing this form. She didn't understand why his siblings were so repulsed. She couldn't see their forms from the spell's blurring but she doubted that any of them looked alike.
She did understand, though, that her master was in pain. His flight was laborious now. Something, some sort of black, smoke-like substance, was leaking from different parts of his enormous body. He was bleeding, she realized. His wings strained from the effort. His jagged beak opened in a silent cry as he pushed himself harder to keep flying.
The void was endless. Alteara couldn't imagine just how much doubt was crushing her master at that time. Sanctum seemed so far away; unreachable. It was an impossible task. The Shaper was an Overdeity and, surely, he could make his realm completely inaccessible. Her master's agonizing flight could all be in vain. It was the supreme leap of faith, or desperation, on her master's behalf to even attempt this. There was no turning back for him. He probably did not have any strength to return, given the distance he had put behind him. If his strength failed him now, he would die alone in between worlds, away from his friends and his mother. She remembered what Memory just said. How long did that flight take? Just how many times did he doubt what he was doing? Her master always had a confident smile on his face for as long as she had known him. What would he have looked like if he wasn't in this form?
And then the blackness of the void was wiped away. Raven Huer appeared to break through a curtain of darkness; bursting into a lit world at long last. It happened so quickly that Alteara closed her eyes in reflex. When she opened them again, her master had collapsed on the floor. His form was twisted enough as it was but the sight of him splayed out in complete exhaustion was heartbreaking. Something was oozing out of his body; a black substance that appeared to rise from his body like smoke but, when she took a closer look, the substance appeared more liquid than gas. Whatever it was, copious amounts of it continued to escape his body. Alteara was convinced that it was his lifeblood. He wasn't just bleeding. Two of his larger, frontal wings looked as if they had been broken in several places. A lot of his feathers had fallen on the floor.
That was when Alteara noticed the floor. Its mere presence meant that her master had broken through the void that separated Sanctum from other worlds. The floor was silver; polished so well that it mirrored everything perfectly. It stretched out as far as the eye could see, as if they were in an ocean-sized mirror. Alteara looked around, but there were no other features in the landscape. "This is…Sanctum?" she asked the spell.
The spell raised an eyebrow in mock surprise. "Oh! Back to paying attention to me now, are you?" it replied. "Yes. This is a portion of Sanctum called the Reflectorium. Here, all existence reflects before The Order Father, who watches it all in silence."
Alteara watched as her master began to change his shape. The process was slow and halting. There was a brief moment when it seemed that Raven Huer had to struggle to complete the process. The broken and bleeding bird-like creature disappeared. In its place, her master's human form stood tall. His arm dangled from his side uselessly. Though he stood proudly, even Alteara could tell that he was barely supporting himself. The black substance continued to ooze out of several jagged openings around his body. He staggered forward and shouted something. Alteara guessed that he was calling his father out.
"Just reaching Sanctum was a ray of hope for Raven Huer." The spell said. "The Shaper could have locked him out of the plane and kept him flying about the void forever. Being allowed inside meant that The Shaper would hear him out."
The spell snorted before continuing. "Or it could have meant that The Shaper planned on personally destroying him for the affront of trying to storm Sanctum. Or lock him away for causing so much trouble among the proto-deities. No one could know. I doubt even The Source knew what her other half was up to."
Raven Huer continued to shout across the vastness of Sanctum. To Alteara, the place seemed nothing more but an ocean-sized mirror suspended in a nebulous, gray space. To her surprise, The Shaper materialized right before her master. There was no blinding flash of light or an opening of anything. In one second, her master was alone in the Reflectorium and in another, he wasn't. The Shaper looked as he did when Alteara first him, a young boy with silvery hair with a stern expression on his face. There was no gentle affection that softened his visage this time, however. The Shaper stared at her master in what appeared to be mild annoyance, as if he had just encountered a pest in his house.
The spell was quick to notice Alteara's discomfiture. "Shocked?" it asked with a smile of amusement. "The Shaper isn't one for theatrics like his other half." The smile quickly disappeared as the spell went on. "The first thing that The Shaper tells his half-dead, outcast son is to get off his property. Raven Huer refused and did what he came to Sanctum for."
Alteara watched anxiously as her master spoke. His proud and defiant expression seemed to crumble as he continued to speak. He didn't seem to notice that he continued to bleed as did so; his "lifeblood" trailing wisps of black against the hazy gray atmosphere. Through it all, The Shaper continued to stand and stare without so much as changing the expression on his face.
"He tried to bargain." The spell said. "But how do you bargain with an Overdeity? He tried pleading, even if this was the same father who did nothing while his siblings locked him away. He appealed to The Shaper's sense of mercy and compassion and got about as much a reaction as you would expect from a tombstone. When nothing worked, Raven Huer resorted to the one thing that he had when everything turned against him."
Raven Huer clenched his fists. His desperate expression hardened into a grim expression that stared right back at The Shaper's stern gaze.
"Raven resorted to his defiance." The spell said. "He refused to budge from Sanctum and refused to stop asking for his father's help. Centuries passed while he kept up that staredown with The Shaper. Finally, his father budged."
Alteara felt herself breathe a sigh of relief. It surprised her given that she knew that her master would make it out alright. After all, he was around now. Still, knowing that her master succeeded was an uplifting thought.
"Perhaps he had been waiting for that." The spell said. "Perhaps The Shaper had not been interested in watching Raven Huer grovel and beg but to take pride in who he was and what he could ask of his father. The Shaper agreed to perform True Creation with The Source. He would restore Alestrovon and prevent the collapse of Meggidas's creations. To do so, a new proto-deity must emerge to restore the collapsing reality. The Shaper gave Raven Huer a choice. He could take over Meggidas's scattered power. With a proto-deity's might adding to his own, Raven Huer would become more powerful than any of his siblings. He would possess the ability to create and the ability to enter other realities. It would be a fitting fate for someone who had been cast out. But Raven Huer refused. Alestrovon as Meggidas's son and should be the one to absorb the fallen proto-deity's power."
The spell's expression darkened and its voice lowered. "The Shaper agreed to the change." It said. "But he spoke one more time before he joined with his other half in True Creation. "You have been foolish, Raven Huer." He said. "You have turned to propriety when you should have shown your own pride. You will regret this." Raven Huer was so overjoyed at the restoration of his dearest friend that he didn't even ponder his father's warning."
The spell shook its head. "A pity." It said.
The image of Sanctum faded away. Now, Raven Huer was standing with his two friends once more. They were in a magnificent throne room of white stone, similar to Alestrovon's fortress. But everything seemed…grander. The circular room seemed larger now. They were surrounded by enormous tapestries that portrayed their fights against Raven Huer's siblings; from their invasion of Hasmiya's proud city to the three of them striking down Meggidas. Alestrovon sat on a throne on dark metal, in contrast to the white stone all around him. Even he seemed…bigger. It wasn't just his armor or his presence. Alestrovon was a head taller than Raven Huer's human form when they first met. Now, he was a full head and shoulders taller.
"Through The Shaper and The Source's concourse, Alestrovon was restored and granted his father's power." The spell continued. Alteara noticed the lack of any sort of enthusiasm in the spell's narration, even though it should be a good thing that her master had succeeded. "The balance of power had shifted. Raven Huer's flight to Sanctum had all but broken him, leaving him much weaker. Alestrovon's assumption of his father's power and role elevated him from greater deity to proto-deity."
The spell smiled slightly. Its voice was melancholy when it spoke again. "Despite his grievous injury, Raven Huer believed that those days he enjoyed with his two friends were about to return. Without, Meggidas hounding him and Hasmiya thwarted, he could be at peace at last. And he was for a thousand years. But…"
The image shifted. They were still in Alestrovon's throne room but, now, only Alestrovon and Lizan were there. Lizan looked at Alestrovon in what appeared to be discomfort. The proto-deity was sitting back on his throne; his head rested against his right hand. He stared at Lizan intently as he talked. Whatever he was saying made Lizan shift defensively. When she answered, his eyes flared briefly but he remained calm afterwards.
"As the centuries went by, it became slowly clear that Alestrovon assumed more than his father's power." The spell continued. "This was the beginning of his change. Do you want to know what he and Lizan were talking about?"
Alteara nodded. It was certainly a strange scene between the two. There was no warmth between Alestrovon and Lizan unlike those scenes when they were together with her master.
"Alestrovon asked Lizan who she loved more between him and Raven Huer."
The spell answered Alteara's incredulous look with a shake of its head. "No." it answered Alteara's unasked question. "He didn't see her that way. But his pride dictated that she pick him anyway. Lizan's answer was Raven Huer. Even with her personality used as a basis for me, I can only make guesses as to why."
The spell stared at Alestrovon's image with both scorn and pity. "Perhaps she just wanted to spite him for asking such a ridiculous and worthless question. Perhaps she had more of an affinity towards Raven Huer, who was an abomination like her. Or, perhaps, she simply flipped a coin in her mind. No matter how she arrived upon it, the answer grated on Alestrovon for the centuries to come."
The spells expression saddened. "It may have been better if she had just satisfied his pride." It said. "Everything that followed afterward could have been avoided."
The scene shifted again. They were still in the throne room but, this time, Raven Huer was with them. Raven Huer was staring angrily at Alestrovon, who was still reclining on his throne. He was saying something. Alteara didn't hear a word but she saw the accusation in her master's expression.
"Centuries after that fateful question, Alestrovon slowly began to indulge his prideful tendencies." The spell said. "He had a hand in even minor mortal affairs. He demanded sacrifices from his creations as proof of their worship. He delighted in crusades launched in his name, especially if all sides involved worshipped him anyway; just in different ways. Raven Huer, for the sake of his dearest friend, tolerated all of these. But, when Alestrovon considered plans to invade the realities of other proto-deities, Raven Huer drew the line."
Alteara saw Alestrovon finally say something between her master's angry words. Raven Huer immediately stopped and stared at him incredulously.
"Alestrovon, his pride already swollen with his father's influence, called Raven Huer a rebel; an insubordinate ally!" The spell spat in a sudden rage. "As if there was even a moment when the three of them were not meant to be equals! That wretched Meggidas is dead but Alestrovon carried part of him in the end."
Alestrovon rose from his throne and drew himself to full height. He towered over both Raven Huer and Lizan Killranae. Raven stepped in between Alestrovon and Lizan, his face grim and troubled. His hands were clenched. Alteara noticed that they were trembling. Whether out of fear or anger, she didn't know. She guessed that it was likely both.
"Alestrovon challenged Raven Huer right then and there." The spell said. Its voice had calmed down from an outraged cry to a grim tone. "A fight between them to decide whose will should hold sway in their reality. Raven Huer refused to understand why they would have to do such a thing. He was the one who voluntarily gave up that power for his dearest friend; a friend whom he had broken his wings for! But Alestrovon did not accept any refusal. He insisted on meeting Raven Huer on that desolate former realm of his that had been ruined by the first murder of a proto-deity. A place where death is final."