The High One had people to handle problems for him. It was literally the only reason they existed. The blasphemers who stood against him claimed that he needed his servitors and sycophants because when it came to managing great gatherings he wasn’t capable of throwing anything more complex than a tantrum.
They weren’t exactly wrong.
For all his vast mastery of manipulating divine power, the High One’s skill set for dealing with people he couldn’t simply smite on a whim was glaringly underdeveloped.
“The Ambassador will not be able to conduct negotiations in any sphere where your divine portfolio is in force,” the increasingly aggravating Pure One liason said. The sniveling creature knew that he stood in the presence of a majesty that out stripped any power his home world could marshal. The High One had impressed that on the worm through subtle means the critical point that he could end the entire Pure One delegation with a word, but the liaison still spoke as though he was relaying opinions which mattered in even the slightest degree.
The High One pondered the value of a less subtle demonstration. He’d thought that incinerating a hosts of angels because their glow didn’t have a white enough radiance had struck a decent balance between subtle clue and blatant statement of his position on suffering those who annoyed him, but the liaison hadn’t paid the event the slightest bit of notice.
He would probably notice if the High One began slowly incinerating him from the toes on up, but the High One held back.
You can’t reduce your allies to ash before they’ve served the purpose you’ve planned out for them. Also, the Pure Ones were just distant enough, and just alien enough, that he couldn’t be completely certain he could smite them efficiently on their homeworld. At least not without a closer base of operations under his dominion.
Like, for example, the Earth.
Thanks to a few tricks he knew, the corpse of the Earth would be extremely useful as a bridge to spread his control to the worlds it had grown closer to. To win that prize however, he first needed to arrange for the proper role in the Earth’s slaughter, and that meant working with others.
The High One was not a fan of working with others.
Or at least not working with others as though they were his equals. He was more than happy to pass any and all actual labor off onto subordinates. That’s what other people were for. Even the ones he didn’t directly create. Regardless of where they came from, all people were meant to serve him.
“Does the ambassador have any favored locations to propose?” the High One asked. “If not, I know a number of great ones. They don’t have to be on my world. Plenty of good places out there. My world has the best places of course, everyone else I’ve spoken to agrees on that, but we can meet wherever he wants to meet. Just a shame not meet at one of the best places we could.”
Talking with the liaison wasn’t fun. The High One felt like he was slipping backwards, regressing towards the mortal man he’d once been from all the dealing with mortals he’d been forced to do.
As a god, he was quick and clever. Masterful and divine. Or he was supposed to be. Since he lost his angels though all he felt was a nagging anxiety and an inexplicable fatigue. He still had angels to do his work of course, but despite the absolute lack of evidence to support it, he was gripped by the belief that they were no longer his angels.
Whether that was true or not though, negotiations at this level weren’t something he could afford to delegate to minions. Everything had to go just perfectly.
“A neutral meeting spot is preferred,” the liaison said. “We can provide a list of suitable locations for your people to review.”
Disdain. There was actual disdain in the liaison’s voice.
Because of course there was.
The Pure Ones were irrationally convinced of being superior due to having eliminated all traces of the unworthy from their blood, their society, and their world.
It was an amusing theory in light of the fact that they had the same problem with aberrant individuals that the High One did. The High One couldn’t imagine how they squared the idea of their own superiority in the face of his obviously greater power. Only self-delusion of the highest caliber seemed sufficient to cover the gap between the perfection they believed they’d attained and the readily apparent flaws which still plagued them.
The High One allowed a chuckle to tug at his lips. He had to tolerate their idiocy for the time being, but no one who was that far gone could possibly manage to survive the wrath of a truly superior being once their common enemy had fallen.
“There’s no need for that,” he said. “Let me see your list.”
The liaison sniffed and handed the god before him a plain and purely mundane folder. The High One knew exactly the sorts of places they would have selected, so he didn’t bother perusing the list. The first one his eye fell upon was as good as any other.
“This will do,” he said, burning the folder to ash except for a tiny slip which held the name of the sanctified meeting site.
As grand temples went (because any place which the High One visited was by definition a grand temple to his divine majesty), the Denny’s off Exit 13 lacked certain expected characteristics. The aire was colored with the aroma of pancake syrup rather than incense. The horde of abjectly worshipful acolytes was limited to two waitresses, neither of whom looked interested in being the slightest bit deferential much less worshipful. Worst of all though, there was some form of sticky substance under the booth which the High One couldn’t place and had no desire to investigate.
“This location is beneath all of us,” said Ambassador Brams, the elected representative of the Preservers, a third faction who the High One had invited to join the proceedings.
“That is why it is suitable,” said Supreme Marshall Penk, the Pure One’s representative.
Brams and Penk both felt the other was an unwelcome addition to the negotiations which more than suited the High One. It delighted him. Their hate for one another was a balm to his weary soul. That they hated him even more was even more delicious.
Setting the Pure Ones against the Preservers was going to a bloody, terrible mess. Just from the initial animosity the two displayed, the High One saw new vistas unfolding. He’d been planning to capture control of the Earth’s corpse, but convincing his two ‘allies’ to destroy each other over it first raised the chance that he would wind up with three worlds under his control to an almost certainty.
“Yes, I very much agree,” Brams said. He wasn’t agreeing to the suitability of the location. The conversation had moved on to other topics while the High One had let his thoughts drift through visions of carnage and mayhem.
It was one of the difficulties inherent to using an avatar. So long as the High One was manifest in the avatar, he was constrained by its limits. With the avatar stuck in a world where his divine portfolio was restricted (for now), he didn’t enjoy his usual omniscience. Admitting to that however was something that was never going to happen.
“I want to hear about your losses,” he said. Whatever they’d been talking about, it wouldn’t have included admissions of their own weakness. It wasn’t the time for it, and the question was sure to ruffle feathers.
Which was fine. They were going to give him what he wanted no matter what they thought or felt. It was what people did.
“The Potestate’s agents have introduced a vector for contagion into our world,” Penk said. Because it was how the Pure Ones thought of everything. The High One would have cheered for actions of the agents from Earth, except that they’d failed to fully execute on the effort. Just like lesser beings always did.
“I was under the impression that you were the ones working on a contagion?” Brams said, revealing that the Preserver’s spies had made inroads into the Pure One’s domain.
Oh yes, turning the two of them on one another was going to be wickedly simple. The High One wondered if the Pure Ones would lead off their attack on the Preservers with a collection of people re-engineered as biological bombs, as they’d planned to do against the Earth, or if they’d try for a novel approach to catch their “allies” by surprise.
“That which spreads purity can never be considered a contagion,” Penk said.
The High One smiled. They were definitely going to bio-bomb the Preservers. And his world. He looked forward to that. He could put that sort of tool to any number of ironic and horrific uses.
“So they did more than steal some weaponized people from you?” the High One asked.
“If the raid had only destroyed a facility and stolen the aberrations from it, we wouldn’t be here,” Penk said. “The cleansing we’d planned was defensive in nature. There are other defensive options we could have chosen, from cutting off the pathways between the two worlds, to other more costly forms of conversion.”
“Instead this is the more preferable option?” Brams asked.
“It is not enough to convert the Potestate’s world, or to seal it away,” Penk said. “It must razed. We have closed the pathways on our end, but they remain open on the Earth. Even as we speak, the ideas they have left behind corrupt and destroy those most susceptible to such alien influences, and the possibility of escape to the Potestate’s dominion acts a fuel to fire their fevered imaginations.”
“Yes, that is the problem we have,” Brams said. “They protect those who have violated our Sacred Writs, which in turn inspired more blasphemy. Killing them will not be enough. We must kill the idea of them.”
The High One shook his head. They thought they understood blasphemy? Or corruption? Blasphemy was any failure to revere him. Corruption was anything that suggested his current whims were not the deepest of universal truths. Whatever deluded beliefs they’d cobbled together for themselves had been crafted by imperfect beings and were therefore as imperfect as they were.
“I will need to receive authorization to commit any more forces than that in the short term,” Penk said.
They’d been speaking for a while again, while the High One enjoyed more thoughts of his own superiority. It sounded like they’d made some sort of plans, and had reached a few tentative agreements.
“That’s not what we’re going to do,” the High One said. He had no idea what they’d been discussing because it was entirely irrelevant. The destruction of the Earth was going to follow his plans, and they were going to do what he said, because he could already see the future that lay before them.
“We will take no greater risks than this,” Penk said, sitting back with a dark scowl on his face. “Committing more of our forces would leave us vulnerable to the things that lie beyond the edges of the worlds.”
“I am in agreement,” Brams said. “If we overreach ourselves, there’s too much that could be lost.”
Meaning, they are both aware of what I am likely to do to them. But being aware of it, doesn’t mean they believe it is inevitable. They can scry the barest outlines of the Earth’s fate, and their own, where I can see it all clearly.
“We’re not going to follow you’re plan, because I’ve got a better one,” the High One said. “One that can’t fail us.”
“Any plan can fail,” Brams said.
“What would make you think that your vision is infallible?” Penk asks, as though he wasn’t speaking a deity.
“Because he has an inside source he can turn to for information,” says the spider goddess who drags up a seat to sit at the head of the table.