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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Lmpkio
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With his Avatar heading back to Muspellheim for further instructions, Sartravius had to begin the opening preparations for conquest. He always knew that his efforts were going to be displeased by most of the other gods, but he didn't anticipate the first strikes against him to be so soon. With Arae and Dhara having beaten his Phoenix to forcedly tell them of his location, his location will no doubt be revealed to the other soon. With Dhara challenging death and bursting out of his belly with a new body particially influenced by him, his power would be challenged and used against him. And with Narzhak once again nearly killing his Avatar, he had to finally step in and assert his dominance - officially challenging the iron god to war.

Sartr had to be several steps ahead of his opponent if he was ever to take the advantage in this war. And of course, not just for Narzhak.

He even heard rumblings of the Phoenix incinerating a small island under the care of the goddess Azura prior to landfall on Dragon's Foot. And with more continents and islands raising around him, he could feel a new phase in the air. It was coming soon... very soon. And if they engulf his chances of glorious conquest, he would be in serious trouble. To ensure his dominance over his domain and as a god himself, it was time for him to act and get stuff done.

This lead him back to the Molten Pool - the very same one that bore the Phoenix into Galbar - and plunged himself within its boiling pool. He approached the middle of the lake and stood completely still, while only revealing the top half of his head. He closed his eyes, letting go of his sense as he felt himself being absorbed into the magma. He could feel his essence across the realm of Galbar, even so far as to feeling the magma from Mt. Eldahverr from across the world.

If only he and his units could get there without having to traverse the entire continent barred by ocean... yes. That would be extremely helpful.

The magma around Sartr began to bubble, while he forced his mind to become completely blank - fully absorbing himself into the pool. He found himself surging through the magma tubes, going at speeds faster than he ever could imagine. This lasted a good minute or so before he felt himself returning to his physical body. When he awoke, he sensed the lava around him to be... different. He rose to the top of the volcano and bursted from the cauldron to look at his surroundings.

He wasn't in Muspelheim anymore.

To the north, Sartr stared over the Desert of Sandravii stretch, one that could be seen as far as the eye could see. He immediately recognized that he was on Mt. Eldahverr and that the warping process had actually worked. Now he had access to both volcanoes in which he can warp to and fro in a matter of minutes. He has essentially turned his volcanoes into direct gateways towards his realm - each to act as an embassy to where they were erected. In fact, from here on out, all volcanoes erected upon Galbar would act as gateways to Muspellheim in of themselves. A wretched grin seethed from his mouth as he then connected with the boiling lava and quickly found himself right back at Muspell.

And he wasn't done just yet.

Now that his warp-traveling options had been solved, he needed to create something that could act as a powerful weapon of mass destruction. While he will no doubt develop his warriors and units to be battle-ready, he needed to have a back-up plan of some kind just in case everything went south. It would be a weapon of last resort, one which held such immense strength and destruction that the continent holding it would bend its knees upon its very ignition. And there was one such idea, he had in mind, that can achieve this.

He will create a volcano. But not just any volcano. This one would be different. This one would eventually dwarf all that he had created, or even create. It's molten reservoir hotspot would span for miles upon miles, already enough to change the ecosystem around it just by its presence alone. And when it would erupt, all hell would break loose as it would be enough to ruin the opposing army several times over and perhaps even the continent it lain upon. This... was a Supervolcano.

And Sartr knew a place in which to put the foundations.

The Continent of Atokhekwoi was both the largest and the most recent continent to have been created at this point in time. The gods are still rushing to take their place within tis vast space of free land. Only two pockets of divine locations had been created to Sartr's knowledge - which included a forest location across from the Fell Islands to the west and the Kangjiang river to the east. It was the perfect location for his supervolcano.

Thus, he proceeded to lay the foundations underneath a mountain range on the shores of an inlet. A deep depression made way for the creation of a supermassive caldera, one which swallowed several mountains before it finally ceased its outwards activity. The mountains of raw rock and ore would then collapse into the supervolcano, melting into the magma reservoir as it began to expand through the tough crust. Unlike the violent outburst of Mt. Eldahverr, this volcano was created in a more calm manner - without violent eruptions or magma and ash being spewed out all over the continent. In fact, Sartr knew that such a devastating volcano would have to use a lot of power in order to successfully erupt. Power that the Fire God did not currently have that is, however no doubt he would earn it in due time. This was to be kept secret - or at the very least an unassuming look - hidden within the natural terrain of the mountains.

But little would anyone know the sheer firepower that lurked just underneath... ready to erupt when the time came.

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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Oraculum
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Oraculum Δόξα στον εξωσκελετό

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The last clinging grains of sand were scraped away as Narzhak trudged over the jagged surface of the World Scar. He hummed contentedly, a sound more akin to a gathering avalanche. Entertaining as his circle about the continent had been, returning to the first grounds he had marked with his presence brought a sense of satisfaction all of its own. He could almost feel the heat of the Pit seeping up from below the earth, an invigorating warmth that pleasantly contrasted with the irksome flaming breath of Sartr's pet. He could still feel an itch below his iron plates where one of the beams had struck him. Strange that it should linger in that spot and no other.

Even stranger that it should be an itch. Fire did not leave itches.

The god prodded the tip of a finger into the gap closest to the odd sensation, extending a long, slender hook from its tip to reach deeper into the fissure. Sure enough, it latched onto something, and the itch stopped. Narzhak raised the claw to his eyes, and found himself staring into a familiar placid snout. The boar had grown considerably since he had last seen it, being large enough to tower over the rest of its kind. Its once brown fur had turned a steely grey, and through the sharp end of his hook the god could feel it was denser and harder than he had first made it to be.

The cause of this transformation was itself clear enough - the beast’s tusks were stained with black blood and hung with shreds of divine flesh. Dimly meeting its creator’s gaze with its beady, bloodshot eyes, it swallowed what must have been the last mouthful it had bitten out of his body.

”That’s where you were.” In the heat of the clash with the Phoenix, the Iron God had forgotten he had left the progenitor of his dire swine interred in the chinks in his armour with the intent of bearing it back to the Pit. While being embedded underneath the colossal iron plates had allowed it to weather the titanic battle unscathed, it had also exposed the flesh beneath to its appetite. It was not as though Narzhak would miss a few bites, but the thought that this had gone on for a while without him noticing was irksome.

”Off with you, now!” Without much ceremony, he lowered the boar to the ground and prodded it with the hook, making it stumble into one of the larger crevices. Without so much as a trace, the creature was swallowed by the awaiting darkness. There would be time to deal with it later. The life of one who had partaken of godly flesh was unlikely to be short in one way or another, and indeed the greatest danger now was that it might fill the Pit with more of its brood. At worst, wrangling it could be a trial for his thralls down there.

Leaving his domain’s inhabitants to their own devices, Narzhak resumed his walk northwards. A few more strides, and he was past the Scar. Here, the soil was still as barren as it had been when the continent had been dragged up from the ocean floor. The monotony of the rocky landscape was only broken by that flow of blood in the distance - whose blood it was, he had yet not found out. Perhaps if he…

The god approached the unusual river, dipped down a suddenly concave finger and brought its contents up for a draught. No, the taste was not familiar, either. He trudged upstream, absently following the sanguine course without much heed for its surroundings. Not that there was much around it at all, was there? As soon as he thought it, however, a crunching sound underfoot, followed by something scraping at his metallic skin, made him reconsider the notion. Glancing down, he saw a copse of oddly animate trees flailing their branches in an admirably coordinated, if still rather static fashion. More interesting that them, though, was what they surrounded. From what he had seen of rivers, it was not unusual for them to flow out of lakes, but he could not think of anyone large enough to have spilled this one. Could it be that red-skinned one, Kirron? For all Narzhak knew, he might have been able to conjure such quantities of ichor.

Not that it mattered overmuch at the moment. Though vast, the lake was still only a speck amid these unshaped lands. His mandate called for them to be seeded with something interesting, and besides, if he was to make good on his challenge to Sartr, he would need a foothold aboveground from which to wage war in person.

Foothold. Staging ground. Infrastructure? Curious how easily words found a meaning.

The Iron God glanced back at the lake. Small as it might have been compared to the bare terrain, it could still prove useful.

Plunging an immense hand into the sanguine basin, he melded his fingers one to another, forming a single great recipient. The amount of ichor he lifted in it would have been sufficient to fill another, if much smaller, lake on its own. But a single lake of blood, unless it was drawn from someone else, was enough.

The crimson liquid in the giant’s grip began to churn and boil, suffused by an infernal heat that radiated from the iron claw. A thick, cloying mist steamed from its surface, pierced by sputtering gouts and geysers. It roiled to the ground, soaking into the gravel. Red stains spread where it touched down.

Narzhak clenched his fist, and the blood erupted into a carmine storm.

Clouds of divine ichor poured into the sky, new vapours rising from the lake to join them. In a matter of moments, a charnel darkness had fallen where there once was day, the light of Heliopolis blotted out by the grisly exhalations. Far they spread, from one end of the land to the other, stifling and choking the air as they crawled.

”Fall.”

The heavens bled.

Torrents of divine gore washed over the rocks, pouring down from what seemed less of a sky than an open wound. Stone crumbled and melted under its onslaught, collapsing into fine, damp red soil. Pools were hewn into expanses of loose gravel. The mountains were slick like swords after a battle.

The Iron God’s skin cracked open, and waves of noxious black rose in the red’s wake. Rocks struck by it were swollen with horrid shapes and sharpened into bladed edges. Patches of soil grew dark, heavy and hungry for carrion feasts. Puddles of sludge lay reeking of decay like ancient swamps.

The skies had not fully cleared - and, indeed, they never would from that day - when Narzhak set about completing his work. His hands gouged vales into the earth, carving hillsides and digging down to unearth hidden springs. Soon, a thick, murky river flowed through the blood-tainted lands, branching out into sluggish rivulets that cut them across like so many scars.

Wherever he breathed, life sprang up from the soaked ground, from pockets of soil amid the rocks, from stagnant pools and dim waters. It was harsh and savage like the earth that birthed it, barely distinguishable from it to the point that they almost were one. Plants and beasts alike were iron-grey in hue, veined with red and black within and without. Tufts and fields of grass were like the spears of numberless hosts, sharp and hardy; thorny shrubs hunkered down on hillsides as if lying in ambush; the trees were stout and twisted, gnarly branches swaying slightly with unnatural animation. Streams were clogged with sanguine water-weeds, soon to grow rank and stagnant. Voracious packs of vile savage rats roamed like restless waves at sea, preying on heavyset reptilian beasts and hystrices bristling with envenomed quills, and many-tusked dire hogs rolled over loose rocks in search of vermiform prey.

Still blood-spattered from his efforts, Narzhak gazed over his work. Much like the Pit, it was but a beginning; but a beginning was all he needed now, and this was certainly a mighty fine one. Humming to himself, he ambled back to the Scar, contemplating the grey earth and sanguine skies on his way. A Charnel Steppe, in name and guise.

The ichor was more resilient than the sand, still besmirching him as he clambered into the abyss wrought by his first encounter with Galbar and stepped into his cavernous realm. He did not mind. Without seeing his reflection somewhere, he could not be certain, but he doubted it detracted much from his majesty. Quite the contrary, in fact, if the astounded looks of the Pit-thralls in the tunnel mouths he passed by were any indication. Some even lifted their heads from the half-devoured bodies of their fellows, likely smelling a more pungent blood in the air.

A worthy reverence, I’ll say.

Narzhak paused mid-step, preoccupied with a new thought. He had neglected to bestow a name on his servants. The matter seemed insignificant enough, but would it not have been simpler to issue commands if he knew how to address them? After all, it was a simple enough thing.

He turned his head sideways, eyes converging on the nearest of the beings. It froze, a piece of entrails dangling from its mouth.

”You are -” the god briefly pondered what sounds would have been easier on the tongue, Kostral. Spread the word.”

The newly-named kostral dropped to the floor of its cavern in prostration, then scurried off, leaving behind a good portion of its meal. Little matter - as far as he could tell, it had been bright enough to go for the birth-sacs first, and that was all it needed to spawn. The loss would not go to waste.

Who knew, perhaps that Kalmar had the right idea, however strangely distorted.

There would be time to find that out too, Narzhak mused as he settled on his coarse seat. There was time for everything.



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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Muttonhawk
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Muttonhawk Let Slip the Corgis of War

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Kirron


Kirron brought the oversize boar leg to his mouth and tore off another chunk of flesh. Sitting where he was, he leisurely chewed until the last strands of muscle drew into his mouth. Another blast of hot wind blew through his hair in a gale. "Oh! Right in his face! Hahahah!" He laughed though his mouthful. "Watch the grapple, smokey! Watch the grapple-Ah! Couldn't escape!"

Over the expanse of rocky earth and tufts of grass beneath the hill that was Kirron's seat, Sartravius' Phoenix virtually exploded into a new sun in the distance. The match between the giants was grand entertainment.

"How do you think he'll handle this one?" Kirron asked the Blood Cockatoo on his shoulder.

"Uhm, I just remembered I have to be somewhere! Sorry, Kirron." The bird flew away as fast as it could behind the blood god.

"Suit yourself, little guy." Kirron tossed the stripped boar femur over his shoulder and tore off another limb from the carcass beside him. This world was getting better by the day.

The excitement escalated to the point where Kirron found himself engulfed in a fiery blast of glass, stone, and sand.

"Augh! My lunch! Damn it!"



Kirron did not spend too much time gawking at the new additions to the continent he had already traversed. Narzhak and Sartravius' scuffle was an interesting diversion, but it had little to do with him or his interests. Nevertheless, once past the new desert, he marvelled at just how green Sheng's new rivers had made the place. This would be a region to note. Red follows green in many things, he knew.

Onwards he travelled until he reached the tip of the Dragon's Foot. He took one last panning look over the horizon of blue ocean before turning on a heel and walking backwards.

And then he ran up to a great jump.

Heliopolis sparked off the endless rough surface below, only to be obscured by fluffy clouds whizzing by to his left and right.

Kirron's squinting eyes widened just a little as, after some time, the approaching ocean below gave way to a rapidly rising shock of rough stone. His arms flailed to readjust to moment before his feet made impact. He kicked up a long line of dust as he slowed to a tumbling stop up the incline of a mountain.

Scree slid and tumbled. Kirron's upper half emerged from the settling dust cloud and he shook his head to get the stones out of his hair. He quickly peered around.

"I need to get a better view of this place."



Curiosity kept the blood god silent. Hand over hand carried him up the last sheer rock face before he reached the top of the mountain. One final jump and his feet clomped down with purchase. He rose, letting his shoulders rest back and his lips curl into a half-smile.

"Ohannakeloi, you pinchy little artist." He rested a fist on his hip. "You outdid me here. Well done."

Kirron sat down and took a nose full of the thin, high-altitude air. He let out his breath slowly and with satisfaction. "Let's try something else. Something to really bring about action."

He curled a fist shut. His other palm pressed on it to make all his fingers crackle. He cracked the fingers of his other fist just the same.

Slowly, he brought himself up to his knees, breathed in, and lifted his fists up over his shoulders.



The soft, empty breeze over central and eastern Atokhekwoi gave peace to the sleeping stones it caressed. The land was a vast and lifeless place, fresh as it was raised by its god. With so little change, the land could only bear a new sensation from a most ominous herald. It started so small that the fine dust in the air was louder.

But the dust pulsed.

The breeze gave way.

A rhythm echoed from the mountains.

No earthquake was as deliberate. No storm stopped in voids of sound like a beating heart. The beat grew into a volume heard across the land. And across the sea. And across the world. Soft. Then growing louder.

The stones of Atokhekwoi shuddered with each beat, shifting in their beds. Smaller rocks and dust fell in flows from previously rested positions. The land itself flowed for a blink with every beat, freezing in the small gaps of silence.

And then a dab of red spattered into the dry surface. Another fell nearby, greater this time. Following the rhythm of the mountain drumming delayed by the time they took to travel, sheets of bright blood rained from a high arc. Each bar of timing threw another shade of crimson on the plain earth. The land grew richer and shone with the sparkling liquid. For every droplet that dried in the sun, the rain intensified. Rivulets soon grew into creeks. The heady smell running down the mountains drowned Atokhekwoi in a power the world hardly knew.

Just as the red rain grew into a mist that obscured all senses, the running blood pulsed. It pulsed with the drumming up the mountain as lumps grew from its opaque surface. The lumps grew tails and limbs of all different lengths. They grew heads of all different sizes. They grew teeth and jaws for eating flesh and vegetation alike. Large eyelids split open to see the world around them.

The shapes of the creatures outgrew the viscosity of the blood. They lifted their hulking bodies from the red-drenched stones and roared into the sky. With their cries, the stones shattered, and between them sprouted high grasses, shrubs, and hardy trees, all a deep red.

Up on the mountain, Kirron's fists beat the song into the stone of the mountain. Every arc of his arms sprayed blood leaking from his split skin.

The creatures grew to a size where the bloody mats of their feathers or furs bristled in wet clumps despite the endless rain. Their corded and brutish bodies tensed with the smell of blood and the energy of the beat. They immediately set upon one another in an overpopulated free-for-all. Claws rent hide and teeth ripped at necks. Horns impaled lungs and tails beat in ribcages. The carnage went on with the sound of the drums goading it.

More lumps grew from the blood to replace the fallen.

The great savage spill settled only with the halting of the red rain. Kirron stood up to his feet again, his chest rising and falling to catch his breath. His shoulders and arms, red as they were, were made vivid with a glistening layer of his own blood covering their length.

He spread his arms up. One last flick of blood arced from his fingers. He bellowed at the red land around him. "Let the largest walk the earth!"



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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Crispy Octopus
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Crispy Octopus Into the fryer we go.

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&




She sunk into the hotspring with a contented sigh. The water reminded Asceal of the mountain snow melting on her skin, but she would be quick to preface that by saying the warmth was a great deal more pleasant. Shimmering trees above her cast pretty reflections on the water and the sounds of an island filled with life echoed through the forest around her. It was peaceful, and that was what she needed.

After all that had happened this was a welcome reprieve. She hadn’t forgotten her pledge to stop the next disaster that befell Galbar, or at least try to, but it hurt nobody for her to put that out of her mind here. At least for a moment. She let the water take her burdens and began to float on her back, slowly drifting atop the steaming hot spring. Sadly it seemed that universe would not let her relax, as a familiar voice chimed into her mind.

”Hello Asceal, I hope this isn’t a bad time, but I’d like to speak with you.” spoke the directionless voice of Azura ”It’s nothing urgent, but I find myself a touch trapped at the moment and thought would be as good time as any to get in touch with you.”

For a second, Asceal panicked. Her eyes shot up to her glowing dress, hanging on a tree branch not far from the water. She nearly jumped out of the water before she realized Azura was speaking in her mind, although that didn’t stop her from scanning the forest around her to be certain of that. She swam over to the edge of the spring and sat on a conveniently submerged root before replying, a hint of resignation in her voice, “It’s no imposition Azura. You say you’re trapped? Do you need help?”

”No No I’m quite alright. Sorry. Should have phrased that better.” Came the apologetic reply ”To jump to the end of events I was going to speak about, Li’Kalla is currently taking a nap on my back and I don’t believe I can move without rousing her. She seems to be having a. um. pleasant dream? So it would be a shame to wake her.”

“Li’Kalla? The Goddess of… Rain? I don’t think I’ve had the opportunity to meet her yet,” Asceal looked up and wondered if snow was a sort of rain. Had Li’Kalla filled the mountains of Istais with the fluffy white substance? She would have to thank Li later, if that was the case. Asceal ran her hand through the water and tried to focus, “So what was it you wanted to tell me, Azura?”

”She’s lovely, if a tad fragile. So I highly recommend paying her a visit.” Azura said cheerfully, before her voice became more stern as she turned to more serious matters ”I agreed to share information I gathered with you and Aelius regarding Katharsos, so that is what I wish to do, if you have the time?”

“Yes,” Asceal matched Azura’s tone, and then some, “And I have some things of my own to tell you, albeit about another one of our peers.”

”Then I suppose it is only appropriate that I do as well. After I returned from the stars where i verified what you saw in their fires first hand I ended up battling a storm created by Orvus that was tearing across Galbar faster than the speed of sound as it chased his ruinous moon. I tired to fight it alone, then teamed up with Ashalla to successfully corral it to a Maelstrom just south of the western spinning continent.” She explained.

”Afterwards we got to talking and I discovered that Ashalla had met Katharsos in person and from her I learned a few things about him. He has a gateway, a vast vortex of souls, just to the east of the oldest continent, the one shaped a bit like a dragon's foot. It seems the monster is burning the souls to create something called soul ash, a raw resource from which all the new souls of the life we have created forms.”

“I’ve felt it,” Asceal muttered aloud, “And before you go on Azura, be wary of Orvus. I’m glad you managed to restrain his storm, but he’s already made an attempt on Phystene’s life. I’m afraid Katharsos isn’t the only one we need to worry about.”

”I had feared this would be so.” Azura responded, the weight of the many trials yet to come weighing heavily on her words”Parvus’s fears of divine conflict are coming true then, and here I thought I would be the first to... No. I should explain further first. Ashalla showed me something she had made working with Katharsos. Soul Oysters she called them, little shellfish that supposedly ‘cleanse’ the ash of its impurities. Whatever those are. As a result they create small pearls out of the ash. Like solid souls. I have turned this technique to my own ends and have invented an art that can make souls themselves into solid crystal, allowing them to resist the pull of his pyres and vortex even after death. It’s not a perfect solution. I have had no practice with complex souls such as ours and the end result is not more a storage state than a life after death at the moment. But it’s good enough for what I want to do.”

There was a pause in her dialog before Azura continued ”I’m gathering my strength Asceal, preparing for a day soon to come when I will return to the pyres and free all those that still remain from his infernal clutches. I will crystallize their souls and bring them back to a place I have prepared at the top of the world, where they will be safe from the pyres forevermore.“

Asceal took a deep breath and rubbed her eyes. Azura had accomplished more than she’d thought possible in such a short time. Soul crystals. It wasn’t a solution, but Asceal wouldn’t gainsay the plan when she had nothing better. At the very least Azura had given them time. “Thank you,” Asceal’s tone was one of genuine gratitude, “If we can save them from the Pyres, even if it’s just to have them wait, it’s worth it. I’ll do whatever I can to help you Azura. You won’t be confronting Katharsos alone.”

”Thank you“ relief in her response was palpable, as if she had feared that she had gone to far ”This means alot to me.“

“It’s the least I can do,” Asceal replied kindly, even as she pondered the implications of what Azura had told her. She sunk deeping into the water, her hair splaying out around her as it floated on the hotsprings surface. There was a pause before she spoke again, this time hesitantly, “I have something I need to tell you, though. I found an island while I was exploring the world. An island that had been… Burned. Sartravius. There were a multitude of injured birds on it, and they claimed to be your creations. I saved the ones I could Azura, but I can’t say how many died.”

There was a long sullen silence ”Damn him.“ she finally cursed, ”Why? What could they ever have done to deserve that?“ another pause, and then she concluded that ”This is my fault. I wasn’t there. I couldn't be there. I didn’t make them strong enough. But there's just. Why are there so many? I can’t fight them all!“ Azura bemoaned.

“You can’t,” Asceal admitted bitterly, “And neither can I, but we still have to try. If nobody even tries to stop them, then what will remain? I only wish there were more of us.”

”If only.“ Azura agreed ”I’ve only met three apart from you and Aelius. Parvus is a manipulative snake who preaches peace with a sword at his side, Ashalla does not appear to even understand what empathy is even if she seems harmless enough and I don’t believe Li'Kalla is built for fighting. I don’t suppose you’ve had any more luck than I?“

Asceal shook her head before realizing Azura couldn’t see her. She flicked her forehead and spoke dejectedly, “No, I haven't. Phystene was traumatized enough by Orvus’s attack. I don’t think she’s one to rush into another confrontation. Shengshi, for all his hospitality, seems to be struggling to keep his own peace. I don’t understand his feud with Kalmar, but it’s enough for me to suspect neither of them can be relied on. As for Parvus… Well, I’m not sure he’s what you say. I agree he isn’t one to stand and fight, though.”

”Perhaps I am being to harsh on him. Still. That is disheartening to hear. It will be us three against the darkness then.“

“Us three…” Asceal muttered. Three against how many? It seemed every day that one of the other gods was committing some atrocity. They wouldn't be able to stop them. Unless. Unless it wasn’t just three of them. Hadn’t Shengshi made Xiaoli? Hadn’t she brought Liana to life? Asceal stood in the hot spring and grinned, “Maybe not, Azura. Shengshi has a companion he made, Xiaoli. I wonder, what if we made our own allies?”

”That does seem wise Azura replied ”I’ve made creatures to perform tasks already, so making weapons rather than tools could work. To have power in more than one place would be exceptionally useful.“ she agreed.

Asceal frowned at the mention of ‘weapons’ but agreed, “Yes, it would. We can’t be everywhere Azura, but they could.” The Goddess paused to exit the hotspring, water steaming off her as she brightened, “And perhaps those unwilling, or unable, to fight might create beings that aren’t so encumbered.”

”Perhaps, or they be able to lend us aid in other ways. Something to consider.” came the response. ”indeed you’ve given me a lot to consider, so thank you for that.”

“And thank you for all you’ve done Azura,” Asceal spoke earnestly as she stepped into her dress, “I’d have never thought of these soul crystals of yours. I don’t think I can properly express my gratitude that you did.”

”I do what I can, and I also got lucky. It’s ironic that Katharsos own handiwork was inspiration for the power we will use to oppose him. Thank you for listening Asceal. I’ll see you when we are ready to strike, if not earlier.”

”Until then, I wish you luck.” Asceal pulled the shoulder straps of her dress on and took flight, heading to the gateway to her sphere. She had much to consider herself.


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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Kho
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Kho

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𝔖 𝔢 𝔦 𝔥 𝔡 𝔥 𝔞 𝔯 𝔞




Time: The Day the Gods Came

Seihdhara was asleep when her hair removed itself and flew off the Nyeothay Tag, leaving the sleeping humanoid body with light brown hair. Knowing that she would become cold uncovered, the hair covered her with a blanket before leaving. The hair flew far and wide, noting the new continents that had arisen and the proliferation of landscapes and sites. However some places were untouched by the gods and were still barren, and so the hair spat seeds whenever it came across such a barren location. When the seeds landed all kinds of trees erupted from the earth - oaks mainly, but also birch, hawthorn, and elder trees. Here and there the hair dotted mistletoe.

The hair flew over Kalmar's great continent and spread these trees, and then it found itself sweeping over Li'Kalla's island and spread the trees there as well. It turned about and made for the huge continent Ohannakeloi had created and spread these trees all over the continent too. When it got to the furthest west it noticed Istais. There were not many barren places here, but it created a few forests anyway. It ensured that many different existing species took up habitat in these newly created forests, and it also created a diversity of bears in all of them.

Satisfied with all of this, the hair returned to the sleeping Seihdhara on the Nyeothay Tag.

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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Frettzo
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Frettzo Summary Lover

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Li’Kalla


Goddess of Rain
9 FP - 8 MP





There was a Long Rain.

An unnaturally Long Rain. From the puddles and ponds the rainwater formed to the east, creatures made of mud emerged. Gasping for air, crawling along the wet ground. Some died before living, becoming part of the land once again, but those that escaped the ponds of their birth, gradually found themselves strengthened, changed. Soon, the mud twisted and distorted into different shapes and forms. Some dug below ground, others walked the land, but the majority sat in large groups and became tall, sprawling spires of clay. They grew as tall as the talles hill, and as numerous as the rains would allow.

Soon, the Clayfang Valleys became. Large, living mountain-like spires of clay and mud gave way to grassy valleys.

Meanwhile, in the northern parts of the Island, the rain was especially strong towards the shore and, over time and extreme force, eroded a large canyon into the land, one that quickly filled with the water from the Ocean and connected to several underground cave networks. From the depths of the water, amorphous creatures made of sand and salt their home in the canyon. The Saltdepths became. A hundred-meter deep canyon filled with ocean water to the brim, with still developing species brewing in the depths.

The Long Rain never touched the west of the Island, leaving the Lotus ponds untouched.

To the south, however, a small group of the mud-creatures gathered around the lonesome Manor, and several more went into the boiling Lake to become one with the Rain.

The Long Rain gave life to the land, and after what felt like eons, it stopped.



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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Slime
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Slime (Former) School Idol

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Abanoc


Much had I observed since I began my work. Some of my brothers and sisters set out to shape Galbar, others claimed their domains beneath its surface or in the distant sky like me.

The neighboring domains were well within my sight. I did not lend them much heed, but at times I noticed how they affected my own.

Aelius’ sun would often shine slightly brighter than usual and it hid the stars from my view like in my previous life, replacing them for a sky blue backdrop with no clouds. I did not mind the change as it hindered me not and clear skies like this one was nostalgic to say the least.

Asceal’s comet had a similar effect to the aforementioned sun, but occurred less often. Strange given that she was the one governing over light and not Aelius.

Eurysthenes’ labyrinth was a troublesome one. It scrambled the shape of my Observatory, affecting even my throne. I had to make a conscious effort to keep the mirror stable so as to not affect my observations.

Katharsos’ domain was by far the most interesting. I only noticed its presence by observing that some stars would appear as from nothing and vanish just as suddenly. If possible I’d like to understand his work in the future, but I had not the time to spare at the moment.

Melantha’s dark veil covered the stars as if devouring my own demain, but it never managed to cover over half of my view of them and neither did it obscure the mirror. Ultimately it didn’t bother me much.

Lastly Orvus’ moon was almost a threat to my domain were I not careful for its influence. The marble would sometimes darken, crack and crumble on various places. They were never too big, but I imagine they could pile up if neglected.

I could only wonder what the Observatory did to my siblings’ Spheres. There were other Spheres in my sights, but they did not affect mine in any noticeable way. Or at least not yet. It was better that way. Less distractions to deal with.

Speaking of distractions, Melantha, Aelius and Asceal put up quite the show of might. Given their nature I suppose it was inevitable that a clash would occur, I did not, however, expect it to happen so soon or for it to be so grand.

Soon after the light of Asceal’s comet climaxed, only for it to vanish. The escalation of events was rapid to say the least. I feel for my sister’s loss, but I’m not the one that can support her at this time.

The object of my observation had changed drastically since the Architect summoned us, for better or for worse. Some landmasses were raised in an organic manner, even if strongly facilitated by divine will, while others were the result of violence.

A meteor struck the ocean and formed an archipelago around its crater. Phystene quickly worked upon it to fill it with life at least. Had the meteor struck when civilizations had risen it could’ve been catastrophic.

Narzhak also caused some damage, or would have if there was anything of note to be damaged in the continent Kirron made. This land would later be the focus of many a god’s work.

Good grief… I suppose every pantheon deserves their troublesome bunch.

I’m afraid I lost the creation of some landmasses and the developments done to them. By the time the mirror reflected the northern continents they had already been formed. This frustrated me much, needless to say. I wish I could solve this issue right away, but I’m unsure if I can with the current power I have.

I will solve this issue when I have the means, as much as it pains me to delay this. For the time being I shall focus on my duty…

“That one is…”

The girl Hermes stood out among my observations. Not the only mortal to have emerged, but one of the first to be sapient. She encountered several gods, learned from them, gained gifts and gathered companions. She had potential. And I saw an opportunity in her. It wouldn’t correct what my past negligence had caused, but in this new world I could prevent the same things from happening.

Yet I could not leave my post…

“‘Tis not the time for brooding…”

As I stood up from my throne and walked the steps the marble directly in front of the stair rose and formed a book stand, upon which I laid what it was meant to hold. I imbued it with my power, its cover shining in gold and the pages in silver. In no time the pages began to be filled with information. This would work for now.

Stepping over the boundary of my Observatory I was adrift a sea of stars. They soon vanished as I entered Galbar’s limits, replaced by the golden light of the morning sun. I had descended upon one of the many mountains of Pāṟa. I drew in a breath, the cold air of the mountains filled my body and even gave me shivers. This body wasn’t so different to a mortal’s it seemed.

Now that I had left my home I had to forge myself a way back. I’ve seen some of my sibling doing it, it should be an easy task. The rock of the mountain formed yet another book stand which was promptly occupied by a stone book with blank pages. The connection was made, now back to the task at hand.





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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Muttonhawk
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Muttonhawk Let Slip the Corgis of War

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Turn 3

Age of Monsters

Epoch 2.3
Timespan: ?? to ??



PLEASE MAKE USE OF THE MP SPREADSHEET!

Source Spreadsheet, updateable for your record keeping convenience:
docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1r2eSo…

Please update the 'link to last MP update' with your own posts to make the turn changing process quicker and easier :)

GODS

Player - Name - Portfolios - MP - FP - MP @ last turn - FP @ last turn - MP Income

Slime - Abanoc - Recording - 8 - 8 - 3 - 12 - 5

Aristo - Aelius - Virtue - 13 - 8 - 8 - 24 - 5
<No MP or FP used? The Architect has his eye on you, little one...>

Loki - Anzillu - Demons - 8 - 8 - 3 - 28 - 5

Scarifar - Arae - Family - 10 - 8 - 5 - 9 - 5

Toasty - Asceal - Light - 5 - 8 - 0 - 0 - 5

BBeast - Ashalla - Oceans - 10 - 8 - 5 - 0 - 5

DracoLunaris - Azura - Wind - 5 - 8 - 0 - 0 - 5

Antarctic Termite - Chopstick Eyes - Markets - 11 - 8 - 6 - 0 - 5

Doll Maker - Ekon - Fear - 10 - 8 - 5 - 1 - 5

Strange Rodent - Eurysthenes - Puzzles, Illusions - 6 - 8 - 1 - 3 - 5

Goldeagle - K'nell - Sleep, Dreams - 9 - 8 - 4 - 0 - 5

NotFishing - Kalmar - Hunting - 5 - 8 - 0 - 0 - 5

Cyclone - Katharsos - Death - 9 - 8 - 4 - 16 - 5

Muttonhawk - Kirron - Blood, Strength - 10 - 8 - 5 - 4 - 5

Frettzo - Li'Kalla - Rain - 13 - 8 - 8 - 1 - 5

Vec - Melantha - Darkness - 10 - 8 - 5 - 32 - 5

Oraculum - Narzhak - War - 8 - 8 - 3 - 0 - 5

Commodore - Ohannakeloi - Stone - 13 - 8 - 8 - 0 - 5

Lord Zee - Orvus - Desolation - 5 - 8 - 0 - 0 - 5

Leotamer - Parvus - Insects, Toxin - 5 - 8 - 0 - 0 - 5

Darkspleen - Phystene - Plants, Animals - 6 - 8 - 1 - 0 - 5

Lmpkio - Sartravius - Fire - 13 - 8 - 8 - 21 - 5
<You had your MP and FP the wrong way around in the spreadsheet! I corrected it, tho.>

Kho - 𝔖𝔢𝔦𝔥𝔡𝔥𝔞𝔯𝔞 - Martial Combat - 5 - 8 - 0 - 0 - 5

Saucer - Shengshi - Rivers - 5 - 8 - 0 - 0 - 5

Double Capybara - Urhu - Passage, Landmarks, - 5 - 8 - 0 - 0 - 5

Lauder - Vakk - Speech, Manipulation - 5 - 8 - 0 - 5 - 5

DEMIGODS

Player - Name - Portfolios - MP - FP - MP @ last turn - FP @ last turn - MP Income

Tal - Ya-Shuur - Justice - 4 - 4 - 2 - 10 - 2


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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by BBeast
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BBeast Scientific

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Collaboratively written by AdorableSaucer, BBeast and Goldeagle1221


The great continental gears of Swahhitteh-Tendlepog dragged enormous arctic currents down towards the tropics. In these currents drifted Ashalla and her music box. With her touch she felt the vast ocean around her. With her hearing she listened to the melodies of the music box. And with her sight she watched Heliopolis and the clouds drift lazily across the endless expanse of Blue above her.

Yet there was another object, one small and anomalously fast. A pair of large watery eyes manifested in the water to stare more clearly at the anomaly. She triangulated the object’s position and velocity and determined it to be travelling at supersonic speeds. She also resolved that the object was actually two intertwined creatures of the two-armed-two-legged form favoured by many of the gods, although these figures were not familiar to Ashalla. Before she could resolve them entirely, they zoomed overhead and receded into the distance.

It took Ashalla only a moment to decide that she would investigate. What gave her pause was determining what to do with her music box. She could not swim fast enough to catch up while also dragging the box with her. Reluctantly, Ashalla released the box to float on the ocean. However, she did not intend to abandon the box completely. Ashalla gently tugged the ocean, and a small current broke off from the large one to carry the box after Ashalla. Then Ashalla was gone, rushing away as a submarine pulse.

While the anomaly was fast, Ashalla was much faster and soon overtook the two speeding people. Ashalla then drew herself up as a relatively small mountain of water, clearly visible in the open ocean, although she did not quite reach the altitude of the flying duo. Ashalla called out at the approaching creatures with a booming voice that reverberated from the entirety of her vast form. “What are you?”

Xiaoli looked down, spotting the unnatural formation in the sea through the blur. She squeezed Hermes a few times to grab her attention and tried her best to yell, “STOOOOOP!” through the chaotic winds, thumbing desperately at the mountain of water below them as she tried to hold on.

Xiaoli’s voice whipped past Hermes before her ears could even perceive it. Fortunately, her squeeze did not go unnoticed and the Dreamer slowed down, “What?”

Xiaoli let go of Hermes’ waist with one arm, clutching desperately on with the other as she pointed down at the funny pattern in the water. Hermes furrowed her brow, causing her spiral to squish up. She held Xiaoli tight again as she zipped down to the water, circling around it in examination.

The peak of the watery mountain shaped itself into a head which twisted around to follow Hermes. A vast tendril of seawater stretched up towards her, and Ashalla repeated her question. “What are you?”

“Hermes,” The Dreamer answered, suddenly coming to a complete stop, “What are you?”

“I am a god, and I am the ocean. My name is Ashalla,” the goddess answered. The tendril reached Hermes and licked at her sandals. “My question is unanswered. What are you?”

“I’m a Dreamer, and I am… Hermes,” Hermes cocked a brow, “Dreamer, Hermes,” She started counting off her fingers to make sure she got it all, “I beat Kalmar in a race; Befriended Narhak, Li’Kalla, Poppler, Xiaoli, and of course, Kalmar. I’ve explored all the lands of Galbar, was created by my God: K’nell, and I want to make more Dreamers, of which I am one, the only one. I was created to live, and to experience, which I have done very well, if I say so myself, but I am allowed more purpose than that as is natural.”

As Hermes spoke, the tendril felt its way around her. The one named Hermes was a mortal creature, yet she carried divine objects. Her winged sandals bore K’nell’s essence and the metal club on her back reeked of Narzhak. The tendril brushed against Xiaoli, then prodded her. “What about you, fragment of Shengshi?” Ashalla asked.

Xiaoli shuddered as saltwater licked at her body. Her grip around Hermes waned for a moment and she slip down slightly, causing Hermes to squeeze. “I-I-I… I am Xiaoli, first advisor to His Lordship Shengshi of the Thousand Streams, Your Holiness!” She kicked around with her legs, which were now dangling a little below Hermes’ feet.

“I, uhm, forgive my unacceptable rudeness, Your Holiness - I am currently not able to perform a proper greeting, as I am… Uh-...” She hesitated again, looking downwards at the sea far below.

Ashalla rumbled slightly, then said, “Your body types are suited to land. Perhaps this would be easier if you had land to stand on.”

Hermes nodded as she attempted to keep her grip tight around Xiaoli, who made an attempt to climb back up into a favourable position.

A line sprouted from Ashalla’s form and pointed over the horizon. “The nearest land is in that direction. A short flight at your speed.”

With a final nod, Hermes and her catch turned into a blur once again, leaving nothing but a loud clap of sound in their wake. Xiaoli held on tightly as they soared off.




The island was a jagged outcrop of rock off the coast of the Kick. In mere moments Hermes’ feet were planted on the ground again, her arms falling to her sides, and Poppler escaping her braid with a happy pop. Xiaoli held on to her for another second before letting go, seeming relieved to have solid ground under her feet. She looked around for where Ashalla had gone to, and saw a mass of water rise up from the ocean before them and adopt the figure of a woman staring down at them.

Xiaoli did not hesitate. She turned so her entire body faced the goddess, cast herself on her knees and leaned forward to press palms and forehead to the ground before the deity.

“Your Holiness - this servant apologises profusely for her uncultured tone as we met. This servant wishes to express such an arrogant request for Your Holiness to forgive her, and to listen as she vows to never again fail to express the appropriate manners before Your Holiness again.” She kept her pose after speaking.

Ashalla leaned in closer, a look of curiosity and confusion on her aqueous face. “What are you doing?” the goddess asked Xiaoli.

“It’s a special kind of manners,” Hermes smiled and nodded politely, her tone helpful. Poppler landed on her nose, crackling in what could have been agreement, or hunger.

Xiaoli sat back onto her ankles, still not facing the goddess quite yet. “Yes - as my dearest friend Hermes said - it is a manner of greeting. As this servant is but a pebble on the riverbed compared to Your Holiness’ grandness and eternal glory, it is expected of this servant to properly demonstrate her rank in relation to Your Holiness’.”

Ashalla rumbled thoughtfully, processing this new information. Her face then twisted to face Hermes. “Why do you not do as she does?”

“Oh,” Hermes gave an apologetic smile, “It’s because I’m not her. We come from different places, and have different experiences. Please,” She looked down at Xiaoli, copying her speech pattern, “Allow me to show you my own custom?”

There was a moment of tense quiet. “Very well. Show me your custom,” Ashalla said.

Hermes zipped on over to Ashalla, hovering just in front of her. The cloudling whizzed around the two as Hermes extended a finger and placed it on Ashalla’s cheek. “A pact of friendship.” Hermes explained as she kept her finger on the watery surface.

The contact did not bother Ashalla in the slightest, but Hermes’ words did. A pact. From her pause, it appeared that Hermes wished her to reciprocate to seal the pact. Ashalla considered it for a moment, then receded from the finger. “You have not yet earned such a pact,” Ashalla said, her voice a disdainful ripple.

“I understand,” Hermes smile was unwavering, “Narzhak had reservations, too.”

She pondered for a moment, “We can talk, relax together, and then circle our way back at a later date. What do you like to do for fun?” Far below, Xiaoli looked a little concerned.

Ashalla perked up slightly as the conversation turned to herself. “I create all manner of beautiful things,” Ashalla answered.

Hermes looked down at Xiaoli, then back up at Ashalla, “I like beautiful things, can you show me?”

“Of course!” Ashalla said before her form collapsed into the ocean with a terrific splash, which promptly caused Xiaoli to hunker down behind a nearby boulder. After several seconds, a colourful web of algae floated to the surface. Within this algae danced jellyfish with many forms and fish with iridescent scales flashing in all the colours of the rainbow. Ashalla then rose back up beside her sampling of sea life. She pulled up a watery limb, flash-freezing the water into an ice sculpture of abstract, twisting forms which caused the light to dance and refract in a mesmerising pattern. Ashalla then pulled up another limb to create another ice sculpture, this one a remarkable rendition of a majestic feathered bird, the light sparking in the ice crystals. Ashalla then looked expectantly at Hermes and Xiaoli.

Xiaoli, who had been hiding behind the rock for half the spectacle, still appeared utterly awestruck, carefully walking closer to the shore with a slack jaw and wide eyes. She then grinned from ear to ear and applauded the sea goddess enthusiastically, clapping her hands and skipping in place.

“Absolutely marvellous, Your Holiness! A spectacle unforeseen in beauty and skill!” she exclaimed through the clapping and the cheering.

Hermes excited zipped around the sculpture, admiring its many angles, Poppler following suit. With twinkling eyes Hermes gave a big cheshire grin, “It’s gorgeous!”

Melodious laughter echoed from the goddess, swollen with pride. “What of you two? What have you created?” she asked with a cheerful swish.

Xiaoli stepped forward, bowed once more to Ashalla and presented her a small leather pack bound with elastic river weeds, which she had taken out of the band around her waist. A pseudopod reached out to grab the gift, lifting it out of Xiaoli’s hands and slithering around and inside the pack. The inside of the pack was divided into two sections: The left half was full of yellow flowers that gave off a sensual smell; the right half was almost empty, but at the bottom of the pack laid a few green leaves which gave off a gentle, soothing scent.

“Your Holiness - this servant wishes to introduce Your Holiness to a little treat the River Lord and His servant made together some time ago, now. It is known as tea, a drink made by putting the contents of that pack into almost-boiling water and allowing them to infuse the water with their tastes, scents and elements.” She bowed again. “This servant prays Her Holiness would be interested in a demonstration.”

“Art for the senses of taste and smell…” Ashalla mused. The pseudopod returned the pack to Xiaoli, only slightly damp - she accepted it with two hands and a bow. “Yes, do demonstrate it,” Ashalla said.

Xiaoli smiled and bowed once again. “The preparation will take a little while. May this servant trouble Her Holiness with waiting for a few minutes?”

“Such a wait is not an issue,” Ashalla said.

“Thank You, Your Holiness. The tea will be ready posthaste.” Xiaoli bowed yet another time, walked backwards for a few steps while still bowing before turning on her heel. She proceeded to stroll around and collect pebbles on the beach to, most likely, turn into a tea set.

Ashalla turned her attention to Hermes. “And you? What have you created?”

Hermes looked nervously at Poppler for a moment, the question hitting a sore spot, but a crackle later and an idea popped in her head, “I’d need Xiaoli to show you.” She turned to the River Avatar, “If that’s okay with you both?”

Xiaoli, at this point a bit of a distance away, turned around with her hands full of pebbles in all shapes and sizes. She hummed inquisitively. “Did you say anything, Hermes?” she yelled a distance off.

With an apologetic look towards Ashalla, Hermes suddenly darted off. She stopped next to Xiaoli, whispering in her ear, Ashalla’s hearing picking up the words, “Do you dance?”

Xiaoli flushed, nearly dropping her rocks. “D-dance?! I mean, I-... I can, but… It might not be how you think,” she said, making herself a little smaller.

Hermes pursed her lips, “What if I lead? K’nell has taught me all sorts of dances, they are easy.”

“S-sure,” Xiaoli said quietly, her cheeks a racey shade of pink. She put the pile of rocks on the ground and waved her hands a little. The rocks then slowly began to move and sand each other into different shapes: There was one teapot, one kettle, three teacups, one serving cup, one discard bowl and one spoon. She waved another hand, and the leftover rocks rolled over to the beach in front of Ashalla and formed a small tea table, which the dishware soon gathered on top of.

“Okay, ready,” she said, grinning nervously at Hermes.

Gripping Xiaoli’s hand, Hermes walked her back to Ashalla. She looked up at the God, “It’s not much, but here is what I can create.”

With little else Hermes pulled Xiaoli close and then took a step back. Then a step forward, and in a few moments the pair was spinning, stopping, and moving in such a way that one could just hear the notes of the music that must have been playing in Hermes’ mind. She would twist, and you could feel the vibration of the piano. She would suddenly stop, as if the brass called for her to do so. She would rapidly -- yet smoothly -- move Xiaoli and herself in patterns that dazzled, as if lured by the violin. In the end the orchestra of the Palace of Dreams was playing in her head, and expressed in her very movements, with Xiaoli acting as her second self.

As the performance drew to a close, Ashalla burbled cheerily. “Wondrous!” she exclaimed, “Beauty from motion.”

Xiaoli looked almost ready to pass out, but whether it was from exhaustion, embarrassment or entrancement was difficult to determine. Hermes smiled a wide cheshire smile, her heart aflutter with joy at the compliments. She let go of Xiaoli, but not before giving her a friendly tap on the shoulder, “We did it!”

The river girl snapped to and looked around, her eyes eventually fixing on Hermes’ face, followed by a wide grin. “Y-yes… You were beautiful,” she blurted out quietly, then promptly flushed again. “Uh, right! Tea! Apologies, Your Holiness - it will be ready shortly!”

With that, she scuttled over to the tea table and begun boiling some water in the kettle by heating a few rocks and setting the kettle on top of them. As she waited for the water to boil, she hummed sheepishly to herself. Eventually, the kettle began to radiate heat, as well. At that point, Xiaoli extracted a handful of flowers from the leather pouch, attentively measuring the ideal number that would fit in the teapot. She left the flowers in the discard bowl for the time being. Shortly thereafter, the water had, presumably, reached the ideal temperature for brewing, seeing as Xiaoli lifted the kettle off the hot rocks and poured the teapot full - she then poured the teacups and the serving cup full of hot water and set the kettle back on the rocks.

“The cups must themselves be warm - both to clean them and to keep the tea’s flavour from changing too much as it is poured.” Xiaoli tipped her torso in the direction of Ashalla yet another time. A subtle nod from the goddess indicated for her to continue.

The cups warmed sufficiently, at which point Xiaoli removed the flowers from the discard bowl and held them in her left hand; with her right, she poured the hot water out of the teapot and replaced it with the flowers. She then poured some more hot water over the flowers, discarding the hot water in the cups as they waited for the tea to brew. After merely thirty seconds, she poured the tea into the hot serving cup, and then from the serving cup into the smaller teacups. She picked up one of the cups, stood up and offered it to Ashalla with both hands and an inclined head.

“Your Holiness’ tea is complete.”

A watery pseudopod stretched out to the teacup, dipped into it and withdrew, taking all the tea with it. The darker water of the tea swirled around the end of the pseudopod. “Compounds in the flower have been extracted by the hot water, making them more prominent to the senses. Among the compounds is one which enhances bond formation in fleshy beings,” was Ashalla’s dispassionate analysis.

“An excellent analysis, Your Holiness. This servant created this tea with the intention of it being used as an instrument of peace, friendship and lo-... Love. The effect can be quite strong if it is brewed for too long, but that would also completely ruin the flavour. Speaking of, does Her Holiness have a comment regarding the flavour?”

“The flavour is amicable. An entire body of water made from this tea would be overwhelming, but in small quantities it presents no issues,” Ashalla commented.

Xiaoli shuffled back and once again kowtowed before the goddess, while Hermes and Poppler watched from atop a sitting rock. “Your Holiness’ words humble this servant deeply. This servant is eternally grateful.” She sat back up and held up the serving cup. “Would Your Holiness like some more?”

Ashalla looked blankly at the serving cup. “No,” she said.

Xiaoli’s smile faded somewhat, but she nodded curtly and sat back down. “As Your Holiness wishes. Would Your Holiness mind if this servant shared a cup with Hermes in Your Holiness’ presence?”

“You may,” Ashalla said.

Xiaoli grinned and beckoned Hermes over, pouring a cup for Hermes and herself. The Dreamer plopped down next to Xiaoli, Poppler stealing a sprinkle from Hermes’ tea before she managed to get ahold of it, “Thank you.”

Squirming, Hermes unlooped her club and her spear, and placed it down next to her as she took a slow sip, Poppler crackling nearby greedily. Xiaoli giggled and had a sip from her own cup, wincing a little at the heat. She hummed in satisfaction to herself.

“What do you think, Hermes?” she asked softly.

“It’s even better than the first time,” Hermes smiled, inciting a grumpy Zzt!. At his wits end, Poppler zipped into Hermes’ cup, his fluffy white body staining a deep tea color. Content pops crackled as Hermes attempted to shoo the cloudling between amused chuckles. Xiaoli let out a humoured sigh and refilled the serving cup with another batch of tea from the pot.

“Oh, Poppler - if you wanted some, you could’ve just asked!” She enchanted a rock into a cup and filled it with tea for Poppler to dip in.

Hermes placed down the cup that contained the bloated cloudling and inched towards the new cup, “It is probably easier if I just take his.” Xiaoli chuckled and had another sip of her own cup.

“Oh!” Hermes nearly spilled her tea as an idea popped into her head, “Xiaoli,” she slurped, having not quite swallowed the gulp she had in her mouth, “What if we added the sweet grass to tea?”

”...Pop?”

Xiaoli’s face lost all colour for a moment. “Y-.. You mean it’s not sweet enough for you?” she whimpered.

Hermes waved a hand, “No- no! It is, but I mean,” She looked for the words in her tea, “Just a new flavor -- a Tendlepog flavor.”

Xiaoli looked down in her tea and rocked her cup somberly from side to side. “I… I don’t know… I think it’s-... It’s fine as it is.”

“Okay,” Hermes returned to sipping her tea, but her voice was without conviction, betraying the idea that perhaps the conversation was not quite finished. Slowly her black eyes shifted to the side, casually glancing at the God of the Ocean, who had extended a pseudopod out to taste the metal club.

Xiaoli followed her eyes and looked up at the Ocean Goddess. In contrast to Hermes, she turned her entire body, inclined her torso and spoke, “Does Her Holiness believe the tea needs additional sweetness?” Hermes’ brow collapsed into a squint as she finished her sip, but silently awaited the response of the Goddess.

Ashalla paused, looking between Xiaoli and Hermes. “Fleshy beings instinctively desire flavours such as sweetness. Whether such a flavour will benefit the tea or unbalance its composition, I cannot say,” Ashalla stated. Her pseudopod crept onwards towards the spear.

Hermes shot a knowing glare at Xiaoli before smiling at Poppler, “What about you, Poppler?”

The small cloudling popped a few times before buzzing around the spear as well. Hermes gave Xiaoli a satisfied nod, who pouted quietly.

“Well… P-please do not add any to my cup, in that case,” she muttered into her cup, causing Hermes to purse her lips in concern.

At this point Ashalla let out a bewildered outburst with a voice like a crashing wave. “What is this thing?” Her pseudopod burgeoned in size as it tried to sweep up the spear, which stubbornly ignored Ashalla’s presence even as dust and gravel were stirred up into the pseudopod. “I can see it but not feel it.”

“Oh!” Hermes watched in confusion at first, but slowly the puzzle fell into place, “That's Kalmar's gift. It is for fishing, and makes no fuss of the water when you use it.”

Ashalla withdrew her quivering pseudopod and huffed with a sound like spraying water. Xiaoli eyed the situation intently, as if watching a performance with tea as her refreshment.

Hermes looked at Poppler helplessly, scooting closer to the spear, “Do- do you want me to show you?”

Ashalla gave the spear an icy stare for a second longer. “Yes,” was Ashalla’s terse response.

Hermes scrambled to her feet and picked up her spear. Walking over to the lapping waters by the rocky coast, she gave it a few test thrusts. She looked down into the murky waters, looking for a shallow enough place to toss it. After picking her target -- a little sandy bank by one of the rocky spires -- she tossed it with practiced agility. The spear darted through the air, and without a sound or splash slipped through the water like a sewing needle, embedding itself in the sand with nearly the exact same force that it was thrown.

Smiling up at Ashalla, Hermes presented the scene with wide arms, “See?”

Ashalla saw, but did not feel, even as the spear was thrown through her (although Hermes knew not that her form extended beyond what had an obvious shape). “Yes,” Ashalla said curtly, still apparently dissatisfied.

“Okay,” Hermes bit her lip, “Is something wrong?”

Ashalla did not answer. To answer honestly would be to admit weakness. A dishonest answer would be woefully transparent. So she silently considered her adversary, the untouchable spear. She flowed over it, and this flow moved some sand which in turn nudged the spear. This movement gave Ashalla a flash of inspiration. She lifted a watery limb out of the water, freezing into shape two rectangular blocks of ice. She then picked up the slabs of ice and clapped them around the spear. She lifted the blocks of ice, and they carried the spear with them.

Ashalla swirled triumphantly as she hefted the ice-encased spear up high. She then lobbed the chunk of ice at one of the island’s rock spires. The ice shattered and the spear clattered off the stone onto the ground. “I will not be bested by a mere tool,” she declared in a voice like a crashing wave.

“You did it,” Hermes encouraged, making her way over to the spear, a little unsure of the entire situation. She slipped the spear back into its loop and turned to Ashalla, “Is there anything else you want to try? To experience?”

Ashalla regarded the question carefully. “There is much I can create and do, but that is beyond your concern,” she answered. Ashalla then swept her gaze across the island and it fell on Poppler. She reached out with a narrow tendril and gave the cloudling a gentle poke.

The cloudling popped and sprinkled a thimble of salty rain. Poppler then floated along, following the tendril back to the source. Buzzing on up to Ashalla’s face, the cloudling began its investigation. It whirled around with thoughtful crackles before finally stopping in front of Ashalla’s face, hoving ever so slightly away from where a nose might be.

“Where do you come from, living cloud?” Ashalla asked.

“Pop!”

“The lands of K’nell and Eurysthenes,” Ashalla said. “Is that the continent which moves?”

“Crackle.”

“I thought so. And you travel with Hermes, drinking the scraps she lets you consume.”

“Zzt!” The cloudling spun in a proud protest.

“Then why do you follow Hermes?” Ashalla asked.

There was a thoughtful pause and then the cloudling resumed popping and crackling in front of the Goddess, as if explaining a long story. Poppler fell silent and landed on Ashalla’s “nose”, letting out a long crackle.

A bubble rose through Ashalla’s face. “Is that so? You’re unusually ambitious for such a simple creature.” A ripple shook the cloudling off Ashalla’s nose. “It is unlikely that you will surpass a god again, though.”

Poppler let out a quick pop that to the untrained ear almost sounded like a clicking tongue. The cloudling did a quick spin around Ashalla and then crackled.

“Remember your place, tiny one,” Ashalla admonished.

The cloulding let out a single pop and floated off back to Hermes, disappearing into her braids with a wet smack. The Dreamer looked at Ashalla with interest in her black eyes, “I think it is really neat that you can understand him. Though, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, it only makes sense.”

Ashalla shifted slightly in acknowledgement of the comment. Then her gaze settled on Xiaoli. “The motives of a simple water-being like Poppler are easy to understand. I am yet to learn much about you, though,” Ashalla said.

Xiaoli put down her cup, placed her hands on her thighs and bowed. “This servant is more than willing to answer whatever questions Your Holiness may have.”

“You are advisor to Shengshi and a fragment of his divinity. Yet you are nowhere near him. Why?”

Xiaoli tensed up. Her eyes darted first at the goddess, then at Hermes, then at the ground. There was perhaps slightly too long a pause before she finally opened her mouth. “His Lordship thought it best if this servant explored the world with Hermes, in order to learn more and return more capable at advising. This servant has learned much on her travels - she hopes her lord will be satisfied.” She kept her torso at a sharp incline towards Ashalla.

Ashalla rumbled thoughtfully, then inquired, “What have you learned?”

Xiaoli looked to Hermes with a warm smile, who smiled back, then up at Ashalla with a slightly more servile expression. “Hermes has brought this servant to all manner of places, Your Holiness. She has taken this servant to see the Lustrous Garden, where we met Liana, the first serv-... Correction, good friend of Asceal; then she took this servant to see Tendlepog, her home, where she introduced the beautiful continent, like the stampeding trees, the dreamweavers, and this servant even got the pleasure of meeting His Holiness, K’nell. These experiences have taught this servant much about the cultures of these two deities, and His Holiness K’nell even bestowed upon this unworthy servant a magnificent gift.”

Xiaoli paused and presented with both hands the beautiful flute box to Ashalla. She opened it to reveal the flute within. Ashalla’s neck extended so she could look at it more closely. A watery tendril extended to taste the flute. “What is it?” Ashalla asked.

“It is a flute, Your Holiness. It is an instrument with the power to produce soothing music if played. Would Her Holiness like a demonstration?” Xiaoli said, smiling.

“Music? Yes, do demonstrate it,” Ashalla said enthusiastically.

Xiaoli extracted the flute from the box, discreetly dried the seawater off it using her oversized sleeves, and put it to her lips. She concentrated and blew a gentle puff of air that crescendoed calmly into a comfortably loud note, followed by a string of more notes that swung side to side in a soothing, almost somber melody. The sound from the flute coursed through the air like water through sand, dancing its way to the ear canals like a leaf blowing through a window. Poppler let out a weak zzt... and collapsed into Hermes’ lap for her to nurse with a few gentle pokes. Upon finishing the song, Xiaoli clutched the flute to her bosom and bowed.

“Lovely,” Ashalla said in a voice like a gentle trickle. “I had found a box which also produced music, although a different style of music. It seems that there are many possible ways to make beauty with sound.”

“Her Holiness’ observation is true; sound has a wonderfully vast potential in the arts. His Lordship thinks so, too, and often plays His harp in His chambers,” Xiaoli said and momentarily lost her warm smile. She glued it back on, however, and added, “This servant believes Hermes heard some when she first boarded Jiangzhou.”

“Yes,” Hermes nodded, “I did, it was nice.” She pursed her lips, “You found a sound box?” Xiaoli followed her gaze back to the ocean goddess, picking up her teacup again for a few more sips, only to find it empty.

“I did,” Ashalla answered Hermes.

“I found one once,” Hermes explained, “But I lost it over the ocean.” Putting the pieces together she went on, “Perhaps it's the same one?”

“Perhaps,” Ashalla said.

“Perhaps,” Hermes nodded, looking at Poppler uneasily, “You can keep it, if it is.” Xiaoli shot some worried glances between the two.

Ashalla’s gaze regarded Hermes for a moment longer before she said, “Thank you. It makes very nice music.”

Ashalla appeared to think of something as she looked at Hermes. She stretched out a pseudopod which licked against Hermes’ arm, causing her to squirm uncomfortably. Ashalla commented, “You lack pigmentation. Does K’nell not perceive different wavelengths of light?”

Hermes looked hurt, quickly glancing at Xiaoli then back at Ashalla, “You don't like how he made me?”

“Your design is lacking,” Ashalla said.

Ashalla's words seemed to hit deeper than they meant to, causing Hermes to defensively wrap her arms around herself. Without wasting time, Xiaoli put down her cup and hurried over to Hermes, casting her arms around her, whispering, “You are beautiful, my dear, but let us not dismiss a god so curtly.”

The goddess rumbled thoughtfully, then offered, “I can grant you colour.”

Hermes seemed to ponder this closely, “I like how I look… But what do you have in mind?”

“I can create pigmentation in all your external surfaces. But that’s not all,” Ashalla almost danced as she explained her idea. “Regular pigmentation is too simple, not a proper demonstration of my creative abilities. You will be able to change this colouration at will, and these pigments will be able to adopt every colour imaginable.”

“So I can be any color of any kind, whenever I want?” Hermes’ smile started in her eyes before turning her lips into a curl, “That's amazing!”

“Yes,” Ashalla said. Her pseudopod brushed a crackling Poppler out of Hermes’ lap before she said, “Hold your breath.” Xiaoli reluctantly let go of Hermes and shuffled back a little.

The pseudopod suddenly swelled to dwarf Hermes and surged forwards to swallow the Dreamer. Hermes was lifted from the ground as the water crept into every pore and crevice of her body. Her skin and eyes stung painfully from the intrusion. Hermes struggled in pain, causing a worried Poppler to circle the event with anxious popping and a concerned Xiaoli to place her palms over her mouth to hide her panicking gasps.

After several excruciatingly long seconds Hermes found herself sitting on the ground once more, soaking wet but unharmed. “It is done,” Ashalla declared.

Hermes blunk, frozen in shock. Her hands were a strange crimson, which faded into a dark orange as it crept up her arms, which in turn turned yellow, then slowly into green by her shoulders. Prying her shirt away from her neck with her thumb, she let out a gasp as she looked down, “I’m so…”

The colors of her body shifted to a totally new palette as she spoke, her eyes growing ever wider in wonder, “...I’m so pretty!”

Ashalla burbled proudly. “And as you wander the world, all shall see the beauty wrought by my, Ashalla’s, work.”

Hermes’ hair turned a solid black, and her skin copied the complexion of Xiaoli’s. The Dreamer wore a playful smile as she looked over to Xiaoli, who looked absolutely slack-jawed, then back at Ashalla. Suddenly shifting to a beautiful oceanic blue, her smile widened to that akin of K’nell’s own, “Thank you very much, Ashalla.”

Ashalla let Hermes appreciate her gift for a few more moments before her burbling stilled. “However, it appears that colour is not the only thing K’nell neglected when creating you,” Ashalla said more sombrely. Hermes’ smile faded and twisted into one of worry. Her brow collapsed on itself and all her new color seemed to drain away to the original. Ashalla continued, “You have no capacity to reproduce.”

“I know,” Hermes said defensively, her arms wrapping around her abdomen, Poppler landing on her crossed arms with a comforting crackle. Xiaoli, looking a little guilty, chose to stand by Hermes, but not to touch her.

Ashalla rumbled thoughtfully for a long while. Finally she stretched out a line pointing vaguely northwards and said, “In that direction is the island of Arae, whose domain is family. She may be able to rectify K’nell’s short-sight.”

Looking out in the direction the God had indicated, Hermes gave a firm nod, “I think I will pay Arae a visit, then.” Xiaoli blinked, but soon formed a smile at her.

”Pop!”






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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Kho
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Kho

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𝔖 𝔢 𝔦 𝔥 𝔡 𝔥 𝔞 𝔯 𝔞




Time: The Day the Gods Came

In the forests of Galbar that Seihdhara's hair had created, bears walked. Seihdhara's hair had created all kinds of bears - brown bears, red bears, panda bears, black bears, sun bears, spectacled bears, cave bears, short-faced bears, and even red pandas - though those were not really bears. Seihdhara's hair just thought that Seihdhara would find them cute. Some bears had managed to somehow find their way north over the eons, and species of polar bear had developed. Some were particularly big.

But these bears did not just stalk the world on foot. During their hibernation, they could send their souls out of their bodies to scout. It was a single extraordinary or powerful ability that Seihdhara's hair had decided to confer on bears while Seihdhara still slept. Some bears did not even need to be in hibernation to manage this, they could send their souls walking at any time they pleased and this gave them a special edge when hunting, or when trying to avoid or escape a potential predator.

From time to time when the bears were soulwalking, as this special ability was called, they would come across a location guarded by an odd creature. It was not a physical creature, but a soul-creature. They were not very common, but common enough for soulwalking bears to come across every now and again. These soul-creatures stayed in one place and one place only, and they were very suspicious of other creatures. They were territorial and jealously guarded their homes, but if they perceived that a creature passing through meant no harm then they let it be. When fires erupted, these soul-creatures protected their homes from the fires, and so in the aftermath of forest-fires there would be little green enclaves where the fire could never reach. If their homes were ever destroyed, these soul-creatures died.

They came about seemingly at random when soul ash came together without a physical creature nigh, and they protected their homes and were eternal so long as their homes stood. And so they aggresively protected those homes against all threats. These soul-creatures were called Home-spirits by Seihdhara's hair.

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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Leotamer
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Parvus
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Dwelling within the Hive, Parvus was contemplating. He remembered that he could identify an object's creator by sensing a lingering essence. Thinking about it, he recognized how this could be troublesome in the future. However, with all of his contemplating and sensing, he had only obtained vague, ethereal insights. A pain swelled in his chest, a feeling that if he could not do something this simple, he was unworthy of his position.

Calling upon experience, he attempted to hide his presence. When it failed, his chest felt tighter. His arm extended, and he nearly punched his tree before stopping himself. He attempted to calm himself, and he whispered a silent prayer.

Once again, he attempted to hide his presence, but this time he shrouded himself with his power and willed it to vanish. After a few moments, it worked. He noticed imperfections with his technique. He would need to perfect it later, while this was important, he had a more urgent task at hand.

He wandered into an empty, cavernous room of the Hive, and compelled all insects to leave. He sanctified the room. Wood sprouted from the walls and floor creating basic shelves, cabinets, and tables. Clay emerged from the wall and formed into ceramic jars, a cauldron, and a basin.

The cauldron was enchanted to warm itself, and the basin was enchanted to refill itself with clean water.

The clay began to shape itself, forming into a humanoid figure with four-arms. He dyed it blue with insect pigment and covered it in silk robes. He grabbed a hand full of soul ash and imbued it with knowledge. He embedded the soul ash into the construct and began to stir to life.

After a few moments, the clay figure turned into a living being of flesh and bone. Parvus spoke this creature, ”Are you aware of your situation.”

The blue creature paused, and replied uncertainly, "I am Virgo. You are Parvus, my creator."

Parvus continued, ”Are you aware of your purpose.”

Virgo responded, "To discover knowledge that may aid you."

Parvus paused, and asked one final question, ”Are you displeased by your situation or your purpose.”

Virgo paused, and then replied, "I am not. I would wish to begin immediately."

Parvus nodded. He waved his hand over a table, creating a bucket and ladle. He also created a silk strainer. Parvus said, ”The insects of the hive are at your disposable.”

Virgo nodded, and started to work as Parvus left the laboratory. Thoughts bounced around his mind, but he was still confused. However, he was driven by loyalty and curiosity.

He noticed his clothing was white. He had a vague, implanted memory of Parvus easily creating a dye. He decided that his first project would be to create dyes.





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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Doll Maker
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Doll Maker Homunculus

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On feathery wings painted ebon Hofu hovered aloft, body swaying to-and-fro. From his heavenly domain the fear ambassador gazed over creation with dark pleasure. Newly formed lips twisted into a smirk, amused by the potential terrors the fledgling land masses offered. The constructs of beings even greater than he were, but mere dots in the distance. Beneath their tropical exteriors smothered in vegetation and wildlife, he would impregnate them with unspeakable horrors. Stereotypical motives perhaps, but it was to be expected of a creature shaped from countless fears. “Time to get to work.” Uttered the ambassador of fear before feathered limbs pushed him forward.

Bound for blots of green set adrift endless blue, Hofu severed Galbar’s skies in twain. His form, but an ashen streak against the planet’s cobalt backdrop. Mighty wings tore through the atmosphere, as he traversed the seemingly unending ocean. Compelled to infest new lands with terror, he soared dutifully towards the other continents. Despite this compulsion he was far from a living automaton and many alien thoughts seeped in. Ekon’s machinations may have driven him, but with sapience came boredom.

Monotony seized him, proving even an avatar of the divine was prone to more mortal afflictions. Weary eyes burdened with tedium struggled for distraction, scouring sea and air until they beheld an unusual oasis. Colored lime it streaked across the horizon bound for an equally curious sight. Mount Choppy jutted from below, its rocky frame a bizarre feature of the seemingly unending waters. In truth, it was not particularly interesting, but the mystery object would be a welcome distraction. “I think this is worthy of an investigation.” He pondered aloud before encroaching upon the oddly placed formation.

To southeast, the Phoenix’s two-day stay on Mt. Eldahverr had finally come to a close. With no animosity having harmed - let alone approach - the massive volcano, the terror bird was ordered to head back to Muspelheim for further instructions. To say that it was bored stiff while guarding it would be a heavy understatement, for it longed for battle that never came. So when it was instructed to return by Master Sartr, it was very much pleased to do so. It would be yet another long odyssey across the vast expanse of a watery desert, but it didn’t mind this at all.

By the time the Phoenix reached half-way, it was already getting quite tired of soaring across the wind currents. Its stomach bellowed for substance, gnawing at its molten innards, as it scoured below for any islands nearby. At first, there was not a patch of suitable land to be seen. Tiny rocky islands could be seen from time to time, yet provided nothing for the massive fire bird. But then it witnessed a particular sight.

A tall rocky mountain jetted from the ocean, one that seemed to harbor plenty of land for which to momentarily roost and regain his strength. The Phoenix began to descend from the clouds as it made its way towards Mt. Choppy - being completely unaware of anyone else’s presence nearby as it searched for a suitable cliffside to land upon. Once it found a suitable cliff to land, it proceeded to roost as it roomed its rocky winds with magma-coated saliva to keep them molten.

An ember in the distance blossomed into a fireball, before molten wings and an animalistic form revealed themselves. An avian terror made of fire approached, seemingly ignorant of Hofu’s presence or dismissive of it. Unsurprising, for it seemed only natural that a beast of such elephantine proportions be unconcerned with the presence of most.

He pondered for a long minute if The Phoenix was intelligent or just a glorified beast. Its fiery nature at least alerted him to its identity as Sartravius’s pet. He wondered why the overgrown buzzard “joined him” in such a strange locale. Perhaps he might learn something interesting from his fellow traveler. At the very least it would alleviate the boredom that plagued him.

“Just what brings you here?” Hofu questioned, a hint of apathy in his voice. His body moved with a silent grace as ebon wings carried him to the cliffside.

The terror-bird’s eyes jolted suddenly to eye this weary newcomer upon being called out. Its glare attempted to pierce into this Hofu character before slowly raising its head to watch upon him, all while initializing a deep guttural noise that resonated from its throat, followed by a splitting hiss. It did not recognize who this character that dared face it head on, however he didn’t attack. Rather it seemed that it was on the defensive - almost as if ready to face more divine interruptions. But what Hofu may not have realized was a voice speaking directly into his mind.

"I ought to ask you the same thing," the Phoenix hissed defensively as its wings covered its torso, "But my business here shouldn’t concern you."

Unbeknownst to the divine duo, a third member would soon enter the picture. Another flash of lime wrestled The Fear Ambassador's attention away from his attempts at diplomacy, redirecting it towards the object hurtling towards them both.

Apathy retreated, usurped by a mild surprise at the dynamic entry of the entity. Alabaster retinas with smoldering black centers lazily inspected the program’s visage. What it lacked in visual flair was more than accounted for in its choice of an entrance.

In the palm of the program a rough three-dimensional rendering of the flat-topped granite landform in lime green displayed as dust cleared.

”Remnant of divine inclination.” it intoned. A pause and a glance, then a wave that displaced and erased the hologram.”And the gathering place of the like as well. Afternoon.”

The Phoenix rose its head to peak at the third individual that entered their conversation. A skeletal form encapsulated in green had also found its way here. The terror-bird once again considered a battle to be imminent, but alas the character’s demeanor wasn’t hostile as well. Something about this unexpected meet up between such divine characters seemed weirdly off. Still, the Phoenix continued to protect itself defensively as its eyes rapidly focused on each with mild-paranoia.

It still hadn’t gotten over Dhara and Arae’s harassment as of yet.

Still, it didn’t mean that it would remain mute and closed in. It would be lying if it weren’t curious about these two as well. And as long as they didn’t attack, perhaps it ought to let them hang about. As long as they could explain themselves that is…

"It seemed that we have aspired upon this lonely rock for one reason or another," the bird telepathically responded to both characters, "Yet you three seem not to show ill-will. How unusual… For the last three gods that I’ve met had harassed me for no good reason at all. It was… rather troublesome to say the least."

Intrusive thoughts oozed into the ashen avatar’s head, articulate and poetic yet irritable and cautious. They intrigued him further for they spoke of high intelligence if a troubled one. Had it not been for his greeting from earlier, Hofu would have mistaken the gaunt figure draped in green for the owner of the message. Instead, he was proven wrong at the revelation that it was the flaming avian that spoke. It was not an animal as he’d initially thought, but an intelligent creature, which meant it could be conversed with. An unseen force tugged at Hofu’s lips. This diversion could be more fortuities than he initially thought, especially since they’d been joined by another equally unique addition.

“Good afternoon. I mean you no ill-will, Phoenix. I simply followed our friend here to this quaint locale.” Hofu motioned to the emaciated figure glowing green before them. “Now then might I ask what brings you both here?” His words were honeyed but cautious. He wasn’t aware of the intentions either held. Hofu was confident they were not together, as the firebird confirmed only moments earlier.

”Acquiring work-related paraphernalia.” the program hummed, picking dust of its thin skin.

"I’ve stopped here to rest," the Phoenix was next to explain as it rustled it’s rocky hide, "Simply to regain my strength before flying back to my Master’s realm. That is all."

Work? What kind of work might I ask? He paused for a second, after The Phoenix's reply and responded. ”Funny. I was headed in the direction you just left on orders of my creator.”

”Ah, all sub-programs are we now?” Ummum intoned. ”All doing the work of our creators.”

It regarded the dark avatar and wagged a finger in his direction. ”No telling. But feel free to tell me of your purpose, good sir.”

He laughed, surprised that such a creature was capable of humor. “Fair point. And to answer your question, I am simply sowing the seeds of my master’s will. I take it you are doing the same.”

A nod and shift. ”And I take it that you too are doing the same, avian-sub program?”

"Correct..." the Phoenix replied hesitantly. It paused to continue eying the two new avatars closely before asking. "But I suppose the question now is… what Masters do you both stem from?"

Hofu was initially hesitant to dole out such precious info, but thought an “exchange” of info would make for an interesting conversation. ”I serve The God of Fear. I take it our emaciated friend here doesn’t serve the “cheery” gods either. How about yourself, Phoenix?”

The terror-bird wished for the skeleton automaton to reply next, but given how direct it was towards it, it had no other choice but to respond. "God… of Heat." it spoke as its wings slowly began to take their normal standing position. Then it cocked its head towards Ummum’s direction, signalling him to reveal his own allegiances.

”Fear? Heat?” the program intoned.

Upon mention images flooded it’s ocular systems, an exothermic-based entity, obstreperous in tonality and salacious in conduct, and a fear-based entity, an abomination of mortal trepidation.

”Ah, the thermal-radiant entity, Sartravius. And the fear-entity, Ekon. I am Ummum, The Handler; The Outermost Extremity of THE ABHORRENT. the program paused and raked over the bird. ”I would extend a hand but you seem to lack the necessary appendage. Curse you avian-types.”

Nevertheless the less a thin skinned hand reached for Hofu.

“You are the spawn of Anzillu?” He asked, though; he knew Ummum could belong to no other. Still feeling chatty Hofu spoke again.

“How odd that all of us should meet in such a place. Perhaps, there is some meaning behind our meeting that even we, the servants of the divine are unaware of? Whatever the case we should make the most of our little meeting, no? ” Hofu asked, his apathy fully supplanted by genuine intrigue at this discovery. And happily clutched Umm’s hand, giving it a firm shake.

The Phoenix - unable to initiate a firm handshake - simply bobbed its head up and down as if it was simulating a wave. Of course, Unumum could try the creature’s sharp talons on its feet, but it would perhaps be very unsanitary and rather awkward. When Hofu asked about how their unintended meeting could result in future prospects, even the terror-bird couldn’t help but to wonder at the possible implications.

"Geh," the Phoenix scoffed, "I don’t suppose you want us and our masters to somehow team-up or something - no no, that oughta be ridiculous… eh?"

A bored expression marred the program’s features. ”We are the divines, and only we are truly capable of existing within the bounds of ‘coincidence’. Which my fellows is what this is.” he nodded towards to terror-bird. ”But why waste such a golden opportunity. My objective to progress the primary objective, infest every corner of this reality.”

“Technically, no. We are avatars. We are fragments of a greater whole, but hardly divine. If anything we are tools, though; it’s semantics at this point.” Eyes closed as Hofu spoke his mind in a rather disenchanted tone, missing a dismissive hand wave from the program. My function is also to infest. I am to pave the way for something else. Well, pave the way for many things would be a more appropriate descriptor, I suppose.” He then turned to the infernal avian. [color=cbcbcb] “An alliance? I have no authority for such a thing, besides; it’s rather a silly idea. Then again, the idea is not without merit. An alliance of mutual benefit does sound intriguing.”[color=cbcbcb] Hofu’s eyes shifted towards Umm. “What do you think?”

It shook its head in what seemed to be disdain, then lowered its warm semi-robotic tone an octave.

”So disappointing. One would assume divines would naturally create sub-programs capable of thinking more laterally.” it rasped before readjusting itself.

”An alliance would be craven. We all have something to offer in the furthering of one another’s goals. A joint venture, a business relationship, for you sub-program with no ‘authority’, might ring a little softer for you masters.” it spat, seeming to subconsciously lay emphasis on the last word.

The Phoenix’s eyes glanced over to the west, remembering the battle against Narzhak and his challenge for war. Surely there ought to be gods that would align themselves with him and if indeed are… well, perhaps such an alliance wouldn’t hurt to accomplish.

"If the other gods have started to already align themselves with one another," the Phoenix spoke as its beaked head turned back to face the twin Avatars, "Perhaps it would be wise to make one of our own. Besides, what can one god do within the midst of many angry gods? Divided one stands… divided the weak fall."

Hofu’s eyes rolled to the side. “That’s what I mean by an alliance of convenience.” Turning his head to address the fiery avian, Hofu spoke once more. “I must concede your point, Phoenix. Facing a united front alone would be foolish. An alliance sounds acceptable. I cannot speak for my master, but I doubt he would disagree. Umm may not be fond of alliances, but I think we can all live with a partnership of sorts.”

Images synthesized from the memory banks of the First Intelligence displayed in the upturned palm of the program, cycling from the photon-based entity to the organic nature-type.

”Together many stand and seemingly prepared are they for divine war. Yet I can affirm that nothing can prepare them for the first incursions. A partnership would only serve to boost our resources, cover our backs, and greatly increase their trepidation.” Ummum explained smoothly, waving the hologram after finishing.

”I believe a partnership would be of utmost value to our….rather destructive kind.”

The Phoenix was about to speak before it found its body once again fall into the embrace of someone else. It’s eyes grew a fiery red - signifying Sartr’s direct controlled befalling upon him once again as his master took command of the conversation.

”I BELIEVE AN ALLIANCE BETWEEN THOSE OF FIRE, FEAR, AND DEMONISM WOULD CREATE AN ALLIANCE THE LIKES OF WHICH NONE CAN DISPUTE.” the flame god’s voice boomed, ”WITH THEIR FOCUS TURNED UPON OTHER BROTHERS AND SISTERS - SUCH AS ORVUS AND VAKK - THIS OUGHT TO BE THE PERFECT TIME TO ASSEMBLE AN ALLIANCE. WITH THEIR BACKS TURNED, THEY WILL HAVE LITTLE WARNING OF OUR PRESENCE! TELL YOUR MASTERS THAT I APPROVE AND THAT I’M WILLING TO COOPERATE SO AS LONG AS THEY DO.”

Speech left Hofu as his body stiffened up, before he was rendered a puppet by his creator. “An alliance in the face of such a threat as that posed by the divine contingent seems prudent. Sartravis, I would like to meet with you in person. We can discuss the finer details of our association that way. I would extend the same offer to Anzillu, but I believe he prefers to conduct his business through proxies, thus this creature will suffice.“

”THEN ALL INTERESTED MUST MEET ME AT MUSPELLHEIM!” the flame god roared eagerly, ”OUR REIGN OF CONQUEST WILL BEGIN THERE.” He then proceeds to turn towards Ummum. ”AND DO YOU ACCEPT THE INVITATION BROTHER ANZ?”

”Yes, yes I accept.” the program waved dismissively, it’s ears ringing still from Sartr’s outburst. ”Not sure how prudent speaking on sensitive matters in your tone so out in the open would be.”


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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

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FP: 08 MP: 09


The drums cracked like thunder, the brass boomed like an earthquake, and the orchestra ripped open the struggle of life and death, only to spread its philosophical body and emotion across an intense melody of notes. K’nell stood from his throne, the weavers parting before him. Looking ahead, the doors out of his ballroom were cleaved open by an unseen force, and all at once, K’nell blasted forward.

The music followed as K’nell cut across the dreamscape at impossible speeds, suddenly shifting from one reality to another, and another, until he flew amidst the wrinkles of what was and what wasn’t. Of course, any mortal eye would not be able to perceive such madness, but K’nell knew the many sensations of such a place well. What may have felt as an eternity passed as K’nell cut through emotion, memory, dreams and reality, until at last, it all came together in a mighty explosion of white light.

Limbo trembled as the God reemerged, crackling with divine will. The skies over Swahhiteh-Tendlepog turned a deep maroon, and Heliopolis seemed to turn into a dark black as the Lord of Dreams returned to Galbar. The clear skies of madness were covered as rolling clouds of thunder blanketed in. K’nell raised his arms, and the continent turned a deadly quiet, awaiting its conductor.

All at once, K’nell dropped his hands and the drums of orchestra blasted across the landscape, the clouds roaring in cheer. A finger twitched and the wind whistled the wail of a melancholy violin, eyes snapped, and the ground shook with the power of the trumpet. Slowly the God brought his hands up, his loyal musicians of sky and earth following his lead. His hands reached the full extent, and with a dip and a woosh to the sides, a great branch of black lightning struck the ground in applause.

The hands moved down, the music boomed, the hands moved up, the world wailed, the hands turned to the sides, and screams without bodies sounded. A twist, and another pillar of lightning slammed into Galbar.

Soon his hands danced with command, and the scene in front of him came to fruition. Music displayed an array of emotions dark and hidden, toned with thoughts best left alone. Great crashes sounded, and amazing bolts of energy descended from the heavens, until the concert had turned into one of blasting columns of lightning and curdling screams from the clouds. A single hand rose to the sky, and as it dashed down, all the instruments sounded in salute in one ear breaking conglomeration, only to then leave the world in silence once more.

Slowly, the natural sounds of Tendlepog returned, and the sky faded back to it’s evening orange. K’nells body shimmered with a dark power that soaked in the light, his body still crackling with godly will. Content eyes stared forward at what was born from his latest song.

An army of strange beasts of shadow stood snarling, their figures not quite physical, but wholly of the land of dreams. Their edges blurred with reality, leaving one to wonder where their shimmering bodies really stood. In front of this awaiting mob was a single rider.

Atop a mare the color of the night was a knight armored in black thorns, deep red eyes staring from an enclosed helmet. K’nell’s smile grew.

“Scatter, offspring of dreams, and ensure the balance and safety of your new home,” A grainy voice commanded, “Challenge the weak minded, and ensure the quality of the inhabitants of this paradise. Show them what they fear most, and see to it they either overcome or withdraw. Push the greedy, the proud, the selfish, and protect those who hold my virtues, as well as this great land.”

A pale finger pointed at the mounted rider, “Warden of this Kingdom,” The voice returned, “See to it that my will is maintained.”

“As you command,” A hollow voice vibrated from the helmet, thorned hands pulling the reins of the mare underneath.





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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Not Fishing
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Not Fishing The Mediocre

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Kalmar





Kalmar stood upon the southern tip of Kalgrun, the jungle to his back, as he stared out to sea.

His conversation with Orvus had gone... better than expected, he supposed. It hadn't escalated to a fight, but it didn't exactly leave him with any concrete answers either. Kalmar could have sworn that the message had gotten through, that the God of Desolation had realized the God of Hunting was correct. Yet there had been no response. Perhaps, he mused, Orvus knew that he was correct, but did not want to put in the effort of changing or adapting, yet could not admit to such and instead chose to leave and say nothing.

A poor choice. Those who could not adapt would die.

Kalmar turned away from the sea and began walking inland. He would stop thinking about Orvus for now. At some point he had felt a surge of power, and knew he could create once again, so that was what he would occupy himself with for the time being.

In his absence, the continent had been covered with even more forest. That was good. It spared him a great deal of effort. Yet still, something was missing.

The continent needed more animals, he decided. Predators, to be specific. Hunters. Ideas were already beginning to take form, and as he crossed from jungle to oak he knew what his first creation would be.




There were wolves in the forest. Hairy four-legged canines that were fast and possessed an excellent sense of smell. They hunted in packs, using teamwork and precision to take down prey. Kalmar intended to replicate almost exactly that, except it would be even bigger, faster, and stronger.

And so, the creatures he created were almost identical in appearance... only much larger, approximately twice the size of the average wolf. Their fur came either in black or shades of grey. Their bite could shatter bone, they could creep silently through the trees, their strength and speed could rival a bear's, and their senses were unparalleled on this continent.

He would call them direwolves.

One creature, as black as the night sky, pounced on him. Kalmar allowed himself to be pinned to the ground. As the wolf attempted to bite his throat out, he reached up and clamped its jaws shut with his hand. Then, he shifted his weight and threw the wolf off of him, before grabbing one of Gardener-feathered arrows and ramming it into the monster's throat. He held it down as it bled out. Then, he peeled off its pelt and wore it as a cloak.




The western part of his continent was rugged and mountainous. Kalmar stood atop one of these mountains and created another species. It would be a winged creature, that possessed the legs of a lion and the torso of an eagle, and was twice the size of the former. Its wings would be swift, its vision would be keen, and its claws would be sharp. Kalmar watched as one descended upon a small deer, ripping into it with claws and then proceeding to feast. A majestic beast indeed.




The northeasten end of the continent was also mountainous. Yet the species Kalmar created here would not be winged. They would be apelike, anywhere from nine to eleven feet in height, with massive, powerful, bulky arms, and covered with thick shaggy fur that protected them in colder climates. They dwelled in the mountains, lumbering down into the forests to hunt, or throwing themselves off of edges to fall down upon helpless prey. Trolls, he would call them. They were immensely strong and durable, but also reckless, hot-tempered, and aggressive. To compensate for this, they could recover from wounds faster - injuries which would take other creatures days to recover from (if they recovered at all) would, if inflicted upon a troll, be gone within an hour.




The Troll, the Griffin, and the Direwolf. These would be the apex species of his continent. At least until more were introduced. But for now, Kalmar was content.

The satisfaction would not last, for soon Kalmar would spot a familiar-looking falcon fluttering toward him. "Arryn," he remarked, concealing his surprise. Arryn was not supposed to be here, yet he was, and Arya was not with him. That did not bode well. "What happened?"

Wordlessly, the falcon offered up his memories...




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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Commodore
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Commodore Condor

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Ohannakeloi thought deeply as the Buajoai drifted westward over the landscape, felt he had a better grasp of his past before coming here. He had some time to try to sort through his memories a bit better and it was starting to come back to him in pieces. Fighting and conflict on such a large scale, yes, but there was so much more he could not yet parse, a council or meeting of some sort? Figures standing in dark? It made no sense yet but he would continue to try, another time, however.

He was feeling quite better after that exertion of landscaping, it was quite magnificent looking out upon it all, and he could even see where some others had started to do some work as well. Which all brought up the question, what he going to do next? He had some thoughts before, perhaps on mobile things, intelligent ones perhaps so that he might finally find conversation. Or maybe he should just get out more, no the idea was a strong one but he needed to understand how these things worked so he orders the Buajoai down towards a… ...forest? That word seemed to fit.

In any case, the craft was brought down to the ground once again, now in the western lands that were both wet and warm, the life that existed here seemed to be doing fairly well under such conditions. The main problem was that Ohannakeloi didn’t really get why or how any of this stuff did what it did, and then there were all the fuzzy bits of souls and the like. It was pretty confusing how all that worked together. As it was, however, Ohannakeloi had some time to examine them more closely and try to figure out how to do something similar, after all, how hard could it be?

On the ground, he examined the forest in great detail, or as great detail as he could without messing it up too much. Mostly it was that which didn’t run away or move very fast that he examined at first. The trees and the various other leafy forms of life were not particularly easy to figure out. From what Ohannakeloi could tell they did do things, but he wasn’t quite sure why or how they did such things, or even what they were but they did something. And Ohannakeloi was not in the mood to figure it out, besides he needed to figure out how to make some much more animate things and while these had souls, unlike stone they were not at the level of activity Ohannakeloi wanted to see.

The slight issue was that most creatures that he did want to examine were quite uncooperative, turns out a large extremely fast crab can be quite distressing for many small creatures. Mostly Ohannakeloi got a good idea of some very active actions while chasing a number of creatures, he did not want to accidentally break them so he was quite limited in stopping them without destroying their environs. He could tell that they too relied upon their souls, they were all different in some ways of size or precise composition but he got a general idea that he needed to use souls.

Ohannakeloi now had an idea of what he needed to do, or at least what he wanted to have done. He had been thinking of the other gods as well, less of them specifically and more the forms they had chosen. It had always confused Ohannakeloi why one would choose such unstable and ill balancing form, so tall that falling would be easy enough and one needed both legs for proper functioning. Now however he was starting to see some potential benefits, one could leverage one’s size in height and reach much more effectively in addition to those over dedicated graspers, such as when Seihdhara picked him up, were more effective at manipulations than his own claws.

Admittedly the gods had little to fear in terms of predation so the concerns about damages were less than justified, perhaps the others had some good ideas in choosing their own forms, good ideas Ohannakeloi could learn from. Particularly in his own creations, a biped of stone that would have a soul, perhaps many such?

Ohannakeloi walked back to the Buajoai and brought forth several stones from the earth, dispersing some of that life that loved the soils so. He formed out the general shapes, a torso in one, a head in another, graspers and feet. The head was formed very specifically, one large indent and otherwise quite smooth. Next, he connected each of these with innumerable small stones, to give flexibility between the pieces although pieces like the graspers were already of several small pieces, connected still by grains now. Now all he needed was a soul and then it should work properly.

He had seen this before, one needed that plentiful ash to form a proper soul, although how that happened was beyond him. He tried using whatever power he had to force together the stones he had collated and tried to call forth ash to bring it to life, although exactly what he was doing he wasn’t quite sure. Whatever he did try, some part of it must have worked as ash seemed to come from nowhere to collate into a soul, quite a large one compared to the various ones found in his brief search of the forest. Ohannakeloi looked at this new being before him, it was quite large perhaps twice as tall as Shengshi was long, although perhaps a bit more than that. Made of stone connected shifting together was quite flexible, even as now the small stones shifted over the surface.

However, Ohannakeloi could see his new creation was having some difficulty, particularly it didn’t seem to be able to seem very well as it tried to get up. So he stepped up to fix that, he pulled on its soul a little, grant it access outside the stone confines to see and interact as it should, pulled specifically at that indentation in the head and soon that region glowed with soulful-energy a window to its Soul. He then linked himself to his creation and began to teach. That Ohannakeloi was a god and creator of the mortal, what being mortal meant, what he knew of others gods, the power of speech, and how Ohannakeloi made him in the first place. As they linked and talked Ohannakeloi knew his creation better, he knew that he should be called Ihokhe.

As Ohannakeloi taught he showed Ihokhe how to make more like him, and they did. First one then two and three. Stayed with them all and taught, their relation to the gods, all Ohannakeloi knew about the word that may help them. He saw they had several abilities that seemed beyond most of the majority of mortal species, they were intelligent like most of the gods, but also they could also sense souls to a degree, and could use them to a little degree. As it was all they could really interact with besides what they’re stone bodies could do they did it well, ripping what pieces of soul they could from dying things and using to power their own bodies. It was a replacement for what other mortal species apparently were able to fix without, especially as otherwise they would be forced to use their own soul to power their movements. He would stay with them and teach them their role and duties to the gods, as it was his duty as a god and one who knew more than them. The Ihokhetlani, those of Ihokhe’s kin, would not be abandoned so soon by their creator.



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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by Antarctic Termite
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Antarctic Termite Resident of Mortasheen

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We in business, boys.


Chopstick Eyes stood at the edge of the sea, the Lustrous Garden shimmering over rippled waves. She checked a watch she was not wearing, and, realising this, tapped her feet impatiently. The tapping turned into a bored, humming little jig, over the course of which she nearly missed her rendezvous.

She spotted Veradax casting its shadow over the smog of the Pyres just in time, and startled, scrambling back to the spot she was meant to watch. There, as the celestial spheres aligned- not in any noteworthy arrangement, but not random, never random- she spotted it: a mess of foam along the tide-line, a squiggle of sand in a shape that could have been, but was not quite, writing. In another moment it was gone, wiped clean by the waves.

Gotcha.




"C'mere."

The frog refused, flexing its throat as frogs do in a thoroughly nonplussed kind of fashion. Chopstick sighed with her hands on her hips, and looked around, as if for help. There was none, none but the fogbank of Li'Kalla's gate in the distance. And she was fortunate for that, too. She couldn't afford witnesses.

"C'mon, lemme just..." She stretched (some of) her arms into the muddy hole again, and when they weren't long enough, she tried her hair; the strands returned, carrying a fat green amphibian, resigned but by no means beaten. Chopstick looked over her shoulder again, quickly this time, and put the frog to her ear.

"..."

Nod.

"... ..."

Nod nod. Chopstick put the frog back from whence it came. Later that day, she found a marshy puddle, and, splashing her feet into it, disappeared completely.




A dark space, but not lightless.




A fragment of a walkway with no rails.




A door.




Chopstick Eyes stepped out into the hustle and bustle of the Grand Bazaar, wiping the dust of things indescribable off her skin. Lanterns greeted her warmly; street hawkers greeted her too warmly. But it was all grass around her feet and branches brushing the elephant's back. She was God, here. She was in command.

With a hop and a skip and a jump and about eight full-size meals from the intermediary food courts, Chopstick Eyes had returned to her workshop, the one with the monster doodles scattered all over the floor. She picked one up and smiled, half-shrugged. It was funnier now, but she did need something to keep her pad safe, and even with two Chopsticks, she wouldn't be here all the time. Especially now that she had a promise to Li'Kalla.

Her well of ideas had not since become any less dry, but there were other ways around her many weaknesses than trying to muscle through them alone. Donning a trench coat and a black hat, Chopstick Eyes set out for yet another trip to the places few would ever see. This time, it was quick.




The black market was a place of bright lights and dark faces, if faces there were. The floating gloves had lead in their knuckles. The voices were quick and were muted.

The wagon Chopstick ordered were already carrying a heavy load of goods, crude, hefty iron pieces, choppers and maulers and, to her own astonishment, enormous boomerangs. They didn't come back when she threw them, unfortunately. They weren't weighted that way. But good lord were they heavy. And sharp. And remarkably cheap... All of the weapons were. Chopstick made a note to take a good look at this 'Pit of Trials' sometime.

As for the rest, well, she waited until she was back in the workshop. It wasn't much, really: a fancy gold-trimmed black box, a stapled document, and some old blueprints rolled up with rubber bands. She started with the documents.

On Stem-Line Nanyte Replication in Second-Generation Autonomous Cluster-Based Perimeter Monitors
M. Salma Lei

Abstract
Since their introduction as post-urban infiltration and insurgency countermeasures, nanyte cluster perimeter monitors, colloquially Haze Men, have been field-tested for real-time environmental awareness and perception as well as combat efficiency, measured in terms of algorithmic response coverage, response rate, burst stamina, maximum force output, impact, compressive, tensile and fatigue strength. The lifespan of each unit measured across 800 cycles at periodic maximum and near-maximum performance has


Chopstick stared at the document blankly. It was at least forty pages long.

"Iiiiiiieeeeeee can't fucking read this," she announced, and threw it in the incinerator. "Black market know-how it is."

She opened the box, then closed it again. When she opened it a second time, everything was just the way she'd left it: a box lined with velvet, and eight bags full of dust. Eight incredibly expensive plastic sachets of black, black dust. She ripped one open and poured it out on the floor.

The cloud that rose wasn't choking, nor did it cover the skin and sink into the floorboards. It coiled, flexed and expanded, then shrank, the dust pouring from the sachet in a continual, impossible waterfall, sucking itself into itself until it formed a solid mass. The mass began to glow.

Up stood a creature like a steel spring, coiled and sharpened for violence. Heads and shoulders it towered above Chopstick, watching her with eyes bored into its face with a harsh, mechanical light.

A Haze Man, once again. Chopstick grinned, and booped its nose. She got almost to its face before its hand seized her wrist, its body and gaze unmoving over a vicious grip.

Very nice.

"Alright, point taken. Lemme go, mall cop," said Chopstick, and it did. "You think you can find your own way to the Palace?" The creature creaked, buzzing in a language that she did not understand. "Yeah? Well, close enough. Meet me there and I'll tell you who not to kill." The Haze Man made a noise like gravel being scratched.

Bit rough around the edges, for sure, thought Chopstick Eyes. But definitely a cutie.




The Palace was one of the largest hotel-restaurant-brothel combinations in the Grand Bazaar, and Chopstick Eyes owned one hundred percent of it. It was certainly the grandest: trimmed with brass and golden statues, it was styled true to its name, with vast, silken rooms, its own private square for dances and performance, and kitchens enough to feast nightly. Sometimes, when Chopstick was feeling particularly lavish, she would sleep in its basement.

It was also, unfortunately, quite empty. Advertised as a place 'where the gloves are leather and lace', they were really just silk for the most part. There were neither guests to enjoy the Palace's premium service nor any staff capable of supplying it. The gloves were great for spanking and such like, but man cannot live on handjobs alone.

Oh well.

Chopstick met the waiting Haze Men in front of the hotel, and promptly instructed them to arm themselves. The Palace was empty for now, sure, but one day it wouldn't be, and on that day she would tolerate no tomfoolery.

...

Well, that was a lie. She'd tolerate a lot.

Probably encourage it.

Probably be responsible for it.

But still. No tomfoolery.




Chopstick crawled out of the earth as she was wont to do, and changed out of her tunnelling overalls. It didn't help much. The rain was remarkably heavy today, and the mud splashing around her feet was awfully lively. Halfway through wrapping her kimono, Chopstick aborted the process and opted for a bright yellow raincoat with gumboots.

It certainly wasn't flying weather. She couldn't make it back to the Gateway if she tried, assuming Li'Kalla was even there in the first place. But that didn't matter much. She'd made another purchase in the deep markets.

From the deep pockets of the raincoat, Chopstick retrieved a wand of curious construction. Its haft was some fine-grained black material, matte and weighty, and a shiny, silvery metal orb formed its head. A thin steel band encircled the grid-like, rippling wirework of the orb, and visible within was some kind of dark foam. It had been sold to her as Michael's Wand of Loudspaken, and she had every intention of testing it out.

She activated the wand and tapped the orb. A fizzy thudding sound echoed for miles around. She inhaled.

"HEY, LI'KALLA!"


...okay, maybe that was a little too loud.

"Whoops! Sorry! Didn't mean to startle you, hey. Hey, I made a reservation for you at my hotel in the Bazaar, so you can pop in any time! Just let the staff know you're in and I'll be right there to meetcha, alright?"

No answer. She probably didn't have a Michael's Wand of Loudspaken. What a sucker.

"If anyone else can hear this, uh... Hey listeners, what's up! I have chopstick eyes, and I'm totally open for business right now. Need some goods? Want some services? Just call Choppy's Business Delivery Hotline for a totally free consultation! We do deliveries! We do pick-up! We do deliveries clocked at eight hundred miles per hour directly to your chosen recipients cranium! Want some emotional advice? Look no further! Want some sexual advice? I do too! Just call Choppy's Business Delivery Hotline! Call it with your throat! Call it with your tuba! Call it with a big sack of angry cats you're trying to pass off as bagpipes! That sounds hilarious! Terms and conditions may apply, but I'm deliberately ignoring them! Thank you!"

...

"Oh yeah, by the way, if anyone wants to bring my security staff, like, a cup of coffee or something, sometime, that'd be nice, they look kinda parched."

A nearby mud-clump stared at Chopstick Eyes incredulously.

She shrugged.

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Hidden 4 mos ago Post by Leotamer
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Leotamer

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Parvus left the Hive and walked around the Fel Isles. As he did, he collected snake eggs in a large silk bag. As the god of toxins, he had fully intended to create deadly poisons as tools. The threat of war simply made this task more urgent. He decided to concentrate his attention on the Fel Isle, and the surrounding region. Not only would this help protect his gateway, but he also had the greatest claim to this area.

He had found creating life from nothing to be difficult. However, even a simple base would ease the work. He dug three holes in the dirt and separated the eggs into them.

Drawing primordial venom from his chitin stinger, he separated it into three different liquids. He imbued each of the toxins which his power and filled each hole with one of them. The eggs drank from the poisons, causing them to mutate.

He took two of the clutches and stored them in separate bags. He turned to the remaining eggs, naming them basilisks, and ordering them to hatch.

Tiny six-legged lizards emerged and scattered. After a few moments, they begin to grow in size becoming three to four feet long. Their fangs imbued with a potent toxin that caused their victim's skin to harden and blood to clot.

He next walked eastward over the ocean. Dropping of the bags of eggs into the water and allowing it to sink. He named them hydras and commanded them to hatch. Tiny lizards exited the bag. They began to swim in every direction, slowly growing larger, growing extra heads, and having their necks grow into long snake-like appendages.

Eventually, they become massive, nine-headed creatures. Their blood is slightly poisonous though easily neutralized by salt. However, their bites inject a potent toxin that causes necrosis.

Afterward, he continued west to the salt marsh. He dropped his final bag on the muddy ground of the wetlands. He named them cockatrices, and order them to hatch. Chicks escaped from the silk bag. Their feet were webbed. They had ragged feathers, a snake tail, and a scaly face. After a few moments, they grew to their full size which was only slightly larger than a chicken. They are capable of breathing out a poisonous gas which causes muscle weakness. However, unlike balisisks and hydras, they are not particularly dangerous and primarily eat fish and bugs.


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Hidden 4 mos ago 4 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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&



&

Arae





Arya’s had been assigned to a smaller guestroom by the bathhouse below deck. While it was not nearly as ornate as some of the gods’ rooms, it nonetheless offered a most luxurious experience: The bed was so large that it could probably fit an entire family and had the mattress had the texture of clouds; the walls were white like paper, with some unfinished poetry and paintings coating some parts of it; the floor had no blanket like the gods’ rooms, but it made due with a fancy, striped pelt. Across the floor from the bed was a large door, rimmed and framed in gold; to the left of her bed was a neatly polished wardrobe, also rimmed in gold. The heliopolis shone in through the window blinds at the very top of the room, bringing the mahogany floorboards to live with auburn light.

Arya didn’t really know what a bedroom was, or what a bed was, but nonetheless she was taken aback by how shiny everything was. It all seemed very… excessive but beautiful at the same time. She had to admit, her master had style. It was completely different then how she had lived on Kalgrun, and she wondered if Kalmar would approve. Probably not, but there was no way she could ever bring up his name, least not around the snake. That entire display had etched worry into her heart, and her curiosity on how they had come to hate each other needed to be known. Perhaps one day, but not know. Slowly she sat down upon the bed, and sank in as she fell backwards. It was an odd sensation, but so, just so… comfortable… Like...a...cloud...and the tiny girl then fell asleep.

There was suddenly a wet slap against the door. There was no certainty as to how much time had passed since Arya fell asleep, but nevertheless, the slap was complemented with yet another one, this one being strong enough to open the door. Arya woke up with a small scream, not realizing where she was for a moment, before the sight of the water servants brought back her memory. In came a row of three water globules that zoomed around in circles in front of the bed, one carrying a roll of paper on a golden platter, one carrying a flask with some funny symbols on it, and one carrying a silver platter with something colourful that smelled like divinity itself. The globules put the platters and flask on the far end of the bed and zoomed back out, somehow managing to close the door behind them.

As quick as they came, they were gone, leaving Arya very confused with the items before her. She looked over each item, not really knowing what they were, except for the item that smelled heavenly. That had to be food right? She picked up the flask with symbols on it graciously. It felt heavy, so she shook it and heard the sound of some sort of liquid. She noted the top of it looked differently than the rest, so she touched it and pulled and not knowing her own strength, the top gave and the bottle splattered her in some sort of liquid. Her eyes went wide with horror, what had she done! Her chalk-white, glowing form was splashed completely with some slightly sticky, sweet-smelling, purple water. The bottle had nearly been emptied as a result. The substance dripped off her form and into the sheets, colouring them a blueish purple.

”Oh no! Oh no oh no oh no!” she moaned and in her haste to try and fix it, she knocked over the golden plate with the food and sent the roll of paper unraveling as her once beautiful bed, was tarnished. Her master was going to kill her.

The unfurled roll of paper fell to the floor and there was a gentle ‘ping!’. The paper floated up into the air and faced Arya, the characters on its surface forming something resembling a face. As she looked at the paper, her eyes went wider further and she was about to apologize to her master when it began to talk.

Dear Anxin,

Your presence is requested in the master bedroom atop the Grand Spire. There are clean clothes in the wardrobe in your room. His Lordship hopes the food was satisfactory and the drink delicious - blueberry juice is His Lordship’s favourite.

A map to your destination will now form upon this letter. His Lordship awaits your arrival at your earliest convenience.

Cordially,
The Service Crew.


The letter fell to the floor and the characters twisted into river-like lines, dancing across the paper until a detailed blueprint of the ship formed on its surface. Arya relaxed as soon as she realized it wasn’t actually her master, but this service crew. Then she instantly felt awful at the state she had left the bed in. They were going to hate her. She picked up the paper and looked over the design. It was gorgeous, and very, very helpful. But first she had to do something… something with… clothes? She looked over at the wardrobe, and walked over, opening the gilded knobs to reveal a folded, white shirt on the top shelf; a wide, red skirt on the middle shelf with a supplementary patterned red ribbon to function as a belt; and a pair of elevated sandals at the bottom.

And the girl had no idea what to do with any of it, but she had to try. Several moments later, after a fierce battle with the clothes, she had them on. The skirt was worn backwards, the shirt was at a top her head and draped down her back. The red ribbon was used a scarf, and the shoes were on the wrong feet, but Arya puffed out her chest with pride. She wasn’t a complete failure! With her confidence, she took the map and left the room behind to join her master.

As she exited the bedroom, she got a chance to gaze out across the banquet hall below. There, hundreds of cute little water globules zoomed around, carrying all manner of ingredients from the larders to the kitchens. The red paper lantern chandelier hanging from the roof had yet to be lit, so all the light entering the colossal hall was the white light of Heliopolis, shining in through the blinds and reflecting against any gold it touched, turning the room’s assets into a lightshow.
The floor below oozed with smells and scents so fantastic that no smell could ever match their perfection again.

She stood, leaning against the railing as she took it all in. She couldn’t even put words to what she saw, it was so just…amazing. Everything, from the chorus of noise, to the smells, and especially at the lightshow. Her eyes squinted into a smile as happiness flooded into her, and Arya forgot everything about the morning and where she was going just to take it all in. They didn’t have this back on Kalgrun.

There was a wet splash against her leg. Arya looked down at the feeling of water, the sight before her suddenly becoming background noise. A water globule was in the middle of reversing, before it accelerated forward again, only to crash into her leg again.

”Oops!” she said, before lifting her leg up. The globule accelerated again, zooming off under Arya’s foot and continuing down the balcony. As she watched it go, she mumbled, ”Cute as they are, they aren’t that smart huh.” But it did remind her that she had a place to be, so she looked at the map again and began on her way, careful enough to stay out of any water servant’s way. As she walked, she took in the ship with everything she had and was in wonder as she walked at all the new sights, sounds, and smells. The banquet halls had just been the beginning.

As she made it to the main stairwell, the gold gave way to rice paper walls dressed in paintings and poetry. The steps were inconveniently long, each likely requiring Arya to take two steps per stair. The height difference between them was not particularly high either, making the entire stairwell seem like an abstract, artificial hill. She marveled at the paintings as she walked, but couldn’t quite make out the poetry. Though she had enjoyed much of the ship, this part just seemed, unnecessary. It was still beautiful, in it’s own way, but she wished it was more convenient for her small legs. Not to be deterred, she continued on regardless.

As she ascended the stairwell, the paintings changed. At the bottom, there had been paintings of tranquil glades with small becks and the occasional fish; however, as she neared the upper floors, the paintings began to show a pattern of bipedal figures, all living around these becks in harmony with the life within; upon reaching the top floor, there was a painting in the roof of the stairwell - a beautiful, golden-skinned and crimson-scaled snake with horns, surrounded gold, jade and food, and by all manner of figures putting their foreheads and hands to the ground.

She stopped in her tracks before the giant tapestry. Truly, she had never seen anything quite like that before. It made her feel many different things, and chief among them was awe. It was mesmerizing and she began to wonder if it was real, and not just colors on the wall. She drew closer, once again forgetting what purpose she had other then to look at the details in the image. To bathe in it’s glow. The detail put into the snake was incredible, the colours going so far as to shade the space between each and every scale. Its eyes were made of polished diamonds and its forked tongue was carved from rubies.

Ahead of Arya, at the very end of the hallway, was another sight to rival even the painting. A mammoth gate of gold glistened in the heliopolis light that made it through the window blinds, flanked by two golden dragon statues with ruby eyes.

She drew closer to the new sight, standing before one of the dragons and ogling over it. It was luxurious, the entire door before her was and without a doubt, on the other side was her master. She took a deep breath, remembering all she had yesterday and began to practice.

”Anxin. I am Anxin. No! This servant is Anxin. Yes, that’s right. This servant.” she whispered before straightening her shirt hat. Arya then went up to the gate and passed through.

The inside of the room was characterised by the odour of the surrounding jungle, fresh and damp, as if it has recently rained. At the far end of the room was a tall basket on a slightly elevated pedestal. To Arya’s left side was a slightly messy desk, prickled with dots of black and topped with a few, seemingly unorganised paper stacks. To Arya’s right was a table so low that one could not fit one’s legs underneath without also lifting the table. By the paper slider door wall to the right was also a large birdcage full of small, singing birds. Apart from those, the room was mostly empty. However, from the veranda behind an open paper slider door sounded some gentle harp cords.

Arya paused, wondering if in fact she was in the right place. She looked at the scroll again and her eyes frowned. This was the right place, but it was so plain. Perhaps her master liked it that way? It was definitely a stark contrast to the rest of the ship, but she’d have to let it go, for a God waited. She walked over to the open paper door, and peered in, as she had guessed who was behind those lovely sounds.

There, on the veranda sat the snake with a guzheng, gently pinching at the cords in the rhythm of the water beneath. The melody was slow and soft, almost melancholic in nature.

“Did you sleep well?” he asked calmly, not taking his eyes off his instrument.

She was caught up in the music, so she was startled when the snake spoke.
”Oh! This servant slept well, thank you for asking.” she said, standing a little taller.

“A good start,” he noted and put his instrument down next to him. “However, many gods will expect a more humble ans-...”

As the snake turned around and saw Arya - or more specifically, Arya’s dressings.

“I see that I must leave instructions on the dress code as a clause in the letter next time a mortal visits,” he muttered with a sigh. Arya seemed to shrink at his words, growing embarrassed. Had she put them on wrong? The snake snapped his fingers and the clothes on Arya, as if suddenly given life, began to crawl and twist around her body. The shirt hopped off her head and grabbed one of her arms, carefully, yet purposefully, treading itself first over one arm, then over the other. Arya’s embassament quickly gave way to careless giggling as the clothes began to wrap around her. The torso met on the middle, where one half dove under the other, and the upper half twisted itself around her right side, tying itself neatly to a dangling thread right underneath the armpit. The skirt wrapped itself over the shirt around her waist and tightened itself using the red ribbon. Finally, the sandals tossed Arya a small distance into the air, quickly swapped places and caught her as she fell back to the ground. As an added detail, Shengshi pointed to Arya’s hair and whirled his finger around in a circle. A smaller red ribbon popped into existence, grabbing a handful of hair and tying it into a neat little knot.

Her giggling turned into full blown laughter, high pitched and melodic. The clothing tickled her as it moved and she couldn’t quite help herself. When all was said and done, she looked down at herself and was once again amazed. So that was how clothes worked? She liked them like that, and Arya felt the knot in her hair and how her hair was in a ponytail and she was content. With her eyes expressing immense joy, she looked back at the snake and did a small bow, mimicking what he had done the day before.

”This servant is thankful.” she uttered happily.

“Oh, are you not just adorable,” the snake mused in a deep, oily voice. “However, I will be expecting you to be able to dress yourself from now on. If the sequence of correct steps was not obvious, I will have the servants demonstrate it to you again the next time you dress.” He gave her a smile, though his eyes betrayed some strictness.

Arya collected herself and stood to face the snake as he spoke. She was saddened to hear that she would have to dress herself from now on but that seemed right. She did however say, [color=ivory]”This servant would not mind another demonstration in the future.”[/color[ she nodded. Because in reality, she had not a clue how any of it went on, as she had been caught up laughing.

“‘Would not mind’ is too intimate. ‘Would be humbled by’ is more cordial. Remember that,” he said and flicked his forked tongue.

She nodded again, but a question came to mind. ”Intimate?” she asked, ”What’s that?”

The snake raised his hand and tugged at his beard. He hummed in acknowledgement and nodded. “I suppose we will start by expanding your vocabulary, then.”




The training began simple - at first, Arya was taught the many characters that made up Shengshi’s written language. She was taught their meaning, their purposes and to read them out loud; then, she was taught how to write them, first as text on paper, then as calligraphic works of art. Shengshi drilled her on proper etiquette when facing others and the importance of understanding interpersonal relationships. Arya learned everything from bowing and kowtowing before those of higher rank, to courtesy and kindness to those below her. She was taught literature and how to write it, and given extensive courses on music, painting and tea ceremonies. Last, but not least, she was taught the concept of the Flow and given insight into Shengshi’s extensive works of poetry and prose.

She had thought Kalmar’s teaching had been challenging but Shengshi’s were on an entirely different level. It was a struggle, but she tried and tried, reaching different levels of satisfaction from her master. It was all so much to take in that on many occasions she let slip improper etiquette, or she forgot to bow, use the proper words and disregard the concept of the flow. Each time she cursed herself, but what was worse was seeing the Snake’s disapproval, his sighs, his reprimanding. Most of all was the look of disappointment. It reminded her of her own father, and it drove her to try harder and to learn.

With ample determination, and a steady fire burning in her heart, she slowly began to adjust. All the while, she had to process how to categorize both teachings of the gods. They were so different, and it what was, perhaps, the most difficult thing she was faced with. But try she did.

One instance, as they were practicing calligraphy together in the snake’s chambres, Shengshi had perked up suddenly. After a moment, he had looked weary and let out a sigh.

“Pardon me, Anxin. There is something I must do. Make certain you mind your downwards strokes so they do not bulge in the middle.” With that, the snake rose to his tail and slithered out on the balcony.

At her master’s words, she let out a defeated sigh and brought out a fresh piece of paper to try again. Writing poetry was fun, but the writing part wasn’t. She watched her Lord slither over to the balcony and began to write again. She was curious to what he was doing, but she had quickly learned that he enjoyed his alone time. Or maybe he didn’t. The snake was many things, but his eyes never betrayed him.

After some time had passed, the snake came back inside wearing a weary frown. He went over to the table and began rolling up his calligraphy sheet, motioning for Arya to do the same.

“We will be receiving a most honourable guest shortly, my dear Anxin. Make sure you look stellar before she arrives, is that clear?”

A guest! Another god? Another mortal? Who or what could she be? Her eyes expressed joy mixed with curiosity, but she obeyed her master’s commands.

Having finished rolling her sheet up and wrapping a ribbon around the middle, she nodded at her lord, ”This servant shall prepare!” she said enthusiastically. She then wandered over to the elegant, standing mirror and began ‘prettying up’ which was just her fixing creases in her dress and making sure her hair was prim and proper. Not a single strand could be out of place. She squinted at herself in the mirror, growing satisfied.

The snake winked at her proudly. “It is my deepest desire that all mortals will learn as fast as you,” he said and chuckled. “Now I almost do not want to-...” He interrupted himself and looked down. “Nevermind,” he said curtly and stood up, moving towards the doors.

Arya turned around and gave her master a quizzical look, but he did not look back at her. She let out a fake cough before asking, ”Is there something wrong, my Lord?” she inquired.

The snake swung the gate open slowly and let out a sigh. “No, there is not. Thank you for asking, however,” he said. For a moment, he stood in the door with one hand on each door.

“You have a good soul,” he said after a long pause. “No matter what anyone tells you, my dear, remember that.” With that, he slithered down the hallway.

Arya watched him go, not immediately following. That had been one of the nicest things he had ever said about her, and it made her so happy, her heart felt like it would burst. She wanted to give him a hug, but that wasn’t proper etiquette. So she sighed happily, before she began to follow after him.

The snake was waiting on deck, his arms resting behind his back. He was glancing up at the blue sky, the light of Heliopolis reflecting sanguine glitters off of his scales. He appeared motionless and expressionless, save for a somber shine in his crystalline eyes.

Arya arrived shortly after, and took in the sight of her master. Majestic was one of the first words that came to mind, but then she saw his eyes. His expressionless features, and she grew worried. There was a sadness there, deep and buried and it pained her. She wanted to do something, but how did one truly help a god? Without saying anything, she went over and stood next to him. The snake sent her a glance and hummed curtly.

“She will be here shortly,” he said quietly.

Without looking at him, Arya asked, ”Who, Master?”

“The Dragon, Arae.”

Not a second later after that was said did Arae drop from the sky, spreading her wings to slow her descent before landing gently on the deck. Arae smiled at both of them as she greeted them, “Hello to both of you, Shengshi, Arya. I do hope I didn’t come at a bad time.

Shengshi lowered his torso, leaned forward and prostrated himself before the goddess. “My dearest sister Arae - it has been far too long. I bid you welcome aboard my humble ship.” Even though he was facing the deckfloor, his voice was as clear as if he had been been looking at her.

When she saw the Goddess, Arya was awestruck by her form. She had no idea she would resemble a dragon, and her scales were perhaps the prettiest shade of blue she had ever seen, reflected by the sunlight to show the full extent of her beauty. It took her a moment to realize that her master had already lowered himself before she quickly followed suit, but unlike Shengshi, she did not say a word.

It has indeed,” Arae agreed. “So much has happened without my knowing. Children being born left and right, and our siblings just keep arguing over so much. Shengshi, your… ‘Xiaoli’, was it? I know you’re worried about her, but rest assured, she’s doing fine. In fact, she’s taken quite a liking to that Hermes girl-

The snake erupted back up, his face a complex mixture of anger, sorrow and joy. “Really?! You mean she is well?! Do-... Do you know where she is?” he said, mellowing his tone as to not sound too desperate.

At the mention of Xiaoli’s name, Arya perked up. So that was what she was called. Kalmar had never mentioned her name, just that she existed and ever since arriving on the Jiangzhou, she had wondered what had happened to her. At Shengshi’s sudden outburst, Arya stood up as well and looked at him with a concerned look. Was that what troubled her master?

Hmm… not exactly,” Arae answered. “I’m certain I could find her if I just followed my… ah, never mind. I would like to know, though, what happened between you two?

Shengshi looked hesitant, then shot a glance down at Arya. “A topic best discussed under four eyes. For now, all I can say is that last I last saw her on Istais, together with that Hermes-girl. I reckoned they had run off, though I had not received any updates until now.” He tugged lightly at his beard. “I thank you deeply for bringing this to my attention - I miss her… Dearly.” His deep voice betrayed a drop of melancholy. It was quickly watered out by a clap of clawed hands and a warm chuckle. “Now, what say you to a meal to celebrate your visit, mm?”

A meal, hmm?” Arae thought out loud. “That sounds lovely. What do you have planned?

“Whatever the guest may want,” he said and snapped his fingers. The gates to the palace swung open to reveal a train of water globules balancing trays of creation’s bounty on their ‘heads’. A table for the three to eat from materialised on deck, with complementary pillows to sit on. The table was quickly crowded with plates of food and pitchers of drink. Shengshi turned to Arya and smiled. “Anxin, would you play us some music, my dear?” he asked softly.

Arya was perplexed. Why did her master not wish to discuss Xiaoli? And once again, Hermes name was mentioned and a part of Arya really wanted to meet her. And this Xiaoli. She wondered where they were, and what they could be doing.

As soon as Shengshi snapped his fingers, Arya knew what was in store. Quickly, with grace she moved aside so the water globules could do their work uninterrupted. If at all she was surprised by the table appearing she did not show it. When her master spoke to her she looked at him with a coy smile in her eyes.

In a delicate, almost melodic voice, she spoke, ”Of course, my Lord, this servant would be delighted to play for the exalted gods.” she then did a small bow and almost by thought, a new table appeared and with it, an intricate Guqin of mahogany wood, embellished with gold patterning and silver highlights.

She strode over and plucked the string before playing one of the many tunes she had practiced under her master’s tutelage. It was her favorite, perhaps for its simplicity, but she enjoyed the harmonious melody nonetheless.

Shengshi nodded approvingly and turned back to Arae. He gestured to the table with food and bowed. “Please, join me for a meal.”

Arae smiled as she went over to the plates of various foods, carefully examining each choice. The selection was vast, with everything from peeled and chopped fruits, to boiled rice and cooked meat, to cold noodles in vinegar and herbs. The selections of fish formed a rainbow of colour and variety, from cooked to raw. The snake sat himself down on one of the pillows, humming along to the music in the background. He gestured to the pillow opposite of the table.

“Please, sit,” he said softly.

Of course,” Arae replied, making her selection of rice and a piece of orange-colored fish with herbs. When she looked at the pillow, she realized that she had very little idea about how to actually sit down with her current form. The closest thing to it was simply coiling herself into a circle. An idea popped into her mind, though, and she began to glow as her body’s silhouette shrank down into a humanoid figure. The glow soon subsided, and Arae was transformed into a figure with peach-colored skin, long purple hair with a streak of red, and a one-piece sky-blue dress.

Looking down at herself, Arae muttered to herself, “Hmm, that’s a bit better,” as she sat down onto the pillow in a seiza position.

“Oh my,” the snake mused. “Quite the transformation, dearest sister. I must say, your dragon form suddenly got quite a bit of competition.” He winked playfully, holding a ball of rice between two chopsticks.

Arae chuckled, casually waving her hand as she said, “Oh, you flatter me.” She reached for her own chopsticks and began to help herself to some of the fish, placing it on top of a bit of rice before popping both into her mouth. As she chewed, the flavor of the fish washed over her mouth. “This is delicious,” Arae remarked when she was done with the bite. Looking over at Arya, Arae called out to her, “Arya, would you like to join us? The food is too good to pass.” The snake nodded in her sentiment.

Arya kept playing as Arae seemingly transformed in front of her into a person that vaguely reminded her of Kalmar. Except her colors were much different then is own. When the Goddess looked over at her, Arya’s eyes smiled. When she asked Arya if she would join them, the girl looked to her master and saw him mad. So upon the final note of the piece she said, ”This servant would be honored to join you, Lady Arae.” She then humbly walked over and sat down to join them. Quickly she found her favorite food, cooked meat over a bowl of rice and placed it before her.

She took some chopsticks and wrangled up a mouthful before bringing it up to where her mouth should have been. Then all at once, where a normal mouth would be, a small split appeared on her face revealing inky blackness behind it and what one could only imagine to look like hundreds of sharp teeth, but what was actually just her face. She then took a bite and the split closed.

Shengshi chuckled. “This situation almost resembles a family dinner, would you not agree, sister?” The snake reached out for piece of fish. He also grabbed a bowl of cold noodles, which he promptly began slurping quietly.

Of course it does. It’s exactly what I was aiming for,” Arae said, reaching out and taking a piece of cooked fish with white flesh. The sauces and juices mixed very well, and the fluffy rice just made it all taste complete.

After finishing the noodles, Shengshi put his chopsticks down carefully. “Now, dear sister, what say you we drink a glass to celebrate the occasion, hm?” The snake reached for a flask marked ‘lychee wine’ and poured each of the three small glasses full. “A toast, if you will.”

Arya’s eyes expressed happiness as she ate with the gods, her family...per say. The food was, of course, heavenly, and she ate until she couldn’t eat anymore. When her master brought out a flask, she cocked her head inquisitively and wondered what it contained. More blueberry juice? But no...that said ‘lychee wine’. What was wine? Tentatively she took a glass and did what her master did.

Arae did not really enjoy wine and other alcoholic drinks, but she didn’t wish to seem rude and accepted the glass. Lifting the glass with one hand, Arae nodded and responded, “A toast,” and cupped the glass with both hands while bring it to her lips and taking a small sip.

The flavour was soft and gentle, only slightly stronger than juice. A mild bitterness complemented the docile sweetness, and the experience rounded off with a round aftertaste. Shengshi lifted his glass with both hands, bowed to both Arae and Arya and voiced an enthusiastic “Thank you, both of you” before lifting the glass to his lips and emptying it in a single gulp.

To Arae, the drink was actually better than she initially expected. There were traces of bitterness, but it actually went well with the sweetness. She continued sipping her drink until it was gone, and a slight rosy blush appeared on her content face. Her chest and face felt warm, and her mind felt a bit cloudy, but she figured it was the alcohol’s fault. All in all, it was a good drink, although she wasn’t about to go making a habit of drinking it. It was still alcohol, after all. Moderation was important.

Arya smelled the pleasing fragrance before she downed the contents of the glass and tasted the complementary flavors. And all at once her body felt warm and fuzzy, for this drink was made by a God, and it was beyond delicious. Her mouth watered and grew dry and she didn’t know what was going on. She looked at her master, her eyes blinking, growing heavy.

“Have some more to eat, Anxin - overwise you will grow quite sleepy, indeed,” he said, chuckling. He sat back down and grabbed his chopsticks again, reaching for another piece of fish.

Arya let out an excited ”Yes!” before diving back in to eat.

“Now, if I may ask, dear sister, what did you wish to discuss, mm?” He rounded off his question by putting a well-sauced side of trout in his mouth and flushing it down with some fruit juice.

Not much, really,” Arae said, her face in a cheerful smile. “Besides the questions I already asked, I mostly just wanted to see you again. It really had been too long since we last met, and family should always find the time to meet face to face. Especially now, since our family is already growing.” Turning to Arya, Arae continued, “Arya, dear, you deserve better than how your father’s treated you. Cast aside, not even receiving a name from him… you poor girl!” Tears emerged from her eyes before she reached out her arms in an attempt to give Arya a hug.

Arya startled when Arae said her name and she looked to the goddess and she listened to her speak. At the mention of her father she grew sad and combined with the alcohol she too, grew emotional. When Arae reached out for her, Arya melted and forgot her etiquette as she whispered, ”Oh auntie. Thank you...” and she hugged her back and let herself feel the warmth of the goddess and it felt good.

Meanwhile, the snake sat smiling at the two. He let out a quiet sigh as Arya went over to hug Arae, but the gesture actually brought about a wider smile on Shengshi’s face.

“It is moments like these when I feel the most regret for my actions,” he suddenly muttered, grabbing a pear with his chopsticks.

The hug continued for a short while before Arae decided that there was enough hug time and removed herself from Arya. She returned to her meal, eating a bit more ravenously than before. She scooped up a large quantity of fish and meat onto her rice, and it wasn’t long before the plate she was eating from was picked clean. At the very least, she still had the decency to wipe her face with her napkin, but soon resumed eating by grabbing hold of some slices of fruit.

Shengshi sighed and sliced the pear into neat little disks with his claws. “You truly remind me of that warm sensation that I felt upon first seeing our siblings at the dawn of creation.” He looked up at Arae with melancholic eyes. “I cannot keep it secret from you any longer, my dearest sister - for you are the one I consider my closest. Xiaoli’s disappearance is no one’s fault but my own.” He sighed. “My drinking and temper dulled my reason, and my subsequent actions stirred in her a gruesome fright that made her run off with Hermes - and how could she not? I have been a petty brother to Kalmar and a terrible role model to Xiaoli - caused feuds and fights were none were needed; I threatened Anxin’s companion with murder. Had she not intervened, I-...” He silenced himself, casting his eyes down. “I spoke with Asceal earlier - she convinced me to end the feud with Kalmar, but I despise my method for that achievement.” He lifted his gaze again and turned to Arya, his eyes empty and somber.

Arae listened to Shengshi’s words with a shocked expression, which soon turned to disappointment. She thought he had been going through some tough times, but she didn’t think it was that bad. At any rate, it was more than enough proof for her to reaffirm her belief that alcohol was not something to be taken lightly. And maybe Arae could actually help Shengshi find Xiaoli; she might be the only one who could help him with his current problems.

Arya had returned to her seat by that time, picking at a piece of fish loosely. When Shengshi spoke again, she looked at him and listened. And her suspicions had been made real by his account. His avatar’s disappearance made him sad and it was because of him, that she had left. But when had Asceal been here? She had convinced Shengshi to end the feud? That was great news! Then her master turned to look at her with somber eyes.

“I would return you to his protection. He must be worried about you, and the way I stole you - just to make a statement against his barba-... His teachings.” He paused. “It is understandable if your opinion of me has been altered severely.”

It took her a moment to digest the words and when she did, her eyes seemed to furl. Returned to his protection? She hadn’t even been asked! She didn’t even need his protection! How could...How could Shengshi do something like that? Hadn’t she asked him to not be forceful? To ask before he did things to others? It sounded like she wasn’t even going to have a say in the matter, he had already made up his mind! And her thoughts turned to the day she was born, how she had pleaded her father not to send her away, how she had wanted to stay, no matter how much his words had hurt.

Arya quickly rose, black tears beginning to stream down her glowing face. Her eyes expressed dejection, even betrayal. Without saying a word, or looking at Arae, she ran off into the ship, leaving the two gods alone. The snake hung his head dejectedly, rose up and slithered over to the railing to glance across the beautiful jungle flanking Nanhe.

Arya!” Arae called out to Arya, to no avail, as she ran away. It was clear that Arya wouldn’t be coming back up anytime soon, so Arae turned her attention back to Shengshi.

Shengshi, you’ve made a real big mess of things. Honestly...” Arae began to chastise the poor snake, but she decided to leave it there, thinking he’s already trying to repent for his actions. Sighing, she continued, “Still, I suppose it could be worse. At least not everyone hates you just yet, brother. And I’m sure Arya will forgive you in time. At the very least, I should go talk to her.” With that said, Arae got up from her pillow and walked over to the entrance to the inside of the ship, following Arya’s familial bond inside. “Arya?” Arae called out to Arya in hopes it would catch her attention.

Deep, deep, deep Arya went through the ship that was a castle. She heard Arae call after her, but paid no heed to her voice and Arya Stopped for nothing and ran through many water globules, soaking herself. She was hurt and wanted to be alone, so on she went through the twisting corridors until she at last made it to her own chambers. There she opened the door and slammed it behind her, quickly de-robed and then jumped into her bed and wrapped herself up in the sheets and cried. She was a mess of emotions and none of them good. The only sound in her chambres was the sounds of her sobs, complemented by the weary creaks of the wooden walls and the distant flush of water from the outside.

There was a wet slap against her door.

Arya stifled and peaked her head out from under her sheets. She knew the sound all too well but usually they just barged in without waiting. With her face streaked black, Arya wrapped a sheet around herself and went to open the door.

As she opened the door, Arae stood there in front of her, her face full of concern. Down the hallway, a servant just turned the corner.

May I come in?” she asked softly.

Arya lowered the sheet from her head to her shoulders and nodded, wiping her tears away from her eyes.

Trying to compose herself, she spoke quietly, ”Of-Of course, your exaltedness.”

Arae walked inside, making her way over to the bed and sitting down on it. She patted the spot next to her and said, “Come, have a seat. Tell me what’s on your mind, Arya.

Arya let the goddess walk by, watching her closely as she went and sat down. She began to shuffle over to wear Arae patted and plumped down next to the god.

She let out a long sigh before speaking, ”On the day I met Shen- his Lordship, he forced me onto his boat. He didn't hurt me but it did come as a surprise and he frightened Arryn. So I was angry and I told him it wasn't nice to force people to do things. I told him to never force anyone again, to ask before he wanted something. And I thought he listened... B-But he's going to force me… to leave… He wasn't even going to ask me and… it reminds me of… of my father and how he forced me to leave. And I… I just want to be wanted.” she finished, silent tears falling from her eyes as she looked to the floor.

Shengshi is a fool,” Arae began. “But then again, who isn’t? The truth is, we gods have been brought into this world fairly recently, so hardly any of us know what we’re doing. All we do is follow our instincts and desires. We are just as much children are you are, Arya, despite, and perhaps even because of, the powers we wield. And currently, many of us are in the middle of a fight between ourselves, with the gods of destruction on one and the gods of creation on the other. There’s a lot of pressure between ourselves, what with our power to destroy the world several times over.

Arae was silent for a second, gathering the rest of her thoughts, before continuing, “I guess what I’m trying to say is… sorry. You’re being treated like this due to my siblings’ family feud, and that’s not fair to you. You deserve the chance to make your own choices, live your own life, rather than being tied down to us gods.

Arya listened to the goddess speak and much came known to her. It seemed she wasn't the only one with family problems, how had she been so blind to that? Regardless, Arya was thankful for what Arae said, it lessened the turmoil in her heart and so she looked to Arae and without asking she laid her head on the goddess’ shoulder and sighed again.

”Thank you, Arae. Your words are kind and I appreciate them. Who knew family could be so, so difficult?” the small girl let out a yawn thinking about what she wanted to say next. Perhaps she overreacted just a tad, Shengshi, for all his faults, did not deserve her ire. He was just sad and alone and he missed his Xiaoli. And they needed to talk about this, instead of burying it deep.

She spoke softly and tiredly, ”Perhaps...Perhaps tomorrow I'll talk to… my… my… lor-” but her words were replaced by steady breathing as her eyes became heavy and she drifted off to sleep.




Shengshi had not moved from his spot by the railing since Arae went downstairs to soothe Arya. His breath was steady, almost coldly so. Flood season was approaching, as evidenced by the slowly disappearing riverbanks and the drowning trees. The rivers were full of life, but the woods were not as rich, save for a stray boar or two. Shengshi hummed pensively at the sight, as if laying a strategy or a plan for the future of this forest. His planning would have to wait, however, for Arae soon came out the gates again.

Arae emerged from the ship and walked back to the table, sitting down at the pillow she had been using before. “Arya’s asleep now,” Arae reported to Shengshi. “You two should have a talk when she wakes up. In the meantime, let’s talk between ourselves. You know you have a problem with your drinking and temperament. What do you think you should be doing about it, and have you done anything about it?

The snake turned away from the forest to face the dragon. “The wine today was my first drop since Xiaoli left - that is a condition I can control, I believe… As for my temper…” He sighed and slithered over to the pillow, sitting down. “I have been recording my thoughts and experiences during my time alone in a compendium. I will use that code to bind my spirit to its laws and rules - all in an effort to become a paragon of the Flow… However, it is not yet complete, and until it is, I cannot do much other than control myself.”

Arae nodded. “What matters most is that you are making a sincere effort. It’s all I ask for.” She then placed her elbows on the table, allowing her head to rest on her hands. “As for our siblings, well, you know there are many… disagreements between them, such as Kalmar and the other gods of creation against Orvus. I do feel as if the tension between them has eased a little, but it is still something that will not be easily forgiven. What do you think?

The snake sighed. “I will be honest - it felt wrong to accept the invitation to an alliance against my brother, especially when I had to ally myself with-...” He closed his mouth and flicked his forked tongue. “Regardless, Phystene’s story was frightening, and Asceal has echoed the warnings against some of our siblings. As much as I would rather wait and watch this beautiful world bloom, those that would see it destroyed must be controlled.” He took another bite of fish and chewed it absentmindedly.

“I would rather not have him murdered - I would have none of my siblings murdered, in fact. However, the Flow advocates for adaptability: Should the situation escalate, even the wise cannot keep the sword sheathed anymore.”

It’s a terrible situation for all,” Arae remarked. “I’ve been meaning to visit them, but I find myself putting it off every time. I’m… nervous. I want to believe Orvus is capable of more than what his powers are, and that even those powers of destruction can be used for good, but not everyone is so inclined to agree. I fear the damage is too much for each side to forgive the other, and any interference I try will only make it worse. Unable to do anything, feeling powerless… it’s a horrible feeling.

The snake took a pitcher of mango juice and filled Arae’s cup, then promptly filled his own. “Well, my dearest sister - I can assure you that you have my support in whatever you do. Should you wish for diplomacy, then I will join you in that endeavour; should we need to resort to other solutions…” He raised his glass. “Then so be it.”

Thank you, Shengshi,” Arae said, raising her own glass. Finishing the glass in one quick swig, Arae sighed and continued, “I should get going. Thanks for letting me visit.

The snake finished his own glass and bowed. “It is always a pleasure to have you here, my dearest sister. Please, should you ever want to return, do so posthaste.”

Arae smiled, and she began to glow, her body transforming back into her dragon form. She made a quick jump and took off into the air, heading back towards the direction she came from, to the Dragon’s Crown.

On the distant horizon, past Arae as she flew, a storm was coming.




The ominous storm arrived, battering the Jiangzhou with a torrential downpour. Gale force winds battered the hull as lightning flashed and thunder boomed above the dragon’s head. The dark skies shrouded the land in a thick blanket of darkness as if it came from The Great Dark itself. However, all was dry inside the ship, save for the water globules and wines. And it was in her chambers that Arya slept, deeply nestled in thick, warm sheets as soft as a dove. Much troubled her, but in the safety of her dreams, she forgot her earthly troubles. Least for a time.

Upon the deck, heralded by the storm, her father came.

With a flash of lightning illuminating the deck, Orvus stood quietly, his glowing eyes impassive. He did not know what compelled him to arrive upon this ship, but he had come regardless. Orvus could taste the essence in the air and knew it belonged to the God of Rivers. More importantly, he could feel her. She was nearby, and only then it did occur to him that he desired to see her. For what reason he did not know.

In a slightly less exciting, but equally purposeful manner, the doors to the palace swung open to reveal the snake, who looked rather vexed at Orvus’ presence. Still, his face did not show wholehearted contempt, and the snake opened his arms invitingly and bowed.

“Orvus, my brother. What a… Surprise. I will admit, I had not expected you to come here.” He straightened back up and polished his claws on his chest absentmindedly.

His voice was emotionless when he spoke, ”Neither did I. Now tell me, where is she?” he asked getting straight to the point.

The snake scowled. “The first time you visit me, you display no concept of manners or etiquette, yet demand that I, your host, surrender the only thing that has brought me joy and peace in a long time.” He took a deep breath and bowed curtly. “Give me one good reason as to why I should comply.”

Orvus cocked his head at Shengshi's words. He was both right and wrong. Thunder boomed overhead as he thought upon those words. It seemed his offspring brought Shengshi some form of positive emotion. An attachment? Had he grown to care for her?

When next he spoke, his voice was calm and collected, ”You’ve mistaken my intent, brother. What I ask is not a demand, but a need. I wish not to take her away, nor harm, merely to… to see her. You would not understand this desire, I barely do myself.” he finished quietly.

The was a pause. The snake eventually relaxed somewhat and lifted his brow slightly. “You will swear upon your existence as a god that you will uphold these conditions; now, speak your oath or begone.” The waters around the ship began to rumble and quiver, and the snake himself curved his hands upwards in preparation for battle.

The threat, idle as it was, did not bother Orvus and he reacted as if it meant nothing to him.

”I swear it, then.” and began to walk towards the snake as if bidding him to lead the way.

The snake flicked his tongue menacingly, but the thunderous rumbles of the river below slowly ceased, and the snake bowed before Orvus. “So be it, then. I will call her up - I would rather not have your presence soil my larders with rot and destruction.” He held up one hand at Orvus to signal for him to stop but before the snake could snap his fingers, Orvus shouted, ”NO! his emotions full on display.

Orvus sighed, collecting himself, ”If she sleeps I dare not wake her. I cannot… I… I only wish to look upon her. Talking… Just take me to her. You have my word, once again, that my presence shall not touch your ship.” and with that said, Orvus began to float a few feet off the ground.

The snake betrayed a slight sneer. “So be it. Follow me, then… Brother.”

The two went down the gilded corridors. They entered the upper levels of the banquet hall and turned to the right, moving away from the stairs down and towards the servants’ quarters by the bathhouse. The two gods moved in silence, radiating an aura that deafened the normal ruckus of the ship’s core. Upon arriving at Arya’s door, Shengshi stopped.

“Remember your oath, brother,” he hissed menacingly, his eyes turning to reptilian slits. He then opened the door silently and gestured for Orvus to enter.

Orvus said nothing to the snake as he entered the room, door closing behind him. Though it was dark in the room, Orvus could see her perfectly. He floated over to the bed, and his impassive eyes changed to that of sadness when he looked upon her. Sleeping softly, there she was, the one he had said should not exist. And yet he was there, close but yet so distant.

Slowly he reached out his hand and with it, he stroked her face, delving deep inside her mind and witnessing her memories of her time on Galbar. The first thing he found, was her name. “Arya.” he whispered quietly. So the God of Hunting had named her. He was surprised Kalmar had found her, but not the words he chose to describe himself. Irrational. Dangerous. Destruction. Then why had Kalmar wanted to talk in the first place? To change his mind? To make him rethink everything? Well… He was here wasn’t he? He saw how much sadness he had forced upon, the inner turmoil she faced. And he grew ashamed of himself, but his desire to know more outweighed this shame.

He looked further, and saw that Kalmar had taught Arya many things and the ways of the world, but only as he knew them. Chief among them was the desire to live, to exist and to ‘win’? Arya had believed every word of it, and her one desire in life, was to find her way home. The foolish girl. She hated silence, she loved color, she wanted so much more then that place. Yet it haunted her, he haunted her.

Orvus looked further still, and saw her journey, Shengshi’s trickery and how she had stood up for herself. How she had stopped a God and an Avatar from fighting, how she had… willingly let herself learn and serve, just to save her ‘friend’. It was a noble action.

And Orvus saw the snake’s teachings, and how Arya, or Anxin, grew further. She was a marvel and more then he would ever be. At such a young age, nonetheless. She had a heart, and with it compassion, love, and loyalty, things Orvus had denied himself.

Arae had then arrived, and the dinner she shared with his two siblings was impressive. Then he saw how Shengshi betrayed her, over some petty fight with Kalmar, and Orvus grew angry at seeing his daughter upset and sad at the hands of another. Luckily, Arae was able to calm her, but instead of rejecting the snake, Arya only wanted to make things right, to make him let her have a choice.

Choice.

He broke away from his daughter and hovered over her with a shocked expression in his eyes. She was, in so many ways, apart from him and yet, at her core, they faced the same dilemmas. And Orvus knew in that moment what he came there to do.

He poured a little bit of his power inside of her, letting her drink his divinity and soak in its power. She would be immortal now, ageless and have her own power. A power to choose what she wanted to do. But he was not without other gifts for his wayward child.

He had seen her dislike for water, another failure on his part, but her fear could easily be corrected. So he gave her the ability of self-sustained flight, as natural as it was to walk or to breath. She would never have to walk again if she chose.

And at last, he summoned a bit of his metal, and from it, Orvus created a ring. Etching it with the stars, he willed it onto her finger and there it would fit snuggly. The ring would serve as protection from harm if she ever needed it, by amplifying the powers of desolation that she had yet to master, or even awaken. Another choice, one he knew she would not use lightly. But her compassion would be tested, and taken advantage of, thus she needed it.
Satisfied with these gifts, Orvus floated to the door, looking back at the Arya, his daughter. They would meet again, or they wouldn’t but at least he had finally created a being not with the intent of pain, but for compassion.

The door opened and Orvus looked to Shengshi, first with thanks, but then quickly changing to anger. He spoke to the river lord, his voice full of venom.

”Many thanks, brother but know this; if you ever hurt her again, intentional or not, I shall spread my ‘rot’ my ‘destruction’ to every river on this planet and then, and only then, I will bathe in your ichor. Now goodbye, shall we not meet again.” and with that said, Orvus floated past the snake and made his way out of the Jiangzhou and onto places unknown. The snake hissed silently as Orvus left and shot the girl another glance before he closed the door.








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Slime (Former) School Idol

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“... Just as you learned the steps of the grand dance through your dreams, those after you shall learn the steps of life through the same medium. A challenge to ensure their greatness, as your own challenge hews you into greatness.”

The final words of the explanation rang in Hermes’ head as her eyes slowly opened. The sky was still dark purple, indicated she had woke up a little earlier than she normally does, only tendering nine hours of sleep. She yawned and stretched, her arms and legs creaking as they hovered off of her bed of leaves.

A gentle fire crackled, throwing orange warmth on her face. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the sensation, her content -- yet sleepy -- smile only fading as her hand slid over her stomach.

Their campsite sat at the foot of a sheer, and mighty cliff: the second to last obstacle on their way to Arae, but the perfect place to wait for the Goddess. Xiaoli was a shout’s distance away down at the beach, seemingly collecting rocks and pebbles. She had already gathered some sand back at the campsite - claiming that it would be used to build them a shelter.

Hermes sat up, scratching her head, her braid now a frizzy mess. She sighed and looked down at her hands, turning them a fun sandy color. Smirking slightly she moved past the sleeping Poppler and sat down by the pile of sand, using her palm to create a smooth, flat surface of the grains, and her fingers to draw whatever came to mind, and whatever her lacking artistic ability could create.

“It ought to be a little wetter before you try to shape it,” Xiaoli said with a giggle. She put an armful and some more rocks down on the ground next to the sand and clapped her hands clean.

“I know,” Hermes said softly as she looked up, “I’m just making a few figures for the fun of it.”

She wiped her hand over the sandy slate, erasing a few stick figures. She stared at the empty canvas for a second before looking back up at Xiaoli, “I’m sorry.”

Xiaoli, who was in the middle of stacking some rocks on top of one another, turned to Hermes with a quizzical expression. “Sorry for what, dear?” she inquired.

“You wanted to explore Galbar, and show me your home,” Hermes folded her legs and leaned on her knees with her elbows, “But now you’re with me, chasing my dreams.”

There was a pause. Xiaoli blinked, but soon turned back to her stones with a soft smile on her lips. “Well, Fengshui Fuyou is not going anywhere - whereas we have the opportunity here to give you what you have always wanted.” She stood back up, carrying four rocks in her hand. She crossed the campsite horizontally and started stacking rocks on the opposite end of the fire.
“I think your dreams are more important,” she said.

When she had finished stacking the rocks, she stood back up. She flattened her palms against the ground and closed her eyes. Soon, the sand pile, as well as the remaining stones, snaked their way over to the pebble piles Xiaoli had prepared. The stones grew red hot, melding together into pillars; the sand compacted into stone, forming walls; finally, shale from the cliff behind them formed a roof. Xiaoli looked around their little abode and gave Hermes a wide grin. “What do you think?”

Hermes’ train of thought was derailed as she watched the spectacle, reciprocating the smile with one of her own, “I like it! Always a surprise.”

She hopped to her feet and scooped up the sleeping Poppler, “I need one of these on Tendlepog,” She commented idly as she peered inside.

Xiaoli blushed and waved frantically. “It’s not -that- nice. If I was to make you one on Tendlepog, it would be a mansion!” She threw her arms in the air to illustrate the potential size of one of these mansions.

“What would you put in all that space?” Hermes turned to Xiaoli, cocking her head, but nonetheless clearly impressed by the idea.

Xiaoli clapped her hands excitedly and knelt down in the sand, quickly drawing up a near-flawless sketch of a potential mansion, inciting a playful - yet slightly envious - silent gasp from Hermes. She first pointed to the outer ring of the mansion.

“This would be where your servants would live - the living quarters would be quite roomey, likely fitting at least ten servants per room; that would be incredibly prestigious to your status, highly recommended.” She drummed her fingers on her chin. “You would likely also keep the kitchens here, as they are close to the servants’ quarters and far away from your own chambers, meaning that you could safely evacuate in case of a fire - oh my, you could fit quite the kitchen in one of these…” She patted the leftmost part of the servant's quarters.

She then pointed to the central courtyard, which according to the drawing begun with the gate to the outer ring, was flanked by one two-roomed building on each side, and ended with a large house at the far end. She first gestured to the large house.

“Alright, -this- is where you would host guests, eat your meals with your family and attend to most of your daily affairs. Yours would be extra large to account for all the friends who will come to visit you all the time!” She grinned warmly at Hermes and then pointed to the house on the right of the courtyard. “This is where you and your family would sleep. It would be nice and snuggly, with one room for you and your…” She swallowed, face flushing a little. “... Partner, and one room for your children.” She pointed to the final building, the one to the left of the courtyard. “Should your family be particularly large, however, you could likely use the guest rooms as rooms for your children, too, I suppose. So! What do you think?” Xiaoli winked playfully at Hermes.

Hermes’ hand pressed against her own stomach as she listened intently, “It sounds like a dream,” She smiled, “A big family.” She barely said the words, but as if answering an unasked question. Hermes stared for a while longer, as if the images were real, when finally she craned her neck and looked up at Xiaoli, “You’re so good to me.” Xiaoli’s face turned completely pink and some steam rose up from under her hair, soliciting a cheshire smile.

Hermes paused, “What about you, what are your dreams?”

The steam subsided and her chalk-white colour returned. For a slight pause, she did not say anything.

“I-...” she finally said. “I… Don’t know. Upon my birth, I already possessed all the knowledge needed to perform my duties, and more; and yet, I cannot for the life of me imagine an existence beyond those duties.” She glanced over at Hermes, her eyes betraying a hint of anxiety. “In all honesty, Hermes… I’m terrified. My soul is divine and my mind is nearly unlimited in potential - yet I cannot fathom of a dream.” Pools began to well up in her large eyes and she immediately raised her hands to wipe them away.

Taking one of Xiaoli’s hands, Hermes laced her fingers with hers and held it up to her chin, “Xiaoli,” she said with a balance of care and seriousness, “What do you want, more than anything else?”

Xiaoli recoiled slightly, but didn’t let go of Hermes’ hand. “I-... I cannot say. It wouldn’t be-” She crashed against the house wall. She raised her eyes to look at Hermes’, but quickly cast them away. “It wouldn’t be appropriate…” she said somberly.

Pursing her lips, Hermes digested Xiaoli’s words, her mind abuzz, “Then you don’t have to tell me,” she offered, “But, make it happen, for you. If you want it, and you feel it is right, then a person as great as you should be able to have it.”

Xiaoli relaxed a little, chuckling softly; however, her laughter was laced with sorrow and her eyes were misty. “It would be nice… If it was that easy.” She took a deep breath. “... But this dream must also want me.” She looked at Hermes with large, quivering eyes before finally pulling away and moving to the doorway.

“I, uhm… I will see if I can find us something to eat, alright? I won’t be long.” She then promptly left.

Xiaoli’s fingers left a phantom sensation in Hermes’ hand. She was speechless as she watched Xiaoli leave, her brow furrowing in contemplation. Looking back down at her tingling hand, she closed it, letting it fall to her side.

She stood there frozen for a lot longer than she knew why, and then with a sudden resolve, she marched out of the house, Poppler zipping into her braid.

The immediate area was largely empty: The beach was only visited by the lapping waves; the mountain behind showed no sign of the river girl. Wherever she was, she had moved a distance away from the house.

Tapping her chin, Hermes zoomed off to the left, picking it over the right, remarking to herself on how quickly Xiaoli disappeared, or perhaps it was a testament to how long she really stood in silence.

The crags of the coast zipped by as Hermes continued her search. After not finding Xiaoli in the direction she chose, she decided to turn around and try the other way, blurring past the house again.

The other side of the island also proved fruitless - until Hermes spotted a series of small, twinkling lights by a rock, far out in the sea. Upon closer inspection, the twinkles shone through black strains and blue silk. This had to be her.

Thanking K'nell for her sandals (one time of many), Hermes fluttered over to the lone rock, her eyes focusing on the scene.

Xiaoli sat with her knees pressed against her chest and her forehead pressed against her caps. While the waves were tall and their sound deafening, none of them seemed to touch her, for some reason, and none of them could quite drown out the heartbreaking sounds of the river girl’s sobs. She appeared to not notice Hermes approaching, or was possibly just feigning ignorance.

Hermes’ heart dropped, her skin turning a light periwinkle. Doing her best to avoid the powerful waves, Hermes made her way to Xiaoli, all but crawling across the rock as she made her landing. She moved cautiously, sitting herself next to her friend. Not knowing what to do, she fiddled with her own hands, lifting and dropping an arm.

Xiaoli extended forth a hand, the rising heliopolis twinkling off the many grains of sand that made up her skin. She chuckled weakly and mumbled somberly, “I suppose I am pretty easy to find in the daylight, huh…” She looked to Hermes with red-ringed eyes and smiled.

“Don’t worry about me, dear Hermes. It just took a little longer than expected to find food around here. I will be back shortly. You can wait inside if you want.”

Squeezing Xiaoli's hand, for the first time actually feeling the grainy skin underneath, Hermes shook her head, “I'm not hungry. Food is stressful anyways,” she produced a small smile for her friend.

Xiaoli squeezed back, but proportionally weaker. She looked forward again, out to the sea. “My Lord would hate it here. It is much too salty for his liking. I, however, think that it’s rather magnificent. A large, empty land, uninterrupted by mountains or forests. Charming in a melancholic way, almost.” She let her eyes run over Hermes again.

“Her Holiness Ashalla really made you beautiful, you know.”

Hermes looked down at her lap, a lot of thoughts she never heard before bounding in her head. Looking back up she caught Xiaoli's eyes, “Xiaoli?” Her voice was cautious.

Xiaoli looked back. “Yes?”

“I know I just said you don't have to tell me,” She began, “But I'm worried. This seems like it's eating you up inside, and I don't know what to do or say.”

“My head,” Hermes continued, “It feels full lately, with new thoughts and ideas and dreams and-” she pursed her lips, her gaze unwavering, “and a lot of them are - well - with you.” She paused, “I guess what I'm trying to say, is whatever is making you sad, I want to help.”

Xiaoli’s face flushed. “A-a lot of them are-... With me?” She grew slightly smaller, but squeezed Hermes’ hand harder. “Please… Just leave it be…” She looked away again. “Please don’t give me hope like this…”

Hermes scooted closer, her shoulders now facing Xiaoli. She lifted her hands as if she was about to say something-

“You two were a lot easier to find than I thought.” Abanoc revealed himself suddenly, floating above the seawater. “Hermes, and Shenshi’s avatar, Xiaoli. I am Abanoc, and I hope you can spare a moment.”

Xiaoli very nearly jumped into the air. She very certainly spun around to face the god and, not wasting a single moment, slammed her forehead and palms to the ground, her pulse having audibly increased.

“Your Holiness Abanoc, forgive this uncultured servant for not noticing Your holy presence earlier. The transgression is unacceptable and this servant will not commit it again.” She maintained her pose after finishing her words.

Hermes completely froze, her eyes staring hard at the God. It took her a second but soon her eyes softened to something friendlier, “Oh!,” She stole a cue from the situation, and managed to force something of a smile, “Of course, how can we help, Abanoc?”

“There’s no need for formalities, Xiaoli. If anything I’m the one in need of being pardoned for disturbing your privacy.” He approached the two girls and sat down on the rock near them. “I have been tasked with observing Galbar and what transpires in it and in doing so I have repeatedly seen your interactions with other deities. You’ve piqued my interest and I wish to aid you as well.”

“That's very thoughtful of you,” Hermes replied, her mind still adjusting to the sudden change in topic. She shifted to better face Abanoc, the radiation of the conversation prior hot on her back, “what do you have in mind?”

“I came in hope of teaching you a few things. As a scholar I gathered much knowledge in my days as a mortal and saw in you the opportunity to pass on some of it.”

Hermes cocked her head to the side, her usual curiosity back in her voice, “You were a mortal?” Xiaoli raised her torso, trying as discreetly as possible to wipe the tears out of her eyes.

“Yes, as in fact several of the other deities that formed this world were. The sovereign created the base and we were to improve it. He pulled souls from many places, some were divine from the start, others not so.”

Hermes folded her legs and sat upright, “I never heard any of this -- the sovereign?”

“The Architect, as he calls himself. He is the sovereign for he is above even us gods.”

Shocked, Hermes looked over at Xiaoli as if to relay her surprise, only for her stomach to twist when Xiaoli's eyes reminded her of their unended conversation. It took her a few seconds, but she managed to peel her eyes back to Abanoc, “So,” she cleared her throat, “The Architect made the gods into gods?”

“Yes.”

“Many remember their previous lives to different extents, though some barely remember it at all, according to my Lord. His Lordship himself can no longer recall his existence before Creation,” Xiaoli added, lowering her sleeve from her eyes. “Though forgive this servant for asking, Your Holiness: What piqued Your Holiness’ interest in us, in particular? What have we done to attract the attention of Your exalted presence?”

“You seek to learn new things, no?”

“Yes,” Hermes answered simply, fighting through a combination of curiosity and concern.

Xiaoli got to her feet and bowed. “Ah, naturally. It is always a joy to learn. As His Lordship’s advisor, it… It is expected of this servant to learn, after all.” She looked down for a moment. “Pardon this servant’s insolence, Your Holiness, but could this servant make a request?” She got back on her knees and prostrated herself once more.

“Ask away. I am here to teach after all.”

Xiaoli sat back up, but hesitated for a moment. “H-how fares… His Lordship, if this servant may ask?” she finally managed to say after a pause. Hermes eyes flickered between the two.

“He appeared to be looking for you. The last I saw of him he was speaking with Asceal. He seems deeply troubled.”

“R-really? He is-... Looking for me?” Her voice betrayed both joy and shame. “... And he is troubled… My absence must have disrupted his work! Does… Does Your Holiness know where His Lordship is?” Her voice turned near desperate causing a twist to form in Hermes’ face.

“He searched for you in your birthplace. He may not be there anymore, however. I cannot see much of Galbar being this close.”

Xiaoli rocketed back to her feet and looked southwards. “My birthplace… S-... Shengshi…” Her tears welled up and she covered her mouth with both hands. She turned to Hermes, then back to the south.

“Hermes, I…”

“We can go,” Hermes announced, eyes firm.

Xiaoli looked at Hermes with a loving smile, but then turned to Abanoc to bow yet again. “Your Holiness, forgive us for not including Your exalted presence in the conversation. It is the truest of honours to be within Your sacred aura, yet this servant confesses she has asked all that she had on her mind. She hopes His Holiness has no qualms about that.”

“If that was all you wished to learn, then so be it. And forgive me for disturbing you, it was not my intention to do so.” He then turned his gaze to Hermes. “And what questions would you have?”

Hermes was pulled from her thoughts, her eyes turning to Abanoc with furrowed brows, “I have so many questions, and so many things I want to learn,” she pursed her lips, “but I think with this new information about Shengshi, time may be against my own curiosity.”

“Oh, don’t be silly, Hermes. Ask away! I doubt His Lordship is going anywhere now that he is home.” Xiaoli smiled, but there was something about her eyes; a worried stare that outright contradicted her statement.

“No,” Hermes shook her head, “another time, or another way.”

Standing up, Hermes walked over to Abanoc, and without a word pressed her finger on his cheek, “Thank you.”

“If have no questions then I will not press on it, however...” He materialized a small book on his hands and gave it to Hermes. “You may find answers here for when I cannot provide them myself.”

Xiaoli quickened to, as if remembering something. “But Hermes!” She walked over to grab her hand and squeezed it tightly. “Your… Your dream.” Her gaze was fixed on the Dreamer’s stomach.

“We cannot leave yet! We have yet to see Arae.”

“I know,” Hermes produced a small smile, squeezing her hand back, while accepting the book with the other, “But she could be away for a long time, and we know where Shengshi is.”

Letting out a long sigh she looked at Abanoc, “I want you to know how much I appreciate this, perhaps you already know, but someday I intend to be a teacher like you.”

“I do know of it and I hope you perform grandly. And one more thing.” Abanoc materialized a leather bag on his hands and gave it to Hermes as well. “You carry many a thing with you, this’ll help with storing your belongings.” Xiaoli gaped and clapped excitedly.

“Such magnificent work, Your Holiness!” she exclaimed.

Hermes seemed to brighten tremendously as this, her very color changing to a sunny yellow, “This… Is…” Her cheshire smile emerged, “perfect!”

Wasting no time she slipped the book into the bag and quickly strapped her weapons to the side. Sliding her arms through the hoops and slinging it onto her back she gave out a relieved sigh, “I don't know how many times I almost dropped Xiaoli due to the awkwardness of the spear,” she extended her arms, the weight finally manageable.

“I’d rather not have known that, honestly,” Xiaoli said in a mixture of playfulness and concern. She suddenly gave Hermes a serious stare. “Are you certain about this, Hermes? His Holiness Abanoc can teach you all you could ever ask, and Arae will finally make you fertile when she arrives. Why would you sacrifice all that for my sake?”

The sunny yellow faded as Hermes was confronted with her thoughts again. Managing her smile she shook her head, “I'm sure. I care, about you, we need to do this.”

Xiaoli blinked and her skin turned pink. She whispered something under her flustered breath, one of the words rhyming with ‘dove’, for some reason.

“I'm sure we will meet again, when there is plenty of time for learning,” Hermes looked to Abanoc. She gave a quick glance to the island behind them, all but whispering a vow, “I'll be back.”

“Very well.” He said standing up. “Until then study the book daily. If you wish to find me look for the stone book atop the mountains of Pāṟa, it’ll take you to my home. Farewell for now, I will not bother you further. Abanoc took the air again and left Hermes and Xiaoli.

When the god had left, Xiaoli did not hesitate. She skipped over to Hermes and threw her arms around her in a tight hug, squeezing so hard that some of the water underneath her skin began to squirt out. “Thank you - thank you so much, my Hermes,” she whispered.

Initially caught by surprise, Hermes was pulled from her thoughts. Wrapping her arms around Xiaoli, she squeezed back in silence, a soft smile on her face and a warm sensation in her stomach. “I care,” was all she managed before suddenly turning into a blur.

From the Dragon’s crown, the trio rocketed southward as a comet of colours.




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Luis drifted idly though the sky, having been left alone again as his creator again after she had once again been distracted by another god. The first time this happened was when she and Ashalla wandered off to look at some reef somewhere, and now, after she had come to find him roaming the skies above the ocean west of the Malstorm, she had done it again when she had spotted the mirrored version of the home built on Li’s Island. The great floating whale did not mind this too much but he was glad to see her again when the glowing parrot flew up to meet him.

”Hello Azura, you’re look like you are feeling a lot better.” he greeted her, noting the wonder a bath and rest had done for her appearance.

”I am. I feel re-invigorated and ready to get back to work.” she responded as she came to a stop before him, her mood having also picked up like her appearance. ”Would you like to come with me?” she then asked.

”Yes” Luis responded slowly. Even though the answer seemed to him like a forgone conclusion his massive sluggish mind always took its time to think things through. This made him quite the contrast to his impulsive creator and resulted in their conversations occur in bursts, with Luis taking his time to respond while Azura was right on his tail ever time he finished speaking. ”What work is there to be done?”

”Now that I have my strength back I have one last vital piece of my soul preservation plan left to create.” She explained as they turned and began to fly north ”You remember what I told you about Katharsos and the fate of the dead?”

”Yes. The souls dead go to his fires to burn but you have found a way to make them not go away and have a place to store them at the north pole.” he answered once his mind had dredged up the memory. He had so few, and yet his mind was already prepared for the day when he would have millions.

”Exactly. But the problem is that, although I have somewhere i can put the saved souls, I can’t be everywhere to save everyone when they die, so I need others who can go find those about to meet their end so they can save them in my stead. Preventing either their first death if we are lucky, or their last if we are not. I just need to work out exactly what to make to fulfill that task. They need to be friendly, and fast and strong and so many other things to perform their duty correctly. Not scaring mortals they come to save is also important… hmmm” she said, before going quiet, presumably to contemplate the problem.

Luis thought about this for quite a while as well and then asked ”Could I do that for you?”

”Hmmm?” she responded, broken out of her musings, ”No no no no. I’ve put you though quite enough already. Besides, you can't be everywhere either.”

”oh.” he responded disappointedly, before asking ”What are you doing after this?”

”I’m going to make weapons, and use them to invade the realm of death to steal the souls of the people still remain unburned. Before you ask, no, you don’t need to help me with that. I cant put you in harms way again.” she responded

”Why not? I want to help.” he insisted

”Because it was wrong of me to do so in the first place.” Azura responded in frustration, thought that frustration seemed leveled as much at herself as it was at him ”I should never have made something as intelligent as you as a moon shield, nor should I have made the gardeners so intelligent. I mean you needed to be smart to complete the tasks I gave you, but in the end I brought you all into this world only for you to suffer and die and burn! I had no right to make you. I’m sorry I did.” Azura cried, having got very worked up about this very quickly.

Luis was quiet for quite a while before responding ”I’m glad you made me. The start hurt a bit, but everything after that has been nice. Helping you made me happy.”

”Because I made you that way… I made clever creatures and then bolted instructions onto their minds. You’d probably feel terrible if you weren't able to help me right?”

”hmmm. Probably. It was lonely once the storm was in place. I went looking for you. I’m glad we found each other again.” he agreed.

”The Gardners are probably the same.” she said sorrowfully ”I hope they are ok.”




Upon the Kick a great congregation had amassed. Thousands of Gemstone gardeners of all 5 kinds had met there after planting the rest of the island with seeds from all across the globe. In a mass shouting match they discussed the one great issue plaguing their kind.

“The southern land is covered in forest that grew on its own!” cried one

“The spiny lands have trees already, and they walk around!” one horrified bird explained

“A little cloud zapped me there!” another complained

“I was planting to the south and then everything caught fire and now the seeds won’t grown in the sand there” a slightly singed bird said

“Above that I was planting and then there was blood everywhere and everything grew super fast.” said another who bathed far more often than was necessary

“Weird cat bird thing ate one of us down there so we beat it up!” announced a very heavily scared and yet very proud Emerald Kea

“I helped! A god touched me and now I am amazing!” declared a Blood Cockatoo that had managed to stick a Griffin feather in its head plumage as decoration

“There are no new worlds left to garden!” the all cried

“So what are we going to do now?” they asked

“There's this island to the west of the big other one. Everything glows there like us but not quite the same. I couldn’t plant anything there but it was nice.” a bird mentioned

“I think the nice glowly lady who healed me lives there?” said another who had been a survivor of the Phoenix’s attack on the eye of desolation.

“Should we go there then?” some asked

There was quite a bit of pondering about this

“Sure, why not?” was the general consensus.

Thus began a great migration of a vast and colorful flock up to tendlepog, across to Swahhitteh, after which they tool a a short skip around the maelstrom to mount chop and then across all of Atokhkwoi till at last they arrived at the glowing island of Istasis.

“This is nice.” was the general consensus of the congregation before it dispersed across the island.




The Giant bird and giant whale had flown in silence for quite some time now. Luis had been contemplating, his mind running in circles of logic. He liked Azura, but he only liked her because she made him too, but he didn't want to not like her, but that was because he was made that way and so on. Azura herself seemed to be moping. Eventually he came to decision. ”The birds. I met some while you were away. They’ve been dying and go to the fires right?”

”Yes. I saw some when I went there, but could not free them alone. Aceal will help me next time. As will the allies she.. makes” Azura trailed off before Luis interjected with a surprising degree of haste ”Then I want to help them. Because they are like me. I don’t want them to burn. That's something I want to do on my own right? Not something you told me to do?”

”I… Yes… yes it is. I gave you empathy, like I gave you reason, but the idea is yours. You want to do it even though I said you shouldn't? Its to dangerous, there will be fighting and you are not made for that. You are big and slow and soft and Katharsos will tear you apart.” she responded eventually

”Then please make me stronger Azura. Give me the power to help them” he requested, not adding that he also wanted it so he could help her. It wasn't what Azura needed to here, he concluded.

”But you might die!” she responded, near terrified by the prospect

”If I do then you will preserve me?” he asked

”of course!” she promised

”Then I have nothing to fear.” he concluded.

”Ok.” she responded softly, uncertainly, before repeating herself more resolutely ”Ok. I’ll do it. I think i have an idea as to how to do this.”

And so she sang, and as she sang soul ash and wind solidified from the air, forming crystal and Luft stone at her command.

“Construct your life and death are one
Yet your souls shall not be undone
With your armor made of mighty stone
You will protect Luis’s flesh and bone
With simple mind with life un-living
Bare the brunt of foes unforgiving
Yet in this you will not be alone
For the fallen you will give a home
Willing spirits will join the fight
To aid this world's first Knight!”


What formed out of woven song, air and soul was a cross between a construct like the ones managing the Vault of souls and one of Azura’s floating temple, all scaled to be just a smidgen longer that Luis. It had a large flat top that was shaped like his head and its own jointed tail that lazily swept back and forth in the wind. Atop its flat space where a number of flat buildings containing vaults for storing souls. These however were not the same plain shelves as could be found in the vault, but where instead metal devices that held the crystals in place, keeping them from falling and letting them drive additional power into the stone creature to increase its power if they wished.

Along with these storage places where about two dozen of small constructs attached to its body, all roughly the height of a regular humanoid. Each was a stocky blocky legless torso bearing two rectangular arms. A single crystal sat where the construct’s head would be that controlled the construct, while four more were found at the ends of the arms, forming two claws on each limb. Finally the construct had a crew of beings that where a lot like the curators of the vault of souls which performed the same role as the ones in the vault, namely sorting and storing soul crystals, though instead of mining equipment the curators where instead capable of building with Luft stone, allowing them to make limiter repairs to their living home.

Beneath it where hundreds of rib like limbs that rocked back and forth idly, making it appear to be some bizarre centipede whale skeleton hybrid. At its front was a singular massive crystal that sat just about where the creatures brain could be expected to be, which spiked up like a massive glowing horn from its forehead. Here it seemed lay the mind of the vast machine creature.

Luis looked upon this strange monster with a hint of distaste at its many limned nightmarishness. As if reading his mind, though the goddess had assured him when they had met for the second time that she would not, Azura said:

“Ah. That looks a little more disturbing that I meant it too. To many legs. Still, I’m quite sure it will look alot better when you put it on”

”Put it on?” He asked, having almost forgotten what the point of the exercise had been, so in awe was he of the goddess’s ability to form something so massive out of thin air.

“Yes. Like armor. I have to thank you by the way, making this has given me a much better understanding of the art of soul crystallization. I think I’ve more or less mastered it. Which means I believe imparting this piece of power to link you to this creature will be a simple task. Do I have your permission to add a power and knowledge to your mind?”

”To make me stronger? Yes” he responded, at which point Azura sang again

“Soul in flesh and soul in stone
To one another you are known
Construct give him power
So that he need never cower
Luis lend this tool your mind
And to your will it will bind
Now as one machine and master
will stand strong against disaster!”


The song flowed into him and all at once Luis became aware of the mind is dwelling within that body of stone and crystal. He reached out with his mind and found it accepted this mental connection without comment or hesitation.

Hello. What is your name? he thought to it. Its response was a cold, rigid and emotionless one that sounded a touch like Azura if all life and spirit had been drained away from her.This one greets you. This one is named as Luis’s Armor it responded, before adding. This one awaits your instructions
Not entirely sure how to proceed he attempted to emulate his first conversation with Azura where when asked the same question he had told her that he was called the Eclipse Whale. He removes the self deprecation she had shown from the response and saidThat's not really a name. What would you like to be called? but unfortunately it responded This one does not understand your question.

”I do not understand this person.” he told Azura

“That is because it is not a person. I have realized my mistake with making you and the Gardeners. To make a mind and then inprint instructions on it was thoughtless and I am forever sorry that I did that to you. Here instead there are only instructions with no mind attached. In this case it knows how to work for you, with you, to make you stronger, but little else. Look closer and you will see that you can probably understand the contents of its mind in a way that we never could if it were another person. It is just that simple a soul.”

Peer closer he did, and indeed he could see the instructions somewhat, though they were mostly incomprehensible to him. Perhaps if he dedicated his time to examining it he could come to understand it. He wondered if this was how Azura saw him, of if she spoke honestly when she said they were the same kind of being. This one awaits your instructions it reminded him with utter insurgency that still conveyed something akin to impatience.

”It keeps asking me for instructions.” he told Azura, ”what should I tell it to do?”

“I would suggest telling it to armor you. Then ask it for help and it will tell you all you can do together”

When he did so it told him to Please remain still. This one is initiating the armor donning process. Then it approached and set itself over him, its many limbs spreading wide to engulf him before it descended. The construct touched down gently and then embraced him, it’s many limbs wrapping down around his face and body. Everywhere it touched him he could feel a strange sensation as it gripped onto his very soul for purchase, the very outer edges of his very being becoming solid and linking with the construct till he and it where as one. It was took him a great effort of will to remain calm as he was engulfed, yet once it was in place the armor felt natural as his skin, a part of him he never knew he was missing. Gazing down at the the water he could see himself reflected in the blue waves, a knight in stone armor that moved with him as one. The creepy legs and closed together to form a breastplate that guarded his underside, while the crystal that housed the constructs mind was placed directly above his forehead, making the pair’s minds extremely close to one another. He could feel the other augmenting his mind, making parts of him run faster than his sluggish meat brain could ever hope to.

You are now armored it announced once the process was complete. Let evil tremble before your might! it added, in a flare of emotion that made it sound a lot more like Azura than it normally did, before it repeated that This one awaits your instructions in the same dull voice.

Interesting. Luis’s…. You need a better name. Azura was awful naming things Luis’s armor, you are now called Bruna. Do you understand.

This one acknowledges your instructions. This one will now respond to the name ‘Bruna’. it confirmed

Good. Now. Bruna. Can you help me? he asked as Azura had instructed, only for his mind to be swamped with information about Bruna’s capabilities. While he was trying to absorb it all Azua asked him “Do you like it?”

”This is a lot to take in” he responded, and indeed it was. ”I’m not sure how soon I will be useful to you.”

“It’s fine. Once we get to the north pole you will have time to practice while I make more tools and weapons.” she told him and indeed they where. It took them only a short while to reach the pole, the sea turning to ice below them, then to snow covered mountains and plains. It was rather bleak and sad compared to the vibrant oceans and lands found to the south. Azura did not stop them here however, but instead brought them up towards the top of the central mountain, and it was there where Luis got to enter the Blue for the first time. He had always been able to see the strange buildings and small creatures fluttering around the Blue as he brought the day sky with him wherever he went, but could never touch them. Here however was a world above the clouds, full of color and wonder.

“Welcome home.” Azura told him.

And she was right. This was home.






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