Leliana Levoir stood in her chambers, finishing her last binding ritual, Nin tying the spell into a series of knots along the rope that would bind the last two gods when they, too, were raised to find them.
And once they were bound, the threat would at least be offset until Leliana could find the man behind all of this and banish him once and for all.
“Come along,” the Priestess said to her apprentice as she began walking away.
Nin nodded and scurried after. “Lady, what next?”
Leliana was silent a moment before she replied. “We must simply wait for Heart and Soul, and when they have been bound, we will be safe.”
Three days passed before news reached them–but such as it was surprised them both. Instead of reports of blights or savagery or anything they would have suspected, they instead listened as the messenger explained the trembling earth and swirling winds and erupting wells of the city in question.
“Bring extra supplies, Nin,” Leliana said, finding all this information unusual for reasons she could not quite place, “we may need more than mere binding for this one.”
And they were off.
They arrived and the city was desolate. Wind whipped between the buildings, water rained from above, and everywhere they looked, the earth shook, and trembled, and shuddered beneath them.
“Where is everyone?” Nin said as they trudged through the mud, elsewise silent.
Leliana shrugged, her voice hoarse. “Who would stay out in this?” She led the girl onwards, towards the center of the city itself. Centers were points of power, she knew; whatever was causing this was surely to be found there.
When they arrived, the sight of a man was no surprise. He was tall and regal, untouched compared to the undead of Mind or the raging of Body, simply enthroned by the wind and rain and vibrating earth.
Leliana began chanting under her breath, but knew the girl had heard her as she watched Nin’s hand tighten around the rope of knots.
The man stepped forward. “You take no time to introduce yourself?” And then he spread his arms wide. “Are you not the least intrigued who I am?”
She uttered a word of repose–stopping briefly the spell as she wound it–and answered. “I have no need to ask what I already know.”
“And what might that be?” If not for the wind, if not for the rain, she was certain she’d see upon his face a grin larger than the rim of the world.
“I know you,” and here her voice trembled with intensity, holding back the power she wished to thrust toward him without restraint, “and I know why you’re here.”
“Aye, is that so? Who am I then?”
“You’re a crazed lunatic, playing with toys too great to be reckoned with by a child like you.”
“You insolent–!” But he stopped, holding himself back, his fists clenched, his face twitching as raindrops continued to pummel down atop them both.
“Allow me to begin again,” he said calmly, his words twisting like a smile but construed like a scowl. “My name is Count Edward Evehr, but soon you’ll know me by another name, one befitting a god like me.”
“And you are also a god?” Leliana called out.
“Not nearly yet,” said Evehr, “but soon enough I shall be. With four gods bound and banished, I can begin the transformation. It’s what you’ve come to witness, after all, is it not?”
“The transformation?” She couldn’t help but repeat it. She had known not to expect another god in this mess, but the culprit? How could he act at all if all eight deities were not yet bound?
“You seem slightly surprised, lady,” Count Evehr said, and laughed. “Allow me to explain then. For the full ascension to begin, true, all eight deities must be banished from this world, but as long as at least four are in my grasp…” He grinned, a grin so bright it pierced the weather right through, “I can begin the transformation sooner, take care of some business, ensure that those remaining cannot be bound.”
“You won’t succeed!”
“But won’t I?” He snickered. “You, lady, are the strongest sorceress in the land, the only one capable of binding gods and living through it. Once you’re gone, no one will stand in my way.”
Leliana tightened the grasp on her rod. The rain stung her face, the wind lashed against her body, the earth tried with all its might to tear her from its flesh. She knew the transformation had already begun; knew he’d already invoked the elements.
With a bolt of lightning across the sky, she knew the wind had fully settled itself in his soul as well. From past endeavors she knew invocation was a single ritual, but its effects took hours, sometimes days, to complete: Binding bone with spirit took much energy, and much suffering for most, so if Body had not yet fused itself with the count, she may still stand a chance of fighting yet.
“Nin,” she said. “Run away. Do not look back. Do not wonder, nor worry.”
“Do not question your master, Nin! Just do as I say, and should I return, expect proper punishment for your refusal.”
Nin stood still a moment, trembling, sliding her feet to obey–but stopped. She looked at the ground, her hair draped over her face, and clenched her fists.
“Lady, I will not go. And if it means death for mutiny, I shall accept it willingly, but I will not stand idly while you fight this battle. I will not go.” Nin shook out the length of rope, swinging it in a circle around her head as she made a dash for the count.
He swung his hand and back-slapped her to the ground.
“I shall not be trifled with, girl.” He turned toward her, his flesh rumbling as a new power surged into him. “I am god. I am–”
Leliana’s staff knocked the wind from him as she swung it into his chest, throwing him backward onto the ground. “You are no more!”
She swung the staff, bringing its point into his chest, pressing him into the ground as she continued her chant, knowing Nin would untie the knots as needed, knowing well that the girl was smarter than she seemed foolish in the face of this man.
But for as much as she could stop his speech, she could not stop his invocation: As soon as she spoke the cue for the next knot, his body fully erupted and forced her backwards–grunting another word of repose to pause the spell as she screamed.
She took the brief relief to scoop up Nin from the ground and dash further from the city’s center, not wanting even a glimpse of the monster Evehr had become before absolutely necessary.
Leliana ducked behind a building with Nin and looked into the girl’s eyes. She was conscious, no doubt, and barely scratched, but the priestess had to ensure none of the invocation had rubbed off on her, and luckily it had not.
“What are we going to do, Lady?”
“Keep chanting. He needn’t be near for the spell to work, only to complete it. Surely he’ll find us for that, so if only we have the time to finish it first.”
Nin nodded, and Leliana knew she needed to say nothing more to make the girl understand and so resumed chanting at once. There were four knots remaining, but seven minutes at most if they had any luck in the matter, and then it would be time.
Nin poked her head around corners and as the Leliana went on, she let the girl lead her closer to the edge of the city, sometimes round its perimeter instead, anything to forge some distance between them.
She spoke another word of repose before the final untying.
“It’s time,” she said, and Nin swallowed. “He has not found us, so we shall find him, Nin.”
The started slowly winding their way toward the center of the city, toward the square they’d first found Evehr in. Part of her mind insisted that the Count would have followed them, but another part, a deeper part, knew he’d be smarter, knew he’d bide his time and find a place to settle, to spy, to strike.
She stopped walking and spread out her awareness, looking for power sources, magic wells, anything that might indicate a recently invoked deity–or four of them in one man. She had never even heard of such happening before, had always assumed an invocation of anything more than a single spirit–let alone a single god–could kill a man.
She had since been proved wrong once, and didn’t want to see the same occur anymore.
She felt an energy swell nearby, a soft ebb indicative merely of presence, not purpose. She gestured to Nin in its general direction, flagged her to stay behind and started forward on her own.
The city walls seemed to fade away as she narrowed in on her prey. She would be sure to speak the final word with force, loud enough to let Nin hear her no matter where the girl was, to untie the last knot. But she would not, could not bring the child into a mess like this.
When Leliana got close enough to peek around the last building, she did so. The beast was hideous, a boar-like, bear-like monstrosity that towered on thorned hind-legs, its forearms human but deformed into a mockery of human strength–bulging muscles that tore right through the flesh itself.
She stepped out behind it, hoping it would not hear her and turn toward her. She wanted no glance at its face either.
She ran toward him, but he turned too soon–knocking her aside just as he had tossed aside Nin. She somersaulted and landed on her feet, skidding back into a crouch, her rod balancing her amidst the rain.
His face was human-like, but unlike anything she had ever seen before, or had ever hoped to see at all: The edges were animal, the features broken, the eyes incinerating as they burned with fury. Two tusks curled up from his jaw, and two horns bent outward from the top of his skull.
Leliana felt sick at the sight of him.
“You try to fight me?” His voice was deep and hoarse, one-fourth human and three-fourths earth and air, but altogether, purely bestial. “You dare to face me? I am god!”
“You are nothing,” Leliana shouted. “Nothing but a little man wearing big clothes. You are a fool!”
He slammed his boulder-like fist into the earth–she rolled aside, righting herself just as fast as she dodged the blow. She swung at him, needing but a moment of contact, to complete the binding, but his size was no proof of his agility and he dodged her blow much as she had dodged his.
“You’re a beast,” she shouted. “An insult to nature!”
“I am nature!” he countered, spreading his arms and bellowing–worse than thunder, than earth grinding on earth. She covered her ears and retched on the ground till the sound stopped.
“You are nothing!”
“I am the Rheve!”
Leliana smiled. A name, at last. A final key, to truly cement the binding. Such was possible without one, but even better with one in hand, on tongue. He had made this so much easier than she thought it’d be.
“Rheve,” she commanded, embedding a second spell into the first, “here me now: I command thee, silence, stillness, smallness.” She repeated the chant, weaving his name into the binding, into the air, into the earth, the rain, the body itself.
But he kept fighting, as imagined, and she kept dodging. Blow by blow, like a fight of arrows never striking the bull’s-eye, always missing with the wind. She kept chanting, seeing in her mind the threads of magic slowly entwining around him, twisting together until they would form a rope to tie him.
And it was done: He swung his arm, but nothing moved, stillness achieved. He opened his mouth to roar, but no sound came forth but silence. And with a final rendition of the spell, he fell to his knees, folded in upon himself in the greatest smallness such a beast could hope to obtain.
Leliana saw Nin approaching from the corner of her eye, and with a proud nod at the girl she spoke the final word of the binding and brought her rod upon the man. The knot broke, the power unleashed, and the world for a moment seemed to stop.
* * *
The messenger stopped for a moment, breathless, and then began again. “There’s a disturbance in the city. The animals have gone crazy!”
The priestess smiled, remembering a time when she had been the apprentice and a similar message had arrived–far too many times for her own young liking at the time. But in the end, the threat had been defeated, and although it had cost the life of Lady Levoir to undo all the evil done, in the end the world was ridden by one less evil than before, and at least for her, that gave Nin a good role to follow.
It had been sixteen years since then, but the memory would always linger, a shadow and a light, all because of a man with god-like dreams. All because of the monster who called itself the Rheve.