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Book 6, Chapter 43 - Meeting the Cloud God

 The new leaders of Skycloud were revealed. Apostle Selene Cloude was now Governor. Oracle of Order Aquaria took on the mantle of High Priest. Phain Mist, former Grand Prior, now was master of the realm's armies.

What they all had in common was a background in service to the Temple. Effectively the government, religious center and armed forces were now all unified. Selene did not have the singular autonomy Arcturus enjoyed, but she was now undoubtedly ruler of the realm.

The people of Skycloud had no choice but to accept it. Selene and her compatriots had been personally vetted by the Cloud God itself!

The populace saw the head of government, religion and the army as the three highest positions in Elysian society. The truth was, however, that Skycloud was a human settlement built under divine rule. All of the early laws of the land were put into place by the gods themselves.

The people easily forgot of the Cloud God's presence after years of slumber, locked away in the depths of the Temple. Even before its slumber, the god never left the confines of its monument. Before recently only a small handful had ever laid eyes upon the deity. Over time it became little more than legend, and after twenty-five hundred years the people of the realm ignored the Cloud God's existence.

Much to everyone's surprise, however, the Cloud God reasserted its dominance by appearing in public. In full sight of Skycloud' populace, it affirmed the positions of Selene and her allies. With the god's vaulted authority none of the doubts or suspicions cast upon them mattered.

Selene herself was stunned by the scene. Though she'd been in service to the Temple for years, never once had she been touched by the Cloud God's influence. Since awakening it made no efforts to inquire about the state of things in the wastes. No interest was shown in the harrowing battle of Fallowmoor, or how many of Selene's actions were in direct conflict with Elysian law. So... why had the god allowed her to become Governor?

It wasn't worth ruminating over. Her wish to become Governor was granted and that was all that mattered. The rest would be dealt with, step by step.

Her first act had to be helping the realm recover after a disastrous war. The most recent figures she was given told her the current population of the realm sat at around twenty-five million, six-hundred thirty-thousand souls. One hundred and sixty thousand of those were soldiers.

It sounded like a sizable force. However, the truth was that figure included local security units and other support personnel. Traditionally there had been ten combat divisions, but the Defense Corps had been decimated on the Blisterpeaks and when the Wall came down. The Aegis Corps also lost most of its servicemen during the assault on Nucleus, who were then assigned to the expeditionary force. That force was subsequently wiped out.

Today Skycloud had seven standing combat divisions. These were local divisions that manned the various fortresses and defensive garrisons around the realm. Rarely were such legions mobilized for large-scale battle, especially on foreign soil. They would require a long time to restructure and deploy. Arcturus had hoped to do just that once Ramiel had been slain. The aim was to bring the full might of Skycloud's military to bear against the Green Alliance. Ultimately, though, he failed.

Now that Selene had taken office, contentions between Skycloud and the wastes had begun to ease. Of course, as Governor it was now her responsibility to ensure the safety and prosperity of all Elysians. Skycloud's armies had to be reset and restructured in order to ensure the safety of the realm.

"Governor!"

As Selene mulled over the problem two clerics entered her office. One of them delivered his report without waiting for her acknowledgment. "The High Priest asks you to meet her in the Temple. Majesty Cloud God requires your presence."

Selene's heart skipped a beat. Her brows furrowed ever so slightly, but beyond that she betrayed no expression. Quietly she rose to her feet, put aside what she was doing and prepared to go. She knew eventually she would be summoned before the Cloud God. Better sooner rather than later.

What were the gods' intentions? What ideas and goals did the Cloud God hold? It was important for her to discover the answers.

When she reached the doors of the Temple its ancient guardian was resting languidly to one side. One might be forgiven for thinking it looked like a giant, dozing cat. However the sheer power that wafted from it was stifling.

It seemed to sense Selene's presence, for when she approached its eyes slid open and fixed upon her. The divine beast's eyes possessed a strange steely quality. When its gaze fell upon her, Selene had the distinct sense that the powers locked within her somehow resonated with the creature. Like they were born of the same source.

The powers of time? She already knew of the divine beast's special ability. It was said the creature knew when tragedy loomed over Skycloud and was able to prepare accordingly. When she first heard of it she didn't understand, but now she thought she knew how it was possible.

It was the power of time. The same power she had.

The divine beast must have felt the same way she did, recognizing the similar forces at work in her body. Suddenly there was a deep sense of camaraderie, like a tamed tiger. The typical intensity of its presence was softer.

Selene walked into the Temple. Traversing the long corridors she eventually came to the inner sanctuary.

The newly appointed High Priest Aquaria was waiting for her. She was draped in snow-white robes and stood in the center of the chamber with her eyes closed. Upon the dais, where usually the High Priest sat, was instead a different figure. The three-meter tall individual was mostly human in appearance, but gave off an air of something altogether different.

The first time. It was the first time Selene had encountered these legendary beings. A god, more perfect and wholly opposite from the foul demons that inhabited the wastelands.

Tales of the gods and their exploits were only found in old epics. Humans knew nothing about the structure of godly society and only a little about their hierarchy. For this reason and others it was breathtaking for Selene to see one before her, clad head to toe in some sort of mechanical armor.

Beautiful and majestic, it was somewhere between science-fiction and art. The armor itself was the most beautiful and perfect suit of defense Selene had ever seen. It was less metal and more like jade, some sort of material humans were not familiar with. It was like crystal wrapped around the god's body. But whereas crystal was cold, the texture of this suit seemed warm and full of light. Almost like a second skin. Every part of the divine being was covered by it, not even a millimeter was exposed.

The Cloud God's head was also covered in a full helm. Its edges were streamlined and fit together perfectly with the rest of the suit. Its reflective appearance added to the majesty of it all. There weren't even holes for breathing. All that was revealed were two bright points of light that were the god's eyes.

By no means was this creature like anything else she knew! Rather it was like a work of art, honed and perfected over millennia. Never have the gods been questioned because the power of their presence was palpable, and their technology was far beyond the ken of mortals.

Everything the Elysians used - from their airships, relics and all manner of other things - were gifts of divine technology. Surely what they were given was the lowest grade of items from a vastly superior race.

Every god was a creature of astonishing intelligence. They had transcended the shackles of death, giving them a theoretically infinite lifespan. In fact, legends claimed that not only were the gods immortal, but indestructible as well.

When some outside force destroyed their bodies, a gods consciousness returned to the interconnected net that bound them all together. Upon being accepted back into this matrix the god was presented with a new body. In this way they never passed, merely continued forever into the future. The concept was largely beyond the understanding of humans.

Selene bowed respectfully. "Majesty Cloud God."

Though her eyes were averted, Selene could feel the being's sharp gaze upon her. They felt like blades driving into her heart. A lesser person would have shivered uncontrollably.

Aside from being a god, the Cloud God was no typical divine being either! It served as master and protector of Skycloud but was also of significant station among its own kind. As one of the six Supremes, it was part of the higher echelons of divine society.

Gods and demons were antagonistic on all levels and in every way. The gods appeared perfect and noble, whereas demons were ugly and fiendish. Gods were wholly unified and alike physically. Demons were individual both in thought and appearance.

However there were as many similarities as there were differences. Both, for example, lived forever. They had all learned to escape from the clutches of death. Their bodies were also suited for space travel. Neither the ravages of time or the harshest environments caused them harm.

All this to say that the gods and demons were the definition of contradiction. Different in a million ways yet born of the same root.

The Cloud God's will manifested in Selene's mind as a voice. "You are full of doubt."

Her body shook. She knew the being's strength lay in mental ability, so she could not hide what she was thinking. It made her feel powerless for she could hold nothing back from this incredible entity.

Was this how the higher order of creatures kept the lesser ones down? As a human Selene felt completely insignificant before the Cloud God's gaze.

She couldn't imagine how even Arcturus would have stood against such a creature. However, in this instant, she understood the Governor's logic. Humans were less than nothing in the face of godly power. They might as well be pets.

If that were true, and the Elysian pets cavorted with wild and unsavory strays to overthrow their masters, how laughable was the thought? Humans were as far from gods as heaven was from the earth. It was a chasm too vast to overcome.

The Cloud God saw her thoughts but did not react to them. Rather, its concerns turned to the recent events surrounding the realm. It listened carefully, then with an air of indifference relayed its command. When Selene heard the order, disbelief stole the color from her face.

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