When the full moon touched her waters, Oroza could feel Lunaris’s call. It was the first time since her brush with darkness so long ago that the moon sang to her rather than silently judging from its high perch. She could have resisted it, of course, but what would have been the point of that?

If the moon was calling, then there was a reason, and she should pay heed. So, the river dragon swam toward the reflection and then dove into it. As she dove deeper and deeper than her river actually was. She was in the sky now and making the long, slow track into the sky.

This deep the blackness of the void was spread out from her in all directions, and the stars were just coming into view. The moon was the only constant, and slowly, it began to grow until it filled all of Oroza’s vision. This wasn’t her first trip to the moon, but it was her first trip in decades, and as she transformed back into a woman and stood upon the surface, she noted the oily footprints that were left behind in her wake and sighed at just how much work was left to purify herself.

It was a maddening thought, of course, but it was a work that would take a lifetime, and that lifetime wouldn’t start until she finally dislodged the evil that had settled comfortably on her western banks like a cancer.

As she strolled through the albino gardens along the alabaster path, it was easy to see that she wasn’t alone. Other Gods, great and small, had received the same invitation that she had, and all had come. She saw the fox god of trickery and deceit, padding along another path to her left and Niama, Goddess of the wild places among the trees, off to her right.

Those ones, Oroza recognized because she shared an affinity with them, but for every God she recognized, there were two more she did not, and most of these were small gods like her. Gods of a mountain, a river, or a city were far more common than the Gods that governed all of creation.

Large and small, they were all going to the same place, though. Ahead of them loomed the high temple with its great amphitheater. It could seat thousands, which was enough for every God in the world to comfortably sit and listen with Siddrim, Lunaris, or any of the other greater Gods who had something important to say. Siddrm was absent, though, and his golden throne on the dias sat empty.


Normally, Oroza would sit with the other river and nature Goddesses, but when she saw the way that they looked at her, with a mixture of pity and revulsion, she chose to sit far away from anyone on the far side of the giant place. She did not need to be reminded of what she’d become, and certainly not like that.

Eventually, when new arrivals stopped filing in and all were seated, Lunaris stood to dress the assembled crowd. She was a full-bodied, motherly woman with white-blond hair tied back in a tight braid, and her pale armor was polished to a fine sheen as benefitted the guardian Goddess. Only her shield was missing, and that, of course, was because one of her handmaidens was carrying it across the night even now. The world could not be left in darkness. Not with all that had happened.

“Siddrim is dead,” Lunaris pronounced, letting the words settle in for several seconds before she continued. “His horses still live, and his chariot is being mended by the All-Father, but the fire that lights the world is no more.”

No one said anything, but the wave of grief and sadness that radiated out from the assembled divinity was palpable. It wasn’t enough to stop the lunar Goddess from continuing, though.

“We do not come to mourn him, and though in time we may replace his light, but we will never replace his nobility or divinity.”


Or his vanity, Oroza thought to herself. She still fumed silently about the way that his worshipers had decimated her own. Not that she could blame him. Siddrim had done little in the mortal realm for more than a century. He was the God that had vanquished evil, so he had grown lazy and indolent.

For the last few decades, he’d done little more than ride his chariot, bask in his own reflection, and plan ever larger temples in his own honor. Even that wasn’t enough to justify his death, though.

“Now, the same darkness that slew him is spreading across the land, and we know so very little about it. Who is doing this? Where did it come from? Only two of you have touched this thing and survived the experience. I invite you to tell us now before more fall to the growing evil.”

While she spoke, Lunaris gestured broadly, and faint moonlight illusions appeared around her. Images of dark armies marching and cities on fire. Most of the violence that she showed was the very war that Oroza had tried so hard to prevent, but there were other abominations, too. Wives killed husbands, and children killed fathers, only to bury the bodies in strange locations or wipe the blood of their victims above the doors of their household. Unauthorized content usage: if you discover this narrative on Amazon, report the violation.

The things that the moon Goddess showed them were strange, barbaric acts, but the whole time Lunaris showed them such terrible things, Ozora could feel the woman’s piercing yellow gaze, even from so far away. Finally, all of it was enough to move Oroza to speak, but as soon as the river goddess opened her mouth, the All-Father spoke up instead.

“The fiend is the blackest magics from the darkest pits at the very core of the world!” he yelled, with a voice suffused with barely contained rage. “It crawled up from the depths and devoured an entire temple of the dead in a single night, turning my own hallowed dead against me!”

The dwarven lord continued to speak, but Oroza ignored him. Instead, she stood and started walking down to the central dias. Where the greater gods were assembled. The All-Father might be speaking earnestly and passionately, but he did not know what he was talking about.

Still, he kept right on talking about it for the next ten minutes, regaling everyone in attendance with the war that was being waged beneath the world, under their mountains. The only thing he didn’t elaborate on at length was a secret counter-attack that had already been set in motion.

It was only when he finally finished that she said softly, “You do not know of what it is you speak.”

“Why I—” the All-Father said, his face purpling as he moved to stand. He was not a man to be gainsaid. She knew that. She just didn’t care.

He stopped speaking when Lunaris raised a hand. “Let my daughter speak. She has been through much and means no disrespect.”

Didn’t I? Oroza thought as she smiled grimly. That isn't what she said, though. Instead, she turned and faced the assembled mass of the several hundred Gods and Godlings that had shown up.

“That monster is not made of shadows. It devours them. It’s been growing in the swamps near my river for decades, but I didn’t know, Not until it devoured me.” She flushed with shame as she remembered that terrible dual and just how badly she’d been out-maneuvered. “I know exactly what it is because I’ve been forced to serve that darkness for decades.”

As Oroza spoke, she lifted one of her hands to show the raw scars where the manacles had chafed at her for so long. Then, Without any warning, she reverted into water. Instead of becoming the sallow, emaciated river dragon that she was now, though, she became a watery representation of the Lich itself to give everyone a good look at what it was they were up against.

Slowly, she grew in height, and her features melted away until she was nothing but a three-legged, four-armed skeleton in the ugly beetle carapace that her former master wore into battle. There were gasps of shock and horror as she donned such an ugly face. She couldn’t blame them. It was a visage that would likely haunt her for the rest of her days.

“The evil that held me in chains has been laboring long for this war, and all of us are off guard as a result,” she said, spreading her four arms wide. “I thought that with the help of the few that remained loyal to Siddrim, I could hold back the tide of darkness myself, but I was wrong. It will spread in all directions now, and each time you confront it, it will learn from you.”

“No corpse will outsmart me,” Ronndin, the fox God, bragged. “I will seek out his weakness so that we might dispose of him the way that we have all the other dark gods that have littered history.”

“This is not the same as those that came before,” Oroza implored him. The fox god was known for being clever but not for being humble, and that was exactly the wrong combination of traits for this situation. “The Lich… it has the mind of hundreds of humans screaming and chattering inside its awful skull. Whatever idea you had, however smart you think you are, a madman has thought of it first, and the Lich has already tried it out in its terrible workshops; it makes—”

“It makes nothing!” the All-Father roared. “The monstrosities that this Lich has are not creation! They are abomination!”

“I don’t care what you call it,” she urged, “but you should be careful not—”

“The world has been careful for too long,” Istiniss cried out, silencing her, even as Oroza began to deflate into her smaller human form once more. The God of sea and storms was louder than she was ever going to be. “We must rise as one now and crush this thing. Why shouldn’t we? We know its game and where its strange little lair hides. Nothing can save it from our wrath.”

Oroza exchanged a glance with Lunaris for a brief moment, and then she started to walk towards the exit. The gods could rarely agree on anything, but in this, the river goddess was sure they would all find accordance. Those who had churches and armies sworn to their name would rally against the Lich, and those who didn’t would help in smaller ways.

Despite the fact that the whole might of heaven had been united against her tormentor, she was not comforted. Even as she left the amphitheater and walked back along the path to the edge of the moon, she couldn’t help but feel like her efforts had made things worse, not better.

At the end of the path, Oroza found Lunaris waiting for her. “We will need your help, sister, only you know what it is we face.”

“You don’t know what you are asking,” Oroza said, tears welling in her eyes.

The moon goddess did something Oroza didn’t expect then and embraced her. She stroked Oroza’s lank black hair and soothed her, which only caused the river goddess to cry harder.

“One day, I will tell you the story of why the moon turns dark every month,” Lunaris whispered. “We all have our own pain to bear. It is unforgivable, but there is no changing it. All you can do is keep others from finding out how deep the darkness is for themselves.”