In another dimension beyond our imagination, two cosmic entities were gazing at a board game of epic proportions. One was a hulking, muscular man in red armour, his hair a crown of fire. Opposite him was a woman, her face hidden by the hood of her black robe.


Spirals, lines and loops adorn the playing field of the game, a sea of stars sprinkled with nebulous gases. Innumerable pieces littered the space, a multitude of figures of various shapes and sizes, some familiar, others monstrous and beyond comprehension.


An observer might blink and miss the subtle movements on the board, the figures acting on their own accord under the intense gaze of the two deities. Across the arena, tiny figures crossed paths and battled, the winner taking over the contested position while the loser disappeared in a twinkle of light, only to reappear elsewhere.


A human-shaped statuette armed with a saber of light shuffled forward into the space occupied by a creature shaped like a hand made of tentacles. Wordlessly the two figurines battled.


A decisive stab, a choke hold.


Both pieces cancelled out each other, and disappeared into the cosmos simultaneously.


The deities looked up from the board to stare at their opposite number.


"Rematch," the man in red armour said, his voice like a rolling thunder.


The hooded woman merely nodded in reply.


Once more the two entities leaned forward to observe as two new but familiar pieces appeared on the chaotic game board to do battle...

 

***​



A flash of light, and then...


Consciousness flickered, and he woke up in a familiar white area devoid of features.


"Oh, it is you, Black."


"Hey, welcome back."


"You have returned."


"'Sup."


A multitude of voices assailed his mind.


'Ah, I have returned to the Waiting Area. I'm a wisp again,' Black thought.


He focused his consciousness, and 'saw' the ones who greeted him. He was surrounded by a bunch of his fellow Avatars, balls of fiery energy that shimmered with ghostly colours.


"Damn," Black transmitted in regret.


"What happened?" a yellow wisp asked curiously. A young voice.


"Killed each other in melee combat," Black explained.


"Again?"


To his annoyance, they laughed. Their colours pulsed in delight of his misery.


"I don't know if you're lucky or unlucky," Red wondered with her female voice.


Black sighed.


He took stock of the assembly of colours. "Did anyone ascend while I was gone?"


"Purple did," Yellow answered helpfully.


"Good for Purple," Black said enviously, and he could feel similar feelings from the others.


To ascend was to break away from the Great Game, to be a step closer to their Patron. Until then, they were stuck in an endless cycle of rebirth and transmigration, fighting the Avatars of their Patron's enemy across universes and dimensions. Mere pawns in what he and his fellow Avatars call the Great Game, with unfathomable scoring and unknown stakes.


Green chuckled. "You keep getting the 'draw' ending, which is why you haven't ascended yet."


"You are nearly there, you will get there next play," Blue said in his deep timbre.


"I’d rather go back home..." Black muttered. He had always resented the fact that he was suddenly plucked out to be a dimensional-traveling warrior.


Immortality was overrated.


"Forget it," Green said dismissively, "there’s no way back to your home."


Red sighed. "You Earthlings are all the same, always homesick."


Black started to say something but suddenly felt an immense force pulling him away at incredible speed.


"Not fair!" the other wisps exclaimed as they rapidly disappeared from view.


As Black's consciousness faded, he understood their indignation. He was being pulled into another setting, and they were annoyed that he went again for another go so quickly.


He was going to a new setting for a new adventure, a new life. He would not be told of his ultimate goal in the new world. He would not be given any assistance from his Patron. He would undoubtedly face an opponent similar to him.


All he can do...


...is to be the Main Character.