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Book 7, Chapter 72 - Zephon, The Angel of Death

 The Highest authority in any temple was the High Priest. Ranking below them was the Apostle, Oracles, and finally the Grand Prior.

The last three were equal in standing. Often they were chosen as candidates for the position of High Priest when it became available. Typically the Grand Prior was considered last, given their military focus. Apostles, on the other hand, were chosen only during special periods and thus often were seen to hold higher authority than Oracles.

Apostles were different from other members of the Temple because they were given the opportunity to accept a fraction of a god's power. The power they wielded wasn't because of their title, but because of what it implied - the chosen favorite of a god.

In this way Zephon and Selene were similar. Once, Selene had been called the Apostle of her Temple back in Skycloud.

At the time Ramiel Caelestis had foreseen the threat Arcturus Cloude had posed. The Governor was too powerful and could not be contained. He had hoped to elevate Selene, installing her as a check against her uncle. Thus was she given the power of the God King, the Temple's greatest secret.

Zephon Allgood was elected as Highmorn's Apostle. He had become an outstanding member of the realm before the age of forty - a unique talent, a rare gem even among the very best of his generation. Eventually he was chosen by the High Priest and groomed as a likely replacement.

He had been a fine choice. Both in strength and devotion, he was unrivaled in Highmorn. His greatest obstacle was a lack of notable service, but that wasn't insurmountable. Lucian Ambrose's plan was to cultivate his abilities and reputation over time, until eventually it came time for the mantle to be passed.

Alas, things changed. A series of unforeseen events occurred that Zephon was not prepared for. Among them was the death of High Priest Lucian. It was a terrible, unbearable tragedy.

Suddenly Zephon had lost the foundation his life was built on. Since Apostles had no official power in the Temple, and since Zephon had no accomplishments to tout, he found himself in an awkward position. The only option he saw as a way to get out of this predicament, was to complete his inheritance as soon as possible.

He had to get stronger. If he wielded more of his god's power he could maintain his elevated status as Apostle. To accomplish this he locked himself away to complete the ritual. His voluntary cloister lasted six months.

Zephon achieved his goal. He received the legacy of the god, but got more than he bargained for.

What Selene took from Skycloud's Temple was a fraction of the God King's power - a drop in the bucket to the mighty being. Of course the nature of this power, the power over time, was special. It highly empowered Selene's abilities.

Zephon acquired a great deal of power from another high-ranking god. Even if sacrifice was necessary, power was worth it. The mental energies he was awarded surpassed Selene's and turned him into the realm's mightiest demonhunter.

At last, Zephon thought, the power he wielded would demand obedience. Only, he emerged from his seclusion to find the world had changed again. The foreign monster named Cloudhawk, despite a weaker position, had destroyed Sky Fortress and defeated four Supreme Gods. All the realms - leaderless and defeated - chose to join the demon's side. Even Highmorn.

Wolfblade's agents had come. From the highest Temple authority to the lowest noble family, all paid lip service to Green Alliance. What did Zephon's struggles count for now? What was the point of his sacrifice when everyone he knew fought for the enemy? When the Temple he gave up everything for abandoned its faith and existed now in name only?

If Zephon utilized his power to take the reigns of the Temple, what purpose would it serve? In the face of these terrible occurrences there arose a surge of anger and helplessness Zephon could not control.

Renegades! Blasphemers! All of them! They turned their backs on the gods and should all die in the cruelest fashion he could imagine!

Previously, Zephon was an intelligent and tolerant man. But in this moment he felt a murderous lust rise within him that he could not withstand. He did not know that it was the cost of giving himself up to the power of the gods.

Upon accepting the power of the gods, his will was supplanted by another's.

In other words Zephon could not betray the gods any more than he could become a star in the sky. Betrayal was impossible. Any potential threat to the divine was seen as a personal affront that had to be brutally quelched. This bone-deep desire to cleanse unbelievers did not come from him, but Zephon had no choice but to obey.

So he began to act.

Believing his powers to be beyond reproach, Zephon was certain only a few within the city could stand in his way. They had all bowed to pressure and joined Cloudhawk. It stood to reason, then, that if he wanted to eliminate the threat to his home then he had to eliminate Cloudhawk. To do that, there were a number of obstacles that first had to be dealt with.

Zephon opened the cache of the Temple, wherein he knew a great artifact to be stored. The Star of Dark Omens.

It was a relic from the Great War that once belonged to an Elder demon called 'The Plaguebearer'. Upon his death the item was taken, and for countless years was stored within Highmorn's Temple. Only a handful knew of its existence.

Zephon only learned of it when reading through ancient texts. A tool that manipulated the power of darkness - exactly the power Zephon commanded. Under his authority as Apostle he ordered the relic to be unsealed. What followed was an unmitigated destruction no one could flee from.

The Star of Dark Omens was as powerful as it was horrific.

It was not deadly in its own right, but it did grant the bearer command over a sort of disease. This pestilence infected a host without their knowledge, then siphoned the victim's own mental energy to help it grow. It flourished, until in the end tumorous growth swelled and exploded.

The walking corpses Dawn and Selene had encountered were what remained of these poor souls. Wholly infected by the Star's curse, they were under Zephon's control. Walking bombs, empowered by Zephon's mental power.

He was not only capable of telling them where to go, but could cause them to explode at will. A tremendous and disgusting release of power with a wide area of effect that killed even powerful warriors.

Wholly taken by the will of the gods, Zephon purged the Temple of anyone he deemed unfaithful. But that wasn't enough. He had to expand his army of walking bombs then point them toward Cloudhawk. Yet in another unforeseen turn of fate, Cloudhawk and two of his agents walked right into his arms.

What followed was the incredible display put on by Dawn and Selene.

Zephon was no ordinary man. He bore strength equivalent to a god - the very best he'd ever met! However these two women paid him as much mind as a petulant child. How could he not be furious at their disrespect?

"Die!"

Zephon thrust forth a hideous looking relic, a black ball bristling with spikes. At first glance it looked somewhat like a sea urchin, except for the faint purple light at the tip of every spike. The power it released was filled with savage promise.

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