The Death of a Deity Part IV

“Give it up, Fawcett. You could never run fast or far enough.”

Breaker cornered the slender telepath among the sandstone cliffs along the shore south of Serenti. Smooth pebbles crunched beneath black metal boots as he stalked the criminal. The wind made the man’s matted hair stand on end as it moaned in the mouth of a nearby cavern. With a final fearful glance over his shoulder, Fawcett dove for the cave.

“No you don’t!” Breaker caught his wasted ankle and dragged him backwards. Fingernails scrabbled futilely on rock, and then the telepath rolled over and pushed a thought.

Release me and throw yourself in the sea!

Josh laughed, a long, mirthless chuckle. So close to the ocean, the wax and wane of each wave sounded like Am’aleh’s sweet whisper. Fawcett’s thought glanced off of his adamantine will like an arrow striking stone. As the telepath rose the demigod dealt him a furious blow, a single thunderous punch to the chest. Fawcett’s heart skipped and stopped, and he crumpled on the shore, eyes glazing.

Come into my cavern.

The thought invaded Breaker’s mind like a battering ram sundering a gate. His knees trembled with the power of the words, and he turned toward the cave before he could think. He took a faltering step, and then another, and then stopped.

My mind is my own. My body is my own. No one shall move me but me.

Perhaps, the omnipotent voice said, but curiosity will carry you to me just the same.

Breaker bellied down and crawled into the cavern, finding space to stand almost immediately as the tunnel twisted and grew. It expanded into a sandstone lair. From around the corner power radiated, along with the low, steady rhythm of a great beast breathing. The sandstone walls seemed to expand and contract with each inhale and exhale. The power of the being pulsated like a glowing beacon in the darkness.

Despite the lack of light, Breaker’s sharp eyes showed him all as he rounded the corner. The tunnel widened monstrously to accommodate the bulk of a winged dragon. Black scales covered its massive, muscular body, and curved spikes protruded all the way down its spine and tail. Its fanged maw almost smiled down on him, and its front pair of clawed feet carved furrows in the sandstone floor.

“Draconus.” Breaker said with no question in his tone. Finding a dragon holed up in an impossible cave near Serenti could be no coincidence. Awed by the Thayne’s presence and the power he radiated, Josh stopped suddenly.

You have come far to find me here, Joshua Cronen. The voice was nearly enough to upset Breaker’s balance. May I assume all of my minions are dead?

“I’m confident they are,” the demigod said, still rooted to the spot. He thought of Shinsou, chasing after Rok. He thought of the silver-masked woman, chained in the watchtower. “All save one minion of your minions. We’ll deal with her after I’ve finished with you.” He took a single step forward, feeling like he was fighting a waterfall.

They were always a means to an end, the Thayne replied, each word a piston striking Josh’s mind, you have proven yourself in defeating them, and they have brought you to me. All is as it should be.

“You expect me to believe this is all some grand design?” Josh tried to sneer, but awe crept into his tone. “Am’aleh has guided me on this path. She would not play me into your claws.”

Am’aleh is of the lesser Thayne, the voice said disdainfully, she sees but what I will.

“Impossible,” Breaker breathed, “I know why you broke the convicts out of Terrinore. Am’aleh’s influence has grown these past few years. She is becoming the one and true deity of the sea… and you are just a forgotten remnant.”

The dragon’s roar shook the cavern. Putrid breath nearly knocked Josh off his feet, and small gouts of orange flame crackled from the fanged maw.

After you have joined me, Draconus said, you will watch in approval as I strike Am’aleh down.

“Then I guess I’d better kill you here.” Josh growled. His hazel eyes narrowed and his neck and cheeks flushed. He bent his powerful legs, legs that had felt frozen moments earlier, and leaped mightily at the dragon. He rose upward with dank air whistling through his ears, rolling his shoulder back. At the top of his arc he arrived in front of the dragon’s horse-sized head. His fist snapped forward, hammering Draconus’ snout with a downward haymaker. The demigod landed in front of the deity as the dragon’s head lolled to one side.

Is that your best blow? Draconus inquired. Disappointing.

The Thayne responded with a front snap kick from one of his tree-trunk legs. Josh attempted to leap away but the swift kick caught him in the sternum, shooting him upward like a ball from a cannon. He burst through the sandstone ceiling, body and mind ringing with the impact. He tumbled through fresh sea air, through the gathering darkness, and splashed into the salty shallows.

The earth quaked in his wake. A great tremor ran out in all directions, and then the sandstone cliffs split open and Draconus rose up, scaled wings flapping like canvas sails. The dragon flew out of the rift he’d created and landed with a ground-shaking thud in the shallows nearby.

Breaker struggled to rise, folding one knee beneath his body and pressing up with his arms and legs. His chest felt as if it had been struck by a trebuchet. He coughed up water that had found its way into his lungs and forced himself to his feet.

I had thought we might work well together, Draconus said as the demigod straightened his posture, but I find your reputation is greater than the man himself. Such a pity. Such a waste of time and effort. The dragon took a breath that threatened to steal all the oxygen from the air, and then opened its maw and unleashed fire.

Liquid flame spilled out in a blast directed at Breaker. Against the ache in his chest he lifted both hands and pulled water up from around his ankles, extinguishing the torrent. Draconus roared and the deluge of fire became one of lava, red hot and boiling. Breaker twisted his palms skyward and his water became molten ice, flowing out to meet the magma in a growing cloud of steam and smoke. Inch by inch, the flow of ice faltered, and the cloud of vapor crept closer to Breaker. Inch by inch, the demigod’s strength waned, until he could feel the heat of the lava on his forearms.

With a roar to match the dragon’s Breaker redoubled his efforts, but nothing he did could overcome the Thayne’s endless torrent of roiling rage.

Am’aleh help me, he thought, feeling his goddess’ touch in the water around his ankles, for I fear no one else can.


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