Two billion people were dead. Another six hundred million were in revolt, half of whom wanted to seize the High One’s power for themselves and half who wanted to destroy the foundations of that power so that no one like the High One could ever rise again.
They were all fools.
The billions who died were dead because the High One had spent their otherwise worthless lives on something at least vaguely useful. That they’d only had their lives to give was their own failing. If they were important, he would care about them and since he didn’t, they weren’t. It was a perk to being the center of the universe. What mattered to him was all that mattered.
The ones in revolt were fools because they didn’t see that. The greedy types, who’d gotten power when his strike against the Earth was sent back as a gift to his subjects, they thought they deserved to be his equal. But they never would be. There could be only one who was the best, and that was him. If anyone else could be better then they’d already be sitting in his chair. He’d put them all down when he had the time and inclination to get around to it. Until then it was at least mildly amusing to squash the vultures as they came up with schemes to take the power they hungered for more than breath.
Some banded together, like the “Pantheon of Vengeance” who’d come at him with a horde of ten thousand followers whipped into righteous indignation at the loss of their loved ones. They’d surrounded the mountain atop which his throne had been carved. Together they’d carried enough stolen power to crush the mountain into dust. The High One had hiccuped and blasted them out of existence, ripping their power from them as he cast the shattered remains of their bodies into the ever churning abyss below his world’s surface.
Others had challenged him solo. Whether they strode into his throne room in broad daylight or skulked into his bedroom in the dead of night, the results were the same. None of them understood the depths of power that arose from concentrating his world’s power into fewer and fewer people for thousands of years until finally it all was held in the palm of one hand.
The greedy offered various excuses for the attacks, from rage at what the High One had done, to sneering dismissals of his failures. Some few even tried sympathy, claiming that his defeat was a sign that he was too tired, and too old, to carry the mantle of supremacy any longer.
The High One enjoyed wiping out the last sort the most. Their empathy, whether it was sincere or feigned was galling. No one could tell him what to do. He was in charge. It was a violation of the natural order, his order, for someone else to try to take control.
No one was allowed to take what was his.
Then there were the fools who didn’t want to take what belonged to the High One. They wanted to destroy it all.
“My lord, the temple in Garlamondia has fallen,” one of the High One’s angels said.
The High One sighed. His throne room was covered in ash from the last wannabe replacement-Supreme-Deity who had risen to challenge him. He could clean it up with a word, but he didn’t feel like making the effort to speak. Instead he turned a weary glare on the angel.
“Your mortal followers in the area are uninjured, and the Justicars of Heresy have been dispatched to determine who was responsible for the…umm…disappearance of the temple.”
That raised the High One’s eyebrow.
Usually assaults on his holdings in the mortal world were a daily occurrence. Mass slaughters were gradually getting the problem under control but people were slow to learn once they’d been inspired by an opposing divine force. As far as the High One could remember though, all of the assaults had been typical mortal-ish in scope.
Even those who had a claim to godhood thanks to their stolen powers, still tended to think like the mortals they had been. Rather than wishing a building out of existence, they’d rain down fire on it hot enough to burn stone and vaporize steel. Or they would split the ground open and have it swallow the building whole. Anything to “diminish the High One’s hold over their favorite city or park or vegetable garden or whatever”. Dramatic and amusing feats to be sure, but also fairly trivial to rectify.
Disappearing a temple entirely was another matter though. No matter what his ant-like rivals tried to do, the High One’s angels should have been more than capable of finding the lost building and restoring it to its rightful place. It wasn’t as though any of them could actually disrupt the High One’s power after all.
“Tell me about this disappearance,” the High One said, raising himself on his throne, life returning to his sunken features.
“We do not know for sure when it happened,” the angel said. “Sometime over the night it vanished, and when the faithful were called to morning services none of them seemed to remember that such a devotion was required of them.”
The angel looked pleased at the High One’s attentions. The whole room seemed delighted in fact, as though they had believed that he was exhausted from the meaningless challenge that had resulted in the ash which still covered everything in the room save for the High One himself.
The High One decided he didn’t like that. With a snap of his fingers the angel who bore the news of the temple’s disappearance was consumed in fire. The angels power and spirit sank down to the great forges to be cast into a new, more obedient form as another angel stepped forward to continue the report.
“Our priority is locating the Holy Font and the spark of your will it carried,” the angel said.
Another snap and another angel’s spirit was descending to the great forges. The High One didn’t need anyone to tell him that the assault had cost him a fragment of his power. It was an insignificant fragment but still an affront he clearly could not tolerate.
“Shall we collect the faithful assigned to that temple?” another angel asked, stepping forward to fill the stop his two predecessors had abruptly vacated.
The High One paused to consider. A typical temple had a few thousand faithful associated with it. He routinely “collected” more than that for routine needs. Three thousands or so deaths to isolate a uniquely skilled troublemaker wasn’t an unreasonable trade all things considered. Even in the face of the unprecedented death toll his recent actions had brought about, his base was still solid. It would take a few years to recover to where it had been, but breeding new followers was really the only thing most of his current followers were good for anyways, so it wasn’t a meaningful problem.
He nodded to the angel, intrigued by the idea of a disappearing temple but not enough so to bother getting off his throne.
Or at least he wasn’t until the angel he’d given the slaughter order to burst aflame and crumbled into a pile of ash.
“You are not collecting anyone, ever again.”
The voice belonged to a child.
A child who was floating a few feet off the ground of the High One’s throne room.
Floating in an area where no one except the High One could access their power.
“Well this is new,” the High One said. He should have been afraid. If he knew what he was facing he would have moved passed fear knowing that it could never be strong enough to save him.
As with so many things that weren’t related to himself though, the High One had no idea who the person in front of him was, and so he felt only the thrill of a new conquest and the impending sense of smug superiority which accompanied every meaningful victory he’d ever enjoyed.
“I am new,” the child said, sounding only barely on the wakeful side of lucidity. “I am ancient. I woke today. I have walked through all the ages.”
“Well isn’t that wonderful for you,” the High One said. “Come now though. Let’s hear your demands. Your type always has demands.”
“This is your end,” the child said. Despite addressing the High One, and the High One being the most important entity in the room, and in the mountain, and on the planet, the child wasn’t looking at him. Their head was turned away, as though they were speaking to a memory as much as anyone who was physically present. “You took so much. You’re not going to take anymore.”
“Oh. Of course,” the High One said. “Disappointing though. I was hoping for something original.”
A mountain landed on the High One’s mountain.
“You are a feisty one,” the High One said, ignoring the crushing tremor that ran through his throne. It wasn’t like any attack the child could make could damage his home. “Good imagination too. Most of you who make it this far can’t picture fighting me on that scale.”
“This isn’t a fight,” the child said, swiveling their head to to gaze directly at the High One. “This is an execution.”
The dreamy lack of lucidity had vanished from their voice, replaced by a frosty anger which left the High One yawning. He’d been hoping for something new, but no, it was going to be the same old spiel. “Blah, blah, you’re evil. Blah, blah, justice for all. How did you survive that. Oh please stop killing me.”
It was just so predictable and tiresome.
The world cracked as the High One’s legs were sheared off from his body.
For a moment there wasn’t any pain. The change was too great to register even for someone as omniscient as the High One. What had happened was more than a physical injury. So much more in fact that he couldn’t quite understand it.
His legs were gone. Torn off below the knees.
But it was worse than that.
His power was gone too. Not all of it. Just the chunk that had been reflected in the existence of his shins and feet.
But there was something even more wrong than that.
He’d been assaulted, he’d been shattered, but deep in the pit of his godly stomach he could feel a wrongness that went far beyond his ruined legs.
The air in his throne room was shattering too.
Air wasn’t supposed to shatter.
Nor was the fundamental layer of spacetime it existed within.
That didn’t stop the cracks from forming. They spread from the child’s outstretched hand, fracturing towards the High One. No power he could marshal, no lives that he could spend would stop them. Before the High One even tried, he knew that. From his divine throne he could see that nothing could stop the destruction of all reality.
Not until the Queen in Black appeared.
“You don’t need to go quite that far,” the Queen said, her voice a waking nightmare which somehow quieted the fractures and coaxed the child to relax and lower their hand.
“He is a monster,” the child said. “Nothing else can stop him.”
“He is,” the Queen said. “Don’t look at today though. Listen to tomorrow. Listen for the ones who will destroy him.”
The child blinked, cocked their head to the side, and then began to giggle.
“Oh. Oh! I like it!” the child said.
“Let’s put this back like it was then,” the Queen said.
“I don’t like it how it was,” the child said.
“I know, but some things need to change on their own,” the Queen said.
The High One felt like he should interject. These two were powerful and it was his role to claim dominion over all types of power. It was intolerable that they have more power than he did, and so, slowly, the agony and fear within him began to sublimate into the familiar rage at being denied what he was due.
“He’s going to hurt people though,” the child said.
“If you do this, those people will vanish too,” the Queen said.
“That sucks. Can’t I do anything?” the child asked.
“Come with me and I’ll show you all the things you can do,” the Queen said and offered the child her hand.
The child reached out and the moment their hands touched everything changed.
The High One’s legs had never been lost. The world wasn’t fracturing. The two had never really been in his throne room. He remained supreme.
But where had all of his angels gone?