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Prologue - Secrets Revealed

 Dawn's will had undergone myriad hardships. Pulling herself from the dark abyss she hardly had the strength to stand. Memories were fuzzy, disjointed.

"Who am I?"

"Dawn Polaris, of the Polaris family. From Skycloud."

"Didn't I die? What am I doing here?"

She felt like she'd been asleep for ten thousand years. So much was gone from her memory and what remained was hazy. Only a few key experiences were still indelibly marked on her spirit.

The world she found herself within was strange. She couldn't tell whether it was day or night, whether she was in air or water, or even if there was a boundary between earth and sky. Nothing around her had a fixed, solid shape. The laws of physics she was accustomed to didn't exist here.

Was this the land of the dead?

She couldn't move. Although her consciousness had awakened, her body was held fast by some invisible power. Another will much stronger than her own was taking shape at her side.

"Humans, so frail."

The words took shape in her mind. The one speaking to her didn't use any language, rather inserted the thoughts directly into her head. Her own mind converted these feelings into words she could understand. In this way there was no barrier to communication.

He was strong. So strong, like a grand designer peering upon its infinitesimally small creation. Dawn felt small. Insignificant. In the eyes of whoever this was, she was as tiny as an amoeba.

"What is this place? What are you? Why did you bring me here?"

"This is a crack in the universe. Laws of space, time and physics don't apply here. To use the phrases of your species, this is Sumeru."

Sumeru? She was in the home of the gods!

Shock overcame her. To the Elysian people Sumeru was not a foreign concept. Legends claimed it was where all the gods lived, and from whence they all came. There were many stories about it, but in none of them was a description. No human had ever laid eyes on the distant utopia.

If this was Sumeru, then the mysterious spirit she spoke with had to be a god.

Dawn had met several gods by now, but even the Supremes didn't fill her with the sense she got from this being. There was only one explanation, and that was that this had to be the one who stood above all others - the God King.

Only the God King could snatch her from the jaws of oblivion. Only the gods could wrench her from the midst of an explosion and return her from the abyss of death.

But why? There wasn't anything special about her, people like Dawn could be found all across earth or any of the many planets out in the cosmos. Why had the God King chosen to spare her?

In her frustration Dawn tried to get a clearer look at the God King, but in this place all ordinary senses were confounded. All the natural laws she knew were rewritten. The God King was at once speaking with her by her side, and yet also a thousand light years away. A mere projection her mortal eyes could not pin down. In fact the only thing she could see were the flows of chaos swirling all around.

This was a place her human mind could not fathom.

The God King's voice was even, almost comforting. "There is no God King in this place. No Demon King, either. Gods and demons are just illusions. A... fairytale."

"What is happening?" Dawn pleaded.

"Before the universe you know was even born, there was a race of highly intelligent beings." The God King refrained from answering her question directly and launched into a story. "This species was endowed with tremendous power, and with it tremendous responsibility. Deeply rooted within them was a drive to create, and the belief that they were a manifestation of the universe's will. Thus they took it upon themselves to be the guardians of birth, evolution, death and rebirth."

"How could there be anything before the birth of the universe?" Dawn didn't understand. What did he mean, guardians of birth and rebirth? Did he mean this species controlled all of creation?

The God King could easily peer into Dawn's mind. He continued to explain.

"This grand species was born in the emptiness between cosmos, capable of twisting the rules of the universe to their whim. But with that power they adhered to a singular mission, one which they performed for billions of years. The creation and maintenance of life. Whenever a new universe is born they send their envoy - not to create life directly, but to sow the seeds, to ready the stage for life to emerge naturally. Thus have they facilitated the creation of countless civilizations."

Countless civilizations... billions of them in every universe? And all of them supposedly coming from this mysterious race.

From any other mouth Dawn would have thought the idea crazy. But the one she spoke with wasn't an ordinary creature. He was likely the most powerful life form in the entire universe. There was no reason such a being would waste the effort in lying to such an insignificant creature such as her.

"With their natural creative instincts this grand race formed countless vibrant universes. However, as they rejoiced in their masterpieces there descended upon them a terrible catastrophe."

"What happened?"

"They began to age and die."

Degradation and death were common of all living things. The inevitable end that nothing could escape. Yet for a species who were masters at the creation of life, such a curse was a tragedy.

"In truth, there is no such thing as eternity. Immortality is merely a question of scale. A highly advanced may keep the body from aging, but they cannot halt the inevitable decline of the mind and spirit. Even the vast universe will one day meet an end. Any existence - no matter how grand, how powerful, how ancient - will at some point pass into nothingness."[1]

Was he saying this race had gone extinct?

"Their numbers dwindled. Wills that spanned the lives of universes for the first time knew fear. Just like humans in the midst of a crisis, they began the desperate search for a way to avoid the inevitable. They realized that their old, failing civilization had to be injected with new life if it hoped to survive."

"So they violated their ancient promise not to become involved in the lives they helped foster. They inserted themselves into these cultures, forever altering their evolution in the hopes that from their sacrifice a way to spare this species emerged."

"They were far too weak and few in number to control all the cosmos, but they did have the power to create servants who were absolutely loyal. A creature that gained strength through a collective. Using these puppets to speed up the process, they searched far and wide for that special essence that would deliver them from extinction..."

By now Dawn had guessed the rest of the story. The 'puppets' he was talking about had to be what humans called gods. They spread through the cosmos like wildfire, infecting civilizations and siphoning their vitality. Time and again they interfered with these peoples, stealing the energy of their souls, but never finding what they were after.

The gods, however, were not perfect puppets.

Because of their imperfect creation and their use as slaves, a number of gods broke free of their yolk. These were then called demons. With self-awareness and self-determination they set off on their own mission. This was the source of these species' deep-seated contradictions.

But demon or god, neither understood that they were merely tools in the hands of a greater consciousness.

Perhaps the God King wasn't a god at all. Dawn could tell that he was different from all the others. This being was probably one of that great race, hence his tremendous power and invincibility.

"We have searched for so, so long. Destroyed countless species in our efforts. Finally, the savior has been discovered. The one who could save us all." The God King paused for a moment before going on. "As you have already surmised, I am one of that species. Cloudhawk is the one we have been searching for."

The secret behind the gods and demons was unveiled. Dawn was upended by the truth.

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I would give Cloudhawk a chance to determine his own destiny."

The final syllables of his words were thick with power. Dawn was wrapped up in it, feeling the indescribable flows transforming her. She wanted to fight back but it was pointless. Once again, her mind went blank.

1. Jeez, Debbie Downer