A roaring wind beat at the black mountain?s peak, fruitlessly lashing out with smoky tendrils of red mist at the unmoving figure resting there on his barbed, bloody throne. Around him, likewise untouched by the violence of the storm, lay black, cruel weapons and cracked skulls, damp and dripping with fresh blood. Standing, the figure was two men tall, and bulky like a bull. What appeared to be mechanical black armour, studded and hanging with chains, was in truth his body; an exoskeleton of metallic bone, lit by the faint glow of his fiery heart encased within, escaping through numerous slits and grates on his chest. Upon his head sat a terrible crown of white, bloody horns protruding from a rough, cracked dome. Across his forehead lay a cast plate of black metal, depicting the death of a human at the hands of another, the symbol of his role. He is the bringer of hate, lord of spite and malice. He is a tool of the Prophecy. War gazed out with empty black eyes at the image forming before him as the red clouds parted.
It was faint at first, crackling with wild electricity and partly covered by the wisps of still retreating cloud, but as he waited, it clarified and grew until it took up most of the sky above him. War looked through the rift into the human world. He surveyed a burning city from a distance. It was large, and though imperfect, once prosperous in its own, human way. Now it was torn and ravaged; buildings crumbling from explosions, roads cracked and covered in scattered rubble from vehicle mines. He lifted a pointed black finger, and the image suddenly grew, focusing on the street dividing the town, cutting through its heart. Now he saw the bodies, lying motionless in weak, pocked armour, half blown off helmets and cracked data visors. Around them lay their smoking guns and bloody knives. At the edges of the street, survivors wept and bled. Both sides had lost too many men for victory. There was only defeat, for all. This time, no one came to claim the city; there was no one left. War smiled.
The mortal world was failing. Elsewhere, his brothers wasted away the people with hunger and disease. Above, their father Death watched over them, and gathered their bounty. Soon the Apocalyptic Prophecy would be fulfilled, the Aevus Pectum cycle broken. Soon, War could die, his task finally complete after an eternity of labour.
The Eternals were amassing their strength for their futile war to rule the All, but War knew the true shape of the future; Death had seen the mind of the Creator, and of him War and his brothers had been born. Earth would soon collapse, and Purgatory would follow it, while the Eternals destroyed each other. The end is nigh, thought War to himself. He rose to his feet, spread his arms and laughed out at the clouds as they swirled back into place over the rift.
Oz twisted around the edge of the wall at his back to check the explosion blackened square behind him. The soldier was still there, rolling over a body and checking it?s pockets for food and ammunition. His uniform was in tatters, and his helmet gone, but the Cuban Alliance flag was still just visible on his shoulder. Oz pulled his head back in and carefully slipped his handgun from its holster inside his jacket. It felt angular and uncomfortable in his sweat soaked palm. He released the catch and the magazine dropped out into his hand; only one bullet left. He quietly clicked it back in, and looked around the wall once again, preparing himself.
The man began to turn completely away from him and rise; Oz took his chance and dived out from his hiding place into the open square, swinging the gun around to point it at the Cuban?s chest with a cry of fury as he landed. The man turned, wild eyed, just in time to see his attacker?s eyes squinting in concentration for the shot; he threw himself to the ground. Oz finished his squeeze on the trigger without thinking, desperately lowering his aim to catch the man in his fall. The bullet smashed into the tiles behind the Cuban, sending a spray of ceramic chips into the air. A rush of fear swept through him as he realised he had failed.
The man jumped up, wrenching a Cuban battle knife from a sheath at his hip and running screaming at him. Oz dropped desperately, fumbling out his own knife and kicking his legs out as he did so. His boots caught his opponent in the shins, and the man crashed over him into the ground. Oz rolled away and turned, flinging his arms and knocking the Cuban away as he made a second dive. As the man landed, Oz rolled over onto him bringing down the knife onto his heart. His wrist impaled itself neatly on the Cuban knife, the blade of which split through his arm on the other side, stopping inches away from his own guts. He let out a skull splitting scream of pain and launched himself away off his knees, sliding the knife back out of his wrist. Blood sprayed into the air. His eyes blurred. Time slowed around him, strange images flashing through his head; childhood memories twisted into monuments of fear and hate. He watched his own body float upwards, kicking the struggling Cuban in the side with a steel toe cap. The man?s eyes widened in confusion and pain. Oz caught a falling knife with his good hand, blade down, and dropped back onto the man with his arm outstretched. It plunged into the Cuban?s stomach, and twisted parallel with him as Oz landed across him, thrusting his violently bleeding wrist between their bodies to put pressure on the wound. He lay there and listened to the man dying, spluttering blood across his killer?s face. Numbing fear, horror, shame and blinding pain battled for dominance in Oz?s mind. He moaned with the force of emotion. Some time after the Cuban had died, he passed out.
He awoke to sweat and pain again minutes later. He feebly wrapped a long strip of fabric around his wrist and took the Cuban?s knife and pillaged ammunition before he stumbled away. He knew he would die from his wound without medical help, and his squad medics had all died days ago, but he could not leave the old man alone. He made his way back through the broken city, growing weaker, watching the bodies float past him and feeling his blood seep into the rag around his wrist. He came to the church, and shouldered his way through the tall wooden doors.
The old priest had fallen from his pallet on the bench. He was coughing and jerking in his fitful unconsciousness. Oz dropped pathetically to his knees and crawled the rest of the way to him. He saw his infection mask on the floor and ignored it. The priest had caught a lungful of enzac gas in the first batch of biochemical drops the day before. It was a highly contagious disease, and a very slow way to die. He rolled over as Oz propped himself up beside him.
?Boy?? He whispered, staring blindly through Oz?s eyes.
?I am here father,? Oz reassured him. The old man reached out and touched his arm.
?You are hurt boy! You are bleeding!? He choked and spluttered. Specks of blood dotted the church floor.
?It?s just a scratch father, I will be fine.?
?Oh. That?s good, boy. That?s good. The Lord came to me in a dream while you were gone, my son.?.
Oz watched the dying man sympathetically. Even after the war, there had been few people left in the West still determined to ignore the cold truth of science and retain their desperate grip on religious fantasy.
?The Lord came to me boy. He cried for me; he told me the end was near, and he was sorry. He has failed us my son. Our only hope is gone. The Great Death is come.? He began to cry softly, ?The Great Death??
?You are sick, father. It was just a fever dream. Your God has not failed you.?
?Poor boy. Poor boy. I am sorry, my son.? The old man coughed for a while longer, and drifted back into sleep.
The priest died from the enzac poisoning an hour later, and by the time night fell on the city, the cold body of a soldier rested with him.
An angel crawled through the bloody battlefield of Purgatory, dragging himself through a sea of staring bodies towards the distant moaning ahead of him. It seemed an age before he reached his goal. He collapsed on his side, and rested a hand on the scarlet red body before him. Fearsome heat raged inside. The demon turned his head, and snarled at him.
?The battle is over, brother. The Lords are dead,? offered the angel.
?The Lord of Hell cannot die! Away, fool, before I cut you open!?. The demon tried to roll, but he was still too weak. Tears of blood began to leak from his eyes.
?There was no victory here, brother. Only Death. It is the End. The cycle has been broken. This time, our souls will be destroyed forever. It is the way it always had to be.?
The demon moaned, defeated. ?It should not be like this. I was struck down early. How did it end??
?The Immortals crashed, and slaughtered each other. Many were crushed as they fell. The Ordinators died in the fray.?
?No, fool. My King, how was he slain??
?They met above the armies, impaling each other. Hundreds of thousands of souls died as They fell. It is over. It is all over. The Darkness comes, brother.?
The demon heaved himself up painfully, scrutinizing his surroundings. The Aevus Pectum had truly been broken. The All was being consumed all around them; the battlefield was caving away into the emptiness. He closed his eyes and spread his consciousness in search of the force of the Eternals. Earth and Hell were gone, Heaven was almost faded, and his sense of Purgatory was shrinking around him. ?No, it cannot be. It cannot be!? he screamed to the burning skies.
?It is the way things must be, brother,? soothed the angel.
The land shook suddenly with the force of Death?s laughter as he died. His sons followed him like sighs of relief. The demon shut his eyes, blocking out the reality. The angel rested a weak hand on his shoulder. The Darkness consumed them.
The universe was slowly squeezed from existence as the Creator?s great hand tightened gently around it. When it was opened again, there was nothing left but a miniscule cloud of existence, that faded away into the Emptiness. The Creator lay back across the vastness of nothing, and stared up into the darkness. It thought about It?s game.
Yes, It decided. It had been a good game. A very good game in fact. It had quite enjoyed it. Maybe It would play again sometime?