This is the rest of the story. Click here for the beginning
The fact he worshipped Balaneth and had access to much of the knowledge that had been recovered down the centuries gave the sorcerer somewhere to start. He’d long had a habit of exploring the troves of knowledge so his new research wasn’t that unusual. Because he’d occasionally discovered something which had been missed before, Balaneth was happy to let him carry on.
Even the mighty hoards of knowledge were far from enough. The sorcerer patiently spent days, months, years, seeking any other locations, artefacts, or writings which might provide inspiration. Rarely, very rarely, he’d find something which showed enough similarity to the chamber’s writing that he could decipher one or two more symbols. At most that allowed him to fully decipher a few new words each time.
It was a mighty task, made far harder by having to keep it hidden from Balaneth’s attention, but the sorcerer was determined to the point of obsession.
It took ten years of studying for the Sorcerer to get a feel for what the symbols said, but it was still a further two before he was finally confident he understood the message.
He still didn’t know what every single symbol meant, but that didn’t matter. The gist was there. He could read enough to fully understand the meaning… and that meaning was mind blowing.
* * *
Everyone knew that the gods were eternal, that they had existed forever and would continue forever more. It was an innate truth which no one ever thought to question.
It was a lie. According to the chamber’s carvings, at least. The inscription spoke of the gods origins as nothing more than mortals, albeit powerful ones. Mortals who had started out with no more power than the Sorcerer himself.
As the tale continued it told how those individuals practised, studied, and fought each other. The survivors gained more and more power, and as they did so they started to separate themselves from the mortals they had once been.
They gained worshippers as they grew in strength, and they turned those worshippers to their own needs. Fights were no longer settled just between two or more of the proto-gods. Now each would throw the mortals who worshipped them into the battles too.
The gods, as they were starting to call themselves by then, were rigorous in tackling any mortals with powers those the gods had started with. Mortals that might grow stronger, even strong enough to challenge the gods one day.
At first the solution was to simply kill them, but over time the cleverest of the gods harnessed the powers of those mortals, turning them into their champions… and keeping them close so they could be eliminated quickly if their talents and knowledge progressed too far.
In the beginning, as they were just transitioning from mortal to immortal, there were several thousand proto-gods. Those numbers decreased sharply as the most successful gods culled as much of the competition as they could.
The power of the remaining gods grew even as the numbers decreased, but it was not an even development. Some gods grew in power much more quickly than others, reaching the point where few could stand against them.
In response, several of the less powerful gods banded together, swearing to support each other. These were dark gods, those who revelled in death and destruction and wanted to use their power to dominate others.
Some fell in the battles that followed, but the group was victorious far more often than not. Even the most powerful gods found they could not sweep aside these groupings.
Soon other groupings sprang into being to try and restore balance. The next few centuries were filled with tales of war and death amongst the gods, alliances and betrayals. Two of the most powerful gods were toppled and killed by alliances between different groups, but those alliances broke down again as soon as those gods were dead.
Finally things reached something like equilibrium. The surviving gods settled into their alliances and all out wars between the gods reduced to ongoing skirmishes, though to the mortals who featured heavily on both sides they must still have felt like total war.
Not that the gods all liked or respected each other. Those on the side of good and those opposing them still harboured hatred towards each other, and many of the neutral gods had feuds of their own — not only with the good and evil gods, also with each other.
Yet through it all they also realised that they were as powerful as they would be allowed to become. If one of their number grew noticeably stronger in raw power the others would quickly rise up and cast them down.
They’d also learnt that killing a god left its power floating, seeking a vessel. With none of them able to risk seizing that power it inevitably found its way to a powerful mortal who could sometimes become strong enough to stand against the gods. In fact several of their number had arisen in exactly that way, though only when the gods had been too distracted with their battles and the mortal in question had been extremely circumspect in using their new power.
Occasionally two gods would face each other down on particularly intense battlefields. They would strike at each other with displays of power that numbed the minds of any mortals who were present. But there was always a clear understanding that once they reached a certain point the losing god would yield and the victor would allow them to retire.
As much as anything else, none of the gods wanted any mortals to realise a god could die, could be anything other than immortal. Those were dangerous thoughts and could lead to dangerous actions.
This agreement, this desire to ensure their positions weren’t disturbed, became known as the balance. The gods had many goals, many desires, but overriding all else was a desire to maintain the balance.
They brought the concept of the balance to the front of their mythology, made it core to the beliefs of their peoples, and made it sound as if the world itself depended on that balance and life itself would come to an end if it was broken. That was never the case, but it was a powerful reason for their followers to remain loyal.
* * *
If the sorcerer had discovered all this in a single step it’s likely he would have been driven mad. The truth was so far from what he’d always believed in, the implications so devastating, that it would have ripped his world into pieces.
But he came to it slowly, seeing small pieces of the jigsaw puzzle as he slowly translated the words but not knowing how they all fit together. By the time he had to deal with the larger shocks he’d already become acclimatised to the smaller ones.
Once the Sorcerer had the entire picture he knew he couldn’t tell anyone. If Balaneth even suspected that the Sorcerer knew the truth of the gods’ origins he would wipe the Sorcerer from existence. Keeping the secret was most difficult when he was in Balaneth’s presence. He was terrified he would give himself away, and that very terror threatened to make it happen.
After wrestling with the problem for a month he made a decision. Three days later he was able to implement it. He was fighting a battle against another god’s forces on Balaneth’s orders, a battle fought for no reason other than to further Balaneth’s glory.
Two hours into the bloody encounter the Sorcerer found himself facing the enemy god’s champion. The two of them launched into a fight of their own, one where titanic energies were unleashed. Both were chosen of their gods, gifted with great power. Anyone else who drifted near was destroyed instantly.
They battled for ten minutes without a victor emerging, until the Sorcerer made a mistake. He barely had time to start trying to recover before his body was blasted beyond recognition, something that often happened when the most powerful of the gods’ acolytes fought.
Despite the setback Balaneth’s forces won that day, but the victory was tainted by the loss of such a powerful pawn. Not that Balaneth grieved for the Sorcerer himself, he cared little for those who served him beyond the service they provided. Within a day Balaneth had chosen a new champion, and within a few days he rarely spared the Sorcerer a thought. The Sorcerer was gone, which meant any usefulness he’d had was gone too.
* * *
The sorcerer hadn’t perished, but it had been a near thing. Any battle involving such powerful acolytes was always watched by the gods involved so the Sorcerer knew his apparent death had to be as realistic as possible.
That meant he really had been succumbing to the attack and faced being annihilated. He’d had to cast his own magic at just the right moment, swapping his body with a recently killed corpse at the precise instance so it would be obliterated immediately.
He arrived, battered and burnt, in a cave forty miles from the battleground. In the days before the battle he’d been secretly filling the cave with enough supplies to last several weeks. Now he laid low, not going close enough to the cave entrance to tell whether it was night or day and not using any of his powers. He even relied on an oil lantern to cast the little light he allowed himself, rather than casting a light spell.
He spent the first week convinced Balaneth would come bursting into the cave, burning with a rage no mortal could possibly match. Or that Balaneth would snatch him from the cave, that he’d suddenly feel himself wrenched to somewhere else as he appeared in Balaneth’s realm.
After a week the Sorcerer started to have slight hopes that his deception had been successful, but most of the time he was convinced that Balaneth was toying with him, waiting to spring the trap once he relaxed his guard.
The Sorcerer stayed within the cave, not daring to risk any magic, for nearly three weeks. Only the fact some of his supplies were starting to run low led him to try anything, and when he did it was the smallest, simplest, lightest touch magic he knew.
There was no sudden sense of being spotted by Balaneth, no roar of anger followed by the god’s appearance. Over the coming days the Sorcerer risked more powerful magics, though always working hard to shield them from being detected easily.
The Sorcerer continued to experiment carefully after that, taking care to mask his powers at all times. He summoned the supplies he needed to survive and then turned his focus to the items he’d need in the longer term.
Over time he realised that as far as Balaneth was concerned he was dead and gone. With that knowledge came a freedom he hadn’t known in nearly two centuries. A freedom that was almost giddy.
* * *
Eventually the Sorcerer left the cave and started to travel the lands. He posed as a wondering hermit, a madman that even the gods tended to leave alone, which allowed him to travel far and wide without anyone paying him any real attention.
He gained access to far more sites in this guise than he had as Balaneth’s champion. No one made much effort to stop a filthy hermit, other than making sure he hadn’t stolen anything, whereas even those gods allied to Balaneth were suspicious when his champion was poking away at things.
As he travelled the Sorcerer sought out details to confirm what he had learnt from the inscriptions in the chamber. Now that he knew what to look for he started to find them, and far more often than he’d expected to.
Within a year he was convinced that the tale was true, that the gods had started as no more than mortals gifted in magic and the ability to fight their way to the top of the food chain.
Before seeing that chamber, even in his darkest moments, he had been sure that the natural order of the world was to have gods in it. He had believed in the balance, that preserving it was necessary to keep the world from being torn apart. Even when he had become uncomfortable with some of the things Balaneth ordered him to do, he’d believed the fault lay with himself rather than his god.
Now, though, things were very different. Now he looked at the gods as being no more than kings or queens. Emperors or dictators. They were simply mortals that luck and circumstance had given great powers to.
There was nothing divine about the gods, no automatic righteousness to their actions because of who they were. They were simply mortals who had been given everything they wanted for far too long. Mortals who amused themselves by sending their fellows to war against each other. Mortals who had no right to wield such power over others.
There and then the Sorcerer decided he would choose the highest goal possible. He wanted to free everyone from the tyranny of the gods. He wanted to ensure that only those who truly wished to follow a god would do so, and that they could change their mind about that without consequence.
He saw a way to achieve his goal, too. His research had revealed the route to achieve all that he wished for. He had to follow the path the gods had walked, the path to divine power.
The obvious route would be to do exactly as the gods had done, to gradually build power and influence until he could rival them. It wouldn’t be enough. At best they’d just ignore him, at worst they’d combine forces to destroy the upstart.
That was even making the huge assumption he didn’t come to their attention before he had powers equal to theirs. If he did then any of the gods would be able to wipe him out and whatever forces he’d gathered with barely a thought.
No, that was not the path he was going to take. Nor did he need to. The gods had stumbled upon their powers, then honed them through a period of fighting tooth and nail with death often just moments away. There had been no time for them to stop and question their path, to consider alternatives. Any who had tried would have been left behind and swiftly destroyed.
The Sorcerer had far more time to study the options. He also had the extensive knowledge he had picked up in the service of Balaneth. It became clear to him that there were other ways to gain as much power as the gods, much faster routes than the gods had stumbled upon.
Yet even that wouldn’t be enough. From his studies he’d confirmed that the gods wielded nearly as much power as they possibly could. It was vast, almost unimaginable to most mortals, but it was finite and limited.
The gods themselves had brought down any god who’d become too much more powerful and survived, but the Sorcerer found evidence that there was a more fundamental limit which many gods had fallen foul of. Attempts to gather more power within themselves than that limit had swiftly lead to their destruction as the power consumed them.
The same would hold true for him. If he followed the paths he’d identified then he could become an equal to the gods much more quickly, even powerful enough to take on two or three of them at once, without anywhere the risk of being discovered. But it would still be him against the many gods. That was a fight he could never win.
There was a way to access more power. A way none of the gods seemed to have ever considered. Magical artefacts were not unknown in the wars between the armies of the gods, from weapons to armour to other more esoteric items. It was common for the champion of a god to wield such items. The Sorcerer himself had wielded a powerful sword in the final battle he fought for Balaneth, a weapon he’d had to leave behind when he faked his death.
Most mortals believed such weapons were forged by the gods themselves, simply willed into being by those of divine origin. The Sorcerer had long been one of the few who knew the truth. In fact he had created a number of magical artefacts, from the most basic imbued with only a little power through to the blades that champions used.
He had even been present once when Balaneth had created a blade and imbued it with more power than the sorcerer himself could wield. That had been an extremely rare event, and as far as the sorcerer understood it the number of such weapons was heavily controlled as part of the balance. No more than three could be created by each god, a new artefact could only be created when an existing one was destroyed… which was also an extremely rare event.
The Sorcerer had assisted Balaneth in creating that sword, had taken care of many of the more mundane steps and the incantations used to ready it. But it was an unfinished item with potential but little power until Balaneth arrived. The final steps finished the weapon and turned it into something almost unstoppable.
Such weapons were so powerful there were also strict rules on when they could be used. Using them against ordinary troops who would be defenceless against such power was not allowed. Mostly such weapons were used when the heroes of two gods fought, each them welding such a weapon to boost their powers.
The Sorcerer had no intention of creating such objects. He was setting his sights even higher. With the knowledge he had gained from his recent studies, and his experience from before, he could now see a way to create a blade so powerful that it would allow him to stand against the gods even while they outnumbered him.
A blade that could kill the gods. A weapon so powerful it would free all mortals from the tyranny of the gods, either through the threat of its existence or because it had to be used to destroy the gods.
Yet even then, despite everything he’d learnt, the Sorcerer felt he would be happy curbing the gods influence rather than killing them. He didn’t see their deaths as an inevitability, but he did intend that all mortals would know the gods origins and would be free to choose to follow a god or not without consequence.
He knew he couldn’t undertake the endeavour alone, but he also could not allow any of the gods to learn what he planned or what he knew. He couldn’t risk going to any of those who served the gods already, no matter how powerful or insignificant, because it would only take one wrong word for his plans to be unravelled.
He went to the outcasts, those the gods no longer bothered with. He travelled to the tribes that had been nearly wiped from the earth and so were no longer of any value to their gods. And he told those outcasts the origins of the so called divine beings who’d used them then cast them aside.
And he went to those the magic had driven insane. None of the gods, even those of healing and peace, made any efforts for such people. The Sorcerer did. He talked with them, cared for them, and in many cases slowly brought them back to the world of the living. The thing which truly set him aside from the gods was that he truly cared whether each individual was saved, and spent time even on the lost causes.
While some suffered from true madness, he found many of those deemed insane were suffering from a different disease. They had served the gods and goddesses for long years, for centuries in many cases, and had committed atrocities beyond count. When they’d reached a point where they couldn’t stomach even one more atrocity the gods branded them insane and cast them out.
In doing so the gods had created a fertile breeding ground of individuals who both knew what the gods were truly like and had the power needed to assist the Sorcerer. But the gods weren’t stupid. They had placed bonds upon those people, bonds that could not be broken by any mortal.
The Sorcerer chose those he felt could cope with the demands of what was to come and took them back to the base he was building. His developing powers were now beyond those of mortals and were more than enough to remove the bindings of the gods.
He removed them… and in their place he laid bindings of his own, compulsions to be loyal to him and never to betray what was developing to the gods. He wished he didn’t have to… but he knew those he’d chosen were too powerful to be left free. It was a necessary sacrifice, but one he intended to end as soon as he was victorious.
That was only one part of his plan. Another was to build power as a warlord, a leader amongst the displaced. That made him just one amongst many and the gods generally had no interest in such people. The displaced had no value to the gods, so their deaths held no importance.
Of course the existing warlords were less than happy to have competition, and soon tried to stamp out the newcomer. Despite having far larger forces they somehow failed time after time.
Strange events kept occurring – leaders dropped dead without warning, key units developed debilitating illnesses just before battle was joined, allied forces inexplicably turned on each other, and a dozen other strange events.
Some even spoke of the upstart’s army having magical weapons, but the warlords dismissed such claims. The gods mostly had no interest in the what the warlords got up to, but they made absolutely certain they had no access to such weapons.
The Sorcerer’s power base grew, quickly but not excessively so. He had no wish to draw attention to himself, and had long-term plans rather than short-term aspirations. He very carefully avoided facing down the largest of the warlords, and made sure his rise didn’t cause them enough concern for them to attack.
He suspected that the time would come when those leaders would be natural allies, forces he could easily bring to his side, so he didn’t want to destroy them. Defeating all other warlords would also risk drawing attention from the gods, and he was not ready for that. Not yet.
* * *
As well as increasing his power base the Sorcerer prepared for the creation of the magical blade. He did everything he could before the step which he knew the gods would immediately be aware of. At that point it would be impossible to hide where he was or what he was doing, so he needed to choose his moment carefully.
There was no way the gods would ignore what he was doing when they learnt of it, in that moment they would come to understand the danger they faced and would throw everything they had against him. Maintaining the balance, the cartel of self-interest the gods had established, would force them to put aside all other rivalries and come after him.
That meant two things… firstly he had to be ready to create the blade as quickly as possible once he crossed the point of no return. Secondly, he had to have enough forces and enough protection against the gods to allow him the time needed to finish the blade.
Neither would be easy, but nor were they impossible. For long years he kept his influence as a warlord steady while secretly infiltrating the command structures of many other leaders. He developed a network which would greatly amplify his power when the time came.
He also spent his time drawing those strong in magic to him. Where before he’d only had the cast-offs to work with, now he started managing to pull in youngsters before the gods could find them, bringing some of the best and strongest to his cause.
The outcast tribes were a particularly good source of such raw talent. The gods never lowered themselves to accept anyone from the outcasts, but neither did they leave them alone. Every ten years or so the gods pronounced judgement on the tribes, killing all those youngsters who were showing signs of being able to use power.
Once again the Sorcerer had to take actions that disgusted him. Saving those talented youngsters was a good thing to do, but the gods would soon have become suspicious so the Sorcerer had to provide decoys. Those without power were made to seem as if they had some through a series of enchantments.
Those innocents were sentenced to death by the Sorcerer’s actions, but he knew the real blame lay with the gods. It was the choices the gods had made which made the sacrifice necessary, and those deaths would allow the Sorcerer to save untold millions more. He knew that… but in the dark hours of the night his choices still tore at him.
* * *
The years passed and the Sorcerer’s power grew. Those still devoted to the gods would have been amazed to learn any such scheme could take place in private. They believed the gods were capable of looking into the heart of any mortal. They took it as truth that their god did so at will, and only the power of their chosen god stopped other gods doing the same. So the thoughts of anyone with no god to protect them would be open to every god.
The outcasts wouldn’t have been surprised. They might be despised by all, discarded by the gods, but they knew the gods paid no attention to their thoughts, or to the hatred filled curses they often flung at the deities.
Everything went smoothly for the Sorcerer for many long years. No, that’s not quite true. No project of that size ever goes smoothly, but it went undetected by the gods or their followers. That was a smoothly as the Sorcerer could possibly hope for.
After thirty-two years things came to a head. The Sorcerer was confident he would be able to create the blade given enough time. Ideally he needed another two years, a year at the absolute minimum. Then he could be sure his forces would be able to keep the gods at bay while he finished the mighty sword.
He got four months. After so much careful planning he fell foul of terrible luck. One of the youngsters he’d discovered amongst the outcasts, one with great power, had been taken in, bound, and trained as all the others had. Everything went as usual, until one day the young man vanished.
The Sorcerer and his most powerful acolytes used their magic to determine what had happened and they found the young man had been snatched away by a god. Only then did the Sorcerer discover that this child’s lineage was not just from the outcasts. His grandfather’s grandfather was a prince who had been banished from his lands but never completely forgotten by his god, nor had his offspring.
The Sorcerer had prepared against the possibility one of his acolytes would be taken, those at such a young age had mostly just been taught how to use their power and very little about the eventual aims. Any knowledge of the Sorcerer and his cause was carefully locked away within those youngsters. Even a god would take time to unlock the information, or even to realise there was something there to unlock.
Even so, the Sorcerer couldn’t take any chances. The gods might know what he was doing soon. Maybe very soon. It was time to put his plan into action, even if not everything was prepared. It was time to challenge the gods themselves. It was time for war.
* * *
The Sorcerer immediately set wheels in motion. He went with his acolytes to the citadel he’d had built and began preparations for what was to come.
At the same time his networks amongst the warlords and other powerful forces moved to take power, and his representatives went to all the warlords whose forces he hadn’t infiltrated. The words they spoke were carefully crafted, designed to play upon the fears and hatred the warlords harboured towards the gods.
Every warlord knew no matter how powerful they were, how strong they became, any of the gods could strip it all away in an instant… and merely on a whim. It didn’t happen often, but when it did a god would descend and purge not only the warlord but everyone who followed them.
The Sorcerer’s words spoke to the warlords’ lust for power as well as their fear. The warlords were not content just having power over the outcast regions. They wanted to expand into the civilised lands. Like all ambitious and powerful people, they wanted to keep pushing and expanding their reach, but they were always held back by fear of how the gods would respond.
Now the Sorcerer’s representatives explained the true nature of the gods, explained that they were simply mortals who had stumbled upon power and pursued it as far as they could. They explained just how twisted and uncaring the gods could be, revealing details beyond even what the outcast warlords would have believed otherwise.
The sorcerer’s past life serving a god of knowledge came into play now. He was able to supply details of how all the outcast tribes had fallen foul of the whims of one god or another over time.
While many of the outcasts had suspected that they had been cast out for less than truly pious reasons, few had realised in how many cases it had simply been a matter of boredom on the god’s part. A desire for a brief diversion which sent tens of thousands to their deaths and the survivors fleeing into the wild unguarded lands to try and survive.
Of course this was a dangerous move for the Sorcerer. Any of the warlords might have chosen to betray him, to let one of the gods know what was planned, so he had taken precautions. None amongst the warlords had any significant magical power, and none could detect the bindings placed upon the documents they were given.
The bindings weren’t particularly powerful, they didn’t force the people to obey the sorcerer’s will, they simply ensured that the information therein could not be passed to anyone else for a few weeks. The warlords and the closest of their advisers would know the information, would be able to discuss it when others couldn’t hear, but they could not betray anything to their gods. Not until it no longer mattered.
Almost all the warlords chose to ally with the sorcerer. His choice of words, the information he’d provided, and the depth of their hatred for the gods were more than enough to sway vast numbers to his side.
Over the next ten days those warlords mobilised their forces and they joined those controlled directly by the Sorcerer. Immense armies flowed across the lands, marching quickly so they could reach the fortress in time.
Those leading them knew the dangers, knew standing against the gods would get every last one of them and everyone they loved wiped from the face of the world if they lost.
They also knew this was their only chance to be free, to live in a world where the gods couldn’t control and meddle in everyone’s lives. They felt the possible gains more than outweighed the risks… but they were still mortally terrified of those risks.
* * *
The Sorcerer had taken pains to hide the movements of the vast armies, using magic to make them look much smaller and to give the impression of fake skirmishes.
As the armies poured into the citadel and the sorcerer and his acolytes finished the protective spells, wards, and traps designed to slow the gods down, the gods were still ignorant of the Sorcerer’s plans.
He paused at that point, taking an hour to prepare himself for what was to come. He even wrestled with doubts, wondering if what he did was truly for the best. Millions would die even if he was successful. Was it worth the cost?
Then he reminded himself just how the gods treated people. Their mortal origins wouldn’t have mattered if they treated people with some respect and understanding, but they didn’t. To the gods people were no more than chattel, playing pieces on a board.
People gave their entire lives, devoted themselves to nothing but serving their god, and in return the gods scorned them, paid them no attention, or worse gave them the impression they had won favour. Made them feel special. Built them up before taking great pleasure in knocking them down again.
No, what the Sorcerer planned to do was not only the right thing it was the only thing. He bade his acolytes prepare themselves, then walked to where the weapon waited.
He raised the partly forged sword and studied it. It was ready for the final stage, for the special parts of the ritual which would take it far beyond being merely a magical weapon and into the realms of the truly divine. He took a deep breath, steadied his racing heart, and he cast the first enchantment.
He felt the change immediately, felt the torrent of power flowing into the sword… and he felt the attention of the gods snap to where he stood. He sensed their horror, their shock, and their anger. He heard their screams and cries at what was being done.
Then, soon after, he sensed their resolve. He felt them turn their attention towards him and realise both who he really was and that they could not easily stop him. Not now.
The game had started. The pieces were moving. Now only one side could emerge victorious. The question that remained was whether it would be the gods or those mortals who had risked everything by standing against them.
* * *
The gods moved quickly, and for the first time ever put aside their grievances and all worked together. The threat from the Sorcerer was far too great to do anything else.
They pulled together all the forces they could find, then used their magic to transport them as close to the Sorcerer’s citadel as was possible. Within a day a force far greater than any ever assembled was in place and starting to march on the Sorcerer’s defences.
Tens of thousands died in the first clashes, but that was only a small taster of what was to come. The Sorcerer’s forces were well dug in, but the armies of the gods were far more numerous. It was the closest any battle has ever come to representing an unstoppable force striking an immovable object.
The gods’ forces slowly overwhelmed those of the Sorcerer. They pushed further and further in, killing many of the Sorcerer’s forces and pushing the rest back. As they progressed further they finally started to breach the barriers erected against the gods themselves, allowing those divine entities to close in on the Sorcerer.
The sorcerer was only vaguely aware of this. His entire focus was on the incantations and the physical process of transforming the sword into the ultimate weapon. When darkness fell the power of the creatures summoned by the Sorcerer’s side fell with it, for he had been drawing on the power of the sun. Pure power. Power untouched by the gods.
He had known this would happen, that it was unavoidable, but it still meant some of the gods’ forces now had an advantage. Those gods who revelled in darkness benefited from the night, and both they and their forces struck with renewed strength.
Still the forces loyal to the Sorcerer held out. They knew their lives would be forfeit if they lost, and any survivors would suffer the terrible wrath of the gods. There could be no surrender, only victory or total defeat.
Knowing that gave them strength, as did the knowledge that their families were sheltering in the depths of the citadel. Those too young to wield weapons or elderly so infirm they couldn’t stand without assistance. Everyone else was fighting, fighting and dying.
The losses on both sides were phenomenal, almost impossible to comprehend. It would have been a source of great sadness to the Sorcerer if his attention been able to wander enough to be aware of it, but to the gods the deaths were simply part of their ongoing game. The lives meant nothing to them, which was exactly why the Sorcerer and his forces were fighting.
The battle raged on through the night, with the Sorcerer’s forces slowly losing ground. As the pre-dawn light started to appear the gods threw themselves against the last layers of the Sorcerer’s defences, fully entering the battle themselves for the first time.
They’d worked out where the sorcerer was drawing his power from. They could feel that the blade was nearly completed. They knew they need to act, and act immediately. This needed to be finished before the sun’s direct light returned.
The gods managed to pierce the last but one defence. Waiting for them, cloaked in spells to keep him hidden, was the mightiest of the Sorcerer’s heroes. The champion didn’t hesitate. He launched himself forward, and in that moment, for the first time ever, a mortal managed to fatally wound a god.
The blade he carried and the immense power he forced through it struck down a goddess of death… but his reward was death too as several other gods could now see him and struck him down.
The gods threw themselves against the final barrier protecting the Sorcerer, blasting at it with all the power they had. Finally they pierced it, just at the moment the sorcerer finished the final incantation.
He lifted the blade above his head, the blade designed to free all mortals from godly interference was complete. The Sorcerer’s plan had worked.
The gods still weren’t giving up. They combined their powers, throwing everything they had against the blade itself. They sought to destroy the blasphemous object, but the power of the sorcerer and of the blade he’d created withstood the assault without breaking.
Surviving was one thing, winning another entirely. For an unmeasurable short length of time which felt to the sorcerer like an eternity the battle was balanced. Then the Sorcerer started losing ground. He collapsed to his knees, still holding the sword aloft, but he could feel the combined power of the gods burning his defences away. He’d come so close… but he was going to fail.
Then the first beams of the dawn sun cleared the horizon and fell upon the sword. It sucked in the power of the sun, pulsing with far more power than it had contained before, and the Sorcerer struggled to his feet. In that moment he named the blade. Forever more it would be known as the Dawnblade.
He saw that his dreams were about to come true. With this much magic at his command even the power of all the gods combined would not be enough to save them from annihilation. He no longer thought in terms of reaching a deal with the gods, of imposing limits on their powers. The battle had opened his eyes. The untold deaths of innocents on both sides had sealed the fate of the gods.
He prepared to strike the fatal blows, to seize victory once and for all, but at that moment the gods turned to a darkness even the most evil of them would normally shy away from. They tapped into that power, into a darkness so deep it dimmed the morning sun and reduced the power available to the Sorcerer’s blade.
It didn’t make enough difference for them to stand against the Dawnblade, but that wasn’t their aim. They sought to destroy the blade, not overcome it, so they struck against the blade itself.
Through his bond with the Dawnblade the Sorcerer could feel reality itself shaking and threatening to shatter. The gods either didn’t know or didn’t care what the effect of their attack would be, but he did.
If he continued the fight then he would achieve his goal — the gods would never again hold sway over mortals. But that would be because there would be no mortals, no gods, and no world. That wasn’t a price he could pay.
But if he surrendered then the gods would rule forever. Untold billions of mortals would suffer and die at the whims of the gods, and he doubted they would ever again let someone build forces as he had done. That too wasn’t a price he could pay.
He sensed an alternative. The Dawnblade was tied to very powers holding the world together. Not the fake balance which the gods had claimed existed, the true bonds which held reality in place. He could feel those bonds vibrating, shaking, as the gods’ attack on the blade continued.
He knew he had little time to act. He reached out through the Dawnblade and pushed at those bonds, forcing more disruption into the links. He pushed them harder and harder.
Then he imposed order on them, using the order locked within the Dawnblade to do so. Rather than every single bond threatening to break, now vast swathes were made more stable with fault lines of much stronger breaks forming… and shearing away.
Cracks burst into life throughout reality, but thanks to the Sorcerer’s efforts the chunks of reality which survived were large enough to still sustain life. Some would be small, a few hundred yards in each direction, while others would be hundreds of miles on a side.
It was a terrible outcome… but still better than all of reality being destroyed or the gods prevailing. There would be so many chunks of reality the gods couldn’t possibly hold sway in all of them. In some shards of reality mortals would still be at the mercy of the gods, but not in all… and that meant the Sorcerer had won a partial victory at least.
And the Sorcerer hoped the power of the gods would be diminished in at least some of the worlds they could still influence, but only time would tell.
It wasn’t the solution he’d wanted. It wasn’t freedom for all. But it was better than anyone else could possibly have achieved in that moment.
There was one other drawback. He wouldn’t survive. He was at ground zero and already the powers unleashed were ripping into his body. He could have tried to survive, but instead he’d poured all his power into keeping reality fit for people to survive. He made the ultimate sacrifice.
He smiled slightly, content with what he’d achieved, then felt the blade finally shatter into dozens of pieces as reality broke into far more. Immense powers burst forth, obliterating his form and blasting the gods far and wide across the shattered remains of reality.
That is the story of how the Dawnblade shattered the world, and it is the truth.