Decan 13, year 428, Storm Age - The Spirit Plane
Cool light teased Assur's feathers as he floated toward the Temple of All Samuria. From the gentle, calming glow engulfing him, the Deva knew that benign divinity was present. Coming to rest at the base of an immense pillar, the Archangel of Soulwind paused in humility.
"Enter, true servant." Though softly spoken, the words resonated deep in every fibre of his being. So commanded, the immortal being entered.
Two gods were in the temple. A slight elfin woman reclined on a divan. A figure stood nearby, the essence of night sky poured into humanoid form. Wispy curtains of pure light sang softly as they orbited reverently.
Assur entered and bowed, nobly groomed beard brushing his bare muscled chest.
"We have been discussing a mutual project." The nature goddess rose to a sitting position. "Your project, Assur."
"Mine no longer lady Ki," he dared to say.
The dark figure folded his arms.
Ki shook her head slightly. "The mortals you chose to guide acted of their own free will, as we had always hoped they would. Persephone's bargain with the lizard priest - Slarris, was it not? - may have taken you from Vitus and his companions when they needed you the most. But it did not sever your connection to Aura."
"Or your chosen ones." The Star Wanderer's words seemed to drift from an unimaginably distant chilly void.
Assur nodded. "I have kept an eye on Vitus since he fell between the dimensions into the City of Doors. The Planes of Power were a shock to the gnoll, particularly his pride, but his mind is still intact. He remains a contingency plan, should you desire it."
Ki made a dismissive gesture. "Vitus no longer concerns us. One of the Star Wanderer's priests aided his journey across the sea between worlds. By now the gnoll you tried to make into our high priest has likely returned to his native desert."
Puzzlement rippled Assur's features. He had felt the gnoll needed at least a decade of wandering the planes before being allowed to return home.
"It is the others we are interested in," Ki continued. "The ones who barred the Demon Prince from Aura. Oh, and speaking of demons: that Vrock you slew - one of my tribal shamans found its amulet in a serpent shrine, in the Rainbow Jungle." A large, heavy coin-like object appeared in mid-air before the goddess. With a thought, she sent it sailing through the air towards the Deva.
Assur caught the amulet. The next time he was in the City of Doors, it would make a useful bargaining chip for some planewalkers he sponsored there. "The two wemics have retired to found a mercenary school. Their dwarven bard is trapped in the body of a Kaldavian elf, and Malthorious remains in the service of the Conjurer's Guild of Aura."
"And the Champion?"
"Kdal Adali fell in battle at the hour of the Dark One's banishment." Assur's gaze flitted from one deity to the other. In his millennia-long existence, he had often reflected that the thoughts and schemes of gods were closed, even to those who shared their eternal existence. These past few centuries, he had enjoyed watching over the peoples of Samuria for the Auran Pantheon. The Soulwind Desert in particular attracted him. But the powers he served were worshipped also in other worlds. It felt too long since the Deva had basked in the sunrise and morning prayers of, say, Mulhorand.
Yet servant of the gods, intermediary between mortal and divine, Assur was. He could no more refuse an assignment from the gods than a demon could open its heart to hope. One of the sacred cats of Hieropolis would sooner conceal its name from a child's innocent wonder than would a Deva shirk the very nature of its existence.
Assur readied himself for the divine command.
"We have come to an agreement regarding our place in the Auran Pantheon," Ki announced. "A new Prophet will be chosen. We require a recommendation from you."
"Rykan Lightbringer," the Deva said immediately, turning to the Star Wanderer. "He is from your world, a skilled planewalker and open to interfaith dialogue." He turned back to the nature goddess. "The alternative, as you suggest, is Kdal Adali. She fell in battle for the good of her city and everything it stood for: hope, growth and civilisation. If you wish her sent back, however, you will have to speak to Nergal and Athena." Then the implications of his words hit him. "Forgive my asking, divine ones, but why are established pantheon members not present at this discussion?"
The goddess chuckled lightly. Then, with a wave of her hand, summoned a hundred tigers.
The ethereal stuff that passed for air in the temple darkened. Meteors and comets flared within suddenly translucent pillars.
"The surviving gods of Aura have failed in their duty to that world," The Star Wanderer said. "Why else would the life-matrix realign itself when the Demon Prince was kept at bay? You asked that I aid in healing your world, Assur. I am a god of those who walk between worlds, not of those who never look beyond their own world. Aura is threatened still by other-planar forces."
"In harmony with mortal minds rising to celestial heights," Ki added, "I will re-weave the natural tapestry. Aura will be healed - our way.
"Your services are no longer required."
The dozen nearest tigers tensed to leap. A star began to fall. Exile or extinction was nigh.
"Wait!" A memory from the dawn of time resurfaced. "There may be another way." But, Assur asked himself, at what cost to the pantheon - and the world? There was no guarantee the Legacy of Dios had survived the passing of the ages - or even that it could be found.