Corruption. Greed. Murder. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and even the wisest man’s obsession can make him blind to his sins. Kasparian’s obsession is all he has. He wants to protect others from feeling the torment he does every day – the pain of losing those dearest to him. However, the only way for him to accomplish this is to possess the power of the gods.
For years, Kasparian and his disciples fought to get the attention of the wisaris’, the race known to humans as gods. Kasparian used to look to them for guidance and salvation, but finding none, he decided to take matters into his own hands. Researching the illusionary powers of the Shadow Academy and the destructive energy of the Flares of the Sun, he wants answers. When his thoughts and experiments grow darker, the most critical question is: Is any price too high?
Read today to find out if Kasparian succeeds in his attempts to acquire the power of the gods. How much of himself and his friends will he have to sacrifice? And what happens when he realises it was a mistake trying to control the power of several realms?
“Do you understand what must happen?” Kasparian asked in a severe tone.
Before him, on a large stone slab, lay a man. His blue shirt had once been an expensive piece of clothing, but it was torn and dirtied now. Sweat ran from his forehead, dripping onto the stone. His hands and feet were bound, and his eyes ran nervously around the room. “Y-yes. My sacrifice will give you the power to cure my daughter. P-please, help her. I have given everything.”
Kasparian looked at his ten disciples standing around the altar at the heart of the cave. A set of large white wings decorated the chest of their robes, and their faces were lit only by the crackling torches that hung along the cave’s crude walls.
Kasparian took a deep breath and placed his hand on the man’s moist forehead. “I will save your daughter and give her what my family never got – the gift of life.”
The man swallowed hard. “T-thank you, my lord bishop. Bless the gods and the followers of Gjandir.”
Kasparian summoned a smile, but a hollow one. He couldn’t afford to fail again. The look in the eyes of the poor souls turning to him for salvation haunted him every night. It would never have come to this if the gods would help everyone, not only true believers.
He brought out two items from a deep pocket in his robe – a purple crystal and a pitch-black onyx that he clenched in his hand. From the stone slab, he picked up a small knife and looked around at the men and women standing in a circle around him. Like the man who was about to sacrifice himself, his disciples looked to him for guidance and meaning. He had picked each of them from the streets and taken them into his house. They had all suffered terrible losses, and studying their gazes, he understood how far they would go to follow him. Their loyalty was undeniable.
“My friends, my family. We are here tonight to take matters into our own hands. For centuries we have prayed to the gods, hoping they would come to our aid. But where has that taken us?”
“To poverty and desperation!” one of the men shouted.
“I was forced to work in brothels when my husband died. Why didn’t they hear my prayers?” asked a small woman, scars covering her forehead and one cheek.
Kasparian nodded. “We have all suffered because of the so-called gods. Imagine what we could do with powers like theirs!” He raised the knife up high, and the man on the stone slab started shaking, the robe cutting into his flesh as he squirmed in anguish at the blade pointing down at his chest.
“The deepest desire of this man is to save his daughter from certain death. Like so many others, he is willing to sacrifice his own life for hers.” Kasparian looked down into the man’s eyes. “Pray to the gods. Pray that they will gift me all the energy your life force can provide. With that energy, I will be able to help your daughter.”
The man’s eyes widened, and he started praying, first as a whisper but then louder and louder. “Adalyn, the loved one – the most glorious of all the gods. Help me! I give my life to save my daughter. Hear my plea. My life for hers.”
The knife plunged into his chest, and he gasped for air, staring at the bloodied blade stabbing into his torso, again and again. His lifeblood streamed down the stone and dripped onto the floor. His head fell back, and he breathed out one last time.
Kasparian plunged his hand into the gore without hesitation, cutting out the man’s heart. He held it in both his hands together with the crystal and the onyx as he started whispering, “Gods, hear our prayers. This man gave the ultimate sacrifice, like Gjandir many centuries ago. Grant us your power. Show us the extent of your divinity, and we will perform miracles in your name.” He squeezed the three items in his hands, chanting, “E’hir nunor Adalyn, omira tasina.” He paused for a second before continuing with a flare incantation. “Mentiro illu av’ror.” Squeezing the heart further, blood ran through his fingers. He could feel the shadow energy of the black gem rushing up his arm as he activated the onyx and summoned a dark shroud that engulfed them all. He had performed this trick many times, but the utter darkness this illusion of the assassins created still made him shudder.
An eerie silence fell over the cave. The howling wind and the flickering flames of the torches were the only sounds heard.
When darkness slowly crept back into the onyx, the disciples all stared at him, but none dared to speak. Kasparian opened his hands slowly. The heart, the crystal and the onyx were still there. Nothing had changed.
He roared out as he threw the heart onto the floor, the last of the blood spraying on his boot. “False gods!” he shouted at the ceiling of the cave. “When will you listen? How many lives will it take?”
A woman sunk to her knees, and two others sat down further back in the cave – everyone with disappointment painted on their faces.
Kasparian was furious. He had failed them again. How many people had he sacrificed in his attempts to acquire just a fraction of the gods’ powers? Twenty? Twenty-five? He had lost count along the way. With anger rushing through his veins, he stuffed the two gems into his pocket and paced out of the cave into the chilly night.