[Shattered] Dreams 29

Chapter Twenty-Nine: The Conclave

The mysterious plane known as Elysium was home to the demi-gods. It was a beautiful place, untouched by war or disease, death and destruction. It was peaceful and quiet, the perfect place to spend eternity. The gates between Elysium and Gaia had long been guarded by the Bandragora, sons of Raidne and Orthrus; however, the guardians only responded to their mother’s haunting voice, much to their father’s consternation.

Elysium had existed since the day Gaia was formed and Kami-sama dictated that the planet needed guardians, more so than just the Lifestream that could at times be somewhat aggressive and human. It was then that he created Gilgamesh, Isis, Seiryu, Tiamat, and Heimdal. Over time these demi-gods grew together and apart, giving birth to children even as Kami-sama created a few others to keep the balance at work. Soon, Elysium was filled with the children of Kami.

However, with their immortal lives, the guardians grew bored only acting as defenders, and so the great god assigned them each a task and gave to them special members of the mortal world that would serve as their counterpart, their link to the peoples of Gaia. Each demi-god and goddess was given a job and a task with a strict set of rules that each was to obey.

Some, such as the Bandragora and Sylph, were never meant for the mortal plane. Their only task was to watch the goings on from afar, not once setting foot Gaia. There were only as many demi-gods allowed on the mortal plane as there were powerful and wise mortals to accommodate them. These were the rules set by Kami… in order to maintain the balance.

And for a time, the many servants of Kami grew to love their tasks and were content with themselves and the world. They took upon themselves mates and grew to love and cherish, like many of the mortals. More and more children were borne to the immortal plane of Elysium, and yet, it never grew full.

It wasn’t until Balaam, first son of Gilgamesh, borne of Chaos, and Isis, borne of Wisdom, found that he had grown tired of his lot and sought to find a way out of it. He envied the mortals for their power; he envied them for their freedom, and he wanted such a thing for himself. He revolted against the laws of Kami, three others of the demi-gods and goddesses joining his side; Baal, second son of Seiryu, borne of Element, and Tiamat, borne of Order; Daunte, borne of Hell; and Azamat, borne of Helios and Hekate.

The war between them raged on for many years, as father fought against brother, mother against son, lover against lover. Balaam was nearly defeated once, until he found a power recently undiscovered on Gaia, a power from the heavens that had no place on such a planet. This magic was from a place that none of them were familiar with, a location that was many years and miles away from their own planet.

Balaam had no qualms about taking the power for his own gain and stole it from the crashed alien creature. She was too weak to fight back. With the magic in hand, the revolt started anew, the fight raging for many more years. Mortal lives were lost, and many demi-gods were injured beyond their own healing abilities. They were only demi-gods after all. Not even death was something they could overcome… especially not when killed by one of their own.

Finally, with the tender sacrifice of Kronos, the four revolting demi-gods and their subsequent armies were destroyed and disbanded. The traitors were brought up for punishment. Kami was furious with them but realizing the results of the war, knew he could not just destroy his creations lest he risk the balance. And with their traitorous actions, despite the choices made by the others, his trust in his demi-gods and goddesses was greatly diminished.

In retaliation, the great Kami sealed the four greatest traitors in small marbles made of hardened materia, a favor from the Lifestream. They were cast to the farthest reaches of Gaia, far from the hands of any mortal and made to lie there until their punishment was thought sufficient.

As for the others, the few that had joined the side of the traitors –and those that had fought against – other punishments were dealt. And since Kami knew he could not trust anyone, he placed more restrictions on those that had fought for him, taking those with the most power and sealing it within orbs, also gifted by the Lifestream. These orbs, which came to be known as the Summon materia, were distributed among the animus of each demi-god.

Over time, the voices of the anima grew dim and the mortals were no longer able to hear them. They forgot of the battle, and they forgot of the old ways. The new names for the powerful ones were remembered instead, and the limited power of the orbs that was more readily available was cherished. The children of Kami that had been faithful retreated to their homes of Elysium and guarded their charges from afar, watching over the mortals whose lives had brought much entertainment.

And there was peace between the demi-gods, so much so that the Old Ways nearly became forgotten for them as well. It didn’t seem important so much that they continue to call to deaf ears… and even their pleadings faded like dust in the wind.

And so it was for thousand of years, until one mad scientist stumbled upon four small black and cloudy materia on the Lost Grounds, while searching for the famed Knights of the Round Summon materia. Instead, he had found the even more famous and powerful Four Demons of the Apocalypse, which were only thought to have existed in myth and legend. Luckily for the demi-gods, but unluckily for the humans, the scientist knew the perfect host for his experiment. Hojo knew of the perfect creature.

There was nothing the faithful, as they had taken to calling themselves, could do about such events. It was against the rules to interfere so directly without having been summoned. Unless the mortals could learn of the Old Ways, the faithful could only hope that Hojo would fail in his endeavors and eventually throw away the materia to be lost once again.

Yet, they hoped for naught. Thirty years after his discovery, the rise of another of Hojo’s experiments, awakened the power that was lying dormant in the former Turk. Balaam and his counterparts began to scheme of freedom and deception, picking up where they had left off, only this time finding more allies so that they would succeed. Balaam was determined not to fail; he was determined to find his measure of freedom.

He knew that the Lifestream had the ability to separate mind from body, he had been coherent through enough of Hojo’s mutterings. So he contrived a plan. He knew his host had already planned to be the new sacrifice, so that decision was already made, and planned to use the opportunity to find his freedom. He pretended to hold back his power until the final battle, forcing himself free and breaking the ex-Turk’s control. He destroyed Sephiroth, pretended to weaken, and eventually dove into the Lifestream.

As he had expected, Vincent’s mind separated from his body and the demi-gods were able to break free also. They made their way out of the Lifestream, as demi-gods not belonging there to begin with, before they found a place a hide – a place to regain their bodies that was most familiar, on the other side of the world. It was there that they began to form their plans, their revenge against both the humans and those they considered traitors.

However, their attempts had not gone unnoticed. Even as they schemed for their freedom, the faithful planned to put them back in their prison. They attempted to thwart their plans but were unsuccessful. It seemed they hadn’t expected that Balaam’s true intention was to dive into the Lifestream, only knowing that he was trying to break free. They assumed he would attempt to physically separate from his host, not knowing that it was nearly impossible. It was not as if a physical human/demi-deity relationship had ever been done before.

With his newly gained independence, Balaam hid himself and his counterparts so that they could regain their lost powers. That plan was thwarted when they realized that their host had not died, and in order to regain their abilities and full bodies more quickly, they would have to find and destroy him. This task proved more difficult than they expected, taking nearly six months.

In the meantime, the faithful knew war was to begin soon, and that in order to defeat Balaam and his new allies, the Old Ways would have to be reborn. As it were, only a vague few left on the planet could still hear the voices of the anima, Bugenhagen and Aeris being two such examples – the Ancient because of her close link with the Lifestream and Bugenhagen for his knowledge and wisdom.

Even the Planet joined their fight, offering up Vincent in the beginning as a way to prevent the demi-gods from regaining their powers quickly, reviving the powerful Sephiroth, now free from Jenova’s control, and even restoring a fallen SOLDIER to be a warrior in the place of the Planet’s own defender. With Aeris expecting, she could not fight.

Like in the war of old, the twelve began to take form… a dozen pairings of anima and animus. It was a balance, a collection of elements, carefully planned to take down all aspects of Balaam’s power. There had always been the twelve, that had been all Gaia needed. Yet, with new threats arising, and more demi-gods joining the side of the traitor, twelve was no longer enough.

Across Gaia, the anima began to call out to their animus with great vigor and determination, urging them to listen to their instincts, to call the true names, and remember the days of old. The receptive ones, those that still believed in miracles and knew of gods and goddesses were the first to hear, the first to accept the truth of the voices. And it was those that convinced the others.

But with time drawing near, and with Balaam the only left of the original four to yet regain his form, time was quickly running out. Plans had to be made. And so a War Conclave was called to decide what to do about Gaia and the traitors. It was the first of its kind since the battle centuries preceding, excluding the general one that had taken place six months prior to determine the fate of Iblion.

It was the day of the Conclave and as a result, all the demi-gods had been summoned to Elysium to take part in a discussion that could stretch on for an indefinite amount of time, depending on the speaker. It was also an opportunity for them to see the state of the immortal world, such as how many had betrayed for the sake of Balaam and his plans.

Most of the demi-deities stood in small groups here and there, conversing in low tones and making vague predictions and considerations. There were many familiar faces.

Two dark-cloaked figures stood off to one side, away from the general area of the rest of the group. One was easily recognized by his black and crimson wings as the former summon, Diablos, now only known by his true name, Baal.

He had not died in the crater as many mortals had assumed and had been attempting since to make contact with his surrogate animus, his own having been killed earlier in the year and a suitable replacement not having been found.

The other figure, Erebus, was also known to the mortals by another name, Hades.

“If all goes well, I think that my animus will regain his memory,” commented Erebus idly.

Baal shook his head, stretching mildly as he released his wings, grateful for the freedom that movement afforded him. “I still cannot get through to him, Erebus,” he commented, eyeing his lifelong friend.

The dark-cloaked demi-god frowned and rubbed at his head, as if it pained him. “Perhaps it is because of his memory loss? It took me six months to break through to him, especially through all the confusion left behind by the four. Maybe after the Conclave, you will have better luck.”

The winged demi-god sighed as he flexed, dark purple gaze traveling over those gathered in the amphitheater at Tartarus. It was the only location large enough to hold a mass of them comfortably. He stood in his human form, long dark hair with amethyst eyes and black robes with plum etchings.

“More turned than I originally suspected,” Baal commented, shaking his head. “I don’t understand what is so attractive about Balaam’s plans.”

“Most likely it is the non-comprehension of the ideal of freedom,” answered a voice that the two demi-gods easily recognized. They turned to greet the newcomer, a man with glossy black eyes and equally dark coal eyes.

“Orthrus.” Erebus nodded by way of greeting. “Somehow I knew you would not be one of those to turn from us.”

The well-built male dressed in flowing robes of grey raised a brow. “And join that idiot? Risk spending the rest of eternity with Gaia in control of a fool? Don’t jest.”

Baal snorted, glancing once more at the others gathered around, most standing in small clusters and a few groups staring at the three of them. “Many of the others believed that we four, Gilgamesh included, would betray them.”

Orthrus crossed his arms over his chest and eyed his fellow demi-gods before turning back to the two males that had been his friends for much of his eternal life. “They’ve been among the mortals for far too long,” the grey-cloaked demi-god remarked. He frowned. “They have put too much stock in the earthly ideals of good and evil, as if such a thing truly existed here in Elysium.”

Erebus sighed. “They believed I would follow the path of my father.”

“Join the club,” came another response from behind the gathered three males. They turned to greet the speaker, instantly recognizing the fourth member of their somewhat ‘outcast’ group. He strode towards them quickly, crimson cloak flapping in the breeze. “As if my intelligence for making my own decisions was affected by my blood.” Gilgamesh snorted with a prideful shake of his head. “I cannot help that my son would turn out to be such a fool.”

Baal flexed his wings unconsciously as his brow furrowed. “I think perhaps we’ve all been around the mortals for too long. We’ve adopted some of their more undesirable traits, including petty dislikes.” He nodded his head in explanation towards the small clusters of demi-gods located several feet away.

There were a few recognizable faces. Standing nearby the front row of benches, closest to the stage, was the ice demi-goddess Ishvara, scantily clad in blue that covered only her most intimate parts. Her long snow-white and icy-blue hair was bound at the top of her head, flowing down her back and nearly reaching to her knees. Her gold body jewelry glittered as she laughed with her closest friends Raijin, the thunder god, who was wearing thick robes of brown with a flowing beard, and Ma’at, goddess of truth and harmony, who was dressed in a stark white toga emblazoned with green ivy leaves that were also wound through her hair.

Among those that chose to glare at the four friends was Chimaera, mother of Raidne. She was one of the older demi-goddesses, created not long after the first four, and her pride and arrogance were something she took great honor in. With her long tawny hair and crystalline eyes, she was one of the more beautiful demi-goddesses resident in Elysium. Eris and Shamash, respective demi-goddess and god of strife and justice were also those that followed along after her.

Orthrus frowned, waving a hand of dismissal. “Ignore them. Raidne was much like them, and you see which path she has taken.”

“I heard that the Bandragora attacked Wutai; was it under her orders?” questioned Gilgamesh, turning towards his longtime friend.

Orthus, the coal-eyed male, flinched momentarily. “You know they only listen to their mother… it seems my family has always been strangely divided.”

Baal shook his head, moving to the grey-cloaked demi-god’s side and grasping his hand warmly, giving it a companionable squeeze. “At least you still have your other child…”

Erebus smiled at that. “Speaking of whom…” he trailed off, words interrupted by a loud cry.

“Daddy!” came a happy somewhat feminine voice before a body barreled into that of Orthrus, nearly knocking the demi-god to the ground. The coal-eyed male oof’ed before releasing Baal’s hand and wrapping his arms around the bundle of green and scarlet.

His friends could not conceal their amusement, all of them instantly recognizing their assailant for who she was.

“Asclepius,” Orthrus admonished. “This is entirely not dignified.” But there was a smile on his face that was not there prior.

The green-haired lady pouted as she drew back. “Who cares about dignity, yo? I haven’t seen you in ages…” She stared at her father plaintively.

Erebus laughed, drawing her attention. “You’ve been spending too much time with your animus, Asclepius, you are beginning to sound just like him.”

The sole female turned towards him and winked. “Ichigo is a lot of fun!” she commented happily. Then it seemed a sudden realization hit her as her face fell slightly. “But we had to fight my brothers…”

Gilgamesh sighed and shook his head. “The past always repeats itself.”

“Never mind that,” said Erebus, changing the subject when he noticed the sad look in Asclepius’ eyes. She loved her brothers and mother dearly, although they had never been particularly fond of her. Ever since Raidne and Orthrus had decided to end their farce of a marriage, they had become a divided family.

“No need to dwell on such things. More importantly, have you managed to speak with your animus, Orthrus?” continued the dark-cloaked demi-god.

The coal-eyed male shook his head, crossing his arms over his chest. “I have tried but it is as if he cannot hear me at all. I’m not quite sure why either…”

Baal sighed as he looked to the front of Tartarus. Everyone was beginning to gather there as the silver dragon demi-god stood on the small dais. He was attempting to gain the attention of those present and the soft source-less choir-like music that had been echoing in the back of his hearing had disappeared. It was time to begin the Conclave.

The winged demi-god turned to Gilgamesh, a question brewing on his face as he frowned in confusion. “I thought it was your year to preside…” he commented, indicating the dais with a nod of his head.

The other male nodded in answer before shifting his position and moving towards the amphitheater, the others falling in step behind him. “Given the circumstances, Isis thought it wise that I allow Seiryu instead.” His eyes darkened as he paused for a moment. “He is, after all, the favored of us.”

“Father does have a certain… commanding presence, I suppose,” allowed Baal with a shrug of his shoulders. The group began to make their way towards the gathering of demi-deities.

Gilgamesh smiled slightly at that. “Aye… and Isis won’t be coming either. I told her to stay in Karnak.” He lowered his voice. “I have a feeling this Conclave is going to be anything but peaceful.”

The others nodded in agreement, and continued silently on their way.

Asclepius looked back from where she was walking beside her father to see Erebus chewing his lip, as if in deep thought. The dark-cloaked male liked his Hades form on the mortal plane, but in Elysium, he preferred his human form and like his animus, he was one of the most beautiful men she had seen.

Erebus was a rather young demi-god with short dark black hair that he wore spiked similar to that she had seen on humans, though it didn’t defy gravity nearly as much as theirs did, and his golden eyes sparkled like the gold that the mortals so coveted. Smirking in sudden thought, Asclepius stopped and waited until Erebus was at her side so that she could speak to him.

She placed her hands behind her back and granted him one of her brilliant smiles. “I missed you, too, you know,” she said, nudging him with a shoulder as they walked behind the others.

He flushed lightly, eyes darting to the dark-haired male walking not that far in front of them. “I would occasionally visit Elysium to see you, but it seems you were always on Gaia.” He turned a sly eye in her direction. “Am I going to have to fight Reno for your affections?”

She waved a hand of dismissal, a bright smile on her face. “He still thinks I’m a boy!” she exclaimed as she giggled. “I haven’t figured out a good time to tell him.”

A slight smiled tugged at the corners of his mouth as he shook his head at her. “Your attitude never fails to make me smile,” he commented.

That only caused her to grin more as she grabbed his hand and squeezed before letting him go. “Then my deed is done for the day, yo,” she teased.

A sudden hushing from in front of them caused both demi-deities to look up, seeing Orthrus looking down at them with a stern glare, which wasn’t very scary considering the teasing half-smirk that tugged at the corners of his mouth. Erebus raised a brow, and the coal-eyed male gestured towards the dais.

Everyone had quieted and was looking to Seiryu for him to begin. Orthrus returned his attention to the front as Erebus and Asclepius exchanged glances before also giving their undivided attention to the silver dragon.

“This is the last time we will gather until Balaam is stopped,” Seiryu intoned, the opening words to his speech. “How long it will be before any of us see one another again, I cannot say, and I only hope in this long battle that no ill befalls us.” His emerald eyes roamed over his fellow demi-deities. There were fewer than he had expected. Many had joined Balaam… and many had chosen to take no part in the war brewing in Gaia.

“We have even lost Arthur and his Knights…” the dragon murmured softly, face shadowed with emotion.

A man stepped forward, forest green curled hair and fresh soil eyes distinguishing him as Dagda, the demi-god of Life and new growth. He was not one of those who chose to take form in Gaia, preferring to watch over his responsibilities from afar. “With all due respect, Seiryu, but I do not think I am alone when I say, we have not the time for idle pleasantries.”

The silver dragon tilted his head in acknowledgment. “Our time is limited, peace in Gaia only tenuous; how many animus have been contacted? If we are to see victory, we cannot do it without them…”

Chimaera snorted derisively. “You must be joking,” she responded snidely. “Us, rely on the mortals? It is they who have forgotten us, they who have to rely on our power.”

Emerald eyes narrowed down at the tawny demi-goddess. “You who have spent no time on the mortal plane, save for a fraction of your power, have no claim to criticize. Even now you take a neutral stance Chimaera, but you cross into dangerous grounds.”

She huffed and opened her mouth to speak when another voice beat her to it, masculine baritone easily louder than the quiet, speculative murmurings of those gathered. A large presence cleaved his way through the crowd, red cloak billowing behind him.

“We rely on the mortals because such is how Kami ordained it,” spoke Gilgamesh, instantly commanding everyone’s attention with his presence. “Balaam is one of us, angry at us, and seeking revenge for what had been done to him before. This is a fight between immortals; yet, it is the mortals that are dying, losing lives already shortened by their abject mortality. It is only fair that they be given a hand in this.”

Startled murmuring spread among those present until an angry voice ran out, pinning his words on the eldest of the demi-gods. “Your words hold little precedence here as it is your son who has become the bane of our existence.”

The ground parted so that Gilgamesh could see the one who had spoken. Shamash stood there, glaring imperiously over his long, straight nose with raspberry eyes narrowed.

“And the Bandragora attacked Wutai, ordered to do so by Raidne,” Tiamat called out from her husband’s side. “Yet, none of you point fingers at Chimaera and blame her for her daughter’s misdeeds. One could just as easily say that her opinion holds no consequence as well.”

The tawny demi-goddess flushed angrily, hands tightening into fists at her side. “They are as much Orthrus’ children as they are Raidne’s. The fault lies in not her alone.” She turned to Gilgamesh. “And where is your other? Where is your dear wife, Isis? Could she not show her face?” she hissed angrily.

The scarlet-cloaked male resisted the urge to grab for his sword for the disrespect. He settled for glaring at her intently as he spoke, tone turned icy. “My wife has a heart, unlike you, and she mourns the loss of her animus. At least she remembers what it is to feel.” He darted his gaze over those present. “It appears it is not only the mortals who have forgotten the Old Ways.”

Erebus raised his head angrily, eyes smoldering over with his fury as he regarded Chimaera distastefully. “You would do well to speak more kindly of your betters,” he hissed coldly. “You will never be half the demi-goddess of my grandmother. Take to your own kin!”

Tension crackled through the air, nearly tangible as angry glances and heated stares were exchanged. It seemed as if another battle were going to take place, but this time, in peaceful Elysium rather than on Gaia, the home of the mortals.

A clear voice rang throughout those gathered, coming from the back and speaking loud enough for everyone to hear. Heads turned in that direction quickly as a collection of startled gasps resounded. It was Isis, wife to Gilgamesh and Balaam’s mother who had spoken, standing there at the back of the crowed appearing regal and collected.

“These are not the issues here,” she said, eyes shining as they roamed over her fellow demi-deities. “Whether or not we should blame the man who birthed the monster or the monster himself is not what we should concern ourselves with – but rather the task at hand.” Her gaze roamed over all those gathered. “Blame can be placed later, but if you absolutely must, then lay it on me for teaching my child to think for himself rather than blindly follow any path laid before him.”

Shamash gasped at her words. “You would speak of the words of Kami with such disregard?”

Isis cocked her head to the side, not at all fazed by his question. “Then our Lord has granted free will to the mortals but demands only the strictest obedience from us, the favored?” she questioned, her eyes growing stormy. Meanwhile, Gilgamesh was quickly making his way to her side, instantly surprised to find that Isis made an appearance.

Shamash seethed, clenching his fists with anger. “We were given greater gifts, that of power and responsibility.” He narrowed his gaze at the demi-goddess. “Freedom is the small price to pay.”

“And yet,” she responded, her face tranquil. “It is what I desire most.”

Chimaera grew angry, eyes widening at her declaration. “You would join Balaam then?” she hissed. “You would betray us, fight against your brethren…” Her eyes flickered over to Gilgamesh who had finally made his way to Isis’ side. “And he who owns your heart?”

Isis paled slightly but grasped her husband’s hand and maintained her resolve, tightening her jaw as she spoke. “I would never do such a thing. It is due to my desire that things change that I fight against Balaam, only because I know that his way is wrong.”

“Enough!” Seiryu’s voice rang out through Tartarus, effectively silencing all arguments and murmurings. Attention immediately was drawn his way. His gaze hardened as he admonished his fellow demi-deities with a look.

“You are acting as the mortals with all this petty arguing. We cannot spend eternity discussing what does not matter,” warned Seiryu frostily.

“Would it be so bad,” commented Isis softly, her gaze almost beseeching. “Their passion, their vigor, it’s something we lost long ago.”

The silver dragon’s stare softened at her declaration. “You know how much I believe in them, but now is not the time.” He looked to the others, clearing his throat noisily. “How many have yet to contact their animus?”

“I have not,” Orthrus replied, speaking for the first time. He felt a hand grasp his and looked over, smiling at the winged demi-god warmly before returning his attention to Seiryu. “My voice falls on deaf ears, and I’ve yet to understand why.”

Ishvara crossed her arms over her chest, as if to protect herself. “We have been conversing, but he still calls me Shiva.” She seemed saddened.

Seiryu nodded in acceptance before scanning the crowds of familiar faces, blanching when he realized that some who should have been were not present. “Both Byakko and Hyperion have betrayed us?” He shook his head sadly. “The only consolation is that without their animus, their strength is greatly reduced.”

“And what are we going to do about Iblion?” Baal questioned, speaking up for the first time since the beginning of the Conclave. “His animus cannot fight without his aid. Will we be reduced in our power again because of our own choices?”

The silver dragon sighed. “Would you have us break the rules to restore him to his place? He knows of his transgressions. The best he can do is speak to his animus.”

Baal snorted. “I only hope that in the end, it wouldn’t have been his power to tip the scale.”

“And what of you?” questioned Shamash, turning towards the winged demi-god. “Your animus is dead, and yet, somehow you have attached yourself to another… and one who is already claimed at that.”

Baal’s gaze hardened. “That is a special case. You know as well as I that Erebus’ animus was the host. Balaam will do everything in his power to make sure that he dies, and we cannot have that.”

Shamash laughed derisively. “So it is not alright for the mortals to die in our immortal battle, but it is fine to use one in such a way?”

“You misunderstand,” spoke up Orthrus. “Vincent knows of his position and agrees that his death would not be a good thing.”

The raspberry-eyed male waved a hand of dismissal. “I suppose you haven’t told him of the choice then… or rather lack thereof.”

Erebus frowned, cocking his head in confusion. “What are you talking about?”

Seiryu sighed on the dais. “The topic of which this Conclave had originally been summoned… Balaam’s fate at the end of this battle.”

A hush settled over the crowd as all attention returned to the silver dragon. “We all know the words of Kami and what occurred in the war all those years ago. There are really only two options afforded to us. Either we lose as a group that which makes us powerful … or the host be subjected again to the sealing.”

Erebus growled angrily. “He just now received his freedom from his tormentor and you want him to go through it all again, for all eternity? You know that type of sealing will make him immortal!” he protested loudly.

“You would have us give up our power then? For the sake of one mortal man?” Shamash questioned, as if there were no other truth.

“We don’t need it,” insisted the dark-cloaked male. “Perhaps Isis has the truth in that things need to change… that free will is the true gift.”

Gilgamesh shook his head. “Without us guiding them, who is to say what will become of them. What if another like Jenova descended on Gaia? How will it be protected? No, we cannot just give up what has been gifted. However, the idea of subjecting him to that again makes me queasy. Is there no other way?”

Seiryu didn’t respond for a moment, but the look in his eyes was enough answer for them all. “Such are the laws.”

Erebus narrowed his eyes in anger. “None of you know, I can’t expect you to understand, but to do this against his will… would make us no better than that demon scientist himself!”

“Then we will ask him!” Shamash snapped.

“He will, of course, agree,” Baal murmured. “That is his way. We are not truly giving him a choice.”

Seiryu sighed. “Then it is decided?” It was a question, not a statement. Everyone seemed to be in agreement, no one wanting to give up their responsibility and power for the sake of one mortal.

“I have not agreed to this!” snapped Erebus, golden eyes flashing angrily. “That is the law, you all agree? Well, I say that the law is faulty!”

A series of startled gasps echoed throughout the room as everyone turned to look at the angry demi-god. Never had such blasphemy been heard in the courts of Elysium.

“And such is the son of Balaam,” hissed Chimaera. She turned towards Seiryu, proclaiming loudly. “You heard him! He sides with his father, perhaps a spy all along!”

“He is not a spy!” Asclepius cried out, running to her friend’s side. Her garnet eyes flashed angrily, a look of determination on her face. “If you knew anything of the mortal world, Grandmother, you would understand him and why he thinks this way. I have to say that I cannot agree with the laws either!”

Chimaera’s mouth dropped open, wide in surprise. “The both of you… would give up your power?” she questioned as if she couldn’t comprehend anything more.

The room went silent as the question hung heavy on the air.

Asclepius and Erebus exchanged glances and a small nod before returning their gazes to Chimaera. “Yes.” They answered simply and in unison, as if they needed no further thought.

The silence stretched on as those present absorbed the information.

Suddenly, laughter rang out across Tartarus, deep and full-bodied, full of mirth. Eyes darted around in confusion, finally settling on the crimson-cloaked male. Gilgamesh was laughing as his eyes twinkled.

“The vigors of youth,” he explained. “And the fact that we Old Ones are appalled by their beliefs.”

Those gathered exchanged glances at his apparent loss of sanity. It appeared as if no one was going to say anything further until both Ishvara and Erebus gasped in unison, suddenly blinking out of Elysium with a small twinkle.

“What has happened?” Seiryu demanded almost immediately, turning to his mate.

“The Sahuagin,” Baal answered enigmatically before he, too, disappeared, leaving the demi-deities behind to wonder.

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