Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Frettzo
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Frettzo Summary Lover

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Goddess of Rain
8 FP - 9 MP

It walked away from the ruined, wet land. Trees had been devoured, blood and flesh had been licked up, even several pieces of brick and broken furniture had been eaten. There was nothing new to do, and so in search of sustenance, it walked.

Wherever it went, it kept its wings outstretched. Whether it was in elation of having been healed or a pervasive sense of dread, there was no way to know. At least not with the way its face never showed expression, with the way its eyes were always wide open and its face was always unflinching.

It felt like a long time, to the Beast, walking through the mist. It probably was a long time, as by the time the mist became thick enough, it began taking bites out of it due to boredom. Eventually, the mist became so hard that even it had a hard time eating it, so it stopped.

Walking randomly was frustrating, as the mist blocked its path suddenly. It wasn’t until it found a gap in the solid mists that it could move forward.

The gap was rather narrow, at least for a being of its size, and it had to furl up its wings in order to get through, and even then it felt like its side were being squished. More than once, when an irregularity in the mist walls prodded its side, it snarled and bit at the solid walls, teeth breaking. It didn’t bother it, as new teeth grew out almost immediately to replace the broken ones.

After some time, the pressure of the walls disappeared, and it felt like it had found itself into a large space. Of course, it all looked the same. A thick mist, blocking view of everything a few inches past its nose. And yet it could smell something other than humidity, dirt and moss. It was foreign.

So the Beast approached the center of the open space and found far below it a decently sized set of weird, too smooth shapes. They were red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, and each one was a different shape and size, and next to them was some kind of tray. It was yellow, too, and had holes in it.

Its spotlight-like eyes travelled numerous times between the tray and the shapes. One of its wings twitched nervously. It lowered its tall head and licked one of the shapes, then gently bit into it and ate it. It tasted foul, so it didn’t eat any more. Instead, it tried now to move the shapes onto the yellow tray. First it moved a round shape and tried to put it into a square shape. It growled at it once it clearly showed it wouldn’t fit.

It spent what felt like millenia in that room after that. It had eventually gone through the deathly shapes puzzle, every single shape finding its corresponding spot… But one. Next to the tray was a semi-liquid yellow mass. It had no shape, and it was impossible to move with its mouth.

It was the one it ate. It had regurgitated it in hopes that it’d fit. It didn’t.

The Beast stared at the yellow tray, and roared.

The poor tray and shapes were blown away into the mists to never be seen again.

After it finished, it stomped on the ground a few times and walked backwards for a long time.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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An Odd Meal

Xiaoli went to stand up but Hermes arms tightened. The two sat outside under the shade of one of the many trees. Pollen had started to dust on the River Girls skirt, the two having been there for quite some time. What had started as Xiaoli comforting a nauseous Hermes had turned into a very prolonged hug. She went to move again, but Hermes’ grip pulled her back.

“Nuh uh.”

Xiaoli let out a playful sigh. “Dear, I’m happy you still want to cuddle, but I have to get back to work - otherwise, we won’t be doing anything else all day.”

“Pregnant,” Hermes defended and pushed her face deeper into the crook of Xiaoli's arm.

The river girl giggled sweetly and pecked Hermes’ forehead. “Alright, -you- won’t be doing anything else all day,” she conceded. She tried to pull her arm out again, but found that even as she put some strength into it, all she managed to accomplish was pull Hermes along and on top of her lap. She hummed curtly and leaned her chin on her free fist.

“You dork,” she snickered quietly and ran her free hand through her hair affectionately. Hermes smiled up at Xiaoli and stretched her arms until her elbows popped.

“Mmhm,” She nodded, “Oh, so I was reading through Abanoc's book, about food again.”

Xiaoli could not quite hide a grimace. “Was it another chapter on desserts?”

“No,” Hermes gave her a cross look, “Hey -- wait you said you liked the Bark-n-Mush.”

“And I do, my dear, but--” She squinted. “... Maybe not every day for a month?” She shrugged casually and shifted her a sheepish look to the side.

“Mhm,” Hermes poked her side, “Well lucky you, then. The book suggests I start a garden, so I always have a variety on hand.”

Xiaoli blinked, then grinned from ear to ear. “Oh, really? How magnificent! What will you be planting?” She snapped her fingers. “Oh, do we have space for rice paddies? Okay, maybe not - but I could make space!” She looked down at Hermes. “I just really miss rice…”

“I don't know,” Hermes admitted, “I figured I'd look around and find stuff to bring back. The book was very helpful in explaining seeds and the like. Maybe some sweetgrass, a few things from the mountains. Oh! I can check the marshes too, who knows, maybe there will be rice.”

“Oh, could you?” Xiaoli planted a soft kiss on Hermes’ cheek. “You are such a darling, you know that?” She gave her a teasing wink. “By the waaay… Since you already are going for on a trip, could you see if you find some root vegetables? Anything will do, but radish and cabbage would be wonderful. Oh! And garlic - we. Need. Garlic.”

“You can count on me,” Hermes smiled wide, rolling off Xiaoli’s lap and to her feet. She brushed some pollen from her wool pants and sucked in a breath, “If you get a chance, can you set aside a spot for the garden?”

Xiaoli nodded with a grin. “I’ll draw it out right away. You won’t miss it.” She got to her feet and dusted off her woolen shirt and skirt. “Want me to patch you some lunch before you leave, dear?”

“Oh,” Hermes shook her head, “No, I think I’ll be okay. My stomach is still a little queasy. Thank you though!”

Xiaoli gave her a wry smile and folded her arms. “Alright, alright. Be on your way now, you beautiful adventurer.”

Hermes smiled and then with a sudden blur, the world turned to pins.

The ocean smashed against the sea cliff of Tendlepog, sending forth a salty spray. Hermes stared on with amazement. No matter how many times she visited the beaches of Tendlepog, she was always struck with awe at the ever moving might of the cliffs. She managed to peel her eyes from the waves and to the plants hugging the cliff top.

She shuffled on over to a particular plant, its leaves broad and low, with tiny stalks covered in buds and flowers. With a knowing grin, she ripped one of the meaty leaves off and nibbled on it, “Cabbage.” She swallowed and felt the leaf pang in her weak stomach. She shuddered and slid her bag off her shoulders.

Placing it on the ground next to the cabbage, she carefully tore some of the fruits and seeds from its stalks, placing them in her bag. Content, she slung the bag back over her shoulders and stood up. She turned. Her eyes widened as they stared at a treasure most curious. By some trees further away from the coast were strange plants ripe with fat pods.

The Dreamer jogged over and fell to her knees. She curiously pulled one of the pods close and smelled it. It smelled like a plant. She shook her head, “I don’t know what I was expecting.”

She plucked the pod and opened it up, revealing fleshy seeds. She quickly popped one in her mouth and bit down. Her eyes narrowed knowingly, “So this is a pea.”

Bringing her bag to bear, she collected as much as possible before turning back into a blur.

After a quick stint in the plains, Hermes had made her way up the mountains, bag now full of peas, cabbage, sweet grass, and even a spicy root she had found growing next to the trip vine, she aptly named it fireroot. The first thing she found in the wet foothills of the mushroom forest was wild carrot and even some wild onion, their bulbs rather dainty but their leaves strong and odorous. She had collected a bunch anyways, selecting the biggest of the bulbs.

She trudged up the mountain side, looking for garlic in particular, but eyes open to just about anything edible. She sniffed a few fungi that grew along the mushroom trees, licked a couple of exposed stems of some small woody plants, and bit into a woody root to no avail. She spat a few times and continued her journey.

Nimbats scurried out of her way as she approached a ring of tiny mushrooms, some snap fruit growing above. Hermes smiled and reached up on her tiptoe to grab some of the snap fruit. She plopped down her bag and knelt to carefully place them alongside her bounty. A salty smell caught her nose and she looked down.

Her bag had smooshed a yellow capped mushroom, the alluring aroma seeping out as the stem bubbled weakly. Curious, Hermes plucked the mushroom and held it to her nose, the aroma dancing in. She blinked and licked it, it tasted savoury. With a single bite she tossed it in her mouth and chewed, really savoury. She swallowed, reaching down again to pluck some more and toss them in her bag, but not before eating another.

With her bag now full of various plants and seeds, she decided it was probably best to head home before looking for rice. She picked up her bag and the ground rippled like a puddle. She froze, “That was weird.”

“I know, right?” A stone squeaked. Hermes yelped, and jumped. The ground seemed to ripple away as she did, as if she had leapt into a lake. She turned away quickly, tiny little shapes in her peripherals that she couldn’t quite focus on. The world was saturated with deeper colors, everything looking a little more real than usual.

“What’s wrong?” A mushroom asked.

“I got to go home,” Hermes chirped, and she covered her beak in shock.

Xiaoli felt rather satisfied with the water markings: Two rectangles made of thin lines of water stretched outwards from the southern wall, leaving an opening for a possible path to the main door on the westmost end of the wall. Thinking she could do her angel a little favour, Xiaoli had even taken the time to till the soil within the marked rectangles.

“Hermes will be so happy,” she mused with a giggle, skipping around a little. She then strolled back to the courtyard and began to turn the gravel into neatly squared, white stone tiles. The process was slow - Xiaoli took great care in sculpting each and every tile. Eventually, the patterns atop each tile began to flow together until the whole courtyard revealed one great stone carving that portrayed the map of the world covering Swahhitteh-Tendlepog and the Foot and Kick. Xiaoli clapped her hands free of dust and put them on her hips, grinning with satisfaction and pride.

“Now… What else should I...” Xiaoli mumbled to herself as she gave the marked inner wall a look. She stared long and hard at the rock arrangement and the wooden planks stacked about, shooting frequent looks between them and the blueprints in the centre of the courtyard. She took a deep breath and rolled her shoulders a little.

“Yeah, I could probably do this! I’ll just go to bed earlier tonight,” she said confidently and placed her hands on the stone. As she took several deep breaths, the stone began to fuse into a porridge-like substance, wrapping itself together and snaking upwards along several strategically placed vertical wooden pillars. Xiaoli felt moisture collecting on her forehead - she pumped more and more power into the construction, but its construction speed did not increase. Eventually, she was forced to halt construction halfway, having fallen to her knees from exhaustion. She cursed under her breath and stood up.

“Well, guess I need to rest a bit before Hermes comes home, so she won’t return to this--”

There was a crash in the treeline as Hermes walked out of the thickets, inciting a short scream from Xiaoli. Leaves were stuck in her hair and she wore a wide dilated stare. Her sandals were off and dangling from her fingers, each step seemed careful, as if she was balancing on poles.

Xiaoli immediately zoomed over to her. “Hermes?! Hermes, are you alright?!” Xiaoli sent her hands out to pat Hermes all over to inspect for damages. Hermes looked over her with a massive smile.

“Wow,” The dreamer seemed in pure awe her free hand reaching out and petting Xiaoli's face, “You're so pretty,” tears began to well in her eyes as she pet vigorously. Xiaoli’s pupils shrunk.

“Did somebody poison you?! Are you sick?! Oh, Hermes, what happened?!” She held her face close to hers. “Breathe on me - what did you eat?”

Hermes cackled and hushed Xiaoli, “What are you even doing here? It's too cold for you.” She turned away and shushed at nothing in particular.

Xiaoli blinked. “Too c-cold? Hermes, have you--...?” Her eyes became a furious scowl. “Did Shengshi give you anything drinkable?! I swear, when I see that snake again…” She kicked a nearby pebble.

“I gotcha,” Hermes wrapped her arms around Xiaoli and waddled back and forth in place, “It's gonna be allllll okay.”

Xiaoli let out a frustrated sigh and tried to undo Hermes’ grip. “Hermes, please, you are not well. How about we go to bed, okay?”

Hermes stood there with a lazy smile. As if not hearing Xiaoli's words, she shuffled the two of them into the sunlight that speared over the treetops. She closed her eyes as the golden glow hit her, “There we go.”

“Herme-... Oh, this is getting silly. Dear, don’t -make- me put you to bed.” Xiaoli made her best efforts to wiggle out of the Dreamer’s grip.

Hermes frowned and let go, “I'm just trying to help.”

“Help with what, Hermes? I’m not cold, if that’s what you think. You know I don’t feel cold!” She poked a finger at Hermes chest and leaned forward with a squinting frown. “Now, tell me what you ate - otherwise, I’m putting you to bed this instant.”

Hermes pouted and stared at Xiaoli's arm. She slowly rubbed her fingers in circles over her sandy skin and stared on, “I ate a lot of things.”

Xiaoli sighed and caressed Hermes’ cheek softly, the movement causing her to recoil ‘'woah’. Xiaoli furrowed her brow and made a straight face.“Did you eat any very bitter berries or drink water that smelled funny?”

“Noooooo,” Hermes dragged her words as she rubbed patterns across Xiaoli's arm stopping at her wrist and poking it. She squinted and moved Xiaoli's wrist up and down slowly, inciting a raised eyebrow from the river girl.

“Well, you’re obviously not sober… Did you eat some hallucinogenic plant? Like a funny flower or… Or a mushroom?” She pulled her hand to her slowly.

Hermes gave her a wide guilty smile and cackled. She moved forward in an attempt to recapture Xiaoli's hand, her slow lunge very delayed.

Xiaoli took a deep, deep breath and let out a quiet, “okay”. She helped Hermes along by holding her hand open and undefended for Hermes to snatch. “Hey, Hermes? Would you like to play a game?” She put on a sly smirk.

“It's too cold,” Hermes rolled Xiaoli's hand between hers.

“... You never say I’m cold normally,” Xiaoli pouted quietly; however, the cold could be an advantageous point to strategize from. “Oh, Hermes!~” the river girl called out playfully as her hair began to let off a gentle column of steam. “Would you like a hug?”

“You're so sweet,” Hermes smiled, tears forming in her eyes, “And pretty.”

Xiaoli blushed a bit and gave Hermes a flirty wink. “I know.” She then pulled her into an affectionate hug, the sand on her body comfortably warm like that of a beach in the afternoon sun. Hermes rumbled happily and pressed tight.

Xiaoli took a deep breath and, in spite of their height difference, picked Hermes up with ease and proceeded to carry her towards the bedroom house.

“Ah!” Hermes yelped as she was lifted up. She waved her arms, “I don't like this!”

“Look, dear, I’m really sorry, but you ought to sleep this off, alright? I’ll put you to bed, make you some tea, sing you a song or two - does that sound alright with you?”

“We are up to high!” Hermes screeched, her hands clinging to Xiaoli for dear life. Her sandals still dangled from her fingers as her knuckles whitened.

“No, I believe that’s just you, dear,” Xiaoli mumbled with a sigh. As they arrived at the bedroom house, Xiaoli kicked off her sandals and hopped into the hallway, making the ride slightly bumpier for Hermes than expected, the woman letting out sharp yelps at every sudden movement. Nearly losing her grip around her waist, the river girl hefted her up a little with a quiet ‘hup!’ and swung Hermes over her shoulder. The woman let out a curdled scream.

“I’m falling!”

Xiaoli sighed. “No, you’re not! I have you perfectly under control if you would just -stop squirming-!” Xiaoli clumsily tried to wrangle the woman on her shoulder as she pulled aside the door to the bedroom. Stepping inside while making certain Hermes did not bump into the doorframe was no simple task, and Xiaoli had to squat down to achieve it, causing Hermes to whimper. Finally, Xiaoli reached the bed and gently put the Dreamer down on top of the blanket, sneaking her bag and sandals away to the floor.

“There,” she said as she began to tuck her in. “That wasn’t so bad, right?”

Hermes heart was clearly pounding as her fingers remained tight around Xiaoli’s clothes. Her were eyes wide and intoxicated, “I don’t... like this.”

Xiaoli sighed and gave her a compassionate smile. Once she had tucked in Hermes, she hopped onto the bed with a ‘hup!’ and rolled up close to her. “Don’t worry, dear…” Xiaoli yawned softly behind a cupped hand. “I’ll stay with you until you get better, alright?” Hermes hid her face into one of the pillows and nodded silently, fingers tightening.

Hours passed in relative silence, with only fearful whimpers coming from Hermes now and again as well as calming shushes from Xiaoli. As much as the river girl wanted, the dreamer never seemed able to fall asleep. Bit by bit she became more lucid, and slowly her eyes of intoxication turned into pink eyes of exhaustion and her blushed cheeks turned sour with nausea. Finally Hermes seemed to drift away, if not a little uncomfortably. She was only gone for four hours, suddenly waking up as the evening Heliopolis began to set with a bubbling stomach ache.

“Never again,” She gripped her stomach as it groaned.

Xiaoli stirred to life, seemingly having dozed off after waiting for so long. She giggled. “There’s my angel,” she said softly and kissed Hermes’ hair. “Hang on, I’ll make you some tea and food.” She slowly sat up in the bed and shuffled to the edge. She eyed the backpack intently. She opened it up and extracted some vegetables before strolling out of the room.

Hermes watched Xiaoli, her chin on the bed, as she left. She narrowed her eyes in thought as she looked at Xiaoli’s ankle. She rolled onto her back and it hit her funny: Shengshi has no ankles, and neither does Xiaoli -- technically, but she has an ankle bump anyway. Hermes shook her head, “Gods are weird.”

Roughly twenty minutes later, Xiaoli returned with a tray: The tray was topped with a teapot, two cups, and a bowl of delicious-smelling soup. The river girl placed the tray on the bed and poured Hermes a cup of tea. “Here… Drink this.” The tea in the cup was green - almost grassy, scent-wise, contrasting starkly with the rich, meaty fragrance of the soup. Hermes gave it a studious sniff and slowly brought it to her lips. She winced at the heat but let it slip between her lips, the liquid reminding her how dry her mouth really was.

The flavour was, surprisingly, quite rich in itself, albeit a little bitter. It left a lingering impression of cleanliness and purity with each sip, and every droplet pulled with it the impurities of the mushrooms, little by little.

Xiaoli stirred the soup a little with a spoon, scooping up a spoonful and holding it in front of Hermes’ face with a giggle. Hermes sat up and put her hand over Xiaoli’s guiding the spoon, “Thank you.” She clamped around the spoon and quickly slurped the soup up.

Hermes’ face suddenly turned curious as she smacked her tongue off her palate, “Chameleon squirrel?” She cocked her head, “When did you get that?”

Xiaoli shrugged. “You know… They skip around here from time to time. One happened to switch colours on a nearby tree trunk just as I was preparing to cook - I thought it would taste wonderfully.” She dipped her finger into Hermes’ soup bowl and licked it clean. “... Which it did, if I may say so myself.”

“You know,” Hermes sipped at her tea, “I could always go hunting for us. Might be good practice, I’m sure the kids will want some meat to go with their--” She looked at her bag on the floor, “--cabbage.”

“That would be lovely, dear! I’ll make us a larder or something to cure the meats. We will eat like ladies every day - but what would you hunt?”

Hermes looked at the spear that leaned against the wall, “There are fish, there are bilbies. Could even try for more squirrels. Something just doesn’t feel right about eating a Tree-eater, not after…” She plucked her shirt, “They were so generous.”

Xiaoli gulped. “Yes… Generous.” She cleared her throat. “But that sounds like a wonderful plan - don’t focus on capturing squirrels, though, please. They’re a bit of a hassle to butcher.”

“I won’t” Hermes smiled, “But we can start that project after we take care of the garden, I found so many things to grow.”

Xiaoli let out a happy sigh. “Alright, that sounds like a plan.”

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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Solotros
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Eurysthenes was gone, and with it, so too had the cold fury welling up inside the Architect's ancient bones departed. The worst of his concerns were now addressed; it would be some time still before the most dangerous one of those little gods invariably was drawn to the Core. Eurysthenes would have time to make preparations, and one could hope that its half-borrowed-half-stolen powers over the mind would enable it to drive off any prying fools that drew too close to the Core and the secrets that it held.

Even here, at the very edge of the Barrier and boundary of the universe, the light of Heliopolis dimly shone upon the hollowed moon that housed the Architect's palace, light cascading down from the great fissure above into the darkened expanse of a flooded throne room so grand that it held a small sea. Great, elongated shadows of the columns all around rose from the water surrounding the island that was throne room's dry and raised dais. Together the assembly resembled the bars of a cage, though its function was anything but. The pillars merely obscured the view of whatever else lurked in the darkness of his endless hall beyond that lonely island crowned with a throne. The Architect came to realize that there was no longer any need to leave his throne room open to the outside world and exposed to prying eyes. With a snap he conjured a great magical barrier that walled off the skylight torn into the ceiling above, and then with but a thought that ethereal and invisible seal became a very real one made from tons and tons of solid stone, perhaps a mile thick. With that entrance gone, that wound marring the surface of his planet mended, there was now complete and utter darkness within his throne. But that was of no matter, for he did not need his Eye to perceive the world of his making.

He waited in utter stillness and silence and darkness, a statue indistinguishable from all those stony pillars around except in size. An age passed, but to him it was not even the blink of an eye. His Eye hadn't blinked in untold aeons. He sensed the quarrels and plotting of the various so-called 'gods' as they squabbled among one another. As one tapestry of strife blended into another, he watched on and felt nothing. Perhaps there was some disinterest and apathy to speak of if such things could even be called feelings. He directed his interest not towards the vessels that he'd borne here and vested power into, but rather their creations. For the majority of the vessels, bearing such fruits was their purpose, their overriding imperative, the reason that they'd been called into this existence. And so they did, quickly and tirelessly...but even as their erratic work went at a pace far greater than any work that would have been borne of his slow and cautious hand, it seemed sloppy, marred, haphazard, and of a scale far too small and a plan far too shallow in scope. He saw much, and no flaw or weakness could help but be dragged out from the shadows by such a scorching gaze. And though his body had but that one singular Eye that seemed to sprawl across his face and swallow his entire head, it was truly just an outward reflection of the all-consuming, singular-purposed mind within.

The Architect was grand, and enlightened, but also absolutist. He could look into his mind and see his own aspirations as easily as he could look to the left or right and pierce through the darkness to see the cavernous expanse of his throne room. When he looked into his mind, he perceived a path, a mighty road, and its every bend and contour was visible and already meticulously plotted, and yet when he shifted his gaze away from the Imaginary and back into this reality he'd created, where the road had yet to be fully paved, the makings and the route of the path were...different. And he loathed and abhorred it, and by extension, loathed and abhorred the wretched vessels that were paving it in tiny deviances to the manner in which he'd expected and intended it. There was a time, long ago, when he placed more value in control and his own power than in anything else, and that Architect would have never suffered the presence of any others in the realm of his creation. But time could wear down mountains and change even the most seemingly immutable, and so this Architect of the present had forsaken that control in favor of...brevity. He suffered their suboptimal and fallible creations, because even hideous and horrifically flawed (and that meant a great deal to him, for in his eye something was made ugly and near worthless by a single perceived imperfection), their creations served and worked towards his grand purpose.

He only wished that he could have have both brevity and beauty.

Frustration welled up inside of him, and he almost recoiled in shock--it was unbecoming and rare that he ever felt emotion of such intensity, or even experienced emotion at all. A brief meditation restored clarity to his mind and gave him perspective--perhaps there was a way. He had been thus far, out of habit, and perhaps for good reason...




...but why should he? If they were content to wallow in the muck, then he could take matters into his own hands, at least for a moment. In doing so he would also lay a challenge, set a precedent. He would descend down toward the proverbial mud, just close enough to not sully himself, and reach out to plant a single seed that might sprout into a blossom. Driven by example and inspired by what beauty could arise from the filth of imperfection, perhaps then they would rise in naive and foolish hopes at outdoing the work of their master. That would help bridge the gap between the quality of their works and his. He imagined that they would take to the challenge and be easily manipulated into creating better works through such a manner, and they would be more content and happier for it, as the alternative was that he demand they do as he required, yet he knew that beings which thought themselves independent invariably chafed under the power of unquestionable decrees coming from a higher source. It was in their nature; with intelligence and greatness there inevitably and unfortunately seemed to come some yearning for independence, for something more

His musing was interrupted by the soft plop of a single water droplet falling down from the newly-restored ceiling above. In breaking the oppressive silence that had reigned for so long, that water droplet might as well have projected the jarring sound of a falling boulder. Far from being a distraction, that sudden tumult was what guided the Architect's thoughts. The ancient being focused his senses upward (yet did not so much as even shift his neck or move his gaze!) to perceive the ceiling above. Already, stalactites had started forming above. He probed at the strange stones, feeling their every detail.

Those objects would suffice.

The palace trembled as he uttered two words, ”Take form." Far above, the stone of the wet and dripping stalactites bent and splintered. Small cascades of loose stone fell down into the throne room, rattling as they fell upon the tiled floor of the dais by his throne or spashing loudly into the waters around it.


In the very moment that the Director of the World roared that decree, the stones became sapient. Not just sapient, but also free. Released from the clutches of the ceiling above, they cascaded down, down, and down from the enormous height of the ceiling above.

"AAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!" screamed the first of the living stones to tumble.

The fall would have been enough to shatter their rocky bodies, even if their descent ended upon the water instead of the rocky island of his throne's dais, but by the Architect's will this was not so. Unseen forces caught them and arrested their movement, and they were left suspended in the darkness floating somewhere halfway between life and death.

Terror filled the mind of the first living stalactite, to be given life and stripped of it immediately seemed such a cruel fate. A fate that did not come to pass as he and the others that had fallen with him suddenly stopped their descent. The terror however did not dissipate, instead it was replaced with fear brought upon by blindness. No matter where his singular eye looked all there was to be seen was utter darkness. "Where am I? What am I?" asked the first.

The others offered no words or thoughts of contemplation, only guttural bellows. Though they had existed for mere moments, the sense of falling was one that carried an intense, instinctive fear into their cores; though they hardly had concepts of self or the world, they already grasped what it meant to face doom. Even as cavernous as the palace was, it was so enormous that their shouts did not even echo. The darkness swallowed the sound just as surely as it swallowed their orientation. To say that the darkness was absolute would be a lie, though; they could not see one another nor their surrounding nor even that place above from whence they came, but they could feel one thing--it was a great Eye, somewhere below, staring up intensely at them.

As in for the first of their kind, his eye continued to flick around the surroundings, searching for something. It wasn't until he felt a nagging sensation somewhere within the depths of his mind that had been suppressed by the fear that his gaze fell upon apatch of darkness where he somehow knew to be massive orb. He wanted to be afraid, wanted to flail and scream as the others did, but his instincts forced such thoughts down. Whatever the orb may be, it was not a threat. At least not at the moment. So rather than be seized by fear, he continued to lock his eye with the only thing he could perceive. There was a visceral feeling, that of motion. The orb grew larger, and he understood this to mean that it was coming closer...no, that he was approaching it.

And then there was a jolt, and what followed was the strangest sensation: he was on land, balancing precariously for the first time on the long and thick two appendages at the bottom of his form. ”Synros."

It was not an order, not a question, not a statement, but a name. His name, given to him by his creator.

With a name bestowed upon him he was no longer the first of the living stones, but the first of his kind. Synros. He spoke the name over and over in his mind, for the first time feeling truly alive.

What followed was a trail of thoughts that no ears could detect, audible to his mind but not to those of his peers. ”Many are your kind, that you need never be alone. And great are your body and mind, wrought from stone. But for every sharpened point, there is a tip that must go before all else and clear the way, and unto you this task falls."

His creator was speaking to him directly, not only was he given life but also a name and a purpose. With great slowness, forSynros had not yet adjusted to having a body, he dropped down to one knee. "I shall accept this task and lead my brothers. I shall teach them, show them how to survive. As the first this is my duty and I shall not fail you. But I have to ask, we are made from stone but what is the strongest stone?"

"Stone is not so strong," the ancient answered, "for it, like you, has yet to prove itself. Steel is strong! Steel is what a humble stone can hope to become, if it is tempered and tried and yet survives,  triumphs, and thrives. Steel carries with it an aura of mystery and challenge; the world is a dangerous place, and it will test you. I have bestowed upon you many gifts--the drive and the knowledge to mold stone into steel, but that is all only in the mind. You must stay true to this art, holding on to it and never letting go until it has touched you not just in mind but also in body and in spirit; you must craft steel, contemplate its mystery, and come understand its discipline and incorporate that into yourself. Only then will you become whole."

Synros lowered his gaze away from the magnificent orb, focusing instead where he knew one of his four arms was located. He felt strong, yet according to the creator this was a lie. If the world was dangerous he would need to become strong enough to not only lead his people, but defend them from threats beyond their strength. "I have no choice but to become like Steel. I will bend it to my will and make it my own. I shall be an example for my people, those who follow in my steps and remain true to the gifts you have granted us will become strong. These secrets we shall also keep, for you have seen fit to enlighten us and us alone in this manner. This I swear."

"My Eye will be upon you," the Architect vowed in turn.

Suddenly there was light, and though it was faint by any other standards, in a void so black as the palace its radiance seemed more akin a roaring inferno than a flickering spark. The light came from somewhere behind Synros, but still it washed over him and engulfed his vision in its overpowering white. The other cyclopes, still suspended above, winced. Some instinctively shielded their eyes to stave off this strange and unfamiliar new burning sensation, whilst others squinted and tried to peer at the source. It was the bulk of a colossal crystal, light scintillating out from the heart of the great gem as it slowly rose from the water. The crystal was nearly perfect, save for the gaping hole in its side and a sizable hollowed cavity visible within. It beckoned to the cyclopes and their bodies, and they would have been helpless to fight its pull even if they had the desire to do such. So they were swept by unseen forces into the crystal, and then before their eyes, the crystal grew and sealed them inside. It was hard for them to gaze through to perceive whatever was beyond, for clear as the crystal was, it still was very thick. Furthermore, the darkness outside left them with little to witness. So they were not privy to where the crystal traveled, or even how it moved, but they were vaguely aware of the sense of motion. Theirs was a journey that felt long, but compared to the insignificant length of time that they'd spent upon this world even an hour might have felt like an eternity. The means of perceiving time and its passage had yet to impress itself upon their minds.

The cyclopes rested within the crystal largely in stillness and silence, just as they had done for so long as inanimate stalactites. With all in the same circumstance, having been imbued by their almighty progenitor with the same knowledge, they simply found no reason to speak. But Synros was different--he had been told more, given more, and bore the mantle of leadership. Many of the cyclopes turned instinctively toward Synros in understanding of this natural hierarchy; however, there was another whose towering presence dominated the chamber. He was a giant of giants with bulky and sinewy hands, arms with bulging muscles powerful as iron bands. And those around that one were conflicted as they looked over their shoulders to Synros, yet moved their feet elsewhere as they gravitated toward the giant. They clung to his presence as they were trapped in a great storm that threatened to spirit them away and he a mighty palm, the only cover or hope left in the narrow world before them, a salvation graced unto them by their god himself.And as for the giant? He rested, leaning back against the wall in a way that made him look ever so slightly smaller (though still colossal!) as he waited with utter ease and solemn calm.

The demigod took in his people with a tight expression upon his face. He had shown respect and courtesy to his creator, but a different approach would be required with the cyclopes. They were new, blank canvases just as he had been before the Architect filled him with purpose and knowledge. Like him they were weak currently. Mere stone. It was his duty to elevate them towards true strength, that of steel. As his radiant red eye roamed over his kin, it fell upon one that stood out from the others and not solely due to his towering frame. This giant exuded power and purpose, which meant he would either be a formidable obstacle or a worthwhile ally for the demigod. Synros made his way across the crystal, his upper arms crossed over his chest while the lower pair hung at his sides. He paid no attention the the cyclopes that divided him from the giant, most were aware enough to move out of his path while those that did not were pushed aside. He finally stopped when he was a couple meters away and lifted his head to meet the eye of the larger cyclopes. For a moment it seemed that he had become stone once more as he sized up his potential competition. It was his hope that they would be able to work together without a show of force, but he was prepared for that possibility, "You have also been chosen by The Creator it seems. It was arrogant for me to think I would be the only one."

A stare from the cyclops' great eye answered Synros. At first it seemed like a baleful silence, but then it became clear that it was just the giant struggling to find his tongue for the first time. "Told that I am the Might of the Cyclopes; like shaft of spear, part pushes the point. Because without pillar to hold up, stone crumbles." There was a small cluster of crystals that jutted out from the wall of the much larger gemstone that was their vessel. The colossus wrapped a brawny hand around the greatest part of the outcrop, a single chunk of quartz that jutted outward like an accusatory finger, and effortlessly broke it free. He held it between his two hands and pressed down on either end of the crystal, one hand on its point and another on the jagged edge that he'd torn free, and the gemstone held strong and true. But then he pressed but a thumb on the long flat edge and chortled as it broke in two. Then he let the shattered pieces fall onto the ground with a grunt, his demonstration finished.

Synros watched with interest as the giant first removed a piece of their vessel from one of the walls before demonstrating the title he had been gifted by The Architect. He remained silent for a moment before letting his eye drop to the ground, examining the piece of quarts that had once been the point. While it was broken in two, the point itself remained in tact. The larger cyclops had proven two things, at least to Synros. A weak pillar lead to the breaking of stone, but even when the shaft breaks the head of the spear remains in tact. "Might of the Cyclopes. It is a strong title, but a bit long. Were you given a proper name to go with it?"

"Atlas," was the rumble that answered him.

"Atlas. I am Synros." His voice wasn't nearly as deep as the rumble of Atlas's. He took a moment to let his gaze roam around their crystal chamber. All of their kind stared at the two, the ones furthest from them had their focus on Synros, while those closest were even more torn than they were before. Like the others they had an innate understanding of the hierarchy that made them look towards Synros for leadership, but they could feel the strength and stability that radiated off of Atlas. Command had to be established between the two. "We have a problem that needs to be fixed Atlas. Look around, tell me what you see."

So tall was Atlas that his gaze drifted right over Synros' head, and indeed over those of all the other assembled cyclopes large and small, and found its way to the far wall. "A cage," he answered as hints of sudden realization and fiery rage crept into his eye. Those around him edged back as his fists and jaw were suddenly tightened, though the colossus hadn't even realized it.

His eye narrowed briefly as he took in Atlas's words. He hadn't even considered that aspect, too focused on the divide that existed between their people. He had no way to know how long they had been contained within the crystal. "That is not what I had been talking about, but you are right. I do not enjoy being trapped. However our cage was made by the Creator. We will have to trust that we will be released when he believes the time is right." Synros turned to acknowledge the giant form of Atlas once more, taking note of the rage in his eye and hoped it would calm enough for them to address his concern. "Atlas our people are divided. As the Might of the Cyclopes I want you to be my right hand. If we stand together, so to will our kin."

"You already have two," the giant impulsively answered. His eye darted briefly to Synros' two right arms. Mentioning the Creator had at least seemed to quell his subtly rising before it had boiled over. He said without speaking that he would rather their wait be a shorter one, though. This one's blood ran hot. 

"If you want...friend, ask for friend. Not for hand, not for tool."

A grin spread across his face at the brashness of Atlas, the first time his mouth had moved in such a way. "You are right. I have plenty of hands, but far too few friends. Will you join me in leading out people?" Atlas put one of his great arms though the fork of Atlas' two right limbs, wrapping it all the way around the demigod's back and effortlessly bringing the smaller cyclops into a crushing embrace that lifted his feet from the ground.

After a few moments, he half set, half dropped Synros back down. "Friends," he affirmed.

Caught off guard by the giant's embrace, Synros felt the air leave his body. He gave a cough as he was set down, taking a moment to regain his composure. "I am honored to call you friend Atlas."  He tiled his head down in a slight nod before turning his attention to the Cyclopes surrounding them. "We are one. There is no great divide and no need to feel torn in allegiance. This was but our first trial, but it was also the first victory. We are heading towards our Creator's grandest work, hopefully sooner rather than later we shall arrive."

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

Member Seen 7 days ago

K’nell and Company

K'nell let himself fall into his throne. The ballroom was devoid of the usual dancers, but retained a light contemplative song. Should his friends Eurysthenes and Shengshi not have joined him in comradery after the fact, he could only fathom where his conscious might be. Weavers wisped by and the Dream God thought, hand on his face, about every detail leading up to where he sat now. There was no doubt in his mind that he had done the right thing, but only a heart of beating stone could resist the leech of pondering.

“What seems to be the matter, Mr. K'nell?” A posh, clear voice with perfectly enunciated words echoed from behind the Throne. A figure with silver eyes and long hair dressed in a white and golden gown walked into K'nell's field of vision and tilted her head slightly at him, hands clasped neatly.

K'nell sat up and cleared his hand from his face, “I'm afraid that Vakk could not be saved,” He rested his hands on his throne, “And so the deed is done; he is no more.”

The woman pursed her lips and after a while, began to speak. “Such an-”

“Vakk is DEAD?!” A high pitched shrieking voice came from a girl that suddenly jumped out from behind the throne. The elegant woman rolled her eyes and covered her mouth. The girl seemed to shake nervously.

“Yes,” K'nell turned his head to the shaking girl, “And I understand it can be quite a lot to process, so just know my dear, that I am here to listen.”

“B-But…! He was so big! And green! Wait, was he green?” She balled up her fists and held them close to her chest as she turned quickly toward the elegant woman.

“Why are you looking at me? Mr. K’nell saw him first hand, he knows much more than I do. Is that correct, Mr. K’nell?” The woman asked, raising her eyebrows curiously at K’nell. The girl turned to him again.

“How did he die? Did you kill him? B-But, wait! Wasn’t he… Being controlled? By big sis? S-She broke our wing…” The girl said, her voice losing volume and her demeanor making her shrink.

K’nell squinted before offering the girl a furrowed look, “He was rather dark -- more of a fleshy beige and purple.” He waved a hand, “Pardon me, but I think the color matters very little, now.” The Lord of Sleep cleared his throat, “But yes, he died by my hand. As suspected he --and he alone-- had decided to launch an attack on Tendlepog and left me with little choice otherwise.”

“So… Big Sis wasn’t the one behind it all…?” The girl said with a shaky smile growing on her face, eyes glistening with fresh tears, “I-I knew it…!”

“Now now,” The woman took in a subtle breath, “Girl,” She let the word hang for a second as the girl visibly recoiled and winced, “It may be too soon to jump to a conclusion like that. Let’s avoid expressing ourselves until we know the entire story. It’s the right thing to do.” With that, the woman turned to K’nell and nodded curtly.

“You seem distraught. Doubt lies in your heart, Mr. K’nell.”

K’nell removed his finger from his chin, “Oh?” He shook his head, “I’m sorry to mislead you, my dear. There is no doubt in my heart; Vakk was working alone under his own accord.”

“Indeed, however,” She paused and cleared her throat, “The doubt I speak of is more along the vein of whether he had to be… Eliminated. Shall we say? A heaviness on your shoulders. Your skull closing in on you, a shiver at the core of your teeth. Do you feel any of those? That is how I tend to feel when doubt fills my being.”

“The elimination of another, as you say, should never be taken without careful consideration,” K’nell folded his hands, “Should I have not calculated this before hand then yes, perhaps I may feel doubt in my actions. I instead feel resolute that I have made the correct choice; by taking the burden of being the executor in the defense of Tendlepog, I have shouldered the pain that would have otherwise been given to another God or mortal. It was not a rash choice, and was not made alone.” K’nell leaned forward, his voice swirling, “I do not pull joy from this, but neither would I pull joy from inaction and the allowance of what is warded under me to be-” He paused and smiled, “I’m sorry my dear, you’ll have to excuse my racing thoughts. I’m afraid you caught me contemplating.”

The woman bit her lip and opened her mouth to say something, but after a split moment, closed it and frowned. She sighed and shook her head. “I understand.”

The girl, who had been distracted by a nearby dreamweaver, suddenly tore her attention right back to K’nell and whizzed past the woman to the side of the throne, resting her elbows on the armrest and propping her head up to look at K’nell. “What’s ‘contemplating’? It sounds like something a knight would wear!”

“Thinking, dear, it is thinking,” K’nell offered the child a smile, “And I would hope a knight would wear it often.”

“Oooh…” The girl cooed, her gaze wandering off for a moment, before snapping back to the God, “What were you thinking?”

K’nell rubbed his chin and glanced over at the elegant one, “If I could be so candid, I was wondering what our elegant guest was thinking.”

“Merely contemplating,” She said, tilting her head slightly, “Are you certain Vakk is dead? Should there not be more… Consequence to a Divine Death? He was the God of Speech, how is it we still speak? We are no God.”

K’nell laced his fingers into a knot, “Intriguing question. If you had to make a supposition on why that may be, what would you suppose?”

“There is no record of Divine Deaths. Perhaps, it is meant to be this way? Perhaps Gods die much like mortals do. Perhaps it truly is this dull, and one ends up forgotten.” She averted her gaze.

K’nell slowly stood up and folded his arms behind his back, elbows square. His throne shimmered away - a tiny gasp echoing throughout the hall as the girl struggled to find her balance. K’nell began to walk down the steps of his dias, “I invite you two to walk with me, I am inclined to discuss this in the gardens.”

The girl skipped to K’nell’s side and quickly grabbed onto the sleeve of his jacket, while the woman nodded and walked beside him, moving gracefully in well practiced steps. K’nell approached the great door and it opened obediently, revealing the many doored hallway. With little words K’nell walked through, offering his elbow to the elegant one and a smile to the girl.

The woman gently rested her hand around the God’s arm, “Thank you.” She said with a small smile. The girl grinned back at K’nell and pulled on his sleeve again, grabbing his hand once it came into her reach. A silky chuckle came from the God and he allowed his hand to be conquered by two tiny claps.

The trio exited the Palace, their steps reaching down to the cut stone below. Bizarre plants flanked them as they walked down the front garden path, the bronze gate dead ahead. Fluttering butterflies flickered in and out of view, and craning trees waved above them. The gate creaked open and they passed through, a wash of a feeling only described as a forgotten longing seemed to coat them. Cutting through the forlorn air, K’nell finally spoke, his words as scented as the flowers that now sprouted around them, “You bring up a very interesting thought, and not one that I haven’t pondered myself.”

“Should a God be killed, what would happen to their place of residence, and its pull on Galbar. What potential calamity awaits mortal life, or even divinity itself?” K’nell looked at the elegant lady, “I suppose such questions should have prevented me and my compatriots from our plan, but you see to imprison a God such as Vakk is as equally dangerous as doing away with him. Would you be opposed to an explanation?”

The woman watched as the girl released K’nell’s hand to go try to catch a blue butterfly, and then turned her attention onto the God. “Please, go on.”

“You see,” K’nell began again, the trio walking by freshly blooming cherry trees and a few ruby hummingbirds, “Should we trap Vakk in Sanvadam itself, there is little stopping him from artificially starting the very calamity we speak of. It is the same thread in which I could --should I be so evil-- shut off the palace from Galbar. So why not throw the perpetrator into a realm different than his own?” K’nell swiftly plucked a pink blossom as he walked by a low branch and offered it to the elegant lady, “There is nothing stopping a God from leaving --given time-- nor creating a new trouble should they be left to their own devices. In this line of thinking, there was only two definite ways of pacifying the situation.”

The woman took the blossom and nested it between her ear and head, “Death and, ironically, speech?”

“Precisely,” K’nell offered a cheshire grin, “I of course favor the latter, and in two instances witnessed his inner working. I’m afraid in both instances I found him dangerously unreasonable and sinisterly slippery. It was an advertised calamity should I put my trust in him. A gamble as it may be, I was of the mind to go with the former.” He stopped as they came upon a tranquil pond wreathed in decorat flowers, crystal ripples running through it as a swan boated across.

Water splashed and the swan flew off as the girl jumped into the pond. After a moment, she peeked out from under the water and spoke, “Yes he was slippery, it was gross!” And she promptly went back underwater.

“I see,” The woman said, apparently ignoring the girl, “I suppose I’m naturally more hesitant in such matters. Royalty has to keep all cards on hand, you see. Sending one to an early grave is a rather final action.”

“If I may say, you’re hesitancy is a glowing virtue,” K’nell complimented. “Do not mistake my demeanor for a lack of remorse. I do wish it could have ended differently, of course.” He paused and turned to the woman, “There was more than my conscious at stake, I hope you understand.”

“Oh, I do. It was a difficult choice…”

“Ahh!” The girl gasped for air as she resurfaced, a wide grin on her face. Even with her eyes mostly obscured by the blindfold, she stretched her arms toward K’nell and the woman and chuckled, a lilypad on top of her head. “This water’s tasty, come swim!”

“Huh, I might have to pass, girl. My gown isn’t designed to come into contact with much water.”

K’nell stared on with amusement, his wide smile growing, “Antics of a dream, but a nightmare to the landscaper.” He looked at the woman and offered his elbow again, then looked at the girl, “Come with me.”

“Aaaw,” The girl pouted, but quickly got out of the water and grabbed one of K’nell’s hands. The woman once more grabbed onto the God’s arm. They took a single step and the world faded away. Flecks of existence slowly settled and they took their second step. K’nell walked confidently forward, golden sand under his boots. The sun peered out from a hilly distance, but stretching for miles before then was a sea of endless sand. It was impossibly flat, if not rippled by a light breeze. On either side of the three stood ancient fountains and canals, glistening water spewing from them. At the end of the canal works stood a massive tree, its roots knotted and curling in and out of the sand, its needle like leaves a dark green. Despite the strong heat, the cooling effect of the canals continuously sprayed cool air their way.

“So much sand,” Said the woman.

“I like it! But, where are the sand mountains Mr. K’nell?” The girl asked K’nell, looking up at him hopefully, her eyes shining a bit through the blindfold.

“Far to the north and east,” K’nell answered, “The winds here have pushed it all away.” He looked down at the girl and put one hand in his pocket, “But I suppose they could also be right over there.” His finger pointed out, and just as if noticing it for the first time, there was a large sand dune.

“Oohh! Where was it hiding? I didn’t see it before! Can we go to the top? Pleaaaase!!” She begged, pulling on K’nell’s arm and turning to look at the woman pleadingly, “I wanna roll down the sand mountain!”

The woman pursed her lips and looked at K’nell, “You decide, Mr. K’nell.”

K’nell looked at the girl and smiled, “Go ahead, my dear, there is something I wish to discuss here before I rejoin your company.”

The girl opened her mouth as if to speak, but quickly began bouncing in place instead, “Ooookay, I will go!!” She said shakily before running off to the dune. Meanwhile, the woman sighed.

“She’s so…”

“So?” K'nell raised a brow.

“So childish. Carefree.”

“Does this trouble you,” K’nell turned to the woman, his elbows square behind his back.

The woman turned her face slightly towards K’nell, eyebrows raised as if surprised that he’d ask such a thing. “O-Of course not-” She averted her gaze, “Either way, what did you mean to discuss, Mr. K’nell?”

“I’m afraid I’ll have to apologize in advance for the topic,” He said, “But in relation to the distressed Li’Kalla, how are you?”

She kept facing away, although the minuscule waver in the woman’s voice did not go unnoticed by the God, “I’m… As well as can be. It was a rather distasteful situation… I worry for Laina’s safety.”

“As do I,” K’nell turned away to look at the tree. He put his hands into his pockets and stared for a moment, “What’s your name?”

“I don’t have a name. She,” The woman nodded her head towards the girl rolling down the sand dune while giggling, “doesn’t have one either. We’re all parts. We’re not meant to be separated.”

“Of course,” K’nell seemed to apologize, “Would you mind if I asked of what you remember before divinity was bestowed upon Li’Kalla?”

“Aah,” She sighed again, but this time it was one of sudden elation, “Laina, she was a Princess, I enjoyed it all, the etiquette classes, the servants, the knights…” She turned to look at K’nell’s back, a sad smile on her face, “It didn’t last long. She… We, were just a child, relatively speaking, when they stripped us of… Everything. A future, mostly. Laina’s heart hurt ever since. And, you know, now that we’re all away from that pain, I think I can see why she is so happy now. The girl.”

“I think you do as well,” K’nell said without looking from the tree. “Excuse me,” He turned to her, “But you said ‘they’. Now, if I remember correctly, and please stop me if I’m wrong, but Laina was disposed of by another faction and,” He paused, “Polite company withstanding, imprisoned.”

“Another faction? Whatever do you mean?” The woman asked, tilting her head slightly.

K’nell waved a hand, “Perhaps I was mistaken, I am rather ignorant in the knowledge of Laina’s time before Galbar.” He turned back to the tree, “Either way, I’ll be doing my best to see you all reunited.”

“... My father betrayed me. Our father betrayed us. The entire family, too. Thrown into an over glorified cell, to be visited by dirty, less than human pieces of shi-” She caught herself, panting and eyes wet, and turned around to recompose herself. “And when the one I loved came to rescue me, he was defeated and humiliated and executed in such a shameful display… One so mighty, so renowned, my Hero…”

A white handkerchief dangled before the lady, as K’nell averted his gaze, “I did not mean to disturb you.”

She took the handkerchief and carefully took care of her teary eyes. After a long moment, she spoke. “It is fine.”

“It is curious,” K’nell suddenly changed topics, “That you have such vivid memories and details from a life before Galbar, and I suppose it’s even more curious that the Architect had pulled souls into this realm to create what he and now we call Gods.”

“It is rather curious, isn’t it?” The woman said as she handed the handkerchief back to K’nell, “I’d hazard blasphemy and propose he may not be as powerful as he seemed those first few moments we became.”

K’nell took the handkerchief and in one swift movement, it was gone. He looked over at the woman, as if studying her face for a moment, “Potentially,” The God nodded, “Or perhaps he was driven by something other than necessity -- who is to say? There is one truth evident in your words though.” He smiled, “We are not Gods, not in the traditional understanding at least.”

“That much is clear. However, we still have duties to tend to, don’t we? I do have this feeling that our world feels rather… Cramped, though.”

“Cramped, my dear?” K’nell raised a brow.

“Too many powerful beings. There is so much potential for trouble.”

“The Architect paints with a wide brush,” K’nell smiled, “But you aren’t wrong.”

“Architects don’t paint, Mr. K’nell. They draw beautiful buildings on pieces of parchment. Engineers are the ones that make sure the beautiful building does not fall apart after a fortnight, killing all its inhabitants. I wonder whether the Architect is also an Engineer.”

“I suppose time will tell all,” K’nell gave her a grin. As if thinking for a moment, he suddenly opened his mouth, “Forgive the hypothetical, but if you were the Architect, and could do it all over again: How would you see to your creation?”

“I do not know what it is he did, how he did it, nor why he did it. I would most likely be a less than desirable host.”

“A thoughtful answer,” K’nell nodded in satisfaction, “Then again what else should I expect?” He turned back to the tree and walked a few steps towards it, “I apologize if I had kept you far too long, we may end our walk should you wish.”

“I have nowhere else to go, and nothing else to do. You decide, Mr. K’nell.” She said simply, taking in the sight of the girl climbing the sand dune once more, a wide grin on her sweaty face.

K’nell turned to her, “I suppose then, I shall live up to my earlier commitment and then send us back to the palace.” He turned from the tree and began trudging towards the girl. He suddenly stopped and turned back to the lady, “Thank you, for our walk.”

“One last thing, Mr. K’nell, I’d like to ask about that tree.”

“Oh?” The God turned, one boot on the foot of the dune.

“I’ve never seen any tree like it. Laina never did, either. And we visited deserts. Where is, well, here?”

“A place in another life,” K’nell answered, “Well before Galbar.” He tapped his head twice and smiled, continuing up the dune.

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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Muttonhawk
Avatar of Muttonhawk

Muttonhawk Let Slip the Corgis of War

Member Seen 19 min ago

Turn 4

Age of Monsters

Epoch 2.4
Timespan: ?? to ??


Source Spreadsheet, updateable for your record keeping convenience:

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


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

Slime - Abanoc - Recording - 12 - 16 - 7 - 8 - 5

Aristo - Aelius - Virtue - <Inactive> - <Inactive> - 13 - 8 - 5
<Aelius has now become an NPC in heliopolis until further notice>

Loki - Anzillu - Demons - 13 - 16 - 8 - 8 - 5
<No MP or FP used? The Architect has his eye on you, little one...>

Scarifar - Arae - Family - 10 - 14 - 5 - 6 - 5
<You forgot to update your MP after creating the dreamer race!>

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

BBeast - Ashalla - Oceans, Storms - 6 - 8 - 1 - 0 - 5

DracoLunaris - Azura - Wind - 5 - 11 - 0 - 3 - 5

Antarctic Termite - Chopstick Eyes - Markets - 8 - 9 - 3 - 1 - 5
<Your efforts at fraud from not updating your stats is in character, but you shall not find a loop hole today>

Doll Maker - Ekon - Fear - see - me - after - class - 5
<Your latest post's might summary has been TBA for a while now :)>

Strange Rodent - Eurysthenes - Puzzles, Illusions - 11 - 13 - 6 - 5 - 5
<Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease put your final MP and FP stockpile in your might summaries!>

Goldeagle - K'nell - Sleep, Dreams - 5 - 8 - 0 - 1 - 5

NotFishing - Kalmar - Hunting - 7 - 8 - 2 - 1 - 5

Cyclone - Katharsos - Death - 14 - 16 - 9 - 8 - 5
<No MP or FP used? The Architect has his eye on you, little one...>

Muttonhawk - Kirron - Blood, Strength - 11 - 14 - 6 - 6 - 5

Frettzo - Li'Kalla - Rain - 14 - 16 - 9 - 8 - 5

Vec - Melantha - Darkness - 5 - 16 - 0 - 8 - 5

Oraculum - Narzhak - War, Cannibalism - 5 - 10 - 0 - 2 - 5

Commodore - Ohannakeloi - Stone - 11 - 16 - 6 - 8 - 5

Lord Zee - Orvus - Desolation - 5 - 9 - 0 - 1 - 5

Leotamer - Parvus - Insects, Toxin - 5 - 11 - 0 - 3 - 5

Darkspleen - Phystene - Plants, Animals - 6 - 10 - 1 - 2 - 5

Lmpkio - Sartravius - Heat, Volcanism - 9 - 10 - 9 - 2 - 5
<-5 MP adjustment for previous undeclared portfolio purchases>

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

Double Capybara - Urhu - Passage, Landmarks, - 9 - 15 - 4 - 7 - 5

Lauder - Vakk - Speech, Manipulation - 5 - 9 - 0 - 1 - 5


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

Tal - Ya-Shuur - Justice - 3 - 4 - 1 - 0 - 2
<Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease put your final MP and FP stockpile in your might summaries!>

Solotros - Synros - Steel - 4 - 8 - 2 - 4 - 2

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

Member Seen 7 days ago

Light crackled. The blueish-black stone of the chamber reflected the white glow of five dream orbs, floating above thin pedestals. Engravings swirled the pedestals and center of the room stood K’nell. The God of Dreams stood with his hands cupped around a great ball of silvery flame. The orb pulsed and flickered, licks of cool wisps gently twisted from it. K’nells face was stern and serious as he observed it, only betraying a soft, subtle grin.

Glowing white veins cracked and split over his form as he stared on. His divine power fluctuated and pulsed in tandem with his newest creation, a hazy mist connecting the two. His eyes narrowed, his pupils endless black holes; corridors of endless possibility, flashes of any mixture of reality. He curled his fingers, an invisible push forming around the wisp as it was molded into shape. Streams of light soaked from the other dream orbs, flowing like rivers through the Palace air and into the orb.

A smile broke across K’nells face as the wisp pulsed and pushed. Pure joy leaked from it, absolute bliss radiated from it. He could see with his endless eyes, the perfect dream. Perfection stared back at him, the wisp almost bringing a tear to the God’s eye as it morphed and rotated. His heart pounded, the light swirled and began to drizzle with love itself. He watched as purity coated and danced with compassion. Innocence and redemption rang from the creation and just as it was coming together, another pulse.

K’nells eyes searched the creation in a haste, flickering to and fro. A pulse. His brow furrowed, A pulse. It was like a heartbeat, the light pulsing in a repetitive beat. His own heart beat, and offbeat the creation pulsed.

“No this isn’t right,” K’nell puzzled under his breath. The heartbeat increased, his own matching in confusion. The hazy mist between him and the wisp scattered and then the ball turned a deep red, the streams from the other orbs severing with loud whipping cracks. The wisp pulsed, blood red, the light turning the entire room into a pool of crimson. K’nell stared on as a storm broke out, the wisp pulsing erratically and without rhythm. The emotions from earlier scarred and were replaced with anxiety with a metallic taste of misery. K’nell stared hard.

A final flash and the wisp suddenly expanded, it’s ethereal form slowly forming. It stretched outwards and upwards, as well as downwards. It swirled and rolled, the mucky mist turning into the figure of a woman. Time passed slowly as K’nell watched the figure slowly coagulate, only opting to speak once the figure was complete. A pale face stared at him, eyes shaded a sleepless pink with dark witching pupils. She had high cheekbones, if not a little gaunt, her cheeks sunken --with a sickly blush-- and her nose a soft round. She had plush smiling lips that betrayed irregular teeth with uncomfortably sharp tips. Curls of black hair swirled past her ears and away from her forehead, coming neatly to rest above her shoulders. She wore a black collared black dress, with sharp laced boots poking out from the conservative hem.
“This-” K’nell’s voice swirled, “You are no dream.” His eyes flickered past her physical appearance, watching his own essence swirl inside of her -- laced with the claws of a nightmare.

“Of course not,” She jutted her chin forward proudly, her voice silky if not complemented with an uncanny grain similar to the God of Sleep’s, “I’m K’nell.”

The God stared on and the woman dipped her head, “But you may call me Diana for clarity, I rather like the name.”

“I know,” K’nell said, his eyes wide, “I can see, I can see it all. No-- Galbar is not ready.”

“Kerfuff!” Diana waved a hand, “I say it’s about time you had company in this Palace. Please, escort me to the throne room, I’d like to get started right away.”

“I’m sorry,” K’nell pinched his chin in thought, “But I cannot oblige. I’m afraid what I said is true; Galbar is not yet ready for you.”

“So what will you have me do, then?” She put fists on her sides.

“Wait,” K’nell answered simply, “You must wait.

“I’m not some common tool, dear me,” Diana held her throat, “To be put into storage until the roof is leaky. I’m here now, and I’d like to get started. Come, you have plenty to share.” She began to walk around K’nell.

The Gentleman quickly stepped in her path, “I’m afraid I cannot allow it, it is much to early and without cause or reason.”

“Oh come,” Diana dismissed him, staring at him in defiance.

K’nell’s lips formed a stern line and his own stare met hers. They stood there for a moment, Diana’s jaw hanging as if about to say something, but then closed. She pursed her lips, “I see. You are serious.”

“I’m afraid so,” K’nell let out a sigh, “You will have to wait.”

“I won’t,” Diana turned her nose up, “And if you won’t see that, then perhaps a wager. It’s the least you could do.”

K’nell tapped his chin and hummed, “A wager you say?”

“Why yes,” She kept her voice proud, “And if I win, you share. You let me get on with it, Galbar needs its misery.”
“And if I win?” K’nell raised a brow.

“I’ll leave, I won’t wait, but I’ll leave!”

“And where, dear me, will you go?”

“Galbar,” She insisted, “I cannot do half the work there that I could here, and you’d may as well have your original wish granted.”

K’nell hummed pensively for a while before nodding, “And how will we decide who has won and who has lost?”

“A duel.”

K’nell raised his other brow now, “And what, pray tell, shall be our weapons?”

The Deviless gave a wide cheshire smile, “Fiddles.”

K’nell matched her smile, “I see your wager, K’nell -- Diana.”

“Very good.” Diana raised her hands and a black fiddle erupted from no particular place, finding its place between her sharp chin and her wrist. Her other hand whipped out a bow. K’nell raised a hand, a mahogany fiddle assembling in his hand. He gently tucked it in place and stared at her.

The two had an inseparable gaze as their bows slowly slid over their strings. Slowly the chamber around them dissolved with the long note. Their bows slid back, the world bleached white. And forth, it turned off-white. K’nell’s bow suddenly struck forward and then back, turning into a repetition, The Deviless quickly followed suit.

K’nell danced in place as his bow waddled the strings, producing a strange yet energetic blast of music. The Deviless jumped her bow, the suddenly strikes turning cacophony and discord into melody. A world formed around them as they played, young and new. The sun rose as their strings blasted endlessly. The sun fell as their fiddles erupted with powerful music.

Civilizations rose, their fiddles showcased their lives at speeds unknown. Civilizations fell, their ruins crumbling into dust as the world shrunk like a raisin. K’nell leaped forward, his bow plucking and dancing. Diana furrowed her brow and dipped to meet him, her own producing a cutting sound.

They both leapt back, a new world forming between them. Their song increased in volume, the births and demise of unnamed people producing harmony with their notes. K’nell spun, his bow shredding across the fiddle and leaping, somehow creating a melody of two fiddles. Diana began to sweat, her fiddle cutting and skipping, using discord to match. K’nell pressed on, the world turning black as his notes broke through hers, her fingers fizzled in an attempt to keep up with his mind numbing music. Her eyes grew wide as K’nell pressed his attack, his fiddle all but smoking as it spoke of future and past and sang of woes and blessings. It scream and laughed, cried and chuckled, until it all came together. There was a great vibrating hum as K’nell struck his fiddle once, twice, three times, and then a final SCHLING as he finished his song.

Diana stood there, mouth agape and eyes crescents of defeat. Her fiddle fell to the ground, shattering against the dark bluish stone of the chamber. K’nell puffed out an exhale and placed his fiddle on a pedestal. He cocked his head, “My lady, a deal is a deal.”

“Indeed,” She nodded, “A true Gentleman.” Her face twitched, “Then I shall go?”

“Unless you prefer to wait,” K’nell gave her a sideways glance.

“I do not.”

“Then I suppose so,” K’nell gave a solemn bow, “Until such a time as I have described.”

“I see,” The Deviless straightened out her dress with a tug, “Then I’ll be back, I’ll be back far before then -- even.”

K’nell didn’t say anything as he stared on. Diana huffed, “Oh, foo.”

There was a bright flash.

Diana stood on the smooth surface of Limbo. The birds were singing, the breeze was blowing -- laced with the sweetness of spring. The trees exposed their flowers and the sky was a gentle cloud kissed azure. Heliopolis winked behind the rolling fluffs of white, and a calming hum came from the insects below. Diana cringed and held up a black umbrella as if to push away the sun, “What horrid weather.”

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Crispy Octopus
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Crispy Octopus Into the fryer we go.

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In the end, she didn’t come.

Mel’Issandra had waited for Li’Kalla for what felt like an age, and now she was done. The ice woman kicked the snow and scowled. Had Li’Kalla just forgotten about her, or had the Goddess ever meant to return at all? It wasn’t a something she wanted to think, but Mel’Issandra couldn’t shake it from her mind regardless of how hard she tried. She considered other explanations. Maybe Li was just indisposed? Maybe she’d been hurt? None of that made sense, though. Li’Kalla was a Goddess. Mel’Issandra had seen what even an avatar could achieve, and she doubted gods were somehow more limited. The ice woman’s frown deepened. She wanted to deny it, Li’Kalla had been so kind to her, but it was the only conclusion that made sense. Her friend had abandoned her. She’d been betrayed.

In a fit of anger she stomped on the ground and froze the thick blanket of snow on the island. The fluffy powder shrank and compacted itself until a layer of bluish ice more than a meter thick covered every surface in sight. Mel’Issandra noticed, to her surprise, that she’d even frozen some of the water around the island. Well then, if Li’Kalla had forgotten her there was no point in staying here.

Mel’Issandra strode down to the shore and surveyed the thin layer of frozen salt water that extended from the island. She, hesitantly, stepped onto it. Kalla, aware of how unpleasant salt water could be, skittered up her shoulder and hid inside the crown on top of her head. Thankfully the ice didn’t break. Mel’Issandra had suspected that would be the case. She floated on snow after all.

Better yet, the ice that formed from the seawater didn’t seem to bother her. The ice woman drove the bitter feelings of abandonment from her mind and focused on the task at hand. She knelt down on the thin ice and compelled it to grow.

The sea didn’t want to give way, it fought for every inch that froze, but Mel’Issandra wasn’t going to be dissuaded. By the time she was done she could feel a great bowl of ice under her. It wasn’t as much as she’d hoped, but it was enough. The ice woman pulled on the ice and let it encase her fully. Kalla chirped before he froze over, but Mel’Issandra wasn’t worried. He was already better, the cold couldn’t hurt him.

With a thought she launched herself, now encased in an orb of ice meters thick, into the ocean. She felt the salt attack the ice around her, but it wasn’t nearly so unpleasant a feeling as it touching her body. She exerted the effort she needed to keep the shell intact, and then she pushed again.

This time she didn’t expand the ice. She compelled sections of it to shoot off before growing back again. The momentum it gave her was minuscule, but it was the best she could do. Eventually her birthplace faded from sight and the water stretched all around her. She couldn’t say how long it took for her to reach another landmass, but by the time she did she was exhausted.

She pulled herself up onto the beach of a shockingly lush island and shattered the icy shell that encased her. Kalla peaked up from her crown and chirped indignantly, upset at having been frozen solid, but Mel’Issandra didn’t pay him any mind. There was life here, and as the storm cloud that had followed her from her birth island began to shed its snow on new shores she remembered Narzhak’s words.

Make everything you find better, and the world will be better for it. The ice woman grimaced, all too aware gods didn’t always keep their word, but she saw the logic in Narzhak’s instruction. Perhaps the world wouldn’t be better off, but she would. That was what mattered now. Her, and what she’d have to do to get her revenge.

She strode into the forest, the air chilling as snow fell all around her. She walked for a long while, spotting little creatures here and there, but nothing she was willing to chase after. The creatures of the forest rarely stayed around long enough for her to get a good look, anyway. The snow, the first that had ever fallen here, drove them away.

She sighed, but resolved to keep going. This wasn’t one of those colder places Narzhak had described. In fact, she suspected she’d made her way to a hotter climate. If that was the case, and all the creatures here were small enough to be useless fighting the abominations Narzhak had warned her Sartravius was creating, then she would have to brave the ocean again.

That wasn’t a pleasant thought, but Mel’Issandra didn’t have long to think it before she broke through the trees and into a peculiar clearing. The clearing was large, several trees could be seen lain out at the distant sides, as if someone chopped them down. The land was different here, almost as if it had been cut open in several distinct spots. Upon closer inspection, those lines became perfectly straight rows of rich brown soil. The length of a tall tree, perhaps more. There were four in total like this. In three of those rows, tall plants could be seen growing up from the rich soil. Across the clearing, at the fourth row, there was an even stranger sight.

Two figures sat, one large and black- covered with starlight, and the other much smaller, with bright red hair. They seemed to be going over the dirt, in an odd way. Then without warning, the larger figure snapped his head in the direction of Mel’lssandra, and upon his blank face, two glowing eyes seemed to bore into her very soul. After a moment, the smaller figure followed suit after she saw what the larger’s gaze held.

Then within a flash, the figure stood up and flew to stand in front of her before she could even blink. His gaze was imposing and impassive and when he spoke, his words were emotionless and blank in tone, ”I do not remember learning of you in the Architect’s Palace, cold one. So tell me, who created you and why are you here?” The figure then tilted his head to look back at the woman, who had also risen. He shook his head, as if telling her to stay put. He then looked back at Mel’lssandra expectantly.

The ice woman backed up and her eyes widened in surprise when the black figure flew towards her. Was this another god? Her eyes flicked back to the red haired woman behind him and she wondered if she’d stumbled upon not one, but two, divine beings. Inappropriate as it was, Mel’Issandra found herself wondering if gods were they really that common.

She recalled her meeting with Narzhak and decided against running away, opting instead to answer the figures question as directly as she could, “Nobody made me, and I’m here to find things to make better.”

The god said nothing. His eyes did not move, yet they seemed to go over her entire body, even into her mind. He tilted his head suddenly looking up behind her, watching the sky turn white with snow fall. Then he looked back at her, and spoke, his voice no longer so monotonous but taking on a softer tone, ”Intriguing. You claim no one made you, but several did, unknowingly. Is it a truth or a lie? I could find out… But no… I will believe your innocence. I once wanted to make things better, perhaps I still do, so tell me then, what will you make better?” he finished, glancing back at the women again.

The red-haired woman walked up to the pair and looked at Orvus, her silver eyes shining brightly with reflections of light. “Her name’s Mel’Issandra, Orvus. We… Li’Kalla, named her so. If I remember correctly, she makes living things into… Not-living frozen things that move as if still living. Nondead, perhaps?” She tilted her head and looked at Mel’Issandra with a raised eyebrow, a subtle smile slowly seeping onto her face.

The god gave a sigh, then turned back to look at Mel’lssandra. ”I see.” he said softly, ”You create more of your kind. This begs many questions, but I can see you have questions of your own Mel’lssandra. Speak them.”

Before Mel’Issandra could respond her lizard, Kalla, jumped from where it had been hiding behind her crown and onto the red haired woman's shoulder, eliciting a short chuckle from her. It proceeded to lick the woman's cheek and chirp at her. The ice woman stared at her lizard and the woman, “Who… Who are you. How do you know Li’Kalla? How do you know me?”

“I used to be a part of Li’Kalla, but now I’m Silver, my own person,” She smiled proudly, but her smile quickly vanished and her face took on a somber determination, “I know you, because meeting you was one of the few moments we all had total clarity… Did you wait too long on that Island, Melly?”

“Used to be?” Mel’Issandra’s confused expression gave way to one of concern, “What does that mean? Is, are you, what happened while I was waiting?”

“Li’Kalla is dead, Mel’Issandra.” Silver bit her lip and continued, “Fragmented and scattered all over the world. It’s the reason we never visited you again. I’m sorry. When we came back home from meeting you, Li’Kalla was attacked and panicked. I can’t say anymore, as I was shut away from the body and couldn’t sense anything until… Until it was time to escape.” She kicked a small mound of dirt lamely and, after a while, looked up at Orvus beside her.

Orvus returned Silver’s gaze, his eyes no longer so impassive. Then he looked back at Mel’lssandra and said, ”What Silver speaks is true. The God Vakk is not to be trusted, heed that warning.”

For a moment Mel’Issandra’s mind went blank. Li’Kalla had… Died? Or at least, she had experienced something like death. The ice woman felt a terrible pang of guilt. She’d thought Li had betrayed her, abandoned her. She almost wished that was true. Mel’Issandra remembered the tug, the force that had tried to tear her soul apart before she’d found way to save herself, and she wondered if that was what Li had felt. How else could a soul be fragmented?

As waves of grief crashed into her, Mel’Issandra had another, darker, thought. She’d just learned that killing a god wasn’t impossible. Better yet, she’d been given a hint as to how it could be done. The ice woman tried to dispel the unwanted consideration, but how could she? She’d been given something she needed. A way to hurt a god.

Mel’Issandra had to focus on keeping herself still. She wanted nothing less than to act out, to fly into a rage against this Vakk, against the world she’d been born into, and against herself, but that wouldn’t help anyone. She regarded Silver carefully and took solace in the fact that at least part of Li’Kalla still survived. It wasn’t much, but it helped calm her.

When Mel’Issandra spoke again it was with bitter resignation, “I see. I will remember this… Vakk.”

”I know that look.” Orvus said quietly, ”You are angry. Li’Kalla meant dearly to you and now she is gone. But you know how to contain that emotion, that rage which swells inside. I am impressed, but you have my condolences. I once met Li’Kalla before the fragmentation, she was… innocent. I must ask, however, can you control the snow?” Orvus said.

The snow? Mel’Issandra looked up at the clouds, her faithful companions from the moment she’d been born. Orvus’s question had caught her off guard, and as her gaze fell back to the god her confusion was evident, “I don’t know, but it’s already snowing. Why would I change that?”

”I fear for what I have built here. This is a tropical climate, and one that never feels the grip of colds touch. The snow will kill what vegetation there is, simply because the growth here has not adapted to such change. So let me rephrase my question, can you make it stop snowing?” the god asked.

For a brief moment, Mel’Issandra wondered if that would be so bad. If this life relied on heat, on Sartravius, was its passing from the world such a tragedy? She pursed her icy lips and chastised herself internally for thought. It was not the fault of any being that it had been born into this world the way it was. The trees had done no wrong, nor had the birds or lizards.

She wished she could make them all better, so that they didn’t need the heat, so that she wouldn’t hurt them. Of course, she was all too aware that was impossible. She was one and the creatures of the world were beyond counting.

Mel’Issandra knew she couldn’t feel the clouds above her like she felt the snow and ice on the ground, but she still tried to command them. She stared into the sky, silently imploring the clouds to still. They didn’t deign to answer. The ice woman heaved a frigid sigh, “No. I can’t. If you would prefer I leave,” Her eyes, tinged with regret, flicked to Silver, who stared back at her, “Then I’ll go.”

”I see.” the god said. ”That is most unfortunate, Mel’lssandra.” he said almost absent minded. ”But this can easily be corrected, can it not?” he seemed to say to himself. Next, he waved his hand over Mel’lssandra, then said to her, ”Try again.”.

Mel’Issandra shot Orvus a puzzled look, but did as he asked. Much to her surprise when she turned to the sky for the second time the clouds parted as if all it took was a thought. She still couldn’t feel them, but then how could she have? They’d vanished as soon as she’d wished them to.

At first she was slack jawed, but when the sunlight hit her she cringed. It wasn’t painful, but it was certainly a shock. While she wasn’t a fan of the sensation of heat on her icy skin, she couldn’t help but be mesmerized by the way the light made her glimmer. It was almost like she was glowing. Without thinking she let her gown of snow fall off her form so she could admire herself.

There was a niggling worry that her clouds were gone for good, but it seemed distant as she spun in the light and watched the way her body twisted the rays into odd shapes as they passed through her. As she spun she looked up to see Silver and Orvus eyeing her. Almost immediately Mel’Issandra remembered Li’Kalla’s words and a new snow gown grew out of her skin.

She felt a pang of guilt. Li’Kalla had given her the idea for the gown, and she’d been so quick to shed it. It seemed wrong, especially now that Li’Kalla was… Gone? The ice woman met Silver’s gaze and pursed her lips.

Broken, maybe, but not gone. Mel’Issandra turned to Orvus and smiled, “Thank you. I didn’t know the light was so pretty.”

Orvus said nothing but gave a small nod.

“It is you that’s making the light beautiful, Melly. You’re turning something ordinary into extraordinary. Laina-” Silver stopped and sighed, “-Li’Kalla, would’ve loved to see you like this. She planned to play with you in the sun in her second visit, after all.”

Mel’Issandra turned her smile onto Silver, “Well, at least part of her has.” The ice woman paused when Silver averted her gaze and glanced at the rows of tilled dirt, “Though, I’m not you’ve been playing. Now that I’m not threatening your plants, would you tell me what you’ve been doing with them?”

’I am teaching Silver how to plant seeds, so that they can grow.” Orvus stated flatly, still looking down at Mel’lssandra.

“I want to learn how to plant rice. It was Li’Kalla’s favorite food.” Silver said with a shrug.

”That brings us to you, Mel’lssandra.” Orvus said, while softening his expression. ”What is a being such as yourself, doing here in this environment?” he asked.

“Finding things to make better, like Narzhak said I should,” Mel’Issandra hesitated before elaborating, “He told me Sartravius was making monstrosities. I need help to fight them.”

“Make sure they voluntarily submit to the process. Do not force yourself upon others, Melly.”

Orvus folded his arms to his chest then said, ”Narzhak? The God of War, told you to ‘better’ things? How very fitting. Though, I can see why you would want to. Sartravius is heat, you are cold. Opposites for eternity, in a never ending battle of dominance. One cannot exist without the other, yet they fight still.” Orvus paused, letting his words sink in before saying, ”But this does beg a question, as Silver has alluded to. Better for you? Or better for them, little one?”

“I don’t want dominance, I just want Sartravius to suffer.” The ice woman’s smile vanished and her tone became harsh, “Retribution. Making others better makes that easier. Besides, they don’t mind.” She pointed at the lizard on Silver’s shoulder, “Kalla has never complained.”

The god shifted his gaze to the lizard and looked upon it, his expression going blank once more. Slowly he turned back to Mel’lssandra and said, ”Do you know how this island, and its siblings came to be?” he asked, the question completely off topic.

Mel’Issandra shook her head.

Orvus cocked his head and outstretched his hand towards Mel’lssandra, before cryptically saying, ”Care to find out?”

“Wait-” Silver fidgeted, and suddenly she groaned and stared at Mel’Issandra, “First, you want Sartravius to ‘suffer’? This may sound harsh, but he’s a God. You’re not. You’ll be erased once he tracks you down, Mel’Issandra. Second, A fight? You want to fight Sartravius and his spawn… Melly, that’s idiotic. Why do you even care about him?”

”Silver…” Orvus said softly.

“Why do I care?” The ice woman turned to Silver and stilled. Her hands balled into fists and sprouted tiny cracks. She opened her mouth to speak, but closed it just as quickly. Mel’Issandra slowly relaxed her hands and repaired the little cracks. When she finally did speak, it was with a resigned sadness, “I care because I remember what it feels like to burn, Silver. I am not something that was born from that island you visited as part of Li’Kalla, I am that island. I have already suffered a hundred deaths, and I remember each one. I don’t want to die again, but I won’t allow Sartravius to forget what he did.”

She paused and ran a hand over the iron crown on her head before going on, “You’re right, though. I can’t hurt him, not yet, but pain isn’t the only way to make someone suffer. He will make his monstrosities, and I will break them. Me, and all the things I make better. Sartravius won’t be able to stop all of us. Not even gods can be everywhere at once.”

Orvus let out a quick sigh, then touched Mel’lssandra. A wave of information and memories washed through her, vividly and in detail, as if she witnessed them herself. Chief among them was the fight between Orvus and Seihdhara, the creation of the asteroid and the explosion Orvus witnessed from space. There also flashed a brief picture of a giant metallic ball under the sea. He then let go of Mel’lssandra and said, ”You were created from heat, by heat, and born anew from it. Your hate for it is founded in the belief that it hurt you, but in fact, you are here because of it.”

Orvus touched her again, this time a memory of battle with Phystene came into her head, and the creation of the Leviathan Anglers. Next the memory of the Reaper Mothers upon Veradax, and then the Tree of Mar, then the last memory was the most recent one, Orvus’ view of Kalla. His touch faded from Mel’lssandra once more, bringing her back to reality. ”Do you know what all of those have in common?” he seemed to whisper in her head.

Mel’Issandra blinked and stumbled, the foreign memories having disoriented her. She managed to avoid falling, but when she looked at Orvus she saw the god in a new light. He’d been born into pain, and he’d lashed out. First against his maker, and then against everything once he’d failed to strike a blow at the Architect. If she wasn’t made of ice, Mel’Issandra would have felt a chill run down her back.

There were differences, but… It was too similar. She looked down and all but whispered, “Were… Were they all mistakes?”

”Yes… and No…” he said before he reached out and gently tilted her chin up so that he could look upon her with sorrow in his eyes, ”I have done much that I regret, and much that I do not. But know this, you are not a mistake, Mel’lssandra. You are but a lost soul, the same as all of us, in the end. If your fight with Sartravius is what you desire, then I shall not stop you. I simply wish that you understand the consequences of your actions, unlike I have.” he said with a hint of sadness in his voice.

He then continued, ”By changing those that you deem need help, you strip them of something vital. The natural soul protection all are born with, unless deemed otherwise. Their souls will decay. They will become crazed- mindless with hate, perpetually, until slain. They will not be able to die naturally. Do you understand this?” Orvus somberly said, moving his arm back down to his side.

Natural protection? Mel’Issandra remembered the tug, the force that had torn at her very essence, and her gaze shifted to Kalla. She- She’d done that to him?

“I didn’t know.” The ice woman's voice was small, verging on a whimper, “I didn’t mean to hurt him. I just wanted him to be better.”

The god shifted then said, ”You were but a child, using your gifts for the first time. There is no one to blame, not even yourself. You are fortunate indeed, less your guilt… break you…” his voice fell to a whisper, then he blinked before saying, ”We are more alike than you know, Mel’lssandra. Thus, since you have no one, you are welcome to be… one of mine, if that is what you desire. Perhaps… Perhaps I can help you.” he said.

“Well…” Silver began, looking around. Her eyes laid on everything but Mel’Issandra. “I think you should do what you wish, Melly, regardless of what I said before. I do suggest keeping in mind the wishes of others, but… It’s not like I do that too often myself, I suppose.” She said with a sigh.

Mel’Issandra didn’t speak, didn’t even move, as the gods offer echoed in her mind. Part of her, a large part, wanted to agree. She wanted to forget her vendetta and live. She wanted to believe Orvus could keep her safe, but she knew that was a lie.

Silver was proof of that. Gods could be hurt, and worse yet, gods didn’t always tell the truth. Their promises weren’t ironclad and their words could disguise their intentions. Li’Kalla had promised to return, Narzhak had conveniently neglected to tell the ice woman what exactly she had done to Kalla and the fish. Perhaps Orvus could help her. Perhaps he couldn’t.

All Mel’Issandra knew was that she couldn’t leave it all to him. She had always been responsible for herself, and and always would be. The ice woman met Orvus’s gaze, “I’m sorry, but I can’t. I won’t. I’ll remember all you told me, you and Silver, but I won’t be yours. Or anyone else’s.”

”Very well.” Orvus stated. ”A wise decision, I believe. Here,” Orvus said, outstretching his hand, palm up. A small chunk of orvium appeared, and it molded itself into a ring, then erupted with twinkling stars. ”A gift to remember the choice made.”

Mel’Issandra reached out and carefully plucked the ring out of the gods hand. She held it up to her face and muttered, “Pretty.” Before slipping it onto her finger.

She looked to Orvus, “Thank you, for this and for everything. You and Silver.”

Orvus gave a simple nod, letting his hand fall back to his side.

“You’re welcome. And, sorry. For not coming back.” Silver said, her lips stretched into a half smile.

”Where will you go?” Orvus asked.

The ice woman flashed Silver a little smile of her own, and then she pursed her lips and faced Orvus, “I don’t know. I only know this place and my island. Narzhak told me there were colder places though. I think I’ll look for them.”

”There are many places to go, none of them easy to get too. This island sits in the middle of the ocean, after all. How will you travel?”

“The same way I did before,” Mel’Issandra cringed, “Or... Maybe I’ll figure something else out.”

”I can fly you to the nearest continent, if you desire.” Orvus said, blinking.

“Now? The ice woman hesitated, “I’d be grateful, of course, but… Perhaps I could stay for a while longer?”

”If that is what you wish, you are welcome here. Come.” Orvus said, turning around to walk away. The god then stopped, and turned back to Mel’lssandra saying, ”Just… Be careful what you touch.” and continued on.

Silver smiled and nodded, “Yes, be careful! However, you might be able to learn how to not turn everything you touch into non-deads. Maybe, staying with us a while will serve as control training! There must be a way to turn off your abilities, right?”

Mel’Issandra pursed her glossy lips and stared at her hands, “I hope.” She shook her head and reciprocated Silver’s smile, “No, I’m sure there is.”

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Lord Zee
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Lord Zee I Don't Even Know

Member Seen 16 hrs ago

The Learner


Hermes + Xiaoli

”Penelope… Come here… Girl.” Came Arya’s raw voice, the girl had wondered a ways from the clearing she had found herself in. She gripped her side, hand now coated in a mix of dry and wet blood as she used her other hand to lean up against a tree. One that wasn’t moving. It had came as a great surprise, seeing trees run, chased but what she could only describe as overgrown herbivores. She had to blink through the pain she felt, not even sure if the sight was real. It came as a relief when the tree’s she used for support didn’t move, Arya didn’t think she could handle that.

Though she had no visible mouth, it felt so dry, and she was beyond parched. Something to drink would be good, very good. She mumbled something incoherently, before shuffling along at a snail's pace. She had pushed past two oddly moving mountains and into the forest they revealed.

”Split… Where are you?” she asked aloud, no longer really capable of yelling. She had seen no sign of either of her friends and this worried her far more than the shape she was in. If anything had happened to them… She didn’t know what she would do.

It was really peaceful here, she thought, and smelled so sweet. Perhaps if she just rested for a bit she would feel better. Her heavy eyes shut slowly, almost as if they were fighting her. She began to call Penelope’s name again, but all at once she she felt something stop her, and she was falling. She landed face first on the forest floor, the pain rocketing her to conscious as she let out a coarse scream, which fell to ragged breaths. With her measly strength, she rolled over to look up at the canopy.

”Penelope… Split...” she cried, ”I need you. Please. I’m… I’m right here.” as her eyes began to shut again.

A wet sensation suddenly covered where Arya’s nose might be and there was a light crackling. The girl gave a small chuckle, saying, ”Penelope… What did I say about kisses?” before she opened her eyes, coming face to face with a strange sight. A tiny cotton ball sized cloud rested on her face, little flickers of electricity sparking from it as it crackled. There was a sudden ’pop!’ and it hovered over her face, crackling wildly.

”Oh… Hello, little one. Have you seen my bunny?” she asked, the question sounding odd, even to her. Perhaps she was dreaming, after all. A little cloud couldn’t possible be real. The cloudling swirled.


“Poppler?” A voice called out in the distance.

At the sound of the voice, Arya began to laugh again, ”Oh K’nell, I’d like to wake up now, please. I have to go find… Penelope and… Split.”

A crow suddenly cawed and took off from the trees, previously unseen. A strange pull appeared in Arya’s mind and before she could think twice about it, she was gone.

Arya awoke with a start, her eyes snapping open to view a… Ceiling? The last time she had seen such a view was aboard the Jiangzhou. She blinked as her hazy memories started to flood back to her. She had no idea where she was and Split and Penelope were still missing. She threw her covers off, noticing that her dress had been replaced with a large bandage covering her wounds. She began to sit up, the pain not as intense as it had been before and she began to wonder just how long she had been asleep.

She placed her feet on the cold, wooden floor- the feeling electing a small smile in her eyes. Then she stood up and nearly fell over on uneasy legs, but she stopped herself from falling by floating. Now parallel to the ground, she let out a small sigh before orienting herself to be vertical with the rest of the room. She began to float towards the door, nervous and excited to find out what was in store. Perhaps her giant bunny and Split were waiting for her on the other side, perhaps not, there was only one way to find out.

Suddenly, the slider door opened, but from the other side. There stood a short girl with black hair, pale, grainy skin and a round, soft face. She wore a beige shirt made of spun yarn and a skirt made of a similar material, except that it was coloured brown. She was holding a tray with a pot, a cup and a bowl of some delicious-smelling stew. Upon seeing Arya so much closer than anticipated, however, she nearly skipped into the air with a short ‘ah!’

Arya eyed the newcomer with intense curiosity as her eyes squinted. Arya then exclaimed, ”Hello!” to the woman, floating closer to inspect what she carried.

“O-oh, hello,” the girl voiced with a sigh of relief. “Are you feeling better?”

Arya floated around the girl, inspecting her with unwavering eyes. She had never seen someone like her before, well, she knew Kalmar and Arae had similar forms, but nothing like this. The girl seemed a little vexed at this, but let out a patient - if not a little frustrated - sigh. Arya floated back in front of her and said, ”I am! Thank you for your hospitality. I’ve never seen someone like you before,” she paused thoughtfully, ”Not that you’re ugly or anything, in fact, you look amazing.” she said as her eyes smiled widely, ”Oh but where are my manners? My name, is Arya. It’s a pleasure to meet you!” she said, bowing low in the manner that Shengshi taught her.

The girl gave her a slight frown, which grew even more apparent as Arya bowed. However, not being one to forget her manners either, the girl bowed back. “A joy to meet you, lady Arya - I am Xiaoli. Pardon me for asking, but where did you learn those manners?” She raised an eyebrow.

Arya’s eyes seemed to light up at the sound of Xiaoli’s name, and she said, ”Xiaoli! You’re Xiaoli! Oh this is wonderful!” she exclaimed happily, ”His Lordship taught this servant much while this servant stayed aboard the Jiangzhou. Oh, his Lordship missed you dearly, my lady.” she finished with softness in her voice.

Xiaoli recoiled and blinked a little; then, after a moment, she leaned in with squinted eyes. “I’m sorry, but… Did His Lordship make you?” She put the tray aside and begun to pat and touch Arya all over her face, arms and torso, her brow furrowing more and more as she investigated. “You don’t look like a servant at all - are you an earlier iteration of sorts? One he made before he gave life to the Servant race?”

Arya winced a little at Xiaoli’s touches before she visibly relaxed, letting the girl ask her questions and becoming perplexed by what she had to say as well. ”Um, no, his Lordship did not create me, how I came to him is a long… long story. I was born on the moon, actually. That’s… another long story actually. What do you mean when you say, servant race? The water globules?” she asked confused.

“The water globules, yes. After someone blew a hole in His Lordship’s shipdeck and murdered many of them, He decided that they had served him well and faithfully and granted them true forms and souls.” She eyed her up and down. “On the moon, huh? Did you hit your head, by chance? Would you like some tea and stew?”

Arya froze, going rigid. Her eyes went wide with horror as she realized what she had done. The vivid memory of the Lurker screaming jumped into her head and the girl began to take quick, shallow breaths. Xiaoli blinked and reached for her hands. “H-hey, are you alright?” she asked softly. When Xiaoli touched her, Arya jumped and screamed, ”No no no no no! Don’t touch me!” and she flew back against the wall, letting out a loud bang. ”I’ll hurt you! I’ll hurt you! I can’t hurt you too!” she whimpered, beginning to cry as the memory of the explosion on the ship came back. She had murdered those servants for no reason. As she began to hyperventilate, it dawned upon her, she was a monster. Arya wanted to shrink as she fell on the floor.

The main door slid open and another woman darted in. Dried blood covered up to her wrists, and she held a flat stone knife in one hand. She wore a curious look on a alabaster face, a little blood on the tip of her nose and some splattered on her nigh sleeveless shirt, “Is everything okay in here?”

“Hermes, thank the rivers, can you h--WHAT HAPPENED?! Did you fall and break your nose?!” Xiaoli demanded anxiously.

Hermes’ eyes widened and she rubbed her nose with her bare arm, the blood smudging off, “Oh!” She chuckled, “No I was just-” She looked at Arya and then back at Xiaoli, “What’s going on?”

Xiaoli gave the floored Arya an anxious stare. “I’m not sure, but if I was to put two and two together, I may have found His Lordship’s stray student.” She carefully shuffled over to Arya and knelt down a metre or so away from her. “Hey, Arya?” she asked softly.

Arya flinched as Xiaoli spoke, she then said meekly, ”Hi.”

“Arya?” Hermes smiled, “Arya!” Her voice wasn’t as soft and comforting as Xiaoli’s but tinged with a curious excitement. She bobbed into a squat and looked level at the girl, her bloody arms resting on her knees, “God told me about you.”

At the sight of the stranger with bloody arms, Arya felt queasy, but she shoved it from her mind when the woman spoke. She sat up slowly, placing her arms around her legs in a tight embrace. ”Hermes?” she asked softly.

The dreamer pointed to the swirl on her forehead and smiled wide, “The one and only.” She turned to look over her shoulder at Xiaoli, “Remember that dream I had a few days ago? This is that Arya -- The dancer.”

“O-oh, is that so?” Xiaoli said and gave Arya another lookover. She let out a pensive hum, but eventually cracked a smile. “Well, if anyone can dance so well as to warrant such a title from you, Hermes, then I would rather like to see.” She gave Arya a playful wink.

Arya seemed to light up at this, feeling a mix of joy and regret. She had accidentally stumbled upon Hermes and Xiaoli, but there was a pit in her heart still. She began to relax again, her breathing becoming normal as she stood up and began to float again. She eyed the two with curiosity now, and said, ”Oh… I’m not very good…” she said shyly, ”I… I’m sorry about that, Lady Xiaoli. I’m the one who caused that hole… I didn’t mean…” she went silent as she choked on her words.

Xiaoli nodded somberly. “Yes, I figured as much - His Lordship told me about a girl he had taken in some time ago. He grew quite attached to her, but grieved silently after she left - he knew he was the one who made her leave, after all.” She raised an eyebrow. “He named you differently, though - Anxin, if I recall correctly.” Hermes scratched dry flakes off her nose as she watched the two.

Arya’s heart fluttered when Xiaoli spoke of Shengshi grieving for her, and her guilt worsened. She let out a soft sigh and said, ”Yes, Anxin, a name I still love.” she paused then said, ”It was my fault really, not his. I am… I was rash and angry and had no right to be upset with him. I am glad however, that you got to see him again. I always felt as if… something was missing.” she finished quietly, holding her upper arm. Hermes eyed Xiaoli in conspiracy and quickly swept up some of the loose flakes from the floor.

Xiaoli gave her a sympathetic smile and reached out to squeeze her free hand. “He misses you, you know. You should visit him some time.”

Arya gave a small squeeze back and said, ”I was planning too, before… Well, wherever I ended up. Hey, you haven’t seen Penelope have you? Or Split?” she said innocently.

“You were alone when I found you -- well, mostly,” Hermes mused, “Poppler was there too.”

”Poppler? You mean that small cloud? Huh, I thought I was dreaming.” Arya said with a giggle.

“Nope!” Hermes stood up and patted her knee length pants free of loose flakes, only to grimace after, “You were passed out on a bed of moss, cloudling on your face. I was arms full of dead quolls, buuut -- I figured you were more important.” She pointed at the bandages, “Feel any better?”

”Cloudling,” she mused, before saying, ”Yes, I feel much better. Thank you, the both of you. I’m not sure how much longer I would have lasted by myself.” she said looking both at Xiaoli and Hermes.

“Well you don’t have to,” Hermes gave her a cheshire smile, “You have plenty of friends.”

“Yeah,” Xiaoli echoed with a smile. Then she suddenly rocketed to her feet, her face pale as ice. “The tea! The stew!” She rushed out back into the hallway. Hermes flinched and then gave Arya a sideways glance.

“Want to see the courtyard?”

”What’s that?” Arya asked.

Hermes’ eyes seemed to sparkle, “Let me show you.” With little else she began to walk out of the room, looking back to make sure Arya was following her now and again. Arya floated after her, curious to what she wanted to show her.

The two exited the hallway and entered the outside with a wash of fresh forest air. Before them was the meticulously placed tiles of the courtyard, an intricate map of the eastern hemisphere patterned across it. Tucked near the inner wall and the courtyard was a table covered in blood and entrails, hanging pelts stretched out near it, and a pile of meat in a woven basket. Hermes waved her hand across the courtyard as she walked over to the butchering station, “This is it!”

As soon as they went outside, Arya felt as if she was in another world. She had never seen anything like it before, and with a childlike curiosity, she flew all over, touching the walls, eyeing the tiles, ogling the map and marveling at the style and beauty of it all. Most of all, the fresh air was a relief she never knew she needed and the sun’s rays felt heavenly upon her skin. The girl let out a peel of giggling that quickly became laughter as she flew around Hermes. ”Oh this is wonderful! Did you both build all this?” she asked.

Hermes lifted the basket of meat, leaving the knife on the table. “Nope,” She she jutted her chin towards the northernmost building as if asking Arya to follow, “Xiaoli is the resident master carpenter. I do a little bit of everything else.” Hermes eyed the pile of meat and then smiled at Arya.

Arya landed next to Hermes, and eyes all of the meat, saying ”Like hunting! Kalmar taught me how to hunt, though I don’t think I could ever do it again. He was… Kalmar.” she said softly.

“Kalmar,” Hermes mused, “I didn’t spend a lot of time with him, but he seemed to have a way about him now that I think about it. I beat him in a foot-race you know, but he took it with grace and gave me a spear and some advice. Told me about some facts of life and whatnot.” She pushed the sliding door of the northern building open and stepped in.

Arya followed after Hermes. With an excited voice she asked, ”You beat a god in a foot race? How?” her eyes were wide with joy, Hermes was shaping up to be everything she had thought she was, and now this!

“With my sandals,” She kicked one foot forward as if to show Arya before walking down a hallway and through another slider door. Arya looked at Hermes sandals, confused as to how they would help her in a race, but before she could say anything else, they arrived. Inside Hermes placed the basket on a table, a hurried Xiaoli doting over a hearth full of stew. Xiaoli gave them both a wry smile.

“The tea and stew had both gotten cold, so I decided to make some more! It’ll only be a few minutes more, rest assured.” She added some chopped cabbage to the brown, bubbly substance and sung faintly as she stirred. “Oh, please have a seat and help yourselves to some tea, by the way!”

On the table in the centre of the room, there had already been placed a tea pot and some cups, all of it hidden behind the enormous basket of meats.

“What did you do with the old stew?” Hermes furrowed her brow and lifted the basket, “Also where do you want this?”

“Why, I added it to this stew! What else should I have done with it?” Xiaoli gave her a pensive look. “Put it here, if you’d please.” She gestured to the side of the oven.

“Was just wondering,” Hermes gave her a teasing face and let the basket plop down next to the oven. Hermes snatched a cloth from a bucket near Xiaoli and started to wipe her hands, a steaming cloud dripping from the soaked towel. She looked over her shoulder at Arya and then glanced at the plush cushions around the low table, “Have a seat!” She smiled.

Arya seated herself quite happily. The girl, much too wrapped up in all the sights and smells of the room, hardly noticed the conversation between the two women. Tentatively, she wrapped her fingers around the steaming cup of tea and brought it up to her face, where then her mouth split open and she tilted the cup back to feel a warm sensation trickle down into her body. It tasted great, so she finished it off in another gulp, before setting the cup back down on the table.

She let out a satisfied sigh before saying, ”Oh how I’ve missed this.”

Xiaoli giggled. “It’s Yong’ai tea - my personal favorite and creation. It has the ability to strengthen bonds between friends…” She winked playfully at Hermes. “... And between lovers. So it’s a wonderful tea if you ever find yourself someone you like, Anxi-- Oh, forgive me, do you prefer Arya or Anxin?” Xiaoli scooped some stew into two bowls and walked over to the table with them.

”It’s good tea, I like it a lot.” Arya said enthusiastically. She then looked to Xiaoli and said, ”Whatever your preference is, Lady Xiaoli. Kalmar named me Arya, his Lordship named me Anxin. I like both of them well enough.” she said, eyeing the stew with a hungry gleam in her eyes.

Hermes gave Xiaoli a knowing look and copied her usual hum and scooped up a third bowl before sitting down by the table. She pushed the bowl in front of where Xiaoli was going to sit and took one of the bowls from Xiaoli, “Which one is your favorite?” The dreamer asked as she blew on the stew.

Arya looked at the stew and muffled a soft thank you as Xiaoli handed the bowl to her. She was about to take a bite, but as Hermes asked her question, the girl sat up straighter and paused as if in thought. After a moment she began to speak, ”I… They were both kind to me and for that I will always be thankful but I don’t think I can pick either one. Each has their own way of doing things, and they are just so different. If anything, I think I prefer Arae more” she said with a laugh.

Hermes swallowed a soupy bite of stew and shook her head, a kind smile on her face, “I mean which name is your favorite. I’d hate to call you anything less than what you like the most.” She paused and her smile widened, “But if it’s any consolation, I’m a fan of Arae, too.”

Xiaoli nodded. “We owe Her Holiness Arae so much - I’m not really certain how we will repay her, actually. We could place some tributes by the shrine, I suppose.” She drummed casually on her chin.

”Oh,” Arya cheeks flushed a light pink before she said, ”Silly me. A favorite name? Well I prefer Arya, but I do Like Anxin all the same. I’ll answer to both.” the girl then twirled a spoon in her hand, before plunging it into the stew. She got a big mouthful and brought it up to her face quickly, before swallowing it.

“Arya it is,” Hermes sipped at her tea, “How do you like the soup? That’s quoll and fresh cabbage, carrots, and--” She studied her spoonful of stew, “I think peas.”

She took another bite, looked to Hermes, and then Xiaoli and said, ”It’s delicious, definitely beats just cooked meat over a fire!” she said warmly.

“Mhm!” Hermes chimed, “We’ve started a garden and the forest is full of game. Tendlepog is a paradise, the perfect place to raise children.” She nodded enthusiastically, “Oh and the garden is just planted, but it’s already lovely. It has a great view of the sky; I’ve been trying to track the celestial bodies at night there.”

”Tendlepog? Oh my, that’s a ways from the Dragon’s Foot.” Arya muttered as her eyes took on a concerned look. She then looked at Hermes with a curious eye, and asked, ”Children? Like… Little people?” She had never heard of children before.

Xiaoli raised a brow. “Haven’t you heard of children? Didn’t His Lordship teach you all about the five relationships and filial piety?” She put a spoonful of stew in her mouth and gave Arya a squinted look.

Arya moved a hand up to her chin, squinting her eyes in thought. She tapped the table with her other free hand and said, ”Ah! How could I forget. Children are the procreations of two beings. Babies!” she looked at the two of them her eyes going wide, ”Are you going to have babies!” she said with glee, placing both her hands on her cheeks.

“Yeah!” Hermes exclaimed, her spoon flying across the room, slipping from her grip as she clapped her hands once. The spoon bounced off the wall mural and she recoiled. Crawling to go get it she cleared her throat, “Yes, we are.”

Xiaoli rolled her eyes jokingly. “Hermes, please don’t dirty my paintings with stew - the children will be doing that aplenty.” She gave Arya a grin and Hermes rolled her own eyes. “Yes, dear Hermes has started suffering the early effects of pregnancy, according to the book of Abanoc. We are anxiously awaiting the sound of little feet skipping across the floorboards.”

”Oh I’m so happy for the two of you! What a wonderfully joyous thing! To bring life into the world and care for it, and teach it, and… and love it.” she quieted down then with a smile she picked up her spoon and said, ”You’ll do great.” and she twirled the spoon in the stew, before taking a small bite.

“I sure hope so,” Hermes was aglow, “I'm very excited. You'll have to meet them when they come.”

”I’d love too!” the girl said thoughtfully.

Xiaoli sipped her teacup. “So, Arya, if I may ask - what brings you here to Tendlepog?”

”Funnily enough, that’s another long story.” Arya giggled, ”I was on a quest for Choppy. Had to go down to her Sphere, which is a super creepy place. Too many hands, too many whispers. Anyways, Split and I were riding on Penelope after we made the delivery, when we were attacked by a Lurker. Picture a horrible centipede that has too many legs, is giant sized and wants to eat you. It um… It hurt Penelope…” The memory flashed before her eyes again, and her grip on the wooden spoon tightened. She took a deep breath before continuing, ”We got separated after that and I woke up under a blue sky.” she finished dejectedly.

“Hm,” Hermes finished the last of her stew, “Well that's just awful… Spheres are strange like that though, there is-” Hermes stopped put on a sympathetic smile, “What I mean to say, is that spheres are confusing, I know, but I'm sure they found their way back to Galbar, same as you.”

”I hope so.” Arya said sadly.

Hermes looked at Xiaoli briefly and then back at Arya, “You're welcome to stay here for as long as you need.” Xiaoli nodded happily.

“The guest rooms are newly mopped and the sheets are fresh. You can move in tonight if you wish.”

Arya visibly brightened at their kindness. She set the spoon down on the table and looked at the both of them, tears welling up in her eyes, ”I… I would love too. Thank you. The both of you, again.” she said joyfully.

Xiaoli waved her hands playfully. “Oh, no need to thank us, dear! It’s what the guest rooms are for! I’m afraid I have no wine to offer, though, as is customary in these situations.” She pouted a little.

“But!” Hermes interjected, “We have a whole lot of sweetgrass juice.”

”Ah, that’s okay Lady Xiaoli. Wine is a but much for me. Juice however, sounds delicious.” Arya said.

Xiaoli shrugged. “That may be for the best. Lady Hermes here is not allowed near ebriating substances after a -certain- other episode…” She gave Hermes a slightly sour stare.

“It's not even worth mentioning,” Hermes returned the stare, before smiling at Arya, “Do you want to see my study?”

”A study? Okay.” Arya said, floating up.

Xiaoli let out a content sigh. “Alright, leave the housewife with all the chores.” She gave them both a playful smile. “You two have fun now.” She stood up and began to stack bowls and cups onto a tray.

Hermes flinched and looked at Arya, “I’ll show you after we take care of -- well this.” She stood, and walked over to a large stone basin, to which it was a wonder how it was even brought inside. Hermes took a cloth from a peg and dipped it in, wringing it with water. Heading back she made quick work of the table top.

Xiaoli frowned a little. “Dear, it’s fine!” she said. “Go show her the studies - I’ll take care of the cleaning and such.” She took the tray over to the basin and put the bowls in the water. She washed them deftly with a cloth and stacked them next to each other on the side to dry once clean.

Hermes let the cloth fall back into the basin, “Thank you,” she gave Xiaoli a warm smile. Turning back to Arya she put her hands on her hips, “All set?”

Arya had watched the two women with curiosity as they spoke back and forth. She would have chimed in, but there really wasn’t a place for her to do so.

She looked at Hermes and said, ”Yeah!” Then Arya looked to Xiaoli and humbly said, ”Thank you, Lady Xiaoli.”

Just a room over, the study was lit by a large window. The shutters were open, letting in a spring breeze and gently rustling the many papers scattered across a wooden desk, saved only by stone paper weights. The room was otherwise bare, with only a few of the empty shelves holding small trinkets, such as strange rocks, curious geodes and one tiny altar to Abanoc. As Arya walked behind Hermes, she noticed one of the papers on the desk with crudely drawn fighters and Shengshese characters in a poor hand explaining each.

Arya looked over the papers more closely, and realized it had something to do with a fighting style, one she had never seen before. She then moved her gaze to Hermes and said, ”Is this your work?”

“One of them,” Hermes happily explained, pushing aside the martial arts codex in favor of hastily drawn sketches of the night sky and even the day cycles of Heliopolis. “I’m making a calendar,” She explained. She then lit up and put a hand on a thick stack of paper that sat next to another, “I’m also recording my adventures and things I find.”

”Oh, how interesting!” she said enthusiastically as she moved around the room, looking at the few items Hermes had. She was impressed, to say the least. She didn’t have anything like it, at all.

“You know,” Hermes said, looking up from a sketch of a grapple, “If you ever wanted to learn a little something, I could show you.”

Arya looked at Hermes with wide eyes. Giddly she said, ”Oooo, like what?”

“Well,” Hermes pondered, “I haven’t had anyone to put the Tendlepogan Dance Fighting to the test with.” She looked at the wall, as if seeing through it, “Xiaoli might not appreciate me having a guest run around right after eating though.”

”Dance fighting! Oh please Hermes, please teach me!” Arya exclaimed, floating in circles around the woman.

“I will,” Hermes smiled, trying to keep up with the excited girl, “But later, when it’s cooler out and there is no more day-work to do. Until then, feel free to look at my notes.” She gave an awkward smile and put her hand back on her biography, “Just not this one.”

“I should go clean up the butchering table, but feel free to perusse.” Her hand slipped to the stack of papers ripe with mediocre illustrations of various plants and animals found on Tendlepog, “Okay?”

There was a flash of disappointment in Arya’s eyes, but it quickly faded into a smile.

”Okay!” she said cheerfully and as Hermes left, Arya took the stack, and orientated herself upwards so her body was facing the ceiling. There, she began to go over what Hermes had written down, absorbing the knowledge with glee.

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

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As Kalmar began exploring the area, it soon became apparent that the presence he had detected was gone. He scoured the area, and although he did indeed find a trail, there would likely be little point in following. They would be long gone by now, and although he would eventually catch up, there was no telling how long that would be. Following it for too long could lead to him straying too far from Melantha, and that he did not wish to do.

Not just because he had given her his word that he would return, or because she had his bow, but because he found himself enjoying her company. There was some strange comfort in being near her, like he was at peace somehow. On some level she seemed to understand and connect with him, when there had been few beings in this world who could do so. He still wasn't entirely sure why he had made his confession. It had been genuine, which meant he had given away his weakness, something a hunter should never do. Yet somehow it appeared to have endeared her to them even further.

He wished to return to her, but for now he would continue to examine the area. He picked up a fallen tree branch, cut off a piece of wood, and began to carve away at it as he walked, thinking carefully of what he wanted the final result to look like. It took time, and he had to discard the carving to try again, but eventually he was finished. Satisfied with the result, he slipped it into his pocket.

One thing he had noted in his search, however, was that in the time since he first built this continent, a natural glacier had been formed. And from that glacier emerged natural rivers which, to his knowledge, had not been created by Shengshi. There was one in the north, and one in the south.

He decided to give them a closer inspection, starting with the one in the north. The water was fresh, but there was a distinct lack of fish. That would need to change. So, he focused his power, and created some. First there would be the animals - beavers, otters, frogs, turtles, ducks. Then, of course, the fish: carp, trout, bass, salmon, but also smaller creatures such as minnows, or crayfish. There would be vegetation, too - algae, plankton, moss, rushes. That done, he went to the southern river and added more of the same.

Now they only needed names. The northern one would be the Kalmere River, while the southern one... he paused, thinking. His thoughts went to Melantha. The Melbrook River.

He took out his carving, studied it, and made a few minor adjustments. Then his hand slipped, ruining the carving. With a growl, he threw it into the river and started again with a new piece.

When the latest attempt was finally complete, he looked up and realized the sun was about to set. It was time to head back.

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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Crispy Octopus
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Crispy Octopus Into the fryer we go.

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Dire News

“Mmm,” Liana sipped her tea and kicked her dangling legs. She watched Asceal fuss over the palace courtyard from her vantage point on the edge of the balcony and opined, “I think the reds should be a bit darker.”

Asceal looked up from the reddish pink mango tree and cocked her head, “Really?”

Liana nodded. Asceal was her friend, but the Goddess’s colour palate could best be described as lurid. She supposed it made sense, but that didn’t change her mind on it. The Lustrous Garden sported crystals of every colour imaginable, at least, insofar as they were colours that could be described as bright.

The vine woman hoped her input could make the central courtyard of the palace a bit nicer. The spiraling pattern of stout colourful mango trees was pretty, but it lacked variety. Liana didn’t bother to raise her voice despite the distance between her and Asceal, Gods tended to have good hearing, “I like the way the center is darker than the edges, but the effect would be better if there was more contrast. That, and other trees. I know you love mangoes, but really?”

The Goddess frowned and stepped closer to one of her trees, almost protectively, “Mango trees are pretty, I like them. It’s not like you recommended any other plants Liana.”

“I wonder why that would be.” Liana smirked.

“Sorry,” Asceal winced, “Again, I didn’t realize that it was… Boring up here for you.”

Liana shrugged and willed a large vine to dip into the exposed courtyard. She stood up and hopped onto it, allowing the enormous limb to carry her down to Asceal, “You should have, but we’ve already had this conversation. Anyway, the trees should be a bit darker, don’t you think?”

Asceal pursed her lips, but took the hint. She tapped the leaves of the nearest tree and watched as it took on a deep crimson hue. The effect, in Liana’s opinion, made for a much more attractive plant. She still wanted to go to Galbar, but not before she managed to guilt Asceal into implementing a few more of her suggestions for improving the Lustrous Garden. It was, after all, her home too. As much as she’d berated Asceal for leaving her alone in it, Liana still loved the Garden.

“Now that’s better, isn’t it?” Liana finished the rest of her tea and handed the empty cup to the vine that had carried her into the courtyard, which promptly retracted back into the great mass of its kin above.

Asceal didn’t look convinced, but the Goddess reluctantly nodded and stepped up to the next tree. She ran a hand through its leaves and watched as it changed to blend in with its modified sibling. The Goddess moved from tree to tree, absentmindedly changing their very natures. Only when the center of the grove was uniform in its crimson colouration did she speak, “So, how do you think the kids are doing?”

Liana, who’d been keeping pace as Asceal worked, resisted the urge to roll her eyes. Ever since Eline and her siblings had departed the Garden Asceal had been tense, and Liana couldn’t imagine why. The vine woman knew her friend's children weren’t as innocuous as they seemed. If there was something on Galbar that could hurt them, Liana didn’t know what it was.

“I imagine they’re having a grand time in one of your hotsprings. Or perhaps they’re sharing tea with Shengshi,” Liana grinned, “You shouldn’t worry so much Asceal, they’d let you know if anything was wrong.”

The Goddess sighed and ran a hand through her long shimmering hair, “I know they would, but Galbar isn’t a paradise Liana. Not all of my peers mean well.”

Liana wrapped an arm around Asceal’s shoulders, “Maybe, but they’re not dumb enough to pick a fight with a god. No, I’m more worried about what they’ll do to each other. Can you imagine what would happen if they found a strawberry bush?”

The pair shared a chuckle, but Asceal’s mirth was short lived. She looked around and frowned, “It’s almost loney, without them. I really am sorry for leaving you here Liana. I had no idea, not that that’s an excuse.”

The vine woman bit her lip and withdrew her arm, pulling Asceal to face her as she did, “It was a mistake, and you apologized Asceal. I’m not mad, not really. Heck, I even made some friends while you were away.”

Asceal smiled weakly, “I know, but still.”

“You know,” Liana suggested, “You could make it up to me. Remember what I said about your hotsprings?”

The Goddess laughed, “Alright. As soon as we’re done here we’ll spend some time on Istais. How about we visit Xiaoli and Hermes too. I think we could both use the distraction.”

Liana’s eyes widened and she hugged Asceal tightly. For as much as she’d been looking forward to seeing Galbar, hearing the words was something special. It was a moment she’d have cherished, if it wasn’t for her friends sudden panicked shout, “Liana, wait, the kids!”

The vine woman let go and stepped back, at once confused and worried, “What? Has something happened?”

“They- They’re telling me they ran into something awful.” Asceal’s features were contorted into an expression of pure terror, “Makab is hurt. I have to go to them, I’m telling Shengshi about this. Last I saw him he was near the place Akam is describing.”

It was the last thing Liana has expected to hear, and at the worst time. She shook her head in disbelief, but she didn’t hesitate, “If you’re going I’m coming with you. They’ll need all the help they can get.”

The Goddess looked like she was about to refuse, but she didn’t waste the breath. Liana was as much a part of family as any of them, and the vine woman wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Wordlessly Asceal summoned the glowing bubble Liana had once ridden to Heliopolis, and soon the two of them were speeding towards the tower. To the Lustrous Garden’s connection to Galbar. To the kids.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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The Learner


Hermes + Xiaoli

The Warden’s fiery eyes narrowed and Diana’s crooked smile widened. The two stared at each other for an uncomfortable amount of time, the Warden atop his mare, and Diana under her umbrella. Finally the Warden rumbled, “I don’t like this.”

“I’m afraid there is nothing you can do about it, good sir,” Diana winked.

“For now,” The Warden pulled his reigns, “Should you make the slightest mistake, I will kill you.”

“Oh my,” Diana turned away bashfully, “Don’t be such a flirt.”

The Warden let out an angry grunt.

Hermes leaned her iron club against the guest house and picked up a heavy stick. The even heliopolis was just over the treeline, giving the sky a pink hue. Plenty of light still spilled into the courtyard, but it was clear the day was soon to be over, the chores having taken longer than expected. With a swift hand, Hermes tossed the stick to Arya, “Okay, are you ready?”

”Of course.” the Arya said cooly, with determination bustling in her eyes as she gripped the stick. Hermes hefted her club over her shoulder and turned from Arya so they were both facing the same direction, shoulders aligned and two meters apart.

“Okay,” Hermes said with a trace of giddiness, “Do you remember the starting stance from my notes?”

”Yes!” she said enthusiastically, and followed suit. She took a deep breath, relaxing herself, then exhaled. She looked to Hermes expectantly. The Dreamer held her club, hand wide apart and slightly tilted up and back. Arya side glanced Hermes, and replicated her stance. There was a slight pain in her side, but Arya ignored it. Very slowly and deliberately Hermes took a step forward, her hands coming close together and the club coming down in a slow-tight arc. She made another step, similar to one of the dances that Arya had learned, the club dropping defensively while simultaneously winding up for another attacking arc.

“Breath in when pulling back,” Hermes instructed, “Breath out as you attack,” The club was sent in another arc, following by a second one. Little by little the ‘dancing’ style of fighting unfolded before Arya, until they had pushed almost to the end of the courtyard, the style being forward aggressive while somehow still being very defensive. When they reached the end, they turned and began to do the same movements, but this time towards the north house.

As they practiced, Arya stumbled at first, her footing unsure of itself but as time went on, she began to see the rhythm of the dance. How it ebbed and flowed with grace, taking leaps of aggression but falling back with defensive postures. Coupled with the training she received from Split, and the dancing lessons from K’nell, Arya was quickly getting it down. A smile on her face all the same, though her side was beginning to hurt her. She didn’t seem to care that much.

”Hermes?” Arya asked.

“Hm?” Hermes swung her club wide, it looping around and gently swinging over to rest on her shoulder. She turned to the girl, “Yeah?”

Arya twirled the stick around her head, letting it hit the courtyard tile with a thud (causing Hermes to flinch), before she leaned on it and looked to Hermes. She then asked, ”Have you ever...um...have you ever, killed?” she said shyly.

Hermes’ brow furrowed and she looked over at the many drying pelts by her butcher station, “Do you mean, like, not an animal?”

”Yeah…” Arya said softly.

Hermes bit her finger in thought, “So, here is the thing.” The woman leaned her club against the eastern building and folded her arms, “Only in self defense, and they were nasty little things with sharp teeth and evil eyes.”

”That sounds horrible.” Arya sighed, and stood up, grabbing the stick and practicing again. After a moment of silence, she finally said, ”I...I don’t know if I could do it.”

“I hope you don’t ever have to make the choice,” Hermes sighed, watching her ‘student’. A small smile formed on her lips, “But I will say this, you learn very quickly.”

A wide smile formed in Arya’s eyes as she heard the compliment. She turned her head to look at Hermes and said, ”You learn quickly when a Kostral is teaching you, or you get hit.” she said with a giggle.
Hermes cocked her head, “Kostral?”

”Oh! Now I can teach you something.” Arya lulled happily before saying, ”Kostrals were created by Narzhak, they have six arms and no legs, though they usually use a pair to walk. The Kostral I found was named Split-Tooth, she’s my friend. I hope she is okay.” She fell silent, twirling the stick around as she sidestepped an invisible attack. She then said, ”Split was pretty tall, I guess all Kostrals are. She taught me a lot before we got seperated.”

“Hm,” Hermes seemed disappointed at first, “I’ve missed a lot since I came back to Tendlepog.” She shook her head, “Well I’m sorry about your friend, but I’m sure she is okay. She sounds like it would take a lot to get her hands full.” The dreamer walked over to Arya, observing her form.

”Yeah, you would have been impressed when she fought the Lurker. I’m sure she won, Kostrals are all pretty much warriors. They like to fight.” Arya mused.

“That does sound like Narzhak,” Hermes put her hand on one of Arya’s shoulders and squared it with the other, her foot reaching out to push Arya’s feet a little further apart.

”Ooo, thank you.” Arya said. ”So, have you ever sparred using this technique?”

“No,” Hermes shook her head, “At it’s full speed, it’s a little too dangerous for friendly fighting.” She snickered, “Unless we had really big feathers or something.” She paused as if she just had an idea, “I’ll make a note of that.”

Arya hummed, thinking on what Hermes had said. She was a little disappointed but then again, if it was dangerous and Hermes was expecting- it was probably a good idea not too. Hermes clapped a hand on Arya’s shoulder, breaking her from her thoughts “Oh! Would you like a demonstration?”

”Sure!” Arya said happily.

With a wide smile, Hermes quickly shuffled over to her club and hefted it over her shoulder. Walking back to the center of the courtyard, she squared her feet in the starting position. She made the first swing, as slow as before. She did it again and then took in a deep breath. A ripple of sound suddenly boomed as she turned into a blur, the club dancing along with a fuzzy figure. It dipped, swung, juked, spun, turned, blocked, parried and riposted all in tandem with a cleverly laced dance and hard to place feet. The figure began to flash different colours and shapes, making the dance disorienting but all the more beautiful.

Arya was instantly shocked at the display. She had no idea Hermes could move that quickly and she was puzzled by it, until she realized it was the sandals. How else would she have been able to beat Kalmar in a race? Her eyes went wide with giddy excitement as she balled up her fists and began to cheer. All the while, she knew that one day, she wanted to be able to do the same thing. It was simply beautiful to behold.

“It’s hard to describe how beautiful she is, sometimes,” came a voice from behind Arya. There Xiaoli stood, arms folded over her bosom and a smile across her face with a slight bite over the lip towards the right edge. “It makes for very abstract poetry.” She gave Arya a wink and a click of her rose petal tongue.

Arya turned around to look at Xiaoli and said, ”Indeed, Lady Xiaoli. It is an art of its own.” Arya turned back to view Hermes dance, with a soft smile. She then said, ”Hopefully one day, I can do that too.”

“You will,” Hermes panted as she stopped, her entire body an array of different warm colors, with blurry shapes dotting her skin. It slowly faded back to alabaster, but her hair remained a dark mahogany, “Or some version of it at least.” She smiled at Xiaoli for a moment before looking at Arya, “If we have time tomorrow, we can practice again.”

”Okay!” she said giving a little jump, but visibly winced as her side hurt again. Xiaoli cracked a sympathetic smile and produced a cloth from one of the many pockets she had sown onto her skirt. She closed her hand around it for a second, then opened her fist to reveal the cloth again, now warm and damp.

“Here, let me take a look at that again.” She shuffled a bit closer to Arya and placed the heated cloth over the bandages. There was an immediate sting that slowly gave way to a gentle numbing sensation. Arya let out a small gasp, placing one of her hands on Xiaoli’s shoulder. She then said, ”Oh, that feels really, really good. Thank you, Lady Xiaoli.”

She gave her a wink. “It’s good that you are feeling better, but, uhm… May not want to overdo it just yet. I may be divine, but it’s better to let the body heal naturally than to rely on god-given powers.” She gave Hermes a look. “Your dance is… Really coming along - like, really.”

Hermes grinned, “Thank you,” But then she fell serious, “But- but you’re right, we should go a little easier, just for a bit.” She gave Arya a glance before looking up at the setting Heliopolis, “It’s a little late anyways,” She blinked, “I haven’t stayed up this long in quite some time.”

”I suppose you both are right.” Arya grumbled before looking at Hermes, ”You go to bed this early?” she asked confused.

Hermes yawned as if proving a point, “Sometimes.” She gave her a funny look, “I’m not called a Dreamer for nothing.” She looked over at Xiaoli, “How are you feeling?”

Xiaoli stretched her arms over her head with a soft groan. “Been working on that wall -all- day and I am beat. Any of you want supper before bed time or was dinner enough?” She planted her hands on her hips and raised her brow expectantly at both of them.

Arya shook her head, ”No thank you. I’m still quite full.” she said chipperly, patting her stomach.

“After all that moving around, I don’t even want to tempt fate,” Hermes poked Xiaoli’s side and made her way towards the eastern building, “Let’s retire.” She looked over her shoulder, “I’ll see you in the morning, Arya. Hope you enjoy the palace.”

”Okay! Sleep well!” Arya said to Hermes with a smile.

“N-no tea or--?” Xiaoli took a deep breath, held it for a moment, and then let out a quiet ‘okay’. She gave Arya a smile and a curt bow. “Have a good night, dear Arya.”

Arya began to wave to the pair, ”Goodnight, Lady Xiaoli!” and as the left, she let her hand fall to her side and looked at the setting sun. She then whispered, ”They go to bed reeeaall early huh.” With stick in hand, Arya then floated up and disappeared over the building.

Even this late, the heliopolis still shone through the round wooden-framed paper window and cast a fuzzy, orange light across the bedsheets and blankets. The shadows of Hermes’ abundant equipment stacked against the walls formed uncanny black blots on the otherwise white paper wall decor. Xiaoli buttoned up her bed dress and let out a quiet sigh.

“It’s nice to have guests here, don’t you think?” she said softly and turned to Hermes.

Hermes tugged her lighter ‘sleep-shirt’ --as she calls-- it over her head and straightened it out. “It’s really nice,” She agreed, “This may sound kind of weird, but it’s almost like --” She paused bashfully, “Well it’s just good to know that I can teach.”

“Ooooh?” Xiaoli cooed knowingly. She laid down on the bed and rolled onto her stomach. “Almost like what?” she said in a playful voice and added a giggle.

Hermes slipped into the bed, “You know.” She rolled her eyes over a smile, “It’s like how it could be in the future.” She scooted close and gave Xiaoli a knowing look, “Hey, Xiaoli?”

“Hmm?” Xiaoli hummed softly.

“Remember when I was… well when I ate the mushroom?” Hermes leaned up on an elbow.

Xiaoli’s brow furrowed and her mouth straightened out. “Your pillow talk may need some work, dear…”
Hermes snickered, “Oh come on, I was just going to ask -- well, if you could do that steam-thing again.”

Xiaoli’s face turned from a straight frown to a flirty smirk. “Oh…” She bit her lip a little. “Well, since you asked so nicely--”

There was a sudden and loud bang in the courtyard. Xiaoli immediately pushed herself up and shot stares in every direction. “What was that?!” she snapped quickly as she skipped onto the floor and rapidly approached the door. Hermes grumbled and ripped herself out of the bed, stomping over to the door.

“I don’t know, but I--” She threatened under her breath as she slipped on her sandals. Snatching her club she continued her march outside. There, across the courtyard in the golden light of the setting heliopolis was a woman dressed in a dark dress, the entire butcher station on its side. The stranger stood with her fists on her hips and a mirthful smile on her lips.

“There, much better,” She grinned at the duo, “It was far too even.”

“Gah!” Hermes cursed as her eyes scanned the fallen pelts, “I was going to make a cloak -- er well -- I was going to have Xiaoli make a cloak!”

“Hermes, I appreciate it, but can we save it until later?” Xiaoli then turned to the stranger and copied her stance. “Exalted Creators’ blessings, stranger. Forgive my tone, but is it customary where you come from to ruin precious furniture? Not to mention breaking in?”

A white streak fell through the air, before stopping to a halt next to Xiaoli, Arya gave a small wave, before landing on the ground. Arya cocked her head as she looked to the stranger with a quizzical expression in her eyes. She then whispered aloud to no one in particular, ”That’s not nice.”

“Forgiven!” Diana smiled wide, “And your welcome.” She paused and suddenly clapped her hands together, letting them fall into her lap, “Oh my! It’s Xiaoli, Hermes and Arya.” She gave a toothy grin, “Oh, how I’ve been hoping to run into some sort of intelligence. I met the Warden, you know, but he was too giggly for my like and quite the raunchy talker.”

Xiaoli’s eyes widened momentarily, then collapsed into a furious scowl. “Who told you about our location? Who are you?!” She clenched her fists and let them hang down her sides. Hermes backed Xiaoli up, puffing up and holding the club menacingly.

“I’m K’nell, dear,” Diana chuckled, “Or well, in the same way you are Shengshi.” She gave the avatar a wink, “Please, call me Diana.”

Hermes lowered her club in confusion, looking to Xiaoli, who blinked in a dumbstruck manner. She straightened up her back and folded her hands over one another. She took a deep breath through the nose and clicked her tongue disapprovingly. “So you are - you have his sacred scent - yet His Holiness K’nell would never send anyone to trouble us in this manner. What are you doing here and who sent you?”

“Huff and fluff!” Diana scolded with a smile, “A dear friend can’t visit without some grand meaning?”

“A dear friend would, first of all, knock like a respectable creature and, secondly, not ruin my lover’s workstation. Your ‘visit’ is quite rude, and--”

“I think we can both agree that I most certainly did knock,” Diana winked.

“You know what she means,” Hermes huffed.

Diana raised her hands, “Oh I do, trust me. Xiaoli is quite the talker, sometimes it’s like you can’t even get a word in, and when you do, it just sounds dumb in comparison.” She laughed to herself, “Isn’t that right, Hermes?”

Hermes seemed a little shocked at this and Diana leaned on the toppled table, “What, no tea?”

Xiaoli sucked in a long, furious breath through her nose. “I’m sorry,” she hissed, “we drank the rest just this morning. We will make certain to notify you as soon as the harvest approaches.”

“Oh,” Diana’s smile was unwavering, “Always the glutton, huh. It’s not like any of us really need to eat or drink, but here we are.” She chuckled, “Just draining Tendlepog for our own satisfaction.” She stood up, “Well, I for one think you all are doing the right thing, culling the little --” she waved a disgusted hand over the quoll pelts, “Ugly things.”

Arya said nothing as the women spoke to one another, choosing instead to listen and watch the exchange as her grip tightened on the stick she carried. The newcomer wasn’t very nice, and the spite she held on her breath was targeted at the two woman who had taken her in without question.

Diana hummed for a second, almost reminiscent of K’nell before spotting Arya in the corner of her eye, “Oh silly me.” She grinned wickedly, “Arya, darling. We’ve been keeping you from the conversation, how rude.” She put a hand on the guest house, “Are you staying with these lovely people?”

Arya looked to Xiaoli and Hermes for a moment, then turned back to Diana and said, ”Um, yeah? Why else would I be here?” she said feigning innocence.

“Sharp!” Diana’s eyes widened, “Of course, of course, love -- Just don’t go blowing any holes in these walls. I’m sure it took quite a while for the two to build -- well Xiaoli mostly.”

Arya eyes expressed anger as she said, ”I’m not the one who’s destroyed anything.”

“Okay!” Hermes hefted her club, “I think it’s time to leave.” Xiaoli backed up the statement by pulling her sand to her hand, shaping it into a straight shortsword.

“Oh foo,” Diana waved a dismissing hand, “But if you insist, I can come back at a worse time.”

“I--” Hermes stopped as she mulled over exactly what Diana just said, “I think I insist.”

“Well look at you,” Diana beamed, “Thinking!”

Xiaoli grit her teeth and in what felt like the blink of an eye, she kicked off the ground with enough force that she left an indenture in the soil underneath her and a small, yet loud, crack in the wall behind her. The skin-less river girl thrust her shortsword forward at stomach level as she soared, approaching faster than mortal eyes could catch.

Like a cloud of darkness, Diana seemed to follow Xiaoli with ease, reminiscent of K’nell’s own greater reaction ability. She moved out of the way with a cackle, no worse for wear, save a small knick off the hem of her dress. She let out a wide grin, “I see we’ve devolved into violence already.”

“It’s alright, really,” Diana hummed, as she started on her way “I’ll just come back another time.”

Xiaoli let out a few agitated pants and pointed a shaking finger at Diana. “No, you -won’t-,” she spat through her teeth. Hermes put a hand on Xiaoli’s shoulder.

“I’ll talk to K’nell.”

Xiaoli suddenly collapsed to her knees and put her face in her hands. The sword slowly dissolved and the sand wrapped itself around her body once more. A few whimpers preceded her words: “I-... I couldn’t hit her - my fastest strike and she dodged it like it was some leaf on the wind.”

Hermes squeezed Xiaoli’s shoulder, “Arya, why don’t you relax inside, take my notes if you want. I’m going to get Lady Xiaoli something to sip on.”

It took Arya a moment to register what had happened, then it was over. She looked to Hermes as she spoke, dropped her stick and then said, ”No, let me make some tea, it’s the last I can do. She needs you, I think.” Arya said, before slipping back inside, not waiting for a reply from Hermes.

Hermes sighed and sat down next to Xiaoli, “Hey.”

Xiaoli’s eyes were red as the sunset when she looked up. She sniffed a few times and let out a series of sobs as she cast her arms around Hermes’ neck, pulling her close with a wail. “I’m so--” she sniffed. “I’m sorry I’m so useleeeess!”

“You’re not useless,” Hermes bent her knees and slid an arm under Xiaoli, hefting her into a bridal carry. She turned back to the Eastern building, “I mean, you built all of this by yourself. That’s a lot, I’m a little jealous even.”

“Buh--” she took a moment to wipe some tears away. “But I can’t protect us if she comes back, Hermes! What are we supposed to do?!” She leaned her head on Hermes’ chest.

“We do it together,” Hermes pushed the sliding door open with her foot and walked inside, “Also, I’m going to talk to K’nell about this, I’m sure he can help find a solution.”

Coming up to the bed, Hermes gently dropped Xiaoli onto the covers. The woman put her hands on her hips and looked over the red eye’d River-girl, “Oh, Xiaoli,” She made a face.

“W-what?” Xiaoli pouted and curled up a little, facing the wall.

Hermes sat down next to her and put a hand on her back, “I think she got to you.” She gave her a gentle rub, “But you’re okay, okay?”

“Got to me?!” Xiaoli snapped. “Of course, she didn’t! Not at all! -NO!-” Hermes recoiled and gave her a look.

There was a pause. “Maybe…” Xiaoli finally huffed.

“She had me too,” Hermes admitted and put her hand back on Xiaoli, “I haven’t felt that stupid… in a long time. It made me miserable, really.” Hermes groaned and stretched out next to Xiaoli, “Buuuut, we are fine -- now.”

“You chased her off, and I’ll talk to K’nell about the rest.”

Xiaoli let out another sad huff, but eventually turned to face Hermes. “Hey, Hermes?”

Hermes seemed to be pulled from a thought, “Mmyeah?”

Xiaoli leaned in and planted a small peck on the spiral on her forehead. “Thank you,” she whispered.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Lord Zee
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Lord Zee I Don't Even Know

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Journey II

The land was stained with dark blotches of crimson, fallen upon the red of plants and ferns, grasses and rocks without care. A trail of corpses followed, never far behind where the blood pooled, and smeared, and sept. Corpses. Blackened, scarred, ripped and broken. Soulless. Predator and prey alike shared the same fate, without reason and without remorse. It was a slaughter as Azadine carved a bloody path through the Hooflands, her body completely stained with the crimson liquid of fallen foes. She had hungered once, and ate her fill several times over, but soon enough the Reaper Mother had found herself killing anything that she came across, even if it wasn’t a threat. She was an apex predator, little could be done to stop her. The thrashing of claws, and the biting of teeth did little to harm her hide. Such was the way of things.

Azadine enjoyed the hunt, the thrill of a perfect ambush, and the frightened eyes of her prey before they died. She was cruel and senseless, but driven. Driven. It was this drive that propelled her further and further, through giant forests, and vast plains, towards the mountains north. But little specks at first, growing and growing, larger than even she, and now they loomed upon the horizon. Home.

She arrived before the rock giants at nightfall, wherein her crimson eyes gleamed in the dark, scouring the mountainside for a cave. Something dark and warm, protected from the elements and the biting sunlight. The Reaper felt at ease in then night, blending in effortlessly. It was not long when she came to rocky overhang, jutting out over a massive hole at the bottom of the mountain. She sniffed the air, taking in the scents of rot and decay. Death. Something had claimed the cave already, but that could change. Silently, she crawled her way into the pitch black, leaving the outside world in the chorus of night life.

There was a sudden squeal, silencing that chorus. A scream echoed in response, vibrant and wholly alien. The sounds of a struggle ensued, then followed by a large thump. Soon enough, the quiet gave way to the sounds of night once more, as if nothing had even occurred.

Back in the cave, Azadine lorded over a large body. The creature was reptilian in nature, standing on two powerful legs, with a mouth ment for crushing. It stood little chance against her reach and power however, and as quickly as the fight had started, it was over with but a large gash along the creatures torso. It’s shallow breath was ragged and as Azadine sniffed, she knew it did not have long for the world. She had to work quickly. Quickly.

It would be the first Spawn, after all.

Across the sea, in the heart of the Xishan Mountains, there resided another cave. A large hole as the base of the mountain. It sat within the heart of a small valley, snaked by a waterfall that covered the entrance ina torrent of droplets. As one entered the cave, one could see that the walls were grey, riddled with minerals and other base layers of rock. As the darkness took over the senses, and the deeper one traveled in, the warmer the temperature became. Eventually the grey of rock gave way to something not quite right, a spongy substance, that permeated the air with a stench worse than death.

Here there was something glowing on the walls, deep crimson pods, littered vertical and criss cross from one another. Within those pods or sacks, were the varying states of animals, changing and growing, becoming amalgamations of their former flesh.

Red veins illuminated black skin, as horns sprouted, claws grew, and tails formed. Further in, something fell to the ground with a thud, then another and another, followed by the first screams. Terrible and enlightening all the same. They had come. Children.

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

Member Seen 7 days ago

You don't get a damn title.

From the coast of Atokhekwoi, a falcon flew inland.

For days he had scoured the Eye, but he had found nothing that would aid his search. Arryn had little choice but to move on. Searching this land would take far more work, but it had been closest, and thus it had made the most sense for him to come here next. He flew high above the trees, his sharp eyes cast downward, searching for anything of note.

In a clearing he saw four Selka sitting around a gentle fire, knapping some rocks into fine points. Lean-tos were set up in a circle around them, and pelts dried in the open air. There was gentle laughter and plenty of conversation.

How strange. They had the appearance of mere beasts, yet they had assembled a fire and built their own shelter. He had not known anyone aside from the gods or Arya to do such a thing. Were intelligent creatures becoming more widespread?

This called for further investigation, the bird decided. He flew down to the clearing, perched himself on a tree stump, and gazed at the seal-people with evident curiosity.

“Look,” The youngest noticed the bird first, “What is it?”

Panganeem looked up and wiggled his nose in thought, “I’m not sure, I’ve never seen one around here before.”

“It looks like it’s staring right through us,” The largest Selka said, moving an anvil like fist under his chin. He suddenly smiled and nudged Panganeem, “Maybe it’s here to learn a thing or two from the master.”

Arryn’s head snapped toward the larger selka, and his expression seemed to darken. With lightning speed, the bird shot forward, and delivered a light, swift, feathered slap of his wing to the Selka’s face. It would barely even sting; it was merely intended to shock him. Just as quickly, Arryn flew back to his perch. ”You should learn from me,” the bird’s telepathic voice spoke matter-of-factly.

The large selka spat out air in surprise as the others began to laugh, only stifled by the sudden message blinking in their very minds. They froze and looked around, before finally all laying on the falcon. The hunters slowly picked up their spears from the ground. The skinniest one spoke, “We did not mean to insult you wild bird, we are simply rejoicing.”

”I am Arryn, avatar of Kalmar, the God of the Hunt,” Arryn introduced himself. ”Who made you?” he asked.

They all looked at each other dumbstruck before the skinny one called out to the bird, “Father Kirron is our God.” Panganeem stood from his spot around the fire.

“What Yuppiglo says is true,” Panganeem answered, “Father Kirron is our God and who we hunt for.”

”You are hunters?” Arryn realized. ”You should worship Kalmar as well.”

Panganeem blinked at the suggestion. “Father Kirron is the God of the Selka,” Panganeem smiled, “I am selka, I am a hunter, I am under Father Kirron and he grants me strength.” The other hunters nodded at this and gave a resolute ‘ryeah!’

”But Kalmar could grant you strength as well,” Arryn argued. ”You could have two gods instead of one.”

“You cannot bribe me,” Panganeem put his hands on his hips, “I am a man who already has everything, from my daughter to my day, I am complete.” The other selka nodded at his words.

[color=brown]”No one is complete. There is always room to become stronger. There will always be more challenges,”[color] the bird’s eyes narrowed, and it leaned forward, as if getting ready to strike again. ”And gifts are not bribes,” he added.

“You are a strange and depressing bird,” Panganeem called back, “I think you have stumbled upon the wrong camp.” The other hunters gave a snickering laugh.

Arryn launched forward, and this time gave another feathered slap, this one at Panganeem himself. Once again, he returned to his original perch, but this time he said nothing.

“Pbbft,” Panganeem spat out a down feather, “If unnecessary violence is the way of you and your God Kalmar, then I will have no more of this. Leave us in peace, Wild Bird, so we may continue our day.” There was another chorus to punctuate Panganeem’s sentiment.

”No,” Arryn intoned. ”I will watch you hunt. I will judge you with my own eyes, and I will see how much this Kirron has taught you.”

Panganeem scowled at the bird, “Just stay out of our way, bird.”

Arryn scowled back. ”You stay out of mine.”

Panganeem breathed in. Particles of dirt itched the back of his throat and stung his wide black eyes. He was in absolute darkness, with only the orange fade of Heliopolis leaching through where the dirt that covered him thinned. A reed was stuck between his lips and his arms were pushed onto his chest, a mighty spear laying against him and setting uncomfortably in the crook of his neck.

The selka sighed through the reed and closed his eyes. Grains pushed against his eyelids as he did and he sucked in a gulp of fresh air from above. His nostrils were closed and his ears were open, he could hear it in the distance. He sucked in the rest of his breath and then held it. His chest expanded and then stopped, the only sound was his gentle heartbeat, controlled by his calm demeanor and what flew around outside.

Creatures started to scream as the rush of fire sounded in the distance. The wind howled, and Panganeem gripped his spear tightly. The sounds came closer. Hooved animals ran, small critters scurred, and the fire approached. The light beyond the dirt veil started to glow and the selka opened his eyes once more. The light flickered, and he suddenly shifted.

Exploding from the shallow grave, Panganeem screamed, his spear shooting forward with precision as his Pyrgerakia mark attempted to slow down. In a single moment there was a loud squelch as his spear punched through the fire bird’s neck. The immense bird collided with the hunter and sent the two bowling. All around the screams of the Pyrgerakia’s mate erupted and Panganeem scurried to his feet, hauling his blaze colored prize with him. He looked up in terror as the wind favored mate began to swoop down from the skies, dropping the shredded and burnt deer it had captured.

With one arm wrapped around the feathery neck of the firebird and the other holding the bloodied stone spear forward, Panganeem quickly back peddled. The female suddenly dove. The hunter put his mark between him and the mate, forcing the female to flicker back up, just avoiding Panganeem’s spear. Dissatisfied, the mate screamed and began to flap its wings. Panganeem closed his eyes as a cutting gust was launched at it. Slowly his footing started to slip, and then, with the spark of a sudden idea, Panganeem shoved his spear through the end of his dead mark’s wing and pushed it outwards, spreading the feathers of the dead bird.

The powerful blast of wind caught Panganeem and the mark, catching the wing of the dead bird and launching the pair. The mate screamed as Panganeem used the dead bird as kite, escaping the opening and being pushed into untouched jungle. Panganeem grinned madly in spite of the sudden thump of his landing, his back smashing through a sapling. Slowly his laughter leaked out, fueled by adrenaline.

“It worked,” He laughed, “By Kirron it worked.”

There was an approaching scream and he jumped to his feet, back shooting with pain, “Oh no. It worked.”

The selka threw his catch onto his back, arms wrapping to support it, and spear held in his fingers. With little else, he started a funny mismanaged run. He slipped through the trees the best he could with his clunky package, the screams darting ever closer. Cuts of wind started to chill his sides and exposed areas of his back and he grimaced, pumping his legs as fast as he could.

“Father Kirron give me strength,” He groaned as a dull pain began in his knees. Panganeem juked around a large tree, dove past a few bushes, skipped over a sudden root, and turned sharply away from a rocky outcrop, and then broke from the treeline. The other three hunters who had waited for him at the hunting camp stared with wide eyes.

“Spa-Spears!” Panganeem shouted and dropped his prize before turning. The other selka quickly mobilized, reaching for their javelins. The four hunters grouped up around the prize as the female Pyrgerakia richoted out of the trees, fury in its eyes. Seeing the small bunch of spears pointed at it, it once again battered the area with a powerful gust, nearly knocking the hunters over. They bent their knees and grouped closer, the wind bounding over them instead of through them. The Pyrgerakia screamed and flew circles around them, looking for an opening. One of the selka looked to Panganeem for guidance, and the hunter nodded with a sudden smile.

The younger selka suddenly broke from the others, sprinting as fast as he could perpendicular to the Pyrgerakia’s flight. The mate roared and dove on the unprotected selka. It’s feathers flared and it’s talons reached forward, ready to pluck the hunter from the ground. A might beak opened and a blood curdling scream announced its presence. Panganeem squinted at the scene, and with two expert steps and a heft of his broad shoulder, he launched his spear at the occupied bird.

There was a squelch and a plume of feathers as the spear rammed into the bird’s ribs, knocking it out of the dive and onto the ground. Like wolves the hunters descended upon it, using their chisel stones to cut its throat. The group looked at each other, faces suddenly turning mirthful.

They broke out laughing, “Not one, but two,” one of them announced and slapped Panganeem on the back. “Father Kirron looks after his hunters,” another gnashed his teeth, full of energy. Panganeem himself sucked in a wild breath and fell flat on the ground, his back shooting with pain but a massive smile on his whiskered face.

“For the strong!”

“Ryeaah!” The others shook their fists.

There was a screech from above. A third Pyrgerakia was nearby. Due to the sun’s light, they would be unable to make it out clearly, but it appeared to be swooping down upon them with intent to kill.

It missed. It struck the ground near them, and slid until it crashed into a tree. It soon became apparent that it had not been swooping, but falling. It was on its back, and Arryn stood upon its face, his talons wedged into its eyes while his beak repeatedly pecked and stabbed into the creature’s throat, puncturing flesh and drawing blood with each jab. Then Arryn stopped, and dug his talons out of the Pyrgerakia’s eyes, for the larger bird was dead.

“Three,” Panganeem corrected, looking over the bird with a certain approval. The other hunters stared on until finally the youngest piped up, “Good kill, wild bird.”

The bird bobbed his head in what vaguely resembled a grudging nod. ”That was well done,” he said to the selka, and then after a moment he added: ”Kalmar would have been impressed.”

“Well, thank you,” Panganeem accepted the compliment, wiping sweat from his brow, “If he ever wishes to hunt with us, he is welcome.” The other hunters nodded in agreement.

”I do not know if you will ever meet him,” Arryn said. ”The lands he watches over are far to the north, across the sea.” The bird was silent for a few moments. ”Which is more important to you?” he suddenly asked. ”Being able to remain hidden, or being able to track?”

“Honestly,” The largest Selka spoke up, “If it wasn’t for our tracking, I doubt we would have even known where to hide.”

“Juttyu is right,” Panganeem nodded, “If you don’t know when and where to strike, what good is it all.”

Arryn nodded. Then, he closed his eyes. ”In Kalmar’s name, I give you a blessing.”

Suddenly, Panganeem would feel more alert, more aware. His eyes sharpened, his nose was more refined, his ears more keen. He could better notice irregularities in the environment, it was much easier to distinguish between smells, and the range of his hearing had increased. Based on the reactions of his fellow hunters, the same had been done to them as well.

“See?” Panganeem said with laces of appreciation, as he blinked “That’s a gift. No runner up, no circumstance, not a bribe.”

”Hmph.” Arryn grumbled, and was silent for a few moments. ”I have a task I need to return to. I give you my kill - waste none of it, or it will offend me and my master. Farewell.” And with this those words, the bird flapped his wings, and left.

Panganeem watched the bird leave, a respectful smile on his face, “Alright men.” He clapped his hands. “Juttyu help Yuppilgo with the female, me and Hejingo will take the male and extra.”

The group collected their weapons and rolled them in fur bundles before strapping them to their backs. Keeping their eyes on Arryn as he flew away, they took down their tents and turned them into stretched leather platforms on two poles. They loaded their prizes on each and hefted them, two hunters to a litter.

They made their trek back to the coast, through thickets and flats. Eventually the group spilled out onto the cove of the Grottu, bypassing the sacred grounds of the Grottu beach. When they arrived they couldn’t help but noticed the stick village was somber and quiet. Several huts had been smashed and a great stone altar sat complete in the center.

Panganeem furrowed his brow and let his litter down by the altar. Selka began to flock the hunters with sad eyes. Panganeem looked out past the zombie like crowd and spotted several mounds in the hills that lead away from the cove, opposite to where he emerged from. He looked at one of the stone workers, a deep red scar on his brow.

“What happened?”

“Oh, Panganeem,” The worker muffled past a emerging sob, “We were attacked.”

Fear crossed Panganeem’s face as he looked at the crowd, eyes scanning furiously, “Where is Tyuppa?”

The stoneworker choked on his answer. Panganeem spoke louder, “Where is Tyuppa?”

“Where is Tyuppa?” He pushed through the crowd, freezing as he became face to face with Chieftain Hoshaf. The Chieftain had a weary look on his face, and a dangerous look in his eyes that made Panganeem uneasy, “Where is Tyuppa?”

“Dead,” Hoshaf said a little too easily, “Killed by a demon.”

“A- a demon?” Panganeem’s face twisted with sadness and fury.

“She had fled after her battle with Yimbo, but left our children and workers dead,” Hoshaf sucked in a breath, his voice steady, “We weren’t strong enough.”

“Strong..?” Panganeem looked at his kills, “Fled.”

The hunter pushed passed the chieftain, eliciting gasps. He grabbed the male Pyrgerakia by the throat and with a hand on its ribs he tossed it onto the altar with a big groan. The crowd surrounded him as he hopped onto the stone platform and whipped out his stone knife.

“No, no no!” Thumfatem came running, “Panganeem, get down from there.”

“No,” He muttered as he kicked the Pyrgerakia’s body flat across the altar.

“Panganeem! This is not the way to go about this,” Thumfatem struggled as he attempted to lift himself onto the platform. Panganeem paid him little mind as he suddenly shoved his knife into the nape of the bird’s throat and with a loud rip, dragged the blade down. The skin of the bird split open and blood poured as his blade skid over the ribs and deep into the gut. The entrails spilled over the altar and Panganeem shouted:

“FATHER KIRRON,” His voice was shaky, eyes darts. The crowd started to scramble, eager to get the hunter down, but he kept hacking at the corpse, tears starting to well.

“Grant me the strength,” He yelled over and over as he methodically cut away the birds skin and opened every last intestine, “grant me the strength.”

He cut off the head and began to empty out the innards as hands tried to pull him down, “Grant me the strength to avenge my daughter.” He reached into the cadaver's chest and popped the ribcage open, tearing out the heart, an elbow sending Thumfatem back, “Give me the strength to see Tyuppa in peace.”

He began to cut out the liver, “grant me the strength...” his voice broke into a sob, “FATHER KIRRON!”

The rest of the hour droned on like this, the blessing having gone to the wayside of anger and emotion. Eventually Thumfatem gave up on trying to dislodge Panganeem and left with the other sacrifice. Hoshaf barked a few orders but in the end, he decided to leave as well. By the time the crowd had left, Heliopolis had set, and Panganeem laid caked in dried blood, eyes closed. His hunting friends were the last to leave, unable to convince him to leave the Altar of Kirron.


A rough nudge struck Panganeem's shoulder. The sound of the ocean waves kept his consciousness tethered away from his sleep.

"Hey, hunter." The voice was deep and impatient. "Wake up."

The voice was also strangely familiar.

Five more nudges in quick succession turned annoyance to mild pain. "What, did you eat too much? You don't want me to carry you off this pile of rocks. Wake up."

Panganeem shivered awake, his body creaking as he sat up, “Who? What?” He squinted, the night sky was illuminated with the lustrous gardens. He saw the shadow before him and blinked, his new eyesight making quick work out of the man’s features. He stood tall over Panganeem. Taller than any selka he had seen, and broader too. In one hand, he carried a hefty club made from some kind of bone, carved with intricate flowing patterns approximating exposed veins. A round shape on his back made from a solid piece of inland wood could have been a shield. Starting from the top of his round selka head was a bright pink paint that drizzled down his upper body, having dried in place as rivulets carried themselves down. Long dried brown leaves made a skirt down his waist. He wore a frown.

"You prayed, didn't you?" The large selka warrior said. "What's your name?"

“Yes,” Panganeem nodded, flakes of dried blood peeling off his neck, “I am Panganeem.” He paused, his voice one of wonder, “Are you… Father Kirron?”

The warrior's chest puffed up with pride. His lips pursed and his whiskers perked to the sides. He snorted. "Pfft, no. My name's Gralph. I'm a...uh..." he looked up at the darkened sky. "A night! No! A...killer night. A K'l-night, sort of." He turned his club up and made circles with it. "A k'night, I'm working on it. It's not important. The important thing is, we gotta walk. Come on." Gralph bent down and hoisted Panganeem up under the armpit with his free hand.

“Woah.” Panganeem blinked as he was lifted. With a new found vigor he hopped down to his feet, only coming up to Gralph’s shoulder. He coughed a few times, as if jump starting his heart, “Yes, yes. Let’s go then.”

The pair carefully made their way down the stone construction, leaving the red stains behind them, and made their way onto the beach. They were unaccosted walking along the beach, but Gralph kept his mouth shut. Whenever Panganeem breathed in to talk, the k'night would push a finger against his mouth and hush him. Only once they were a good distance from any hut did Gralph speak again.

"I got a feeling in my head about half a day ago," Gralph explained. "A real stinker of a feeling. Like...the kind of feeling you get when you're watching a bird fly too fast into a tree, falls on the ground with a snapped beak, then the life fades from it as its eyes slowly close, you know that?" The k'night looked at Panganeem beside him.

Panganeem seemed to look glazed as he made a face, “I know that, and I think I also know what it’s like to be the bird.”

"No you don't," Gralph said casually. "If you did, you wouldn't be here talking to me." He took a breath. "Anyway, I checked with Yimbo. He...or is it she?- It looked a mess. All scratches and whines. Pointed me over here. Y'see, I only get that feeling I mentioned when some sorry fellow nearby puts themselves into a, uh...what's the word?" He made circles with his club again. "When they get cornered, but they're not in a corner." He waved a hand dismissively. "I don't know. So, Panganeem, what do you want to do?"

Panganeem seemed lost as he turned over Gralph’s words for a moment or two. Eventually he looked at the large k’night with conviction, “I want to avenge my daughter’s death. I want to slay the demon that casually tossed her life away.”

Gralph stopped and looked with a lowered brow at Panganeem. He stared silent for an uncomfortably long time. "You got a woman, Panganeem?" Gralph asked suddenly.

“I did,” The hunter kicked the wet sand idly, “But she died giving me Tyuppa. In a way, I never lost my woman.” He turned to looked hard at the ocean, “But now, well now I figure I have.”

Gralph looked out at the waves in turn.

“There is one thing I have left, and one thing I’m good at,” Panganeem turned back, “And that is hunting. I’m a terrible builder, and one of the worst comedians this place has to offer, but I can bring back the body of whatever is asked of me. I figure, this time I’m asking myself to bring back something -- or maybe it’s for Tyuppa. I don’t know.”

Gralph grumbled. "And how much fun will you earn on this hunt of yours?"

“I don’t know,” Panganeem sighed and hung his head, “I can’t imagine anything happy coming from this.”

"Sounds pretty pointless if you ask me." Gralph sniffed and licked his upper lip. "I've tried the revenge game, Panganeem. Not fun. You're just empty handed in the end. You sure?"

“I’m empty handed now,” Panganeem looked at Gralph, “And someday I will die empty handed, same way I was born.”

Gralph craned his head down, folds of blubber wrinkling on his neck as he squinted hard at Panganeem's eyes. Gralph's lower lip sank to show some teeth as he hummed curiously. "You prayed for strength, didn't ya?" The words were almost conspiratorial. "You prayed for a way. I know how you can get that strength. Not like it's any fun seeing you splattered by some demon without a chance to wax on about how empty handed you are."

Panganeem cocked his head, rolls forming on his neck, “I did; I prayed for strength.” He squinted, “How…?” Was all he managed.

"How you'll get what you need?" Gralph straightened. "Let me show you…" He levelled his club horizontal. "See these carvings, hunter? Got these from selka tribes all the way up and down the coast. Even a few up river. Kirron likes the selka 'cos selka are full of sacred blood. That's why we can hold our breaths. That's why we don't get tired easily in the water. Blood's got power. But you don't get that power by spilling it everywhere." His voice lowered and his eyes widened. "You get it by letting it grow."

Gralph's index finger traced a slow line along the club. "Each little image here was something I did to make another selka stronger. Each little image gives me more power. Make one of these clubs, go out -- hmm -- all the way to the furthest east and back should do it, and make selka stronger along the way. By the time you get back here with a club thick with your power, you'll have what you need."

Panganeem seemed flippant at first, but as Gralph went on, the hunter sank into his words. By the end, Panganeem was holding an imaginary club of his own in wonder. He stared at his empty hand and nodded slowly, “Gralph, I will do this.”

The k'night smiled. "Glad to hear it. Thought you were going to lose it on me." He clasped a hand on Panganeem's shoulder and turned him back towards the village. "Leave tomorrow morning. I'll be back at noon, and if I see your face, I'll make you eat your own shit."

Panganeem gave the k’night an incredulous look, “If your words didn’t drip with wisdom, I’d say you’re full of more shit than I could ever eat --"

Gralph threw back his head and showed the roof of his mouth. "Behahahahaha!"

"...but they do, and so you aren’t.” Panganeem pointed a finger at Gralph, his own smile forming for the first time since his hunt, “I’ll be gone.”

"Earn all the fun you can, hunter," Gralph growled heartily.

Panganeem nodded heavily, a new spark in his gut, “I will.” He looked past Gralph, “For Tyuppa.” He turned to Gralph, “Thank you, I don’t know what a k’night is, but I’d say you’re a rather good one. He gripped Gralph’s forearm and gave it a single tug before turning to leave.

Gralph gave an upwards nod and watched the hunter leave, a fist on his hip. His chest swelled with a quick breath, and fell just as fast, satisfied.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Scarifar
Avatar of Scarifar

Scarifar Presto~!

Member Seen 1 day ago

The Journey to Tendlepog: Chapter 6


The rumours died down practically overnight, choked underneath the stampede of sound and joy that was music, hammer strikes and grunts and groans. Nearly every waking hour entertained a spar between two servants of the Strong, often accompanied by high-tempoed string twangs and drum beats from the Noble audience. Below deck, the carpenters regularly took inventory and improved what could be improved aboard the ship - soon the railings had been reinforced and heightened to better catch crew mates in the tragic event that they should be tossed towards the ship’s edge. Occasionally, whispers would travel along the deck, though few of these were inherently malicious anymore - most were baseless hearsay about certain crew mates’ supposed weight gain or that one lad who had forgot to tie his pants properly and revealed his loincloth for all to see.

Such rumours were acceptable, Qiang Yi thought - uncouth, but acceptable. If anything, it added a certain character to the environment aboard the ship - a strange informality that was nowhere to be found aboard Jiangzhou. A clump of worry accumulated in his throat as he imagined what His Lordship Shengshi would say.

“... This servant apologises profusely, Your Lordship - but this behaviour may be necessary to avoid a leadership too militant or a crew too slack,” he said firmly.

“Who are you talking to?” Zhen-zhen asked with a raised eyebrow. Qiang Yi nearly jumped out of his sand.

“N-no one! Just praying!” the captain said and gave the smirking Zhen-zhen a scowl. “Eavesdropping is unbecoming of you, Zhen-zhen!” he said and pointed a judgmental finger at her.

“Yes, captain,” Zhen-zhen replied and winked playfully at him. “Oh, by the way, we will be approaching the Serpentine Isles in an hour or so.”

Qiang Yi’s eyes widened and he, too, cracked a smile. “You don’t say. Stellar work, first mate - keep the course steady. I’ll tell the crew to prepare for landfall.”

“Sounds good, captain,” Zhen-zhen said. Qiang Yi nodded and descended down to the deck.

Kree looked down at the ocean, noticing the ship underneath them. He let out a low rumble, curious as to what it was and what it was doing. “What is it, Kree?” Serenis asked. Kree’s response was to descend, dropping from the sky and allowing Serenis to get a closer look. There, far beneath the two, a brown spot striped with two perpendicular white lines floated lazily towards the Serpentine Isles. Even from the height they flew, the spot made a noticeable array of sounds, spanning everything from distant music to the occasional pained howl. A ship? Serenis thought to herself. I suppose that in itself isn’t something unusual, but… it’s going towards the islands we just came from.

Serenis figured that if they were heading there, she should probably make sure whoever was on the ship wouldn’t do any harm. Patting Kree, she said to him, “Come on, Kree, let’s introduce ourselves to that ship.” Kree grunted in agreement and descended even further, looking for a suitable spot on the ship to land. It soon settled for the largest and flattest area on the ship, the deck, and planted his feet onto the wooden surface, sending the rowdy and distracted crew into an immediate panic. As soon as he did, Serenis slid off him and looked around, taking note of the humanoid figures manning the ship. Serenis felt a little guilty scaring them so, but she knew it was unavoidable. For now, it was time for business. She cleared her throat, then announced to the crew, “I would like to speak to the person in charge!

The crew, having scrambled to cover, slowly began to peek over or out of the barrels, boxes and other clutter they had hid by, behind or in. For a moment, nothing happened; then, a somewhat tall figure with long black hair, purple silk robes and a strong jaw stepped out from behind a pile of barrels. The figure, who was likely a male individual, approached Serenis until they were roughly two metres apart - then, he got to his knees and hands.

“O, You most sacred, holy spirit of the Sky Realm - forgive this humble servant and its shameful, unforgivable ignorance, for it neither knows Your holy name nor Your divine purpose aboard our mortal vessel. Please, entertain this speck of a servant’s singular request and share with us these details.” Slowly, but surely, more and more servants assumed similar poses, all facing Serenis and Kree (or, more accurately, the floorboards).

Serenis somehow managed to maintain a stern face, but internally she was in a dumbfounded panic. Oh no, what have we just done? she thought. Ok, ok, let’s-let’s just calm down. I can still salvage this. Clearing her throat again, Serenis said, “For now, um… pl-please stand up.

As if they were conditioned like hounds, they rocketed to their feet in unison and straightened their arms down along their tightened sides - like soldiers awaiting orders.

She mentally chastised herself for the stutter, but it didn’t seem like they noticed. She then continued, “My name is Serenis, and this is my companion, Kree. Our intentions are simply to determine the purpose of this ship’s visit to our islands.” Kree made a short growl, nodding his head in agreement.

The male in front of her, the commander of the vessel, bowed deeply - as did the surrounding crew. “A most humbling honour to meet Your sacred selves, Serenis and Kree. This servant goes by the name of Qiang Yi and it commands this vessel, Zhengwu, on its mission to Tendlepog under the order of His Lordship Shengshi of the Thousand Rivers.” Qiang Yi bowed again and kept the pose. “As Your Holiness is likely referring to the Serpentine Isles upon saying ‘our islands’, this servant must stress that this crew intends to inflict no harm upon the islands’ sacred ground - these servants merely wish to stop there and rest before the long trek to the shores of Tendlepog. May we be so rude as to ask for such permission?”

If that was all they were asking, then Serenis reasoned that it wouldn’t be a difficult request to grant. Nodding, Serenis said, “Very well. As long as no harm comes to our… Serpentine Isles, then there is no reason to stop you. You may rest as much as you wish.

“Oh, how gracious of Your sacred self,” Qiang Yi said with a deep bow. The crew followed suit. “Your Holiness is a fantastic host. If Your Holiness wishes for anything in return, these servants will be most willing to provide what they can.”

Hmm…” Serenis thought out loud. “Actually, there may be something you can offer. You see, I was just embarking on a journey of sorts myself, and this is an ideal opportunity for me. I’d like to join you on your journey, at least to your next destination. I’d be interested in hearing some of the stories you have to share as well.

“O-oh,” Qiang Yi said and blinked. “Y-your Holiness is more than free to travel with this vessel, y-yet… The ship is almost at its destination. These servants are afraid that the trek may not be as exciting or interesting as Your Holiness may think.” He cleared his throat and bowed again. “Of course, the choice belongs to Your divine self. Either way, these servants will be humble to have a sacred spirit aboard.” He cleared his throat again, though somewhat more sheepishly this time. “This servant is incredibly shameful and unwarranted in saying this, but… May it make another request on behalf of the ship and the crew if Your Holiness wishes to travel with us?”

...You may,” Serenis replied.

Qiang Yi gestured to the wooden scraps, cut ropes and splintered instruments that lay spread across the deck underneath Kree’s feet. “If it is not inconvenient, may this servant make the outrageous request of having the honourable dragon… Flying beside the ship? This servant fears Zhengwu was not made with such… Sizeable passengers in mind.” He kowtowed again.

Serenis looked to where Qiang Yi was gesturing, and noticed the damage to the ship for the first time. Her face flushed bright red, and she deeply bowed to him back. “I’m so sorry!” Serenis hurriedly apologized to Qiang Yi before turning back to Kree. Clapping twice, Serenis brought Kree to attention, and he immediately began to shrink in size until he was a couple feet in length. Kree then began to climb up Serenis and looped himself around her neck, resting comfortably on her neck and shoulders to the crew’s astonishment.

Qiang Yi looked up and dipped his head down once more before standing up straight. “A sacred beast, fashioned by the Exalted Creators.” Several of the crew members folded their hands in prayer. “O sacred spirit Selenis - welcome aboard Zhengwu.”

Making a small nod, Serenis said, “A pleasure to be here.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Frettzo
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Frettzo Summary Lover

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Goddess of Rain
16 FP - 14 MP


The Cataclysm in the Riverlands

@Crispy Octopus&@Not Fishing
Y’all oughta check this one out.

The mist had thickened once more. The roars and flight and fights never kept it away for long, and it had been a rather long time since the last visit.

The So’E had once more fallen into a lull. One that the Beast couldn’t stand. It had tasted everything there was to taste and smelled everything there was to smell.

With the exception of one thing.

It now stood half submerged in the boiling lake, licking and slurping up fresh, smooth water. Water that came from the river that fed the lake, the river that came from the thickest parts of the mist.

After a while, it was sated. Or so it thought, as soon after having its fill, it threw the water right back up. Apparently, it had drunk too much.

So instead it stretched its wings and followed the river, walking against the current. Eventually it could see nothing but mist, and the only reason it knew where it was going was because it could feel the water flow around its toes. After a time, the fog grew thick as porridge, as if attempting to keep it out, but simple fog was no match for it.

Eventually the mists gave way and thinned out more and more as the beast followed the river. And what it saw was very tasty.

As the mists broke apart, the beast was greeted by a seemingly endless open landscape, its ground constantly shifting as rivers diverged, converged, flooded and dried up. Even as the beast entered, the river it waded in suddenly grew shallow until it was no more, rich, fertile mud rising to greet its vile claws. From the mud sprouted fresh flowers and bushes at an unnatural rate, and before the beast could even smell their fragrances, the water consumed them again.

It growled and snarled at the water that crushed the fresh foliage. It stomped and bit at the flow, but no matter what it did, it kept on going. It didn’t care that it had trampled so much beauty in order to continue forward.

A long time passed, and eventually the Beast had grown weary of battling the waters with its claws and maw, and instead it found that putting big walls of mud in the way of the rivers was a more effective way of hurting them. And so it did, creating numerous dams of clay and fertile mud across the strange land. The mud walls fell down at first, the immense power of the water outmatching the feeble structures of silt and earth; however, little by little, the mud walls began to divert or outright stop certain rivers, leaving a lake on one side and muddy pits on the other. So many rivers and flows were blocked, and so much new foliage appeared. The beast gave a satisfied huff as it sniffed a particularly large flower before eating it.

Meanwhile, on Kalgrun...

Kalmere River was drifting along lazily, pregnant with fresh life at the blessing of Kalmar. The fish skipped and hopped about happily, and the beavers clapped their tails happily on top of their dams. An otter floated by the dam, seemingly gnawing on an insect as a group of ducklings swam hastily after their mother.

However, little by little, the inhabitants of the river began to realise that something was terribly wrong.

Already halted by the beaver dam, the river further downstream began to rapidly dry up as the water seemingly stopped flowing upstream. The beaver dam luckily held on to a small puddle, though it was crowded short of bursting with all the fish and amphibians that had made it in time. The beavers grieved, however, for their home was useless now - the water barrier could no longer keep predators at bay. Soon, the wolves and bears would flock to the promise of beached fish and helpless animals. Panicked, the mammals scattered in search of new streams - the fish, however, doomed to remain in the puddle until they eventually choking on waters poisoned with filth and disease, had nowhere to go.

Meanwhile, back in Fengshui Fuyou...

As the mud walls dried, the water diverged and turned to different streams. Whereas the land behind the wall eventually dried and cracked, the land at the flanks of the barrier overflowed many times more than normal, bringing cataclysmic currents into reality…

Meanwhile, on Istais...

The beauty of Lihe, the product of Shengshi’s adoration for his avatar, was unparalleled by every other body of water on Galbar: It was comparable to the gentle stroke of a blue-tipped paint brush across a green canvas of grass, flanked on either side by snaking patterns of darker grass and colourful flowers. The river was brimming with colourful life worthy of competing with the visual impeccability of the river itself. There were carps and trouts in every colour of the rainbow; there were frogs as small as a fingernail and toads as large as a head; the reeds were no reeds at all, but sprouted flowers in a multitude of colours in the spring and summer, and perhaps most fortunate of all: Many beasts and creatures of the island routinely made treks to the river to sample its nutritious waters and plentiful bounty.

Here, too, cataclysm was imminent.

It started with a rumble that turned several heads among those that grazed along the riverbanks. Those peacefully cooling off in the shallows felt the water rise at speeds and consistencies that could not simply be waved off as waves. The bears slapping their paws at the water surface in search of juicy carps immediately found themselves frozen in fear. The fish dove to the bottom; the frogs joined in; those without gills set off in a panicked sprint away from the waters.

Then they saw it: Crashing down the length of the river came an all-consuming flood that uprooted trees, drowned landwalkers and ground fish to a bloody paste. Those that evaded the flood soon found themselves trudging through deep and treacherous flood plains. Some managed to escape to the new edges of the river - others were trapped in mud and subsequently drowned. The flood became a horrid brown as it mixed together blood, soil and vegetation. Upon reaching the sea, the flood polluted the delta with corpses of those too slow to escape it. Orphaned fawns and cubs trudged through the wetlands calling for their parents, only to find themselves ensnared and doomed. The skies blackened with gulls and crows hungry for carrion - the edges of the forests began to flock with predators seeking easy meals; many of them also fell into the wetland’s trap. As bioluminescent fluids leaked into the water, the horrid brown filled with the ghastly colours of dead spirits.

Meanwhile, back in Fengshui Fuyou...

Having moved a distance away from the dam by now, the beast’s eyes were glued to this odd formation in the water. As the beast closed in, it observed one ribbons of water swoop upwards along the each bank of the river. The two ribbons quickly grabbed to one another and intertwined in a braided pattern that curved into an arc far above the beast. Then, as the tips of the ribbons touched the water surface on the opposite bank of its origin, dew began to trickle down from the top of the arc.

There, through the crystalline dew, the beast saw an unfamiliar world.

Without a moment’s hesitation, the beast took the chance and jumped into the new world, finally escaping from the violent flows of water of the strange land.

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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Lmpkio
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Lmpkio Kaiju Expert

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In life, she was amongst the largest of her kind to take to the skies. Within the hour that it was born, the newborn female dragon would've been considered to be one of the grandest warriors that would've ever served in the Flame God's conquest. She sported the grandest set of horns, the sharpest of teeth, the sturdiest of scales, the longest pair of wings, and the fieriest of spirits.

Her destiny was to live her life through the hardship of conflict and to be rewarded to live the rest of her days in peace. In time, she would be able to mate with a strong, handsome dragon - one deserving of her grandeur and provide a family for them to take care of. Her life ahead was brutal, yet bright. Violent, yet hopeful. Fate seemed to have taken her side as a survivor.

Yet it had only came to pass as disingenuous wish...

As she lied motionlessly upon a rocky mountainous riverside, coating the pure waters red.

Scarlet trails of fresh blood steamed down her burgundy scales, finding their way through the gauntlet of smooth rocks towards the smooth-going river proceeding downhill. Her left, back leg was completely twisted at an unnatural angle, snapping the joints and ligaments that would forever lame her had she survived. Her wings were tattered and torn, with one of her forearms being fractured up to her second long finger, and most of her upper ribs were broken. Her throat suffered from brutal trauma as well, with a purple bruise signifying the point of impact - no doubt her windpipe was thrashed as well.

But the worst of the damage could be seen at what was left of her face. Her skull was beyond repair, caved in by repeated blunt trauma, making her face nearly indistinguishable. Her exposed eye socket has been forcedly smashed into her skull and her snout was fractured. Nearly all of her teeth were shattered from her jaws, including her two long fangs that lied inches from her mouth that were now coated in her blood.

She was broken and battered...

Bloodied and beaten...


Beside her, a boulder coated in scarlet laid to the side - a solemn reminder at how the grand beast died. The angels were brutal in their efforts to save themselves from her wrath, not understanding the creature that was in front of them. The dragon had put up a great fight against them, but it otherwise proved worthless against three powerful warriors of light. They were not wrong to defend themselves, but in one's animalistic fury, one of them became the very beast they sought to destroy for that very moment. One minute of unhinged savagery.

And in the end, they didn't even bother to clean up the mess they so ruthlessly wrought.

She may have been the first to fall, but she would definitely not be the last. And for the angels, their atrocity will not go unpunished.

But even in death, there was one last thing that she could muster - one final push that could accomplish in preserving her traits in a certain form. But it would not stem directly by her cold, deceased hands. Her own pool of bleeding ichor was not pure. Mixed within, small portions of glowing blood from the wounded angels had dripped into hers, providing a unique essence that had drifted upstream into their host's source. Her blood was now tainted by the winged holy-men, which provided an unexpected reaction to take hold. For a brief moment, the ichor began to glow faintly, even illuminating the insides of the scaly corpse.

Animals nearby would stop to glance at the oddly glowing body, having never seen such a phenomenon happen in their lives. They'd look upon it curiously, some tilting their heads in visible confusion. And then the glimmer would slowly dim until there was nothing radiating from it. With this unique event over, most the creatures in the forest highlands moved on to go forth with their lives, almost as if they'd forgot they'd seen anything.

But those who continued to stay would proceed to spot an odd spectacle.

Something began to stir within the stale carcass. Her thick skin was contrasting in and out, as if she was starting to breath again. To the animals, it would look as if she being brought back from the brink of death and that it would be back on her feet at any moment. Yet aside from the movement in her side, nothing else moved. The dragon didn't batch an eye or move a muscle, not even issuing a simple flicker of her tail.

No. The dragon was forever destined to remain dead. Nothing could revive her at this point, not even with the help of a god's lazarus.

Something was alive within her. Something wanted to get out. And it was struggling so valiantly, so desperately, to claw into the world beyond the womb. It pushed and pushed, until suddenly~


Reaching for the sky, the outstretched figure of an arm pierced through the tough draconic skin with its sharp claws. Blood covered its muscular pale arm, but coated upon its forearm were patches of dark-red scales - the same ones found upon their draconic mother.


Soon after, another arm pierced from the carcass, its arm looking more smooth and dainty. It clearly didn't match the previous arm that bursted prior. Then, in a sudden motion, both arms slowly descended back into the body till only their claws remained outside. And then they both began to carefully carve their own incisions through the squamous flesh like butter, until two large gashes were formed.

And from the mangled corpse of the great beast, bore two magnificent forms who rose slowly from their mother's tendered flesh.

Both forms took a humanoid appearance, but bore features much related towards their draconic womb. Both sported predominantly greyish-white skin, however the patches of dark-crimson scales not only covered half of their forearms, but also their shoulders, their entire legs, upper back, and even a slight touch just below their amber-colored eyes and on their foreheads. They had long red hair, with curved horns sticking out of their heads, as well as abnormally long ears. Their feet were miniature replicas of actual dragons, each sporting four claw-tipped toes and a small hallux situated inwards. And both sported a long spiny whip-like tail, with a pearl-white pattern just underneath.

But their physiques compared to one another were quite different. It was clear that they were of opposite genders, with the male sporting a more robust figure, with larger horns and a hairier chest, while the female was more delicate, with elegant curves, smaller horns, and a slimmer posture.

The two beings took a moment to glance at the new world they've found themselves in before slowly turning to face one another. They were both covered in blood and gore, steadily dripping down their fresh faces and their nude forms. They locked eyes with one another, examining each other from head to toe, while looking at themselves in wondrous curiosity. Both weren't afraid to touch each other's body to feel their essence pumping into their's, with the face, arm, and chest regions being their instinctual first choices.

The male sighed softly as he caressed the female's soft and delicate cheek. Once he removed his hand, he tilted his head before he finally broke the silence.

"W-Who... are you?" he asked with a stutter while trying to grab ahold the language of this world.

The woman didn't reply back at first, with her large eyes pointed down at the ground, as she thought about it for a brief second.

"I..." she began, "I don't know. But I... also ask... who you are?"

He silently shook his head before he took another glance at the environment around him.

"And where... are we?" he asked again as he shaded his eyes from the bright sun. He then plucked his leg from the dragon's flesh and set it upon the rocky surface. She also proceeded to follow along as she stepped onto the ground and began to look around, before finding her gaze back at the dead dragon. She knew fully well that they came out of her body, however she couldn't help but to inspect the wounds not caused by their hand.

But the more she rubbed her essence upon the corpse, the more her feelings began to swell. She felt her connection with her and the past suffering she felt just minutes before her untimely demise. This proved to be too much for her fresh, delicate mind to handle and she proceeded to break down in anguish. The man immediately heard her sobbing and proceeded to run over and comfort her in his burly arms in a gentle embrace. He too felt her grief, as well as the connection they had to her, yet kept most of his emotions to himself.

But even then, he couldn't help but let two silent tears slowly drip down his cheeks.

The two cuddled together for awhile, settling down next to the body till the woman finally began to calm down. She sniffed before facing Him with reflected eyes that shined amongst the sunlight.

"I'm... sorry." the male slowly replied sympathetically, "There is nothing we... can do."

She nodded understandably before slowly rising. Her eyes gleamed into his as she watched him get up, not saying a word before he finally looked back on equal footing.

"But who are we?" the woman asked again, "What should we... call ourselves?"

He took a moment to think about it. Then he was suddenly hit by something. It was a name... but one he had trouble pronouncing.

"M-M-M...Meh-Mich...uh..." he stammered strugglingly, "M-M-Michal... Mich... Mich... al... is."

His mind switched on like a lightbulb the minute he successfully pronounced his newfound name.

"M-Michalis!" he answered excitedly before reclaiming his composure. He cleared his throat before he too asked her, "And yours?"

It took her a bit to grasp her name as well, stumbling and stammering over her own syllables, before she too found her chosen name.

"Minerva!" she exclaimed with the same level of excitement and a smile of accomplishment, "We are... Michalis and Minerva."

Michalis chuckled at her jolly realization and happily flared his bone-white grin.

"Yes." he replied satisfyingly, "They will suit us... just fine."

With their identities now confirmed with one another, the two set their eyes upon a path that lead down the mountain where they situated themselves upon. Michalis then pointed down the path with his clawed finger.

"Come." he beckoned towards Minerva, "Let us explore this... new world... together."

She looked upon her partner and began to follow. However, no later than three measly steps, she found herself once again looking back at their fallen mother. Her attitude towards her seemed mournful, as if she was not satisfied in leaving her the way she currently was. Minerva looked back at Michalis with worry, signaling to him that they must do something to honor her giving life to them. This was something he fully understood and he nodded in agreement.

"Very well." he acknowledged, "Let us do something... for Mother."

For the next half hour, they erected a small monument of stone that surrounded the entire perimeter of her body. Granted it was not much to look at, but for the time being it will suffice. Perhaps one day, the two will come back and build something grander for her bones to rest. For now however, they must keep going. The two would begin to finally walk down the mountain and proceed to walk westwards towards the forest.

What lies in wait for them upon their journey? What sights will they encounter on their way? What foods will they try? And what allies will they forge?

For their journey has only just begun.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Leotamer
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Parvus had spent some time exploring Atokhekwoi. The Selka and Ihokhetlani showed promise but were both young. He felt both duty and compassion towards the people of Galbar. However, they were not his only concern. He had heard a songbird accuse Vakk of serious crimes. He could not be sure it was true, but he would remember it. Atmav was also a concern. He had heard her prayer to release her from debt but did not act on it immediately. Debt is complicated, and he is busy. He had also learned she had attacked the Selka in a fit of rage after the fact. There was much to do.

Walking around was starting to become inefficient. Parvus reached into the earth and molded a giant dragonfly, pulling it from the ground. His ichor flowed into it, granting it life. He named it Volant. It was larger than a horse and had two pairs of wings. Not only is it amazingly fast and durable, but most importantly, it is silent and difficult to track.

Riding atop Volant, he was able to travel around Galbar collecting various flowers and herbs, collecting them within a large silk bag.

After finishing, he returned to the Fel Isles, landing on the central, western island. He named it Pallium. Sentient life was starting to become more common, and soon he would have followers. He would need to ensure his followers are well-equipped and well rewarded.

He blessed a species of spider on the island, naming it the Pallium Spider. By weaving its silk into clothing, the wearer would be sneakier. He also created the Gradus snake. Gradus leather boots did not leave footprints and were quieter.

He stopped for a moment and considered his creations. He felt a pang of guilt and shame. They were created to hide things. Since arriving within this realm, he had been guarded and selective with what he had told the other gods. He could not trust them. He couldn't trust anyone.

He spent some time meditating, considering his past life, his history on Galbar, and the future. After some time, the guilt faded, and muttered the mantra, ” Stealth is a tool. I will use it well.”, as a Pallium spider wove a web into between his fingers.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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The Angels
and Fire Giants

As Jiangzhou broke through the thick clouds and fog above the Saluran Mendidih, a group of five servants knocked on the gates to Shengshi’s chambres. All of them were dressed excessively well - no less than expected by the snake’s personal butlers and maids. Two of them were carrying tea trays, though the second tea tray was full of biscuits and fruits; one was carrying a mop and a bucket; one was carrying fresh ink and paper; and the one at the front, who was dressed the finest, was carrying a few scrolls. A minute passed before the snake pulled the doors apart and smiled.

“Ten thousand years and more to His Lordship, Shengshi of the Thousand Streams,” the servants said in unison and kowtowed with trained ease despite the objects they were carrying.

“Ah, what a wonderful joy to have such loyal servants orient me about the daily affairs. Please, come in.” The snake led them inside. The servants with the refreshments immediately placed their trays on the table and began to prepare the tea and cakes; the servant with the ink and paper went over to the snake’s calligraphy desk and begun to clean it and take inventory; the servant with the mop began to diligently wash the floor and dust off the many surfaces inside the room.

The servant with the scrolls walked up to Shengshi and bowed. “My Lord, this servant brings a list of the ship’s affairs and status, as Your Lordship requested.”

“Wonderful,” said the snake. “Tell me, what did the reinforcement of K’nell’s forces cost us?”

The servant nodded and unfurled the scroll. “In terms of wine, Your Lordship, while our finest barrels were spared, everything that was strong enough to burn was unfortunately sacrificed. Furthermore, a unit of six Echoes managed to board the ship during the assault - they killed thirty of our warriors before we managed to subdue them.”

The snake’s brow fell low over his eyes. “A tragic loss… Have their belongings been returned to their families?”

The servant nodded slowly. “As per tradition, Your Lordship.”

The snake nodded somberly. “Good. Tell their families they have my blessing if they wish to form any children - though, please add that they may not form more than what they lost.”

The servant nodded with a smile. “They are certain to be overjoyed at Your Lordship’s blessing. This servant will tell them as soon as we are back on the water.”

“Very good,” said the snake. “Are there any more news?”

“Yes, Your Lordship,” said the servant. “As You requested, we posted sentries along the ship’s railing as Jiangzhou left Tendlepog. Last night, a report came in from one of the stern sentries: Zhengwu was spotted off the northern coast of the Kick.”

Shengshi smiled warmly. “I wish I could share with them just how proud I am… How was the cloudscape?”

“It is unlikely that Jiangzhou was seen, Your Lordship,” said the servant. The two servants with refreshments knelt down before the snake, each lifting a tray up towards the snake. He took a tea cup and a piece of mango.

“Very good. I cannot bear the thought of shattering the crew’s morale - their prayers already tell me the journey has been more arduous than expected.” He took in a quick sniff of the steam lazily dancing out of the cup and popped the mango in his mouth.

“Now, if that is a--”

“YOUR LORDSHIP!” came a call from outside the gates and they were swung open by another group of five servants, all running inside and casting themselves to their knees and hands. The snake frowned and straightened up - the surrounding servants all nearly dropped what they were holding.

“What is it? What news do you bear?” the snake demanded anxiously.

“Th-the Giant’s Bath, Your Lordship! The western grasslands! The Qiangshan Mountains! All are surrounded in smoke and flame!”

The snake’s eyes shot wide open. “What?!” he roared and stormed out onto his veranda.

The servants had spoken true - there, far below the ship, fires raged at the borders of the grasslands south of the Cauldron, and the scant forests between Qiangshan and the Giant’s Bath had been replaced by black columns of smoke. The snake let out a sharp snarl and looked further to the west, his divine eyes spotting the armies of fire approaching from the raging Mount Eldahverr. Behind him, the group of frightened and whimpering servants gathered.

“W-what is His Lordship’s command?” the messenger asked in a shaky voice. The snake breathed through his fangs a few times before finding the calm to turn around.

“A declaration of war has been sounded. We will sail down to the Giant’s Bath and secure it first - the gateway to Fengshui Fuyou must be protected at all costs.”

The servants nodded and bowed. As the ship began its descent towards the ground, they ran throughout the ship and ordered the crew to assume battle stations. Shengshi slithered down to the dragon’s head and mounted it. A sneak attack in his absence - a most cowardly tactic.

He would have his vengeance.

Thunderous thumps echoed through the lands, as the massive fiery figure of Vulkandr slowly appeared from the corner of the towering Cauldron. Below, most of his fellow Jotundr were following him underfoot, groaning and moaning while they checked their surroundings. Their quarrel ahead was a giant pool of steaming water - one that was half the height of the mighty Fire Titan. It, however, didn’t necessarily interest Sartr’s forces as they were more focused on what laid beyond it - a great forest filled with dry timber waiting to be ignited by their hand. The giant rock creature would continue to advance, issuing a stentorian bellow as his troops proceeded to hasten their advance towards the jungles ahead.

They’ve proceeded to burn the closest bits of foliage and ignited a forest fire. The deeper they would go, the more destruction they would cause. However, just as they barely pierced through the outer borders, Vulkandr halted as he raised his head into the howling winds. He could sense something approaching… something huge. He issued a loud grunt that commanded the other Jotundr to cease their activities and listen. For a long few seconds they listened closely, only hearing the faint sound on an approaching gust of wind that blew over their fiery shoulders.

And then, emerging from the clouds above, they could all see a massive ship descending from the heavens. Looking at it’s grand form from below was a sight that absolutely confounded them as the jotuns began to gurgle loudly in absolute confusion as to what they were seeing. Being that they’ve encountered such a monstrosity only in the mere hour of existence was enough to cause them to grow anxious. What and who were upon this massive wooden vessel? And while it was created out of the very thing they wanted to burn, it still didn’t saturate the feeling of anxiousness that emanated from them.

Vulkandr’s immediate instincts tried to force him into issuing combat with the floating vessel, however it was no mindless golem without a brain. The giant would then bellow out frustrated another holler towards the jotun, who immediately proceeded to issue a hasty revaluation of their current actions, and began to disperse from the already burning trees. Their fight with the divine would not take place here and in the form their opponent manifested in.

And thus, the giants of flame began to walk southwards away from Shengshi’s flying airship and Giant’s Bath. However, they wouldn’t be heading back to their Master just yet. They would merely proceed to hug the Cauldron’s wall and proceed to engage the area of forest to the south - where no other god seemed to defend its borders.

None to their knowledge anyways...

As the ship’s hull broke the water surface of the Giant’s Bath, the snake noted with squinted eyes that the humanoids who had been sieging his home had all but vanished. He traced their many ashen tracks southwards and let out a hiss.

“I see they know how to pick their fights…” He took a deep breath and pursed his lips. “... Sartr made them wiser than I had expected.” The snake hopped off the dragon’s head and slithered towards the edge of the deck. He took a moment to stare outwards across the small basin he called home - its seemingly bottomless amounts of freshwater contrasted by the fact that most gods likely could see its bottom. Such was the blessing of Fengshui Fuyou’s gateway.

He breathed in a proud nosefull, satisfied with his victory over the fire giants. However, his moment of pride gave way to fear as he heard a faint roar. He gazed northwards and, straining his divine eyes, spotted red, curved lines with wings flapping through the air over Qiangshan. For now, though, he could not quite make out what they--

Then he saw it: a colossal beast, dwarfing every other red line, came soaring over the mountaintop, letting out seven roars in unison. Even from here, the snake could make out many of its details - reptilian scales, draconic heads, massive wings. The snake had not seen clearly what the red lines were, but he saw this one. His brow moistened and he looked into the Giant’s Bath.

“Dragons…” he hissed. He turned to the servants behind him, who all bowed. “I will enter Fengshui Fuyou and make certain nothing has harmed it. Stay here and guard the gate.” He dove over the side before any of the servants could ever confirm that they had heard the order. The gateway to the sphere opened a mere smidge and let the god inside.

The servants looked at each other in fear. “B-but we don’t have any weapons…” said one. Another crossed her arms over her bosom and sighed. “Let’s just pray that the mere presence of Jiangzhou will be enough to scare off any assailants.” The servants all nodded somberly to each other and slowly moved towards the palace in unison.

They shouldn’t have tempted fate. Before the Servants could take more than a handful of steps one of their number spotted three flying figures approaching the ship out of the corner of his eye. The Servant turned around and pointed a shaky finger. “Oh, by Shengshi, it did not work! Incoming fliers!” A number of servants turned their heads and began to run about with flailing arms until one of them stopped and squinted. He grabbed his nearest panicking colleague and yelled, “STOP! These are not dragons! Look!”

Sure enough, these creatures had neither red nor brown scales, nor scales at all, really. They had feathery wings and humanoid forms, and as they approached slowly, it became clearer and clearer to the servants that something was terribly wrong.

By the time the figures reached the deck, that something was clear. They’d dripped enough blood onto the Servants below during their descent for the crew of Jiangzhou to know they were injured, and badly at that. One of them stood out, but not for any positive quality. Rather, it was because the winged man was bleeding from dozens of puncture wounds and was cradling an arm that looked to have been all but shredded.

That one collapsed almost as soon as he landed. All that saved him from a painful tumble into the deck was his female companion. She was bleeding too, but it seemed her own injuries weren’t so severe as to prevent her from catching her companion and helping him lie down on the deck.

The servants quickly surrounded the group, many folding their hands in prayer, others calling for bandages and stretchers, with some breaking apart from the group to fetch those. One of the servants approached an additional step, bowed and said carefully, “Shengshi’s blessings on the three of you - these servants will hastily carry you to our softest beds and dress your wounds - though, if it is not too much to ask, w-who are you?”

The woman opened her mouth to speak, but she was cut off by the other male, and apparently uninjured, member of her party, “I am Akam, and those two are Eline and Makab.” He gestured to his bleeding companions, “We are the children of Asceal, the Goddess of Light. I must ask to see the God of Rivers, our mother told us he was nearby and we could seek his aid.”

The servants looked at one another. The closest one fell to his knees in a kowtow. “Your sacred selves are more than welcome aboard His Lordship’s vessel, divine children of Her Holiness Asceal.” Behind the crowds, three stretchers each carried between two servants came sprinting out the palace gates, followed by another six servants carrying bandages and small pots of ointments and clays. The closest servant raised his head. “This servant is named Yun Ran, a representative of the Wise caste. His Lordship is unfortunately inside Fengshui Fuyou, but we assure You that He will return shortly. Meanwhile, these servants hope that You would allow them to take you below the deck to Your beds.” The stretchers were laid on the floor and the carriers all bowed as they gestured to them.

Eline spoke up from behind Akam, her voice as pained as it was filled with worry, “I’m- I’m fine. Just take Makab. I think he passed out.”

Her conscious brother craned his neck to face her, “You’ll both go Eline. You’re going to pass out too if nobody stops that bleeding.”

The winged woman looked like she might argue, but something in Akams eyes convinced her to bite her tongue and nod. She let the servants carrying the stretchers take both her and Makab. Once his siblings were out of earshot Akam looked back to Yun Ran, “I can walk. I wasn’t injured in the attack.”

Yun Ran nodded slowly. “Very well… We shall bring You down to their rooms soon. Although, if it is not too much trouble, this servant wishes to ask some questions.” Yun Ran ran a hand through his gray beard. “Please, if Your sacred self would not mind telling us, what happened?”

“That’s no problem” Akam met the bearded man’s gaze and, “Mother told me to inform Shengshi, anyway. We were resting in the eastern mountains when we were attacked. A winged lizard, a massive thing longer than this ship is wide, came around from the other side of the peak. We were forced to fight the creature. It managed to hurt injure my siblings before Makab... Killed it.”

The winged man grimaced, “My mother told me to find Shengshi here, but it took longer to arrive than I’d hoped. We had to avoid what must have been dozens of monsters similar to the one we encountered before we’d even cleared the mountains.”

Yun Ran nodded again. “Then His Lordship’s observation was flawless - dragons have seized Qiangshan mountains.” He let out a somber sigh, the servants who had remained with the two lowering their heads in defeat. “His Lordship will have to plan a reconquering or, or at least a sufficient defense… The Giant’s Bath cannot face a draconic threat so close. The risk is simply too great.” He cleared his throat and adjusted his small, cup-like hat. “His Lordship certainly already knows this, however - would Your sacred self like to see Your siblings, master Akam?”

Akam glanced at the door his siblings had been taken through and nodded, “I would.” Yun Ran nodded and beckoned Akam to follow him into the palace.

Meanwhile, in Fengshui Fuyou...

As soon as the snake had entered, he had felt discourse in the waters - a clog in his sacred system. His fears had been proven - there had been a breach, and a cataclysmic one at that. As the snake sped through the water with such haste that the water in front of him began to boil, the disruption in the Flow grew ever stronger. In the distance, there, he noticed interruptions in the currents. His eyes flared with rage as he saw the culprit: a clay dam, constructed with the despicable and spiteful intention of halting the flow. There could be no other reason - it was too elaborate and solid; this was no natural phenomenon.

With his two fists spear-pointing his form, Shengshi torpedoed through the clay wall, his charge reinforced by the rivers ripping through the cracks and tearing down the wall. With the centre of the wall in shambles, the rest of the structure crumbled underneath the staggering weight of the World Spring’s might. Shengshi noticed the river waters rumbling ahead down the dry path. His eyes became reptilian slits and he reached out to the water, clenching his fist in the air. The murderous flood suddenly began to slow into a gentle trickle. He noticed the floods on either side of the wall begin to calm down, as well. They would slow down naturally.

Meanwhile, on the dry riverbed of Kalmere...

The wolves and bears had feasted on the unfortunate fish left to choke to death on the soggy soil. The panicking salmons and trouts in the small pocket of water behind the beaver dam flipped into the air and tried to skip to freedom - alas, they had nowhere else to go. Inside the dam, a mother beaver, wounded and bloody, made a last stand for her children against a rabid dire wolf. As its snout broke another few branches, the mother beaver saw her opportunity and snapped her teeth at the wolf’s nose, inciting a whimpering retreat. However, no respite was coming for the beavers, for where one wolf head had broken in, two move began brawling over the slit in the wood. The children made frightened squeals and the mother made some futile attempt to fight back, but flight was not an option, and she was all out of fight.

Then, as if by the grace of the divines, the wolves pulled out of the dam, letting out confused whimpers. Then their whimpers grew fainter and fainter. Slowly, the mother beaver made a brave trek outwards, only to find her paws splash against the soggy soil. She looked down and saw the water slowly rise. She stuck her head out and saw happy salmons skip high over her dam and into the returning river right in front of her. The wolves stared menacingly from the woods, and even the bears soon found that they had to retreat. The beaver mother’s pups swam over to nuzzle her, and she nuzzled them back.

They were saved.

Simultaneously, on the Lihe plains...

Lihe had reached a width unimagined, stretching nearly to the bioluminescent woods on either side of the plains. Countless animals laid either dead or dying in the once most wonderful grasslands on the island, the floods slowly pulling them below the water surface as they struggled against the ensnaring soil. The fish that had not been caught in the initial meatgrinder that was the flood slowly began to surface, the carnivorous of them swimming over to nibble on the corpses in the water. Some crafty predators had managed to fish some bodies out of the mud and happily feasted by the forest line.

Then, in a slow creep that suddenly grew into a massive leap, the waters retreated, forcing many a panicking fish back to the river centre and releasing many helpless animals from the grasp of death. With the water no longer holding them down, one by one the animals broke out of their traps. Finally free, the beasts scattered to the woods. Within the river, the remaining fish feasted on the leftovers of the flood, growing strong and fat.

Many lives had been lost that day - many orphaned pups, fawns and cubs wandered the woods in solitude. It did seem, however, that the flood had passed. They would take care in the future, though - they had to.

A moment later, in Fengshui Fuyou...

Shengshi’s ragged breaths broke through the docile soundscape of the running water around him. The mud walls had been disintegrated down to the grain, but still, the snake let out a furious roar. He looked around for further proof of the assailants. Upon seeing naught but fog and clouds, he dipped his each of his hands into the two affected streams respectively and lick his right one thoroughly. His eyes squinted with anger.

“The nerve… The nerve to damage my precious Lihe like that, and to have it appear as if I was behind it… This wound upon my face - upon my reputation…”

He hammered the water with his right fist and snarled. “I will drown them… I will drown every last one of your dragons, do you hear me, you burning demon?! EVERYONE!”

He scowled into the distance and let his tongue examine his left hand. His eyes widened and he took a deep breath which was let out a groan. “Of course… Of course it -had- to be his…” He snarled furiously and set off into a torpedo-like swim towards Shiquan Mountain.

As he closed in, he propelled himself out of the water and soared up towards the top. As his tail slapped against the wet stone, he turned and shot his fist forward towards one of the rivers stretching out from the mountain. The river slowed to a near-halt, over streams beginning to flow over and around it to take its place. The slowed river suddenly dove under the surface like an eel.

“Jia-Long… Defender and caretaker of the World Spring and the Never-Ending Riverlands… I, your lord and master, Shengshi, command you to rise from the depth and answer your call to service!”

The water surface rumbled and bubbled. Gradually, two points approached the surface of the water and broke through, revealing themselves to be enormous antlers attached to a colossal draconic head. From the head stretched an unending, snake-like body with two small arms and legs, adorned with beautiful chalk scales and an alabaster mane that whipped around in the wind. The dragon kept rising until its head was level with Shengshi, five hundred metres above the surface of the water. Down below, its body still stretched deeper into the rivers.

“This servant gives its most sincere greetings to His Lordship, Shengshi,” Jia-Long said in a soft, feminine voice and tipped her head forward. The snake nodded and bowed back.

“Welcome to life, Jia-Long. I am certain you know what you task is.”

The dragon nodded. “This servant is to take care of His Lordship’s lands and assure that no intruders sabotage it ever again.”

The snake nodded with a grim expression. “That is correct. Any damage inflicted upon Fengshui Fuyou leads to catastrophe on Galbar. We cannot allow the world to suffer such destruction at random.”

The dragon let out a hum. “Understood, Your Lordship - Fengshui Fuyou will forever be save under this servant’s protection.”

The snake grinned somberly and bowed. “I have faith in you, Jia-Long. You are the guardian of the rivers. Good luck.”

The dragon blinked. “Th-thank You, Your Lordship.”

With that, Shengshi hopped off the mountain and into the river below. He swam over to the river with the gateway and, once again, slipped through a slight smidge.

Jia-Long watched her master slip through the portal and clapped her tiny hands sheepishly as she looked around the mostly empty sphere.

“Well… I could try to make some tea, I suppose.”

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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Oraculum
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Dawn of Blood: part 4

That morning the Grottu tribe lost two more members in the night. The great hunter Panganeem had disappeared, his hut empty and along with him was his faithful and first friend of the hunting party, Juttyu the Giant. With those two charismatic leaders gone, the tribe found itself mulling a little, having experienced a lot of loss in the last year. As if by magic, though, Thumfatem pulled the tribe from depression by showcasing a new wisdom from the Gods themselves, cementing his position as prophet once and for all; that wisdom being a fever-healing-fish marked with an eye, nicknamed ‘butterfly fish’.

It was in this crossroad of anguish and new hope that the tribe found itself in. Their chieftain Hoshaf had changed drastically in the coming days, becoming more direct, and aggressive. The people had begun to see him in a new light, a budding warrior of sorts from the frail man he had been. Once again, the tribe gave credit to Thumfatem, the advisor of the chief himself. The memory of a time before Hoshaf and the time of Viyoh began to fade in all but the most forlorn. The fact that the name should be uttered in any way other than as a reminder of Hoshaf’s legitimacy troubled the chieftain.

He found himself combing the now sacred beach of the Grottu, a holy site that is off limits to all but himself and the prophet. By a pile of rocks the corpse of Viyoh laid, picked clean and bleached but otherwise undisturbed. Hoshaf pushed a rocked with his foot, he had avoided this crime scene since he became chieftain, and despite his new found confidence, he couldn’t help but feel Viyoh’s ghost.

“I can erase you, you know,” Hoshaf snarled to the sea, “Make it like you never existed. I cannot kill someone who never existed.”

And the sea answered.

It began far in the distance. Out among the waves there was a shape, like an island or a great rock, which he did not recall ever seeing before. It glowed and flickered in the daylight, and, even though the heliopolis was but rising, it had the colour of the evening.

The shape was moving. It grew higher and broader, and it was clear even from far away that it was much larger than even Yimbo. In another moment, a gleaming wall covered the horizon before his eyes, the strange island perched atop it like a colossal head. No – it was a head, and those were arms, each longer than the greatest wave Hoshaf had ever seen was tall. He could feel the beach faintly shaking beneath him, despite the behemoth's steps falling far below the water.

It stood, darkening the earth and sea around itself, and spoke in the voice of a storm.

”You cannot, and you should not. If you won't know that you have killed, what will you have left to be certain of?”

Hoshaf was frozen in terror at the very sight, let alone the voice of such a construct before him. Waves crashed against the beach with every twitch of the mighty metal titan. Eventually the chieftain regained enough of him faculties to answer, “What?”

”What I said.” The hard-leaved reeds that sprouted among the dunes bowed under the rumbling words. The being's eyes shone like the inferno of a pyrgerak hunt. ”You have killed, and that's your accomplishment. That is what you are. Murderer. Victor. Destroy that, and you will be nothing.”

“I am the victor,” Hoshaf agreed hungrily, “My word is law.”

”Yes,” the immense head nodded, ”You rule, and he is dead. You'd be a fool to fear him now. Laugh at him! Show him you're a better chief than he could ever be!”

“I don’t fear him!” Hoshaf said perhaps too quickly, “I don’t fear anything. I am the chieftain, I am the strongest, I am Kirron-chosen!” The Selka kicked a lump of sand at the bleached bones, “He’s nothing, nothing!”

”Right.” An iron hand gestured to the west, casting night over the sea-cliffs yonder. ”I will tell you, there is a trick,” though still as oppressive as thunder, the voice grew low and conspiratorial, ”to make him vanish as he deserves without losing what you took from him. I will teach you, if you swear to use it.”

Hoshaf looked at the conspiring metal mountain, and pinched his chin, “Though I don’t know you, I can’t say no. Teach me these ways.”

”Who I am doesn't matter,” the giant waved his claw dismissively, ”Know only that I am blood-kin of your god. Now listen well. There are many of your kind that don't live like you do. They don't build the same mounds, don't praise Kirron the right way, don't obey your laws. Go find them,” the eyes burned with the joy of a pleasant daydream, ”and make them. They won't listen, and you will build a dune with bones like these. Then you will be the greatest of Kirron's own, and he only one of many.”

“Yes,” Hoshaf thought to himself, “And when it is all done, I will be the strongest.” He looked at Narzhak, “but how?”

”With these.” The hand passed over Hoshaf’s head, and a rain of heavy thumps struck the sand at his side. Iron maces with tapering grips, suited for thick selka hands, and heads circled with pointed studs lay mingled with short, smooth-tipped spears and hooked, harpoon-like piercing pikes. ”Give them to your people. Learn to wield them. This is my blessing.”

“All the tribes will know of Kirron's chosen,” Hoshaf grinned madly. “Even Antorophu will respect my strength after this,” He all but muttered, “I'll be stronger than he ever was.”

Quiet as his last words had been, the ear of a god was sharp. One of the colossus’ four eyes flickered in a playful wink. ”Ah, Antorophu?” There was a laugh in his voice, mirthful yet heavy with dark omens. ”You already won that battle, remember? She's yours, Hoshaf. Go and take what you earned. The day is young.”

Hoshaf grinned at the thought, “You are right, Blood-kin. Thumfatem has suggested the same, perhaps it is time to exercise my strength and victory.”

”High time. Enough mumbling over a heap of bones!” With slow, invisible steps, the god began to recede into the ocean. The tide steadily rose as he submerged, but not a droplet reached the pile of weapons. ”The world's full of wonderful things waiting for a firm hand to take them. Don't let anyone beat you to it.” Once more, the vast body became a wall, then a reef, then an island, then a rock. A blink, and it was gone among the waves.

Hoshaf stared down at the weapons, a wicked grin stretching over his face.

The tribe was whipped into a frenzy. Their very own God-chosen chieftain had returned from the holy grounds with bundles and bundles of strange metallic weapons and orders from Kirron’s Blood-kin itself. The zealots of the Grottu cheered and hailed their chieftain, while their prophet sulked.

“Don’t you think that’s a little too far,” Thumfatem advised in the chieftain’s private hut. Hoshaf blinked, his finger running to the tip of an iron spear.

“I thought this is what you wanted.”

“We already have what I- ,” Thumfatem stumbled, “--WE wanted. We are leaders, and we should be progressing our tribe forward, not sending them to kill fellow selka.”

“Not fellows,” Hoshaf gripped the prophet’s shoulder, “heathens, heretics, those stragglers who don’t recognize our strength.”

“Were you not on the beach?” Thumfatem growled, “Did you not see what bloodshed did to our children? Did you not hear Panganeem’s wails?”

Hoshaf’s face straightened, “This sort of talk is unlike you.”

“The first bloodbath,” Thumfatem nodded, “Was necessary, it weeded out the weak but it was supposed to be the only one. The second came, and proved we are still weak-”

“And now we are given the chance to show how strong we are, weed out the weak of the other tribes, grow our own,” Hoshaf made a fist, “It’s time we take what is ours, we are the strongest.”

Thumfatem recoiled slightly, “This isn’t what I wanted, you know.”

“A shame you aren’t the chieftain, then,” Hoshaf grinned.

“Don’t forget who made you,” Thumfatem hissed.

“Don’t forget what you’ve made,” Hoshaf narrowed his eyes, causing Thumfatem to silently gasp. Hoshaf jabbed a finger into the fat seal’s belly, “You can’t stop now, we’ve come this far.”

Thumfatem fell silent and Hoshaf continued, “in better news, I’ve decided to take a bride, as you suggested.”

The prophet looked up and Hoshaf smiled wide, pulling at a whisker, “Antorophu.”

“At last?” Thumfatem didn’t seem too surprised.

“But,” Hoshaf turned the spear in his free hand, “I hear she has children, two sons. Do you know who by?”

Thumfatem felt a pang in his chest and a clump in his throat, “No.”

“Who?” Hoshaf stared daggers.

“Hoshaf, you’ve changed,” Thumfatem dodged.

“Who?” Hoshaf pressed, his teeth clenched.

“Viyoh,” Thumfatem flinched, awaiting Hoshaf’s anger, but it never came. A sick cackle sounded from the chieftain. Thumfatem looked up, “What is it?”

“This world is a comedy,” Hoshaf growled through his laugh, “No matter what I do, I cannot seem to rid myself of my-- Viyoh’s mistakes.” He paused and his eyes widened with a disgusting idea, “I’ll have them killed. Enemies of Kirron, enemies of our tribe.”

“You can’t!”

“Can’t I!?” Hoshaf clenched his jaw, “You said it yourself, I am the leader, I do what I want. You heard their cheers for me, their cheers for my weapons and my blessings. I can do whatever I want because I am the strongest, I am the chieftain.”

“I won’t let you,” Thumfatem pushed past Hoshaf, heading for the door. There was a sudden pain and warm trickle, agony shooting up Thumfatem’s spine and a cold numbness engulfing his legs. He collapsed to the ground, his lungs too empty to scream. Hoshaf’s spear poked out of his chest, the shaft rammed through his spine. Hoshaf kneeled down next to Thumfatem, bringing his whiskered face close to the gasping seal.

“I’m sorry,” Hoshaf hissed at the dying man, “It’s Kirron’s will.”

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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Crispy Octopus
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Crispy Octopus Into the fryer we go.

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Calm Before The Storm

The gate to Fengshui Fuyou opened as a miniature rift just above the surface of the Giant’s Bath pool, and out of it came the snake swimming in a crawl. He reached the hull of his ship and climbed upwards in a rapid burst of speed, eventually swinging himself over the railing upon reaching the top. The snake wiped the water off his face with his right hand, holding out his open left palm as if awaiting something. Sure enough, promptly after his arrival back onboard, a group of servants made their trek over, kowtowed and proceeded to hand the snake towels and tea. Shengshi gulped down a cup of the greenish liquid and inspected the ship absent-mindedly.

“Say, did anything happen in my absence?” he eventually said as he slithered towards the palace with the servants in tow.

“A-actually,” said the closest one, an older-looking woman of the Wise named Wang Po’an, if the snake’s memory served him right. “We have visitors?” Wang Po’an finished.

The snake raised an eyebrow quizzically. “The good kind, I hope.”

“Naturally,” answered Wang Po’an. “Master Yun Ran assures Your Lordship that they are most benevolent and kind - these sacred spirits say they are the children of Her Holiness Asceal. There are three of them, named Akam, Makab and Eline, and two were gravely injured upon arrival. We brought them to the guest rooms - specifically the one with three beds, as per protocol.”

The snake nodded slowly. “The children of Asceal, you say?” He held his cup downwards and a servant hastily shuffled over to refill it. The snake gave her a curt bow and the cup a sip. “Take me to them, if you would.”

“Of course, Your Lordship - right this way.” Wang Po’an and the other servants guided the snake to the second floor of the hull, the floor with the bathhouse. There, along the many guest room doors lining the mahogany walls, the servants eventually stopped before one labeled twenty-eight. They stepped out of the door’s swing radius, and the closest one to the handle turned it and pulled the door open. The snake nodded to the doorman and slithered inside.

There, amidst a sea of servants laid three beds, upon each laid one angel. Some of the younger female servants were chuckling and giggling at Akam; a group of servants were tending to Eline and spoon-feeding her food and giving her water to drink; and the last group, lead by Yun Ran himself, were tending to Makab’s wounds, seeming having stopped the worst of the bleeding. However, upon seeing their master entering, all of them figuratively dropped what they were doing and fell to their knees.

“Ten thousand years and more to His Lordship, Shengshi of the Thousand Streams!” they cried in unison. The snake nodded frantically and waved a little dismissively.

“Yes, yes, that will do. Now please resume maintaining our guests’ comfort.” He turned to the three angels and bowed deeply. “My apologies for not being present earlier, dear guests. I was delayed.” He deepened the bow a little more before standing up. “Now, if my information is correct, you three are Makab, Akam and Eline - children of Asceal, yes?”

“That’s correct,” Akam turned to face Shengshi and nodded in a manner reminiscent of a little bow, “I regret our meeting being under these circumstances, but we had little choice in the matter. Still, you and your people have my, have all our, thanks.”

The snake squinted a little at the angel’s tone, but let out a sigh. “I suppose that would not be on the top of their mother’s priority list,” he mumbled quietly to a nearby servant who did a mix between a frantic nod and a disapproving headshake. The snake then turned back to the angels and stirred his finger around in his teacup. “That does beg the question - what is the reason for this meeting? Please, do not misunderstand - guests are always welcome aboard my ship! However, I cannot help but feel like you three are a little far away from home. The Dragon’s Foot is not as harmonious as Istais, after all.”

This time it was Eline who spoke up, “The Dragon’s Foot? Well, I suppose that explains some things.”

Akam shot her a little glare before answering Shengshi’s question, “We have learned as much, unfortunately. Mother gave us enough of her memories to be able to navigate the world and permitted us time to explore and acquaint ourselves with it. We came to this land from the East, a route Mother had never taken.” The winged man frowned, “We were attacked shortly after we arrived here, when we were resting on the slopes of a large mountain east of here. Your people have informed me that the beast we fought was what you call a dragon.”

“Yes, quite unfortunate, that. Dragons are not only vicious beasts, but they are also vicious beasts with wings, making them rather dangerous.” He took a small sip from his teacup. “Furthermore, they possess an inherent quality that can be used to break into my sphere.” The snake pointed to his face. “A dragon’s head can open the gates to Fengshui Fuyou - as a group of them obviously had. They had flown in and sabotaged two glorious flows, one of which was my absolute favorite.” The snake pursed his lips and grunted. “Unfortunately, that one was Lihe, the river on Istais.” He handed his teacup to a nearby servant. “I dearly hope that no one you treasure were resting by the riverside today.”

The two conscious angels shared a look before Eline shrugged, “I don’t think Istais has had any visitors since Mother created us.”

“No, it hasn’t,” Akam agreed, “But I can’t imagine she’ll be pleased with this… With any of this.” He sighed and turned back to Shengshi, “I’m not sure if she’s informed you yet, but Mother told me she would be heading here as quickly as she could. I imagine she’ll arrive soon.”

“Ever the responsible parent…” Shengshi mused. He turned to the servants. “Lady Asceal will be arriving shortly. I want the ship cleaned and polished for her arrival and I want fruits and appetisers sliced and arranged neatly on silver and gold platters, is that clear? Oh, and make some tea, as well.” The bulk of the servants voiced a loud ‘at once, Your Lordship!’ and stormed out the door. Outside soon followed a ruckus as more and more servants were gathered up and sent into a cleaning frenzy. The snake closed the door behind him and slithered over to Makab’s bed.

“I do not actually recall if your mother has informed me of her arrival yet - meaning she probably has not.” The snake gently prodded Makab’s chest with a claw-tipped finger. “How wounded was he on arrival?” He put his hand on the angel’s chest and glanced upwards pensively with a partially stuck-out tongue.

“A lot worse than I was,” Eline answered, “He took the brunt of the attack. If he hadn’t killed it when he did…”

The snake waved his free hand calmly. “His fear of mortality was bested by his bravery - that is the foundation of heroism, dear Eline.” He let out a quiet hum and snapped his free hand, a small cup materialising in it with some clear liquid. He placed the cup to Makab’s lips and poured it through the angel’s lips, bending the neck back to trigger a swallowing reflex. “There… That should dull the pain when he wakes up.”

Akam looked down and took a breath before thanking the God, “I’m sure he’ll appreciate it. I still don’t know how he managed to fly all the way here with his arm like that.”

“A quality - one every mortal possesses that many gods forget. You have a perseverance that drives the soul to carry the body forward. It is how you survive - forever water grinds against the rock; in time, even the rocks give way to becks.” The snake took a quick look at the splintwork the servants had done on the arm and smiled with pride. “Have you been satisfied with your care so far?” the snake said to the three.

Eline and Akam both nodded, but it was the winged woman who spoke, “Everyone here has been more than helpful, even if they are a bit pushy.” She sighed and eyed the spoon they’d been feeding her with sitting in a nearby bowl of abandoned food, “If you’d thank them for me, I would be grateful.”

The snake pursed his lips once more at the tone, but merely rolled his eyes discreetly and forced a smile. “Naturally. They will most assuredly be grateful for your thanks and good company.”

There came a knock on the door. “Enter,” the snake said loudly. In came a servant and promptly dropped into a kowtow. “Your Lordship, Her Holiness Asceal has arrived on deck. She wishes to see her children.”

The snake nodded, though in a slightly frustrated manner. “Well, then bring her here to see them, then - and do not forget the refreshments!” The servant nodded, rose to her feet and walked backwards out the door before setting off into a sprint. The snake looked back at the three angels. “There. Your mother is quite literally right around the corner.” He got to his feet and slithered over to the door. He waited a moment; then, in a swift move, he twisted the door handle and gestured for Asceal’s radiant form to enter.

The Goddess strode into the room, her eyes searching for her children and locking onto Makab’s sleeping form. She scrambled to the side of the winged man's bed and put a hand on his forehead before muttering, “Oh Makab…”

Before anyone could interrupt her a peculiar light began emanate from her hand. The odd glow seemed to flow like water, gradually making its way from the wounded angels head to the rest of his body. Covered in bandages as he was Asceal’s magic was less obvious than it might have otherwise been, but all the assembled could see the little cuts and scratches on Makab’s exposed skin healing in the span of seconds.

The Goddess breathed a sigh of relief and the light vanished. She stood up, made her way to Eline, and repeated the act. Asceal’s daughter stared at her mother with wide eyes and carefully peeled back one of her bandages just in time to see a jagged cut stitch itself back together, not even leaving a scar. The winged woman reached out to embrace Asceal, and for a moment there was silence.

It was only when they parted that the Goddess spoke, “I think we should leave Makab to his rest.” She looked to Shengshi and stepped up to the God of Rivers before hugging him too, “And thank you Shengshi. If you hadn’t been here I don’t know what would have happened.”

The snake froze up, his arms pointing outwards like sticks on a snowman. His face slowly turned a faint shade of pink and he eventually cleared his throat. “Y-yes, of course! A n-natural response to seeing the children of a friend in peril.” As the hug neared its end, he managed to harness enough willpower to move his arms over and pat Asceal’s back a few times. “N-neat magic you have created, by the way,” he added.

The Goddess let go and smiled genuinely, “Thank you. It’s something I think everyone will need in the days to come. Now, I’d prefer not to wake Makab.” She glanced at the door, “We have other matters to discuss, I think. Do you have somewhere we could sit?”

The snake nodded. “We will head below into the great hall. Please, follow me.” The snake slithered out the door and blinked as he saw Liana standing there. “U-uhm… Pardon, are you also here with my sister?” He leaned down and squinted at the vine woman.

“Oh, yeah,” Liana hesitated, “I’m sorry, I thought I would let Asceal see the kids first. Is everyone ok?”

Before Shengshi could reply Asceal, Akam, and Eline walked through the doorway. Liana’s face lit up when she saw the two angels, and Asceal answered her question, “They’re fine, Liana. We’re going to let Makab rest; his injuries were the worst. Shengshi is showing us to his great hall to talk.”

The Goddess glanced at the God of Rivers, “This is Liana, my friend and the steward of the Lustrous Garden. Also a friend of your Xiaoli, as it happens.”

“Is that so?” said the snake and gave the vine woman a wry smile. “Well, any friend of Xiaoli is a friend of mine - she has rather solid judgment, that one.” He winked at Asceal and continued down the walkway towards the main staircase. “This way, please,” he said as he arrived at the staircase. The group descended into the massive, golden hall, and the bottom of the staircase was flanked on each side by a line of servants, all who shouted in unison: “Ten thousand years and more to His Lordship Shengshi and Divine of Light, Her Holiness Asceal - welcome aboard Jiangzhou!” The central table was almost immediately stacked high with plates of fruit and small hors d’oeuvres. Each plate was flanked with two cups, one tall and one low, into which were poured fruit juice and wine respectively. The guests were should to the appropriate chairs, with Asceal getting her custom throne and the two angels being given comfy, yet rather standard chairs. The snake took his place at the end of the table and gestured for the guests to eat.

“So… What would you like to discuss?” he said as he popped a cube of melon into his mouth.

Asceal ran a hand through her hair and frowned, “I’m worried, Shengshi. Sartravius has already done terrible things, but this? Akam told me there were hundreds of these ‘dragons’ in the mountains.” She nibbled on a small sandwich and took a sip of the wine, “My children aren’t as harmless as they might seem, but if all it took to injure Makab and Eline was one dragon, then we have a serious problem. I know Kalmar has spoken to you about his pact. Regardless of your feelings towards him, Shengshi, I think we should ask for help.”

The snake’s mouth flattened. His tongue flicked once or twice before he took his juice glass and gave it a sip. “Summon him if you wish. If he wishes to come and fight the flame demon, I will not stop him.” He placed the glass down on the table. “I reckon he is on his way anyway, claiming that I have ‘broken our pact’ and ‘attacked his precious Kalgrun’...” He licked the air in disapproval and scowled sideways.

The Goddess pinched her nose and sighed, “I thought you and Kalmar put this to bed, Shengshi.”

The snake raised an eyebrow. “Funny expression, that. No, see, this time was not my fault. Fengshui Fuyou was sabotaged by the dragons, and one of the rivers on his continent was unfortunately a casualty of the sabotage. I hope I undid the damage in time for the ecosystem to recover, but he undoubtedly blames me for it. It would not be my fault if he jumps to conclusions.” He sipped his fruit juice again.

Asceal frowned, “Is that why the Lihe was so badly flooded?”

The snake hung his head. “Unfortunately so. The damage to it will also hopefully heal in time. However, the remaining issue is that a host of dragons are simply too close to my gateway - they must be destroyed!” He tapped his finger furiously on the tabletop. “... Or at the very least driven further east,” he eventually muttered.

“The fact they attacked my children without warning is enough for me to agree with you.” Asceal’s frown deepened and she drank more of the wine, “But it’s not just dragons is it? I saw what looked like a burning giant on my way here. Another of Sartravius’s, I suspect.”

“Indeed. Some among my crew refer to them as huojuren - fire giants. However, they quickly turned southwards upon seeing Jiangzhou’s descent.” The snake shrugged. “They had more sense than I gave them credit for, but if they attack the jungles to the south, they may be in for an unfortunate surprise.” The snake smirked vicious and leaned back. “However, let us not speak anymore of that horror transpiring such a distance away - we have war councils for that.” He grabbed his winecup and raised it. “I propose a toast to the safety of your children, dearest sister - and a toast to an alliance against the flame.”

Asceal raised her glass and motioned for Liana and the kids to do the same, “A toast to a swift victory.”

The snake grinned and emptied the glass into his mouth and swallowed with a gulp. “Say, Asceal, dear, that spell you cast on your son - is… Is there any way that such magic could be used on my own warriors? I know it may be impolite to ask such, but this conflict will undoubtedly claim many a servant’s life - is there… Any way we could work together to prevent that?” Shengshi gave her a sly smile.

The Goddess emptied her own glass and pursed her lips, “I could give others the ability. Not enough though, not if we want everyone to have access to it.” She put down the wine glass and stared into her fruit juice. Wordlessly she dipped a finger into the coloured drink and watched it turn clear. She withdrew her finger, rested a hand over the cups mouth, and in the span of a few moments the still water had begun to glow. Asceal grinned, “Or I could find a way to let anyone use the magic.”

She held up the glass of glowing liquid, “Have your servants leave basins of water out at night Shengshi, if they remain clean and undisturbed this will happen. A little bit of magic, suspended in water. They can use it on the injured, or…” The goddess paused and sipped the luminescent water, “Learn to use it for themselves. I can teach a few how to harness what they consume, but I imagine anyone could learn, given time.”

The snake nodded deeply. “You are most gracious, dear sister. Any help is appreciated - naturally, this water shall be treated as the holiest substance aboard - the basins will be heavily guarded by both hand and spear.”

“The magic will take time to accumulate in the basins. The light of my Garden carries it, but not enough to saturate a pool in a night.” Asceal paused and her smile weakened, “I just wish none of this was necessary.”

“The river knows both peace and disturbance along its length--”

“YOUR LORDSHIP! YOUR HOLINESS!” came a scream from the top of the staircase. Shengshi raised a slightly frustrated stare. “What?!” he exclaimed.

“Dragons on the horizon, Your Lordship!” the servant shouted. Immediately, the other servants grew jittery and looked anxiously at one another. The snake flicked his tongue. “Prepare for battle, then. We shall face them with the fury of a flood.” He looked at Asceal. “Are you with me?”

The Goddess’s expression hardened and she she gave a curt nod, “Of course.”

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