‘Coup’ Part 1/4

23:10 Thu 12 Jul 2007. Updated: 19:02 15 Jul 2007
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I was barely halfway down the ladder when the first ones hit. A series of deep, bass booms. I could feel the vibration in my fingers. And just like that, I had a headache.

It wasn’t yet time to worry, I told myself. In a sense, that was true, as nothing bad would happen in the next few minutes. But the sweat and adrenaline were there for a reason: I was past the point of no return. Now I would succeed or die, either by my own means or in prolonged torment.

The pressure in my head got worse, but in truth it was still slight. I was just very sensitive to its presence because of what it meant.

It meant the gods had started to arrive.

The very angry gods.

While I had come to this place only hours before, I had spent millennia planning for their arrival. Millennia studying wards and shields, but more importantly milliennia dredging up or stealing innumerable power sources. Gems, totems, altars, arks, staves—I took the significant ones, the ones that entire cultures, or worlds, or cabals, had poured their energies into. Empires collapsed as I stole what powered their weapons. Atmospheres howled into the void as I removed the artifacts that kept them hugging their ancient planets. Long-dormant guardians awoke and died as I robbed the resting-places of forgotten races.

I brought them back with me, stripped them down, siphoned their essences into the orb I had made. I made them uniform, just raw power. I quieted their voices, lest anything sense the immensity I was forming. I shaped them, slowly, carefully. I made them into a new thing, and this new thing I prepared painstakingly for the brief final phase of its existence.

To hold off the gods.

I had unleashed everything in my orb, and bound all that power to the ward that was now above me.
My plan was audacious, subtle, intricate. But this part depended entirely on how long the ward could hold against the untold might that was assailing it. Brute force against brute force.

I reached the bottom of the ladder.

I have not been here before, but I know what to expect. The light emanating from me reveals old, old walls of brown stone, and floors thick with dust.

The gods know about this place because they made it. Through puppets, for the most part. But they made it, and they did it together, something unprecedented. And they did it quietly, without boasting, which was even more unlikely.

They did it because they had to hide something.

Some unknown but very long time ago, a nameless race challenged their own gods. A rare thing, but one that had happened before and has happened since. They were successful, rarer still but not unique. They went a step further. Instead of killing their gods, they harnessed them. Harnessed them, and a large number of items not unlike those that went into my shield, and sucked their energies into a controllable vortex of some kind. Then they fed stars to this vortex.

They were not content with their own gods. They had set their sights higher.

They failed. They approached their goal, but failed. This is why their race is nameless, why their home world, home star, home system, home cluster no longer exist. Why no trace of them remains in any of the sub-realms, even to suffer for their hubris.

But information is hard to kill, even for the gods. There are always rumors. And when certain people hear them, rumors are distilled, not distorted. No questioners survived, but wiser ones kept their questions silent, hidden.

The gods were unable to destroy this power source. They tried. They unleashed forces that had not been seen in billions of years, forces that defy description. None of their violence, their guile, or their understanding could unravel it. They were also, by some lore of this nameless race, unable to use it.

So they hid it.

That was much easier to accomplish. The nameless race that had created it had done the same thing in an attempt to keep it from the gods. Some of the things that made it so difficult to destroy made it very difficult to detect. Where the gods had hidden it only they would know. In fact even they might have trouble finding it.

Being who they were, this was unacceptable. Despite their inability to use it now, they felt it could be brought to heel at some future point. Perhaps some future crisis would require it. In which case they had to be able to retrieve it. So they kept the nameless race’s “map” that held its location. It is also possible that they were unable to destroy this map and so had no choice but to keep it. In any case, the map was a much tougher item to hide, due to its quite physical form.

So they established a place, a place far from anywhere, a place that there would be no reason to go, ever, for anyone, and they put it there. Naturally they also put other things in this place, things that they individually didn’t want in circulation, things they feared rival gods could use against them. What better place for those things than somewhere that every god would want to keep secret and safe? So they put all manner of wonders inside this vault, and established wards and created guards and layers of protection. The last ward, as unbreakable as anything the gods could make, was simple: when someone trespassed, it told them. All of them, no matter where they were.

I was in that place. And the gods were at the top of the ladder.

‘Coup’ Part 2/4

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