If you had asked me a year ago if I, after nearly three millenia of endless war, wanted to keep living after that war was over, I would have calmly yet vehemently told you no. But today, as a new era dawns over the Whorl, as my endless war prepares to conclude, and having been granted by my daughter the option, I think I will choose to stay a little longer, to live out the rest of a normal, mortal life, grow old, and die. Because now I have a reason to live. She is my reason for living.
I had known, intellectually, that my dear, impossible, half-drow daughter had been chosen, along with 15 others spread in three groups across the Whorl, through some inscrutable process of the gods, to decide the fate of us all. But there was something visceral about being there, on Elemental Earth, in the presence of the dormant soul of long-dead Mahadeva, in the presence of all the gods save Varuna and Surya, witnessed by Aranyani and Sita, as my daughter and her fellow Chosen debated who would live or die, whether we would all be committed to war upon the Outsider itself or committed to leave it behind to find a new paradise, whether they would resurrect Mahadeva as he was or… change him to suit their mortal concerns.
It was clear that there was no consensus, at least at first. Strongly held moral, ethical, and practical views were aired and debated. Would they "fix" death? Would all of us who have been granted terrible immortality be permitted the peace of non-existence? Should all those living be condemned, without a choice, to archival oblivion or should they have the option to continue as they currently do, souls existing in one or another god-realm? What becomes of those who choose perpetual existence? Should they be cut off from the living?
In the end, they all agreed that we should not make war upon the Outsider, that we should instead restore the Whorl to its former master, Mahadeva, and allow him to take us onward to a new paradise, even though that journey should take nearly thirty thousand years.
The gods, standing almost unified, promised the Chosen that they could, as a body, demand of a restored Mahadeva a boon for each one of them. In this way they could color the fate of the Whorl if they could not otherwise find agreement. This compromise seemed to break the philosophical detente as it essentially outsourced the need to find consensus to Mahadeva himself.
Their thoughts turned to restoring the dead King and Creator of all things. The Guardian was summoned. It explained that although Mahadeva's soul, in all its complexity and knowledge, was stored here on Elemental Earth, it could not so easily be resurrected to true life. The "data" that the soul consisted of needed to be combined with a "personality seed-matrix" and permitted, then, to blossom to full person-hood. The Guardian, as an ancient shard of Mahadeva, was willing to be that matrix, but it acknowledged that it didn't have much of a personality, and offered to integrate one or more of the Chosen into itself. This would effectively kill that person as an individual entity, but everything that person was would be combined, blended, and made a part of the Guardian, and ultimately the restored Mahadeva itself.
Four of their number chose this route. The high-elf wizard Xedris Thrannis committed himself swiftly and decisively, as did his companion, the human cleric of Sarasvati Saatvik. My daughter's quiet companion, the half-elf child of law and justice Vihaan Naraka also chose to add himself to the being who would rule us all. Finally Dermon, the storm-sorcerer descendant of Indra volunteered for this curious form of death-yet-immortality. They were each, in turn, enfolded in the Guardian's wings and in flashes of white light were consumed.
The Guardian seemed different after all this. Perhaps it was my imagination. It then established a connection to the soul of Mahadeva, and began to grow and transform into the King of the Gods.
The process was fascinating. Something I never thought I would see. And soon enough we all stood in the presence of the Creator.
Fortunately, he was suitably grateful for his resurrection, and there was no dispute as to his desire to accommodate the wishes of those who had restored him. He acknowledged that the parts of him that were Xedris, Saatvik, Vihaan, and Dermon were all reinforcing beliefs and attitudes he already possessed, namely an aversion to genocide, and a desire to create equitable systems for the governance of society to ensure it's longterm stability. It would seem that Dermon's primary desire was for Mahadeva to find forgiveness in his heart for his errant god-children. And then began the individual requests.
Ballast spoke first, for it was most concerned with the fate of its people. The Forged were never a part of Mahadeva's design. Ballast requested that it, along with anyone among its people who wished to join it, be permitted to take a "dropship", apparently some smaller vessel attached to the Whorl, and set sail into the infinite Void, free of all the rules and restrictions Mahadeva has placed upon the Whorl, free to find its own destiny. Mahadeva, seeming perhaps a little relieved at this solution to the problem of the Forged, acquiesced. Celia, the other Forged among the Chosen, opted in to this plan and had no further requests.
Vinihata had, apparently, somehow given his soul to Tamra the Copper, who had also insinuated herself into the gathering. He deferred his wish to her, and she in his stead asked Mahadeva to spare the Ten Great Dragons from oblivion. As soul-less war machines built to end the godswar, they were no longer needed, and she feared they would simply cease to exist. After some discussion with Ballast, the solution presented itself that the Dragons would be "converted" into pure souls, stored, and when the time came for Ballast to depart, those souls would be transferred to the dropship to join Ballast on its journey.
Tavi the Terrible, having little concern for philosophical matters, or for a more stable and ordered society under Mahadeva, opted to join Ballast on its journey far from the Whorl and its restrictions.
Luther, a cleric of Radha that I knew little of, made the fairly selfish wish to regain the capacity to love at least once more before he died. Mahadeva promised he would do what he could within the limits of free will.
Panja requested that Mahadeva set aside a portion of the Whorl wherein the usual rules and regulations governing life and death would be withheld, where Civilization did not exist and where those brave or foolish enough to risk it might live outside of Civilization and the sight of the gods. Mahadeva seemed to consider this request for a moment before ultimately permitting it, indicating that he would set aside the Viridian Plateau as this "reserve" where the light of Civilization would not touch.
The other druid present, the gnome Felicity, elaborated on Panja's request, asking that the plants and animals of this new preserve also be free to grow, thrive, or go extinct based on fate and strength, a preserve where flora and fauna could be as wild and free as possible. This, too, was granted.
My daughter's half-sibling, Rajeev Two Notes, requested that Mahadeva form a link to him whereby he might experience life through the sensorium of one of his mortal creations, to be advised by Rajeev's perspective, and in this way not lose touch with his "cargo" during the long voyage to our new destination. Mahadeva readily conceded that his error before the godswar had been too much delegation to the gods as he contemplated other matters outside the Whorl. He agreed to make of Rajeev something of an oracle, or high priest.
My daughter's wish was for me, and all the Technicians of the great war in the Underworld, be granted either the peace of death, or the option to live out the remainder of a mortal lifespan. I was touched, and blessed, to have her use her boon in this way, giving us the remainder of our lives to forge a bond of family that has thus far been so cruelly denied us. In this way she also spared us the somewhat abrupt fate of the Fae and the Devils once Hekate got her boon.
This Hekate, a human assassin and devotee of Kali, spoke on the side with the cleric of Chinnamasta “Nekumi” and with Kalki who had, in the previous discussion, indicated some strong opinions about the workings of death. There was surprisingly little argument. Hekate's boon of Mahadeva, then, was to repair death, return its function to how it was prior to the godswar, no caveats, no immortal souls. The only voice who spoke in opposition was The Viloba, the arch-devil summoned to this meeting because of a promise. Nobody heeded the devil's words and Mahadeva unified Parvati and Kali once more. In a trembling and wavering of light, Elemental Earth and the Halls of the Dead were joined. In that very moment, the countless souls of all who have died these last three millenia were archived. Every warrior in Kurukshetra, every hedonist in Kamadhatu, every spirit-servant in every god-realm, vanished into the archive. All the devils and demons, including the Viloba and my daughter's familiar, Gob, vanished into the archive. All the fae, including Aranyani and Ravana's consort Sita, vanished into the archive. All the Technicians who chose to do so vanished into the archive. I chose to stay with my daughter.
Nekumi was satisfied with how things were going and had no boon of her own, she eventually asked Mahadeva for a favor in the future.
Kalki spoke briefly of the fact that he had become contaminated by the Outsider. Mahadeva indicated this could be fixed without killing him, although the process may be more complicated than originally thought. The King of the Gods also offered to do this as a free service, and also as a practice run on possibly cleansing that taint from the souls of those who had been similarly contaminated over the centuries, souls that had apparently been left in Kali's quarantine despite having repaired death. Kalki's boon, therefore, was to be permitted to violate one of the core laws of the Whorl and copy his soul so that he could both journey with Ballast, and stay in the Whorl to live out the rest of his life and complete what outstanding tasks he had. This was, grudgingly, granted.
With these boons and desires fulfilled, Mahadeva made it clear that he intended to "re-program" a number of the gods, "tweaking" them to take into account the changed nature of society during the last few millenia. He indicated a significant re-design for Surya, indicating that the Archfiend would be freed, after a fashion. As he re-established control over all aspects of the Whorl, he indicated that Elemental Earth would shortly be inhospitable. He sent all of us who were still (or newly) mortal away.
I emerged into the city of Lankha, a city I have not seen in decades, newly mortal, with a new life with my daughter under a new sun. The people around us seemed subdued, and I learned that Mahadeva's return had not been subtle. Clerics, paladins, and others touched by the divine had received theophanies. Warlocks of all stripes had found their patrons suddenly absent. The sun was burning with a whiter light than before. Flocks of Mahadeva's angels had been seen in flight headed to the Wall of Dusk.
But I don't care. The future is unknown, a new journey has begun for the entire Whorl, and I am content.