Stillness of Time
A hundred eyes dug into Micar’s back, hungry for the answer eluding them since becoming the Lord of Time. Micar avoided their gaze, partly out of necessity and partly out of shame. Instead, he pressed a hand against the cool stone of a temple dedicated to him-to them-wary of the subtle vibrations that followed each concussive rumble from outside. His end neared.
Versions of himself, each from a different time in his life, visited here to witness their death. They crowded behind him, each with their unique motives driving them in desperate pursuit of an answer. He remembered the bitterness of failure deepening with every return until his last visit. The truth of his own frailty could not go unignored. The answer he long sought, evident. Even a god must die.
He rolled his neck and filled his chest with the dry, winter air too stubborn to remain outside. The crowd behind him shuffled. They knew the time approached. Just as he had known when he once stood amongst them.
“It is all a lie.” Micar grabbed his helmet from the table next to him. “Our arrogance, our power. All of it. Still, you come here seeking an answer.”
“Have you found one?” One version of him asked. From his harsh tone, he had been one of the first to visit the end. Still confident. Still full of anger and unable to accept the mockery of godhood he had chosen.
Micar traced the raised script decorating the brow of the helmet. A line of poetry favored by one of his many loves. A Thousand suns, a thousand days, a thousand nights, all in rest. Her name eluded him now, but the love remained. Stronger, now, with death so close. “Nothing that you’d welcome.”
“You are a coward.” The questioner spat. “A fraud. I will not end up like this!”
Micar smiled at the wall and nodded at the irony of that statement. Had he always been so foolish? But he remembered the hurt, the betrayal, at receiving the reply, and forgave his past self his ignorance.
“What of your children?” Asked another, his voice weighted by death. “Do any ever inherit your-our abilities?”
“We are the Lord of Time.” Micar swallowed the ache in his throat. He remembered his children. He remembered their laughter and joy. He remembered as they aged and tasted mortality. First with wonder and surprise, but as the bones ached and the limbs stiffened, ailing hearts pumped blackened envy to cloud their eyes and darken their tongues. They withered away, covetous of his eternal youth. “You have seen them. All of them. All their graves.”
“Leave it. Nothing I say will sway you.” Micar shoved his helmet on his head and worked the strap tight. “You have come to watch the Lord of Time die.”
“No!” Someone shouted, hope fiery hot. “I will not.”
“I understand.” Micar remembered that outburst. He had lost his wife, Ella, to an assassination during the First Revolt, when mortals thought to usurp the powers of their gods. He had tried to undo her death and had come here for answers.
“The time of our reckoning approaches.” Micar touched the wall again, grateful for something solid to steady him. “Our end.”
The rumbling increased in intensity. The battle outside neared. He remembered the scene of slaughter that awaited him once he stepped outside. Each mangled body belonged to a follower or friend who thought time reasonable, weak. Not even the command of their lord could dissuade them from their meaningless sacrifice.
“Too many die.” Micar picked up his sword, another line of poetry decorating its length. A thousand moons, a thousand stars, fade into the light. “I’m sorry.”
“We can aid you,” A sensible version of him offered. He arrived from a time after his first family had perished and enough years had healed the wounds and renewed optimism.
“No. You are forbidden.” Micar sheathed his sword and stepped away from the steam bleeding off the heated stone wall. “Chaos is near. You are not to meddle. Your death would undo so many other lives. Stay. Witness. Or go.”
The air of the temple stilled, frozen in the chest of the unbreathing audience. Many did vanish. Some to return to their times, while others sought comfort in their past, to revive memories of fading faces and tickling laughter. It helped, for a short span, but then the pain of loss also deepened.
Micar cast his eyes down and marched to the door. The ground beneath him rumbled in anticipation.
“No!” Someone growled, the word barbed and tearing.
Micar reached out his left hand and closed his fist against a heaving chest. He pulled this anguished version of him close, peered into his eyes, and braced for the expected nausea. “It’s not your time.”
The other version stumbled, fell, and vanished in a flash of light. He would be bedridden for a day, enough time to consider what he had tried to do and understand the futility. Micar of the present pinched the space between his eyes and cleared his throat. His disorientation lasted only a moment. This time belonged to him.
“Farewell. Atonement awaits.” Micar pushed open the door to a scene of carnage and loss. A figure approached, its features shifting with every thought, its shape fluid. The Lord of Chaos against the Lord of Time. They had been antagonists for no reason other than the constant conflict of order and disorder. Such destruction rooted in banality. Micar had tried to reason with Chaos, but Chaos was as stubborn as the march of Time. Their battle was inevitable.
The Lords charged each other, weapons drawn, and power unleashed. Time and Chaos. Blood spilled from both combatants, but Micar succumbed first. Strength depleted, he wondered what awaited him as Chaos ripped his soul from his flesh and cast it into the dark. What would flow from the blood of his sacrifice?