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Book 7, Chapter 39 - The Truth

 "The Great War we were told about a thousand years ago was a civil war." Cloudhawk's assertion was a startling one. "Who you call the Demon King used to lead the gods - if he wasn't the God King then he was one of their top commanders. With his spatial powers he led the Milky Way, searching for other civilizations. For reasons we don't yet know, they invaded these civilizations and built their Elysian lands. They manipulated the natives through faith."

Bruno interjected, "But why destroy these worlds?"

"Maybe that's their harvest method. Maybe they didn't get what they were after, so they razed them. Whatever the case these worlds were destroyed, there's no changing that fact. The Demon King passed through these worlds and left his markers so that the phase stone could bring him to the worlds that were lost."

All of the worlds Cloudhawk had seen, including this one, were the remnants of places the gods had visited. For whatever reason the Demon King broke with his people, gathered as many as he could to his side, and gave them all free will.

Those that chose to leave the gods were changed by it. Although they retained their immortal lifespan and incredible power, they were rejected by the spiritual matrix. These betrayers were called demons, and it sparked a great and terrible war. Cloudhawk's home just happened to be the battlefield.

That's why there was no trace of 'demons' on other worlds.

The Demon King's power allowed him to go back and forth among these worlds, so he returned and fixed up this factory. That's why there were humans here and why the gods didn't know about it. To Cloudhawk, it was the explanation that made the most sense.

Of course, under closer inspection the story still had many holes. He didn't have all the facts, so there were sure to be inconsistencies. However, it was at least part of the truth. Now Cloudhawk had the opportunity to learn more about this civilization. The implications were serious.

"Look, what's that? There's something in the crystal!"

Before leaving, Cloudhawk wanted to take another pass through the base. Dawn had spied something out of the ordinary, several crystal things that looked like sacrificial vessels. They were about the size of a human skull and etched with strange symbols that glowed faintly.

"What the hell is this?" Dawn picked one up, weighing it with her hands. "Sort of like a relic and not. Why leave them out here in the open? It's like they wanted them to be picked up..."

"Don't break it, they were left here by the Demon King. I bet they're important." Cloudhawk picked one up, shut his eyes and searched it with his feelings. It definitely wasn't a relic, but it wasn't exactly right to say they weren't, either. He was marked by the Demon King, so it was worth trying his mental power.

"Back up a little."

The first thing he felt was sizable energy locked within the crystal, so he told the others to make some room. He didn't know if they might explode or have some other dangerous reaction.

When they were ready, he gave it a toss.

Cloudhawk poured his will into it as the crystal left his grasp. It drank his power up like a sponge. A flash of light burst forth and everyone who looked at it felt their mind go blank:

Everyone, Cloudhawk included, found themselves floating in an illusory world. Cloudhawk looked down at himself and saw an unfamiliar form.

He was towering and clad in beautiful armor. He had become a god, and they were all in the bridge of a divine warship. Beside Cloudhawk were several dozen others like him. Beautiful, perfect, even though he couldn't see details clearly.

They all remained still, silent. Gods did not need to eat, breathe or relieve themselves. Voice? Hearing? Digestion? These were the mark of lesser creatures. Gods were capable of roaming through the inhospitable eternity of space without discomfort.

So this is it... Cloudhawk understood. Cloudhawk was a god - or, more correctly he was a parasite looking through a god's point of view. He was a spectator with no ability to change or manipulate the scene before him.

He didn't know how long these gods had been traveling among the stars. He watched them merely stand in the ship, still as statues. Suddenly there was a flesh and a slight tremble and the vessel stopped. A shift in his perspective allowed him to see the space vessel from the outside.

It wasn't just one. One after the other, ships appeared to blink into being on the terminal stop of a wormhole. There were several dozen at least, appearing abruptly against the star-spangled backdrop.

The ship was shaped like a drop of water; flawless, beautiful and translucent. It didn't have any unnecessary decorations, rather it was like a drop of mercury. There was a flow to it, as though touching it will deform the surface. It was a mystery how the thing moved at all.

But they did move, and they were made of some kind of liquid. As the ships arrived the dozens of perfectly shaped droplets converged into one. That was how the divine mothership formed, from these droplets gathering. Within it now were thousands of godly troops.

Cloudhawk was standing in a chamber filled with glimmering godly figures, all unmoving. These powerful creatures showed no signs of life, more like robots.

What are you planning...

The question formed in his mind as a planet appeared in his field of view. It was a living planet, with clearly visible oceans and vegetation. Objects zipping around in low orbit revealed that this was a fairly advanced civilization.

I see...

Godly technology was far superior, so they did not alert their targets as they approached. When the mothership drew close it released a special sort of 'wave' that, too, was beyond this planet's ability to sense. It bounced off the surface and returned to the ship, bringing with it confirmation of the life therein.

Confirmed. Commence.

At last the gods began to move. They made their way into compartments that were reminiscent of the collection vessels found in the underground factory. Thousands of gods lent their mental energy to the ship, which collected it and fired it toward the planet in a terrible beam.

Attacking first, without provocation? Cloudhawk watched it happen.

This beam wasn't the only one. He spied several others from elsewhere out in space. It meant this mothership wasn't the only one. He counted seven, eight... possibly even a dozen. They were attacking from all directions. The collected power of so many gods was enough to kill a whole planet!

Cloudhawk noted that the world wasn't blasted directly, not right away. Under the assault, its magnetic field wobbled and flashed. All of the satellites and other objects floating above were instantly destroyed.

Below, the ground finally began to react. Seas boiled, mountains crumbled and valleys pitched. Meanwhile fissures in space-time appeared, windows which revealed distant planets. After a few minutes, it was all done.

Silence prevailed as a single droplet fell toward the planet's surface.

It struck, carving a path through layers of earth before ultimately coming to rest like some sort of seed. Gods emerged.

Cloudhawk watched them gather survivors into utopias they created. They taught the lucky ones how to use mental power and allowed them to live in comfort while the vestiges of the old world rotted away.

This is how the Elysian lands come to be.

Time sped up and he watched the realms grow in size and prosperity. But something strange was evident. No matter how rich or large the realm became, the population never grew. On the contrary, fertility rates continued to drop until there was nothing left.

Native populations dwindled into oblivion. The Elysian realms shrank. Nothing was left for the gods to exploit, they did not get what they were after. Then one day a terrible scene emerged. The earth split, and from it emerged a number of droplet-like ships. As though birthed from the world itself, new gods were spat into the cosmos.

Their last act was to lay waste to the Elysian lands they had built. Whatever final dregs of life remained were snuffed out.

Although the gods did not get what they were searching for, they had used this world as a womb for new gods. They were cast out into the universe to begin the search anew, for other fertile lands.

Cloudhawk saw it all and at last understood.

This was the true face of the gods. These powerful, every-living entities were like locusts. Hungrily they swarmed the galaxies, looking for worlds with energy they could devour. That energy was used to reproduce. They were heralds of death. They were destroyer of worlds.

In the vast expanse of the milky way, worlds were ordinary specks of dust. It was impossible to know how many gods infected the galaxy, but they were far more dangerous than Cloudhawk had imagined. How many thriving populations had they sucked dry? Yet they continued searching, ever hungry, for aons upon aons. And in all that time, what were they really after?

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