The Shepherd God sat upon the enormous central tree playing her flute. All the beasts nearby, be they birds or insects, danced to her call. A dark figure stood at the base and watched. Though the visitor had arrived some time before, they did not wish to interrupt.
Eventually the god stopped her song, rose, and stepped forward. A host of luminous butterflies appeared and gathered beneath her feet. She took another step and the butterflies moved with her. One foot after the other she calmly tread upon their frail make to stand before Cloudhawk.
He regarded the beautiful young woman like an old friend he hadn’t seen for a long time. “It seems most of your power has returned. Congratulations.”
Nothing changed in her expression. “Wolfblade is in the Temple.”
With that she turned from him and left. Cloudhawk ran a few steps to catch up. “Hey now, no need for the cold shoulder.”
The two made their way through the complex maze surrounding Oakstead’s Temple. It was very different from others as it was constructed from wood and knotted vines. Its interior was a complex assortment of rooms that now served as a prison.
Elite soldiers from sky fortress were being held here. Between the Shepherd God’s personal attention and the Cloud God nearby, there was no hope of escape for these prisoners of war.
In the deepest parts of the Temple Wolfblade was waiting. Two young figures stood on either side – Squall Rover and Frost de Winter. They now served as the demon Elder’s personal assistants. Even direct orders from Cloudhawk were confirmed by their master first, but he didn’t care much.
When he entered, Cloudhawk gazed at the two young disciples.
A dark and ominous power hung over Squall, especially his left arm. It was black as night now. Cloudhawk wasn’t sure what methods Legion had used, but he could tell by the power wafting from Squall that he had grown quite a lot.
However, compared to his older brother Squall was still lacking. There was no question that Arcuturs Cloude had taken Frost under his wing because of his tremendous talent. Only a year since accepting Wolfblade’s tutelage and he was nearly as powerful as Selene.
Besides these three there were others in attendance. Abaddon, Three Eyed Spider, Inkspecter, Ravenous Tiger and so forth… the Hand of Gehenna. It was fair to say Wolfblade had himself a fairly powerful following.
Of course, all for the betterment of their alliance.
Cloudhawk focused on the task at hand. He walked over to the Alliance’s Governor. “I got word back from Dawn and Selene. Things are progressing smoothly in Stormford and Dragenmere. Before long they’ll be fully under our control. What plans do you have for the other two?”
Wolfblade smiled and answered by pointing to a nearby tree. “What does my king see?”
“A tree,” he replied.
Wolfblade waved his hand as a cutting gale removed several of the branches. “If we want this tree to serve us best then we must do more than just trim unwanted branches. There is more to a tree than just limb and leaf.”
Cloudhawk thought about this for a second, weighing his words. “You’re saying controlling the Elysian lands isn’t so easy.”
“Their culture of devotion has had a thousand years to take root, just the same way as a tree. That is the foundation of their unity, and thus the core of their power. Currently we are trying to control the upper classes with the hopes that it trickles down to the people. We trim the branches but do nothing for the roots.”
Cloudhawk recognized the logic in his explanation. If they couldn’t fundamentally change the way Elysians thought, then when the gods arrived it would all come crashing down with a breath. All of his efforts would be wasted. But how was he supposed to change a thousand years of history in a fraction of the time?
“So how do we do it?”
“Facts are always the most effective weapon.”
“Facts? What facts?”
“The crystals you brought back reveal how the gods infest and consume planets. However there will always be ignorant, short-sighting people who will refuse what their eyes tell them. Even a number of those locked in your prisons will steadfastly ignore the truth. What we need now is irrefutable evidence. Something they cannot deny.”
“And what is this irrefutable evidence?” Cloudhawk pressed.
“You should have noticed that when the gods seed a planet, they bury a ship deep within the earth. That is where new gods are created. That is precisely the evidence we require.”
Cloudhawk immediately understood. Thinking back he remembered what he saw – that the gods don’t ‘reproduce’ in the typical sense. When they find a civilized planet they obliterate the species that inhabit it. Then once the bulk of their troops leave they left one ship behind, buried underground. Thousands of years later it emerged like a weed, spewing new gods and ships out into the universe.
It was probably how that underground facility in the jungle planet got there in the first place. If he could find where this ‘seed’ was located on their planet, the godly invasion of their world would no longer be a secret. The delusions people clung to would be shattered.
Of course they couldn’t discount the fact that there would be some who would never be swayed. They would follow the gods because of a perceived time of peace – what they imagined was a bloodless alternative. But there were plenty of others who would see this proof for what it was and would choose to stand on Cloudhawk’s side.
“Not bad. The question then is, where is this base?”
It’d been over a thousand years since the gods arrived. No one in the Elysian lands had any clue where the seed was hidden. Where were they even supposed to start looking?
But Cloudhawk came up with a solution quickly. “Can the Cloud or Shepherd God help us?”
Wolfblade opened his mouth to answer but was cut off.
“There are large gaps in what we remember,” the Shepherd God replied. “We don’t know where the seed is located.”
That was strange. From what the crystals revealed, the gods were a huge force that spanned the galaxy. They should have a memory spanning eons. But in reality no one – not the Cloud God, the Shepherd God, the other Supremes or any demons – could remember what happened. Their memories started only after they arrived here.
The secret to their species’ history and beginnings was a mystery. All that was left in their minds was a deeply ingrained servitude and loyalty, even though they didn’t know why. It was almost worth Cloudhawk’s pity. These creatures were complex, with too many anomalies and unanswered questions.
At a loss, Cloudhawk pressed for guidance. “So how are we supposed to find it?”
“I may not know its location, but there is one who certainly does.”
“Belial, of course.”
This didn’t answer any of Cloudhawk’s questions. “Him? How?”
“Belial has spent centuries trying to escape his identity. As a result he knows more about it than any other god or demon. So long as he remains here he knows he will never escape his true self. Not unless… he escapes this planet.”
“So all this time he’s been hiding his identity while looking for the god ship. He wants to use it to get out of here.”
With this information in hand, Cloudhawk left the chamber. On his way out of the Temple he passed the prisons. Many strong and important Elysians slipped by his peripheral vision, tied down with vines. Some were close enough to have heard their conversation and watched him go with conflicted looks.
A green-clad figure rushed over to him. Her appearance took him by surprise. “Autumn?”
She beamed a sweet smile at him. “I hear Belial has the strength of a Supreme and is a talented artisan. After hundreds of years you can be sure he’s been preparing himself. I’m afraid you won’t be able to handle him yourself. Let me come with you.
There were two others behind her. One was the bearer of the reformed relic Ashfall, Frost de Winter. The other was the bearer of the Gospel of Sands, Abaddon. Without question they were sent after him at Wolfblade’s command.
Cloudhawk looked them over in silence for a moment. “Let’s go.”
Space rippled around them and in the blink of an eye, they were gone.