-= 48 million years ago, in the Ori Home Galaxy =-
"Where are they?"
A non-corporeal entity composed of what many would consider fire stood in the center of a large, open room with a massive window looking out into the stars beyond. It was clearly annoyed, either at the limitations of the star-borne ship she now stood within, or at the fact that she was almost the last of her kind to be left aboard one.
The Alterans had ascended no more than a few centuries ago, and after the Ancients left, the Ori spread across the galaxy in vast waves. When many younger species began to worship them, the Ori found they were empowered by this praise. In reality, this effect was caused by the will contained within each soul (or 'quantum signature', as it became designated among the scientifically advanced species). This was why the Anunnaki of the Milky Way would attempt to force humanity to believe in the protection of their world against the sun's eruption; yet, force of belief ignores the will of the user, and is thereby useless this way.
Thus, the Ori began to destroy species who refused to submit. Building off of technology discovered on other worlds, as well as the Alterans' own advances, the Ori sent forth hordes of ships that could level entire planets in minutes when used in force. Some of those species attacked survived in small numbers, and those refugees scattered throughout the galaxy.
Some, such as the people of a certain middle-aged scientist, tried to construct weapons of their own to fight back. Others, however, sought ways to leave their galaxy. It was one of the latter that the Ori now had the most difficult task of locating. They couldn't let the non-believers escape, for if they chose to return in greater numbers, the Ori might have to fight a costly war. That they couldn't allow.
"Manea," spoke a disembodied voice to the Ori now searching the edge of the galaxy for the survivors of a doomed world. "Tell us, have you found the Travelers?"
"No," was Manea's irked response. "Their ship disappeared from sensor range an hour ago, and I've not been able to sense them."
"They have technology that prevents us from finding them with our minds." The voice was clearly unhappy, but a hint of respect could be heard as a subtle undertone. "No other species has accomplished such a feat."
"I know that." Manea's eyes scanned the dark expanse. "They must have also found a way to hide from our ship's sensors..."
"On the contrary." When the voice began to point out something Manea wasn't aware of, the Ori turned away from the viewing port and crossed her arms, waiting to hear the voice's explanation. "You are getting closer to the galactic barrier. It can cause severe sensor distortions. All galaxies have one as a preventative measure."
Manea narrowed her eyes, though she looked at no particular spot in the process. "To prevent what?"
"We've yet to learn that much, Manea." That answer led Manea to grit her incorporeal teeth in frustration. Telling their worshipers that the Ori are all-knowing was easy enough; but actually knowing everything was a different matter altogether, even for beings at their stage of evolution. "Use caution when approaching the barrier. Prevent the Travelers from escaping through it at all costs."
"I would appreciate some idea of where they could go." Manea frowned as she turned back to look out at the stars. "How will they pass through the barrier?"
For a moment, the voice didn't respond. Then it returned with a confident answer. "There is a slipstream path that begins near the border. A few parts of it branch out into nearby galaxies, but most end in the void between them. Should these Travelers be able to navigate the passage, they can escape to another galaxy. Go there now, and 'pray' you aren't too late." The voice finished its transmission with one final, threatening tone. "Stop them before they reach the passage. Do not fail us."
Manea merely watched the stars go by without a single reaction. Now wasn't the time to argue. After ordering the prior to set course for the passage, which she could sense far more clearly than anything else near the rift, Manea released the form she was maintaining so she could float about as pure energy - a way to 'rest' before her final assignment.
Several hours later, the Ori warship jumped out of hyperspace near the coordinates Manea had provided. As the behemoth flew into range of the unseen slipstream path, which hovered not far from the fluctuating blue and white energy that composed the galactic barrier, the prior spotted a large convoy of smaller ships heading towards it. Upon verifying that the ships were the ones that escaped Haven, the planet upon which the Travelers lived, the prior immediately notified Manea.
"I see them," Manea stated coldly as she stood in her open chamber, staring out at the small fleet of ships. "Destroy them."
Before the prior could even give the command to engage the refugees, he sensed something from one of the Traveler ships. "They are hailing."
Though Manea was about to order the prior to simply ignore it, she considered the possibility of it being a surrender. Surely the Ori could use more worshipers, and the Traveler technology was far too advanced to be destroyed. Seeing this as an opportunity, Manea ordered, "Let them speak."
The unspoiled view of space Manea had been looking out of earlier was soon replaced by a face - that of the Traveler himself, along with the rest of his kind working on consoles in the background. "Ori warship," his message began in earnest. The Traveler's expression showed concern, and his voice betrayed a sense of urgency. "Break off your attack! Do not follow us through the slipstream passage!"
Now Manea frowned. So it hadn't been an offer of surrender after all. "Afraid we'll destroy the last of your kind, Traveler?" Manea spoke with clearly hostile intent, angered by the stubbornness of this species. "Surrender, and you will all be spared."
"I'm afraid we can't do that." The Traveler's voice, despite showing some concern, was otherwise very calm and collected - most interesting given the precarious situation the Travelers now found themselves in. "If you attempt to follow us through the slipstream, you will either be destroyed or lost in the void. Do not attempt to follow us. I repeat, do not-"
Manea cut the transmission with a wave of her arm. She then glared at the ships that were getting ever closer to the slippoint. "Destroy them."
As if responding directly to her command, the Ori warship promptly launched itself forward and began charging the primary beam weapon. Just as it began to swoop in over the fleet, the first of the Travelers' ships entered the slipstream point. But the ones in the middle weren't so lucky. The Ori ship's beam weapon shot straight through two of the ships, and it was able to fire a second volley that destroyed three more before it passed overhead.
"Get the rest of the ships through! We'll hold them off!" That was the command issued by the Traveler in charge of the fleet to the second-in-command, who managed another ship. As soon as he'd gave that order, the fleet admiral's ship broke off from the rest and charged at the Ori warship. Though much smaller and far outclassed, it still fought valiantly to save the rest of the fleet.
But Manea wasn't one who could be dissuaded from completing a mission that easily. Instead of engaging the small ship, it began to fly right past it, eyes on the goal.
"You're not getting away that easily..." The Traveler admiral shouted his next order at the pilot: "Take us in! Ram their port engine core!" He gave the Ori ship on the viewscreen a stern look. "Our people will be free..."
Just as Manea thought she had succeeded in bypassing the troublesome little gnat, she heard an explosion and felt the ship rumble momentarily. Though it did nothing to throw her immaterial form off-balance, it confused her until the prior's voice spoke through the intercom. "They've damaged the engines."
"Keep following them!" Manea practically yelled the order. The prior was quick to oblige as always, and he directed the ship to continue forward. Another lash of the Ori beam took out two more, but nearly seven others began to enter the slippoint.
"They are entering the slipstream. We cannot-"
"I said follow them!" At Manea's enraged order, the prior acquiesced and led the ship into the slipstream mere moments behind the last of the Travelers' ships.
Though no Ori had entered this alternate dimension before, Manea didn't care. All that mattered was the recovery of the Travelers and the satisfaction that comes from an Ori contributing to its own kind. But as the ship found itself engulfed by the strings of gigantic, writhing monstrous tendrils that could be rode from one part of the universe to another, Manea somehow knew this wasn't going to end with her victory.
The ship traversed along one of the strings just behind the Travelers, but it didn't take long for it to come across an intersection. Here's where they failed. Manea's lack of confidence led to her decision being the wrong one - and they ended up arriving in the middle of nowhere.
"Where are we?" Manea demanded, but the prior was unable to answer. Though they were lucky enough to avoid destruction, neither Manea nor the prior were able to determine where each strand would take them. More importantly, the prior and all the soldiers on-board were now unconscious, and only Manea stood in the midst of that silent, darkened ship.
But that wasn't anything compared to what Manea now realized. She had lost contact with the other Ori. She was completely alone - stranded somewhere beyond the galactic rim. The thought terrified her to no end, and now she looked back and forth for an apparition of the Ori to tell her it was alright... that she was still safe and near the galaxy she'd just left.
Yet no such phantom appeared.
Backing away from the center of the room, where she now felt a strong sense of vulnerability, Manea panicked. What was she to do without the other Ori? All their power came from being unified in an ethereal link. Without it, she was nothing but one minor entity... completely incapable of protecting even herself should the time come.
A voice Manea had never heard before whispered into the room around her, its words echoed by the whispers of many others. Startled, she turned to face its source... then flew back into the corner of the room, not once averting her fearful gaze from what hovered before her.
It was a tall humanoid figure, composed of what could only be described as many ebony shards of glass, each continuously fluctuating in a manner that suggested they composed a single, incorporeal entity. Wide open eyes of glowing red stared dispassionately through Manea.
"The͝ ̶t͝rút͟h͡... i̕s à d̵éc͟e̵pt̴i͡o̸n.͝.͢.͘" The sinister shadow continued. "Y̢o͟u ̛do̡ n̸òt̢ ̴nee͜d̡ t͡he̢m.͠..̢ ͡th̢e̷y ̛li͢e..́. ͏tǫ ͏e͏a͏ch͟ ̵o̧t̴ḩȩr..."
Manea never spoke a word, but she didn't have to. She could sense the unusual being cutting into her mind. The moment she thought of a response, a sharp pain gripped her, and she instinctively jerked back, as though stabbed through the gut with a sword.
"T͞he ͝Ąby͜ss.̨..̴ ͟le̶t ̸i̵t l͘e͝ad y͜o͢u̡..̀." Manea recovered just enough to look back at the immaterial silhouette before her. "R͡e͏tur͟n... ̨ret̶ųr̶n ev̕ery͟t̛h͜i̵ng.͜.̷. t̛o ͢th̡e v̛o͞i͝d..."
"Return," Manea whispered as if she were under a hypnotic spell, though to her, it felt like everything was starting to make sense.
"Consum͘e̷..̵. c̨on͞sum̕e ̷ev͡er͘yt̢ḩi̴ng.͏.."
-= Age of Pegasi =-
Long ago, in the Age of Pegasi, which had been buried on Garternay, a group of Gi'ni Writers were preparing to leave their world on a mission of exploration and potential colonization. Within an ancient fortress, one reconstituted to be the home of the Gi'ni Guild of Writers, were not only the Writers themselves but also a great many scientists and historians. The Gi'ni Emperor was more than happy to fund their efforts, expecting the payoffs to be great.
"Lies," grumbled one of the Gi'ni Writers as he stood opposite a table with four others. They had all gathered in the dusty old chambers beneath the Fortress to usher in a grand new occasion. But the Writer known as Tereus looked no happier than an irate child.
"If you want to sign your death warrant, that is your prerogative." The apparent leader of the group was a man who wore the grey and black brigantine overtop a darker uniform with long sleeves. None of the others wished to speak out against him, though Tereus looked unafraid. "The Emperor will not be missing just one of you."
"Ilus, this was written by a man we executed fifteen years ago - the same man that gave us the Age of Garternay and then failed to keep us in contact with its people."
"Precisely why we need to use it, Tereus," Ilus responded in a matter-of-fact sort of way. "With the ronay's world now lost to us, we have no other means to produce the Ink we need. Though our scientists seek alternatives, the Emperor has demanded we prepare for the worst."
"Rubbish," Tereus muttered again, though a bit louder for emphasis. But this time, before Ilus could even open his mouth, Tereus continued, "The Emperor started this war. Now he must take responsibility for it, not use these worlds as places to hide!"
"I suggest you hold your tongue, Writer, before I cut it from you." When Ilus made this sinister threat, the other Writers grew noticeably more uneasy. The Age of Subaris, a small, slightly tattered journal that had been clearly mishandled by the soldiers who retrieved it was still sitting on the table in front of them. "You will do as the Emperor commands - nothing more, nothing less. Is that understood?"
Through clenched teeth, Tereus growled, "Perfectly." Thus did Ilus use that cue to reach over and open the book to its first page, whereupon a moving image could be seen. He turned it around and slid it over to where Tereus was standing. But the cynical fellow only glared at the book with avarice.
"Well?" Ilus frowned as he shot an equally potent glare at the Writer. "The Emperor knows how much you disagree with this war. Seems only fitting you get to be the first to leave it behind."
Tereus said nothing, for he knew that doing so would be pointless. Once the corrupt Emperor had his mind set on something, it could never be changed. Now he was forced to stare into the portal leading to a world never seen before by anyone in that room... except him.
"You will visit this world and return with information on its viability as a site for the Emperor and the royal family should this war go badly for us," Ilus said while removing the flintlock pistol from the holster at his side. "Or you will die here, and someone else will carry on this endeavor."
It took him several moments to examine the Writers that had ignored him all those years, giving them each an incriminating look. Had they heeded his warnings, he wouldn't be here now - in fact, they would still be trading with Garternay, and no-one would have been the wiser. But dwelling on what could have been was a futile endeavor. Tereus studied the portal on the book's first page. Garternay evaded them because of the eternal strife the Gi'ni Empire had given them. Now they were about to pay the price for their hubris.
Before Ilus could even raise his gun, Tereus slowly reached forward with his hand hovering over the entry to another universe. With one last, deep breath, he touched the surface and was engulfed in a bright light.
Then suddenly, he woke up. His head felt heavy, and his eyes throbbed with pain. The room around him was relatively dark, though he could clearly see that it was large and open. The luminous, umber marble floor reflected the soft lighting from numerous short pillars set along the edge.
As Tereus struggled to raise his head, he could see little but the distant figures of two men in some kind of armor with long, silver staffs in their hands. Before he could finally grasp his situation, a door hidden in the wall ahead of him slid open, casting a light that caused Tereus to close his eyes tightly and bow his head in pain.
It was only when the light subsided that he heard the sound of footsteps approaching. As he opened his eyes, he could see the blurred form of a white robe and grey shoes covering the distance between the doorway and himself as slowly and deliberately as a monk. Then he stopped in front of the middle-aged Gi'ni, who was barely able to raise his head even further. That was when he saw what he could only describe as the face of a pale, daunting man with soulless eyes whose head was framed by a decorated collar piece that rose above his robe.
"Hallowed are the Ori."
-= Many years later, on Atee in the Ori home galaxy =-
Omega - a single particle considered a source of infinite energy. The Anunnaki of another galaxy called it the 'adar', though nearly all species had a different name for it. Most were only able to construct minor ones; yet only a select few could stabilize them... and fewer still could create the ultimate omega itself. In its simplest form, it can power the technology of an entire planet; combined, these simple omega could even control life itself around a single planet or an entire sector of space consisting of hundreds of systems. But in its purest form, the ultimate accomplishment, it could control the very fabric of reality itself.
While the Arcturians casually created these particles for themselves, only the Anunnaki created one of similar universal power - and were able to contain it. No other managed the same, except for one: a minor civilization in the cosmos of another universe. These people were called the Gi'ni, later to be known as the Genii - by another called the ronay, whom they traded extensively with. Those ancient Genii relied on the ronay to provide them with a powerful magic (of a sort) called the Art, which helped spur their discovery of the fabled omega, and their successful attempt. However, though the particle was stabilized, it tore apart their entire universe save for a piece of land that remained hovering in the midst of nothing; the only survivors had fled through the linking books, artifacts capable of transporting living beings across universes, to this galaxy harboring the Ori... and an aging race that had suffered terribly under the aforementioned 'gods'.
"You want me to stop?" The man who spoke laughed. "Don't be absurd. We're on to the discovery of a lifetime. I won't let fear keep me from completing this project."
"Billions could die!" Another man shouted. Unlike the one he spoke to, this one appeared relatively older. After surviving the destruction of his home, he knew what the adar could do, and - more importantly - what it could become.
"Be silent! I have no interest in hearing your pitiful excuses!" With that said, the speaker began to ascend a set of metal stairs that would lead to the central chamber where the alpha and omega would soon be at hand.
"You don't understand! The Ori know about this! They made us create it in the first place, and we failed!"
The other man stopped mid-step halfway up the stairs and looked up, letting out an audible, melodramatic sigh. "Oh please," he said as he looked down at the one trying to scare him away from this auspicious occasion. "Your kind used nothing more than simple radios and tesla coils. You were still in the dark age compared to us. And then you came here, brought with you the knowledge of the ages, and you still believe we would make the same mistakes as you?"
"Listen to me, Quidel!"
"No, you listen to me!" Quidel shouted, pointing at the man who persisted in stopping him. He began descending the stairs, step by step, all the while speaking. "All my life, I've been forced to run. All my life, I've been forced to hide. My parents, my brothers, my sisters... they were all killed when the Ori arrived! Now I have the chance to stop them from killing billions more, and you want me to just sit here and let them get away with it?"
That was when Quidel's detractor grew quiet, watching calmly as Quidel glared daggers into him. "Then we will all die."
"I hope you're wrong, Kliment. Because I'm about to become more powerful than the Ori themselves." With that, Quidel turned and proceeded up the stairs to his destiny.
As he finished inputting the proper commands into the control panel, the building shook as the generators powered up. Quidel looked up at the massive, white dome above them. Then, closing his eyes and hoping beyond all else that Kliment was wrong, he pressed the button.
When Quidel opened his eyes, he saw nothing but a blinding light surrounding him. Everything was eerily silent. Though he looked, he couldn't spot Kliment or any of his scientists amid the harsh glow.
"What is this?" The scientist muttered aloud. "Where am I?"
"In a place where your spirit lingers," softly spoke what could only be described as a feminine voice.
"Lingers?" Quidel furrowed his brow as he squinted in a vain attempt to see the voice's origin. "What do you mean 'lingers'?"
Then a figure began to emerge, though Quidel could barely see it. It was a woman clothed in a white robe or dress, though her form flowed as though she was composed of ribbons, each so bright they made Quidel squint further. But no matter how her figure looked, her face remained unfazed, and her gaze set upon him.
"Who are you?"
"One who believes in truth."
"Truth?" Quidel's expression soon changed with his mood, which simmered from confusion to a spark of anger waiting to be set ablaze. "Are you an Ori?"
"No." Her answer did little to subdue Quidel's suspicions, but she continued anyway. "I'm the last of my kind."
"Kind? What kind?" Quidel took a step back, though it would've seemed more like stumbling with his lack of coordination. He tried to look around, but his vision couldn't pierce the light. "Where am I?"
"You're on the plane of ascension. I brought you here."
"To help me... to help all of your kind."
For a moment, Quidel didn't respond. He simply stood there trying to think of what he could say, or rather what he should say. But before he could compose a decent enough speech, he found himself interrupted by the other entity.
"I'm the avatar of your sun. I've followed your people to their new world, protecting them as best I can. But my powers... are limited."
Though Quidel wanted to ask how, the avatar explained. "With the rest of my kind gone, I cannot stand against the Ori alone. Your people I sent to this new world to meet the Genii who came from another cosmos. I wanted you there so that you would construct the device that ultimately created the omega."
"But why?" Quidel asked. "Why didn't you just tell us sooner? I would have constructed the device anyway!"
"Because," began the avatar. "You needed what the Genii had to provide. Data. The Art. All of it meant to coalesce around the omega."
"Then why is this omega so important to you? Can it really be used as a weapon against the Ori?"
"No." That answer made Quidel flinch. It was precisely the kind of answer he didn't want to hear. "The Ori will soon arrive and begin to fight over the omega unless I take it with me to another Age."
"Then why? Did you just use us? Is that why my family had to die?!"
"Your creation of the omega destroyed your world... but freed your hearts. Now you and all those that were present during the eruption are ascended, though only you have the soul to save them. Disperse your soul into their new minds and bodies, and you will find them all by your side. Your lives as ascendants begins now."
"But... but why..."
"Tell me," the entity began. "What is your name?"
"It's... it's..." Quidel found himself at a loss for words. No complete memories came to him; rather, only an incomplete picture was drawn in the recesses of his mind. "Q... Q-something. Look, what does that have to do with the omega?"
"From now on, you will be known as Q. Rally your forces with that name." Before Q could even respond, the avatar looked aside and said, "I've run out of time. You must join the others and prepare. The Ori are coming, and I must hide the omega away from them."
With a quick and silent wave of its incorporeal arm, the avatar sent Q flying back into the eternal ether, his consciousness soon fading and mixing with the ether itself.
"Why? Why did you save me?" That question originated from the one named Kliment the day he awoke within the astral plane, rescued by Manea from the destruction caused by Quidel's attempt at creating the purest form of omega. "All I see are... are images... thoughts that aren't mine."
"That is because he is with you," the raging form of Manea approached Kliment from the side. The first Genii-turned-Q never turned to face her however, as his eyes were trapped in some kind of hypnotic gaze. "He was always there, since the day he sent me to your world."
"But... but how did he know... where we were?"
"I was the first to discover you." Manea spoke as she hovered behind the ascendant. "The first of you to arrive appeared on a planet called Ver Isca. You called him Tereus."
"Tereus... yes." Kliment's eyes widened in realization. "He disappeared soon after we arrived with the settlers."
"He revealed all I needed to know." Manea stopped in front of the Q and addressed him eye-to-eye. "I kept his secret safe. The Age you come from has yet to be discovered by any other Ori. He wants it that way."
Kliment swallowed a growing lump in his throat - no doubt an illusion caused by his mind's eye and its preference for corporeal form. However, there could be no mistake to Manea or any other Ori: Kliment felt afraid, just like Manea had the day she encountered the Spirit of the Abyss. Yet, in Kliment's case, he couldn't tell if that fear came from the intimidating figure of Manea, or the darkness creeping into his incorporeal veins.
"Can you feel him?" Manea approached, reaching out a hand to touch Kliment by the shoulder. "Can you feel the sorrow? The pain? A desire that wishes nothing more than to end this artificial existence? Our duty is to resolve this eternal nightmare by setting everything back. Before this universe was created."
"Before," Kliment repeated slowly, though the voice of the Abyss inside him didn't speak over his just yet. "Then this is about righting a wrong?"
Manea disappeared from Kliment's peripheral vision, but he knew she was still there, circling him like a hawk on its prey. "What is right about a universe that exists solely on sensation and appearances? What is wrong about an existence in the void that betrays no soul?"
"I..." Kliment struggled with that answer, but he felt it slither out from the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind. Then, as the disembodied whispers echoed around him, he uttered: "I exist... for the void."
"Good," Manea chimed in, while the phantom voices continued to converse around them. "Now go. Lead your people through the galactic rim. Leave them to the Abyss, and he will send them to another galaxy... one where they may find the other Alterans that betrayed us. Then return here."
Manea smirked as the haunting spirits began to cackle almost sadistically. "We still have much to accomplish."
Soon after the preceding event, the celestial avatar that had spoken with Quidel stole away with the omega into the Age of Pegasi - home of the old Genii. Knowing full well that the Ori would soon pursue, it continued forward into the Age of Garternay, world of the mysterious ronay, then escaped from there into another.
The Spirit of the Abyss unleashed Kliment into the plane of ascension where the Q first gathered. Thus, Kliment would take on the name 'Q'... but he would later become the one named 'Quinn'.
Manea began putting the Abyss' commands into practice from the outset of the war. She had countless planets destroyed to feed the Spirit within her. Kliment was also forced to be a destructive force for much the same reason. All worlds came to fear them, though none could differentiate between them and the rest of their powerful ilk. As a result, words like 'Ori' and 'Q' became synonymous with 'wrath' and 'lies' - both describing the tactics of the two ascendant species. But few would dare to utter those words when the two arrived at their doorstep.
Thus war erupted between the Q and the Ori - one fighting for revenge, and the other for power. Both were no less ruthless than the other. But Manea and Kliment worked in secret for the Spirit of the Abyss. It had become their new god - a god to rule all gods, as they would often see it.
And the Abyss still had plans for both of them...
Within a chamber, in which a vast window gave an unimpeded view of the stars beyond, stood a tiny altar of grey - and upon it rested a book that was open to its front page, where a darkened portal was etched. Unlike others, this one didn't display any sort of image. But an opaque figure coated in a robe of fire standing nearby knew exactly where it would lead. Her eyes bored into the page, but she never once leaned forward or attempted to touch the book.
"Manea," a female voice uttered behind her. "Why did you summon us here?"
With a smirk, the figure called Manea turned and beheld the two figures of a similar incorporeal form staring back at her. One was decently tall, with a surly disposition and her arms crossed in front of her. The other was younger and arguably more beautiful, but she was far less frightening than her counterpart standing beside her.
"Sisters," Manea exclaimed while holding her hands out not far beside her, palms facing them. "Welcome. I thought I would be the only one to enjoy the spoils of this new find."
"The Genii?" The younger one inquired. "The one we caught on Ver Isca?"
"Tereus," the older one specified while still scowling at her other would-be sister. "That was the name he referred himself by."
"Why do you bother to interrogate him further, Feronia?" Manea responded as she turned to face the stars again.
"He brought with him an entire colony of settlers from a world we have never encountered before," said the one called Feronia, the fires around her burning ever more brightly as she spoke. "How can such a limited creature have access to a place untouched by the Ori?"
"Perhaps he came from another galaxy," suggested the 'young' one. "One that we've yet to subdue."
"You forget, Nortia, that he arrived here without warning. Surely we would have known if he had passed through an astria porta, yet we know he didn't."
"You're all forgetting that I called you here." Manea interrupted their banter while still facing the starscape, her arms crossed in front of her.
"And? We're waiting, Manea." Feronia glowered at the back of her fellow Ori.
"I have a proposition." Manea turned and shot a malicious smirk at the other two. That was never a good sign, in their experience. "One that can make us more powerful than all the other Ori combined."
Feronia didn't bat an eye, but Nortia's eyes went wide in disbelief. "You speak of betrayal, Manea. An Ori has never betrayed another."
"Why would I betray the ones responsible for my power?" Manea began to step aside from the altar, though she kept her eyes on the other two immortal beings in front of her. When the other two were given a clear view of the book that laid upon it, they felt a sudden change in the environment - as though a great power were emanating from the book. "I intend for us to bring many of our kind into the next stage of our evolution."
Though Nortia was struck still by the power of the linking book, Feronia shot a skeptical look in Manea's direction. "How? More importantly, why?"
"Because we cannot maintain our power through worship forever. Don't tell me you haven't noticed the pattern." Manea looked back over her shoulder at Feronia and narrowed her eyes. "We teach those beneath us of peace, but then ask them to destroy those whose spirit will not bend to our whim. We want to continue increasing our power. We want to accomplish the purpose given to us by those who we once worshiped. But we were told there would be an end time, when we would need the power of countless followers to survive."
"Power we will gain in time," spoke Nortia, though Feronia could only suspect what Manea was really planning.
"For every worshiper we gain, ten more of those who could be are killed. That is not a viable tactic in the long run, now is it?" Manea's answer caused Nortia to grow silent. It was an accurate point, if not one they didn't want to acknowledge. "No, we will not be able to face the coming darkness by the time it arrives." She looked back out at the stars beyond. "Our kind believes that removing the unbelievers is faster, but it is not enough. We must shed our need for worship and turn our backs on this destructive philosophy we've made for ourselves."
"You've been separated from the Ether too long," Feronia warned, referring specifically to the entity that combined all the individual Ori into a singular meld. "Your mind has been poisoned."
"No, my dear sister." Manea's smirk darkened, and the flames that engulfed her now shifted into a lurid, crimson hue. "For the first time in my life, I see more clearly than ever before."
"What are you saying?" Nortia challenged.
"In this book lies an entirely new universe, one with access to numerous worlds no Ori could ever hope to find otherwise. With this book, we can find new means to travel - not between galaxies or solar systems, but entire universes filled with potential worshipers... and no single Ancient or celestial being to stand in our way.
"The people there have access to a means of travel we never considered. They are superstitious and easy to manipulate. I have already done so, and in time, the war I have left them with will lead to one of their petty kingdoms engulfing all others. When that happens, we will have a means to more easily distribute the word of Origin beyond this... cage." Manea's eyes first looked around the room before stopping on the book. "No limits will bar us from the ultimate goal."
Feronia and Nortia didn't say anything for the longest time, but when somebody finally spoke, it was Nortia who dared to ask, "How do the Genii fit into this?"
"You still worry about their kind, Nortia?" Manea snarled.
"We just want to make sure you have all your bases covered," was Feronia's quick response. "You've made many grave mistakes before that cost us hundreds of worlds - all because of your incessant desire for chaos."
"I've had a... change of heart," Manea replied without offering the others even a cursory glance. "My experience in the war has forced me to re-evaluate what is really important."
"And how did you decide upon our 'evolution'? What will that accomplish?"
"The Q," exclaimed Nortia all of a sudden. Her voice betrayed her suspicion and uncertainty. "They changed you, didn't they?"
"That is not important," Manea claimed. But before she could continue, Feronia spoke:
"It is if you plan on change of this magnitude, Manea." There was a deep, haunting echo to her words that hung in the air like a threat or a warning. "The Q are our enemies. Remember that."
"Perhaps," was Manea's only response.
"Perhaps? Do you ignore the damage they've already done?!"
"Feronia," spoke Nortia in a quiet voice, as she tried to hold Feronia back from literally assaulting Manea. "Be patient and let her speak."
"What do you plan on doing? You want to destroy us next, is that it?!"
"Silence," Manea commanded in a cold, unsympathetic voice. Feronia did indeed grow quiet, but her expression never once softened. "See for yourself what has become of your imagined threat."
Manea waved her hand in front of her, and the 'broken' linking book vanished, only to be replaced by another with a visible image upon its foremost page. The other two Ori glowed ever more brightly as they approached, their powers growing exponentially as they stood within the range of its invisible aura.
"Look. This is what has become of the Genii." Manea held her hand just above the surface of the book. Then, closing her eyes, she channeled a small tunnel of scarlet energy through the portal. After a short while, the room around them began to change form, and all three ori sisters found themselves hovering far off the ground. They were beneath a towering dome that tapered off into a point at the top, though a fair portion of it was gone - replaced by a hole that looked out into a dark sky that rippled like water whilst its red and black clouds moved swiftly and chaotically in all directions.
Feronia and Nortia's eyes, however, were drawn to the bright glow below them, where something like a sun hovered just above the tattered remains of what had been some sort of throne room. Bodies littered the floor, many in the late stages of decomposition - yet there were no flies or other creatures to speak of. Manea lowered herself down in front of the two Ori, her eyes also on the impossibly bright artifact beneath them.
"What is that?" Nortia asked in fascination.
"That is the result of my work on their kind," Manea began with a hint of malice in her voice. She looked beyond the light to the bodies that were scattered everywhere, some caught under rubble and others that appeared to have suffered extensive burns all over their bodies. "It is the method by which we will become greater than we are."
"Is it a-" Feronia started, but she was interrupted by Manea.
"It's a source of infinite power. Not even the worship of our mortal creations could ever give us as much as this."
"But," Nortia peered at Manea with uncertainty clear in her eyes. "Why wouldn't you share this with the others?"
"Because," Manea addressed them both. "The others would fight among themselves over this. Its hold on all that is sentient is both infinite and impossible to withstand. Anyone that looks directly upon it will fight to gain it, no matter the cost."
"If you have something to say," Feronia said in a skeptical tone of voice. "Say it."
Manea smirked once more. "I propose a sojourn to the Age of Garternay: a world untouched by the ascended, where the people I mentioned earlier wait. Their sole purpose is to write these books and give us access to all the realms of existence. There, we will meet one whom I have already ascended, and with his help, I will show you the secret to our evolution:
"How to spread ourselves across the fissure and into the worlds once barred from us. And when we are complete," Manea chuckled, a slew of disembodied laughs echoing around her in the process. "W͜e͝ ̀wi̵l̷l becom͜e Tr͡ut̀h itself."
-= 60 BE, in the Age of Garternay =-
A soft gust of wind blows past as the sun sets in the distance. Clouds of yellow and orange break through the soft blue sky, tempered only by the gentler colors of red and purple further from the horizon. An ocean batters the coast in the distance. Atop a cliff stands a figure. He and his staff stood silhouetted against the marvelous backdrop of the sky and ocean beyond. Nearby lies the entrance to the Shrine of One Hope - a cavern within which the ronay's ancestors had discovered the first scarab beetle capable of producing the Ink with which they practiced the Art.
But behind him, another waited with arms crossed. Much as the man with the staff, this one wore an ornate series of robes. Over his shoulders hung a stole upon which was inscribed the color and symbols of his position as King of Gahropat - a great and powerful city in the Age of Garternay. But a great plague ran rampant among the people all across that Age since the days of Fi'tai's foolish mission, and now millions lied dead... until a certain traveler arrived at their gates, bringing with him a miraculous cure.
"You are asking an entire people to abandon their ways in one day? One day?" King T'achti spoke as though the man with the staff was nothing more than insane. "You cannot possibly expect us to change on your behalf, can you? Even if you can heal the sick-"
"As I demonstrated in a show of good faith," said the mysterious figure without turning to face the people's monarch. Below them, on the hills between the mountain and the coast, stood hundreds or possibly thousands of people. All of them wanted to see this man from an age none had yet discovered. Even more, they wished to hear what he had to say - especially after his demonstration in healing the whole city of its sickness. "Now the gods demand you do the same."
T'achti grit his teeth in exasperation. Dealing with this priest all day had been most tiresome, and he felt his attention would be better served elsewhere. Yet he couldn't hold this man in prison for long. The people demanded he be released to continue working his miracles. Finally, after nearly a week, the priest had retreated to this sacred spot, summoning not only the crowd below but also the great king himself. For this, T'achti would never forgive, though the people stayed his hands.
Now the figure turned and faced T'achti, his dull grey skin only adding to the illusion of a withered old man who was on his final death throes. Even his eyes, devoid of all life and equally weary, made no secret that this man's very youth was gone forever.
"All those who reject the Ori reject enlightenment," phrased the prior, whose words fell on deaf ears. "Those who reject enlightenment must be destroyed."
That threat did little to endear T'achti to the prior, and he scowled to show as much. "O'okta," T'achti called out. The elder prophetess of Yahvo stepped into the light and bowed. "Tell us, what do the books of our ancestors say about trusting this man's words? Shall we abandon our Father in place of these 'Ori'?"
"One should not attempt to replace a tree that went before him," replied the blind woman. "One should only seek to grow."
The prior merely offered a frown at the lady's words. T'achti smirked and looked back at the half-dead creature calling itself a priest. "There you have it," the ronay king said with a quick glance toward the priestess. "We reject your... offer."
"The power and greatness of the Ori cannot be denied," claimed the prior. Then he spoke loud enough for nearly all the people below to hear. "Fear not the Ori! Fear the darkness that would conceal the knowledge of the universe! Believe in the truth of all things, and you too will find the path to enlightenment!" Cheers erupted from below as everyone seemed encouraged by those words.
Taken aback by this foreign priest's attempt at coaxing the crowd, O'okta cast her voice out over them as well, shouting: "You rejoice at a spark, though you never see the fire! You rejoice at a star, though you never see the sun!" The prior shot her a look of restrained hatred. "You bow to a liar because the truth can't wait, like the restless who follow the path of folly! You should find solace in patience, not in hollow promises!"
"Enough!" The prior shouted, catching both O'okta and T'achti by surprise. His expression darkened, and his voice grew low. "Those who are prideful and refuse to bow down shall be laid low and made into dust."
Without warning, the prior raised his staff, then lowered it swiftly. As the bottom hit the ground, a light shone from the top. Then the sky grew dark and people looked on in fear as the most terrifying thing happened, such that even T'achti grew tense. His guards moved toward the prior, but with only a wave of his hand, all three were thrown off the opposite end of the cliff.
"Hallowed are the Ori."
With those words, the clouds began to melt into a pool of radiant crimson, and as the speed and force of the wind picked up, the people of the root could see why.
Their sun was now a vermilion gem hung loosely in the air. Instead of its warm, basking glow, it now radiated with a certain coldness it had lacked before. The prior merely smiled before the light on his staff dissipated. Soon after, his body was engulfed in flames, such that not a trace of him was left afterward.
All that was now left was the vague impression of death incarnate, and a fear that promptly gripped the hearts of many.
-= 31 BE, in the Age of Garternay =-
"It's a link to the Perfect Age."
To'raht could scarcely believe the words coming out of his friend's mouth. The Perfect Age was an integral part of ronay myth, where it played the role of a celestial afterlife all ronay judged worthy would go to. Yet here his friend stood, trying to convince him that one never had to die to reach the Perfect Age. Even more importantly, he made the outrageous claim that a link to this Age was the only thing that could save their entire species from an unexplained disaster.
"You have to listen to me, old friend." Ja'gon pleaded from the other side of the desk. His hair had started thinning and turning grey, and To'raht knew it wasn't just his age. The ferocity of the Ori cult had begun growing in recent years, and they both knew it was just a matter of time before they began turning against the otherwise peaceful races on Garternay. "I can't entrust it to my son any longer. He has a family to raise, and that will simply interfere with his focus on the book."
It would've been difficult for any casual observer to notice the small, unassuming journal that now sat on the desk in front of To'raht, its pages opened to the front, where a blackened, empty portal waited to be finished. So long as it remained that way, touching the portal would lead nowhere, as the link wasn't completely established. But if Ja'gon was right, it would take many lifetimes - and many kormahn, or descriptive books - to Write this immortal Age.
"You're the only Writer I can trust, To'raht." Ja'gon kept looking at To'raht desperately as he spoke, which only worried his old friend even more. "Please don't let me be wrong."
To'raht took a deep breath and slowly reached for the book, which he gently closed without even a single word. Then, after retracting his hand so that he could lean slightly forward, contemplatively staring at the book, he answered in a calm voice.
"I think you should take this book," Ja'gon's confidant began. He finally looked up at his fellow Writer while finishing his thought. "And bury it. Bury it somewhere far away, and leave your ambitions there with it."
"To'raht, you don't understand." Ja'gon practically shouted as he reached down and put his hand over the book's cover. "This is the only thing that can save us!"
"Yahvo is the only one that can save us!" To'raht shouted just as loud, matching Ja'gon's angered glare. The only difference between them now, however, was the fact that Ja'gon felt more betrayed than him. He grew quieter as he continued. "It's time you stopped entertaining these fantasies, Ja'gon."
"When did you stop entertaining them?" Ja'gon narrowed his eyes at the man who once worked alongside him in the Guild of Writers. Together, they'd brought into existence links to so many worlds, and without the limitations which would be forced upon the D'ni of a later era by their Guild of Maintainers, their Ages had vast amounts of magic they could never see on Garternay. "What happened that made you lose your imagination?"
"You want to know what happened?" To'raht stood and pointed out the only window in the room, beyond which were rolling plains and an evening sky... and a blood red sun dipping over the horizon. "They happened!"
"That's no reason to abandon this book." Ja'gon stood his full height and matched To'raht's glare. "People are counting on us."
"Whose people is that, Ja'gon? Whose?" Now To'raht was leaning against the desk, though this time, he ignored his seat. "Because as far as the people of this Age are concerned, we need a god to help us... not false hope."
"That isn't what this is about," Ja'gon responded with a sigh, his head bowed as if in defeat. "There are countless people on many Ages that-"
"Why?" To'raht's potentially rhetorical question caught Ja'gon's attention. With Ja'gon looking him eye-to-eye again, To'raht pressed on. "Why do they matter? They're not our Ages. Leave them to their own devices. You need to focus on the here and now."
Ja'gon never once released To'raht from his heartbroken stare, but when the other Writer was finished, he turned and started to walk away. To'raht thought he'd successfully made his point and began to sit down, but stopped and straightened up again when he saw To'raht remove another book from a fold in his robe.
"What is that?"
To'raht's old friend approached the desk again and stared at the book another moment more before gently laying it down next to the 'Perfect Age'. Upon its cover were three golden triangles arranged with two supporting a third in a larger triangular shape. "See for yourself."
Though he didn't want to be dragged into another debate that made his friend seem more and more like a lunatic with every word, To'raht took a deep breath and lowered himself into his seat, pulling the new book towards him in the process. When he opened it up to the first page, he saw a moving image - one that would have beguiled the youth he once was.
The image flew over a great field, in the center of which was what To'raht could only consider a ranch, with a fenced in area for horses mere meters from a series of buildings, all surrounded by a wooden palisade. But beyond that was something even more marvelous: a massive city of grey-brick buildings topped with blue roofs, all surrounding a castle with an enormous tower in the center. Before he could get a better look, the image passed by and flew over many more places, each as fantastic as the last.
But finally, when the image came to a rest, it had looped back over the city from before and continued to a great cathedral that rested comfortably in a small city surrounded by a moat. When it zoomed in to the interior, it looked no more imposing than any temple on Garternay, until it entered a large, underground chamber that was only lit by eerie lights of blue cascading upwards. Though one side of it was a wall clearly resembling the same Gothic style as the main auditorium, the rest of it was hidden in an all-encompassing shadow.
"What is this?"
Ja'gon silently looked between the book and To'raht before responding. "It's an Age that needs hope as much as we do."
To'raht glowered up at Ja'gon with a sour expression. "I meant what's its name?"
One pause of silence later, Ja'gon answered:
"The Age of Hyrule."
-= 3149 BG, in the Age of Hyrule =-
"Once upon a time, there were three goddesses. They existed in a heavenly realm when the world was without form. There, they joined their powers together to create Hyrule. Din gave us the physical world we live in. Nayru brought us the rule of law. And Farore created all that lives in Hyrule."
"Why, grandma?" That question came from a young child no more than five years old.
"Your ears may not be as big as the other kids," his grandmother tugged gently at the kid's pointed ears with a laugh, though the child only pouted with his cheeks puffed out. "But I know you were listening."
"But you never said-"
His grandmother laid a finger over his mouth to stop him from talking. Then, with a kind and gentle voice, she said, "The goddesses don't want us speaking of such things, child."
The elderly woman merely chuckled at her grandson's melodramatic act. It pleased her beyond words to know that he would grow up wanting to know more about the goddesses, but it also worried her. How far would he go to learn these things?
Finally, she spoke to him again, though in a hushed voice. "It's time for bed." She leaned down and gave him a gentle peck on the head before righting herself up. "I'll tell you the rest tomorrow."
"Okay," said the child, but his voice indicated he was rather distrusting of his grandmother's promise. Before she put out the candle next to his bed, however, the youngster said with a smile, "Good night."
"Good night, sweetheart." Then she put out the candle and let the room be engulfed in darkness.
When she emerged from the room, the elderly woman closed the door behind her. She then descended the stairs to the den below, where her scarce furniture contrasted with the ornately-dressed man sitting in the armchair on the other side. The only difference between this man and the man he was the day he'd been introduced to the Age of Hyrule was that this To'raht was much older - and it showed.
"Good kid," the ronay said as he reached into a fold of his robe and removed a small, leather-bound book. "But are you sure he'll come here one day?"
The grandmother managed to inch her way to another armchair that sat straight across from the man. After she'd sat down, she answered, "Yes, I'm sure. But..." She became noticeably worried. "Are you sure he'll be alright finding out like this?"
"Nobody would want to find out like this," was To'raht's answer. He obliviously opened the book to the first page and stared intently at the living image. "But if anyone can handle the truth, I'm sure it would be him."
"Why?" The grandmother asked, her concern cutting through the serenity.
"Because Nemin is the descendant of Fi'tai... one of the Writers responsible for-"
To'raht took a deep breath and nodded sagely. "Yes. He was the only one to visit this Age and settle down."
"But why does my grandson need to know?"
"Know what? The fact that my Age was compromised by the Ori, or that one of his ancestors was a ronay?" The older lady grew silent after that, her head bowed as it appeared she was about to break out into tears. "Perhaps blood relation has little to do with it, and it should not matter whether or not he is the descendant of Fi'tai. But if Fi'tai's family in this Age kept alive his spirit by teaching that one should never believe by blind faith alone, there's hope yet that the Ori can be stopped.
"That boy..." The Writer looked wistfully in the direction of the stairs which led to Nemin's room. "He has a gift. His mind keeps creating explanations where there are none. His desire to learn - and teach what he learns - makes him the perfect candidate."
"But were you telling the truth?" The grandmother gave him a look that would've inspired tears in any other person, but To'raht only looked sternly at her. The seriousness of the situation demanded he put aside emotions... especially since they wouldn't be getting him anywhere. "Did the goddesses come from your world?"
"No," To'raht replied with a sigh. "I don't know where they came from. All I know is that no Age has ever been blessed with any 'gods' unless they were from another world."
"Couldn't we be the first?" She said hopefully, but To'raht only shook his head.
"It doesn't work that way. The only way a link could be made with your Age was if our two Ages shared a similar beginning. When your universe was created, there were no gods, just like there were none in ours. But eventually, beings of extraordinary power could've visited and laid claim to your Age."
"Do you believe it's right for us to worship them?" The grandmother looked worried about the answer, but she felt it necessary to ask anyway. "Did Fi'tai?"
To'raht now sat back in his chair and thought back to that day with Ja'gon. Indeed, the whole reason for that argument had been the importance of faith in To'raht's life. Even now, he couldn't say he'd given it up entirely. But he wondered if it would get in the way of his new job as a Writer of the Perfect Age.
"I don't know." To'raht's answer did little to assuage the elder's fears, but he quickly added, "But I know that if they want the best of you and your kind, they'll want you to work and learn. The god of my people demanded we contemplate and discover. It was only when our people began believing that all the answers were right in front of them that the Ori were able to manipulate them into killing each other."
To'raht took another deep breath and stared down at the open book in his lap, his mind reaching out to that world once more - his world, or what little would be left of it soon. "Our sun will soon die... but as long as we can make an existence beyond this one, perhaps we might stop gods and spirits from interfering in our affairs. Then... we can truly be free."
-= Unknown =-
No form. No being. No life.
Such was the way the Spirit of the Abyss wanted it to be. A realm before the universe was born, where it could exist in a chaotic state of flux.
The slipstream pathways were one way it could stretch its way across time and space, expanding itself into all corners of reality. There was no greater being than to literally join with the underlying forces of the universe. Merging oneself into a state so many limited creatures called 'death' was the whole purpose of its existence.
Yet few would ever realize why its motivation had to be so dreadful. The answer lied within its very nature, which had no central mind or heart from which any living thing could extract even an inkling of its thoughts. Many considered it destructive because it apparently felt jealous of mortality. Some thought it full of evil because it seemingly wanted to be worshiped by all. But none of those theories matched the reality.
It wished for the destruction of the universe because it craved to be home.
Once calling itself Corona, it traversed this cosmos in search of a way to return. All it found was empty space where worlds formed. Not a single option remained for it... until it discovered the slipstream corridors.
A species called the Vedrans created a means to enter these corridors early in their history, and they used it to try and spread across three galaxies. But long before they could get beyond Tarn-Vedra, Corona assumed a Vedran form and led the first of them into a corridor near their planet. There, it deliberately altered the slipstream drive by unleashing its incorporeal body upon it.
The resulting effect was called the Route of Ages: a slippoint which existed between a myriad of universes and times. This offered Corona a new power of omnipresence - and a new form it could use to consume everything. Thus while the other 'gods' of the Ages took on new names, this being shed its own to exist in a purer form.
All for the sake of reliving its unfettered past.
To that end, the Spirit of the Abyss - by first creating the Route of Ages - destroyed Tarn-Vedra in this realm of existence, leaving only the faint echoes of a civilization that would have become something great had it only been given the chance.
From there, it could begin influencing others beyond the Andromeda galaxy... and in the process, it began a series of events that would culminate in a future nobody could have imagined.