Gill stood before the mouth of a cave. It was easy to tell it was the place Laurite had spoke of. Even before stepping into the cavern he could feel the strong magic flowing out. It made Gill hesitate, unsure if he should enter. All he could remember was the look Laurite had when he asked about Alhama’at. It had been a look of sadness and grief. Just what was Gill about to learn? Finally he took a deep, shaky breath, and walked inside.
The interior was beautiful. The walls were wide and spacious and decorated with emerald green moss. The greenery seemed to glow in the darkness, emitting a soft light and illuminating the path forward. Despite being underground the air was cool and crisp, making it easy to breathe. Eventually he reached what he assumed was the place of meditation. He found himself staring in awe. A pool of crystal clear water shimmered in the center. The natural light reflected off the surface and danced on the stone walls. High above was a stalactite pointing towards the center of the water. From its tip fell a droplet at a steady pace, causing gentle ripples on the pool’s surface. It was an impossibly calming scene.
Gill took a seat on the smooth slab of stone located by the water’s edge. He crossed his legs and brought his hands together on his lap. “Well,” he sighed, “better get started.” He spoke softly, but still his voice echoed. He closed his eyes and slowed his breathing, timing it to the dripping of the water.
When he opened them again he was immediately disoriented. Gill found himself in a white space with no ground or walls to be seen. His body felt weightless and floated in the void. “Gah!” He lost his balance and waved his arms in order to stay upright. When he steadied himself his eyes wandered, looking for anything of substance.
“So you finally have the ability to commune,” a voice boomed, “as to be expected from one fit to be my vessel.”
Gill gasped in surprise and looked around frantically for the source of the voice. His heart raced, pounding against his chest. The voice sounded eerily like his own, only deeper and cold. As hard as he looked, he couldn’t see anything, “W-where are you? Show yourself!”
“I’m behind you, boy.”
He froze, suddenly sensing a presence. A large and powerful presence. Slowly he turned his head until his eyes fell upon the large figure behind him. The one who spoke was tall, even with his body hunched forward. A black cloak draped over his form, further enlarging his figure. He wore a pointed hood, but it failed to fully cover his face. It looked impossibly old; the skin was grey and wrinkled with age. Despite it all, Gill could recognize his eyes. They were the same eyes Gill saw whenever he saw his reflection. The same narrow, red eyes, only the ones he was looking into were as empty as the void they floated in.
Gill swallowed nervously, “Alhama’at…”
The figure grinned, the action sending a violent chill down Gill’s spine, “Yes, that’s right. I am Alhama’at. I’m sure you understand now, that you and I are one in the same.”
“No!” Gill shouted back, his voice shaking in fear, “I’m not you! You and I...we’re different…” His voice went soft and cracked as Alhama’at’s expression changed into a mocking sneer. He had changed, his fate had altered and he was no longer on the path to ruin. Reiya had even said so...Right?
“Defying your destiny, are you? How valiant. Tell me, boy. What makes you think you and I are different?”
“I…” Gill tried, but found he couldn’t answer. How could he, when he didn’t even know the cause of all this. He clenched his fists as he tried to sturdy his voice, “Why did you try and destroy the world? Tell me, and then I’ll answer!”
Alhama’at grinned, “Your confidence, I find it amusing. You truly believe you can change your fate, yet you know nothing of what your fate is. Fine,” He rose a long, boney finger and pointed it towards Gill, “I will show you what you want to know. Then, we shall see how strong your resolve truly is.”
Gill was suddenly hit by a gust of hot air. It was powerful and sickly warm, causing him to instinctively bring up his arms and protect his face. He screwed his eyes shut as a wave of nausea washed over him. It felt like he was trapped in a whirlwind of magic. He stood his ground and kept his feet firm as the winds eventually subsided. His breath was heavy and he was hesitant to peek out.
After a moment he realised his feet were on solid ground and he could feel gravity holding him in place. A gentle breeze wafted through his clothes and carried the sent of the forest. Birds chirped overhead and he could just barely hear the sound of a river in the distance. His curiosity got the better of him as he slowly lowered his arms and opened his eyes. Gill found himself surrounded by a lush forest. Vibrant green leaves danced in the wind above him while wildflowers covered the ground in multiple colours.
“Recognize it?” Alhama’at’s voice echoed in his mind, causing him to jump in surprise.
“Ah! W-what is this? Where are we?” Gill asked.
“That is for you to remember.” He answered flatly.
Gill frowned and looked around more closely. How could any of this look familiar? It looked like any generic forest he had ever… No, that wasn’t true. The hollow tree to his right felt eerily familiar, as did that particular patch of blue flowers to the left.
“Gill, wait up!” A young voice called out.
He quickly turned around while nearly tripping over his own feet. Only a little ways away he could see two children running through the bushes. They both had white hair and the same red eyes, only one was taller than the other. The bigger of the two moved with confidence and laugh aloud as the smaller one timidly followed while wearing a shy smile.
“Lapis…” Gill breathed the named before his mind could even register it. Yes, Lapis, he remembered. He remembered the name of his little brother…
“Be careful you two, don’t hurt yourselves!” A woman called out from nearby. Gill looked to the source to see a man and woman watching the children from the porch of a house. He frowned; how did he miss that? Again he looked around to see that his body had moved when he had looked over.
The man chuckled, “You worry too much, Abigale. They play out there all the time.”
Abigale smiled and playfully slapped his arm, “And you worry too little, Lief.”
Gill watched the two as they gazed out lovingly at the boys, his mouth open slightly as his eyes stung with tears, “Mom… dad…”
“So you remember now. Our family.” The voice spoke again, but Gill didn’t answer. His chest swelled with emotion as memories of his family creeped into his mind. Memories of playing with his little brother, watching his mother’s magic with the leaf creatures, being taught about the forest animals from his father… Everything slowly started to return. How could he ever forget them?
“Yes, however could we have forgotten,” Alhama’at echoed his thoughts. The scene shifted and moved around Gill, snapping him from his thoughts and bringing him into a panic. “I will show you, why we forgot.”
Everything whirled around him as the environment frantically changed. The green was quickly replaced by the red of fire and the chirping of birds changed into shouting. Gill caught a quick glimpse of his father’s panicked eyes before the world changed again. He could hear the sound of combat before his vision became blurry with motion. It was only then he realised he was running, but not of his own volition. His body moved on its own as he clued in that he was looking out of the eyes of his younger self.
“Our mother was a powerful healer,” Alhama’at began, “she was kind, but that kindness was her downfall. She healed anyone that seeked her aid. That resulted in the greedy learning of her power.”
A hand gripped his shoulder and spun him around. His widened eyes met his mother’s. Her gaze flicked frantically between Gill and Lapis. She brought her hands up to the back of her neck as she spoke breathlessly, “I want to you two to take my pendant. It’s been passed down through our family for so long...it’s time you both inherit it.” She unclipped the necklace with shaky hands and laced it around Gill’s neck, “They’re after me and my power. If I stay, then maybe…” her voice shook as tears streamed down her cheeks, “then maybe they won’t chase the two of you.” The chained clipped into place with the pendant resting on Gill’s chest. Abigale placed a sturdy hand on her sons’ shoulders and looked them in the eyes, “I want you two to run. Run and never look back. Take care of each other.” She drew in a shaky breath as she looked to Gill, “You have my gift, Gill, use it wisely,” He found himself nodding, and she shifted to Lapis, “And my precious Lapis, look out for your brother. Keep him on track, and stay strong.” Lapis’ lip trembled and he nodded.
Abigale wrapped her arms around them and pulled the two into a hug, “I love you both, so much.” She didn’t say another word, perhaps too afraid of being unable to let go. She stumbled as she rose up, turning on her heels and darting off.
“Mom!” Lapis cried out, attempting to give chase before Gill grabbed him and held him back.
“No Lapis, we have to run!” Gill pulled his brother away, crying as he spoke, “Mom said he have to go!”
Eventually Lapis gave in, and the two ran.
“She was wrong. The thieves were after her power, but they had misunderstood its source. Only Lapis realised the truth.”
Gill felt a tug on his sleeve as Lapis stopped running. They were both out of breath, but Gill was high on adrenaline, “Lapis, what are you doing? We have to keep going!”
Lapis looked down with tense shoulders, “Gill, I...I’m sorry.” Before he could react, Lapis brought down a rock gripped in his hand, and Gill’s world went black.
Gill awoke in a panic, his chest heaving and fighting for air. Where was he? His body shifted and sat up without his control and it was then remembered the dreamlike state he was in. He brought a hand up to his head and felt the warm stickiness of blood. Gill slowly rose to his feet, stumbling as he moved. There were small footprints going back to where he and Lapis had come.
“Where… where’s Lapis?...” Gill asked within his mind, his thoughts separate from his younger self.
There was no response from Alhama’at. The child continued forward while picking up his pace, his heart beating loudly in his chest.
“Where’s Lapis?” Again he asked, his voice growing more frantic.
Still the voice remained silent. Gill began to run as he realised everything was for too quiet. “Lapis?” The boy shouted as he ran, “Lapis where are you?”
“Alhama’at where is he?!” Gill demanded, his voice cracking with emotion. He knew the answer, his memories were returning even without witnessing it himself. He knew what his child form was going to see, yet he still questioned the one inside his head.
His body stopped running and his breath caught in his throat. Gill’s legs shook as he took shaky step after shaky step. He walked toward the two bodies in the clearing; the bodies of his mother protecting Lapis, both lifeless and covered in blood. He reached their forms and his legs buckled beneath him. His knees hit the dirt hard and his body lurched forward as he cried and screamed their names.
Gill realised he was watching from the outside in his own body again. Watching his younger self’s body convulse and shake as he howled on the corpses. His chest hurt as he tried to breath, but all he could manage was choked sobs, “Why… why did this…”
“The people of this world are tainted by greed. They hear of a power they do not have and are easily consumed by the desire to obtain it for themselves.” Alhama’at answered coldly. Gill could hear the venomous hatred in his voice, and at this point he couldn’t blame him.
“What… happened next?” Gill asked quietly.
Again the world shifted and changed. Gill instantly recognized where they now were. He recognized the books and interior of Laurite’s hermitage.
“Laruite,” Alhama’at spat the name, “found you, took you, and raised you.”
“He taught me my magic…” Gill breathed, watching the scene unfold. Around him replayed the memories he already had. Laurite helping him recover from his ‘mysterious’ wounds, teaching him magic, and raising him like his own. They were fond memories. At least, that’s how Gill remembered them. Watching them unfold now, knowing these belonged to Alhama’at, something felt wrong. He could feel an underlying rage and hatred behind these memories. The scenes ended with Gill talking to Laurite. He remembered that moment clearly; it was when he was going to ask of his past, but Laurite advised he go on a journey instead.
Gill watched his younger self pack and leave, venturing out into the world. He watched himself explore the forests, remembering spending much of his early journey with Ciel.
“And then, the dark castle came.” Gill murmured under his breath.
“No, there was no castle. Not originally.”
The memories that continued were now different than he remembered. Gill grew older, bit by bit, wandering through the land as he did. He traveled through towns and cities, meeting and greeting various people. He visited landmarks and libraries, studying the culture and history. He spoke with residents, inquiring about various topics, but never making friends with any of them. The entire time, he travelled alone.
Eventually Gill found an underground library and spent much of his time studying its contents. It was there he discovered the eternal tower, the place Gill had been shown in his dreams.
Gill left to the tower out of curiosity. There he was met with the same two priestesses guarding the same large stone, and was offered the same deal by Viola; to form a contract allowing him to obtain the power, but only if he used it for the greater good.
“Unlike you, I had no reason to accept such an offer.” Gill refused Viola, not wanting to take the risk out of simple curiosity. He left the tower empty handed, but satisfied. When Gill had left the tower after accepting, he had rushed off to the fasted route to meet with Taegrus for the battle. This Gill was in no hurry and took his time walking through the forests. He seemed to be led by a mysterious force, and as Gill watched he felt a sense of familiarity.
“Wait, this is-”
“The forest where we grew up. The place we last saw our family.”
Gill eventually came across a clearing marked with a grave. On the cross hung a pendant glimmering in the sunlight. He walked over, curious about the strange magical pulled he felt from the stone. He crouched on front of it and brushed his fingers on its surface.
Once again the world shifted, but this time Gill knew the other was witnessing the same change. It was flashes from his childhood, everything that Gill had already witnessed and remembered, only from another perspective. He watched his father be stabbed by an enraged dragonoid and his mother begging and pleading for the thieves to leave Lapis alone before they, too, were slaughtered.
Gill watched in numb horror as the events were recounted before him. The destruction of his home. The death of his family. The only difference now was seeing the faces of the killers. There were humans, pandas, dragonoids, even elves. All of them faceless thieves…
“No…” Panic began to set in once more. Gill shook his head at the sight before him, “No no no, that’s not possible!”
“So you see him,” Alhama’at stated flatly, “you recognize his face. The one that led this group of killers and thieves.”
“No! There’s… it’s a mistake… It has to be... ” Gill choked back tears as he looked at the very familiar Laurite within the memory. He held a solemn face as he looked down on young Gill’s form. The boy had cried himself to sleep atop his mother and brother’s bodies. Laurite, likely out of guilt, took the time to bury them with a grave marker. He then cast a spell on Gill, one to make him forget his past. He wanted to say what he saw was a lie, but a feeling in his gut told him what he saw was nothing but the truth; and his feelings were rarely wrong.
“Laurite hadn’t intended for the raid to grow violent, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t guilty of his crimes.” Alhama’at’s voice grew with rage as he continued to speak, “He brought those criminals to our home. He failed to control them and their lust for power and death. He covered his own mistakes by taking away what was precious to us!”
The scene faded away, returning to Gill and the pendant. The necklace was gripped in his trembling hand. After a moment, the tension eased from his body and his hand grew still. The mood shifted and grew heavy as Gill silently rose to his feet. Slowly he turned his head, his gaze looking back to the direction of the tower. Gill’s heart dropped when he looked into his eyes; they were glossy with tears yet burned with anger.
Immediately they returned to the tower. Gill walked towards the priestesses who were surprised to see him return. He walked to Viola, telling her he changed his mind, but wished to offer an alternative.
“I’ll accept this power, but on one condition,” he whispered seductively, his face close to hers with his hand brushing her cheek, “if you allow me to change the contract slightly, I’ll take you with me, freeing you from your fate.” Viola eagerly accepted.
“I swear I will never use this power for anything that Viola deems malicious.”
Gill felt sick, watching himself manipulate the woman. In an instant Gill had completely shifted in character. He could see the cruelty in his eyes as well as his lust for revenge. This Gill was alone in the world. Alone with the knowledge that the one who raised him was responsible for the slaughter of his family and loss of his memory. He had learned of this while great power was within his finger tips.
“When did you plan on telling me, Laruite?”
Everything had changed again without Gill realising. They were back at Laurite’s hermitage with Gill confronting his foster father. Gill tensed, unable to move as he watched the scene unfold.
“I was going to tell you, when you returned.” Laurite began, his voice wavering and unsteady, “I had wanted you to form bonds, to feel the kindness of others, before learning the truth. Then, maybe-”
“Then what? You thought something like friendship and being nice could change what happened?” Gill spat angrily, “You lied to me! My whole damn life has been nothing but a lie!” He laughed cruelly, “Why did you raise me anyway? Did you actually feel guilty? Or maybe you just wanted the power so bad you raised me because your plan already killed my mother!”
“That’s not it, not at all,” Laurite interrupted desperately, “I raised you, I did what I did, to give you another chance to live-”
“It was you who took my first chance at life away in the first place! It was you who took everything from me!” Gill screamed with rage, but even still Laurite remained calm, accepting Gill’s hatred. When he received no response, Gill calmed and looked over his shoulder, “Viola. Would you consider it malicious, if I killed this man?”
Gill hadn’t realised that Viola was in the room standing by the door. Despite what was happening she was completely relaxed. She looked to Gill, infatuated, and slowly shook her head, “No, my lord, I don’t deem that decision to be evil.”
“I’m glad you agree, Viola.” Gill turned back while forming his magic. His eyes narrowed as he looked to Laurite, “Any last words?”
Laurite sighed and closed his eyes, speaking gently, “I’m sorry, Gill.”
“No!” Gill cried out as his alternate self attacked the man that raised him.
“The man that took away our life and lied to hide it all out of fear of the consequences.” Alhama’at corrected.
Gill flinched. He wasn’t wrong. While the events unfolding before him were different, the past was still the same. Gill’s fate had changed by this point, but even in his own time, Laurite was still responsible. Gill’s family still wrongfully died at the choices of that man.
“This was only the beginning.” The room faded like smoke and dissipated into a dark fog. Within the mist formed visions of memories, each showing different scenes through Alhama’at’s past, “I took revenge on all those that were guilty. As I did so I learned to hate this world. A world filled with greed and lies. I recruited others that agreed and convinced Laurite’s seven disciples to join me as well.” Each scene showed nothing but death, slaughter, and manipulation with each one more tragic than the last. “Eventually three heroes rose to oppose us, but even they fell to our power.” The heroes were Taegrus, Kirik, and Shaela. He watched them venture to where Gill had set up his base. His breath caught in his throat as he watched them die one by one. “We gathered all the taboos over time, gaining the collective power of a god. With this power we created Altea, a floating nation consisting only of those that were against the world; a safe heaven as we destroyed what remained.” Fire, blood, fear, death; that was all Gill could see. He felt sick to his stomach, watching someone that looked like him commit such heinous acts.
Finally the visions calmed as most of the world was reduced to fire and rubble. Hardly anything seemed to remain and there was no movement among the carnage. Again it changed, shifting to the dull interior of Altea.
“With such ultimate power,” Alhama’at continued, “it may have been possible to do the impossible. Bring the dead back to life.”
Gill gasped. On a table laid the body of what looked like Lapis. He looked a bit older than he remembered, but it was certainly his younger brother.
“A body is simple sorcery, but a soul…” he paused, “is far more difficult. I admit, it was a foolish act, one I still regret. Whether the body was too powerful, or if his soul simply was too far gone, Lapis was not the one that inhabited that body. He was implanted with specific memories in hopes to avoid any problems, but while I was away, the soul within him awoke.” The boy Gill saw was surrounded by a dark magic, his eyes glowing a malicious red matched by a twisted grin. “Ragnarok awoke, believing to be our son. He had an unconscious desire to find his original body. As a result he took those who were willing to leave with him, and flung Altea and the rest of us forward in time to escape.”
With a flash of light Gill’s body lurched forward and returned to the white void. Once again he was left floating in nothingness, panting and gasping for breath. Vague memories continued forming, but the intense visions had ceased. Gill found himself hunched over, hugging his chest as he tried to even out his breathing and stop himself from being sick.
Alhama’at loomed over Gill’s shivering form, his voice loud and commanding, “Abandon everything and loath this world as I have. If you don’t, you will never be able to defeat the witch. Now choose,” Alhama’at extended his hand, “obey, or die.”
Puffs of mist formed, surrounding Gill. Emerging from them were followers from Alhama’at’s memories, each one having accepted his offer in his past. They drew their weapons, prepared to engage at his word should Gill refuse.
“You loved your family… didn’t you…” Gill started softly whilst still looking down, “I… I know now that I did too. Everything you did, it was for them. When you lost them, you lost your only family…” Gill’s breathing calmed and his voice grew steady and confident, “But unlike you, even with the knowledge I gained, I’m not alone.” Taegrus, Kirik, Shaela...Reiya, their faces formed in his mind, “I have friends, people I love, that would be sad to see me go.” The world around them began to shake and distort as Gill looked Alhama’at dead in the eyes, his own burning with fierce resolve, “So for that reason,” The void cracked as he shouted, “I won’t falter here!” and the world shattered like a mirror.