The chime of the 12-ton brass bell rang out from the speaker above the altar of the small house of worship, as it did at every other house of worship around the world. And like the priests in every other house of worship, Emerin lifted up his chalice at that moment, full of water that he had blessed earlier this day. His congregation sang along with music piped in through the speaker, keeping the time of the monthly ritual. As the song reached its climax, Emerin poured the holy water onto the stone altar the building was erected around, a conduit to the Gods below. Another chime came over the speaker, signaling the end of the ritual.
The priest put the chalice down, knelt in front of the stone, and kissed the large rock before him. “May the Gods protect us for another month,” he said in reverent tones.
“One more month of holy protection,” the congregation replied. Emerin could hear many emotions in their collective response - love, respect, disdain… even fear. This was quite common; not everyone in the congregation held the same reverence for the Gods as he. Some, he often thought, didn’t even believe in the Gods.
To their peril.
He stood and proceeded to lead his flock in their weekly prayers, now that the most sacred task was complete. He took a moment to look around the room, the prayers firmly enough in his memory that he didn’t need to focus on the words to lead them. He had been lucky to be assigned to this house of worship - his congregation was wealthy, so they kept the building well-maintained. Other than the speaker system, which was maintained by the central temple, each house of worship relied on the generosity of the people, as the Gods commanded.
Mid-prayers, the ground began to shake, but none took special notice. Ground quakes were not uncommon. They were never strong, and they lasted for only a minute or two at most. The scripture spoke of such quakes – they emanated from the Holy Stones that reached deep into the ground to the center of the planet where the Gods dwelt.
After five minutes, however, the quakes had yet to stop, and the congregation began to take notice. Most of them continued their prayers, but a scant few – mainly younger members - started to pull out small vid screens to see if there was any information being disseminated about the long quake on the global networks. A news network showed a view of the Most Holy Temple in the capital, but little information was known at the time.
The quake began to increase in intensity, and a voice came over the speaker. It belonged to High Priest Ortacon, the leader of the Faithful, sole resident of the Most Holy Temple. Normally the High Priest only spoke to the Faithful on high holidays… or matters of great importance.
“Do not fear, people of Nolia,” Ortacon intoned in his rich, strong baritone. “The Gods rejoice at our devout faith! The scriptures speak of their divine dance that will herald the -“
The speaker suddenly fell silent.
Gasps and other sounds of alarm filled the air. Members of the flock were seeing truly disturbing images on their personal vid screens now. Large cracks were forming on the Most Holy Temple, and parts of it were falling to the streets below. When similar cracks started to form within their own house of worship, panic started to build in the hearts of the flock. It was time for Emerin to lead, to safeguard his congregation.
“The scriptures speak of their divine dance that will herald the-“
The High Priest blinked in wonder as a ceiling support crashed to the floor only inches away from his altar, utterly crushing the recording equipment. The attending priests were panicking, begging him to leave, to come away with them to somewhere safer.
“Safer?” Ortacon scoffed as he approached the Great Stone of the Gods in the center of his home, the Most Holy Temple. “Where could possibly be safer than at the side of our Gods, our protectors?” More debris was falling around the room as cracks formed in the walls and floor. Still, the High Priest refused to budge. “The Gods will protect us!” he shouted, resolute in his faith.
The attending priests, however, were considerably less resolute, and started running from the collapsing building.
As the last priest left, he looked back but the High Priest was gone. The floor had opened up and devoured him. The priest hoped that he was now in a better place.
The Most High Temple and the buildings that surrounded it were collapsing under the strengthening quakes. Around the world, people were watching the calamity unfold on their vid screens. It seemed like the quakes were everywhere, but they were the worst at holy sites. There, the rubble began to rise and fall off as large objects started to emerge from below.
From where the Gods dwelled.
Panic swept over the land – the Gods were destroying the temples and leaving the holy realm within the world. For Emerin, and many other among the Faithful, that was the only plausible explanation for what was happening. The flock must have angered the Gods somehow. As the large godly vessels rose into the sky, they began to rain fire, incinerating everything below.
Priest Emerin knelt in prayer on the hard road. He looked up to the sky as the Gods’ vessels shrunk from view on their way back to the celestial heavens. His temple was destroyed. Most of his congregation survived the wrath of the Gods; they were huddling nearby, broken and terrified, their faith all but shattered. All eyes were on him, their leader. “Deliver us,” they said.
With considerable trepidation, he stood and slowly walked back to the smoking hole where the house of worship had previously stood. It seemed to go down forever, to the place where the Gods once slept, a vast abyss. He looked around the area, at the rubble and the flock within it. The path forward was clear.
“Heed me,” Emerin said to the flock. “Take comfort, for we live on. The world remains. We shall rebuild.”
“What of the Gods,” asked a nearby man, surrounded by his family. “What of their wrath?”
“They have shown us the way,” the priest replied calmly. “They have taught us all we need to know and returned to their sky-borne home. Our freedom is their final gift to us.”
And with that, Emerin and the flock got to work.
Star Trek Online