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from The Gods' Own by Alexis Cunningham

Copyright © 2019–2021 Alexis Cunningham

Chapter 25
The Truth About Matriev Pt. 2

‘How did Matriev plan to rescue Sabron?’

Krystof had always wondered about the specifics, although he’d lacked the courage to ask before. Commander Vhorki had told him Matriev had been expelled from the Order because he held extremist views and wanted to free Sabron from Pit lord captivity. Privately, Krystof had wondered what was so extreme about that. Six thousand years was a long time to be held captive even for a god. He’d realised quite swiftly that the demon was in the detail, the specifics of Matriev’s planned campaign, which was why no one would tell him.

             After all, Krystof might like to see the Sky Kingdom with his mortal eyes but it was another matter entirely getting there. The Other Side might be easier to get to than the mythic seat of the Seraphim, but not by much. Most mortals, even practitioners, could not survive for long on the Other Side, assuming that is they found a way to breach the veil in the first place. The anima was different, the flora and fauna held strange properties that when ingested made it impossible for a mortal to subsist on anything else, forcing them to stay forever. Not to mention the hostile natives; cultures of Other Side wildr, demi-demons and the dreaded Pit lords themselves.

             ‘He intended to turn himself into a wildr.’ Dima’s expression was grim. ‘Wildr don’t have the magic to breach the veil, but they can cross back and forth. Their two natured state makes them immune to the dangers of the Other Side. Djem thought altering his physical form would make him stronger as well, better able to fight off the Other Side hordes.’

             ‘Is that even possible?’ Krystof glanced at Ren. ‘I thought you had to be born wildr?’

             Ren sighed. ‘It should not have been possible. The magic to transmutate the body is a wild, forbidden magic. Beyond the reach of most practitioners.’

             ‘But Matriev managed it?’

             ‘I told you,’ Dima said, ‘he’d been studying alchemy, old and new.’ He laughed bitterly. ‘I’m pretty sure he quoted your old man’s work at me one time.’

             Krystof startled. ‘My father’s field of study is related to the transmutation of the soul,’ he admitted surprised. ‘I know he believes that the life cycle of the soul far exceeds our understanding.’

             ‘He spoke to me about Calvahno custom also,’ Ren explained tiredly. ‘I did not like his questions. They were blasphemous. He wanted to know if one could remove a native soul and replace it with another.’

             ‘Can you?’ Krystof asked appalled.

             ‘I cannot,’ Ren told him shortly. ‘That magic is Pit lord magic. It is they who created the first wildr. The power of transmutation is, at heart, Pit lord magic. It is forgotten now, but without them we would know nothing of alchemy.’

             ‘How is it done?’ Krystof pressed. He sensed she was trying to subtly sway him from asking the all important question, but he wasn’t prepared to let her. He’d let them keep their secrets too long already.

             ‘There are sigils, written in the language passed down to us by the Pit lords. The practitioner must be of ample soul or they will die in the attempt. In ancient rites, Pit lords fashioned a new soul with conjugation, pulling magic together to form a primal soul, but Matriev persuaded a summoner to draw a demon through the veil to harvest its soul.’

             ‘And that’s how he turned himself ...

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