Thank you for your haste in coming to this meeting, cardinal.
Now sit down and listen closely. And before you ask, no, you cannot leave. The doors are locked and the guards are under strict instructions to kill anyone who leaves without my approval.
No, you are not being demoted, killed, or banished. You are here because you were judged to be a man of strong enough character and faith to cope with the information which you will be given while also being intelligent and rational enough to accept it and its implications.
This meeting is centred around one question: why do no gods claim humanity?
It is a common question asked by many, even those ranked high among the church, yet one which, for most, lacks a satisfactory answer.
Humans are a simple race. They cling to the borders of the mountains and wildlands, spreading themselves among the most inhospitable lands of Terra, using their adaptability and tenacity to wring sustenance from the harshest conditions. They lack the magical talent of the more civilized folk, such as the orcs and elves, yet few mages could possibly stand against a human warrior during a last stand.
Their willpower is, itself, a rare form of natural magic that few but the strongest-willed could hope to replicate, granting them a chance to stand against certain death and win much more often than simple chance would have.
This phenomenon also applies to their religion.
Yes, they do worship the gods, probably more than any other race.
Yes, I know the narrative spewed by the church, proclaiming that humans are faithless beings and that this was the reason behind no god claiming them. Oh, and that they are sent straight to the depths of the hells.
I should. I am the one who first shared such narrative.
You see, cardinal, what fuels the gods and their servants? What separates a warrior who can barely imbue the tip of his blade with holy energy from a paladin who is capable of smiting an entire army?
Faith that your god will smite them. Faith that you do the righteous thing. Faith that your god is real and has your interests in mind.
The same faith that fuels humans.
Why do no gods claim humanity? Because all of them, at one point, did.
And they regretted it.
Imagine giving a god, a being fuelled by the devotion and faith of its followers, access to the power of the collective will of humanity.
Now imagine giving a human warrior, a being capable of simply forcing himself to stay alive through sheer will, the ability to call forth divine judgement.
Finally, imagine giving all of the gods and warriors of humanity that same power.
No, it did not go well.
Three decades. The entire known world was bathed in blood and fire for three whole decades as human paladins and priests shattered the land with their blind fervour. Entire mountain ranges, rivers, and at least one ocean were created not by the gods, but by the aftermath of humans fighting in the name of their deities.
This period of cataclysmic destruction was, surprisingly, fine.
Yes, for our senses such power would be unheard of but it did not matter because, if everyone is powerful, no one is.
So, why were humans abandoned if they gave the gods such absolute power?
Simple: the gods did not know what to do with the dead humans.
Yes, the gods already had their heavens, a few already had multiple. It is just that the humans did not enjoy them for long.
Paladins of Gnor, for example, who were promised eternal battles by their god, grew bored of fighting the same battles day and night and thus decided to spice things up by duelling not each other, but Gnor’s angels.
And then his archangels.
And then him.
Until, eventually, they killed their own god out of boredom and decided to invade other planes.
This was not a singular occurrence. It was not even an uncommon event during that time.
In total, 3 gods have been injured to the point of hibernation during the last 1000 years, with none being actually killed.
More than 17 gods died during those 30 years.
Eventually, humans were considered to be an existential threat to the divine, infernal and material planes. Divine treaties were thus signed by all higher beings, forbidding any from claiming humanity. After all, if everyone is weak, then no one is.
That is why no gods claim the humans.
Cardinal, I have not told you to stand up. I have yet to tell you the real reason you are here.
There is another much more disturbing question that you must be asking yourself at this moment.
If humans are claimed by none, and thus go to no heaven or hell, where do their souls go?
Well. We are standing upon them, cardinal.
Millions, perhaps billions of souls are buried deep beneath our feet, trapped by chains forged by gods now long gone. Blissfully dormant.
And this is why you are here, cardinal.
The cells grow fuller by the day, the chains become more strained as the aimless will and fervour of countless push them a bit more every second.
You will be taught how to calm their slumber and oil these chains so as to keep the horde contained.
And if you fail?
I fear that the sleeping titan that is humankind will not be so merciful to the remaining gods.
Oh, and congratulations on the promotion!
Republished with permission from the author, Reddit user u/Mercury_the_dealer. Image created using Stable Diffusion