Within the Jade Pleasure Dome, the Games of Divinity went on.
Some would have called it odd. Others, less tactful, would have had far fouler things to say of the gods that clustered around the Games, their attention on each move as they sought to block the thought of the terrors that befall their mortal charges from their minds. But in the end, the attitudes of the gods were not so different from those of the humans they guided. Bereft of the ability to interfere in Creationâ€™s affairs, unable to do so much as wipe the brow of a dying worshipper, they had elected to turn away altogether, to distract themselves with the only thing that could bring joy instead of silently watching tragedy. Thus, while Yu-Shan was quiet, the Games were more crowded than ever, with every god able to wrangle an invitation present to watch as the Incarnae took their moves.
It was Lunaâ€™s turn at the Games, and she was debating her move thoughtfully. The Sun hung in the sky above, and gods whispered that there was no move she could make that would grant her the lead this time. In truth, even the most stalwart observers had been having difficulty discerning her strategy of late. The Changing Maiden was distracted, even more so than the other Incarnae, and her latest moves had the sense of a god uninterested in the slightest fragments of logic or plan. Older, more cunning gods had suggested that this, itself, was likely a strategy â€“ predicting the goals of the Moon-Mother was difficult at best. Perhaps it was simply that Gaia, while present, had turned her attention from the Games to focus on the war against the Yozi. At least someone could.
Now, though, Luna was moving, a secret smile passing over her features as she looked towards her lover. Gaia looked back, with an approving nod, and the gods craned their heads to consider the move. Whispers and murmurs filled the hall, for with her shift Luna had not gained control, but passed it to Saturn. The sky above darkened, faint trails of purple light filtering into the building as the Maiden of Endings stepped up to the board with a perplexed frown â€“ though she had made many moves in the past, she had never before gained control of the board, or even truly sought it. It was not in her nature, and she seemed uncertain of what to do with it. Some gods chuckled ruefully, seeing the pattern of Lunaâ€™s recent movements unfold, and wondered why she had put her fellow on the spot so suddenly. A joke, some whispered. A challenge, said others. There had to be some meaning to it.
Saturnâ€™s gaze rose, and met Lunaâ€™s. She took a deep breath, sudden understanding crossing her features, and looked down at the board again, a mixture of fear, and hope, and sorrow on her face all at once.
The doors of the Jade Pleasure Dome blew open, slamming against the walls with terrible force. Serafin Ordered-Chaos, the Conduit of Gaia, strode through, with a bevy of Celestial Lions flanking her on either side, each other attempting to plead with her to stop, to listen, to just pause for one moment and possiblyâ€¦ she ignored them. Behind her, seven grey-robed figures walked in unison. The crowd of the gods parted before their approach, as the doors slammed shut behind them under the force of an invisible wind. The hall went silent.
The Unconquered Sun spoke first, mildly chiding, but with a concerned glance towards Gaia, who returned it blandly. â€œLady Conduit. Exalts are not meant to enter the Jade Pleasure Dome.â€
â€œNo, they arenâ€™t.â€ Serafin met his gaze evenly. â€œBut I am not merely an Exalt. I am an arm of Gaia, and as such I and whatever retinue I choose to bring cannot be denied entrance.â€
â€œItâ€™s true.â€ Luna observed blandly, seemed utterly unsurprised by the interruption. â€œWe donâ€™t technically have the authority.â€
â€œI am aware, I simply wondered at your decision.â€ Sol shot Luna an annoyed look for undermining him, before dismissing the issue and turning his attention to the congregation. â€œJust as I know who you have brought with you, Serafin. And I see that this is not a battle that I care to fight.â€
â€œThat is wise of you, O Light. You wouldnâ€™t like the result.â€ Stepping forwards, the first of the grey-clad figures spoke as each removed their cloaks. The Lions, who had been crowding ever-closer, recoiled with immense speed, as did every god sitting within five hundred yards. It was nearly comical, and in fact won a smothered snicker from Parakk the Bold. For now it was clear that eight Conduits stood within the chamber, and not one. Harakken Cyrus, who had spoken, continued with triumph in his voice. â€œWe chose this route solely because we didnâ€™t want to ruin too much of your precious city, and you have left certain instructions with the Lesser Elemental Dragons that might have proved mildly annoying.â€
The hall was silent, thousands of eyes fixed on the centre of the room. The Games themselves could not have rooted them to their seats more firmly. The Sun smiled sadly, looking over to Gaia. â€œThen it has come to this? I knew you were displeased. I never imagined you would reach such a drastic conclusion.â€ He sighed, with a nod, and stepped backwards, away from the board. â€œPerhaps I should have. Perhaps your decision is correct.â€
â€œIt is what must be.â€ Saturnâ€™s voice spoke up suddenly, as she led her sisters away. â€œA new age demands new thoughts.â€
Cyrus smiled again. â€œThank you for not challenging us. I would hate to have to replace you.â€
â€œEnough, Cyrus. We arenâ€™t here to antagonize them.â€ Bowing her head, Serafin stepped solemnly up to the board. Around her, the others did the same, Parakk and Sillia taking opposite sides of the board, Thelos moving behind Cyrus, Tide Star and Wind Daughter flanking Parakk and Sillia and the Perfect standing alongside Serafin. â€œEnd this.â€
Each of the Conduits nodded as one. Their arms raised, and power flowed from them. The air rippled and shook as seven of the Yozi were channeled, raw power ripping through the chamber for a moment, blasting the roof away from the Dome in a shower of Essence. Then Sacheverellâ€™s weavings caught those of the others, twisting them around into a spiral that dove down towards the Games.
Harakken Cyrusâ€™s voice rose triumphantly over the din, meting out his proclamation. â€œWhen the world was new, the Primordials built the Games of Divinity to amuse themselves in their home. When they fell, the Games were taken by the gods who had claimed their thrones. Now, the thrones are broken, and the Games with them! As I wove the fabric once, so do I unweave it!â€
A tower of Essence rose, cracking through the Games with terrible force. Incandescent and flowing, it rose into the sky like a river, sending a million shades of color rippling across the sky. The night was banished, replaced by a scintillating mix of colors as the Essence that had powered the Games erupted harmlessly above, its power coursing across the sky to fall through the walls of Heaven. For a moment, awe overcame shock, as every being in Yu-Shan paused to watch the sheer beauty of the sky.
Then memory returned, and the eyes in the Dome went from amazed to horrified. The Incarnae alone had nothing to say, simply watching the Conduits with the solemnity of those who refuse to fear.
Cyrusâ€™s face was damp with sweat as the victorious raging voices of the Yozi faded away once again. â€œIt is done. The Games that distracted you from your duties and incited you to treason are removed. Now, you will watch as we remake Creation in our image. You are rulers no longer â€“ now, you will bow to your Primordial masters.â€
Cyrus froze. He turned slowly. â€œWhat?â€
Gaia rose from her seat at last, her skin rippling with rainbow light. She opened her mouth to speak, and a thousand voices sang in harmony. I said No. Her gaze swept the room, and Incarna and Conduit alike quailed at her fury. Only Serafin and Cyrus himself stood firm as her resolve bore down on them. There will be no slaves. There will be no masters. The Games are done, and all that they represent.
Serafin spoke, echoing the words of her mistress. The Perfect stood beside her, and his voice was added to her own. And as Cyrus glanced around the room in panic, he saw her other companions, Tide Star and Wind Daughter, nodding resolutely. â€œThe Primordials enslaved the gods, and the gods enslaved the Primordials. You have destroyed one anothersâ€™ panoplies, murdered each othersâ€™ friends, slaughtered each othersâ€™ followers. You have made Creation into a bloodbath in an escalating series of wars. It ends now. It ends forever. And no one is leaving this room until we find a peace that Creation and the Primordials alike can agree on.â€