The serpent writhed and thrashed, it’s enormous wet tail slapping the stone floor and slamming against the columns. It’s great mouth opened, revealing it’s curved, sharped fangs, as it hissed and whined, and it began to shrink, it’s shining wet blue and silver scales sparkling as the tail, the head, and even the sleek gossamer wings became smaller and smaller, shrinking into a strange, formless shape in the center of the circle.

The formless mass remained covered in the glittering scales, and two limbs sprouted forth from it, arms with hands and fingers that scraped the floor, and then another two limbs, legs with feet and toes that sretched and kicked, until the shape became that of a naked man, and the scales began to slip off onto the floor and vanish in the puddle of water, and the thing that took the form a man stood on it’s two legs.

A naked man, with long blonde hair that hung past his broad, powerful, scarred shoulders down to his chest. He breathed heavily, hunched, his arms at his sides, his nude body covered into deep gashes and scars, and in the center of his face burned two bright blue eyes, his wet mouth agape, the water still cascading down his skin, across the delicate hair of his chest and stomach, dripping from his crotch and his legs as the scales at his feet vanished entirely.

He spoke.

“You,” he panted, “You have released me. Why now, Sanguine?”

Drosselmeyer spoke. “I am not Sanguine. The old god is long dead now.”

The naked man snorted and smiled. “I doubt that. Sanguine is not easy to kill, I can tell you that from experience.”

“But it is true.” Drosselmeyer swept his cloak behind him and began pacing in a slow circle around the man who had appeared where the serpent had been, surveying him. Extremely powerful and athletic body, strong muscles in his arms, his chest, his stomach and his legs. He passed behind him and saw the strong back, the firm buttocks. The man didn’t move, just stood there, panting.

Drosselmeyer spoke again. “I am a human, who gained the powers of a god.”

The man threw his head back and laughed loudly. “Now that! That, I can identify with!”

Drosselmeyer smiled as he faced the man again, “I thought you would. Long ago the sea god passed his power on to you, and when you sought to reign over humans, Sanguine sealed you away, banished into the spirit world, never to be released.”

“Yes, and now I have been,” replied the man, “But how? Only Sanguine himself could free me, he cast the spell and only he could reverse it.”

“Fortunately for you,” Drosselmeyer responded, “I was born with Sanguine’s memories. I know everything about him. His life. His power. But that’s all it’s ever been: knowledge. A terrible, haunting knowledge that follows me and drives me to madness. But then his brother, Lucifer, was killed, and I inherited that god’s powers. Now, with Lucifer’s powers and Sanguine’s knowledge, I am as powerful as any god. And so, I released you.”

There was a long pause in which the two men stood in silence, surveying one another. The dripping wet, naked, scarred man, and the man with long silver hair, swathed in black robes.

“You are the beast called Levias,” Drosselmeyer finally said, ” the human Lazirus.”

“Yes, that was my name.” the naked man smiled in agreement.

“I have freed you for a reason.”

“Indeed, I would expect no less,” said Lazirus. “And what is that?”

“The gods still walk the earth. You know their names. Lucifer and Sanguine are dead, but there are others who live. I free you and give you choice to do as you will, but I have a request.”

“And what is that?” Lazirus’ eyes narrowed.

“Finish what you began.” said Drosselmeyer. “KIll them. Kill the gods. Every last one.”

A deep grin broke across Lazirus’ face, and he threw his head back and laughed, his voice echoing off the stone columns and the walls of the great, empty chapel. “KIll them all!” he shouted triumphantly, raising his hands into the air and making fists.

Drosselmeyer smiled and narrowed his eyes. “Yes,” he said quietly, “Finish them.”

Lazirus took a breath and looked back to Drosselmeyer. “And why do you want this, I should wonder?” he asked.

“Because the gods have governed history for long enough,” Drosselmeyer answered, “And when at last they are gone, mankind will weave it’s own.”

“And who’s to say mankind will ultimately triumph?” Lazirus scoffed, “I sought vengeance upon the gods, true, and I shall have it, but you seek to dethrone them that you might yourself rule. I know mankind, and I can see clearly that you crave power. Will you enslave me and the rest of the world when the gods are finished?”

“No.” Drosselmeyer said. “It is not my intent to make myself sovereign over anyone. It is my intent to break the curse the gods have laid upon the earth, to rid it of their interference. There was a time when they were not so different from what you and I once were.”

“Mortal?” Lazirus asked.

“I don’t know… but I have Sanguine’s memories. I was born with them, yet without his power. I am a human, mortal and fallible, not a god, but his sorrow, his misery, and even his wisdom lived on when he died, and found me.”

“And how do you know that he won’t come back? Even the sea god eventually reincarnated after I gained his power.”

“It is because Sanguine brought about his own demise. He rent his spirit to pieces, that it could never reform, and plunged into the unknown, away from the realm of the living forever.”

“And how do I know that you aren’t Sanguine, Sanguine reborn but thinking he’s a human? Sanguine reborn without his powers?”
Drosselmeyer closed his eyes and smiled. “I’ve thought of that many times. But no, I am my own man. And I have lived my own life. But he remains here, haunting me. Perhaps, when the gods have all been destroyed, I can be freed from his misery.”

“Pitiful.” Lazirus said quietly. “Let us hope that with your newfound power you can become something more respectable. And what, sir, is the name I might call you?”

The deep blue eyes snapped open and shone through the locks of silver hair that hung down his face. “Drosselmeyer,” he whispered.

Lazirus threw his head back again, and thunder cracked outside as the rain began to pour ferociously. “Drosselmeyer!” he boomed, “The puppeteer! The master behind the curtain! The maker of dreams! When next we meet, you may be a victim, but for now you have my gratitude!”

And as he continued to cackle, Lazirus turned and walked to the edge of the great balcony, and stood upon the rail, naked and covered with the rain. He leaped from the edge into the deluge, and Drosselmeyer ran to the balcony and peered over the edge to see the man becoming the great serpent in midair, and disappearing into the raindrops, his laughter still hanging on the air and reverberating through the chapel.


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