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Book 6, Chapter 57 - The Cloud God's Warning

 Skycloud. Meadow. Highmorn. Stormford. Dragonmere. Praelius.

After the Great War, six Elysian lands were established. Meadow aside, there were four other realms as yet undiscovered.

If the aim was to take over and cleanse Skycloud, why would Sumeru first send warriors from other Elysian lands instead of dealing with it personally? The thought crossed Aquaria's mind and in that instant the Cloud God answered.

"There are limits to what even gods can achieve. It takes a great deal of time for the gods to make the trip here from Mount Sumeru. Should they be dispatched this instant, it would still be a while before they arrive."

This news did not ease Aquaria's downtrodden spirits. The gods might be some time in coming, but there were four godly realms bent on Skycloud's destruction. The four Supremes leading them were mighty in and of themselves without considering the threat of the realms they led. Demonhunters - perhaps even Master Demonhunters - could be amassing on the other side of the Boundary Portal as they spoke. Pitted against a weakened Skycloud, the combined might of those forces would easily sweep them away.

Another question crept its way into her head. The Cloud God was among these Supremes... why was it telling these mortals of the danger on their literal doorstep? Was this a decision their patron did not agree with?

Rather than returning to the Temple and aiding Selene, the Cloud God took succor here at the waterfall and warned them. The logic did not seem to make any sense.

In truth, the Cloud God's actions were born of helplessness.

It was still connected to the matrix linking all of its species. What it severed was the immediate access to its mind while retaining the ability to look into others. All the changes in divine thought were clear and at its fingertips. This was how Skycloud's patron knew the dangers this realm faced.

"For many reasons, in my current condition I cannot return to the gods. Should the other four Supremes come to our world, the chances are high that I will also succumb to their cleanse."

But... why? Both humans said nothing, but the shock on their faces was clear.

For a thousand years the Cloud God was Skycloud's protector, but he acted as though he was also in danger. Was there even killing among the gods?

The Cloud God had been wrapped into a conspiracy between Wolfblade and Arcturus.

Upon collecting the Demon King's skull, Cloudhawk was imbued with the fallen creature's memories. Among these fragmented thoughts and visions was a poison - one that Skycloud's former Governor and the Elder demon knew would slip into the Cloud God's mind if the two met. So it was arranged that the deity would delve into Cloudhawk's thoughts.

Suddenly, the Cloud God understood many things it was not supposed to. Its mode of thinking, its realm of consciousness, all underwent a staggering change. Where had the gods come from? What were gods? Did they really share a common ancestry with demons? Why was the history of its species hidden? What was the purpose of their existence?

All of these were questions it had never been forced to consider before. Concepts none of the gods had ever explored.

It seemed strange that - according to the Shepherd God - all the gods were locked away from such thoughts. This seal was limiting their breadth of thinking, preventing them from exploring these subjects or even being curious.

When it touched the Demon King's memories, that seal was broken. At last the Cloud God's mind was free to go where it wished. As a reaction, it partially sequestered itself from the other gods. But the damage was done. The Shepherd God had spoken true. Even if that connection was restored, the Cloud God would never be welcomed back into divine society.

The God King would never tolerate a poisoned creature like... him.

Could what the Shepherd God said be true? In losing that connection, in breaking that seal... had that transformed him into a demon? True or not, he could not accept it. He had to find some way to reconnect, to wrest back his godly identity!

When the other four Supremes arrived, the Cloud God would be in dire trouble. He had to concoct some way to stop the Boundary Door from opening fully. But he couldn't do it alone, this was a job for these mortals. They could help stop the door while he thought of a way to restore the seal.

Aquaria asked, "Can Selene be returned to normal?"

"When one becomes an avatar it changes them on a fundamental level. Reversing this process is very difficult." The Cloud God's solemn voice echoed in their minds. "However, it is not impossible. The power of the avatar and Selene's own are comparable. If we can free her from the transformative relics in time, there is a chance her will can overcome."

The two humans fell silent. Selene's powers came from her eyes... would they have to remove them? Was that the only way to save her?

The Cloud God's body began to disappear into the mists around the waterfall. "When the Boundary Portal opens fully it will herald Skycloud's destruction. Time is running short. This is my warning, whether you succeed will depend on your own efforts. There is no further help that I can give."

With that, the mental connection came to an abrupt end. The Cloud God disappeared from view.

For a few moments Aquaria and Phain remained by the water's edge. Still, silent. In order to stop the door from ordering, their patron god was telling them to act in direct defiance to Mount Sumeru.

Could their small and ineffectual race survive such a thing?

Now were they stupid. There was a distinct impression that the Cloud God would not help because he wished to distance himself from these happenings. The two Temple faithful were stunned to be faced with this challenge, but they knew there was no other choice. Whatever the future brought, the destruction of their species could not occur while they merely looked on.

Aquaria and Phain returned to Skycloud and began to organize their people. The master assassin and leader of the Court of Shadows, Janus Umbra, was also called summoned and made aware of the threat. She represented the only elite Skycloud family they could trust.

Clerics, Templars, and Court assassins made up a force that numbered in the hundreds. Small to be sure, but they were unparalleled in skill throughout the realm.

Aquaria, Phain and Janus met to discuss their strategy. "This was not Selene's intention. We should do everything within our power to keep her alive and sever that which controls her."

Phain's sword was already in hand. "We've no time to waste! We go now!"

Janus, without specific orders, galvanized his people. He along with Atlas and over a hundred assassins made their way toward the Temple for a covert assault.

These shadows were hand-picked elite of the Umbra family. Any one was considered a formidable killer. Together they were confident Selene Cloude was as good as defeated. With them were a number of clerics and Templars, improving those odds further. All together they made their way toward the heart of Skycloud, where the Temple lay.

Their assault began! Soon the invading faithful were met with a dazzling light barring their path! It was quickly followed by a concussive blast and a searing heat.

What occurred at the front lines was impossible to know. The vanguard of soldiers vanished. The Temple shook.

"What happened?!"

Aquaria and Phain stood near the rear, eyes agape as through the haze they saw several figures approach.

Could the door have already opened? No! It would be impossible for it to end so quickly! Peering closer they spied Selene standing by the doorway, with Anima snarling by her side. With them had appeared a whole host of others.

Not humans. Puppets. More specifically they were the Seraphs - protectors and builders of this city. But they had forsaken their duty and now stood vigil here, in the heart of the Temple. Each of them possessed great power and the humans also had to contend against the mighty divine beast. They couldn't fight through such an array to get to Selene.

After becoming Avatar, Selene was not just master of the Temple's guardian. She had control over all the Seraphs as well. Most importantly she had the power to witness streams of time. She knew what was coming, at least within a narrow scope. With such abilities she knew her foes approached, and with what strength. A sneak attack against one such as her was impossible.

Anima roared at them menacingly. Its great wings spread wide and a burst of energy spread through the chamber. In the same instant the Seraphs launched into a harrowing attack.

Aquaria did not hesitate. "She's seen through our plans. Retreat!"

Her revelations were too late. Their failed assault was not all the avatar saw. She knew they would attempt to flee. Seraphs appeared at the rear of the invading force, cutting off their retreat.

Janus, upon seeing their dire circumstance, dissolved into a threat of black smoke. The assassin quickly vanished. He would be the only one to escape.

Fighting in the Temple continued for some time, but eventually a quiet settled across the city.

The end result was easy to surmise.

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