In the beginning, there was the Dance. That is what the gods say among themselves, though few gods are left in this realm who remember the full story. Even fewer still took part in the Dance. Gods can be cruel or benevolent, patient or vengeful, but no god stays in one realm forever. To do so is to forget oneself, to stagnate, to deteriorate until one is wandering among mortals, forgotten and listless. But though the exact details may not be known among the younger set born in this realm, all know of the Dance - the grand cycle of careful, meticulous planting of the seeds of creation throughout the realm, expanding life infinitely where it could take root. Among even the most suspect of celestial beings, the Dance was seen as the most sacred of rites, never to be mocked or defiled.
Which is why the gods who presided over a lush little ball of life the resident mortals called a number of things, though academic consensus had recently settled on Ondé, felt as a whole that it was bad form that the Twins called their little conflict the Long Dance. Of course, Pailon and Namilun were still quite young, which explained their blasphemy. They had been born on this world, and had yet to even move beyond the little continent where they made their home, aside from necessary appointments at the Panoptic Atrium. Their foolish competition was forgivable, up to a point.
Still, caution was prudent when gods went to war, especially by using mortal proxies - one never knew when the silly things would grow arrogant with victory and start a crusade. And no god could resist the power that came with successfully zealous worshippers. A few such mishaps between the brothers over the eons had already led to their entire continent being swallowed by their conflict, small though it relatively was in relation to the rest of Ondé's land masses. Many gods, weak and strong, had been driven away from that land, their followers slaughtered, their temples desecrated. Not unheard of among gods, of course, but the endurance of the conflict and the rapidity in which the brothers cleared out anyone who got in their way gave everyone within the Atrium's membership pause. Only the Twins' sister Alyuna survived the purge, her small cults untouched thanks both because of the brothers' love for her and her shrewd neutrality in their conflict.
Thus the gods of Ondé, disparate though they were in goals, specialties and cultural expressions, worked as one under the leadership of Dena, elder among gods, and brought the brothers to heel.
The brothers were forced into a pact - the Long Dance could only continue for a set time period every millenia, until a clear winner of the era was found through specific stipulations. The loser of each round would be forced to go to ground until the next millenia. Given her impartiality, and the trust the brothers had for her, Alyuna was chosen as mediator and judge of the contest.
The Twins agreed to the pact, for what else could they do in the face of all the powers of the heavens? And anyway, a millennia is a long enough time to dig into strategy so as to outwit the adversary when the time came to rise again.
And so, five millenia passed in this fashion to the contentment of all but those who had sympathy for the mortals caught up in the fray.
The towering arches of the Panoptic Atrium's antechamber reverberated with the whispers of Alyuna's attendants. They stood behind their goddess at a respectful distance but could not contain their excitement at being chosen to accompany the goddess to the Atrium. Alyuna smiled to herself. The blessings that a weak goddess such as herself could bestow upon her most treasured acolytes were few compared to a blessing from one of the great gods of Ondé. Still, her entourage were draped in colorful linen robes, their hair dressed in greenery from the forests in which her cult inhabited, and gave off an air of being exactly where they deserved to be, just like their favored deity.
Alyuna herself made no distinction in her dress from her attendants, though the deep purple aura that surrounded her and colored her countenance was much brighter in hue than the much dimmer multicolored auras of the demigods who served her. She wore bright yellow to offset the purple, the greenery nestled in her thick locks like vines woven through the branches of a tree.
“Ah, sister, it has been too long.”
Alyuna’s attendants went still - she turned to greet Pailon with a smile. His people wore white, their jackets cinched to the side with golden belts, wide trousers swinging as they walked. Pailon matched them, though his jacket was covered in golden embroidery depicting birds in flight. A thick braid ran down his back. He returned her smile and held out his hands, which she took and squeezed.
“Another movement in our Long Dance has begun,” he said, taking her right arm into his and leading her toward the entrance of the Atrium as his people fell in with hers. “A tiresome thing, isn’t it? If Namilun could simply be content with the space his worshippers take up in the mountains and the forest, we wouldn’t have to play this little game.”
“I believe Namilun said the same thing before this era began,” Alyuna replied, glancing up at her cheery brother. “And I recall telling him that what you and he do isn't a game, not when you use mortal lives as pieces on the board.”
“Did he tell you not to be such a spoilsport?”
“Yes, though not in those words.”
Pailon chuckled and glanced behind him. “Ah, speak and he shall appear! Hello, brother! You are late.”
“Time is merely the way we trap and measure change,” Namulin called out across the antichamber, walking quickly as his attendants hustled behind him. “Anyway, I cannot be late for my own party.”
His red aura was offset by the various muddled grays of his tunic and tight trousers. A black cloak hung off his shoulders. The whole ensemble gave the impression that, if not for his aura, he could slip into the shadows at any moment. He caught up with his siblings and stood to the left of Alyuna, weaving his arm into hers.
“I hope you’ve prepared yourself, Pai. Your scheming last era won’t likely save you from what I have in store.” He gave his brother a toothy grin, his eyes flickering with anticipation.
“Oh, I’m not worried,” Pailon said smoothly as the three siblings continued walking together toward the Atrium’s entrance. “You were quite predictable last round. I doubt the last thousand years did much for your imagination, rooting around in the woods as you and your people do.”
“Running from your people, mostly,” Namulin growled.
“Now, none of that,” Alyuna scolded. “You will have your chance to gain back ground, if you can, fair and square.”
“So you’ve prepared our prophets?” Pailon said, delight filling his tone.
“I’ve chosen your prophets, yes. They are, as always, not from this realm, and they are equally full of potential. You are the one who must prepare them, Pai.”
“Yunala, you can have such a stick up your ass sometimes,” Namulin groused.
Pailon chuckled. Alyuna took a deep, silent breath and smiled benevolently.
“Yes, well, it keeps my spine straight,” she said, pulling her brothers forward. “I assure you, brothers, you will have nothing to complain about. And your dance will be a memorable one. Shall we?”
The siblings passed the threshold into the Atrium and into the din of the gods of Ondé, who greeted them with applause.
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