Book 6, Chapter 23

Neutral To The Gods

“Lutheris has a bastard child too,” Richard commented.

Ptolemy nodded in response, “When I still held my post, I heard rumours that the God of War had some secret projects similar to the Valley of Darkness.”

“Oh? Any others?”

The former pope frowned, “It was a long time ago… Luna, perhaps, and maybe Cerces, I’m not certain…”

“These four… Such an annoyance,” Richard shook his head, causing Ptolemy to look at him strangely. Despite being betrayed by his master, the old man had once been a pope who held the gods upon the highest of pedestals. And yet, Richard was committing heresy as though it was completely natural.

“Just four gods, it’s not like we’d be fighting all of Faelor,” Flowsand shrugged, “We still have time, don’t we?”

“Hmm… You’re right. But… one moment,” Richard relaxed and started walking around the room. Flowsand stayed quiet to give him some space, allowing him time to think over the major decision, while Ptolemy and Bruno exchanged glances.

A few minutes later, Richard suddenly came to a halt and sighed, “I’ll be coming to Faelor much more often, won’t I…”

Flowsand smiled, “As you should. Now, what do we do with this place?”

“Dig it up, of course. We’ll take away everything of value here, let’s see if Neian has the guts to reveal what he was doing himself.”

Bruno, Ptolemy, and the few other old men started shaking at the mere prospect of what was being discussed. The former pope coughed, “Forgive me, but I have to remind you that taking away the source of the Valley of Darkness will make you an eternal enemy of the God of Valour. I do not know what the item is, but it is certainly beyond the seven sacred artefacts of Neian.”

“Why would you think that?” Richard asked.

“As the pope, I had the right to use any of the seven artefacts as I wished. However, I wasn’t even told anything about what is hidden in the Valley of Darkness.”

Richard smiled in response, “Well, that makes me want to dig deeper. Now,” he cut off the man who was about to respond, “Do you have any suggestions for these prisoners? Something to restore their mind or the like. Well… outside of killing them.”

Bruno and Ptolemy exchanged glances once more and the former spoke up, “I cannot think of anything. Those of true faith managed to resist the weathering of our minds, but all such people are gathered here. The rest were merely commoners, their souls did not have such strength… Even many of the ones that are still conscious are only so because the demigods wanted some playthings.”

Richard silently looked towards Nyra, who shook her head as well. He sighed with disappointment, only a trace of hope left in his voice, “Can we at least leave them here?”

“You must have seen the numerous undead creatures in the semiplanes, corpses animated through planeshades?” Nyra answered with a question.

“Yes…” Richard’s eyes narrowed into slits as he realised what was coming.

“Ignore them, and this valley will be overrun by zombies within the week. Forgive me, there is no other choice,” Nyra said softly.

“Sigh, alright.” Richard frowned, his fingers starting to twitch subconsciously.

“No, have the broodmother do it. She is good at such tasks, her workers can kill as necessary.”

“That…” Richard didn’t agree immediately, instead contacting the broodmother mentally.

“No need to worry, Master,” she answered, “Even if I were hungry, I would never eat those things. Those are worse for me than dirt!”

“… Sigh, alright. Get started.”

“Of course, I promise I won’t miss even one. But that wing shard in your hands…” Her voice was full of desire.

“Of course.”

……

It didn’t take more than a few minutes for those present in the cabin to hear a loud buzz outside in the Valley of Darkness. The first to arrive was a cloned brain, one that was specifically designed for speed. This drone was thrice as fast as the other cloned brains, but only had a tenth of the intelligence. As Richard headed out, it picked up the broken wing he offered it and flew back to the Land of Turmoil at a breakneck pace.

It was at this point that someone screamed inside the cabin, “What is that?!”

Both Bruno and Ptolemy rushed out, frightened by the sight of large insects that were two metres long flying down from the clouds. In just a few seconds the entire sky seemed to be covered by them, making the dozen-odd people inside and outside the cabin seem fragile.

Richard was quite surprised as well; the broodmother had sent almost 10,000 worker drones! Regardless of their poor individual might, this sort of quantity had a great visual impact. He glanced at the Church of Pain in the distance, knowing that those black bricks of pain would be extremely valuable back in Norland, “Take all of that away.”

Countless worker drones flew up and rushed towards the Church of Pain, showing remarkable discipline as they disassembled it brick by brick. Their powerful blades rarely even nicked the bricks they were picking up.

“So…” Richard turned back to Bruno and Ptolemy, “What happens to your faith?”

Ptolemy smiled, “How could I have faith in someone who built this place? I was once a fanatic follower of Neian, but He abandoned me.”

Bruno looked straight into Richard’s eyes, “What do you want us to do? Honestly, we are no different from trash right now.”

“Hmm… I hope for a comprehensive and systematic study of the gods of Faelor, not from the perspective of a worshipper or a heretic but from that of someone completely neutral to it all. You can even imagine you would be looking down upon the gods.”

“That… It would be an enormous humiliation!” Bruno gasped. His ambition in studying the laws of Neian were to try and force him to fall and instate a new God of Valour instead. Divine domains were relatively fixed, so a new god would take over a fallen one’s post or it would be shared amongst the remaining gods. On the other hand, Richard’s request here would be opposite to the will of the entire pantheon.

Richard understood Bruno’s intentions but he just chuckled, “It might be a little blasphemous, but I don’t think it’s wrong when some of them can just cultivate places like this with no repercussions. Such people deserve to be stripped of their thrones.”

Bruno stared hard at Richard, “But you can’t just overthrow him! Only a god can replace a god!”

“Not necessarily,” Richard smiled. The fish had taken the bait, “Agree to help me, and I can show you a general textbook on deities and divinity.”

“What?” Bruno and Ptolemy both went wide-eyed, unable to believe that such a thing existed. Was the realm of gods not majestic and mysterious, forbidden to the commoner’s eyes? 

“Can you say what the purpose of this study would be?” Bruno tested.

“Of course. I plan to rebuild the pantheon from the bottom up, fixing some of the unsavoury elements within it. It might seem like a lunatic’s mutterings to you, but you don’t need to worry about it.”

“It sounds like we are selling our souls to a devil,” one of the old men muttered.

“If there’s anything I’m not, that’s a devil,” Richard said with a laugh. The Archeron bloodline could be traced back to demons, a group that was completely at odds with the devils.

Bruno and Ptolemy finally nodded slowly, the latter speaking up, “We only want to see the reality of the world once more.”

Richard smiled and spread his arms open, “Then this will be the correct choice. Give up on something as foolish as faith, and you will find just how blind you once were.”

This was a famous saying in Norland, one that had emerged when the Eternal Dragon had been a relatively new deity to the plane. The old dragon was the first deity Norland discovered with strength beyond a single plane, and his existence completely upended the pantheon’s role in the world.

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OMA's Thoughts

Translated By: OMA

Edited By: Theo