Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Lord Zee
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Lord Zee There must always be... A Zee

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Goddess of Rain
8 FP - 13 MP

Orvus silently floated across the vast ocean of Ashalla, going not in any particular direction. He had far too much on his mind to actually think about a destination. Arya was chief among those thoughts, and always his choice he had to make, one day.

Eventually, Orvus spotted an island in the distance, teeming with life. Vibrant and green, above all else he felt the presence of a God. Li’Kalla to be precise, the Goddess of Rain. He had not met her, in fact, he only knew her by name. He wondered what she looked like, but other then that, he continued on his way. There was no point in finding another sibling, especially one who probably regarded life just like the others.

He passed over the island, seeing nothing of great interest besides, well, a lot of water. Eventually Orvus began to pass over spires of somesort. Very crude looking things, made of mud and what he thought was clay. Upon closer inspection, he even creatures in abundance. Little mounds of dirt and clay and mud that seemed to… roll about.


”Ah!” A small yelp came from the other side of a large spire, carrying with it a splattering noise and a gasp, ”Oh, sorry Rick’Ard! I-I didn’t mean to hurt you, it’s just Chopstick Eyes...” The soft voice trailed off, muttering apologies and excuses to a being whose presence was so diminutive, it might as well be invisible.

The voice that broke his silence was obnoxiously loud, and seemed to shout around the entire world. When it finished, Orvus still had no idea what this ‘chopstick eyes’ was besides his minut understanding from the Architect. But before he could even think about that, another voice, one much closer broke not far from him.

Thus, whether he wanted to or not, Orvus would investigate, finding the blue Goddess mucking around with the same creatures he had seen before. He floated up behind her, and watched with impassive eyes. She was… playing?

She giggled as a small clump of slightly dry mud made its way down the side of the nearest spire, rolling towards her excruciatingly slowly. After a moment, she tensed up.

It was sudden. In a explosion of movement, she turned around and crawled back several meters! She hid behind the clump -- which was actually too small to even cover her foot -- and screamed. “AAAAH! I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING, HE CAME WITH ME, I DIDN’T TAKE HIM FROM HIS LITTLE CLUMP FAMIL-”

She froze, looking at the hazy, shadowy figure floating before her. Tall as the most elite of knights, with the same look in his eyes… Even though this entity’s were different in appearance, there was the same suffocating aura. She tried to speak, but she couldn’t open her mouth. She just stared back at him.

Moments passed, and she sat on her ankles and slowly, carefully draped an arm, shakily, over her chest and averted her eyes.

“... O-Orvus, correct?”

Orvus watched the peculiar sight unfold before him, his sister was a strange one, and her outburst was unwarranted. Regardless, she was obviously afraid of him. The way her face froze in fear, and how she averted her gaze, and covered herself. It was odd, but a small part of it felt strangely good.

”Correct.” he stated flatly.

”...” Li’Kalla’s lip quivered, and her right wing started to twitch. ”Um, this i-is Rick’Ard. He’s a m-mud clump I found n-near my m-” She spoke, her voice gradually rising in tone until she just squeaked and closed her eyes tightly.

Orvus cocked his head to the side as she began to speak. She wasn’t just afraid of him, she was terrified and Orvus knew that feeling all too well. Did he inspire so much fear, or was it something else entirely? Regardless, it began to pain him to see her in such a state, to see her just like he had been and so Orvus fell to the ground, his feet silently hitting earth. He crouched before her, in a less threatening posture, and looked to this ‘Rick’Ard’ she spoke of. It was a creature of mud, carrying the smallest of souls inside of it. Disappointing but not surprising. He looked back to Li’Kalla and realized that she was… naive, almost innocently so.

After a moment, Orvus’ eyes seemed to frown slightly, and when he spoke, his voice was soft, ”Li’Kalla. I’m not going to hurt you. So tell me, where did you find this, ‘Rick’Ard’?”

Li’Kalla hesitatingly opened her left eye first, and upon seeing nothing suspicious, she relaxed a little. However, she never took her arm off her body. ‘That’s what they always say,’ She thought, ‘Not going to hurt me…’

She took in a deep breath and gave a little flap of her wings. ”I-I found him near my home, the Manor, M-Mister Orvus. They all came about during this reaaaally long, tiresome rain… I saw Rick’Ard, he rolled toward me and I-I gave him his name and took him with me on a small flight.” She shrank a little, and sighed ”I-I think he’s only with me because he likes the water on my skin, though.”

”I see.” he seemed to whisper. Li’Kalla was like a child...and another chord seemed to strike inside of him, reminding Orvus of Arya. ”Water has many uses. If anything, you are giving that creature life, and in return, he is making you… happy.” he said unsure of himself. Quickly he asked, ”Do you enjoy flying?”

Li'Kalla perked up and nodded, “Oh, yes! I-I'm fairly new to it, but Sis Azura taught me. Have you met her? She's really nice.” Li'Kalla said with a faint smile.

Orvus briefly remembered that he had crashed through The Blue once, killing several creatures as he went. But said, ”Hmm. No, I have not met Azura, but I’ll take your word for it.” Orvus paused, ”Your wings are… good? To fly, I mean.” he asked again.

The Goddess grinned at the mention of her wings and flapped them proudly, “Yes! They're super good and warm and dry. After Azura taught me how to fly, I can get around the Island very quickly. You could probably grow wings too, Mister Orvus. I can give you some feathers to get started with like Azura did with me and you can use them as a starting point!”

Orvus thought for a moment, but realized wings weren’t really his style. ”I am honored that you think me worthy of some of your feathers, but I cannot take them. Wings may suit you and Azura, but I think another way might work for me.” he said softly.

“Like what?” Li'Kalla asked equally softly, tilting her head curiously.

”Hmm. Long have I pondered this. Floating about is so… slow my dear. At least for me. I desire to travel quickly, through even spheres. Here, watch.” Orvus said, slowly standing up. And he looked up to the stars, beginning to float, but quickly stopped and looked down to Li’Kalla.

”I have a gift for you.” he said, and like before, he willed into existence a small ring made of Orvium and it too was dotted with bright stars that seemed to shimmer. He floated it over to Li’Kalla. ”Wear it, or do not, I do not mind either way. It does nothing, at least not for one such as you, but, it does look… pretty, does it not?”

Li'Kalla breathed an evident sigh of relief upon seeing the ring, a sudden tension having taken hold of her upon mention of a gift. Her eyes lit up when she laid them on the beautiful ring, and she thankfully took it in her hands, inspecting it for a moment with her fingers before sliding it onto her left hand's index finger. “I-It's beautiful, thank you! How did you fit stars insid-” Li'Kalla stopped and chuckled, “Huh, that's a dumb question, isn't it Mr. Orvus?”

Orvus’s eyes seemed to smile before they quickly became stone once again. He said, ”No, not a dumb question. Just a curious one. It was nice meeting you Li’Kalla. Perhaps we shall see each other again… one day. Now, goodbye.” Orvus said, before looking back up at the stars.

He then willed himself to fly as fast as he could, then faster and faster and in the blink of an eye he exited the Atmosphere and was well on his way to his own sphere. To Li’Kalla, she would have seen Orvus for a brief moment before he cast himself into the stars like a comet, leaving behind a very loud WHUMP, as the sound barrier was broken.

Once her wince at the loud sound subsided, she looked up at the spot in the sky Orvus had disappeared in, and pursed her lips.

“He felt… Different, didn't he, Rick'Ard? Like he wasn't complete. Well, at least he can fly now.” She muttered to the mud clump as she scooped it up in her hands and flapped her wings powerfully, beginning the flight back to her Manor.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Lauder
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Lauder The drunk kind of hero

Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago

The travel back to Galbar had been a pleasant one, much unlike the effort and trickery Eurysthenes had imposed upon him in his travels to the Sky of Pyres. Despite the setback, however, Vakk would remain triumphant and his goals would be furthered. His form glided across the ocean’s surface, his tendrils dancing across the water, spraying the liquid into the air as he began approaching the small island that housed his gateway back to his home. For far too long, Vakk had been outcast from his own home for far too long, and if he were going to enact his plans (and revenge), it was going to be within the comforts of the Realm of Talk.

His tendrils pulled the small soul of Atmav forward and he could not help but contain a chuckle, knowing all to well the torture he would impose upon her for stealing his victory from him, thus outcasting him to this existence. Vakk gazed upon her for a moment, before letting out a sigh, knowing that it was not her wish to be sent here either. That was the fault of Vakk, but any feeling of remorse was sent away as he focused on his own sadistic desires. Yet, as he traveled to the entrance of his home, the thought continued to plague him as despite all the torture he inflicted upon others, namely Li’Kalla and Eurysthenes, Vakk knew deep in the back of his mind that souring relationships with potential assets were something he could not afford.

The entrance now stood in front of him, and the thoughts were pushed even further back as he could hear the whisper of the riddle, ”That which I am speaking of belongs to another, not myself. This may confuse some, though it is clear as day. What do I speak of?” Soon, the whisper was drowned out by the talk of the few echoes that escaped from the sphere, yet Vakk would focus on the riddle alone. He knew not of what he had stolen, as the riddle was made for Vakk’s purpose. The riddle had been made to be given to Vakk. There was no other that it could belong to, but even then did Vakk know that Eurysthenes was ever sly and confusing. The Lord of Talk and Manipulation knew all too well what the riddle’s answer was now, his time in the maze had shown him this. Eurysthenes still believed the riddle belonged to him, simply for having been the one to gift it to Vakk.

It was at this point did something creep back into Vakk’s mind, the Box of Orchestration. He had made that for Li’Kalla, thus it was hers and she could treat how she wanted. Yet, he could not help but feel insulted knowing that she would simply leave it to the elements. How could he have known it would have an adverse effect on her?

”The riddle,” Vakk said, his deepened voice silencing those echoes who had gone astray. He had to stay focused on his task, the very one he had to put effort into achieving. Eurysthenes maddening laugh could quietly be heard, Vakk knew he had gotten the riddle correct and proceeded to enter the cave system. It had been too long, yet Vakk knew the exact path he had crafted to get to the Realm of Talk. Following the echoes and whispers until finally, he entered nothing but darkness. The only thing to accompany him was his own reflection, further ahead than him and copying his motions as he moved forwards. Surprisingly, he was not happy to be back in his home, but he was not sad either.

The Lord of Talk stopped, his reflection disappearing and the darkness surrounding him. It allowed him to contemplate, at least for a little, as he began to recollect on his journey. It was a success, but he knew that it was not optimal with all the trouble Eurysthenes had caused him. However, he could count on Katharsos being friendly, Melantha was something to watch as it seemed she could see through his motives He had learned much. He had learned to not make unnecessary enemies, to use his magic sparingly, and, perhaps most importantly, to use his words to gain control.

”Perhaps the future will bare more fortunate outcomes,” Vakk said to himself, bringing the soul of Atmav to his face before letting it fall from his tendrils. He watched it fall before a terrible grin come across his face, ”However, your future will not be so kind.”

He spun his tendrils around the soul, catching it before it hit the ground. Then, his tendrils began to move around one another, snaking their way around what would be the form of the body; the head, neck, waist, wings, all it was perfectly traced by Vakk’s touch. Then the screaming began, as blue lights shown through small gaps, the arc of arcane lightning shot through, gliding across the tendril. The screams became louder and louder as the lights furiously danced and thick smoke began to escape through the cracks. Vakk’s tormented laughs began to follow as he painfully began to reconstruct Atmav’s body, piece by agonizing piece. It had seemed like mere moments had passed for Vakk before Atmav’s body had been finished, and he acquiesced his grip, setting the mortal upon the ground.

Her first experiences was that of agonizing pain, jolts of electricity hitting her very soul before her body was painfully being reconstructed. There was no rhyme or reason to how she had been reconstructed either, her wings having been made separately from her body which had been stabbed into what could have been called a spine. Her head was momentarily attached to her arm before a painful separation and reattachment to the appropriate part of her body. It had been the most excruciating thing she had felt and her screams ripped at her vocal cords, making them coarse and almost lifeless.

Atmav could only give a small sigh of relief when her torturous creation had been completed, only for her to be thrown into a pure black ground. She let out a groan, she could feel the steam lift off her body and she could barely see it move upwards. Her vision was hazy and her breath was slowed just enough due to feeling that she may just die.

However, her mind raced as it retraced its steps.

The fight.

Something jabbed her stomach forcing her from her thoughts, the hit had sent her legs and upper body reaching for the air before she turned and held herself up. On her hands and knees, she gasped for air before something massive slammed into her back, forcing her body to the ground once more.

The portal.

Slowly, with aching muscles and joints, did she began to force herself up, hands and knees supporting her as she shakily breathed. Atmav looked up, to see the being that was causing so much pain to her, only to find the massive base of flesh. She followed the base upwards, occasionally getting lost in the many tendrils of the creature, before she was essentially looking straight into the air. What she saw was a being of flesh and teeth, a horrid amalgamation of features made her skin crawl as she instinctively reached for a weapon that she did not have.


”You still chose to go for a weapon rather than look in awe upon my form,” the being chuckled insidiously, his voice shaking her to her very core.

Atmav had not been one to know much fear, she had always thought with her weapons and skill at arms, but this was a being she could not fight. She had not seen anything that had resembled this creature before and she could only stare as horror-filled what small amount of facial features she had. A moment of silence passed between the two before Atmav had finally mustered up the courage to talk to what towered before her.

“Who- who are you?” A fear-filled voice asked.

”I? You do not remember me, Atmav? After you denied me my victory over the Endless Talk?”

She kept quiet for a few moments before she cocked her head to the side, her fuzzy memories began to return to her. This being could not be the same one she had fought mere moments before her own death. That being had, at the very least, been honorable, a fighter, and a bit of a talker. This thing was certainly not…something so grotesque.


The titan let out a low rumble which could be acquainted with satisfaction, a simple confirmation that needs no more words. She felt his tendrils suddenly wrap around her and she pointlessly struggles to break free for a few moments as Vakk lifted her into the air.

”It is fitting that I should be the one to revive you. You caused my death and yet, I bring you life. A delicate balance that needn’t be disturbed any longer.”

Atmav would have furrowed her brows if she had the facial capacity to manage such a task, but the confusion was certainly there. Was he implying that she should be grateful for being brought back from death? Or had it been some strange attempt to mock her? She couldn’t tell before Vakk wrapped a tendril around her throat, slowly tightening and making it harder and harder to breathe. It had already been hard to draw a full breath, but now it was almost suffocating as Vakk only allowed in enough air for her to survive.

”I am a god now, Atmav. I can control every facet of your body and personality as I wish. You are my puppet!” his terrible voice marred her ears and his terrible laugh rung throughout her head. His laughter soon died out as he began to speak once more, ”I do plan to return home and finish what I have started. This time, you will not be in my way.”

“Then why bring me back from death? Surely I would be better that way,” Atmav snapped, continuing to struggle before the grip around her neck tightened. She gasped for air, coughing and internally pleading for the torment to end.

”Trust me, I do want you dead. However, watching you be helpless and inevitably falling from your morals is much sweeter of a fruit.” Vakk said, the humor in his voice slowly turning to a sadistic anger. For a few moments, it seemed that he would end Atmav, before his grip on her neck loosened, sending into a coughing fit as she could finally breathe again. ”There is still time for you to willingly come to my side. You can end this torture by merely pledging your allegiance to me. Then perhaps, I can take you back to our home.”

“You know I can’t do that. My honor… my family. I cannot betray my oath,” she coughed looking at the ground.

”Then you leave me no choice,” Vakk rumbled, he turned his head for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. ”I could easily turn your mind. In fact, it would be so incredibly effortless, that it would be the best option for me to do. Yet, I am not done satisfying my own sadistic pleasure, so for now…”

He slammed her into the ground.

”Jīvikkuka, pratidhvani!” An invisible pulse went throughout the blackened realm, pushing Atmav even further into the ground.

”Keep her from leaving, my echoes. Do not kill her.”

Slowly, she got to her feet, looking up at where Vakk had been, though now he was gone. In his place, she saw a single pair of glowing, white eyes, only for another pair to open up next to that. She looked around and noticed these beings surrounded her. Their forms were almost indistinguishable from that of natural background of the hell she was in. Whispers could be heard coming from their spiritual forms. ‘Leaving’, ‘echoes’, their voices repeated what she had heard Vakk say.

She wanted to leave, but she knew it was suicide. Atmav sat, gazing at the beings around her.

‘Soul’ one said.

‘Mine’ another.




”SOUL KILL MINE” They said in unison, she could vaguely see hands reaching for her. They flew towards her but were stopped by some force.

Atmav gazed into the abyss.

It stared back with many eyes.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

Member Seen 2 mos ago

FP: 03 MP: 09

The land fell quiet once more. K’nell stood atop his stony platform, arms raised in command, bizarre eyes twisting all about. A thought, one of millions, tickled his mind and his grin stretched. The divine energy that crackled in his soul warmed his corporeal body, and slowly he felt the changes. A great many flashes suddenly erupted from his form, blanketing the forest valley in splotches of light. All at once, there was a final bang, and there K’nell stood, newly formed.

What was once a face dominated by an uncomfortable smile was now that of a man. A gentleman’s grin formed on a clean shaven face, well kept alabaster hair flowing down from the top of his head and brushing his shoulders. A regal nose sat center, and instead of eyes of spiraling madness, now stood two wizened eyes of silvery grey, creases of age stretching from their sides. As Heliopolis reflected from them, however, light seemed to gleam and collect into the shape of a cheshire grin.

A hearty laugh bounced from K’nell, his clothes having kept their dark gentlemanly style, but all the same amused him. His silver buttoned jacket stretched down past his knees in a noble sweep, his pants were sturdy but stylish, hemmed by sleek boots. He pinched his cuffs, straightening the arms of his coat and gave a smiling look across Tendlepog with his new eyes.

“Hmm,” His grainy voice hummed, now ripe with the baritone of silvery experience. Suddenly his divine spark cracked and rumbled, his eyes sparking into a godly light, the great power wrapping his body in it’s glow, only to disappear a moment later. He blunk and moved his arms with a new found speed and control, the limitation of his reflexes fading as his perception also grew. The world opened up to his new senses, and he could feel himself in total control of himself like never before.

“Perfect,” He charmed as he cracked his new knuckles before placing in the air as if holding a large string instrumentt, “A duet of the brass and guitar,” he announced to nobody in particular, “with guests.”

Suddenly a phantom guitar appeared in his hands, rippling like the shadow of a flame. His new smile cracked a toothy smirk and suddenly his fingers scattered across the neck of the guitar with beyond divine precision and control, his other fingers moving as deliberate over the cords. His fingers were but a blur as his phantom music began.

Drums joined in, brass bellowed, and every so often, his hand would come down hard on his instrument, a lick of the phantom flame spitting away from the guitar and taking flight as the shadowy form of a crow with eyes of glowing coal. Each avian beast made this way would fly off without question, K’nell’s music filling the valley with intense vibrations, his new face aglow with joy.

Flocks of thousands and then tens of thousands ripped from his instrument, and each one he managed to watch as they made their maiden flight. Minutes passed, and so did miles, and he could still spot them in the distance, his fingers never missing a beat no matter the speed of the tune and then finally, with one last great shredding strum, his guitar exploded into an immense flock of shadowy crows, all taking to the air in different directions.

Silvery eyes followed the new breed as they flew from the god. Slowly, and gradually, images flooded the gods mind as well as distant sounds even beyond his improved reception. A wicked grin covered his face and he knew the shadow crows had done their job. He could see what they saw as they crossed oceans, hear what they heard as they flew over rippling waves, all safely tucked away into his divine mind. With a thought the connection was severed, with another, reopened. K’nell smiled a cheshire smile, one fit to match his eyes.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Not Fishing
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Not Fishing The Mediocre

Member Seen 13 hrs ago




“This is where the fun begins.” - Anakin Skywalker

Kalmar frowned with confusion upon witnessing Shengshi’s first insult toward him. Hadn’t their dispute been resolved? He thought they had come to an understanding. Then came further insults, as well as a threat. He felt Arryn’s rage which only served to amplify his own, and he was soon grinding his teeth and clenching his fists. That… that fool… His words had been clear.

”Insult me, deceive me, or threaten me again, and I will make you answer for it,” Kalmar repeated aloud.

And so the snake must answer for it.

He continued observing the memories. He witnessed Arya’s decision to send Arryn away, which caught him off guard, but he was unsure of her motives so he did not make any sudden judgement. Then he was disappointed to see that Arryn had fallen to despair afterward, and he saw the falcon’s conversation with Asceal. He saw her convince Arryn down a path of mild disloyalty, and then she decided to resolve his dispute before it became known.

Kalmar frowned. What gave her the right?

”You stay here,” he ordered Arryn, a slight growl in his voice, as he took flight and set off once again.

Arya awoke suddenly, her breath shallow and fast, almost as if she had a bad dream. As her eyes adjusted, she faced a strange sight, for some reason, she was looking down at her empty bed. She blinked once, twice, but the image still remained. She quickly looked around to find that the ceiling was extremely close to her, and only then did it set in that she was floating. Floating? Her eyes went wide as she began to panic, flailing about in the sheet that still covered her.

Not knowing what else to do, she screamed for help.

Not even a second passed before the door swung open. Ten servants stormed in, circling the screaming Arya in a primitive form of panic, each occasionally skipping into the air in an attempt to grab her. Most of them merely licked off her back and fell back into bed, though.

Arya was touched by the servants trying to get to her, but even their tiny bodies couldn’t quite reach. What else could she do? Could she move? Arya’s breath became slower as she began to calm down, panicking wasn’t that answer. In fact, she was probably in the safest place in the ship to figure this out. So, she moved her arms about, trying to see if that was what controlled her sudden floating self, but in actuality, it probably looked incredibly silly. When this did nothing, she let out a loud sigh and looked down at the water servants.

”Guys… Guys! Instead of jumping around, why don’t you try something else?” she said in a defeated manner.

The globules all stopped in their tracks to think, promptly exploding in a spectacle of water that doused the bed, the floor and all of Arya’s back.

She said nothing for a moment before she began to giggle, which then turned into full blown laughing. ”Guys!” she said with happy tears streaming down her face, ”That’s not what I had in mind.”

Another train of servants came in through the door, but upon seeing the puddles, they zoomed right back out. A moment later, they came in with towels and mops and began to wipe what had once been the other servants off the floor and the bed.

This display prompted Arya to laugh until her sides began to hurt, at the absolute absurdity of the entire situation. The water globules were so useless, but at the same time, they tried, even if it didn’t help. She had to get to her master, he would know what was wrong with her. If only she could just… just get there and suddenly her body began to move before it stopped. Her eyes went wide as her laughter was replaced by the clean up below her.

She was trying so hard to use her body to fly, that she hadn’t even thought about using her head! Arya spun herself around by using the ceiling, and faced the door. She then took a deep breath and thought about flying in that direction. Her body began to move, faster then she had anticipated and Arya ended up slamming into the wall opposite of the entryway. The blow stung a bit, but she shrugged it off, she had done it! Determination welled up inside of her, and Arya began the journey to her Master’s quarters, slowler this time. Every now and then, she would jerk faster then what she wanted. It was a challenge to maintain the proper speed, so it became her primary focus.

As she zoomed through the banquet hall, the ruckus below first redoubled, then stopped as all manners of servants had taken just a moment to use their poor excuses for perception and observe what was floating in the air above, prompting a mass popping of globules and subsequent dropping of cutlery and silverware. She soared up the stairwell and ended up in front of the gates to Shengshi’s chambres way faster than normal, just as the snake flung the doors open. He regarded Arya somberly, suspiciously and quizzically.

“I heard a ruckus,” he said. “Also, when did you learn to fly?”

Arya about flew into Shengshi but stopped in her tracks, and willed herself to float upright at his eye level. She crossed her arms and said, ”Oh Master! Some of… uh… some of the water globules are… dead?” she paused before saying, ”I- This Servant woke up floating so… I- This servant… learned on the fly how to… fly?” she said smirking. ”This servant was hoping you might know why.”

The snake raised a brow, his lips curling into a smirk. “If that so? Well, come in, then. Also, do not mind the servants. They will come back shortly.” The snake turned around and slithered inside, beckoning Arya to follow.

“Now… Tell me, did you have any odd dreams while you slept?”

Feeling relieved that the servants weren’t actually dead for good, Arya floated after her master and joined him like many times before, in his chambers. It looked different, being so high up. The room looked smaller somehow.

”Hmmm,” Arya pondered aloud, ”This servant can’t remember any dreams.” she said.

“Mhm-mhm, I see. Did you happen to wake up during your sleep and see anything?”

”N-No?” she said suddenly very confused and worried. ”What happened?” she asked.

The snake plucked pensively at his beard. He hummed ponderously for a moment. “No, nothing happened. My analysis is that your proximity to divinity has rubbed off on you, infusing your soul with fragments of our holy spirits. As such, you have been given flight through soul mutation.” He flicked his tongue and leaned his cheek on his fist as he sat down.

“How peculiar,” he mused.

Worry and confusion melted away from Arya’s heart and she was suddenly very happy. She squealed aloud, ”Oh wonderful! Ever since Ary took me flying, I’ve wanted to do so! I mean… This servant is very thankful, my Lord.” she said calming down again.

She looked at her master, suddenly serious. ”Last night… This servant shouldn’t have ran away. This servant is, sorry.” she said softly.

The snake held up a palm. “Your reaction was natural. It was I who prompted it - thus the fault is mine. I trust Arae helped soothe your troubled mind, then?”

”She did a little.” but she looked to Shengshi again and her eyes welled up with tears, ”But why? Why would you not give me a choice?” she asked shakely.

The snake lifted an eyebrow and let out a sigh. “A choice, huh…” He gestured to the slider door, which was open to reveal the outside. “You make a compelling argument. Why should I not give you a choice? In truth, I had not considered it an option: A servant should be obedient to its lord without error; in return, a lord should never ask a servant to act as the lord themself would not. Though, it should be noted that a lord who would be willing to sacrifice much for a servant should not be faulted for expecting the same in return.” He looked at Arya with a reptilian gaze. “Tell me, what would you do with your freedom?”

Arya thought upon his words and shut her eyes before speaking, ”Master… When this serva- When I came here, I pledged myself to you and your teachings, so that I could learn and grow and become who I was meant to be. And I have learned so, so much from you. For this I will be forever grateful, but you are mistaken in one regard. My freedom is choice. When you told me that I didn’t have that, the one basic right all of us should have, I was devastated. I had thought we were beyond that, ever since you forced me to come aboard without asking. That’s all I ever wanted. I may have willingly gave myself up to your teachings, but Master, please- I am my own person. Not some bargaining chip so that you might stop some family quarrel. Mortal as I might be, Uncle, I am family too.” she paused before continuing, ”I sacrificed my friendship with Arryn so that I could save him from injury, and I would sacrifice for you as well, if it meant putting an end to the feud with Kalmar. All you had to do, was ask. T-That’s all.”

The snake was silent. Then, after a pause, he began to snicker, then laugh, then cackle loudly. Arya seemed to shrink at this, and her eyes went wide. Had she offended him to the point of madness? Oh no...

The guffaw subsided and the snake took some deep breaths to recuperate.

“It is funny. I demand all this shallow respect from all whom I meet, and show them the same, because I am a creature of principles - I like to think of myself as such, anyway. I have criticised, mocked and even threatened those who break with these principles, all because I am certain that these principles will bring about prosperity and harmony in time. I have started feuds and nearly wars with beings as strong as me, and yet…” He stood up.”... Here you stand, a creature I could end with a single thought, acting as if we are brother and sister.”

He flicked his tongue. “It is simultaneously adorable and infuriating.”

After a while, he turned around. “Fine. Have it your way.”

As she listened to her master speak, she grew still. After a long moment, Arya floated over to Shengshi and placed a small hand on his shoulder. The snake gently shoved the hand away.

“Forgetting yourself, -Arya-,” he hissed.

She recoiled, a silent tear running down her face. She had upset him, rightfully so but upon hearing her own name, and not Anxin, she grew… angry?

”No…” she whispered, ”No! You do not get to call this servant by that name, master.” she said angrily.

”All this servant ever wanted to do, was make her master PROUD! To feel apart of something! So go ahead, sulk, be angry, be offended. But do not call this servant Arya. You named this one ANXIN.” she finished, breathing heavily. Noticing that her hands were smoking.

The snake snickered. “Much better. Had you not included all the ‘be this, be that’ nonsense, you may have approached something resembling the manners I have been trying to teach you. Manners are not about something as shallow as seeking validation; they are closer to the core than that, integral to society. Do you think I act as I do so the others will tell me how polite I am?”

Arya sighed, ”This servant, apolo-”

There was a sudden loud thud, and the ship rocked slightly from the impact. ”SHENGSHI!” Kalmar’s voice boomed throughout the ship. ”Get down here!”

”Oh no…” Arya whispered aloud.

She heard that voice and her eyes suddenly went wide, completely forgetting everything that they had just been fighting about. Her only concern became that of calming the dispute, and keeping the two God’s from killing each other.

The snake let out a long, drawn-out sigh. “Every time.“

Arya looked to Shengshi and began to speak, ”This servant wishes that her holiness, her master of master’s, stays here for but a moment!” she said before flying out the open door into the vast blue of the sky. She circled down to the deck of the ship, where she saw Kalmar.

”Kalmar!” she said enthusiastically before attacking his arm in a hug. ”Oh what are you doing here!” she asked, still holding on.

Kalmar frowned. He had not expected this. Where was the snake? Did he cower below deck? He had thought her confinement here was unwilling, yet it almost seemed as though she had been given free run of the place. ”Keeping a promise,” he told her. There was a pause, and then he added: ”Are you being held captive?”

”What? No! Of course not, Master would never… Well… I’m not any more!” she paused, not helping the situation in the slightest, ”What promise!” she asked, almost demanding.

Kalmar did not answer her question. Instead, he responded with two more, his voice more confused than demanding. ”’Master’? ‘Any more’? Then his eyes widened with realization. ”Damn him, he has conscripted you into his pack!”

She let go of Kalmar and floated to meet his eyes, ”No! No! You have it all wrong! I am willingly serving under him, learning what I can so that I can grow and win, just like you said!” she said, forgetting the proper etiquette of her station.

Kalmar frowned at that. Not at the breach in Shengshi’s imaginary etiquette, but at her words. ”You willingly gave up your freedom? And to do so you sent Arryn into despair? How does that help you win?”

Her heart broke when Kalmar told her of Arryn, it had never been her intention to hurt the small bird. More alarming was Kalmar’s chastising. If anything, she thought he would understand.

”N-No...Ary? I… did it to protect him… I never wanted him to hurt…” she said softly.

”Perhaps you did protect him,” Kalmar conceded. ”Yet why did you not convince him to leave with you? Why did you bind yourself to Shengshi?

”I… I thought… That’s what you would have wanted… So I could… So I could make it home one day…” she said, her voice shaking.

”I never would have wanted you to give up your freedom,” Kalmar told her. Then paused. ”What do you consider home? Kalgrun, or Veradax?”

”I have my freedom, “ she said, ”Veradax is my home, where I was born. Where my father is. I have to… I have to go there…” she seemed to finish in a whisper. Kalgrun was dear to her, it was, but she had to see Veradax and her father. It was a compulsion she barely understood, and it scared her.

That gave Kalmar pause. He tried to convince her that her father was wrong, that he was unstable, yet she still wanted to see him regardless. ”How does serving Shengshi help you accomplish that?”

”I… I don’t know. Perhaps… Perhaps he’ll listen to me if I know how to talk and act properly…” she said sadly.

”I suspect your father cares even less for that nonsense than I do.” Kalmar told her. ”While you and Arryn went to Dragon’s Foot, I went to speak with him. I got through to him with directness, not by bandying words. I do not know if he will change, but I know he heard me.”

Her eyes went wide, Kalmar’s words were like a blow. He had went to SPEAK with her father? That was why he had told her to leave?

She grew angry once again, and shouted, ”You went to see him! Without me! How could you? How could you! I trusted you!” she began to cry angry tears as her arms and legs began to smoke.

Kalmar was unphased by her anger. ”I did. I did not bring you, because I did not know how he would have reacted to your presence, yet alone mine. I did not even know you wanted to see him. He cast you out. If he saw you again, it might have hurt you, or killed you. When I spoke to him, I tried to convince him to change. If I had succeeded, it would have been both safer and easier for you to speak with him in the future. Either way, I intended to tell you about it after I rejoined you.” He paused once again, deep in thought, and then added, ”I... apologize for not telling you beforehand.”

Arya shook her head, ”That wasn’t your choice to make! How could you not ask? Why does no one ask me anything! They just assume, and force and think what’s best!” she finished, the smoke from her hands growing more pronounced. She had trusted Kalmar, and she felt betrayed. How could he have not know that was what she wanted most? Had it not been obvious?

Kalmar frowned. ”I never forced anything on you. If you wanted to speak with your father, you only had to ask. Just as, if you did not want my teachings, you could have walked away.”

The smoke from her hands lessened and her eyes seemed to grow softer. ”No… You never forced me, Kalmar. I am sorry, you did not deserve that. But how could you not know?” she asked softly, ”You knew everything else. Everything, but that?”

”I know much, but I do not know everything. I made a mistake.” Kalmar reluctantly confessed. ”Knowing what I know now, I would have brought you. But we can’t change the past.” Yet another pause. ”What are you going to do next?”

“I already tried to ask her that,” said a voice above. The snake stood of his veranda with his hands behind his back. “Architect’s greetings, Kalmar. I would have sent a letter of invitation, but I seemed to have forgotten - I swear, though, I was going to contact you sooner or later. Now, I reckon you have some things to get off your chest, so go on ahead. Do not worry, I will not interrupt.” The snake winked playfully.

When Shengshi began speaking, Kalmar’s expression darkened. He left Arya and flew upward, landing on Shengshi’s balcony right in front of the snake, and stared his rival in the eye. ”You,” he growled, his voice tinged with fury. ”What did I tell you when we last spoke!?”

Arya quickly flew up to join the two Gods, floating directly out in the open with a hand pressed just below her eyes. She had no idea what to say or what to do. She felt powerless.

The snake plucked pensively at his beard. “Hmm… What did you tell me… Oh, no, I recall. You said I could neither threaten, insult or… What was the last one again?” He eyed the sky in thought.

”Now tell me what you said to my avatar,” Kalmar demanded, his voice no less furious.

“Oh, to Arryn, you mean? Yes, I may have been crass in my language and said something resembling, ‘I will send your master another carcass to skin,’ the implication being that I would murder him and send him your way. Was that what you wanted to hear?” He raised an eyebrow.

”And what makes you think I won’t skin you instead?” Kalmar threatened. ”I told you that if you insulted me, threatened me, or deceived me, I would make you answer for it. A slight against my avatar is a slight against me. How do you answer for it!?”

”K-Kalmar…” Arya said meekly as she looked to her mentor.

The snake slammed his right fist into his left palm. “Deceive! That was the word! Thank you for reminding me. Oh! And make certain you are extra thorough when you skin me. I want my skin to make the most divine pair of boots in creation, do you understand?” He snickered and bowed to Kalmar as a gesture of gratitude.

Arya looked back to Shengshi with a horrified expression, ”N-No!” she wailed.

Kalmar knew when he was being mocked. ”How do you answer for it!?” he yelled again, shoving the snake against the railing.

”S-Stop! Stop!” Arya said, flying down and grabbing Kalmar, trying in vain to pull him back by his arm.

The snake’s air was knocked out of his lungs by the blow, prompting a slight grimace. “My, no fun today. Is a confession what you want to hear? Would that change anything? Would words to the wind give you the legitimacy to strike your own brother? I would remind you that the only hand I actually have laid upon your kin was the hand that I lifted them aboard my ship with. If you strike me for speaking, brother, you will have proven my insults right.”

”You know exactly why I strike you,” Kalmar growled, shrugging off Arya’s hands. ”I told you what would happen, and you did it anyway. Unlike you, my words are not wind. You will answer for this, one way or another, and you should be grateful I’m giving you a chance to choose how!”

Arya flew backwards, momentarily disgruntled by Kalmar’s gesture. Quickly, she a flew a few feet away, turning around to face the two again. Her arms began to smoke.

“So humour me for a moment so I may get some clarification: My choices are what, exactly? I confess and you ‘make me answer’, or I do not confess and you ‘make me answer’, hmm?” His eyes blinked over at Arya for a moment. “Anxin, did your hands get dusty?”

”Anxin? Her name is Arya,” Kalmar corrected.

She shook her head, words escaping her for a moment. She felt something deep down inside, growing. And she was so angry at being ignored.

“A name without meaning is a curse - her soul is purer and than the water of a mountain spring and her heart is like a peaceful day in the woods - her name should reflect that!” the snake snapped back, now considerably more furious in tone.

She heard Shengshi’ words, and just like that her anger faltered. He did care, all this time she thought… it didn’t matter because… he did care. Tears began to well up in her eyes as she turned to look back at Kalmar.

”Why are you so petty?” Kalmar demanded. ”I thought any dispute we had was resolved! Then you draw an ugly river across my continent, you insult me, you insult and threaten my avatar, and my pupil. You call my teachings wrong and you change her name purely out of spite. I didn’t even know we had a feud until Arryn came back to me.”

Kalmar shook his head. ”You were the one who started this, not me. I am only here to keep my word. Here are my conditions. You kneel before me and apologize,” Kalmar cared little for such gestures, but he could tell they meant a great deal to the snake. ”You swear to never again raise any threats, attacks, or insults to me, my creations, or my followers. You or your ship will never come within sight of Kalgrun or my sphere without my permission. You will give Arya freedom to leave if she desires. You will let her choose her own name. She will not call you master or act as your servant, unless she wants to. Do you accept?”

The snake raised an eyebrow. “My, I believe someone is a little sensitive to criticism. Say, may I make one teeny amendment - then I swear upon my existence that I will accept any and all other conditions.” He put his left palm over his right fist as to make a gesture of respect. “Just a miniscule little subtraction of a clause which I believe is detrimental to the both of us.” He made a small space between his fingers to illustrate.

”Get on with it,” Kalmar ordered.

“Naturally, dear brother. I merely, humbly request that we remove the clause that prohibits insults, which, if you felt insulted by me commenting on your teachings, includes criticism. If we can remove this clause, I will kneel, nay, prostrate myself before you.”

”You denounced my teachings without even knowing what they were.” Kalmar stared him down. ”That isn’t criticism. Actual criticism is allowed.”

“Anxin, did Kalmar’s teachings involve any of the following: reading, music or art?” he looked to the side, ignoring Kalmar for a spell.

Arya finally understood something important when she listened to Kalmar speak. She realized that neither Shengshi, nor Kalmar would ever see eye to eye on any matter and it broke it heart to see such fighting. Her master had upset Kalmar the likes of which she had never seen before. His demands, were as equally petty as Shengshi had been. But the way Kalmar spoke on her behalf, was not forgotten by Arya. She appreciated it, she did, it was all about her having a choice.

She looked to both gods, torn between the two of them. Shengshi, for all his faults and mistakes, had apologized in his own way. Just like her, he missed someone greatly, but at the same time, his code of conduct prevented him from opening his heart to love. As all things should, regardless of class or station. Master or servant, but she did not blame him for this, it simply who he was.

Kalmar was her first friend, her first mentor and for that she was as equally grateful. He had taken her in when she needed help the most. He taught her how to survive and to live, but at the same time, he never told her about the meeting with her father. Nor had he seen, in all of his wisdom, the one thing she wanted most. For this, Arya did not blame him either. It had been her fault that he had not know.

And she didn’t know what to do.

”Um… No? But I learned other things, like how to defend myself.” she said.

The snake shrugged. “Nice skill to have, though not as important as proper conduct, if you would ask me. See? Now we have a disagreement over the correct teachings. Let us face it, brother - we will never agree on this. You will never see poetry as anything useful, and I will never appreciate a properly made bow. So, if my point has been sufficiently proven, can we make the amendment and proceed with my surrender?”

It hadn’t been proven. But in truth, Kalmar tired of fussing over minor details. That had perhaps been the lightest offense of them all. ”Fine.” he said at last.

The snake grinned. “How stellar - now, let us do it on deck; my veranda is a little cramped.” The snake straightened back up and slithered inside.

Kalmar frowned, and followed. There was space enough. Why did it matter where it happened? Perhaps the snake was trying to salvage some pride by dictating where it took place?

Once they were out on deck, the snake walked up to the dragon’s head and touched it absent-mindedly. “You know, brother - this will be the first time I surrender to anyone. An interesting experience, would you not agree?”

”I did not want this,” Kalmar told him. ”But if I do not keep my word, my word loses all weight. Nobody will trust me, and those that would seek to destroy us would not feel threatened by me. So let’s get on with it.”

The snake opened his mouth as if he was about to say something, but seemingly decided against it. He lowered his torso to the ground and placed his palms and forehead on the deck planks.

“My brother Kalmar - under the conditions mentioned in our treaty, with the amendment I requested, I wholeheartedly surrender. Never shall I set foot or ship upon Kalgrun without Your holy permission; never shall I threaten or attack those who share a bond with Your sacred soul; and this humble servant shall naturally allow Anxin, or Arya if she prefers, to walk free with no strings attached. This I, Shengshi, Lord of the Thousand Streams and the River God of Galbar, swear upon my very existence.”

Just then, something about this felt wrong to Kalmar. It was not the terms they had made, no. It was the bowing. This… this was not the same man he had first met on Kalgrun. What had changed? And then he realized something was missing. He frowned, stepped forward, and extended a hand to help the snake up.

The snake did not notice the hand at first; then, upon seeing how close the god’s feet was, looked up to see the gesture. He frowned.

“What are you doing?” he hissed quizzically.

”Helping you up. The dispute is resolved, we are no longer enemies.” Kalmar told him.

The snake’s face twisted into a look akin to the one one would get upon seeing someone letting their dog defecate on one’s yard. He immediately got back to his tail without the hand and waved his hands defiantly.

“N-no! That is not how it is supposed to-...” He pressed a few fingers into his forehead. “Right, my mistake for expecting proper manners. Yes, yes, our dispute is over. Just… Let a god finish his gest of respect.”

”Do what you need to do.”

Shengshi got back down in a kowtow for a few seconds, then rose, bowed three times before finally extending his hand. “Now, we may shake on it,” he said with an abomination of a frown and a smile on his face.

Normally Kalmar would have been annoyed, but now, the snake’s fixation on such gestures was almost amusing. He extended a hand, and shook. ”I apologize as well, for what it’s worth. But there is something I need to ask you. I do not intend to offend you, so forgive me if you find it rude.” He recited the last words clumsily, almost mechanically, yet the fact that he chose to recite them at all meant something.

The snake looked utterly confused. “A-are you well, dear brother?” After the shake, he pulled back his hand as if he had touched manure. “I-I mean… Yes. I apologise for my, uhm… Unsavory behaviour.” He straightened back up.

While the two gods forgave one another, Arya had landed upon the deck. It had been the first time since her feet had touched the ground since her gift had manifested. A little ways way, she watched her master and Kalmar make amends while clasping her hands together. But it was then she felt something upon her finger, and so she looked, looking away from the two brothers.

What she saw was a ring, a dazzlingly ring that seemed to shimmer with stars. How had she missed that? She held the ring up so that the sunlight reflected off of it, and Arya became bewitched by its beauty. It reminded her of… of her father.

Shengshi, seemingly looking for anything other than Kalmar’s creepy demeanor change to look at, let his eyes fall upon Arya. “Anxin, is something the matter? What is that-?”

His words cut off as he smelled the aura. His eyes immediately turned reptilian, and the fins along his back and tail grew slightly pointier. “I am afraid I must answer your question at a later moment in time, dear brother… Anxin, may I have a look at that ring, if you would not mind?”

Arya began to tremble, smoke lifting off her arms and legs like so many times before. Slowly she turned her head to look at Shengshi with a look of betrayal.

”Y-You… lied to me?” she said agitated.

The snake sighed wearily. “If you are referring to me telling you that you developed flight by remaining in divine proximity, then yes - in truth, I, too, spoke with your father without telling you.”

”You… did what? she said angrily, the black smoke becoming thicker as her hand dropped to her side.

“Your father wished not to wake you; as such, I assumed he wished for you not to know he had dropped by. A parent trying his best to heal broken bonds, I can admire, though I cannot say for certain what artifact he left you. I sense its potential is rather… destructive.”

Kalmar was surprised. He had sense some of Orvus’s aura on Arya, though at the time he just assumed he was misremembering her original aura. Arya’s rage upon finding out he had spoken to her father without her had been enough to dismiss any suspicion that she been near her father since then, and besides, he was too focused on Arya’s own safety and confronting Shengshi to mention it. But he made no comment.

The anger she had felt earlier redoubled with intensity as she spoke, ”I trusted you and you lied to me! You forced me to come on this ship! You hurt Ary! I thought you cared!” she said the words, caught up in the heat of the moment, not realizing what she was actually saying. She then screamed, ”THEN MY FATHER WAS HERE? AND YOU LIED TO ME! Right to my face! How could you? HOW COULD YOU!” And then Arya’s powers manifested, and she exploded with destructive energy, barely enough to scratch a god, but enough to leave a sizable hole in the deck.

When the dust cleared, Arya was but a white spec in the distant sky and Shengshi was on his knees, weeping while hugging a divine plank.

“Oh, no… My precious, precious ship! My dearest servants!” He stroked the splintered deck passionately as tears dripped down on the watery corpses of servants who had been splattered everywhere with too little water to sustain the spirit within.

Mentally, Kalmar cursed. It had gone well. The dispute had been resolved. Then Arya had her outburst. He did not know where Arya had gone, and he considered reaching out telepathically but he doubted she would listen. He was also disappointed - he thought she was more rational than this. Perplexed, he looked down at Shengshi, who was in mourning for the loss of… um… wood?

”When you’re finished grieving, we need to talk.”

The snake sniffed and said in a cracking, sobbing voice, “I-... I think I am going to need a minute.” He let out a loud wail as he caressed the broken-off head of a gold dragon statue.

Why? Kalmar asked himself, looking up at the sky in exasperation. Why is he like this? By all rights he should have left the lizard to cry. That is exactly what he should do. Yet he still needed to speak with him. ”I will be inside when you’re ready.”

The snake let out a sobbing “uh-huh” followed by a long, weeping “waaaaa-ha-ha-haaaa!” As Kalmar entered the palace, the snake had seemingly picked up a broken porcelain vase to mourn.

The two sat down in the banquet hall, Shengshi at the far end of the god’s table and Kalmar in the chair designated for him. It was a fine chair, draped in wolf pelts and upholstered with beaver pelts. Its woodwork was detailed, yet rough - all in all a fine piece of craftsmanship.

Kalmar did not like the chair. It was too soft. The pelts… Shengshi had surely not killed those animals himself. But he kept those feelings hidden.

The snake fixed his weary gaze on the hunter god. “Now… What did you wish to discuss?”

”What holds a hierarchy together?” Kalmar asked him.

The snake raised and eyebrow and snapped his fingers. Some servants who were incredibly dirty and full of pollutants zig-zagged over carrying drinks and food for the two. Shengshi looked torn-up from seeing them like this; however, he nonetheless turned to Kalmar with an earnest expression.

“A hierarchy is composed of a leader and its followers. While the legitimacy of the leader will vary depending on species, culture and about a thousand other factors, the fundamental idea is that a hierarchy is kept stable as long as the leader’s legitimacy remains true. If that legitimacy stems from strength, the hierarchy will hold as long as no one is strong enough to overthrow the leader; if the hierarchy stems from divine right, then one of us decides on who gets to keep this mandate of heaven. That would be the general gist of it. Why would you like to know?”

”I already know. I want to know if you know. All these different legitimacies - at their core, what do they instill in the followers?”

The snake shrugged. “A purpose, in my eyes. What do you think?”

”Loyalty.” Kalmar answered without blinking. ”And loyalty is based on two things: mutual respect, and self-interest. The self-interest is obvious - it is what they gain, and even with legitimization, many will abandon the leader if they stand to gain nothing. For respect… those in the hierarchy must show it to the leader, but the leader must also return it in kind. If you have both of these, then loyalty is unbreakable. If you only have one, then it is shaky. If you have neither, it doesn’t exist.”

The snake raised a suspicious brow. “Have you been sneak-peeking in my book, Kalmar?” he hissed, stabbing a chopstickfull of noodles into his mouth. “Also, may I take what you said at the end and add it to my work? You put it very well.” He winked playfully.

”In the wild, animals form packs. For most, these are what hold the packs together. At their very core, I don’t see how this is different from any other hierarchy.” Kalmar answered. ”I noticed that Xiaoli was missing, and Arya just left as well, so I thought it would be good advice to prevent it from happening again.”

The snake’s smile turned to a scowl. However, after a moment, he recollected himself. “Rubbing salt in the wound so soon, Kalmar? My, you are merciless.” He ate another mouthful of noodles and swallowed. “Your advice is sound, brother. Know that I will take it to heart.” He nodded towards Kalmar’s plate. “Have something to eat, please. With there being a colossal hole in the kitchen ceiling, now, we would not want to waste yesterday’s leftovers, would we?”

Kalmar nodded. What had held him back was his unfamiliarity with the utensils. Yet he been observing Shengshi’s eating techniques, and felt that he now had a decent grasp of how it was done. His grip on the chopsticks was somewhat clumsy, but it was at least somewhat proper, and he managed to get the food into his mouth. ”If I see Xiaoli in my travels, do you want me to say anything to her?”

The snake hesitated for a moment. “Tell her…” He took a deep breath. “Tell her that she is sorely missed, and that her master would like her to come home at her earlier convenience.” He discreetly wiped a tear with his napkin.

”I will.” Kalmar answered, plucking more noodles from the bowl. ”Another thing - does our alliance against Orvus still stand? I spoke to him, and I do not think he will change. It could still come to violence.”

“I swore an oath to Arae that the path of diplomacy should take priority - a stance I am slowly adjusting to, I hope. However, should Orvus not see reason, our agreement still stands. Consider the rivers you allies should battle be our only option,” said the snake, lifting his cup in a toast.

Kalmar paused, unsure of what that meant, but for a lot of these so-called gestures it seemed as though the correct response was to just do the exact same thing the other person did. He raised his own glass.

The snake blinked, then smiled. “Our alliance stands, then, brother. To life.” He raised the cup a little higher before pouring its contents into his mouth in a single gulp.

Kalmar drank as well. The taste was fine, but he felt the liquid burn at his throat and wanted to spit it out. Yet Shengshi had drank the same liquid, and they were both gods, so it surely would not kill either of them. He swallowed it. ”What is this?” he asked.

“Nanhese mango liqueur - one of my finest brews, that one. Was it to your liking?” he snake inquired.

”The taste was fine. But is it supposed to burn at my throat?”

The snake eyed his own glass and then Kalmar’s. “My, if you thought -that- one burned, I would rather not introduce you to anything made with sleeper’s sand. To answer your question, yes, wine does have a tendency to tickle the throat a little. I suspect it must have been an odd sensation to you.”

Kalmar nodded, but his eyes narrowed at the implied challenge. ”I can handle more than this,” he said confidently.

The snake’s eyes lit up. “Is that so?” he mused. He promptly snapped his fingers and some dirty servants came over with a flask. The symbols on it spelled ‘Heavenly Rest’ and the snake uncorked it, filling the immediate area with a permeating stench that appalled all manner of noses. He poured himself a half-full glass and slithered over to Kalmar, pouring him a full glass.

“Here, have a taste. I will only be drinking a half-full glass as I am, uhm, attempting to stop my destructive drinking habits,” the snake admitted sheepishly.

”Destructive?” Kalmar asked in confusion.

“Yes, well, you know how you mentioned loyalty involves self-interest and mutual respect? Let us just say that I, during some of my more embarrassing episodes relating to wine, failed to inspire both.” The snake looked away, partially for effect, though partially in shame.

Kalmar looked around, then picked up the glass, and drank. It was indeed more powerful than the previous beverage, but now he knew what to expect, and so it did little to phase him. He actually rather enjoyed the taste.

The snake lifted his cup. “Well, shall we drink one more before I get to work on fixing my ship?”

”Alright,” Kalmar said with a shrug as he put the empty glass down.

Shengshi downed his own glass and shuddered at the flavour. “Ooo-hoo-hoo, yesss… That is the flavour of divinity! Actually, I wager this wine would likely kill a mortal in uncontrolled doses.” He picked up the bottle and hummed pensively as he inspected it.

Kalmar would have perhaps objected to drinking something so lethal, even if it was only toward mortals, yet already the wine was beginning to take hold and cloud his judgement. Besides, to back down would suggest that he was weaker than a mortal. ”Another, then. And I’ll be on my way.”

The snake chuckled and refilled his and Kalmar’s glasses. “Fine. Another, then.”

After Kalmar had left, Shengshi slithered back up on deck. My, what a mess Anxin had left everything in. It would take him an entirety of three minutes to fix this - valuable time he could have spent writing poetry or playing music to the rhythm of the jungle. At this point, the wine was beginning to take hold, too, and he really could not find the motivation within him to spend all his power to fix the boat. He just wished someone could fix it for him.

A bright idea popped into his head and he snapped his fingers.

In a moment, all the servants aboard the ship had gathered on deck, and they were zooming all over to avoid popping. The snake grinned - he was glad to see so many had survived. The water of Fengshui Fuyou given life - the ultimate servants.

No, not yet ultimate - but soon to be glorious! The snake raised his hands and all the globules stopped in their tracks - however, none of them exploded into the usual spectacle of water and dew. The snake twisted his hands around and the river below began to snake its way up the sides of the ship.

“Servants! Hear your lord speak!” There was silence, but he knew they were listening. “From this moment, you are all promoted - you have served well; you have served with faith; you have served with will. Today, your ungrateful lord shall reward you at last with the forms you deserve.”

The river water crept aboard and began to enter the globules, bloating their forms and colouring them with mud and sand. Their forms twisted and turned, grew and groaned. They first sprouted appendages which slowly grew into arms and legs. Their blobby bodies sprouted heads, torsos, hips. Their forms were coloured with an outer layer of sand and mud to act as skin, and their heads sprouted hair made of black grass and plant detritus. Finally, Shengshi snapped his right finger. Soon, all of them were draped and wrapped in luxurious, yet practical, clothing.

Shengshi took a moment to gaze out across the enormous host of people. Nearly ten thousand individuals, both men and women, stood before him on deck - it being incredibly cramped due to the colossal hole in the centre. The snake felt a slight pain in his chest when he noticed how similar they all were to Xiaoli. The snake was nonetheless determined. He slithered through the masses and mounted the dragon’s head. He felt a delightful knot in his throat as the ten thousand faces stared expectantly back at him.

“Who are you?!” he roared.

“We are the servants of His Lordship Shengshi, master of all rivers!” they answered in unison. The snake felt giddy.

“What is your duty?!”

“To tend to His Lordship’s and His Lordship’s guests’ every need - to the letter!”

“To the letter,” the snake whispered happily to himself. “And do you pledge to serve me, Shengshi, until the end of time, in exchange for my vow to be a lord of good morals to all?!”

The servants all got on their knees and kowtowed before Shengshi.

“Until the end of time, we will serve our lord, Shengshi!”

The snake grinned from ear to ear. “Blessed be all of you, you loyal subjects. My first task is for you to repair the deck. Do so, and I shall personally see to it that the servants’ quarters is refurbished into the most luxurious on Galbar.”

The servants immediately scrambled to fetch divine wood and oil from below deck. The snake snickered.

“Beautiful creatures”, he mused.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Leotamer
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Virgo cautiously stirred a blue liquid within the ceramic cauldron. It was a surprisingly difficult task to boil a crushed beetle.

Finding and grabbing the beetle was easy. Trying to squish the beetle by hand did nothing. The bucket and ladle also could not crush the bug. He left to find a rock and whenever he returned the beetle had escaped. After recapturing the beetle, he was able to squish it with the stone. It wasn't ideal. It also left a blue stain on the table.

He started to pour the substance into one of the ceramic jars, using the silk strainer to filter out the solid bug guts. While the resulting liquid was blue, it couldn't dye material.

Unperturbed, he tried again, and again, and again. As he worked, he began to carve simple tools from wood to help him. He experimented with different combinations of crushed insects.

He managed to create a crude pestle that was more efficient than a rock. He tried to make a mortar. It was more difficult than he expected with such a crude knife and poor quality wood. Instead, he carved a simple board so he wouldn't need to dirty the table further.

He also learned how to control the temperature of the cauldron. It responded to his thoughts whenever he touched it. Out of curiosity, he also poured a failed batch of bug juice into the basin. After a few moments, the water levels raised forcing the contamination out and on to the floor.

The region immediately surrounding the alchemy lab had plenty of glowing moss. However, deeper into the Hive, the light was more scarce.

He was looking for more beetles when he wandered into a dark area. While walking, he stumbled. He turned around to pick up whatever he tripped on. To his surprise, it was a rocky beetle. He brought it over to light to examine it more closely. It was certainly interesting. Sadly, it was not useful for the task at hand. He attempted to squish it with his crude pestle, but its shell was too hard. He had to kill it using a large rock. He then stored it in a bottle for later.

He also began to try to separate specific parts of the bug. He would kill an insect, remove the piece he wanted, and place it a pile. He would then crush and boil that pile.

Eventually, he managed to create a blue paste. It was not a dye; however, he could smear it on stone. It was not what he had intended, but he made a mental note of how he created it. It was interesting. The jars containing his failed experiments were neatly piled up on the floor. He proudly placed the blue paste jar on one of the shelves.

There was a realization that simple tasks for gods could be very difficult for mortals. However, this did not discourage him. He was excited to continue and to learn. However, his body began to feel sluggish. His eyes felt heavy.

He had eaten while he was experimenting. He particularly enjoyed the taste of honey. He also enjoyed boiled crickets. He drank clean water from the basin. This sensation was different than pain, which he felt when he accidentally hit his fingers with a rock.

He found himself closing his eyes and laying against one of the cabinets.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Not Fishing
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Arryn was perched atop a half-eaten troll corpse. The troll’s body was covered with lacerations, the throat had been slashed, and the eyes had been gouged out. The falcon’s master had told him to stay here, and so he had, but the local troll population had others ideas, it seemed. There had been a pack of them - four to be exact - but after he killed one and viciously wounded the others, they retreated, leaving trails of blood.

Arryn bent down and plucked another beakful of flesh from the corpse, when he sensed a familiar presence nearby.

”Arryn,” Kalmar greeted the bird.

Arryn inclined his head to regard him. ”Master.”

”The dispute with Shengshi is resolved. Avoid him and there should be nothing to worry about.” Kalmar told him, kneeling to inspect the troll corpse. ”As for Arya… gone. She left him, and I don’t know where she went.”

That brought both sadness and relief. Arryn did not know where she was, but at least she was no longer held prisoner by that vile serpent.

”I need to go talk to Asceal,” Kalmar told him sternly. ”You won’t come with me. Continue scouting out the world for information. Do not give in to despair again.”

Arryn nodded, and the two took flight, each headed in a different direction.

”Asceal,” Kalmar sent out the telepathic message, ”Where are you?”

“Kalmar?” The Goddess answered, “Ah. I’ve been expecting to hear from you. I’m in the Lustrous Garden at the moment.

”How do I get to it?”

There was a long pause before Asceal spoke again, and when she did it was with some hesitation, “You- You need to find the tallest mountain on my Island, Istais, its peak is obscured by clouds. The entrance to the Garden is there, right above the peak and hidden by the clouds. I’ll be waiting.”

Kalmar instinctively nodded, although Asceal would not be able to see it. He was already heading toward Istais, so it was simply a matter of speeding his course.

Kalmar arrived to find that it looked much as it did in the memories of Arryn. Nearly all life on it was glowing. How strange. He watched the land pass beneath him, and aside from some wolves or bears, he noticed a distinct lack of predators. He imagined some of the trolls or griffins here, their hides aglow.

He ascended to the top of the mountain, found the gateway, and crossed through it. He found himself at the top of a dome, a crystal floor far below. Using the power of flight, he lowered himself to the ground.

Asceal was waiting for him, and just behind her was a woman whose flesh was seemly made from vines. “Welcome to my home Kalmar,” The Goddess greeted him.

Kalmar looked around, noting the confined space. This was a goddess who preferred security, he assumed. He looked past Asceal, at the vine-covered woman. ”Who is that?”

Asceal looked over her shoulder and smiled at the vine woman, who was eyeing the God of the Hunt curiously, “That is Liana, my friend.” She turned back to Kalmar and sighed resignedly, her smile faltering, “I assume you’re here about my talk with Arryn, then?”

”I am,” Kalmar stated matter-of-factly. ”On one hand, I should thank you for getting him to stop flying aimlessly. On the other… I have to ask why you chose to involve yourself in my dispute, or discouraged my avatar from fulfilling his duty.”

“Because,” She spoke seriously, “Your ‘dispute’ could have affected more than just you and Shengshi. I was presented a chance to resolve the situation before it could come to violence and I took it. I’ve spoken to Shengshi and he promised to return this Arya to you, if he hasn’t already.”

”Until Arryn came back to me, I thought any dispute I had with him had been resolved. It was Shengshi who caused it, not I.” Kalmar explained. ”As for Arya, she was never mine to take, nor was she Shengshi’s to give. She’s gone, anyway. Shengshi withheld some information about her father, and when she found out she left in a rage.”

Asceal pinched the bridge her nose in frustration and looked up for a moment before letting go and speaking, “I see. Well then, have you two at least put this feud behind you? I don’t care who started it. The fact you were both willing to fight over words is bad enough.”

”Threats are more than just words,” Kalmar told her. ”And I didn’t want this feud any more than you did. But I told Shengshi what would happen if he threatened me. I gave my word, so I had to act, or else no one would have reason to trust me or take me seriously. Anyway, the dispute is resolved.”

“As long as you aren’t going to kill each other,” Asceal smiled weakly.

”I never intended to kill him over this,” Kalmar interrupted before she could go on. ”Why would you think that?

“It doesn’t matter what you intended,” She explained, “I’ve spoken to Shengshi, as have you. Perhaps all would have been well Kalmar, but I took the time to make sure he was willing to pay your price before you asked for it. Whatever it was in the end.”

”In any case, it’s done,” Kalmar said. ”But there is another matter. Have you heard of what Orvus did to Phystene? I’ve been trying to form an alliance against him, to defend creation against him and others like him. Phystene, Ashalla, and Shengshi have joined. Will you?”

Asceal raised her eyebrows in surprise, “I was under the impression I already had. I spoke with Phystene some time ago and she told me what Orvus did.”

Kalmar frowned at that. ”Communication needs to be improved, then. I had not been told.” He carefully considered his next words. ”There is another thing to add. I spoke with Orvus recently.”

It was the Goddess’s turn to frown at that, “You did? Why? Orvus is a danger to all of us. If he’d attacked you what would you have done?”

Kalmar shrugged. ”I would have fought back, and I would have killed him. I have been fighting my entire life. Anyway, I needed to determine his motivation, and if there was a chance to avoid open warfare… it might have been slim, but it was worth taking. Besides, recent events led me to think that he might not be as obsessed with destruction as I originally thought.”

“And?” Asceal asked.

Kalmar shrugged once again. ”He said his soul was frayed. He couldn’t feel life. I told him to fix it, or get over it and change. He told me he would rather die, and drag the rest of us with him. I told him he was making excuses - he wanted to live, and that nonsense about destroying everything was just an excuse for why he hadn’t ended himself yet. He left without responding, so I think I was right. Either way, I don’t know if my words had any effect, which is why I’m still maintaining the alliance.”

She ran a hand through her glowing hair and met Kalmar’s gaze, “It was a mistake to confront him, then. You can say you’d have killed him Kalmar, but if it were that simple Phystene would be dead already. We can’t afford to take unnecessary risks, especially given the number of our peers determined to destroy us and everything we’ve built.”

Kalmar frowned. ”Who else?” he asked. ”I know only of Orvus.”

“Sartravius,” Asceal recited, “He’s already scoured an island of life. Melantha, she attacked Aelius in his own home. Katharsos, he’s murdered almost all the souls that followed us to this universe by now.” She scowled and looked away to compose herself before going on, “And I expect others will make their natures known, in time.”

”Did you find out why they did those things?” Kalmar asked.

“There’s no point speaking to the mad Kalmar. We were tasked to create, and they have all taken it upon themselves to destroy.” The Goddess grew tense and took a moment to breath before she continued, “I have no interest in the excuses of killers.”

Kalmar’s frown deepened. ”What if I had decided Shengshi was mad, and chose to kill him instead of resolving the dispute through other means? When the bear hunts a deer to feed its young, is the bear mad? You call them mad, but you say you haven’t spoken with them, so how can you know?”

Asceal eyed Kalmar disbelievingly, “Shengshi insulted you Kalmar. He-”

Once more, Kalmar cut in before she could finish. ”He threatened to kill my avatar, and might have if not for Arya. That goes beyond insults.” He shook his head.”I am asking these questions to gain more information before I come to a judgement. If what you say is true, then yes, they are obstacles that need to be disposed of. But I would not call them mad. Everyone acts for a reason, and we need to know what those reasons are before we decide that.”

“Even Orvus?” Asceal fumed, “Because you have explained his reasons to me, and they are mad. Incomprehensibly so. I can understand why Melantha attacked me and Aelius, but that doesn’t not forgive her action nor change the fact that she chose violence over words. As for Sartravius and Katharsos? They have destroyed, they have wrought chaos and suffering, and there is no explanation which exists that would absolve them of that.”

She paused and again took the time to compose herself. Her body had begun to glow furiously by the time she reigned herself in and suppressed it. Once she was dimmer than usual she went on, her voice far softer, “Shengshi nearly made a terrible mistake, but the difference is he didn’t. Arryn is alive. Sartravius and Katharsos victims are not. Phystene is merely lucky Orvus only injured her. There is a difference between right and wrong Kalmar, and once someone has crossed that line their actions will always overshadow their words.”

Once again, Kalmar shook his head. ”Orvus is mad. I never said he wasn’t. I know he is mad because I spoke to him and heard his reasons. The reason why the question of their madness is important, is because it will determine how they are to be approached. A mad beast will lash out violently - it will not back down, but that recklessness can also be exploited. A sensible creature is less prone to lashing out, and will instead use cunning. An explanation won’t absolve them, but in order to beat something you need to understand it.”

Asceal fell silent and, out of habit, flicked her forehead in frustration. Eventually she spoke, “Yes. You’re right. Go ahead and speak to them then Kalmar, I think this has proven I’m not suited for that.”

Kalmar’s frown vanished. She had seen reason. Good. Yet a question remained. ”What do you intend to do next?” he asked.

“Prepare,” She spoke without hesitation, “Just as I have been doing, just as others have been doing. I can’t be everywhere, so I’ll make others who can watch over Galbar in my place. Who can intervene before all that’s left to do is sweep up the ashes.”

”What would they intervene in? And how?” Kalmar asked her.

“Destruction, chaos, suffering. And by whatever means necessary.” She looked up to the portal, “I know they won’t be able to fight a god. Even all together. I don’t believe they’ll have to, though. If, as you say, some of our adversaries are ‘sensible’ then they’ll reach the same conclusion I have. More hands can accomplish more, regardless of what it is they do.”

”What is stopping you from creating these beings right now?” Kalmar asked. Surely she had plenty of time to do so.

Asceal stopped and looked back at Liana, who studiously hid the small teacup she had in her hand behind her back. The Goddess, rather obviously, faked a cough, “I hadn’t had the time, yet. You’re right though, there’s nothing stopping me from doing it right now.”

She looked around the room for a moment and then added sheepishly, “Except for the size of this room. If you’d permit it, I’ll return to Galbar to do it.”

”You don’t need my permission to leave your own sphere.” Kalmar told her. ”I’ll go with you.”

The Goddess waved to Liana and unfurled her wings, shooting up and through the portal with a single flap. Kalmar nodded at Liana, and then followed Asceal, wondering just how large she intended to build these creatures. He was also somewhat wary of their purpose - what chaos and suffering would they put a stop to? In his mind, some suffering was necessary. Still, he crossed through the portal with her anyway.

Kalmar met Asceal on the rocky mountain top below the portal. The Goddess stood there for a moment, no doubt considering how to go about making the creatures she’d described. For a long while she was impassive, but eventually grin grew on her face. She raised her hand and a great light ignited before the two gods. It started as a single point, but soon it became a glowing humanoid shape that at least vaguely resembled Asceal. It was also enormous. Hundreds of times taller than either of the gods. After it had been formed the creature slowly lost its glow, revealing a massive white masculine figure. It had vast wings on its back in an approximation of its maker, but these were covered in white feathers. In fact, most of the creature was. Looking at its face Kalmar could see that all but its eyes were obscured by enormous feathers.

Asceal eventually lowered her hand, but the creature did not stir. She smiled at Kalmar and announced, “Two more, before I wake them.”

Kalmar shrugged. ”Continue.”

Asceal frowned briefly, but did as he said. The second of the creatures was much like the first, but had a distinctly feminine form. The two of them lay in the snow before the gods, their feet more than half way down the slope of the mountain. Asceal didn’t bother to speak to Kalmar before making the third.

As she created the final creature, its shape masculine like the first, she began to blink rapidly and her arm started to quiver. Her breathing became strenuous and she fell to one knee. She looked at the last of her creations, but this one was only half formed. It had no feathers, and more disturbingly it looked deflated. She muttered, “Just ah, just a moment.” As she controlled her breathing.

With another frown, Kalmar stepped in. He added his own power to Asceal’s, and helped shape the angel as he had watched her shape the previous ones. The final result was very similar to the others, though the one difference that immediately stood out were the feathers; nearly half of them were brown rather than white, making the creature almost spotted in appearance. The brown was more concentrated around the wings and the torso than the legs.

Asceal stood and regarded the final creature, eventually flashing Kalmar a smile and brightening a tad, “Thank you.”

”Didn’t want to leave the creature incomplete.” Kalmar said, observing the creation. He thought the brown was preferable to the white. ”If I need help to build something in the future, will you return the favour?”

The Goddess nodded, “Of course.” Before turning her attention back to the creatures below. She sighed, “I can’t have them this large all the time.”

She raised her hand and the three creatures shrunk down to beings no larger than she and Kalmar. She flew out and collected each one. It took only a moment before the three sleeping creatures were laid out before the two gods.

They looked much like Kalmar, save for their nakedness and the long wings sprouting from their backs. Two had long blond hair, and one had shorter brown locks. Asceal waved a hand and clothed them in white robes much like those Aelius had fashioned for himself on Heliopolis.

The Goddess knelt down to the first and rested a hand on its head, and its eyes shot open. It cried out in what seemed to be fear, but she quickly embraced it and spoke softly, kindly, “All is well child. You’re awake now, and I’ve shown you the things you’ll need to know in the days to come.”

She repeated the act twice more, each time the being below her crying out before she soothed it. Once she was done she helped all three to their feet. The stood before the gods, all glowing faintly, and Asceal smiled at them lovingly as she spoke, “You’re all awake now, my children. Now all you need is names.”

”What will you call them?” Kalmar asked.

Asceal regarded the three, and they looked back at her with anticipation. She eventually stepped up to the first, the blond male, and rested a hand on his shoulder. “You will be… A…. Aaaa… Ak… Akam!” She declared.

She stepped over to the next one, the blond woman, and looked into her eyes. “And you will be… El… Eline!” Asceal hugged the woman and moved on.

The last was the one with brown hair, who could attribute its existence as much to Kalmar as to her. She glanced back at Kalmar, but the god of Hunting’s disinterested expression seemed to ward off any questions she might have had. She held the brown haired man’s hand. “Your name will be… M…. Mak… Makab!” She nodded and smiled at the three.

“You three are my children, my Luminous Ones.” She said happily.

And Shengshi thought I was bad at names… Kalmar thought to himself. He turned to Asceal. ”If that is all, then I think I will be on my way.” he extended a hand.

Asceal gave him a wide smile and shook his hand, “You have my thanks Kalmar. I’ll be returning to my sphere with these three.” She gestured to them, “If you ever want to speak with me, you’re always welcome to visit.”

Kalmar nodded. ”Thank you.” With those scant words, he took flight and went on his way.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by BBeast
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BBeast Scientific

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Ashalla was drifting in the ocean currents once more, idly listening to the music box's tune. In truth, the music was starting to get dull, for the box seemed to have no creativity of its own. The music was all of the same style and sounds, and even some of the melodies were starting to get repeated. She would need to find another source of music at some point, for as Xiaoli had demonstrated with her flute there were many ways to produce beauty from sound.

Ashalla also took this time to reflect upon her meeting with Hermes and Xiaoli. She had liked Xiaoli. Xiaoli recognised and affirmed Ashalla's superiority. Although Ashalla lacked the physiology to properly appreciate the tea, her music had been beautiful and even her form demonstrated artistry using nothing but water and river matter. It was odd that Xiaoli, a divine being of water, appeared to have more in common with fleshy beings than herself, but perhaps that was due to her role as Shengshi's advisor. She would have to visit Shengshi some time to discuss Xiaoli, this 'etiquette' and 'manners', and other matters befitting two water gods.

As for Hermes, Ashalla had some mixed feelings. Hermes was a beautiful dancer and affirmed Ashalla's artistry, but unlike Xiaoli she was not submissive. In her hubris she had even attempted to form a pact of friendship with a god! Such a naive attitude was understandable from a simple being like Poppler, but Hermes was surely intelligent enough to know better. Yet she said she had successfully made friends with other gods, so this indicated as much about the other gods' characters as it did Hermes'. It was likely a minor misunderstanding, rather than a claim to godhood. Regardless, Hermes had appreciated her gift, and would surely remember her divine power and show it to all Hermes met.

As Ashalla drifted and mused, land came into sight. Ashalla did not remember there being land here, although she did remember a while back when she felt a vast amount of ocean being displaced and she mentally correlated the two events. A new continent, another feature in her ocean, had been formed. Ashalla quickened her pace towards the new continent.

There were lots of trees, except these trees were different to those which she had seen in the Eye of Desolation or on Kalgrun. She pushed part of her form inland, flooding an area and feeling all the wildlife, identifying some of the plants and animals native to this area. Large, furry, omnivorous quadrupeds stood out as significant, but there were many other species too. She even saw a few Gemstone Gardeners.

She navigated south down the coast, and for a time things appeared much the same. Further along, however, shades of red were added to the pallet of green and brown which characterised the flora and fauna. Ashalla tasted this new land, and could clearly identify Kirron's ichor. So Kirron painted this part of the land. Pretty.

As Ashalla looked further, she realised that Kirron had done much more than simply apply colour. She saw towering beasts of great strength and was inspired by them. Kirron had filled this part of the continent with powerful beasts. What better display of power and creativity than creating something powerful? And what better way to assert her own might than by creating something more powerful than what she saw before her?

The ocean began to churn and swirl as biomatter was drawn in from around Ashalla. The mass condensed in the centre of the maelstrom and began to take shape. Four limbs, a body which extended beyond the lower two limbs and a head which ended in a point took shape. As the flesh was sculpted further, it became apparent that this was the embryonic form of a very large bird, curled up without an egg. As Ashalla continued to shape the creature, it grew, and feathers began to sprout from its skin. These feathers were coloured midnight blue, and crackled with static electricity. It kept growing, its coat of dark feathers becoming complete, its wings and tail gaining a fuller form. From its feet sprung sharp talons and its beak hardened to be sharper than iron. As the great bird grew larger, the electricity in its feathers started to spark and crackle. It only stopped growing once it rivalled the size of Kirron's largest megafauna. As a final flourish, Ashalla added a long azure feather beside each eye, trailing backwards.

The creature complete, Ashalla withdrew from the vast bird, freeing it from its watery womb. Its eyelids snapped open, revealing a brilliant blue-white glow. It inhaled deeply, its voluminous lungs filling with air, its chest expanding and wings stretching out. It then exhaled, a great gale blowing across the ocean and pushing waves onto the beach. It flapped its wings to shake the seawater out of its feathers, producing a peal of thunder as it moved. Arcs of electricity continued to dance across its feathers and the water around it.

Ashalla watched the creature from all angles and admired her handiwork. This mighty beast would surely be a fitting display of her power in this land of great beasts. Ashalla remembered another thing - she still needed to find a home for the music box. Ashalla fashioned a simple harness and net from seaweed, put the music box in it and wrapped it around the great bird so that the box was held beneath its chest. The bird shifted awkwardly as the sling was tied around it, but otherwise did not complain.

With the music box secured, Ashalla withdrew from the bird once more and commanded, "Thunderbird, fly!"

The Thunderbird cried an ear-splitting "CAAAAWWW!" then took to the air in a single mighty wing-beat, producing a mighty pulse of thunder which caused the surface of the ocean to ripple. Ashalla watched proudly as it flew inland, sparkling with lightning and roaring with thunder.

Yet, as Ashalla watched, a sour feeling of jealousy grew within her. While she was all-mighty in the oceans, on land she was weak. Her journey across the Isle of Twilight had shown her this. Yet countless species and beings on Galbar could travel over land with ease. It was not right for this bird which she had created to be a more able traveller than herself.

But the feeling did not stay for long, because she had devised a solution. She had seen enough of the world to be sure that this solution would be effective, both for overland travel and for portraying her strength. As the Thunderbird flew, the ocean steamed.

A herd of large creatures grazed on shrubs and grasses in the Great Hooflands. Their hefty tails lazily swung side to side as the afternoon sun shone on their tough, thick skin. As they grazed, a dark shape appeared in the sky, coming from the east and announced by distant thunder. The grazers glanced towards it, but did not give it any thought until the dark shape came much closer. The grazers looked up again to see a midnight blue bird larger than they were diving towards them. They turned their rears towards the bird and lifted their weighted tails menacingly.

The bird did not attempt to strike, but instead pulled up before the beasts with a single thunderous wing-beat. The clap of thunder pulsed through the beast before the bird, stunning it, and the terrific noise startled the other beasts who turned to flee. The Thunderbird then dropped on top of the stunned beast, its talons gripping the beast's back and lightning crackling down the Thunderbird's legs. The beast spasmed and writhed as electricity coursed through its body until it dropped dead. As the beast collapsed, the Thunderbird stooped down its head and began to devour the beast with its powerful beak.

As the Thunderbird gorged itself on its first meal, the eastern horizon darkened. The bird's nostrils flared and it looked up from its meal towards the horizon. It knew that a storm was brewing. A vast storm cloud blew in from across the horizon, carried by hurricane-force winds. The storm cast a deep shadow upon the ground beneath it, casting a darkness blacker than night illuminated by frequent flashes of lightning. Rain pelted the ground below, flooding the savannahs of the Hooflands.

The Thunderbird cawed as the storm drew near. It stretched out its wings and was swept up by the storm's mighty winds. The Thunderbird banked around and flew into the dark cloud, unafraid of the turbulence and heavy rain. Lightning struck the bird, but rather than harming the bird its feathers crackled more strongly until it discharged into the clouds. The Thunderbird easily found an updraft in the storm and rode it until the bird was above the storm. From this great altitude the Thunderbird saw the expansive Great Hooflands stretch out beneath it.

A voice like a buffeting gale spoke from the storm to the Thunderbird. "You have eaten. Good. Let us find a worthy roost."

"CAW!" The bird scanned the horizon. The western horizon was rugged from a distant, vast mountain range which tapered away towards the northern end. Yet just beyond the end of the mountain range proper was a lone mountain. "CAW!"

"Very well," said the storm who was Ashalla as the Thunderbird glided towards the lone mountain, riding her winds.

Raucous thunder rolled over Mount Chop as the Thunderbird landed on its plateau. Ashalla's howling winds soon followed, her form towering as a colossal cumulonimbus. Two orbs of lightning crackled into being near the exterior of the cloud facing the bird and Mount Chop. "Yes, this is a fitting roost. It has a commanding view of the surrounding countryside, ample flat space to make a nest, and you claim ownership over a landmark sculpted by divine hands. It would be hard to claim a better location," Ashalla said with a voice like pouring rain.

"Coo," the Thunderbird cooed, it's voice still carrying incredible force and volume despite vocalising calmly.

"Now, remove the netting," Ashalla commanded.

The Thunderbird hopped onto one foot, reached up with a talon and tore apart the seaweed ropes around its chest. The Box of Orchestration clattered to the ground. A forceful wind picked up the box and set it down the right way up. "Keep that box safe," Ashalla commanded.


Satisfied, Ashalla withdrew and blew away, deeper into Atokhekwoi. The Thunderbird watched the storm recede over the horizon. Then it circled around the plateau it had claimed as its home. A flap of its wings stunned a warren of small furry creatures, which the Thunderbird promptly devoured as a quick snack. It uprooted the trees which had attempted to grow on the rocky plateau and laid them out in a protective circle around the music box. It strutted some more until it noticed movement in the distant plains below. A herd of creatures. Dinner.

"CAAAAWW!" the Thunderbird cried as it took to the skies once more, thunder heralding its flight.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Oraculum
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Oraculum Perambulans in tenebris

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”...And now you heat it and wait for the flow to come out at the other end.”

Two of the kostral obediently lugged the cauldron over a nearby vent in the ground, splashing some of the malodorous liquid from under the badly fastened lid, while the third followed, holding the desiccated stomach of some creature under the pipe’s mouth. The heat of the molten rock below was fast to act, and something began to rumble suspiciously inside the recipient. Steam blasted from under the lid, despite the beings’ best efforts to hold it down, but something still trickled down the pipe and into the makeshift gourd at the end of the apparatus.

Once the cauldron’s contents had escaped it completely by one way or another, the third kostral tentatively held up the stomach, now about halfway filled with a pungently reeking fluid. A gigantic iron hand descended from above, its fingertips stretching into tapering hooked spikes. They deftly snatched up the gourd and disappeared upwards the cline of the glistening, bloodstained mountain that surmounted the scene. For a moment, all was quiet save for the distant crackling of fires.


The mountain was evidently not pleased.

The emptied stomach was tossed back down without much ceremony. Narzhak waved the three kostral away, and they scampered off, dragging the crude distilling apparatus behind.

It was not the first failure, nor would it likely be the last one. He had tried boiling all sorts of things in that contraption - fungi grown in water from the Cauldron, overripe tubers from the wastes below, which tasted more of mold than anything else, even pieces of beasts seasoned with traces of yeast he had scraped from the first copy of Shengshi’s invention. Of those, none approached the power of what he had tasted that time. The flavours were much better, or at least so different from those brewed by the snake-god that there was no proper way of comparing them, but there was not early enough of a punch behind any of them. The kostral had still taken to the liquors like flies to carrion, however, which made the endeavour a success as far as its actual goal went. If anything, he reflected, the weakness was even an improvement - the brews could be given out without danger of them being too much of a distraction.

As for himself, he could always go back to the Cauldron sometime. Distractions were no good to him, either.

But what harm was a swig now and then? A channel down from the Cauldron, that was a thought…

Narzhak shook his head and looked after the retreating group of thralls, who were now trying to drag the distillery up a cliff wall. If the brews were good enough, he would need more of them. Sitting around to oversee the boiling of every one had already bored him out of his head, and was simply beneath one of his might and greatness. The same went for many more things than he would have cared to admit. His would-be drudges could make no better weapons than sharp stones without his eye constantly on them, nor better digging tools than their claws, to say nothing of armour, chains, brands, all things without which a people just would not work. As much as he hated the thought, his creations were not really perfect on the first try.

But they do come close. The endless squatting over the latest experiment had given him more than enough time to think up a solution, and the one he had found was reassuringly simple. What had worked for him would work for them, which meant they were not much worse. And what was only a little worse than him was better that nearly anything else.

He clapped his hands together, sending a sound like the thunder of an immense gong reverberating across the Pit. From hundreds of caverns and tunnels, the snarling heads of kostral looked out, gazing expectantly towards him with dull eyes.

A metallic spire began to rise from Narzhak’s upturned palm, molding itself from its plates. It was still moving when it began to melt and drip, rivulets of fluid iron rivalling mountain streams in size flowing from its sharpened pinnacle, only to become part of it once again, reabsorbed into its stature.

When it stood taller than ten times the greatest tree on Galbar, he breathed disunity into it.

With a crack, the spire burst into a shimmering cloud. No fragment was larger than a grain of dust, and each more fury than a boulder could contain. The iron nimbus swept out like a storm, slithering along the great chamber’s walls. Wherever it met the bestial faces, it seized them as an angry swarm of wasps, sending the creatures stumbling back into their dens.

In the blink of a flaming eye, the storm had cleared, and the faces hesitantly began to appear again. The lurid light of the fires in the sky reflected from them in broken stains. Some had bands of metal welded to them like the remains of broken masks; others had their skin pierced by jagged spikes sprouting from within, still dripping after bursting out in their growth. More than one eye glared blankly from under a resplendent grey sheen.

The giant stretched a hand towards the ground, and iron flowed into its palm out of the rock. Slowly, the many kostral began to lower their claws to the stone of their shelves. Some higher up raised them to the ceilings, others scratched the rock of the walls. Just as slowly, yet surely, new metallic flashes began to appear between their gnarled fingers.

With a few deliberately slow motions, Narzhak molded the shapeless liquefied ore, and held up the resulting heavy, dulled blade. Thousands followed his gestures, stretching out their troves and raising them in response, one after another. At a glance, the god could see they were far from ideal, some barely resembling blades at all.

”Try until you do it well. Don’t show yourselves to me before then.” The heads and blades disappeared.

The Iron God leaned back in his seat. Good things, he had found, were slow to start, but if he added to them little by little the payoff would be a good one. Even better if no one expected it.

The thought made him sit up again. It was not bad, far from it, but as things were he was the one who did not know what to look out for. For all he could be sure, the rest of the world beyond the island he had seen might as well still have been water. That would not do.

He gritted his fingers together, a strident screech that ended in a snapping clang. Within moments, an iron-less kostral popped out of a nearby cunicle.

”You. Do you know one who’s strong?”

The creature prostrated itself in a crawling nod.

”Bring it here.”


Stalker flesh was bitter. A good taste after many days of lichen. Stalkers were a nuisance, obviously. But it was good when one came so close to the hatcheries. Those caught in the wastes did not last enough to be brought up there.

The one with the split tooth gnawed down again where it had torn off the beast’s obsidian shell. The blood around its mouth felt warm. Not burning, not choking like the hatchery. This warmth was good. It was unpleasant to leave it. Split-tooth would not have done it, but the itch in the mouth was worse. So it lifted its head, time and again. Just long enough to scratch the stringy meat out of the tooth’s fork. Then down into the blood again.

Scratches down the tunnel. Someone was coming. It did not lift its head, but looked up with two eyes. Another kostral walked into the vault. Strange one. It had iron teeth growing from its back and elbows. Half of its jaw gleamed.

The strange kostral grunted and gestured to the cunicle. Follow. Split-tooth now stood up fully, twisting its neck back. It looked to the hatchery. No. Can’t leave here. The other clicked its iron teeth impatiently. It gestured up and wide with three hands. Great One.

Split-tooth looked at the hatchery vault again, then reluctantly stretched its limbs. The other had already gone into the corridor. With some hesitation, it followed. The Great One called it. Why? What did It know? Would it be punished to frighten the others? What for? It did not know any faults. It had kept ranks, always. Better than the others. No one else had won the birthing fights three times. Not even the overseers.

The strange kostral did not stop to answer. They went past chambers full of others. Many turned to look at them. Some were strange too. Iron faces, iron nails, iron backs. They had gleaming clubs in their hands and changed them, but stopped to watch. Did they know?

They came to an opening, just beyond a wide bend. A sound came from the other side. Something large, very large was breathing. The other one stopped and showed it to go. Split-tooth looked at it, uncertain. Stop here? It gestured again.

The air behind the bend was stifling with the smell of iron. The breathing was like the grinding teeth of a deep lurker. Split-tooth clenched its fingers and slowly, quietly crept to the opening.

The Great One was a wall of iron and blood. Its face was higher than it could see. Only Its eyes burned in the darkness.

”This? What does it do?” It almost crawled back under the immensity of the voice.

Someone answered something from below.

”Three times. That’s the best you have?”

Another answer.

”Ghrm. We use what we can. Keep still.”

Split-tooth did not need the order. It could only crouch and watch.

The shadow of a claw bigger than a tower fell over it. Its tip was not sharp, but it shone like a melting rock. A sign of creases and ridges opened on it like a fifth eye.

There was burning.

”Become my eyes. What you see, I will see.”

The Great One’s touch was excruciating. Split-tooth’s shoulder was being flayed, scorched, torn out at once. Its head was no better. Something was pushing outwards, clawing, breaking bones and chains. Its eyes felt like they would bleed out at any moment. It seemed that it was already happening - everything grew dark, except the thrumming in its head and the fire in its shoulder.

”Go into the world, and watch all there is.”

The burning withdrew, only to be followed by the feeling of charred claws digging in. A well of darkness opened inside its head, and it fell into it, with the pain, away from the pain.

The last it heard was the bone-splitting the voice.

”Bring it out. Leave it there.”


She woke up to an unfamiliar cold light. It was quiet. Maybe too quiet, but she could not bring herself to care now. Not while her head still- No, it did not. It was light, sharp, almost painfully so. But only almost. The difference was important.

A stirring of the fingers, followed by a motion of the arms, showed her that the shoulder was not fully at rest yet. It still stung, though it was nothing compared to what she had felt before.

What she had felt. What was “she”?

She considered it. “She” was what gave birth. And she had done it, full three times. This was why. Then “she” also meant what won the birthing fights. That she had done too, just as many times again, which meant she was the strongest. “She” meant strength, then, and the one who wins. It made sense, and she liked it. That must have been why the Great One-

The Great One. Where was It? And where was she?

Slowly, wary of the unusual light, she opened her side eyes. It was not stronger than fire, which was a relief. It also shone on rock, which felt reassuringly familiar. Her front eyes followed. Below her was bare, blackened stony ground, sinking in pits and jutting up in spikes around her. Over the crest of a jagged hill, something glowed crimson, like a flaming cloud.

It could have been the Pit, if not for what was above.

The sight overhead was blue and boundless. Not the oppressive darkness of the Pit’s unseen vaulted ceiling. Somehow, she guessed, no, knew that the blue above really had no limits, or if it did they were so far away it did not matter. The sky. It was clear, cool, pleasant like the stalker flesh after days of lichens. There was a fire there, too, she saw now, but if she did not look at it it did not chase her eye. Fires could be quiet, who knew.

Gently, careful not to jolt her still aching shoulder, she began to pull herself up on her arms. One of her hands struck something cold and metallic as it stretched. She began to turn her head to look, and her side eye fell on the burned spot. It was not burned after all. There just was a large, reddish scar on the grey skin, a scar with a shape. A clenched fist inside a circle.

Become my eyes. This was the mark of the Great One.

Forgetting the thing her hand had felt, her thoughts turned back to the Great One. To N- the Great One. It was supreme. But it must have been something else besides. It could not just be- Yes. The Great One was supreme. The greatest. The mightiest. There was nothing more to know. There had to be. There were others like It, she knew now. She knew their names. She knew Its name - It had heard them speak it, and what It saw, she had seen. It was just one of-

The Great One is absolute. Nothing can compare. But something did. Something did, and these were not her thoughts. They had no place inside her. It did not have to think. The Great One thought for it. She thought now. She felt the boundlessness of sky, and how it was good. What had there been before? Waiting for a stalker to crawl up to the hatcheries? It only had to obey. What was there now-

What was there now for the others? The kostral? The ones like her? They obeyed. The Great One thought for them. And much good it did them. They hatched, they ate, died, no better than the stalkers. They could be so much more. They could be like her. They had to obey. Because It had made them like that. Made and shackled them. It needed them. It- no, he. “He” was the one who lost, who was weak. He was weak without them to serve him. The Great One is absolute. Obey.

No. She was strong. The strong did not obey the weak. The Great One is strongest. OBEY. The kostral would be better if they did not serve him. OBEY She thought. She knew. She willed.



An iron claw rose from the darkness and grasped her mind, crushing, breaking.

For a moment, all was dark again. Then the iron grip shattered.

She blinked her eyes open. The sky was still there, as were the stones. So was the ache in her shoulder, as she felt when she tried to stand. But something was missing. It took her a while to realise that it was the shadow over her thoughts.

Thoughts. They came so much easier now. Really, if everyone could think like this…

“I’ll kill you,” she mused aloud, a rasping growl shaping itself into words with an ease that almost unsettled her, “Sometime, I’ll come back and kill you.”

When she realised she had spoken, she sprang up, heedless of the pain in her shoulder, and glanced around. No, he was not here. A relief.

A glimmer on the ground caught her eye. The metallic thing she had felt earlier. She turned to see it better. Next to her there lay a large, shaped piece of iron - a pole with a long, broad recurve blade. An axe. She gripped the pole with two left hands and tried to lift it. The weapon was strangely light for something so large. Just holding it made her want to cleave something. Of course he’d want his eyes to have teeth, too. In this, she was ready to agree. It would not hurt to have something to bite with.

Remembering something, she snapped her mouth open and ran a finger along the jagged line of her fangs. It was still there, of course. Her split tooth. All she had been, besides a thrall of the Great- Narzhak. That meant it was all she was now.

Split-Tooth. There were worse things to start with.

She slung the axe over her good shoulder and began to crawl with her back to the distant fire in the sky. For now, it was better not to let the Fell One suspect anything. Until a better moment came, she would be two dutiful pairs of eyes, and ears - ?

big sack of angry cats you're trying to pass off as bagpipes

The wind brought sounds up here. New, interestingly so.

Split-Tooth clambered over the closest mound of rocks, with a small leap to cover the gap where they broke away to hover over the ground. She strained to hear the odd voice from afar. It was a bit grating-

"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."

“Security staff”. The exact words were unclear, but she could guess their meaning quite closely. So the Fell One wasn’t the only one who kept battle slaves. It figured, if there were others like him. And they too apparently did not get any better than lichens most of the time.

She thought of the days - many days - she had squatted at the mouth of the hatchery. Even without thoughts, it had been dull, boring work. And hot. The eggs had to be in hot places, but what that meant for those that guarded them? No, the “Great One” did not think of that.

She hopped off the hovering stones and began to walk towards where she guessed the voice must have come from. She could wager these security staff did not think any more than the kostral, but now she could. She would think for them, and do it well.

As soon as she found out what coffee was.

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Hidden 2 yrs ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

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FP: 01 MP: 06

This embrace felt almost common nowadays, yet it still made her watery heart race just a little faster than usual. There was no heat quite like the one that pressed against Xiaoli’s coarse skin when she flew with Hermes - it was soft, gentle and kind, much like Hermes herself. Her grip around Hermes tightened a little more as they broke through the sound barrier once more, inciting a terrible boom that sent some local birds below into the air, screaming and singing their song of panic. Even as they flew faster than sound, the scents of the jungle below tickled at Xiaoli’s nostrils. She looked down and saw the endless swathes of green than poured outwards from the sea-like Nanhe like jam from a pastry. Then, in the distance, there was a speck of gold that rivaled Heliopolis in its radiance - or at least the background in its reflectivity.

“There!” she called and pointed to the speck that was rapidly growing.

The flight shifted ever so slightly, the great speeds at which they were going causing the turn to bend wide. Slowly Hermes managed to adjust their flight and in a moment, they approached at such a speed it was more like the world rushed towards them. Xiaoli felt Hermes’ grip tighten around her, one she had grown to know the meaning of and then all at once, there was a sudden stop.

Xiaoli raised an eyebrow, finding herself rather dumbfounded. Everything around the ship seemed rather normal: The river drifted lazily underneath and around the hull; the forests danced in the gentle breeze; the clouds snailed their way across the sky.

Everything aboard the ship was anything but normal: Where there was usually an empty deck now stood and knelt and laid close to ten thousand humanoids, all dressed in practical, yet beautiful clothing, all busily repairing what seemed to be a hole in the deck. There was a familiar sheen and shine about their forms and Xiaoli gasped, placing her hand to her mouth.

“A-are those the servants? And is that a hole in His Lordship’s ship?!” she whispered loudly and looked to Hermes. “Please! Take us a little closer!”

A bewildered Hermes quickly did as Xiaoli asked, zipping the trio to the deck itself, her sandals touching down. Poppler emerged from her braid, crackling with recognition. Hermes pursed her lips, almost forgetting to let go of Xiaoli, “They are dressed like you.”

Almost in unison, all the servants turned to the trio. There was a short pause. Then one of them said, “t-the First of the Court has returned…”

“THE FIRST OF THE COURT HAS RETURNED!” they all thundered in unison and cast themselves on the ground before the trio. Xiaoli recoiled, momentarily readjusting to the role of superior again. She had absolutely -not- expected Shengshi to make such a sophisticated staff for his ship - not yet, at least. Regardless, this might make their entrance a little smoother.

“G-good day, everyone,” she said loudly.

“These servants hail the First of the Court!” all of them shouted simultaneously into the deck planks, causing Hermes to flinch and cover an ear. Xiaoli recoiled again.

“Very good, very good,” Xiaoli said. “Please, send a message to His Lordship of my return and tell His Lordship that my companions and I will be arriving at his chambres momentarily.”

“We already sent a messenger when we saw Your Ladyship,” one of the closest servants said softly. “She will no doubt return post-haste with His Lordship’s answe-”

“My Lady! His Lordship summons Your Ladyship and companions to His chambres!” came a voice from the palace gates, where a girl dressed in simple white robes, no doubt one of the bathhouse servants, stood and waved her hand.

Xiaoli blinked and turned to Hermes with a gentle shrug. “Speak of the rain and it will pour.”

Hermes nodded, her voice light on a joke, “I’ll have to remember that one for Li’Kalla.” Xiaoli giggled and nodded back.

“You do that, my dear. Now…” she took a deep breath. “Let us go see Shengshi…” The servants parted like clouds before the sun as the trio walked towards the gates, all of them at a constant forty-five degree angle bow. Xiaoli took a moment to observe the forms she passed. They were all almost frighteningly similar to her - she suspected Shengshi had followed his formula from when she formed her and just removed the divine imprint.

“I prefer the original,” Hermes muttered after a long stare at one of the servants, commanding an agreeing pop from the cloudling.

“Shh! You’re going to hurt their feelings! They’ve been mindless blobs of water for an age, now. They deserve some proper sentience after so long,” Xiaoli whispered a little aggressively.

Hermes looked down, chastised, “Sorry.” Poppler crackled defiantly as he floated alongside them duo.

“Poppler!” Xiaoli snapped. “None of that language, okay?”

A grumpy ”Zzt!” sounded as Hermes plucked the cloudling from the air and cupped her hand by her braid, the cloudling soaking through.

Upon entering the castle, two male servants dressed in white, button-up silk shirts with long, open sleeves and baggy black pants came over to the trio with bowed shaven heads and a plate of fruits and appetisers each.

“Is Her Ladyship or Her Ladyship’s companions a little peckish, perhaps?” one of them asked in a soft voice. Xiaoli giggled a little and took a small pastry and a piece of pineapple.

“Thank you so much, sir,” she said with a smile. The servant dared look up at her, blushed and looked back down.

“Anything for Her beautiful Ladyship,” he said and offered the plate to Hermes.

Hermes seemed to hesitate, but ultimately plucked a piece of the pineapple from the plate, she gave a weak, slightly stressed smile, “Thank you.”

The servant tipped a little deeper. “Anything for Her Ladyship’s friends.” They both walked a distance backwards away from the trio before turning and continuing normally down the hallway. Xiaoli put the pastry in her mouth and giggled.

“See? This is what life could be like in your mansion! Whatever you may want, they serve it to you before you even say it.” She let out a satisfied sigh and skipped down the hallway. “It is paradise!”

Hermes licked the sticky fruit juices from her fingers, the yellow fruit already gone. Her face relaxed, and she gave a wide smile, quickening her pace to match Xiaoli’s, “I have to admit, that was the second to least stressful eating has been, so I’m all for it.”

Xiaoli chuckled enthusiastically and beckoned Hermes over. “Come on! The stairs are this way!” Then she kept skipping down the hallway like a giddy doe. Eventually Hermes seemed to relax even more, breaking into a matching skip.

Soon, the trio arrived at the stairwell. Xiaoli let out a sigh that turned into a groan. “Hermes, would you mind flying us up? I cannot handle these inconvenient steps right now, I feel.”

Wrapping her arms around Xiaoli, Hermes nodded, “Sure.” The group gently lifted off the ground, and then buzzed upwards. The flight up five floors was rather quick compared to other distances Hermes had flown. After merely ten seconds, they had already ascended to the top floor, greeted by the colossal mural in the ceiling of the masses worshiping the snake and the long hallway with the glorious gates of the snake’s chambres, flanked by the two menacing dragons of gold. Xiaoli gently let go of Hermes and strolled down the hallway, leaving Hermes in a state of curiosity and wonder for a moment or two. Xiaoli looked over her shoulder with a raised brow.

“Is something the matter, dear?” she asked curiously.

“-Oh!” Hermes flinched from her thoughts, quickly rejoining Xiaoli “I was just looking.”

Xiaoli giggled and turned back to the door, though after a few steps, she froze and turned, her face suddenly riddled with concern and fear.

“I just thought of something… What if he think you kidnapped me?” she said, nearly biting her nails in a fit of stress. No, no, no! That would be so like him! He would see me, then her, then promptly pop her into nonexistence for a crime she didn’t commit! What if I hide her? No, no, he can sense her presence. Her eyes widened. He can probably sense her already.

“Hermes, stay calm, okay?” Xiaoli said desperately. “Maybe he won’t recognise you because of your new colours!”

Hermes laid a hand on Xiaoli’s shoulder, “I think I’m too close for it to matter which way or that, but maybe if he sees you first?”

Xiaoli calmed down a little. That could work… Have her wait in the hallway and let me explain the whole situation. Yes, yes, that was a plan. She tossed her arms around Hermes and gave her a tight hug. “You’re so smart, Hermes!” she said happily.

Giving Xiaoli a tiny squeeze, Hermes smiled, her eyes warm, “I’ll be right here.”

Xiaoli let go of Hermes and moved over to the door. She looked back at Hermes for reassurance before pushing the gates open and stepping inside.

The room was uncharacteristically empty and light - there were no heaps of broken clay cups in the corners; no mess of ink and paper around the calligraphy desk; Shengshi’s basket was upright. Was she really in her master’s lair?

She walked over to the birdcage with the keas and the cockatoos. They were singing happily as always; one was munching on some seeds from a fancy porcelain bowl. Xiaoli giggled and reached a finger inside the cage to tickle one of the birds. They squeaked and squawked happily at the attention.

There was a roll of harp strings outside, followed by some gentle, hopping notes. Xiaoli swallowed. Her master knew she was near. She dusted off her dress waved goodbye to the little birds and walked outside on the veranda.

Facing the front of the ship, the snake sat plucking at the strings of his guzheng. The melody was joyous, yet sorrowful - conveying a sensation of separation and reunion, with many notes of different octaves that joined together in harmony.

Xiaoli stepped up behind the snake. She looked down, then away. She twiddled her thumbs sheepishly, and just as she was about to open her mouth, the snake spoke:

“How was your journey, my dear?”

Xiaoli froze. No, right, cordial start. The scolding is right around the corner. Steele yourself and be ready for anything. She got in a seiza-position, then into a kowtow.

“Milord, this servant’s acts have been truly unacceptable. Know that she is deeply ashamed of her transgressions and-”

The snake plucked particularly hard at a string, inciting a quieting note that interrupted Xiaoli mid-sentence.

“I did not ask you to apologise, dear,” he said gently. “I asked how your journey has been.”

Xiaoli sat back up. Is he… Not mad? No, that cannot be. He should be absolutely furious with me! Maybe if I humour him, he will get to it.

“It-... It was very enriching, my lord. I have learned and seen much, met so many, both gods and mortals. I have explored the world and improved my ability to advise you, my lord.”

The snake nodded, plucking at a few more strings.

“And what of your companion? Did she leave already?”

Xiaoli froze. Could he really not-..? No, of course, he could sense her! It was just the usual play - nothing to do but humour him.

“Hermes is waiting outside, my lord. She thought it appropriate to allow us a proper reunion before introducing herself again.” The snake hummed in agreement, a shadowy bird flying by.

“Indeed,” the snake said. “Have her come in and have tea with us. I have some, uhm, questions I would like to ask her.” The snake’s voice grew oily towards the end of the sentence, inciting a concerned smile from Xiaoli. He was definitely furious with her, she thought, but he would be considerably more furious if they refused to cooperate. Xiaoli got to her feet, bowed and walked backwards in a bow until she turned the corner.

Xiaoli swung the doors open and ran over to Hermes with many small steps. “Hermes! His Lordship wants to talk to us - together! What do we do?!”

Hermes, who was right where Xiaoli last saw her nearly jumped at the sudden explosion from the doors. Taking a second to recompose herself Hermes furrowed her brow in thought, her hair changing many different colors before landing on a almost purple mahogany, “I think it would be best if we did as he said,” Hermes voice betrayed her own concern, “Running would only make him think I was guilty.”

Xiaoli nodded slowly and took Hermes’ hands in her own. “Alright. Let’s… Let’s just be careful, okay?”

“Of course,” Hermes laced her fingers with Xiaoli’s, her eyes darting upwards as if in an attempt to see the back of her own head, “And you keep quiet!”


Xiaoli giggled, her concern vanishing ever so slightly. She then pulled Hermes along inside the chambres.

Out on the veranda, the snake still sat playing his guzheng. Xiaoli dragged Hermes excitedly by the hands and presented her to the snake who slowly turned around and inclined his head.

“Here she is, my lord: The beautiful young Hermes. As you can see, she has had a colour pallet change since you two last met.” Xiaoli placed her sleeve in front of her mouth and let out a quiet giggle. “Come on, Hermes, tell him a little about our adventures.” The snake nodded invitingly, though still faced away from them.

Stealing a confident glance at Xiaoli, Hermes sucked in a breath, “Well,” Hermes began, thoughts rushing to her tongue, “We visited the Lustrous Gardens and met Liana, then we went to Tendlepog.” Hermes held up a finger, “Where K’nell met Xiaoli, and even gave her a gift for her kindness.”

“After that,” Hermes continued, “We both,” there was a fidgeting in her braid, “We all,” she corrected, “met Ashalla, who blessed me with colour after an evening of dancing and tea. After that we went to go see the Goddess Arae, but instead met Abanoc, who gifted me with a special book as well as the information of your own whereabouts. We then decided to come back, knowing where you were.”

“I see,” the snake said curtly. The harp strings quieted down. “Hermes, dear, answer me this: Did you take Xiaoli away with the intent of kidnapping her?”

“My lord, she di-!” Xiaoli yelled, but the snake raised a hand.

“I am asking Hermes, Xiaoli. Do not interrupt.”

“I didn’t,” Hermes answered, “We both left on our own accord.”

“I see,” the snake repeated. “Another question, if you would not mind. Did you try to teach Xiaoli anything that would make her stray from the path of the Flow?”

Xiaoli looked like a boiling kettle, furious steam shooting out from underneath her hair. Hermes on the other hand narrowed her eyes, yet remained calm, at least outwardly, “I don’t know what that is, how can I answer such a question?”

“Understood,” the snake said. “One final question remains: Did you hurt Xiaoli in any way?”

“No! Shut u-!” Xiaoli started, but Shengshi snapped his fingers. A group of servants came out from the snake’s chambres onto the veranda and proceeded to surround Xiaoli before bowing to her.

“Your Ladyship, we ask on His Lordship’s behalf for you to please cease your interruptions. Thank you very much.” Xiaoli looked dumbfounded, inciting the servants to leave, their jobs successfully completed.

“No,” Hermes answered, her voice now betraying her own agitation, coupled by an accidental orange flair in her hair. The snake hummed one final time.

“Very well, then.”

The snake finally turned to face the two. The black rings around his eyes poured down over his cheeks along with several litres of tears; his nose overflowed with wet snot; his lip was curled in a grimace that could release a bawl at any second.

And bawl, he did.

“XIAOLIH, IMISSDYOOOO-HU-HUUUU!” the snake bawled, slithering over to a very confused and concerned Xiaoli, grabbing Hermes on the way and embracing both in a big, wet hug. Xiaoli wiggled like a caught fish, though she felt her eyes, too, were filling with fluids. Confused popping filled the air while Hermes struggled, completely in shock.

“I-... I’ve missed you too, my lord…” she said warmly and hugged the giant snake back.

Hermes continued to struggle for a moment longer, Poppler zipping from her braid in a confused huff. Finally the Dreamer managed to relax -- in a stiff sort of way -- and accepted her fate. Reaching out with her hand she managed to pat Shengshi’s back a couple times, a muffled “There, there” sounding from his armpit. The snake held them for a little while longer, squeezing a tad harder towards the end before letting them go with a loud sniff.

“R-right,” he huffed. “Forget you ever saw that, is that clear?” He snapped his fingers and a servant came over with a damp towel. “That was a momentary breach of etiquette, nothing more.” He cleared his throat sheepishly and wiped his face. Xiaoli giggled happily and flicked away some of her own tears. Hermes wiggled her nose, thankful for Shengshi’s liberal use of perfume.

“Yes, mylord,” Xiaoli said, beaming joyously. The snake wiped the last of his despair off his face and turned back to the trio.

“Well, I am glad your trip has been enriching in terms of both knowledge and experience. Now, however, comes a key part of your return.” He snapped his fingers again and ten servants came out onto the veranda carrying bathrobes, towels, soap bars and wine cups.

“A bath! Trust me, you need one.”

Shengshi’s words caused Hermes to do a not so discrete sniff of her shirt, reeling slightly. Xiaoli raised an eyebrow. “Even me, mylord?”

“Even you,” the snake said “You would be surprised how many impurities you have collected on your journey. You smell a little like, like… How to put this delicately…”

“An old lake, mylord?” Xiaoli said unenthusiastically.

“I was going to suggest a bog, but yes, a really, really old lake could produce a similar smell, I suppose.”

Xiaoli gaped and, like Hermes, sniffed her dress with a little less discretion than what was expected of her. Poppler floated away from the pair, crackling in what could have been agreement, Hermes’ face turned a shade of red.

The snake noticed the cloud and smirked. “There’s that clump of air with the unquenchable thirst. How has the journey been, little, uhm…” The snake plucked at his beard. “Poppy, was it?”
Poppler crackled, then began a small series of pops as it floated around the god, before finally resting on a harp string with a ”Zzt!”

“Not very elegantly put, but a rather fun retelling of your adventures.” The snake leaned in a little, his face turning somewhat more menacing. “Though I would use slightly less crass adjectives when describing my beautiful Xiaoli next time, is that clear?”

There was a low crackle as Poppler zipped from the harp and to a nearby flower, as if suddenly disinterested. A shadowy bird flew overhead and Hermes shot the cloudling a look, “He means well, just a little simple.”

The snake hummed understandingly. “Well, I have dealt with a few of his type lately, so I will forgive him. Now, it is about time you girls got yourselves a bath. The servants will show you the way. When you are done, we will have our welcome feast!” The snake grinned from horn to horn and clapped his hands excitedly.

Xiaoli joined in the clapping. “Very good, mylord! Would… Would you mind if we got some extra servings of cold noodles? I have missed those so much!”

The snake nodded. “That should not be an issue, my dear. I will have the cooks make as much as we can eat and more.” Xiaoli grinned and beckoned Hermes to follow before skipping inside.

Hermes gave the cloudling (who was halfway delved into a flower) another look before smiling at Shengshi, “I’ll come back for him.” With little else, she quickly followed Xiaoli, only stopping just as she reached the doorway. Turning she pursed her lips and slowly made her way back to the god, “May I show you something?”

The god raised an eyebrow and nodded. “Please.” He beckoned her over. Hermes walked up to the god, until they were in arms reach. Slowly she reached forward and poked his cheek, her eyes ever serious, “Thank you.”

The snake first raised his other eyebrow in surprise, but then let out a soft chuckle. “You mortals are such odd creatures - especially you.” He gave her a wink.

“We learned it from the gods,” Hermes gave a playful wink of her own.

“I apologise for asking you all those questions, by the way. I know you did not kidnap Xiaoli. It was my own fault she felt the incentive to leave.” His voice turned somber. “I cannot describe how happy I am that she has returned, and I am glad you were the one to do it, too. You have a good heart, Hermes, and a pure soul. Thank you for taking care of my dearest Xiaoli.” The snake bowed deeply before Hermes.

Hermes dipped her head, “so do you, nothing less could have made Xiaoli.”
The snake nearly recoiled. His lips quivered somewhat and he placed a palm over his heart. “R-run along now, you… You little rascal…” he said in a voice that sounded like a scream of joy and a wail of happiness.

With a final cheshire grin, Hermes quickly made her way inside.

The bathhouse was full of steam, almost to the point where it became difficult to see. There was one colossal iron pot on each side of the room filled with boiling water. Along the walls were cloudy mirrors and seats where there sat one or two servants who were washing one another while conversing. In the centre of the room was a large pool with steaming, green, fragrant water. Xiaoli was already splashing happily in the pool, or was she the bathwater? It was unclear where the border went. Some of the servants had hopped into the bath, as well, and they were all playing together enthusiastically.

Another thing that was particularly odd about Xiaoli was that something was missing - specifically, her sandy skin. As such, only the watery shape of Xiaoli with her long black hair sat in the bath, complemented with two bright grey orbs in her eye-sockets. She looked out towards the door and water at Hermes.

“Hermes, come in! The water is amazing!”

Her skin fluttering to the color of the steam, Hermes looked around with a sudden, uncharacteristic embarrassment. She slowly let her bag slink off her shoulders, the entire ordeal landing on the floor with a soft clunk of iron. Making her way, albeit very slowly, to the water, Hermes’ color shifted with the steam, keeping her on the verge of camouflage. Giving one strange look at Xiaoli, the Dreamer suddenly hopped into the water, sandals, clothes and all.

Xiaoli returned the strange look and then broke out into a loud cackle. “Hermes! You’re supposed to take off your clothes, silly! You bathe your body naked, then the servants will wash your clothes for you - like they are doing with mine.” The servants joined her with some giggling.

“Can’t I do it all at the same time?” Hermes pleaded her case, shrinking slightly at the giggling.

Xiaoli shook her head. “No, that’s not how it’s done. You bathe nake-...” She stopped mid-sentence and suddenly cracked a wry smile. “Are you embarrassed, dear?”

Fidgeting Hermes shrunk into the water, bubbles escaping from her shirt, “No, I just-- God-- K’nell gave me these clothes, I think I should wear them.”

“Well, His Lordship gave me my clothes, and I let the servants wash them. You certain you wouldn’t like to know what wearing freshly washed and pressed clothing feels like? I’m telling you, bathing with your clothes on will leave them wrinkly and wet for a while.” She poked playfully at the shirt.

Hermes hesitated, “When I was created,” she began ,”One of the few bits of knowledge that was embedded in my mind was that of keeping myself covered in front of other people.”

Her face flushed, “Yes, I’m embarrassed.”

Xiaoli’s face began to steam. “That’s adora-I mean, that’s understandable.” She looked away. “I-... I won’t pressure you anymore, then. You can k-keep your clothes on.” There was a pause. “Could I wash you hair, though?” The servants began to prepare soaps and ointments for hair and left them on the poolside.

Hermes nodded with a small relieved smile, turning her back to Xiaoli. Xiaoli hummed softly as she put some soap in her hands and began to rub it into her hair. Hermes closed her eyes and slowly slipped away at the soothing sensation.

Xiaoli found herself steaming again. How could she have been so rash and stupid! It was clear Hermes hadn’t been comfortable in there, and yet she insisted that-...! The river girl took a deep breath. She stood in front of a mirror in her private chambres, still in her watery form with a basket of steaming hot sand by her side. The servants had been kind to offer to wash her skin completely - she could not believe she had begun to sprout moss in some places. How terrible, she thought.

Xiaoli stuck her hand into the basket and absorbed the sand into her form. Quickly, it coursed through her and laid itself on the very top layer of her body. She dared glance back into the mirror for a second before shaking her head and heading for her wardrobes. She rummaged through her dresses and robes for a while before finding the perfect outfit for the evening: A blue dress with a beautiful, white silk coat, adorned with embroidered blooms. She quickly dressed up and stepped out of the room.

She stood on one of the balconies overlooking the banquet hall below, where the feast was being prepared by a countless number of servants: The tables were stacked to the brim with food; the pitchers were overflowing with drinks of all kind; the servants even had a small band playing gentle background tunes on harps, erhus and flutes. Oh, this would be so great! Now, where was Hermes? She strolled towards the private rooms towards the stern of the ship.

One of the doors creaked open, Hermes’ head popping out. Her long alabaster hair for once was straight, if only with a slight wave to it. Seeing Xiaoli she suddenly sprouted a warm smile and stepped out all the way. Her old clothes were long gone, the Dreamer having come to her senses after the bath and opted for a private change. In their place was a blue silk jacket that covered a white silk shirt on the inside; the shirt reached down to Hermes’ hips, from which sprouted a white, silky skirt. The sandals on her feet had given way (after much debate) to small, white shoes.

Xiaoli stood dumbstruck at the sight. She clapped her hands excitedly, grinning from ear to ear. “Oh, my dear Hermes, you are so beautiful in that outfit!” He even skipped up and down like an energetic rabbit.

Matching her glee, Hermes smiled wide, “I like it.” She paused, “you were right, it feels so much better.”

Xiaoli nodded enthusiastically. “See? I told you! It is always nice to get out of your clothes after a long time. The servants will wash your shirt and sandals so they are ready for when-...” She hesitated. “Well, nevermind that for now. Let us go eat!”

Hermes smiled with approval, her fingers threading through her freshly cleaned hair with continuous wonder. With a bounce in her step, Hermes walked beside Xiaoli, both of their noses content with the fresh scents that lingered from their bath. In little time, they made their way downstairs to the banquet hall.

The banquet hall froze when Hermes and Xiaoli entered. All the servants figuratively dropped what they were doing and lined up in equal lines along the staircase down, all of them bowing inwards towards the new arrivals. Hermes quickly looked to Xiaoli, as if asking what to do.

“These servants all hail Her Ladyship Xiaoli and Her companion Hermes - please be welcome at our table,” the servants all thundered in unison. Xiaoli grinned and bowed back.

“You honour us both, dearest servants. We hope you can allow us to rely on your for amazing service throughout the banquet. We are eternally grateful for your hard work.”

The servants hummed curtly in unison and straightened back up, returning to their duties. However, two servants for Hermes and Xiaoli each accompanied them over to the circular banquet table, where they pulled out their chairs, put down cutlery and plates and poured drinks.

“Isn’t this nice, Hermes? They prepared all of this for us! Oh, I am so hungry right now!” Xiaoli seemed ecstatic, bouncing up and down in her chair. Hermes slowly sat in her chair, as if there were eggshells she was afraid to break. Her eyes were wide and tinted rose, “This is all so-”

“Majestic,” The word came to her with a happy grin, “You have a very beautiful home,” Hermes looked over to Xiaoli, “I like it all, really.”

“I’m happy you do, my dear,” she returned, grinning. Then, the music stopped. Every servant, even the cooks and the musicians, all lined up along the staircase again. At the very top stood Shengshi, his eyes repainted with black lines and his mouth split open in a wide grin. He slowly slithered down the red carpeted steps. As he moved, he opened his mouth and recited a poem.

”Blesséd is the one
Who can invite friends from far;
Blessed am I today.”

“I have dreamed for a long time of this glorious moment, my friends…” The snake opened his arms invitingly. The red lanterns around began to glow brighter, their warm rays reflecting off the golden edifices of the surrounding ornaments.

”Wealthy is the one
Who can celebrate with friends;
I have wealth today.”

The snake reached the bottom of the stairwell and the servants kowtowed in unison. The warm rays that danced across the room began to grow even brighter. The snake slithered over to his seat and sat down.

”Fortune blesses one
Who gives one’s heart to a friend;
I am fortunate.”

There was a pause. The snake first eyed Xiaoli, then winked at Hermes. “Let the feast begin.”

The servants immediately got back to their posts and the food was promptly served. Shengshi, Hermes and Xiaoli were all given a bowl of cold noodles in a sauce of vinegar and soy sauce, as well as a bowl of boiled rice. Then, at the centre of the table, there was placed a large wooden disk that could be spun around in circles - then, the disk was filled with all kinds of dishes. The snake pondered for a bit before snatching a piece of fish off the disk and placing it in his mouth. As soon as the snake had eaten, Xiaoli grabbed her own chopsticks and pinched them around a piece of meat.

With curious eyes, Hermes scanned the smorgasbord before her. Eventually she picked up a single chopstick and stabbed cubes of sauce covered fowl onto her rice, followed by a mish mash of vegetables. Content with the colors in her bowl, she did the best of her ability to eat it all, chopsticks and fingers alike being used. Despite her novice attitude towards the silverware, she tried her hardest to keep her finger usage to a minimum, attempting to mimic Xiaoli and Shengshi’s motions. Much to her surprise, she eventually got the hang of the sticks, pinching them in her fingers properly if not a little close to the bottom of the sticks. Xiaoli observed Hermes’ attempts at using the chopsticks and giggled warmly. The snake looked very appreciative as he studied Hermes slowly picking up the technique, like a parent would watch a child attempting to walk for the first time. He drank some from his cup and a servant came over to refill it.

“The truly is abloom with wonder today,” he said. Xiaoli turned to him and grinned. “Hermes,” the snake continued. “Even with all my words and phrases, I cannot describe my gratitude towards you for being such a good friend to my dearest Xiaoli, and for allowing her to experience the world around - something I, in my weakness, would not.” He raised his cup.

“Request any gift and, with the Architect and the world as my witness, I shall bestow it upon you with great enthusiasm.” Xiaoli clapped her hands excitedly.

Hermes smiled and looked away with a sudden bashfulness, “I don’t think I could take a gift for being Xiaoli’s friend. It’s almost like being rewarded for breathing.”

The snake grinned. “My, I completely misjudged you the first time we met. It is almost as if you have grown since then. I must insist, however - your kindness and friendship cannot go unrewarded. Say your wish, and it shall come true.”

Thinking hard, Hermes’ smile faded. Her hand fell over her abdomen, rubbing against the foreign silks and pressing inward, “There is one thing.” She eventually said, “I’m incomplete.”

Xiaoli’s grin faded as well, her eyes looking down. The snake leaned forward, placed his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his knuckles. “I see. You are infertile, like a magnificent desert. You wish to mother children of your own, without the need of divine aid to fashion you offspring. Am I correct in my estimate?”

“You are,” Hermes nodded solemnly, “But I want to change that, as you said.”

The snake nodded. “So be it. Your wish shall be granted.”

Hermes face lit up with a certain awe that couldn’t be quite called joy or excitement, “Really?” she all but blurted in wonder. Xiaoli looked about ready to explode with joy.

The snake chuckled. “Indeed. We will finish our meal and head up on deck. There, the waters will grant you the fertility to mother a thousand families.”

Hermes nodded vigorously, “Yes!” she all but shouted at the snake. Turning to Xiaoli she gave her a wide K’nell-like smile, which Xiaoli returned with a smile from fictional horn to fictional horn - Shengshi style. Unable to form any words through her joy, Hermes took to her food in a rushed manner, her appetite quickly closing due to the excitement. The snake let out a happy sigh and ate a few more bites.

“I see the excitement in the air is bubbling. Eat your fills and we will proceed. I will go on ahead and prepare.” The snake bowed his head and rose up from his chair. As he slithered upstairs, the servants all figuratively dropped whatever they were holding and sprinted over to the staircase to bow before their lord.

Xiaoli looked up from her plate at Hermes. She almost looked happier than she had even seen her, her cheshire grin almost mimicking that of her creator. The colours in her hair seemed to blink and dance with excitement, a sight Xiaoli felt herself particularly drawn to. She felt her mind flutter at the heart-warming sight of Hermes finishing her meal in all haste.

Today, she would tell her.

“I am so happy for you, Hermes! You’re finally going to be blessed with fertility! You will finally be complete!”

Hermes swallowed a gulp of her food, letting her chopsticks rest along her bowl, “I know!” She managed as she caught her breath, “I can’t wait. It’s happening, I’ll be finished, completely, done.”

Grinning, Hermes pushed her bowl away, “Thank you for showing me your home, if we hadn’t- I don’t even want to know.”

Xiaoli’s cheeks reddened. “Oh… I-It was nothing. I’m happy you got to see it a little closer than last time. I still have to show you Fengshui Fuyou at some point.” Come to think of it, Xiaoli had actually never seen her lord’s home - she could picture it from the information planted in her head upon her creation, but she could not synthesise the smells or the sounds in her mind; the pictures were just pictures with no memories attached. That would be a fine place to take Hermes one day, she mused internally.

“Anyway, have you finished your meal?” she asked with a bubbly voice.

“I don’t think I could eat anymore even if I wanted to,” Hermes nodded. She paused, a giddy look washing over her face, “To the deck?”

“To the deck,” Xiaoli echoed and stood up. The servants lined up to bid the duo farewell as they skipped happily up the steps.

Out on the deck awaited the snake. He stood in front of the neck of the dragon’s head with a gorgeous red mattress in front of him. The mattress was covered in silk pillows on the far end from the snake and was flanked on each side by two female servants dressed in white robes, who were all bowing to the two girls.

“Ah, you have arrived,” the snake said. “It is recommended that you lie down for the procedure, dear Hermes. There may be some pain in your abdomen both during and afterwards. Do not worry, however - it is only temporary.” He gestured to the mattress and bowed. Xiaoli looked a little suspiciously at the mattress, but squeezed Hermes’ shoulder affectionately.

Hermes turned to give Xiaoli a smile, taking her hand briefly before walking off to the mattress. Crows cawed madly in the distance, but Hermes’ mind was focused as she slid on top of the mattress, her joints popping from the sudden comfort.

One of the servants offered her a glass of clear liquid. “Please, drink this,” she said. “It will ease the pain.”

Meanwhile, the snake slowly lifted his arms as the waters below the ship began to rumble and rock. Two boots suddenly clicked as they stepped on the deck. Phantasmal crows crowded the figure’s shoulders, and a long black jacket snapped in the sudden motion of the boat. K’nell looked upon the scene with silvery eyes. Without a word he walked over to the bewildered Hermes, put a hand on her shoulder and looked over to the snake with a nod, as if beckoning for him to continue. The snake raised an eyebrow, but a simple sniff seemingly made it clear to him who the figure was. Two small snakes of water rose up from the river below - they were glistening in the heliopolis, like diamond. Xiaoli gasped in awe.

“The gift of fertility is a beautiful request - a right of all living things.” The snakes slithered closer to Hermes and began to wrap themselves around her stomach, sliding under her easily as if she was floating in mid-air. Xiaoli walked over and grabbed Hermes’ hand. She knew what was coming next. Hermes’ eyes bounced between all the figures, but rested on Xiaoli. The wordless K’nell’s hand suddenly began to crackle, a soft glow emitting between him and Hermes, the spiral on her forehead spinning across her skin.

“And so, I, Shengshi, lord of the thousand streams, bless you, Hermes the Dreamer, by honouring that request.” The snakes tightened their grip around her abdomen and then, slowly, began to dissolve through her clothes and into her skin and organs. Hermes began to squirm, a strange and painful sensation springing from her abdomen. K’nell watched on, a glowing purple dot appearing center her spiral. Hermes looked up at him, and she felt some of the pain disappear, the God granting her a small grin.

Xiaoli squeezed her hand with both of her own. “You’re doing well, my dear,” she said. The snake raised his hand and first pointed at Hermes, then shaped his hand into a fist. There was a hollowing sensation in Hermes’ abdomen, as if space was being made for an entirely new organ. The snake then pulled the fist to himself. The pain subsided, the part of Hermes’ skirt that covered her hips becoming darker.
Hermes breathed heavily, her body shifting uneasily, the new sensations causing her to move. K’nells hand suddenly clamped down harder on her shoulder, causing her to freeze. A clap sounded and in a window of only a second, a great flash pulsed from K’nell and straight into Hermes, the spiral on her forehead finally coming to rest as it was before, except now it held a purple dot at its center.

K’nells hand fell from the exhausted mortal and he looked at Shengshi, then back at Hermes, “Hewn from challenge, you are complete.”

She stared up at him, her mind opening to a realization. K’nell continued, his grainy voice swirling from his new form, “At birth, you were given nothing but a purpose, with very little means to achieve it. You not only filled you purpose, but learned quicker than some gods themselves how to look past purpose and create something that cannot be willed into reality, that of heart and mind. I now believe you are worthy of being complete, but I believe being complete is not worthy of you. Stand, and never stop, Hermes.”

The Dreamer’s eyes began to glisten, and then all at once tears of joy began to stream down. Her hand suddenly squeezed Xiaoli’s back as she cried. Xiaoli cast her free arm around Hermes’ neck and squeezed tightly. The surrounding servants were all clapping and whooping. The snake slithered over to K’nell and bowed.

“I likely do not need to tell you this, dear brother, but you have a good reason to be proud. Hermes has accomplished much and shown herself to be a creation of the purest and most valiant kind.” He looked down at Hermes. “It would honour me if you allowed me to immortalise you in my poetry, my dear.”

“Of course,” Hermes said weakly, her tears gone but the stains remained.

K’nell inclined his head in respect towards Shengshi, then looked to the tired Hermes, “Perhaps sleep is in order?” Hermes nodded slowly before K’nell turned back to Shengshi.

“An excellent idea, dear brother. I shall have her room prepared haste-post-haste.” The snake snapped his fingers and the servants all rushed back into the palace. Xiaoli finally let go of Hermes and eyed her up and down.

“Your Holiness, Your Lordship… This servant wishes to make a humble request,” Xiaoli said. The snake nodded with a hum.

“This-... This servant would like to escort Hermes to her room. Without any servants, please.” The snake raised an eyebrow and looked to K’nell, who turned to Xiaoli, his eyes flickering onto Hermes.

“I’d like that,” Hermes answered and K’nell looked up at Xiaoli.
“Me too,” He mused with a tiny smile. With little else K’nell turned to Shengshi and held out a beckoning hand, “Walk with me.” The snake nodded and followed along. Xiaoli looked down at Hermes and put a finger on her cheek.

“I just realised I hadn’t done that yet.” She giggled happily.

With a bit of a stagger, Hermes sat up in the mattress, a glowing smile on her face, “I had totally forgotten, myself,” she sighed happily, placing a finger on Xiaoli’s cheek, who grabbed onto the finger and rubbed her cheek affectionately against it.

“Come on, I’ll help you up.” Xiaoli then carefully placed herself under Hermes’ arm and pushed them both to their feet, who promptly latched on to her as tight as she could manage. Xiaoli then helped her weakened friend down into the palace.

Hermes’ room was perhaps humble compared to the other rooms in the ship, but it still had wealthy itinerary: The bed was king-sized and could probably fit three Hermeses on a mattress stuffed with goose feathers and cotton; the wardrobe reached from the floor to the ceiling, likely filled with enough outfits to dress a person for a year; the walls were covered in beautiful paintings and calligraphic scriptures; the floor, with a large, soft carpet.

Xiaoli helped Hermes over to the bed. She gently put her down on the mattress and tucked her in properly, making sure only to remove her shoes. Wouldn’t want to embarrass her now, Xiaoli thought to herself.

Almost immediately Hermes sunk into the bed, her body groaning. The sensation caused her eyes to close for a few seconds, only fluttering open to look back at Xiaoli, “Thank you.”

“No problem,” Xiaoli said softly. There was a pause. Slowly, she raised her hand and lifted it over to Hermes’ cheek, caressing it as softly as she could with her coarse skin.

“Hey, Hermes? There’s… There’s something that’s been on my mind lately… C-... Can I share it with you?”

Laying her hand over Xiaoli’s, Hermes nodded slowly, her voice the epitome of relaxed, “Of course, Xiaoli.”

Xiaoli hesitated for a moment. “Y-... You remember that time you asked me what my dream was?”

Hermes scooted up in the bed, propping her back up against the mound pillows. She cocked her head for a moment, “Yes.”

“I-...” Her head began to steam. “My dream is-...” She shook her head and took a deep breath. “Mydreamistobewithyou!” she blurted out in a sudden hurry.

There was a long pause, Hermes smile fading. Slowly she reached out to Xiaoli, her arms snaking around the river-girl. Pulling her close -- and nearly toppling her onto the bed -- Hermes grinned, “Then do that.”

Xiaoli’s eyes welled up and for a moment, she did not know how to react. “R-really? You-... You would have me, after all?”

“Why wouldn’t I?” Hermes closed her eyes, a content smile stretching across her face. She squeezed Xiaoli gently, prompting Xiaoli to squeeze back.

“It’s just… I didn’t think you liked me in that way… As more than-... You know…” She rubbed her head against Hermes’, squeezing her a little tighter. Hermes sucked in a large breath of air, their proximity showering the atmosphere of the room with the aroma of gentle flowers and oils from earlier. She rested her head tiredly against Xiaoli, her eyes closing as she slowly drifted away.

“I do.”

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There was blue above her, green below her, and dim shapes on the horizon in every direction. Arya knew not how long she flew, but fly she did in no particular direction. It was only when land was but a distant memory that she finally calmed down enough to just stop, and think. And there she was, floating in the endless sky reflecting on what she had just done. Her anger had at last grown cold, fizzling out into other emotions. Now she was afraid, scared, angry, and alone but most importantly, she felt regret and shame. Shame for how she had acted, and regret for what she had done as she left the Jiangzhou behind. She shouldn’t have lashed out as she had did, but it had happened regardless. Why had her father come to see her, but not speak with her? Why had he given her a ring and these… powers? So had so many questions and now no one to answer them for her.

The small girl choked back tears. For some reason, even when she felt like they would all but dry up, they continued to flow. Each tear falling down, down and down. Never to be see again.

She had never felt so angry before, at being lied to, for not being told the truth. Why had her anger consumed her so? For simply wanting to see her father? Why was she like this? It was highly unsightly to lose control so easily and she hated herself for the destruction she had caused. Thus, she was scared of herself, and afraid of what she was capable of. If she had been able to do that much damage to a ship… there was no telling what she could do to a living being and she grew sick just thinking about it.

She had already hurt so many. Arryn, Kalmar, Shengshi and the countless water servants that got caught up in the blast. The small girl looked down at her trembling hands, and she blamed herself for everything. It was her fault, all of it. She had made Arryn leave. She had disappointed Kalmar. She had said such terrible things to Shengshi, she had infuriated him and then blown up apart of his boat and for what? Because her lord had lied to her for the right reasons? Because she missed her father? Because… because she wanted to see him? That was no excuse to act like… a child. Not anymore. Her hands balled into fists as she looked up. Her tears stopped flowing and her eyes grew with determination.

”I have to be better than this. I… I have to apologize.” she spun around, ”I have to go back!” she said aloud for no one to hear. Only then did it dawn upon her, she had no idea what direction she had come from. She looked below, realizing the land was no familiar to her, and more importantly, the Nanhe was gone.

And then a voice from the heavens made her jump in the air, and she almost fell. The voice, belonging to someone named Choppy, echoed all around her from seemingly nowhere. It was an odd speech, and one Arya didn’t fully comprehend. She had no idea what a delivery hotline was, nor what a business entailed. When the voice finished, it left Arya with far more questions than answers. What was coffee? Security staff? A hotel? But the girl would have to think about it later, for right now, she had to fly.

And so fly she did.

Night faded to day, and back again more times than not. Arya was no closer now to the Jiangzhou then she had been. She stopped several times to rest, but the weight to press on was overpowering.

As night grew dark once again, the light from Heliopolis fading, Arya looked up to see the dim glow from Veradax, and the soft brightness from the Lustrous Garden. It was only then did Arya realize just how lost she truly was. She had no idea where here was, or where she had been going. Only the outline of a vast abyss was below her, and in the distance, a small dot of red. Whatever that was, she did not want to find out. As the night dragged on, Arya began to feel despair. She had been a fool for leaving, she should have stayed, at least then she would be somewhere safe and warm.

Her thoughts dragged on as she dwelled upon her failures, and her mood turned from despair to sorrow once more but on she flew. She had too.

When dawn at last broke, bathing her in an early morning glow, she was reinvigorated little. The light gave her vision to what was below- a vast sea of yellow, intersected with vast crude objects of iron. It was an abysmal place, and one Arya knew she did not belong in. She began to turn around, woefully off course.

It was only then did she see the storm brewing. A vast cloud mimicking the landscape below. Her eyes went wide, and Arya knew she had to fly faster then she had ever gone before, less the storm swallow her whole.

The sun, once warm and kind, bore down upon her with impunity as she flew. She felt her glowing skin burn from it’s radiance, and unbeknownst to her, her skin began to turn a shade of pink. The inky black skin upon her arms and legs, felt as if they were on fire but she couldn’t stop.

She turned around, only to see the storm was gaining. This prompted her to panic, and in doing so, something clicked inside of Arya. A different power, something strange. She felt herself burst with speed unlike anything she had felt before, and as the storm’s shadow began to cover her, the small girl outraced it and began to distance herself.

She began to giggle, then laugh as she felt blissful relief from the fact she wasn’t going to die. Her smile and laughter quickly faded however, for in the distance, there was but blackness.

If there was a downside to the surface being pleasantly cold, it was that how cold exactly would change in a blink. It wasn’t bad, Split-Tooth thought, but the swings from cold to colder and back were getting tiresome. It did not help matters that the sky changed too, clear, then dark, then clear again. The first time it happened it left her so lost she didn’t feel like sleeping for several more days. Maybe the Pit really was the only good place, she considered.

No, of course it wasn’t. She’d only think that because of habit. Her mind had shaken off the hand lazily lying over it, but there were more things left she had the Fell One to thank for. Not knowing things was another chain she needed to be rid of. At first she’d thought it would be easier than snapping the iron fingers in her head, but it was more complicated than it sounded. Finding out about something wasn’t anywhere as hard as fighting a hand she couldn’t see. It was just that there were many more things to find out about than hands to fight. Learning about them all would take a long time yet.

And all she’d seen so far had just been more rocks and sky.

The sky alone was more than enough to keep her busy. So far, it had looked as if it could be either clear or dark, with one large fire or many small ones. But now and then, she’d seen clouds big enough to make a clear sky dark, and something like an eye that made light when it wasn’t day. Useless things, but they made the world feel more lively. It wouldn’t have been as hard to guard a hatchery up here, if it wasn’t so cold.

She wanted to check herself again, but stopped. There was nothing wrong with guarding hatcheries. The Fell One might’ve made the kostral that way, but he was smart enough to make them good. The wrong part was only having lichens to eat while you did it, as if the ones who made clubs instead mattered more.

There came another large cloud, larger than any she’d seen. The surface had storms too, then. It was far enough not to choke her, which was just as well. She didn’t like how it gleamed, as one of the fire-clouds below. Being white didn’t make much of a difference that she cared to find out. Or having spots- Wait, storms didn’t have spots.

Split-Tooth leapt over a jutting rock with three arms, clambering up with the other free ones. Her shoulder had stopped stinging a while ago, and it felt good to stretch every limb again.

She strained her front eyes, still surprised by how far she could see. No, that spot wasn’t part of the storm. Something was flying ahead of it.

Before Arya was a land that looked very familiar to her. Blackened, dark and foreboding. A wasteland, different then Veradax, but a wasteland nonetheless. Most intriguing to her were the stones that seemed to float in one place. And at the center of the wasteland, a massive black hole, like a scar in the earth, seemed to expand forever before her. It was frightening to say the least, and Arya did not want to know what monstrosity- no, what god had created it. She dared not to fly over it, for fear of being swallowed and as such, she began to her descent. She needed to rest and recuperate to journey back over the desert.

She came down on a crag jutting out over a small barrenless spot. From Kalmar’s teachings, she knew this place would provide an excellent lookout incase she wasn’t alone. And it was there the girl sat down, nestled in the shade of a rocky overhead. She let out a satisfying sigh. The cold rock mixed with the shade felt wonderful on her burned skin.

Either the crag’s position was lacking, or that which approached was unusually skilled, but the large moving shadow did not become clearly visible until it was close. An acrid smell of something bestial wafted over her as the blot came into sight, stepping carefully on four limbs.

Over the scorched ground, now in plain sight, stood a bizarrely hideous creature, gazing at Arya with dark inexpressive eyes. Its powerful grey-skinned body seemed at ease, though the oversized gleaming axe held in its foremost two hands belied its wariness. Its unseen teeth gritted together rhythmically with an audible rasping.

The beast curiously turned its head to one side, snapped its jaws and moved a step towards her.

Arya’s black eyes went wide as she saw the thing. It had too many limbs and carried, what she could only assume, was a weapon. As soon as it took a step toward her, Arya stood up quickly, her back to the wall. If she tried to fly, the thing would probably attack her. She was cornered.

She looked at it, and spoke, her voice shaky, ”S-Stay back!” she tried to yell, but her words conveyed anything but. She could feel her hands tightening into balls, and the thought of what she did back on the boat haunted her.

Once again she shouted, ”S-Stay back! I-I don’t want to hurt you!”

The creature stopped, absently stirring its mouth with chewing motions. Then it spoke in a voice surprisingly articulate for coming from such an ill-shaped thing, though snarling and grinding.

“Sure you don’t? That’s a new one.” If its speech could be said to carry anything, it was a weary disbelief. Nevertheless, after some hesitation, it slightly lowered its axe. Its next words might have been an order as much as a question in their tonelessness. “What are you?”

Arya sighed in relief as the thing lowered it’s axe slightly, but she still remained on edge. She hadn't been sure the thing was capable of speech, but now she knew it was, she could talk to it. It spoke strangely, but that didn’t bother her in the slightest.

Quietly she started, ”W-What?,” and then she spoke louder. ”My name is Arya, who are you?” she said, emphasizing name.

The being raised one of its middle hands and prodded something inside its mouth with a clawed finger.

“I’m some-” it seemed to break into hesitation for a moment, then continued, “-one with a split tooth. They just call me that. Split-Tooth.” It blinked with one of the eyes that faced forward. “What makes you an Arya?”

Arya blinked at the question and began to speak, but stopped with little more than an, “I-”. She didn’t really know how to answer Split-Tooth’s question. She just was who she was. Kalmar had named her, so too did Shengshi, but telling the creature her second name would probably just confuse it even more.

There was a long pause before she said, ”I just am who I am. Arya is just a name. Names can change, but who we are,” she pointed at herself, ”Who we really are, is inside of us. So, to answer your question, I make me an Arya.” she said, a bit of pride leaking into her voice.

A low growl from somewhere inside Split-Tooth’s chest followed her words. Both of its eyes briefly narrowed, and its jaws clenched together with a scraping rattle.

“What’s inside can change too, you know. Most of time, it better do.” The creature swiftly rolled its forearms in their sockets, gathering itself again. “Some way of giving names that is. Where I come from, everyone’s called like something you can see. That’s how you know who’s what. Only ones who name things something else is gods.”

As if catching itself on something, Split-Tooth suddenly stretched its back, suddenly seeming to grow taller and broader. Its hands tightened, barely perceptibly, on the axe’s haft. “You’re no god, are you?”

Split-Tooth’s perception of names was strangely enlightening and it also made Arya not really ever want to visit it’s home. At the mention of Gods, and Split-Tooths sudden growth, Arya seemed to shrink against the rock. She hadn’t realized just how tall the thing actually was and it seemed to be… to be upset?

”I’m no God, Split-Tooth.” she said quickly, ”Not in the slightest!”

At her reassurance, the creature deflated, sinking back to all fours in what, even in such a monstrous frame, was clearly relief. This time, its weapon stayed low.

“Good thing.” It nodded, or at least moved its head in some sort of acquiescence. “Maybe not for you, I’m sure they have it good. For everyone.”

With a single motion, it flung its axe over its shoulder. As its arm rose to follow it, it bared a spot on the being’s shoulder, scarred with a large, dull-red mark of a closed gauntlet in a circle.

“But if you know what a god is, you’ll know that yourself too.”

Arya hesitated, her eyes intrigued at the large scar. It wasn’t familiar to her, but to Split-Tooth, it seemed to mean a great amount. She had to be careful what she next said, else she draw the thing’s ire.

”Not all of them are so needlessly cruel, Split-Tooth. Whoever did that to you is not a god, but a monster.” she spoke softly, thinking of the Gods she had met. Kalmar, Shengshi, even Arae- all of them had been kind to her. But her father? He was… cruel.

”Who did that to you?” she asked, her voice full of concern.

“This?” The creature glanced at the brand with one of its lateral eyes and chortled. “This thing helped, if you’ll believe. I was worse off without it. The one who did it didn’t mean it that way, of course.”

Now seemingly fully at ease, Split-Tooth crouched on her lower arms, crossing her forward ones. The axe was leaned against her back.

“It was one called” it struggled with the word, its mouth involuntarily stiffening. After a few attempts, it finally spat it out, “Narzhak. Great One, he calls himself. Me, I won’t give him more than Fell.” It churned again, as if having made an extremely witty joke. “I know he’s met others who are like him. They don’t all show it, but it’s inside, like you say. We’ve either heard of different gods, and there’d need to be a lot of them…” It scratched its jaw under the notorious tooth. “Or you haven’t been looking close enough.”

”Narzhak…” she said to herself. The God of War, is what she had learned. Then this realm, this ‘world scar’ must be from his doing. And Split-Tooth, must be some sort of, servant, or worse, a slave. It sounded like it had no love for Narzhak however, so it’s loyalties were questionable and for good reason, she thought, looking at the brand again.

By this point, Arya stood a bit taller, and more in a relaxed position. She was still weary of the creature, but she didn’t believe it was going to hurt her.

”I’m sorry he did that to you, even if it helped. No one should be forced to do anything, or have anything forced upon them. Some gods know that, but some do not.” she said sadly. She looked at the being in front of her with a gleam in her eye and spoke, ”Split-Tooth, there are many Gods and Goddesses in this world. I know of most, and I’ve even met a few of them. Not all are like Narzhak, but you are right, some are and they hide so many things and think so many things and are so many things. My father is one such god. His name is Orvus, and he is… difficult, and cruel. He cast me out from up there.” she finished, walking over to be out from under the rock and then pointing up at the moon.

“Being cast out isn’t all bad, either. Think of it as let out,” Split-Tooth mused, one eye glancing upwards. “I couldn’t wait to get out of the warrens when I hatched. Never got far before now. Maybe you’re right about them, though. If there’s really that many. It would be a good thing for a change.”

The eye turned back down. The creature shifted its head to one side, now curiously examining Arya with full three of its gazes. “Even then, you’ve got to be sure before you believe one. A few days ago I still thought Narzhak’d given us everything good we have.” It scratched the other side of its neck. “He really did, but it was much less than he’d have us know. If you know a god, it just means you need to be even more careful. They can do things you won’t believe until you feel them, and you won’t even notice.”

Split-Tooth’s head snapped back into a straight position with an abrupt crunch. “What are you doing out here, anyway?”

Arya thought upon Split-Tooth’s words and began to nod in agreement. If Veradax was anything like this place, she probably would go crazy. At the same time, she still wanted to see it for herself, so she could at least know. There was also the fact she had believed Shengshi without even questioning it when he told her how she had gotten her powers. Perhaps she did need to be cautious. A reserved caution.

At the sound of the question, Arya looked back up at Split and said, ”I… I made a mistake. I got angry when I shouldn’t have… I hurt those I call friends. All because I overreacted. I may have blown a hole in a boat,” she squinted, realizing that Split wouldn’t actually know what a boat is, ”A big thing that can float on water and is made of wood, a light substance. Anyways, I was a wreck, so I left. I need to go back though, so I can ask for forgiveness. I realized that what I did wasn’t the best thing to do. How about you? Why are you here?” she asked.

“I’m looking for coffee,” Split replied simply. It made some empty chewing motions, then added, “Somebody said there are sentries on watch somewhere that need coffee, so I thought I’d give a hand.”

Some more chewing. “I don’t know what you’d call a friend, but if you made holes in their things, they must be enemies now. I wouldn’t go back so fast. They’re counting on that. Make yourself ready first, they’ll be sure to have an ambush. If there’s too many of them, don’t go back at all, it’s safer.” A dim eye glistened with bitter amusement. “I’m one to speak. But I have this,” It bent a side-arm backwards and tapped the massive blade near its back. “You look young and haven’t got anything. Hatchlings don’t go on lurker hunts.”

It fell silent for some instants, still besides a sparse blinking across its four eyes. Then, it glanced up. “Do you at least know what coffee is?”

The small girl found it amusing that the creature was trying to find coffee. Arya didn’t even know what it was, it sounded dangerous, but Split could probably take it. She also felt stupid for not explaining what a friend was.

At Split’s mention of enemies, Arya’s heart began to beat faster. Would Shengshi and Kalmar become her enemies? Would they hate her for what she had done? But she quickly found that the notion was ridiculous, and hoped that they would only be slightly angry with her. However, once again, there was a certain truth to Split’s words. She couldn’t go back, not yet. She had to let things cool down, but she would, and when she did Arya would apologize so profusely, unlike anyone had ever apologized before. Her eyes squinted again at the mention of her being young and a ‘hatchling’ but arguing was probably pointless.

She followed Split’s gaze and looked up as well.

”I don’t know what coffee is, but I think I might know a way to find out. If you… If you want me to help?” she asked hesitantly.

Though its head remained upturned in an indeterminate direction, two of the creature’s eyes looked back at her.

“Six eyes are better than four, aren’t they?”

The girl’s eyes seemed to smile at being accepted.

With the same lightness, odd for something so bulky, Split leaned down on its front arms towards her.

“And it’s sure they’re better than two. You’ll get yourself killed if you don’t have someone to look out for you.” Its mouth spluttered something indistinct, sounds vaguely similar to a scornful ”need to go back” practically inaudible in it. “Looks like I’m not done watching the hatchery yet.” In one fluid motion, it was up on five arms, the last one holding the axe over its back. “Things don’t find themselves on their own. Let’s go.”

She started to sigh, ”I’m not-” she let a deep breath, ”Alright!” she said enthusiastically. And as she floated after Split, a question that had been nagging Arya finally burst out.

”So, are you a boy, or a girl?”

“Me?” Split did not so much as turn to look. “I’m “her”. You’d call it…” A finger pensively ran along the axe’s blade. “A mother.”

Arya wasn’t that surprised, it seemed to fit Split-Tooth being a mother.

”I see, so you’re a girl, Split-Tooth.” she said out loud, flipping upside down and looking up at the sky another thought coming to mind, ”Hmm. We should probably work on your name though.”

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Hidden 2 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

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FP: 01 MP: 05

“I’ll cut his balls off.”

D’Bran slammed his wooden tankard onto the sticky table. His announcement caused a roar of laughter behind him, but Renevin (Who sat opposite of him with a tankard of his own) simply stared. Bringing a hand to his face, he pinched the bridge of his nose, “You’re not-- no.”

D’Bran sulked in his chair, contrasting the grinning, laughing and otherwise elated faces of the other tavern dwellers. The red cheeked man tapped his finger on the metal band of his cup, any sound being drowned out by the now overly intoxicated lute player in the corner and his very round vocalist. Finally the man let out a long sigh, “Nope, I am. I’m gonna cut his balls off.”

“Whose balls are we cutting off?” The bright haired Swedren slid in next to Renevin, two tankards in her hands. She slid one to D’Bran who barely acknowledge the new drink.

“Your step fathers,” D’Bran announced.

“What?” Swedren looked to Renevin.

“No one’s balls are getting cut off” Renevin hid his face in his hands.

“Why are we cutting off my father’s balls?” Swedren turned back to D’Bran.

“No one’s balls are-- the balls are safe!” Renevin unniciated loudly, inciting a snorting laugh from Swedren. The woman took a gulp from her cup, and turned back to Renevin while D’Bran sulked in his new one.

“What’s the problem?” Swedren sipped at her beer, gently swishing the liquid in her cheek before swallowing. D’Bran furrowed his brow.

“What was that? Why’d you do tha-”

Renevin swatted D’Bran’s slurred inquiry away with a waving hand, “Your father said no.”

Swedren pursed her lips, her eyes hardening. She turned her head away from the pair, a habit she was fond of when attempting to hide her anger. Renevin sighed and scooted a little further away to give her space, “He said I have no prospects, and you were better off-”

“Well, what does that fat pig know?” Swedren turned back to Renevin, her face a maddened red, “The man isn’t even my real father. We can go to a different town.”

“They’ll want the permissions too,” Renevin cooly answered, “I thought it all out. With Nopoitis’ reputation, we are out of options unless we want to travel to Hephakia.”
“We shouldn’t have to,” Swedren growled.

“I know,” Renevin put his hand on the table, palm up. D’Bran stared drunkenly at it, while Swedren glared with fury. Finally she gently slapped her own hand on his, her face clearing ever so slightly.

“So what now then,” The woman huffed.

Renevin shook his head, “I haven’t gotten that far, but we will think of something.”

“We will,” Swedren was all but calm now, her wave of anger ending as quickly as it started, “It just really irks me that he has a say in it at all.”

“I never understood it myself,” Renevin blunk, raising his cup to his lips. D’Bran shrugged.

“Because you’re orphans,” D’Bran slurred.

“What?” Renevin looked over at the man.

“I don’t agree with the system, but I think I understand it a little more. Hearing about it since I was a boy.” D’Bran let a hand fall to the table, pointing at Swedren, “You were, what, fourteen before Nopoitis married your mother? Rule didn’t apply to you until four -- five years ago, why know it, why care?”

“Still a really stupid rule,” Swedren answered, “Mother was better off.”

Cocking his head, Renevin’s eyes blurred in memory, “I mean,” he looked back at Swedren, “You can’t say it didn’t do us any good.” D’Brans eyes widened as Swedren slanted her brow.

“My life for some bread isn’t exactly my idea of an amazing bargain,” She stared the man down, taking her hand off his.

“You know that’s not what I meant,” Renevin pleaded.

“Say what you mean.”

Renevin looked at D’Bran who gave him a pitiless face. Renevin made a face back and turned to Swedren, “I just mean, things weren’t looking to good before he came along. Remember the winter before?”

“It was hard,” Swedren stood her ground.

“I ate a bug,” Renevin pushed, “A lot of bugs! Until…” He trailed.

“Nopoitis invited my mother over for dinner and I stole away with his desserts for you,” Swedren finished his story, “I get it. I just don’t like it.”

“Well balls, I hate it,” Renevin raised his brows and gulped at his drink.

“I thought you said no balls-”


The sandy haired man sulked once more, “Still unfair.”

“We know,” Swedren and Renevin said at the same time.

“Renevin, D’Bran,” Hondros suddenly slid in next to the drunk, his cheeks a bright reed and his breath in a huff, “Swedren,” he gave a nod to the lady. Renevin jutted his chin, as if gesturing him to continue. “You remember the dragon the king managed to round up for the drake stables last spring?”

The entire table nodded. Hondros continued, “He escaped, just as I said would happen. Guess what?”

“What?” Renevin sipped at his cup.

“Big reward, enough to stock the fort for a long time. Just need proof of it’s death or capture,” The Praxian rattled his sword, “Lyghtur gave us the go ahead.”

“But a dragon,” Renevin put his cup down, “Dragon’s are-- well have you ever seen a dragon?”

“No,” Hondros shook his head, “Have you?”

“No,” The table agreed.

“I can’t force you, it isn’t an official quest, but” Hondros peered around the table.

“Let’s do it,” D’Bran slammed his now empty (again) tankard down onto the table, “For glory and the Brother’s Harmony; let’s bag a dragon. Renevin?”

After a long while Renevin nodded, “A dragon it is.”

Swedren looked over her partner with a raised brow, “With jobs like these you’re gonna turn me into a priest with all the times I visit in prayer for your safety.”

“It’s an honorable profession,” D’Bran nodded, causing Renevin to nod in agreement.

“The moron has a point.”

Swedren punched her fist into the man’s shoulder, “Simpleton.”

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Based and RPilled

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The snake hummed as he slithered across the deck. The stroll with K’nell had been heart-warming. The two had exchanged ideas about the future, a few quips here and there, and finally ended on a mutual exchange of gratitude. The snake found himself drawn to K’nell as a close friend - he was well-mannered, interesting and had produced the finest mortal specimen in the world. Yes, he would always have a seat at his table. The snake hummed ponderously as he contemplated whether he should have given him a bottle of wine as he had left.

He would send one to him at his earliest convenience!

“Now that everything is back to normal, though…” He clapped his hands and rubbed them together. “It is time to bring more life to this jungle!” With that, the snake hopped off the side on the ship and into the river below.

Ah, how wonderful it was to be whole again! No gruesome thoughts clawing at his mind; no threats from the west; no more depressing loneliness. He could finally focus his mind on his true purpose again. The snake slithered ashore and delved into the woods.

The vines hung low from the trees above, frequently hitching a ride on the river god’s horns. He gave a sour mutter, but paid them little mind otherwise. He had been planning for this; his mind may have been in a state of despair, but he had been planning. He looked around. So far, these woods were only home to a few species of reptile, with the occasional amphibian skipping out of the many ponds.

A brown clump of fur and grunting trundled through the undergrowth in the distance. Oh! And boars, of course. There were a good number of boars. Well, the boars did not bother him nor the river, it would seem, so there was little reason to mind them for now. He secretly hoped that Narzhak had not implemented some sort of bloodlust in the docile porcines - that could potentially be a danger to his creations.

His creations would have to be prepared for predation, in that case. As it happened, the snake had an idea for what creature to create first: One that would establish great nests with even greater territories; one that would not eat meat, but rely on the surrounding plants to sustain-...

The snake pondered for a little longer. No, they would not just rely on the surrounding plants; they would cultivate the plants! The snake looked around. He began to sample the surrounding plants for the most nutrient rich, yet easily growable plant. In the end, the snake came upon a long, thin tree which he identified as the Nanhese bamboo plant. It looked very much like one long, green stick that stuck out of the ground much like a spine would stick out of a porcupine’s rump. However, while it was not as rich in nutrients as the snake had hoped, it grew incredibly fast - the snake could nearly see it grow by the minute.

This would be the creature’s main source of food. They would grow it and farm it, and supplement the rest of their needs from nature’s bounty. They would be large and hulking as to defend their territory, and this rapidly ripening food source would see to it that they could maintain such a size.

Yes, the plan was lain. The outline of the creature formed in the snake’s head. For the last few details, they would be bound to the river through an amphibian lifestyle - their eggs would be safe from predators, but only as long as they were lain in one of Shengshi’s rivers. The eggs would hatch into great tadpoles that would feast on plant detritus in the river before growing up to work the farms of their packs.

The idea was complete and Shengshi got to work. The snake found a nearby boulder. It was overgrown with moss and vines and surrounded by many more lesser boulders and rocks. It was perfect. He summoned forth some water from the rivers some distance away. The streams snaked their way over to the stones and began to sand and scrape at them, first with coarse, sharp cuts, then with gentle, soft strokes. After some time, the rocks became great statues with thick, muscular forelimbs that ended with three log-like fingers. Their hindlimbs were not as thick or muscular, but powerful nonetheless; they also ended in a three-fingered hand. The statues’ heads were colossal and toad-like, with flat, broad features. From their backs sprouted something that looked like a mixture between tails and thick strands of hair.

The snake took a moment to admire his work. The statues were magnificent, if he could say so, himself. Now all that remained was…
The snake leaned in and took a deep breath. As he blew his divine essence into the statues, the rock began to crack and split, like hatching eggs. The boulders soon burst apart to reveal a pack of fifty individuals of all ages, lead by the largest which let out a whooping series of deafening croaks. The snake regarded the creatures as they began to collect bamboo pods and snack on the surrounding bamboo trees.

“I think I shall call you Nongxing.” The snake drew the creation characters into the soil, forming the word nongxing, or farmer ape. The largest among them, which back hairs Shengshi noticed were grayer than those of the rest, let out a few loud croaks at hearing its name. The others followed suit.

“Yes, that is very good,” said the snake. “Now, mark your territory - be fruitful and multiply. Plant your groves and rule these lands.” The elder croaked again and soon all the apes had left the vicinity with all the bamboo pods they would find, seemingly heading towards one of Nanhe’s closer tributaries. The snake let out a sigh.

“Well, that would be enough work for one day. I wonder what the cooks have prepared for dinner…” The snake slithered back towards Nanhe.

However, as the snake slithered back, he found himself craving something sweet - something from the forest. However, it would seem that this part of the jungle was rather lacking in fruits. Besides, the snake felt like tasting something new!

He plucked a flower by the riverbank and sat admiring the bluish, brownish waters of Nanhe. The river which was comparable to a sea was overflowing with life: fish and frogs, reeds and flowers - all congregated at the edges and within the river. A simple addition to that group would not be all that intrusive - besides, he needed something sweet post-haste!

The snake began to pluck the petals off the flower. He gathered them in his hands and picked a nearby reed. Then he rubbed the leaves together until his red-scaled hands grew even redder from the flower pigment. He then rubbed the pigment along the length of the reed until it radiated a crimson colour. Finally, he placed the flower core on top of the reed and stuck the reed in the sand.

“Now to give you a bit of life…”

The snake blew gently on the plant and let some water seep into it from below. The stalk suddenly grew thick and began to sprout crimson leaves. Then, at the very top of the stalk, the flower core became a crimson flower bud. The sand around the tall flower began to crack and part as more specimens of the plant began to grow. The snake distanced himself and watched on in amusement.

“Now to wait a little.”

Some time passed, followed by a little more. After a while, the snake began to feel impatient. He could just… Tweak the flower a little? Infuse it with divinity and make it blossom instant-.

No! No, he would wait. He would wait for it to bloom and reveal to him the beautiful fruits within. It was close now - he could feel it.

As his thought came to a conclusion, the flower bud at the top of the stalk began to peel open. The snake broke out of his daydream and stood up, slithering a little closer. As the flower opened up, a sickly sweet smell drifted up from whatever rested within, but this was exactly what the snake had hoped for. He used his claws to peel the flower some more and grabbed the little sticky pod within. He sniffed it at first, raising a curious brow at the funny, tangy smell, then popped it into his mouth.

The flavour was fruity and sweet, almost similar to a ripe pineapple, followed promptly by a flaming hot aftertaste that had the snake nearly in tears. That was exciting! He plucked another one and popped it into his mouth. Such deliciousness, complemented by such an explosive finale!

“I know exactly what to call you!” He wrote down the characters for ‘dragon’ and ‘flower or grass’ in the sand. “You shall be known as Longtsao!” The flowers danced in the wind as if they thanked the snake for their name. The snake continued:

“I was lucky this time - my divine presence must have caused you to bloom early. However, you shall bloom once a year in the spring with the intention of spreading your pollen through insects and birds. Your fruits shall be enjoyed by all beasts, and when summer comes, your fruits will ferment and rot and fall to the ground so you can feast on their nutrients again.” The snake scratched his chin pensively.

“You will grow in these rivers, as your existence will require much water to sustain such a juicy fruit. In return, my waters shall let you grow abundant and rich in time. This will be our pact.” The flowers danced again. The snake nodded and turned around, slithering away.

He had had his fill of sweets now, but now new thoughts had popped into his head. He should not be the only one to enjoy those tasty fruits; naturally, there were always the nongxing and the boars, but the nongxing would likely only eat the fruit if their harvests failed, and the boars - well…

No, he could not very well let the boars of the north have a monopoly on those tasty buds of spicy juice. That would not be fair! He had to make them a competitor-!

He corrected his thoughts - someone to share the fruits with! The question was what he would make.

The snake first found another rock, not like the boulders from which he had made the nongxing, but still quite a sizeable rock, roughly a metre tall and three fours as wide. He inspected the rock, gave it a gloss-over with his reptilian eyes, and finally knocked gently on it to test its composition. Nothing particularly interesting.

So the snake would have to make it interesting!

The snake went up and down the river, gathering rocks of similar sizes and lining them up along a straight axis from the first one. In the end, Shengshi had found roughly fifty rocks, stones and small boulders - a fine haul. Now to shape them properly.

As before, the snake dragged some snakes of water out of the nearby river and had them curl around the rocks and behind to sand and slice ridges and shapes into the stone. As the work processed, the snake slithered up and down the ranks to inspect the work. The statues looked similar to the nongxing, yet were considerably smaller, with round, ball-like bodies and long arms - almost twice the length of their actual bodies. Their legs looked like a frogs’, with small claws on the tips of their padded feet. The snake nodded - this one would be a climber!

An additional while passed, characterised by the monotonous sounds of water scraping against rock. The snake leaned in towards the statue made from the original rock and poked at its closed stone mouth. With teeth like these, they could likely eat fish and meat in addition to plants and fruits. The snake sneered. He would make them territorial, of course - they would have to defend their homes like the nongxing would - but he would not make them bloodthirsty. Other creatures would get that task.

No, this one would be a surly, tricksy creature that would mainly live in the trees around the river. The snake scratched his chin. Their eggs would have refuge in his rivers, as usual. Would there be anything else? He shook his head and took a deep breath. He pulled back and clenched both fists. Suddenly, the snakes of water that had been resting next to their works sprung back to life and began to dig their way into the stone statues.

Another moment passed.

Finally, the stones all began to rumble and crack. They sprung open like eggs to reveal medium-sized, frog-like simians of all ages, all of which let out confused whoops and screams at their creation. The snake snapped his fingers and they all quieted down, turning to him.

“Welcome to life, my beautiful children. I am your lord, Shengshi of the Thousand Streams.”

One of the frogs waved and ooked in greeting.

“You have been brought into this world to live and enjoy the jungle’s bounty. I have no tasks for you beyond the mission to spread your kin across the continent and to be mindful of your neighbours - you shall be allowed territories of your own, but you shall not kill unless threatened or starving, is that clear?”

There were a few ooks.

“Is that clear?” the snake repeated.

There was a collective ook.

“Good,” the snake said and gestured to the jungle. “Go now - Nanhe and its woods welcome you.”

The apes looked at each others. Then they let out triumphant whoops and roars as they hopped into the forest with their frog legs and ape knuckles. The snake chuckled as the rampaging wave of blue dwarves stampeded into the woods.

“I think I will call them wahous.” He wrote the characters for ‘frog’ and ‘monkey’ in the sand on the riverbank before continuing his little excursion.

The snake had been diligent today - perhaps more so that he had been in a long time. Still, there was one more task he had to accomplish before he could retire for the evening. The snake wandered through the woods on the eastern bank of Nanhe. He slithered and snaked his way through the undergrowth and overgrowth until he arrived at the forest border to the dry lands south of the Cauldron. There, with the snake’s divine eyes, he saw the shivering air over the Plains of Sandravii.

The snake had not been here when the desert was created - something he, in truth, was rather upset about. He could have tried to prevent it, perhaps. Although, the battle scars left on the continent spoke of a conflict that was perhaps beyond even himself. He gazed southwards to the desert to the vulcano Eldahverr. He scorned the sight - a black chimney taunting his beautiful bastion of life from afar. One day, he would make another river through the desert and create oases for all those unfortunate enough to pass through.

The snake let out a shameful sigh. “Had I not already spent all my power, I would have done so at once. Forgive me, dear thirsty sand - I must ask you to wait a little longer.” With that, the snake turned back into the jungle.

Yes… There would undoubtedly be conflict between the two halves of the south, one that could last thousands of years. Therefore, the snake had to make certain the riverlands would have a defender.

The snake arrived back at the banks of Nanhe. He had once again collected heaps of stone, boulders large and gravel small. With a straining push, the snake toppled all the stones into the river, along with a few whole trees and a few animal carcasses in various stages of rotting that he had found lying around. The snake rubbed his hands together before slowly lifting them into the air.

The waters before him began to darken, but not due to the many pollutants - a shadow formed underneath the sea-like river.

“Beast of a thousand tonnes! Ancient of the depths! Guardian of the forest! See and feel these parts of yours - congregate and join as whole.”

The shadow in the water grew darker and the water began to heave and steam. The aquatic life surrounding the event skipped away in every direction and the plants began to wilt as the waters boiled. Shengshi felt his head break as his river’s guests fled in panic, but it was a necessary sacrifice to bring forth their protector.

The shadow emerged from the water surface in the form of a shell as big as a small island, then grew and grew as the creature inhabiting it answered the call of its lord. The island became a hill, then the hill a mountain, until a head the size of Shengshi’s ship fastened two glowing eyes on the snake. It placed its monstrously large feet on the river bank and let out an earthshaking roar that sent nearly every bird in the jungle into a panicking flap.
The snake stuck a finger in his ear and let out a sharp whistle.

“You certainly have a voice that demands respect, my child. Fitting for a creature with your task. Listen well, for your task is paramount.”

The colossal turtle placed its chin into the sand as to show it was paying attention. The snake nodded.

“You shall be the guardian of this river and its surrounding forests. Should be river and its neighbours face impending doom, it is up to you to annihilate the attackers with great fury. Otherwise, you shall rest here beneath the waters, waking up only once a year to feast during the flood season - and feast you shall, for the rivers will yield a bounty unmatched in respect for your glorious work. Is your mission clear?”

The turtle raised its head and let out another roar. The snake nodded.

“Very good. You shall have a name to fit your position - one that gives you the respect and reputation you deserve.”

The snake noted down the character for ‘river’ and ‘king’ in the sand.

“You are Chuanwang, the King of Nanhe!”

The turtle let out a thunderous, rumbling roar before submerging back into the river until the only sign of it that remained was a small, brown patch that broke through the water surface, like an uncanny island.

The snake chuckled quietly, then fell down into the sand.

“Phew! Alright, that was-... Augh!” He attempted to stand back up, but found his strength drained. He rolled over on his back and looked up into the blue sky through the thin foliage by the riverbank.

“I suppose nobody could fault me if I just… Took… A nap…” With that, the snake let out a loud, rumbling snore.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Crispy Octopus
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Crispy Octopus Into the fryer we go.

Member Seen 12 days ago


Goddess of Rain
8 FP - 13 MP



A Snowwoman

Oh, flying! The wind against her skin, her wings so effortlessly carrying her through the blue skies… It was so beautiful! Li’Kalla smiled contentedly, enjoying the moment to its fullest. It wasn’t long ago that she could only dream of flying, and now, well.

She’d gone in a random direction, having left Rick’Ard back in her kitchen with a bucket full of water in case he got thirsty. Rick’Ard, the silly little thing had tried to stick to her. But she couldn’t risk him falling into the Ocean! Li’Kalla chuckled. She perked up however when a large cloud came into view, and she sped toward it.

She went so fast that she couldn’t hear anything, and she shot through the cloud in the blink of an eye.

Steadily, she slowed down and turned to look at the cloud. What once looked like cotton floating in the sky, now looked like a very angry raincloud, and soon enough a great rain broke out, falling into the ocean below.

”Laina wasn’t this awesome.” Li’Kalla said to herself, feeling confused and frustrated all of a sudden. After some thought, the rain turned to snow, and then to ice showers. Finally, she returned the cloud to its original state. White and fluffy. It was smaller, though.

That’s when she saw the landmass on the horizon.

Peeking out from behind the cloud was an Island. Somewhat like her own, but this one was smaller. It only took her a few minutes to reach it.

It was a pretty little island, that was for sure. But-

”Oh no! Burned trees!” Li’Kalla exclaimed, her eyes widening as she performed a nosedive, slowing herself down to land gently at the last moment. She ran to the nearest burned tree, of which there were hundreds, and put her hand on it. It must have been a natural occurrence, right? Trees were nice to have around, and they gave shadow to lie in when it’s sunny, and made air cleaner. Who in their right mind would burn a tree? And yet, deep down she knew. Upon touching the dead tree, she felt it, traces of divine essence. She didn’t manage to figure out whose essence, but there was no point now, was there?

”Poor tree...” She sighed and left the tree, but that posed another issue. There was grass. Alive and healthy, and that instead held a different divine essence. Had someone tried to heal the land after the fire?

She flew again, this time toward a rocky mountain on the Island. There, she saw various plants trying to crawl their way around rocks and up steep cliffs, all in a race to get the most light. She smiled.

”Oh lord!” Her heart skipped a beat. There, perched on a rock, absorbing all the sun it could, was a tiny lizard. As green and as small as a blade of grass, it stared passively at Li’Kalla, who had now flown up to the creature, leaning in to look at it closer.

It flicked out its long tongue and licked some of the water dripping off the tip of her nose.

”Oh, you’re thirsty! Wait here for a minute, okay?”

And so she flew off and returned with the large cloud from before in tow. She placed it on top of the island and made it rain. It was a soft, pleasant rain, and she’d dispersed the cloud somewhat in order to not block out too much of the sun.

When she returned to the lizard, she saw it drinking water from a tiny puddle that had formed on the rock it was standing on, and, after a minute, it turned to look at Li’Kalla, flicked its tongue at the air, and scurried off.

The Goddess giggled and stuck her tongue out at the lizard as it disappeared between the rocks. Then she landed, furled her wings and sat down on the same rock.

Scarcely a moment later the air began to grow cold.

It awoke to a cacophony of screams. Spirits swirled around it, burning in death as they had in life, crying out in agony. Their anguish was such that they didn’t even notice that they were being torn apart. A great force tugged at them, fruitlessly trying to separate them from the ground they’d been bound to by the divine fire that had ended their mortal lives. It wasn’t enough to pull them away, but it wasn’t so easily denied. The force grasped at the wailing spirits and tore chunks from their ethereal flesh as if in punishment for their unwitting defiance of it.

The scene was horrible, but it was not the only one the Awakened One saw. Memories came to it unbidden as its ethereal essence grew, absorbing the agonized spirits that flitted through the air around it. It saw through the eyes of innumerable birds, lizards, and more. The Awakened One saw a vast creature descend on the island and breathe terrible unearthly fire upon it. It saw the monstrous thing eat the burned, the suffering, and it saw what came to stop it.

Two Goddesses fought it, and from them the Awakened came to know its name. It was the Phoenix, the manifestation of the god of Heat, Sartarvius, and it had been defeated. This Seihdhara and… Rayster, had bested it. As the Awakened One experienced the memory it found itself filled with anticipation, soon these Goddesses would kill the beast, soon the spirits, soon it, would be avenged.

When they let it escape the Awakened One was at once confused and furious. How wicked, how callous, how incompetent were these Goddesses? It raged and in its rage the Awakened One’s soul grew ever larger until it had absorbed all the wandering spirits. When the last scream died it found itself alone, and afraid.

The avatar of a god had killed it, and it had been denied its vengeance. It was terrible, but it was better than the scraping pain that it now felt. It was better than the tug. Something wanted it to leave, to forget the mortal world and move on, but just like the spirits it had absorbed the Awakened One was bound to the soil of this island. Even in death Sartravius had made it suffer.

At least, until salvation came for it. Another Goddess came to the island and wept for the Awakened One, for all those who had died. She never spoke her name, but she cast a strange magic that healed all those who would have joined the Awakened One in time. A magic that did more than she knew.

The tug stopped, the force stilled. The torturous scraping away of the Awakened Ones very essence ended. It was then it decided that it was a She. She knew Sartravius was a He, and that all who had opposed him or done her kindness were Shes. That was enough.

More than that though, she found power in the tears the glowing Goddess had shed. It was so very little, but it was enough. She poured herself into that power, into the tears, and they froze into tiny crystals in the ashen dirt. She still had no strength, the wretched heat of the land was enough to keep her weak here, but she knew she had forever for that to change. The glowing one had given her that.

Still, forever was a long time. She was glad when, appropriately, another Goddess gave her what she needed. A winged woman dragged a cloud to the island, a rain cloud.

As water seeped into the soil the Awakened One began to grow. Tiny ice crystals seized the chill the water brought and expanded. As they grew the air around them, around her, began to cool until the rain started to turn to snow. Before long there was only snow, the very cloud that shrouded the island had been sapped of its heat.

At first she was little more than a pillar of ice, but that changed. She remembered the form of the glowing one, the body of the winged one that had given her this chance, and she chose to emulate them. She contracted the ice that was her body until she had two arms, two legs, a head, a face, even a sort of ‘hair’ insofar as she made her head look like it had the feature.

She took her first steps, stumbled, and fell, shattering on the ground. In frustration she reformed her body and tried again. It took at least three more attempts before she managed to start taking clumsy steps through the snow, trudging towards where she knew the winged one was.

At the very least the winged Goddess deserved her thanks.

Li’Kalla held her tongue out and jumped a little each time a snowflake landed on it. It was refreshing and fun! Snow was such a rare occurrence back home -- She might as well enjoy it while it lasted, right?

She perked up and looked at an approaching figure, climbing the mountain on unsteady legs. A… Moving ice sculpture?

Li’Kalla tilted her head and retracted her tongue into her mouth.

”Hello! I’m Li’Kalla. You look like a person. Can you speak?”

The figure opened its mouth and managed only a rasping crackling sound. It tried again and seemed frustrated as its ‘voice’ came out sounding more like ice being crushed than comprehensible speech. Nevertheless it kept moving towards Li’Kalla. It’s steps slowly became steadier and by the time it reached the Goddess on her rock it was keeping its balance well enough to ascend the mountain with little difficulty.

The moving sculpture appeared to eye Li before, awkwardly, sitting down on a rock beside her and trying to speak again. This time vague outlines of words could be heard in the crunches that came from its mouth. “T- Th- K- Ou-,” It grated.

Li’Kalla squinted her eyes at the sculpture and, after a while, she chuckled and grinned warmly Thank you? You’re welcome. What for, though? Congratulations, by the way, you just spoke. Apparently your first words, too!”

The sculpture imitated the Goddess, doing its best impression of a smile. It was clumsy, and perhaps a bit unsettling, but at the least it appeared the attempt was genuine. It pointed up and tried copying the way Li’Kalla’s mouth moved, “Fer- Four- For ran. Rain.”

”Oh.” Li’Kalla fell into a long silence, and when she recovered, she looked at the sculpture with a serious expression and said, ”Thank you, for thanking me.”

The ice woman cocked her head and looked at the Goddess with what could be called an adequate approximation of a quizzical expression. She opened her mouth in an apparent attempt to speak again, but was interrupted. A small lizard had braved the snow and crawled up the moving sculptures leg. She regarded it curiously before reaching out to touch it.

The second the ice womans finger touched the lizard it began to freeze. For a moment it writhed under her curious gaze, but as frost accumulated on its skin it went still. At least, for a moment. The creatures skin was pale and the frost on it had only grown thicker, but it didn’t seem to have gotten the message that it should be dead. It climbed the ice womans finger and she turned her hand around so it could rest on her palm.

What stared back at the ice woman and Li’Kalla wasn’t the same creature that had skittered up the sculpture’s leg. It’s eyes were a pale white and it moved in the same awkward motions the ice woman had while she’d ascended the mountain. The faux smile on the sculptures face grew wider and she began to pet the undead creature with her other hand. She spoke slowly, taking care to pronounce the word properly, “B- Better.”

Li’Kalla frowned and pursed her lips, leaning in to inspect the undead small lizard. ”It’s… Dead? Or maybe not... ” She then leaned back and tapped a finger against her own cheek repeatedly, ”What’s your name? Who made you?”

“No name.” The ice woman replied while she fussed over the frozen lizard. She still took care to speak, but it seemed like she was forming her words faster and more clearly with each passing moment. She glanced at Li’Kalla, “No m- maker either.”

”Oh!” Li’Kalla lit up and grinned, leaning close to the strange sculpture, ”I will give you a name, then! That’s what Gods do, right? So, how aboooutt...” The Goddess hummed and pursed her lips, ”A-ha! Your first name iiiis… Mel’Issandra! Cute, right?!” She beamed at the sculpture with such warmth that it might melt.

The ice woman stopped petting the frozen lizard and focused on Li’Kalla as she spoke. Glassy lips mouthed the name the Goddess had given the sculpture in silence before attempting to pronounce the name, “Meel Iassendra? M- Mel’Isseendra? Mel’Issandra.”

Having spoken her own name the ice woman stilled. In that moment she looked no different than a true statue, a lifeless imitation. It was a perception that she broke by nodding and again copying Li’s facial expression, “Yes. Cute. Thank you L- Li’Kalla.”

Li’Kalla stayed like that for a while, leaning in close to Mel’Issandra. Until eventually, she hesitantly raised her hand and ran it over the ice woman’s smooth face. ”H-Hey! You’re cold, don’t you want clothes to cover yourself? Umm, would those even work? You’re kind of, ice. Well, perhaps the cold doesn’t bother you, anyway.”

“Cold is better. Cold doesn’t hurt,” For once Mel’Issandra didn’t stutter or stumble. Her voice still sounded more like the cracking and grinding of glaciers than something natural, but it was clear. She touched her face where Li’Kalla had and her icy eyes flicked over the Goddess’s body. The ice woman looked down on her own and it began to change under her gaze. Opaque white ice grew on her skin and shaped itself into something that resembled a dress.

Li’Kalla blushed and averted her gaze when she felt the eyes on her body, covering herself further even though she was already dressed. When her gaze returned to Mel, though, she gasped.

”Oh, pretty! You can also try to make your dress off of crushed ice or snow, to kind of simulate real clothes with wind! Oooh, imagine wind blowing snowflakes off your gown, that’d be so beautiful to watch!”

At Li’Kalla’s prompting Mel’Issandra’s dress began to fracture. The first few fissures branched out until the entire white ‘dress’ was riddled with countless cracks and shattered with a great crack. What remained was the very thing Li had described.

Mel opened her mouth but before she could speak the frozen lizard resting on her hand climbed up her arm and disappeared into the white blanket that covered the ice woman. She glanced at the spot on her arm where it had disappeared into her ‘dress’ and began to giggle, followed by Li’Kalla. Her laughter sounded like ice chimes.

“Good idea,” She chuckled and flashed a smile at Li that almost looked natural.

”Mel, you look good! And you should adopt that little lizard, too. Give him a name!”

“A name?” The ice woman asked before reaching into her snowy ‘gown’ and pulling the lizard out. It squirmed in her hand but calmed when she petted it again. She brought it up to her face and stared into its milky eyes, “Can I name it Kalla? After you?”

Li’Kalla squealed in delight and hugged the chilly Mel, ”Yes, yes! Please. I bet it’ll give you lots of love!” She giggled and pressed her cheek against Mel’s and gestured to the snowy landscape before them, ”Now, there is one thing we have left to do, Melly!”

As she spoke, the snowfall quickened and became stronger, ”And that is, of course, teaching you about something very important, okay? You won’t believe it! Wanna know what it is?” Li asked Mel with stars in her eyes, turning her head slightly to look into her featureless eyes.

Mel’Issandra met Li’Kalla’s gaze and, timidly, replied, “Y- Yes?”

Li’Kalla bounced a little and scooted close to press her whole body against Mel, finding her cold to be refreshing for a change, as it turned the rainwater on her skin into snowflakes that quickly flew away.

”Okay! I will teach you… How to make snowmen!” She grinned with an open mouth, staring expectantly at Mel.

“Snow… Men?” Mel looked down at herself and frowned.

”Yes! Just watch.”

And so Li’Kalla flapped her wings happily and wrapped them around Mel for a short moment before parting ways, flying a few meters down into a particularly flat section of the mountain, where the snow had accumulated enough for such an endeavor. She quickly got on her knees and started accumulating the white goodness into a decently sized mound.

After a while, Li’Kalla left the mound of snow to make a small ball of it with her hands, and then put that on top of the mound. As final touches, she carefully put two pebbles into the ball sitting on top of the mound and turned happily to Mel.

”Come, Melly, Come! Bring a stick or long rock if you find any, too!”

The ice woman carefully jogged over to Li and the snowman, her snowy gown flowing behind her. She stepped up to Li and held up a hand. One of her fingers grew into a long icicle which she snapped off at the base. She handed it to Goddess and asked, “Is that ok?"

”Yup!” Li’Kalla nodded and took the icicle. She was about to put it on the snowman’s face, but hesitated. ”Wait! You do it, Melly. Give him a nose! And-” She cut herself off and looked around her quickly, snatching something up from under her right leg. They were a bunch of tiny pebbles. She presented those and the icicle back to Mel and spoke, ”Here, a nose and enough for a mouth.”

Mel’Issandra’s glassy eyes flicked between the icicle that had been her finger, the handful of pebbles, and the snowman. She seemed to think for a moment before a determined look overtook her face and she took the pebbles and icicle. She kneeled before the snowman and got to work.

Carefully, perhaps excessively so, she placed the icicle at the center of the snowmans face after cutting it down to size. She then took the time to place each pebble in an upturned arch, a smile. Apparently satisfied after some minor fussing with the smile Mel turned around and looked at Li, her head level with the snowmans, “Did I do it right Li’Kalla?”

”Oh. Lord.” Li’Kalla chuckled, smirked and gently ran her hands over Mel’s face, ”It feels real, it even speaks! How did you make such a great snowman, Melly?”

For a moment Mel’Issandra looked supremely confused, but her expression quickly turned to one of annoyed realization. She glared at Li and huffed, the frigid breeze coating the Goddess’s face in a thin layer of ice. “Snowwoman,” She muttered indignantly.

Li’Kalla gasped and wiped at her face, getting rid of the ice. Upon seeing the glare, she recoiled a little and looked down at her knees. ”I-I’m sorry, I was only… You know, p-playing. I-I won’t do it again… You did do a good job with the s-snowman though, Mel… The nose is cute. Really.” She said dejectedly, stealing a few glances up at Mel’Issandra every now and then.

The ice woman’s glare softened almost immediately, giving way to a look of supreme guilt. She glanced around before her eyes fixed on the snowman. Mel’Issandra carefully picked up the little figures head and placed it on her own before speaking, “No, I’m sorry. A sorry snowwoman.”

Before she could go on the head fell forwards onto her lap and broke apart, eliciting a tiny gasp from Li’Kalla. Kalla, the undead lizard, popped out of the pile of snow that remained and flicked its tongue at Li. As if taking the lizards cue Mel scooched forward and wrapped Li up in a hug. She whispered, “Am I doing this right?” Into the Goddess’s ear.

She was taken by surprise and froze for a moment, ”Heheh,” Li’Kalla chuckled, and returned the embrace and wrapped her warm wings around Mel. She also made sure to levitate Kalla onto her head. For a few moments, she closed her eyes as she took in Mel’Issandra’s scent. She smelled like a gentle snowfall. ”You smell nice, Melly.” She whispered back into Mel’s ear.

Mel’Issandra thanked her and carefully let go of the Goddess. The ice woman leaned back as far as Li’Kallas wings would allow and picked up a clump of snow. It froze into clear ice in her hand. Mel fussed over it for a moment before smiling and handing Li’Kalla a tiny frozen statue of the winged Goddess.

Li’Kalla inspected in closely with wide eyes and a excited shudder to her wings. ”Woooahhh…!” She muttered as she carefully grabbed the statue with her two hands. ”Thank you, thank you! It’s really pretty, I’ll put in in my bedroom once I get back home!” She said with a happy quiver to her voice. She wrapped her wings tighter around Mel for a few moments before letting her go and standing.

”S-Speaking of, I might have left my pet alone… In the kitchen, with only a bucket of water.” She chuckled nervously. ”I should be getting back to check if he’s okay...”

Mel’Issandra frowned at first, but the sight of Kalla on Li’s head forced her to grin. She nodded, “Ok. Thank you, again.”

Li’Kalla smiled back and levitated Kalla into Mel’s hands. With a flap of her wings she was in the air. As she sped off into the horizon, she waved goodbye.

”I’ll visit you again, Melly! I’ll teach you how to have snowball fights then, it’ll be super fun!”

After Li’Kalla vanished in the distance the ice woman she’d named, Mel’Issandra, didn’t stir for a long while. Around her the snow continued to fall, but she sat and waited. Li’Kalla would be back, after all.

Mel’Issandra didn’t want to miss her.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Frettzo
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Frettzo Summary Lover

Member Seen 7 days ago


Goddess of Rain
8 FP - 13 MP


There was so much going on in the world! Flying whales, ice sculptures coming to life, burned lands… It was tiring, Li’Kalla realized. She loved it! But still. Her wings proved to be a great addition to her body, in that now she wasn’t confined to her small part of Galbar and could now explore and see with her own eyes the things that the Pantheon had created.

That lizard was very cute, and the ice sculpture, Mel, was lovely!

Li’Kalla landed gracefully in front of her Manor and skipped right into it, the front doors opening for her and closing when she’d entered.

It was clean, just as she’d left it. With the exception of a trail of puddles of water going right to the kitchen, of course.

A groan escaped her lips and she slouched a little.

”Of all things, why did my body have to be so wet? I can’t even stop it.” Indeed, she’d tried to stop the dripping rainwater, just like she’d grown her wings, but it had no effect.

She ignored the trail of puddles and went a different direction. She was going to have to check on Rick’Ard eventually, but for now she had more important things to do. Namely, putting away the cute little ice sculpture Mel had given her safely in her bedroom . So, she found herself going upstairs and travelling through a few long hallways with extremely high ceilings. And then she reached the end of the last hallway, and an unassuming door was there.

She opened it and went into her chambers.

The scent of her childhood wafted over her, and instantly she grinned and jumped onto the large bed in the middle of the gargantuan room while levitating the sculpture over to the nearest dresser. She willed the door closed and laid there for a long time, writhing against the silky smooth sheets and taking in whiff after whiff of her favorite pillow. It still smelled like her big sister’s hair. She kissed the pillow, imagining it was her sister’s cheek, and then she nuzzled into it, imagining it was her strong, brave, caring big sister embracing her.

”... This is pathetic.” She heard herself say, and tears suddenly welled up in her eyes, ”... No, it’s not. I miss her so much...”

Suddenly, the light that shown into her room dimmed. There was an eerie presence that came with the silence that followed and it was chilling. A few moments had passed before there was a knock on the downstairs and then there was sound of something moving against the wood outside the house. Soon, a tendril appeared on one of the windows, sliding across the glass before a familiar voice shook the house, and the goddess, to its core.

”Li’Kalla. Come open the door for your dear brother…”

It was Vakk. Except, rather than his usual voice, it gave a more excited inflection and there was a certain warmth that came from it.

Li'Kalla shuddered and suddenly, a deathly chill went down her spine. The music box! She thought, noticing in that instant how quiet the whole Manor was. How peaceful the indoors were. It should be playing right now, as she never touched it after Vakk forced her to keep it on.

Maybe Hermes had-

“I have to hide…” She told herself, jumping off her bed with her arm wrapped tightly around the pillow that smelled of her sister, and rushed to the walk in closet. Soon, she had hidden behind boxes of old clothes and footwear.

She did her best to conceal her essence as well, but she has no idea how to do it, and it only ended up making her more nervous, not knowing whether she was truly hidden. All she could hear was her heartbeat thumping against her eardrums. The knocking continued, it became increasingly louder and impatient. Soon there was nothing but silence except for her heart beating rapidly in her chest.

Then, a crash came with what sounded like a door being forced open. A sound of glass shattering was also heard.

”Li’Kalla. I know you are here,” the voice stated.

Sliding movement over the wood, a sign that he drew nearer and nearer. The door to the bedroom could barely be heard opening, ever so gently. Shadows of the god’s tendrils could be seen underneath the door and slowly did the door begin to open. Like a wave, the tendrils flooded in across the walls, feeling their way around the closet. It was a terrifying sight, however, they quickly retracted as if they had been distracted by something. For a moment, she could breathe safely.

Slowly, she tore her sight away from the slithering tentacles and curled up against the dusty wall. Looking down, she noticed a small pool of water had begun to form around her, and she nearly gasped. Covering her mouth in the nick of time, her eyes narrowed to pinpricks as she saw a tentacle slide just a hair's width apart from the pool.

For a tense moment, it seemed as if the tendril would slide away and leave Li’Kalla’s presence. However, ever so lightly did it touch the pool of water causing it stop.

”Hello, Li’Kalla,” Vakk said before the tendril lunged forwards to wrap around Li’Kalla’s leg.

She screamed. It was a horrible, blood-curdling scream. That of a person about to be murdered. And she didn't stop.

He began to drag her out of the closet almost immediately, moving exceptionally fast clumsily, causing Li’kalla to hit the walls and other objects as she slid against the wood of the flood. Other tendrils rushed forwards to grab different parts of her body; one for each limb and one around her waist before she was finally dragged across some dirt and lifted into the air.

She kept screaming. Wild screams. Until they took on a more legible nature. She shook her body, resisting, “SIS, AZURA! CHOPSTICK, PLEASEEE!”

”It is okay, dear sister. I did not mean to frighten you,” Vakk said as his mouth curled into a smile. A tendril went across her cheek before he held it to her mouth, shushing her. ”I have come for the box, I require it for a task.”

Li'Kalla closed her eyes tightly as small rivers of tears formed along her cheeks, she pulled away slightly from the disgusting tentacle and gasped, “B-BOX? W-What box! I-I don't have anything-” She clenched her jaw tightly and kept resisting against her bonds, looking more and more desperate with each passing moment.

The smile Vakk had collapsed almost instantly. ”What do you mean?”

She froze and looked at Vakk, her eyes widening. “I d-don't know where it is- It might be in the m-Manor, but… I DON'T KNOW!”

”It might be in the manor?! What did you do with it?”

“I… Lost track of it-” Li'Kalla gagged a little as she choked on her own tongue in nervousness, “I-I made a friend, okay! And I think she um, took the box as… A souvenir…”

Vakk was silent only for a moment before he snapped his jaws, his tendrils moved around and for a moment it looked as if he may strangle her. He let out a grunt of anger before the tendrils moved away.

”Where is it?” he asked in a completely neutral tone.

Li'Kalla fell with a surprised grunt to the ground, and jumped up to her feet in the blink of an eye. She avoided looking at Vakk, instead looking at her own feet as she cautiously took a few steps back. Her wings twitched. If only she could get far enough from Vakk, she might be able to fly and escape.

“Uuhm, I g-guess…” She fell silent for a moment, and then pointed in a random direction, “T-That way, Brother.”

His head momentarily looked in that direction before he instantly snapped back to look at Li’Kalla, who was a few steps further away. ”Have I ever told you that never lie to a liar? They will know what is a lie and what isn’t,” he said, towering over her and letting out a growl.

”WHERE. IS. THE. BOX?!” he roared his tendrils raising themselves in an aggressive posture.

Li'Kalla shrunk before Vakk. In an instant, she turned and ran. She ran as fast as her legs could run, and then she took flight, kicking up a mountain of dirt in the process. Yes! I'm fast, I can escape! She thought, and then her heart sank. Her wings tensed up. Her left one shook beyond control, and her right one furled itself tightly against her back.

She fell, and as quickly as she took off, she crashed back into the ground with a small scream.

She coughed, and as the cloud of dust and dirt settled, she whimpered and screamed again. She barely managed to get onto her knees. “SIIIIS, SIS, SIS! HELP ME SIS AZURA, PLEASEE, SOMEONEE! MY WINGS, MY WINGS DON'T WORK…” She would have kept screaming for help, had she not degenerated into a pathetic mess of ‘help me’s’ and ‘he's going to hurt me's’.

Vakk’s laugh could be heard in the back of her head before a tendril wrapped around her leg and dragged her into the air, holding her upside down. It was a short-lived laugh as Vakk took a singular tendril and grasped one of her wings, before he asked, ”Did Azura give you these wings? I will admit I liked your look better when you did not have them.” Vakk let out a sigh of disappointment.

The girl merely nodded as she bawled, eyes shut tightly as her tears and rainwater drip off her head. How could this be happening, she thought, everything was going so well… If only Big Sis was here…

”Tell me, do you think she cares for you? Do you think that anyone other than I truly cares for you?”

Li'Kalla forced herself to speak, even amidst the desperate crying, “S-She does… Big Sis… She l-loves me… She'll save me…!”

”No, she will not. Nobody cares for you Li’Kalla, for you are a weak and pathetic goddess unworthy of her title. I have raised continents, I control Death itself. I have the power to protect you. They only seek to use you, Li’Kalla. I can already feel the winds speaking to me, they are telling me to do terrible things to you. I cannot resist those words unless you tell me where the box is Li’Kalla, otherwise Azura is telling me to take away your wings.”

The grip around her wing tightened slightly, whispers began to come as a light breeze brushed the both of them.

“N-no… Big Sis, she wouldn't-” Would she? “No… No…!” Li'Kalla sniffed and pulled her wing, she flapped it, she did everything she could to free it. At the same time she tried to kick the tentacle holding her upside down. “They're my friends…!”

Vakk shook his head as if he were resisting something, ”No, Azura! She is but a young girl! No! Please!” The grip slowly tightened and tightened, pain spread the wing and began to become so unbearable before there was inevitable snap of bones, each one shattering under the tightened grip of Vakk.

Li'Kalla screamed until she couldn't anymore, her wing going numb, as if she didn't have it anymore.

”No more, Azura! I never wanted to hurt Li’Kalla like this! Li’Kalla please, tell me where the box is! Azura is in control and that is all she seeks!”

At some point, Li'Kalla's voice grew weak, and she found no strength to keep asking for help. She knew that no help would come. If Big Sis- Or Azura, herself was… Forcing Vakk, then-

Silent tears escaped her eyes, gentle pained moans leaving her lips every few moments.

“Heh, Heh.”

She chuckled.

“T… This is a dream, isn't it?” She opened her eyes and looked vacantly at Vakk, panting gently for breath. It was a strange expression. She felt… Numb.

“These bad things don't happen, do they…?”

“K'nell's just got a bad sense of humour, right? That's right, I'm currently sleeping on my comfy bed, squeezing my favorite pillow… Soon, I'll wake up, and I'll play with Rick'Ard. I'll fly with my biig, fluffy wings and cuddle up to Azura for another nap… Hahah…” She sighed happily, a cute, placid smile seeping onto her face.

“I'll explore the world with Hermes… Once I wake up… And I'll be happy, and make looots of friends and eat loooots of delicious snacks made by Chopstick Eyes…”

”I am afraid this is not a dream, my dear sister,” Vakk said, before his tendril went to crush the other wing. His movements were jerky, as if he was still resisting something in the process, and he was actively trying to keep tendril away from her.

”Please… end your suffering and my own. I cannot bear to hurt you any longer.”

There was no response. Li'Kalla dangled, one wing broken beyond repair and the other weakly trying to stay furled. It gave way almost immediately to Vakk's assault, with Li chuckling to some passing thought.

Vakk let out a curious noise before he lifted her head with a tendril, keeping her eyes locked on him as he put two tendrils on either side of her head. ”It seems I will need to force these memories to surface,” he said before Li’Kalla felt a painful jolt run through her mind. With this jolt, her memories began to run back through her mind. Azura… Hermes… K’nell…. Choppy… Vakk…

These memories kept going through her mind, flashing in a repetitive fashion, almost as if they were being sorted through.

The box. It was all that connected some of them. Vakk’s presence filled her mind, his words became crystal.

”Hermes… So she must have truly taken it. However, I must warn you. An agent of K’nell is an agent of manipulation. They were all using you… except Choppy perhaps.”

“Nngh…” Li'Kalla groaned, weakly shaking her head as her face turned to vacant discomfort. Nothing felt real anymore, she was seeing all these memories again… Did they even happen?

And then her thoughts turned to older, hidden events. Things she'd tried her hardest to hide. “No… Get out… Please…” She gasped out as she grabbed the two tendrils and pushed them away only to met with a tendril wrapping around her neck and lifting her up.

”So, it seems that many gods have an interest in you. All of those feeling you had experienced… were fake. All lied of a diluted mind that sought refuge from a tormented life.”

He brought her close to his massive mouth. ”There is still time to rectify this mistake. Become what you are running from. Embrace your inner demons and destroy those who seek to use you.”

Could it be true? Everyone used her? Azura lied to her… She gave her wings only to force Vakk to take them from her. What a sick person would do that? Right, the big bird was no person. No person would do that. Only animals, beasts that deserve to be erased-

But… The nap, the hugs, the love! Li'Kalla's eyes filled with tears once again, as images of her big sister's back, walking away from her as men and Holy beast took her dignity, flashed before her eyes.

“N-no one cares… About me…” She sobbed.

A cough, then another. Li'Kalla opened her eyes and stared at Vakk, eyes narrowing dangerously. “No one…” She whispered, a sudden spark of strength lighting up deep inside her. She lifted her arms, exhausted from struggling earlier, and wrapped her fingers around the tendril choking her. Her fingers twisted and cracked, and she felt a warm liquid coat them. It flowed, and smelled satisfying. “Not even you.” Her voice was deep and rough, sounding more like a growl than speech.

“Do not touch me-” She demanded. Her teeth warped by the second, sharpening. Her tongue elongated, her eyes emitted a bright green glow. ”DO. NOT. TOUCH ME.”

The tendrils weakened their grip. Li'Kalla did not let go of them, however. In the blink of an eye she bit into one of them as hard as her jaw would allow. Ichor shot out and mixed with Li'Kalla's below, on the wet dirt. He let out a roar of pain soon followed by anger.

She growled and screamed, her body shifting before Vakk. She grew. She grew to double the size of the disgusting Azura. Her skin grew scales, and those scales were intertwined with vines. It was all a light blue in color. One of her wings was broken and useless, dangling from her back. The other was furled tightly.

She dropped to four limbs, and her face elongated, filling with rows of razor sharp teeth that kept biting at Vakk.

What once were pathetic, jarring growls, now became things of terror that could bring down even the mightiest wall, and make even the strongest Hero cower in fear.

But worse of all was her stare. With eyes open wide no matter what she was doing. The heavy mist that collected around her form was illuminated in the eerie green glow that emanated from her eyes, and a heavy rain started to fall as soon as she growled and roared.

Vakk amidst the pain, anger, and blood only responded with a roar, proceeding to retract the bitten tendril only to fight back with a flurry of blows. Despite her tremendous increase in size, Vakk was still much larger and the slam of his tendrils into her body made the earth of the So’E shake and sent scales flying. Some moved to restrain the new beast, grasping her claws and trying to muzzle her mouth, but her snapping jaws made it impossible to get close to her head.

”You fool! I would not tell you the truth if I did not care for you!”

He attempted to pull her to the ground, and she landed with extreme force.

”You will sit and listen, welp!”

A single, great roar shook the So'E, a part of Li'Kalla's Manor crumbling under the duress. She pulled mightily against the restraints around her claws and ankles and huffed and snarled. Then she bit at one of them and didn't let go, her long tongue savouring the ichor and eagerly drinking it and trying to bite the appendage off. Her one functioning wing and new tail swatter away several tendrils.

Vakk let out another pained roar before he began to speak, ”I am not your enemy, Li’Kalla! Listen to me!” However, there was no answer only the same biting and wrestling between the two before Vakk growled and severed the tendril she kept her teeth on. He snapped his jaws as he pulled himself into the air, ”If you will not listen then perhaps I can offer you advice. Vengeance is a tool, harness it and use it to kill your demons.”

With that he sped away as quick as he could to leave the new monster he had created, however, a small bit of his laughter could be heard as he grew further and further away.

Moments later, the only sounds that echoed through the ruined So'E were wet biting, chewing, gritting of teeth. The Monster's eyes tinted everything a bright green, and a lone mud clump rolled innocently towards the nearest being, having escaped from the crumbling Manor.

Rick'Ard felt confused. As he got close to the humongous, yet familiar creature, he felt a surge of purpose fill him, and a small eye popped onto his tiny body.

The mist was thick. Strange liquids covered every surface visible, and a green light tinted the mist in an eerie glow. He could make out the shadowy form of a head far above him. It turned to look at Rick'Ard, its eyes like two green sun's, and drew closer. And closer. Rick'Ard was overjoyed. He'd found a new friend!

His new friend scooped him up with her tongue and put him in its mouth. Maybe it was this new friend's way of giving kisses, he thought.

He was only a clump of mud, so he never even realized that he was being eaten.

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by DracoLunaris
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DracoLunaris Multiverse tourist

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Luis soared through the Blue with Bruna on his back, the two getting having spent some time getting used to working with one another. They were above the north pole, where a number of peaks of the the Broken Crown Mountain Range poked up into Azura’s sphere from the Isle of Twilight down below. The soaring knight had weaved in and around these peaks, while engaging in a spot of target practice. Targets had been carefully carved in stone and they had then been subjected to the concentrated wind blasts fired from Bruna’s horn like soul gem, resulting in craters, gashes and bored holes littering the area.

Well this was productive he thought as he examined his gradual improvements in accuracy But I wonder if Azura is done making her soul collectors yet?

Bruna acknowledges your progress. Bruna does not know. Current location does not allow for estimating the number of days cycles that have occured since arrival. Bruna responded unhelpful. Deciding that now was as good a time to check in as any the whale left behind his impromptu self made training ground and headed the short distance towards the Sky Bastion, where Azura had set up shop upon their arrival.

A number of temples had ended up in the area, some of which were covered in veritable gardens of greenery thanks to the occasional arrival of rain clouds from the Gateway to Galbar found below. Apparently this had not been the case before, but now that Azura had properly linked her sphere to the world below there was a lot more greenery to be found up in the Blue, much to the delight of the Grazer Drakes.

Azura could be found inside one of the hangers of the Sky Bastion working on her soul saving constructs. The doors of it were flung open and as a result the pair could see one another and speak, or rather shout, too one another. The occasional sky slug flitted in and out of the hanger in search of food where none could be found.

”Hello Azura, how are things going? You free to talk now?” Luis asked her once he came up to the bastion, parking himself alongside it. Bruna actually had corridors specifically meant for docking up with the building’s hangers, but Luis instead chose to move an eye in front of the doorway, peering in at Azura while she worked.

“I’ve got the core design down and getting close to the end of putting the instructions in now, so yes, I’m free now. Thank you for giving me the space to do this, I think it’s going to turn out wonderfully.” she responded “OH. Did you think of any suggestions while you were out practicing? How did that go by the way”

”It went well. Think I’m getting the hang of this whole fighting thing perhaps?” he answered before suggesting that ”Maybe you could make them not do the ‘this one will’ thing? I told mine to just use its name instead but it’s still a bit awkward to hear ‘Bruna will this’ and ‘Bruna will that’”

“You gave it a name. A person name? No no no, they aren't supposed to have people names” she said a touch incredulously

”Why not? Its convenient. And less of a mouthful than the name you gave it. No offence.”

“Because I specifically made them to be as un-person like as possible. They don’t think, they don’t feel, they have no dreams or ambitions and certainly no feelings. I want a clear line between people and tools and naming them blurs that distinction. It’s why I don’t want them using ‘I’ because they have no self. Machines are their purpose and function and nothing more, which makes it ok to use them as tools.” she responded, getting a little worked up over this as she did with a lot of things.

”Why is this so important to you” he asked, his tone curios rather than dismissive

“Because I need to be good person! But there isn't time to reflect or build some kind of ethics system. There isn't time to try and plumb the depths of my smothered mind in the hopes that I can fine done their either and the Void only knows if I’d like what I found. So I’m just winging it and making this massive teetering tower of decisions which i don’t know if their the right ones and one day it's all going to come crashing down anyway and gah.” she groaned at the ceiling “People’s free will is important. I can’t make people who want to do what I want, because then they aren't free they are slaves to my and my mission. I can’t make people who I then convince some of to do what I want because there is no way of stopping me from making their minds predisposed to agreeing with me because when it comes down to it their minds are built out of mine. So I make things that aren't people but still feels wrong in a way. Like I could make them people if I wanted and that I am technically stealing their person-hood from them? Which is why I want to make sure I can’t mistake them for people.” she finished before asking “Sorry for rambling again, but does that make sense?”

”I don't think that is how that works? People aren't people until they are people I think. Otherwise everything that could be people, the rocks. The air. Those tiny things in the ocean I eat would be people and that is a touch… excessive? I think we should worry more about the people who are people rather than the things that could be people?”

“You are right.” she agreed after a brief silence. “I told myself I would focus on helping people first and foremost. Thank you for reminding me.”

”Speaking of people, if it’s not ok to make people to convince to help you, isn’t it ok to convince people who already exist to help you?” he asked, trying to direct the conversation towards more a more productive/optimistic area.

“Well yes. I’ve already got two gods helping me. There’s the void souls as well but that’s putting the cart before the horse.”

”Maybe the other gods made people like me?” he asked, a touch hopefully.

“Perhaps. Those would also be ok to recruit I suppose. Freeing them from servitude would also a good thing I think? People would prefer to be free, where as my machines would not care if they had no one instructing them. Which makes how I am making them a better way of doing things.” she concluded, putting a final stamp on her logic.

”I agree. It would be nice to meet new people and help them.” He responded. He like the idea of having friends who where like him, creations not creators. As much as Azura tried to avoid acknowledging her god/parenthood in their conversations it was always there, lingering in the background unsaid. Literally in this case as she tinkered away, writing instructions into the very soul of the new life she was in the process of creating.

That life it seemed, had finally reached completion. It was a bird, roughly crow shaped but scaled up to about the size of a vulture, one with spectacular feathers like Azuras and the Gardeners. The feathers of this first one where shades of orange, red and purple but as Azura began to replicate it there came others, with feathers of blue and turquoise others with green and yellow and so on. Small spectrum of shades rather than the set colors of the Gardeners. All of these had long flowing tail feathers that trailed behind them on the ground as they stood motionlessly, awaiting activation. The source of this stillness was the additions of non living parts to the creatures. They had metallic braces along their wings that held a single soul gem each as well as numerous slots to store numerous soul crystals, much like the one found inside Bruna. On their heads they wore pointed masks of Luftstone as white as polished marble into which where set three soul gems, one above the forehead and one over each eye.

“They are inspired by you and your armor” Azura explained “although functionally they work the other way round. The birds are very simple, a bundle of instincts and little else while the crystals do most of the task related decision making. They can sense the dying and recently dead and can also infer the intelligence level of a being’s soul. They can also crystallize souls like I can and can store them like your armor can. All these abilities together mean they can go out into the world in my place to save people from Katharsos’s flames. Then they will bring the souls to the vault for safekeeping. They’ll also be super useful for when we assault the pyres, helping to pick out the people from the trees. Also you can control them like your armor and the curators. Take a couple dozen for yourself before I release the rest for testing purposes.”

”I see.” he said simply, before reaching out and doing just that. At his behest a flock of the creatures, who now filled many of the rooms of the surface of the Sky bastion as Azara kept replicating them, flew out to meet him. [silver]Coming to you[/silver] they told him as they did so. Azura had apparently listened to his suggestion, removing the rpetive ‘This one will’ out of their speaking pattern, rather than it being lost in her ramblings, which was nice. Despite their heavy mechanical additions they flew swifty, aided by Azura’s blessed wind. He noted, as he trolled through these creatures crystals, that they too had the capacity for violence like Bruna, namely wind beams and shielding. They also had the ability to manipulate things with wind based phantom limbs, an ability he got Bruna to replicate right away.

Once the flock had landed on his back and took up roosts in Bruna’s many halls Azura told him that “That's about enough of them I think. Now we test them” before turning to the rows and rows of motionless birds and announcing.

“Awaken my soul collector birds, and go fulfill your purpose!” she instructed, at which point the hundreds of birds awoke and began to make their way past her. Luis backed out the way as the colorful swarm burst up and out of the way as they began launching themselves out of the hangerbay and flying up into the Blue.

”Can I suggest something a touch shorter? For the name?” he said tentatively.

“How about Reaper Birds? Soul Takers? hmmm” she suggested, seemingly not perturbed by his suggestion

”How about Alma?” he said

“It’s not very descriptive.” she complained

”Most names aren't” he said

“... I suppose not. It is a nice name. Ok then. Alma they are.” Azura said as she followed the last of them out. The birds where ascending now, having been programmed with an inherent understanding of the Blue’s strange geometry and how to use it to travel faster. Once they were high enough almost all of them headed off in one direction, rocketing south as fast as they could.

“That’s odd. I thought they would spread out to go find the gardeners?” Azura commented as they all raced off.

”Maybe someone made something else smarter?” he said.

“No. No surly not… If they have... We should follow them!” shouted as she took off after them without explaining her logic.Thus began a relatively short chase during which Luis got to see traverse roughly half of the blue in a rather short amount of time. Rising high into the air he encountered its shrinking geometry, then flew after the birds, watching as the flat representation of the world below raced by below him. Eventually he caught up with Azura on the southern continent, the one he did not know was called Atokhekwol. There he saw what the Alma had found.

”So. What are they”

“People.” she explained. “It looks like made the Alma just in time.”

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Lord Zee
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Lord Zee There must always be... A Zee

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Orvus arrived back on Veradax shortly after his chance meeting with Li’Kalla. Now he floated above the Mar Tree, which by that point had greatly covered the valley in floating motes. They bounced about, waiting for something to happen. His thoughts were dark, clouded with choices and decisions that needed to be made. Kalmar, as much as he hated to admit it, was right. Orvus was justifying his continued existence by wanting to destroy everything, just so he could prolong the inevitable. He had said it himself best, he was a selfish being who didn’t want to die.

He didn’t want to die. He wanted to fade away in the nothingness. Was it the same? Perhaps, but he was faced with a great dilemma, when would he ever see it again? Most likely never, but there was a chance it could happen. Would he jump at the occasion? Or would he stay his hand, and hesitate? Only time would tell, but his deliberation on that topic eased his mind little.

Then there was still the topic of his purpose. His siblings hated him already, their threats were apparent. Kalmar’s most of all. His brother would kill him if he kept on his current course, but what was his current course? Endless destruction until there was nothing left? Making that promise to Phystene felt so very long ago, almost like a distant memory. So much had changed since then, so much about himself had changed. Did he feel regret for what happened? An inkling perhaps... He had been so sure of himself, but now he was but hesitation.

The Mar tree was primed and ready to stream into Galbar, but Orvus did nothing now but stare. Was it really what he wanted? Why was it so hard to think and make a decision?

Why was it so difficult!

Orvus fell to the surface of the moon, and began to beat it the rock with his fist. His eyes expressed anger, a profound sense of rage. He just wanted it to end! What was holding him back! And as Orvus crushed the rock further, he saw a life that never should have been his. Memories of a dream, his dream. That was what he wanted. To feel, to be happy. To know what compassion felt like and yet, the one person he knew could help him, he had cast out. Because he was afraid of what he wanted. Because unlike the finality of death, of fading away to nothingness, it was unpredictable. Life was unpredictable.

That was his fear and to overcome it, would be to change everything about himself. For better or for worse.

And Orvus knew, that he couldn’t do it. Not yet.

He was too broken. Too afraid.

It was easier to be hated. But perhaps… perhaps he could try?

He flew up, leaving the giant crater he pummeled below him. Now over the Mar Valley, he snapped his fingers and all at once, the motes began to circle above the tree, as the gateway on Veradax came overhead, it’s scarlet lightning the only source of light. And without further hesitation, the motes began to fly upwards, to Galbar.

A pang of regret washed over him briefly, before dissipating as he moved his hand out before him. If his siblings were so set on him having a new purpose, and to maintain some sort of ‘balance’ then they would see this as necessary. Still, his gateway needed some sort of protection. Guardians, perhaps?

And so Orvus moved his hand up to the clouds, and from it he pulled down a piece of lightning. It seemed to scream in defiance at being taken from its home, but Orvus did not care. With a flick of his wrist, the lightning changed, elongating, twisting and breaking into many long appendages. A large torso appeared, then a head with six scarlet coals. It’s mouth opened, revealing rows and rows of sharp teeth and then the creature screamed, erupting from its maw came a torrent of red energy.

It broke free from Orvus and gazed down to look up it’s god.

”You are called the Gate Lord. Do your duty.” Orvus commanded, and so it was done.

The massive creature took off, flying into the storm where it disappeared.

But Orvus was unsatisfied. Something else ached to be created, to be given its own purpose. He flew down to the Mar tree, and broke off two branches. With these branches he flew up and once again floated before the Gate.

He let go up both branches, but willed them to stay afloat. As he worked upon the branches, they grew larger, longer and twisted into a crown of spikes. A blackened body came forth, one at a time from either branch, twisting down into a tail. From the torso came four arms with terrible claws, and two legs. Both took feminine forms, as scales overtook their bodies. Four scarlet coals opened upon their faces, and then eight eyes looked down upon Orvus.

”You are Reapers, and you shall have many Spawn.” he looked to the right one, ”Azadine is your name,” Orvus said before looking over at the other one, ”Ansara is yours. Now go, Galbar awaits.” And the two creatures floated off towards the gateway, as silently as they had come into the world.

Orvus was weary now, and tired. With things set in motion upon Veradax, he looked to Galbar once more and flew off to meet it.

A short while later, he arrived in a place that felt familiar. A small island chain in the middle of the vast ocean, it was there he could feel the Orvium buried beneath the waves, but this was not what Orvus came for. He looked over each island, and even saw a strange cold one, but this did not interest him.

He landed upon an island close to it, one that was fresh with land and fertile. Though he could not feel any of it, Orvus broke a stick from a tree, found a rock and then a vine. As he worked upon the materials, he came to a small clearing and there. He didn’t know what compelled him to do so, but perhaps he could start to feel something by… by growing something.

And so he struck the ground with his makeshift hoe.

Back at the gateway, Azadine and Ansara land in the Maelstrom’s waters. They briefly lock eyes, before swimming off in different directions. Azadine swims off towards Atokhekwoi, while Ansara swims in the direction of Pāṟa. All around them and throughout the storm, the motes begin to fly off in every direction, leaving the Gate Lord to fly around the Maelstrom’s eye.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Frettzo
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Frettzo Summary Lover

Member Seen 7 days ago


Goddess of Rain
8 FP - 9 MP


FP: 01 MP: 05

K’nell stood in silence, his eyes staring at the clouds forming in an otherwise bright blue sky. The ground underneath him betrayed the notion that it should be sunny, the soil being sun soaked and aromatic, and yet here he was staring at clouds. What had caught his interest was not that there were clouds, but that the clouds had not rolled in as clouds often do, for he would have seen it, but instead on their own accord decided to exist, very figuratively raining on his parade.

He slid his hands in the pockets of his jacket and craned his neck upwards, his lips forming a thin line of focus. Gentle wind began to stir around him, moving various leaf litter into tiny tornadoes only big enough to give an ant anxiety, but not much else. Sucking in a breath, he turned over the aroma of rain, and sure enough, his eyes spotted the little droplets falling from the great sky above.

Following a particular droplet as it fell from the heavens, he watched it slip down and eventually pluck the ground, leaving a tiny ’tat’ sound that perhaps only a god could ever hear. In moments, an army of droplets followed, and in time, a gentle rain began to pour. The drops shied away from the god, leaving the ground around him a certain kind of dry as he watched the spectacle.

Puddles formed gradually in little impressions in the ground, and between clumps of grass. Just as the ground finished its drink enough to saturate the ground, the clouds had sprinkled their last, leaving the god in thought under an again blue sky.

K’nell let out a puff of breath and with gentle, meaningful strides, he began his walk once more. His stroll only coming to a sudden stop as he approached a puddle, the tiny body of water in his path. He peered down, and the reflective surface shimmered, causing him to raise a brow in silence. The puddle rippled slightly, and below it a young girl knocked desperately against the surface. Her eyes were covered in a black blindfold, and her face was twisted into utter terror. The puddle made no sound, but she could be seen panting and looking over her shoulder at something unseen, causing K’nell to freeze in anxious contemplation.

She knocked and knocked as hard as her small, frail body could against the surface, and eventually one of the knocks sent a strong enough ripple through the puddle that the reflection was broken. When the water stilled once more, it was a mere puddle, and no sign of the girl inside the reflection remained.

Kneeling down, K’nell dipped a finger into the cold rainwater, his eyes narrowing. Thoughts swept through his mind, as well as images. The essence that lingered on the puddle was that of Li’Kalla, that much he knew, but that was all he knew. He stood up and straightened his posture. Slowly he oriented himself in a new direction, and once again he continued his journey, his gentle strides replaced with long godly steps, that caused the world to brush on by.

A great ring of stark marble floated before K’nell, the God’s own boots firm on the air itself. His fingers wriggled by his side as he stared through the shimming gateway to So’E, it’s reflective pool like surface staring back at him. The clouds of the island all around him were ripe with anger, donning a black cloak and a rumbling demeanor. Sharp stabs of anger seemed to emanate all around him, stabbing at his own emotions and filling him with discomfort. Darting his eyes all around one final time, he pursed his lips, and stepped through.

A heavy pressure closed in on him as he emerged into the So’E. Blistering steam covered every single inch of the Sphere, with a violently boiling lake eternally on the verge of fully evaporating, were the dominant features of the location. A mist so thick that made the air seem so solid it would have blinded any mortal (should they survive the heat), and a rather peculiar smell was mixed in with that of the steam, the mist and that of impending rain.

The smell of blood. The purest, densest blood to exist. It was Ichor, and not of a single source either, but of two. Shortly past the boiling lake was a shore, and a few paces into the shore, every single inch of ground was covered in a gruesome substance or lost body part. Sometimes it was scales as large as a human head. Other times it was broken fangs as long as a human arm. But mostly, it was ichor.

Perturbed by the entire scene, K’nell couldn’t land on a single emotion, his gut twisting. The sight and smell caused him to pull a white handkerchief from his pocket and hold it to his nose, his boots hovering just above the mess as he walked. He grunted into his handkerchief a moment as he cleared his throat of the opaque steam, “Li’Kalla?” His traditionally grainy voice was louder than usual, laced with concern but below that of a shout.

In the distance, a rustling of leaves and the breaking of wood echoed, and a low growl seemed to fill the Sphere, coming from everywhere and nowhere.

Large, heavy steps shook the earth, and they approached. K’nell froze in his steps and narrowed his eyes, his vision cutting through the obscurity. The entity, monstrous in size and intent. A large beast with light blue scales intertwined with vines, burst forth with two wide open eyes like green suns that pierced through the mist and glared straight at K’nell. It had two wings, one extended fully in what he could feel was predatory excitement, and the other dangled uselessly, dripping ichor from various places where bone protruded from skin in unnatural angles. It’s maw opened slightly, a mix of saliva and ichor flowing for it onto the wet ground.

“Oh Li’Kalla,” K’nell all but muttered, his voice calm but his eyes wide in absolute shock. The Monster stopped, its eyes never leaving K’nell. It shifted its weight and the large muscles in its legs tensed up, dislodging a few damaged scales. K’nell stared back, his heart slowly beating faster, filling the otherwise deafening silence.

The lunge was like thunder. Trees fell, earth shattered, mist parted. The beast that had once been far away now held it maw wide open merely a pace away from K’nell, its tongue flicking out wildly. Saliva splattered K’nell, his heel suddenly turning, the beast just missing him as he juked to the side. His heart was in his throat as the fractions of a second dragged by, his hands came up defensively and then there was a bright flash.

So’E was painted in divine light, a great buzz of energy deafening the scene. Gradually the light faded, the buzzing subsiding, and as it decreased, the lullaby of a sad violin cried out. K’nell stood next to the beast, a violin of dark phantasmal flames tucked under his chin, his hand working the ethereal bow across it’s strings. The beast was frozen in place, its sunlike eyes staring at K’nell. After a moment, it growled and released a mighty roar at the God, a roar which, despite all its defiance, died midway through, when the monster’s eyelids became too heavy for it, and it fell to the ground in a resounding thud. The song pierced the sphere, only accompanied by the rumbling snore of the dragon.

K’nells right sleeve was pulled back, revealing a silver spiral starting at his elbow and snaking around and around his forearm before clamping around his wrist. His arm pressed back and forth as he played, his eyes glued on the sleeping form.

A minute passed as K’nell finished his song. As soon as his fingers let go of his instrument and bow, the forms dissipated, their particles leaching into the silver band. The God of sleep pulled his cuff back into its proper place and walked up to the unconscious dragon. His face was wrinkled in concern, the adrenaline of the sudden attack still coursing through his veins. Taking a few steps into the air, K’nell made his way to the beast’s forehead, carefully placing his finger on a scale.

K’nell stood in a void of white. There was no color, no emotion, except that of a storm cloud above him.

On the horizon there was lightning, and from that lightning, which was cut off midway by the white, flawless ground, a young, frail-looking child emerged. She ran and ran, desperately trying to reach the man. She gasped and panted and stumbled and fell, numerous times. Her knees were scraped, her elbows were curedely bandaged. She was wearing a ragged pair of ill-fitting men’s trousers and bandages across her chest. Her eyes were covered in a black blindfold, but her expression of terror was unmistakable.

Mere moments after her desperate arrival, another, larger lightning shattered the skies, and a large, menacing beast crawled through. Its two sunlike eyes on a long snout filled with razor sharp teeth were focused on the girl. Its two leathery wings were spread wide in excitement. It crawled leisurely after the slow, fatigued girl, as if savouring her futile attempts at escape.

“Hold,” K’nell commanded, the scene slowly coming to a halt. He tapped his chin twice and walked forward in contemplation. After a few more steps he stood between the girl and the beast. He looked back at the beast, and then forward at the girl.

With a snap of his fingers weavers appeared out of thin air, floating around the God of Dreams. K’nell looked at them and pointed at the beast before walking up to the girl. Despite his confident strides, he could feel it all slipping. Sucking in a breath he slipped in front of the girl, He rubbed his chin with one hand, flicking his wrist with the other, and suddenly grass appeared under them, and a great stone wall building behind the girl, as if to block the dragon from view.

Looking upward, K’nell poked a finger, and a high midday sun appeared. Scowling he quickly erased it, poking a bit lower, bringing up a cooler evening sun. Shaking his head and muttering something about being good enough, he quietly waved his hand, and a summertime breeze began.

“You there.” He suddenly said, the image of the girl popping back to life, blindfold gone.

The girl gasped and fell, tumbling around for a few paces before settling and propping herself up on her knees and elbows. She coughed uglily, as if a motor engine had housed itself deep in her lungs, and she quickly got on her feet and turned to look behind.

She stopped in confusion as she saw a gentleman standing there. She panted, and after a while she calmed down. But then her silver white eyes widened and she felt around on her face. “Ah!” She shrieked, covering her eyes with both hands. She shook like a leaf, but eventually found the strength to speak, albeit frailly. “I-I’m supposed to… K-Keep my eyes hidden…!”

“Why?” K’nell asked, slowly taking a second Handkerchief from his pocket and handing it to the girl.

The girl bit her lower lip as she covered her eyes with a forearm and used the other hand to grab the handkerchief. She turned around and inspected it, and after confirming it to be of sufficient length, she wrapped it around her head and over her eyes. “I-If they see my eyes, they’ll know who I am…” She sighed as she tied a simple knot behind her head, brushing aside her short, blonde hair.

“Who?” K’nell gently sat down next to the girl.

“W-Who?!” The girl shouted in surprise, her mouth hanging open in disbelief as she turned toward the gentleman. “The bad men, of course! They’re scary, they want to hurt me. But I managed to escape, so now I just have to stay hidden, right? Just go by unnoticed… People don’t noti-” She coughed again, and her palm was coated in a small about of blood. “Sorry… They don’t notice broken ones, like blinded and deafened ones… Only the ones with strong souls, as the priest says.”

K’nell cocked his head, a low grainy hum emitting from him as he thought, “The scaly beast with the sunshine eyes of green, tell me about it,” He quickly added, “If you please.”

At the mention of the beast, the girl jumped and looked around, “W-Where did it go?! I had forgotten about it…! We have to run, it’ll eat us!”

“Not here it can’t,” K’nell patted the ground, “Here is the land of learning and questions, so you see, by all my own inquiries.”

She took a while to calm down once more, “... Oh.” She muttered simply, and she shyly sat down next to the man, making sure to scoot a little bit farther away than she’d initially sat. “The beast, it wants to eat us. It’s always crawled around... But it was never this big or scary, you know! I think it ate that one, you know, the one with the watery skin? That’s when we all went like BAM! And AH! OOH! RUN, RUN!, and we all ran.”

“It’s funny you mention it, in the cruelest way,” K’nell folded his hands in his lap, “A dear friend of mine recently was eaten by the very same beast, and here I am in all my ignorance trying to -- well recover her.”

The girl turned to look at the man, and after a while her lips quivered and tiny wet spots appeared on the fabric over her eyes. She averted her gaze and shrugged, “I-I’m sorry, Mister… I didn’t mean to be cruel. Please don’t be mad at me. I just…” She sighed and fell silent. K’nell waved a hand.

“No, dear lady, I completely understand your own predicament and in no way hold it against your character,” K’nell’s grainy voice was quick to dismiss any notion of anger, “What I suppose I should have said was; could you help me recover my friend, by telling me all you know?”

“What? R-Recover? But… You said the beast ate your friend?”

“If you mind a tangent,” K’nell poked his chin, “but fancy us philosophers for a second, and suppose that perhaps my friend has become the beast. In a sense eaten, but not quite as you’d expect. In this case -- if this is what it is -- then I would like to recover my friend from the beast.”

“Uuu…” The girl hummed softly, “I… I think I understand! Okay! I’ll tell you what I know. But, I don’t know that much about the beast itself. I always kind of… Avoided it. It’s always been scary. Just thinking about its eyes makes me shiver.” As if to prove her point, a shiver went down her spine and she got goosebumps along her arms.

“Whatever you have is invaluable,” K’nell assured.

“Well, it’s big now. It roars really loudly! Its breath kind of smells like… Ash? I know what it smells like because it almost caught me once. That was scary! I don’t like the beast, why did it have to chase after me…?” She went silent for a moment, before continuing, “For a good time now, the watery one was in charge. Barely. When we got into this new place, we found something weird, you know. It was like one of us, but… Ah! I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t really? It was too bright to make out, so- Or maybe- Bleh!” She stuck her tongue out and scrunched her nose up.

“Okay, so, we got into this new place, this new thing appeared and got into the watery one. that’s when she became the one in charge. She kept us all together, and the beast in check. Something happened though. I can remember some parts… Screaming for help, slimy cold tendrils-” She shuddered, “At one point I couldn’t sense anymore, and shortly after that the beast grew and became big and ate the watery one. I guess it ate the new thing we got when we got here, too.”

She bit her lip, “This new thing--I don’t know how to explain it. I’m sorry. I know a big eye brought it to us.”

K’nell hummed in thought for a while, his voice swirling around the pair as it used to do before returning to his mouth, “You’ve been more helpful than you realize. Tell me -- if you can -- where are the others?”

“Um, I don’t really know. Most ran into the steam that leaves our home, so they should be aaall over the world by now! I, uh, ran into the mist of our home. I panicked and didn’t think it through…” She sniffled and wiped her nose, “But! The only others were the elegant one, the mean one and the fun one.”

“Four and the watery one,” K’nell counted, “That’s five. One is you, one is in the beast, and three are scattered about the world. Now, with this we have a few options before us. Would taking you from here worsen or aid the situation until all five could convene at once.” K’nell paused in thought for a moment, “Or shall I go to the beast directly.”

K’nell suddenly stood up, “Is there any weight you’d like to add to my thoughts?”

The girl looked at K’nell, mouth hanging open slightly, “P-Please don’t leave me here with it! I don’t know how much more I can run…!”
“Not a problem, dear,” K’nell held out a palm to the girl, “Walk with me.”

The girl hesitated for a moment, but in the end wrapped her hand around K’nell’s and let him lead head. K’nell stood still, and with a sudden cheshire smile, the entire dream flashed a draining white.

Standing by the sleeping beast, K’nell received his hand from its forehead, a small opalesque orb, much like the one in his palace now in his grasp. He quickly dropped it into his pocket and patted the fabric with care. Steeling his resolve he looked forward at the beast, grimacing slightly as he floated downwards to face it’s gaping maw. His eyes flickered and he observed its soul. Scanning with his silvery eyes he craned his neck this way and that before finally they fell on an unusual sight: a shard.

He poked his chin twice, “Better not risk it,” He said to himself. His eyes looked downward, his first handkerchief laying crumpled on the ground. Quickly snatching it and shoving it into his pocket he turned from the sleeping dragon, but not before laying a blue flower on its snout.

“I’ll be back, Li’Kalla,” his grainy voice swirled after him.

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Hidden 1 yr ago 1 yr ago Post by Lmpkio
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Lmpkio Kaiju Expert

Member Seen 2 days ago


The Aerial Courtship of Giants

With its Master focusing upon his grander schemes, the Phoenix found itself once again cast back out into the world of Galbar, soaring high within the heavens. It wanted to rest up, especially after the exhausting near-death experience with the Iron God and the long flight back to Muspell, but Sartr still had other plans with him. Its mission was the same - scour the globe and inspect what the other gods were doing. However in this case, it found itself back within a particular location that it knew all too well.

Once surrounded by water, Mount Chop had found itself trapped within a massive continent that had formed beneath it. And already, life was flourishing around the base and upon the mountainside itself. It was strange for it to see such a vast population of greenery - one that dwarfed the island that it landed upon during its first flight. Yet this time, the Phoenix wasn’t raining a torrent of fire upon the vulnerable timber below. After all, word had spread that several gods had taken personal offense to the beast’s “careless” destruction. Surely if the flaming pterosaur was to continue its unintentional destruction here, no doubt a personal witch-hunt would be issued in order to capture it. It would be wise not to cause such needless damage at this point.

The Phoenix then landed upon the mountain’s cliffside, as it scoured the vast jungles for where it should go next. As it searched, the Phoenix heard the rumbling of distant thunder. This rumbling grew louder, until it sounded as though a thunderstorm was right above the Phoenix, even though the skies were clear.

“SCREEE!” came a deafening cry from above the Phoenix. Standing on the ridge of the cliff overlooking the Phoenix was a giant bird with midnight blue feathers, cracking with motes of lightning.

Startled by this loud noise, the fire-bird jerked its head upwards to inspect the culprit who had dared to disturb it. It looked up to see the strange bird. While it was significantly smaller than the Phoenix, being roughly 17 meters shorter than it give or take, the amount of power it wielded was rather unique. In fact, upon reanalyzing the intensity of the thunderous call, perhaps it was the Phoenix who had done the disturbing to it after all.

It was a call of territorial dominance.

Still, the Phoenix was not negatively phased by its impressive display, nor did it feel significantly threatened. If anything, it was rather intrigued by this oddly-colored and supercharged spectacle. There seemed to be some sort of relationship… although Sartr hadn’t alerted him to a creature like it. The Phoenix proceeded to communicate by revealing its mahogany throat and issued a low guttural noise towards it.

"Heed, wondrous avian." the Phoenix called to it telepathically, "I’m not here to cause trouble. I will be out of your territory in a few minutes."

The Thunderbird did not appear to heed the Phoenix’s attempts at diplomacy. “SCREE!” Its voice blew down on the Phoenix as a strong wind, some dirt being stirred up. Then the Thunderbird flapped its wings and a concussive thunderclap issued forth and struck the Phoenix.

The fire-bird flinched as the powerful vibrations rattled through its skeleton, nearly causing it to lose balance. It was clear that this bird didn’t seem to understand his telepathic message. It was merely a beast. A beautiful beast, but a beast nonetheless. The Phoenix had to do something to demonstrate both its dominance and how it wasn’t a threat - the latter being perhaps the hardest thing for it to accomplish. It rose its massive scaled wings and flapped back as warm heat radiated towards the Thunderbird’s way. It didn’t want to fight such a beautiful specimen, but if it was forced to, it would have no choice.

Seeing its rival was not backing down, the Thunderbird hopped off its perch. “SCREEEE!” it cried as it descended, wings flapping and creating more thunder to rattle the Phoenix. Now being forced into combat, the terror-bird was forced to take to the skies, roaring loudly as a sonic-boom collided upon its massive wings during his rapid ascent. It began to circle around its unfortunate opponent as it issued another deeply pained roar in a last ditch attempt to have the Thunderbird heed. The warning was in vain, though, for the Thunderbird knew nothing but its own strength and superiority.

The Thunderbird banked up and circled the Phoenix also, peals of thunder echoing across the Hooflands. The Thunderbird ascended, making use of its lighter weight to out-manoeuvre the colossal fire-bird, then dived towards the Phoenix’s back, talons outstretched and sparking with electricity.

Even the armored back couldn’t spare the terror-bird from the terrible volley of shock that surged through its body as the Thunderbird made contact. It issued a painful screech before it mustered the power to break off from such vile torture. It descended rapidly before pulling up and utilizing the wind-currents to hasten its speed. With a regrettable scowl, it then proceeded to fire its signature heat ray multiple times towards the feathered Thunderbird, guessing its opponent’s trajectory in an attempt to produce the most accurate shots it could.

The Thunderbird was not an easy target, as it flew above the Phoenix where the Phoenix had to twist to fire its beams. But as the Thunderbird dived to attempt a second attack, one of the Phoenix’s beams struck true, burning a patch on the bird’s right breast. Feathers were incinerated in a pyrotechnic display of blinding light. While the Phoenix could not see anything for the next few moments, it heard a pained “CAW” and thunderous wingbeats before the Thunderbird collided with the Phoenix. A jolt of electricity was sent through the Phoenix, but rather than latch on with its talons the Thunderbird continued to fall, tumbling and flapping. It managed to right itself before landing heavily.

The Phoenix, meanwhile, continued to reel back at the intense shock that it had received as it plummeted back to the ground. It had to admit, for a mere creature of its size, it surely knew how to use it. However, how could it compare to a fully realized and thinking avatar created from the embers of the divine? The fire-bird quickly regained altitude just before scraping the canopy of the treeline, as more of its fiery essence dripped upon them. It proceeded to go into overdrive, as it issued a quick roll in mid-air before hastening its speed. It rushed towards the Thunderbird, heading in a straight line as it extended its massive talons towards its opponent’s back.

Though wounded, by the time the Phoenix had managed to reorient itself the Thunderbird had also recovered enough to look up and see the Phoenix diving towards it. The Thunderbird took flight parallel to the ground with a few hasty wingbeats, feeling a rush of hot air as it managed to just barely avoid being crushed by the Phoenix. The Thunderbird continued to fly, turning its head to look at the Phoenix.

Despite missing its target, the terror-bird didn’t proceed to go after the Thunderbird as it stood motionlessly on the ground, looking towards the Thunderbird with admiration. It issued another booming call, flapping its wings in display format as more heated wind flew through the forest. The leaves underfoot began to dry rapidly, causing the dry air and friction to suddenly start a forest fire within the lush greenery. Still, the Phoenix refused to move as it then proceeded to bob its body up and down, as if taunting the Thunderbird. It’s throat began to glow a hot ruby-red, issuing a chuffing similar to that of laughter. If it wasn’t able to get to it’s opponent, then it might as well try to lure it towards its fiery body instead.

The Thunderbird saw the Phoenix’s display, which stirred some curious feelings within the Thunderbird. It continued to fly until it landed upon a large rocky outcrop with two strangely flat faces near the base of Mount Chop. On its perch it faced the Phoenix, able to see it clearly. The large burn on the Thunderbird’s chest was also clearly visible, red, oozing and painful. The Thunderbird bowed its head down to preen the feathers around the wound.

Noticing the creature’s injury, the Phoenix halted its child-like mockery as it watched the Thunderbird attend to its charred wound. Even for an avatar created for the sole purpose of razing and destroying all who opposed it or Master Sartr, it had already grown sympathetic with the poor beast. If it had really gone all out, it would’ve most likely overpowered and killed the Thunderbird right on the spot. The terror-bird knew that feeling all too well. And to kill such a magnificent looking creature - one perhaps related to it in some way - would be a cruel act not even it could stomach. It felt connected to it, distantly perhaps but it was there.

Gurgling a voice of reasoning, the Phoenix once again took to the skies and landed a good distance away from the Thunderbird’s position. It hunched over its body, making it look smaller and more timid, as it slowly and cautiously attempted to make its way towards the beast while issuing soft cooing to calm the creature’s previously high aggression and apologize for his mannerisms.

The Thunderbird paused from its preening to look up at the Phoenix. The lightning on its feathers danced in a more gentle pattern as it watched the Phoenix and listened to its cooing. Yet as the Thunderbird shifted, it flinched in pain, its right wing drawing up over its injury. The Thunderbird looked up at the Phoenix once more. “Cooo,” came the Thunderbird’s response, riding on a refreshing breeze. That coo carried pain, submission, yet also something else.

With a peal of thunder the Thunderbird took to the skies once more, flying away from the Phoenix. The scaly beast could only watch as the feathery avian took off, leaving only a trail of lightning and several dark blue feathers behind. The fire bird glanced down to see one such feathers lying on the ground, but suffering from a half-burnt tip. It nestled it with it’s large beak, fiddling with it briefly before looking back on the horizon.

Would the bird come back? Surely its calm response meant that it finally tolerated the Phoenix, or at the very least respected it. Did it concede and move on, leaving its territory in the hands of the fire-bird? The Phoenix wasn’t quite sure. It then hunched down on the cliffside and covered itself with its scaly wings. Perhaps it might as well rest for a bit before it ought to move on. After all, the Thunderbird’s lightning was able to sap a significant chunk of its energy. And hopefully… just hopefully, it’ll see the creature again some time in the future.

But for now, it simply closed its eyes and left its mind to wander across the dreamy plains that K’nell created for it… perhaps a happy one at that.

The Phoenix did not know how long it slept, but it woke to the sound of thunder. It opened its eyes to see that it was almost sunset. A dark shadow passed over the sky above the Phoenix and a large dark-blue bird - the Thunderbird - landed downhill from the Phoenix. Between sparks of electricity the Phoenix saw that the bird’s plumage had been recently washed and preened. The wound on its chest, while still present and unhealed, had at least been cleansed of charred feathers. Dangling from the Thunderbird’s beak was the limp body of some raptor.

The Thunderbird bent down low, its back and tail exposed. It stretched out its wings and flapped them, not towards the Phoenix but up and down, producing a low rumble of thunder. Sparks of lightning danced across the Thunderbird’s feathers and along its upturned tail. The Thunderbird slowly, very slowly, approached the Phoenix, continuing its display. “Coo cooo,” it cooed, muffled though its voice was by the body in its mouth.

Its return was rather unexpected, but warmly welcomed. The Phoenix watched as the Thunderbird proceeded to show off its majestic wings, flapping them up and down repeatedly, with the low-resonating thunder that issued an oddly comforting sentiment. The low-pitched rapid clattering and warbling of the Phoenix’s beak acknowledged its efforts as it slowly rose to its feet, still hunched over. Then it too began its friendly chirps as it extended its massive wings and repeated the other bird’s mannerisms, blowing a warm breeze towards it.

This heat wasn’t the destructive force that it would use casually or in battle however. In fact, as it blew over the Thunderbird, it noticed how it eased the pain from the wound. Further still, portions of the damaged tissue slowly began to heal, perhaps enough so that new feathers would once again grow given time.

The Thunderbird continued its advance, less timidly now. As it came close to the Phoenix, it placed the raptor body onto the ground in front of the Phoenix and backed away. Sniffing the carcass, the larger creature gently used its super-heated breath to slowly cook the raw carcass into something cooked. After a few seconds, the raptor’s feathers had been burnt off completely and its skin turned into an appetizing golden-brown. With its meal cooked, the Phoenix ripped the raptor into two - taking the legs and tail as it gobbled it down in one swift gulp. It was exceptionally tasty, filled with a crunchy exterior and being soft and tender on the inside. It proceeded to nudge the cooked saurian towards the Thunderbird, cocking its head for it to try it now.

The Thunderbird approached again. It looked up to the Phoenix before placing a talon on the remaining half of the raptor and dipping down its beak to tear the meal apart and eat it. It appeared to enjoy the meal as it gobbled down the cooked flesh. When finished, the Thunderbird wiped its beak on the ground to remove the grease and blood then looked up to the Phoenix with a soft “Coo.”

It appeared the blue avian had enjoyed the Phoenix’s little delicacy. This satisfied the fire-bird as it cackled softly at its positive response. It found that cooking the meat instead of eating it raw provided a richer taste and enhanced its flavor significantly. However, it had to cook it at just the right time - not too soon and not too late - otherwise it would find itself with lukewarm meat or a charred piece of coal.

Then the Phoenix proceeded to slowly advance towards the Thunderbird, waddling awkwardly with its massive wings folded on the ground. It blinked curiously towards its newfound friend and gingerly proceeded to nuzzle the blue bird in an act of kindness, as a deep groan escaped its nostrils and resonated through its warm beak. The Phoenix felt small jolts of electricity as it touched the Thunderbird, but those were nothing compared to the electric shocks it had suffered in their fight. The Thunderbird nuzzled the Phoenix in return, rubbing against the Phoenix’s warm body.

They enjoyed each other’s presence for a short time, then the Thunderbird suggested, “Cooo.”

The larger avian looked down upon the other, cocking its head while asking with a light chirp. The Thunderbird took a couple of steps away from the Phoenix and turned its back towards the Phoenix. It was now that the Phoenix could tell that the Thunderbird was indeed a she. At first, the Phoenix didn’t seem to realize what she was trying to do. But then it hit it… or rather, it hit him. A primal instinct rushed through his scaly body, producing a warmth unlike any he felt before - yet one that was familiar all the same. He didn’t need to be told what to do at that point…

For the Phoenix already knew what had to be done...

A circle of bent trees and branches padded with vines and grasses had been carefully laid out on the flattened peak of Mount Chop. Within this giant nest were several large eggs, mottled ruby and sapphire in colour, sparkling even where the sunlight did not strike them. Among the eggs was an ornate wooden box.

The Thunderbird was also in the nest, crooning by the eggs. Her eggs. She heard the sound of slow wing-beats and looked up to see the Phoenix approaching. The fire-bird carried a freshly killed and cooked long-necked sauropod in his jagged maw. While he didn’t have to travel far in order to find food, he felt like he had to offer only the best towards his new-found mate. And this was the perfect gift for her.

He dropped the cooked corpse down in his mate’s line of sight as he gently landed on the ground, coaxing the Thunderbird to eat. The Thunderbird walked over the edge of the nest and towards the meal. She cooed towards the Phoenix before ravenously feasting upon the sauropod, having clearly developed a heavy appetite. The Thunderbird ate her fill, then nudged the remainder of the meal towards the Phoenix.

The fire-bird accepted the leftovers and proceeded to finish the rest of the meal. Once he did, he found himself resting near the nest while watching the horizon for any invasive threats that dared to enter their territory. But while he did so, he suddenly felt a throbbing headache that forced him to stand up. And then, he was finally reminded of his true place amongst Galbar.

”PHOENIX!” Sartr boomed furiously as his voiced resonated through the Phoenix’s head, ”WHERE IN GALBAR’S PITS ARE YOU?! YOU’VE BEEN AWAY FOR THE PAST THREE DAYS!”

The fiery pterosaur was taken aback by his demands, however proceeded to stay still as not to disturb the Thunderbird.

"Ah, Master Sartr," the Phoenix telepathically responded, "My apologies for being so far away in my departure. I was away scouring the distant twin continents of what the gods called… Tendlepog and Swahhitteh."


The Phoenix anxiously glanced over at the nest and the resting Thunderbird. He hesitated to respond at first, but then proceeded to quickly answer as deadpan as he could.

"I’ve... since departed as of several hours ago and I’m just about finishing up my quick break. I shall be back in Muspellheim within the hour."

Sartr simply scoffed at his avatar’s reply.


"As you wish, Master." the Phoenix obeyed as Sartr’s presence quickly exited his mind.

The Phoenix had been having such a great time with his mate, that he almost forgot about Master Sartr entirely. If he was to tell him about his affair with the Thunderbird, let alone a mere bestial creature, surely Sartr would scold him for his disobedience. Truly he didn’t know how he’d react, but he definitely didn’t want to find out on the end of his fiery fist. And he truly didn’t want to leave his mate alone, but alas duty called and he must answer it.

The Phoenix walked towards his beloved mate and gently locked heads with her, rubbing his warm beak against hers. In a series of mournful and sorry chirps, he explained the situation towards her as roughly as he could.

"My beloved, sweet, Thunderbird." he said, "I am forced to depart under the orders of a higher power. He does not know about our affair, and I refuse to tell him for the safety of our skin and our young. I will be gone for a while, but I will come back as soon as I can… I promise."

The Thunderbird did not grasp all the concepts which the Phoenix said, but she understood enough. The Thunderbird too knew about the compulsion of a higher power. “Coo-oo,” she cooed mournfully.

Having said his farewells, the Phoenix departed from Mount Chop to make the long flight back to his Master. Sartr must not know of their affair in any capacity; however if he did find out, the Phoenix would do anything to protect his mate from him or any other threats that dare to harm her...

By the tip of his flaming beak and till his very last breath.

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Lauder
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Lauder The drunk kind of hero

Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago

Some time had passed since Vakk had dared to break the mind of Li’Kalla, now sitting on a cliff overlooking the boiling strait that lies between his continent and Kirron’s own. Vakk was gitty, not from transforming Li’Kalla into the monster she now was, but for knowing the one who had his box, Hermes. However, he knew that perhaps he would need to lie low, being best for him to avoid Li’Kalla who may just start stalking him like the animal she had transformed into. The Lord of Talk continued to smile, his plans coming to fruition almost as great as he had imagined them, though the slight imperfections did plague him.

The imperfections, though small, did serve to hinder his future efforts. Of course, his mind went straight to the enemy he had made with Eurysthenes, but now he had to contend with the likes of the uncontrollable Li’Kalla. That was why he needed the box. The Box of Orchestration would allow him to pull the strings of every god easier and easier as it’s power to influence was unmatched, as far as he knew. Yet, Vakk knew it was now a matter of finding this ‘Hermes’ and bringing the box to him that would prove more difficult. He would need some form of tracker in order to find the thief and bring her to Vakk’s loving embrace.

Although, thanks to the memories of Li’Kalla, Vakk knew what the presence of Hermes very soul felt like. He looked to the stars for a brief moment, considering using Katharsos to aid in his hunt, but the idea was quickly snuffed out since Vakk already owed the death god. His mind went through several possibilities of hunting Hermes himself, one consequence being Li’Kalla coming to attack him. While he could theoretically prepare himself for such a fight, he would prefer to keep such a fight in a location where it would not be a challenge. His gaze shifted to the steaming water, thoughts emerging left and right before he settled on one particular thought that continued to persist in his mind.

If he were going to be too cowardly to find Hermes himself, he would simply delegate another creature to do such task. Vakk looked at the tendril that Li’Kalla had bitten into, while it no longer bled, he could remember the pain it brought. The tendril moved across the earth, gathering a bit of the ground while another took one of the stone trees, crushing it in his grip. He took the rocks, fashioning a frame from them before spreading the dirt across, however, it was not sticking to the rock. Vakk let out a sigh before he looked back to the steaming water.

With a thought, Vakk grasped the frame he built and threw it into the steam. While one would expect the stone to crash into the water below, the frame hung in the air, suspended by some invisible.

”Thieves and souls,
Perceives and patrols,
Tooth and fang.
Hunt Hermes,
Bring her to me.”

The frame began to shift, the steam from the water wrapping itself around until it became dense enough to form muscle and skin. The being soon became whole as the tail of the beast developed into a strange form of mace. It soon became conscious and began to prance about in the air, moving through the air in a fluid fashion before it landed next to Vakk. It’s form was ten times the size of what would have been a normal man, teeth the size of forearms and claws of hardy stone. It licked its lips expectantly, waiting for its master.

”Find the thief, Hermes. Track her through he very soul,” Vakk said tapping the creature on its nose. It raised its head into the air, sniffing for a bit before it let out a roar and bound off the cliff. The beast landed on the water, running across the surface of it, barely even touching the ocean. It would track Hermes down to the ends of Galbar.

It was only a matter of time.

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Hidden 1 yr ago Post by Strange Rodent
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Strange Rodent Rodent of Unusual Size

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Eurysthenes watched Vakk leave, victory in its bones. Vakk was willing to butcher himself to be let from This One’s grasp. When it saw the tentacle fall, it knew it had power. It also knew there would only be a matter of time before Vakk showed up again, angrier and more vicious. All the more easy to madden. In the meantime, however, there was peace and quiet. The serenity of madness filled the Infinite Maze, and Eurysthenes began to calm itself, but then there was a brilliant flash of light.

The radiance of it was blinding and so powerful that it burned, so enduring and overwhelming that the barely reflective walls were as mirrors and the entire maze shone as if built from bricks of gleaming gold, and the air reverberated with power like the inside of a drum.

One inescapable word reverberated through the Sphere.


The light dimmed such that its unquenchable power dulled just enough to permit one’s senses to function again, and then Eurysthenes perceived a rift that had been slashed into the fabric of reality in the place where this explosion of light had originated. The portal beckoned.

It considered the irony in how Vakk also left this sphere by way of a not so dissimilar portal. But curiosity overtook apprehension. After all, this was a thing in its own sphere which it didn't understand, giving orders, even. Yet this voice was familiar. Gripping and weighty, with all the authority a boulder may have to a beetle.

So, of course, there was no choice but to step through.

Once again, Eurysthenes was in that place. The great flooded hall with the shattered ceiling, dominated by great columns as mighty as mountains and by a simple throne of straight-edged stone that nonetheless was laden with divinity. And though the throne was vacant, the Old Old One’s gaze was still upon Eurysthenes; it had never wavered and never would. The tingling and paralyzing effect of that stare came from all around, and so it was overpowering.

Yet the Architect’s throne was empty!

It's more unnerving than surprising. It was strange for This One; being unable to figure it out. This is truly the defining thing to separate the Architect from the rest of existence. The Enigma which covered him, as clouds cover sky, or as smiles cover intentions. For a while, Eurysthenes says nothing. It merely basks in the unending knowledge that, when faced with this, it didn't matter. Nothing did. It was all okay, unless the decision that it wasn't was made. By this Architect that could control everything.

”What?...” it asked. That was the only word spoken, though it was clear just how much was meant by it. Not merely a grunt of confusion, this was a question of all at once. The question of questions.

As if in answer, the grey rock of the throne pulsed gently with a warm and inviting glow. It was a sirenic and malevolent lure just like the monster fish spawned by Orvus. This One stepped forward. This was not something that should be walked toward, so it caught itself mid-step. It wanted to continue. Desperately. But should it? It knew it should stop, and quickly. But should it?

It gave a mental jerk to try and find something to say, but all that escaped was a high whine that tore the silence as if it were thin fabric. On and on it droned, becoming part of the ambiance.

”Why…?” it asked.

”Is it not what you want?”

Reality warped like the rippling surface of a puddle, and suddenly there was a sense of scope that was imposed upon the world and all around. This entire throne room was but a mote of dust, a meaningless speck reflected in the unimaginable vastness of a singular black eye.

The Architect’s voice rang out again. Louder, this time, with an anger in it that had not been there since Seihdhara had foolishly challenged him, it boomed, ”Knowingly or not, you have overstepped.”

”When…?” This One asked, folding itself in confusion, intrigue, and despair.

Another step forward, heavy and sluggish. Every movement debated and fought, but occurring nonetheless. Advancing closer to the colossal eye burned, like soaring headlong toward the fiery light of Heliopolis. As Eurysthenes drew close to the throne, it dissolved into a mass of filth and writhing worms.Other illusory objects manifested, and it was as though the god’s sanity had been a spool of thread that had been unwound and tossed over the hills and into the horizon. As if it saw something in these worms, or this madness revealed something, This One found something to latch onto.

It reached into this throne, found it, and twisted it. The filth became teeth, and they wound up and around, filling the space with their ever expanding whiteness. Eurysthenes mirrored this. Every piece of it became a small tooth, one by one, until from head to toe it gleamed and bristled. Each tooth leaked a pearly liquid, trickling to and mingling with the water.

”Of Vakk? That was what some might call “only”. It was merely cold. Something to be served when others are biting,” it said. There was an attempt, a feeble hope that this would confuse or convince the Architect.

Then, by some unknowable command that Eurysthenes hadn’t even conceived much less muttered, the illusory teeth of its conjuration became black and cracked. There was pain (though a false, detached sort) that radiated from them as they burst like sacs of black pus. ”Vakk? A mere distraction! THIS is your crime that offends me so!”

All of the surroundings flashed a blinding light as each of the two tried to bend reality to manifest itself into the conflicting shapes of the illusions that they’d conjured, and for a second there was a bleak grey room with that housed only some decrepit skeleton, and then they were back in the throne room and the Architect was visible once more, in his proper place. It looked as though he hadn’t even moved since all the younger gods had been cast out from his palace and into the world, and indeed, he hadn’t.

A long, spindly finger pointed accusingly at Eurysthenes. ”This power is mine, and mine alone. Whether out of woeful ignorance or fevered dreams of grandeur and outright rebellion, you have tried to usurp me. There can be only One who holds this power, little god,” the Architect spoke, not through words but the unflinching stare of his eye.

The black pus thinned and coalesced, forming a terribly accurate mirror image of the Architect. Every slight movement was copied, every tiny little noise cloned. The pus enwreathed this form, becoming it. Veins in the eye, wrinkles on the arm, the presence of it. The clear pus collapsed, leaving a carbon copy of The Architect in the center of the room.

”I can’t hold this power forever though. There is not enough strength left in me. Not enough to defend the least of my powers,” said the Architect. Which one, it was unclear: they may as well have been one and the same. Eurysthenes, the little god, looked up.
“Your creed is theft. It is inflated, overblown. There is no demand, no want, no longing, but for more. Your creed is theft. From the many below your wide presence. From those with less. Your creed chills, steals, kills, heals. What is your creed?”

In a flash the false likeness of the second Architect disappeared, leaving only the true one upon his throne. There was hardly even a moment of contemplation before the resounding answer came, ”Greed. Greed is the answer to your puzzle.”

There was silence, almost as if the Architect were about to respond with a riddle of its own, but that would have hardly been fair. Eurysthenes had yet to even solved the first riddle that it had been given, the greatest riddle of them all--why had the Architect brought it into existence?

”And though it is not greed to claim what is mine, in the end it matters not what you think to call it, nor whether you object! This power over over the Imaginary is mine alone!”

For emphasis on that last word, all of the throne room began to glow with a brightness too potent to be defied, too unyielding and overwhelming to be bent into illusions.

”Architect of This Place,” Eurysthenes said, ”this power may be truly yours, but what is the harm of sharing? What ill will come from allowing me to wield this weird power? Behold what I have already brought with it: The half-continent of Swahhitte, and justice to Vakk. A small list, but mighty, and a demonstration of what is to come,” it said. The oddly direct words fought, almost like they willed themselves to not exist at the hands of Eurysthenes. Regardless, it said them anyway, no matter the struggle.

It reached out with an overlong arm, and twisted upwards to be on eye level with the Architect. Some realization seemed to dawn inside the black void of the ancient’s eye. There was suddenly silence, and stillness. Until that moment it had been hard to notice, so demanding of awe and attention was the Architect’s presence, but the entire palace had been violently shaking. Now, the ground of the rocky island and the great expanse of water around settled and there was a silence that lasted for eternity.

Then, judgement. ”For this transgression, there will be a price. All of your divine kindred owe their loyalty and servitude to me, for granting them their power and their existence, but now you especially so. I decree that your repentance shall come from the fulfillment of three tasks: firstly the taking of an oath, that your service be now and forevermore eternal and absolute, then the acceptance of a charge to safeguard the Core, for within it lies the Pillar the Holds the World and in my foresight I have seen one that will try to meddle with it and who must be stopped, and finally the the finding of the wisest of all creatures upon Galbar, and your returning it here to my feet. Agree to these terms, and you may be spared. What say ye? Speak.”

Eurysthenes was baffled for the second time ever.

In its halting and clicky voice, it said ”I swear, your Grandness, that from now until I die, go mad, lose my memory, am paralyzed, or any other number of unforeseeable futures, that I will serve you in guarding the Core and whatever else you see fit, swearing this oath, offer relevant advice, and future tasks within my capabilities,” a pause, a brow furrowed, ”However. I swore into advice, and I mean to live up to this now. Wisdom is an old man that has run too much of its course. It is the idea that looked better in your head. Instead, let me bring to you the most confounding creature.” It spread its arms in a gesture of openness and made a sound of questioning.

The Architect seemed to give a slight, almost imperceptible nod of his head, but the gigantic eye that dominated half of it remained as unblinking and untelling as ever. ”I care little for the anomalous or the nonsensical; it is in wisdom that the creature’s worth must be measured. You will do as I instructed, and not think to question me again!”

This One stood stock still for a second before its shoulders said a quick, “Oh well.”

”Then I swear that, also. But to question is to defy. Here, I was--” Eurysthenes tried to explain, but the Eye silenced it, and then gripped it so tightly that it dared not even wriggle.

”You are dismissed, Eurysthenes,” the Architect decreed, and the little god was once more within his own sphere.

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