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The Second Choice

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Do you remember, dear girl, the choice that Mazana gave the first men? Many chose to sacrifice their immortality for the boon of a child’s love; some did not, and it is the story of one such man that I shall tell you today.

In the first seasons, no one cared about the difference between those who had taken Mazana’s gift and those who had not. As time passed, though, the immortals realized that they would one day be outnumbered. A family could raise many children, whereas the immortals’ number could only decrease.

Those who had made the sacrifice grew old, and passed on, and then their children, and those children’s children as well. The world began to change. Animals and plants lived and died and lived, just as most humans now did. In time, the immortals began to withdraw, until there were places where an immortal human was nothing but a legend.

Many of them have names you might recognize, including Pende, who is only spoken of in whispers.

Having lived many of our lifetimes, Pende had grown bored with the human world. He prayed to the gods to teach him something new, which no one else on earth had learned.

Unfortunately, the gods are not always good listeners.

Pende’s prayer went unanswered. He had learned patience, however, in all his many years, so Pende waited, and prayed again.

Three times did Pende pray to the gods, as another human lifespan passed, and three times did his prayers go unanswered. Frustrated, Pende wandered for many years, until at last he found his way into the heart of the world, where the god Magnus dwelt.

Magnus welcomed Pende into his home as a son, for indeed, were not all humans born from Magnus’ fire and Mazana’s heartblood?

Please, Lord Magnus, Pende said, please, teach me something new. Lend me some of your power so that I may discover new worlds.

Whether Magnus regrets his actions now is unwritten; what is known is that Magnus reached forward to lay his palm flat against Pende’s chest and stretched his mind toward Pende’s heart.

Did Magnus know what would happen? Was it a lesson or a gift he intended to give to Pende? The answers are not written.

Humans are not meant to hold such power. The conflagration swept through Pende’s body, burning the color from his skin. Light from the divine flames scorched his eyes. Dazed, burning, Pende stumbled from Magnus’ home, making his way back to the human world.

The fire had left him white as ash, sensitive to even the soft light of the sun, and yet these things were nothing compared to the terrible truth the Pende would come to learn. Magnus’ touch had boiled away the drop of Mazana’s blood that lay in the heart of every human. We were meant to be balanced; man's nature held in check between destruction and life.

Pende’s spirit yearned for what it was missing. A terrible thirst came over him, a need for the life he no longer possessed. It could not be quenched, and he could not be killed.

Pende wanders to this day, hidden in dark corners and deep shadows, and he waits for blood.