CHAPTER 2 - HASSELZOR
Banished. The Gods had banished him. Hasselzor, the human general so often victorious had been expelled from the Kingdoms of the Gods. The punishment was hard, disproportionate. Not only had he lost the right to enter the Palace of his Gods, privilege he took so much time to get, they also had forbidden him to come on any land claimed by any mythology.
In the end, the sanction casted him out of the world, without having the right to socialize with anyone. He became the worst of all the pariahs, the one no one could touch, to whom no one could talk, that no one had the right to help.
From favorite of the Gods to the bottom of the barrel in less than a second, because he dared refuse a suicidal order from his Goddess of War. Because he prevented a useless massacre. Because he saved thousands of his soldiers, thousands of human lives.
Admittedly, Hasselzor wasn't above sacrificing some of his troops to ensure the victory, and he did it many times, but never when it had not a single chance of succeeding! He couldn't stand pointless slaughter and he hesitated during long hours. What to do? Betray his soldiers, or disobey a God? He disobeyed, they banished him.
Since then, he wandered from village to village, looking for a shelter, a place where he could feel safe, where he belonged. But, every time, it was the same thing. People told him to leave, that he shouldn't be near them. He was given no food, no water, no bed to rest, not even for a night.
Sometimes, a generous soul gave him some fruits, just around a dark alley. He always thanked them very much, before they ran away, scared of the possible vengeance of the Gods.
Tired of being constantly rejected, he decided to walk away from the civilizations, and to go where he was expelled, in the lands that no God, in the beginning of time, had claimed. Hasselzor survived with the berries and the fruits he collected, with the animals he hunted, with the fishes he caught.
Perhaps he could make a new life here? Built himself a cabin in the woods, live away from the world like a hermit, as the Gods commanded him. Anyway, how could he possibly seek vengeance? Why not just take what nature was giving him? He certainly could have. But he didn't want to.
An existence like that one, meaningless, didn't interest him at all, and wasn't worth living. Thus, he continued to walk, every day, and to rest only when he absolutely needed to. He looked for something he couldn't find. Purpose.
When he was able to, he abandoned the surface, and went below, in the caves, hoping that the change of scenery would benefit him. But nothing changed, except his will to go deeper within the Earth. He was going further in, without really understanding why. As if he was guided by a force he couldn't grasp.
Until, suddenly, the ground collapsed under his feet. He fell from several tens of meters, and landed in a small depth of water, that cushioned his fall better than he could have hoped for.
He looked around him, and saw a cavern like no one he ever witnessed before. It didn't seem to have any end, and was only filled with water and sand. Above him, the ceiling of this place was in the dark, and the hole by which he fell was invisible. He probably could have climbed up one of the pillars, but there was no way to reach the hole as he couldn't see it. He also noticed that there wasn't any life in this cave. Or, at the least, there was no trace of it. It was very likely that he wouldn't be able to find any food here.
Looking around, he realized the light was strange in this place, like it was coming out of everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Or rather, it seemed to come from far away, though he couldn't be sure. Not knowing how to climb back up, and resigned to live its last days in this place, Hasselzor decided to at least make them interesting, by finding the source of this unnatural light.
It took him tens of hours of walk to get closer to this unknown source of light. As there was no night or day, he quickly lost track of time. When he was too tired to continue, he slept on a sandbank. The water woke him up each time, threatening to engulf him. If there was a tide here, he didn't understand it. The small dunes moved, emerged from water and sink back below it without any logic.
As he approached his objective, it was becoming worse. It was like the laws of physics didn't apply to this place. And more specifically, to the center of it. He was certain of it now, he was going towards the center, towards the source of light. As he was getting closer and closer, he could finally see that it was another pillar, only it was bigger, larger, and of a beautiful green. Almost like a tree, except it didn't have any leaves.
Now, the fatigue was no reason to stop his walk. He grew closer, and closer, and couldn't stop, even for a small break. He didn't care about anything else but to get there. He started to notice a pale blue light just at the bottom of the pseudo-tree. His breathing got heavier, stronger, as he was merely a few hundred meters from it.
It was a crystal that was producing this light. A crystal from which his look couldn't get away from. It was trapped. Hasselzor didn't watch where he walked now, he couldn't. He tripped a few times, but never looked away.
Finally, he was just in front of it. The beautiful crystal, about the size of a three year old child was there, floating in the air. Hasselzor felt his heart pounding in his chest, and his breathing became impossible to control. His eyes grew larger so he could see the entire crystal, and not miss a single molecule of it.
In his head, he finally put up words on what it was. The Halzae. The legendary source of magic that, supposedly, gave birth to the Gods. It was real. The crystal was all that was left of it.
Hasselzor raised his arm so he could touch it. He wasn't feeling any fear, but a sense of accomplishment he never felt before. His index touched it, then his middle finger. All the palm of his hand entered in contact with it, and he knew that, even if he tried to pull it off, he wasn't going to succeed.
The crystal had merged with the skin of his hand. His second one touched it too. He looked deeper and deeper inside of it. The crystal started to show reflections of the world. The world as it was now. The world as it was before. The history of the planet flew before his eyes. The Gods. The human peoples. Peace. Progress. War. He wasn't spared anything.
Hasselzor fell to his knees. His mouth was wide open. Tears were flowing from his eyes. All his body trembled in the absolute vision he had. Taking the crystal with him, he fell to his side. He brought it against his chest, and protected it with his entire body. His lungs merged with it.
Exhausted from his walk, fulfilled like he never was, the vision that the crystal made him see didn't leave him. It resonated inside him. His vision became blurred. Certain that everything would be better now that he was connected to the Halzae itself, he closed his eyes, and fell into a deep and dreamless slumber.
When he woke up, maybe days later, although the notion of days didn't have any meaning in this place below the world, the crystal was gone. Yet, he didn't feel fear. He was calm, and relaxed. The light of the place was gone, except just around him.
Hasselzor realized that he had completely absorbed the crystal. He could still feel its presence. It was inside of his body now, in each of his cells. Everywhere. He was the source of light around him, and his skin radiated a slight layer of pale blue light.
He suddenly understood that he had the Halzae! Deep within him, he could feel the divine magic beat with his heart! With that, he could certainly compete with the Gods! Perhaps he could even defeat them, and end their rule of terror!
Was it possible? Yes, he possessed the last drops of Halzae, but could he really rival with the Gods? Only one way to find out, he thought. He closed his eyes, and focused on getting out of this place.
Almost immediately, he felt a breeze on his face, and breathed as deep as he could, letting all the smells of the forest fill his lungs. He opened his eyes to the nature he left behind days, maybe weeks ago.
It was true! He had the same magic as the Gods! To confirm one last time, and to prove to himself he had the same offensive capacities as those he wanted to bring down, he focused on the idea of shooting a fireball, and flames spurted out instantly of his right hand and landed against a tree.
The trunk burned in a few seconds, and all the rest fell on the ground, inside the brazier he just made. Nothing seemed to be able to end a blaze he started. Unless he commanded it. That's what he did, and it stopped right away. Then, he ordered the tree to regenerate itself, and it obeyed.
In no time, everything was back where it belonged, and there was no trace of Hasselzor's spell left. It was confirmed now, the Halzae was inside him, and nothing and no one would be able to stop him! Even his old masters would be powerless!
He walked a bit, trying to think over his next action, as simply wanting his vengeance against the Gods was no plan worthy of his name, of the human that just received everything that was left of the magic of the Gods. Obviously, he was going to take down the mythologies one by one, as they would never be all at the same place, at the same time.
He already knew who was going to be the last God to fall by his hand. The one that claimed to be the Master of all the Gods. By defeating him, after having crushed all the others, he would ensure that no one would challenge him, that his domination over the world would be absolute. Hasselzor decided to start by the last village he encountered, where an old lady gave him bread, which he devoured in a couple minutes, as he was starving at the time.
Arriving at the small town, he noticed a crowd around what he guessed was the village square. As he approached, everybody was turning towards him. He made his way through, while more and more people were staring at him, but he didn't understand why. A woman in her 40s, standing on the edge of a fountain, was trying to calm everyone. She saw him too, and she stopped talking, stupefied.
"What's happening here?" the former general of the Gods asked.
"I… hum," stuttered the woman.
"The fields have been destroyed by the Gods!" an old man exclaimed, sitting on a bench.
He was clearly blind, and didn't appear to be troubled by Hasselzor as much as the others. The black smoke that could be seen from there confirmed what he said.
"Why would they have done that?"
"To punish us for welcoming a fugitive! He was here, four weeks ago, and a traitor gave him bread!"
"What happened to that woman?" Hasselzor interrogated, on a calm, yet dry, tone of voice.
"We locked her away! And we will decide her fate right now!" the elder continued to yell. "We also have to capture that fugitive and bring him in front of the Gods!"
"Grandpa," a young girl at his side stammered, "it's him, it's the fugitive."
"What? Then, what are you waiting for? Put him in chains!" he shouted, getting up and leaning on his cane.
"We can't… He is..." she tried to explain, but she couldn't finish her sentence.
Feeling everyone looking at him, Hasselzor wondered why they were behaving so strangely, why they were so shocked. He looked at his hands, and understood instantly. They were radiating a pale blue light. The same that wrapped him up in the cave. The same that glowed on the Gods.
The miserable fugitive they encountered a month ago had become a God, despite that it had never happened before. Ever.
"Do something, damn it!" the old man screamed.
"It's not your fault," Hasselzor affirmed. "The Gods wanted to punish me, and you paid for it. But that was the last time!"
Then, he snapped his fingers. Answering the Halzae, the crops grew back to full maturity in a few seconds, and covered the entire fields that were destroyed by the same magic. The villagers gasped, not accustomed to so much generosity.
"What is it with you? Will you finally seize him?"
"The crops grew back, grandpa! He made the crops grow back!" the young girl exclaimed.
"What? But that's impossible!"
The former general used his powers again, and gave the old man his view back. He opened them wide, stunned. He was out of words and, as his look went from the field to the fugitive, tears started to flow on his cheeks.
"Nothing will be impossible anymore," Hasselzor declared. "Too long, the Gods have crushed you. Too long, you lived under their rule and had nothing to say about it! It ends now! Follow me, and conquer your freedom! Follow me, and break their eternal reign!"