Of course, it had all gone well enough. Everything went precisely as planned, all within the allotted time before the stars were lost. The kiss of the dagger, the lick of the flame that poured from the heart of their sacrifice in ghastly lieu of blood; the cobbled stone of the three walls, ceiling and floor bathed in its earthly light as it spread outwards towards the distant mouth of the cavern. And he had been the one to draw that dagger forth, each of its four even faces reflecting beautifully, redoubling the light. And he had lovingly placed the burning brand in the heart of the ancient brazier, igniting once again the life that burned before the Sun. He whispered the Name... and then blackness.
You might say: "all Hell broke loose," but this story predates any such Judeo-Christian concept, so let's just say: "Chaos ensued." Karon had survived, somehow, which was worth noting. Indeed, it would be noted later (though in no book) that he was the only Presider to remain alive for any measureable length of time after resurrecting EDDIGAN. As the one nearest the epicenter, the priest's role usually concluded with being the first do die. Karon did not know this, of course, as mortal men carried no such records. He did know that all the ones he had loved and studied with for the past decade, in preperation, were dead. This much was obvious; their bodies were evidence enough for even the most shock-addled mind. But the lore had never said anything about after, except for vague promises of great power. Undoubtedly, great power was upon them now; the question for Karon was what to do with it, or more aptly, how to stop it.
This was in early days, I remind you. The mountain of skulls behind The Rider was by no means insignificant, but was certainly smaller at the time. It was not until later that the common children's rhymes would emerge, naming the Unnameable in the way that only children can; heralding the Unthinkable unheeded:
EDDIGAN's at it again
to crack your bones and tear your skin
and drink the juice he finds within
It goes on further, as you know. Unfortunately, Karon didn't, and that put him where he was at the moment. To be fair, there were warnings to which he blinded himself. At times, the desire to believe is too strong and overpowers the ability to see... or to reason. Now, all he could hope to do was to reason. Strength for strength, he would be no match. He raised his head to look about him. By the light of the brazier, he could see no weapon or item that might give him an edge, an advantage, a chance. Except for the ceremonial dagger.
Karon braced himself as he grasped the leather bound around the handle of the dagger, for he expected the fire to have made it quite hot. But he could not have guessed at the heat that burned there, as it transcended any mere terrestrial fire. The pain was indeed so intense that it's quite possible he lost consciousness again, but in the timeless and featureless dark of the cavern, there was nothing by which to measure the passage of time. The corpses that had once been his fellows remained dead, and The Rider was still gone. The measure of time mattered not at this point, Karon supposed, as long as he could do something; anything. He held fast the dagger, which had indeed burned its way into his skin so that he could not part with it. It is said that things guide a man changed, once his hands hold fire, and perhaps that comes from Karon's own struggle. Now, possessed of the dagger (and perhaps by it), he could feel himself being impelled in one direction or another; sometimes more than one at a time. Karon did not rise to be Presider by any weakness of will, but it was all he could do to fight the thousand souls that screamed for vengeance against the bringer of death who defied Death himself.
Somewhere, The Rider felt this shift and turned in His course. Less than a handful of times has The Rider been turned back, and only once has He been stopped. But that is a story for another time. Each man deserves a story, in their time, and this is Karon's.
The flames from the dagger pierced the darkness, cleaving a path for Karon to follow in the direction of least resistance. This was a great system of caves, and now he had wandered beyond the walls of manmade stone to be surrounded by cool, red earth. Yet this was only a capillary of the greater system that fed into the heart of the Earth. His mission lay not there, though he could feel some tug in that direction. But he could not think of what would happen should those two flames meet; that of the dagger and that in the center of the planet. His mission lie above.
Or below, technically. For in the next moment, he came over a ridge that was deceptively steep, and it sent him careening down a narrow tunnel of loose rock and dirt which soon met with a water table somewhere and turned into a muddy slide of frightening speed. He lacked the time necessary to blink, let alone grasp a breath, when he was enveloped by the harsh light of dawn and baptised by the icy water gathered at the base of a waterfall. He struggled hand and feet to the shore to stand, dripping wet, with a face of grim determination. His life was no longer his own; indeed, he was on borrowed time since he'd survived the ceremony. But the souls of the sacrificed warmed the dagger, still aflame, in his hands. He spat the gritty water from his mouth and slicked his wet hair back from over his eyes. He knew in what direction to head without knowing, and he went without thought.
The Rider bore down; time was of the essence. There is only one thing in the Universe that He ever protects, and it was now in need of protection. The mountain of skulls seemed to chatter excitedly as they bounced off each other and the dirt behind him.
When He arrived, The Rider saw Karon's unimpressive figure facing him, before the pile of leaves that obstructed the entrance to the long, subterranean cavern from whence He emerged. He held some little thing on fire, the fool. Fire could not burn away the leaves of His enchantment. But that was not Karon's plan. Karon did not have a plan, in fact. His reason, by this time, had fled; and so he attacked as the Ancient dismounted. The Rider swatted him away just as quickly as he had leapt, but not quickly enough, for Karon had had time to plant the dagger in the upper part of His left arm by the force of his full weight backing a two-handed strike. Indeed, it was deep enough to tear the dagger, flesh and all, from Karon's hand as he was knocked back. Fire could not hurt The Rider, of course, but this was not merely fire. This was His fire. And so it was that He became occupied trying to reach the dagger to pluck it out, allowing Karon, the unlikely predator, to circle his wounded prey. Karon leapt from behind Him, aiming to reclaim the dagger for another strike. He was unable to knock The Rider into the pile of leaves, but he did manage to plant his feet upon The Giant's shoulder and draw the four-edged blade forth before He turned around with such speed as to knock Karon from his back and over His right shoulder. With the same quickness, The Rider lashed out with his left arm and caught Karon by the throat, pinning him down. And Karon smiled a bloody smile, even though his larynx was being crushed into shards that now pierced the tender flesh inside his neck. For he was pinned against the dry leaves covering the mouth of the cavern, which no fire could burn. No fire but His fire.
The leaves went up in a flash, consuming the ambient oxygen thirstily. It may have created a partial vacuum, or it may simply have been the desire of the wind itself that drove so much air into the cavern. Indeed, the whole Earth seemed to take a breath, and somewhere deep within the cavern, beyond the slaughtered bodies, next to the stained sacrificial altar, the wind blew out the brazier the same way you or I might blow out a match. And at that moment, EDDIGAN expired.
There were many times that Karon wished he had died that day, whether in the ceremony, at the hands of The Ancient, or in the fire that breached the cavern. He bore the scars of that fire with him wherever he went, along with the weight of the souls of those who'd performed the ceremony with him. And he never spoke again, never to tell anything of the thousands of souls that he had touched with his seared hand. That the blood had come off was of little recompense to him.