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(Self?) Sacrifice

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It had been less than a week since Sharada found himself stumbling head first into this strange town of Blackgate. Within those first few days - or nights, whatever convention the townspeople used to indicate the passage of time - there had been two invasions to his newly acquired cabin home. The most recent invasion included an attack on his life, subsequent death, and miraculous revival featuring an enigmatic demon butler. Sharada was lost in thought about his current situation, when a deep, powerful voice broke his train of thought and returning him into what was bound to be a deadly gathering.

Whilst standing in the middle of a cult meeting - the same cult that was out to kill him just a couple days ago - Sharada was desperately wishing he wasn’t in this cold and damp basement. The crippling fear and ceramic mask made it difficult to breathe, as Sharada’s entire body was on edge, and he felt like he could throw up from all the stress. He hoped that something would happen soon, despite knowing what would be happening regardless of what he hoped for. As Leraje continued speaking about their plans for handling the human, ridding the town of the Eternal, and the future of Blackgate as a whole, Sharada tried to take deep breaths without ripping off the mask too early.

Once he heard his cue and the mask was lifted, revealing the human much to the surprise of everyone in the damp basement. Sharada took a deep breath, trying to brace himself before opening his eyes. As everyone was hidden behind masks, Sharada could only guess as to what the general thoughts were in the crowd. He quickly realized, while the demon-bull-god-creature kept speaking, that he was feeling exposed and scrutinized and oddly missed hiding behind the mask. When it was finally time for Sharada to give his speech, he recited the lines with as much distraught emotion as he could muster, while Leraje stood behind him. The human could feel the towering presence of the pseudo Eldritch god behind him, which he felt only added more realism to his quivering voice.

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Despite the overall grabbag of emotions that Sharada felt while in the basement, he couldn’t say that he despised what Leraje did to him after. There was a large part of him that wanted Leraje to actually go through with it, but the reasonable voice inside his head reminded him that it would cause more damage if he wasn’t properly prepared. Once he was composed and cleaned up, Sharada put on his regular clothing foregoing the robe entirely, he left and entered the alleyway. There was nobody out there waiting for him, leaving Sharada to consider the plan proposed in the gathering.

A plan. There was a plan - suicide mission, at least suicide for Sharada - to storm the Mayor’s office and find Blackgate. While Andras wouldn’t want to outright destroy the last line of defense against the Eternal, he wasn’t sure that they would make it far as a rag-tag team. Plox was no help either, immediately dismissing his concerns as if they weren’t walking into certain annihilation. After being here for less than a week, Sharada had grown used to the often rude satyr. It was a strange series of events that led to an equally strange development of feelings. As much as he knew this plan wouldn’t work, that the Eternal was just an exaggerated fairytale, nothing more than urban legend, Sharada secretly hoped that their plan would succeed.

Plox had left already, heading back to his apartment, Sharada figured the satyr would skip the diner tonight as the cult already had the emergency meeting and the plan had been established. Throwing the robes and mask into the trash can, he left the alley and emerged on the main street of Blackgate. It seems that Plox had been waiting for him, a perturbed look painted his normally handsome face.

“Did you need to compose yourself after what I put you through? I have to say you took it a lot better than I expected.” Keeping the charade of the two of them being sexually intimate, Plox started walking in the direction of the tall, decrepit apartment building.

“Of course I needed a moment, you were too kind to me this time. Humans can handle much more than that, you could stand to be rougher next time.” Oh how Sharada wished that Plox would take him up on that offer, Leraje would certainly remember for next time. It appeared that, despite the godly form of Leraje being limited in power, that Plox and Leraje shared memories.

Silence joined their conversation as they walked side by side along the brightly lit street, Sharada decided to take a risk and further cement their alibi through one small action. Reaching out his left hand, Sharada fumbled to grab Plox’s fur covered hand as they walked down the street. Much to his surprise, Plox didn’t immediately pull away or swat his hand, he was allowing the human to hold his hand on their short walk. Feeling his face flush, Sharada contemplated what it would be like to be in a relationship with two distinct personalities at once; realizing that he was imagining the two of them together, he shook his head to get the wonderful ideas from clouding his reality. Since the first day, Plox has never shown the slightest interest in him, other than the couple of times when Sharada was blatantly checking out the satyr, and even then Plox was just showing off to stroke his own ego.

In the time it took Sharada to stop dreaming about living a perfectly happy life with Plox, the two had already made it to the apartment building. He felt a tug on his left hand, snapping his attention to the fact that he had held Plox’s hand the entire distance.

“Are you done? Can I get my hand back now?” At least the satyr didn’t sound annoyed, well not more so than usual, although Sharada was never quite sure what Plox’s tone meant.

“Uh yeah sure! Sorry.” Right now everything seemed foreign to Sharada, almost as if he wasn’t in himself, but watching the event like a recording. His heart felt light, and despite the overwhelming feeling of dread.

Once the two of them entered the apartment and the door was shut, Plox immediately dropped the less annoyed act. The change was so sudden that Sharada thought that something happened that he wasn’t aware of.

“You do realize that you held my hand, in public, the entire way back. Half the town saw, and I’m not certain I care what their opinions of the two of us are; but in any case, Alin looked defeated when we past the bar.” Walking through the small apartment Sharada slipped off his shoes and sat on the couch that had become his temporary bed. Plox wandered around the apartment, almost as if he was searching the house for something or someone.

“Um, about that. Look, I’m sorry if that like hurt your reputation or wasn’t okay, I just thought….” He wasn’t sure why he was apologizing, as the whole experience was harmless and on Sharada’s end, quite enjoyable. However, before he could finish, Plox stopped mid search and interrupted with venom dripping off his tongue.

“Thought what? That it would look better for our ‘romantic involvement’ with one another? Or did the reality of the situation finally hit you and you were terrified and reached out for comfort?” He paused in his tirade for a split second as the realization swept across his face, “Did you actually think any of this was real? All of this was just for show, to cover up what we were actually doing, and what happened in the basement, wasn’t a display of affection. You were convenient, and I needed release after a stressful night, nothing more and probably less.”

Sharada slowly stood up and backed away from Plox, trying to get as close to the door as possible before Plox realized what he was doing. It wasn’t that he was terrified that Plox could harm him in any major way, Leraje was what he was terrified of on the other hand. Another pause, as Plox menacingly turned and walked towards Sharada, pinning him against the apartment door.

“You are a human; meant to be used as a tool and easily disposed of when your usefulness is exhausted. Don’t forget that.”

Sharada flinched as Plox pulled away, fully expecting some sort of physical retaliation to accompany the verbal smackdown he just received. Instead, he was left shaking, leaning against the door for support, as the bedroom door slammed shut. Human. He was human isolated from the rest of his species, weak and defenseless against these creatures.

He should be mad at Plox, but the satyr did have a point about being a tool. Andras, Plox, Leraje, the Eternal, the cult, practically everyone on in this town viewed him as some sort of advantage they could leverage and use for their benefit. The ironic thing was that if Sharada was supposed to be this all important pawn in their schemes, then whoever wielded him was certainly playing with their own demise as well.

Moving to the couch Sharada tried in vain to quell his shaking nerves, and unsteady breathing. Taking off his shoes and leaning back, Sharada closed his eyes and forced himself to stop romanticizing the relationship - if one could call it that - that he and Plox shared.

He thought of the life he had left behind to get his thoughts off of Plox, his job that wouldn’t notice his absence for a couple days, the friends he slowly stopped communicating with, family that seemed overbearing despite living miles away. He never wanted to work in the janitorial field, but with the depression that swept the nation, nobody was hiring for a novice bookkeeper. Most businesses had one or two people managing their finances, as the majority of the work was handled by computers.

Despite the many friends he gained and lost throughout the years, his core group of peers were slowly building their own lives and stopped texting or calling as often. Sharada understood of course, building a new bakery, getting married, and having children were exciting and challenging, which ultimately consumed all of their time. It had gotten to the point where he was simply checking up on them via social media, a quick ‘like’ to show that he was still around.

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Running. Left, right, right, straight, right, left, left. Each hallway looked identical to the rest, as the deafening sound only grew louder. Right, left, right, straight, right, left, left.

Dead end. He couldn’t feel his heartbeat as he turned his back towards the wall and saw it turn the corner.

Darkness. He was falling.

--------

As Sharada flailed off the couch, he brained himself on the coffee table before landing on his left arm. Doing his best not to yell, as he didn’t want Plox or Leraje to see him like this, a hiss of pain escaped his lips when he pressed his fingers to the head trauma.

Stumbling to the kitchen, he grabbed some paper towels with his clean hand and pressed it against his temple. Cautiously tiptoeing back to the couch, Sharada sat and leaned his head back, pressing the paper towels firmly against his forehead.

“What do they expect me to do? Be the harbinger of peace or destruction?” he paused, pulling the bloodied towel away, folding it over, and returning it to the wound.

“They expect many things from you. I think these people are delusional for believing a being so fragile, such as yourself, is capable of doing anything without death waiting at the end.” Of course, it had to be Leraje. Who better to see him bleeding from his head after falling off the couch.

“Yet, you seem to believe that I can walk right up to Andras and the gate and nobody will even think about killing me. Wouldn’t that make you just delusional?” He really didn’t feel up to dealing with Plox at this moment, let alone having Leraje suddenly appear from out of nowhere. It seemed that the giant demon had grown stronger, as the sudden and frequent appearance went against it reverting to Plox as a means of conserving energy to heal.

“It’s obvious that you can’t beat the Eternal, even if Andras himself was backing you up. With the state I am in now, I would be a fool to go against the Eternal. What we are doing is avoiding that route all together.” He stood in front of the window, shadows dancing all around his strong, muscular, fur-covered body, as he continued his monologue.

“After all, we are shutting that damnable gate to prevent the annihilation of this town and my niece. You’ll be safeguarding the legacy of the Marquis, by preserving my bloodline. You’ll be the banner that marks the revolution for Blackgate and all it’s citizens!”

There was nothing Sharada could do except sit there, holding the towel to his head, listening to Leraje explain the plan for the third time. Except, this time he felt defeated while listening to the demon. Nobody wanted him here - other to be a pivotal part of the plan that is - he didn’t have any friends, and the one creature he thought might make this place worthwhile cast him aside like it was yesterday’s newspaper.

“You humans require sleep, and tomorrow will be the day that we free Blackgate from the threat of the Eternal, so I will let you get your rest.” The horned god left the living room, allowing the ambient street light to fully enter the room, as Sharada wondered what he missed while he spaced out.

Laying back down on the sofa, he removed the towel from his head and gently pressed his fingers against the cut. Upon inspecting them, he was relieved to see that the bleeding had subsided and threw the bloodied towel onto the coffee table. Despite his mind racing over everything that happened in the past week, Sharada felt nothing. There was no stress over leading the rebellion as a human shield, no concern over if Andras would strike him down despite what Leraje and Plox believe, at the present moment he felt no emotion whatsoever.

He never asked to be here, to be a part of whatever the Eternal had against humans, in the deepest reaches of his mind, a growing part of him welcomed death as a means of escape. After all, there was no escaping this place, and with nothing to want to make him stay here, that small glimmer of hope died out fairly recently, Sharada was actually looking forward to leading the cult against Andras. He was walking into a death trap, at least that’s what the hope was.

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There were sounds of a faucet being turned on, dishes clattering, and frying eggs, which pulled Sharada out the dreamless sleep he was enjoying. Sitting up on the couch, he blankly stared as Plox darted back and forth in the kitchen, leaving him to assume the satyr was making breakfast.

“Would this be considered my last meal? If so, don’t I get a choice in what I want to eat?” He muttered dryly as he stood up off his temporary bed and padded his way over to the small kitchen.

“You creatures require a meal in the morning, yes? I am simply making sure that everything goes smoothly today.” Plox’s answer was just what he expected, a false sense of caring disguised in equally false facts about humans and their plan for the day.

Sharada couldn’t figure out how he should reply, seeing at this point nothing he said would change his fate. Instead he just sat down in silence and let Plox continue cooking breakfast. This wasn’t a sign of pity from the sergeant, however Sharada desperately tried to read the expressions on Plox’s stoic face for any indication that might reveal his motives. This would be the first kind gesture that Plox ever made, and it had to happen before the possible end of their world.

Sometime during his long and seemingly derailed train of thought, Plox had finished cooking and placed a plate of warm food in front of him. “You don’t eat this kind of food. Why even go through the trouble?” He wasn’t expecting a response, he whispered it under his breath as he tightened his hand into a fist, pressing it against his thigh. The slight squeak of the opposing chair barely registered before he was pressed up against the wall by Leraje.

A secure grip, constant pressure, Sharada was breathing heavy as the giant demon’s hand closed around his throat. “You’ve become darker.” Leraje commented as he looked straight into Sharada’s eyes as if he was searching them. “Something’s missing, where did you put it?”

His head was getting lighter while his limbs turned into lead as they tried to get Leraje to release his neck. “He hates himself. I hate him for feeling like that. I’ve never wanted to feel that, especially with something so fragile. In my weakness, I was corrupted, tarnished, humiliated.” At Leraje’s last word, he let his grip on Sharada’s neck go, and the human fell to the floor gasping for breath.

“Fuck you!” He managed to get out in between coughs and deep breaths. After a couple minutes, he stood up on shaky legs and decided he had enough with this creature. “I never once asked for any of this! I certainly didn’t want to become attached to Plox or you Leraje!” Another series of coughs broke his screams if only for a moment, “Since I first showed up you have been nothing but a cruel monster to me! Why I had to go and fall for you, out of everyone else in this fucked up town is beyond me! I should’ve just stayed in that shitty cabin and prayed that whatever didn’t kill me the first time would get it right the second time! I’m never going to go home, I lost everything and everyone that mattered to me, meanwhile you at least have a niece here!” His throat was hurting, mostly due to being choked and the intense screaming he was unleashing at Leraje. Surprisingly, the demon hadn’t made a move to quiet him yet.

“And after Plox gets done yelling at me, you show up and talk to me like I’m your last chance to keep this town safe. Not only that, but I wake up to Plox making me breakfast?! Food that he doesn’t eat and certainly was not in his fridge prior to this morning. You said something’s missing? That I seem ‘darker’ or some bullshit like that?” Right when he said ‘darker’, Sharada mimed the air-quote sign using his hands. “I think I have one good thing that I might be able to use as a reason to want to stay here, and that was shattered right in my face. So yes, at this moment, there is nothing that makes me want to stick around here. Once I destroy the gate, or whatever it is you think I can do, I plan on walking into the woods to save us both the trouble.”

Grabbing his shoes off the floor, Sharada walked out of the apartment, slamming the front door in the process. Once he reached the ground floor, he actually put on his shoes and quickly left the complex. He knew that Leraje would want some type of retribution, but the longer Sharada could delay seeing the powerful demon the better.

Walking through the town, most of the monsters that he encountered no longer ran across the street to get away from him. None of them made any form of eye contact, not that it mattered to Sharada. Without a real destination in mind, he wandered around the town trying to avoid the areas with the kind creatures. He stopped dead in his tracks when he turned down an alley and saw Vekk at the other end, with a twisted grin and those same cold eyes.

“What a surprising coincidence seeing you here Sharada. Are you out on an early night stroll?” Vekk asked, his lisp causing the words to sound foreign. Sharada was used to it by this point, and couldn’t bring himself to be rude to someone who had made this hell a bit more bearable. He laughed at that, the one creature who resembles a demon the most - besides Leraje - made hell bearable.

“You could say that, nothing beats a nice walk to clear one’s head and give my legs a stretch!” He could hear how fake his enthusiasm sounded as it left his mouth, but thankfully Vekk didn’t seem to catch onto it.

“I must say, you’ve certainly gotten over your whole ordeal quite smoothly. And to see you out and about, it’s a real pleasure.” Every word seemed to be elongated by Vekk speech pattern, but also felt twisted, like it wasn’t quite English, which sent shivers down Sharada’s spine.

“It’s all thanks to you I’d imagine. You were the first person I saw when I came to. Actually, I don’t think I ever properly thanked you for that night.”

“Think nothing of it. Your flesh was very … enjoyable. Had things been different perhaps I could have spent more time with it.” Surprisingly Sharada found that he wasn’t creeped out by what Vekk was suggesting. He felt like he understood Vekk better than most of the citizens of Blackgate, as it was a sort of sarcasm and dry comments mashed together.

“Well, I’m sure there would be no other I would trust with my flesh. And who knows? You might be able to fully investigate my flesh sooner than you would think.” He paused and held out his hand, “It was a great pleasure speaking with you Vekk, I hope to do it again real soon. Maybe I’ll come see what the library is all about one of these days.”

Vekk seemed confused by the hand, but put his out regardless and shook Sharada’s offered hand. It wasn’t as rough as he imagined it would be, but it was warmer than his own. Regardless, Sharada put forth a genuine smile and leaned into the handshake.

“Well, I better stop keeping you from doing whatever it was that you were before I ran into ya. Have a great night Vekk!”

With a small wave, Sharada turned the corner, continuing to make his way towards his destination. He hoped that the bar would be closed and that he could avoid running into anybody else he was on speaking terms with. After a couple minutes of walking, the Mayor’s office stood before him, shrouded in shadows due to the lack of lights.

A large part of him couldn’t believe he was going to walk up to the Mayor’s office alone, throwing the whole plan out in favor of welcoming the abyss. Surprisingly, there were no demons outside, as the normally bustling office was deadly quiet when Sharada arrived. Taking a couple of steps forward, he started climbing the large staircase that led into the building. Each step renewed his determination that this was the right idea, and if nobody was going to stop him, then there was no need for a planned out attack or such a large group.

Once inside the building, Sharada got a better look at all the details he previously missed. Tall hallways dotted with ornate columns every so often, sleek marble floors, and beautifully complex chandeliers were a sight to behold; however, the deafening silence unnerved the human. There were no signs of life anywhere to be seen in this building, as if the entire place was abandoned in an instant. Carts, papers, and boxes of what he assumed were official and perhaps legal documents were scattered throughout the halls, almost as if the people inside the building suddenly phased out of existence.

“If there’s a gate somewhere in this building, the basement might be the best place to start.” He thought talking to himself might help cut through the silence, but all it did was make him more aware of how odd everything seemed.

------

After he had gotten thoroughly lost in the labyrinth of halls in the basement for at least a few hours, Sharada found himself staring at two bright orange lights at the end of a dark hallway. He assumed that it was candles, as the light danced and moved before him, drawing him closer to the end of the hall. Just past the candles was a giant room, big enough that it didn’t make sense that he was still in the basement of the Mayor’s office. Letting his eyes adjust to the light in the room, Sharada realized just where he was.

Blackgate.

“Fuck, it does exist.” Now that he was here in front of it, there was no denying that the supposed gate existed. He didn’t immediately believe in The Eternal, but he certainly believed in the gate now.

Now that he was here standing in front of what he thought was just a legend, Sharada had no idea what he was supposed to do about destroying the gate. With no powers, no super strength, and no way to find his way back to this place if he left. Needless to say, Sharada knew he wasn’t going to go back for help, if he could even make it through the labyrinth. Standing in front of Blackgate seemed like a bad idea, so taking a couple of steps backwards, he leaned against the wall, sliding against it to a resting position.

“Great, now that I’m here, how am I supposed to blow it up? Did they expect me to suddenly gain the ability to do so once I reached it? God, they sure picked a winner.” Rubbing his temples, Sharada tried to remember if at any point someone mentioned how to shut this down. Due to his short time in the town, and the general lack of acceptance by the population, it’s not like Sharada spent researching the lore behind the gate.

Feeling defeated, he figured it might be best to wait until the cult arrives, hopefully Leraje would have an idea on how to destroy the gate. Since there was nothing better to do, Sharada pulled his phone from inside his jacket pocket. Even if the phone was useless as a communications device, it still had some music and games on it. Navigating it to the playlist he added for the long trip, he settled against the wall and readied himself for the long wait ahead of him.

The dulcet tones of whatever country music artist was singing filled the silent room, easing Sharada’s tension from sitting 10 feet away from what everyone thought was certain doom. Humming along with the tune, he observed the gate for any signs of a lock, mechanism, or writing that might help determine how it is operated. After all, if he could figure out how it opens, then he can make sure it’s damaged enough that it can’t. But there was nothing, it just looked like an ordinary wrought iron gate.

There was just darkness behind the gate, and besides the music playing on his phone, there were no noises coming from the other side. Pocketing his phone with the music still playing, Sharada decided to inspect the gate closer, hoping that there would be some indication of it’s use. Standing up and stretching from sitting on the floor for so long, Sharada took a couple of steps towards the gate.

It stood about 20 feet across, just an inch or so smaller than the width of the room, and the spikes at the top looked like it barely cleared the ceiling. Sharada wondered if the gate appeared first and the town was built around it, or if the gate suddenly showed up after the town was created. From what Plox and Leraje said, the town of Blackgate was created as a defense against the Eternal, so he figured that the gate predated the town. Taking a closer look at where the two halves of the gate met, he was astonished to find there was no padlock or chain keeping the gate secure.

There was something drawing him closer to the gate, but Sharada couldn’t place what the feeling was. He reached out to touch the iron bars, warm skin meeting cold metal, but other than the shiver that ran down his spine from the temperature difference, nothing monumental happened. “And the town is afraid of this gate? It’s unlocked and unguarded, not exactly what I would want for a barrier between the big, bad Eternal and the town.”

A rather large gust of wind burst forth from the other side of the gate, knocking Sharada back a couple feet from the gate. Deep rumbles shook the marble flooring beneath him, but not enough to alter his balance or to lose his footing. The music playing from his phone became garbled, a rough static blasted from the speaker, with sounds that Sharada didn’t recognize as any human tongue. The voice, if he could even call it that, seemed to cycle through different speech patterns and dialects before a phrase Sharada could understand came through the speaker.

“What do we have here? I believe I’ve never had the pleasure of having a human down here to keep me company . My, what an honor it must be for you to bask in my presence, despite how feeble I am.”

The voice emanating from the cellphone didn’t sound human, even though the static heavily distorted the voice, Sharada could tell it sounded similar to how Leraje spoke. He didn’t want to respond, however he found himself speaking as if he was used to this.

“I didn’t know there was anyone down here to have a conversation with, otherwise I would’ve properly introduced myself.”

Another rush of air, this time followed by dark laugh over the static. Sharada was sure this was the Eternal, as he now fully believed the legends he thought were bunk.

“Pity, you seem smarter than the other humans as they never responded to my questions. Now it seems like I have a wonderful partner to converse with, mere moments before I consume all known universes.”

“Seeing as I now only have moments to live. Would you mind explaining why everyone thinks I am so powerful? Why they believed I could stop you?”

“I could, but it should’ve been obvious to someone of your intellect. Haven’t you read the books in the library? Books of humans killing aliens, demons, other humans, and conquering worlds are treated as fact here. Whatever books manage to get through to this town shape the view of humanity to these idiots, and when the Greek myths showed up, the librarians had a field day with that information. What they read is their truth about your species, I of course know that besides your weapon technology, there is nothing special about your kind. As for your second inquiry, I haven’t the faintest idea. Dozens of humans before you have tried, and all have failed to further detain me. Come closer. There’s a gate between us, I can’t do anything to you from this side.”

He shuddered at the thought of dozens of humans being stuck in this place, especially with the Eternal just beyond a metal gate. He did note that the other humans couldn’t hear him, which means that the Eternal communicates through some sort of wavelength that the human ears cannot pick up. Despite his better judgement, Sharada starts walking towards the gate, ears ringing as the static grows louder with each step.

“Open the gate. It’ll make everything go away, you will feel alive, you’ll be happy once you open the gate.”

While half of him was positive he was walking into certain death, the other welcomed whatever lied waiting for him beyond the gate. When he reached the gate, the static stopped entirely, as the voice on the other side of the gate came through clearly. The Eternal’s voice consumed his mind, each word dancing in his ears, causing Sharada to reach out and open the gate.

“You know my dear, if it was that simple to escape, I would’ve done so a millenia ago. But your actions have shown me your true intentions, craving for the end of it all, to stop feeling as you do right now.” Completely entranced by his words, Sharada took a step into the black abyss and shut the gate behind him. As he continued walking into the Eternal’s domain, Sharada lost sight of the gate behind him as it was consumed by the darkness.

“Still, you hunger for him. For both of them, I know you better than you know yourself, better than they ever could. You’ve made a good decision by coming here alone, nobody else would’ve been able to make it to me, but I chose to let you enter, doesn’t that make you feel special?”

“Yes, it makes me feel special. Nobody else chose me here, they all fear me.” In a monotone response, Sharada continued walking deeper into the darkness, each step felt as if his feet were being guided by an unseen force.

“Do you want to forget? I can make you forget about everything here, and everyone, including those two. All you need to do is welcome me into your mind and submit to my will. So Sharada, will you do me the incredible honor and submit?” Loose tendrils of darkness reached out and brushed against Sharada’s face, caressing him gently. “You’ll feel endless euphoria once you submit, and you will have an active role in the end of the universe. Just say you’ll willingly submit.”

“Yes….the Eternal…..I will submit.” Dazed, Sharada could hear himself speaking, but his hazy mind blurred what was actually going on. The once gentle tendrils began wrapping around his limbs and neck, slowly tightening around his neck and pulling his limbs away from his body.

“Good. I knew you’d behave, so much better than the other humans they offered me. You’re going to be such a magnificent sacrifice, a shame I couldn’t get to play with you more. Your mind is begging me to wreck you, to claim you, to do fulfill all your delightfully nasty dreams and more. We’ve got an apocalypse to start, mustn’t be tardy now.”

Each dark tendril pulled harder against Sharada’s arms, dislocating them from their sockets, while Sharada screamed and thrashed around. His legs put up more resistance, as the tendrils continued pulling them away from his torso, attempting to dislocate them as well. The tendril around his neck tightened, cutting off the airway and silencing Sharada’s screams. The Eternal’s hypnotic effect was wearing off now that it had the human in its grasp.

His shoulders sent waves of pain throughout his body whenever he flailed his arms trying to break free. As Sharada gasped for breath, his thrashing slowed down until he was barely moving anymore. With all the darkness around him, Sharada wasn’t able to see much to begin with, so when his vision started fading, the difference was impossible to determine. The last thing he heard before blacking out was the dark laughter of the Eternal.

---------

Gasping for breath, Sharada clutched his neck, pulling at the tendril that wasn’t there. He shot up quickly and looked around the room for the tendrils, but only saw the giant form of Leraje standing in front of the gate. Said gate was completely destroyed, the dark void behind it was gone, and all that remained was the warped wrought iron bars. Taking deep breaths, he slowly layed back down, as the sudden movement caused his head to spin.

“I….” How did he even begin to apologize for nearly causing the end of the world? Any of the words swimming around in his head seemed insufficient. Covering his face with his hands, Sharada started sobbing, overwhelming emotions came over him as he came to the realization of what he nearly did.

Leraje’s strong hands maneuvered him off the ground, carrying the human as if he weighed nothing, and took a couple steps towards the exit. After a few minutes of crying and the constant warmth that Leraje radiated, Sharada fell asleep cradled in the god’s arms. There were no dreams, no nightmares, just a deep sleep that he needed at that moment.

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He woke up in a warm bed, surrounded by Leraje’s arms wrapped around his chest, but Sharada realized that he wasn’t wearing the same clothing he was when he left. Leraje was awake, just staring at Sharada like he was made of spun glass.

“You have many questions written on your face. Before you start your incessant inquiries, let me provide some answers.” Leraje gently shifted his arm, pressing Sharada back against the bed. “After that confrontation we had, you stormed off into the night, ran into Vekk and then made it into Andras’ offices. When you didn’t return within a day, Plox went out to ask around town, and had a wonderful time getting blank stares in return.” Sharada interrupted the god, with a sudden outburst. With his free hand, Leraje gently pushed the human back against the bed.

“A day? I wasn’t gone a day, I was only there for a couple hours tops.”

“Sharada, you have been missing for over a week. I believe tomorrow would’ve marked the beginning of the second week. You obviously needed some time away from me, and I respected that for a while. At first, I was only concerned over the plan to destroy the gate, and your absence just mildly irritated me.” Leraje spoke calmly, with a steely gaze focused on Sharada’s face. He wouldn’t admit it out loud, but Sharada secretly enjoyed having Leraje stare at him.

“Plox eventually asked around the office and found out Vekk had seen you last. After cornering him and getting yours truly involved, Vekk said he ran into you near Andras’ office. Once his statement was verified, we began resting up for your rescue.” Shivering at the thought of being down there for longer than he was, Sharada pulled the blanket over his chest causing Leraje to put his arm down on top of him.

“Obviously I rescued you, but by the time I reached you, I wasn’t sure you were worth saving. Your mind was consumed, body broken, and all that remained when I arrived was a laughing lunatic splayed on the ground. Still, the Eternal had to be stopped, so I did. And once that was done, you woke up. I believe you know the rest from there, you did confess your love before you passed out.”

While under the blanket, Sharada wasn’t able to quickly hit the demon, but he managed to elbow the arm that laid on top of him. “I did no such thing! I barely said a word before I passed out, thank you very much!” Leraje grew a devilish grin at the human’s outburst of denial.

“So, now that you have your much needed answers, what questions remain in that head of yours?”

After much thought, Sharada racked his brain for any lingering, burning questions for Leraje, but only one question kept returning to the top of his list. It seemed like he should’ve known the answer, but without hearing if from the giant demon himself, Sharada would never be able to convince himself that it was the true reason.

“I informed you of my plan for you after the meeting in the basement, and I fully intend to keep my word. You belong to me, and I will not let you go.”

Sharada figured that Leraje’s response would be the closest he could get to a confession of affection or love, and that was more than enough for the human. He knew it would take a while, but if Plox and Leraje would be around, Sharada could eventually learn to like living in this dark town.