“Oh, Great Watcher Above, give unto us your seed so that we may cultivate and harness growth where once was desolation.”
The low hum of the life energy pouring in and out of the bodies of each of the twelve druids resonated deep into the sands below and around the circle. They stood in perfect symmetry, performing a sacred ritual of change and life as had only been done once before in recent memory.
For now, the sweltering heat of the Great Shiba Desert hammered on, boring away at their resolve. The dry heat of the sands blew between their legs and into their eyes, almost as if the desert itself was defying their magics and defending itself.
“We ask that you cleanse these lands,” Aoliban continued, “And bear forth fruit that will bring life to your people so that we may serve you better.”
The ritual continued as life flowed through each of the druids, but a hint of confusion mixed itself into the atmosphere.
“Those are not the words, Aoliban,” Vysus, the druid to his right murmured. It was not an admonishment but a question.
“It didn’t work the last time,” Aoliban replied, voice hushed so that the gods could not hear him. “So I am invoking new words.”
“I hope you know what you are doing,” she said.
“Oh, Great Watcher Above, we ask not that you remove the ancient curse that pervades this wasteland, only that you give us this one small piece, so that life can continue without unnecessary suffering.”
The humming grew louder as the air blurred inside the circle of druids. The portal was opening. The warm beige of the desert twisted as it transformed into lazy purples, then pale blues, then lush greens.
Anticipation did not deter the concentrations each druid held. The planes of existence began to converge on this small spot, and Aoliban had to be careful to choose the correct plane, or else everything would be ruined. Just like last time.
“Great Watcher Above, we seek your guidance in embracing your realm. Just as my own sister who came before me served you, I wish to show my own brethren your awesome power.”
The hazy colors that danced inside the circle began shifting to dark grey, and the excitement of the circle shifted towards trepidation once more.
“Aoliban…?” Vysus asked.
Aoliban did not address her. Instead, he kept his eyes on the realm beyond. “I wish to see my sister again, Great Watcher Above. Let the borders between our worlds merge in this space so that your light once again shines on this barren land, and so that I can join hands with my family once more.”
The greys and purples of the other plane deepened. The soft sand they stood upon grew more sturdy as they found themselves partially in another world. One of bone and death.
“Aoliban we are your family,” Vysus countered.
He turned to her, arms still outstretched as the other druids fought to keep this unexpected realm at bay. He kept his voice low as he addressed her. “No. Not since the last ritual failed, and my sister was taken. I serve a new god now.”
Vysus’ eyes widened and she clutched her arms to her side. “Druids! Close the portal, now!”
“It’s too late for that,” a new voice said, feminine and somewhat distant. A blueish figure wrapped in thin robes appeared in the center of the circle, barefoot as she stepped on the pool of broken skulls. She approached the two druids with a small smile, eyes lost as if staring far off into the horizon.
As the circuit of green life energy broke, this piece of the death realm tethered itself to this spot in the desert, and sand gently trailed amidst the piles of bones.
“Hello, Aicrin. I feared I’d never see you again,” Aoliban said. As he watched, his sister’s eyes focused on him, standing on the edge of life and death.
“Dearest brother, you’ve doomed our people just to see me once more?”
Aoliban glanced about the circle of druids, who were now readying spells of defense. The ritual was over. An unprecedented success. “I did.”
Aicrin looked around at the men and women that surrounded her. “Isn’t anyone else happy to see me?”
“This is an abomination,” Vysus spat. “Sacrilege.”
“Now, that simply depends on which god you serve, Vysus.”
Her eyes were gleaming daggers that bore into him, but he cared little for her rage. He had already won. “This is an unforgivable offense, Aoliban. Your sister will return to the realm from which she came, and you shall join her!”
She moved to leap at him, but found her foot caught. She looked down to see skeletal hands grasping about her shins as the undead began pulling themselves out of the sea of bones, especially around the other druids.
“I’ve made some friends in my time here, brother,” Aicrin noted. “It seems they, too, are eager to return to the living.”
Aoliban nodded. “It seems only fitting that we offer our thanks to the Great Watcher Above.”