1- The Council of the Gods
"There is only one solution: Destroy them all."
Rallos Zek's burning eyes moved disdainfully from one god to the next, hoping his harsh edict had convinced more of them to take his side. It had been countless ages since virtually all the gods had gathered together like this, and he did not intend to miss the opportunity to expand his influence.
"I maintain that this would be an overreaction," Tunare said, shaking her head. The mortals need our guidance, not our wrath. We should inspire them and strengthen the spirituality within them, not snuff it out."
"You mean your precious elves?" Rallos countered. "Did they need your guidance as their greed soiled your plane, murdering your servants in their lust for power and wealth? Attacking the very manifestation of your being as if you were a boar for the slaughter?"
She scowled and shook her head. "That is your influence at work, Rallos. It was only when they breached the Planes of Power that you lost the delight you had taken in their growing viciousness."
"We all agree that the mortals have gone too far," Brell interjected, sensing the need to interrupt before the argument dragged on further. "But surely the answer isn't to wipe away all our handiwork. After all, it is only a few races that have committed offenses worthy of such action. Perhaps a selective pruning is in order rather than complete annihilation."
Solusek Ro shook his head. "I must agree with Rallos on this matter. Wipe them out; it is the only way."
"The solution is obvious," interjected Cazic-Thule. "If my influence were allowed to grow, the mortals would not be in a position to challenge us. Fear will keep them in check, as it always should have."
Karana scowled. "Preposterous. It has been proven that any one of us alone can be overcome by the mortals. It is underestimating them that has brought us to this place, that has forced us to become allies in action if not in principle. But the solution must be one that we can all agree to."
"How can you be so blind?" Rallos growled. "How can you not see that the mortals must be made to pay for their insolence?"
"You ignore the honor in their hearts," Mithaniel Marr countered. "They have earned the right to exist, to ascend to greatness."
"Greatness?" Innoruuk cackled gleefully. "Leave them to their own devices and they will devour themselves in jealousy and hatred. The solution is not for us to kill them, but to step aside and let them feed upon each other."
"We don't have time for that," Solusek Ro asserted. "The demi-planes are already weakened--in fact, some have simply faded from existence, as our powers have grown too thin to sustain them. We must refocus our resources and strike back while we still can."
Quellious had listened to the bickering for what seemed like ages. Though time had no meaning for them in this place, she could bear to listen no longer. She spoke softly, yet with a directness that silenced the others.
"I propose a compromise," she said, her gaze moving from one god to the next. "It will not be ideal for any of us, and it does not come without risk. But I feel it is the only way to satisfy all our objectives and restore balance between us and the mortals."
Bristlebane perked an ear. "Speak, please, for this endless debate is maddening even for me."
Quellious continued. "We all agree the mortals have gained too much power, but there are non-destructive ways to correct this. There is also a way for us to regain our strength, though it means removing our influence from this world for a time. But if we all agree--including those who sit upon the greater wheel of Elemental Power--it could save us all."
"Speak, Tranquil One," Xegony said, breaking her long silence. "We will listen to your proposal."
Quellious nodded. "It is through their unity that the mortals initially became strong. The first thing we must do is to disrupt that unity?"
When Quellious had finished, Erollisi Marr nodded. "It would be an acceptable compromise."
"Agreed," her twin brother added.
"It does not matter to me," Innoruuk grinned, "for I still believe that the mortals will destroy themselves eventually."
Brell rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "I will do as you suggest."
The Faceless shrugged. "It seems like a waste of time, but I will follow the wishes of this council."
Tunare sighed sadly. "I will do what you ask in order to make this work."
Fennin Ro spoke for the first time since he had entered the chamber. "The rulers of the Elemental Planes will abide by this decision."
One by one the other gods either agreed or said nothing, nodding silently.
Quellious eyed Rallos Zek as he whispered something to Solusek Ro. The Prince of Flame shook his head.
"We agree," the god of War said at last. "When does it begin?"
"In seven mortal days' time, we will act as one. Will that be long enough to do what is needed?"
"It will," Solusek Ro said coldly. Tunare nodded with reluctance.
"Then it is agreed," the Tribunal spoke in a single voice. "This council stands adjourned."
The gods began to leave the chambers, but Quellious lingered. She noticed as Rallos approached Cazic-Thule and began to whisper something to him, and watched as Solusek Ro did the same to Brell.
Tunare stood next to her. "Is this really the only way?"
"I believe it is," Quellious responded softly. "But I think we need to remain watchful, as not everyone may honor the intent of this pact."
Karana approached the two goddesses. "I have some trepidation in this matter, and I'd wager you feel the same."
"I do," replied Quellious. "But I have another proposal to share with the two of you to ensure our interests are preserved."
As the three gods left the council chamber together, Rallos Zek eyed them loathingly. He muttered to himself. "So, Quellious, you have your allies and I have mine. But your weakness will be your downfall. Let the endgame begin."