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The creak of a window was just quiet enough that an ordinary person would have missed it completely. But Zavan was no ordinary person, had never been ordinary in his life; his attention was pulled away from the plans he was drawing up instantly upon hearing the noise. So he placed his pen down and turned to look at whoever was foolish enough to actually attempt to sneak into a god’s living quarters. Leaning on his windowsill with falsified casualness was Death himself. He was glowering at Zavan with characteristic menace, but Zavan paid it no mind. Instead he turned the whole chair with a twitch of his finger and crossed his legs, saying nothing. The silence was a measured contest; both parties loathe to break it and give the other the satisfaction of having won. And they were gods after all, were they not? What were creeping minutes to those of millenia? (Internally, Zavan’s pride warred with his impatience. Why could he not just get to the point?)

“I was led to believe that mortals were well-versed in the laws of hospitality.” Death’s voice rumbled around the room finally. Zavan smirked at the minor show of power (although he did wonder if that was just how he sounded), even after losing the unspoken contest. Neither made any move to leave the spot they had rooted in and so the stand-off (so to speak) continued.

“I’m sure they are. However, I’m unaware of the societal expectations of what to do when one god sneaks into the home of another like a common thief. Are you?”

“I wouldn’t describe it as ‘sneaking.’” Was that the hint of a smirk or just the candlelight playing off his face. “After all, there is no place on the mortal plane Death is not welcome. Or necessary.”

Zavan raised an eyebrow at that. “I do believe you’ve found yourself standing in the one place where that is untrue.”

“Even a god may die, Zavan.”

A chill permeated the room.

“Is that a threat?” His tone was mild, but the question had a dangerous edge.

That made the other god laugh. A warm, rich, full-belly laugh that changed the entire countenance of the previously somber Death as it bounced around the room. It surprised Zavan as well, and he placed both feet flat on the floor in shock.

“I’m not here to kill you, you’ve no need to fear that. No,” He crossed the room and stood in front of Zavan with an offered hand. Hesitantly, Zavan allowed himself to be lifted from the chair. Now the two were eye level with each other, and Death searched Zavan’s face like it held some secret just beneath the surface. “I came to see the new upstart who has everyone up in arms.”

“What?” This was news to Zavan.

“You’re making waves. Have you not realized? The speed at which you change and rearrange? It just simply isn’t done. Ours is a slow kind, as I’m sure you are aware. What is the need for hurry when we have an eternity, no? But you. You’re something new. You’re hasty and that’s something we haven’t been in… well, suffice to say you’re something of interest now. An anomaly.”

It was not that Zavan was unaware of his own reputation for being considered...impulsive. However, he wasn’t aware that the others were unnerved by it. Frankly, he thought they were all too busy being wrapped up in their own business and divine squabbling to pay him any mind at all. No one had attempted to go out of their way to speak with him outside of terse run-ins and the project he’d begun with Ceato.

“I thought you would be above gossip, if we’re being candid.”

“Why else would I be here? You…interest me. I see no point in trying to pick up bits and pieces when I could simply meet the man-made-god myself. Would you settle for less?”

“I suppose not. Well Death? What’s your conclusion?”

There was a low hum that seemed to come through the floors, and Zavan realized it was emitting from Death. He was thinking, Zavan supposed.

“You’re causing all sorts of trouble. About half of my family thinks you’re one of the most interesting things to happen in a few centuries, and the other half thinks you’ll be the end of us all.” He turned over Zavan’s hand as if he’d find the answer to the debate in the palm of it. To be fair, Zavan had created the solution to many problems with said hands so it was not out of the question.

“But what do you think?”

“I don’t necessarily trust you, but you are fascinating. I don’t often find myself dragged into familial politics, and I find that stirring the pot, whether purposeful or accidental, is more trouble than it’s worth.” He lifted Zavan’s hand to his lips, looking him in the eyes. “However, all said, I think I am very interested to see what you’ll do later on.”

Zavan had barely blinked before the god had vanished from his room, leaving only the ghost of a kiss burning his knuckles. He shook his head before returning to his work. He still had much to do in preparation.

---

After the walls went up, Zavan needed a new project. He sculpted the trenches down to the city with his Divinity initially, but soon got bored. What was the point if there was never any challenge? If he could achieve everything with the wave of a palm or the snap of his fingers? He found himself in the city expanding one of the canals down into the center of the city manually. A few of his own people joined him after a time, working under the summer sun. The heat of the day beating down on him, the solid sensation of a shovel in his hand, and the sound of the dirt being shuffled and packed away grounded him in a way that had not happened in some time.

Around noon, an immense shadow fell over Zavan and he turned to see Death standing over him with a bemused look. The other workers also noticed him, and expressions of terror erupted over their faces. Some fell to their knees and others scrambled away from the threatening figure of the other god. Zavan glared at him and then turned to his workers with both hands up.

“Have no fear, he is not here for any of you. Go home to your families for the day. You will still be compensated for a full day’s work.” He had barely said the words before the workers had fled, leaving their tools on the ground where a person had been only moments before. Mentally he made a note to locate the homes of everyone who was there before the day was over. With a final, irritated sigh, he stomped the blade of his own shovel deep into the dirt, where it would stay, untouched, until the next day.

He hefted himself out of the trench and stood before Death, suddenly conscious of the way he appeared in front of this eidolon of perfection. He was unruffled and seemingly unaffected by the summer, in fact, the complete opposite. The sun seemed to embrace, rays playing beautifully off skin that was so dark it seemed nearly blue. Zavan mentally assessed himself, sweaty, dirt streaked, underdressed, and the flush of a sunburn beginning under his own tan skin. He quickly shook off the feeling of insecurity. These were all the signs of a hard day’s work, something the beautiful man before him had never experienced.

“To what do I owe the honor of a second visit?”

“It occurred to me that I may have been rude the other night. There was no formal introduction, after all.” The ghost of a smile flickered over his face, and Zavan got the feeling he was teasing him. He felt indignation rise, but he tamped it down for now. It would not do to burn bridges so early in the game just because of petty feelings. “Allow me to go first. I am Mordukai, child of Ather and Emitaf, Death Eternal, Overseer of the Final Journey, the True Judge.”

“And I am Zavan, son of the people, the Mortal God, Aspiration Personified, Godking of Ani.”

“A pleasure to formally make your acquaintance, Zavan.”

“Tell me, Death Eternal, is this pattern of interrupting my projects in order to introduce yourself going to continue? If so, please let me know so I can plan accordingly.”

Mordukai threw his head back; his laugh shook the very ground they stood upon. It was a beautiful sight, Zavan had to admit. Some part of him was suddenly struck with the desire to make him laugh even more. “Must you be so formal? We’ve introduced ourselves, no need for titles. If my presence is causing unnecessary strife, I’ll leave you be. However, it is time for a midday meal and I was hoping you would allow me to pull you away from your work long enough to join me.” He gestured behind him to reveal a meal set out on a blanket, and hefted his hand to bring Zavan’s attention to a bottle of wine that had certainly not been there a moment before. It was such a ridiculous show of power that Zavan cracked a smile.

“I suppose my schedule is, quite miraculously, clear for the afternoon.” He did his best to sound stern and vaguely dismissive, but he found himself missing the mark in the wake of Mordukai’s hopeful expression. “I might be able to spare a few minutes to eat with you.”

“Excellent. Wodea herself fermented and bottled this particular bottle. I would hate to see it go to waste today, seeing as I waited long enough for the proper company to enjoy it with.”

“You think you’re quite the charmer, don’t you?” There was no real bite behind Zavan’s words as he walked towards the picnic blanket, surveying the spread that was laid out. Everything looked delicious, and why should he be surprised? He sat down and arranged himself as gracefully as possible, managing to avoiding kicking anything in the process. Mordukai sat across from him with ease and began to pour a generous amount of wine for the both of them.

“Well I believe I must be doing something in that direction. The phrase ‘flirting with death’ cannot have sprung from nowhere.” Zavan’s fingers lingered over Mordukai’s as he took the cup from him.

“Hmph. Well I do hear that the mortals are dying to meet you.”

“He makes cities, canals, and jokes!” Mordukai seemed absolutely delighted, and Zavan was of the personal opinion that his smile in that moment, open and honest, rivaled the midday sun they were sitting under. “Is there nothing Zavan cannot do?”

“I doubt it. I am Aspiration made flesh after all.”

“Trust me,” Mordukai leaned in with what might have been considered a conspiratory air. “I am all too aware.”

Eventually, conversation gave way to simply eating. The food itself was exquisite, to neither’s surprise, and Zavan said as much, earning himself another dazzling smile. The wine, too, was everything Mordukai had built it up to be, and as the sun slowly sank, they abandoned the cups and passed the bottle between each other. Zavan described the plans he had for the waterways in fervorous detail. He mapped out the city, his city, and the ways in which it would improve the lives of everyone in it. He had a vision and he wanted Mordukai to be able to see it and understand as well. Zavan was surprised at that realization. He wanted Mordukai to understand why he worked in such haste, why he was unable to let things happen at a snail’s pace, why he constantly planned and worked and planned more.

Mordukai seemed genuinely interested in his plans as well, asking questions or for further expansion on certain points. “Why, though, would you work in the dirt for this, instead of simply making it so? You have no difficulty with that, the walls are proof enough. Why bother maintaining such a tedious schedule on a project such as this?”

Zavan sighed, thinking about the proper way to phrase it. “Once, I did think that way. I thought ‘If I have the power to make it happen now, why not? What’s the use in waiting if I don’t have to?’ and that was fine for a time. But it was empty work. I know your kin sees me as overhasty, and to them, at their scale, I very well may be. But I live among mortals, and I represent their aspirations and beliefs. What, in the end, in the face of everything, is the point if there’s no challenge? If everything is so easy? When does the miraculous become mundanity? This, the ability to sculpt the city with my own hands? That’s divinity in and of itself. Besides, I’m immortal. I have nothing if not the luxury of taking my time.”

“Amazing.” Mordukai was regarding him with a strange glint in his eyes.

“What is?”

“I told you when we first met, didn’t I? I told you I found you fascinating. I truly had no idea just how fascinating you would turn out to be.”

“Oh?”

“Zavan, you are something else entirely.”

Zavan stared him in the eye levely, face betraying no emotion. “Do you find that to be something positive or negative?”

“I find that to be absolutely wondrous.”

Zavan turned his gaze to the bottle resting between them, nearly three quarters empty. It had certainly been worth the praise. Wodea had outdone herself, truly. It was as if the most pleasant days of summer had been compressed in that bottle and sealed away until they could be perfectly relived. It evoked the sensation drinking the summer sun itself.

There, in the grass next to their long-finished meal, in the lazy warmth of the late afternoon sun, Zavan felt as if he slowly drank that same sensation from Mordukai’s wine-stained lips.

“You weren’t wrong.” He murmured.

“About what?”

“It certainly was a fine vintage.”

“I seemed to have found the perfect company to share it with as well.”

“So it would seem.”

---

Just as he had said, the waterways came together, slowly but surely. From atop the wall, he surveyed his city with pride. It was all coming together, piece by piece. This was his legacy, and the legacy of his people. This is what the mortals could achieve, magic or no. Clean water ran through the whole of the city for the first time in...at least since well before Zavan had been born. And it was his doing. Was it arrogance to take pride in his own achievements? Some might say so, but he saw nothing wrong with it. Already, though, he grew bored, mentally planning his next project even while basking in the sight his previous one.

“Quite a sight, young one. Quite a sight.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Zavan had long since grown accustomed to the unexpected (and occasionally unwelcome) appearances of his peers, especially as they grew more frequent the closer the waterways had grown to completion. He looked to his left, where an old man stood leaning against his walking stick as he took in the view. “Hello, Traveler.”

He snorted in amusement and waved Zavan off with a hand. “None of that. I don’t go for all the formalities, I find they get in the way of a good journey. Tir will do just fine.”

Zavan nodded in acknowledgment. “So, what brings you here?”

“The road of course!” Tir cackled at his own joke, while Zavan managed a polite smile. “Ah, that one’s always funny, never gets old, even after millenia. No. I’m here because the others are having one of their-” he broke off in a small hand-wavy gesture. “-get togethers, I supposed it could be called, and I felt it was only right to extend the invitation to you as well.”

“Really?”

“Of course!” Tir clapped him on the back with a force that was unexpected from his frail frame. “You’re one of us, after all aren’t you?”

“Some would argue against that.”

“And arguing wouldn’t do anything to change the fact that you’re a god in your own right would it? Divine by blood or divine by will, you are what you are. So don’t be stubborn, and join us.” He stretched out a hand and Zavan regarded it for several moments before resigning himself and taking it.

He found himself transported to a grandiose festival hall unlike any he had ever seen. The ceilings arched high and seemed to have no end, and space enough for the multitude of divine bodies occupying the space. A singular long table stretched the length, covered in all sorts of food and drink. A few seats were occupied (most notably by Radia and Valhena, who seemed to be engaged in the most intense arm wrestling match he had ever witnessed. Jodar, Gaidir, and Lordros were seated around them, exchanging…figurines? in excitement).

“What are they-” He turned to ask, only to find that Tir had vanished from his side. Zavan felt immensely alone for a moment, stranded in a sea of people all more deserving of being here than he. He forced that particular emotion away though. Who was he to be insecure? First of his kind and extraordinary? He squared his shoulders and looked through the crowd for any of his fellows. Ceato stuck out the most, so he wandered over purposefully and clasped his forearm with a warm smile.

“Zavan! I was unaware you were coming today. But I’m pleased to see you. How is the infrastructure of the canals holding up under the pressure?”

“Everything is still running smoothly, as expected. Although it’s not as if we should be surprised at that. We planned everything meticulously.”

“Exactly my friend. Now come, join in the festivities. We only get together so often, and I anticipate that there will be at least two fights. We should make the rounds before that happens. Yala, Zavan has joined us!” He waved over someone who was strikingly similar to Mordukai. As she approached though, he could find the clear differences. Her shoulders were broader, her smile wider, and the joyful glint that lay hidden in her brother’s eye shone brightly in her own. Her presence filled the very air as she approached Zavan with a smile that reminded him so much of her brother’s. Dimly, he was aware they were twins, but he had failed to actually think about what that meant. She clasped his hands warmly between her own.

“Welcome! I’m so pleased you decided to come.” Her vivacity began affecting him as well, and he smiled back at her.

“I’m pleased to have been invited. I will admit, I was surprised to have received an invitation. I was led to believe this is a family affair.”

“Of course it is! But you’re family as well now!” For a moment he could only blink in surprise. How did she know that he- “Divinity makes family of us all, I think. No reason to exclude you just because you didn’t happen to fall into the mold of what some of my kin would consider ‘true family.’” She rolled her eyes exaggeratedly. Ceato laughed at that.

“If anything, I think Yala is the final say in who is and isn’t part of our family, all things considered.”

Zavan was struck with the reminder that, for all her youth, she was a matriarch of the family. Despite the casualness of her interactions, she was the closest to absolute power in the room. He felt… He couldn’t identify the emotion the knowledge invoked. Reverence? Fear? Intimidation? It was hard to associate those feelings with the kind smiling woman in front of him.

As if sensing this, Yala shooed Ceato with a laugh. “No need to go around reminding everyone just how ancient I am. The mortals do well enough on their own without all of you adding to the discussion!”

“And yet, little sister, you will always be younger than me, so what does it matter how old you may or may not be?” Mordukai swept up next to Yala and dropped a kiss on her forehead. She elbowed him in the ribs and he danced away, pretending to be hurt. “Sorry I ran late, there was more work to do than usual today.”

“It never matters if you arrive late so long as you are here. And I’m not your little sister. I’m the older one and everyone knows it. Forgive me, I’m being rude though. Zavan have you met Mordukai?”

“Once or twice, yes.” He bowed slightly, a smirk playing on his lips. “Hello Mordukai.”

Mordukai inclined his head towards him. “Godking.” And then he turned to Yala with an inscrutable expression. “You didn’t tell me you’d managed to invite everyone this time around. I’m impressed.”

“You seem surprised. Did you doubt me?”

“You? Never. However-” Mordukai seemed to catch sight of someone over Zavan’s shoulder and his expression clouded over, suddenly somber. “Ah. Excuse me, Ceato, Zavan, but it seems I must deprive you of my company momentarily. I’ll find you later, Yala.”

Yala saw whoever had spooked Mordukai and sighed. “You can’t just run off Mor.”
He only said “I’ll find you later Yala” more firmly before walking off in the direction of the table, which was starting to draw an even bigger crowd of spectators.

“What wa-” Zavan started to ask before he felt a sturdy hand clap him on the shoulder. It was a testament to his resolve more than anything else that he didn’t crumple under the blow or yank away from the touch as the fingers bit into his skin with a more pressure than necessary. Yala’s smile tightened for a fraction of a second before her expression smoothed out to something more neutral.

“Hello, Barros.”

Oh.

Ceato coughed gently and shot Zavan an apologetic look before also mumbling some excuse or other to Yala and following after Mordukai, leaving Zavan and Yala to attend to Barros. Zavan found himself unable to summon any feelings of resentment towards his friend. Given the opportunity, he too would have found the most polite way to avoid this interaction as well. He was well aware that, due to his more recent endeavors, Barros held no love for Zavan and had made his feelings on the Mortal God extremely known, both to Zavan and any other gods who would listen.

“Hello Yala. I see we have a new acquaintance with us today.” Barros’ honey-smooth voice was entirely too close to Zavan’s ear for comfort and he stepped away from him with shoulders squared. Barros’ hand dropped to his side and he smiled pleasantly at the both of them.

“I thought it would be nice to bring him into the fold. How have you been of late?”

“Busy, mostly. I’ve had a to do much more work than usual. The balance of things have been thrown off. More so than usual, I mean. Something is interfering and it has caused me a great deal of trouble.” He turned his smile towards Zavan and looked him dead in the eyes. Zavans stomach coiled and a sour taste filled his mouth.

“I suppose things do tend to be out of balance when there is a war on.” Zavan kept his tone light and level, the opposite of how he felt in that moment. “I can’t imagine it’s made your life easy, all that conflict, I mean?”

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that. Sometimes conflict can be good, provided it brings balance to the scales. Even war has its place in the order of things, you know. Sometimes, you need a little bit of mess to put things back to rights.” Unconsciously, one of Zavan’s hands clenched into a fist the longer he was pinned under Barros’ pleasant gaze. “I will admit, Yala, I was under the impression that this event was family-only. If I was aware this was no longer the case, I would have come better dressed.”

“It still is family-only dear. What could have changed that made you think otherwise?” Yala looked over the crowd as if searching for someone who had no place there.

“You’re right, I don’t know what I was thinking. Zavan, remind me what branch you come from? Sometimes it’s easy to forget who goes where, there’s just so many of us, you know. Pelios? Vistrix? Or maybe you’re Mordukai’s basta-”

“Mine, of course.” Yala’s voice had an edge like steel, and Barros’ face fell instantly. All three of them were hyperaware of the fact that Barros had crossed a line and neither knew how Yala would react. She still smiled brightly (Zavan wondered briefly if she had ever not smiled), but it was a winter’s morning where before it had like spring. “There is no one in this space who I did not approve of being here. And if there was, it would not be your place to handle it. I am all too aware of the...unrest, believe me. We squabble and fight and sabotage each other constantly, but here, in these rare moments when we are all together? I would like peace.”

“I’m- I apologize, Yala, I was out of line.”

“You were. And another thing? If you ever try and bring my brother into whatever conflicts you try to stir up with whoever, you and I will be having more than words. Is that clear?”

“Crystal.”

“Excellent.” She patted his face affectionately, the soft action a startling contrast to the harsh words she had spoken. “I’m going to go see if I can’t find Kalos now, apparently they’ve crafted something absolutely delightful. Be kind to each other now.”

She left before either of them could respond, leaving them to stare at each other, slightly aghast.

“Barros-”

“Look. I will offer you this singular piece of advice, Aspiration. Learn when to leave well enough alone. There’s a reason we work slowly, and you would do well to heed it.” He leaned forward and clasped Zavan’s hand, drawing him closer. “Everyone knows if you apply pressure too quickly things shatter.”

---

A blast of cold air hit his back and Zavan shivered awake, unhappily alert. Warm lips pressed against his neck in apology as Mordukai slid into bed behind him. He was surprised that he had decided to come to Ani that night. Although they had fallen into somewhat of a pattern, Zavan was still extremely busy and therefore unlikely to actually sleep or even be in bed most nights, and Mordukai was loathe to just drop in unannounced in the middle of the night anymore, no matter how many times Zavan had assured him that he did not mind. Pleased at the company, Zavan fit himself into his lover’s arms, though he was still disgruntled at the manner in which he’d been woken. Zavan remembered, with a flare of irritation, that he had to be up early for some council meeting or other. He stifled a yawn before pulling one of Mordukai’s hands to him and kissing the palm.

“Hello love. You’re back late tonight.”

“I had… business to attend to. I’m sorry I woke you, go back to sleep.” His voice sounded troubled, which made Zavan turn around to look him in the eye. Moonlight shone through a crack in the curtains and fell over Mordukai’s face, revealing his brow furrowed with concern and the way he was looking down at him. Zavan raised one hand to smooth away the wrinkle before resting it on Mordukai’s jaw.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Sleep. Please. We can talk about it tomorrow, just leave it be for tonight.”

“Kai.” He forced the other man to look at him. “Don’t lie to me. Tell me what’s troubling you.”

Mordukai sighed deeply. “Please, can’t we just wait til morning?”

“If we wait, will it eat away at your brain all night? Tell me honestly you will sleep easy, and I will leave it.”

He looked him fondly. “Who allowed you to be so charming? Were you not aligned with me, I might fear.”

“I’ve been told my magnetic personality is one of my best traits.” They smiled at each other before Mordukai’s troubled expression returned.

“It’s, some of the others are- There’s fighting amongst some of the more vocal ones.”

Zavan rolled his eyes. “The others are always fighting about one thing or another. What’s different about this?”

“They’re fighting about you this time, I’m afraid. You’re making waves again, and they’re becoming more anxious. They’re polarizing, trying to decide what to do about you. Barros and Siffor are adamant that you need to be stopped. The most pressing concern is that they are starting to become more convincing.”

“Stopped? Why? For trying to end a war? What is so wrong with-”

“Shhh. Not everybody feels that way. There are several people fighting in your defense, my sister chief among them. But not everyone sees your deeds as good. They’re scared of you. You move too fast and too soon and that’s alarming to them.”

“I’m not-”

“I know love. But you must remember, there is a reason it was decreed there would be no new gods. They’re-” he broke off with a sigh and propped himself up on one elbow so he could look down at Zavan. Gently, he carded his hair away from his face with such tenderness that Zavan wanted to cry. The suddenness of such an emotion surprised him, and his breath caught in his throat. “It’s only talk at the moment though. I just worry for you.”

He swallowed the lump away to speak, voice thick with emotion. “And I for you. But it’s late Kai, and you were right. We can discuss this in the morning.”
“Mmmmm. I distinctly recall you bemoaning the fact that you have council meetings in the morning, Van.” The teasing lilt that often colored Mordukai’s voice when talking to him returned, and Zavan took that to mean he had succeeded in distracting his lover from his worries, if only temporarily.

He grinned and wrapped an arm around Mordukai’s neck, pulling him down into a kiss. “Well I am the king.” He said as they broke apart. “I think it’s a safe assumption that I may cancel whichever meetings I please, council or no. And now I believe I have a much more important meeting to schedule.”

He pushed thoughts of war aside and tried to focus on the present. There and then, he had a someone he loved with him to pass the lonely hours, and in the morning, he would be there still. In the moment, that was enough.

---

Zavan was panicking, as loathe as he was to admit it. It was nearing the end of the battle, he could feel it, and he had no clue which side would come out of it victorious, or if the possibility of victor even existed at this point. Both sides had seen countless slaughter, with the corpses of friends and foes alike laying scattered across the globe. Zavan could not even bear to think of the innumerable mortal lives that had been caught in the crossfire. That was a lie, though. They were not countless to him. Even as they died in droves, Zavan could name every single mortal who had been claimed, each loss a fresh knife driven into his heart. And so, as the battle raged around him, his only thought was so get the majority of the conflict away from his city. So he grabbed Mordukai by the hand with an iron grip and the two transported to some field in the middle of Kadar.

It provided them the briefest moment of respite. Zavan wordless pressed his forehead to Mordukai’s, unable to express the depths of his grief. They were covered in the blood of kin and mud of numerous battlefields. Zavan felt profoundly weary. Mordukai was struggling to breathe, overcome with the knowledge that Yala, his twin, his constant companion since birth, had died only a mere thirty feet from the two of them, struck down with malice by Vistrix nearly without hesitation.

“How touching.” A crackling voice mocked them, causing them to both drop into fighting stance expectantly. “Well done, Mordukai, I must admit. Millions of years, and he is the one you’ve chosen as a lover? Excellent timing, truly.”

“Siffor, brother, please.” Mordukai pleaded. “There has been too much unnecessary death today. So many of us are dead already, must we kill each other? They killed Yala already, please.”

If Siffor held any remorse or felt any grief for the death of his former lover, or of his kin, he was incapable of showing it. He only laughed and began to circle around them. “Mordukai, Mordukai, Mordukai. What part of all this-” He gestured with wide arms crackling with energy. “-would ever make you think I was anything less that deadly serious? But never let it be said I was anything less than merciful. Give me the Godking, and not only will I allow the rest of you and yours to leave unharmed, but I will kill him quickly.”

“Or, you will harm no one else, and die instead!” He stamped a foot down and a wave of black energy crackled over the ground, pulsing towards, and as the plant life died, a ring speeding towards the Sun God.

Siffor hadn’t expected the move, and it hit him square in the chest. He flew back a few feet before repositioning his stance and spitting a little blood from his mouth. “Fine. Just know that when everyone and everything dies screaming it will have been your fault!”

Zavan, Mordukai, and Siffor traded blows, both physical and divine, destroying the countryside. And then Siffor pulled an underhanded move. “NOW BARROS!” He screamed, and Zavan whirled around, ready to confront Order. But there was no one behind him, he realized with dawning horror, and then he realized just what a grave error he had made when he heard the familiar crackle of a fire.

“Zavan!”

As the bolt meant for him struck his lover in the chest, Zavan felt his own heart breaking. “No no no no no. It cannot end like this I refuse I-” Zavan rambled continuously as he dropped to his knees, cradling Mordukai as he sputtered and his breath rattled. “Kai no.”

Mordukai smiled up at him weakly and caught one of Zavan’s hands with his own, pressing a kiss to the knuckles in an echo of decades ago, when they were still new to each other and war meant the plains of Kadar, not the front steps of their own home. “Looks like I’m still falling for you.”

“Please tell me how to fix this love, I can’t- Mordukai how do fix this?!” He forgot Siffor, who was still there and advancing with a smug look etched into every part of his face.

“Oh Van, you can’t. Even a god may die, remember? Now please, just trust me on this. This one last time.”

Zavan kissed him desperately; it lasted a millisecond, it spanned eternity. “Always.”

And Mordukai’s eyes fluttered closed for the last time, and time seemed to stop for a moment. Then there was an explosion of power, and Zavan found himself arcing through the sky, hurtling towards the water as a crater formed in the middle of Kadar, swallowing the corpse of his lover and his enemy along with it. Zavan felt unimaginably powerful in that moment; it arched over and around his fingers, and he clenched his fists together in agony. He forced himself to allow the moment pass in the face of understanding. He would have time to mourn Mordukai’s loss, and the loss of anyone who had died fighting for him, after he put a decisive end to all of this. Ironwood resolve hardened in Zavan, and he nodded fiercely. Mordukai’s final gift to Zavan would not be in vain.

He would make them mourn the day they ever decided this would be an adequate plan. Zavan took off towards Ani once more.