Edit: Apparently I am very wrong about things, and this is the second to last sun.
~The War Inside The God~
And so the battle was joined at last. It was not the battle that Agni had expected. He had anticipated a single, monolithic foe, one powerful enough to bring about the massive changes and challenges to the world. Instead, here was a... swarm... of lesser beings. Lesser souls, all clearly bound together in purpose and malevolent design.
And at the moment, that purpose appeared to be his death. Agni's cloth-wrapped form of light coughed and flailed wildly as, like an avalanche, the souls washed over him, burning in a shell around his form and cutting off the oxygen to his own body. His flailing let in stray whispers of oxygen, but slowly, he descended into darkness, the brilliant light of his body flickering and dimming as his mind unravelled.
My dear. My dear, dear love.
A face, dark of skin, but with piercing blue eyes and wispy moon-yellow hair appeared out of the darkness, a look of deep affection and concern on her face.
This is but another game. In many ways, simpler than the ones we once played, you and I. Your opponent seeks to surround your Pyla, but you, as you did once before, can simply change the rules.
Agni's mind-self frowned. Who was this woman? And what did she mean?
As if he had spoken that last thought aloud, the woman smiled fondly.
Why does your soul-self need Oxygen?
Change the Rules. Agni was fighting this mental battle as if it was occuring in the real world. In the real world, he needed oxygen. In his mind... his flame was eternal.
The talisman flared and Gold finished the icon, a massive dragon raising its head towards the heavens.
Agni flared to life again, but as lucidity returned, the face faded from his vision.
Who... he stammered as she vanished entirely, a strange sadness entering into him.
Agni's form melted, flowing through cracks in the shell of TASOE as the soul-shell reacted to the sudden loss of Agni's solidity. Soon, a flowing wave of fire, vaguely kite-like in shape, lifted up, shifting and flowing away from the continuing attacks of the souls.
Moments later, the souls of TASOE stopped attacking, realizing their current tactic was useless.
No. This is my Mind, and this is my Soul. I will not Die, TASOE.
Azgo concentrated for a moment, reaching out into the ehther with the pulsating of his blood. Out from the Abyss, out from the western coast, out from the miles and miles of land... untill he felt a kinly pulse far out in the world. A drop of his blood, a carving of his mark... An old promise.
Azgo waved his hand, and the wall of water that had been the entrance for the dragons opened up once more. Steam from the water obscured its destination, and it wavered like a curtain in a storm. There was power on the other side... a terrible power. He straightened his back, and slowly began walking forward. The claok of shadows was falling away from him, shroud by shroud unwravelling the horror of a dying god before the guests. The Abyss whsipered with wrath, with conviction, with the powers of gods. every soul within the Abyss turned their head, every soul waited with bated breath, every soul strained to see through the blighted rock and ice and undergrowth to see The Crowned in Blood, The True Heir, The Wounded One, The Fused God, return... return to finish what he had started.
"The way is open, my warrior. It will take you... home. The sun will rise on your arrival, and it will light your way. Hatred give you strength... and Love..." Azgo stopped. He was right in front of the vaporous veil. His shadow was gone, and all the twisted blood and organs were visable through the shell of his armor. With one hand he drew the Grand Scepter from within his skeletal frame. With the other, he struck a single finger through...
"Love give you duty."
Azgo walked through. And he stood on the outskirts of the battlefeild, ready. Ready to put an end to this menace of the gods once and for all.
He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. -Revelation 21:6
Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.-John Donne, Meditation XVII
My photo was found here.
And it rose, a radiant orb in the strange light of the Abyss, breaking free of wherever it had been trapped and travelling... up.
Morenth. That is our way out. We follow the sun and keep it safe as it rises. Cantorix still seems stunned by his rebirth. Keep him with us. Now, we fly!
Paren took to the air, the other dragons following behind him, nudging and pushing Cantorix to follow them. They reached the orb, and followed it closely.
Suddenly, the very air of the Abyss seemed to warp and tremble about them, and a tear of... something... appeared above. They rose through the hole, and found themselves back in the sea of acid. But where before the sea had threated to destroy them, the sun protected them, keeping the acid waters away. The orb continued to rise.
Paren looked down and saw Azgo look up and meet his gaze for a moment. As Azgo stepped through his portal, Paren felt a strong pulling sensation...
And suddenly, the Abyss was gone. Paren dropped like a stone for a few moments before regaining his composure, and looking down at the earth. Immediately, he saw why he was here.
Thousands of craterspawn swarmed the behemoth-born balors, not driving them back but at least stopping them from moving forward. More and more poured out of the skyward portal and unto the battlefield below like water crashing on rocks a hundred feet below. The land was a torn husk, broken up into a valley of gorges and impacts from rampagin balors. And the few villages... they were barely landmarks anymore. They were graveyards and vestiges of the protection of the Firstborn.
Ash fell and was swept up in the powerful currents created by hordes of flying angels, sprinkling the ground like rain. The sky was dark, save for a single light that cast an unholy glow over all the blackened feathers of the corrupted angels. The stench of death and burnt flesh wafted in the air. The serpent of smoke looked out over the carnage, subtly content. Its eyes glowed with green, flickering light. The Eclipse Aflame...
Something caught his eye. Was it another balor, who succeeded in breaking through the defenses?! Ka'Vah moved down to strike out at the intruder, only to recognize him as... distinctly dragonlike. Whatever it was, it was no balor. But there was a kinship between them... the power of ancient fire, and the shadows of smoke and ash. A servant of Agni, perhaps?
"You there! Has Agni or Zebus sent you? Tell your master that I have rallied my old master's aid! The battle is ours!!"
Paren stared at the war below, noting that the craterspawn of Azgo were attacking the Balors which the Azure dragons had fought long and hard against. Indeed, Paren saw even now that some of the Azures had joined with the craterspawn, lending advice (as much as it could be given) and flying attacks against their foes.
Perhaps Azgo, and his minions, are beneficial, in their own way. He mused aloud, as he spotted Ka'Vah, whose body strangely mirrored his own, rising towards him. The exarch greeted him, and Paren replied.
I do not serve Agni, even though he brought me to life. Why would I serve him who may or may not even know of my existence? I serve my kind, and my kind alone. It appears you have this situation well under control. I would thank you... But I have made a deal.
With a slash of claw, Paren attacked Ka'Vah, hoping to end the battle quickly. Unfortunately for him, the Eclipse Aflame danced back, hissing in surprise and pain as shallow red tracings appeared in his smoke.
Your true master sends his greetings.
"My true... you mean Azgo..."
Ka'Vah's eyes glowed with fury, and his smoke swirled with the currents created by thousands of flapping craterspawn wings. His form seemed to have doubled in size, and it loomed over the battlefeild.
"HOW DARE YOU!! AFTER ALL I HAVE DONE?! I fought for him at the Eternal Volcano! I defended him when Veros and the angels invaded! I was his greatest creation! Do you even know who I am?!" The wind grew thick with smoke and turbulent ash. A storm had formed around the pair of them, speperating them from the battle below.
"I am the bane of all dragons! I am the one who felled the orcs! I saved Agni, an elder god, from death itself! I know of only destruction! I Am destruction! I am a god! I am the Death of Fire, The Last Gasp of Flame, The Harbinger of Ash and Smoke!"
The serpent god slithered forward in a fierce, windblown pattern like a fork of lightning. Green fire arced across his back and sides, and his fangs were of sickness and disease.
"BE STILL AND DIE! KA'VAH DEMANDS IT!"
Paren twisted away from Ka'Vah's attack, tumbling in the fierce wind in what could (barely) be called an evasive maneuver, feeling the hot, sickly passage of the other exarch just over his body.
Bane of dragons? Morenth said as much. It is good to know that I will be eliminating a threat to my kind when I fulfill my contract with Azgo.
Paren twisted, opened his mouth and breathed out a cloud of superheated ash and stone. The pyroclastic cloud flew towards Ka'Vah, but the exarch easily, almost disdainfully, avoided it, racing back towards Paren with a vicious grin.
Paren dodged away, lashing out with obsidian claws as he did so, but this time Ka'Vah was prepared, and his attack was parried, and the battle began in earnest. The storm raged around them, fueled by their power, driving away dragons, craterspawn and balor(i/s?) alike as the exarchs fought in the heavens, striving to take advantage of every small tactical error and random chance that they could.
But the exarchs were well matched. Paren, even though he had been blessed with memories, tactics and powers by Azgo, found he was unable to find a large enough opportunity against the ancient Ka'Vah, whose life had been warfare from his very creation.
Eventually, the battle turned almost into a ritual, the two foes, circling one another, periodically striking at the other, only to fall back defensively a moment later.
So, I am curious, Ka'Vah. Paren asked in a momentary lull in the fight. Why did you do it? Why did you betray Azgo for Agni?
"For Agni?!" Ka'Vah spat, his eyes blazing like a wildfire. "I betrayed Azgo for myself! I was his battle-slave, his champion, but Azgo was weak. He still is! He wants peace! He wants a world where there is no more battle, no pain. War serves itself, justifies itself. Where is the joy in peace, waiting for war to return?! Where is perfection if the weak are not weeded out and the strong remain?! Peace is a fool's errand. The only worthy goal is yourself! Agni understood that, but I serve him no longer! I am free from my bondage to the gods; I serve only my own ends!"
Ka'Vah lashed out again, barely missing. He fell back in a defensive feint, and when Paren was about to speak Ka'Vah charged again. it was a glancing blow, but some of the fire within Paren dwindled inside of him, wreathed in Ka'Vah's corruption. He slithered away, waiting for its full effect.
"Ha! You're much too predictable, like all other dragons. The Eternal Volcano proved that. Azgo truely has disappointed me if you are the best he could muster!"
The battle below was breaking down. The craterspawn flocks were becoming wild, undisciplined, without Ka'Vah's oversight. The balors were breaking up the walls that seperated them, made them weak. A few broke loose of the edges, and attacked the craterspawn on their flanks. But there were true legions of them, and they did not slow down in the slightest.
Paren coughed twice after Ka'Vah's attack, feeling his foe's taint seeping into himself. He pushed that little bit of ash-self far away from his core. That would, at least, buy him some time.
The Azgo you describe is not the Azgo that I met. Peace? He who sent the Craterspawn hordes, and You, and allowed them to rampaged over creation? Who stood by and did nothing as life after life was snuffed out? Who, even now, prepares to invade the world once more? I do not know what peace you speak of, Ka'Vah, but Azgo assuredly does not seek it.
Now I. I seek peace. You seek to destroy peace. Therefore, I must destroy you. I will deal with Azgo... somehow... later.
Paren darted forward, then spun in a manner impossible for normal dragons, wings briefly blurring into the rest of his form as he reversed himself in midflight. Talons of obsidian raked downwards, scoring a blow along the back of the Eclipse Aflame. Sadly, however, it was not a death blow.
Do not consider me like other dragons, Ka'Vah. You will find that your undoing.
And somewhere, deep within Paren, something... darker... began to stir.
Ka'Vah grimaced... just a little, and then he grined widly. Finally! Perhaps this dragon-god was worth some sport after all! Ka'Vah lived for the battle, for the challenge, for the Glory. He coiled back, drifting between the clouds with only the palest of green lights, waiting for a good opportunity. He had to be careful, and he liked that.
"Hahaha... You are more than you appear... Did Azgo truely send you? I see his... touch in you. The same taste of death, of sickness. But you are my beginings, a feeble recreation of the glory that is Ka'Vah. You deserve death, as all who seek peace do. Disagree as you may, but Azgo does indeed want peace. I know... otherwise I would have stayed."
The swirling of the cloud grew thicker, and multiple smoky forms of Ka'Vah appeared, sticking serpentine heads out from the storm winds. The ash was falling like snow. He had to wait him out... let the corruption break him down...
"He believes war must serve peace. That the blood shed in the invasions will prevent even more deaths over the course of millenia in an imperfect world. That a few must suffer for the good of the future."
Paren laughed bitterly, then spoke in a vicious tone.
I am your beginnings? Hardly. I am no puff of acrid smoke pulled over the still-living body of a child. Azgo revealed much about you, Ka'Vah, including your origin. Tell me, was it as hard as Azgo made it sound to subdue that tiny Spark that is your core? It is an insult to compare me to you. To even think that you would-
Paren watched Ka'Vah carefully, and dived out of the way as Ka'Vah lashed out, roaring in anger and rage.
There! He thought to himself, breathing out a blast of superhot stone that passed through Ka'Vah, but left angry red welts throughout the dark miasma.
But a sharp pain in his side told him that Ka'Vah had also been successful, although given the angle, he could not determine how serious the injury was. Not life-threatening, for sure.
Is that all that you can do? Paren's voice hissed inside Ka'Vah's head.
Ka'Vah tried to speak, tried to taunt Paren... goad him into wasting time as the poisen concentrated... But he was too angry. Much too angry. He didn't say another word, only hissing with indignant hate. He was done skirmishing... This... this dragon-god would learn what war truely meant. What slaughter meant... Ka'Vah payed no attention to his own wounds.
As soon as he had struck he circled back, winding around and passing through himself in a secondary attack. Every attack was the setup for another, every motion was a blurr of twisting smoke as Ka'Vah began coiling around Paren, lashing out in a flurry of fangs and arcing fire. It was as if a great heavenly serpent hadwrapped itself about a mouse, squeezing inward and injecting enough venom to fell a horse with every successful bite. But even more infuriating than the dragon-upstart was... someone else. A pale, distant sound beneath the ragin winds and thescreams of gods. It was ... laughter. Scorch...
Ka'Vah screamed with fury! Enough!! Enough with this parasite! Ka'Vah wopuld not be chained to him any longer! And as Ka'Vah fought Paren, factions of smoky legions turned inward, intent on slaying the Agni'Vodha. Galewinds tore the smoke and the ashen clouds apart, scattering the fumes across the battlefeild. It was dark, and angels danced with hunger in the shadows...
The innumerable spirits watched Agni with a strange placidity. "You're half-right", came the choral response. "The only thing here that will truly be yours... will be your death!"
It was then that the black-feathered mass of the Zizu crashed into Agni from above.
God and godbeast rolled through the heavens, crashing, falling towards a ground an infinite expanse away. Raven blue feathers smoulder and flew in innumerable directions, and chunks of flame, light, and flesh spiraled everywhere.
Agni concentrated, determined to banish this phantasm like the False God Mountain. The Zizu merely let out a mocking caw, and redoubled its efforts.
"This one is no figment, Flamelord. Brought direct from Zebus' great dark beyond."
Their two forms separated, briefly, and Agni felt at his wounds. They were smouldering, sputtering; they were not healing. He looked closer; they stank of death. The Zizu, it seemed, had taken more than just itself from Zebus' Twisting Nether. It had collected Zebus' essence of death from the plane, and as much as it pained the once-proud god to admit it, in this state, the creature was his equal. Well, almost his equal.
TASOE's cackling roused the god from his reflections.
There was a... sort of psychic rumbling, and a wealth of visions entered Agni's perceptions.
The 5 flights, scattered, losing battles to tides of Balor and Dragonspawn.
The lifeless husk of Thereus, a dormant skeleton locked deep beneath the Earth.
The spirit-stolen body of Onus, cracked and broken.
The halls of creation, forever fractured into a thousand thousand shattered ices.
And a sudden vision of Paren and the Agni'Vohda Scorch, locked in a deathmatch.
All across the land, there were mortal races that lived to curse the callousness of the gods. There were no peoples bettered by their influence. From Crown Valley to Foothill, to foreign lands, to giant Mangrove, to Arctic North; from Skymote to Ghaleb Dur depths -- wherever there was civilization, there was also the ruination of the divines, the cancerous touch of a god.
This was not a world worth living in. This was not a world worth fighting for. This was a world of malice and broken promises.
"Die" Spat TASOE. "Die without victory, the firstborn, lastdead echo of a meaingless existence."
~Inside the Mind of a God~
And Agni saw.
As his body tumbled towards the earth, grappling with, burning and being scratched into a thousand pieces by the talons of the final Godbeast, he saw in quick flashes the despair and pain of the world below, and knew in his core that these were not the decietful whispers of TASOE, but reality.
He saw the Azer, trapped beneath a lake of ice, fighting one another, strings pulled by malevolent entities from beyond this plane.
He saw the Dwarves, who believed themselves safe in their mountain homes, slowly being infiltrated by beings who thrived on pain and death.
He saw the Elves, their culture stagnating as conflicts rose between the four remaining kingdoms.
He saw the Nix, leaderless and lost.
He saw the Agni'Vohda, his first creations, cowering in their smoking and deformed volcano.
He saw the world turning to worship of Azgo.
Agni's flowing arms struck at the Zizu, burning off large swaths of feathers and charring the skin and muscle beneath, trying desparately to kill his foe despite the flashes of pain that came up to him from below. The two beings, evenly matched, fought and fell.
The Sun continued rising, punching a temporary hole through the 'sky' of the acid ocean, burning away foilage in the deadly forest, and bringing bright illumination to the dark cave before punching free into the Great Beyond. Morenth and the other dragons followed, herding Cantorix before them, trying to deal with his increasingly angry lunges and bellows.
And the sun continued to go... up.
The fight continued, Paren taunting Ka'Vah, and the other lashing out with increasing anger, but beings with nearly the powers of Gods could fight for a long, long time. And so they did, neither able to score a decisive blow against the other.
Paren, however, was confused and concerned. The early portion of this fight had been a desparate fight for Paren's own survival, with Ka'Vah's lifetime of combat giving him a distinct, and deadly, advantage. This latter portion had been... different. As if Ka'Vah was... distracted, just enough to make this a fair and even fight. Paren tried to press his advantage, looping and arcing, fighting and flying, dissapearing into a cloud of ash only to reform after Ka'Vah's attack had passed through the space where he just was. Paren trumpeted in joy as he once more managed to score a long line of red down the side of the smoke-serpent.
But it would not last. Somewhere deep within himself, Paren knew that eventually, Ka'Vah would recover. If not, this battle was going far too slowly, and the poison was creeping up his tail.
~ Confluence of the Gods ~
Azgo arrived to see... he wasn't quite sure. Agni floated, near motionless, in the air, next to the likewise still body of... an unknown god? Azgo couldn't be sure.
Swirling about them both was the storm of petals that had been his beacon to this remote place.
"You are late, firstsssssss." came the whispery voice of the Lord of Prophecy.
Sa sounded... frustrated? Outwitted? It was always hard to tell with that one.
"Have you ever fought one of the godbeastsssssss?"
~ The Mind of Agni ~
The Zizu broke off its furious assault, and began to circle, vulturine, as Agni continued to fall. The deeper his despair, the faster he crossed the infinite distance towards the yawning expanse of the earth.
He should give up. Embrace the sweet oblivion of death. All he had to do was close his eyes and fall.
((OOC: Because I can't colorize this font appropriately, just know that these are TASOE whispers, and not Agni's thoughts))
It would be... so easy.
Paren's tail felt sluggish, the ash moving in a torpor under the influence of Ka'Vah's poison. At the same time, it pulsed with its own rhythm, similar to how Paren's heart had beat once, when he had had a mortal body.
The fact that something was beating deep within his chest, pulsing in time with the poison was something Paren was explicitly trying to keep from his mind as he fought. No distractions, no second guessing, no TIME for any of that.
There was only time for instantanous thought and reaction as the two exarchs fought with blinding speed and precision, bodies of ash and smoke twisting into unnatural shapes that barely recalled the dragon and serpent that they were. Their forms flashed by one another, nearly touching, straining to hit with enhanced claws and teeth and magics. Around them, the storm of their fighting whirled with dark anger, spitting lightning at the fighting Craterspawn and Balor warriors, dealing indiscriminate death and incapacitation to both sides.
But neither appeared to be able to score a hit on the other. Eventually, one of them would make a mistake, but until that point, Paren realized, they would simply have to fight on.
~In the Mind of a God~
Agni fell, but as the Zizu broke away, the voice of TASOE grew... softer. Its weight still settled on Agni's thoughts like a heavy shroud, but while despair was still the primary emotion, the lessening of TASOE's influence allowed that despair to be joined by another emotion.
My siblings are dead. I have seen them, eaten by TASOE, living a half-life. I must avenge them.
The races of this world suffer under the assaults of TASOE. I must avenge them.
The suns of this world were snuffed and dark. I must re-
The Zizu slammed into him, talons gripping him and shoving him downwards. TASOE's voice roared in his head, driving out all thought.
DIE! The Spirits/Zizu screamed.
Agni hit the earth, and broke.
Paren suddenly felt as if a cold hand had gripped his soul, and for the briefest of moments, he faltered in a turn.
It was the opening that both sides had been waiting for. Ka'Vah lashed out, sinking his jaws deep into the chest of Paren and ripping out a large chunk of ashy matter.
Paren staggered backwards, knowing he was mortally wounded, feeling his body starting to shut down.
He had lost.
~Confluence of the (remaining) Divines~
Suddenly Agni began to move. His many eyes began to glow hot once more, and he spun to regard the still and floating God before him.
Begone, inferior shell. TASOE said, words sliding like an eel through the minds of Sa and Azgo.
Agni opened his mouths, and white-hot fire lanced into the comatose form before him. Within seconds, it was reduced to cinders. Agni/TASOE turned back towards Sa, and noticed Azgo for the first time.
Ah. I was wondering when you would arrive. You, who were my first and most perfect creation. You who have caused so much pain and suffering in this world. I am proud of you.
~The Great Beyond~
And in the darkness of the Great Beyond, three dragons herded a fourth, following an orb that seemed to keep traveling... up.
Azgo paused... no... he faultered. He had been ready for battle, ready to weild the power that had wounded and destroyed gods, rasied entire continents out of sheer will, nd endured suffering only a few entities could fathom let alone survive. He had been waiting for this moment, to end this comsic parasite and destroy the weakened Agni in the aftermath. He had been ready for war.
Was Agni dead? ...
Something told Azgo that he was not. No, Pruinus was not dead either... They were gone. Not dead, non-existant.
His grip loosened, and his weight was off-balance. With eyes both seeing and blind the Crowned in Blood stared into the pitch heart of something that no mortal could call a god and no god could call sibling. In all his pain, Azgo shuddered with a coil of repulsion that was not HATE... and not LOVE... but something even deeper than those... something so primal it was the backbone of divinity and mortality, the groundwork of creation. Its name was unknown to Azgo... but he had always known it...
And only in its wake did HATE arise and take control.
"... I.... I am no son of yours, Parasite! You insult the First with your very presence, and wound its memory! The First demands your annihilation, and I obey, as I always have."
Azgo tightened his grip, advancing slowly towards what felt like an abyss in the Plan. Creation had been waiting for this moment, all this time. This crossroads of truths and half-truths, shadows and flickering, dimming lights... and perhaps there was no truth... no, nothing at all. And that was the abyss... perhaps.
An indulgent laugh, wholy uncongruous with Agni's nature, rolled from the God.
My dearest child, who do you think you are speaking to? Whose drum do you think you have been marching to since the moment you crashed into this gloriously nihilistic experiment, screaming with the pain of your birth?
I am the FIRST.
A brief frown rippled across the many faces of the posessed god as it looked around at the knights who surrounded it. Its eyes met the 'core' of Sa's essence
Are these meant to scare me? I spent a long time preparing this body as my receptacle. I doubt those lances will pierce diamond.
Azgo stopped... staggering across the ground like a fledgling bird unfamiliar with the rididity of its legs. Blood seeped effortlessly out from his brow in streams that could drown herds of cattle. The Grand Scepter fell to the ground with a crash. The world spun in eldritch patterns, impossible patterns.
Azgo struggled to regain his sense of place... his sense of being. All the words of the First, verse after verse, chapter after chapter, volume after volume, library upon library... entire civilizations could not contain the words that Azgo had memorized and had not understood. And while he was drowning in words, Azgo could see... flecks of letters adrift in the currents. Like bubbles crashing against the rocky shores.
He mumbled... the god of HATE and LOVE who had commanded legions and sworn the strongest of oaths with his voice had been reduced to mumbling.
"Ex-expirment?... No, no. You lie, foreign spirits. I will not be tempted. The FIRST does not falter, and neither do I."
Azgo grabbed ahold of his maul, but he could not lift it. He couldn't concentrate... too many words... too many....
Falter? What a strange word for such a glorious result. This is no failure, Azgo. This is the culmination of the purpose for which I created this entire universe.
TASOE's voice took on a pedantic tone, as if explaining something to a particularly slow idiot who had then fallen on his head and gotten the wits knocked out of him.
My experiment, Child, was not one of whether or not I could succeed, for I was certain I could. No. My experiment tested the magnitude of my victory. I have caused such suffering on this world.
Flashes raced through the minds of Azgo and Sa: The suns being plucked from the sky, the Godbeasts, the insinuations and interference of his avatars.
One by one, the Gods of this world have wandered from their kin, wandered away from the safety and protection of each other, and in the dark silence of their lonliness. I was there.
Flashes of enslaved or dead Gods The Smith, a skeleton beneath the mountain, the Mountain, dead, but not before a life of slavery. Darkness itself, twisted and lined with green corruption. Corruption, laced with black darkness. The God Marcus, dead protecting Agni. Death himself, comatose in his palace Beyond the World. And Leaf, ash and dust, as his avatar Thorn stumbled across the tundra, rotting from within.
And where I was not, you were there, my Son. Fulfilling my will. Spreading my desires.
Flashes: The world suffering under the Craterspawn assault. The predations of the worshipers of Azgo. Pruinus, dying.
And now only the Petal-wisp remains. Come, Azgo. Let us kill the final godling, and bring all of this to a final Completion.
Azgo weeezed and heaved for breath, shaking on his knees. He felt himself almost unraveling... being stripped apart. The edges of his mind were growing dark.
"...No... No, the First did not create suffering... It hated suffering, as I have HATED it... suffering was a consquence of the Firstborn betrayal, a symptom of imperfection... I fought imperfection with imperfection, any ... suffering wrought on anyone was for good of the whole... Tens of thousands died so... so millions could live innocent of pain and sickness and deciet."
More and more words flooded his soul... countless words that made the stars envious in number. The names of every creature, the actions they would take and the consquences it would bring, the thoughts of the gods, the movement of every drop of water and every grain of sand in the wind. The nature of creation and destruction, existence and non-existence, the plan of all other creations, parallel in form and different. And every few thousand libraries a fleck of a letter fell off from its page, drifting away. In the sea of ink, pulsating with touch of TASOE, these flecks glowed with the gentleness of candlelight. They were forming something... swarming together...
Azgo's voice gained a new quality of strength, a hollow quality... duty to a god he had barely known. A god who had abandoned him. But it was a strength all the same. Black, vile organs shifted against the presence of TASOE. Every fiber was ready, begging for war. But the soul... the soul was so quiet, so alone...
"I suffered because the Firstborn hated... me, were jealous, greedy, callous... and ... foolish. And then ... I endured, for the FIrst gave me strength! I endured, for I am AZGO, THE TRUE HEIR! LIES DO NOT WEAKEN ME! THE TRUTH IS IN ME, FOR I WAS THE ONE WHO OBEYED!"
Azgo managed to stand to his feet, leaning heavily on nothing... his heads spinning with words and visions and growing darker. His armor was tattered and piecemeal, his maul still laying on the ground.
Oh yes. You obeyed. Like a little marionette on strings, you danced in response to my every action. You have seen the other Firstborn...
Agni spun in midair as if pushed by an unseen hand.
You have interacted with them on many occasions. Do you really still believe them capable of the things you claim of them? They could barely stand one another, and their 'solutions' were always ones of excess and overwhelming force, not the delicate and special care it took to force two beings into a single body. That took a skilled hand, a careful hand...
My hand. Look at the 'perfect plan' that I gave you long ago. Is it truly what you think it is? Or is it, too, designed to fail? Accept it, Azgo. I planned this from the start, and now, it reaches its final conclusion.
Within Az'go's fragile Psyche, a single image flashed briefly, then flashed again and again, one thousand flashes of infintisimal insight, a zoetrope of thought that forced its way to the forefront of his reeling mind by tenacity and sheer volume alone.
It was a simple image: that of a wilted lotus petal. In his more lucid moments, Az'go would recognize it as the Mark of Corruption he had bequeathed to the Petal-God Sa.
The litany of the god's name helped steady his mind. It had been so very long ago. Why had he given that enigmatic god such a token of his affection.
Sa. Sa. Sa.
It was a choice... no, that wasn't quite it. A promise. Of what once had been.
A promise of what could have been; Of two gods, whole and perfect.
A promise of what still might be.
What say you, lord of hatredsssssss?
I planned this from the start, and now, it reaches its final conclusion.
The perfect triumph of TASOE's crowing monologue, voiced through Agni's bellowing flames, was marred as six slender lances stabbed into his/it's body, easily penetrating the diamond exterior, and quickly fusing with the divine quintessence of both. For the lances were not meant for physical harm -- they had never been. For these lances, in truth, spokes of raw mana, were like nails in the coffin of an iron-maiden -- designed only to anchor the prisoner within the prison.
Then let Sa alone stand against your machinationsssssss. For Sa is not of your experimentsssssss, but of realmsssssss far beyond your machinationsssssss. Sa regretsssssss the sacrifice of the god of flamesssssss, but acknowledgesssssss it as part of necessary measuresssssss.
The Orihana Knights fled, their duty done, and Sa, Lord of Promise and Prophecy, Steward of Magic and Guest from Beyond, Sa alone stood defiant, untarnished by the influence of TASOE. Ten thousand petals spread to fill the space and so to, was Sa -- everywhere and nowhere.
On the ground, hands buried deep into the earth, Azgo wept as his hearts slowed in their beating. The agony, the churning and twisting of his flesh... the splitting, jagged bone and blighted marrow... the unquenchable fire in his blood that scalded and froze the tissue it contacted... the pain he had endured for eons, the pain that he had hated and loved... it was too much now. He could no longer control it... he didn't want to control it.
It had been worthless, for TASOE was truthful. Azgo knew. He had been...
All the people he had killed, the thousands he had slaughtered. Their corpses scattered across the feilds of blood to outnumber the maggots that feasted on them. The orphans, the windows, the widowers, the childless, the lonely...
The villages and the cities that he had crushed under heel. The host of civilizations devouted to his rival siblings that had once been gardened, pillared monuments not of astral glory, but of mortal cooperation in spite of hardship, in spite of imperfection, empty and ruined now. The shattered husk of imperfection's best attempt to make something from nothing...
The angelic abominations that encircled the sky, bound by flesh and bloodlust. Their souls and minds stripped to the very core and broken into feral monstrosities and bred in legions to rival the teardrops shed on the face of the world. Their lifelessness a mockery not of Leaf, but of purity and sanctity, irredeemable...
Azgo wept, shaking nd coughing as the agony gripped ahold of his lungs and crushed them. A sudden chill of memory, colder than the depths of the ether itself wormed up his spine. Azgo cried out, his voice broken as a man's... a mortal's... "Pruinus, forgive me. I... love you... more than anything..." And Azgo wimpered, for he knew that she could never hear him. He longed to cradle her, one last time. To crawl into her arms and perish. For she had never betrayed him... she was innocent. They were all innocent... Firstborn... Innocent... a second tremendous wave of pain forked through his body, not in the flesh but in the soul. Azgo... had betrayed them. He was the True Monster, the Murderer of Gods, the Dutiful Son. The First commanded, and he had obeyed. The First had abandoned him, the First had twisted him into... into this... this abomination of a god, a wound in creation. The First had never loved Azgo... never understood him. It had broken him, and he was worthless.
The flecks of the letters were floating in the sea of ink, moving across the thousands of faces of TASOE embedded in the shadows of the plutionian ichor that was the ink of the Plan. They swarmed around him, embracing him. The pain... it was too much. Azgo cried out, "Why, First? Why did you not love me?" Colors of the planet danced across even his blind eyes, drowned in the blackness of the ink. The Everlasting Volcanoe. The Crown. Long unbroken mountain chains. Lonely islands buffeted by the fingers of the sea. Blighted marshes and undergrowth corrupted into rot. The burning lands streaked with pitch and ash and littered with the bones of dragons. An empty garden with screaming flowers. Shades of life and death and movement. The calls of worship and praise, hailing the names of TASOE. All of creation spun and moved about Azgo. No single image or sound was left intact by the next. A cacophony of defeat, of worthlessness...
He felt himself falling, falling into the horrifying jaws of truth, crunching into the fiber of his former hopes, his convictions that had damned so many. His powers split like bursting membranes. His pain enraptured his entirty. His sense of self only lingered by in a purposeless stagger. He was lost, and his betrayer in everlasting victory. Guilt enwrapped his mind, and dragged The Blood Crowned into nothingness, promising him that there was nothing left at all. There was no hope. Azgo was the Betrayer.
"I'm am so sorry, my siblings, I am sorry for... everything. I... regret everything. Forgive me, siblings! Forgive me!"
The sea of ink poured out from his mind and into his eyes and his body, flooding his veins and muscles and cavities with the trillions of trillions of words written in moments. Azgo shuddered, and was still, tears of ink stained on his cheeks.
Azgo endured no longer.
Agni cursed as Sa dissapated.
Do you think that you can hide, Petal-wisp? Do you think that you can outrun the being who orchestrated all of creation? COME BACK HERE!
A wave of magma exploded from the mouths of Agni, sweeping outwards and striking at the dissapating flowers. Beneath the gathered Gods, the earth cracked and buckled, the magma beneath the earth forcing its way to the surface in an instant, sending red-hot rocks streaming into the atmosphere only to crash down all across the world within moments, setting fire to forests, destroying homes of stone and wood alike and devastating fields.
And the magma began to spread from the Crack in the World, flowing outwards...
"We're nearly there! Just a bit more! Morenth cried out, feeling more than seeing the distance between them and home shrinking.
2 AP: Mold land: A massive rent in the earth opens up and magma pours out.
20 AP Denourish... everything. Burning stones fall all over the world, causing untold amounts of destruction.
~The Crown Valley~
As stones and roiling lava tundered against the countryside, the humans of The Crown cried out, not in deliverence, but in rage. Here again was the baleful hand of the gods. Where was Artun, their patron, silent for countless millenia?
Ancient structures of a long-decrepit civilization shattered amidst the storm of molten rain, leaving nothing but dust and rotting phantasms.
~The Western Contintent~
The great rain of chaos struck across the globe, and even here, on the far edge of the opposite side of the world, the wrath of TASOE was felt. Throngs of Az'go's faithful took to the streets; some chanted, seeking solace in this age of endings, others simply pillaged and looted, with Az'go's name a thankful charm, blessing the panic. But regardless their intent, prayers they were, and so were delievered to the god of Hate and Love.
~The Frigid North~
The Northern Light shone silver in warning as the storm of burning rock battered the glaciers and sundered the perfect surface of the icy tundra.
The elves halls had long been vacant, and their thrones of ice and furs whithered, cracked, chipped, and was washed away by TASOE's assault.
One does not hate the sword for cutting.
We forgive you.
Paren gasped a final gasp, and felt his conciousness fading as his death raced closer and closer. Thoughts became sluggish, his perception of the outside world grew dim and dark as he watched Ka'Vah give a triumphant and exuberant bellow of victory. Paren's mind thought about the other dragons, hoped they would be safe and return the sun to the heavens, and knew, as the thought dripped molasses-slow through his psyche, that it would be up to them to finish this particular fight... somehow. With that thought finished, Paren simply... let go.
And in letting go, let something else free. Locked deep within Paren's body and mind, the 'gift' of Azgo finished gestating and broke free once the exarch's mind failed.
A Rhemoraz head, lined with the corruption of the One-Who-Is-Both-Love-And-Hate, burst forth from the chest of Paren, teeth sinking into a surprised and unprepared Ka'Vah. The Eclipse Aflame lashed out with all of its might, sending poison and death into the still-emerging Rhemorhaz. Both beast and exarch cried out in pain as their respective poisons worked on one another, feeding off of each other's corrupted essence and growing stronger and stronger. Around them, the storm grew stronger and stronger, feeding on their rage as the two combatants struggled to kill the other before they themselves were killed. As both, mortally wounded, began to die, their bodies were ripped apart by the storm, both preventing the other from escaping.
And then, both were gone, their bodies ripped apart by the stormwinds. But the storm did not die. Within the storm, the conciousnesses of the Rhemorhaz and Ka'Vah raged on, attacking each other with lightning and thunderous roars.
So the storm continued, moving at a glacial pace across the landscape as the essences of Beast and Destroyer continued to fight. Beneath them, their fury was visited to the land itself in the form of torrential rains, hurricane winds and flashing lightningbolts. Woe to any in their path.
4 AP: Command... Atmosphere: The Everstorm is born. A slow-moving hurricane that travels a few feet per day and visits absolute devastation on anything beneath it. We're talking 200 MPH winds, a foot or more of rain a day, and lightning... all over the place. The only real option when it comes towards you is to simply get out of the way... and stay out of the way for the next few decades.
Prayers move not dead gods.
And Azgo... was unmoved. The pleas of the hopeless, the thanks of the brutal, the demands of the confused, the curses of the angry... they fell on deaf ears. The Crowned in Blood had been striped of his sovereignty, and the blood with which he proved his authority had been replaced with the ichor of empty, deceitful words. Ink continued to pour out of the corpse, staining the battleground a penetrating plutonian black. All was still, unmoving and permanent... as TASOE knew it would be. It had tried, but Azgo had been made to be weak... to be... fragile. He was broken. Gone.
It was a powerful word, not for its letters, and not for its ink, but for the omen it symbolized and the power vested in its hope and hopelessness. For while Azgo was gone... an essence was not. This essence was only mostly dead... gliding smoothly across the back currents of pain and death into the oblivion that shut its gates to all mortalkind. The final abyss...
Stirring. Something stirred, refusing to die and knowing that it would have to. It wormed and writhed across the vast emptiness untill years, nay, centuries had passed within the void. As the deaceds passed upon the sea of ink, calm now with the rest of dead hearts, flecks of letters sparkled in the dark. And not knowing why, the boatman laboured across the seas of fading emptiness to collect them as they floated. They were trinkets really... flashes of light in a dark, dark place. A soft spot on sore eyes, not that it mattered. In the face of oblivion, nothing really mattered. But it was... comforting to collect them regardless, if only to embrace that tiny sliver of light.
In their own way, they were painful to collect, for shards of memory were woven into those lights, were their source. The pain made them brighter in the swallowing darkness.
The first time Azgo had looked on Pruinus' face. The words of an old, timeless prayer. The caress of the sun on his peeling, wretched skin. A few, brief moments when the pain was... managable, pleasantly distant. A look of respect... understanding, in Paren's eyes.
The essence sighed, feeling itself dying. There was nothing left. Nothing to turn back to, no home. There had never been a home really. TASOE... TASOE had one. There was little anger in the essence, little hate or love. Just... exhaustion. It had been living far longer than it should have. The essence gathered up the letter flecks, embracing them tightly in a wreath of light... the only light... in the darkness. The only comfort in a cold ocean of ink. It squeezed tighter and tighter, getting ready to let go... of more than just the light. It was time...
The essence paused... and with one last ounce of strength, drank in the pain of the flecks as well as the sweetness, the warmth. But underneath the arms, as the result of one last clutch for comfort, the flecks of light and letter did something they had never done in all the years adrift. They swarmed together once again. The essence cowered in fear, not knowing what to expect.
It was a message. A message that Azgo could never hear. A message that was as against Azgo as... betrayal was. A simple message. The essence opened its eyes, struggling to read in the sudden shower of light that nearly blinded it. The light was as harsh as steel, and soft as the petals of a lotus.
The essence stared at the word, lost. A... begining? A begining of what? No, no... it was too late for beginings. TASOE had made the begining, and now it was an end...
The essence paused again, feeling something so small that it could not compare to the sliver of a shadow of a hairsbreadth. But it was something... new. No, not new.
The light intensified and so too did the feeling. The essence looked around, frightened... and enraptured. All that it had known was darkness. The darkness of TASOE's Plan, which had covered the entirity of the void in irreversible blackness. And this blackness, it was too sick to cure, to dark to remove. It was permanent. But this light, it did not cover the blackness, it did not banish the darkness. It remade the void in its image. The darkness was not being destroyed, but made anew. What had been a speck was now the shimmering of all the stars in all the world and more. It was beautiful... it was new. The essence suddenly dove into the light, and was drown in a sea not of ink but lucid astral crystal. And reflected in that crystal, the joyfuly weeping essence saw something, saw a thousand copies of it. A promise of what could have been; Of two gods, whole and perfect.
A new HATE. HATE not of imperfection and disloyalty to the FIrst, but of all the wickedness and cruelty it embodied and cast into the world, of its betrayal of him and the mortals for amusement.
A new LOVE. LOVE not of the First, but of everything it was not, of the power of mortals despite the Plan, of the glories and pains of life that gave it value and the choices that gave it meaning.
The corpse of Azgo moved. The continual pouring and seeping of ink rushed with the pressure of something NEW inside of it, beyond it. The corpse violently shook, the bones rattled in their place, the muscles vibrated, and then the seams that had kept all the pain and misery and sickness of the old world split apart never to be mended as they were consumed in a colorless, translucent fire. Deep from within the god-corpse, a pair of lights flared into existence. These blazes of creation, of brilliant kaleidoscope colors, orbited one another in an intricate dance of birth and purpose. Their light intermingled as they drew close to one another, racing to the echo of TASOE's unshakable laughter out from the old flesh which was now burning. They did not speak to each other, but simply understood the other in the sense that only gods could. United.
Two new gods, bathed in crystal color and majestic swathes of noble white stepped out and unto the battlefield. The ground trembled with the power of a godcrater, the force of a divine meteor and a new creation.
"That which you have made, We have made again." The voice was strong as the roar of a thousand storms, cold as the ether's touch, and pitiless. It was confident, proud, and so alien from the world it echoed as if it did not belong in this anceint land of pain and bloodshed.
"This is not the begining of the end. It is the end of the begining." The voice was soft as flowing water from a woodland spring, sweet and rugged as the honey of the wild lowlands, and patient. It was wise, unyeilding in direction, and also so alien that it heralded an endtime simply by its presence.
"For You may be the First..." The former voice challenged.
"But it is We who are the Last!" The latter voice finished.
The ground heaved and shook with the birthpains of creation as the twin deities stepped forward.
Ascend gods: Azazel, originaly the god of HATE of all things evil, is now the god of LOVE of all things imperfect. Go'El, originaly the god of LOVE of everything of the First, is now the god of HATE of everything wicked and cruel.
Ascend Pantheon: The Last ( a combination of Azazel and Go'El working in perfect harmony)
Abandon Domains: Pestilience, Suffering, Wrath, Endurance
Claim Domain: Rebirth
Current Domains: Love, Hate, Rebirth
Destroy Artifact: The Deicidal Taint, The Apostate's Bane, The Royal Scepter
Abjure Region (10 AP) : Everything whithin a 100 mile radius of the current fight between Azazel, Go'El, and TASOE.
All was dark. Agni was on the ground.
Somewhere, far above, Agni could hear the Zizu swooping down to end this last spark. It seemed far too much work to dodge or get out of the way. Better, then, to simply let it come.
But as Agni watched, the omnipresent haze of this mental realm solidified into binding tendrils, swiftly ensnaring the Zizu, and simultaneously muffling its cries of outrage.
The god-spark blinked. Haze? He peered closer. Since the very beginning, this space had been suffused with petals, dancing shapes always dancing too far out of perception to make out. But now they had acted, had, in a single, long-planned trapped, cornered the Zizu and saved Agni's essence.
"It isssssss not too late, lord of flamesssssss."
Suddenly, TASOE spoke, in words that were not its own.
"Promise seekersssssss. Eliminate the last of these abominationsssssss!"
Through the air of burning petals, Azael and Go'el watched as TASOE/Agni struggled against some great compulsion, like a very angry marionette on a hidden puppeteer's last frayed strings. But then a threshold was reached, and TASOE/Agni swept forward, expelling a battered and dazed Zizu upon the earth once more.
This task complete, the petals withdrew, coalescing into a more tangible body of flowers, though it was clear to all involved that it had lost a great deal of mass.
"Let usssssss end thisssssss."
"Let us... begin."
The twins surged forth, transforming mid-flight from near mortal bodies to a swirling, luminecent comet rocketing upward. Fierce, lashing winds covered the battleground in its wake and broke open the mountains of clouds gathered above the battlefield in awe. The battered Zizu was struggling to stand when a ring of translucent fire bursted from the ground around it. Waves of heat, with all the intensity of the Eternal Volcano, and riptides of cold, to rival the Crown's tallest peaks, blasted the creature from every side. And for every second that passed, the fire's touch grew harsher.
The Zizu, hysterical and agonized, attempted to fly upwards and away from the fire, only for the ring to rush inward and upward. The ring had become a vortex pillar of mirrored flame, and it erupted skyward with no signs of stopping and no signs of releasing the Zizu from its clasp.
The twins, on the very edge between the world and the embrace of the ether, stopped, suspended. A fraction of time slipped away. They nodded to the other, and then fell back to earth. The comet had brightness of a falling star, and a tail that spanned the tip of the world down to its crust.
Within full view of the battlefield, the blazoned pillar and the astral comet kissed for the briefest of moments. And then the comet pierced right through the pillar, imploding it in a stormcloud of fire. Suddenly the gods were soaked in light, and the comet landed where the Zizu had emerged. The continent shook, and the rugged stone beneath them shattered. Dust rose from the ground, and fire fell from the sky as a brilliant fallout.
A NEW birth. The Twincrater.
When the light finally seeped away, and only the colored embers of a great fire danced across the breezes, a flock of great birds flew out from the crater. They were the reflective, though gleams of color rippled across their feathers every few minutes, and they had a girth to rival dragons. They soared out of the sunken land, and each of them looked back only once. This was a battle between the gods, and they would be wise to leave.
The Last stood at the base of the crater, wreathed in mirrored feathers and falling fire.
"It has begun" they whispered.
But did it matter? Agni looked up from where he lay, broken by the attack of the Zizu. Sa had, somehow, managed to save him from his more immediate demise, dragging the monster away to somewhere else. Agni was thankful, to be sure, but couldn't move a single part of his body, pain radiating throughout his entire form and dimming his vision whenever he tried to do more than lie still and breath shallowly. Far above, he could see the spirits of TASOE, ignoring him as they interacted with the world beyond his own mind. He had already tried the advice of the mysterious woman, imagining himself healthy and well, but this time the damage was far more pervasive, affecting his soul itself. And so Agni despaired. He was out of immediate danger, but there seemed no way to regain control of his mind.
TASOE roared at the defeat of his final servant, and sent Agni's body careening towards the twins, shoving aside Sa and sending the weakened God tumbling in a flurry of petals.
I was your beginning, and I will be your end. And after you are dead, the world itself will rot. Die, shorn from one another, you miserable worms! The god roared, diamond body slamming into Azazel and driving the god backwards, leaving deep furrows in the earth as the embattled Twin tried to resist. Finally, Go'El arrived, sending a shard of bright energy into TASOE and pushing the god away. TASOE spun in the air and began to descend for another attack.
Within Agni's mind, all began to grow dark, the light of Agni's spirit being slowly extinguished by what looked like tiny wisps of smoke that danced and cavorted through the landscape, pausing and ripping away a portion of sky or land or water, leaving a dark hole where before had been light. For now, they avoided his body, but it was merely a matter of time.
Go'El cried out in pain as a lashing cord of magma leaped out from one of TASOE's many mouths, gripping the god by a leg and sending it tumbling. Go'El stumbled to her feet as Azazel landed to defend her, a spear of dark energies appearing in his hand and streaking out towards TASOE, who spun out of the way before opening his many mouths and unleashing a torrent of steaming, putrid ichor-acid that narrowly missed the scrambling-away Twins. Where the acid hit the earth, the stones themselves bubbled and melted.
Darkness reigned, and Agni watched, horrified, as the dark smoke-beings began to climb over his body.
My siblings... I have failed. I am sorry. He thought to himself, waiting for the end.
The fabric of the plane rippled around the sun, and Morenth cried out: "HOLD ON!" as their bodies seemed to twist and distort -
Suddenly, the Dragons awoke in their own bodies, all save for The White, whose body remained frozen, as if stone. Cantorix roared and bellowed in confusion and anger, lashing out at the other dragons, almost ripping one of Morenth's wings before the Red could scramble out of the way. Trumpeting in alarm, she shoved open the doors to the stormy oceans and flew outwards to behold the seventh and final sun rising into the heavens.
A tiny spark of light flared in the darkness, streaking through the ruins of his spirit and landing on his chest, and moments later the amulet grew warm on the body of Agni. Suddenly, a blaze of light scattered the smoke-beings, many of them crying out in tiny voices as the light ripped them into pieces. Around the god, the light shone like a beacon, illuminating him in dazzling white. On his chest, the amulet of the dragon glimmered in all of the shades of color imaginable, and at its center, the dragon in the amulet raised its head and roared. Agni's body dissapeared in a twinkling of light, which rapidly reformed itself into a massive dragon the color of all the shades of the rainbow. Agni the Dragon raised his head to stare at the Spirits that controlled him far above, and took flight.
It was too much. Azazel and Go'El fought TASOE, each trying their hardest to find an advantage over the posessed Agni, but TASOE had spoken the truth. In Agni, he had created the perfect vessel: forged in the impossible pressures of the Behemoth's wrath, Agni's body was harder than diamond, and able to summon forth dauntingly large amounts of power and channel it through his perfected frame. Go'El grunted in disbelief as another shard of light seemed to simply shatter against the side of the God, and she dropped down to where her twin was waiting.
We need to be more clever about this. She said, looking upwards.
Agni struck like a bird of prey, climbing high above TASOE and diving down in silence, intending to grab the lead spirit by the throat and end its life quickly, but just as his mouth opened to bite, the spirit spun impossibly quickly and knocked Agni aside, sending the dragon tumbling into a group of lesser spirits. Shocked, Agni managed to snatch one of them, which looked like a cross between a snake and a diseased swan, as he passed, biting down and dissolving the spirit into a puff of noxious miasma. The dragon grimaced at the taste, belching a ball of fire to burn it from his mouth, and glared at the Spirits.
Let us end this, Evil Ones. Agni said as the Lead Spirit gestured to a number of its companions, and they broke off, descending to do battle as their leader turned to deal with the outside world once more. Agni watched them come, diseased amalgams of animals and sentient beings who squaked and croaked and hissed dozens of battle cries. When they grew close enough... he attacked.
Azazel tumbled backwards, hit by a ball of obsidian that had launched from the body of TASOE and caught him squarely in the chest. The God tensed, waiting for a follow-up attack that he knew was coming...
Instead, he managed to right himself without incident, and looked backwards at TASOE, who seemed momentarially frozen in place. Not one to give up an advantage, regardless of its source or duration, Azazel summoned forth rippling balls of black power and sent them shooting into TASOE, sending the Evil god tumbling and slamming into the earth. He chased after his foe, sensing more than seeing his Twin falling into position next to him. Twin bolts of Black and White, they launched themselves at TASOE.
It was too much. Even with his new form, Agni was so very, very tired. His spirit and soul had been bruised and battered by his long (Decades? Years? Days? Minutes?) battle with his posessor, and there was only so much an extrinsic source could do to supplement that. TASOE still held tight control of the Source of All Fire, cutting Agni off from its powers. But Agni knew that if he stopped fighting, there would not be another chance. And so he lashed out with tooth and claw and billowing fire, rending and burning his way through the spirits before him. His claws grabbed and ripped apart a rabbit, whose single eye hung precariously from its socket as it tried to bite him with filed teeth. His breath caught a moose, whose antlers writhed with parasites, sending the spirit tumbling away into the Greater Darkness that still surrounded the combatants. And yet, they kept coming... and Agni was being pushed back. He needed...
They struck with fury and force, their impact shaking the earth as they, in unison, hit TASOE. The God roared in pain and annoyance, and a wave of heat shoved both of them back as TASOE rose from the earth.
Enough Games, Children. Die, Cold and Afraid, you pathetic excuses for Gods!
Suddenly, the entire inner world seemed to ripple and warp, and the spirits cried out in pain and surprise. Agni took advantage of their momentary distraction, surging forward out of the cloud of lesser Spirits and pushing himself towards where their leaders still looked out at the world. As he approached, two huge bear-like creatures, yet with feathers for fur and scorpion tails, turned, opened their mouths, and spat a black, thick acid towards him. Agni twisted, but still felt a light spray of the stuff hit one of his back legs. Pain lanced through him, but, remembering the lessons of the mysterious woman, he willed the pain away. One of the bear-things blinked in surprise as Agni raced forward and gripped it by its neck, twisting and pushing off of its body with his feet, ripping out the throat of the massive monster, who fell away, already disintegrating into smoke and miasma. The other defender hissed at him, a snake's tongue emerging from its mouth as it struck at Agni with its tail. Agni twisted and, as the tail sailed inches away from his body, struck with his claws, cutting through the diseased spirit-flesh and sending the stinger tumbling. The Bear roared in pain, and Agni somersaulted in mid-air to land squarely on the feathered back before blasting the creature's head with a blaze of fire, cooking the brain. Agni let go, and the monster fell like a stone. Confirming that the lesser spirits remained far below, Agni continued upwards. The lead spirit looked down, then gestured to a subordiate to take its place before dropping downwards, body changing as it fell. Agni stopped and watched in horror as the spirit expanded and elongated, becoming a massive armored serpent who stared out at him from large blood-red eyes. Without saying a word, the Worm attacked, and Agni was forced to give ground, strugging to strike back as the worm twisted and attempted to crush him within its coils. Agni cursed as his fire was diverted around the armored scales, leaving a charred mark on the shining scale itself, but no evidence of any actual damage.
And yet, the Worm seemed weak, somehow. Sluggish. Agni could not kill it, but neither could it catch him. Agni caught, from the corner of his eye as he twisted out of a trap of coils, a furtive signal from the Worm to his minions above. Agni saw them burst into renewed action, and knew that something was about to happen.
Go'El pushed herself up from the earth, head ringing from the burst of light from TASOE. She shook it a few times and got her bearings. She stood at the base of the Twincrater, and... TASOE and Azazel were nowhere to be seen! She launched herself up into the sky, spun, and caught sight of TASOE pushing an overwhelmed Azazel before it, driving it northwards. Go'El took off in persuit, racing behind them and straining to catch up. Before them, the mountains of the Crown pushed upwards from the earth, and TASOE barreled towards them. With a loud rumble, TASOE drove Azazel against the stone of the mountains, and the mountain shook and cracked from the impact. As she raced ever closer, Go'El watched in horror as TASOE began to... feed. Streams of power twisted off of the body of Azazel, who squirmed in an attempt to break free. As the power reached TASOE, it twisted its way into one of the God's eye sockets. Roaring in anger, Go'El slammed into TASOE, who laughed, and, letting a weakened Azazel slide down the mountainside, reached out with arms of stone to hold Go'El close.
And here, in my embrace, you will die. TASOE whispered to her as her power began to leech from her body and enter his. Go'El gasped in pain as she felt herself becoming... lesser.
Agni struggled with the serpent, waiting for whatever the lesser spirits were doing to come to fruition. Eventually, he sensed it. A wave of invigorating power coming from... somewhere else. Not even thinking about it, Agni closed his eyes...
...and reappeared directly in front of the beam, which struck him a moment later, filling his body with overwhelming powers of Love and Hate.
I can't believe it. Az'Go was right all along! He thought to himself, feeling and understand the powers of Go'El and Azazel flowing through him. Beneath him, the Worm roared in shock and surprise, racing upwards to attempt to sieze the power back. But Agni was more concerned that the power kept coming. Looking to his side, he saw the Spirits that controlled his body, and he launched himself into them, lashing out with shards of white and black energy mixed with fire and plasma, driving the spirits away... and he felt control of his body returning to him.
Suddenly, TASOE/Agni let go, the stream of power from Go'El to him cutting off in moments. Go'El, weak and drained, hovered warily as her Twin approached. The greenish tinge to Agni's eyes and mouth faded, and the god's voice came to them.
Siblings. I am, for the moment, at least, back in control of my body, although for how long I cannot say. You must destroy me.
Azazel shook his head. Agni, we cannot. This fight has left us both drained, mere shades of what we once were. Even at our full strength, we were barely capable of wounding your form. The stuff you are made of... it is too strong to break.
Agni frowned. This is dire news. TASOE remains inside me, and draws closer. I will not be able to retain control beyond a few more seconds before I must return to the fight within me. At that point, I fully expect one of the leader's deputies to regain control of my body and continue the attack on both of you.
Go'El spoke. Is there any way you can weaken your body from the inside, Agni? Perhaps working together-
Agni cut her off. Forgive me for interrupting, but It is nearly here. Such a way does not exist, however that has given me an idea. Whether I succeed or fail, I suspect this will be the last time I will speak to either of you, so let me say to you both that I am sorry that I doubted Az'Go, as he was right. Forgive me, and watch over this place. It will need a careful hand to guide it as it heals from all that we have inadvertantly done.
With that, Agni's eyes grew dull, and the Twins knew that he had returned to his fight.
As the Worm approached, Agni spun and dove directly down, twisting through the coils of the Worm and heading for the 'surface' far below. The Worm bellowed in surprise, and turned to follow, but Agni, enhanced with the powers of Go'El and Azazel, was fast enough to stay just ahead of the angry spirit. Like a burning spear, the dragon slammed into the earth, plunging deep into it. Pain radiated through him as he felt his dragon's bones breaking, but just as he thought he had failed, as his forward momentum slowed, a burst of magma pushed him upwards, the power of the Source of All Fire welling within him, burning away the dragon but, somehow, keeping Agni present and filled with power. He gestured, and the entire surface beneath him buckled and exploded upwards, a wave of magma sweeping towards the sky, catching lesser spirits up in it and burning them to cinders. Agni and the Worm rode the wave upwards, the Worm grunting as it was moved against its will.
Suddenly, Magma burst from every mouth, every eye of Agni, cooling and dropping to the earth far below in a rain of obsidian. Go'El and Azazel watched as the rate of flow grew stronger, and the Magma grew hotter.
Agni gestured to the air itself, and the air warped and melted, and the Source of All Flame entered in through the heavens, pressing down from the sky and sandwitching Agni and the Worm, along with a few of the other more powerful and resiliant spirits, between two layers of fire. From above and below, the Source continued to pour into Agni, the barriers that the God had put in place at his birth ripped free.
We Die Together, TASOE. Agni said, grunting and pulling more Fire towards him. The pressure crecendoed.
As the magma poured out, it soon became apparent that it was slowly sealing off the orifices of the God, encasing his eyes and mouthes with more of the same crystaline stuff that made up the rest of his body. Soon, the magma stopped flowing, and the crystalization began to move inwards, the magma receding as the crystalization began in earnest, transforming the entire body of Agni into a crystaline ball of impossible strength.
Agni felt his essence seeping away into the Source, returning to where it had been drawn long ago. As his conciousness flickered and faded, he distinctly saw and felt others in the fire, reaching up and calling out his name, welcoming him home with cries of happiness. And so he let go, leaving the Worm to rage impotently, trapped within an inescapable prison of his own making.
But before he went... there were three things he still needed to do. He cast his mind outwards.
~Above a Raging Storm~
Paren blinked in suprise, unsure of how he was now hovering above a massive, angry storm. He had... died. He was quite certain of that, actually. He distinctly remembered the Rhemoraz ripping free of his ashen form and ending him, and yet...
here he was.
And here I am too. A voice said within his mind. Paren started. Who is that? he asked warily.
My name is Scorch, the voice said. I was trapped within Ka'Vah. I was his core, you might say.
A figure appeared in the mind of Paren. An Agni-Vohda. I see.
Suddenly, a deeper voice spoke to both of them.
Paren. Scorch. You who both worked to stem the flow of destruction unleashed by the Gods and TASOE. I have given you new life. Go forth and take care of your people, and know that you have my thanks...
Agni's voice diminished and faded, and Paren waited to see if his God would speak to him again... but only silence greeted him. Somehow, Paren knew that this time, the first time he had spoken to his Creator, would also be his last. And so, with Scorch in his mind, the Defender of Dragons raised wings of fire, and flew away from the Storm.
Agni floated over the world, and stilled the flow of magma on the surface while also putting out the fires that had started from the rain of magma. Agni smiled. It was good.
~The Obsidian Mountain~
And finally, Agni returned to his body, his awareness nearly gone. He twisted like a wind around both Azazel and Go'El, and both heard a faint Farewell before the Orb before them shot upwards, bursting into fire as it joined the other suns above.
And with that, Agni was no more.
1 AP: Command Land: One of the mountains of the Crown becomes the Shattered mountain, and is laced throughout its entire structure by large chasms and cracks from when TASOE knocked Azazel into it.
1 AP: Command Land: The Obsidian Mountain: A pile of obsidian stones that is as tall as a mountain. The remnants of Agni's sacrifice.
5 AP: Command Destruction: The devastation of the land ceases (although nothing is restored... just nothing else is getting destroyed).
3 AP: (Re)-Ascend Exarch: Paren and Scorch are joined and fused into a new draconic exarch, who now has wings of fire (but is not a phoenix :D)
3 AP: Create Artifact: The Final Sun. Agni's body, now a Sun. Periodically, it releases significantly more heat than it should as it vents residual energies from its creation. At these times, it creates a season called 'Summer.'
2 AP: Partial Deascend of Azazel and Go'El, making them significantly weaker than before.
3 AP: Full Deascend Agni. Agni returns to the Source of All Flame, and is lost.
Petals drifted lazily under the new light of the seventh sun. Sa's petals were tattered, but still whole enough to float along the newly Summer winds.
The flower-god was gorged to bursting with quintessence, and no wonder -- through it's actions, Sa had once more given the entire world a promise. A world without TASOE meant a promise of a future. It would be hard, and it still yet might come in blood, but the mortals of the realm would recover, expand, and endure.
Sa drifted once more to the Crown Valley, amongst the first flowerbeds in that ancient cradle of human history. It was here where Sa had entered the world, and it was here that Sa would leave it -- for just as a promise had drawn Sa here, even now there were murmurs of promises from dozens of other worlds, shielded from all but those who cared to listen for them. So Sa had journeyed for eons, a traveler between worlds, and so Sa would continue.
There was a final sussuruss as the lord of flowers and magic slipped between the dimensions, a final message to those who might be listening:
Unascend God: Sa leaves the world in the same way in which it entered, venturing to parts and worlds unknown. It sends a final goodbye to Azazel and Go'el.
"... Farewell" they whispered, for a whisper was all they could bear. Pain ravaged their souls, and echoed in the hollowness of their stripped power. TASOE had taken so much from them... The vibrancy of the world was dim to thier eyes, its movements were sluggish and distorted. They tried to steady themselves, balancincing on each other at the base of the Twincrater. And as the world seemed sluggish, so too did they feel restrained, fettered by the impossibilities of the past.
Azazel stretched out her hand, feeling shreds of power fall from her fingertips like sprinkled rain. The ground shook, but that was all. Go'El motioned at the wind to draw up a hurricane, and a cool breeze swept over the crater. Their arms trembled with burning strain before they collapsed, exhausted. What had been so... natural, so quick, easy, so powerful was now gone into the darkness of the ether. The world was so dark... so quiet... and they were afraid as they slinked together like worms at the depths of a tremendous lake of prehistoric titans of the sea. What was it like... for gods to fall? For order to bend its knee to chaos?
For truely, They were The Last of the gods. Last of the Old.
And while they wept for their loss, they could not help but smile. Things could be reborn. The world could be new... No, no it couldn't. But it could be NEW.