Soul Relic Prologue

6 Nov 2021, Samuel Hinton

A brief snippet teasing much more to come!

Set on the continent of Rhodus, the Soul Relic series follows Raysha as she grapples with her broken soul and inability to effectively channel the spiritual force of aeon. In a world where those who advance in the spiritual arts enough are regarded as gods, living without this ability means living at the bottom of society.

Not a place Raysha wants to remain.

Atareus looked down at the god weeping piteously by his feet.

Blood dripped from the deity's ruined face onto the marble tiles below. Atareus reached down, seized the deity's head by his hair, and lifted the burly god of smithing into the air like a child.

"I owed you a favour, old friend," Atareus said, "and I repay it now, by letting you understand the cost of your politics, your greed, your arrogance. I warned you a century ago, but who would listen,"—the man's lips curled—"I'm only the god of knowledge, after all."

A bloody tear leaked out of Kroenic's ruined eyes as his sobbing grew fainter. Atareus could feel the smith's spirit fading, and he reached out with his will, stabilising the god's flagging heart.

Atareus' almost kicked the man in disgust. "Take a final comfort in the fact your power will help to preserve our country for millennia to come." With a mental flex, he shattered Kroenic's mind, turned, and tossed him like a toy down the long temple hall. The limp body bounced, skidded, and then came to a halt when it slid into other mangled corpses. Atareus put the smith from his mind and drew in a deep, calming breath.

For the first time in centuries, silence reigned in the great temple. Only hours ago, the shouts of dozens of ineffectual deities would have echoed between the vaulted marble columns and intermingled with the yapping of dogs outside.

Atareus, god of knowledge, walked down the temple hall, cataloguing the damage the temple had sustained during the theological discussions. Fractured marble busts strewn across the ground stared vacantly up at the painted ceiling, their stone gazes fixed on the charred remains of delicate frescoes. Fluted columns had been hewn down and scattered like twigs around the hall. The flagstones under his feet crunched, throwing ash into the air and adding to the haze of smoke and burnt flesh that lay thick on the god's tongue.

The building groaned as the cracked walls shifted, so Atareus reached out mentally, stabilising the structure and willing the marble to flow and seal the most significant damage. He cast his awareness out further, finding his wards around the temple holding strong. Without them to contain the flailing of his dying siblings, the city below would lie a smoking ruin. Instead, they hadn't even cracked his barrier.

Atareus arrived at the end of the hall and stepped up onto the raised dais from which the gods of Erasted had governed their nation. He gazed around dispassionately at the twisted bodies of former deities scattered like broken dolls across the floor. Kroenic had come to rest beside the nation's greatest beauty, but now Aphaea's glassy eyes stared into a wall. What was left of her mangled body lay a few yards away, tangled with the corpse of Kharos, god of thieves and beggars. His robes were tattered, and a foot-wide hole had been torn through his chest. Corpses of dead gods were splayed all around the room, dead by the hand of Atareus or each other in their panicked release of power.

They were gods that only played at governing a nation. Bumbling halfwits content with a life of luxury, simply because they had achieved enough power to claw up the theological ladder into divinity. Fools, all of them.

Atareus stood there silently, finishing his inspection. The damage to the temple was well within acceptable limits. He'd have thought that his brothers and sisters in the pantheon would have put up a better fight, but no, they disappointed him even in death.

He looked up, his eyes falling on the prostate form of an armoured man. He clicked his fingers, and the terrified man glanced up, though he kept his gaze fixed on Atareus' sandaled feet.

"Up," the god commanded.

The soldier stood quickly, his polished armour clinking. His once-pristine white cloak was tarnished with ash, soot, and blood, and its pallid grey appearance was strangely mirrored in the soldier's horror-stricken face.

"Captain Hetados, how many live?" Atareus asked the soldier.

"Three, sire," the man reported, without a quaver in his voice. The Lionandis Legion only recruited the best. "The healers are unsure when they will wake, sire."

Atareus nodded pleasantly, then signalled for Hetados to lead the way down the hall. "Never, I would imagine." He twitched a finger, and the Kroenic's limp body rose into the air like on invisible tethers and moved to float behind him. Then, he extended a hand and channelled a sliver of his power through it. A wispy, blue fluid streamed out of his palm, tendrils rising up like a growing plant and forming a complex structure of interlocking runes and glyphs. The formation continued to grow, forming a delicate spire a foot high. With a flex of the god's will, the liquid solidified into brilliant crystal, which he passed to the shocked soldier.

"Your Holiness—"

"Find me at least five promising Aspirants to build upon this formation. Within the month, Captain."

Hetados bowed, hand over his heart. "Yes, your Holiness." He looked up at the pre-eminent god of Erasted—now the only god of Erasted—the barest hint of confusion skirting across his features. He paused for a moment, swallowed, and opened his mouth to speak.

Atareus interrupted the man. "Worry not about me, Captain, for I have the heart for what comes next. By the end of the day, I will be well beyond the formation's power."

The god continued down the corridor, captain in tow, Kroenic bobbing along behind, dripping blood slowly onto the floor.

He walked towards the three doomed deities with shattered minds. Towards sources of power ripe for harvest.

Towards a better future.

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