Within a large conference room a number of influential people all sat around the table. They were all summoned urgently, the message they received called for a meeting in the Kernun kingdom. Seeing how most other capitals had stargates already, it didn’t take long to assemble every lord of allied races.
The emissaries from dwarves and gnomes were here just like the last time. They appeared together and walked spa round together with a few bodyguards, who however had to stay outside. The information to be shared within the room had to stay secret.
Everybody was checked to see if there were any magics or enchantments present on any guests. This ticked off some of the guests, like Lord Hooligein, the ruler of the demons. His escort was also prohibited from joining the session. The succubus that always was beside him was very angry, but she had no say in the matter, even if she was the head of a house, she wasn’t the leader of her people.
Lord Galadrim and Lady Cerebria were both a little dissatisfied with them being woken in the middle of the night, but the urgency of the call made them dress up and taken only a handful of guards, they teleported to the center of the Kernun Kingdom. In reality, such action could be called foolish, but Zern of the Val tribes had proven his good intentions over the few years he was a ruler and he did a great job of helping the realm.
There also was Regios the Dragon, Lord of the monster lands, the powerful man who was perhaps the strongest in the assembly, who previously wasn’t allowed to participate in just any meeting, but now he was here. This unnerved some of the people present, mainly the dwarven and gnomish ambassadors.
The people who were not here were the Naga and Merfolk, neither of whom had the stargates within their territories. They either didn’t want anybody coming there or just didn’t get around to request them. Snow elves also weren’t here as they were very hostile towards the other races, almost as much as the Naga, but the scaly people at least traded with the rest of the world. Also, the snow elves were almost sure to be allied with the darkness, so they are likely to be enemies.
And of course there was I, Zern along with my seven beautiful fiancées. Flaer wasn’t here, she was still recuperating, but of course she wouldn’t be allowed to such an official meeting regardless. This was too important of a business.
“Lord Zern, I know we are acquainted, but I happen to notice that you have all your seven girls here, while my sweet Ratisin has to stay outside. It seems hardly fair.”
“Lord Hooligein, I don’t mean to offend you or your lovely escort, but the matter we are about to must remain a secret and I believe that it won’t if your little succubus will be here.”
“What is it that you are implying?”
“My girls don’t have any solid evidence, but some of the demons from the house of Lust as well as house Envy and house Pride are all connected with our enemy. They may not know it, but many of their missions benefit the darkness and are done to help weaken the other kingdoms or to spread the darkness.”
“Are you saying that Ratisin wants to end this world?”
“Not exactly. She may not know whom she is working for, but if any information reaches her, it reaches the darkness. Everybody present here has been verified to work against it, so we are all here to discuss some important things.
Lady Cerebria, have you brought the scrolls I requested? Aedim had some of them prepared beforehand, but she didn’t have access to the very important ones. If we can read what is within those scrolls, we can learn what the darkness is.”
My words created a bit of a stir. The darkness was out there in the world, working and it did plenty of bad things, enough to prompt people to exchange various forms of help. Some places had cultists or bandits roaming around, others had monsters appearing out of nowhere. While most of these instances were contained and neutralized, the case remained, something was working below the surface. If they know who or what it is, they have an upper hand at fighting it.
“Lord Zerd, I hardly believe the ancient scrolls can tell us the identity of whatever the darkness is. These scrolls date all the way back to the first time it appeared and even before then.”
“If you will, please give them to my precious Aedim, she will take a quick look at them.”
The scrolls were passed to the green and brown haired girl, who was sitting not to far from me with a mature look. She unfolded some of the scrolls and looked through them. Stopping half way through one of them, she reads it out loud to us.
“Oculerna, the Watchful Eye. One of the ancient gods, overseer of the world. Her gaze touches every corner of the realm, unhindered and unobscured. The vision of the heavens, she looked upon us and judged us. Until the day she vanished, she spent every day looking for the Answer.”
There were some more words about her, descriptions, tales, folklore among other things, but I stopped Aedim.
“This is the entity that is the darkness, Oculerna, the ancient God which has been corrupted.”
“Are you kidding me? You got us all here on such a short notice to recount old myths? What kind of preposterous joke is this?”
“I would hope that it was the joke, but sadly it is not. I myself has been to the Zone, the area where darkness lies. Within that place I have touched it and I saw it. The power beyond our imagination, vile and corrupted, nevertheless it is there. Almost unlimited power, capable of anything.”
I gesture towards Meriden who recounted everything that happened within the Zone. For the most part she was there and she witnessed what happened. In few places I had to add the little details she could have missed. When it came to the moment I made the anomaly collapse, it was my turn to speak. I told them everything, up to and including freeing Flaer from the illusion. As incredible as it all sounded like, everything was true.
“…something has awoken the ancient god and corrupted it. What’s more, I believe the power is much greater than what the power of the god was, only limited by the fact that the darkness has to spread through the lands. If it weren’t for the wards Regios has set up, it most likely would have covered majority of the eastern lands.”
Everybody stayed silent. They didn’t believe my words, hoping for me to be wrong. While gods are not all powerful, they are above and beyond any other existence in the realm. If there is something so powerful, we truly have no chance…
“You beta be kidding lad, if he be right, we be as good as dead.”
“Afraid that it is so. The darkness comes from the ancient god. Whether it is that God or something that took its power, the power of Oculerna is what we are against. Now, the better question, how do we fight against the darkness. At the moment, it is confined within the eastern part of the continent, but how do we defeat it. Right now, even with all the peers of the guardians, I am no god and I won’t be able protect the realm from it.”
“So you are saying we have no chance of fighting, we should give up and die?”
“No, Lord Galadrim, I want to ask you, why now? Why did darkness appear thousands of years after the last one?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“What I mean is, the power laid dormant for thousands of years since ancient gods entered their slumber. And yet, here it is, awakening and corrupting the lands. The power is still around, available for the taking.”
Once again the room fell silent. If there is truly power for us to take, it would make one of us a god. The power to forge the lands and shape the world as we desire. It would make us rulers of the realm.
“Right now, there are two more temples, hidden somewhere in the west and north of the continent. If we can uncover either one, we can take the power of the dormant gods and use it to defeat the darkness. We can become gods ourselves.”
“Lord Zern, whatever you propose, it is preposterous. Firstly, how would we be able to wield such powers? They are not for mortals to comprehend. And second, who would be the so called gods? And furthermore, how would a single God be able to stop the darkness, where six gods failed before?
“As to answer your question, you are well aware that Gargoyle, the ancestor of my dear Lilith and the source of one of my powers, he was able to take the power of God for himself. I have no doubts that I am capable of such feat. I believe that answers two of your questions.”
The gnomish ambassador had a sour expression on his face, hearing my answer. I don’t think he likes the idea of me having power of a god.
“As to your third question, I don’t know. I believe that the Guardians were severely weakened and didn’t have the full powers of the gods, which made them much weaker than the darkness. Perhaps a fully powered god will be strong enough to take it on. Besides, I won’t have to fight it alone, I have allies.”
The room was now filled with low murmur. The people who came with somebody, they talked amongst themselves. My idea was something to consider, because perhaps it was the only option we had. If we are truly fighting an ancient god, we need one of our own.
“Let’s say we believe you and we will go along with your crazy idea. What do you propose we do now?”
“Right now we prepare. Val people has been searching for the temples for a while, now we can send a few extras, perhaps post some quests within guilds. What’s more important, we need to prepare for the time when the darkness will strike. Soon, it will retaliate for my intrusion into its lands and for taking something that belongs to it.”
I made a hand gesture to Lady Cerebria, prompting her to speak, as she wanted to say something.
“Are you perhaps talking about the whispers?” I nod. “So, that’s why every star now talks about the coming of the end.” Another nod from me.
“What ye be talking about?”
“For about two weeks, since the incident that Lord Zerd has described, every star-whisperer had heard nothing, other than warnings of the end of the world. ’The end is nigh’, ’the darkness cometh’, ’armies of the void will march’”
“Yes, I believe that soon a war will start. The darkness has noticed our pr since in the world and it has noticed that we have the power to repel it somewhat. No, not repel, no overpower it. I stole a bit of the power that belong to it. It saw me and it wants me gone. It wants all of us gone. Soon it will lead whatever it has against us.”
“But who would follow the darkness? Where are the armies of the void, that the whispers talk of?”
“Lord Hooligein, honestly, I don’t know. Perhaps it’s the snow elves or some of the demons who were recruited. Maybe the cultist have enough numbers to pose real threat. That is unknown to me, as I forbid my Bloodborn from infiltrating the inner workings of the cult, their magic and indoctrination being too dangerous. While I am immune to mine control, my subordinates are not.”
“So, we have to prepare for the enemy we don’t know exists and where it is hiding?”
“That’s the best I can tell you. We look for the power to defeat the darkness, but in the meanwhile, we prepare for it to strike. We need to train armies of our own, to weed out any spies and to be ready when the time comes. And most of all, we have to keep this a secret. I believe you all understand that?”
Everybody in the room looked at me, their expression grim and serious. Even lord Hooligein was unhappy, but understanding how this was of upmost importance. Nothing could be said to anybody he can’t trust the whole hundred percent, which amongst the demons is almost everyone.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, we have to be ready for when the enemy strikes. You should all go home and make preparations. The darkness will strike, it will be soon and it will be bloody. People will die, it will only depend on how well you prepare, how many people will survive. Go home and think about what you learned today.”