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  1. #11
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    The Wars Begin
    The Sword Gods corrupted the hearts of men and turned brother against brother, father against son, and nation against nation. War soon ravaged across the countryside and Cronn knew great sorrow as Hiisi’s evil spread. This endless conflict would become known as the Mortals War.

    A dark empire rose and dominated all that stood in its way in the name of Hiisi, their dark patron. They spread as far south as the desert known as the Great Expanse and darkness ruled the land. This despotic land would become known as the Empire of Swords. The Ne Mei'neav stood their ground against the dark hordes praying that their human allies would not surrender to the minions of the Lord of Darkness.

    Meanwhile, the Sword Gods attempted to break the North Gods’ alliance by any means possible. They attempted to turn brother against brother and daughter against mother. However, the North Gods continued to stand together in solidarity. Actual open warfare didn’t occur until after the fall of Zell.

    Zell had been the God of Frustration and the youngest of the Dark Children. He was considered the runt of the litter, constantly put down and tormented by his siblings. Thus, he earned his title as the God of Frustration, as he doggedly tried to gain Hiisi’s favor and always found a way to fail.

    “You are a pathetic excuse for a god and a son. Get out of my sight.” Hiisi refused to coddle the boy.

    “Yes, Dark Father.” Lost without his sire’s approval, Zell took to roaming the countryside of Harqual causing frustration wherever he trod.

    He spent his nights lost to melancholy for many years until adolescence came upon him. He tried in vain to tempt mortal women, failing in frustrated rage. He would lose his mind and control, after trying to fight his evil nature. Thus, the objects of his affection would always die brutally at his hands.

    It was this conflict of evil and the desire to find true acceptance and affection that destroyed the Lost God.

    One evening, on a warm, clear night, Zell wandered from the safety of the Ragik Peninsula and into the lower reaches of the Northlands. He did this unwittingly, as he was lost in his melancholy. He came upon a lake shining under the moonlight, as clear as fine crystal.

    There he saw a sight that would tear the evil from his heart and crush it under the power of desire. Hela, the Peace Goddess, bathed nude under the moonlight with sylphs and nymphs to wash her. He was transfixed with her beauty and all thoughts of pleasing his Dark Father left him.

    Frustration had fallen in love with Peace.

    His arrival didn’t go unnoticed by the gentle goddess. She refused to show fear believing that Zell had come to steal her godsoul. Her entourage including centaurs and other sylvan creatures moved to defend their goddess.

    Zell made no motion to stop them falling to his knees, his head bowed, at the edge of the lake. He accepted his fate whatever it might be. He could meet oblivion at peace with his own dark soul.

    “Wait,” Hela was many years older than Zell but still an adolescent compared to most of her fellow North Gods.

    She sensed the change in Zell. In response, his form shifted. Gone were the hard lines of his frustrated existence and the bleak armor of the Suffering Soul. In the place of darkness came the hope of light and salvation.

    “I love you, Peace Goddess.” Zell looked up into his heart’s hope praying that she would not reject his love. “I will spend the rest of my existence proving it to you. I swear it!”

    “I can see the truth in your soul, Zell. I accept and encourage the love you feel inside you, although I can’t promise to love you back the way you put all your hope for.”

    “I will accept that Fate, if it only means that I can serve your beauty and goodness.”

    “Will you accept my grandfather as your liege, Zell.” She knew his answer before he spoke it.

    “I will, my love.” Zell bowed his head in fealty to Hela. “I will swear it before all of your kin in Lord Cronn’s Great Hall.”

    And Zell was true to his word. He came before the North Gods and swore allegiance to Cronn in front of the other gods of the Pantheon of the North. They did not doubt his word, as Zell opened his godsoul for all of them to see.

    “You truly love my granddaughter, Zell. I hope you will not be disappointed if one day she chooses another.” Cronn spoke alone with the Lost God.

    “Her acceptance of my love will last me the rest of my existence, Great Cronn.” Zell now wore the trappings of the North Gods, his transformation complete.

    “Aye, I know it will.” Cronn embraced the newest member of his pantheon. “You are lost no more, Zell. Now, you are the Found God.”

    * * *
    Robert Blezard

 

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    Hiisi was enraged when he learned that his youngest godson had sworn fealty to Cronn. He refused to allow dissension from his offspring. Zell would not be allowed to add his blood to Hiisi’s enemies. He forced his pantheon members to attack the Hall of the Northlands, in order to bring Zell to justice.

    The battle lasted a dozen mortal years and threatened to sweep away all those living near Cronn’s Great Hall. The North Gods took turns watching in the night for the next attack from the Sword Gods.

    “This is my fault,” Zell felt the frustration weigh him down. “Fate has come for me. I am not meant to find peace.”

    “Nay Zell,” Nessus, The Archer, tried to comfort his adopted brother. “We knew that they would come, brother. You must not give up hope.”

    “I do not wish to bring ruin and death upon those I love, Nessus.” Zell looked back towards the Great Hall.

    He knew exactly where Hela was inside the divine structure. He could feel the other young gods and goddesses in the Hall as well. They were resting. Twelve years of constant fighting was hard, even on the divine. Zell had insisted on fighting to protect the Hall, even though he was younger than his new brothers. Cronn had been wary at first, not wanting to lose his new godson.

    “Do not put the conflict solely on your own shoulders.” the North God of Mounted Warfare’s words came out from the night, as he returned from his patrol. “Conflict with the Sword Gods was inevitable, Zell.”

    “Yes,” Anon patted his adopted brother on the back. “Hiisi was just looking for an excuse to start this war.”

    The night was shattered by godfire as the Sword Gods came out of the darkness. With them they brought an army of evil humanoids and dark soldiers from the Sword Imperium. The North Gods had allies of their own.

    The fight would find the end of two gods on that night. The Dark Children surrounded Anacoro and tore him apart but not before the North God had sent one of them to oblivion first. Zell had mourned the passing of Anacoro but did not shed one tear for Shoku, his dark brother and Sword God of Vendettas.

    * * *

    The Siege of the Great Hall continued for several more years. However, in the end, the Sword Gods overwhelmed the followers protecting the Hall and Cronn’s Realm on the mortal plane was destroyed.

    Several of the North Gods fell on that day. Anon was brutally killed by Amand, his godsoul consumed by the Sword God of War. Zell, again, felt that the death’s of his adopted kin was his fault.

    “No, this will not happen! Not again!” Zell attacked Amand in a rage. “No one else shall die for me on this day!”

    Zell smashed his great longsword, Found-Peace, against his dark brother’s blade. He would not hide from his dark kin behind the death of his friends. He would end the Siege of the Great Hall, one way or another.

    “Ah, little brother,” Amand’s poisonous words sought to break Zell’s will. “Still trying to prove your worth, I see.”

    “I do not have anything to prove to you, dark spawn.” Zell thrust his sword at his older sibling again and again.

    “Don’t lie to me, Zell. I can feel the frustration in you still. You haven’t changed as much as you are trying to convince yourself of. Come back to the Sword Gods. Dark Father will accept you back if I vouch for you. We are your kin. It is where Fate destines you to be.”

    “No! This ends now! No more games and conniving words, Amand! I would rather meet oblivion than return to Hiisi’s dark brood!”

    “So be it, runt.” Amand crushed Zell back with one stroke from his great bastard Sword, Helldawn. “But you will not meet oblivion. You shall come with me, or at least your godsoul will.”

    Amand forced Zell to his knees, holding the adopted North God down with all his strength. Zell knew his Fate. He had seen it in his youth. He was meant to die in this way, but not by Amand’s hand. He called out with is mind to his closest brother. “It is time, brother.”

    “No!” Nessus’ head turned on the other side of the continuing siege. “I cannot do it.”

    “You must, Nessus. Amand must not take me.” Zell spoke the words out loud and in his mind. “It is my Fate. Mirella will guide us to our destinies, brother.”

    “I-I will miss you, Zell.” The god known as The Archer drew back his godly bow, Wind Guided, and fired an arrow across the field. The divine arrow flew straight and true, Zell closed his eyes and whispered the thoughts to her as the arrow pierced his soul.

    “I will always love you, Hela.” With that, Zell met his Fate in oblivion.

    This was the first act of the divine drama that would become known as the Divinity War.
    Robert Blezard

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    The Divinity War
    Fictional Narrative

    To the Planes
    Cronn watched from Jalivier’s Citadel of Light in the Seven Heavens, as the war on the mortal plane raged on. He had become less amiable as the years past, more sad, more grim. After the pantheon had lost the Great Hall of the Northlands Hades had suggested that the Pantheon take the fight with the dark gods to the Outer Planes.
    “If we go there, the dark gods will follow. Yes, the Mortals War will continue but less damage will be done to Harqual without us battling in the sky, balefire descending on the lands below.”
    Cronn was loath to leave his people and to let them fend for themselves against the dark followers of Hiisi. But he knew that Hiisi would follow him into the planes, afraid that his prize would escape him. Thus, the Divinity War shifted to the Outer Planes.

    “Enough! I’ve seen enough,” Cronn smashed the mirror that showed his people suffering under tyranny. “Will this madness never end!”

    Corellon looked at the broken mirror. Cronn had become more and more unstable in the last few decades. His pain was great; he truly did love his people, as much as he boasted. “It’s hard to watch, I know. But it is the way it has always been so, since time began.”

    “I don’t care, it’s not my way!”

    Corellon tried not to smile. Not at Cronn’s pain, but at the image in his mind of a neophyte elven god raging in pain at the site of his people being butchered by orcs and goblins. Forced to watch helplessly, while the Olympian Thunderer, Zeus, gave the same speech. It felt like only yesterday, but was in fact many eras ago. Cronn reminded him so much of himself at the beginning of his godhood.

    “Well, maybe Jalivier will return from Baator with good news. There must always be hope.”

    As if on cue in a great celestial drama, Jalivier came through the giant oak doors of his Citadel. He was battered and bruised, but whole. He knelt in front of his Father and began to speak. “Great Cronn, we have won a great victory this day.”

    “Stand Jalivier, and tell us of this great victory.” Cronn’s voice was slightly passive. Jalivier was the ultimate optimist and always said the same thing, no matter what the outcome was.

    “We took Gaoterlog.” Jalivier stood, beaming with pride.

    “Yes!” Cronn’s voice shook the heavens and his heart soared. Gaoterlog was Amand’s realm, Hiisi’s oldest godchild, in the third layer of the Nine Hells. “At last Anon, you are avenged!”

    “Indeed this is good news.” Corellon knew that Hiisi wouldn’t care about losing his godson, but he would care about losing the power that Amand wielded – a pantheon that loses its God of War usually didn’t survive long.

    Soon the Citadel was filling with other pantheon members as the news quickly spread around the Outer Planes.

    “My Lord,” Inanna appeared next to the Lord of the North and embraced him. “I came as soon as I heard. Is Hades here yet?”

    “Here,” Hades appeared out of shadows. “I am happy for you, my friend. I respected your grandson very much and I am glad his godsoul is finally at rest.”

    “Uncle!” Hela appeared from her realm in Arborea.

    She was growing up so fast and had become very beautiful, so much so that the god Apollo petitioned Cronn to court the goddess. He had told the Olympian god that his granddaughter’s heart was her own and that if he wanted to court her that he’d have to ask her himself.

    The Olympian did just that, after he recovered from the shock, begging Hela to be his consort. Being a strong willed goddess she put him off for a while but he persisted, following her around like a lovesick puppy. Hela had cared for Zell more than she had known and would not accept the Olympian’s advances, at first.

    Hela’s heart had healed and Ramara had helped her pluck Apollo’s love strings. Hela had been so good at it that Zeus had originally thought that she must be Ramara’s daughter. When he found out that Hela was in fact, the Hunting Princess’s daughter he had exclaimed that Apollo was out of his mind with love for sure.

    “I heard you were back, is it true, your army took Gaoterlog?” Hela glided on the marble floors like a elemental princesses through the air. She hugged Cronn, Inanna and then her uncle.

    “Yes child, Anon was avenged today. As were all of our kin lost because that butcher and the Dark Children.”

    “Zell… Nessus… Sialic… Thorn… Tulle… ” Cronn spoke the names of the fallen. “Meet brave Anon in the Twilight. Take him to Anacoro’s side in the peace of the oblivion.”

    Hela became sad at the mention of the fallen, but then she smiled running back towards where she had first appeared. “I must tell mother, she will be so happy that Anon’s pain is finally over.”

    She vanished as quickly as she came, leaving for her mother’s realm, Hunter’s Rest, in Elysium.

    “Still the same joyful girl, even after all these years of war.” Moradin had spoken the words. He and Garl entered the Citadel of Light, appearing near the oak doors. “Jalivier, I here you kicked some Sword tail today. Why didn’t you tell me you were going, I would have gone with you.”

    “It never came up, I was gone so quickly this time that I didn’t even have time to bring Cull with me.”

    “You laid siege to Gaoterlog without the God of Strategy. You did perform a miracle, didn’t you?” Moradin was inspired by his friend’s dedication to the cause.

    “You could say that.” Jalivier had become aware that he was a mess and quick replenished his power so that his armor gleamed and his skin looked untarnished. No one said anything, allowing the Sun God his one vanity. “However, that battle might be won but the War is not. I lost some of my best followers today, celestial and mortal.”

    The mood sobered a little and the Gods started to shift back to their own realms until only Cronn, Jalivier, Inanna, Hades, Corellon, Moradin, Garl, and Rel were left in the Citadel.

    “I’m sure we can find the time to honor the dead,” Cronn put his hand on the Sun Gods shoulder. “But first we must be prepared for a counterattack from Hiisi’s brood. He won’t take this lightly and will probably send his troops into the Upper Planes to enact his revenge.”

    “Demons and dark warriors attacking the Upper Planes.” Hades words echoed through the Citadel. “The rest of the Olympians are not going to like that one bit, except maybe Ares. He’d love to test his troops in such a battle.”

    “Do you think he would throw in with Hiisi?” Cronn didn’t like the idea of facing both the Lord of Darkness and the Unfortunate One.

    “No, he’s not likely to trust Hiisi or any other god with an agenda. More than likely, he’d send his troops in on no one's side and simple fight for the love of it.”

    “Ugh, Ares! No strategy, no honor, and no brains!” Inanna stared at the ceiling shaking her head in disbelief. “How any war god could just throw away good troops, for no other reason than the love of blood, is beyond me!”

    “Cronn looked at his beloved and smiled. “Not every war god has your good sense, my dear, or your beauty.”

    “Flatterer.” Inanna and Cronn had originally joined together and beget children to solidify her joining the pantheon. Eventually, they became friends and now, had become much more than that. So much so that Inanna’s realm had shifted over the years, from Baator to Mechanus then from there to Arcadia.

    She had then renamed it the Heart of Battle and left Enlil and the Sumerians altogether, tired of being ignored by her former husband. Cronn was much more to her liking. He was passionate treating her with the respect he knew she deserved. Of course, Enlil had been incensed. But Inanna did not care she was in love. How could she deny her very nature? “I’d hardly call Ares a good comparison, my love.”

    “How true, he’s not much to look at is he. Hades?”

    “No comment.”

    “I guess your right.” Cronn roared with laughter. “Zeus would probably hear about it if you degraded his son.”

    “It’s not Zeus that concerns me.”

    “Ah yes, I seem to remember hearing that Hera has quite the temper.”

    “Again, no comment.” Hades let a small smile creep onto his face.

    This time, they all laughed.

    “You keep this up Hades and the denizens of the planes might learn you have a sense of humor.” Cronn was beside himself with mirth. Hades could always make him laugh and he really appreciated the Death God’s dry wit. “But let’s not forget why we’re here. Do you think you can keep Ares and his troops out of the battle to come?”

    “Yes, he owes me a favor. I can’t say more than that.”

    “Good enough,” Cronn was satisfied. He then turned to address the God of the Rakasta. “Rel, how do your people fare in the southern lands of our homeland? And where is Euphoria, I haven’t seen her in over a cycle?”

    The cat god held up his head with pride. “My people have held the followers of Hiisi to the northern side of the Expanse, Lord Cronn. The darkness will not spread to the southern lands, I assure you. But it is not Hiisi’s minions that I am worried about, it’s the blasted tabaxi!”

    “The tabaxi! Not again! I thought we settled this dispute. They can have the Storm Jungle and settle in the southern parts of the North but the savannas of southern lands are for your people. If only Tu would see reason, I don’t understand why he won’t speak with me regarding this matter.”

    “No offense Lord Cronn but you are not a cat god.”

    “Really, he doesn’t think I’m good enough for him? Is that it? Well you tell this cat god, no offense to you my friend-”

    “None taken.”

    “You tell Tu that if he makes trouble, I will personally skin the hide off his back.”

    “It will be a pleasure.” Rel bowed to his patron then straightened himself smiling at Cronn. “And… Euphoria has been at the Seelie Court. Damh took her to introduce her to his queen. Titania absolutely adores her.”

    “Damh wishes to make Euphoria his bride in the Seelie Court. It’s getting serious.” Corellon smiled at the mention of his Sylvan friends.

    “Ah yes, young love. It is wonderful to here of such bliss in such troubling times." Cronn’s mood brightened at the mention of his granddaughter. "Rel, you be sure to let Damh know that Titania and Oberon are welcome here anytime they want to visit.”

    “Yes, Great Cronn.” Rel lifted his arms as a signal that he was about to transfer his Avatar back to his realm, the Savanna of the Rain, in the Beastlands but Cronn raised his hand and spoke once again.

    “Just remember to tell Damh that Oberon’s little trickster friend Puck must be kept on a short leash, if he comes along. I’ve heard too many tales to let him roam free around here. The last thing I need is for him and Lokun to get together and cause mischief.”

    “I will.” Rel dropped down his arms to his side in a flourish transferring his Avatar to his realm.

    “If you will excuse me Father, Mother,” Jalivier had become fond of Inanna and when she had left the Sumar Gods he had told her that he would be honored if she would let him address her as his Divine Mother. Inanna had agreed wholeheartedly and would have probably cried if she had been a mortal woman. “I must find Cull and prepare our defenses for the battle to come.”

    “Of course my son.” Cronn was happy that his godson and new wife had learned to respect and care about each other.

    Jalivier bowed to them both and then turned and addressed Moradin and Garl. “I take you two are going to want to come as well.”

    “Ha, you just try and stop us, my boy!” Moradin rubbed his hands together and elbowed Garl. “We’d been wanting a crack at those Hiisi spawn for cycles! Ain’t that right Garl?”

    “Damn, right! Those Sword bastards have been giving my people nothing but trouble since they showed up on Harqual. It’s time for some major payback.”

    Jalivier turned to Corellon. “What about you Elf Lord, do you wish to join in on the strategy session?”

    “Unfortunately, no,” Corellon looked at Cronn. “I have matters to attend to in Arvandor, if you will excuse me, my friend.”

    Cronn nodded and Corellon’s Avatar vanished.

    “All right then,” Jalivier stepped to one side and beckoned for Moradin and Garl to proceed ahead of him. “Gentlemen, after you.”

    Moradin and Garl tromped out the door with the clomping of their heavy boots reverberating throughout the hall. Jalivier followed closely behind, telling them all about the taking of Gaoterlog, and how he had led the final onslaught himself.

    “It was glorious.”

    Cronn watched them go and wished his godson would boast a little less about such things. Yes, the battle was a great victory but Hiisi’s forces were bound to pay it back in blood. Boasting too much can make one careless on the battlefield the next time round.

    “I must go,” Hades walked back towards the shadows. “I must speak to Ares and cash in that favor he owes me.”

    After the Death God had gone, Inanna wrapped her hand in her husband's. Then the two gods wandered out of the Citadel of Light, seeking a quiet place to be alone.
    Robert Blezard

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    The Nether Lands
    Hiisi started to tear apart everything in sight when he learned that Amand had let Jalivier defeat him. The God of War hadn’t been Hiisi’s most intelligent godchild, but had been the strongest of the brood.

    The Gods of Swords stood back, near the stone Ring of Swords, as Hiisi tore roots out of the earthen ceiling screaming and ranting about ‘that stupid bastard’ and ‘I should have killed him myself.’ There wasn’t any reasoning with him when he was like this. Of course, he was almost always like this.

    Thera, the Goddess of Violence watched her father with hate and scorn. He was wasting valuable time brooding over her inept brother. Amand had been terrible as the God of War, and she was positive that eventually Hiisi would grant her his place. There was no one else strong enough in the pantheon, and if he did give it to someone else, she’d just kill the unfortunate godling and take it. Yes, Thera, Goddess of War and Violence. She liked that; the universe would tremble at the mere mention of her name.

    The dark goddess smiled at the thought of the joy it would bring her to add her father’s power to her own. He wouldn’t be able to stop her. None of them would. Not even Mussin or Nether would stand against her after that. She’d have to kill them both eventually, of course, just to consolidate her power in the pantheon.

    The God of Decay would be the first to feel her wrath. Nether could wait. She might even be able to use him when the glorious day came. Yes, the God of Hate and Tyranny could be useful, as long as he remembered his place.

    “Hiisi, darling.”

    Thera glared into the dark alcove where Hiisi’s black consort, Thera’s mother, sat. Hidden by the shadows she always remained distant from the rest of the Sword Gods. Thera hated her, of course Thera hated everyone, but the cow would die a slow and painful death. Thera would drink her mother’s godsoul, slowly.

    “Amand is gone. There’s no sense ranting about it. We must prepare to strike back a Cronn’s brood before they have a chance to prepare.”

    Hiisi turned to look at the red eyes staring out from the darkness of the alcove.

    “I will decide when it is time to strike!” He continued to stare her down, as he slowly moved towards her. “Do not forget your place!”

    “My humblest apologies, dear one. You are right of course.”

    Hiisi smiled, believing he had won. He turned his head toward the rest of the Sword Gods. “Does anyone else wish to make a suggestion?”

    His tone stated simply that the next being to suggest something would lose their head and, perhaps, their godsoul as well. No one spoke, no one even moved. Not even Mussin would openly defy him when he was like this.

    “Good,” Hiisi turned his back them all. “We will attack Cronn and his vile pantheon of weaklings but only after prying into their affairs. I’m not going to just thunder into the Upper Planes without some sort of plan. Vespin, come forward!”

    “Yes, Dark Father.” The God of Thieves and Assassins stepped forward and kneeled in front of Hiisi.

    Thera hated how submissive her other older brother was. He’d have to die as well.

    “Send you best proxies into the Upper Planes and have them locate where each of Cronn’s brood is hiding. I want to know where they all are at every moment from now on. No more surprises. No more incidents like Gaoterlog, understood?”

    “It will be as you command, Dark Father.” Vespin immediately shifted his Avatar back to his own realm, eager to please Hiisi.

    “Teve, step forward.”

    The Dark Warrior knelt in front of his father, as Vespin had done before him.

    Thera didn’t like the looks of this.

    “I need a new War God,” In Thera’s mind Teve was already dead. “You will take Amand’s place on the field of battle.”

    “I will make you proud Dark Father, I swear it!”

    Hiisi was proud of his choice, unlike Amand before him; Teve was totally loyal to him. He noticed that Thera was visibly upset.

    “I see you think I choose wrong, my dear. Do you wish to make a suggestion.” Hiisi’s eyes burned with anticipation at how Thera would respond.

    Thera ground her teeth turning away from he father looking at her brother’s former place in the Ring of Swords. She made no sound, however.

    “As I thought,” Hiisi snarled in triumph so that everyone could see and hear. “Never forget your place Thera or I will pass your power to another and demote you to the Goddess of Scullery Maids! Now get out of my sight!”

    Thera was seething inside, humiliated. As she shifted to her realm in the Abyss she swore to herself that she’d make him pay for this.

    Teve moved back to his place amongst the Sword Gods. Hiisi continued to call his servants forward.

    “Druaga, I want an army of fiends! Hordes of them! I don’t care if you have to steal larvae from the Dark Eight themselves, I want an army not even the Old Gods would want to face!”

    “It will be done, Dark One.” The God of Vile Summoning left his master’s realm to do as he was bid. Nothing would stand in his way.

    “Emcey!”

    The God of Lawbreakers stepped forward and bowed to his father. “I am at your service, Dark Father.”

    “Always,” Hiisi was especially proud of this one. He was both loyal and yet loved to cause trouble. “Send whoever you can throughout the planes and have them the recruit the most vile revolutionaries and mercenaries they can find.”

    “As you command, Dark Father.” Emcey stepped into the darkness vanishing to his realm.

    “Deltum, Enduma! Hiisi turned to his twin godsons. “I want you to go to Harqual and cause as much mayhem as you can. I want Cronn’s people scurrying around confused like ants without a hill. Destruction and fear, understood?”

    The Gods of Disaster and Suffering smiled at each other swearing an oath to their Dark Father, that when they were done, the lands of Cronn’s people would be unlivable. They then shifted out of the Nether Lands to Harqual to start their evil playing.

    “Teve,” Hiisi addressed his godson again. “Prepare your followers for battle!”

    “Yes, Dark Father.” Teve saluted shifting to his realm in Baator.

    All of his lesser gods now had something to do, or think about, and Hiisi’s rage had subsided. Only the more powerful dark gods were left in his presence: Mussin, Nether, and Xuar.

    Xuar, the only one of Cronn’s kin that he could stand. The Jealous Arcane, the greatest ally in his pantheon. Of course, being the God of Jealousy and Forbidden Magic meant that Xuar would give anything to keep his place amongst the dark gods, even tolerating Hiisi himself. Yes, Xuar wanted his power, Hiisi knew that – they all did. But Xuar was so jealous of everyone else that he would do almost anything to please the Lord of Darkness.

    It was this thought that gave Hiisi an idea.

    “Nether! One of my spies has told me that Cronn’s grandchild Euphoria is currently residing with Damh in the Seelie Court.”

    “What do you want me to do?” Nether bared all his teeth and then licked his lips in anticipation.

    “I want you to bring her here.” Hiisi looked at Xuar and saw his jealousy rise; he had wanted to take Euphoria for his own. “She is to be a prize for my consort to do with as she pleases.”

    “Can I hurt her a little first?” Nether grinned like an evil feline about to taste a helpless canary.

    “Whatever you wish, just make sure her godsoul is still intact when you get back.”

    “It will be as you command, Hiisi.” Without moving, Nether shifted away to find the location of the wandering Seelie Court.

    “As for you Xuar, I have no use for you at this time. I will call on you when I need you.” Hiisi noticed that the Jealous Arcane was fuming inside at what he was being denied.

    “As you wish, Hiisi,” Xuar felt as though someone had torn out his godsoul. What had he done to deserve this dishonor? He must try to make amends to the Lord of Darkness. “I have something that I need to take care of anyway.”

    A small smile crept over Hiisi’s face. He knew that Nether would never get a chance too bring Euphoria to him. Xuar would find her first and present her to Hiisi before Nether even knew he’d been duped. And Xuar would hurt her even more than Nether would. This was something that would not sit well with the Nether; more than likely he’ll take his frustration out on Damh or one of the other Sylvan Gods.

    “Brilliant,” Mussin knew him better than either would ever admit. “Playing one against the other like that. I am glad that we are allies Hiisi, I hate to think what you’d try to do to me if we weren’t.”

    “Yes, Mussin, be glad I tolerate your wagging tongue.”

    “Do not forget Dark One that I am not one of your obedient children. We are allies; I am not your servant. Xuar might be loyal to you now, but Nether is totally loyal to me. If I told him what you just did, he’d swear revenge. Druaga would also follow me if I promised him the magic that Xuar wields. And your daughter would gladly betray you just for what you did to her.” Mussin’s eyes burned red, as the Lord of Decay challenged Hiisi’s words.

    “Tell me why do I put up with you? At every moment you challenge my power and spit in my face in defiance when doing so. Why shouldn’t I just take your godsoul and be done with it?” Hiisi locked eyes with the God of Decay, his eyes burning with hatred.

    “You are welcome to try, Hiisi. But never forget that without me you’ll never drink from Cronn’s godsoul and corrupt his brood. Never forget the secret, relating to the purge, that I withhold from you.” Mussin vanished from the Nether Lands leaving Hiisi alone with his consort.

    The Lord of Darkness immediately started ranting and tearing things apart again. His consort left him to his tantrum.
    Robert Blezard

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    Hunter’s Rest
    Larea, the Hunting Princess, walked the untamed, misty forests of Hunter’ Rest in solitude. The realm was covered in winter to match her mood. She often spent such time alone. The beasts of her realm could sense her pain, but none would attempt to console her. She was the Huntress, Goddess of the Wilderness of the North Gods; judging her moods was impossible, she was as likely to kill a beast as she was to accept comfort. No the beast knew to stay away.

    Another did not fear her. He was her divine son, Hansa, God of Soldiers. He watched and waited for her to acknowledge him. Fore he too knew her melancholy, for it was his own as well.

    “Hansa, my son.” Larea stopped next to a huge oak sitting down upon a fallen log. “Come and tell me what it is you have to say.”

    She motioned for him to sit with her as the log turned into a finely crafted rustic-looking wooden bench. Not that a mortal would find it so, as the divine energy that had reshaped made it more than masterwork in quality.

    “Mother,” Hansa walked over and sat down next to his still grieving matron. “I bring great news. Jalivier ‘s armies destroyed Gaoterlog. Amand is dead, Anon is free!”

    “Joy! Oh joy!” Hansa watched as his mother’s godly spirit lifted for the first time since Anacoro and Anon died, so close together. Her realm brightened and the cold winter broke. The realm’s sun shone through the clouds for the first time in cycles. “Can it be true. Oh Anon, be at peace. Finally, be at peace.”

    Hela appeared in her mother’s realm a moment later.

    “No fair, I wanted to tell her.” Hela crossed her arms and began to pout.

    “Hela dear, it doesn’t matter who told me. The joy we feel alone should be enough.” Larea had prayed for this day to come for longer than she could remember. Her godson was free of Hiisi’s evil godson. “I only wish Anacoro were here.”

    “Father,” Hela’s face became painfully sad at the mention of her father. She had watched in horror as Hiisi’s Dark Children had torn him apart. Losing both him and Anon had hurt so much, but not as much as it had hurt her mother.

    “Anon, is with him in the Twilight. They will comfort each other now.” Hansa put his arm around his twin sister, as sat down next to him. “We must remain strong for them, Hela.”

    “And for each other.” Larea spoke the words but her heart wasn’t with them. She had lost her husband and eldest godson in a mere moment, for a god. Hunter’s Rest had become so forlorn after they had died. She had tried to remain strong for her followers and for Hansa and Hela. However, as time passed her heart had grown more cold and sorrowful.

    “Mother, you really should come and visit with the other’s in Citadel of Light more often. It would do you good and grandfather misses your wise council.” It was a touchy subject, as Larea had almost completely isolated herself.

    “I couldn’t in the past. Anon was so on my mind. I couldn’t let it go that Amand had his godsoul. But now, now things might be different. We shall see, my son.” Larea patted Hansa on the knee looking around at her realm.

    The snow had stopped falling and the sky was clearing. The beasts had moved in all around them, but still hesitant to come closer. The warmth was slowly returning. Larea smiled at a faun that came up next to Hela. Her Huntress instinct was more at peace now. Anon was free.

    “Take care of our son, Anacoro.” Larea thought the words inside her heart.

    Mother, daughter, and son sat in silence, for nearly a mortal’s hour, holding each other.

    A branch snapped as the God of the Wilderness appeared out of the mist. His arrive sent the more timid beasts scurrying back to their holes. Seraph was half elf, half barbarian. He was wild and untamed in manner and appearance.

    “She already knows, Seraph.” Hansa did not see the dire expression on his cousin’s face.

    “I’m not here about Gaoterlog, Hansa.”

    “What is it, Seraph? What’s wrong?” Larea stood to greet the Bloodbrother.

    “Huntress, there is trouble on Harqual.” Seraph’s tone was grim.

    Larea’s heart sunk in anticipation of what was obviously bad news. Seraph spoke, Larea sighed, and it began to snow once again.
    Robert Blezard

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    In the Grey Waste
    Druaga looked out upon the mass of demons and fiendish mercenaries gathering at the edge of his realm, Retreat of the Fallen. He felt a sense of pride and grim satisfaction in his ability to gather so many fiends in the service of the Lord of Darkness.

    The fields in front of him were filled with demons, as well as daemon mercenaries. Their services bought with hard earn larvae from Druaga’s personal horde, as well as a great deal paid for in coin and blood. The God of Vile Summoning was proud of his followers for helping compile the army of fiends.

    All was set for the invasion of the Upper Planes. Hiisi’s plan was bold and fierce. Many lives would be lost, on both sides. Druaga believed in the Dark One. So much so he had all but severed his ties with the Gods of Babylon. They were a dying pantheon anyway, a fate, which Druaga was inclined to avoid.

    He had petitioned to join the Sword Gods, having to prove himself loyal to Hiisi, over and over again.

    “Druaga, I see you’ve been true to your word.” The Lord of Darkness appeared behind the Dark Conjurer.

    “Lord Hiisi,” Druaga turned bowing to the Dark One. “Your fiendish army awaits your command.”

    “You will lead these fiends into battle, Druaga, not me. I will come to the field of battle once the North Gods have been properly cowed by our strength. Then I will tear the godsoul from Cronn’s dying form.”

    “Where am I to take them?” Druaga had known his liege would not risk himself so early in the battle. To Druaga, it was a good tactic. He would do the same thing and not just out of self-preservation.

    “The conflict will be on the shores of Lunia.” Hiisi watched, as Druaga’s personal daemon commanders and proxies put the more disciplined yugoloth mercenaries in charge of the multitude of demons. “I have discovered a unique portal, which links the Outlands to Lunia.”

    “I have many portals leading from my realm to the Outlands, Dark One. You but need point me in the right direction and I will set your army loose upon the Upper Planes.”

    Hiisi silently sent a mental picture of the Outland portal’s location, as well as his instructions for the Dark Conjurer. Druaga howled out to his yugoloth commanders to move out. The army began to shout in anticipation. Hundreds column of fiends began to move, in broken unison. Hiisi shifted away, as the first column of fiends reached and past through the portal to the Outlands.

    Druaga shifted his main Avatar to the Outlands to supervise the amassing of fiendish troops on the other side of the portal. Hiisi’s captured portal was less than a day away, even for the army of fiends. He knew that once there, he and his army were to wait until Teve and Emcey came to the field.

    The two Dark Children would meet Druaga near the portal to Lunia, their best followers in tow, as well as an army of mercenaries brought together by Emcey’s followers. Then the three of them would lead the first vanguard through the portal to capture a foothold on the shores of Lunia.

    Druaga smiled at the thought of his fiends pouring through the portal to Celestia. The denizens of the Upper Planes would not soon forget the battle to come.
    Robert Blezard

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    In the Seelie Court
    “I absolutely love it here!” Euphoria was giddy as a mortal.

    Damh had introduced her the wonders of the Sylvan Court over a cycle ago and she had not left since. Titania had welcomed her with open arms and had called her lovely and charming. She was thrilled by Damh’s choice for a consort.

    When Titania had first learned that Damh had fallen in love with a barbarian princess, she was mortified. She had envisioned some uncouth goddess that would have growled and spit at anyone who came near her. Not some beautiful little spring of a girl with laughter like sunshine and full of such happiness. Yes, Damh had chosen a fine goddess as his bride.

    Titania watched as her knew step-goddaughter danced with a group of fairies and was amazed at her stamina. She was actually wearing them out. Little Kip, one of Titania’ s dearest pixies was leaning against a tree trying to catch his breath. The little pixie huffed and puffed a few times and he looked like he had just crossed the Outlands in less than a single moon that mortals called a day.

    “Again, Kip, again!” Euphoria ran up to Kip bouncing up and down gleefully.

    The little pixie’s eyes rolled back as he toppled over into a little heap, exhausted and quite unconscious. Titania started giggling at the sight. Even her dear Oberon was having trouble keeping his dignity.

    “Ooh, hoo hoo, he passed out!” Puck was literally roaring as the scene unfolded.

    “Oh poor little Kip.” Euphoria sighed and went back to playing with the others, chasing the fairies through the trees and meadows of the Seelie Court.

    Puck and Euphoria danced together for hours before Puck finally let someone else cut in. He ran up to Damh standing next to Oberon’s throne.

    “Damh, where did you find this enchanting young thing?” Puck was bouncing up and down in excitement.

    “I told you, she’s part of the new pantheon I joined.” Damh couldn’t understand why Puck couldn’t seem to remember anything he told him.

    “Does she have a sister?” Puck was grinning from ear to ear.

    “No,” Damh wasn’t surprised. Puck loved beautiful goddesses, not to mention mortals. “But she does have a cousin, Hela. Unfortunately she is already pledged to an Olympian, Apollo.”

    “It doesn’t matter, I’m having more fun since she’s been here then I've ever had before!” The Jester God of the Seelie Court was literally bouncing up and down with joy.

    “Pace yourself, Puck,” Oberon had never seen him like this – ever. “She’s going to wear you out like she did little Kip over there.”

    “She already did, I'm just starting to get my second wind.” Puck looked at Kip and started laughing.

    “Puck!” The Jester God turned to see Euphoria run up to him trailing exhausted fairies behind her. A few of the more worn out ones hit the ground and didn’t get up. “I’ll race you to the edge of the Seelie Court.”

    “You're on, one, two…” Without saying three the Jester God took off on Euphoria, laughing the whole way.

    “Why that little cheater, I’ll show him.” Before Puck was out of sight, Euphoria had passed him.

    “Amazing,” Oberon shook his in disbelief. “I’ve never seen anyone outrun Puck before. I’m literally in awe of your consort Damh.”

    Damh smiled to himself and felt his heart soar at the approval of his Lord. It was almost impossible to please Oberon in any way.

    “She has become everything to me. Titania my queen, I am planning to spend more time with her kin, if that’s all right?”

    “Of course my son. Whatever makes you happy.”
    Robert Blezard

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    The Hordes of the Sword Gods
    Teve watched as his army of dark soldiers marched, across the Outlands, in unison with the pounding of rhythmic sound of war drums. He wondered at the flowing pennants showcasing his standard, a black great helm with red glowing eyes on a blood-red field.

    The god known as The Dark Warrior licked his jagged teeth at the thought of laying low the gods of the Pantheon of the North. He laughed at the thought of burning away the flesh of his enemies’ followers, especially the celestials. He would torment them all.

    “What is so funny, brother.” Emcey, Teve’s chaotic brother stood next to him looking disgusted.

    “Just imagining eating the heart of a deva while the creature looks on. I take it that look on your ugly face is meant for my followers.” Teve glared at the Lawbreaker with intense loathing.

    Teve and Emcey were like opposite sides of the same coin. Both were capable generals with hordes of devoted warrior followers. However, Teve believed in order on the battlefield, while Emcey relished carnage. One lawful, one chaotic, but both loyal, dark gods to Hiisi. That loyalty was the only thing that kept them from each other’s throats.

    “You have to ask,” Emcey felt sick just looking at the orderly lines of soldiers marching in unison. “How you hope to strike fear into the hearts of our enemies with this rabble, is beyond me.”

    “Do not forget your place, Emcey!” Teve growled at his younger brother. “I am the War God now, as Amand was before me. Dark Father chose me because he believes in the order I will bring on the battlefield. My order!”

    “You delude yourself, brother.” Emcey had at least respected Amand. “You were chosen for your dog-like need to please your master.”

    “Silence!” Teve began to draw his dark, divine weapon.

    “Hold!” Druaga’s Avatar appeared between the two Dark Children. “Remember you fools, you are suppose to be allies. Hiisi would skin you both if he caught you bickering like this.”

    “I am the War God, Druaga!” Teve stood defiantly in front of the God of Vile Summoning. “You and your chaotic horde of demons and daemons are mine to command. Although, I would much rather have the services of army of devils. Now, that is true power and order.”

    “Do not push your luck, whelp.” Druaga stared down the newly appoint War God of the Sword. “You haven’t proven anything yet.”

    “Ha, you tell him Druaga.” Emcey laughed.

    “You shut up, you smug little bastard.” Druaga cuffed Emcey for his insolent tongue. “You aren’t any better. Teve is right, you should know your place little god.”

    Teve smiled but said nothing.

    “Now, I do hope you have done as your Dark Father has commanded, Emcey. Where is your army of mercenaries?”

    A horn sounded in the distance. An army of the most brutish and vile mercenaries ever seen came into view. They rode huge beasts of war and marched in a ragged mass of chaos. No two sentient beings wore the same colors. It was a beautiful sight to the Lawbreaker.

    “My warriors have to go into battle with that ragtag mob?” Teve shook his head in disgust.

    “Bite your tongue, Teve. Good mercenaries are hard to buy. And these are the best and most cruel my followers could find. They will follow orders, as long as they are compensated.

    “Impressive,” Druaga understood Emcey, for they were more similar than the Dark Conjurer would ever admit. “I hope they’ve already spent their compensation, on the things mortals seem to covet. For many of them won’t survive.”

    Druaga tuned back to the two Dark Children.

    “Now, I sincerely hope that both of you and your followers will be at the portal leading to Celestia at the designated time. I would hate to have to report such a… failure to your Dark Father. I will be waiting, whelps.” Druaga’s Avatar shifted away to perform another task vital for the conflict to come.

    The two Sword Gods ordered their generals to push the gathering horde of soldiers and mercenaries to move faster. They would march their followers to death before risking the wrath of their Dark Father.
    Robert Blezard

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    The Counsel of the Sky Traveler
    Lokun sat in silence on his throne in Winter’s Hall. He didn’t know what he was going to do. If it was true, it would change everything. It had to be a mistake. She wouldn’t betray him like that or would she? Lokun sometimes wished he’d never come to Harqual to petition Cronn to let him join the North Gods.

    Several frost giant females moved around the room clearing away the previous night’s revelry. They made sure to give the North God of Mischief and Fire a wide berth. He moods had become more and more unpredictable.

    Now, more than ever.

    Lokun had a good reason but he wasn’t about to share it with his mortal followers. He stood up and then stepped down from the ornate throne he had conjured to try and improve his mood. With a thought he sent the throne to nonexistence.

    “It cannot be true,” Lokun walked out of Winter’s Hall into the frigid wind of Hougard, his island realm in the North Sea. The island stood out from the rest of the frozen wastes north of Harqual due to its divine nature. No mortal could set foot on Hougard unless The Sky Traveler willed it.

    “Lokun, I must speak with you.” Jaeger wasn’t a mortal, however.

    “What do you want, Jaeger?” Lokun would never admit he liked Cronn’s favorite godson. “Can’t you see I’m busy.”

    “Uh, you’ve been walking around your realm mumbling to yourself like a mad mortal for cycles. What is bothering you so much?”

    “Nothing I care to share with you, boy.” If Lokun had a gut, it would have been tied in knots. How could he ever tell any of them? “Now, what did you want to ask me? And make it quick.”

    “Do you remember when I was young when you told me the story about the Halls?” The God of Honor hoped he was right.

    “Are you telling me that you came all the way to Hougard too reminisce about old wise tales? Do not waste my time, Jaeger.” Lokun shook his head in disgust.

    “Were they true?” Jaeger persisted. “Do the Halls really exist?”

    “Why do want to know?” Lokun stared with concern for his adopted nephew.

    “Just tell me.”

    “Yes, the Halls are real.” Lokun hoped Jaeger wasn’t planning anything, stupid.

    “How do I find them?” Jaeger knew the risk he was planning to take wouldn’t sit well with the others. He just had to hope that Lokun wouldn’t try to stop him.

    “You’re not actually thinking of trying to enter the Halls are you? What possible reason-” Lokun stopped s it came to him. “You’re nuts if you think I’m going to let you go there alone to see him.”

    “I know you won’t enter the Halls. It is forbidden for the Asgard.” Jaeger had to try and convince Lokun. “I know what I’m doing, Lokun. I just need you to tell me how to find it, how to get in, and how to not get obliterated.”

    “It’s crazy! What are you up to?” Lokun was suspicious by nature and could not help himself.

    “Nothing I care to share with you, Lokun.” Jaeger hated to leave his uncle in the dark.

    “The God of Honor with secrets. That is something I would have never have believed.” There was more Jaeger than the Sky Traveler had given the boy credit for. “Very well, walk with me and I’ll tell you everything you need ti know about the Halls. Just don’t expect me to come and rescue you if you get caught.”

    “Agreed.” Jaeger walked beside his uncle. “And you won’t tell my father a thing. Agreed?”

    “It’s your funeral.” Lokun wondered what the God of Honor was hiding.

    They strode through the snow of Hougard, the icy northern winds blowing around them. The two gods walked and talked in comfort, however, as such mortal conditions did not cling to their divine garments or damage their godly forms.
    Robert Blezard

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    Where the Beastlands and the Seelie Court meet
    Euphoria and Puck were matching each other’s stride, step for step laughing the whole way. They moved deeper and deeper into the woods of the Seelie Court losing fairy after fairy to exhaustion or to the occasional tree branch.

    They were alone, as they passed through the barrier where the Seelie Court ended and the Beastlands began Euphoria in the lead. The deities turned to face each other, both insisting that they won.

    “No way, I beat you fair and square.” Euphoria was having the time of her existence.

    “Ah come on, no one beats me in a race. I have a reputation to think of. What if Erevan finds out? He’ll never let me live it down.”

    “To bad, you lost.”

    “Oh all right, I’ll struggle by somehow.” The two started sauntering back towards the barrier of the Seelie Court.

    The two had no idea the danger lurking beyond in the Beastlands. Xuar came out of nowhere slamming into Puck, sending the little Jester God flying.

    “Well, well, two for the price of one. How fortunate, for me.”
    Puck watched in horror as the Jealous Arcane grabbed Euphoria by the throat pumping balefire into her. She screamed.

    Puck could feel his heart breaking. Normally, he wouldn’t challenge such a powerful god on his own. But there was no way he would just leave Euphoria. She was family now. No, more than that – she was becoming his friend.

    “You let her go!” Oberon would be in shock if he had heard Puck's voice. He was mad, real mad. “Don’t think I can’t hurt you Xuar, I might not be a Greater God, but I’m still one of the Old Gods.”

    “You’re going to be dead Old God faster than a mortal lives and dies.” Xuar tossed aside Euphoria and pounced on the sylvan demigod.

    Puck knew he was no match for Xuar but had hoped that he could buy Euphoria some time to escape the Jealous Arcane. Instead she lay motionless on the ground, her power slipping away. Xuar pounded Puck into the ground once, twice, and then a third time. One more blow would kill him for sure but Xuar hesitated.

    “Tell you what you old fairy, I’ll let you live. Just so you can suffer along with Damh at the loss of this little one. I’m sure he’ll forgive you but the question is, can you forgive yourself?” Xuar grabbed the Goddess of Happiness by her long hair and held her up so that the broken Jester God could see her. Xuar cackled the whole time then shifted away the Beastlands, taking Euphoria.

    Puck watched, helpless to do anything. He had never cried before in his existence but tears now streamed from his eyes. “Euphoria, no…” Puck choked the words out rasping horribly. “Damh, I am so sorry.”

    A few hours later, the fairies found him lying there his divine body, and spirit, broken.
    Robert Blezard

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