Within the war room, the Gods sat around a grand, marble table, decorated with golden trim, with a host of hovering spherical lights. The meeting hadn't begun, yet. Countless Gods, of many stripes and marks, gathered. So many were the attendees, that many had to stand. However, the most prominent made their presence known, seated at the opulent table. Outside, in the endless blackness, a fearful, and imposing figure stood; lord and creator of the Demon race, Skril' Astriloth.
Yzaar-Dramae, the leader of this pantheon, sat at one end. Accompanying him, to his immediate left, was Tok-Zephyz, his love of many years. Zephyz, known for being a bit rash, had been tasked with keeping the other Gods in order. She wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty, or spill blood. On that note, neither was Tok-Harral, seated to his immediate right. The relationship between Dramae and Harral is complicated. They have what one might call a brotherly love. Aside from this connection, Harral also acts as Dramae's fist. Being this, Harral is feared by more than just mortals. Even other Gods fear him, and his sphere of influence.
Near those three were the other important members of the pantheon. Saul, the child of the world, and Dramae's equal, stood directly behind him, with a watchful eye. His ancient and imposing figure was enough to chip away at most peoples' confidence. Mora Glacios, the God of water, took her place close beside Harral, along with their four daughters. Standing behind Harral and Mora, were a group one might lovingly call "the troublemakers". Comprised of Enigma, Skril' Ashura and Ruuki Kre-Oi-Neh. Enigma, whose title is dubious, at best, is a watcher of the Void. Skril' Ashura is the three-faced God of Souls, and eldest son of Skril' Astriloth. Lastly, Ruuki Kre-Oi-Neh, whose name means Blood Seed, is the God of Ancient Blood, son of the enigmatic world known as the Whisper. To the side, but not far off, was Yzaar-Raptoris, the mentor of both Harral and Dramae, and the one who tries to maintain a sense of peace among the pantheon.
Across the table, sitting next to Zephyz, was Yzaar-Takous. Takous' role is the God of Nature, being the mentor of Zephyz, the God of Life, and her counterpart, Tok-Medasz, the God of Matter, who has been reduced to living inside of a crystal strung around Zephyz' neck. Takous often had to play the role of mother, as well, tending to her two students, in a time long passed. Behind those two, a larger figure lay, patiently waiting. A Dragon, whose scales reflected the color of the rainbow. Seiyrg, called the Stormrider, by his people, and the first son of Schalos, the Dragon Mother. Upon his back, lay his daughter, Cardes, energetically observing the whole occasion. Next to them, Schakkus, a defector from the Voids, and a fearful warrior, sat silently awaiting the beginning of the event.
To most of their surprise, the two other sons of Skril' Astriloth had also joined the meeting, Brozol Maximus and Zakirian. Another surprise, unforeseen even by the lords of the pantheon, was the arrival of both the Elenatis Brothers and the Energy Clan. Along with them arrived the pantheon's patron saint of entertainment, Yira-Naoikre, God of Doors and Gates.
At long last, the final of the prominent Gods. This small group stood off to the side, most likely to avoid the drama taking place closer to the center. Rhahamiir, the Ancient God of Wisdom and Knowledge, Reyial the Greater God of Force and the walking controversy, Siskar, the Ancient of the Primordial Skies. Despite her hate of Siskar's actions, Rhahamiir still finds Siskar an interesting character. Reyial acts more akin to an appendage to that small group, as he truly only feels at home around Rhahamiir and Dramae.
Aside from the main pantheon, there are hundreds of other, lesser deities, walking about, conversing. The energy of the room is mostly positive, but the weight of the situation still looms overhead.
"I never thought I'd see, let alone meet, Yzaar-Dramae, himself!"
"Easy, kiddo. This isn't a play-date. This is serious business."
"You're one to talk. Last week, you murdered some random Demi-God. You proceeded to laugh about it, and parade their corpse through the Royal City like some kind of twisted trophy."
"It's a dog-eat-dog world, out there. Dramae and the others are just damned lucky they made it."
With the chatter about, no one expected the sudden end to the light-hearted banter. Dramae slammed his fist on the table, leaning forward as he did, generating an echoing crash. The room was silent.
Dramae - "Let's get one thing out of the way right now. We're at war. At war with the Voids, and their leader, Amndra. He's taken jabs at us. Weakening our shell. Infiltrating our world. And, even almost killing Medasz. And, from what we know, he's committed a massacre on the scale of entire regions of space. According to Schakkus and Siskar, the death toll is... Multiple quadrillions of people, and more Gods than are present at this meeting."
At this, many of the younger and weaker deities reacted in shock, or awe.
Dramae - "We're one of the last bastions against this reprehensible figure. We currently only know of a handful of worlds that are untouched by Amndra's poisonous hand."
"So, what're we going to do about this so-called scum of the universe?" A lesser deity inquires.
Siskar - "We make him fear the concept of life."
As Siskar speaks, many move uneasy.
Harral - "We need to take that bastard down a notch. Which starts with asking our ally-"
Harral gives Siskar an evil look. If looks could kill, Siskar would never have been born.
Harral - "-Schakkus. He's a Void. But, he's defected to our side. He knows them better than anyone here. So, Schakkus, take it away."
Schakkus stood, and approached the table.
Schakkus - "I've only seen the greater stronghold of the Voids one time, when I was there on business. Amndra keeps even his most trusted and powerful generals far from him. Of which, I was one. The power differential between Amndra and myself is great. Even greater than Rhahamiir. But, I'm not sure of the measurements between Siskar and Amndra. Either way... Gargantuan doesn't even describe the stronghold. It's an amalgamate of millions of realms, all strung together by a tree Amndra calls "Bomusa", or "the Tree of Want". This tree is where every single Void soldier is born. They grow from the tree like fruit-"
Ashura - "-And, they taste like pomegranates."
The room went silent.
Schakkus - "Yes, Ashura. They taste like pomegranates. Don't get any funny ideas."
Ashura - "No promises."
Schakkus - "Anyways... I think, if Enigma, Rhahamiir and myself work together, we could make a gate that could take us there."
Enigma - 'HELL YEAH! I'M DOWN!"
Rhahamiir - "As long as they can't follow us back through it, that sounds great."
Dramae - "Alright. I'll set aside some resources for that. Any other ideas?"
The necklace that was Medasz spoke up.
Medasz - "Dramae, you're forgetting one thing. Lucifer."
Dramae - "Ahh, yes. Do we know if he's finished those designs?"
Raptoris - "He's finished with them. I've seen the suit he's crafted. It's a work of art, I must say."
Dramae - "Alright. We'll have a look at it, later."
Dramae stood up.
Dramae - "Now, for the rest of you. Those who are not part of the main pantheon. Are you willing to help us in the war efforts?"
One of the lesser deities steps forward. "I have no idea about the others, but I'm in. The Voids messed up Soulreach, my homeland. It's impossible to walks somewhere without seeing the damage they've caused."
In addition to that deity, another, more familiar face stepped forward.
The Knight Valor - "Dramae, old friend... You'd assume that the Big Three wouldn't help you? We've been at your disposal ever since we were birthed into this world."
The Grand Magus Laren - "I completely agree with Valor... But... We're not nearly strong enough to fight the Voids, ourselves."
The figure, standing with them, Skhilor Ikrham, grunted.
Dramae - "That's not the only way you can serve the realm. Once the assault begins, many of the more prominent Gods will depart for the stronghold. With no easy way back, you'll be on your own."
Dramae walked over to Valor.
Dramae - "Valor... We've been friends for a long time. When I saw the work you did, when you were younger, I knew you'd be a great man. Now, you're a great God, and I couldn't be more proud. I want to grant you the title of Lesser God, for your centuries of service."
There was a collective gasp among the lesser deities.
Valor - "Dramae... I wish to accept. However... My recent failure in the marshes of Witherwood, with the Agony Colossus-"
Dramae - "You know as well as I do that you've done what you could. It was a great loss, those many young mages... However, you did what you could. You saved the others, with the help of Headmaster Aviri."
Laren - "He doesn't want to accept that not all endings are good. Some of them are bitter-sweet. Some, even, are sour."
Dramae - "Whether you believe you deserve it, or not, I declare you one of the pantheon. Your position is absolute. I'll leave it up to you to decide your saintly title. Despite the fact that Saul will be staying, I'd ask you to take care of the realm. I'll be leaving with the assault force, when the time comes. Saul isn't the best leader, but he remains a World Arbiter. Seek him if you require assistance."
Valor - "...I will. Thank you, Yzaar-Dramae."
Dramae - "...As for your partners in crime, Laren and Skhilor... I'm granting you the same title. Welcome to the upper echelons, you two."
Laren began to hop up and down, dancing around Valor, and Skhilor sat off to the side, content.
Dramae - "Now... With my successors chosen... Zephyz, and Medasz, I'll give you the task of aiding Luke. I want an army of those suits. An army that would put our owns armies to shame."
Zephyz nodded and smiled. Medasz' echoey voice stirred from his crystalline prison.
Medasz - "Hell yeah. People would be wrong to think that a crystal can't do anything! Oh, and Dramae, I've got a few plans I think you'll love."
Dramae - "Good to hear, Muscles. Make me proud, out there. Schakkus, Enigma, Rhahamiir, I want a gate that can take mass amounts of Gods and soldiers into the fray."
Schakkus - "Oh, believe me. Warfare is my game. I'll get a gate up and running, as well as an effective battle plan."
Dramae then turned to Harral, while also addressing Mora.
Dramae - "Harral, I expect you to be a deadly addition to the strike force. Don't be afraid to fight dirty. Our enemy had done nothing but. And, Mora... I'll leave it up to you. Stay, and take care of the girls, or go and help with the battle efforts."
Mora - "...I need to think on it."
Dramae - "No problem. You've got a fair amount of time before the assault."
He then turns to Skril' Astriloth.
Dramae - "Astriloth..."
Astriloth - "Yes, most efficacious one?"
Dramae - "Would I be incorrect in assuming you have ties to the Nightkin's homeworld?"
Astriloth - "If you want a horde of black and red flesh-hulks to run at the enemy, I can make it happen. But, you'll owe me."
Dramae - "Astriloth, how's this: I let you have carte blanche on all of the criminals in the realm, and give you a full pardon in return for your help with the war. On top of that, if you remain on your best behavior, I'll make you an Enforcer, like Harral is."
Asriloth - "That offer is heavily leaning in my favor. I can't help but assume you have an overarching motive."
Dramae - "My only motive, Astriloth, is to crush Amndra's disgusting soul into the dirt. I'm willing to pay... Most prices."
Astriloth - "How unlike you to be so vindictive."
There was a low chuckle among the audience.
Dramae - "Ruuki. Ashura... And, I suppose Zakiriyan and Brozol. I have a special mission for you."
Ruuki - "...A mission...? For the Blood and the Demons?"
Dramae - "Yes. Firstly, Ashura, I want you to keep a viciously watchful eye on your younger brothers."
Ashura's look was that of interest, and a mite of concern.
Dramae - "Communicate to your followers that you're creating an alliance with each other. And reap the benefits of said alliance. And, try to improve their relations with the Humans and Elves. A global civilization is a powerful civilization. For doing this, Ashura, you will have the same privileges as your father. Free reign over the souls of the malevolent."
Zakiriyan - "This plan favors my elder brother quite extensively. What's in it for myself and Bruzaal?"
Dramae - "Acting as an alliance, you'll eventually gain the favor of those who follow the others. In addition, it'll make it easier to become stronger, not worrying about your next move, as often."
Brozol - "Well, seems worthwhile to me. I'm in."
Dramae turned to Eschaviron.
Eschaviron - "I'm staying by your side, Dramae."
Dramae - "I had assumed that. You'll do as you will, then."
Dramae approached Seiyrg and Cardes. Seiyrg's voice boomed, echoing in the hall.
Seiyrg - "I was wondering when you'd approach me, Dramae. We have much to speak of."
Dramae - "I won't deny that, Stormrider. I have a proposition."
Seiyrg's head perked up, clearly interested.
Dramae - "I'm willing to give you a full pardon. You, your mother, and those I cast out with you, as well as offer you a prominent role among the pantheon."
Seiyrg - "...But, what do you ask of me, in return?"
Dramae - "I wish for you and the Time Child to stay here, about the realm system. Using your immense magical prowess, I would ask you to stabilize the nearby realms, and aid the mortals in colonizing them."
Seiyrg - "...I can see it. Your plans are far-reaching, but their implications are of great value. I like this. I shall accept your terms. I can make this work in my favor."
Dramae - "One more thing... This isn't part of the negotiations... But, I'm asking, as a favor."
Seiyrg - "Speak, then."
Dramae - "I would ask that you try to bring the Dragonoids of the realm together, and, as with Ashura's team, attempt to build a global civilization."
Seiyrg - "...This would take much effort, to unify the Dragon-kinds. I will attempt it. I make no promises."
Dramae - "An attempt is all I ask."
Dramae finished his tour with the Elenatis Brothers and the Energy Clan.
Dramae - "As for all of you... I have another special assignment."
The alpha male of the Energy Clan, Zephotar, stepped forward, as well as the twin brothers, Mehl and Sin.
Dramae - "...Zephotar, alpha of the Wolf Gods... I ask you to try your hand at civilizing the Southern Badlands."
The alpha female of the Wolf Gods approached, to interpret Zephotar's silence.
Zophimor - "Lord Dramae, the Southern Badlands seems like a lost cause. This is why no one seeks them out."
Dramae - "Zophimor, of the Wolf Gods, you don't understand. It's only a lost cause if we sit and hope for the best. I know what you and your kin are capable of. Give the southern warlords an ultimatum. Cease all hostilities or be crushed in the jaws of the Wolf. If they refuse, I authorize you to decimate their military forces, and consume their souls. However, leave a small force in order to defend the civilians from the dangers of the badlands."
Zophimor - "Yes, Lord Dramae. We shall bring the harsh light of judgement within our claws."
Dramae turned to face the Elenatis Brothers.
Dramae - "Sin... Mehl... You've grown so much since I first met you."
Sin, the more bashful of the twins, stepped forward and hugged Dramae, who reciprocated.
Dramae - "I want the two of you to act as Knight Valor's eyes. See everything. Tell him what you see, so he is able to make informed decisions."
Mehl, the more confident, stood proudly.
Mehl - "If that's what Mr. Dramae wants, I say we do our part. What d'you think, Sin?"
Sin, still hugging Dramae, looked at his brother, and nodded.
Mehl - "It's settled. We'll be the ones watching from the shadows."
Dramae walked back to his seat. As he did, he addressed everyone. "So, anyone have any questions?"
One of the lesser deities steps forward, and speaks. "What about the rest of us? I know my outfit and I are interested in helping with the war efforts."
A few other lesser deities chimed in with similar comments.
"Yeah, I wanna crack some skulls."
"This is our home, too, Lord Dramae! Give us something to fight for!"
"When do I get to dismember giant pomegranates?"
Dramae held his hand in the air, calling for silence.
Dramae - "For those of you who wish to do battle... You will get your chance. I promise you that. For those of you who wish to stay home, I ask you to act in accordance with the alliance we've discussed. Gather your followers, your allies, peers... Even your nemeses, if possible. You will be the foundation for an indestructible network of success and realm-wide advancement."
A deity of lesser popularity stepped forward.
Bandit Lord Feirlan - "Lord Dramae, I speak on behalf of the Theif Chain Islands. Because my people are rebellious and dangerous, I offer them as fodder for the attack. Give them arms and a reason to hate the enemy, and they will show no mercy."
Dramae - "Feirlan, you know as well as I do that a rebellious soldier will let you down when you need them the most. I do not want your people involved in the combat."
Dramae sighed, placing his hands on the table, in deep thought. After a long pause, he looked to Feirlan, once more.
Dramae - "I want you to civilize your people, so that one day, they may join the global advancement. This is my dream, to those who don't know. My philosophy regarding people has always been "if you can't live in peace, you can't live at all." I stand by this point. I don't want to have to break them. But, I will, if I have to. I want the mass murders of your island chain to stop. I want them to understand the value of the people that are around them... I want them to realize what kind of universe they live in. That is what I ask of you, Feirlan."
Feirlan, clearly thinking deeply on Dramae's words, stepped back.
Dramae - "Anyone else?"
There was a long pause, before anyone stepped forward. Seemingly the last of those who would, four figures stepped forward. The first, uncomfortably tall knight, with a giant blade that seems to reflect Saul's style of ancient and overgrown artifacts. The second, a young woman in silvery robes, with a long, flowing cape with a stylized eye conspicuously placed on it. The third, a seemingly anomalous cloked being, whose body seemed to deny the effects of physics. And, lastly, the fourth, a knight as imposing as the first, but whose armor is uncannily similar to a fortress, in stature and design. The young robed woman stepped forward, to speak, but is immediately interrupted by Dramae.
Dramae - "I should have expected you four would eventually speak. Eschaviron has already told me your intentions. You have no need to explain. You are to continue your operations, while also attempting to aid the others in stabilizing the realm, socially and politically."
The young woman smiled under her hood, and stepped backwards, among her supposed allies. Dramae looked about, and no one else seemed to step forward.
Dramae - "Remain on standby, please, over the next few weeks. We will have more information for you all. I hereby declare this war meeting adjourned."
The moment he declared the meeting over, countless portals opened, returning many Gods to their typical lives. However, a decently large amount of Gods still remained, who began casually conversing. Dramae sat down in his chair, and leaned back, relaxing. Zephyz approached him.
Zephyz - "...Hey, Dramae?"
He lifted his head from its limp state, and looked at her. "Hmm? What's up, Zephyz?"
Zephyz - "...I didn't want to speak up about it, during the meeting, as I thought it might be damaging... But, I was in the library, looking through some old files with Rhahamiir, yesterday morning."
Dramae - "Did you find something of importance?"
Zephyz - "Yes, but... Not in the way you think. Do you remember the time when Haeigravv invaded our Mana-Net systems?"
Dramae immediately sat up, now intensely focused.
Zephyz - "...Well, Rhahamiir's been doing some heavy research into Haeigravv. She hasn't found many things that are conclusive... But, she's found some things that worry her."
Dramae - "Shall we move to the library, then?"
Zephyz nodded, and they began for the library. With them, a few lesser deities followed. Once they arrived, Dramae approached Rhahamiir.
Rhahamiir - "Oh. Well. Look who's arrived. I'd imagine Zephyz filled you in on my actions, lately?"
Dramae - "Only slightly. She mentioned you researching Haeigravv."
Rhahamiir - "It's a lot to explain at once. So, I'll leave the documents on the desk in your room. Hopefully it can withstand the weight."
Dramae - "We know that much about it?"
Rhahamiir - "Precisely the opposite. But, what we do have, is millenia of vague interactions between Haeigravv and various civilizations. It doesn't tell us much, but maybe you'll find something my eyes couldn't see."
Dramae - "I value your knowledge, as always. Keep up the good work."
She nodded, and quickly got back to reading through a pile of books. Zephyz and Dramae agree silently to walk back to the main hall. Before they enter, they hear an energetic, elderly voice barking various orders.
Elderly Voice - "Hey! You! Muscles! Don't play with that! Just 'cause you're a God doesn't mean you can take things that don't belong to you!"
The duo rushed into the main hall. Inside, a massive, 10-meter-tall suit of armor stood. Off to one side, Enigma was attempting to make off with the suit's giant poleaxe. As he did, though, Harral tackled him from behind, and proceeded to teleport away, after which, Enigma began flailing, trying to strike his unseen aggressor. He stood, brushed himself off, and ran down the nearest hallway. The old man, who was standing on a raised platform next to the suit of armor, yelled to Dramae and Zephyz.
Old Man - "Hey, Yzaar-Dramae! Y'member me?!"
Dramae - "Lucifer? Is that you?"
Lucifer - "Yah got that right!"
Lucifer climbed down the ladder, approached Dramae, and bowed. He motioned to the suit of armor.
Lucifer - "I name 'er "Starlight Titan", after the shinin' brilliance of the Golden Palace."
Zephyz - "...It's... Beautiful."
A handful of the other Gods were also admiring the so-called "Starlight Titan". The main body of the titan was bleach white, with gold trim and blue detail work. The helmet was designed to resemble Medasz' face, to act as a living memorial. The eyes had a large blue gemstone, each, set into them. The left eye had seven-layered magic focusing lens. And, on its back, a pair of folded draconic-styled wings, with what one could assume to be engines installed on them. Dramae looked away from the masterpiece, and back to Lucifer.
Dramae - "Luke, it's magnificent... However, we'll need more than just one."
Luke - "I already figured so... So, I spoke with Ms. Aviri, from the Mages Colony. I had already been in touch with er', prior. She helped me get the materials. So, anyways... She pointed me me at her sister, over at the Masters Colony, Omnari. Omnari fixed a deal with her students, saying that if they managed to mass-produce 'em, high-quality, that their education would be free."
At that moment, Raptoris, who had been listening off to the side, stepped in.
Raptoris - "Needless to say, they delivered."
Zephyz - "Oh, hey, Raptoris."
Raptoris - "Hey there, our little gardener. Anyways, Omnari, herself, reached out to Ilhalen, the Spiritkin City we had revived, and got access to a Spiritkin-built factory of sorts."
Harral appeared out of nowhere, and began leaning on Dramae's shoulder, who paid him no mind.
Dramae - "How many suits are we talking?"
Luke - "Well... When we last got a report, they numbered at... A few thousand. But, that was months ago. I'll get yah a more accurate figure."
Dramae - "Good work, Luke. I knew we could count on you."
Lucifer bowed, once more. Dramae looked at Harral, who was still leaning on him.
Dramae - "Harral, I have a job for you."
Harral - "Oh, this oughta be good."
Dramae - "Since I seem to be prone to insane plans, lately, humor me on this one."
Harral smiled at Dramae, with a toothy grin.
Harral - "Lay it on me, you shiny bastard."
Dramae scoffed, "Harral, I want you to find all of the delinquent demigods you can find. Give them an ultimatum. I want warriors. And, I want them vicious."
Harral pretended to drag his fingertip down the side of Dramae's face, and proceeded to taste it.
Harral - "...Spicy. I like this plan, even if it's a little mad."
Harral disappeared into a cloud of black smoke.
Dramae - "With Harral on the case, I think things are about to get more interesting."
Lucifer sat down at the dining table, and kicked up his feet. Dramae sat across from him, and Zephyz sat next to Dramae.
Dramae - "So, Luke, what do you make of this whole situation?"
Luke - "Hard to say. I barely even know who yer all fighting against. Not like the mortals are kept in the loop, y'know?"
Dramae - "Well, I mean, from what you know."
Luke - "...Well, those Voids are a bunch of jerkbags... Uhh... Yeh, that's about all I know."
Dramae - "...Fair."
Luke - "But, I hope it all goes o'er well. D'hate to see my home die."
Dramae - "You and me, both, Luke. You and me, both.
The group chattered for what seemed like hours, mostly talking politics. When it came time to sleep, the lesser deities, who didn't have a home in the Palace, went their own ways, and those greater left to their rooms.
Many days passed. Status report after status report. Luke's plans were unfolding like a butterfly unfurling its wings for the first time. The Gods now had nearly 100,000 of Luke's Starlight Titans. But, Harral's search only yielded a couple thousand minor deities. Lacking in troops, Dramae had to get even more creative. He approached Harral.
Harral - "So, how're we gunna deal with this problem?"
Dramae - "...Harral, how do you feel about biological weaponry?"
Harral - "Dramae, we're biological weaponry."
Dramae - "Point taken. I wanna put Ruuki's blood lust and desire for creation to good use. I need you and Ruuki to work together in designing an entity to live inside the suits. I want them deadly, and I want them deadly loyal."
Harral - "Tough job. But, I think we can handle it. After all, Ruuki is literally cancer. And I don't mind creating warriors. I'll get you some bio-weapons."
Dramae nodded, and walks past him, and says, "We can't afford to lose this."
Harral nodded in response, and disappeared into a portal... And arrived at a hidden location, where Ruuki was staying. It was a small room; a cavern turned into a living space. The room was sparse. A table, two chairs, a small bookshelf, a meat hook with a large chunk of meat. In the corner, where Ruuki lay asleep. Harral walked over and tapped him. Ruuki jumped, and pulled away, cowering. Harral attempted to console him.
Harral - "Ruuki, it's me. Harral. Eschaviron's not here."
Ruuki calmed down, slightly, and asked Harral, with a shaky voice, "What does the Burning One want with Ruuki?"
Harral - "Dramae needs us to work on entities for use with the Starlight Titans. He wants them dangerous and loyal.
Ruuki - "Does the Burning One have plans made?"
Harral - "Not yet. But, that won't take long. Come. We'll talk in the laboratory."
Harral opened a portal, and the two of them stepped through.
As more days passed, Harral and Ruuki began working on the strange project. While they worked, Dramae was looking into recent events, as is one of his duties. His eyes shifted to the other regions. He took notice of the many lesser events, unknown to many. The Rkon-Ikrham, the Land of the Founder, in some tongues, is often the centerfold of millions. Little care is given to the other regions. Little information about these regions escapes from them, as the seas between are filled with ravenous deities, beasts and the occasional raiders. In a vain attempt to search for more gleaming jewels among the lesser pantheons, he reviewed the strife taking place on the supercontinent of Majora Kahak. It was hard to say if anything would come of this, but it, nonetheless, garnered his interest.
In the midst of these events, unrest was making the rounds in the Land of the Founder.
Firstly, a serious rebellion has been taking place among the dragonoids of Druca Crest. It's hard to say if this will cause the civilization they've built to crumble, or not. However, if the chaos continues, a potentially dangerous political divide is bound to arise.
And, secondly, a series of attacks that have taken place on the Mainland are cause for worry. The slaughter of a company of Royal Guardsmen searching for a problem Argent Dragon. The company was decimated; only two survivors made it home to tell the story. The perpetrators are assumed to either be the Elves or the Demons, however, many people assume that the Elves had done it. This will no doubt worsen their relations with the Royal City, and may even start a war, if things go sour.
After a few months of experimentation, Harral and Ruuki have accomplished their goal. They have made biological entities who can inhabit the Starlight Titans. They were taught how to use the suits, and that they can be instantly terminated if they betrayed Zeterran forces.
On another hand, the gateway to the core section of Void space has been nearly completed. Partially due to Enigma's obsession with lost artifacts floating in the Void, and Rhahamiir's intimate knowledge of how advanced portal technology works, the portal is large enough to transport massive chunks of invaders at once, in quick succession.
With the two main pieces of the puzzle in place... Dramae needs only to give the orders.
A meeting is called.
Dramae - "...Everyone. The time is here, at long last. It pains me to realize just how late we are to understanding our situation... However, that doesn't matter, now..."
He turns to Saul.
Dramae - "Saul, don't interrupt what I'm about to say. I want you to guide and mentor the Knight Valor in running the realm. I'm going to the battle. Seeing, in the past, my ability to delete worlds, will be a great help to the cause. This is not up for debate."
Saul - "Zeterra will be displeased in hearing this."
Dramae - "Let it be displeased. This must be done."
Saul - "As I see the resolve in your statement, I will not argue. I will only state that this seems to be in error."
Dramae - "We all have our part to play. This is mine, and that is yours. I trust you'll inform it."
Saul sighs. "It will be done."
Dramae, sitting at the head of the table, sighs, and puts his head in his hands. Zephyz leans in to comfort him. After a solid minute of sitting there, he spoke up, trying to gather himself. "Harral?"
Harral - "Yes, Arbiter Dramae?"
Dramae - "Rally the forces."
Harral - "By your orders."
Harral creates a rift, and quickly slips through. Dramae stands up.
Dramae - "We are at full scale war, now. Whatever happens on the battlegrounds is between you and the enemy. You will not be punished for any form of war crime, unless dealt against your allies. Feel free to get creative. Prepare yourselves to enter the gateway. Dismissed."
After Dramae dismissed the attendees, over the course of the next two days, those who would fight gathered at the foot of the gate, within Enigma's domain. Along with them, those who wished to say their goodbyes. Among the chatter, Dramae stood above them on a tower. To his right, on the tower, stood Harral and Zephyz. To his left, Schakkus and Eschaviron. To the right of the tower, Medasz stood, inhabiting one of the giant suits, decorated with a large ensignia of the pantheon. To the left of the tower, Skril' Astriloth stood, in his planar form, and Schalos, the Dragon Mother. From his position, Dramae's voice echoed, quickly quieting other voices.
Dramae - "Friends... Family... Children of the Realm... Survivors... Traitors... Tricksters... Charlatans... All fight, today, not for glory. We fight for the right to exist. I regret to inform you all... That once the attack force enters the gateway... You will likely never see us, again."
A wave of shock washed over the crowd. Zephyz hung her head. Schalos and Astriloth shared a short moment of realization, looking into each others' eyes.
Dramae - "The gateway was designed to dead-end, going backwards. If we were to enter from the other side, we would end up in a place unspeakable, milliseconds before being assimilated with pure energy. Escape is impossible once you arrive..."
Harral looked into the crowd, spotting Mora, and his girls.
Dramae - "...So, we need to get this out of the way, now. Spend what little time you have left interacting with those you care for... Because it may never happen again... We have one hour before departure."
Immediately, people began trying to make the most of the situation. Harral descended the tower on his four wings, floating down to Mora. He landed, and she immediately embraced him. She found it difficult to talk through the tears.
Mora - "...Harral... I... I wish..."
Harral - "Mora... I know. We... We just don't have any more time... If only we could have prevented this issue from the start..."
Kazranae tugged on Harral's arm as he and Mora embraced. He pulled away from her, and crouched to look her, and the other girls, in the eyes. They, too, jumped in to hug him. He looked to all of them.
Harral - "Now, girls... Before I leave, I have something very, very important to tell you."
Elrinlyn and Lavinia continued hugging him, but Kazranae and Saruah looked up at their adopted father.
Harral - "Girls... Just as I have my mission... You now have yours. And, I'm in the fighting force, so I'm like your General, right?"
Harral - "Your mission is to become strong like me. But, you don't have to fight to be strong... Some strength comes from muscles, sure. But, Rhahamiir is proof enough that strength can come from knowledge and wisdom. Dramae and Medasz are proof that strength can come from leadership and resourcefulness..."
Mora looked at the group, and smiled sadly, still crying.
Harral - "You need to find your own strength, and make it stronger. And, never forget your sisters, and your mother-"
Harral looked up at Mora and smiled at her. She got down on her knees, and joined in.
Harral - "Never forget them. Always care for each other... Because... This world... This universe we find ourselves in... It's not here for us. Never has been. It doesn't care if you and I are happy or sad. It has killed so many people, crushed so many dreams... So, you have to make it on your own. You have to stay together, and make the world someplace worth living in. And, I know you can do that...."
Harral pulled them all closer. "Because you're the daughters of the mighty General Harral, right?"
Kazranae and Saruah - "Right!"
Harral - "Elly, Lavy... You are my daughters, too. And, even if I never see you again, I will always love you. I may not be the best at showing it, at times... But, never forget those words... Okay?"
Elrinlyn spoke through her tears. "...Okay, dad..."
Harral - "Good."
Harral smiled at them, and stood up with Mora. They embraced one more time.
Mora - "Harral... If you do ever make it home... I'm never letting you out of my sight, again."
Harral - "I think I could get used to that."
Mora pulled herself away from him for just a moment, and gave him a strange look, shook her head, and embraced him, again.
Harral - "Mora... Look after our girls... Don't let them squabble, okay?"
Mora - "I'll try my best."
Harral chuckled. "Good."
Harral - "I love you, sea-dragon."
Mora - "... I love you, too, little ember."
As they pulled away from each other, they held their hands together, for a final moment. "I have a few more goodbyes to say... If I don't see you before I leave..."
Harral kissed her on the cheek. They let go of each other, and Harral waved farewell to them, as he faded into the crowd. Elsewhere in the crowd, Ruuki and Dramae were speaking with each other.
Ruuki - "...Bright One... Ruuki wished to apologize for his actions in the past. He made many poor decisions, and he realized the error of his ways... He doesn't wish for the Bright One to be angry at him..."
Dramae placed a hand on Ruuki's fleshy shoulder.
Dramae - "Ruuki, Blood Seed, I know of the things you've done... I've had to clean up the mess, before... But, you're still young. I, too, was reckless, when I was younger. Ask Harral, or Zephyz. They could tell you a story or two. But, you're not nearly as bad as people seem to think you are. You just think differently than we do... There's nothing inherently wrong with your ideas. But, above all else, right now, we need as many people alive as we can get. So, I'm willing to forgive you for all of your past mistakes, as long as you promise to keep everyone safe for me. Can you do that?"
Ruuki - "Ruuki will try. And, Ruuki thanks you for understanding, Bright One."
Dramae - "Of course, friend. I have a suggestion, by the way."
Ruuki - "Yes, Bright One?"
Dramae - "Speak with Mora. Maybe even become friends with her. I'm sure she could teach you about our world, as well."
Ruuki - "This idea excited Ruuki. Ruuki will pursue this. Thank you, Bright One."
Dramae - "My pleasure... And, before I go..."
Dramae hugged Ruuki, who had no idea how to react. "W-what is this? What are y-you doing to Ruuki?"
Dramae stopped hugging him.
Dramae - "Ruuki, this is what we Zeterrans do to... Well... When we don't want to have to say goodbye to someone we like, we do this. We call it a hug. And, in a way, it's a way of showing your greatest weaknesses to the person, to show that you trust them. It doesn't always have to be a goodbye, but it usually ends up being that."
Ruuki - "...Oh... Ruuki doesn't fully understand, but this is another thing Ruuki will ask Mora about."
Dramae smiled. "Good! I hope you and Mora will be great friends. Now, Ruuki, I must continue. I have to say goodbye to a few more people."
Ruuki - "It has been a pleasure to be in the presence of greatness, Bright One... Farewell."
Dramae disappeared into the crowd.
Elsewhere, on the very outskirts, where the land they stood on overlooked into the Void...
Astriloth - "...I never thought I'd see you, again."
??? - "Oh, I know, hun. It's been a long time..."
Astriloth - "If you're looking to get back at me for what happened back then... Dramae and the others wouldn't approve. And, you know what happened last time."
??? - "...I'm not here to take revenge, you big oaf... I came to say... Even though I'll never forgive you for ripping me away from the children... I'll never forget you."
Astriloth - "Is that all? Can I go, now?"
??? - "...No... I also wanted to say... You did a good job raising the boys, while I was gone."
Astriloth - "Little Ashura has taken after you, you know."
??? - "...I know. I've been watching everyone. It would have brought a tear to my eye, if my eyes hadn't been sealed shut."
Astriloth looked away, clearly feeling bad. "I've more goodbyes to attend to. Farewell, Kokura..."
Kokura - "...Wait."
Astriloth looked back. "What is it?"
Kokura - "...Somehow, you're more handsome than I remembered."
Astriloth turned away, and began walking. "And, your beauty still hasn't faded, even after millenia of neglect."
Kokura - "...Farewell, Astey."
Astriloth - "...Farewell, my little sea serpent."
A smile found its way onto Kokura's face.
As Astriloth walked away, he saw Zephyz, and decided to approach.
Astriloth - "Hello, again, Tok-Zephyz."
Zephyz - "Oh, hey, Astriloth..."
Astriloth - "What seems to be the matter, young one?"
Zephyz - "This whole situation just has me... Shaken."
Astriloth - "Don't worry, my girl. It's gotten everyone shaken..."
They stood in silence for a moment. Suddenly, they both began talking at the same time.
Astriloth - "I wanted to apologize for-"
Zephyz - "I'm sorry for getting you-"
Zephyz - "...You go first."
Astriloth sighed. "I wanted to apologize for how you were treated under care of my General... And, for my actions against you and your friends. I've brought unhappiness to more lives than one... And, travelling the cosmos... I've seen why I should care about you people... I truly hope you can forgive me."
Zephyz shook her head.
Zephyz - "...And, I wanted to apologize for getting you banished the second time..."
Astriloth - "No. That was my own doing. I was, and still am, to a degree, a rash and angry Demon... Cynical, even. I think I've lived too long-"
Zephyz - "...No... You haven't lived long enough."
Astriloth cocked his head to the side. "How so?"
Zephyz - "...Just like mortals... We Gods grow and change with the times... You're only just beginning a new part of your story. Maybe that story could be something beautiful... And... And, if we get out of this alive, I want you to live on in that new, beautiful story."
Astriloth - "...That is... If we make it out alive."
Zephyz - "...And, if we do, I want to find Dramae... And Harral, and you, and Schakkus and Medasz... Everyone... And I want to live a new story with all of you... Whether here, or somewhere else..."
Zephyz couldn't help it, anymore. She was crying. Unsure of how to handle the situation, Astriloth just tried to embrace her.
Astriloth - "...'Tell you what.. If we make it out alive, I'll help you find them all, and we'll do just that. Sound good?"
Zephyz looked Astriloth in the eyes, and smiled. She embraced him.
After what seemed like only a few minutes, Dramae had climbed, once more, onto his tower. His voice, once again, overpowered the crowd.
Dramae - "...My friends... I hate to have to bear the news-"
Behind him, the gateway had begun to open.
Dramae - "...But, our time has come. It is time to depart."
Now, the cries of the many drowned out the sound of the thunderous gateway. The Gods, their greatest warriors, and legions of Starlight Titans approached the gate.
Dramae - "We bear the weight of a universe on our shoulders."
Dramae looked over his shoulder at the force.
Dramae - "Let's not keep fate waiting. We advance into the hungering dark. And, if life ends, we shall be its final spiteful breath...."
"Let's bring the storm, kiddies!"
"LIKE I NEEDED YOU TO TELL ME!"
Dramae - "WE GIVE NO QUARTER! THE GUIDANCE OF OUR DESIRE SHALL LEAD THE WAY INTO THE VOID!"
And, at that, each second, massive swathes of the invading force was lashed through the gateway. The last to enter was Dramae and Harral, who made a final wave before disappearing into the gate.
A somber silence fell over the crowd as countless Gods and mortals left through the exit portals.
The Knight Valor, the Grand Magus Laren, Skhilor Ikrham, Mora, Harral's daughters, and Saul remained.
Valor was kneeling before the gate, with Skhilor meditating next to his right, and Laren comforting him to his left. His sword was stabbed into the coarse, gravelly terrain, with his helmet placed on top of it.
Laren - "...Valor... Come... We have a Realm to lead..."
Saul - "Indeed. The young Goddess is correct. You and I are to lead the Realm, jointly, as per Arbiter Dramae's wishes."
Valor - "...I know..."
He stood, took his helmet and placed it atop his head. He placed his hand on the hilt of his sword.
Valor - "...Dramae... Old friend... I have a promise to keep... See you, soon."
The group, everyone included, warped out.