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Beginning of the End

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The General of the Gravel Stone sat cross-legged on a cliff overlooking the southern sea. His mid-day meditation was in progress, the Earth Wand laying in his lap. Geh Olg liked the comfort of its weight. It centered him, a conduit to become closer to the earth.

"Is this what you do in your spare time, General?" a voice behind him asked. His eyes opened, recognizing who it belonged to. Something seemed off but, perhaps it was his imagination.

"It's better than cooping up in that Tower all day," Geh said. He grinned, grabbing his Wand to hoist himself up off the ground. Turning to see his visitor his smile changed into a confused expression.

"Seneka? What happened to you?" The Sage of Balance stood before him, carrying two staffs. Yet she was different. Traces of what she used to look like lingered among new devilish features. She was paler than he remembered. Her new appearance unnerved him.

"Let's not get too informal now, General. Diva of the Twilight will suffice." He placed a new element in her voice: malice.

"I've come to you with a proposal, Sage of Earth. You see, as Sage of Balance, I must keep everything equal. Yet I've come to a realization- this world is full of injustices. It is imperfect. Flawed. The Creator's design is broken, so it's up to me to repair it."

"What are you talking about? That's --" Geh stopped when he noticed the two staffs in her hands. It wasn't her usual pair. A high quality kind, eerily similar to his own Wand. The sight chilled him, causing him to lose his train of thought. The Earth Sage immediately took a defensive stance, holding his staff in front of him.

"Seneka...? Who gave you those Wands?" he asked warily.

"Ah yes, my little collection. Popokura and Christiva were so kind to give me these. When they heard my plan, they just couldn't say no. If the Master of the Curtain Mist and Lord of the Summer Haze can see reason, I wondered, maybe I should pay my good friend Geh Olg a visit. Surely he would give me the Earth Wand to fulfill my dreams." The Diva of the Twilight leaned toward him, batting her eyelashes in exaggeration.

"That's absurd! You know what would happen if the Wands joined together!"

"What I do know is I'm fixing this disgusting putrid world. General, I'm asking you for a final time, and nicely might I add. Give me your Wand or suffer the consequences." The Diva of the Twilight withdrew herself, tightening her grip on her Wands.

"You'll have to pry it from my cold dead hands, Diva," Geh warned.

"What a shame. I thought you might be sensible about this. Unfortunately you've forced my hand. I really hoped this had gone another way..." The Diva of the Twilight lifted her Wands and adapted an aggressive stance.

Geh began to sign out runes with his Wand. Eyes locked on the Sage of Balance, he saw her eyes completely flood with red. He became paralyzed by some unknown force, unable to finish what he was signing with his Wand. The Diva began muttering something and a dark red haze began to form around him.

The Earth Sage wanted to run, but his legs had become as heavy as stone. He watched helplessly in horror as the haze surrounded the two of them. The thick haze pushed its way into his mouth and nose, choking him. Geh coughed violently only to feel more haze surge into his lungs.

"The Wand now, General." A red tendril of haze wrapped around around his arm, pulling it forward. It then pried the Earth Sage's fingers from the Wand one by one until it fell into the sand below.

"Now that wasn't so hard, was it? I knew you would see things my way," The Diva said. Another red tendril reached out, picking the Wand up from the sand. She was handed the Wand, which she cradled in her arms with the others.

"Oh come on, cheer up. This haze of mine will have you thinking a lot clearer now. Don't worry, Popokura and Christiva needed a little persuasion too." The Diva of the Twilight laughed cruelly. Within seconds she disappeared from the haze without a trace. The haze then overtook Geh, blinding him and flooding into him. Unable to see or breathe, the Earth Sage collapsed into the sand and let the haze consume him.

-- -- --

Geh Olg awoke in a panic, flailing and grasping at whatever was in reach. It took him a moment to realize where he was: the Thousand Leagues Tower. He had been propped up in a chair. His student Seele was sitting across from him in a large chair reading a book. The Sage of Earth leaned back in the chair, still in shock of what happened.

"Are you awake Master?" his student quietly asked.

"Yes... how did you find me?" Seele did not look at him, flipping another page in her book. What a stupid question- she was a Prophet after all. She could see anything. Geh had taught her so long by now he should have guessed, though her powers were startling at times. Just like now.

"You met the Diva of the Twilight, did you not?" Geh had a flashback to what happened, a wave of shame coming over him. His Wand was gone, and he had practically given it to her. The Sage got up from his chair, leaving his student for the moment.

He walked to a closet by the double doors that led out to the Goldensand Dunes, taking a staff from its insides. These were reserved for learning mages yet without his Wand, he might as well have been powerful as one.

Closing the closet door, a strange compulsion came over him. With the wand in his hands, Geh felt a surge of power. He could do powerful magic even without his Wand. He could purge the Dunes and the continent with his magic. He could finally extinguish humanity for-

Panicked by the sudden thoughts, Geh cradled his head in his hands. Where had these come from? It must have been the haze that the Diva had cast. Some kind of mind control magic, something that would drive him to madness. He felt pitiful to have fallen this way. He couldn't have lasted in a duel with her even without the Wands she held. It would have been a better fate to fall in a duel than this.

"Seele, did you see what happened?" Again the student did not answer him. She got up from the chair she was seated in, approaching her teacher. Her silence confirmed the worst. Geh could have punched himself- he never wanted to let his student see him be defeated. No teacher ever wanted that.

"Seele... you can see what's coming, can't you?" the Earth Sage asked weakly. The prophet nodded, face blank of emotion. She closed the book she had open, hugging it to her chest.

"The Diva is bringing a Twilight on the world and the dawn of monsters will come." Geh turned away from his student. He couldn't let Seele see him become a wreck. He choked back the urge to sob, clenching his hands into fists. She still needed him while he was still human.

"It's time, Seele. We must part ways."

"Master, the end of humanity is upon us. I wish to spend them as peacefully as possible. Allow me to stay by your side."

The Earth Sage looked back at her. A rarity stood before him: his student's vivid red eyes open. Not concealed, not averted, or half-lidded in a trance. It pained him. This was the last time Geh would see the depth of those sunset eyes. He always was captivated by the secrets they held, the stories they knew. This was not a time he could afford to be though.

"I might hurt you. In fact, I would." Geh turned to face her again, feeling monstrous rage building his heart. Was it really him being angry at her insistence? Was this reveling in frightening her? An insidious pleasure lingered in his mind, the control of the Diva tightening.

"I'd throw you to the Earth Hounds. I'd let the Golems trample you into the dust. The Wyverns would rip out your eyes and tear out your eyes!" He tried not to mean the dark words he gave her. The hunger in his heart felt otherwise.

More terrible images came to the Sage about his pupil. Seele becoming torn apart, Seele at the mercy of monsters who had none. Worse still, the thought of his precious prophet succumbing to the same dark curse that the Diva had wrought. The corner of his mouth turned up without Geh registering it- a half smile to that they could be together. Depraved, evil, and monstrous.

Seele didn't deserve that.

"Listen to me. Our time... is drawing to a close. I can't hurt any more people," he began solemnly. "I will go to the dunes, alone. There, I'll call forth a a sandstorm so vast I could never find my way out. No one could ever find their way in. As my student, you have one final task from me. Finalize the seal, and make sure no one comes through. Understood?"

"It is useless," Seele began. "You cannot-"

"I asked if you understood." It came out colder than Geh wanted. He wanted it to sting- no, no he didn't. He cleared his throat, trying again.

"I know. The end is coming, my dear. We should try to make the end times as peaceful as possible. It's our duty as magic users, Sage and Prophet, to uphold our dignity and to do the best to our ability. Do you understand?"

Seele did not respond. The Prophet let out a heavy sigh, closing her eyes. Geh wished he could have said something more comforting- something to keep her gaze on him. Her walls were now up though. It would be for the best.

"I understand," she said at last.

"That's my girl." The Earth Sage wanted to reach out to, to give her a final embrace. An impulse raced through his mind then- his fingernails ripping into her back, clawing off her skin. His hands reacted, flexing with the thought.

Geh winced as he drove his nails into the palm of his hand. The Sage was ashamed by these thoughts, frightened and sickeningly delighted. A pit grew in his stomach which subsided quickly to the dark hunger. He had to leave now. There was no staving off the inevitable any longer.

The Sage walked to the stone double doors that led out of the Thousand Years Tower and into the Goldsand Dunes. Seele followed him quietly, the soft padding of her feet drowned out by her Master heaving open the doors for a final time.

The sunset greeted him, painting the sands with pink, red, and purple as it clung to the horizon. Another small comfort: Geh could be in his element, where he was safest. No one could ever come to him again.

Geh stepped foot into the sand, the warmth welcoming him like an old friend. He paused knowing Seele was there behind him, waiting to carry out his orders. The last time they would be together.

"Remember, Seele. We will become the Earth and from us, new life comes forth. It's what the Creator prophesied." Geh couldn't bring himself to look at her. Instead he walked out into the desert. He thought he heard his student murmur something that sounded a lot like 'good-bye'. What came after was the grinding of the stone doors shutting for the last time.

The Earth Sage walked as the sunset became smaller and smaller, giving way to the cloudy night sky. The dunes grew taller as he walked south towards the sea. He walked as far as he could, until the Thousand Years Tower was only a pinpoint on the horizon. Geh then planted himself firmly in the smooth sand under his feet.

Raising his staff, Geh swung with all of his might. He preformed intricate movements shaking nervously as he tried. A gust rolled in from the west, cradling the Earth Sage with particles of sand. As he continued signing his runes toward the sky, the gust became stronger. A whirlwind of sand gathered around him, spreading out and taking in the dunes of the area.

As he made the final sign of his rune, Geh could no longer see the tower. The sound of a thunderclap boomed as he made the last segment, sending the sandstorm forth. The howling wind of the sound storm drowned out all he could have heard. The earthy smell of brine and grit filled his lungs.

Exhaustion wreaked in his limbs, the last bit of magic draining from the Earth Sage. He fell to his knees, holding onto his staff to support him. This was it, this was the end. Geh felt the haze overtaking him finally, and at last let himself be consumed by it entirely.