Neleh found herself standing in the same calming space she’d visited a couple of times before. She knew her real body was currently sleeping back in Nexus, and that only her mind was currently here. She also knew it wasn’t a dream because of her earlier experiences with the place. She had some good as well as some bad memories of this place. Currently the space was showing a scene of a moonlit park, while she was sitting inside a white and ornamental gazeebo, but she knew the scene could be anything Elune wanted it to be.
“Welcome back.” The goddess said with a smile that hid some complex emotions Neleh couldn’t quite discern.
“I’d say it is good to be back, but that still remains to be seen. It is good to see you again though.” Neleh replied with a soft smile of her own, while looking at the goddess.
“I’m assuming you know why I brought you here?” Elune asked.
“Well two possibilities come to mind, though I’m not sure if you managed both on such a short notice. The safe guess would be that it is easier for Satai to come here to meet me.” She replied.
“That is indeed correct. He is not happy about what has been happening to you either, so he is taking an unusual interest in this. He also feels grateful that you managed to save some of the dragons that were about to die after the battle with the lost-deity. Just be aware that he’s rather grumpy about so many dragons dying.” Elune advised, before giving some sort of silent signal with closed eyes.
Neleh sensed another powerful presence before she saw shimmers coalescing into a humanoid form. This was the first time she got a good look at Satai, and the most obvious words that came to her mind were impressive and refined. He had chosen to take a form that looked like a saurian. He was impressively built with black scales and was dressed in what looked like the dark clothes of a nobleman, but carried himself and moved like a warrior. Neleh was slightly surprised that he had not taken the form of a dragon, but that would’ve most likely been unwieldy in the circumstances.
“Neleh.” The saurian form god said gruffly, showing an impressive row of sharp teeth.
“Satai.” Neleh replied calmly.
“You wanted to speak to me, so speak. I have an idea what you want to discuss, but I want to hear it in your own words.” He prompted giving a small hand gesture for emphasis.
Neleh considered her words carefully. “I think we can all agree that so far I’ve done my job to fight off those that would invade this world.” Both of the deities nodded in response. “However, as thanks, some of the gods of this world are seeking to do me harm. This I cannot abide by. I think I have been fairly tolerant of the actions of the deities of this world, but I’m running out of good will. Soon I’m going to reach a point where I might decide that this world is no longer worth saving.”
“What exactly are you saying?” Satai asked with a fairly non-committal voice.
“Well, as it happens, I have a good reason to believe that the Enemy is coming to this world in person. As things currently stand, Khali and I are the only ones that can stand in the way of that, but I’m not sure if I care enough to do so any longer. I am also perfectly capable of taking those dear to me off this world and avoiding the Enemy.” Neleh bluntly made her threat and leverage clear.
“I doubt you are the type of person to leave all these people to their deaths.” Satai replied calmly.
“You obviously don’t know me as well as you think. I don’t mind helping people when I am able to and it doesn’t inconvenience me too much, but I am not a self-sacrificing hero. I have left plenty of people to their deaths and caused the deaths of many more. I can do so again, given enough reason.” Neleh countered.
“There is one person you care about that you can’t take along with you.” Satai said in a bland voice, as if reading from a script, and pointed at Elune who blushed a little.
“Funny you should mention that. Most of the people that I care about already have faith in Elune. So while the other gods would be rather boned if this world was lost, she would have enough faith to keep her status. She wouldn’t be the most powerful of goddesses, but that is something that could be fixed, and would also allow her to wander between worlds. There are other wandering deities. If I really wanted to, I could convert entire worlds to become her servants.” Neleh once again countered.
Satai considered for a while, before suddenly grinning widely. “Good, you’ve given this enough thought. Now I can go back to the other deities and honestly say that you are leaving us no choice. Anything I’ve missed?” He asked Elune.
“Nothing serious enough that she couldn’t deal with.” Elune replied with a grin of her own.
“Alright then. Now that we’ve established that we are pretty much forced to acquiesce to your demands, we can get to the specifics. What is it that you want? I should mention first that what has been done to you is already done, and cannot be undone. It might have been possible if we knew about it sooner, but that is in the past.” Satai said getting back to his gruff voice.
“I expected as much. Besides, if my theories of the Enemy’s nature are correct, then I suspect that my chances of living through that battle are not very good. As such, even if you did manage to fix whatever was wrong with me, I most likely would face my demise rather soon anyway. No, what I’m concerned about is what happens after. It is clear that those that did this to me acted in their selfish interests. I have my own punishments ready for them, but I’m also fairly vindictive. The thing that makes me the angriest is the thought of them getting away with this. Mortal means go only so far when dealing with deities, and I doubt any of us would like to see a scenario where the elves will go on a war of genocide out of a desire for revenge. Make no mistake, that is what you will see if the word of this gets out. Holy wars are a thing to dread.” Neleh said with clear heat and anger in her voice.
Satai gave a small sigh. “There are some ways we have prepared in case one or more of us go out of line. Well frankly those methods are to be used in case one of us goes insane. The worry of the gods involved is that the empire you are building will gain too large of a control over the other races. Now what do you think would happen, if those gods were imprisoned for…say a hundred thousand years, unable to interact with the world in any way?” He suggested.
Elune answered before Neleh got the chance to. “They would lose their position and all support, and as such nearly all their power. The faithful will remain so only as long as we give them our support and protection. I’m pretty sure their old servants would find other gods to serve long before they could do anything about it. I already have a large contingent of non-elven adherents, so there’s a precedent. The empire Neleh has built would also be free to expand in influence and control. So the result would be exactly what they are trying to avoid.”
Satai looked at Neleh questioningly. “There’s some karmic justice in that I think. It would also stop them from meddling with those you hold dear. Of course, we could only act after the danger is over or we would run into trouble.”
Neleh considered that for a while. Her own plans included orders to stifle the worship of the deities involved in this, which would also speed their fall. The combined effect would be pretty much the worst one could do to a god without actually killing them. “That would be in line with what I had in mind. Before anything though, I need the names of the ones involved.”
“I’ve have already managed to determine those. There are several minor gods involved, most of whom are afraid of losing their position as Elune gains a larger and larger position. As it happens, she’s already the most powerful god after me, and after what happened to the dragons I’m not sure if that holds true anymore either.” Satai said causing Elune to blush. “Of those, the most important one is Loki. His blessing is unsurprisingly the one that got the whole thing started, however the minor gods don’t have the power to cause something like this alone, especially considering your power and Elune’s interest in you. There had to be involvement by the major gods as well.”
“Who?” Neleh asked seething with anger.
“This is a little more complex. Iarus’ power is what is actually causing this to you, he is the god of death after all, but he isn’t actually a knowing participant. Someone else twisted his blessing to you. I first thought Sydonay was responsible, considering that it was partially the fault of his blessing that the bond between you and your mother was severed. However, after looking into it, it was Loki’s blessing that also twisted Sydonay’s, which was originally not supposed to cause an effect like that. That’s why he was so shocked when we found out that your bond would be severed.
No, the god whose power twisted Iarus’ blessing was Alarae, the Protector of Celestials and the goddess of Light and Order. That’s why we didn’t notice anything was wrong. Alarae has always encouraged the celestials to do good and to protect others, so no one even considered that she would do something like this. She has always been about order and the greater good.” Satai said with a deep sigh.
“And that is why she did it. Sometimes the worst things are done for the sake of the so called greater good. She has always been a bit too devoted to it, almost forcing her chosen people to do good. The problem is that she doesn’t see you as a force for order and good. You yourself have said that you’re much more suited for Chaos and self-interest. She thinks that ends justify the means.” Elune said equally sad and more than a little angry.
“Ends? There are no endings. Nothing ever ends. As gods this should be more obvious to you than the mortals who might be forgiven for such short sightedness. I should’ve known it was Alarae. The worst things in the universe are always done by those striving to serve some greater good, using their principles to justify their actions.” Neleh said bitterly. “As for Iarus, I think his punishment is about to come even without our help.”
As there had been little else left to say, Satai had retreated to prepare for what was to come. Neleh had assumed that Elune would return her mind to her body now that the meeting was over, but the goddess sat there holding Neleh’s hand over the small table they were sitting around. It seemed there was still more to come, but the goddess seemed unwilling to continue for some reason. She even seemed to be blushing again.
“You clearly have something more for me. Not that I’m in a hurry but I think it’s best you just let it out. Fretting will only make things worse.” She said gently.
It seemed like her words had broken a dam inside Elune, as the goddess suddenly blurted her words out in a hurry. “Fate is also unhappy with what is happening to you because it messes with his plans. However, as you know, you are something of a blind spot when it comes to Fate so that even he did not see this coming. He has agreed to answer your question, but he needs something in return.”
“Of course he does. Nothing is ever free. What does Fate want?” Neleh asked a little frustrated.
“Your help in putting things back on the correct track. What just happened already goes a long way, but there are a few other things that need to happen.” Elune said blushing even harder.
“Ok, your reaction is getting me even more curious. What exactly does he need?” Her frustration was being replaced by curiosity as she watched the blushing goddess.
“There are a few policies and order that you need to give, but more important than that, he needs a repeat favor from before.” Elune voice was failing her.
“Repeat of what exactly?” She asked, getting a hunch where this was going.
“A repeat of what happened with Khali. With me again.” The goddess was now red all over, embarrassed beyond belief, hoping that she didn’t need to specify further.
Neleh considered teasing the goddess a bit, but finally decided against it. “Alright, I’m fine with that. However, I would like to know the reason for it.”
“I’m sorry. I was specifically instructed not to say. In fact, I don’t even know myself.” Elune replied apologetically.
Neleh considered that for a while, trying to figure what Fate might be up to, but couldn’t really come with an answer. “Alright, I’m willing. I do need that answer first though. I simply do not trust Fate to keep his word otherwise. He has too big of a bone to pick with me.”
Elune sighed in relief. “He knew you’d say that.” Elune closed her eyes again. Suddenly she opened them and the aura around her had completely changed. Even the color of her eyes was different; though it would be more fair to say that her eyes had turned entirely pitch black. Neleh knew this was no longer the goddess in front of her. “ASK YOUR QUESTION THEN.” The voice was definitely not Elune’s, and seemed to be coming from a deep abyss.
“Is it resentment?” Neleh asked, knowing that Fate would know what she was really asking.
“AMONG A FEW OTHERS, LIKE ANGER AND JEALOUSY, BUT RESENTMENT IS THE CORE. NOW DO YOUR PART.” The presence disappeared, leaving Elune looking a little confused.
“What was that about resentment?” The goddess asked finally after getting hear bearings back.
Neleh considered for a moment if she should answer, but finally decided that there wasn’t a real reason not to. “For a long time I’ve been trying to figure out the real nature of the Enemy and the force that drives him. I have a theory, but I needed confirmation because that will have a huge effect on how we might fight him. I just got that confirmation.”
“And the driving force behind the Enemy is resentment?” Elune asked still confused as Neleh’s explanation had not been enough.
Neleh gave a small smile in reply. “Among other things like anger and jealousy. I think the Enemy was the first of what we call lost-deities. It’s likely that he used to be a god that embodied negative emotions, resentment chief among them. Then something happened to his world, thus creating a god without a home or followers. Before him, there were no lost-deities. He most likely became the first, by traveling to worlds filled with negative emotions that he drew his power from. Resentment is something that is found on every world. Eventually his reach covered multiple worlds and he became what is now known as the Enemy.
Every time he comes back he becomes stronger, as the resentment of the worlds he has taken over or destroyed supply him with even more power. Eventually he grew strong enough to pull others to him. Other gods that had lost their power and were also filled with resentment due to their loss. They conquer other worlds to empower their master which makes them stronger and allows them to vent their resentment.” Neleh explained her theory.
“But he keeps coming back no matter how often he is defeated. You’ve defeated lost-deities and they aren’t coming back, are they? So how is he coming back?” Elune asked.
“He keeps coming back, because those that can defeat him are also those that hold the greatest resentment against him. A powerful individual like that with a strong well of negative feelings is the best possible source of power for him. Even as he is defeated, it only makes him stronger. There is also another reason, but I’ll keep that to myself for now. I need to think of a plan first.” Neleh said, already starting to make plans.
“That’s all good and fine, but you still need to fulfill your half of the bargain you made with Fate.” Elune whispered in a slightly husky voice, while drawing closer.