Prince of Gods – Elise Kova, Lynn Larsh

If she had the ability to bleed, Destruction’s feet would have been scraped raw. The forest floor dipped under every brutal and frantic footfall, twigs and rocks slashing at her bare feet. There was no recognizable path and she was left to push through the trees and flora, feeling them scratch at her—knowing they would leave no mark. Even with the greenery acting as camouflage, the environment blurring past at a speed that should easily have separated her from her assailants, Destruction felt them. Encroaching. Fueled by an unnatural force that she knew all too well. Despite her relatively newfound autonomy as an independent entity in the universe, a twin sensation flowed through her veins. Destruction reached for the lowest hanging branch of a nearby tree. Using the momentum of her sprint, she swung herself upwards, ignoring the way the rough bark slid against her palms. It was a simple feat, tucking her legs beneath her and jumping from one branch to another, only settling once she’d covered a substantial distance from the ground. It was then, her back against the trunk of the tree and both legs hanging on either side of her chosen branch, that Destruction let herself relax for the first time since they’d begun chasing her hours ago. At least relaxing was what she wanted to do. A spike of magical energy rushed through the trees, causing the hairs on the back of her neck to stand. Destruction leapt to her feet and balanced on the branch with ease. That sickening mix of Chaos’ magic and the mortals’ essence was growing stronger.

They’d been following Destruction’s scent since her escape from Yorkton. She needed to keep running, perhaps scale the trees. Mortals couldn’t fly, as far as she knew, and if she kept high enough, their limited sight could prevent them from even— An arrow embedded itself into the trunk barely an inch from Destruction’s face. She turned, drawn to it by instinct, just in time to see the arrow evaporate in a puff of pink smoke. Before Destruction could inspect the projectile Chaos had no doubt touched, another arrow impaled her through the gut. Destruction was sent free-falling to the forest floor and taking more than one branch out with her on the way down. Pain. Her ribs shattered against a limb, the arrow freed of her stomach as another branch ripped through her. Destruction felt every wound, superficial and fatal, mend itself and shift back into place with sparks of magic and surges of adrenaline. The moment she hit the ground, nearly fifty feet below her, she was already bouncing back onto her feet and into a sprint.

Pain lingered, but her body relished in the destruction, singing despite near-death, with a power that no other entity could command. She stretched her magic around her, sent its tendrils out into the trees, sensing not two, but five mortals, all carrying the same heavy burden of Chaos’ influence. And all were right on her tail. The one with the arrow had caught her off guard; Chaos’ reach was now expanding to their weaponry. But she wouldn’t let it happen again. She wouldn’t give Chaos the chance to lure her back in. Determined, she dug in her heels, spinning in place. Until they died of exhaustion or from Chaos’ magic tearing them apart, the poor mortals would chase her to the ends of the world. The best she could do was offer them a swift, clean death. Yet while that mercy also carried the fringe benefit of ending this foolhardy chase, Destruction’s motivation waned the moment her assailants burst through the branches.

Her stomach churned as a human child emerged. A boy, with eyes sunken and black and his skin turned ashen. There was no telling when Chaos had gotten her hands on him, but he was more like a mortal shell left to do Chaos’s bidding than anything resembling a human. “You can’t escape what you are. What we are!” the boy cooed, a familiar sound more painful than the gaping wound in her middle trying to mend itself. “Why do you run from me, darling?” an old man said as he emerged from the branches to stand by the child. Black veins crawled up his arms and neck. His voice was raspy, though the inflection caused Destruction to shudder as if nails were running down her spine. She knew its true speaker. When Destruction laid her eyes on these mortals—from the ashen boy to the walking corpse that was the archer who was the last to emerge and face off against her—she did not see humanity.

Destruction saw the magic of her other half. No, it ran deeper than that. Dripping from their blackened eyes was the echo of a familiar force that she, too, had once possessed—what now felt like long ago, when she was still one with Chaos as the ancient goddess Oblivion. Destruction’s memories were hazy of her time as Oblivion (being torn asunder into two demigods would do that) but she recognized that raw power. “Join with me again,” the woman hissed with words that were not her own. For the briefest of moments, with a visceral, involuntary pang, Destruction thought of giving in. Cease this endless fight for control, for autonomy, and rejoin as one. Yet, something wouldn’t let her. A voice all her own screamed in objection and those screams were tearing her apart. “No, I won’t.

I won’t!” Destruction collapsed in on herself, gripping her dark hair with both hands. Her bare feet dug into the forest floor, her magic crackling down her legs and into the earth. The ground shattered like glass and rose to hover mid-air before imploding with sparks of raw energy. Destruction felt more than saw the shockwaves extending from her and toward each mortal, obliterating tree and rock alike. Sinkholes as black as cosmos opened in the fissures around them and swallowed them whole. She had never forced her magic into existence in such a way, but she couldn’t deny how natural, how intoxicating, it felt. She was quickly sobered, however, in watching the child’s final agonizing moments before he too blinked out of existence. Then, the forest was quiet for the first time in what must have been hours. Days, possibly. Mortal time was such a slippery thing.

The mortal races seemed to live a whole life in the span of a divine breath. Her first steps were shaky, her feet digging deeper into the cracked and softened earth for purchase, but she was soon running again. She ran until she no longer heard the animals deep within the forest panicking at the attack. She ran until the essence of tainted humans began to fade. She ran until every trace of Chaos had begun to dissipate out of her system, leaving her truly alone once more. She ran until she could barely breathe, her feet stumbling into a clearing that stretched in a wide arc around her. Destruction collapsed onto her back at the center of the glade, amidst the tall grasses, and let the sense of solitude wash over her. Solitude, and the still ever-present adrenaline from such a catastrophic release of her magic. The forest clearing stretched around Destruction like a cocoon of its own world—a horizon of trees encircling a field of dewy grass, expansive sky looming dark and flecked with stars above. If she closed her eyes, she could pretend it was a haven from Chaos’ mortal slaves.

But the gods, too, were still undoubtedly on the hunt for her scent. It seemed as if the whole world were out to track her down. Yet, as beautiful as false safety could be, closing her eyes made that whirlwind of energy in her chest, the euphoria of power, the lack of direction with which to utilize it, grow more pronounced, hyper focused. So, her eyes stayed pinned on the sky instead. Or, more specifically, on each bright, pinpoint of light. Slowly, and with a heaviness brought on more by distraction than everything else, Destruction raised a hand from the grass, feeling the moisture soaked into her back and hair drip in beads down her arm. It had been so easy to rip the forest apart, to drag the mortals into its fray. It made her wonder. In anticipation, that whirlwind inside her, that rumbling, buzzing, electrified need, began to thrum impatiently. And, as she carefully held one of those distant lights between her thumb and middle finger, that thrum grew loud, ready to burst, to destroy.

Just like before. Just like she was meant to. A single pinch, a snap that echoed from dewy glade to the universe beyond—and the star was no more. Although brief, Destruction soaked in the sensation, eyes fluttering closed at the relief that filled her veins. While the naked eye saw no more than a sparkle of light flickering out Destruction felt tremendous power, absorbing the death and devastation of billions upon billions of energies—of an entire world. It settled into her very being, a calm to the storm within her. Destroying the forest, and Chaos’ lackeys with it, had barely given her a fraction of this sensation. But even still, even before it had had a chance to settle, the whirlwind picked up speed again, a demand blowing fierce and deep that she had never needed to satisfy. And therein lay the real issue, didn’t it? After being torn away from Chaos, after being forced into her own life (and fleeing from the gods so that she might truly feel what it meant to be alive), her understanding of purpose had wavered and shifted. Now, as she plucked another star from the sky in attempts to fill that void, Destruction felt that understanding fade all but completely.

It had been easier as Oblivion, a natural existence that was older than time itself, and a part of her longed for that simplicity like she longed for the bursts of relief she gained from every stolen star. And yet . Now that she had a taste of her own sentience, now that she knew what it felt like to be truly alive, she was torn. Being Oblivion had been easier. But being Destruction was more. Like finally waking from an unknown slumber to lay eyes on the real world for the first time. Now where to go and what to do next? After pinching another star into nothingness, Destruction let her arm fall back to her side. She knew it would be unwise to stay in this glade much longer. Other poor villagers Chaos had corrupted were probably hot on her trail. And, if not them, then the next pawn of the pantheon.

But while her mind knew to run was the most logical course of action, her body remained still, her eyes lazily trailing the remaining stars. No longer one half of a whole, she felt her own heartbeat thrumming beneath her breastbone, her own lungs filling with air. Her own magic, that brutal need to destroy, coursing beneath her skin and crackling alongside her nerves. She was Destruction now, regardless of Chaos’ plea and Oblivion’s pull. Nothing would make her relinquish her autonomy . even if Destruction still had to figure out what being truly autonomous meant. H T E N e did not remember the nothingness that came before him, though he understood it. He understood it as well as he did the table under him or the world that stretched out around him. Every flora and fauna, man and beast, each were already known to him, as though they had been waiting all their lives to offer up their secrets. Yet, for all he knew of them, they knew nothing of him .

yet. His eyes opened slowly, and the ethereal form of an elder god greeted him. “Greetings, Creation. I am Light.” Light . The man was much like his namesake. He was more of a sun ray condensed into the shape of a man, not unlike Creation’s own. However, where Light’s form was brilliantly shining and seemingly not quite solid, Creation’s shape was fleshy, soft, and completely bare to the world. “You were created for a purpose.” “What purpose was I made for?” Creation explored the rumbling sound of his own voice.

“From the darkness, I have carved a place in the universe for you. Carver has fashioned you a form of wood and clay to occupy, and Life has lent you a portion of her power. All of this combined has made you, Creation: one with the power to build and shape from where there is none.” “So, my purpose is to make?” His eyes drifted, now exploring his surroundings He was in a large, vaulted, marble hall, situated on a table in the center as though he were some sort of offering. To Light’s left was a woman—a child, more like—with bright eyes and a wide smile. She must be Life. To Creation’s left was a man with fiery hair and tan skin, burn marks and scars dotted across his flesh from what was no doubt building projects gone wrong—Carver. “That is your ability, to bind the universe together, to bring life in union with the objects around it to make anew. But your purpose is to be a companion for Destruction.” Just the name Destruction set his hairs on end.

Like everything else, there was a deep knowing of this woman—a demigod, like him. But unlike the knowledge Creation had awoken with, she remained a sort of gap. It was as if there were a space in all his knowing, one that took the shape of something that Creation knew to be her. From this gap, he could understand her and the role she occupied, but the details were missing. Details he now desperately needed. “A . companion . ” Creation repeated, feeling the word echo in him with profound rightness. “Don’t let Light make you nervous.” Life tutted as she reached over, pulling Creation upright with a tug on his hand.

The girl-like goddess was much stronger than her form let on. “It sounds grave and scary, but we promise you it’s not. She’s a little lost is all, and once she has you, she will no longer be so lost. You’ll be just the thing to get her on the right path.” “Even better, your magic has been shaped to temper hers,” Carver added. “Why would hers need tempering?” Creation asked. As the words left his mouth, he somehow already had an inkling of the answer. Carver and Life shared a look, but it was Light who answered. “Because if she continues on the path she is on, it will lead to either a final end for her . or our world.

” Creation nodded. There was something connected to the outline of Destruction in his understanding. It was a tenuous thread, pulling her back toward a danger that was utterly foreign and downright alarming. Something he wanted to stop her from reaching. “Now, let’s see to you sorting yourself out with some clothes.” Life continued her mission to get him off the table. She gave a little hop when he stood on his own for the first time. “Clothing himself may be a good opportunity to practice his own power,” Carver suggested. “I shall leave you to this task, my son.” Light laid a hand on his shoulder.

Somewhere in the shifting rays, Creation could almost make out an approving gaze. “You shall be a worthy addition to our pantheon.” “Thank you.” Creation nodded, and Light winked out of existence. Startled, Creation stumbled back “He does that.” Carver was the first to speak, laughter in his voice. “He’s the oldest among us.” Creation smiled at the god. Without being able to describe how, he knew that Light was one of the oldest, right alongside Life, who now stood before him. “Sorry, I’m not used to new demigods.

It’s not too common one of us gets split or we make someone new.” Carver forced a laugh. “Anyway, why don’t you attempt to fashion yourself some clothing. Whatever you prefer.” Creation looked down at his nude form and then back to the other two. Life wore a floor-length dress under a long shawl, wrapped many times around her shoulders, covering her head, but not her face. Carver wore significantly less: a wrapped skirt that extended to his knees and a wide necklace of wooden tiles that rested over his shoulders and swooped across his chest. Holding his hand before him, Creation felt his own magic swell. It was part Life, part Carver, and part Light, the three morphing into something entirely new. With a wave of his arm, threads of magic wrapped themselves around his body.

They clung to his form, like small tendrils of light, and wove to make a shimmering golden tunic, tightening into a belt at the waist, with a cape resting overtop. Life clapped her hands happily. “It suits you.” Creation didn’t know if she was speaking about the garb, or his magic, so he said a simple, “Thank you.” “Well, well, it’s time to be off with you, I believe.” Life ushered him out of the room and into another massive hall. Light was seated at the far end—nearly a world away from where they stood—on a throne awash with the sunbeams streaming through an open window behind him. The ceiling of the great hall of the gods was so tall that the columns supporting it disappeared into the clouds, emerging again among the stars higher up, and stretching beyond into the night’s blackness. On the opposite side of the room, a balcony stretching outward into thin air. Here was the ether of their divinity, where the gods could descend to the world of mortals.

Without a thought, Creation headed directly for it. At some point, he must have said his goodbyes to Life and Carver, for they were gone, and he was alone when a voice stopped him. “You must be the new one.” A woman with wild black curls leaned against one of the pillars near the balcony. Her hair was barely contained by a thin gold band across her brow. Her tunic was a slip of a thing, ending mid-thigh and bunching around the thick band of a quiver she wore at her back. A wolf slept curled at her feet. “You must be Hunt.” The woman nodded. “Good luck with actually completing that task of yours; she’s willful.

Even more so than her counterpart, in some ways.” Creation merely nodded. This was what he was made to do: seek Destruction, be with her. The notion that such a thing could not come to pass was a foreign concept. “Don’t take it too hard if you fail, however,” Hunt continued. The wolf stood, shaking out its haze of sleep. Hunt soon followed, pushing off the column. “If that happens, know I’m working on my own plan just in case.” “I won’t fail,” Creation said after the goddess. She paused, turned, and gave a sly little grin.

“Men. Always so sure of themselves. Let me give you some free advice: meet the woman and get to know her before you lay claim to her. Last I heard, she was spotted in a scuffle in the northeast most forests of Aristonia.” Creation watched Hunt depart, not bothering to stop her. Why would he not be sure of himself? He was made for this. Surely, Destruction would be of the same mind. They were destined for each other.

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