The Standing City
When the dust of the end of the world settled, there was a long, empty silence. Mortals picked through the remains of buildings, shattered steel gnarled and warped beyond ken. The hollow bones of skyscrapers provided little shelter; behemoths lurked in the shadows of the old world, gobbling up survivors and raw magic alike. And without engineers and mechanics and construction to maintain the structures, they were naught but waiting predators - groaning in the wind, threatening a collapse at any moment.
People scattered to the unfettered wildernesses, but here too was only struggle. Food withered in the over-saturated soils, animals howled and bled pure magic, and the ghosts of strange things glided silent through the meager communities, terrifying watchmen. It took years before any sort of society could emerge, and what did was secluded, isolated, and fiercly protective of their supplies and people. Information's trade slowed to a crawl, but it still travelled - snaking its way across the ruined landscape, one nomadic vendor to the next.
Start of a Miracle
News came from the southeast, through the tiring trade route that spanned dozens of tiny vales. First, it was small: more land reclaimed, headed by a powerful mage. Their strength wrenched floating isles back down, crashing into the sea, restoring the shadow of a forgettable isle that had been consumed by the apocalypse. Some snorts and shakes of the head were earned; there had been dozens of foolhardy mages attempting to stake a claim of power and influence in the corpse of the world. The news buzzed, but died as swift as it'd come.
But it returned with the next wave of merchants, speaking of the beginnings of a new town. A great tower stood pristine on the horizon, jutting out from the isle like a single bright horn. It gleamed with light, and had attracted a number of pilgrims to row across the strait and enter the isle. They had not returned, but the eagle-eyed watcher could spy banners and flags strung from the ruined skyscrapers surrounding the tower.
Interest piqued, some communities gathered quickly, and selected a number of their scouts to report back on the strange tower. This was no simple undertaking - to venture forth from what little land had been tamed was a task suited to only the most inventive, skilled, and mad of any population. But the idea of the tower enraptured them - a thing of unmarred beauty in the decaying world - and answers were demanded.
When they arrived, they were not greeted by a foolhardy mage, or a egotist seeking power, or a careful lie spun by tricksters.
They were greeted by a god.
A lone Harmonic had survived the slaughter, though not without wounds. Those who knew of the old world rejoiced, his visage familiar - Ocypete, Harmonic of Hope. Though the grand and colorful wings that had once adorned him were gone, ripped from his body during the apocalypse, he stood before them bearing no other scars and a gleam in his eyes.
The tower was his own make - a place from which he could operate his idea. Despite the mortals scheming to murder he and his fellows, despite their success - he still held a deep love for them, and sought to return them to a semblance of peace and prosperity. He could not restore the old world - out of fear or out of inability, none were certain - but he could fill their fields with crop, stuff their beds with cotton, and stabilize some fractional sliver of the world.
It would not be the decadence of the old times. It could never hope to be that. None dared wish for that. But anything was better than nothing.
The Standing City
It was not long before people were flocking to the coast and kicking off in boats cramped shoulder-to-shoulder. Some were skeptics, chittering disbelief at Ocypete's survival until the sight of the tower stilled them. Others fell to their knees in rapturous praise upon landing at the shore, screaming prayer and gratitude and forgiveness all at once.
Ocypete welcomed them all.
The city was a communal effort. Rather, it still is. The skeleton of a downtown that remained after the apocalypse has been revitalized and redressed - stairs and bridges of rope and wood connecting sturdy skyscraper floors, filled with new dirt, crop, and livestock. Though the isle is small, the city is a thing of verticality and height, reaching for the sky. Any surface that can be used is, from new bedrooms and houses to storage to workshops to hospitals. It is difficult to transverse for newcomers as they become accustomed to the architecture, a strange blend of new and old.
Though the Standing City is certainly a society, it lacks real central government. There are no politicians and no overarching rules save to treat ones' neighbors with respect. Entire regions have their own subcultures and unspoken etiquette, and most sectors are highly self-sufficient, providing for their own but contributing to the wellbeing of the entire city when called upon. All, however, answer to Ocypete - their protector, god, and benefactor.
It is paradise. Or, perhaps more accurately, could be.
Mortals and their kin were not the only ones to hear of Ocypete's return. As heralds from the Standing City travelled along the worn roads, singing praise of their land and encouraging their fellows to pack up and migrate to the new eden, the news journeyed faster than they. Between the broken mountains, through ancient caverns, it fell into the lap of an individual long presumed dead.
Their presence was announced cleanly, swiftly. A line of caravans at the shore, impatiently waiting for the delayed ferry - the next minute, mere smears of red against the ground. Silence hung heavy in the air as they touched down at the site of carnage: Godscourge, one of the most powerful god-hunters, once reduced to whispers - but now here to continue their life's work.
Ocypete was quick. Enormous magic circles around the city, already in place, crackled to life as the last boats were pulled into the safety of its port. An enormous shield rose around its furthest corners just as Godscourge's flight took them to the isle's edge, their assault stopped before it began. They surveyed the shield, striking at it, but to no avail. Ocypete's magic held strong.
The two met, a brief passing of ships in the night. There was no words spoken. Both implicitly knew, at a simple glance, the eternal war that they would dance. Bolts of magic ripped across the sky in hues of green and blue, churning the surrounding ocean into a frothing mess of waves.
The Standing City looked on in stillness. Though there was hope in their hearts, they feared the worst. After all, had the god-hunters not been immaculate in their murder? Had they not properly cleansed the world of gods, thrusting existence into the festering remains it was now?
The magic died down. The sea came to a rest. But the glowing shield of the city - the Shell - did not falter nor flicker. And in the dust of the battle, Ocypete strode towards his people, head high, flushed with blood.
Godscourge was not dead. To do such a thing was no easy task. But Ocypete had not - and would not - fall in battle to them.
They have yet to meet in face-to-face battle again. The people of the Standing City fear for Ocypete - a quiet fear, one that cannot be spoken, but one that permeates the sudden silence of Godscourge's attacks. The Shell sparks at times, as Godscourge whittles at it - futilly, for Ocypete's magic replenishes it as fast as they can break it. In tandem, the citizens know they depend on that magic to keep them safe - a testament to Ocypete's strength, to stand against Godscourge for so long - and silently plead that he will not falter.
He has not. Yet.
The Standing City lives on, its tower still a beacon. The protective Shell shelters its populace from Godscourge's attacks, and their assaults are fended off by Ocypete. Pilgrims still trek across the ruined wastes to hidden tunnels and ritual sites, secreted away into the haven of the city well away from Godscourge's eyes. These paths are ever-shifting and changing, whispered only by a chosen few ambassadors from the city to the rest of the world, for fear of discovery.
But exist they do, and those willing to brave the trek to reach heaven creep along their many paths in pursuit of salvation.