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Book 6, Chapter 56 - The Boundary Portal

 The Temple's mysterious doorway began to open very slowly. At this pace it would take four or five days to open completely.

Anima patrolled near Selene, like a loyal and watchful dog. It was vigilant for any changes nearby. Any who attempted to approach were stopped by the beast's snarling maw.

No one dared approach, else they'd risk being devoured by the frightening creature.

The High Priest and all her followers were enough to overcome the divine beast, but what then? This wasn't any ordinary creature, but held important significance. For a thousand years it was the Temple's protector and bore a close connection to Mount Sumeru. Likewise, the power Selene inherited had come from the home of the gods as well. If her actions were the will of the gods, would getting in her way be tantamount to blasphemy?

Could the Temple disobey the actions of the gods?

The disquiet in Aquaria's heart grew with every passing moment. It was all so strange and unexpected.

"All oracles and Templars, fall back. Leave the chamber. Take no action without my direct command!"

"Yes, High Priest!"

The Temple faithful did as they were told. Aquaria went with them, riding a griffin to the military headquarters as fast as possible.

The best of Skycloud's talent had withered terribly as a consequence of the war. Skye Polaris, Arcturus Cloude, Ramiel Caelestis... they were all dead. Few others remained to consult in the face of this problem, so her first choice was to seek guidance from the Commander-General of the army, Phain Mist.

He was the only person among Skycloud's elite that Auaria trusted.. After all, they had worked closely for many years.

Phain had taken residence in the Polaris family mansion, vacated after their ouster from Skycloud. It was covered in the slowly dilapidating traces of the former military family, as well as shadows of the great man who once called this place home.

This was where Phain Mist chose to work. It filled him with a sense of gravity and pressure. He was under no illusion that he was any fraction of the man their fallen War God had been. Nor could he compare to the War Saint, whose position of Grand Prior he'd taken when Vulkan fled to the wastes. Even after becoming 'the drunk of the wastelands,' he was a much greater man than Phain. Still, he was tapped to lead Skycloud's army.

When Aquaria came calling, Phain was busy dealing with administrative matters. His attire was much different than it had been when he served in the Temple. Before he had donned the flowing and graceful raiment of a Templar, granting him the image of an elegant and noble servant of the gods. Today, his austere clothing matched his severe countenance. A long sword was strapped to his side and his head was covered with a gauze-lined cap. The cloth concealed his hideously deformed face.

His disfigured appearance was a result of Arcturus' ire, much in the same way the old drunk and Cloudhawk had suffered. His injuries were not insurmountable and he was expected to make a full recovery, but he would be forever scarred by the attempt on his life.

It would serve as an eternal reminder.

The High Priest's sudden arrival came as a shock to the Commander-General. He fell silent after Aquaria relayed what was happening.

"You know what the city has been through in the last few years," Aquaria said. "The situation is complex and precarious. If that door opens a portal to Mount Sumeru, how would the gods react to our citizens?"

Phain understood what Aquaria was getting at. She didn't want that door opened for she distrusted anything that would come from it.

With brow furrowed, Phain answered. "That door has never been opened ever in recorded history. We have no way of knowing what it is or what purpose it serves. If we try to stop it, we risk offending the gods."

Aquaria cast aside her mantle as High Priest for the moment. "If the gods know what we are doing then they are already offended."

Arcturus had conspired against the gods here in their own city. Blasphemous as it was, and strong as Arcturus had been, he was nothing in the face of Mount Sumeru's power. However, out in the wastes the Demon King's successor flourished. Gods and demons were mortal enemies and if the gods learned of Skycloud's agreement with the wastelanders their wrath would be immense.

Of course, this was all speculation. They had no proof that this portal had any connection to Mount Sumeru. Because Ramiel had died so suddenly, many of the secrets passed down from one High Priest to another were lost forever. Aquaria didn't even know how it was Selene had acquired these strange powers, nor whether it was her place to stand in her way.

As the two struggled for answers a powerful wave of mental force swept through. A voice echoed in their minds. No, not a voice - more like a thought that wasn't theirs, a foreign will. A powerful creature was linked directly to them from some great distance.

The High Priest and Grand Prior felt a location, somewhere outside of the city of Skycloud. Near the miraculous waterfall. Whatever creature had connected to them did so from a distant hundreds of kilometers away. Far beyond the scope of any mortal mind.

There was no need to guess who this being was. Without a moment of hesitation and never daring to deny the call, Aquaria and Phain left for the signified location.

Skycloud's miraculous waterfall was one of the most incredible places in all the realm. The silvery cascade tumbled from the heavens seemingly from nowhere. It certainly wasn't the clouds that spawned it. Like a belt of silver it fell into a vast lake below, roaring like the gallop of a thousand horses. A haze from cast off water droplets gave the area a strangely ethereal feel.

The two visitors approached the banks of the lake. A thousand meters across the waters they watched a hazy figure come into view. It was floating above the lake surface.

The distance made it impossible for even these two capable people from seeing who it was. However, the way the light played off its crystalline form was enough of a confirmation, along with its regal bearing. If it was not the Cloud God, then who could it be?

The two humans thought it strange. The Cloud God had been gone for a long time. Why had it suddenly appeared here? If Skycloud's deity had returned why did it not immediately return to the Temple? Why summon the two of them here? Did all of this unexplained behavior have something to do with Selene?

Aquaria and Phain were both important members of the Temple. Though they were nervous facing the object of their faith, it was not as stupefying to them as it would be to an average citizen. Each bowed respectfully and Aquaria acknowledged the god. "If I may ask, why has the illustrious Cloud God called us to this place?"

The Cloud God's answer whispered through their minds.

"I sense that an avatar of the gods has matured."

Avatar? Did it mean Selene? When had Selene become an avatar?

There was no need to wait for the question, for the Cloud God could sense the confusion in their minds. It explained. "Avatars are messengers appointed by the gods. They are capable of using a fraction of the god's power... until it overwhelms them. When the power becomes too great for their bodies, the god takes control. Divine will awakens, and the Avatar becomes a conduit for its power."

"Selen has become one of these avatars?"

"Correct, but not merely an Avatar. The powers she bears - the inheritance as your ilk call it - are a portion of the God King's own power. She is in the initial stages of division, the Avatar's divine will asserts itself. She is now wholly loyal to the god she serves."

Aquaria and Phain exchanged a look. Neither were quite sure what was going on.

Phain questioned the deity. "Why would the Avatar's will want to open the doorway?"

"Every Elysian land has a Temple at its core. The Temple is a creation of the gods and contains many secrets mortal minds cannot comprehend. The Boundary Portal is one of them." Through this mental link, the Cloud God continued to explain. "A thousand years ago the gods defeated their demonic foes during the Great War. We spread out, establishing a number of enclaves: Skycloud, Meadow, Highmorn, Dragenmere, and Praelius. Six mighty realms for six great Supremes."

Neither human had ever heard of these other Elysian lands, but why was the cloud God telling them now?

"Each realm contains a Temple. Each Temple is a medium by which your human world is connected to Mount Sumeru. They are also gateways to one another." The reverberating 'voice' of the Cloud God pushed out all other thoughts. "The disharmony in Skycloud has attracted Sumeru's attention. When the Boundary Gate is opened all the realms will have access to our home. Foreign demonhunters will attack Skycloud under the command of their deities."

The news struck them like lightning! Phain and Aquaria stared at the being, stunned. Other Elysians realms... attack?

Once that door opened, armies from other holy lands would come to see all the denizens of Skycloud eliminated.

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