The ruined buildings of The Parish of Lady Magdalene told a sad tale of a once prosperous city now a burned out shell of its former self. The desert wind whipped at the buildings, blowing sand and beginning its reclamation. He walked amongst the buildings, seeing the plans he had gone to ruin for the second time. This time there would be no third time for Titanyia V.
He was finished.
He lost his followers, lost his biogenesis facility, lost the cover he had labored eons on. The planet was to be abandoned without any hope of return colonists or missionaries. His long drawn out game had come to its conclusion.
It was bitter.
And it was sweet.
There was a diamond in the ash pile of his plans. Ultimately his major plan succeeded, taking the abbess of the parish and changing her into the creature he desired. She survived his games, her broken spirit, and the transformation process, becoming something else entirely. He had loved her for her durability and tenacity. He had fallen for her strong will and nurturing spirit. He would need all of those.
He laughed at the memories.
The laugh of a shrieking goat.
His long fingers traced the ash along the crumbled stone wall. He knew that storehouse well. It was the abbess’ first introduction to his followers. And her entry into his domain. For she was now his, regardless of her will or rebellion. She was his vessel, the temple of his greatest accomplishment.
All of his losses were nothing in comparison. He could gain new followers, subvert new cities, or ruin planets. He could not change how fast something ascended to godhood. The tiny motes of demonic energy would coalesce to become an imp. Through their parasitism, feeding on the spiritual energy of those around it, or by devouring a being’s soul mote, where it would forever stew in their stomach as hot coal, they would grow.
Then they would become a full-fledged demon. This was the area of great filtering for most. At that point, they would be destroyed by angels, mankind, other demons, spirits, elementals, creatures, thrones, cherubs, seraphim and a host of other entities that saw demons as cancer.
The rare few that could ascend past that to would become greater demons, a stability point in the demon’s life. It would then take more resource to hunt them, but in the end, they could still be destroyed.
The elder demon was the waning twilight of a demon’s life. There they would burn the hottest, rage the longest, and destroy everything if they could. This was usually the end of the demon’s life as it would either take on too much and be crushed to oblivion or ascend past demonhood.
Into a Principality. This was the major defining moment of the former demon’s life. It would now reach the peak of spiritual awareness on a greater level than a Faithful One. There they would seclude themselves, trying to understand themselves and their path of growth. This was usually the safest time of their life, as everything was now played safe. Long games were constructed, conspiracies were implemented. An elder demon had the same destructive instincts from when it was an imp. A prince would see farther ahead, see the consequences and adjust. There were many instances of Princes hiding amongst civilization and simply existing, enjoying the calm tranquility of not being pursued, not having to give in to the temptation to destroy.
At least for a time.
Demons and Princes all have a single unified desire.
The pursuit of power.
Then if the Prince happened to survive the games he played, outwit fellow Prince’s, and collect enough spiritual energy, he would ascend into godhood. They would have a soft reset, starting out as a demigod, then ascending to a deity, then a full-on god.
As he walked, he let out a smile, displaying his disquieting large flat teeth to the burned-out ruins. He adjusted his emerald victorian suit with too many fingers that were too long and sporting too many joints. He felt at his pitted porcelain cueball head, feeling the rough patches from his gloved hand. Through his burned out city, he smiled. It was a very particular smile.
A smile of a being who had just lost eons of work, and yet had still won.
He implanted in that Abbess’s genome a part of himself among other things. A tiny breadth of his being. And it kept. Her somatheonic self had kept intact. The changes he made were not just to create a new terrifying form of life, but also a vessel to hold grand design. He had used the city as a massive conspiracy, each one following a fake god, all proxies of himself. He then inserted himself as the hunter, to weed out the cultists. This was to keep them aware and cull the weak or stupid. Mistakes ended their lives. He then pitted them against one another, battling for supremacy.
The greatest floated to the top upon the bodies of the weak. They were scientists, biologists, genealogists, and more. All posing as simple monks or nuns helping the depleted orphans.
Orphans who could do little more than being herded and experimented upon. Then the random factor proved to be the most advantageous. The old abbess, a follower of his was assassinated. The new abbess had no knowledge of the conspiracy. So he befriended her. That was one of the best parts; his personal favorite of that time. He could mimic a human down to their romantic attraction, a major flaw amongst all shapeshifting demons.
Faithful Ones needed to only spend time with a special someone long enough and they would both would feel an attraction. If one felt it, the other did as well. It was a strange phenomenon brought upon by what he dubbed as the Great Re-Creation. It made relationships easy. Too easy for him. He never knew existence apart from what some of the older humans had told of it. Death, disease, famine, war, poverty, injustice. It sounded interesting only in passing.
And so he broke her heart and her spirit. She fell into a conspiracy that had no escape, fighting in the midst of dozens of different cults. The random factor came through, figuring out the first catalysts to change unintentionally.
Her strength broke through the filter that took so many of his followers.
The Seal she had was a bonus, and quite possibly the reason it all worked. It was a complete unknown to even the abbess.
“My good god, Neon. We cannot salvage anything from the ruins. It was a complete loss,” A man robed in green stated.
His name was Neon.
Except it wasn’t.
It was another game he still played, masking his true name and intentions. Masks upon masks, keeping his followers chasing the insides of nautilus shells, only to hit a dead end. It was something to pass the time.
The best part was many of his closest followers understood it, and still stayed with him.
Humans were a strange lot.
But now he had a new passion.
To see what became of the child that he created. To see if he could fix the problem that plagued his kind. The top of the mountain Neon enjoyed was a lonely place, with only a handful of fellow gods, allied spirits, and demons enjoyed it. And an occasional angel.
They always had to start from the ashes and ascend upwards, their chance of survival a bare sliver that one couldn’t call a number to calculate. What would it be like with more companionship?
And he completed the question. He would now sit and watch. He knew the exact steps needed to recreate the experiment, apart from the Seal. Everything else was chaff.
His mouth closed as he turned to his follower.
“We’re leaving, then. Nothing more can be done here,” Neon stated.
The follower bowed and ran to assemble the others. They had a vessel, a small trade sloop. Innocuous to most. It hit him just then. The Scarabaeidae invasion from so long ago that caused the first destruction of the Titanyia V parish. He had been distracted by the experiments to bother with an extinct species. But now the time had opened up, and the child was wandering down in the depths. He would have to be careful around the fae and the angel that occupied the depths. Better to not cause conflict when there was no reason to. That was the principle of why he survived. Running was better than fighting, and only fight if you could stack the deck; which he could every time.
Neon commanded. The follower froze as he was and turned.
“I sense something else. Something familiar. Prep the vessel, for my return. Then we leave.”
“Yes, my holy god,” The follower replied, bowing deeply.
Best to keep up mysterious appearances. He always liked playing as the powerful but flawed Prince to his followers. He found if you were a perfect god, they would tend to get lazy. Flaws made them work harder to cover said flaws up. Humans were funny in that they invested heavily to convince themselves that their choices seemed correct.
He would just pop in and check on her.
He adjusted his suit and frock and went looking for a crevice. The waterways underneath had plenty of access as the water drained down into the Underrealm.
With a massive grin, he made his descent.