Campione Final Synopsis End
Eight years pass after the King of the End's defeat, the Campione returning to their domains once more, previous alliances forgotten.
With the very real possibility of Campione becoming a constant force in the world-alongside the dwindling ability of Magic to remain a secret-Jereth and the other Monastic leadership quickly begin the most comprehensive and widespread recruitment drive in Monastic history to replenish their numbers in the face of new requirements for their organization. With the Mage Associations now very much aware of the Monasteries existence they aren't shy about swiping away a few promising mages here and there. Indeed, in the aftermath of Rama's death, Tiamat's incarnation and the reveal of pseudo-deities many magicians have found themselves dissatisfied with their patron organization's ability to respond to these myriad threats, happily joining ranks with the Monasteries in the hopes of being able to better counteract these new dangers.
The selection process can be quite exacting, however…
It's with a shaky hand and nervous shift of my left foot that I-for the hundredth time in thrice as many seconds-try to conceal my anxiety, the other two initiates next to me handling the stress in their own ways.
The young girl next to me, barely older than fourteen and bearing middle-eastern features is anxiously squeezing her unusually generous chest together through clasped arms, billowing fabrics rustling softly with unceasing movements.
The man to my left, probably not any older than twenty is outwardly composed...but the slowly spreading dampness beneath his arms is a dead giveaway.
Dammit, how long are they going to keep us waiting?
As if in response to my thoughts the sounds of an unlatched door drag our eyes to said entryway, two figures strolling through it without a care in the world.
An elderly Chinese man with genial smile and...and…
Gods above...that's Swordsaint Raffaello!
OHMYGOSH, the guardian of the Godslaughterer is here in person! This is amazing!
I belatedly realize my excitement must have bled through, if the odd looks in my direction are any indicator.
Down, girl...you can freak out about your childhood crush and idol later.
"A pleasure to meet you all, my name is Han. And the lovely young woman next to me is Swordsaint Raffaello. I presume you are Gerard Batista, Lilian Sonata and Nijah Seyyal?"
We all nod, the newly named Gerard and Nijah no doubt mirroring my own growing excitement and anticipation.
The genial old man graciously motions to us, stating, "Excellent. Then if you would all follow me we can escort you to the sight of your examination. Please, feel free to ask questions while we are en route and we will endeavor to answer them as best we can."
Without argument we follow the man's instructions, striding past the door that, to my shock, leads to an illuminated tunnel inscribed with odd runecraft and other magical techniques.
Before, it had merely lead to the outside of an office building located in Lima, South America. I had assumed we were provided fare to this location because there aren't any large Mage Associations in the continent...but perhaps that is not the case?
"Mister Han, how is this passageway made? And where does it lead? Is it to the Quiet Land?"
The man shuts the door behind us, securely locking it before leading the way, Raffaello chuckling at Gerard's enthusiastic assumption.
"Please, Han is perfectly acceptable. And this tunnel was made by an old associate of ours, who was quite the tinkerer. The exact details are beyond my ken, unfortunately, but suffice to say it operates under a sort of quantum theory, of 'here' also being seamlessly connected to 'there'. And we are indeed on our way to the Quiet Land, young man."
Gerard looks like he's about to wet himself with glee while Nijah stares at the strangely illuminated pathway with wonderment in her eyes. I'm just shocked at how readily we're being shown one of the most private repositories of the Monasteries...if half the rumors are true then this place is a sanctuary from a time long lost, home to materials, powers and research far above anything currently available to my old Association.
"You're wondering why we're letting you into such a private and important area, correct?"
The Swordsaint's amused tone snaps me out of my introspection, words stammered as I explain, "N-not that I'm complaining, mind you, but isn't this, well..."
"An incredible leap of faith to take with three relatively unknown people?"
The gorgeous woman smirks and easily replies, "Well you're not relatively unknown, for one thing. Not to us. Besides, there will be one final test before you are welcomed into our ranks. And it's quite a comprehensive one."
On that ominous note conversation ceases-
"Oh come now, Armina, surely you don't need to begin hazing potentials that quickly!"
-and I have to wonder if I'm dreaming as the Swordsaint blushes, rounding on Han before shouting, "I've told you not call me that!"
"Indeed you did. But the Godslaughterer suggested that doing so regardless would be quite entertaining no matter your protests. He was right."
A malevolent glower leaves the tanned woman and I decide silence is the safest course of action, lest her ire be drawn in my direction.
The Quiet Land is every bit impressive as I imagined it would be. A massive complex of incredible wonder, shifting skies of reality dominated by towering pillars while countless foundries and gardens dot the cityscape, a nirvana that convinces me leaving the Copper Black Cross was, ultimately, the right decision. If the Monasteries have these kind of resources...then they must have a more effective way to battle against these 'pseudo-deities' that have plagued us for the past eight years.
Han's words bring me out of my ruminations, my gaze traveling up as I realize we stand beneath and before a coliseum of truly, er...colossal size.
Words fail me.
The two Monastics lead us to the gargantuan entryway-
-and my feet nail themselves to the floor as two massive suits of stone, scale and armor lumber towards us, my breath catching as I realize just what these...things are.
During the battle against Tiamat, many of the Associations had come under assault by pseudo-deities, the majority of their forces relegated to battling the Sumerian Goddess and leaving our homes woefully understaffed and weakened. We would have lost a great deal had bizarre and unknown figures not appeared to drive away the creatures, giants of ancient appearance wielding weapons and magic of times forgotten, disappearing as soon as they defeated the rampaging monsters with only scattered recordings and sightings to verify their existence.
They were a part of the Quiet Land all along?
A small bead of sweat trickles down my neck as, despite not shifting their animalstic helms in the slightest, I feel these being's attention settle on me-
-before passing on, a slow and shaky breath escaping my throat.
"Good evening, Judicators. I am here to introduce the latest batch of recruits to the Godslaughterer."
A terse moment passes...before a rasping, disembodied voice echoes, "You may pass, Brother Han."
The enormous figures return to their positions without further comment, my legs a bit wobbly as I match pace with Raffaello and Han. A glance to either side of me reveals Gerard and Nijah also a bit overwhelmed, light sheens of sweat beading their brows.
I'm just glad it wasn't only me.
"You will have to forgive the Judicators, they are merely doing their duty of guarding our stronghold to the best of their ability. Even if that means frightening those that are not part of our order."
A part of me wants to insist that I wasn't frightened...but that would be a rather blatant lie.
Our journey takes us past support columns of incredible width and height, a dozens upon dozens of meter long passage that leads to an opening beneath the shifting sky of what I now recognize as the Netherworld.
It's...humbling, the sight before me.
A collection of benches, chairs and small storage sheds dot the interior of the coliseum, while a twenty meter long crater glows with what looks like molten material, sparks and embers leaping upwards from it in wild arcs, a prowling figure pacing along the rim of it, occasionally making the odd gesture with his hand as he does so.
...Three guesses as to who that is.
What does almost cause me to trip over my feet is the collection of figures off to the side that I had originally mistaken for furniture.
A massive wolf with a dark pelt and clawed paws, eyes lazily shut as two feminine figures rest atop its back.
One is a woman with gold-silver hair clad in a white dress that seems to shift with yellow light, a silk blindfold across her eyes, head resting in the lap of the other woman as they amicably chat, their voices too distant to make out the words.
The other has snow-white hair and violet eyes, a simple, backless toga her attire as she plays with the blindfolded woman's hair.
The Goddesses Ambriel and Athena, along with the Godslaughterer's Avatar Fenrir.
As for the Godking himself?
Bare chested, displaying a rough and bristly physique that clearly places functionality above aesthetics, his right arm replaced at the shoulder with an eerily smooth and flexible limb of darkened metal. Glowing eyes a kaleidoscope of colors as his Weaving of Black Wool Authority remains active, dirty-blonde hair cut short and a frown of concentration adorning his mildly attractive features.
...And shining clearly across his tanned skin, located just to the right of his heart, is a massive knot of scar tissue, a remnant of his battle against the King of the End along with the other Campione.
The Eighth Godking, Jereth Godslaughterer in the flesh.
Seemingly unconcerned with our arrival he walks above the molten pit, crouching low on a manifested board of metal and gazing downwards for a moment before motioning upwards with his hand-
-and a gargantuan spike of metal comprised of several different plates rises into the air, dripping glowing metal as it shimmers with released heat, my jaw dropping as the construct flexes, a clearly articulated bit of armor for some unbelievably large giant of a Human.
...Or the finger of a Dragon.
"You can stop showing off now, Jereth."
I almost trip while standing still as Raffaello calls out to the Godslaughterer with a dry tone, the man glancing over his shoulder with a sour expression.
"What are you, the fun police?"
"More along the lines of one who takes her duty seriously, unlike some other unspecified court jester. His name starts with 'J' and ends with 'ereth', if you desire a hint."
This is not how I imagined things happen in the Monasteries.
Huffing an irritated sigh the Godslaughter allows his creation to fall into the molten pit with a splash of lava, a shield of magic surrounding him and deflecting the burning material as he calmly approaches us.
Raffaello crosses her arms and arches an eyebrow.
"It's fortunate this building possesses an open ceiling, else how would we fit your inflated ego inside?"
"The same way I manage to fit inside you, obviously. Slowly and carefully, with a generous application of lubricant."
The Swordsaint gains a light dusting of darkness across her cheeks even as her tone is steady.
"Way to prove my statement about your ego entirely correct."
The Godslaughterer merely smirks as he stands before us, cheekily remarking, "A small price to pay for the honor of seeing the Paladin herself acting like a cute little virgin hearing her first dirty joke~."
His smile becomes slightly strained as Raffaello steps on his toes as she walks past him, taking up position behind his left shoulder, a victorious grin now on her face rather than his.
Thankfully a clearing of Han's throat brings their interplay to an end before any illusions I had about the leadership of the Monasteries is shattered forever.
"Brother Jereth, allow me to introduce Gerard Batista, Lilian Sonata and Nijah Seyyal. They have expressed interest in joining our order and passed the initial trials, all that remains is your acceptance of their initiation."
The irreverent and lackadaisical air surrounding the Campione abruptly disappears, his face shifting into one of professionalism that unconsciously causes me to straighten my spine.
"So. You three want to join us, huh? So here's my main question for you all. Why? You'd have a much more pleasant experience if you wanted to join Godou Kusanagi's faction, they don't expect as much from their members. Alternatively, if you wished to study the aspects of magic then the Black Prince's Royal Arsenal is a more sure bet, considering its close relationship the Wizengamot. Or if you wanted to join a more militant branch of magicians the Copper and Bronze Black Crosses or Holy Mountain Cult are your go to solutions. We deal in cold, hard facts and more often than not end up having to kill disillusioned idiots, not evildoers firmly deserving of a morningstar up the ass. You still want in?"
Gerard nods firmly, announcing, "I'm only a second generation mage, with little history behind my family...nothing would make us prouder than having served the one group that has done more to save our planet than any other."
Jereth nods, idly remarking, "There are worse reasons. Lilian, Nijah?"
Nijah demurely bows, explaining, "My family wishes to secure closer relations with the Monasteries. Mister Han implied that Seers are valued among the Quiet Land and I wish to provide a bridge that way."
Making no comment to that the Godslaughterer's gaze finally rests upon me.
I have to take a moment to breathe.
"I...I no longer wished to serve the Copper Black Cross, not after the Tiamat fiasco. I was there when you spoke after the battle, Godslaughterer...and after a few years passed I couldn't shake the feeling that you were right. That the world is an inherently uncaring place, full of those that would see it burn for little reason, if any reason at all. More to the point...I didn't wish to be helpless, to play catch up against a threat that evidently has our collective number. That's why I wish to join. Because I believe you know how to fight."
A more understanding nod from the Godslaughterer, the moment passing as he turns to face us in full.
"Very well, time for the final test. Soul Read."
That sudden proclamation coincides with a necklace that hadn't been there before resting on his chest, a sudden tug on my everything causing me to stumble-
-and when I come to my limbs are shaking, breath coming fast and heavy.
What...what was that? There had been rumors that the Eighth Campione could read people's minds, but that was...different.
A glance to my side reveals Gerard in a similar state, although for whatever reason Nijah seems largely unaffected. Probably a Seer thing…
"Hmm...alright, the three of you are in."
It takes me a moment to properly process that statement...and then an unstoppable grin breaks out across my face.
Gerard clears his throat and asks, "If you don't mind my asking, Godslaughterer...was that-"
"Mind reading? Not quite, more like a cursory examination of memories, just to ascertain if you were trustworthy and believed in what you were saying. Congrats, you passed with flying colors."
I'm far too elated by being accepted to feel all that indignant about the invasion of privacy...besides, I can imagine a great many worse things he could have done to ensure our loyalty.
"Oh, and Nijah?"
For some reason the girl seems incredibly nervous as the Godslaughterer turns to face her. Did he find something in her memories that he doesn't approve of?
"Just do your job here and your family will have what they want, I'd advise against trying to woo me. Raffaello is a very possessive woman, after all."
The epic eye roll from the ex-Paladin says more than any words possibly could...not that Nijah seems to notice, instead bowing low and quickly responding, "I-I understand, your majesty. I will endeavor to meet your expectations!"
A wise decision, as off in the distance I notice a certain snake-Goddess gazing stonily at the young woman.
And I'm not sure that 'stony' adjective is very far from being literal.
With the death of the King of the End, the unleashing of Kosall and the radically shifted planetary landscape, Jereth decides Heretic God activity needs to be curtailed and contained, making use of the Grail with Guinevere's aid and leftovers of Ashoka's workings to create an arena in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where Tiamat first impacted. Self-cloaking, self-powering and well shielded it allows whatever Heretic divinities or Campione within its confines to do battle freely, the deaths of either participant and the ambient power released recycled to power the arena. Doni, Luo Hao and Voban are more than partial to the idea while the rest are just grateful that they don't have to worry about future battles taking place in their territory.
...The Gods that don't follow those rules would be taken down using Kosall, returned anew to the Domain of Immortality with no recollection of their defeat, adopting new understandings of themselves according to modern belief.
As Jereth goes to observe the arena one day, he finds a familiar face and a not so familiar one…
"Quite the impressive bit of architecture you've made here, my number one baby boy! It's so cool! And the seats are top notch!"
...Well I definitely wasn't expecting Pandora to show up here, of all places.
And the tall, bearded gentleman wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt who's shoulders she's sitting on is a new sight.
"Seeing as how you're here, should I assume the covenant or whatever you were a part of is no longer in effect? Or do I need to worry about reality breaking itself apart again?"
The purple-haired Goddess chirps, "Nope! My restriction to the Netherworld was only held true if the King of the End and the pseudo-deities both remained alive and hidden...Rama is gone and enough of the magically inclined population is aware of the pseudo-deities. I can finally-"
"Bah, what's with all the talk of business?! Introduce me, dearest! Our Eighth son can't afford not to know-"
"-who his dad is?"
Epimetheus and Pandora both stare at my slight smirk, eyebrow quirking as I point out, "What? I figured it was pretty obvious given how totally intimate you two are-"
A wail of emotion leaves both of my honorary parent's throats as the Titan of Afterthought leaps towards me, wrapping me up in a hug as Pandora reciprocates the action from her elevated position, creating a really fucking uncomfortable roly-poly of unwanted affection.
"Ok, ok! Jesus, get a grip already!"
I have to basically pry off the hysterical duo, more than a little embarrassed by the action. Thank Gods Athena or Raffaello wasn't there to see that, I never would have heard the end of it…
"Heh, sorry, boy. But it's been a long time since one of our adopted children bothered to call us mother or father...even longer since I've been properly incarnated in this world. And can I say I like what you've done with the place?"
I snort and motion to the arena below, a five kilometer basin where flashes of silver and the crack of rock can be heard, Doni facing off against one Mother Earth Goddess or another...Tonantzin, I think? The seven different varieties of flowers blooming across the battlefield is a pretty big hint.
"This is just the waiting room. The rest of the world beyond is far more varied. Speaking of, do you mind if I-heads up."
We all duck as a distinct crack echoes across the arena, a split-second later a Human figure smashing into the wall above us and creating one Hell of an impact crater.
"Hoo boy that was a good hit! Man this place was the best idea ever! Oh, hey Jereth!"
Doni grins down at me as he pulls himself free from the masonry, Man of Steel preventing him from suffering anything too permanent.
He hasn't changed one bit over the years...aside from the heavy scarring along parts of his body from where he was burned during our battle against Rama, alongside the remaining arm of Ashoka I gave to him to replace the lost limb. Why I did that, I'll never know.
Ah Hell, I know exactly why I did it. He saved our asses during the last stretch of that battle and I owed him for that.
"Anyone ever tell you not to destroy the fucking peanut gallery? That's what pays the admission fees, you kn-"
"Sorry, no time to talk! Battle is calling and my blood is a pumping!"
With a whoop of excitement he leaps back to the arena below, a dark-skinned woman wearing Native American feathers and cloths smirking at him as he does so, despite the bleeding gash in her side.
Epimetheus wipes a tear from his eye, remarking, "I think he's my favorite son..."
An amused snort leaves me before I can withhold it. Of course dearest dad would think Doni is awesome, they're peas of a pod.
Although Pandora seems to take exception to that, crossing her arms and boldly stating, "Well I think Jereth is my favorite!"
"Wait, I thought Godou was your favorite?"
She bats her eyelashes at me with a motherly expression that causes me to blush.
"Mother's can change their mind, you know. And it wasn't Godou that allowed me to once more roam the Earth."
I simply shrug and decide to drop the subject, instead asking, "So like I was saying, do you have a minute to talk, mom?"
"Sure! Want to take a walk?"
"Works for me."
Dad wordlessly scoops his wife into his arms, daintily setting her on the ground before announcing, "Take your mother-son moment, I'm going to watch the rest of the game! C'MON, BOY! SHOW HER WHAT'S FOR!"
...You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your family…
"So what'd you want to ask?"
I affix Pandora with a calculating gaze, asking, "I've been wondering...ever since Amar told me the truth of the world, of how it came to be and the initial creation of the Netherworld, of how you are responsible for it...I guess I'm just curious as to why you did it."
An old and bitter expression appears on the petite Goddess's features, her tone weary and cynical as opposed to its usually upbeat cadence.
"Why? Indeed, why...why break down the walls of reality, bringing a nightmare beyond comprehension to the world that still haunts it to this day? Why assume the final responsibility of a battle that has likely claimed billions upon billions of souls over the millennia? Why create a perpetual system that births Demigods and warriors that have been debatabley benign, ignoring the reason I created them in favor of pursuing their own agendas? A system that directly led to the creation of the King of the End and the many extinctions that followed in his crusades?"
A thoroughly exhausted pair of eyes meet my own, the Goddess having to quickly look away as she explains, "Make no mistake, your father and I love all of you dearly, despite-or perhaps because-of all your imperfections and quirks...but I have never labored under the delusion that Campione were a perfect solution to a problem I created. If anything they are a double-edged sword, a hasty answer to a disaster that deserved a far more gentle touch."
I nod in agreement, silently hinting for her to continue.
"Well...as for the ultimate why?"
Her smile becomes self-deprecating.
"I doomed the world to millennia of battle and death for love. A selfish love for myself and myself alone."
A slow dip of her head.
"Yes. Love. Originally, we could not reach beyond the boundary of the Domain of Immortality, confined to merely watching the mortal realm and observing it. And that was perfectly fine. But then, one day...I saw a Human. The most intriguing and bewildering Human I'd ever witnessed. To beings that could only watch, not interact, a Human that constantly defied our expectations and beliefs was the greatest treasure in the entire universe. And in my greed and desire...I fell in love with this Human, wishing with such passion and fervor that we could spend eternity in the other's arms, that we may share the wonders of the world...so that we may simply talk."
A frown of understanding crosses my face.
"Yes...and I eventually did it. I found a way to bypass the barrier that separated our realms, finally speak to the man I loved and, beyond all my wildest dreams...he came to love me in return."
A nostalgic, grief-tinged smile pulls at her lips.
"I ascended him to immortality and all seemed right with the world. For a long time no one even really grasped the full consequences of what I had done...and then the first warning signs came."
Her eyes darken with memories no doubt long suppressed.
"A few Heretic Divinities over there, odd creatures of violence and shadow over here...while certainly confusing we merely thought these scenarios were an as of yet unexplored power of those who resided in the Domain of Immortality, something that we could learn to harness."
"And then the world went mad?"
"...Yes. It was a small thing, two Goddesses of nature got into a spat...and in their disagreement, they reset the world."
A sharp SNAP of Pandora's fingers accentuate the point.
"Just like that, Humanity was gone, only baser creatures that had preceded them, preceded us remained."
A morbid chuckle leaves her tiny frame.
"With the benefit of hindsight it was actually rather hilarious how much we panicked, the two Goddesses in particular, thinking they had somehow destroyed our favorite targets of observations, our sources of existence. We merely thought it was a glitch at the time, dozens upon dozens of us frantically trying to undo our mistake...and instead confirmed the horrifying truth. Humanity returned to how it was...but the thoughts of those Gods that had restored them had become muddled, resulting in several new deities being born...except they were not a part of the Domain, as it always had been. Instead, against all accepted evidence, they were something inbetween...pseudo-deities, if you will. And that was the straw that broke the camel's back, we knew something had gone terribly wrong."
She hugs herself, eyes screwing themselves shut.
"It was not only Humanity that lost itself in that time...the Gods too were fearful and ridden with anxiety. As 'reality' became an ever more fluid and chaotic concept perceptions and beliefs in our divinity could change on a dime, drastically altering us in completely unexpected ways without so much as the slightest hint of it occurring. And it was all my fault. The rest, as the saying goes, is history..."
Defeated, expressionless eyes meet my own, Pandora's tone as expressive and lively as a concrete desert.
"...You must hate me, don't you? You, my favorite son, who's mother's actions lead to the deaths of the few he cared for, the maiming of two he loved."
A humorless laugh escapes her.
"I'm the architect of your greatest miseries and tragedies, of why you are who you are...I'm a wretched woman, aren't I? To profess to love you like a child, when I've done nothing but send you to war and loss..."
For the longest time I stare at the Goddess, her dead and beaten gaze matching my own with no expectation of pity or forgiveness-
-and I can only heave an exhausted sigh before crouching low, pulling my honorary mother into a-surprisingly-heartfelt embrace, her head resting on my shoulder as she stiffens at the contact.
"Believe it or not, strange as this may sound...I don't hold any of that against you. And I doubt I could ever hate you, mom."
The raw hope and emotion in that hiccuped tone causes me to smile as I soothingly rub her back.
"Ok, so maybe you have a bodycount several magnitudes higher than mine...but at least you undertook your actions with the purest of intents. For love. As for myself?"
A wry snort escapes my nostrils.
"I've done bad things in my life, mom. And for far less noble reasons than the desire for affection and acceptance. Others may judge you-rightly so-for the things you've done...but I won't be one of them. Because I honestly believe that you're a far better person than I am, who dedicated years upon years upon years of her existence to right her wrongs...even thought it would have been infinitely easier to just turn a blind eye and pretend it had nothing to do with her."
I pull away slightly, letting me get a good look at her watery eyes and quivering lip.
"Take this as you will...but I think we're a better mother and son pair than any of my other siblings. And for whatever insane damn reason...I'm proud of that. Mother."
...And that about does it. With a wet sniffle I suddenly have a crying Goddess hugging the life out of me, a childish action that somehow comes across as heartfelt rather than comical.
Probably because she's been repressing this shit for a long time…
"I-I-I always k-knew there was a reason you were my f-favorite..."
One of the most peaceful smiles I've experienced to date pulls my mouth upwards.
"I love you too, ma."
Four more years pass, ultimately culminating in the final legislation being passed to begin the Orbital Elevator Project, a renewed interest in the project causing heavy levels of public support, Tiamat's incarnation-being disguised as a meteor impact-and the subsequent storm that caused a minor global crisis causing people to wish to take to the stars, to find other planets or reside far more safely in Earth's orbit.
Jereth, Athena and Ambriel attend the grand opening of the site's future construction.
"A culmination of thy efforts and schemes finally put into motion. Tis a day for celebration, no?"
I lean on the yacht's railing, overlooking the beginnings of a massive base pad that'll serve as the anchoring station of the OE, several other boats and even more observers on the wharfs of San Francisco watching several United Nation members go through the political motions of letting the thing fully get underway.
"It would, but I'm clearly remembering the absolute bull honky I had to go through as 'Mr. Armstrong' in getting the world to stop having a collective shit fit in building this thing. Gives the whole thing a new taste, quite honestly."
"No need to be so overly dramatic, Jereth. You succeeded and that's what ultimately counts, yes?"
I give Ambriel a side glance before giving a noncommittal grunt.
...This is a rare occurrence in which I'm not exaggerating the level of difficulty involved in getting this damn thing off the ground. In my disguise as Mr. Armstrong convincing the nations of the world to finally agree on a plan to building the OE had been a veritable nightmare of backroom deals and blatant threats...alongside a healthy dose of mind control and memory alteration, a marked departure from typical Monastic methods but fuck that noise.
Given Tiamat's incarnation many Atlantic coastal cities had been severely damaged or outright destroyed, meaning they were out of the running for where the site would be built. And it had to be near a city with a significant shipping and transportation base, otherwise getting materials in a timely fashion to the project would be damn near impossible.
San Francisco had been one of the obvious choices, a location I had pushed for since it would allow me to remain in close proximity to it, should any Heretic Divinities or other more mundane threats attempt to mess with it. Relying solely on Emperor's Return had left me uneasy.
...Of course, that opened up a whole can of worms on who would be responsible for repair costs, if the city or United States should foot a larger portion of the bill since they would be responsible for ensuring it's continued running, if the act was political in nature or merely one of convenience and fuck me...just remembering that shitshow and how often I wanted to go on a killing spree simply to expedite the process is enough to cause a migraine.
But it's happening.
It's finally happening.
"Temper thy excitement, Godling. No need to shriek and celebrate."
Ok, that little comment from Athena drags a small grin out of me.
"Is that sarcasm? I think it was sarcasm. It was sarcasm."
"Thy mastery of nuance never ceases to amaze."
My arm snakes-haha, very fitting-its way around her waist and pulls her close...only for her sunhat's brim to poke me in the face with a dull thump and immediately sour my mood, both Athena and Ambriel giggling at the noise and action.
"Cock-blocked by a hat. That's a new one."
It had been a rare sunny day in the city and the Goddesses had taken advantage of that, adorning simple, pure white sundresses and hats while I went for the douchey button up shirt left open and board shorts.
Appearances are secondary to comfort and I'll live by that motto till I die.
Although the jealous gazes I'm getting from the rest of the revelers is pretty damn funny.
"Lose thy grumpy and cantankerous mood, and perhaps this Athena will deign to lay with you..."
This time there's no sidelong glance, instead full on staring into Athena's playful gaze with an arched eyebrow.
"Well just slap a clown nose on me and call me Jolly the Jubilant Jester."
"Such an easy man."
Ambriel chuckles lightly at our banter before asking, "Jereth, may I see this project of yours?"
I lightly join hands with the Angel, letting Soul Read slowly connect our minds...and with a bit of shared perception she can see through my eyes as if they were her own, a pleased hum leaving her as I slowly pan over the sight, of the many ships circling the construction sight and crowds cheering from the shore as several suited men and women of all races and skin color shake hands, give speeches and finally cut the red ribbon that bars the many construction workers from beginning their work.
I let my gaze wander to Ambriel's form, lightly remarking, "It certainly is..."
A playful smack on the arm from Athena.
"I call it like I see it."
A companionable silence falls over us as I return my gaze to the activity and revelry happening around us.
I told no lie. The battle against Rama left wounds on all of us. Athena sporting a distinct number of scarred exit wounds over her body from where the Bastard's spear impaled her and Ambriel's eyes having lost their hypnotic luster, now glazed and closed from blindness, either a blindfold or sunglasses covering the injury.
And I find them all the more breathtaking for it.
"It seems only a matter of time until Humanity takes to the stars, now doesn't it?"
I nod at Ambriel's words, replying, "Provided there's no sabotage, unexpected natural or divine disasters, engineering hiccups or political fuckery...then yeah. It'll just be a matter of when, not if."
"Thou is acting morose and pessimistic once more, Godling. Tis a shame, this Athena was anticipating a night of passion most enthusiastically..."
"I think the important part is that I'm trying."
We both mock glare at the other, Ambriel idly wondering, "I cannot help but wonder...will the Domain follow them to the stars? For new planetary Gods and Goddesses to be born? Gods of a new faith, of technology and science? The future seems...open."
"That it does. And while I'd like to believe Heretic Gods will forever be a quirk of Earth and only Earth...I'm not going to hold my breath, if you catch my meaning."
Letting loose a quiet sigh Athena gazes to the sky, idly commenting, "Then it seems this Goddess will have work among the constellations to attend to."
"A never ending quest, really. Guess I'll never be able to retire..."
Ambriel's words carry a hint of inquisitiveness to them.
"You don't believe that one day your task will be complete?"
"Hah! Not a fucking chance...there'll always be an enemy for me to fight. Heretic Gods will view me and Kosall as a threat. Pseudo-Deities know of me and the Monasteries power. Other Godslayers may form alliances or grow powerful all on their own, seeking me out for either a challenge or to settle grudges. There's no end of the rainbow for me, only the journey to it..."
A soft, gentle hand squeezes my own.
"...As much as I wish I could say otherwise...your words ring true."
Athena reciprocates Ambriel's action as our fingers entwine, her tone soft as she states, "Worry not...this Athena's presence will suffice for two eternities, thou shall not want for companionship."
"...Now just how am I supposed to respond to something so blatantly romantic and heartfelt without sounding like a total sap?"
Soft lips catch my own and, for a time in between the coming storms, I feel truly at peace.
With the advent of a new age of Humanity on the horizon, Jereth makes a visit to a certain location in the Quiet Land, Creele at his side.
The Hall of the Fallen is aptly named.
A large, completely unadorned building with many entrances and an open ceiling, enchanted to be as large as it needs to be...unfortunately, that need expands by the day and has been doing so since the dawn of time.
Because in here rests every single Monastic, Esoteric and Exoteric alike, that have died in service to our cause.
Finding a single name among the countless thousands upon thousands of simple tombstones would take a long time...but in true magical fashion I only need to think of three particular names and the Hall takes care of the rest.
"Gotta say, this place is rather depressing...looks like boring grass in here."
Creele's comment causes me to snort in morbid amusement as I gaze out at the sea of simple gray, a shift of air manifesting three new tablets in front of where we're standing.
"Probably a shit ton of nutrients in the ground though."
"I doubt it. How many Monastics do you think are actually buried here properly? My bet is around one in a couple hundred."
"You said it, not me."
Without further comment the two of us kneel in front of the graves, eyeing the names engraved upon them.
Timothy, Audrey and Elizaveta.
...It's a damn good thing I forgot that was Tim's full name, otherwise I never would have let the asshole forget it…
"You alright, Bat-Gwai?"
I glance to my side where Creele is watching me...and abruptly realize my vision is a little blurry.
Oh for fuck's sake…
"Yeah, I'm good...just remembering."
He wordlessly nods, returning to gazing at the markers with fondness, an action I reciprocate.
"I wish they could have seen this. Could have known that it would all pay off in the end."
"Hmm...to be perfectly honest, I think they saw no compunction with laying down their lives because they knew you would succeed. Lord only knows what those three saw in your gringo ass, but I guess they were right in the end."
An honest snort escapes me, my tone wry as I respond with, "What a ringing endorsement, I'm practically tearing up over here."
"You've already got the crying part down pat. Pussy."
A shared chuckle and then we both fall silent, once again quietly reminiscing as my fingers trace Eliza's engraved name.
I guess there's not much more to do here.
"I suppose the two of us will end up in this place at some point or another. Probably me first, seeing as how the crap you cause gives me noting short of an ulcer."
"Bullshit. I'm the one throwing down with Heretic Gods, if anyone's lifespan is looking to be on the shorter end of the fuckstick it's me."
"I'm mortal. You're not."
"A sword through the brain is a pretty damn good equalizer."
We both stand, preparing to once more get back to work.
"...You're right though, Creele. But I have to say...the idea of joining them in this place? It's not that bad..."
"But not yet."
A smile I have no control over exposes my teeth.
"No. Not yet."
The Orbital Elevator had been nearing completion for many years now, its construction merely a few months from the final phase and henceforth providing a cheap and simple method of exploring the final frontier, a hallmark and historical accomplishment that would propel Humanity into the beginnings of a new age.
...That in and of itself meant little to the four Heretic Gods that advanced on the construct, hurricanes of annihilating force following in their wake, waves dozens of meters tall thrashing about their steadily advancing forms as lighting and thunder split the sky asunder.
Rather, it was their target merely because the despicable Human known as the Godslaughterer had deemed it important, a monument worth protecting.
For years too long the arrogant Godling had dared to dictate to them, the Gods, what and where they may walk or battle, dispensing punishment of an unknown and lethal kind to those that disobeyed. Even more alarming, Heretic Divinities like themselves had allied with the creature.
...This hubris needed to be punished.
To that end the Anemoi had incarnated upon the Earth, to put an end to the upstart.
Boreas, Zephyrus, Notus and Eurus approached the towering bit of metal, composites and concrete with shimmering, robed forms before stopping no more than a few kilometers away from the building. For a few moments the Gods were content to observe, watching what few Humans remained on the project scrambling to either escape or tie down what resources they had.
Then, as one, they raised their hands, the air itself shimmering and coalescing into a ball of visible disturbance before-with a deafening CRACK-it was launched at the heaven-reaching tower.
Such a gathering of power would have leveled a mountain, let alone a mere Human built fabrication-
-and the unstoppable charge of gathered wind was dispelled with an equally mighty detonation, the ocean bursting outwards in wild sprays of liquid as the attack was parried by an unknown force.
...Their quarry had arrived.
"You know, showing up out of nowhere and fucking up someone else's property gives a pretty piss poor first impression."
Idly floating through the storming weather on a simple metal board, clad in glowing metal armor stood the Godslaughterer himself, outstretched hand wavering with released power before lowering it dismissively.
The four Gods made no reply, merely narrowing their eyes and gazing with distaste at their foe.
"Ah, the strong silent types, hmm? No biggie, maybe you'll talk to one of your distant relatives."
At the Campione's words the ocean seemed to bulge, spreading outwards as if attempting to contain a vessel of immense size...and then it broke, allowing a snow-white Dragon of incredible length and beauty to rise into the sky, its reptilian head coming to rest next to the Godslaughterer's.
"Ahh, tis been many a year since we last met, has it not? This Athena is curious, how doth Aeolus fare?"
Disgust emanated from the four Gods in a nearly tangible form, Boreas finally deigning to speak as he scathingly asked, "You have fallen low, Goddess of War and Wisdom. To side with our natural enemy, to go against your own kind?"
The Goddess made no reply other than for a low, rumbling hiss to escape her maw, a noise the four newly incarnated Gods recognized as laughter.
"Hey, did you hear that, Pit Viper? The family doesn't approve of your relationship with the bad boy from the other side of the tracks. Guess that dowry is a no go, hmm?"
A low, pleased hiss left the massive Dragon as it gently nudged the smaller Human, remarking, "Tis convenient that thy affection is a suitable replacement. If merely by the slimmest of margins..."
"Now THAT'S flattery if ever I've heard it. Especially from you, Pit Viper-"
A deafening howl tore through their surroundings, the ocean whipping itself into an unconstrained rage as the four weather God's patience ran thin.
"Enough. If you insist on making light of us, then we shall reciprocate the favor!"
The Godslaughterer's voice was irreverant and unconcerned.
"You know, it's funny you would mention light..."
An intolerably bright ray of holy ambiance illuminated the battleground, the four Gods wincing as a woman descended from the sky, backlit against a glowing halo while pure white wings of immaculate design kept her aloft, seemingly ignoring the violent winds that raged.
"Because three vs four is what I would call a horribly unfair battle. At least for you. Glad you could join us, Ambriel."
Smiling beatifically, as if she was not blinded behind a strip of cloth, the Angel lightly replied, "I would not have left you two to undertake such a battle without me present to guard the rear. Shall we begin?"
Two oversized swords of red and green metal flared to life in the Godslaughterer's hands, both he and the Angel alighting on the Dragon's head.
"You know what? Let's do just that."
One of the weapons raised to point at the four Gods who were steadily gathering power, furious scowls on their divine features.
"Just to remind you all, this planet has rules now. Rules that, if broken, carry consequences."
Thunder roiled overhead as if to accentuate the man's point as the Grrek Goddess rose to her full, imposing height, wings of light emanating from the Angel as lightning struck, framing the trio against the broken sky.
"Or did you miss the part where I declared the beginning of The Theomachy?"
It took couple of months to work out this last bit, but here it is, the ending of Campione: The Theomachy!
Been a good while since I started working on this and massive thanks to all who read, followed, favorited and reviewed, you guys and gals kept me going as long as I did. Hopefully see you in my other works!