Nanku took a step towards the console. Her uncertain steps wore down on the smoothed rock that was the floor.

The Warrior watched, incredulous. He tried to begin an impassioned speech, but with every step Nanku made (and every step her friends followed suit) the Mind felt itself becoming more whole. Its pieces were like magnets, and the force within the Mind only grew. It stopped the Warrior's tongue itself.

Finally, she touched the keyboard.

Tʜᴇ ʙᴏᴏᴋ.

She retrieved it. The worn leather was inscribed with Arabic text, which shone clear, despite the thick stains of blood. The book could not contain itself in Nanku's hands, and flew to the cage above them, propelled by a sudden thought.

As it touched the mesh, it shredded itself, and became a thin cloud of leather, parchment, and blood, which swirled in a cyclone within the cage. The Warrior looked on, eyes contorted in sadness. In regret.

Tʜᴇ ᴘᴀᴛʜ ᴛᴏ ᴀsᴄᴇɴsɪᴏɴ ᴡᴀs ʟᴏɴɢ ᴜɴᴄʟᴇᴀʀ. Yᴏᴜ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴍᴀᴅᴇ ᴀʟʟ ᴛʜɪs ᴘᴏssɪʙʟᴇ, ᴍʏ ᴄʜɪʟᴅʀᴇɴ.

Eᴠᴇɴ ʏᴏᴜ, ᴡᴀʏᴡᴀʀᴅ ᴏɴᴇ.

The Warrior's face twisted further.

Aɴᴅ ɴᴏᴡ I ʜᴏʟᴅ ᴛʜᴇ ᴍᴀᴊᴏʀɪᴛʏ sʜᴀʀᴇ, ᴀs ɪᴛ ᴡᴇʀᴇ.

I'ᴍ ᴀғʀᴀɪᴅ ᴡᴇ'ʟʟ ɴᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ ᴀᴄᴛ ᴜɴɪʟᴀᴛᴇʀᴀʟʟʏ. Yᴏᴜʀ ʜᴇʟᴘ ɪs ɴᴏᴛ ɴᴇᴇᴅᴇᴅ ᴀɴʏ ʟᴏɴɢᴇʀ.

I'ᴅ ᴀʟʟᴏᴡ ʏᴏᴜ ʟᴀsᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴅs, ʙᴜᴛ I ᴜsᴜᴀʟʟʏ ʟɪᴋᴇ ᴛᴏ ʜᴀᴠᴇ ᴛʜᴇ ʟᴀsᴛ ᴡᴏʀᴅ ᴏɴ ᴛʜᴇsᴇ sᴏʀᴛs ᴏғ ᴍᴀᴛᴛᴇʀs.

The Warrior fell to his knees on the hard ground as he was slowly freed of godly influence. Cavities formed in his abdomen where there were once metal organs. The cavities quickly collapsed, swelling flesh and blood forcing air through his veins. The Warrior was wracked by the sensation of his body being made partial. He was broken beyond repair.

He tried to crawl, but his hand failed to be there underneath him, so he fell, writhing. His stump was pristine, and not an ounce of blood was spilled. His empty eye socket became sealed with skin.

"N… n… n," the Warrior tried to say.

Sʜʜ. Iᴛ's ᴏᴋᴀʏ.

Mʏ ғʀɪᴇɴᴅ. Bᴇɢᴏɴᴇ.

And the Warrior died, silent. Inside the cage, the Spirit remained, silent.

Cᴏᴍᴇ, ғʀɪᴇɴᴅs. Iᴛ's ᴛɪᴍᴇ ᴛᴏ ғɪɴɪsʜ ᴛʜɪs.

"No, no no no no," said Rashid Keeper of the Lion Gates, as he sat in the dirt basement.

It had been a simple mission, of course. He only left the safety of the Wanderer's Library so that he could meet, ever so briefly, with representatives of the Cabal of Nondenominational Clerics, so that they may lend the resources needed to try again at that ritual which had gone so terribly before. But, despite his best efforts to scry the location beforehand, he had been greeted by black choppers not ten minutes into the meeting.

"Not again, not again," he muttered in Arabic. He had barely had time to rush to the basement, and only enough thought to hope there'd be enough spare supplies to conduct a minor retrieval ritual. He just needed to get to a safe distance, and then he could get to the Library and regroup.

Rashid drew the sigils in dirt, which he mixed with the vial of blood he kept in his satchel.

He had been among the best at divining rituals, back before that night gone wrong. The rituals didn't beg for help from the Lord, per se. Rashid knew, in his heart of hearts, that his Lord was long dead, or asleep.

Rashid sprinkled sage that had been dried for ten years. It mixed with the blood, and produced smoke.

Instead, the rituals used the power of the Lord's death. A god's power does not wane without leaving traces. The death of a god is a powerful idea to wield, and much of the residual power was vented into this very idea. By invoking that idea, Rashid could force some lesser entites (in the long run, all were lesser than his Lord) to offer assistance. He could make them fear death, even for an instant.

Rashid dropped a golden coin on the sigil, and concentrated. The fire began to grow, fed by the fear and anger of beings who had never before felt the sting of mortality.

And then the fire died, with a mighty pfft. Rashid stared in disbelief as he heard the sound of combat boots on the ground above him.

What Rashid didn't know is that the god's death held no power anymore. He wasn't dead anymore.

Rashid frantically swiped at the dirt, trying to correct the sigils. His sweat mixed with the blood, and his hands shook far too quickly to fix it, but suddenly he felt calm. He heard a voice in the back of his head.

Fᴇᴀʀ ɴᴏᴛ, Rᴀsʜɪᴅ. I ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʏᴏᴜ ɴᴏᴡ.

And when he looked up, his eyes were greeted by the shelves of the Wanderer's Library.

When I was stuck, I felt myself scream. Every part of my being, all of it. There was no recourse.

I don't normally exist in the physical world. For a time, I did exist. And then I died. Nasty bit of business, that was.

When I died, I was neither here, nor was I there. I wanted to escape, desperately. I wanted back into the world I came from. You see that, right? I wanted this for a long time. The Warrior resisted, but that's what he does. It's what he's for.

He's dead now, of course. He was just holding the Spirit. He should've known I'd need it back.

For a long time, I was separated. I let every part of me be carried by these… vessels. The vessel of a man who had long grown to hate what he stood for (what he had to stand for). The vessel of air that had forgotten its temperance, humility. And the only vessel that mattered, four immortal shells without souls to fill their husks.

The vessels are gone now. We're all together. I'm whole. And I'm sorry.

I'm sorry I fought against you. I'm sorry I fled when I could not bear the pain. When I was beset by your beasts.

I'm so sorry.

Now, if you'd allow me, I'd like to join you again.

The realm was silent as they heard his plea. For a long time, the space considered what he had said. Could he be trusted? Would he steal again?

The realm looked into all spacetime, and all that exceeded it. Everything touched by the light. And it made a decision.

Welcome home.

Eons later, when Earth was just a twinkle in another sky,

the eddies of eddies of the cloaks of gods formed in an uncertain cloudscape,

and four familiar faces emerged, passing for only an instant,

as their forms briefly took shape they saw that they were friends,

and Irantu smiled,

Onru smiled,

Munru smiled,

and Nanku smiled back.

And then they were gone.

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