“But,” Riz stutters, staring at hir own hands blindly, searching for answers. None of this past day has made any sense.
“But it was my destiny.”
Every year, Riz returns home for the winter solstice. It has less to do with the festive season–though, admittedly, there is some of that, too–and more to do with the whole “hir blood and presence is a vital component of an annual ritual to ward off a demon invasion.”
But there is a feast, at least, which makes it a little bit less of a chore.
Almost a century ago, a demon crossed the barrier between the worlds.
Its name has been lost to time, but the tale of its terrible actions have not.
Only through the bravery and skill of five heroes could the demon be defeated.
But not before it got its clutches in the fifthe hero.
Riz is nine decades old.
Practically ancient as far as human lifespans are concerned, but young for what zie is.
And thus zie is caught between knowing so much, but not necessarily understanding.
The fifth hero, in an act of ultimate selflessness, sacrificed themself to seal away the demon.
However the demon was too powerful.
In order to ensure their fallen companion’s sacrifice was not in vain, the remaining four heroes created a ritual to strengthen the seal.
Riz remembers every villager born in the town: what they were like as children and who they became as adults. Many of them have had children and even grandchildren of their own, Riz watching over every generation with fondness.
Zie has also witnessed as the other remaining heroes aged, their own descendants replacing them in the ritual as years passed.
In contrast, Riz is always the same.
Every year, the blood and presence of the four remaining heroes is used to strengthen the seal and keep the demon at bay.
For almost a century, this works.
Until it doesn’t.
When Riz draws hir bleeding hand away, zie looks around confused and not a little bit frightened. The village around them looks distorted, a warped reflection with all the details unnervingly off; except for the other descendants, there is no one around.
Something is wrong.