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Chapter 19 - Legacy

 Cloudhawk didn't fret over where his story ended. Everyone had their role to play.

He was lucky enough to see his fate clearly before him. Defeat the gods and free the demons from their chains. Whatever happened to him in the end, his time will have passed. It would be time to step down.

The new world that followed? The rebuilding and the culture? He wasn't equipped for that. He was a war-time leader.

Recovery. The Demon King was responsible for so much of what was broken. Fixing it would be the task of Azura and people like her. The world of the future would be so much more complicated. Demons and gods, humans old and new, the races of Gehenna, other unknown denizens of the universe... the task of building a coalition where they all lived in harmony was a difficult one.

"Let's go."

Cloudhawk eliminated the secret cabal trying to undermine his orders. Afterwards he brought Azura to the Tower of Babel and before long news of these happenings spread through the city. Many who had died at the Demon King's hands were well-known to their people. Hiding the execution would be impossible.

Of course there were some adjustments to the narrative. These fiends had been caught in the midst of an assassination attempt, but failed when the target of their dark plot fought back. The Demon King killed all of these foul betrayers and they paid for their ignorance. It was news that caused quite the stir among Gehenna's people.

Few among the plotters were ordinary folk. Pick any one among them and it was likely a familiar name. Some famous face, semi-legendary figure, mighty warrior or local leader. To many it came as a shock to learn that these rebels had tried to kill the Demon King. Why? To stop a war with the gods? But even more incredible was that all of them together were still no match for Cloudhawk.

Two things came as a consequence of the failed plot. First, everyone realized how much stronger the Demon King was compared to their assumptions. It served to bolster his support. Second, everyone knew the result of questioning the King's orders. Whatever one's station, strength or influence, standing against the Demon King was inviting disaster. In these trying times unity was not optional.

Once more, the Demon King asserted his dominance.

Under the banners of fear and reverence the people of Gehenna were more loyal to their King than ever. Creation of their armies picked up speed. Meanwhile the Tower of Babel did all within its power to manipulate public opinion.

Cloudhawk's criteria for selecting warriors was simple: They had to be of age, and they had to reach a standard of strength.

He didn't want anyone too young. They didn't need more cannon fodder. Anyone from any race, so long as they met the requirements, were called on to serve. Under the expert supervision of the Tower, Cloudhawk's army quickly took shape.

Cloudhawk also kept busy. He had preparations to make for the army, its equipment and their battle plans. He had to understand it all in order to make the best use of their limited resources. From his predecessors memories, Cloudhawk knew the old King had a cache of equipment from the last fight with the gods. He summoned Korath and tasked the Elder to share what he knew.

"Most of the races in Gehenna have at least some psychic ability, so in large part our equipment is designed to take advantage of that. But over the last thousand years our Source has diminished and these tools have lost their function."

Korath used the time it took for them to travel to the cache to explain the situation.

"The former Demon King saved up the best he could get his hands on. Since no one has been able to use them, they've been kept in storage."

Psychic power was just another way to say mental energy. It was a medium that allowed one to remould subatomic information.

It came from the will of conscious things, utilizing thought to enact changes in the universe around them. Everything was about strings and resonance, altering reality in defiance of what physics said was possible. An inexplicable power.

Psychic energy was, in fact, the greatest power in all the cosmos. It was a capability shared by gods, demons, and most other highly evolved species. So far, the only physical resource that was known to have psychic properties was Source. Besides their strength, it was Source that powered the gods' galactic conquest.

Source didn't form naturally. So far the only known was to create it was through refinement of a psychically active soul. In order to harvest Source, the gods had to continuously destroy civilizations that could provide it.

Demons were once gods. When the former Demon King liberated them, he also took a great deal of Sumeran technology. This included Source-powered machines, relics and other combat equipment. Relics, of course, utilized the power of the wielder to function. These were already disseminated among Gehenna's populace and mastered by their bearers. However some of the other weapons functioned differently, especially larger ones.

"Look, Majesty. This is the legacy of the former King."

Korath led them into a basin, where waiting at the bottom lay a considerable trove of goods. He hovered by the Elder's side, peering over the hoard with discerning eyes. One item in particular caught his attention - a spaceship. No, a mother ship.

He stared at the sleek, eight-thousand foot long black vessel parked quietly in the basin. It was so large that from a human's perspective it was too big to see the whole thing at once. Even from a distance Cloudhawk was struck by its size.

"There are at least a hundred battleships inside of it," Korath said as he introduced the ship. "If we can get it moving, this ship alone could wipe out a planet. Unfortunately it demands a lot of power. Gather all the fuel in Gehenna and we could only get it started for a few moments."

Cloudhawk was surprised to see how rich his predecessor's coffers really were. This was probably the ship he used when escaping Sumeru with the other rebels. When Gehenna was established there was no further need for the ship. Anyway, without any fuel it was as useful as a heap of scrap metal.

Its fuel was psychic power. If every single demon got together to power the ship they could get it running, but getting so many to work together was not an easy feat. It would be like a single body whose every bone, ligament and muscle had a mind of its own, trying to run a marathon. Such a person would hardly be able to put one foot in front of another.

They couldn't coordinate ten thousand demons, nor did they have enough Source as an alternative. In the end the Demon King's ship sat unused in this crater. Only now things were different. Cloudhawk had a wealth of Source, enough to get it flying again. By virtue of this vessel's capabilities, they should have enough firepower to punch a hole in Sumeru's external defenses.

"There is more that may help."

Korath approached a spire that was jutting up from the ground. It was perfectly crafted, spotlessly white and without blemish. The tower was split into disparate segments that hovered close together. Cloudhawk felt the odd power it emanated.

He was struck by it. "This is..."

"The Tower of Soul Transference, also called the Sublime Spire," Korath explained. "It can transform a physical creature into a spiritual form while retaining all psychic ability."

Cloudhawk knew what it was. The Sublime Spire. In short, it turned the physical into spiritual. It was created in Sumeru. At that time the gods knew that the spirits of psychic races could be transformed into Source. They designed this tower to try and refine whole civilizations immediately, without waiting for them to die.

However, things were not so simple. The gods learned that souls could not be coerced. In order to become Source the souls had to be completely willing. Any resistance and the process failed. Forced transformation wouldn't work.

So they were forced to change tactics. First they would destroy whatever civilization they came upon, then establish themselves as saviors to the ones they let survive. If the race was not yet developed, then the gods would cultivate them until they were ready for harvest.

Earth and its humans were a perfect example.

Gods arrived and obliterated human society. Through external means they stimulated the evolution of the survivors, awakened their psychic abilities and guided them to establish gods as the ultimate faith-based authority. Over time humanity's zeal turned it into a religion.

The faithful were mistakenly taught that when they died, their spirit ascended to Mount Sumeru. What an honor, to serve at the gods' side for eternity! So it was that when they did there was no resistance. As obedient as beaten puppies the spirits gathered to become fuel for the gods.

A simple but effective method.

For the gods this spire was a failed experiment, but Cloudhawk could see one important use for it. With this tool a single soldier could fight twice.

Warriors who died in battle could rise again as spirits. For a short time they could continue to fight for their allies, thus dramatically strengthening Cloudhawk's forces.

He was pleased with this gift from the former Demon King.