The gods are beliefs that took form within the fabric of Nyx.
“The gods inspire belief,” said Kydele. “Surely the gods came first.”
I am the oldest, said Kruphix. But even I do not predate mortal belief. The first time a mortal of Theros looked up into the night sky and said “I wonder…,” some part of me came into existence. I am the unknown, the unknowable. I am what sits beyond the far horizon.
I watched as the others took shape. Death came next, ultimate and inescapable. Then sun and sea, forest and forge. After that, more abstract domains emerged—warfare, deception, insight, love.
“Love?” said Kydele.
Indeed. And more, that mortals have forgotten. Or did you think Heliod was always the sun god?
“How can there have been other gods? We would remember them.”
If you remembered them, said Kruphix, they would still exist. As soon as Heliod took his place in the pantheon, he was the sun god—and always had been. Mortals have short memories in these matters. If they had longer ones, Nyx would tear itself apart with rivalries and contradictions.
Four arms spread wide in a gesture of all-encompassing defeat.
Perhaps I was not even the first, said Kruphix. How would I know?
Kydele said nothing for a long time.
“So the gods are more fragile than they seem,” she said. “And their existence depends on mortals believing that they are not?”
So it would seem.
Theros is one of many worlds. Did you know that?
“I take it you’re not speaking of Nyx, or the Underworld.”
No. There are entire worlds out there, beyond Theros, beyond Nyx. Worlds you cannot see when you look up at the sky, places where the gods of Theros hold no sway. Worlds that you—and I—can never visit, with their own civilizations, their own histories, even their own physical laws.
“Their own gods?”
Again, the sense of vertigo as Kruphix regarded her.
No, he said. The word rang like a bell. Some, perhaps, have gods like us. But as a rule, no. We are…a local phenomenon.
“And you’ve only recently learned this?”
Kruphix shook what passed for his head.
No. There are beings who can walk between these worlds. The first such to set foot on our world did so long ago. I am the knower of all things that are known in this world, and I learned all that she knew.
Kydele thought for a moment about everything she had heard and seen from her perch in Kruphix’s great trees.
“Elspeth was one of these…world-walkers, wasn’t she?”
Astute, said Kruphix. Yes. She was. But not only her. So was her companion Ajani, the leonin who carried her body out of Nyx. So was the triton—the merfolk—Kiora, who called herself Callaphe and earned the ire of Thassa.
And so, he continued, was Xenagos.
“Then he is not what’s troubling you,” said Kydele.
Kruphix laughed—actually laughed, a hollow, echoing sound.
You see a great deal, My Oracle.
He folded his starry hands in front of him.
Yes, I am troubled, and not by Xenagos’s ascension, nor by the existence of these world-walkers.
I am troubled by what troubles them.
There it was. The dark, ragged edge around which they’d been tiptoeing.
The merfolk Kiora, said Kruphix, came here from a world whose existence was threatened by something called the Eldrazi. They are vast and terrible, the equal of any god. And they eat worlds, My Oracle. Strip the flesh from the bones of the earth and leave a dead husk, moving on to the next.
The leonin Ajani has faced an immensely powerful foe, a fellow world-walker and a dragon. He is unfathomably ancient, even to me. He seeks infinite power and immortal life. His plots span worlds and centuries, and he will spare nothing and no one who stands in his way.
And the human Elspeth…she came here from a place called Phyrexia, an entire world of flayed skin and twisted metal, ruled over by vicious, monstrous beings who style themselves gods. It is an affront to nature, a dark parody of life that corrupts all it touches and touches everything in time. And it has already made its way from one world to others.
Kruphix looked out into Nyx, night staring into night.
If any of these things come here, to our world, he said, even the gods may be powerless to stop them. And all your prayers, all your pleas, will fall on the deaf ears of a silent sky as this world is rent asunder or remade or worse.
One by one, the stars in Kruphix’s cloak began to flicker and die, until only blackness remained.
That is what I fear, My Oracle. That is what troubles the mind of a god. Theros is a minnow swimming in a deep, still pond, heedless of the depths, not knowing that something bigger rises up to devour it in an instant.
He faced her, four arms spread wide, a hole of pure darkness set against the starry light of Nyx.