Broken Horizons – Vol 13, Ch 14

Standing on the doorstep of the [Celestial Sphere] did not disappoint. The [Gates to Paradise] were an intricate lattice work of [Golden Orichalcum] and [Decanted Starlight] that rose farther than the eye could follow and were, at the very least, several miles wide.

“What could they possibly have needed something this big for?” Rip asked staring up, not exactly in wonder but more in disbelief.

“The joke among the team members was that we needed something big enough to graffiti all our labor complaints on and that this was a compromise being about half the size we needed if we used a small font,” the [Lord of Storms] said appearing before them as lightning arced up from the ground to create a vaguely human form.

“That was the second joke.” Beside the [Lord of Storms], a column of water bubbled up and settled into the form of a human woman, almost certainly reminiscent of her Earthly guise. “The original one was that Kralt built it that size because he needed something his ego would fit through,” the [Lady of All Tides] said.

“Looks a bit small for that,” Lisa said.

“Oh, you’ve met him?” the [Lady of All Tides] asked.

“Unfortunately. He was a slime at the time,” Tessa said.

“Not much of a change,” the [Lord of Storms] said. “He was a slime when we worked with him too.”

“You should invite them in,” the [Queen of Nightmares] said appearing in a form nothing like the one Tessa had last seen her wearing.

Gone were the trappings of darkness and horror apart from a single, deep purple, [Ring of Office]. The gem on the ring caught Tessa’s eye and drew her in, momentarily blotting out the world. In the all-encompassing reflection she saw the two halves of creation. The [High Celestial] world of light and hope, and the [Deep Chthonic] world of mystery and adventure.

Or were the two halves, the real and solidly material [Fallen Kingdoms] vs the dream of what they could be that lived on a million hard drives and servers on Earth?

Or was the divide…

She pulled herself back.

Apparently, one catch to the expanded awareness that came with being a max level [Void Speaker] was that being around divine or transcendent entities was like catnip for her brain and led her into cosmic level bouts of introspection.

In place of divine revelations, Tessa took in the [Empress Over All] who stood before her. She wasn’t any larger than her fellow deities, but it was hard to accept that. Their presences were like bonfires to Tessa’s senses. Hers was more akin to a neutron star. Dense beyond all reason and powerful enough to warp space and time around her.

Unlike a neutron star however, Tessa didn’t feel like she was being crushed into a paste. For all her unbelievable power, the Empress’s presence was a surprisingly gentle one.

“There is much we need to discuss and a dwindling quantity of time to act in,” Azma said.

“Welcome to [Paradise] then,” the [Lord of Storms] said and with a gesture, waved the colossal gates in front of them open.

Paradise was not what Tessa had expected. In the place of choirs of angels and fluffy clouds for the souls of the departed to float around on, there was a pleasant looking office. No cubicles were visible though. Everyone seemed to have their own rooms with doors that could close. In the center of the suite there was a kitchen area with [Infinite Coffee], an army of [Personal Chef-Valet-Life-Handling Minions], and a fleet of [Anti-Interruption Terminators] who stood in eternal vigilance guarding the gods ability to focus for more than five minutes at a time.

The others seemed perplexed by what they seeing but in Tessa’s estimation this was more or less the perfect representation of heaven from the point of view of someone for whom getting a big coding project done would literally determine the fate of the world.

In addition to the deities who greeted them, Tessa saw a few dozen other gods waiting, although inside [Paradise] they all seemed to be wearing their Earthly, human forms.

“Time’s not an issue for us here,” Grace, aka the [Empress Above All], said. “This is [Paradise], we never run out of time here.”

Tessa felt her knees go weak. If she died, and it stuck, she was absolutely coming here for her afterlife she decided.

“That will allow us latitude in planning, but we are still faced with a limited window to enact the initiatives we come up with,” Azma said.

“Do we need to make any plans?” Rip asked. “We’ve got the gods on our side now. You can just wave your hands and fix all this once we get you back to Earth right?”

“If we could, we would have fixed things in the [Fallen Kingdoms] already,” the [Lady of All Tides] said.

“Unfortunately our developer cheats just serve to weaken the fabric of the [Fallen Kingdoms] reality,” the [Lord of Storms] said. “We fixed a couple of apocalypses with them and managed to create five new eruption sites for more [Formless Hungers].”

“Wait, so you can’t help?” Jamal asked.

“Help is exactly what they can do,” Azma said. “What is beyond them, and beyond any of us, is to solve the problems directly by our own fiat.”

“So what can stop these problems then?” Starchild asked.

“Gee, I just can’t imagine,” Asset said, giving Tessa a knowing smirk.

For a moment, Tessa thought Asset was claiming that she, Asset, held the power to save them all by virtue of being a native of the realm the problems were coming from, or at least an adjacent realm. 

Asset rolled her eyes as the thought passed through Tessa’s mind and Tessa knew it wasn’t the right answer.

For a smaller fraction of a moment, Tessa felt a worse though rise in her mind. Was Asset saying that she, Tessa, was the one who could save the worlds? Was there some secret [Void Speaker] power she’d been missing that could wipe away the Hungers, Formless, Relentless, Shadowy  and all the other varieties?

No. She would need an ego too large to fit through the [Gates of Paradise] to believe that.

She knew the answer. 

She’d known it for ages. 

Ever since she arrived in the [Fallen Kingdoms]. Ever since she’d first played in the [Fallen Kingdoms] in fact.

“Connection,” she said. “It’s our connections that can win this.”

“Uh, what?” Rip asked.

“It’s what all of the apocalypses and all of the [Oblivion Remnants] have in common,” Tessa said as the idea filled her mind. “When I tangled with the [Formless Hunger] that first time, it [Fractured] me. It disconnected me from myself because that’s what they do. They break apart what is so that part of it can become what isn’t. What I did to it in return though was to break off a piece of it and form a connection with it.”

“For which I thank you,” Asset said.

“And think about what we all did?” Tessa said. “We heard the call from the [Fallen Kingdoms] and we connected with the parts of ourselves that were here so that we’d be strong enough to protect something we love.”

“That’s what Pete did too,” Starchild said, understanding dawning in her voice. “He saved us by drawing on his connection to the world the [Void Walker] came from.”

“Marcus did the same thing,” Hailey said, joining the conversation from one of the offices, with Marcus in tow behind her.

“I only guessed I could do that because you had to go and be a big show off by jumping over here right in front of me,” he said.

“Each time the [Formless Hunger] changed, it was because of a connection too,” Tessa said. “Even when it became Byron and Gulini.”

“Even when the original one became me,” Unknown said.

“And that is what these divinities can assist us with,” Azma said.

“Can you multitask?” Tessa asked, fragments of a plan leaping out at her.

“Not as well as I can,” Penswell said, her projection appearing before them.

“Wait, how did you…?” the [Lord of Storms] started to ask.

“Our creations have grown just a little beyond the parameters we first imagined for them,” the [Empress Over All] said, a delighted smile gracing her face.

“We’ve had just a few challenges to overcome and grow stronger from in the last few centuries,” Penny said. “Manifesting here was an interesting one though, and I probably shouldn’t do it for too long or Niminay will drown me.”

“Speaking of showing off,” Azma said, with either a hint of amusement or a professional jealousy in her voice.

“Credit where credit is due,” Penny said. “Without the tracing spell I put on you, manifesting here might have been impossible.”

“That was exquisite work,” Azma said. “I didn’t even notice it.”

“But you knew it was there anyways.”

“I’d hoped it was.”

“If all we needed was ‘connections’, why did we have to come here at all?” Rip asked.

“Two reasons,” Azma said. “First, while they cannot directly resolve the issues we face do not discount the impact these divinities can have. Tell me, for example, what is the current status of the five new [Formless Hungers] which were drawn in by your use of divine power?”

“We can’t see them directly,” the [Lady of All Tides] said.

“They’re all resolved,” Niminay said. “I have teams tracking each of the extent [Oblivion Remnants] that have crossed over.”

Tessa caught the sound effect around [Oblivion Remnants] this time and noticed that it had been there when she’s used the term too. Part of her had grown so used to hearing the ‘special term’ effect that she’d grown used to paying it little attention, but along with noticing the effect, she caught on at last to what it meant.

“Wait. Hold on,” she said, her nerves tingling with excitement as hope bludgeoned her like a battering ram. “[Oblivion Remnants]. [Oblivion Remnants]. Oh…oh wow. Is that for real?”

“I don’t understand what you’re asking there?” Yawlorna said.

“Holy…[Oblivion Remnant]. It is!” Lisa said, grabbing Tessa by the shoulders. “It is real!”

“Explain for the rest of the class please?” Lady Midnight said.

“The [Fallen Kingdoms] knows what [Oblivion Remnants] are now,” Tessa said, almost bouncing with glee.

“Yes, and?” Lady Midnight asked.

“The world has learned from us!” Tessa said. “It knows how to turn these undefinable, limitless things into creatures that are real and solid and, most importantly, bound by the laws of reality. No [Oblivion Remnant] that enters the [Fallen Kingdoms] will retain its [Transcendent] state any longer. Not even a bit of it. They might be monsters. They might still want to destroy everything, but they can be fought, and they can be beaten!”

“Translation; they’ll all have health bars and loot pools now,” Lisa said.

Everyone, even the various gods, were silent for a moment as that thought sunk in.

“Yes,” Penny said. “So if we can survive this storm of armageddons, we won’t have to worry about any repeat performances. The trick Gulini and Byron pulled isn’t one that can be performed again. Not in the [Fallen Kingdoms].”

“The key element of that statement however is ‘if we can survive’,” Azma said. “Despite the powers we have arrayed here, that is by no means a certainty and there is one other concern which brought us here.”

“The Earth,” Tessa said. It wasn’t really a guess, so she didn’t phrase it as one.

“Based on the scans I reviewed, the Earth seems to be foundation on which many other world rest. If its [Arcanosphere] falls, it is unclear whether the world which are joined it to it will survive either.”

“How do we prevent that then?” Rip asked. “Can we bring everyone there?”

“Unfortunately, that’s impossible,” the [Lord of Storms] said. “Our divine powers are here in the [Fallen Kingdoms] and even if we open a gate wide enough to bring us through to Earth, we’ll still only be able to bring as many people as we have connections to with us in order to fight the battles there.”

“Will that be enough?” Starchild asked.

“I don’t know,” the [Empress Over All] said.

“I may be able to offer an additional option,” a newcomer said. She was a dark skinned woman in dusty denim coveralls with bits of roots and leaves stuck in her unruly hair.

Tessa had no idea when she’d arrived or how and her [Void Speaker] senses were suggesting that the woman didn’t have a divine presence at all, although those senses also suggested that the overall ambiance of [Paradise] was somewhat different than it had been a moment earlier.

“And who might you be?” Azma asked.

“You can call me {Gaia},” the {Spirit of Earth} said.

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