Outside of the Veil, in the hollow places beyond the edge of mortal awareness, he waited patiently for the ancient ward to collapse. His form a seething shadow, formless, shapeless, he waited. Looking on with eagerness, he waited while Lahk’s actions destroyed more and more of the precious order that preserved this tiny realm, that shielded it from his touch. He was counting on those actions… he had provoked them, as he had his father’s before him. The Veil was a durable ward, its collapse would not come quickly. The gods had done their work too well for that.
He could wait.
The shimmering wall of smoke and mist, glowing with the reflected light of the tortured, untamed sky, shifted restlessly before his form. It grew weaker and stronger in turn, at random, in intervals… ebbing and surging like the tide of a vast ocean. Occasionally, tiny entrances opened up. When they did, something was commonly near enough to enter… predators all, they sensed the weakening of their prey’s defenses.
Predators like him… yet nothing like him at all.
The shadow did not attempt to squeeze his form through any of these tiny, short lived entrances. Not one of them would be big enough to contain his power, not a thousand such openings would be big enough. No, instead a tiny tendril of darkness lashed through the opening… and held it open, creating a permanent, tiny hole that weakened the Veil for as long as it existed. It kept the mist from flowing back into a flawless curtain of rolling vapor, and it allowed more and more monsters into the protected lands, further eroding order’s grip on the kingdom of Silas.
And the more that order was destroyed, the closer the ward came to oblivion. And the shadow was patient. He would wait.
A tiny gnat of a form stood outside of the Veil, looking up at the shifting mass of shadow. The god Xiri, the Lord of Change, as tiny as an ant before him, and as powerless. Xiri had been great once, great like him. Now the shadow could hardly stand to look at him, so hideous was the fallen being before him. How he hated Xiri now, despised him for allowing himself to become so weak, so soft; loathed him, the greatest of his kind, for abandoning them and becoming something so much smaller, so much less significant.
He was speaking to him. “Hello, old friend.”
Old friend. Old. Friend. The words had no meaning to the shadow. What was old to a timeless being? What was a friend to a force of nature? The shadow tried to view the words as a mortal would, as the pitifully limited god before him would see them, but he could not understand them even as he divined their meaning.
“Hello…” he said back, the voice a rumbling echo of a thousand screams of torn metal. The air between the shadow’s bulk and the radiant god seemed to boil with the power in those words, the promise of death and destruction.
If Xiri noted the threat in the sound, and how could he not realize that death had come for him, he gave no sign. “Is this destruction your making?” he asked, gesturing back toward the other side of the thick fog of the Veil. “I thought it looked like your work… but I confess myself curious. Why?”
“Why?” the shadow echoed, the sound coming like a thousand whispers of a thousand dying breaths. “WHY!” he roared in a chorus of screams that shook the ground, the anguished cries of orphaned children. “Your ABOMINATION must be torn down! It is an affront that can no longer be borne by Chaos!”
“You will not succeed.” Xiri calmly stood his ground against the unnatural fury, the rage of the shadow that turned the air into a scything maelstrom of razors and the ground into a splintered mass of killing needles. The amorphous god stood unconcerned, even as the shadow began to close dark tendrils around him, slithering in slow arcs around him and growing closer to him with each rotation.
“And who will stop me?” the shadow asked, the sound of his mirth as terrible as the cacophony his wrath had formed. “You?”
The shadow could crush him like an ant, but he wanted him to watch. Xiri had been the greatest of them, and he had abandoned his power, his excellence, and the former paragon had left it behind like worthless rubble. Worthless rubble was now what the shadow meant to make of the tiny god’s life work… he would shatter the Veil that Xiri had labored so long to build and maintain, and cover Silas in anarchy. The paltry struggles of the mortals inside were nothing to him, their joys and sorrows as meaningless as dust in a storm.
But destroying the ward that Xiri had, is his supreme arrogance, created thousands of years ago? That had meaning.
Soon, it would be time. Soon, Lahk’s insanity would erode the final remnants of the kingdom’s power and plunge the land back into primordial chaos… and then the Veil would crumble beneath the shadow’s bulk, removed until it was hardly a memory any longer. It was not time yet, but it would be soon…
He was tireless. He was the empty silence between heart beats, the silence of mourning and the hollow space in the soul left behind by loss. He was the hungry void that waited patiently for the stars to grow cold and die.
He could wait…
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