Sharess complained to her parents that the other
gods disliked her. "It´s not fair, after everything I´ve done for
"What exactly would that be?" asked Torodin. He loved his daughter, but was well aware that she was self-centered.
"Torodin, you´re not helping." Soltana patted her daughter on the shoulder. "My dear, you have many fine qualities. But you often allow your own wants and desires to control you. You should think more of others."
"That´s not true," Sharess protested. "I create desire; I´m not controlled by it."
Torodin chuckled. "Sharess, you seek to posses every man you see. Love is fine sport, but not a fitting goal to consume a goddess. Sometimes you behave like a mortal."
"How can you say that? You don´t even understand what love is. And I do not behave like a mortal." Sharess stomped her feet and ran off, weeping.
"Torodin," Soltana scolded. "You should not have said that. You hurt her feelings."
The Shadowlord shrugged. "She´ll get over it."
But Sharess did not get over it. She loved her
father dearly, and felt betrayed by his insults. The goddess of love and beauty
dwelled upon his words, becoming more and more angry as time passed.
Othniel often used his imps to spy upon the other deities. When the infernal creatures reported Sharess´ sulking to him, the Soultaker decided that this was an excellent opportunity to make use of the goddess of lust. He went to his brother Athelstan, and asked him to summon one of their favorite demons, an incubus named Gosheven.
The handsome winged demon bowed before his masters. "What can I do for you, oh vile ones?"
"We have a task for you," said Othniel. "One well suited to your unique abilities. If you succeed, we will make you a god."
Gosheven´s eyes widened. This was quite a reward. "Whatever you ask, it shall be done."
"I want you to use your charms upon the goddess Sharess. You must persuade her to use her powers upon her father, and make Torodin fall in love with a mortal woman -- a lovely young woman named Sylvana, daughter of Lord Korel."
Mai, the goddess of fate, had served Othniel faithfully ever since he had created her from the footprints of passing souls. It was her job to cut the threads of mortals´ lives, and she had informed Othniel in passing that the lovely Sylvana was fated soon to die. The Soultaker alone had the power to prevent this, and he expected a love-smitten Torodin to offer him anything in return for sparing his beloved.
Othniel did not explain his motives to Gosheven, and the incubus was wise enough not to ask. He transformed himself into the guise of a human, well built and exceptionally gorgeous, with long dark hair and dark eyes. In this guise, he came upon Sharess bathing beneath a waterfall.
Gosheven gave the goddess a seductive smile. "A lovelier sight has never been seen by god or mortal."
Sharess studied the handsome figure, her lips curving into a slow smile. She beckoned him to join her beneath the waterfall, and they made love for many days.
Afterward, they reclined on a bed of roses. "My love," said Gosheven, "you are truly a delight to behold. But I can see that something troubles you. Tell me what it is, and I will make it right for you."
Sharess quickly launched into a tale of how she´d been wronged by the other deities. Gosheven listened with false sympathy and agreed with her every word.
"Your father would be more understanding," said Gosheven, "if he had loved as we do. You should use your powers upon him -- make him fall in love with a mortal woman. That would humble the Shadowlord, and make him appreciate you."
Sharess smiled. The idea appealed to her, for she had always longed for her father´s approval. She was convinced that he´d always loved her brother Siwili best.
But casting a spell upon him? That seemed to smack of betrayal. "I don´t know," said Sharess uncertainly. "I don´t want to make my father angry with me."
"Sounds like he already is," said Gosheven. "And with little enough cause. Besides, he´ll thank you for this. Love brings happiness, after all. You´ll be doing your father a great favor - one he´ll remember for all eternity."
"You´re right," said Sharess excitedly. "I will do as you ask."
"Wait," said Gosheven, stopping the enthusiastic goddess before she could run off. "First, you much choose a suitable mortal. After all, embarrassing your father is one thing - but you don´t want him to marry just anyone."
"You´re right, my love. I must find my father a kind and beautiful woman of noble birth."
"I know just the mortal."
Gosheven led Sharess to the castle of Lord Korel. They found Lady Sylvana strolling through the flower gardens, singing in a voice as bright and beautiful as a sparrow. Sylvana was truly lovely. Her face was round and delicate, with soulful brown eyes and full, red lips. Her skin was perfect, her long, honey-colored tresses hung down past her waist.
"She is perfect," Sharess declared.
Gosheven kissed her. "I thought you would like her. I will wait here while you cast the spell upon your father. Do not worry about being discovered, my beloved, for I am certain that luck is with you."
In fact, luck had nothing to do with it. Gosheven was well aware that, once Sharess agreed to the task, Othniel had arranged for the god Reeba to conceal her with magical darkness as she approached Torodin. The plan worked perfectly, and the Shadowlord never even noticed his daughter´s presence as she cast the fateful spell upon him.
The moment that Sharess did as she´d been asked, Gosheven attained immortality. He was now the god of deception. Thus empowered, the former incubus transformed himself into the likeness of the god Jvelto, whom Torodin loved above all others and would never suspect of betrayal.
Torodin was in his Shadow Realm, meditating upon the future. Though he was generally a fun-loving god, Torodin had darker, more somber moods, and this was one of them. His mood instantly lightened when the false Jvelto appeared.
"Brother!" Torodin leaped to his feet and hugged Gosheven. "What brings you here? Are you hiding from Wajen again?"
"Nay, my brother. I have a surprise for you. Come with me now."
Intrigued, Torodin followed the false Jvelto to Lord Korel´s gardens. As soon as he saw the lovely Sylvana, Torodin became enamored. He leaped over the hedge into the garden and kneeled before the astonished woman.
"Fairest of maidens," said the Shadowlord. "I bear for thee a love which shall never end. Will you accept my hand in marriage?"
Sylvana´s eyes widened as she stared at the handsome god. She was a learned woman, and knew at once who kneeled before her. But to wed a god? It did not seem proper.
She was about to refuse when Torodin looked up at her, love and tenderness shining in his dark eyes. Sylvana realized that, god or no, this was a man she could love for the rest of her life.
"Yes," she said. "I will marry you."
At once Gosheven sped off to inform Othniel and Athelstan of their success. Too overwhelmed by their feelings to notice his departure, Torodin and Sylvana embraced passionately.
The other gods were pleasantly surprised when Torodin and Sylvana announced their engagement. Jvelto hugged his brother and kissed Sylvana soundly.
"She is quite the surprise, isn´t she?" said Torodin.
"Aye, that she is, brother," said Jvelto, who did not understand Torodin´s remarks and assumed he was referring to everyone´s astonishment that the Shadowlord would settle down with just one woman.
Azkal nodded in approval and slapped his brother on the back. "Well done, Torodin. Perhaps now you will have less time for mischief."
Torodin grinned. "Don´t count on it."
"This is wonderful news," said Soltana, and kissed them both. "I can see in your eyes, brother, that you finally understand the joy of love. I am very happy for you."
"As am I." Estereal surprised everyone by shedding his usual reserve and embracing the couple. "We will hold the wedding here, in my palace, in three days. As a reward for finally capturing our little brother´s heart, I myself will make dear Sylvana a goddess as soon as the vows have been spoken."
Sharess was thrilled when her father and Sylvana asked her to be the maid of honor at the wedding. Gosheven had been right; her father was kinder now, and more appreciative. And she found that she liked Sylvana as well -- she was kind, and very loving. Everything was working out well.
Thanks to Wajen, the morning of the wedding
dawned warm and sunny. Because she would not be able to mingle with her family
again once she became a goddess, Torodin took his beloved to her home to say
good-bye. After the tearful farewells had been said, Sylvana asked to spend some
time in her favorite flower garden - the very spot where she and Torodin had met.
"I know that my life with you will be wonderful," Sylvana said. "But a part of me will always miss this place. I have many fond memories."
Torodin kissed Sylvana and held her close. As the two embraced, Sharess arrived in her golden chariot. The love goddess smiled happily as her father held out his hand and helped her to step down. He had never been so gallant before.
"Father, Sylvana, it is time for the wedding."
Torodin went to Sylvana and kissed her again. "Are you ready, my darling?"
Torodin smiled. "Wait, there is one more thing. I want you to always have something that reminds you of your home. Pick a bloom from your favorite flower in this garden. I will ask Wajen to fill our home with them."
"Oh, thank you." Sylvana went at once to the vines laden with blooms of wisteria and picked her favorite - the only white flower among them. So small was the deadly spider Othniel had placed within its petals that the young woman did not notice its bite, or see it scurry away after its work was done.
She was smiling as she stepped back to Torodin and brushed her hand across his cheek. Sylvana opened her mouth to say, "I love you," when the poison suddenly seized her heart, and she fell dead in the Shadowlord´s arms.
"Sylvana!" Torodin cried out his beloved´s name in anguish. Laying her gently upon the ground, he summoned all of his powers to rouse her still form, but it was to no avail. None but Othniel had power over the dead.
Sharess stared in horror. "I don´t understand. What has happened?"
Torodin and Sharess both froze at the sound of laughter behind them. They turned to see Othniel, Athelstan, and Gosheven watching them.
"You!" said Sharess, staring at the former incubus in alarm. "What are you doing with these two?"
Gosheven smiled. "Enjoying the immortality they have given me."
Torodin stood and stared at his evil brothers. "Are you responsible for this?" His words were soft, almost a whisper, but the fury in his eyes was like nothing Sharess had ever seen.
"Why yes," said Othniel with a smile. "But we couldn´t have done it without your lovely daughter here. It was her powers that caused you to fall in love with a mortal, not mine."
Sharess trembled as her father´s furious gaze turned on her. "Daughter, what have you done?"
Tears streamed down the lovely goddess´ cheeks. "Father, I´m sorry. I didn´t mean for this to happen. I -"
Torodin did not let her finish. With a cry of anguish, he called upon his power over magic. Sharess was at once surrounded by swirling bands of black shadow that pulsed with mystic energy. She struggled against them, but they only grew tighter. Slowly the bands solidified around her, until the goddess of love and beauty was encased in a prison of gleaming, black stone.
Torodin stared at his daughter, shaking with grief and anger. Suddenly, Athelstan´s booming laughter broke the silence.
Enraged, and caring nothing for Estereal´s edicts, Torodin summoned a bolt of pure magic and flung it at the god of suffering.
But Athelstan deflected Torodin´s magic with the Shield of Pain. The glowing bolt sailed off into the sky. It crossed over the mountains and into a small village, where it struck a young woman named Namir. She instantly absorbed the bolt, which was the pure essence of magic, gaining knowledge arcane and immortality. Thus was born the goddess of magic.
Unaware of this, Athelstan and Torodin fought savagely, neither one taking notice as they destroyed the flower garden and Sylvana´s home. Finally, Athelstan gained the upper hand. He knocked Torodin to his feet and dealt the Shadowlord a grevious wound with his Blade of Life Stealing. The heavens echoed with Torodin´s scream of agony.
"Enough," said Othniel, pulling the savage one away from their wounded brother. "If you kill him, he will be of no use to us."
Ignoring his wounds, Torodin leaped to his feet and would have attacked Athelstan again, but the Soultaker paralyzed him with his death magic. Torodin could only watch helplessly as Othniel picked up Sylvana´s lifeless body and shook his head in mock sympathy.
"Such a lovely thing. What a pity that she was fated to die so young. Here she was, ready to wed a god..."
Othniel handed the corpse to Gosheven and stepped close to Torodin´s still form. He leaned over his brother´s shoulder and whispered, "In the end, brother dear, your love was of no use to her. She is dead, and there is nothing you can do."
Athelstan laughed. Othniel stepped back and smiled with pleasure as he surveyed the look of pain on Torodin´s face.
"It´s ironic, brother. I am the one who killed her. And I´m also the only one who can help her. I can bring her back. For a price."
Othniel snapped his fingers and released Torodin from his paralysis. The Shadowlord took a deep breath to control his rage and glared at Othniel.
"What do you want?"
"You. As a slave, for one century." Othniel smiled at the uncertainty on Torodin´s face. "Come, brother. What is a century for the likes of us? In return I will see to it that your beloved can hold and kiss you again, and I won´t even wait until your term of service has ended. What say you?"
Torodin looked suspiciously from Othniel to Athelstan. He would give anything to get Sylvana back. But he knew he could not trust them.
"Come, now," said Othniel, correctly guessing Torodin´s fears. "You know a god´s oath is binding. I swear I will do as I have promised. And your service will be to me alone. You and Athelstan would only kill each other."
Athelstan growled, but he said nothing. He was wary of Othniel.
"I agree," Torodin said.
Othniel smiled. Triumphant at last, he transported them all to the Abyss. The only one left behind in the ruined garden was Sharess, helpless in her prison made of stone.