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Book 5, Chapter 13 - The Fallen Temple

 "Are you sure it's a temple?"

"I've been to the one in Skycloud. It looks different from the outside but the material they used to build it is the same. I'm sure it's an ancient Temple."

Skycloud's Temple was built before the realm, but if you measured it you would find that its foundation was a perfect circle.

Perfect meant perfect; no more and no less than a mathematically precise circle. No human engineer could achieve that. The Temple was the heart of Skycloud, all the shields and mystical things throughout the realm gathered their energy from it. If it were to be destroyed, it would mean the destruction of Skycloud.

What all that meant was that these Temples were vaults where any number of secrets and powers were locked away. Things the human mind couldn't begin to comprehend. Hence why it was so amazing to see one laying here in ruin.

Cloudhawk felt something strange creeping into his heart. He'd teleported at random, but had deposited them both right here at the base of this place...

The former owner of his phase stone had been the old Demon King. It would make sense that the stone would bring him to places where the Demon King had once traveled. Maybe the Demon King left some sort of token or residual power to mark these locations. It would make sense, then, why he would always show up in similar locations when he traversed dimensions. Perhaps the Demon King had left something here. A mark, or trinket...

Anyhow, now that they knew what this place was they had to take a closer look.

From a distance the Temple looked pretty intact. Of course, 'intact' was a relative term when among ruins. The other buildings around it were all but leveled but the Temple structure held firm. Drawing nearer, however, the travelers discovered its surface was marred with a vast spiderweb of cracks. In several spots the exterior was indented where it'd suffered some massive blow. Some cataclysmic battle had to have occurred here.

Cloudhawk and Hellflower carefully traversed the doorway into the Temple itself. IT felt like stepping through a veil and passing through was like leaving the ruins around them behind. All the sounds and smells disappeared.

"Nothing out of the ordinary," Cloudhawk said, noting Hellflower's expression. "The Temple in Skycloud is also weird with space. Sort of like being inside a balloon that keeps expanding, it creates more space with limited volume."

To take the metaphor further, it was like trying to fill a soccer ball with a vat of water. By the same principle the temple looked like a large building from the outside, but its interior was the scale of a small city. It was spacious enough to house an army.

Hellflower's eyes glimmered with excitement. "Gods and demons really are operating on an entirely different level from humans!"

Even this technique alone went beyond what humans could grasp. The gods never shared their techniques with the mortals they governed, and these mysterious abilities were like miracles to Elysian citizens.

Their footsteps rang through the Temple antechamber. Although it was abandoned and in disrepair, it wasn't gloomy. This was thanks to magnificent murals set against the walls that glowed as they passed under them, just enough to light their way. As they walked further it they discovered that while the Temple was abandoned, it did seem to have been spared the destruction of the city outside.

Cloudhawk didn't spare it much of a thought. He made up his mind to keep moving forward, especially since from the moment they stepped inside he started 'hearing' relics. Somewhere in here was a trove full of them. More and more it looked like this trip was going to be a magnificent haul.

"Let's keep moving."

As they picked their way along the halls they encountered no danger. Eventually, they came before a set of heavy doors. Hellflower gave them a shove, but they wouldn't budge.

Did they have to blast them open?

Hellflower stepped back, and after a brief examination discovered that someone had already tried that. There were marks and scares from explosions that were still visible from who knows how long ago. Obviously whoever had tried to force their way in had failed. If the marks on the door were any indication then they were strong, too. How were Hellflower and Cloudhawk supposed to break these doors down?

"Follow me."

Cloudhawk took Hellflower's hand and the pair vanished. In a blink they reappeared on the other side.

As they snapped back into existence Hellflower staggered, surprised that Cloudhawk could bring them through these barriers. He was hurt and his mental powers were limited. But his level of control had only improved with time.

"Ey? This..."

On either side of them were a number of altars. Fires burned in sconces that must have been there for thousands of years. But what shocked them was the appearance of several spirit creatures dispersed among the shrines. They looked stronger than the ones outside, though these were wrapped up in spheres of energy.

So that's what was going on...

To capture these being of energy you needed a cage made from the same - energy. These altars had some sort of shield that caught these spirits when they got too close.

Also with them in the shrine room was a massive fissure. Shards of broken architecture hung in a black void - the scars of an intense battle. The conflict was so intense it shattered the room and left... this. Looking closer they could see ancient remains hanging among the debris.

They'd found broken corpses. With the passage of millennia and the odd environment, these bodies had been well preserved. They were desiccated mummies, locked in the moment of their deaths.

"Judging by their clothes I'd guess they were holy warriors defending the Temple."

Cloudhawk approached one and fished out a cracked mirror. Its surface was too tarnished to be reflective but he felt a strong resonance from it. It could be fixed. He put it away for later inspection. It wasn't like the corpse was going to need it.

Whatever fight happened here was among some pretty powerful demonhunters. Cloudhawk's expression was pleased. This was definitely the right place to be. He wasted no time searching for more treasures. As expected his haul was a good one; every few moments he'd find a working gun, or a sword, or a powerful relic.

Meanwhile, Hellflower busied herself with capturing some of the spirit creatures.

What a huge success! Once the shrine room was picked clean the pair prepared to probe deeper into the Temple.

However, before they left Cloudhawk stopped before some discarded in the center of the room. An arm.

Seeing an arm among the corpses and debris wasn't strange in and of itself, but what did catch his attention was its condition. The arm hadn't rotted at all. It was like it'd been cleaved off moments ago. That set it apart from all the rest of the dried out corpses in the room.

"Strange, why didn't this arm rot?"

The two gathered around the appendage. A left arm, clad in black armor and a scale-mail gauntlet. When they examined the wound they saw it was ragged and uneven. It'd been blown off by some intense power. Neither could find blood, vessel, nor bone in the wound. Just pale, sallow tissue that contained palpable levels of energy.

This came from an incredible specimen that had to be like some kind of super advanced robot. Instead of blood and bone the body was a collection of super strong fibers. The more complex something was, the more chance existed for something to go wrong. Complex meant fragile, simple meant strong. This arm was definitely from some kind of more highly advanced creature.

Hellflower looked over at Cloudhawk. "What do you think?"

"I just realized something. This Temple - in fact all the ruins only have one kind of remains... save for this arm. Looking around, it seems the warriors were all here to deal with a powerful enemy but were wiped out. Even... whatever this was lost an arm in the fight."

"So what were they fighting?"

Cloudhawk scowled at the perfectly preserved arm. "A god."

Hellflower was taken aback by the claim. Cloudhawk had no contact with real gods outside his encounter in Skycloud's Temple. That was more on a mental level than a physical one. He'd never actually stood before one of these creatures before. So he couldn't tell a god by how it looked, much less one severed arm.

But when she looked closer, she saw why he thought it might be. It was almost impossible for invaders to fight their way into the Temple, especially alone. This strange and mysterious thing, whatever it was, must have been here from the start. Only a god could exist in the heart of a temple surrounded by a thousand frightening and powerful foes.

But Cloudhawk had more evidence. The gauntlet it wore was a powerful relic. Not just a relic, either, but a really strong one. Aside from a god, Cloudhawk couldn't think of what other creature could use a tool like this.

His brows furrowed as he thought. "If this really was a piece of a god, then they must have been here on the day of the city's destruction. It could have been responsible for all these dead Templars. But... why would a group of faithful want to attack a god - even rip its arm off? What the hell sort of fight was this?"

Hellflower wasn't interested in whatever history doomed this place, but she was fascinated by the eternal limb. "None of that matters. Let's take the arm back and run tests, I'm sure we'll be surprised with what we find."

"You want to learn more about the anatomy of the gods."

Gods were lauded as the perfect creatures. Powerful, eternal. There was nothing more enticing to Hellflower than the prospect of learning about them. Cloudhawk didn't bring them here to play archaeologist either, so they gathered their haul and prepared to go. All told, they'd managed to find more than thirty trinkets. One hell of a yield.

Hellflower also succeeded in capturing a number of spirit creatures. That was good enough - their expedition was over.

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