Chapter 20 – Unending
The 4th scholar had sat in that place for nearly a century. Even before the worlds collided, an event he didn’t know happened, only the suicidal would visit a temple that made them sleep till they died. Another reason the temple had few visitors was because it was the 4th world, the world or ice and darkness. No sentient creatures, aside from demons, lived on the 4th world; it was a world of death. When he was young, only just leaving home, a rumour was going around that the previous scholar had found a way to die. At the time, he wasn’t interested so he hadn’t paid any attention.
As he went to bed that night a red and green fire floated above his head. Somehow he knew. He knew that if he didn’t go to the temple of the 4th world, the fire would slowly lower and devour him. The young and stupid him thought that he wanted to live and headed to that place. When he entered the temple for the first time, he was greeted by a woman on a large golden throne from across the room. She introduced herself as the demi-goddess of lethargy, or just Leth, and told him that he would be her new scholar. At first he was excited; it was an opportunity to work with the person closest to the world’s spirit. He was in such good spirits at the time that he hadn’t realised the implications of what she said.
He was immortal. He still aged, for centuries on end he still aged, and nothing could kill him. If his arm were severed, it would just float in place until the wound was healed. His body functioned like an undead monster, though the books he had studied had assured him he wasn’t. Although he still needed to eat and drink, he couldn’t die from not doing so. Despite it not being any effort for her, Leth never created food for him, and instead left him in a wasting agony for centuries. Water, he got from the 4th Craftsman, another immortal servant.
He also couldn’t leave the temple, if he tried, the heavy metal doors simply wouldn’t open for him. Even leaving his room filled him with a compulsion to return to it. If he did somehow open the door and get out, the green-red flame would appear again, but not to kill him, instead to drag him back. Given even the flame wouldn’t kill him, he spent most of his days contemplating how his predecessor managed to find the sweet release of death.
The answer came to him one day, as a powerful earthquake shook through the temple. The fire was the answer. Although the fire tried not to kill him, it only pulled him with its outer edge. It couldn’t control its core. If he could force its core into contact with his head, there was no way he could recover. The only problem was, he hadn’t been strong enough to pull that off for a very, very long time. He also didn’t have much hope for someone else helping him, only people with world blessings could enter the temple without being effected by Leth.
He had given up all hope and even stopped moving or drinking, when a woman one day entered his room. Turning to face her, he thought that he was hallucinating, like he had many time before. But that time was different, he never would have imagined those dangerous eyes. The fierce green of the forest; none of his books had recorded that one. Could a new world have been found? If one had been, and it didn’t have a temple, then it would make sense that she could be there before him. Using a small drop of magic, he created water in his long dry throat. With the greatest effort he could manage, he was able to get his voice to wheeze out.
“Plea… Please… kill… me…” It was too quiet, to the point that he thought she wouldn’t hear him. To his surprise, she gave a shrug and replied.
“Okay, sure. But only if you can tell me how to wake my friends up.”
He couldn’t believe it. She could see his suffering and was holding relief ransom. He couldn’t help but wonder what her green could represent. Putting her demand, and probable cruel nature, aside, she definitely had the power to kill him. Strung to her back was a black and red scythe, truly, she was the reaper he had longed to see. If he had any spare moisture in his body, he might have cried.
With great effort, he moved himself up towards a pile of books in the back of the room. Buried deep in the pile was a thin black book with emerald bindings; it was the book against the cruelty of the gods. It was a small text, only thirteen pages long, that summarised how to counteract the effects of each demi-god. He flipped through to the page on the 4th world. Other pages had more written but the 4th entry was somewhat thin. It simply said, ‘Entering the 4th temple means to sleep yourself to death. The only way to wake someone up from that state is to circulate world energy through their body and move them out of the temple as fast as possible. As only people with world energy are able to survive, there aren’t any other known solutions.’
He thought that he was remembering it correctly, though he had confirmed it to be sure. She looked at the book with interest then walked quickly out of the room. He hadn’t even told her yet, but she had already started to help her friends. Why had she bothered to ask him if she already knew the answer? Did she just forget and seeing the book jogged her memory? But the only copies of the book against the cruelty of the gods belonged to the world scholars; when would she have had an opportunity to read it? The green were always so enigmatic.
He joined her in filling the fainted people with energy and moving them outside when they woke up. He could see his mistress was sleeping on the throne, but could feel her anger at him. With the people moved outside, he walked through the open door. Sure enough, the green-red fire appeared once more above his head.
“Now, please… cut through the… fire… and strike… my head.”
As he finished speaking, her companions gave shocked expressions but she drew her wicked scythe. With an emotionless face, she brought the heavy blade down and finally the bliss of death filled him. His final thoughts, as his spirit left his body, were the sudden realisation that the book against the cruelty of the gods should have only had 12 pages.