His home. A dome made of bricks. Deep red bricks, shattered to pieces.
Glig stood in front of the dead portal. An ancient stone arch, surrounded by carefully carved glyphs, flickering weakly in the dark. A doorway back to his world. A portal to Hell. A portal to Heaven stood on the opposite wall. Also cold, also dead.
“I can’t believe you survived this,“ Mahani was saying to Chael, as she helped scrape the sticky acidic slime off their back. “I thought you were just gonna be a pile of bones. Like, really big bones.”
Chael didn’t say anything back. They were just staring at the pedestals. At the shards of broken crystal.
“You definitely have some nasty burns though,” continued Mahani, “I’ll mash up some trapper root for you after.”
“It won’t work.”
Chael sighed, “I’m immune to poison. Trapper root won’t effect me.”
“Oh. Right. Well I can, uh…” Mahani fell silent, thinking.
Chael scoffed quietly. Shook their head and looked down at their bare feet.
Mahani scraped off more gunk for a few minutes. “You probably got here just in time, you know.”
Chael scoffed again, “Right. If I hadn’t been here everything would be a disaster,” they said sarcastically, gesturing towards the pedestals, the three shattered gems, the forth one cracked and pulsing erratically. The new gem, the one Chael had brought to replace the cracked one, sat on one of the pedestals now, too, glowing brightly.
“Hey, for one thing,” Mahani snapped, “If you hadn’t been here, Glig and I would both be dead. Okay? But what I meant was that cracked godstone over there would never have lasted under the strain of having to power this place on its own. Look at it. I’ll be surprised if it lasts the night. If you hadn’t been here with your shiny little replacement over there, that thing would have burnt out completely, leaving this place dark, and that barrier you talked about would be gone completely.”
The barrier. Glig hadn’t even known it existed until Mahani explained it to him.
A thousand years ago, some of his ancestors and some of Chael’s ancestors met together here in Materia. A neutral place, a hidden place. A place they could work in secret, where they could build a giant machine that would keep them from killing each other and end a civil war as old as time. A magical barrier that split their world into two, Heaven on one side, Hell on the other.
Just like these portals, thought Glig. Two separate portals, built by the architects along with the machine, as their ways back to their new, separate home. One-way portals. So the architects would never see each other again, and so that anyone looking for the machine would have to search the wilds of Materia for it, would have to have a key to the vault.
“Listen, Mahani,” Chael was saying, their head buried in their hands, “I didn’t come here to keep things as they were. I didn’t spend the last ten years reading and studying maps and gathering information on possible Godstone locations to keep things as they were.” They looked up. “I came here to fix it. Angels and demons are sent through these gaps every day by old stupid generals to keep a war going that doesn’t need to. And that was before! When there was one crack in one of the four power sources.”
Chael got up walked over to the pedestals.
“Now look at it. Look! I can’t even imagine what’s going on over there now. Actually. Yes I can. I can imagine it perfectly. Right now scouts, sentries, and scryers on both sides are sending heralds and, and… What do demons call messengers?”
“Breep,” Glig replied quietly, from across the room.
“Harbingers. Right. Anyways. They’re all arriving at palaces and towers and warcamps and telling their generals and kings and all-lords the news, the news that more tears in the barrier have appeared. A lot more. And what do the generals say? Do they say ‘Oh interesting, well, let’s keep an eye on it and see what happens?’ No. They say ‘The world is ending! We’re doomed if we don’t do something! If we don’t pour every last solider we have through the barrier and kill a bunch of farmers then the other side will think we are weak and come and eat our families!’”
“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” said Mahani, “The barrier is still up. I’m sure — ”
“The barrier is still up for now!” said Chael, motioning to the one undamaged godstone. “But you said it yourself, the strain this machine puts on these stones? How long do you think this new one is going to last. A year? A month? A week?”
“It’s hard to know for sure until I have time to — ”
“The point is, it doesn’t matter when, because as soon as it does, the days of raids and strike forces will end, and the apocalypse will begin. My home and Glig’s home will be the same place. And when you put two natural enemies in the same place…”
“…You get a lot of dead dogs,” said Mahani, staring down at her ink-stained hands.
Chael chewed their lip. “Yeah. Exactly.”
Glig put his hand through the archway and closed his eyes. He imagined, wished, that instead of cold dungeon air, he’d feel the warmth of the Motherfen. That he could follow his hand through and be standing in the marshlands he knew so well, instead of here in this dungeon, a hundred feet below the ground, farther away from his family than ever. He couldn’t even remember how the rice fields smelled. He couldn’t remember a lot of things, like why his ankle sometimes felt stiff, or where he lived the year after his mother died. Or his wife’s name.
“Breep,” asked Glig.
“I don’t know,” replied Mahani, quietly, “Maybe she was hired. Maybe she knew something we don’t — “
“Who’s that?” asked Chael.
“Or, you know,” continued Mahani, “Maybe she was just crazy.”
Or maybe she’s tormenting me from the grave, thought Glig.
“Hey, who’s Sal?” asked Chael again.
Mahani sighed, staring knowingly at Glig, reading his thoughts as they flashed over his face.
“Sal’s the one who destroyed these crystals.”
Congratulations. You’ve read half of a novel, one third of a chapter at a time, on your cellphone. Look how hip and future-forward you are! You deserve a treat! AND I DESERVE A HEART-CLICK! I’M THE BEST! I CAN DO IT! HOME STRETCH!