Hidden 16 days ago Post by DracoLunaris
Raw
Avatar of DracoLunaris

DracoLunaris Multiverse tourist

Member Seen 7 hrs ago

Embers pt 2


For the first time in his life, people were really listening to him.

“They say that the war is over, that our enemies no longer fear us, and they say it as if it is some kind of victory. Because all that matters to them is surviving, eching out a meager existence in the shadows of the gods. Well I will not be satisfied with mere survival! There is so much more in this world than meek subsistence if we could just reach out and grasp it. Yes. the war is over. Enemies no longer stand guard, their eyes having turned to distant horizons. Should we sit here and thank the gods for the mercy of no longer having to watch our backs while we scrape in the dirt for scraps? I say no! It they're fools enough to turn their backs on us, so we should size the opportunity and strike them down!”

The boy of the Dragon’s Jaw tribe stood atop a pile of charred logs brandishing a dragon bone knife for enfasis as he spoke before the assembled crowd. While their elders had gossiped and argued the younger generations had come together and formed a temporary community under their noses. Partially this was for their own protection, treatment of the young varied widely among the Jotunder as they had started to be a factor only after the survivors of the final crossing had split up, but it was also partly for simple camaraderie. The younger members of the boy’s tribe had found out about this while their leaders had been investigating the great gamp and had been invited along to a meeting set up to welcome new arrivals into the community.

It had begun as introductions, but with the argument with Garna’Tenth still fresh in his mind it hadn’t been long before the boy convinced some of the others to let him speak to the assembly. Most of what he was saying wasn’t anything new, nor did he have as much clout as others who had spoken, but when he spoke others found something in his words was like fire. Passion and anger allowed to run wild and free as he spoke to the fears and frustrations of their lots in life, all backed up with a righteous zeal few could muster in this age of doused flames.

Even those who had heard him speak before, the half grown of his tribe and a few young full grown like Ayr’Sala (who was sat down only a short ways away), where swept up by his words.

“This is not a time to stand idle, or to run back to our barren lands like meek Jackolopes. We are Jutundere! We are fire! And it’s time we what's rightfully ours!” he shouted, pumping a fist into the air. A deafening wordless roar met his proclamation from the assembled Jutundere. The boy let it wash over him as he recovered his breath. Just as his words had set their hearts aflame, so to did their wordless response have his blood racing through his veins. He felt so alive!

Yet among the clamor his ears suddenly picked out a dreadful familiar sound that set his heart racing in a far less exhilarated fashion.

“BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOY!”

Young eyes searched for the source of the call. It was not hard to find. Stomping through the crowd, 3 times as tall as most of its members, came a fuming Garna’Tenth.

The crowd he had riled up parted like the sea before her for fear of being crushed underfoot.

“I was willing to tolerate your foolishness before, but you’ve crossed the river boy!” her voice boomed across the crowd like thunder “Because this, this recklessness liable to get us all killed.” she stopped before him, before glancing at the crowd “To fight against nature is to choose to die, either the storms your idiocy calls down on our heads or someone will stop you before you get us all killed.” before turning back to the Boy “do the san thing boy. Let go of this dream and come home before you get hurt”

“I’m not going back to your graveyard of a desert! You might feel at home in that corpse pile you old wretch, but I refuse to live and die in that gods forsaken place!”

“You don’t know what your saying boy.” Garna’Tenth replied sternly, a hand reached out and grabbed his arm to drag him back to camp. “The rest of you” she began to address the gathered children once more, thinking he wasn't going to resist. She learned she was wrong from a sharp pain in her hand as the boy plunged the knife into it.

Garna’Tenth roared in pain as she let go of his arm, which was bleeding slightly as well because the blade had gone straight through. The boy was not cowed by his self inflicted injury and instead rushed her legs with his knife, sinking the dragon's fang into her thigh.

“Enough!” she screamed, sweating down at him with a blow fast and hard enough to pulverize half the bones in his body. The boy was saved from obliteration by the quiet Ayr’Sala lunged forward with a calm “no” to put her arm in the way of her strike. The limb was ruined, but so were many of Garna’s fingers

The boy started away from her leg, avoiding a blow that had already been blocked, but Garna was not offered any respite as Ayr’Sala struck with her uninjured arm, punching the elder Giant in the chest. The blow caused her to stumble back, and then the wound in her leg caused her to fall.

Half -grown scrambled out of the way as the titan fell to the dirt. After a few moments of shock she tried to rise, but with one hand stabbed, the other was broken in a dozen places and a leg bleeding heavily she failed, slumping to the ground in defeat. After the brief burst of violence stunned silence reigned.

“Thank you.“ The boy whispered to Ayr who was nursing her broken arm.

“Should have stepped in long ago.” she muttered back “But... now what?”

The boy looked past the fallen Garna’Tenth who seemed to be resigned to whatever fate she might now receive, out over the shocked faces of the crowd and saw the rest of his tribe, who had followed after their unofficial leader’s blazing trial but had been given pause by her conflict with the youngsters and subsequent fall. That wouldn’t last long.

“I know what we have to do,” he told her, before stepping back up to the burnt husks he had spoken from before.

“You saw how they tried to silence me with threats and then violence! Because they fear us! Because they know we can surpass them!” he roared, blood still oozing from his arm wound.

“It’s not enough to cower in fear, they need to drag us down with them, because if we do what should be done we prove that they are truly cowards! The Giant’s bath lies unguarded, the skies clear of storms! Now is the time to strike! To take the serpent’s mountain! Follow me, brothers and sisters, before our decaying elders gather and try to crush this opportunity to surpass their failure!”

With words said and a course laid all that was left to take the first step. The Boy turned away from the woman he had crippled and marched north through the crowd, Ayr’Sala at his side.

Towards the gateway of Shengshi the pair went and, drawn like moths to his flame, many of the Jutundar followed.




To many. They were like angry flies, buzzing, swarming, biting.

“Run! Run for your lives!”

They did. She fell, poorly healed wounds making escape as impossible as fighting . But just like last time, this was not the end.




The first step had been taken. Now they had to take the second. The gathered Jotunder who had followed the Boy who spoke with fire north stood before the jungle’s edge. Oh they had passed trees sure enough as the desert slowly bloomed to life, but here, between Qiangshan mountains and the Taipang river and stretching just in between them and their destination the jungle truly began. The flock of Gardners gathered in its branches like soldiers on a wall made that abundantly clear.

They themselves were not so frightening, even as the tiny feathered friends sang and heckled them in an alien tongue. Instead what they feared was what they represented, for they had come around the same time as the Squalls. If they were still here where the squalls here too, lurking in the forest to ambush any who broke the unspoken truce.

Knowing that his army had already been hemorrhaging devotes as they had second thoughts the Boy knew that to delay here would only make it worse.

Out of the line of Jutuner he marched, testing the waters. Ayr’Sala went with him, the full grown following just a step behind him. Since they had fought Garna’Tenth together she now rarely left his side. He was in charge here, but her presence at his side, her still working arm always on the hilt of a blade, gave his words a weight he suspected they would not have otherwise had, particularly with the full-grown who had come. Younger ones like her. Older ones with regrets. Most of his army were still half grown however. The boy who spoke with fire aggressively left out the ‘only’ others might have used in that thought.

They approached the shrieking hord, bombarded with meaningless calls until suddenly one was not.

“Go away!” called a voice in their tongue. It came from a parrot, yet sounded like a full-grown Jutunder, one in pain and afraid. For a moment the boy’s confidence surged before others started copying the call exactly and he realized it was not they who were hurt and afraid. It was a Jutunder, probably long dead, who’s cries they had heard and now mocked him with.

“Go away! Go away!” they cried

“You burn! You burn!”

“We stop. We stop”

Each call was mimicking a different Giant, the same voice in a thousand mouths. He stopped a few steps away from the line in the sand drawn by the gardeners “We are here for the mountain!” he called back, unsure if they would understand.

“You burn! We stop!” they cawed back, chopping different mimicries together that were joined by a shower of nut shells, twigs and rotten fruits hurled from the forest’s edge

Ayr’Sala’s large arm was moved in the way, protecting him from much of the barrage as the giant herself toughed it out. “You move or you burn!” he yelled, trying his hand at threats instead..

“You Burn! We replace! Many us. Few you!” they screamed defiantly. Or most did.

“They burn we replace?” some cawed

“They burn. We die?”

“We want work not die!”

“They burn work!”

“We replace work!”

The boy watched as the assault slowed and rather than retaliate against his threat, the birds began arguing among themselves. He picked up one thing among the shouting. The desire to work. Maybe he could sway these enemies like he had his own people?

“You fight us, we burn you, you don’t work. We break forest, you replace forest, you work. Good?” he tried, and when that failed to get picked up he tried it more simply, like he was one of them “Not fight them. They burn forest! We replace! We work!”

“They burn, then we work!” cried one, simplifying his call even furthur

“They burn! We work!” he cried with it, and then more joined in.

“They burn! We work!”

“They burn! We work!”

“They burn! We work!” The calling joined together, no longer aimed at him or each other but simply as a proclamation. Then, suddenly, the birds took off, scattering to the trees not in his direct path where they landed to watch and wait. He wasn’t entirely sure why this worked, the thought process he had just manipulated utterly alien to him,but it had. The way was open. He stepped over the threshold and into the jungle as their enemies scattered before him. The faithful followed the boy who’s words where fire and the skies remained clear of storms.




The sting of the lash. The cold splash of water. The ceaseless drudgery of moving stone. How her old wounds and older bones ached. The threat of more pain and death the only thing driving her to continue this pointless task.




With a final hack of his blade the Boy broke through the other side of the twisted jungle and found himself facing a wall of stone. The distant sound of waterfalls could be heard, in between the crash and crunch of his army following in his wake, carving and smashing a path through the jungle.

It took Ayr’Sala a hundred or so heartbeats to rejoin his side. “Apologies for the delay. Jungle’s even more of a pain in the ass for us full-grown.” she muttered, before glancing behind her.

The path they had cleared was being cleared further even as they watched. The black gardeners landing on fallen trees and other plant caracas, causing them to rapidly begin to rot. The rest of the flock followed as well, stalking them from the trees while staying out of range of the odd tossed stone or branch.

“What do they want? I hate how they are just stalking us.” asked one of the other half-grown. The other boy looked as worn down as they all did by the trip, but like all who had come this far there was no way he was turning back now.

“You burn. We replace. You burn. We replace” went the caws

“We’ll deal with that later. We have a mountain to claim.” The boy said before calling out louder “Acend my brothers and sisters! Victory is within our grasp.” before starting up the mountain.

Hand over foot they climbed the steep, almost clifflike at times side of the rocky outcrop. Where the young had had it easier blazing a path through the jungle here the full-grown shined, long strides carrying them and strong hand pulling them upwards. Despite being few they gave aid to their younger comrades, stopping their own climbs to help them get up trickier parts.

Despite having Ayr’Sala at his side the whole time the Boy refused any help, recklessly scrambling up the side of the cliff. As he climbed his legend grew till at last he pulled himself atop the Giants bath. The first of his kind to surmount the taunting peak of the river serpent.

Others joined him. Ayr’Sala a few moments after, then dozens , then hundreds of his kin all stood with him and saw what they had claimed.

Before them was the lake where the freshwaters of the continent bubbled up unendingly. It was also a gateway, or so the story went, though as a people who had no concept for even a regular gate what that meant was hazy at best. Still. They had done it. A prize once denied had now been claimed.

It was cause for riotous celebration. Chants and singing filled the air. Crude wineskins filled with cactus juice where cracked open and strange fruits and meats taken during their trek through the jungle where consumed. Embraces and proclamations were shared. Several got it into their heads to that it would be a good idea to pee in the lake water in order to insult Shengshi.

As the party died down the boy found himself alone with Ayr’Sala.

“So now what?”she asked quietly. It wasn't an accusation, the boy knew, but a warning that others would soon be asking the same

“We’ll...” he began, only to find that the path ahead was no longer clear as it had felt before.

“We’ll do what? We can’t stay here, the serpent rides though too often. Do we go back?” she asked.

The boy’s hand went to an often ignored amulet dangling on a string around his neck. It was a dragon’s head, carved of bone, with its mouth stretched open wide in a roar. The symbol of the dragon’s jaw tribe that he’d had since his birth. Even after what they’d done to Garna’Tenth he hadn’t thought to get rid of it.

“No. We can never go back. Not to them.” he grasped the symbol and ripped from his neck before hurling it into the dragon’s head into the giant's bath. “But we can go back with new of our victory. We’ve proved its possible to leave the desert.”

“Brothers and Sisters!” he began to grab the attention of his kin, just as the Giant’s bath accepted his offering of a dragon’s head. Most of the gathered had grown bored of the lake itself, and for their own safety had gathered back near the clife side of the bath’s lip. As a result the gateway formed behind him, water streaming up to form an arch across the sky and replacing near half of it with sights of an unending realm of rivers.

At the gasps from his assembled followers he glanced behind him and saw what he had wrought. Thoughts ran through his mind lightning fast and suddenly he understood what none of his kind had ever truly grasped about the stories about gateways. Abstract concepts of spheres and the ways became them became concrete tangible things that they could interact with in that moment. Then he turned his gaze south. He had no use for this gateway, for its was surrounded by lethal waters and lead to only more of the same, but the one that dominated the horizon, still slowly spewing ash and magma even after its master had gone dormant, that he might well could use.

“Brothers and Sisters” he began again while pointing his blade at the distant smoke “We are going home for the first time.”

The Jutunder retreated from the gateway, leaving a trail of fires for the birds that flocked around them.




The damned serpent. It was all his fault. All his fault! The slaver’s kin had carved his likeness in the stone and then the snake itself had come. She had seen it from afar, a tiny wretched thing.

She swore she would burn this temple her kind had built in its name to the ground if it was the last thing that she did.




In a hidden valley within the Qiangshan Mountains the Jutundar raiders presented their captured foes to their leader. Nebulites who’s once magnificent clothes and carried position indicated that at least some among them were of some standing back in their colony town.

The enemy were forced to kneel before Sarvariun, the lord of flame, who sat on a throne of bone gold and iron. On one side lay a young fire dragon that he had raised from an egg which he had stolen from the depths of Múspelheim itself as a boy. On the other side his partner stood just a step behind his throne, clad in armor made for the shell of a terrifying curation and armed with a dozen obsidian blades and throwing clubs. Before them. in a broken mockery of their tongue a servant begged for them to aid his master.

“Master was powerful in city. Many shiny things, many slaves. To you he give, if drive out usurper.”

“You owned slaves?”

“Mainly Ape things. You have them. Your people go free.” the translator insisted on behalf of his master.

“You offer nothing I cannot take for myself” the Man who’s worlds would ignite the world said calmly from atop his throne of stolen trophies.

“Please. We know things. Teach you our way. In Shengshi’s name I beg you too” the king flicked his hand and the pleading words were cut off by fire and screams as the fire dragon incinerated the nebulites. When it closed its mouth only blackened bones remained.

“There will be no cooperation with the enemy! No surrender! No mercy! We serve no gods and instead bring death to all who those who worship the serpent of chains.”

“Death the enemy!” came the response from his armies followed a raw, angry bloodthirsty chant of “Kill! Kill! Kill!” joined by the roars of young dragons.

The Boy had come a long way in the last 10 years and yet this was only the beginning.




Garna’Tenth’s awoke atop the world. She still had an oath of vengeance to keep.


1x Like Like
Hidden 15 days ago Post by BBeast
Raw
coGM
Avatar of BBeast

BBeast Scientific

Member Seen 15 hrs ago


Ashalla

Goddess of Oceans, Storms and Ice


Ashalla pulsed through the ocean. She needed to find Shengshi, for there were important matters that she needed to talk to Shengshi about. But a taste she had thought she would never taste again stopped her in her tracks.

A storm gathered overhead, dozens of squalls flickering into existence, as a watery pseudopod lifted a single fish from the water. Its scales were marred by blotches of white and black and it swam in idle lifeless circles in the quivering limb. The storm and sea which was Ashalla cast her taste further, and she found that there were similarly afflicted plants and animals, and also many tainted white motes.

The storm above intensified. A bolt of lightning seared the world in half and struck the infected fish in Ashalla's grip, obliterating it. In the sea around her, the kelp which had been infected snapped frozen then shattered into a billion shards, stopping them from spreading the decay.

"He had said it would not make any more," roared a voice like a hurricane. Yet the plague she now witnessed made the previous blight seem like a gentle trickle. Lightning fell like rain, the thunder roaring with Ashalla's fury, each bolt destroying a Mar mote. Yet the motes were far more numerous than Ashalla's lightning bolts, and the lightning soon abated. "This must cease."

At a whim, the water which Ashalla touched bloomed with microscopic plankton; billions of cheap living beings holding minute souls. A Mar mote drifting past was attracted to the algal bloom and entered into one of the creatures. In seconds the single plankter's soul frayed away and the creature withered and died, but in doing so the Mar mote had been expended. More motes drifted past and were absorbed by plankton. Ashalla swam and created more plankton. Many of the Mar motes would be carried by the winds over the ocean and never touch the plankton, but many more would be absorbed by this sacrificial buffer of life, reducing the grim harvest of the Mar Tree.

Before Ashalla could get far, she saw a dreadful sight in the sky. Lines of fire streaked through the heavens. Meteors, falling from Veradax. She had seen them before, but never in such numbers since the shattered moon had been created. Many of the lines of fire winked out as quickly as they had appeared, but Ashalla watched as one line kept falling, punching through the Blue then streaking down to the horizon like a bolt of lightning. There was a bright flash where it landed, and several seconds later a shockwave tore through the water where Ashalla was, followed by a fiery-hot blast wave in the air. As a billowing cloud of steam rose and spread from the point of impact, a tsunami washed outwards. Yet as the wave passed Ashalla it was stilled by her will.

The meteors continued to fall. That one which had struck before with enough force to level a city was an outlier - very few meteoroids of that size or larger were close to Galbar yet - but Ashalla still felt the smaller impacts and tasted the moon-dust and orvium.

Ashalla was not too concerned for the damage this bombardment would cause to her ocean. The water absorbed the impacts and rebounded gracefully. In a few hours the only evidence of even the largest meteorite strike would be the rock sitting on the ocean floor and a slightly higher concentration of dust in the water. But this was an assault on her domain all the same, and it stoked her rage even more.

Ashalla looked to the sky, and there she saw the full moon of Veradax in all its darkness, thin streaks of fire radiating around it. The moon hovered above the Maelstrom, currently hidden from view far beyond the horizon. The Mar motes, asteroid bombardment and broken promise were each a reason in itself for Ashalla to be spurred into vengeful action. So Ashalla swam towards the Maelstrom, plankton and squalls in her wake.

2x Like Like
Hidden 14 days ago 8 days ago Post by Strange Rodent
Raw
Avatar of Strange Rodent

Strange Rodent Rodent of Unusual Size

Member Seen 4 days ago

Just as what we think is sometimes false,
what we see can be false.
The difficulty is knowing where the falsehood lies.


Zisqe sat and considered the riddle given to them, as well as Vakk’s hint.
A mighty legion, fearless, footsoldiers, highest and lowest points…
All of Galbar. Water ruins them.
Perhaps it was one of the other people that Karamir spoke of? But surely their god wouldn’t give an impossible answer. Perhaps it would.

Surely a puzzle was life’s greatest pleasure. The sea stretched before them, golden sand beneath. A hazy sky soared above, breathing. They were sitting on a warm rock. The small village was bustling behind them, which was pleasant indeed. All of them were each other’s family, and even though some were far removed from Zisqe, the love they held for these people was warmer than the rock they sat upon.

A crunching of sand caused Zisqe to turn around. Isi was walking towards them. Of all the loves Zisqe bore, Isi was the first, and one of the strongest.
”Is there a bother, Isi my darling?” Zisqe asked, turning all the way around.

“No, no bother. I had just thought…” Isi replied. The words were withdrawn and somewhat flat.

”Take a seat and regail me,”

“Of the riddle. It mentions the one we lost. Could it mean Uzit?”

Zisqe looked to the sky, to the sea, then to their feet. ”I had taken this to mean our god,” it said slowly, knowing that Uzit was a point of tension for Isi.

“Our god is lost, but we did not lose it. We did lose Uzit.” Isi said bluntly.

Zisqe had a bit of a think before saying, ”Surely this is accurate. Uzit it is. Both, perhaps!”

“Perhaps. Have you known the answer to the riddle yet?”

”No,” Zisqe sighed, ”but I have suspicions. What about mountains?”

Isi turned and grinned at Zisqe. “I think surely it is mountains.”

”Mountains aren’t ruined by water. No,” Zisqe replied, creasing its brow.

Isi looked out to sea, thinking. They looked to the wetern shore, all rocky. “Rocks in the sea are rounded by it. Why not streams with mountains?” Isi said.

Zisqe stared out towards the west shore. Their face started as puzzled, then awed, doubtful, and finally, understanding. Enlightenment surged up into their chest, and made their hands tingle. They dropped to the sand below, lying down, beholding the sky. ”You’ve got it, Isi!”

Isi smiled and said “When is it you go there?”

---

---

The following morning, Zisqe was ready to go. They had a spear, a stone knife, and a basket. Considering the jungle supported the tribe’s life, everything else that might be needed lay within.

Zisqe had seen how far the mountains were before. It would probably take four days to get there if they traveled quickly. This was one of the reasons they were travelling alone. Besides, the biggest danger was hunger, and that’d only be amplified with more people.

And so they took the plunge, stepping from the light undergrowth into the jungle proper.

Immediately, the air was thicker. Full with the scent of old water and dead leaves. The sound of a creek hissed nearby. Zisqe walked towards that, as it was the best way to keep near a water source. In the heat, one could die quickly without that. The other, perhaps more beneficial reason to follow it was that water runs downhill, and following it upstream would probably lead to mountains.

Zisqe plodded along the creek, step by step by step. They walked until the sun was directly overhead, then stopped and sat. It plunged its hands into the water to drink. A foul smell invaded the otherwise serene setting. The smell filled it with a sharp feeling, something that told of death and rot and old hair.

Something solid bumped into Zisqe’s hand.

They bit into it. It tasted of fish, but didn’t squirm like one. Zisqe looked down into the creek. The water was deeper than they thought it was. The first one slid from upstream. It was on top of the water, shiny, slick, stinky. Belly-up. Another followed, bumping off of a rock and rolling over.

Zisqe looked down at its hands. Dead fish, unmarked by tooth, spear, or beak. The taste of it soured in Zisqe’s hand-mouth, and they threw it to the other bank. The stench in the air seemed even more severe now.

Why are they…

Zisqe looked over the river, mystified. Such a thing had never been seen, and this could mean less food for their people. They rose, slowly stepping back. Retreating into the trees.

Four days of walking through thick, indifferent jungle later, Zisqe arrived at a foothill. A steep and gravelly cliff. Atop it sat an ink black bird, great and deshevilled. Pustules surrounded its beak and eyes, its wings were tattered. Filthy grey skin showed under. It flew away when Zisqe stepped out of the tree cover, back towards the mountains.

Gingerly, Zisqe started the climb. They had no ropes, no safeguard. If they fell, they fell. The gravel sneered challengingly up at them. It bit at their feet, but gave way to the rock below it, almost out of spite.

A slip.

Zisqe fell flat on its face. It slid, gravel biting and gnawing at their skin. It shredded flesh and chipped chitin as it rolled them down the slope and denied their flailing hands any lasting purchase.

Until their hands found a small hole, free of gravel. The fingers remaining on that hand nearly popped right off as they took the entire weight of Zisqe, but perhaps by luck, they didn’t. Zisqe took extra care climbing the rest of the slope.

Once atop it, Zisqe could see for what seemed like forever. It could see the village over the trees, even the Gap in the distance. But most eye-catchingly, it could see a massive maw in the side of a mountain, four times taller than any Bujzell, and twelve times wider. Light seemed to flee from it.

The bird from before sat on an outcrop above the cave, staring into Zisqe. Something was laid bare. The bird could surely see everything there was to see. Its eyes…

But Zisqe steeled themselves. Nothing a bird could do could threaten it.

It walked towards the cave until it was all but being swallowed. It felt more than just emptiness before it. There was something more than air. Something which being fled from. Surely it was their God, in a particularly ruinous mood. Ready to show Zisqe what Uzit saw all those moons ago.

It wasn’t.

1x Like Like
Hidden 11 days ago Post by Lord Zee
Raw
Avatar of Lord Zee

Lord Zee I Don't Even Know

Member Seen 1 hr ago

Absolution





The dark clouds above the Maelstrom loomed ominously in the air as Kalmar approached the churning water. He had sprinted across the ocean on foot and had now reached his destination. All the while, meteors had continued to fall, and all he could do was hope that those he was leaving behind could hold out until the crisis was stopped.

He had expected opposition, but so far there was none. There was nothing stopping him from simply flying up into the black clouds that would take him to Veradax, and that felt odd. Surely a gateway with a set location should have some sort of defense?

He stood upon the edge of the whirlpool, and stared up at the clouds for only a few moments, until a meteor struck the water nearby and sent up a colossal torrent of foam and spray. Every moment he wasted was another moment in which Galbar was assailed by meteors, and so he had to act. He flew upward, intent on passing through the gateway.



The moon loomed overhead as he ventured up, but slowly he began to realize that he was not alone after all. Tiny white motes flooded down through the gateway in droves of thousands. Outwardly, they looked harmless as could be, but his divine senses saw through this disguise and showed their true colors. They were capable of decaying souls.

Kalmar shook his head in disgust. Orvus had once claimed he wished to decay every soul in existence, and at the time it had seemed mad, but now? If these weren’t stopped, then such an outcome was entirely possible. He increased his speed. Ever careful to avoid the motes, he sped into the place where all things forgotten go, with a hollow sense of foreboding. The Gateway shot him out above the plains of grey dust, littered with remnants of fledgling societies. Broken stone, torn tents, and the hum of stellar decay fell before him.

In the far distance, a beam of light shot up into the air, and upon closer inspection- It was the motes. Where he would find answers, but closer, was a dimly lit fire, settled amidst ruins.

Smoothly, he pulled his bow from his shoulder and slid an arrow from his quiver, nocking it in place on the bow’s string. The arrow was well-made, fletched with the feathers of a Gardener and tipped with coldforged ice. Taking care to be aware of his surroundings, he advanced toward the fire.

It did not take him long to reach the ruins. It looked vaguely familiar, Azuran in design. Nestled in a small courtyard was the fire, just a piece of burning wood. More alarming were the figures who surrounded it. Perched above in the nooks and crannies of fallen pillars, were what was once gardeners. Now they had hollow, white eyes, their plumage was black and dotted with stars and they stared at him emptily. Surrounding the fire itself, were malnourished forms of the same color, but stood upon two feet. They turned to look at Kalmar as well, their faces and eyes, empty and black, arms outstretched to the flame, as if they were trying to feel something. Their ears… They were pointed.

He stopped, and he winced. Then anger filled his stomach, and he breathed deep. With a calmness he did not feel, he raised the bow, drew the string back, and released.

The arrow pierced straight through the chest of a gardener, but then Kalmar waved a finger and it changed course to the next one, then the next. They did not fight back, or try to flee and they never stopped staring. Once all the Gardeners had dropped, the arrow then moved on to the humanoid figures, striking them down one by one, before coming to a stop in the chest of the last. There was hardly any recognition for what it had witnessed.

“I’m sorry,” the Hunter whispered, nocking another arrow. Then he took flight and carried on. It was time to find the source. As he flew towards the beam, he noticed dotting across the land, many more figures, but there was no time to waste now and he sped on. Eventually, the beam was only noticeable by the faint white glow touching the sky, as a valley of mountains overtook the view. Conveniently, a passage between the mountains became clear as he approached. He could either fly over, or go through it.

Kalmar opted for the former, levitated himself higher, and continued on. He passed over the top of the peak after several moments, the beam becoming visible once more, but it’s source, still a mystery. He pressed on, the quietness a stark reminder of the nature of Spheres. The beam drew closer, and he could see the extent of the motes that were flooding into Galbar, they seemed to be legion, and at last, he found the source. Dipping down into the valley, he could see a black tree crackling with energy, impaled upon it… Was Orvus.

It was a gruesome fate. One that Kalmar would not even wish upon his worst enemy, which Orvus had once been. And now it was clear that Orvus was not behind this, for why would anyone, even he, subject themselves to such a thing? Kalmar couldn’t help but feel a shred of sympathy for the god he once wanted dead.

He set himself on the rocky ground, and walked forward. Orvus did not move. Nothing appeared to challenge him. He couldn’t help but feel like this was a trap, yet he could see the power being drawn from Orvus, and so he was the key to stopping this crisis. He came to a stop before the tree, and reached for Orvus’s legs, intending to pull the god loose.

Before he could touch Orvus, the god’s eyes shot open and he looked down upon the hunter. “You…” he began weakly. “Should… Run…” before he turned his attention behind Kalmar. Almost at the same time, there was the sound of something large landing behind him.

Kalmar nodded slowly. Then, with divine speed, he wheeled around and loosed an arrow.

The arrow distentagrated before a dark mass of smoke. Staring at him were only scarlet eyes, and then the laughter started. Hollow and empty, and fleeting like the wind. “Welcome to Veradax, Kalmar. You once made Orvus a promise. Have you come to complete it?” it said.

Kalmar said nothing. He cast his bow aside, and then, in his now empty hand, a blade of coldforged ice appeared, as he gave the Avatar a grim stare.

“No answer… Very well.” the Avatar said, as two blades of Orvium appeared in both of it’s hands. “I will get you to scream yet.” it said, before in an unbelievable burst of speed, was before Kalmar, bringing the blades down.

With unnatural speed of his own, Kalmar sidestepped the attack, allowing the twin swords to slam into the barren earth beside him. Before Abraxas could bring the weapons back up, Kalmar then stepped onto the Avatar’s wrist and launched himself upward at Abraxas’s face.

The avatar’s aura exploded around him, and from his face, came a beam of red energy right towards Kalmar. The God of the Hunt had no choice but to abandon his attack, darting to the left as he changed course mid-lunge. But the red beam still grazed his shoulder, and pain ripped through him. Still, he did not relent, and instead went for another attack, lunging toward the Avatar’s side.

It’s aura did not relent as it twisted to face him, but for some reason, the avatar did not go for a block, instead allowing Kalmar to stab him with the blade, as he laughed. In an instant, his aura constricted itself, before exploding outwards again.

Kalmar was flung backward. He willed himself to come to a stop, and then looked at the coldforged blade, which was now nothing more than a hilt with a broken blade. The rest of the sword remained embedded in Abraxas’s chest. He dropped the now useless weapon, pulled a fistful of coldforged arrows from his quiver, and then while veering to the side he began flinging them in a torrent, as if they were darts.

Several hit the avatar, and he stopped laughing, before he fired another beam of energy, destroying the rest as he targeted Kalmar again.

Kalmar dodged the blow, and then once again surged forward, the Knife of Friendship materializing in his hand as he attempted to plunge it into Abraxas’s chest.

The Avatar poised itself to attack the god, but at the last second, dropped both it’s blades and embraced Kalmar as he was stabbed, in a death grip. Despite the blade’s small size, Abraxas would still feel a painful sting, for it had been made to cut gods, and it drank at the Avatar’s ichor hungrily. Then it vanished, and there was another burst of pain next to the first wound. Kalmar was teleporting the knife from hand to hand and thrusting it into the god with blinding speed. Soon, there were dozens of wounds. All the while the Avatar’s aura attacked him, biting into divine flesh with ease.

The Avatar finally grunted and let go of the god, then flung itself backwards. It brought a hand to it’s chest, and looked upon it’s shadowy ichor that bled from the wounds. It then looked upon Kalmar intently.

Kalmar dropped to the ground, his breathing ragged, but he rose back up to his feet. “What do you think you’ll gain from any of this?” he asked in a low growl.

“Absolution.” the Avatar said, before leaning over placing a hand upon the ground. It looked at Kalmar, and then erupted from the lunar surface towards him like a comet.

Another Coldforged blade appeared in Kalmar’s hand, and the God of the Hunt leapt into the air above Abraxas’s head, swinging the sword in the Avatar’s path as it passed.

On a dime the avatar shot up to collide with the god, his speed blindingly fast. And collide he did, but not without another sword being rammed into his chest. Then, the Knife of Friendship reappeared in Kalmar’s hand, and the flurry of jabs began anew. But this time the avatar was prepared as it reeled from the new wound, it grabbed both of Kalmar’s arms and then swung him into the ground, his beam of energy whipping after Kalmar.

But before the beam could fire, Kalmar focused his Might, and his legs swung up to give the Avatar a mighty kick, with a force that was extraordinary even for a god. The shockwave of the blow kicked up dust and debris, as Abraxas was sent up and into the horizon.

With a groan, Kalmar rose to his feet and spat a glob of red ichor onto Veradax’s floor. He shifted his gaze to the tree where Orvus was impaled, and despite his aching bones began to run toward it. He pulled himself up the branches, then there was a flash of steel as the Knife appeared in his hand, and he began sawing through the branches which confined Orvus to the tree.

“Kalmar…” Orvus said weakly. “Thank… You…”

Kalmar said nothing, and with grim determination continued to saw, until at last the branch was cut and Orvus was falling to the ground.

The god fell, but the ground seemed to rise to meet him, and then brought him back down to the soil. He then reached for the tree, but was unable to reach it himself. “Kalmar… The… Tree…” he wheezed.

“How do I stop it?” Kalmar asked, landing next to him.

“Drag… Me…” he said weakly. And at those words, Kalmar reached under Orvus’s shoulders and pulled him closer to the tree. The god then placed his hand upon the bark, and it’s hum began to die down, until the last mote left the tree. It then stood eerily silent and Orvus began to heal slightly.

“It’s… Done…” he said exhausted.

“There’s still Abraxas to deal with,” Kalmar said. “Can you fight?”

“No. Not yet. Just be pre-” his words were cut off by a loud explosion. He pointed to see a large asteroid colliding with mountain overhead. Chunks of large rock began to fall in the clearing, threatening to crush them both. One such rock nearly landed on them both, but Kalmar caught it, groaning as the weight brought him to one knee. Only when the rest of the rocks had stopped falling did he throw it away.

And then the Avatar was on him, sending a punch at his jaw that seemed to cut the very air itself. Kalmar’s head snapped back, and teeth skittered across the ground. “Go!” he spat toward Orvus, as he rose to his feet and the Knife once again reappeared.

Orvus rose to his feet, holding his chest as his wounds began to heal up. The god stood defiantly, but did not run as Abraxas lashed out with his aura at Kalmar directly.

Kalmar retreated, leaping back just out of the aura’s range. The bow which he had previously cast aside lay nearby, and it flew to his hand. “Who… are you?” he coughed as he nocked an arrow.

“The end.” it spat, before whipping an arm around to send Orvus flying as it faced Kalmar again. Kalmar loosed the arrow, and just as quickly had another nocked, as he began to release his remaining projectiles at a rapid speed.

The first arrow turned to ash before the aura of the avatar, but the second and third hit in the upper chest and this time, it did not shrug off the attacks. It tumbled once, then twice, before using that momentum to rocket itself at Kalmar, a fist raised high to strike him.

It was then that Kalmar took notice of an item lying between them, and he rushed forward to meet the attack, only to drop low and slide at the last possible point. Time almost seemed to slow, as his hand closed around one of the orvium blades that Abraxas had discarded, and then thrust it upward to shear through the passing Avatar.

There was a terrible silence, before the thing roared in agony as it’s body slid across the lunar surface. It lay still for a moment, before trying to move itself, but there was only an attempt made in vain. Orvus finally sat up from where had been discarded and looked on at his avatar with a sense of relief.

Kalmar, however, did not believe the threat was over. Shouldering his bow, and reversing his grip on the sword, he leapt toward the Avatar, intent on plunging the blade through the back of Abraxas’s skull.

In the middle of his jump, the avatar did something unexpected. It twisted its head around to see Kalmar, a dark vigil upon it’s smokey face, and in that moment, the sword he had been holding, exploded. Orvus began to yell.

Kalmar had no choice but to close his eyes, as his face and arm were assailed by jagged shards of black metal, which cut at his flesh. Only one eye had been blinded, but by the time he opened the other one he was nearly upon the Avatar... and he had no weapon.

By that time, the avatar had risen again, and grabbed Kalmar by the throat, slamming him into the ground, over and over again. Deep craters were left in the ground, but each time there was less of a blow. Kalmar attempted to call the Knife back to his right hand, only to realize he no longer had one.

Something dark and fast whipped into view, slamming into the avatar. It dropped Kalmar to balance itself, as it turned to face Orvus. But the avatar simply laughed. “Please!” it grumbled as it threw a punch at Orvus, only for the god to catch it. But then Abraxas brought his other hand up, slamming into Orvus’ underside and the God flew a ways with such force, he left a trail of broken rock as he came to a halt.

The avatar then turned to face Kalmar again, and he went to pick him up. A familiar glint of metal appeared in Kalmar’s remaining hand, and the Hunter lashed out at the approaching arm.

He found his mark, right in the palm of the avatar. The thing recoiled and growled, then began a barrage of stomps and punches down into the crater that Kalmar was in. He did his best to fend them off, cutting and blocking, but he only had so many hands. Then one stomp pinned his wrist. Kalmar attempted to kick the Avatar off of him once more, but could no longer muster the energy. With a yell of frustration, he attempted to sink his remaining teeth into the Avatar’s ankle.

His teeth found their mark, and so to did the avatar’s aura, which began to flow into Kalmar. Kalmar continued to resist, biting harder, attempting to pull his hand free, and even resorting to punching with his bleeding stump. He was not sure how long it went on, but as time passed and the pain increased, his efforts became weaker and weaker.

The avatar finally shook him free and with a grunt, pinned his arms to his chest as he picked him up and squeezed. He then climbed out of the crater and made his way to the Mar Tree. “I will admit… You put up a fight… But in the end… I am inevitable,” the avatar breathed. ”And now… You… Will… Die.”

It came to a stop, and then wrenched it’s arm back, before plunging Kalmar forward upon a branch of the Mar Tree. A scream was torn from Kalmar’s lips as the black branch burst through his chest. Even then, Kalmar did not give up, grabbing the branch and attempting to pull himself free, inch by agonizing inch.

The avatar then drew in close, headbutting Kalmar before grabbing his throat. “Your ichor… Is mine,” it said, before the avatar opened his mouth, and began to pull Kalmar’s divinity into himself.



The sight of the world before Arae after exiting the Dragon’s Crown left her in a shocked silence. Meteors raining from the sky, and strange white motes that seemed to harbor a dangerous element within them. More importantly, though, was that Arae could sense Orvus’ divine energy within them. Arae’s worst suspicions were starting to become reality. That new entity that had come from him, Abraxas, was most likely the cause. If that was the case, then he had to be stopped. Arae shot towards the direction of the Maelstrom, intending to go there and put a stop to it. With any luck, the other gods would not sit back and let Galbar be destroyed either.

When Arae reached the Maelstrom, she found it odd that it seemed strangely calm. She had vague memories of it being fiercer than this when she had gone through it last time, and hoped that it wasn’t a bad sign. But then the storm spoke, and the reason for its calm became clear.

“Arae.”

Two orbs of lightning and a face of cloud appeared before the draconic goddess, a calm in the storm surrounding her as she flew deeper. There were also no motes within the calm. “Do you also seek Orvus to cease this desolation?”

Arae recognized this divine energy, at least by what her senses were telling her. “Ashalla! Glad to see I’m not the only one here,” Arae exclaimed with pleased surprise. “But it’s not Orvus that’s doing this, at least not directly. There’s a being called Abraxas that’s using Orvus’ power. I couldn’t find much else about this being, but he’s definitely intent on causing chaos in Galbar. Kalmar’s inside fighting him now; we should aid him as soon as we can.

“Kalmar?” There was a pause. “Yes, I can taste his trail. If Kalmar is fighting this… Abraxas, then we had better make haste.”

The wind carried Arae faster. The clouds of the storm grew darker until they were almost pitch black, with flashes of scarlet occasionally illuminating the clouds. They soon reached the centre of the storm, Veradax looming overhead in the eye of the storm. They flew upwards, and suddenly they were no longer gazing up at Veradax, but up at Galbar. Around the two goddesses stretched out an endless plain of grey dust.

From the Gateway behind Arae poured out dark clouds. A storm of titanic proportions poured into Galbar, weighed down heavily by water. The storm spoke, “A being using Orvus’ power - likely an Avatar. This makes sense. Abraxas would share Orvus’ essence, which would explain why I could not sense any other divine trails where Orvus had been wounded.”

Arae grimaced. Short of another god, an Avatar was about the worst thing a god could face. This would not be easy, but hopefully with three divine beings, they would defeat Abraxas. “This way,” Arae said, following Kalmar’s familial trail. From this direction also flowed a stream of corruptive motes.

As the goddesses flew, Arae could spot below the remains of the fallen Vallamir. From the looks of their wounds, it seemed like Kalmar was their slayer. It pained Arae to see them in such a state, but could tell it had to be done. In any case, there was no time for grief right now. She returned her focus on the task ahead and continued onwards.

The billowing storm which was Ashalla trailed behind Arae, squalls flitting about her form. There was a rumble, then Ashalla asked, “Are you aware that Orvus had been grievously wounded some time ago?”

...Yes,” Arae said dejectedly. “I did.” She did not know what to say after that, and any excuse would sound hollow.

“Do you think Abraxas inflicted the wounds?” Ashalla asked.

Arae glanced at Ashalla, then back in front of her before answering, “No. The one who did that was Laurien, Orvus’ daughter. Her attack was most likely what caused Abraxas to be born.

There was a peal of thunder and the great cloud trembled. “A mortal wounded Orvus?!” roared Ashalla’s voice like nature’s wrath.

I visited Laurien not too long ago, and found a blade at her side, likely forged with Orvus’ power,” Arae explained. “I guessed it to be the weapon that wounded him, and cursed it appropriately. Laurien has been given her punishment, and all I can hope for her now is that she finds peace of mind and forgiveness at the end of her journey.

“She still lives? I would have destroyed her for such blasphemy.” There was a huff. “No matter. Laurien has been punished for her hubris. Neither she nor another mortal shall underestimate the gods, if your punishment was adequate.”

Arae was about to say something when a scream pierced the air. Arae’s eyes widened, fearing the worst: that Kalmar had fallen. “The time for discussion is over,” Arae said, trying to fly even faster. It wasn’t long before they reached the Mar Tree, and what they found only confirmed what she had suspected. Impaled on an orvium branch was Kalmar, mutilated and bleeding. His head was slumped, he did not seem to be awake, and his weakened aura was the only indication that he was even still alive. In front of Kalmar stood an imposing figure of writhing black shadows and crackling scarlet energy, Kalmar’s ichor being sucked into his maw.

No… NO!” Arae exclaimed, her mind consumed by rage as she flew just above Kalmar and Abraxas before dropping down towards them. She opened her mouth and unleashed a stream of fire, directed right at Abraxas.

In a flash, the avatar flew backwards and away from the flame. As he did so, his wounds began to close and another laugh ripped through the air. "Have you come to die as well?"

A searing white flash engulfed the scene as a bolt of lightning arced from the great storm which was Ashalla to Abraxas with an explosive CRACK. “Cease, Abraxas,” commanded the thunder.

Abraxas was flung backwards and grumbled something unintelligible before pulling himself to his feet with a snarl. "I was wondering if you would show up, Ashalla," and then with a pull of his arms, a great storm of scarlet lightning came to confront her.

Ashalla billowed forwards and reached out with a limb of cloud. The desolate lightning arced to her form, but when she seized the storm it twisted and contorted under her will. Then another bolt of bright white lightning struck down at Abraxas, followed by the scarlet electricity of Abraxas’ storm following the new path to earth.

The avatar was struck and howled with pain before being flung out of the way and into the side of the mountain walls. Stone and dust rose from the crater. Before it could settle, a beam of red energy struck forth and into the storm that was Ashalla. The beam penetrated deep into her clouds, and while it surely did some harm Ashalla did not express it. Out from the clouds, above the beam, flew a large chunk of ice, hurtling in an arc at Abraxas.

With a resounding crack the ice hit, and shattered against the rock wall, its target missed as the Avatar used his speed to dive forward. Then he slammed a fist into the ground and all across the valley floor, small spikes of orvium rose from the ground, then were cast into the storm cloud, where each one exploded. The explosions thundered through the cloud. Rapidly the cloud contracted inwards, retreating from the spikes, and condensed into an enormous globe of water directly above Abraxas. Lightning arced down at the Avatar as Ashalla fell.

The lightning hit its mark and the Avatar lit up as he was electrocuted, but he did not fall to his knees. The base of Ashalla froze into a broad icy spike moments before crashing down on Abraxas with her titanic weight. The Avatar was crushed within a blink of an eye. No sound came forth from under Ashalla, but the aura of Desolation exploded forth. Ice was disintegrated around Abraxas, but more spikes of ice shot out within the new void aiming to run the Avatar through. It became a battle of wills, as both pushed themselves harder to avoid the damage the other would cause.

While Ashalla battled the avatar Abraxas, Arae had turned her attention to Kalmar. She had pulled away from the fight, her rage dissipated after getting Abraxas away from Kalmar, and was now looking over him with concern. “Kalmar?” Arae asked as she pulled him off of the Mar Tree, laying him down on the ground. “Kalmar, speak to me. Are you alright?” She summoned a few flames of the hearth, having them circle Kalmar in an attempt to accelerate his healing. Strong squalls threatened to blow them out, so Arae coiled her body around Kalmar to keep them protected.

Kalmar only offered vague, unintelligible mutterings in response. The bleeding stopped, and most of his wounds were sealed. His body, however, remained limp. His arm was still a stump, and his right eye was still blinded. He had lost too much ichor, and his soul was badly damaged. All the hearth flames could do was stop him from declining further.

Arae’s healing was too weak, and she knew that. Kalmar would not recover from such a meager attempt, not from this level of damage. Her mind raced furiously as she tried to figure out what to do. She wasn’t sure how long Ashalla could keep Abraxas at bay, and she doubted she herself would fare any better. They would need the aid of another of their siblings.

An idea sprang to mind. Orvus! If he was still around, then surely he would aid them. After a cursory look around, Arae managed to spot his familial trail, which led to the sight of his body partially buried in a pile of rocks. He didn’t appear to be moving either, which meant he would need aid as well. Arae looked back at Kalmar, then at the hearth flames that were stabilizing his condition. Arae concentrated, condensing them together and molding a stone pit to place the resulting ball of fire into. Hopefully, it would be enough of a defense from the winds.

Arae uncoiled herself and launched herself towards Orvus, flying over to him as quick as she could. Once she had landed, Arae gave him a quick look over and determined that he was not too injured. At the very least, it wasn’t at the critical condition Kalmar was in. Arae swept away the rocks and lifted Orvus up, placing him on her back. Then she proceeded to fly him back to the campfire and placed him nearby, where he could more easily recover. “Orvus, we need you. Please wake up,” Arae gently urged Orvus as she patted his face a few times, hoping he could hear her. The winds continued to buffet their location, but Arae continued to endure. The flames flickered under the winds as well, but continued to burn.

The god’s eyes slowly opened, and Orvus looked about in a daze, his eyes settling upon Abraxas and Ashalla fighting, and then to Arae and finally to Kalmar. A pained look fell across his eyes as he tried to stand, but only managed to sit up. “Kalmar... “ he said before looking at Arae, “I’m sorry… This is all my fault.”

...Just recover for now. We can talk about that later.” Arae said, conflicted. Now that Arae could get a proper examination of Abraxas in relative safety, she could see things about him that were hidden from Spekatha. Abraxas was a malevolent being. He cared naught for the variety of life that filled Galbar, and seemed more interested in causing… well, desolation, the very trait that Orvus rejected from himself. Arae could not say that it wasn’t Orvus’ fault because she wasn’t sure if that was true. “You need to get your strength back so we can subdue Abraxas.

Orvus shook his head. “There will be no subduing this hate, Arae. I have lived long enough to see my evil come full circle and I say… No more. An avatar is but an extension of the god who made it, willingly or not… Remove the god… And what is left? For Kalmar’s sake… For Galbar’s sake… Godhood… Does not suit me.” he said, standing to his feet. “I know what I have to do…” he said.

Orvus…” Arae said, wanting to dissuade him from his choice, but knowing that his mind was made up and that there was nothing she could do. Reluctantly, she allowed him to pass.

As Orvus approached the two battling divinities, he struggled in the wind of the battle. Abraxas had finally managed to pull himself free from Ashalla, and in a blink he was skyborn, with an Orvium blade in his hand. His eyes glowed like scarlet coals as he watched Ashalla. From behind him came many objects in the far distance. Abraxas then flew at Ashalla, as fast as he could go, over and over again, cutting and slicing her watery form, as shallow as those cuts were. Ashalla shot a lightning bolt at Abraxas, but he outraced the lightning leaders. As Abraxas approached another time, clouds suddenly billowed out from her and shrouded her form. The clouds provided no resistance to Abraxas’ charge, but then suddenly out of the cloud loomed a solid wall of ice directly in Abraxas’ path.

He stabbed the wall with the sword, then used his momentum to push off and as he did, looked back and sent from his maw a beam of energy. It did not not hit the wall, but the sword, which then promptly exploded in a great inferno of destruction. The ice shattered, and was promptly absorbed back into the storm.

Unbeknownst to the two fighting, Orvus was sent flying back a ways by the explosion and realized he could not get any closer. He sank to his knees, and outstretched his hands on either of his sides.

The storm cloud which was Ashalla had expanded considerably around Abraxas, and the Avatar found himself flying through a flurry of sharp and heavy shards of ice. As the avatar was assaulted by the ice, it screamed in pain.

It was then that the meteors arrived, pelting Ashalla as they came down in fiery explosions. Most were tinged with orvium. Ashalla looked up at the incoming projectiles, then rapidly contracted and froze into a hard dome of ice flush with the ground. The explosions around her washed over her and debris scattered off her.

In those moments when Ashalla had receded, the legion of squalls which had formed from the energies of their battle closed in on Abraxas. The squalls swarmed the avatar, before he quickly exploded into a smoky ball of destruction. Those who were about him were snuffed out of existence, and then the avatar mutated some of the squalls, who then began to attack their brethren while the largest of asteroids hurtled towards Ashalla.

Ashalla knew her current defence would not hold up to a direct strike. In an instant she melted and flooded across the lunar surface like torrential rapids, evading the asteroids as they slammed into Veradax, and drawing closer to Abraxas. There was a flash of white in what could have been watery eyes, and a bolt of lightning arced between the squall-storms, Abraxas and the ground. The Avatar flew up instantly, then opened his maw to attack Ashalla, a beam of scarlet searing her form.

Meanwhile, between the squabbling of storms, Orvus sighed. A tear, like so long ago, fell upon the lunar surface and in that moment he thrust both his hands into his healing wound, and pulled it open. There was a scream from Abraxas, who then went ballistic and charged towards Orvus. Yet Ashalla would not let the Avatar. Ashalla reared up in front of Abaraxas, an imposing wall of dark clouds and floating hunks of ice. Abraxas tried to force his way through Ashalla to get to Orvus, but lightning crackled at Abraxas nearly continuously and a mighty pseudopod lashed out at Abraxas to engulf him. The Avatar roared defiantly as he was overcome, water pouring into the pseudopod faster than Abraxas’ aura could destroy it. Then Orvus expelled from his body a mass of black and white swirls that shot off instantly into the void. The God, now mortal, fell upon his back and looked up into the sky as Veradax began to calm.

Within her pseudopod, Ashalla felt Abraxas’ desolate aura falter. The Avatar thrashed futilely against her divine strength. Two orbs of lightning in the storm stared down at Abraxas, and a voice like thunder decreed “Cease.”

The pseudopod froze around Abraxas and crystallised into multiple spikes which skewered Abraxas from all angles with a sickening squelch, spraying out dark ichor. The frozen end of the pseudopod dropped to the ground and shattered, leaving the mutilated corpse to lie in the dust.

The ice and water dissipated into the cloud, which was noticeably smaller and lighter than it had been when she arrived on Veradax. Ashalla billowed over to where Orvus lay. Rain fell about Orvus, and the rain asked, “You sacrificed your divinity. Why?”

He looked up at Ashalla as his blood flowed again. Weakly he murmured, "Ashalla… I am tired of this… I don't… I don't think you… Will ever truly understand… And that's okay..."

Ashalla huffed. Then a pseudopod reached down from the cloud, wrapped around Orvus and picked him up gently. Ice froze around Orvus’ wounds, slowing the flow of blood - not ichor. She carried Orvus over to Arae’s fire and laid him down beside it.

"Home… Please…" he said softly.

Arae walked over to Orvus, returning to her human form and placing his head on her lap. “Orvus… you fool,” Arae said, concerned more than ever about his well-being. Arae wasn’t sure how long the ice on his body would hold back the blood, but she couldn’t imagine it would enough to heal him.

Arae concentrated, dipping into her reserve pool of energy. She held her hands just above Orvus’ chest, pouring energy into it. The ice began to melt, and the resulting water was pushed out as the wound began to fill itself and close up. Soon, the wound was gone, leaving behind a scar. “There,” Arae sighed. “You’ll be fine now, Orvus, though I still recommend you rest up and recover properly. I only healed your wound, not your blood loss.

A look of relief washed over Orvus as he sat up. "Thank you, Arae." he sighed, then looked to Kalmar. "What of him? Will he make it?"

I don’t know,” Arae sadly shook her head. “It is one thing to heal your wounds and stop the bleeding, but Kalmar’s injuries are something else entirely. They’re beyond my capability to heal. I don’t know if he can recover from this, if it’s even possible at all.

"No…" he said sadly. "This is all my fault. If I had just seen that she was in distress…" his voice faltered and went silent.

"We need to get to the Eye." he finally said.

The Eye?” Arae blinked. “What will we find there?

"My family… They should still be there, right?" he asked, looking to Arae.

I suppose we shall find out,” Arae said, transforming back into her dragon form. “Get on, and put Kalmar on my back as well. We have a long journey ahead of us.

A pseudopod reached down from the cloud which was Ashalla and wrapped around Kalmar. A thick layer of ice froze around Kalmar, chilling Kalmar’s body. Ashalla picked up the frozen Kalmar and put him on Arae’s back. “That will preserve him for your journey.”

Orvus climbed up on Arae’s back, near the front and to where he could steady the Kalmar’s body. Orvus then looked to Ashalla. “Thank you, for everything.” he said forlornly.

“You are welcome, Orvus,” said a voice like a river.

As Arae took off, flying back towards the Gateway, Ashalla cast her gaze upwards to look upon the blue and green orb which was Galbar. Occasional lines of fire streaked through its atmosphere, and the desperate prayers of terrified mortals rose up to the gods. Although Abraxas was dead, his plans for desolation were not over.




Something else was on its way to Galbar as well. The divine power that was Orvus was in a battle. The white swirls wanted nothing more than to be whole with its other half, but the dark swirls only wanted one thing, and that was freedom. So they struggled, and fought in the depths of space until they tumbled into the great Blue. It was there, at the top of the world, they split into two orbs. One of white, the other of dark. They looked at each other one last time, before going their separate ways.

The end… Was only the beginning.




4x Like Like
Hidden 11 days ago Post by Lauder
Raw
Avatar of Lauder

Lauder The drunk kind of hero

Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago

An Alliance





The threat of annihilation loomed over Galbar, total and unrelenting, as the forces of desolation made their march to threaten the very existence of life.

Yet, ten years ago, such matters were beyond the very concept of the mortals that inhabited the planet. One such being was the God-Queen of the Aspasian Tribe, Atmav, the one who defeated the mighty Yimbo in combat so long ago out of result of misunderstanding and bloodlust. While still brutish, and very much a warrior, Atmav’s more feral side had been blunted by the teachings of Damocles, who had taught the woman to rule benevolent over the once frightened Selka. It had taken many years before the Selka were finally at ease with Atmav, despite her initial hostile takeover.

Two generations of Selka had come into the world under her rule, and those who could remember the times in which her hand was not there were either dead or elders close to death. Now, she was seen as a boon to the Selka under her, and a usurper to those that surrounded her, despite her not having any intent to expand past the borders she already had. It was those borders that she guarded with a ferocity known only to the lizards of the north in the Bloodlands.

Now, she was awaiting a meeting with the Ubbo, to speak of the matter of the ever growing threat of large tribes, such as the Hyummin. Met at the very border that she so fiercely guarded day after day to ward off the encroachment those larger tribes would occasionally dare. It was these incursions that urged her to meet with the Ubbo, those forming a coalition to do away with the threats that the larger Grottu and Hyummin posed. Her pale, tall figure stood upon a hill, confident and unyielding as her starlit wings extended to strike a more imposing figure. She was flanked by two other silent Selka, both bearing the marking of Aspasia.

It was not long before the Ubbo Tribe arrived. Their chieftan was a tall, formidable Selka, wiith a bow slung over his shoulder and a sharktooth necklace. Beside him was an older man, who carried himself well despite his age, and behind them were eight warriors. As they ascended the hill, however, most of them seemed uncertain or nervous about the strange alien figure which towered above.

The two leading them, however, appeared undaunted. “I am Chieftan Milos, of the Ubbo Tribe,” their leader introduced himself, stepping forward. “Are you the one who calls herself God-Queen?”

For a moment, the woman merely tilted her head down to acknowledge them for a moment before she spoke, “Yes. I am Atmav, God-Queen of Aspasia.” She reached behind her to pull forward her orvium greatsword, resting it in the sand in front of her as she seemed to look past Milos.
“I have heard that Ubbo have been forming a coalition,” she said simply as her eyeless face seemed to inspect those who seemed uncertain of her presence.

“You heard correctly,” Milos nodded. “And many have already joined.” He looked her up and down. “You know, God-Queen is an unusual title… especially when there is no god named Atmav.”

“I have ruled over the Aspasia before you were even a pup and yet I have not aged. I am mightier than any beings that I have encountered, other than the god, Orvus,” her head tilted back to face Milos directly, her words clear and concise, “Compared to your people, it is a fitting title.”

“We’ve met gods,” Milos told her. “You do not compare to them.”

“I was made by a god, directly forged to be superior to many mortals. I know my limitations, but that does not stop me from offering a challenge,” Atmav commented shifting her blade in the sand as an indication.

“I’ve always preferred the bow,” Milos said with a shrug. “And I have no intention of starting a fight over mere titles and words. We aren’t the Grottu. So, back to why we are here…”

Atmav cleared her throat, “Right.”

“The Hyummin have been increasingly bold in their encroachment of our territory. Specifically, the Grottu, but that does not matter. The point is, while I have the capability to match them upon the land myself, I can do little to them in the water. They have been exploiting that fact and I am in need of assistance as my people do not have the number to match them on our own,” Atmav explained, looking to the Selka on her left.

The once silent male stepped forward to speak, “We have had only one skirmish with one of their hunting parties while they attempt to steal from a school of fish that lies within our waters. We are lucky that event did not start a war.”

Milos’s eyebrows rose. “A skirmish?” he asked. “Who attacked first?”

“We did, we had to defend what we need to feed our own,” the Aspasian said.

“How many dead?” came the chieftan’s next question.

“None. Perhaps that was to only reason we managed to avoid open war, though we had many injuries on our side, the last I remember,” came the answer.

“As you can hear, if the Hyummin wish to take our food from us, all they need to do is send more of their hunters. Eventually, we will not be able to contest them at sea,” Atmav said, the aspasian male stepping back.

Milos considered her words in silence. And then, just when he was about to speak, the older Selka spoke up. “Allow us to talk about this in private,” he requested.

“Very well,” Atmav said, drawing her blade from the sand before resting it upon her shoulder. She took a step back as she motioned for the two she was to come to her, turning her back to the Ubbo as she spoke with them.

Milos and his advisor stepped away as well, turning their backs as they put arms around each other’s shoulders, and their voices fell into whispers.

“What is it, Hoshu?”

“She wants to join our pact. Do not allow it.” Hoshu cautioned.

“I’m wary of her myself, but what is your reasoning?” Milos asked.

“She nearly started a war over some fish,” Hoshu pointed out.

“But she says the Hyummin were encroaching on her territory. If that’s true… stealing food is serious. Remember the stories of the famine?”

“I do,” Hoshu nodded, “but we didn’t need to go to war over it, and she doesn’t need to go to war over it now.”

“If the Hyummin keep pushing, then it sounds like war will come anyway. She’ll lose, they’ll take her land, she’ll be driven into ours, we’ll have more mouths to feed, and then they’ll come for us next,” Milos argued. “The entire point of this pact was so they can’t push us around like that.”

“You don’t know a war will come,” Hoshu insisted, “and if it does, she might be the one who drags us into it. Or she might try to take over us. She thinks she’s a god.”

“But she isn’t one, and our own gods can protect us from her,” Milos assured him. “Trust me, I know how to handle this.”

And with those words, the Ubbo Chieftan returned to the meeting ground. “I can offer you a place in our coalition,” he told her. “As an equal. What you call yourself among your own people does not concern us, but at our meetings you’ll refer to yourself as Chieftan, like the rest of us, and you’ll have as much say as anyone else - no more, no less. If you accept that, we can help you. We’ll put our weight behind yours, set a boundary, and tell the Hyummin to advance no further. They’ll probably listen, but if not, what happens next is on them.”

For a moment, Atmav stood silent, considering her options as she looked back to her two followers. After a long moment of deliberation, the queen nodded her head, “Very well, if it means that the Hyummin will be kept at bay then who am to disagree with such a simple request?”

She extended a hand to the chieftain in order to seal their pact as allies. Milos accepted it, and shook.

“I look forward to being able to tell the Hyumnin to stay off our land,” Atmav said as she stepped back, turning away from the chieftain as she brought her blade to rest upon her shoulder. She motioned for her followers to move with her as she stepped down the hill, leaving Milos and his men to their own devices.




Present Day


“Keep running!”

“Don’t look back! Get to the b-“

Blood littered the sand as a boulder fell onto a Selka, with enough force to send the other flying. He landed on his back with the wind knocked out of him, dazed and unable to move, though still able to comprehend the situation he was in. Though, what could he do when he spotted a rocky being barreled through the tree line, roaring in anger.

They had encountered it along their western lands, patrolling for any sign of Hyummin intervention in their lands. It slaughtered nearly the entirety of their party, their attempts to fight it had proven only to make it angrier and more wrathful. But now, it had followed those who had escaped to the very beaches where they could be able to run, yet, the only survivor could do little but crawl towards the sea as he felt the very earth tremor as the being approached, laughing. He could turn just in time to see it reach for him, it was then that the Selka gave into fate and merely watched as the rock reached for him.

Then, sparks flew as something caused the Ihokhur to real back in surprise , sand kicking up as it scrambled backwards.

“Get up, boy!” A harsh, feminine rang in the Selka’s ear.

Atmav stood over the seal, clutching the Desolate Greatsword as she stared down the Ihokhur her wings of the nights spread in an act of intimidation. However, the sight of a being with a weapon made from Orvus, alongside a blade base from Kalani’s own flesh, confused the creature. Who, upon standing to its full massive height, momentarily forgot the angrier that it had felt.

“What are you?” It asked, looking to the wings then back to the sword.

Atmav was silent, before sand kicked into the air once more, her four wings flapping powerfully as she went to a speed that caused the Ihokhur to momentarily wonder what was happening. Then, sparks flew once more as the blade contacted the body of the great being, a powerful force causing it to stagger back once more.

“I have been looking for a reason to use this blade that Orvus had forged me,” came the bloodthirsty voice of Atmav, the Ihokhur looking up to see her just out of reach

“I will tear you limb from limb before Kalani does!” It roared once more, moving to pick up the boulder. A scarlet beam cleared through its shoulder, but it reached the boulder and haphazardly threw it in the direction of Atmav. The boulder had come close to hitting Atmav, who had only dodged due to knowing what the beast was doing, but it brought her close enough for her to meet the back of the Ihokhur’s hand. Sending her sailing into the sand, the beast quickly charging after her with a blood-curdling roar.

A scarlet beam then found its way to the glowing indentation on its head, it stopped the charged in its entirety as the beat fell upon the sand, clutching what it used to see. A sustained beam came through the mist of sand, the Ihokhur roaring in a panic before fleeing into the forest.

Atmav, taking in painful breaths as she gripped the side where the Ihokhur had hit her, definitely feeling cracked ribs. Her form crouched onto the ground.

The Selka ran to her side, falling into his knees before her, “God-Queen!”

“Boy,” Atmav said, clenching her teeth in pain, “Why did you not run?”

“I could not abandon you, my queen.”

“Good, help me to my feet,” she commanded as the Selka rushed to her side. “When we get back to the tribe, send messages to the other tribes,” her words were cold.

“We are going to war.”






3x Like Like
Hidden 10 days ago Post by AdorableSaucer
Raw
Avatar of AdorableSaucer

AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

Member Seen 2 days ago

The Day of Death


Eamhair kept her head low in the shrubberies. She had been jogging for hours now, chasing the beast. She heard its panting a shallow distance away, the rustling in the grass as it laid down to rest. She did her best to steady her own breathing - she was far from equally fast, but her endurance outshone this beast hundredfold. Still, she couldn’t be too careful - the beast no doubt had some energy left, and her aching belly told her that she couldn’t very well afford to spend her own reserves so frivolously. With a swift, silent hand, she took a fist-sized rock in her hand and cupped it into her sling. One well-placed hit should do it - a surprising daze to knock it out cold while she cuts into its heart with her stone knife. She assumed her stance and began winding up the sling.

“YAAAAAARGH!” came a scream from the opposite side of the beast and out the bushes burst her sister Caitir with an enormous wooden trunk in her hand. The beast squealed and scrambled to its feet. Eamhair drew a surprised breath and, thinking quickly, sent the rock flying. However, due to her sister’s distraction, the stone clapped against the beast’s thigh and accomplished little more than a pained roar before it huddled off. Caitir chased it away from the clearing before throwing the stick to the ground in frustration.

“Oh, wolf doo! It got away--ow!” Caitir looked over her shoulder to frown at the glare of Eamhair, who smacked her over the head again.

“You dumb, useless idiot! I was -just- about to knock it out! Why did you just run at it, huh? Where’s your sling?!”

Caitir blocked a third incoming blow. “I lost it, okay?! You were running so fast and I fell and, and then I dropped it, and I called out, but you just kept running, and--”

“Okay, shut up!” Eamhair pinched the bridge of her nose. “Ugh… Now what… Did you see where it went?”

“How could I have seen where it went with you nagging me all like--”

“Caitir, focus! Did it leave any tracks?” The two stared down at the ground. A trail of kicked-up dirt and half-recognisable tracks led into some nearby bushes - the very same bushes were ripped and broken.

“Looks like it went that way,” Caitir proposed and hefted the stock back onto her shoulder. Eamhair hung her sling from her loincloth and made a wry expression.

“You don’t say…” She groaned. “Come on, let’s go.” She set off into a quick gait. Behind her, she heard the distant calls of her sister shouting ‘h-hey! Wait up!” Eamhair rolled her eyes and ignored them. Along her path the tracks zig-zagged between trees, over roots and under branches. Eamhair plucked a tuft of grey hair from a thorny bush. She gave it a sniff and pursued the tracks moving forward from the bush. The tracks were becoming deeper and sluggish, feet often crossing over one another and the occasional rut where the beast must’ve fallen. Soon, she heard that familiar panting. She crept down behind the bushes and stole a glance above them. By the roots of an old oak, she saw the beast lie gasping for air. She wouldn’t even have to knock it out like this. Immediately, she grabbed her knife, pounced out of the bush and drove it into its heart.

The beast had no chance to react. Hands caked in blood, Eamhair triumphantly pulled the stone blade out and reveled as the beast drew its final breaths. Then, there was silence. Eamhair snickered to herself and put her lips to the wound. She was incredibly thirsty after all this running, and blood was both nutritious and drinkable. The rich flavour filled her mouth and she made sure to spill as little as possible - it was a sin to waste the animal’s bounty, after all.

As she began to skin and butcher the beast, the silence grew terribly heavy. She allowed herself a number of peeks around the area, her keen eyes spotting nothing. Another moment passed before she called out: “Caitir?”

There was no response. Eamhair groaned to herself, sliced off a small chunk of the beast’s dripping heart and put it in her mouth. She was slow, sure, but not -this- slow. She had probably lost her. She rose to her feet, packed the meat she had managed to cut loose so far into the beast’s hide. She got to her feet and turned to the carcass with a suspicious scowl. “You’re going nowhere, you hear?” she mumbled to herself before she began to retrace her steps backwards.

“Caitir? Caaaaaiiitir?” Eamhair called. By Kalmar, how far had she ran? She couldn’t very well have outrun her sister -this- badly. At least, not unless her sister had been halted in her steps. Cold sweat cooled her forehead and she picked up her pace.

“Caitir! Caitir!” she called with command and unease and began sprinting through the woods. Branches whipped against her skin and thorns bit at her calves. The adrenaline ignored all of it, however - if her sister was in danger, she couldn’t afford to feel pain.

There came a weak whimper from a clearing behind a tree, followed by desperate gasps. Eamhair nearly fell forward as she turned mid-sprint. In an instant, she gazed upon her sister’s body flat on the forest soil, patches of her usual healthy, bronze skin blackening and paling like mouldy meat. Her eyes looked like old nan’s, white as milk and empty of sensation. Her breathing was irregular at best and she appeared unable to move, yet involuntarily twisted and turned as if her skin was filled with insects.

“Caitir, what’s wrong?!” Eamhair called out and laid a hand on her sister’s shoulder. In an instant, Caitir’s empty eyes locked with hers and she unleashed a deafening scream before first reaching out to choke her, then retracting her hands, then choking herself, then tossing her arms around. Eamhair skipped back, desperation and instinct overtaking reason.

“Caitir! Stop! I’ll-- I’ll bring you to old nan, just--”

“IT HUUUUURTS!” Caitir wailed before rolling over and drumming her forehead against a stone on the ground. She managed to cut herself a wound before Eamhair restrained her. Caitir tried wildly to pull herself lose, then immediately stopped and attempted to embrace her sister before then suddenly battling for her freedom like a caged beast. Eamhair, seeing no other option, wound up a hook and knocked her sister out cold. Luckily, her delusions and the agony of her affliction had already worn her out - Eamhair had only needed to punch once.

Now, however, Eamhair was horrified. What manner of plant or venom had done this to her?! That was when she noticed the trees around her, nearly every single one, suddenly releasing their leaves like they always did around autumn. The issue was, though, that autumn was far, far off. The bark paled into fragile ash and the roots began to smell of rot. Eamhair remained no longer. She left behind the sack of meat, scooped her sister into her arms and ran for home. Around her, the forest blackened and whitened into a monochrome nightmare, a terror which only spurred her to sprint faster. After a while, her lungs and heart could barely keep up with her panic and she was forced to slow down. Fewer and fewer of the trees around her now had suffered similar fates, but the dead woods behind her were already enough. Her village was not far now. Her heart calming down a little, she permitted herself to look down at her sister again. The corruption had spread, her every extremity now black as soot and each limb pocked with black and white spots.

“H-hey, Caitir,” Eamhair whimpered. There came no response. Eamhair prayed she was still just unconscious and spurred on. “Please hold on,” she whispered.

In a half an hour, she had reached their village, but what met her there was everything beyond what she had expected. Laid between the tents were a number of sick elves like her sister, but these were not from her own tribe. They were Wolfhearts, from further north - a village that they had no amiable relations to, and in truth, had been in a rivalry with. Now, though, the flutes played a different tune, and friend had become foe as this mysterious plague had overtaken them. Eamhair hurried over to their grandmother’s tent and pushed aside the curtain.

“Old nan! Caitir is very sick!”

The old Mir, the one among them who had been created old by the gods, looked up from the one she already was treating, exhaustion nearly pouring out of her eyes like tears. Eamhair pushed herself past everyone else, Caitir limp in her arms. Her sight locked onto the one Old nan was treating: It was the Wolfheart chieftain, a hunter by the name of Labhruinn. He was restrained with vines and sinew, squirming around as best he could while screaming through the sling wrapped over his mouth like a gag. Old nan had wrapped his black spots in sootheleaves, but he seemed rabid. Around him a crowd stood staring, a member of which, Eamhair had become.

“Well, don’t just stand there! Let me see her!” Old nan commanded and Eamhair snapped back into reality. It was clear from the way the old Mir inspected the wounds that she was at a loss for what to do. She would likely attempt the same procedure - sootheleaves really cured most ailments that affected the Everblooms; why could it not cure this one, too? However, with Caitir still unconscious, they had no way of verifying whether she was cured. As a precaution, Eamhair reluctantly bound her sister’s hands and feet; if she still was as rabid as before, she could not be allowed to walk free in the village.

All of a sudden, though, there came panicked cries and screams from the outside. The curtain was pulled aside in a haste and Eamhair saw it was Aodhàn, their greatest hunter.

“Elder Seonag! Elder Seonag! The sky is raining fire!”

“What?” came an empty question from old nan and everyone inside the tent ran out to see. Not much later did their screams add to the cacophony. Eamhair exchanged frightened looks with old nan before sprinting out to see. Indeed, it had been as Aodhàn had described it: Up the sky, which at this time of day would begin to near twillight, there was no Heliopolis, for it was obstructed by a much closer, much more terrifying ball of flame. Eamhair felt her blood freeze. She had lived a short life - much too short, and already it was ending? A million thoughts banged at her skull from the inside, all battling over the place atop the priority list. Should she go in and tell Caitir how much she loves her? Should she find that sweet boy she barely even knew the name of and tell him what she felt for him? Should she place some flowers by the river into which her parents’ ashes had been scattered?

“Eamhair!” Aodhàn shouted and she turned around to face him. The hunter grabbed her by the hand and pulled her along. “What are you doing?! Run!”

Eamhair gasped. “B-but what about Caitir?! And old nan?!”

“It’s too late for them, they’ll only slow us down! Come on!” The hunter let her go and ran for the woods, but Eamhair still remained in the camp, her eyes shifting between the trees and old nan’s tent. She looked back up at the boulder of flame. No way was she outrunning that - not even her. Aodhàn had courage - courage and hope - but the orb was nearly the size of their village already, its shade obscuring the sky.

Suddenly, another shape appeared below it, one smaller in comparison, but still enormous to the elves. It sped down to the village with incredible speed and sat itself neatly upon the soil in the village centre. From the object’s top came a booming voice: “Quickly! Come aboard if you want to live!” Then, along the sides of the object formed weird toothed slopes. At first, nobody dared approach, many still running for the woods. The voice boomed again: “Climb the stairs and come inside, or else you -will- perish!”

Twice was all Eamhair needed to hear it and she immediately ran into the tent, gathered those who were sane, as well as her unconscious sister, and began shepherding them up the weird, liquid slopes. Others turned to face the thing, as well, running towards it as they had ran for the woods. Once they reached the top of the slope, strangers that looked much like them began leading them towards a very odd, yet incredibly glistening mountain. The mountain revealed a slowly-opening cave at its bottom, into which the elves were rushed. When the last of them had come in, the cave was sealed with wooden tent flaps larger than any Eamhair had ever seen. The strangers spoke to some of the elves in a musical tone, offering them woven furs to keep warm.
Then came a shock, one that tossed every Mir and stranger off their feet. The room immediately grew incredibly hot, then cooled as time went on. Then there was silence. The strangers offered Eamhair and her kin some hot water with a very odd aftertaste, and Eamhair took the opportunity to ask the one who offered it to her a question:

“Please, would you tell us where we are?”

The stranger formed what Eamhair supposed was a smile and curtesied without really responding. Eamhair reasoned she hadn’t been understood and dipped her lips back into the hot water with a slurp.

“You are aboard Jiangzhou - my home,” came a deep, oily voice and every Mir turned to face its source. It had long ears like them, and a face that could’ve belonged to a particularly fearsome and animalistic individual, but the similarities ended there: Its skin ended at the borders of its torso, being overtaken by crimson scales; above its ears, it grew great, dull-tipped horns; it stood about two feet taller than them, and its posture portrayed a profound sense of might and composure.

This creature was evidently one of the Gods.

“Who are you?” asked Eamhair curiously. The others listened intently. The creature turned to face her and formed a small smile.

“I am Shengshi, dear one - lord of the rivers; king of the harvests--” A number of the Vallamir placed their fists on their chest and bowed their heads in awed salute, “-- and I have come to aid Kalgrun against the end of the world.”

“Is the world ending?!” came a number of panicked screams. The snake smirked.

“Not if we can help it. Worry not - you are safe now.”

“B-but… The fire… In the sky?” Eamhair asked in confusion. The snake’s smile waned.

“Yes. It has struck the earth. My ship is impervious to its damage, but… Your village.” He shook his head. The elves drew gasping breaths and tears began to roll. Shengshi sighed and slithered over to place a hand on Eamhair’s shoulder. “... It is always a tragic loss - especially when it is caused by something so destructive. However, worry not, for I will find you a new home. One where all…” He scanned the crowd. “... Two hundred of you can live in peace in much the same way as you did here.”

Old nan, who had been brought to her knees during the quake, stood up and asked, “Will this home be far from our ancestral lands? We have hunted these woods for ten years, and we know no other way of life.”

The snake sighed. “Yes. It will be far from your old home; however, that is because your old home is…” He looked thoughtful for a moment. “... Fire has enormous potential for destruction. I am afraid what remains of your lands is…”

“May we see it?!” Eamhair pleaded. The snake’s reptilian gaze shifted to her.

“It will be a painful sight, dear one,” the snake cautioned.

“M-may we see it still?!”

The snake lowered his gaze and eventually nodded. “If you are not faint of heart, then my gates shall open for you to witness the result of Heaven’s wrath. Beware, though - the sight of death is one few can stomach.” Behind him, the gates of the palace slowly opened. “We will seek out more than may need our aid. Once Kalgrun is safe, you will be brought to your new home.”

“W-where will that be?” Old nan asked.

“The Dragon’s Foot, dear one - west of here,” said the snake and slithered off. Eamhair stood staring out the open gates. She slowly exited the palace and crossed over to the edge of the deck, her eyes boiling with tears.

Everywhere around them, as far as her eyes could see, there was ash and flame. Beside the vessel laid the cracked, sooted remains of a large rock, still radiating heat. Every tree she had known and climbed throughout her life here was either gone or reduced to charcoal. A little further beyond, the small walls of a crater crawled out of the ground to surround the great stone. As she peered even closer, Eamhair saw traces of blood, bone and charred skin among the dunes of ash. Slowly, though, the vessel she was on began to float upwards. She lost her balance a moment, and her legs were made weaker as she noticed the full scale of the damage. She couldn’t even begin to formulate thoughts anymore - her mind was wiped empty like the wasteland below. She sat down against the railing, her head resting on her knees, and wondered what she or her people had ever done to deserve this apocalypse.



1x Like Like
Hidden 9 days ago 3 days ago Post by Crispy Octopus
Raw
Avatar of Crispy Octopus

Crispy Octopus Into the fryer we go.

Member Seen 21 hrs ago

A Change of Ideas
Part 3


The Darkness Between Worlds


Silence.

It was, Asceal reflected, something she’d begun to forget. Between her children, Liana, and the mass of life the other gods had created, when was the last time she’d experienced it? Eons ago, and perhaps in this same place. The void.

Travelling through it brought back memories. Memories she’d thought sweet now tainted by a history she’d never anticipated. A chariot, Aelius, and a plan. On reflection it all seemed so naive, so… Pathetic. Even if they had managed to bring light to the whole of Galbar, it would have been pointless. Katharsos had already killed the souls they sought to comfort.

Once that revelation had nearly destroyed her. Now? The thought didn’t even stir her. After all, she was on a journey to find out if mortals were even worth saving. If they all held the same darkness in their hearts as Ovmo had, and if Katharsos had seen that, well then perhaps the monster in the pyres was no monster at all.

It was a chilling thought, but one that lingered. Neither she nor Azura had considered that some mortals simply weren’t worth saving. Even if Ovmo had been an aberration, by now the Alma would have crystallized dozens like him. Monsters, waiting to be unleashed. Of course, that was only if Ovmo was the exception.

If he wasn’t? Then she and Azura had done something unforgivable. That was why she was flying through the void, why she was seeking out the only person who could answer her questions. Abanoc, the god of Recording.

Asceal had never met him, but all the gods reflected their aspect. What they were, what they could do, it defined them. There was little chance Abanoc hadn’t been watching Galbar. As she streaked towards his Sphere she wondered what he would be like. Would he offer the information she needed freely, or would he strike a bargain?

She hoped he would be amicable, but in the end it didn’t matter. There was no price so high she wouldn’t pay to know. As the Observatory resolved itself in her vision, a vast platform ringed with grand pillars, she steeled herself for whatever might come.




A flash of light came into Abanoc’s view, distracting him from his work. He already knew what it was and wasn’t alarmed by its approach. He stood up from his throne to welcome his fast approaching sister.

The mass of light slowed down and entered the limits of the Observatory, stopping at ground level. After a moment the light took the shape of a woman covered by a dress, both looking as if made of diamond with a light shining through.

“Welcome, sister. What brought you here?” He said as he walked down the steps to meet Asceal.

The Goddess eyed Abanoc nervously, but didn’t shy away from the question, “What brings anyone here Abanoc?” She pursed her lips and closed her eyes for a moment before continuing, “I’m sorry, but as much as I wish I'd come for your company, there’s something I need to know. I suspect the only ones with the answers I need are you and the Architect.”

“If it is questions that you have then I will answer them to the best of my abilities. What do you wish to know?”

“The mortals. I have to know if-” Asceal’s voice caught in her throat and she took a deep breath, “I have to know if I made a mistake. I’ve worked, from the very beginning, to make things better for them. I have to know if that was a mistake.”

The Goddess dimmed as she spoke and by the time she fell silent she was positively faint. She all but whispered, “I need to know what they’re like. I need to see them Abanoc. All of them.”

“You can monitor all of Galbar’s activity through the mirror above us.” He pointed at said mirror above the pillars. Galbar’s surface could be seen clearly. “Alternatively you can read from my Archive for past events.” Then he showed Asceal the book. “I regret to say I do not have Galbar’s entire history recorded, but it should contain the information you seek. Do mind its usage, however. You may be divine, but it can still cause some discomfort if you use it too much. Is there anything else that you need?”

Asceal looked down at the closed book and shook her head, “No. No that’s all I needed. Thank you Abanoc.”

“If there is ever a new question you may simply ask me. Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Abanoc then returned to his throne.

With that the Goddess threw open the book, and everything changed.




The Goddess of Light looked down at the book, its pages filled with shimmering golden words in a language that seemed like gibberish even to a god, and briefly wondered if she’d been deceived. That was not a long lived notion. Before she could even utter a word her mind was flooded with a torrent of imagery and sound.

If Asceal had taken Abanoc’s warning to heart she’d have stopped there, but even as she struggled to process what she was seeing she began unconsciously flipping pages. The sheer volume of information nearly drove her to her knees. That, and the things she was seeing. It seemed, at least for a moment, that Asceal’s worst fears were true.

She saw a Selka, one of the first to ever live, cave in the skull of his friend. She watched Ohannakeloi’s Ihokhetlani be twisted by Orvus into Ihokhurs, and she witnessed the atrocities they committed at the behest of no god. Through another perspective she experienced the Jotundar’s campaign of destruction.

She saw countless mortals, and she saw all the evil in their hearts. Some were as bad as Narzhak, callous creatures who seemed to thrive on the suffering of others. Others… Asceal paused, even in the grips of Abanoc’s book.

Others stood tall in the face of everything. The Selka who’d first sullied that species innocence with blood and hate, Hoshaf, had not been unopposed. Asceal watched events long past and saw that even as Hoshaf spread his evil, others spread good. Panganeem, Gorpingu, Ippino, Juttyu. Selka who saw the wickedness rising among their people and chose not to ignore it, not to embrace it, but to oppose it.

To destroy it. In the face of better Selka, Hoshaf and his evil burned. It was a cruel fate, but Asceal’s heart only wished it had been worse. Hoshaf had stolen countless lives, subjected his fellow Selka to innumerable horrors, and his punishment? A quick death at the hands of the same evil he’d created. It was ironic, perhaps fitting, but it was insufficient.

Hoshaf had never been forced to kill, he had made a choice. As had Panganeem. It seemed perverse to Asceal that Hoshaf would be granted the same fate as the one who had stopped him. Not that they died in the same circumstances… Just that they had both died. It was unfair. Monsters like the Ihokhurs and Heroes like the K’nights all suffered the same fate, in the end. Both could burn in the Pyres, or be preserved by the Alma for a future that might never come.

Vaguely, she recalled Shengshi telling her that the world was meant to be balanced. That harmony demanded both good and evil. She had denied it then, but now she understood. It was not that there had to be good and evil, merely that the hearts of mortals were no better than the hearts of gods. There would always be evil, and good would always rise to fight it.

That didn’t mean that the scales had to be balanced like Shengshi thought. If evil went unpunished, and good unrewarded, perhaps that would be harmony in Shengshi’s eyes, but not hers.

Asceal considered all Abanoc’s book had shown her of the world, and she decided that perhaps the scales could be swayed. That they should be. Good would be rewarded. Evil would be punished. Her only concern was that she might not be fit to do that, that even now her perspective was limited, but perhaps even that could be addressed. She had once made a promise, after all. And what did she care for the supposed permanence of death?

Lost in thought as she was, Asceal almost missed Abanoc when he spoke.




“Have you found what you were looking for?”

The Goddess blinked rapidly and shut the book before looking back at Abanoc. She seemed almost unsteady on her feet, but with a look in her eyes that could make even gods hesitate, “I have, and I did make a mistake. Just… Not the one I expected. The mortals are as flawed as we are, but perhaps they can be better. Even if just a bit.”

“Mortals are reflections of the gods that nurture them. Just as there are good and evil gods there will be good and evil mortals. Their fragility can cause their spirits to waver, as was with the Selka, but given time and order they can accomplish truly magnificent feats.”

“They can be good or evil, on that we agree Abanoc,” Asceal began to glow again, and she gave her brother a weak smile, “But they are reflections of nothing. They weren't created with the memories or knowledge of their creators. Their good and evil are all their own, and they all have to choose.”

Her little smile gave way to a peculiar grin, “I think I’ll be there when they do.”


3x Like Like
Hidden 9 days ago 9 days ago Post by Not Fishing
Raw
Avatar of Not Fishing

Not Fishing The Mediocre

Member Seen 2 hrs ago

Karamir

&
Arya




Karamir stared intently at the clay cup, filled almost to the brim with water. He squinted slightly, and then waved a palm upward, only to frown. He brought his hand down, and then tried again, only to frown. He waved a few more times at the air above the cup, this time from left to right, but nothing happened, and his eyes widened. “No…” he whispered.

Arya sat across from him, watching the spectacle with a frown. Before them were empty plates of plates and scraps of food. It had been a large meal, but she found herself not very hungry. Karamir, for his part, had been ravenous. After telling Karamir all he wanted to know about the world, and helping to fill in some of his gaps, the two sat in silence. Now, Arya was perplexed.

“That’s not how you drink, Karamir.” she said, worried.

For a moment he only stared at her, and then, he snapped. “I know!” he said angrily, then took a breath, and calmed himself. “I can’t cast mana anymore…” he said softly.

Arya winced. Slowly she straightened herself and asked in a small voice, “Mana…?”

“Something one of the gods taught me, I think,” he said in a defeated tone, as he let his hand drop. “It’s… a source of power, that allows certain mortals to do things others can’t. I could control water and wind with it, but now… I can’t.” He sighed.

“I see.” she said. “Maybe you just need to keep trying. With your condition, maybe you forgot something?”

“Maybe…” he said in an unsure tone, but he did not move, or say any more.

“Don’t be discouraged. Perhaps if you teach me how to, something could click?” she asked with a hopeful tone.

“I don’t know… I guess I could try,” he shrugged. “It took me a really long time, though. How long do you think it will be until my soul can be healed?”

Arya shrugged. “There’s still no word from Arryn or Kalmar. I’m sure they’ll say something soon.”

Karamir seized that opportunity to move on from the topic of his lost mana. “You told me you knew Kalmar, but you were surprised when you found out what he did to me. Why is that?” he asked her.

Arya sighed. “Kalmar, at one point in time, was like a wall. Impenetrable and unmoving. There were cracks, but he has a hard time being empathetic with others. He thinks he’s doing the right thing, but that’s not always the case. I’ve always wanted him to care for his creations, and love them and he does love them, but he does not show it. So when you told me he beat you with a stick and cast you out to fend for yourself, I was angry, because that life should not be given to anyone, especially we who come into the world as little more than children.” her voice faded. She looked past him and as if in deep thought.

“Do you know if I met him at any point after that?” he asked. “I don’t remember anything else of him, but it feels almost like he was the one who forgot me.”

She did not answer for a minute, and then said absentmindedly, “I hope so.” before falling silent again.

Karamir was silent as well, and several awkward seconds passed before he once again attempted to reignite the conversation. “This talk just keeps making me feel sadder and sadder,” he said truthfully. “Is there anything else we can do while the time passes?”

Her eyes focused and at once she shot up, “You’re quite right! This moping about isn’t doing us any good. Come on, let’s go check on the others and see if we can do anything to help out.”

Karamir rose to his feet, not quite sharing her enthusiasm but welcoming the chance to do something else. “Let’s go, then.”

The two stepped outside. The darkening sky over them was a spectacle of lights, the bright glow of the Garden, and further away Moksha, joined by hundreds of bright streaks sliding down towards Galbar. Somewhere in the distance, a flash of ruddy radiance descended into the sea, followed by a dull blasting sound. Outlandish as it might have been, such a sight was now not outside the ordinary.

What was clearly out there, however, was the enormous dark shape approaching in the heavens from southward. By the time they could clearly discern it against the twilight, it was almost over them. It veered to the northwest as it came, leaving behind the whoosh of gigantic wings, and descended into the forest line as soon as it had gained it. Almost serpentine in its motions, it dipped down again and again between the treetops, before taking one final dive and disappearing among the woods.

Already Karamir’s dagger was out, and before Arya’s very eyes, the small blade had transformed into a spear. “We’ll need to see what that was,” he said, extending a hand to her. “Come.”

Without saying anything, Arya bolted in the direction of the creature. As she ran, something shot out from the house, zipping past Karamir before it collided with Arya in a flash of bright light. When the light dimmed, she was clad in armor head to toe, a helmet with a fully covered visor sat atop her head and the object, a glowing sword, hung loosely in her hand as she took off into the air. Then just like that, the jungle swallowed her.

Karamir frowned in annoyance, then levitated into the air and sped after her. His cloak was faster, and so he quickly caught up, then slowed to match her pace. Neither could go at full speed anyway, since they had to dodge and weave between the trees.

The woods around them seemed different from their usual nightly animation. The scraping, chattering and singing of birds and beasts was hushed, as though the jungle's usual inhabitants had been cowed by something unfamiliar. Now and then, their sharp senses caught strange signs - a waft of tremendously rancid stench, a low porcine grunt, a small, stunted form flitting among the tree-trunks.

As they approached the spot where the great flying being had disappeared, a sound even more uncannily out of place reached their ears. A musical tune slithered over the undergrowth, more elaborate than anything any player short of a divine would have been capable of. It was fast, almost frantic at times, and alternating between subduedly ribald and dimly ominous tones. Most striking of all, however, was the instrument. It was not every day that a violin was heard on Galbar.

[left]Ambience[/left]

“K’nell…?” Arya whispered as they flew.

Then the trees parted.

A large clearing in the jungle had been made even larger by forceful means. Crouching over a vast stretch of crushed trunks was an immense creature whose skin glinted under the nocturnal lights as though it had been of metal. Its long, skeletal body was half-coiled on itself, resting on the clawed tips of colossal leathery wings. The inexpressive lights of two fiery eyes burned dully in its mouthless skull-like head.

Scattered on its back, sitting, crouching, lying and sprawling, hundreds of squat forms crowded about. Snarling pig snouts with cruel looks in their beady eyes flashed in the Gardenlight, reflected in places from dirty blades. The distant sound of jeering squeals broke over the music.

Before the gigantic beast, in the middle of the clearing, a bulky figure squatted in a clay lantern's circle of light. Its bloated body was clad in a tremendously grimy suit of otherwise very finely made armour; the myriad imperfections of the body below, pustules and sores alike, were rendered in nauseating detail. The visored head swayed lightly as the horribly different arms drew the tune from what, despite the sound, was far too large to be a violin.

On a closer look, the lantern itself was the head of a robed figure that held a tablet under the elbow of a wooden arm.

The deformed player reached the end of his symphony and closed it with a strident shriek, spinning the bow in a flourish. He turned his head to both sides - something like a darting black snake seemed to flick before his helmet as he did - and stopped its hidden face towards the newcomers.

"Check this out! Backdrop," he pointed at the streak-spangled sky, "sound, and an audience that's more than these spitheads! I've really got it all tonight!" His voice was a ghastly reverberating gurgle. "That's one gutted tip that pays off."

Arya was horrified at the sight before her, and she felt sick just watching. It was not K’nell, that had been a foolish hope. But the grip on her sword tightened as she realized who the monster that spoke was- Vrog. Laurien had told her about him, that he was dangerous and vile. And now… he was here and there would be no Gods that could come to their aid. They were on their own.

“Diana is behind this,” Karamir whispered, a low fury in his voice. His attention was not on Vrog, but on the other creatures and a memory came back to him - of a hot day, an uncomfortable oversized umbrella, and a glassy orb. “What are you doing here?” he demanded.

"So that's her name?" Vrog mused with a portion of his voices, "Di… Dj… Jana?" He tapped his instrument with unnaturally long fingers, "Jana, not too scrapped as names go. Heard better, though." He gave an out-of-tune screech from his viola and jabbed a hooked finger at Karamir. "You said it yourself, slagbrain. She tipped me there's folks round here not having much fun, so I brought 'em some pals. Got another batch, but we've gotta make a stop after a spitted ocean."

Vrog hobbled towards them, still holding the viola. The lantern stayed in its place, and the swollen horror moved through the darkness, heralded by a throat-clenchingly foul smell. "Now you, I'm sure I smelled you before." He pointed at Karamir again. "No gutted clue where, though. Maybe Chop's place, you been there?"

“I… think?” he said, not entirely certain, his confusion threatening to overtake him as he looked deeper into his scrambled memory. Based on Arya’s description, he knew he had met Chopstick, but what place was he referring to? Then he shook his head and dashed the confusion aside. “Where is the orb?” he asked instead.

A spluttering cackle came from under Vrog's helmet. "Can't remember? You spitbellies can't handle a drink." He tapped his bow against the side of his head. "Don't know guts about an orb, either. Sure that's not from the cup too, scrapper?"

Karamir glared at him. “Diana had an orb, and these creatures were inside it,” he insisted. “Somehow they were made real. Are you telling me it’s a coincidence?”

"She had a..." the bow briefly went through the visor's grille, "Now you say it, I'd found them after she'd dropped them. Ate that bit." A disgusting slobbering sound accompanied these words. "Guess it's the closest you get to biting that - morsel. Full worth it, I say."

The black tendril slipped out from his head again. Up close, it was clear this was a long, misshapen tongue, whose tip appeared to have been violently cut off. It tentatively jabbed around Karamir, then swept towards Arya, hovering around her and stopping over the back of one of her hands before whipping back in. "Jana's been out a while, though, and that's a spitting bother. Her whole place feels gutted off." His accusing finger turned against Arya. "Smells like you'd know something about that."

Arya stood still in a state of confusion. She had been about to cut the thing’s tongue off, but it retracted. Several questions flooded into her mind, about Diana and K’nell. What was going on?

“You came here, because Diana told you…” she said before looking at the Pigguts. “What are these things?” she then said angrily.

"They're a spitlot of fun," Vrog churned, "The stuff they do with each other's a laugh, can't wait to taste how they cook your kind. Now, you going to be like that slaghead Laurien - you smell kinda like her, actually - or you answering the spitting question?"

“You need to leave before I kill you.” Arya threatened, relaxing into an offensive stance. She would not- Could not allow such creatures in her home. It was the only one left.

And neither could Karamir. He had endured Diana’s nightmares, because in the end he would always wake up, and the damage was never physical. Yet here her creatures stood, in direct defiance of that one consolation. Anger and fear filled him. The hand holding the spear began to shake, but then he steeled himself, burying the fear beneath the anger. His grip steadied, his expression hardened with resolve, the spearhead formed into a glaive, and he fell into a stance of his own.

"Kheh-hah! You're almost as funny." Vrog tossed the bow upwards - it never came down - and hefted up the viola holding it like a maul. For a musical instrument, it certainly looked very heavy. "Two of you, hundreds of us, how's that sound? Tell you what, though, I'm in a good mood now, and I'll give you a deal. You-" he motioned at Arya, "-tell me what I want to hear, and we all take up and have our stop elseplace, that good? We're near done here either way. You don't," he twirled his improvised weapon between his fingers, "and maybe you'll poke me a couple times with your gutsticks, but you'll be in a spitting hilarious way when we're done. Once in a lifetime offer, how's that to you?"

“I’d rather burn in the pyres, than tell you anything, monster. Now you listen.” she said twirling Wreanon. “The twin of this sword, almost slew a god. You will take these things and go now, or I will be forced to use it. No other offers, no other excuses. Leave, or else.” she said sternly.

"Slag, you try to go easy for once..." Vrog mused, seemingly to himself. "You're spitting lucky I got a drink to smell ahead that leaves your scrapyard bodies in the pits in compare. Real nice night, so I'll try again. Sure your buddy here," he nudged the viola in Karamir's direction, "doesn't want to hear about the sleep place too? Guessing it beats a couple broken arms."

“How well do you think you’d stand against a god?” Karamir suddenly asked, tightening his grip on the glaive.

"Depends," Vrog scratched the underside of his head, "Bit more specific?"

”I was created by Kalmar,” Karamir said, ”and Arya here has his favour. He’s the God of the Hunt. Even if you kill us, you won’t be able to hide from him. How long do you think it will take for him to find you and skin you?”

"A gut of a time. Got no skin on me." He rubbed his protruding stomach. "Doubt he's much useful here, though. You don't got anyone who'd know what I'm asking? Get it you slagheads don't." Hard to tell as it was, the final part sounded like having a smile to it.

“So be it!” Arya yelled before lowering her voice to say, “Karamir… Be careful.” The Lady of the Eye then began to walk forward.

Karamir nodded, and as Arya walked forward, he used his cloak to launch himself upward, well over Vrog’s head. Instead of attacking the Avatar directly, he instead set his sights on the skeletal dragon, and lunged toward it.

"All you spitters right itching for a crack," Vrog grumbled, sliding backwards in as close an approximation of a defensive posture as his choice of weapon would allow. He pointed at Arya again, and a momentary dizziness accompanied by a pang of nausea swept over her. Almost immediately, he leapt forward, dodging and sliding sideways with an agility impressive for his bulk while swinging his instrument in a series of frighteningly hefty blows.

Behind him, the winged monstrosity seemed to have caught sight of Karamir, as it whipped around and lifted a wing. It was not fast enough, however, for the red blur that was Karamir zipped forward and skewered its eye in a single thrust. The creature let out a loud, humming moan, shaking its head as heat from the great molten core in its socket coursed up the blade. But Karamir’s ring glowed, and he did not feel it.

Something was wrong Arya knew. She barely had enough time to bring Wreanon up to block the Avatar’s swings, sending her to her knees in the process. She felt so heavy and slow, especially her mind. She could barely remember what to do next, but luckily for her, there was an opening. She rolled between Vrog’s legs, and then brought her sword up to swipe at him from behind, but it was far slower than usual.

Indeed, her adversary was no faster now than before, but he nonetheless had the time to hop ahead out of the strike’s way. The tip of the blade caught him in the back, and it was enough to slice a long, thin gash in his armour, which immediately burst with a flow of impurity like a cut blister. Vrog grunted, but did not slow. Swivelling around, he brought down his viola in another barrage of pounding strikes, this time pressing his advance.

Her head hurt, and each of the blows felt like a mountain barring down upon her with the speed of a jackalope. It was too much for Arya in her state, and she was too slow to block the final strike, which hit her in the side of the head. The blow sent her flying to the side, and she only came to a stop because of a jungle tree. She let out a gasp, she saw stars and then her vision faded to night. Wreanon, floated above her, the sword standing idle.

“Arya!” Karamir shouted, having fallen back from the winged monstrosity. Slamming his weapon back into its sheathe, he flew over to where she had fallen, and picked her up. With a grunt, he hoisted her armoured form over one shoulder, and then reached for her sword… only to pause, as if something was whispering into his mind.

Vrog hefted his instrument with a curious gesture, lightly touching its strings with a claw. "Amazing how much stuff this thing's good for, no? Shoulda thought of it sooner." He spun the fiddle, which was in his hand again, and stabbed it in Karamir's direction. "Holda there, spithead, I'm not done with her. No slagging around or you'll wish I'd just break them arms."

“You will do no such thing, abomination.” A voice proclaimed from above them. Descending into view, Abanoc stood in Vrog’s way. “I will give you fair warning: depart from this place or I shall force you to.”

Karamir’s weapon came back out, and it morphed into a sword of similar shape to Wreanun, but he did not act. Uncertain, he looked from Vrog, to the pigguts, to the new arrivals.

"Aha! That’s better!" If anything, Vrog seemed overjoyed at the development. He drew a shriek from the viola and shifted the bow towards the god. "You smell like a level gutface, so here’s the idea. Tell me one little thing," he pinched two fingers together to show just how little, "little thing that won’t hurt nobody, sworn on the big guy below’s head, and I wing it right now, no questions asked. Deal?"

“And for what reason should I bless one such as you with my trove of knowledge? Would your malformed brain even be able to process it, I wonder.”

"You’re one to talk with that lump on your shoulders,” Vrog’s fiddle tapped the air before Abanoc’s nose, "But I said a little thing, didn’t I? I’ll manage. If it goes right, maybe you won’t have to see this my face you hate so much around for a bit.” He swept the bow in a peremptory line. "At all. That good enough?”

Abanoc let out a sigh. “Very well, I shall at least lend you an ear. What knowledge do you seek?”

The bow spun around a finger like a theatrically twisted cane. "Which one of you godly bunch was K’nell the chummiest with?”

“And just what would you do with that knowledge?”

"Go and reminisce a bit, you know, maybe over a couple glasses. Smell out if there’s any, whattacallem, keepsakes left too. My boss got something left hanging with the scrapper, and he’ll be slagged mad till it’s closed somehow.”

Abanoc pondered for a long moment, trying to imagine the repercussions of what Vrog would do with that knowledge. The god in question was Shengshi and from what Abanoc knew he and Vrog’s master were in good terms. Plus it meant less direct meddling from Abanoc’s part to have the Avatar leave peacefully. “That would be Shengshi, god of Rivers.”

"Scumspitted grand! He’ll be sure to get the glasses!” Vrog gave a brief arpeggio from his viola, and it was as though it had never been there. "Feel it, not hard to keep a deal, innit? That’s it, gutheads,” the latter was addressed to the pigguts on the monster’s back, who had been grunting profanities throughout the conversation, "we’re off! Lightspitter, keep them numbers straight.” The lamphead dutifully scratched down with its stylus-hand the quantity of imps that had taken advantage of the altercation to slip off into the forest, even as it was snatched up by a coiling tongue.

In two bounds, Vrog was on top of the beast’s spined neck. A few loud clanging taps later, the enormous wings unfurled, toppling some more trees at the clearing’s edges, and started to beat with heavy cracks. The gale raised by them swept up a hurricane of dry leaves and wooden debris into the group’s faces. By the time their sight cleared, the giant was one more dark spot against the evening sky, and soon it disappeared behind a ragged low cloud.

Karamir wasted no time in gently setting Arya down against a nearby tree. Then his weapon was a dagger once more and he sheathed it. “Thank you for that,” he called up to the strangers, “But who are you?”

“I am Abanoc, god of Recording. We have met before, Karamir; I taught you how to wield mana. But I know of what befell you. I came here to undo the damage in your mind and soul.”

“You... you have?” he asked, eyebrows raised in surprise as his posture relaxed. He breathed a sigh of relief. “How? What do you need to do?”

“Let us return to your cottage first. I will need help from an Avatar of my own to aid you.”

Karamir nodded. “Alright.” he picked Arya back up. “It’s this way, I think,” and with those words he took flight, at a pace that Abanoc could follow.




Upon returning to the house, Karamir wasted no time. He took Arya upstairs and placed her on her bed, were in her armor vanished into mist, revealing a slight pink coloration where she had been hit on her head. Then, he went back downstairs, by the table where he and Arya had eaten food less than an hour ago, and looked to Abanoc and Mnemosyne with an uncertain expression.

“Before I had my soul decayed…” he said nervously, “Laurien said you were letting me die.”

“In a sense, regrettably. Me not intervening was due to my function as an observer. I could not stand it, however, and went out of my way to come and at least recover your mind and soul.”

“I see…” he said slowly. “Well, thank you for arriving when you did, at least.”

“Now then, let us begin.” Abanoc approached Karamir and laid a hand on his chest. He had learned much about how souls functioned in Galbar through observing Katharsos and the other gods. Thanks to that knowledge Abanoc could tell the state in which Karamir’s soul was.

It was falling apart, Its glow fading like a candle nearing its end. The cause, naturally, being Laurien’s meddling. Abanoc focused his energies on Karamir’s soul and removed the ailment. For Karamir, it felt as though a hundred shattered fragments within him were pulling themselves back together. The emptiness he had once felt but couldn’t quite explain was suddenly filled.

“That should do it.” Abanoc said pulling away from Karamir. “It could take a while longer for you to fully recover, but your should will not decay any further.”

Karamir blinked in astonishment. “I… thank you… but what about my memories? It’s still… things are still missing. I thought repairing my soul would fix that...”

“Mnemosyne.”

“Yes, Master.” This time the muse approached Karamir and held his head gently from the sides. Delving into Karamir’s mind, she could see his memories broken and mixed up like a puzzle put together in the wrong way with pieces still missing. She analysed the proper flow of events in short notice and rearranged them accordingly. Her specialty being memories this took less than a minute.

“Your memories should be organised. Can you remember the Master now?”

Karamir’s mind felt more alert and more clear than it had ever been, as if he had just woken up from a deep sleep and been struck by a dozen epiphanies at once. He took a step back, needing time to process everything as memories flashed before his eyes. A hand fell to the table to steady himself. “I can…” he said after several long moments had passed. “Everything… it all makes sense now.”

He sat down into a chair and brought a hand to his forehead. “Thank you, Abanoc,” he managed, once the tide of information had begun to subside. ”You too, Nem… Mnemosyne.”

“You are welcome.” Abanoc said with a faint smile on his face.

“The pleasure was mine. I hope you have an easier time now. Those fifty-seven years were harsh on you.” Had she any eyes one could see the concern in her face. Instead only a warm smile could be seen.

Karamir’s winced slightly, as he suddenly became conscious of the fact that a complete stranger had just peered into the entirety of his memory. ”I have no intention of putting myself in that position again” he said, keeping his voice even, but his discomfort was clear.

“I believe we are finished here.”

"Wait,” Karamir said, concern suddenly etched across his face. ”What of Arya? Will she be alright?”

“Vrog seems to have laid a curse upon her. I have not seen the full effects it has on her, but her life is not in any immediate danger. If I were to study it further I would likely be able to break it, but my time is running short.”

”Running short? What do you mean?”

“Although my Observatory is equipped to register information of Galbar on its own, I am required to stay there and fulfil my role. I said this before, but I should not involve myself as much as I did on this night.”

”Oh, I see.” Karamir said. ”Alright. Thank you again for your help, but… if you don’t mind, can you visit you again at some point in the future? There are some questions I might need to ask.”

“You are free to do so. I look forward to your visit.” Abanoc stood up to leave and Mnemosyne followed. “Farewell for now, Karamir.”

“Make sure to take good care of Arya, okay?”

Karamir felt a flash of guilt as he recalled his earlier attitude toward her. It was as if he had been an entirely different person. ”Yes… I owe her that much.”





1x Like Like
Hidden 8 days ago Post by BBeast
Raw
coGM
Avatar of BBeast

BBeast Scientific

Member Seen 15 hrs ago

Fall of the Jotundar
Rise of the Iron Giants


Long ago...

A storm gathered on the eastern horizon, its clouds almost as dark as the smoke above the Nanhe jungles. Across scorched earth, smouldering charcoal and fresh basalt marched the jotundar, led by the mighty Vulkandr. Buoyed by their victory over Chuanwang and the words of their god, they did not fear the clouds. They did not fear the thunder. But then the first drops of rain fell.

To the boiling constitution of the jotundar, water was a dangerous thing. A light spattering they could manage, but when the heavens opened up with a deluge like nothing ever seen on Galbar, they feared nature's wrath. Squalls dove from above and shoved jotundar around with powerful gales, precipitating on them all the while. Vulkandr bellowed and projected out an aura of searing heat, which boiled away the rain, staved off the squalls and invigorated the jotundar. Although the land around them flooded and the flames in the jungle were suppressed, here the fire giants stood, clustered together and willing to wait out the storm.

Yet they did not have such a luxury. From the east came another thundering, this one rumbling along the ground like a stampede. The heavy rain limited visibility, so the fire giants were left to wait anxiously, fearing what this new sound was while Vulkandr stood tall and firm. Then they saw it, a mighty beast of steel, low to the ground and charging on six legs, its head lined with sharp teeth and two sweeping horns pointed straight towards them. Vulkandr stomped a foot to the ground, cracks surging towards the charging Leviathan then erupting with lava. Yet the molten rock did nothing to slow or harm the beast.

Vulkandr let out a mighty bellow and charged headlong towards the Leviathan. Bolstered by their leader's courage, the jotundar charged too. The Leviathan growled but did not slow. Moments before the two colossi clashed, the Leviathan exhaled a large cloud of scalding steam which engulfed all the giants and obscured their vision. There was a sickening crunch, a roar of pain from Vulkandr, then pandemonium broke loose.

Many jotundar were killed in the ensuing chaos, mostly by the claw or horn or mouth of the Leviathan, but some were crushed by Vulkandr as the giant was pushed about by the Leviathan. Vulkandr's fire was useless against the Leviathan, who was undeterred by any magma which Vulkandr could produce. Any jotundar who attempted to approach the Leviathan were swiftly cut down by a flailing leg or tail. And as the colossi battled horn to fist, the squalls closed in.

The fire giants had no weapons with which they could fight this battle. Some jotundar prayed desperately to Sartravius for aid, but they received no answer. The jotundar watched helplessly as Vulkandr was bitten and gored by the Leviathan, molten ichor spraying from the titanic battle. Utterly outmatched, morale crumbled and the jotundar fled in all directions. Some sought shelter under the canopy of the jungle, hoping to hide from the merciless rain. Some ran to the east, trying to get as far from the battlefront as possible. Many succumbed to the elements. They fled with the incandescent light and violent tremors of the battle behind them. Those which made it beyond the storm heard the roars of Vulkandr peter out, and a long, victorious guttural growl.



The light of Heliopolis shone down from the blue sky onto the jungle below. Flocks of luminescent birds painted the blackened ground ruby, amber, emerald and onyx. Saplings were already breaking through the ashen dirt, and fresh shoots were branching out of the trunks of blackened trees. The flooding rains which had soaked the land the previous day had uprooted a large number of trees, broken limbs and trunks strewn across the ground.

A new river, bulging with floodwater, had formed along the border of the jotundar's flames. And this river flowed through a new lake, round like a crater and ringed with coarse obsidian. Within the lake, currently submerged under the floodwater, were the remains of Vulkandr, hot sulphurous gases eternally bubbling up through the lake. And at the edge of the lake, just within the water, lounged the Abyssal Leviathan.

The squalls had long since departed. Some had pursued the fleeing jotundar, either to douse any more flames they might cause or just to harass them. But with the fires gone the purpose which bound them together was gone with it, and the continent-spanning storm had disintegrated as quickly as it had formed. There was still a heightened population of the spirits, with quite a number flitting around the Leviathan and spooking the Gardeners, but nothing like the storm of the previous day.

The Leviathan lazily strode out of its lake and, in a single bite, consumed a body of a jotundar which was lying on the ground. Its armour plating was battered in places. Its middle left leg hung at an odd angle, the Leviathan walking in a slanted gait to compensate. And a piece of its armour on its back near its neck flapped loosely as it moved, blood caked around it.

Still hungry, the great beast lumbered forwards and ate another of the many jotundar corpses. An emerald kea landed nearby and hopped closer curiously, but was frightened away by a puff of steam. The Leviathan ate some more. It was about to return to Vulkandr Lake when movement on the eastern horizon caught its attention.

A wave of moving shapes was squirming in the distance, fast approaching. Though indistinct from afar, there was something in their motions, an irregularity of wavering and twitching, that struck an observer’s eye with a dimly sinister quality. Towering in their midst was a gargantuan bestial figure, glinting with a metallic spark in the daylight. Though the shadowy mass swirled and crashed chaotically against each other, the vast thing seemed to be driving it forward with a furious onslaught.

As the multitude grew closer, the faces of the turmoil raging within it grew clearer to the Leviathan’s sight. At the fore, snapping and lashing furiously backwards, but in full retreat, was a swarm of horrific beings the likes of which had never been seen under Heliopolis. They moved as a storm of jagged shells, stomping down in a cacophony of twisted segmented limbs. They thundered with thick, swollen stumps, scrabbled on gnarled spiny claws, crawled on oozing fleshy tentacles, keeping pace with each other despite the organic disharmony of their bodies. Despite their flight, their ranks bristled with fearsome living weapons. Serrated pincers lunging, envenomed stinger tails darting, carapaces splitting open to reveal toothless abysses of muscle that spat caustic bile. Their very presence breathed a shadowy taint of dread into the daylit air.

Following hot on the horrors’ trail came a pack of blunter, brutish shapes, less unnameably hideous, yet almost as fearsome in their coarse ferocity. Hundreds of wild boars of all sizes and hues, brown, black, grey alike, bristling and foaming with battle-rage, rushed time and again against their monstrous foes. They surged like waves, now falling back as their momentum spent itself, then gathering their strength and charging again. Some stumbled as vicious pincers snapped through their legs, veered aside as spikes gouged out their eyes, fell to the side covered in steaming gashes from chitinous blades. They bled from myriad wounds, spat crimson foam, shrieked and withered under corrosive barrages, but they pressed on, snapping spiny legs and tearing open plates of crustacean armour.

Spearheading the herd was the colossal being that had loomed over the others in the first glimpses. A swine of impossible size, as tall as the Leviathan itself and almost as thickly armoured with an iron hide, led his kind with a storm of huffs and grunts. Streams of thick dark blood flowed down his snout and legs where the aberrations’ claws had found vulnerable points, and one of his great recurve husks was chipped. Yet, either for his sheer magnitude or the fervour that burned in his tiny bloodshot eyes, he indefatigably covered ground, as uncaring of his own injuries as of those of his foes. Alone among the pursuers, he never seemed to lose wind. Every time his pack lagged behind to catch their breaths, the horrors encircled him from all sides, chittering and gnashing their rage, but unable to stop the pounding of titanic hooves that crushed their bodies in sprays of ichor.

Seeing all this, the Leviathan rose to its feet. The scent of blood and sweat was carried by the wind to the Leviathan’s nose, and the great beast inhaled deeply. It shifted to take the weight off its wounded leg, then it advanced. It took a few seconds for the Leviathan to find a good five-legged gait, but once it settled into the gait it picked up speed. Its thunderous footfalls accelerated until they became like a landslide.

The chitinous horrors saw the approaching beast and screeched in rage. A glob of caustic bile splattered against the Leviathan’s armour, who grunted in pain as it started to eat away at the iron and slip between the cracks. As more globs splattered nearby, the Leviathan exhaled a billowing cloud of steam, hiding its exact position. The cloud of steam continued to charge until it crossed the front line of the monstrosities and scalded their flesh.

Then the Leviathan collided with the monsters. Chitin was crushed against steel and blood sprayed out as the monsters faced the horns, teeth and claws of the Leviathan. The pincers and stingers of the horrors flailed futilely against the Leviathan’s armour as it overran them.

The Leviathan carved a path through the monsters, but turned before reaching the boars. Dozens of the monsters were forced to a stop before the Leviathan’s flank and were overrun by the herd of boars moments later. The Leviathan now charged across the swarm of monstrosities, its terrific speed able to keep pace with the swarm and the herd. The horrors were crushed in their dozens, coating the Leviathan in blood, gore and bile, and just as many were slowed down enough for the boars to swarm them and bring them down.

The swine pursuers wasted no time in taking the opportunity. Their bodies, punctured and torn as they were, bore down in weight on the hampered monstrosities, crumpling their shells through their mere bulk. A final attempt to bristle with claws and spikes availed the skittering beasts little, as those enemies they slew weighed down all the heavier. Caught between a bulwark of iron scales on one side and a living avalanche of fur and tusks on the other, they were ground down with the stolid brutality of a stampeding herd.

The giant packleader, who had huffed curiously at the Leviathan’s approach, seized a slower moment in his charge to dig his hind hooves into the ground and turn aside, narrowly avoiding crashing into the larger beast. His beady eye ran over the reptilian titan with a surprised glimmer, but was fast to turn back on his quarry, or what remained of it. Most of the abominations were by then lying in shattered heaps, mires of their ichor polluting the soil. Stragglers were sent flying with goring blows, or unceremoniously stomped on with armoured hooves.

Before long, little was left moving on the scene. The surviving boars fell to the ground, wheezing and steaming with exhaustion. Here and there, segmented legs sticking out from mangled bodies at odd angles twitched with deathly spasms. The razor-furred giant dropped on his side, sending a quake through the earth, and lay panting, eyes fixed on the Leviathan.

Casually, the Leviathan walked closer. Sections of its iron armour were now corroded, and some fresh blood sizzled out of old wounds which had reopened. Boars which had lay down to rest quickly scrambled to their feet and moved out of the way of the lumbering titan. The Leviathan stopped a short distance away from the giant boar and sniffed deeply. The iron which coated the great boar was similar to the Leviathan’s own, and his scent held some familiar traces.

The Leviathan gave the boar a rumbling grunt of acknowledgement. The hog lifted his head from the ground, dripping foam from around its mouth, sniffed the air and replied with a tired huff. The Leviathan then turned around and sauntered back towards Vulkandr Lake, where it slid beneath the water with a hiss of steam.



Some hours had passed, and already the battlefield had grown a little clearer. A good number of the surviving boars, rested enough to stand again, had risen and wandered off towards where intact plant life could be glimpsed in the distance. The stench of the slain horrors had worsened in the warm air, festering into something offensive even to the rugged nostrils of the wild swine. Together with the smell of damp ashes left after the Leviathan’s struggle with the jotundar and their leader, it drove them off to seek less tainted ground.

Other boars, however, were less daunted by the foetor. A number went sniffing and prodding around the carcasses of their kin, digging the ground around them with their tusks. Some few trotted further, going to poke the remains of the jotundar sprawled on the shore of the newformed lake. They waded into the shallows, rebuffed from swimming further by the scalding steam still wafting up from the surface deeper ahead. Vulkandr’s corpse continued to radiate residual heat, and the water almost boiled over where the Leviathan was submerged.

Still many remained lying, asleep or staring dully at the soil. They were no longer breathing as heavily as before, but the exhaustion of the long chase had not yet dissipated. The monstrous leader was among them, awake and resting on his bent legs rather than the flank. Though almost immobile, his eyes ran along the ground, trying to pick out something that just narrowly eluded them. He sniffed, almost angrily, and looked again. The earth did look a little loose around one mound -

Something burst out from the ground in a spray of soil and ichor. An almost amorphous fleshy mass darted out from its burrow, splitting into a pair of tooth-lined jaws, and engulfed a sprawled boar in a moment before withdrawing. Another shapeless horror rose from below further in the field, claiming another victim, not fast enough to rise to its hooves. Squeals sounded around as the herd stirred from sleep and scrambled to get up. The leader was already rushing to where the first being had vanished, plowing a trench with its snout as he ran.

The Leviathan burst out from the lake with a wave of scalding water, but slowed to a halt when it could not see any enemies. It let out a low growl and prowled forwards, alert for danger. As the boar patriarch rooted around in the dirt where the first monster had vanished, the earth burst open near where the second had been and swallowed another boar. The Leviathan pushed off with a great burst of speed and charged, but by the time it had made it there the horror had burrowed deep beneath the earth again. The Leviathan snapped in frustration at empty air.

Its irritation at the elusive foe was echoed by loud, angry grunting where the giant boar was tossing up mounds of dirt. Each sweep of his snout piled up another mound near a rapidly deepening pit. As if taunting him, the creature rasped and scratched from belowground nearby, but did not show itself beyond darting out for the moment of a blink to lash at its pursuer’s legs.

Then, not too far from the Leviathan, the earth burst open again. A boar skidded away from the snapping maw which had appeared, but a tentacle lashed out and pulled down the boar as the horror retreated again. The Leviathan thundered over, but the horror was quick and was out of reach of the iron beast’s jaws by the time it arrived. The Leviathan took a deep breath, shoved its snout into the hole left by the horror, and exhaled. A great torrent of scalding steam filled the burrow, forcing its way through every gap in the dirt. A cloud of steam rose around the Leviathan and hissed out of fissures in the ground.

With a horrific screech a terrible mass of tentacles and mouths burst out of the ground, hurling clods of earth. Steam trailed behind it, and many patches of its flesh were raw, peeling and oozing. The Leviathan wasted no time in charging this horror and latching on with its mighty jaws.

At the same time, the first monstrosity hurled its mouth out from the ground behind the great boar. Perhaps trying to act in concert with its twin, it snapped onto his hind leg, teeth grinding and dripping as the sharp edges of the metallic fur cut into it. However, by that time the rest of the pack had shaken off its slumber and begun to crowd around its leader. The wormlike terror’s leathery hide, exposed as it twisted out from the earth to follow the kicking of its prey, was pierced and hooked by goring tusks and gnawing teeth. Ichor flowed thickly, and though the wounds were little more than a nuisance for the imposing monstrosity, the dozens of gashes stung one more than another.

The horrid jaws released their prize and whipped around, snapping through the spine of one of the stubbornly swarming swine. Yet no sooner had they closed that the leg they had been holding reared up in an iron-shod kick that smacked the monster’s tubular body against the ground. Dazed, it tried to retreat under the earth, but both its speed and the advantage of surprise were lost. No sooner had it disappeared that a push of the enormous snout scattered its cover; before it could withdraw again, a mouth larger than its own bit into its hide. The struggle became frenzied, as the creature’s rows of writhing limbs battered and flailed, hissed and gnashed against the tusked horde bearing down on it.

Meanwhile the Leviathan continued to grapple with its foe. The nightmarish monster twisted and writhed as it tried to pull away, but the Leviathan’s grip was ironclad. The Leviathan thrashed about, tearing its teeth deeper, and ran around, dragging the monster across the ground and denying it a consistent purchase. The monster reached around with its mouths to try to bite into the Leviathan, but its teeth found no grip on the Leviathan’s armour plates. It thrashed with its tendrils, and one whipped into the Leviathan’s eye. The Leviathan recoiled from the blow, and its jaw loosened just enough for just long enough for the horror to tear itself free and slither away.

The other abomination was less fortunate. It struggled to pull its body loose from its captors, but too many teeth were holding it fast. The more it snapped and crushed, the more tears and gashes opened over its bulk. Finally, the giant boar’s mouth locked over its midsection. The creature’s forking heads shuddered and collapsed into the pit, now carved into a wide gouge by the violence of the struggle. They gave some last surges of spiteful life, snapping at the crowding swine, then fell still, a rasping hiss dying in their throats.

Shaking its bloodied snout, the giant trudged out of the pit and trotted towards the Leviathan, who was growling at the pit the surviving horror had escaped through. The giant boar wheezed and gave a half-hearted dig at the soil, then heavily hung his head to the side. The Leviathan gave a wide-mouthed yawn and scratched a spot behind its neck with a leg. The Leviathan’s gaze lifted up to the eastern horizon, then it looked sideways to the boar patriarch and grunted.

The swine reclined his head, licking up rivulets of dark blood that ran down his snout, and answered with a huff of his nostrils. He then scraped the ground with his teeth as if in acknowledgement or farewell and trotted off towards where the remainder of his herd was throwing soil onto the corpse of the monstrosity. In time, the blemish on the world’s face would disappear.

With the patter of heavy feet, the Leviathan walked off towards the horizon, where the ocean and Abyss awaited it.


Hidden 8 days ago Post by Not Fishing
Raw
Avatar of Not Fishing

Not Fishing The Mediocre

Member Seen 2 hrs ago


Squall Whisperers, Minstrels


The Stormbards stayed in the village for another day, sharing their songs and showing a few interested selka how to make their own musical instruments. Then the following morning they had tied together small bundles of food and left.

As they walked, the five musicians played songs together, letting Pallamino get a feel for playing with the Stormbards while also listening to Pallamino’s own style. As they sat for a light lunch, Pyouroff looked to Pallamino and suggested, “You’ve been to plenty of places we haven’t. Got any songs or stories to share?”

“I do,” Pallamino said with a nod and a light smile.

“Well let’s hear them, Pallamino,” Kaleo said.

“Well, there was one time when two Selka went on a hunt…” Pallamino began, and then launched into a tale. It was based on a true story that happened to him, but he hid his own involvement. “One was called Koma, and the other was Manu,” he said, changing the names of the participants.

The story went on, how the two hunters had separated, and then followed the journey of Manu, as he crept through the woods searching for prey. He heard a sound, saw a flash of movement, and loosed an arrow. It turned out that the movement had been Koma, who he accidentally shot in the rear.

What followed was a dramatic and heroic survival story, as Manu tended to the wound and carried Koma back to the village. The climax of the tale saw Manu fighting a bear with nothing but his wits and a sharp piece of stone, and he prevailed. Then they returned to the village, where Koma was saved and Manu was welcomed as a hero. “And that’s the end,” Pallamino proclaimed happily once it was over.

“Manu fought a bear!” Kaleo exclaimed

“He shot Koma in the butt,” Pyouroff sniggered

“Poor Koma,” sighed Sulingu.

“We could make a pretty rousing song from that,” Hujaya suggested, to which the other Stormbards nodded.

“A song of a brave hero,” said Sulingu.

“A heroic story which people can relate to, though,” Pyouroff said.

“Although fighting off a bear single-handedly isn’t exactly everyday,” Kaleo said.

“Got to have something to aspire to,” Pyouroff retorted.

“Well, how shall we start it?” Hujaya asked.

“It should start upbeat,” Pallamino suggested. “Like they’re two friends going on an adventure.”

“Ha, yes, an upbeat adventure!” proclaimed Kaleo.

“Hmm,” Hujaya sat contemplatively. She soon started plucking a simple phrase on her lyre, nodding her head and moving her lips along with the rhythm until she had formulated some lyrics.

“The day was fresh, the sun had rose,
When these two friends, picked up their bows.”

Hujaya kept repeating the notes on her lyre as she paused to think again. “We’ll need to introduce Koma and Manu. What words can we use to describe them?”

“Manu fought a bear, so he’d have to be big, strong, and quick,” Pallamino pointed out. “But he wasn’t much of a hunter, to have made a mistake like that. Koma would have been more experienced in hunting, which sets up a role reversal when he needs Manu’s help.”

Hujaya went back to nodding with the rhythm, and she seemed to go through several lines in her head before settling on,

“Koma, hunter extraordinaire.
Manu was strong, but not aware.”

“Into the forest, these two split ways,
To trek more ground, find meat for days.”

Hujaya paused in her singing again to think of the next lines. Then Pallamino offered a suggestion.

“Manu saw something, it moved in the bush,
He sent an arrow, into Koma’s tush.”

“Ha, nice one,” Pyouroff exclaimed.

Hujaya moved her lips silently with the lyre. “The rhyme’s good, but it’s a little longer than the other lines,” she commented. She played the phrase on her lyre a couple more times before singing,

“Manu saw movement in the bush,
He shot his bow, at Koma’s tush.”

“That works too,” Pallamino said with a nod.

Hujaya continued,

“Koma fell down, arrow in rear.
Manu rushed up, face full of fear.”

“Hmm, now how’d he treat the wound?” Hujaya pondered.

Pallamino shrugged. He knew full well how the wound was treated, yet he had to maintain the pretense that he wasn’t there. “Maybe he found something to bind it?” he suggested. “Leaves, fur… I don’t know.”

Hujaya strummed another phrase on the lyre. “Manu bandaged the wound up tight. Manu found leaves, to bind the wound. But what’s the next line?”

Kaleo suggested,

“Koma can’t walk, try as he might.
With his strong arms, Manu picked up,
The poor selka, like a young pup.”

Hujaya nodded. “Yes, good. The bear should come in the next verse.”

Pallamino nodded in agreement. The bear had, in truth, been a lone wolf that he had scared off by throwing a rock, but that wasn’t quite as exciting. “They say the bear pinned him,” Pallamino said, “but he grabbed a nearby rock and bashed it in the head until it gave up and ran.”

Hujaya’s head bounced along with her lyre, and she sang,

“Holding Koma, the walk was fair,
Till Manu was met by a bear.
Manu was pinned, but he could fight.
He grabbed a rock, struck with great might.
Though it was grim, he did not cede,
Till the bear fled, and he was freed.”

Pallamino decided to add the last verse.

”Then to the village they returned,
And a brand new lesson they learned.
When you search the forest for loot,
Always take care, watch where you shoot.”

Hujaya clapped her hands together. “There’s our song! Now let’s see if we can get some music to it.”

Pyouroff picked up his drum and started to beat out a rhythm. Sulingu pulled out her flute and played a few experimental notes. Hujaya continued to play her lyre, Pallamino brought out his conch, and Kaleo hummed to warm up his voice. The Stormbards made eye contact with Hujaya, who gave a nod. Kaleo took a deep breath in and sang as the rest played on their instruments, “Oooooh,

“The day was fresh, the sun had rose,
When these two friends picked up their bows…”



Golden brown sargassum stretched through the blue-green water, shafts of sunlight piercing down from above. Schools of small fish swam between the fronds and nibbled on the algae. On the sand below a crab walked, nipping at passing fragments of sargasso with its claws and putting them in its mouth.

A blur of grey dove down from the sargasso above, heading for the crab. The crab turned and pointed its pincers menacingly as it slowly walked backwards. The selka pulled up short, Kaleo keeping back from the snapping claws. He thumped the ground a few times, as though intimidating the crustacean.

Behind the crab the lithe form of Sulingu approached quietly. While the crab was still distracted by Kaleo, she reached out and snatched the crab by the claw, quickly pulling it up from the sand and letting it dangle buoyantly. Sulingu flashed Kaleo a grin with a stream of bubbles escaping from her mouth, and Kaleo gave a little smile in return. They swam back up and breached the surface, Sulingu holding the crab at arm’s length.

A triumphant tune sounded, from where Pallamino sat in the shallows, up to his shoulders in water, with the conch shell at his lips. He had opted to continue playing the instrument instead of going for a swim today, and when Sulingu appeared above water with a crab, he had quickly launched into a series of upbeat notes to celebrate the achievement.

Hujaya was also on the surface at the time and applauded both Sulingu’s catch and Pallamino’s music. Kaleo took a sharpened stick from his belt and, with Sulingu holding the crab, he skewered the crab from behind and it stopped struggling against Sulingu. Kaleo, Sulingu and Hujaya swam back to shore. Pyouroff broke the surface shortly after with a fish on the end of a simple spear and also headed back. Pallamino rose to his feet and began to wade back toward the beach as they drew near.

Sulingu and Kaleo went looking for some suitable rocks to open the crab with once they got back to shore. Hujaya waded up beside Pallamino. Once Pyouroff stood up, he brought the spear to his face and took a bite out of the fish. He waded closer to Hujaya and Pallamino and proffered the fish-holding spear towards them. “Want some?” he asked, still chewing.

Pallamino accepted the spear, brought it to his own mouth, and took a bite from the other end of the fish before handing it over to Hujaya who also took a bite. “Good catch,” he complimented. “I was quite the fisherman myself.”

“Is that so? You can catch the next meal then,” Pyouroff said jovially, patting Pallamino on the back as he retrieved his spear from Hujaya.

On the beach there was a crunch and gristle as Kaleo cracked open the shell of the crab. Sulingu struck one of the claws with a rock, peeled back the shell and scooped out the flesh to eat. Pyouroff sat down beside them and stuck his spear butt first into the sand. Hujaya and Pallamino sat beside him shortly after, and in a circle the five of them ate the fresh seafood.

Eventually Hujaya asked, “You said... Arryn taught you about hunting. A hunting god from down-beach, from what Pyouroff said.”

“Well, no,” Pallamino corrected. “Arryn is the ‘Avatar’ of the Hunting God, whose name is Kalmar. An Avatar is some sort of messenger, or representative, and it was Arryn who taught us how to hunt. He taught some other tribes, too.”

Hujaya rolled the strange word over her tongue, then settled on a more familiar term. “Arryn messenger of Kalmar. But you met him, though?” Hujaya said, looking at Pallamino with interest.

“I did,” Pallamino nodded with some enthusiasm. “We spoke often, he even came to me for advice once or twice.”

Sulingu looked astonished, Hujaya raised an eyebrow in surprise, and Pyouroff eyed Pallamino skeptically. “A god came to you for advice?” Hujaya asked.

“Well, an avatar,” Pallamino corrected once again. “He spent a lot of time among us. He would ask our opinions on things.”

“What sorts of things?” Hujaya asked.

“Where we were living, the leadership of our village, the availability of food, what we would do in certain scenarios, things like that,” Pallamino said with a shrug.

The Stormbards looked at each other. This was quite the news to them. Sulingu piped up, “So..., what does Arryn look like?”

“He’s a bird,” Pallamino said. “Brown and red feathers, and a bright yellow beak.”

“Is he big? He must be huuuge, being godly and all,” Sulingu said wide-eyed.

“No, he’s actually small,” Pallamino shook his head. “He said it drew less attention.”

“He’s god of- ‘avatar’ of the god of hunting, Sulingu. He’s not going to be some giant beast. Can’t hunt like that,” Pyouroff scoffed.

Sulingu pouted. “How are you meant to tell he’s a god’s af- av- messenger, though? Delphina’s big and impressive. Right, Hujaya?”

Hujaya nodded and smiled fondly. “Yes, Delphina is great and beautiful. She leaves no doubt that you are in the presence of the divine.”

“Well, for a start, he speaks to us - no bird can do that,” Pallamino said. “He taught and gifted us things we had never seen before, and gave us blessings in the past. Then there is the god he serves, Kalmar, who often answers prayers. I’ve heard his voice myself,” he said proudly.

“You are blessed to have been spoken to by two gods, Pallamino,” Hujaya said. “Perhaps we should compose a song about Arryn and Kalmar some time. Unless you already have one.”

“I don’t,” Pallamino shook his head. “Despite all the help they’ve been to us, there isn’t that much material that can be put into a song.”

Hujaya frowned. “That’s a shame. I’m sure we’ll figure out something some time, though.”

“Really no tales and stories? Your elders must have told you something about them on nights around the bonfire,” Pyouroff said.

“Well, there are some stories, I’m just not sure they’ll make for exciting songs,” Pallamino shrugged. “When my tribe first met Arryn, he came to us during a food shortage. Either our fishermen were having poor luck at the time, or most of the fish had moved elsewhere. Arryn taught us how to hunt on the land instead of the sea, and gave us bows to do it. I don’t know if you’ve seen a bow before, but he’s the one who invented it. Food stopped being an issue, and in gratitude a shrine was made for Kalmar.”

“Those are those curved sticks with string which can hurl little spears, yes?” Kaleo said, “We’ve seen a few tribes down-beach with them.”

Hujaya hummed, then suggested, “A song of praise, perhaps. Arryn’s done such good things for your tribe, a good song would be fitting gratitude.”

“I suppose it would,” Pallamino nodded. “I’d need time to think of one.”

Hujaya waved a hand. “Of course.” She thought for a moment, then asked, “What tales of Delphina do the Ubbo tell?”

“Well, first, we call her Ashalla,” Pallamino said. “That’s her true name. Apparently we Selka are the only ones who call her Delphina. We only met her twice. The first time was when she spoke to me on the beach and gave me this conch. The second time was when she had us perform a concert to show her our music, and we impressed her.”

There were looks of confusion and surprise among the Stormbards. “Ashalla,” Hujaya said slowly, testing the name.

“‘We Selka’,” Pyouroff said with a furrowed brow. “What do you mean by that?”

“Arryn spoke of other lands, and other people,” Pallamino answered. “They look different from us and believe different things, but he said they were just as smart.”

Sulingu’s eyes widened. “That sounds exciting. Do you think we’ll get to meet them?”

Hujaya, meanwhile, wasn’t paying attention. “Her true name?” she muttered. A great conflict seemed to be rolling behind her face.

Kaleo noticed, then suggested, “Perhaps we should share our stories of Delphina.”

“But, if…” Hujaya was silent for many long seconds. Then her worry was covered over by resolve and she picked up her lyre. “Ippino.”

That word was enough for the other Stormbards to set down their food, pick up their own instruments and begin to play. Hujaya looked down at her lyre, closed her eyes and sang the song of the Man Who Loved the Sea, her voice gentle and beautiful.

“There once was a man who lived by the sea.
He looked at the water and found beauty,
In light of the moon and blue of the sea,
That man sung 'Delphina how I love thee.'”



It was night-time. The light of the Lustrous Garden shone dimly between a few clouds. The Stormbards had found a spot to sleep and had laid down to rest. But Hujaya was not with the sleeping selka. Instead she was kneeling in the surf facing out to sea, lyre hanging by her side.

“Delphina- or, Ashalla- or, I- I don’t even know anymore,” she said softly, her voice strained. She hung her head in her hands.

There was a splash of feet wading through water behind her, and a selka sat down behind her, but she did not look up. “What’s on your mind, Hujaya?” asked a concerned baritone voice.

Hujaya stared out to sea for a few moments. “Ippino, Yupiligo, none of them ever said Delphina’s ‘true name’ was Ashalla. No one knew, not even me.”

Kaleo laid a hand on Hujaya’s back. “Yet Delphina answered them all the same. She came to Ippino. She came to you. It’s just a name. Some people or things are known by multiple names by different people.”

Hujaya crossed her arms across her chest. “It’s not the name which bothers me.”

“Oh?”

“If they didn’t have the right name, what else did they get wrong? That’s what scares me.” Her voice was almost a whisper.

Kaleo shuffled sideways and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. Hujaya leant into the embrace. “No one said the name was wrong,” Kaleo said.

“But… it’s what Arryn said. Even the gods say ‘Ashalla’.”

“That doesn’t mean ‘Delphina’ is not true,” Kaleo said, “Ippino spoke endless praises to Delphina’s name, and he was the most favoured and loved of all mortals. And you, you are second only to Ippino, Hujaya.”

Hujaya looked sideways to Kaleo for the first time. Tears glistened at the edge of her eyes. “Really?”

“Delphina said so herself. And we all know it to be true.”

Hujaya leaned over and hugged Kaleo with her own arms. Kaleo brought up his other arm to complete the embrace.

“You’re worrying too much, putting too much weight on Pallamino’s words,” Kaleo eventually said. “His tribe doesn’t even know where their gods came from. But we do.” Then Kaleo sung softly in Hujaya’s ear.

“In a time, long ago,
Kirron made the land we know.
Stone and earth he raised high,
But the world was oh so dry.”

Hujaya knew the song well, and sang the next verse almost by reflex.

“Life was made on the land,
Children of Kirron’s own hand.
In the depths were others,
Made by Delphina as hers.”

Kaleo and Hujaya sung in harmony as the song continued.

“The pair’s love was so strong,
Held each other all night long.
But she was called away,
Sacred duties to obey.”

Kaleo then pulled back to look into Hujaya’s eyes as he sung.

“‘Oh why must you leave me?
Yet I know it’s your duty.
But my beautiful dear,
Who’ll love me without you near?’”

Hujaya looked back into Kaleo’s eyes as she sung.

“‘Never shall I leave you,
Always I shall embrace you,
No matter how far off,
By this you will know my love.’”

A little smile formed on Kaleo’s face as he sang the next verse.

“‘Show me how you’ll do this,
Reach from across the abyss.
Delphina, show me how,
Far from land you’ll keep this vow.’”

Hujaya brought her face slightly closer to Kaleo’s as she sang with her melodious voice.

“‘I will open the deep,
From which much water will weep,
This is how I’ll love you,
I made the seas to hug you.’”

Kaleo’s voice joined with Hujaya’s in beautiful unison for the final verse.

“From where Delphina sings,
Her love to us the waves brings.
Her love won’t leave Kirron,
Forever it will carry on.”

They remained close as the last notes hung in the air, looking deeply into each other’s eyes, feeling the rise and fall of each other’s chests as they breathed slowly. Then Hujaya pulled Kaleo into a deep embrace. “Thank you,” she said from over his shoulder.

“Any time,” Kaleo replied, holding firmly onto Hujaya.

They continued to hug as two more waves rolled past them. Then Hujaya planted a kiss on Kaleo’s cheek and stood up, brushing the sand off her knees. Kaleo stood up and brushed his sand off too. They started walking back inland, but Hujaya paused for a moment to turn back towards the ocean and whispered, “Thank you, Delphina.” Then they walked back to the camp together.



Music and laughter filled the air of the little village. A drum beat, a rattle shook, a flute played, and a lyre strummed together in an energetic song. And within a semi-circle of rapt onlookers danced Sulingu, her movements one with the music.

As usual, Pallamino blew into his shell, his fingers in a dance of their own as music poured forth. Pyouroff beat his drum and clapped his sticks together, marking the tempo for the others and providing a driving beat. Hujaya’s fingers flowed across the strings of her lyre. Kaleo held a rattle and shook it in time. Sulingu danced freely. She kicked her legs high, she spun tightly, her movements flowed with agility and grace.

Eventually the dance came to an end, and Sulingu bowed to the clapping crowd, breathing heavily. But the crowd wanted more. Hujaya looked over to the other musicians, as though asking what to do next. Then Pallamino began to play, launching into the tune of the song they had created just the other day. Pyouroff jumped into the beat immediately, and Hujaya eased into the melody and gave Kaleo a nod. Sulingu stepped back into line with the musicians with a graceful twirl, picking up her flute, while Kaleo put down the rattle and stepped up to where Sulingu had been just before. “Listen up, for I have a thrilling story to tell,” he announced. Then, when the music was right, he launched into the song.

“The day was fresh, the sun had rose,
When these two friends, picked up their bows.
Koma, hunter extraordinaire.
Manu was strong, but not aware.”

The audience listened, with a few whispers among themselves.

“Into the forest, these two split ways,
To trek more ground, find meat for days.
Manu saw movement in the bush,
He shot his bow, at Koma’s tush.”

At the last word Kaleo slapped his own backside to the raucous laughter of the crowd. At the same time the music transitioned to a slightly different melody, with more urgency. Pallamino smirked, but did not waver in his task.

“Koma fell down, arrow in rear.
Manu rushed up, face full of fear.
Manu bandaged the wound up tight.
Koma can’t walk, try as he might.
With his strong arms, Manu picked up,
The poor selka, like a young pup.”

The music grew more intense as Kaleo entered the next verse.

“Holding Koma, the walk was fair,
Till Manu was met by a bear.
Manu was pinned, but he could fight.
He grabbed a rock, struck with great might.
Though it was grim, he did not cede,
Till the bear fled, and he was freed.”

Kaleo stopped singing for a few moments for the music to strike a victorious chorus. Then he sang the final verse.

“Then to the village they returned,
And a brand new lesson they learned.
When you search the forest for loot,
Always take care, watch where you shoot.”

And at the end, while the other musicians stopped, Pallamino carried on alone. He took his instrument into one hand as he added in a series of foot stomps and knee slaps while he played the final notes, and then bowed deeply once it was finished.

The crowd applauded and cheered, both to Kaleo and Pallamino. Pyouroff rolled his eyes, but Hujaya seemed happy. The audience approached to give their compliments, with hand shakes and back pats. Among the throng, a boy in his early teens approached Pallamino and asked, “Hey, um, er, could you show me how to do that?”

“Oh?” Pallamino looked down at the boy and smiled, “do what?”

“To play music,” he answered.

“Do you have an instrument?” Pallamino asked him.

“Umm,” the boy looked down sheepishly, “no.”

“Well, first you need an instrument,” Pallamino said. “Is it the flute you’re interested in playing?”

The boy lifted his eyes to Pallamino’s conch. “Er, yes.”

“Well, I can give you a quick lesson on how to play mine,” Pallamino suggested, “and then when you get your own you’ll already have some idea of what to do.”

The boy looked up eagerly and nodded his head. “Okay.”

Pallamino held his conch back up. “So when you blow into it,” he began, doing so in a quick demonstration, “the air passes through these holes, and sound comes out. By covering the holes, you get different sounds.” He put the flute back to his lips and played a few demonstrative notes. “It’s all about putting those sounds together in a way that pleases either you or the listener.” He wiped the conch off and handed it to the boy. “You give it a try.”

The boy took the conch, inspected it for a moment, took a deep breath then blew into it. He produced nothing but breathy wind. Pallamino looked at him for a moment, and then realization dawned. “Oh right,” he said. “There’s also a certain technique you need to do with your lips. Let me show you…” he reached forward to take the conch back.

He showed the boy the best way to hold it, and how to blow into it. Then, he taught the boy some basic notes, and once he had managed those, he sent the kid on his way. All the while, Hujaya had watched the scene carefully.

The Stormbards mingled with the villagers for a while longer. They were given a share of the evening meal in exchange for a couple more musical performances. Then, the next morning, Hujaya called over Pallamino to the rest of the Stormbards.

“We’ve made our decision,” she said. “We will teach you to be a Stormbard.”

Pallamino blinked in surprise, perhaps wondering if he had heard her correctly, and then smiled. “Well!” he said confidently, “I’m glad to hear it.”

“But first, you have to take the oath.”

“Oh, of course, the oath. Um… what is it, exactly?”

Hujaya waved a hand. “It has three parts. Just repeat after me. I promise to always worship Delphina, who gives me my strength.”

“I promise to always worship Delphina, who gives me my strength,” Pallamino said, his voice both serious and sincere.

“I promise to use my power and skills to show Delphina’s strength, and to create beauty wherever I go.”

“I promise to use my power and skills to show Delphina’s strength, and to create beauty wherever I go,” he repeated.

“I promise to teach others as I was taught.”

“I promise to teach others as I was taught,” he concluded.

Hujaya clapped her hands together. “By taking this oath, you are now a Stormbard, and you can learn how to speak with squalls.” Kaleo, Pyouroff and Sulingu cheered their congratulations and walked up to shake Pallamino’s hand and pat him on the back.

Pallamino smiled, shook their hands with vigour, and returned their back pats with pats of his own. “So, when do I start learning?” he asked.

“We can start right away if you like,” Hujaya said. She turned and beckoned for him to follow. “Come, let’s find some squalls.”


Hidden 7 days ago 7 days ago Post by Strange Rodent
Raw
Avatar of Strange Rodent

Strange Rodent Rodent of Unusual Size

Member Seen 4 days ago

Is creation of something new from things that already exist creation, or transformation?


What had happened next was fleet. Whatever it was that was in that cave was…

So Zisqe ran.

Back through the woods, along the stream, for some amount of time that didn’t register.

Presently, what did register was the intense pain all over. Zisqe couldn’t move without something overstretching. Their head throbbed like the waves, and their legs were plagued by a sensation of pressure and stinging. Opening its eyes was a laborious effort, for they felt full of sand, but when they were open it saw the room it was in belonged to Isi, who wasn’t currently anywhere to be seen.

Zisqe sat up, muscles screaming. It saw its legs. The chitin on the bottom had chipped off, leaving raw flesh underneath, teeth sticking out at all angles. It let out a shocked cry and laid back down, making a conscious effort to look at the ceiling.

The view of Isi was soon at the side of Zisqe, concern in its eyes at it put a delicate hand on its shoulder to soothe the pained one. For a moment, Isi looked back over the damage of Zisqe’s legs before looking back into its eyes, being silent for just a moment for it finally decided to speak.

“It is okay, Zisqe. Just-“ Isi began, her eyes instinctively looking at the legs of Zisqe once more, “Just rest.”

”Is- Isi… I couldn’t find,” Zisqe says, coughing. ”I couldn’t find Uzit. I went to the mountain, and…”
The memory returned and cut its words off.

Isi seemed to pause in its movement, the only movement being the gentle rubbing of Isi’s thumb against Zisqe’s shoulder. Its eyes met with Zisqe’s once more, concern leading to a restrained, yet silent, sorrow. It allowed that silence to stay there for a moment.

“I-it’s fine. I-“ Isi paused once more, controlling its emotions, though sadness still resonating in its voice, “I am o-only concerned about y-you, right now.”

”Isi. I will go again when I have healed. I will go until I have found Uzit,” it says, laying a hand on Isi’s. ”But trouble may find this goal. In the mountain…”

“Please… i-if you came back like this. I- I can’t let you go again. W-what if something worse happens?” Isi questioned, before looking away in a vain attempt to cast away the memories.

”Oh Isi, you know the chitin heals quickly. It is not bad. I’m not going alone next time,” Zisqe said, words confident, grip on Isi’s hand tightening slightly.

Isi did not look back at Zisqe, not finding the strength to look at it. “... who are you taking with you?” Isi asked softly, its hand squeezing Zisqe’s shoulder as the words escaped it.

Zisqe smiled. In truth, they didn’t know at all. They had just said that to stop Isi worrying. ”In sureness, there would be many who want to help. Antoz, especially. They were close before…” they said, trailing off. A thought came to it, unbeckoned. ”Our God… I did find a spiral of stones that feels like It, but less wild. I will also ask there”

“Our God... “ Isi echoed, pulling its hand away from Zisqe’s grasp before echoing once more, “Our God…” There was a momentary hesitation, Isi thinking of words to say or even thoughts to settle upon, though finding such a task hard to complete. “Our God... has done little to help find Uzit. M-maybe… m-maybe it’s time to look elsewhere,” Isi said, its voice hesitant and soft as it finally looked back to Zisqe.

Zisqe met Isi’s eyes with their own. ”Do you speak of Vakk? It is a god, but not our God. But I am not the one to talk of gods and their ways. For all we know, Vakk is just another form of our God.”

Isi looked away once more, nodding its head in a silent agreement before speaking, “I suppose you’re right.” It rested its head upon Zisqe’s chest, “I just do not know what to do anymore.” Tears slowly began to roll down Isi’s face as no longer knew what to do or how to help in finding Uzit.

“I- I just want Uzit back,” it cried.

Zisqe pulls Isi down to the bed and hugs them to its chest. It says nothing, but holds Isi tight. Sometimes, the lack of words is more helpful. Time seemed to pass slowly as it allowed Isi to sob, knowing that sadness would grip them until Uzit was found, but in times like this, there was little else to be done.

After a silence like a hearth, Zisqe felt a pull from the inside of their skull. They spoke. ”Isi, carry me to the spiral of stones.”

Isi slowly pulled away from Zisqe’s grasp, its wet eye looking into Zisqe’s own for a moment before silently nodding as it got to its feet. Their hands moved under Zisqe’s back and under their knees before lifting its parent before silently beginning the walk.

---


The stones reached into the night sky like hands. The roots beneath twisted. The air was polluted by the night’s vague shine, and a Presence could be felt. One which sat in the back of your mind and posed questions. Uncertainty was the regent here, but uncertainty which was separated from the discomfort that could surround its god.

Zisqe looked to Isi. ”Walk me around the spiral, to the center,” it said.

So Isi did, cautiously moving over the twisted roots, looking around for the presence that it felt while moving. Their eyes wandering from stone to stone, almost tripping on a root, but quickly catching itself as reality came back to Isi. Eventually, they reached the center of the spiral before Isi looked down at Zisqe.

“Would you like me to leave you here?” it asked with hesitation.

Zisqe ponders this question for a moment. It seemed like a question to ponder while here. ”No. Stay, you might learn something. But do put me on the roots by the stone,” they said.

Isi nodded, walking to the roots before gingerly setting Zisqe on the roots before stepping to the side in silence. After a moment, Isi asked another question, “Why did you need to come here?”

”I don’t know yet,” Zisqe said.

A few minutes passed. The trees loomed. Their shadows twisted, falling over the circle. One tendril pushed up and shot forward, going through Zisqe and into the stone.

Zisqe saw themselves walking an endless blue corridor, eyes watching from overhead. It walked through a room with ropes dangling from the walls, before reaching a long and narrow one that it would not fit through. Something gleamed on the other side, long and thin and shiny.

A loud thud from behind. There sat an eye, like the ones in the sky. Dirt began pouring in like water from the walls, soon enveloping Zisqe.

And they were back in the circle as it was before the shadows shifted. ”Isi, I know why I asked you to bring me here, but I know not what that is,”

Isi cocked its head at the words before asking, “What do you mean?”

”I saw a large corridor, then one I couldn’t fit through. There was something at the end of the second one, but I couldn’t see what it was. Then an eye fell from the sky and dirt poured over it like water”

For a moment, Isi thought to itself a hand going to its chin as it thought of what it meant. Its mind went over the possible answers before its mind went over how their species propagated, knowing that parts of the body had to be buried. Isi looked at Zisqe before letting out its suggestion, “It could mean that you must plant your eye into the ground and grow another child.”

Zisqe nodded slowly. ”Then I will bear this.”
They reached up to their face. The scream briefly tore away any serenity in the air.

Blood and teeth were fresh on the soil as Zisqe scraped at it, digging a hole large enough to bury an eye. The teeth mixed with the soil when it was being heaped back over, forming a gruesome mound. It was saturated with blood, teeth, and other fleshy strings.

Isi had looked away for a majority of the process, despite having had done a similar process when making Uzit and their other children, but still finding it hard to watch. When it was all done, Isi looked to the mound, thoroughly covered in blood and viscera, before they thought of what to say next.

“Why would you need to make another child, is my question,” Isi said, looking to Zisqe as it took a step forward, but not going any further. Zisqe shrugs in response, clutching their eye socket.

And just then, a singular drop of something falls from the sky. It drifts on fleet air to the pile. The earth ruptures. And there it laid, something eyedentical to a Bujzell, but without chitin. It opened its eyes. Then more. And still more, until there were countless.

”You will be called Ovainn, and you are my child,” Zisqe says, impossibly unperturbed.

Ovainn casts its eyes around, missing nothing. “What are you?”

”Tell me when you find out. But my name is Zisqe,

Ovainn focuses all its eyes on Isi. “And you?”

“I am Isi, first of Zisqe,” they said simply, looking at the chitinless Bujzell before casting a concerned look to Zisqe.

Zisqe catches Isi’s look of worry. They pull Ovainn in for a hug, who moves for the first time ever. “Hello Isi, hello Zisqe. What’s that?” Ovainn says. It opens one more eye, between the regular two. It was a brilliant blue. It pointed over towards the trees.

”Those are trees, Ovainn. Aren’t they so green?”

“No, what I’m pointing at isn’t green”

Isi’s eyes did not follow what Ovainn was pointing to, focused on the oddity of the creature that Zisqe was holding in a hug. “It’s chitinless,” she remarked, looking between Zisqe and Ovainn before finally looking in the direction of where Ovainn had pointed to determine whether or not something was green.

Ovainn stood up and walked to where it was pointing, and Zisqe looked at Isi, saying ”It has no chitin, but that just means we have to protect it more.”. They smiled.

Ovainn called out, “This, it’s a fire now I can see it from close.”
There was no eye.

Isi gave a confused look over to Ovainn before speaking to Zisqe, “I have never seen a child with no chitin. It’s… strange.”

”So were you when you first arrived. And me,” Zisqe said, smiling. Blood had stopped flowing so freely from their eye.





Collab with my man @Lauder
1x Like Like
Hidden 7 days ago Post by Lord Zee
Raw
Avatar of Lord Zee

Lord Zee I Don't Even Know

Member Seen 1 hr ago

Laurien


&


Li’Kalla

Goddess of Rain
MP 9 FP 16





Laurien picked a room with a long view of the outside world. That night she had a restless sleep, her thoughts a jumbled mess of anxiety and worry and longing. Yet when she did finally fall asleep, she had a nightmare. In it she ran across the breaking ground, threatening to consume her as she was chased by a warped version of Arae. Her hand was outstretched at a figure in the far distance, with two smaller figures on either side. She knew she wanted them, she knew she needed them, but no matter how much she ran, she could never reach them. She felt as if her form kept shifting between the three, to be what they wanted to see. Silver saw her as her lover, while her children saw her as their mother and yet she was just Laurien.

She was angry at that fact and grew with a fury the likes of which she had never felt before. She tried to fly but couldn't. She tried to shout but her voice would only speak gibberish and in different languages and tones. Her anger turned to a burning sensation and she felt so hot. She needed Silver to soothe her. She needed her children to calm her.

But it was never meant to be, and at last the ground broke apart in front of her and the last thing she saw was Arae looking down at her with a devilish smile before a black orb consumed her entirely. The sensation was not a pleasant one and it felt as if she was swallowed up by it entirely as she grew hor. Almost as if she could burst into flames in the darkness where she could not see. Perhaps then it would have given her light.

She awoke with a start, breathing heavily as she lay in her sweat. The sun was just rising to caress the world in its gentle warmth but Laurien did not care about that. Instead she barely had time to sit up as she threw up her white blood all over the bed and herself. She was instantly horrified as she made her way into the wooden floor. She lay on the ground for a long time as her head pounded with such intensity, she felt as if it was going to explode.

And then as quickly as it came, it was over and she felt relief from the pain. In fact, there was no more pain. She felt oddly fine, even great. Perhaps it was the curse taking effect, did she need to leave so soon? With a sigh, she got up and made her way to the dresser, but paused to look at the bed. Hopefully Li'Kalla wouldn't mind. Before she could sit down at the dresser, she stared open eyed at the figure who looked back at her in the mirror.

It was Silver, wearing clothes far too big for her.

"Silver?" She said, but it was not her own voice that spoke. She heard Silver's and from her own mouth. She looked down at her skin and she saw the scars and faded cuts. Her chest grew warm as she gazed upon silver in the flesh again but it wasn't right and she began to panic. She felt her skin, ace and hair, trying to distinguish herself from Silver but it was no use. She had physically become her and perhaps the strangest thing of all, was that she wanted it.

But at the same time, she wasn't Silver. She was Laurien. Why did she look like Silver? What was going on?

"Li'Kalla!" She shouted, unable to move, her vision frozen in place in the mirror. The goddess would know what was going. So Laurien dod the only thing she could. She shut her eyes tightly and tried to wrestle her thoughts into place, thinking of the curse and how it might have played a part in this.

Yet it didn't work. The more she thought, the more she panicked and her breathing became quicker. When she opened her eyes again, Polyastera looked back at her, soliciting a small spark. It was the original Polly, not the monster she had become and Laurien let out a surprised gasp in Polly's voice. She shut her eyes again and tried to think of herself and once again opened them to another old face, Cassiopeia.

The flame headed nebulite blinked at her before she shut her eyes. A sudden jolt of pain in her stomach sent her crumpling to her hands and knees as she vomited more white blood. The hands holding her up, were her own.

The ornate door to her bedroom slammed against the wall with the handle bending beyond repair at the force of the impact. From behind the doors entered Li'Kalla in a hurried walk, furrowing her eyebrows at the sight of Laurien on her hands and knees on the floor, before shifting her gaze to the blood coated bed.

"Laurien?"

”S-Something’s wrong.” Laurien gasped. ”I… I… Can change… Forms?”

”Huh,” Li’Kalla tilted her head and went over to Laurien. The Goddess knelt down beside Laurien and caressed and patted her back, before taking a sniff of the air. ”I have one question, have you always smelled this Divine, Laurien?”

”Divin-?” Laurien began before her she did something strange. She saw an opening in Li’Kalla’s mind, a small gate and she went inside. She saw what Li'Kalla wanted most in a partner and her desire to be loved wholly by him. Her eyes went wide as she realized what she was seeing, and she quickly flung herself away from Li, leaving the Goddess sitting there alone with a hurt expression, hand outstretched for a moment before letting it fall onto her lap. The second she stopped caressing her, the connection was broken, but Laurien had learned enough. Another mystery, but what was not a mystery was the sudden desire she had for the Goddess before her.

”I...I’m sorry. Your touch is so… So nice and I know you don’t want… I’m just so hot and confused right now... Divine? What do you mean?” she asked softly.

Li’Kalla looked down at her lap and, after a moment, looked back up and brushed some hair out of her face, a slight blush on her otherwise pale face. ”You’re no longer a mortal or a Hero. You, are a step above that. Your soul irradiates the same intensity as that of my Son, Ya’Shuur.” Li’Kalla paused to observe Laurien’s reaction, who’s eyes went wide in disbelief, then continued, ”You’re a demigod.”

”W-What do you mean a demigod? I can’t be… How could I…? It’s not possible.” she said absentmindedly. ”But it is…” she said again, looking at Li’Kalla with intensity.

Li’Kalla frowned and looked away, her flawless white hair conveniently covering her face. She straightened her posture to perfection whether consciously or not and cleared her throat, ”Y-You just looked into my mind. I must ask, what did you see?”

She began to scoot closer, her heart beating faster. ”I didn't mean too, I swear it. But I saw… I saw what you wanted most Li’Kalla.” Laurien whispered. "I… I can't control this burning urge any longer… I'm sorry." she said shakily in a mix of excitement and sadness and she began to change again.

Li’Kalla glanced at Laurien through a gap in the wall that her hair made and her eyes widened and cheeks blushed. Her mouth fell agape and tears welled up in her eyes, threatening to burst free at any moment as she sniffled back a sob. In that moment her posture broke down and she scooted up to Laurien and laid her hands on his new body.

Taller than her by a few inches, strong, muscular and agile looking, with a noticeably well-developed bone structure and ideal muscle insertions. He looked like his female self which Li’Kalla loved so much but couldn’t actually love, but in a male body.

She let out a breath of steamy mist and the room became warm and comfortable as Li’Kalla carefully placed her hands on the new Laurien’s chest while looking up into his eyes. ”M-My knight...”

“Yes… I'm here.” he said, his voice pleasant to her ears. He then leaned in and gave her a small kiss on her lips, before looking back at her. “I’ve wanted to do that for such a long time.” he smiled. "From the first moment I saw you… Because you're so perfect." Laurien said, letting himself channel his new divinity. It was a rush of power and excitement and his earlier fears and anxieties washed away. There was something about the whole thing, that just felt right. At long last, he was wanted and no matter the form, it felt good.

“P-perfect?” Li’Kalla’s voice cracked a little as she gingerly wrapped her arms around the male in front of her, ”You truly think so?” Li’Kalla’s voice was soft and small as she rubbed the side of her head against the male Nebulite’s chest, over his heart.

"Yes. Absolutely." He said, caressing her back. "You've always been and always will be."

Li’Kalla took a deep breath, kissed Laurien’s neck and gave it a sniff, and exhaled. Then she stood up and flapped her wings, blowing a gust of air on Laurien’s face, and all manner of bashfulness and elation left her, replaced by a pleased smile after she wiped away her tears, ”Ah, that felt great. This is enough for me, though. As a new demigod, I cannot simply mate with you right here, it must be an official affair with ceremonies and purification rituals in place. For now, let’s go test your new abilities. Aside from the one that shows me what I want to see and smell and touch, of course.”

The man blinked and frowned but said nothing as his form changed back into Laurien herself. ”I made it physical. I think I can change into anyone I desire too… But seeing your own mind… It allowed me to become exactly what you wanted.” she mused, then frowned. ”I can’t see what your desires are now though… I wonder why…” she said aloud before rubbing the back of her head. ”I… Um… I’m sorry about the mess.” she said sheepishly, looking around the room at all the blood.

Li’Kalla waved her hand dismissively and began walking out of the room. ”Do not think about it too much. It is natural you’d excrete copious amounts of mortal fluids after becoming a divine. There’s no reason to be ashamed.” Li’Kalla gave her wings a small flap again and she looked over her shoulder to confirm Laurien was following. ”We’ll be taking a bath now, as we cannot train and experiment with blood all over ourselves, can we? My faithful have crafted an exquisite fragrance for us. Do you like the scent of lavender?”

”Lavender?” Laurien said out loud. The smell unfamiliar, but at the same time sounding pleasant. ”I've never smelled it before, I’m afraid.”

”Oh, it’s lovely. It’s been my favorite scent for as long as I can remember. After all, I grew up next to-” Li’Kalla suddenly fell silent, but continued walking as if she’d said nothing, though the way she kept her wings stiffly half unfurled was anything but relaxed.

”Almost there,” She said after they went down the staircase and past the recreation room, and at the final, unassuming door, Li’Kalla stopped and turned toward Laurien. ”I’ve designed this room like a hot springs, like the ones you’d see in the western coast of Be’r-Jaz. It is much safer and cleaner, and the water has deep cleansing and relaxing properties, so please feel free to use it whenever. And do invite me, there is nothing quite like a chat in the mixed baths.” Li’Kalla said with a genuinely warm smile as she opened the door and gestured Laurien inside.

As soon as the door opened, a faint scent of sulfur reached Laurien’s nostrils, and then a luxurious mix of floral and natural scents made themselves apparent. Merely breathing in the air felt as if she was in a sanctuary, a sacred land that one could truly rest on.

As for the room itself, it looked like an open air hot spring, with the sky visible even though she knew for a fact there were rooms on the second floor just above them. The ground was soft, and a ring of boulders circled most of the large, clear hot spring. The water itself seemed to reflect water unnaturally, and emitted a soft white glow.

Li’Kalla smiled reassuringly at Laurien and nudged her inside, before walking in herself and closing the door.

”Well?”

”It’s beautiful.” Laurien said, taking in the fragrances. ”And the smell… It’s so lovely.” Without saying anything else, she took off her blood stained nightgown and set it to the side. She then hesitantly dipped a toe in the water. It felt… It felt nice. Not too hot, not too cold. She then began to submerge herself within it.

Li’Kalla watched Laurien intently, studying every inch of her body, before undressing herself and submerging in the water, where she continued to stare at her. After a few moments, she sighed.

”How are you?”

Laurien smiled sweetly at Li’Kalla. ”I’m doing good, I think. You are very kind, and I am very grateful for your help.” she said genuinely, relaxing in the pool.

The winged Goddess pursed her lips, ”You’re extremely mentally resilient, Laurien. Most mothers would be broken for months or years after being forced to leave their children behind in a world this dangerous. How do you manage?”

Color seemed to drain from her face as she remembered her children. She had… She had forgotten about them. She squirmed where she sat and then said, ”I… Um… Arae won’t hurt them. I know that. They’re probably as safe as they ever will be. And one day… I’ll get them back.” she said softly.

Li’Kalla smiled, ”You’re adorable, I love it when parents show their love for their offspring. It’s so refreshing.”

Laurien gave her a soft smile and then looked around. ”So, when do the servants come in?” she asked.

Li’Kalla tilted her head, ”Servants?” She asked as she scooted across the edge of the hot spring onto a small wooden table on which a clay pot lied. Li’Kalla dipped her finger into the pot and it came out coated in a green-ish paste which she then dipped into the hot spring. Immediately, the light scent of lavender filled the room. ”Servants and slaves are best used for important matters, not for pampering nobility. We can do this ourselves, can’t we?”

”Interesting ideology.” Laurien said. ”But we aren’t nobility, we are divinity. I know… Other gods have bathhouses with servants who will clean you. They love doing it, but I can respect your stance.” she said, beginning to scrub her arms.

”I can see why mortals would enjoy laying their hands on divines, however the fact that we are superior means we cannot become lax. I will clean my own body if I’m able to. I will tend to my needs if I’m able to, and then I will tend to my faithful’s. Taking time away from a mortal’s limited lifespan just to clean my body would be cruel, and also stain my body and threaten my purity.”

Laurien nodded. ”Very noble of you.” she sid, submerging her head under the water. After a moment she came back up, hair dripping wet. ”So… What exactly am I able to do now?”

Li’Kalla submerged as well and came back up completely soaked, then started messing around with her left-wing’s feathers. ”You can walk on water.”

”Oh? That could come in handy. What else?” she asked excitedly.

”You can also walk on air, with enough focus and time. Not to mention extreme levels of physical strength, speed, agility, an unlimited lifespan and a body that’s always in its prime (not including permanent injuries). And most likely some reality altering capabilities.” Li’Kalla shuddered a little and gasped as she touched the base of her primary feathers.

Laurien rose an eyebrow after nodding. ”Everything okay? Do you need help?” she asked softly.

Li’Kalla looked at Laurien and chuckled, ”Having someone else groom my wings would make it faster indeed. Do be careful around the roots of my feathers, though. They’re quite sensitive. And the base of my wings, too.” With that, Li’Kalla moved over to Laurien and sat down with her back facing the demi-goddess, and fully extended her wings, keeping her back straight.

As Laurien began to groom her wings, she said, ”You know, your wings are very pretty. Another perk of divinity huh?” she mused.

”Thank you. I like my wings a lot. If my memory is correct, the inspiration for them was Azura. You could have feathery wings as well if you wanted to, I could groom yours in return.”

”Maybe one day.” Laurien giggled. She took her time grooming the Goddess, taking great care not to be too rough. When she reached the base of her wings, she went slower, not to cause Li any unwanted pain. After a while, though, the Goddess let out a soft moan and stretched her wings as far as they’d go and scooted closer to Laurien.

”T-That feels really good.”

The demigoddess smirked from behind Li and did nothing but continue her grooming at the base. ”It’s the small things in life that give us the most pleasure.” she whispered in her ear after a while.

Li’Kalla gasped and shuddered, pressing herself up against Laurien and squirming. And then, an extra pair of hands began caressing Laurien’s back and shoulders. Soft, green hands followed by the rustling of leaves.

Laurien’s head shot up and she let go out Li’Kalla as she stood up and turned to see who had touched her. ”Wha-?” she said looking at the odd creature. It was a humanoid plant, with puffy round leaves for hair, a pair of black orbs for eyes, and soft features vaguely resembling Li’Kalla’s. Her lips were curled in a warm smile and her eyes were half-lidded. The plant female retracted her hands and crawled up to Laurien, taking a sniff of the demigoddess.

At this point, Li’Kalla, who was panting for breath, furled her wings and swam to the opposite side of the hot spring once more. ”L-Laurien,” She said, a blush present on her face and slightly disheveled hair from having rubbed the back of her head against Laurien, ”Meet Laven. She’s a foreas, a new sentient species. Unfortunately she cannot speak or hear and her sight is awful, but she’s got a good heart and likes physical contact with warm bodies.”

Laurien looked upon Laven with giddy joy as she realized how easily it was to read the desires of a mortal. The foreas had such simple wants, to be cuddled, to have her head patted, and to be outside under the sun. All, so easy to accomplish. Laurien touched the creature and was astounded at just how soft she was. She sat down at the edge of the spring and grabbed the plant’s hand, guiding it to sit down in her lap, which Laven happily did. There, Laurien began to pet the creature as she looked over it’s entire body.

”It wants nothing more then to have affection… Where on Galbar did it come from?” Laurien said, rubbing her cheek on to of the plant’s head, who simply hugged Laurien and pressed her face against the demigoddess’ chest, her leaves rustling excitedly. ”It’s so easy to just… Make her obsessed with it.” Laurien gushed, her voice dripping with wanton desire. Laven looked up at Laurien’s face needily, almost whimpering before turning and straddling Laurien’s lap. She grabbed Laurien’s hands and tried to put them on her soft, delicate body and head. Laurien did as what she wanted, enamored by the small being.

Laven seemed to shudder and twitch more and more with every caress, eventually twisting and turning her head until Laurien’s hand was on her face, then she bit gently on one of her fingers and teared up.

At that point, Li’Kalla cleared her throat. ”Do go easy on her, Laurien. I don’t think she can handle much more. ”

Laurien blinked and looked to Li’Kalla before looking at Laven, seeing the poor thing in such a state, it sent shivers down her spine. She then relaxed Laven’s desire to be loved, and she calmed down and fell asleep. Laurien then rubbed the creature’s head and looked to Li’Kalla again. ”Yes… Sorry about that.”

Li’Kalla shook her head, ”Do not worry about it, you were merely testing your capabilities. As for your earlier question, they come from the Eternal Tree to the west of here, near the natural hot springs.”

”I’ll have to go visit there sometime… These Foreas have potential.” she said, kissing Laven’s head.

”They sure do, as it was me who created them.” Li’Kalla said nonchalantly, scrubbing her body.

Laurien raised an eyebrow in surprise. ”If Laven is anything to go by, all they want is to be loved. How simple a need is that…” she said thoughtfully.

Li’Kalla blushed and perked up, ”D-Don’t go getting any ideas! N-Not all my creations reflect a part of me, okay?!” Li’Kalla huffed and crossed her arms.

Laurien smirked playfully. ”Who said anything about them reflecting a part of you?” she teased.

Li’kalla opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out, and then she closed it and huffed again, turning to look somewhere else. ”I-I suppose we’re sufficiently clean now. Shall we move on?”

”Where to next?” she asked, standing up while also cradling Laven in her arms.

”The balcony. It’s a sunny day, which doesn’t come often, so we will sundry. Leave your clothes here, I will wash them for us later.” Li’Kalla said before stepping out of the hot spring and walking out of the door.

”Okay, that sounds lovely.” Laurien said, snuggling her cheek against Laven’s, the plant’s eyes fluttering open as soon as Laurien began following after Li’Kalla. Slowly, Laven began exploring Laurien’s body, her hands touching every surface they could reach.

The trio walked through a semi-hidden side door and went up a small staircase leading straight into the large balcony on the second floor. Li’Kalla immediately went to a sunbathing chair and laid down on it, stretching herself with a small moan of relief.

”In order to lay down on the chairs like I am you will likely need to alter their shape, Laurien. Manipulate the object’s composition and configuration with your inherent divine abilities.”

Laurien stared at the chair, pouring her thoughts into it and slowly she was able to see it for what it was, raw information. She then began to expand the chair, with a heavy grunt as she willed it to expand to fit her. It got a few feet taller, before she let out a frustrated sigh. But, Laurien then shifted her body, making it slightly smaller, and then sat down upon the chair, letting Laven lay on top of her. ”Will that get easier?” she asked.

”Maybe. Divines as creatures are vastly different from one another. Some may not even be able to achieve the level of creativity required for finer reality manipulation, but may be stronger in the usage of their range of other abilities. Personally, I’m not a combatant. I’m quite sure I’m physically the weakest among the Gods, but I can do things like this and recreate electricity within my own home.”

Laurien stroked Laven’s head as she listened, the foreas girl curling up into a ball on top of her. ”I see. Well, guess I’ll just have to find out what else I can do, in time.” she mused.

”Of course. I could probably make us both dry right now, but I find doing things like a mortal would to be more satisfying, don’t you think? Breathing, eating, sleeping...”

”I was mortal yesterday… It all feels so surreal. But yes, it is nice.” she lulled.

Silence fell upon them, but it was a comfortable silence, in which one could relax and watch the world move leisurely. And so they watched the Heliopolis slowly move through the skies and out of the corner of Laurien’s eyes, a small snake of fire could be seen, slithering towards her…




1x Laugh Laugh
Hidden 7 days ago Post by Lord Zee
Raw
Avatar of Lord Zee

Lord Zee I Don't Even Know

Member Seen 1 hr ago

Arya


&

Karamir





Karamir paced back and forth restlessly.

His soul, his memory, his personality… all had been restored. What had been lost, good or bad, he could remember almost as if it had happened yesterday. His behavior and thoughts throughout the past day felt almost like that of a completely different person, yet they had been his.

He thought back to his earlier interactions with Arya, and grimaced. He had been cold, hostile, and downright ungrateful. It was as if his head had been full of fog. He had been capable of neither empathy nor gratitude. He had seen her almost as an object. One that was only worth his time so long as she had something to offer him. Even when she had been injured, his concern had been more because he needed her father to restore his soul than because of any actual care for her wellbeing.

Was this how Laurien had viewed him? When she smiled, when she showed interest in his stories, when she offered him drink, when she answered his questions… had it all been a pretense? Had she only seen him as an object, to be used or destroyed depending on what was most convenient? And in the end she decided he was more useful to her dead than alive?

The thought made him shudder. To live a life like that, only seeing others as expendable…

And Arya… he owed her a lot. She had looked after him when he was injured. She had stayed with him when the rest of her people fled to a safer location. She had let him sleep on her bed, and where had she slept during that time - if at all? She had tried to help him, even after he snapped at her and was bitter toward her. He couldn’t help but feel guilty.

Shortly after he returned to the house, Karamir had noticed a piece of clothing discarded on a table. It was a dress, torn and bloodstained. It didn’t take a genius to deduce that it was what she used to cover his wounds until Shengshi arrived.

He had taken it. He had drawn upon raw mana, and did his best to mend the shreds back together again. Then he had called forth his skill in water mana, and with great effort had managed to wash out the bloodstains. That done, he had folded it, and left it on a table beside her bed. It was not the most efficient way to use his powers right now… but it helped him pass the time, and it helped ease his own mind somewhat.

After that he had patrolled the interior of her house. Every now and then he would hear a noise or seem some movement outside, and go to investigate, fearing that Vrog or some pigguts had decided to pursue them here. So far, there was nothing.

He sat down on a nearby chair and looked down at her, then cringed as he recalled his earlier words to her. He had told her he wanted to become a god… an objective he long since believed he was abandoned. She had thought it foolhardy, and rightly so. Now, what did she think of him because of it?

He’d have to explain himself when she woke up. Maybe she would understand. But how? Discussing his past before he left the Palace always made him feel uncomfortable. He took a deep breath. Maybe… if he practiced talking about it before she woke up… it would be easier to tell her when she was finally awake.

“Kalmar made me as an experiment…” he said aloud, his own voice sounding jarring in the otherwise silent house. “He had seen mortals like you, and Hermes, and wanted to know what it was like to make one of his own. His training was harsh, but I endured, hoping it meant something… only to be sent away and told to seek out my own purpose,” he shook his head. “I met a woman named Atalantia, but all she did was mock me. Then I met Phystene, but she couldn’t put my concerns to rest. I felt abandoned. I was alone. I didn’t know what to do.”

He breathed deep. “That is what first made me want to become a god. Anger, and bitterness. It was unlikely to succeed. Even at the time, I knew that. That didn’t matter. I needed something to keep going. I couldn’t have children, there weren’t any others of my kind, I was alone… it was all I could think of. I thought if I could get enough power, I would matter. I would have a place in the world… I’d be able to do what I want…”

It was like sprinting downhill: now that he had started, he couldn’t stop. “I wandered Kalgrun for years. Then I found a drained river, and while I was exploring it, it refilled itself. I was washed into the sea, and Diana saved me…”

He looked away from Arya now, staring at the wall. He had never talked about this before. Not in detail, at least. “I was on a raft with her for… I don’t know how long. She made it as uncomfortable and as miserable as possible. I itched, I sweated. She wouldn’t offer food or drink until I was on the brink of passing out. My sleep was plagued by constant nightmares. She once nearly drowned me just because I annoyed her, and only saved me when I began to panic. It was… it was horrible.” He felt a tear roll down his cheek.

“Then… we reached Dragon’s Foot. I could have left her, but… I stayed. I can’t explain it. Some part of me wanted her to like me, believed she cared. Another part was scared. If I left her I’d be alone again, this time in an unfamiliar land. So… I stayed. For years, and decades. I continued to endure all the pain, all the torment… there were times when I wanted to die. When I almost…” he shuddered, as tears began to flow more freely. “I held on only because I thought dying would make me a failure. I made myself numb to the world. I told myself I was used to it. It was the only way I could deal with it…”

It was odd, talking like this to someone who wasn’t even awake to hear him, about such painful memories too. Yet with each word it felt like some unseen burden was lifted off his shoulders.

“Eventually she brought me to Tendlepog. When we left, I saw her drop the orb. I didn’t say anything. I thought it was an accident, and I was relieved to see it gone. But… it seems now she had meant to drop it, and we saw where that led. Part of what just happened could be my fault…” he shook his head.

“We arrived at the Palace. K’nell was welcoming… at first. But soon it was made clear that I had only been allowed there because of Diana. He refused to answer my questions or help me get what I wanted - which was no longer godhood, but just knowledge. I could either stay with her, or go back out into the world… alone. I… I wasn’t sure what to do…”

Karamir wiped tears from his eyes. “And then I met you…”

”I… I had found a library in the Palace. It showed me some of what was out there. Good and bad. That was… that was part of why I was uncertain. But meeting you? You were proof. You helped me make up my mind. You helped me recover…”

”I’m glad.” Arya’s voice said weakly.

Karamir nearly jumped at the sound, and then, wordlessly, turned his head back to face her. Black tears streamed down her face as she sat up in bed. She looked tired, painfully so, but even through that pain, she still smiled softly.

”If you had stayed… I would never have gotten to see you in person.” she said softly.

”I’m… sorry for the way I acted toward you,” Karamir said, recovering from the shock. ”Are you alright?”

”It’s okay, Karamir.” she said, ”I’ll be fine… But… How did we get here? How did you recover? What happened to Vrog and those… things?”

”Vrog hit you, and you were knocked out,” Karamir said, his gaze shifting to the bruise on her head. ”I was about to get us both away from there, but then Abanoc and someone named Mnemosyne intervened. The fight stopped, but Vrog only agreed to leave after Abanoc told him which god K’nell was closest to - which was apparently Shengshi. He took the creatures with him, but I... think some might still be on the island,” he said, rising to his feet and stepping toward the window. ”As for Abanoc, we came back here. He repaired my soul, Mnemosyne restored my memories, and then they left.” He looked away from the window, and back to her. ”Oh, and the asteroids stopped falling some time ago.”

Arya’s face was blank by the time Karamir had stopped talking. She seemed to sink back into her pillows and sighed. ”He cursed me.” she said absentmindedly. ”I feel fine now… Besides a headache but… I really struggled when I fought him. Everything was so heavy and I felt so slow, and sick. How can I… How can I protect people if I can’t fight?” she said beginning to cry. ”How is any of this fair?”

Karamir crossed the distance between them and sat down on the bed next to her. Tentatively, he reached out to put an arm around her. ”I don’t know if anything is meant to be fair,” he said sadly. ”Things were so much simpler when we were at the Palace, weren’t they?”

Arya laid her head upon his chest. ”It’s gone.” she said simply.

”What’s gone?” Karamir asked, suddenly concerned again.

”The Palace. K’nell. Diana. Hermes. Xiaoli. Tendlepog. Most of the Dreamers. They’re all gone.” she said forlornly. ”They left the world… K’nell took them all to Paradise.”

”Paradise?”

”A place of infinite possibilities, a place of peace away from the eyes of the other Gods. An alternative to the Pyres that no one save a few know, Shengshi being one of them. I take it that’s why Vrog was so interested in K’nell… He wanted to know where he went but he’ll never get there. He can’t.” she sighed.

”So that’s why the Dreamers kicked me out…” Karamir whispered, and then froze. ”Wait. What do you mean… an alternative to the Pyres?”

”Those that go to Heaven… Their mind remains there… Or something. I don’t know okay. He told me so long ago and I just don’t like thinking about it anymore. I can’t tell them about anything happening here. Why would they care? Why bother them with events they can never help with? They’re so happy…” she whispered.

”And nobody save a few know?” Karamir asked, still dwelling on that revelation. ”There’s an alternative to the Pyres, and it’s being kept secret?”

”Please… You can’t tell anyone, Karamir. Not yet. I can… I can teach you how to… Go there, if you want?” she said, her voice small.

”Not yet? When will other people be allowed to know?”

”I don’t know.”

Karamir looked at the ground, and took a slow, shuddering breath. In the time since K’nell had created this… alternative… and sent all his people there, how many people died? How many souls were burned in Katharsos’s pyres, or left to collect dust in Azura’s vault? Now there was an alternative, and it was being hoarded.

He was tempted to bring that up. Yet, Arya was distraught enough as is. She had likely considered that fact already, and if she hadn’t, then bringing it up would only make her feel worse. He ran a hand through her hair. ”You don’t need to tell me,” he decided. ”I won’t go. Not until there comes a day when everyone in Galbar has access to it.”

”But what if… What if that day never comes?” she asked.

Karamir shrugged. ”Maybe Azura will have found a solution of her own by then. Or maybe my soul will be burned in the Pyres. I can’t know for sure. I don’t even think K’nell would want me in this Paradise of his - he had the Dreamers kick me out of Tendlepog not too long after I left the Palace. But don’t worry about me. Whatever awaits me after death, I’m not afraid.”

”O-Okay… The Dreamers… I miss them. Why haven’t they come to say hello?” she said sleepily.

”I don’t know, Arya,” Karamir said. ”So… are you telling me that you had to keep this a secret for years… while leading and protecting this people… all on your own?”

”You have to do such things… When you become a leader.” she said, yawning.

”I should have taken your offer…” Karamir said. ”Maybe I could have helped you.”

There came no answer though, only the sound of steady breathing. She had fallen asleep. Gently, and reluctantly, Karamir laid her back down on the bed before rising to his feet. He was tired himself, but someone had to stay awake.

There were still monsters in the woods.




Arya woke up, a soft white glow illuminated the room. She rubbed her eyes and found the source, an orb of white floated at the end of her bed, as if watching her. She sat up, scooting her legs closer to her chest. The orb floated a little bit closer and though she had no idea what it was, she was strangely unafraid. Calm, even. A powerful feeling overcame her, a sense of pure longing and happiness washed into her as the light touched her skin. She outstretched her hand, a finger pointed as her eyes went wide. The orb floated closer, as her heart beat faster in anticipation. And as her finger touched the orb, she felt a spark of warmth, then the orb enveloped her like a gentle blanket. She felt warm, and so cozy, and then it faded into her skin.

Almost immediately, the cozy warmth became hot, unbearably hot. She began to sweat, and ripped the covers off her, as her head exploded in pain. She fell to the floor, clutching her head as her vision blurred. It felt as if her body was going to burst into flame. She screamed in pain, before a wave of nausea washed over her. She quickly got up on her hands and knees, before vomiting black blood.

In a flash, Karamir had flown up the stairs, and there was a thump as he slammed into the wall. He fell to his feet and nearly lost his footing, but managed to recover his balance, and then he saw her. ”Arya!” he yelled, running forward and dropping to his knees beside her. He placed a hand on her back, feeling the intense heat that radiated through her clothes. ”No, no, dammit. What do I do?” he asked nobody in particular, his voice edged with desperation.

Karamir’s cool touch was oddly comforting, and she focused on it, allowing herself to breath for once. Through her ragged breathing she said, ”You did nothing… I did something.” she said, throwing up more blood.

”How do I help you?” he asked, his voice no less urgent.

”C-cold… W-water.” she said weakly.

Karamir’s cloak then wrapped around her, and he pulled her close as they floated off the ground. He winced slightly, as he realized just how hot her skin had become, but the frostguard ring protected him from the worst of it. He went carefully first, maneuvering cautiously down the stairs, past her furniture - one unfortunate chair had already been knocked over on his way up - and out the door.

Then, as soon as they were outside, he accelerated. Their surroundings became a blur, then all of a sudden they were standing waist-deep in a stream of water. Karamir slid a ring of cold metal onto her finger, and then his cloak released her. Keeping a hand on her for steadiness, he then lowered her deeper into the water.

The ring soothed her, as well as the water, but the burning did not stop. ”L-Let go…” she said between breathes.

Karamir hesitated, and then released his grip on her.

Arya became submerged in the water, yet shallow as it was, she felt like she was sinking endlessly. The water began to bubble around her, and the water grew hot. Without the ring to protect him, Karamir had no choice but to step away as it began to burn his skin, and he began to regret letting go of her. ”Arya!” he called out.

‘Arya!’

It was a simple name, for a simple girl. But she was no longer the same Arya she had once been, so long ago coming into the world. She had grown up, and become who she was always supposed to be. A friend. A daughter. A sister. A companion. A sailor. A hero.

But there was so much more that she could attain. That she wanted to do and in that moment, the burning stopped. And with a powerful explosion of light, she erupted from the water and landed on the shore, breathing heavily. There was no more pain, no more aching, she no longer felt so angry and the sword’s influence… It was gone.

Karamir recoiled from the splash, his cloak wrapping around him to shield him from the boiling water. ”Arya!” he shouted again, and began wading toward her. ”Are you alright!?

She turned to him with a large smile and waded into the water as well. If it all it burned her, she couldn’t even tell. For she almost immediately hugged Karamir tightly. ”I’m fine! So, so fine. I feel wonderful actually.” she said giddily.

For a moment Karamir hugged her back, but then he pulled himself away, and looked at her oddly. ”What happened to you?” he asked in a worried voice.

”I don’t know.” she said thoughtfully. ”I woke up to see a white orb hovering above my bed. It’s presence filled me with… What I’m feeling now, actually. Huh. But then I touched it and it faded into my skin after enveloping me. My entire body started to burn and I threw up… Ew. But now… Now I feel fine.” she said happily.

”Are you sure?” he asked pressing a hand against her forehead. ”You lost a lot of blood.”

”Yeah, that was a little concerning, wasn’t it?” she said with a laugh.

”I thought you were dying…” he whispered with a shake of his head, before pulling her back in for a hug.

She returned his hug and then pulled back and said, ”I thought you were dying too. Look at us now.”

Karamir smiled. ”It seems Kalmar was right about one thing. Suffering has a way of making us stronger. Hey, I’d like to show you something…”

”Oh?” she said.

Karamir let go of her and glanced down at the water. ”Remember what I told you about mana?” he asked her, and then cupped a hand under the surface, before pulling it out. Instead of simply pouring out of his hand, the water formed into a round ball, which he now held before Arya. ”I… I wasn’t just talking madness. It exists. Do you still want to learn it?”

Her eyes seemed to sparkle at the sight and she let out an excited squeal. ”I never thought you were mad!” she said playfully, before poking the ball. ”I’d love to learn though!”

Karamir’s smile widened, and then he flicked the ball into her face.

The girl’s face went blank as she was splashed, and for a tense moment it looked like she was going to get angry, but then her lips turned into a smirk and she laughed, before shoving Karamir in what was meant to be a jest, but he was instead launched backward in an almost violent manner. He went under with a large splash, and did not come back up.

Arya at once recoiled and then rushed over to where he went under. And in that moment, something grabbed her legs, tripping her, and she too ended up underwater. Karamir resurfaced a moment later, with a smirk on his face, and waited for Arya to do the same. Yet, for some reason, she did not surface and with a keen eye, he could see her white glow swimming into a deeper section of the creek with ease.

Curious, he decided to wade in deeper to follow her.

Not a moment later, her head bobbed up out of the water in the middle of the deeper section. She had a concerned look on her face. ”This is going to sound weird but… I don’t need to breathe under the water. It’s like… It’s like I don’t need air. Even now… I want to breathe but it doesn’t feel necessary… And when I shoved you… I’m not that strong.”

Karamir froze, and a thoughtful look appeared on his face. ”Maybe it was the orb…” he suggested. ”It must have done something to you. Where do you think it came from?”

”I’m not… I’m not sure, but I feel so… I feel so happy and strange. Like… Like I’m floating on a cloud.” she said, looking at her hands.

”Well, it’s good to see you happy again,” he said, remembering what she had been like at the Palace, ”But… just be careful. We don’t know how else it might have affected you.”

She tilted her head at him and gave him a warm smile, but her smile faded and turned into a small look of surprise. ”You… You care so much for me. I-I can tell. How can I tell?” she said blinking.

Karamir responded with an equally surprised look, his cheeks reddening slightly. ”W-well, you have always been kind to me, and I have been trying to repay you for it…”

”You… You say that like you’re only doing it because you have to… Do you really think that you have to repay me, Karamir?” she said, putting a hand over her mouth. Her eyes then went wider. ”But I know you’re doing it because you want to. It’s genuine...” she said, misty eyed.

Her words made him wince. ”I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I… I’d still try to help you even if you hadn’t helped me, or at least I believe that I would. It’s just that…” he sighed. ”I’m no good at talking about this stuff, am I? I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Her hand dropped from her mouth as she blinked away white tears. She noticed the color change as it fell onto the ground, where it then shattered into small pieces. She stared at that for a moment before looking back at Karamir. "I don't blame you… This is a strange night, for the both of us. Come on, let's go back to the house." she said, pulling her leg out of the water and then beginning to walk on the surface.

Karamir stared in astonishment. ”Wait… how are…”

Arya turned to him with a confused look, ”Huh?” she said, before looking at herself. It was then she saw her feet were above the water, and it was the strangest feeling that there was. She looked back up at Karamir and said, ”D-Do you know who else can walk on water?”

”Kalmar, Fenris - that’s a creature Kalmar made - and D-Diana,” Karamir said, his voice growing shaky as his mind slowly reached a conclusion. But no… that couldn’t be possible, could it? ”Arya… when you say you know why I’m doing things… do you mean… can you actually sense my feelings?”

Arya felt herself pale, even though she was stark as white, and slowly nodded her head at Karamir. ”O-Orvus can walk on water… So can K’nell… Shengshi… Arae… The entire pantheon.” she said gulping, looking at her hands again.

”You’re stronger, you don’t need to breathe, you can sense other people’s feelings, you can walk on water…” Karamir stepped the water, turned to face her, then sank to his knees and closed his eyes.

Arya. Can you hear me?

She jumped at his voice. Then said, ”W-Why didn’t your mouth just move?”

His eyes opened. ”Because… I didn’t say anything.” Karamir took a deep breath as he stood back up. ”It was a prayer.”

”B-But only Gods can hear…” and it dawned upon her. The orb, her sudden condition, expelling her fluids, not needing to breath under water, her strength, her walking on water and her ability to hear his prayer- She had become divine. ”That’s not… That’s not possible… I can’t be a God.” she said

”There might be some other explanation…” Karamir suggested. ”But I can’t think of anything else. Maybe another god could confirm it?”

”C-Come on, let’s go back to the house.” she said, avoiding his question.

Karamir only nodded, and offered her his hand.

She took it, finding a small comfort in the gesture, as her thoughts ran amok in her head.






3x Like Like
Hidden 5 days ago Post by Frettzo
Raw
Avatar of Frettzo

Frettzo Summary Lover

Member Seen 11 hrs ago

Part One
Existence


It was dark.

It was cold.

Shackles made of concrete and asphalt kept a vicious grip around her wrists and ankles. They were connected to chains that snaked all the way into the darkness.

Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. Not one of them cared to find what the chains were attached to until the first time they went taut, and the screaming girl was pulled into the darkness never to be seen or heard again. The shards had all mourned, and then they tried to come up with a plan akin to the one they had to fight the Beast...

And the chains went taut again, and both the elegant woman and the playful one were swallowed by the Dark.

Only two were left, for the longest time.

One of which was Laina, Second Princess to the Sen’Kalla Clan of the Plains and Mountains, the beautiful yet timid girl with platinum hair, baby blue eyes and the fairest skin only seen on those within the Royal Families in Dai’Sora’s Expanses. The Princess that after months of daily abuse at the hands of those she once loved, respected, admired and trusted with her life; had died due to disease all those eons ago, in a different existence.

And the other was Silver, herself, who had only received a name after meeting her first friend, Orvus, and who had only considered herself a real person with real feelings and thoughts after meeting her first love, Laurien. A love that she could truly call hers, and not Laina’s or Li’Kalla’s. A love that she had held close to her heart throughout the worst moments, throughout the loneliness of Orvus’ peaceful farm, and throughout the fear and desolation within Li’Kalla’s sown-together soul. It is what gave her the strength to keep trying, to keep fighting as the chains went taut over and over again.

Silver was the one thing that held steadfast against the pull of the Architect’s influence. She was the one to keep Laina on her feet and away from hopelessness, in spite of everything that had happened, in spite of everything that could happen.

There, in the darkness, the bond between two parts of the same soul grew stronger than it had ever been. Laina with the role of the princess, who gave Silver a reason to move forward and a person to care for; and Silver with the role of the knight, who served as a pillar that Laina could rely on in her time of need, and hold onto when the darkness came screaming at her.

In the end, what they all needed to overcome the thorns digging into their hearts, was being accepted and loved by themselves.




Silver and Laina lied on the dark ground, with their heads side by side as they stared at nothingness. There were no words to exchange, as everything that could be said had been said long ago. Now, there was just the comfort of being next to each other, as the last time the chains went taut had been so long ago they’d almost forgotten about it. Who knew that being chained and imprisoned inside your own soul could be so... Peaceful?

The darkness cracked. Beams of light, something Silver had forgotten existed, penetrated the thick dark fog and converged on the two lying individuals.

“Laina.”

Her own voice sounded almost foreign.

“Laina, the sky just broke.”

There was no response and Silver turned her head to look at Laina and realized, that she was all alone.

The next thing she knew, she saw Laurien. She spoke to her, after all this time. It was like a dream, like it didn’t really happen, and then the darkness claimed her back…

Except it didn’t.

She wouldn’t let it. After all this time, after losing herself in it for so long, after becoming so accustomed to it and seeing the world for the first time in so long… After having a real body again, she would never let it take her again. Never.

A small thread had tied itself to her the moment she’d been pulled into the world to meet Laurien, and when the time came for this thread to leave, Silver grabbed onto it as tightly as she could, baring her teeth and digging her own nails into her palms. She pulled and pulled, and screamed and grunted as the silver thread gave way and the sky cracked more, showering Silver in the pure light of reality, and just like that, the thread fused into her and she found herself expelled from the darkness.

It was all a blur. There was no sound, no sight, no speech, no taste, no touch, and yet she knew.

She was alive, and the darkness around her was no darkness, but a world she could not see. And with life and independence came the loneliness she’d missed so much. She thought of Laina, of her fellow shards, and of Laurien. Even still, she thought of Li’Kalla, the one she knew had kept her trapped for so long, and found it in her heart to forgive her.

There were those that she had to leave behind, and nothing could be done about that. She would shed a tear and move on as life always did, as she was sure it moved when it was her who was left behind.

Half-awake, half-conscious, half-real, the falling star that was Silver phased through the high leaves and branches of the largest tree in the Land of Li’Kalla, through its thick trunk and past the happy, simple Foreas, and into one of the pods. Inside of it there was a half-developed body with no soul of its own, and so the bodiless soul took it as her new home away from home.




In time, her body would grow in size and consciousness. What once was a pleasant warmth inside the pod, embraced in the loving aura of the Eternal Tree, was now a blazing hot dance with the collective soul of her species, her brothers and sisters. And one day, Silver opened her eyes in a dream.

She could see without seeing, and could hear without hearing. She was in a forest, surrounded by flowers of all shapes and colors, bees, butterflies and small animals.

She reached up to her head and felt her new leaves. Bipartite, large leaves covered a dense foliage of smaller, sinuate leaves. They all quivered as she ran her hands through them, and a smile graced her face as she felt her heart swell and eyes widen.

Why? Why…

It flashed before her eyes.

Her nanny, patting her head after she helped her peel some potatoes. Her teacher, patting her head with a proud smile on her face after she successfully recited the Clan’s Ancestral Poem. Her beloved knight… Running his right hand through her hair as he wiped away her tears with his left hand, before leaving for battle on the frontlines.

Warm tears fell down her face at the sudden recollection. Then she blinked, and saw a tall humanoid in front of her, replacing those she saw in her memories. A beautiful, lush foliage covered her scalp and reached down her back, resembling furled wings. She was smiling proudly down at Silver and patting her head.

”My sapling,” The voice was soft, motherly, loving… It felt like a cool breeze in a summer afternoon. Silver’s tears didnt stop, and she embraced the figure’s waist, crying silently. The figure, her new Mother, hugged her in return, and she couldn’t help but bawl like a child… Except, no sound came out of her while doing so. ”My young one, I love you, from the bottom of my heart… I am so happy to have you, I am so grateful to the world, to the air, to the earth, for giving me such a bright young sapling. I love you, so much.”

Silver hugged the figure tighter, but in the end it gently pushed her away and got on her knees, coming to Silver’s eye level as she planted a kiss on her forehead. Tears glistened in the sun, tracing paths along her mother’s pale yellow cheeks and welling up in her light, completely brown eyes.

”I am so sad that I can’t spend more time with you, that our Dream should be this short, my love… That I can only tell you I love you so few times, that I can only hold you this one time… Do not feel alone, however, as I will always be thinking of you and I will tell everyone of you...”

Silver wiped her eyes and sobbed silently, looking into her mother’s deep eyes.

”My young autumn sapling. The world you’re awaking in is beautiful, and there are so many things to see and love. As I have done for you here, as I made you feel, that is how I want you to make others feel. In my stead, sapling, love the world and be happy.”

As her mother spoke, everything grew blurry, and her eyelids felt heavy. While she drifted off to sleep, she heard her mother’s words in the distance.

”Visit me every once in a while… Tell me of your travels, of your experiences. I will listen, I will be there for you, my sapling.”

And just like that, Silver awoke from the Dream and opened her new eyes.


5x Like Like
Hidden 5 days ago Post by BBeast
Raw
coGM
Avatar of BBeast

BBeast Scientific

Member Seen 15 hrs ago



Thunderbird


The desperate pleas of mortals rose to the ears of their gods. Fire raining from the sky. Dreadful plagues. Terrifying monsters of dull grey flesh and wrathful stone. And Ashalla deigned to answer their prayers.

Thunderbird, go.

The Thunderbird's head lifted from the floor of her nest with a crackle of static electricity and she scanned the horizon. A storm was blowing in from the north. In the nest around her sat eggs of mottled ruby and sapphire, young pyrgerakia who were chirping thunderously at the coming storm, and the burnt and broken bones of megafauna. Snuggled up beside the Thunderbird was the Phoenix, his warmth radiating across the whole nest. He lifted his beak and looked to the Thunderbird with a questioning chirp.

The Thunderbird looked back at the Phoenix, then looked at the storm. "Coo caw," she answered, a breeze rustling through the nest.

The Phoenix gave a forlorn crow. "I understand what it is like to be called by your god to duty. It is a heavy burden to bear."

"Cooo." The Thunderbird snuggled closer to the Phoenix and nuzzled his beak, her eyes showing the same sadness as the Phoenix.

The Phoenix nuzzled the Thunderbird in return, then stood up. The wind of the coming storm had reached them. "You must go, my beloved. I shall protect the nest and the young."

The Thunderbird stretched out her wings, sparks jumping between her midnight blue feathers, and she walked to the rim of the nest. The Thunderbird turned her head back to the Phoenix with a "Coo-oo."

"I will be here waiting for you when you return."

The Thunderbird looked back out towards the southern horizon. The storm clouds rolled overhead, rain pouring down on the nest, and the wind rustled her feathers. She then hopped off the edge of the nest and with a mighty thunderclap the Thunderbird was airborne, the wind carrying her through the sky.



Pyrgerakia, burn the blight.

Forests covered much of Atokhekwoi, and normally these places were havens of life. Yet now patches of desolate grey broke out across the continent like a pox. A Mar mote would infect one tree, then more Mar motes would bud from the corrupted tree as it was warped into the image of the Rooted Decay. Even with the original Mar Tree now dormant, these blighted forests continued to spread.

There was an ear-splitting cry, as loud as thunder, and two flares of light took to the sky and flew towards a blighted forest, while all other creatures fled. They flew through the blue sky above and were met by a couple squalls, who wrapped around the wings of the pyrgerakia and flew with them. The pyrgerakia circled a few times above the withering forest below, then with a screech they dove towards the edge of the forest. As they dove the squalls spiralled around the avians, keeping the Mar motes at bay.

The male pyrgeraki dove in first, becoming like one of the flaming meteors which fell across the sky, streaking through the trees outside the marred region and set them ablaze. The female was close behind. She flew outside the line of fire, and flapped her wings to blow the fire towards the marred forest.

The bushfire flared against the power of decay. And though the Mar motes were a supernatural plague, the trees they infested were still wood so could burn. And burn they did, smoke rising into the sky as flames consumed the forest.

Similar scenes played out across Atokhekwoi, where pyrgerakia driven by the divine command turned their flames against the power of Desolation. As the fires burned in opposition to the plague, a pall of smoke covered the greatest continent. The sun turned red as it rose and set through the smog, perhaps only fuelling the fears held by the mortals of the continent, but in doing this many Mar outbreaks were contained.

Hidden 5 days ago Post by Frettzo
Raw
Avatar of Frettzo

Frettzo Summary Lover

Member Seen 11 hrs ago


Ashalla

Goddess of Oceans, Storms and Ice



Li’Kalla

Goddess of Rain
MP 9 FP 16



Shortly after the Rot was halted…

On the island there was the Rot. Although the plants had stopped dying and decaying, the refuse remained. The incessant rains of the land washed the rot across the land and into the sea, fouling the waters.

Fish were dying. Sea plants withered. Algae thrived on the decayed biomass and suffocated the ocean around the island. Sickly browns and greens marred the once-pristine azure.

Frustrated squalls flitted across the ocean, churning up the scum. The waste parted and a vast figure of water rose and declared with a voice of thunder, "Who has polluted my ocean?"

A pseudopod rose beside Ashalla, holding a globule of the rot at its tip. She regarded it with disgust for a few moments, then flicked the globule away. She looked towards the coast - the answer to her question lay on the island.

As she neared, she saw something else on the island. A small tribe of emaciated vallamir wandered the beach. One found the bloated corpse of a fish which had washed up on the shore. He ran forward to snatch it up and held it close. The other members of his pack closed in, and there was a squabble as the one with a fish refused to share. So desperate and pitiful these mortals were. Yet Ashalla sensed an opportunity.

Subtly Ashalla merged with the rain clouds above, the rain intensifying as she did so, and she tasted the island around the vallamir. Many plants had died in the Rot, and animals were also scarce, save for swarms of bugs which had reached plague proportions. On the island itself now, Ashalla was able to identify the divinity behind the curse, and with the realisation a dozen more squalls flitted into existence and thunder pealed in the stormclouds. Shengshi.

Yet there was another trace of divine essence from an act which had countered the curse and ceased the blight. This trace was unfamiliar to Ashalla. She would have to find who was responsible.

Back by the beach, the vallamir were still squabbling when a woman made from water rose out of the sea and announced with a voice like crashing waves, "Vallamir."

Immediately the vallamir ceased their arguing and looked at Ashalla. They crossed their fists across their chests and bowed their heads. "Greetings, Divine."

"You are suffering through a famine which has befallen your land. Yet I can provide you with food aplenty. You will not have to fight among yourselves for mere carrion."

The vallamir looked at each other, and there was a hushed discussion between them. "We're saved." "But what if this is a Divine like the Accursed Worm?" "Li'Kalla has abandoned us, why should we listen to what she said?" "Can we trust her?" "Do we have any choice?" The rain drizzled on them as they debated.

Finally, one of the vallamir turned to Ashalla and asked, "What do you want for such a blessing?"

"Only your gratitude and acknowledgement of myself, Ashalla. Although, receiving the gift will require a small amount of work on your part," answered a voice like a shower of rain.

The vallamir looked to each other, to the single bloated fish that one of them still held, then they looked to Ashalla, crossed their fists across their chests and bowed their heads. "We would be most grateful, Ashalla."

"Gather from the forest grasses and other plant fibres, several fist-fulls of strands at least as long as your arm. Then return here, and I will show you what to do next."

The vallamir bowed their heads again, then set off into the forest to achieve their task. They returned after nightfall with bundles of fibrous strands (which had survived the Rot, for they were not edible). It was dark, for the clouds overhead blocked out the Lustrous Garden, but when they arrived on the beach lightning illuminated the vallamir.

An arm of water reached up from the ocean and took a few of the strands in fingers which had turned to ice. "Twist the strands together like so, then twist them again like this." The vallamir did as instructed, joining the strands together into twine. "Now tie them together as so, and tie rocks onto the end." The twine was tied together into a fine grid, the edges of the mesh weighed down with stones.

The lightning above shifted to illuminate the ocean before the vallamir. A voice like thunder announced, “Now behold the bounty of the ocean.”

Before the vallamir’s very eyes the waste and algae floating in the ocean clumped together. The rot shifted forms and turned into fish, innumerable schools of fish which made the sea churn with new life. Their scales glimmered silver in the lightning. “Now cast your net into the sea, and you will have food aplenty.”

The vallamir did as directed. One of them ran forwards with the net, got knee deep into the water and threw the net out towards the sea. It spun in the air then landed above a shoal of fish, where it was dragged down by the stones along its rim, ensnaring numerous fish. Several vallamir waded and swam to where the net had fallen. They dove down and picked up the net by its edges, making sure to lift the net in such a way which kept the fish trapped. They then dragged the net and its thrashing catch of fish up the shore and dropped it on the sand.

The vallamir did not even wait for the fish to asphyxiate before rushing forwards and snatching up fish from the silver pile which spilled out from the net. Ravenously they bit into the fresh meat, savouring every scrap of flesh and drop of blood. As they finished their initial surge of hunger, the vallamir turned to the sky and the ocean and gave their customary salute. “Thank you, great Ashalla!”

Thunder peeled in acknowledgement. Then Ashalla moved on, heading inland. She had a goddess to find, and she could sense a strong divine influence in the southern part of the island. While she flew as clouds, she passed over more packs of vallamir, all as desperate and emaciated as the first she had seen. Soon the forest gave way to rolling hills and grass, and it might have not been raining if not for Ashalla’s presence.

Further along there appeared one hill which stood above the others, a grand manor standing atop it. A pillar of steam rose up from the base of the hill, where there sat a boiling lake which bore the powerful mark of Li’Kalla’s divinity and the Sphere of Rain. Dotted around the base of the hill were crude huts, with sleeping vallamir within and a few vigilant white-haired guards.

The storm which was Ashalla was soon upon the settlement. Used to rain, the people who were outside simply pulled up their hides to cover their heads. The storm settled above the manor, where Ashalla could taste fresh traces of Li’Kalla’s essence. “Li’Kalla,” called a voice like pouring rain.

A few of the Valthumir looked up at the divine storm, and yet many, including some of the lesser Vallamir, seemed to acknowledge it and move on with their daily lives.

It took a few moments for the beautiful winged Goddess Li'Kalla to step out onto a large balcony and look up at the sky, her tightly furled wings and her pleasantly surprised smile contrasting wildly.

"Ashalla," The Goddess of Rain said, then walked to a nearby sunbathing chair and sat on the edge, prim and proper with a straight back. She gestured to the chair beside her, "Would you like to adopt a more portable form and take a seat beside me?"

There was a pause, then mist lowered from the cloud towards the indicated chair and crystallised into a woman of ice mirroring Li’Kalla’s posture, sitting slightly taller than the Goddess of Rain. The storm overhead continued unabated. Beside Li’Kalla, a watery pseudopod rose from a puddle and licked against Li’Kalla’s arm and wing, causing Li'Kalla to visibly shudder. A voice like the rain spoke and the mouth of the ice woman moved, although the sound was not quite localised on the mortal-sized ice woman. “You appear to have recovered from your injuries.”

"It is remarkably easy to heal from injuries that have been forgotten," Li'Kalla said and looked at the pseudopod with a slanted smile, "Would you care to describe my taste?"

If Ashalla was caught off guard by the question she had never been asked before, she did not show it. “Your divine essence is the dominant flavour. The water you are coated in is quite pure, with a faint petrichor. I taste a faint trace of orange citrus and lavender. And this,” the pseudopod traced out one of the almost-invisible fissures in Li’Kalla’s skin, “is not quite stone. Its taste reminds me of the Architect’s place. A binding or sealant of some kind.”

Li’Kalla winced and looked away, cursing Ashalla’s perceptiveness. She was the first Divine to actually bring up the fissures going along her body. For a moment, Li’Kalla was unsure if her surprise and stress showed on her face, but she quickly regained her composure and shrugged, “The Architect’s touch. A lasting gift he left me after rebuilding me. It reminds me not to seek out the past.”

Li’Kalla continued, “I am surprised I taste of lavender, however, I believe that might be my favorite flower. And thank you, I do try to keep my water and body as pure as possible.”

Ashalla rumbled for a few moments. “If you do not wish to speak of the past, then we can speak of the present. What brought the blight upon this land?”

The Winged Goddess froze and, after a moment, sighed. "Shengshi." She said as if the mere mention of the name put a heavy weight on her shoulders. "He disapproved of my opinion on certain mortal affairs and my choice of words on certain matters and saw it fit to attempt to destroy the ecosystem here and in the seas around. Really, marring the beauty of the clear waters you have blessed us with… It's a low blow."

Ashalla huffed. “I had thought Shengshi cared more about the purity of water.” There was a rumble, then she asked, “What did you say to him?”

“Huh, I merely expressed my opinion on homosexuality in species that reproduce heterosexually, and I may have implied he was uncouth for supporting deviancy that has no biological purpose... It was all weeks ago, and therefore I don’t quite remember the exact words exchanged. It was a hurtful development.” Li’Kalla said casually, bringing a wing to the front of her body and absentmindedly beginning to straighten and groom her feathers.

Ashalla was quiet for a moment, then said, “I see why Shengshi was so angry. Not only did you insult him, but his favourite mortal and avatar too.” The icy woman leaned closer to Li’Kalla and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper as light as a snowflake, below the hearing of any prying mortals. “Them being two women who Shengshi favoured so highly he slew Vakk to protect them.” She leaned back as Li'Kalla perked up with a glint in her eyes, and Ashalla’s voice returned to its normal volume. “Regardless of his reasons, his actions here were unacceptable.”

Li'Kalla chuckled, and then she laughed out loud, hugging her wing close to her body. After a moment, she calmed down and wiped a few tears of mirth dry. "Oh, that's golden. His avatar was a homosexual. That, by extension makes a part of himself a deviant. I was right! And now that I think about it, someone so obsessed with alcohol could have never been a prim and proper God! And here I was thinking that if he had a pair of legs I'd organize a dinner for us… Guess that's not happening, he prefers practicing with the spear rather than going spelunking." Li'Kalla giggled but quickly gasped and covered her mouth, "My apologies, that was rather uncouth of me."

The clouds which were Ashalla wavered and her icy form remained motionless, uncertain what to make of the outburst. “Irrelevant,” was her eventual comment.

“Who was it that countered Shengshi’s curse?” Ashalla asked.

"My son, Ya'Shuur. Apparently someone named Vakk and I made him. He's lived on this island the whole time."

“I would like to meet him.”

"Would you? What are your intentions?"

“I wish to thank him for cleansing the blight.”

“I see, would you like me to call him here? That way you can save yourself the trip further inland,” Li’Kalla said with a slight tilt of her head, a shiver going through her spine as she touched a particularly sensitive feather.

“Yes, that would be convenient,” Ashalla answered.

Li’Kalla looked at the Water Goddess for a few long seconds, her gaze slowly losing interest and growing icier. Eventually, she looked away and stretched and flapped her wings before furling them up again. “I’ve told him to come, he should be here soon, relatively speaking.”

It did not take too long. Ya-Shuur immediately stopped what he was doing and summoned Zer-Du to him to reach his mother and her guest in good time. His horns had begun to grow back now and he made no attempt to hide them as he approached the table and kissed the back of his mother’s hand in respect. Zer-Du hovered within sight and watched with relative disinterest, though the valls in the settlement reacted with a mixture of shock and awe and fear to his presence. The icy woman which was part of Ashalla rose to her feet with a crackle of ice, and she appeared to stretch to one and a half times Ya-Shuur’s height. Ya-Shuur looked at the icy woman and greeted her before turning back to his mother. “You summoned me, mother.”

“I did. This,” Li’Kalla motioned toward Ashalla with her hand, “is Ashalla, Goddess of Water. She wanted to meet you.” Ya-Shuur had never seen or heard of Ashalla before so it was strange that she wished to meet him, but he turned back to her with a small smile.

“Hello Ashalla. You are the fourth divine being I have seen and the third I have met. I am happy to meet you.” He paused, thinking back to how the god with chopstick eyes had given him a gift when he first met her, and he thought that maybe it would be good for him to follow this practice. But he did not know what to give. If he had some sudi-shrib on him he might have offered her some, but he did not. All he had was gim-sa and he was not sure if that was a good thing to offer someone as a gift.

His hand came to the hud-sa (knife) medallion that he wore. It was made of metal and he had replaced the handle from wood to ivory and he had been carving it and making it more beautiful in his travels. The carvings contained things like vines and leaves and various animals like goats and molves. The metal of the blade had also taken on a strange pattern that was extremely similar to flowing water. Ya-Shuur thought that maybe the constant rain and the closeness of the blade to him had made it take on some of the patterns of the water, but he was not sure. He took the hud-sa medallion off and presented it to Ashalla. “Please accept this small gift from me. I was taught to give gifts by my good friend the god with chopstick eyes and you are the first god I have had the pleasure to implement her lesson on. This is a hud-sa, or a knife as the valls call it. The god with chopstick eyes had an exceptional collection, and I was inspired by her to make one of my own. I hope you find it pleasing, even though it is a simple token.”

Ashalla’s gaze went down to the knife. Her right arm melted and reach out, swallowing the gift. Tiny currents flowed across each of the carvings. “The craftsmanship is marvellous, and the design is elegant,” burbled a voice which seemed to come from all around Ya-Shuur, with the lips of the icy woman moving in sync. “It is a good gift, and I do find it pleasing, although I have no place to keep it.” The water receded from the hud-sa, which sat on top of the palm of Ashalla’s hand. Ya-Shuur reached out, took the medallion, and put it over Ashalla’s icy neck.

“You don’t need to hold it, it can just hang around your neck. Your form allows that just like mine.”

“You misunderstand, godling, or perhaps your senses fail you,” said Ashalla’s voice like crashing waves. “This form of ice you see before you is but a transient fragment of my full majesty.” Without warning the icy woman melted, the hud-sa lowering to the ground as the blob of water collapsed then evaporated. There was then a crack of lightning and a harsh light was cast down on Ya-Shuur and Li’Kalla. Above in the storm clouds there had formed the same face Ya-Shuur had been looking at moments ago, yet a thousand times larger and with eyes made from orbs of brilliant lightning. “I am the ocean. I am the storm. I am far too great to wear such a trinket,” declared a voice like thunder, echoing from one horizon to the other.

It took all of Ya-Shuur’s discipline to keep from showing his fear and awe at what Ashalla had become in mere seconds. If the valls below had been afraid or awed by Zer-Du’s presence then Ashalla’s thundering voice and great visage in the sky was a great terror and majestic thing. At last Ya-Shuur breathed deeply and expelled the passions from him, and then he bowed his head to Ashalla. “I am sorry great Ashalla. I meant no disrespect. Perhaps in time I will be able to offer you a more fitting gift. But as you say, I am nothing but a godling and am ultimately nothing of great importance. It will be an auspicious day indeed when I am able to offer something that truly complements your majesty. Until then, you will undoubtedly be plagued with the amateur attempts of those less majestic than you.” Ya-Shuur looked back up.

The face faded from the clouds. From the rain-soaked floor in front of Ya-Shuur rose a mound of water which adopted the form of a woman similar to the icy one before. A kind smile was on her lips as she spoke like a trickling brook, “Self-deprecation is not befitting one of divine status. And it is untrue that you are nothing of great importance. You cleansed this island of its blight. Do you know who inflicted the curse?”

“I agree, though humility in good measure lends dignity to those who seem debased, and pride makes ugly many great and glorious things. As for who inflicted the Rot on Be’r-Jaz,” he looked to Li’Kalla, and then returned his gaze to Ashalla, “I have been told about the god by my mother. But I have never met him, and I do not condemn him for his actions before I have heard from him (terrible as the Rot’s effects on the land and people was). I was merely doing my duty.”

“And a good duty it is. To stand up against a stronger god takes courage, and while on many occasions it would be fatal folly in this instance I deem it a worthy cause. The Rot had fouled my oceans around this land as well as the land itself. To express my gratitude, I am willing to offer you a boon. If your request is reasonable, I will grant it,” Ashalla said.

Ya-Shuur had never really considered what he had done as taking a stand against a god, but simply as removing harm. When he thought of it as Ashalla described it, it seemed a bit concerning and it made him wonder if he had inadvertently made an enemy out of the god who inflicted the curse. It hung on his mind for a few moments, and then he freed himself of the anxiety because he ultimately had no control over that. It did not matter. And so there was no need for anxiety.

“Thank you for your offer of reward, Ashalla. Doing as justice demands, and living by those principles which I have come to hold, is all the reward I seek. But I do not want to seem ungrateful, and so if there is any reward you give, let it be that you sate my curiosity about the world and gods. I know very little. This island is my home and I have knowledge only about it. Could you tell me about the rest of the world, its mortals and its gods?”

A perplexed little bubble rose through Ashalla’s features. “If that is your desire, then so be it.”

The clouds above then descended upon the manor, and Li’Kalla and Ya-Shuur found themselves momentarily blinded by the thick clouds and buffeted by the winds before a patch of calm spread around the balcony. In that moment the water woman had disappeared, and the two deities looked out onto an empty stage of cloud.

Before them condensed a large globe of water, impossibly floating and slowly spinning. On its surface froze large shapes with jagged outlines and intricate details. “This is Galbar.” An electrical spark illuminated a point on the lower part of a large island, which itself was just right of a larger continent in the upper hemisphere of the globe. “We are here.” Ya-Shuur looked at the globe and the various land masses on it, and he committed it to his memory so he could replicate it in his cave and inspect it more closely.

“The land and seas of this planet form only a part of the greater cosmos.” The globe contracted. It was sheathed by a thin layer of mist. One orb of ice appeared, shattered in half and trailing a ring of fragments, orbited the globe which was Galbar. Another smaller orb, crystal clear and glowing faintly, appeared slightly further out. A spark of lightning sat on the opposite side of the globe to that orb. A smear of mist which refracted the light in such a way as to appear slightly red floated between the orbits of the shattered orb and the light-givers. Tiny flecks of snow glinted like stars, one layer just above the mist sheathing Galbar, another layer beyond the light-givers.

“Each god brought here by the Architect was given charge over a Sphere. The things you see in the heavens above are some of the Spheres - there are many more you cannot see from Galbar’s surface, either hidden beyond mortal comprehension of space or buried far beneath the ground. The Spheres control aspects of reality and mediate various factors of existence.”

Ya-Shuur looked at all this without any expression and it seemed that he was not going to interject. But just before Ashalla continued a question came from him. “Who is the Architect?” he asked.

The visage of the celestial spheres moved aside, and behind the clouds towered the silhouette of a vast figure seated on a throne. A singular orb of lightning illuminated the centre of the figure’s head like a vast eye. “The Architect is the god who created Galbar in its original state, formless and empty. He filled this universe with souls from the Void beyond and bestowed a few of them with godhood, creating the gods who act on Galbar. He is powerful, and distant.” A tiny orb appeared in orbit around the globe beyond the outermost stars, highlighted by a brief spark of lightning. Then a shell of ice encased the whole diorama. “The Architect resides by and rules over the Barrier which separates Galbar from the Void beyond.”

The visage of the Architect and the imitation of Galbar and the Spheres dissipated. “Galbar has been shaped and is commanded by the gods. The Architect brought twenty-six gods into this world. There is myself. I wield dominion over the ocean, storms, ice and all things water. My Sphere lies at the very depths of the ocean and makes the water move. I am goddess over the beasts of the sea. Li’Kalla requires no introduction. She is the goddess of rain, and her Sphere can be reached through the boiling lake at the foot of this hill.”

Before Ya-Shuur and Li’Kalla manifested an ice sculpture of an oddly proportioned woman, shorter than Ya-Shuur, with more than two arms, and a bristling bundle of narrow icicles emerging from where eye sockets. Ya-Shuur smiled when he saw the figure. “Ah, Butterwort in Midsummer,” he said.

“This is the goddess with chopstick eyes, who Ya-Shuur has already met. She has dominion over things regarding the exchange of goods and services by mortals. She has reasonably good creative taste.” The sculpture turned to face Li’Kalla. “When I last met Chopstick Eyes, she was looking for you, Li’Kalla. Now that you are whole, you can contact her if you desire a meeting.”

“Yes, when she came here, she was looking for mother,” Ya-Shuur said.

“I will contact her in that case, thank you for the information, Ashalla.” Li’Kalla smiled and nodded.

The sculpture melted, then froze again, depicting the torso of a man and the lower body of a snake. “This is Shengshi, god of rivers and harvests. While the Rot is a foul mark against his reputation, he has done much good for Galbar, creating luscious river ecosystems. He appreciates beauty and art, and travels upon his opulent vessel.” An ice sculpture of a grand and intricately decorated ship flowed into view atop spiralling currents of water. On board stood humanoids of liquid water. “Shengshi is god of the Servants, a cultured people made of water.” Beside Shengshi appeared a similar female of water. “Xiaoli is an independent fragment of Shengshi, who is a similarly good artist.”

Ya-Shuur considered Ashalla’s words inexpressively though he was curious, and then asked, “You say that he appreciates art. What is that? And what is cultured?”

“Art is beauty which is created. A culture is a set of ideas and customs which drive the behaviour of a group of people. In the case of the Servants, they have a strict hierarchy and elaborate means of displaying respect to their superiors.”

The sculpture of the ship disappeared into the clouds, and the sculpture of Shengshi melted and reformed into a well-dressed gentleman with a cheshire smile. The melodious song of a violin wafted around them. “This is K’nell, god of sleep and dreams. He is lord over the Palace of Dreams, where mortal minds visit while sleeping. He is the most wonderful musician.” Ya-Shuur had never slept, though he had imitated the action and so was under the impression that he had indeed slept. But he did not know what dreams were, and he did not know what this musician was.

“What are dreams? And I have never seen mortal minds leave them during their sleep, and mine certainly hasn’t. And what is musician?”

“Dreams are scenes which the mind imagines while sleeping. The mind does not physically leave the body, but comes in contact with the Palace of Dreams all the same. You can ask mortals more about dreaming,” Ashalla answered. “A musician is someone who plays music. Are you saying you do not know what music is?” There was a huff. “I will have to rectify that.”

A few more humanoid ice sculptures, both women and men, appeared nearby, these with similarly broad smiles and spirals on their foreheads. “He is the god of the Dreamers, a sapient species, and ruler over the land of Tendlepog.” A smaller globe of Galbar condensed, sparks crackling around the right-most of a pair of circular continents.

Li’Kalla raised an eyebrow upon recognizing one of the Dreamers depicted as Hermes but… Different. Less Hermes and more woman. She kept quiet.

“However, K’nell, Tendlepog and many of the Dreamers have since been sequestered away by K’nell.” The continent marked as Tendlepog on the globe melted. Ya-Shuur looked at the empty spot on the globe.

“Where did he take them? Are they somewhere else in the… you called it cosmos?”

There was a moment’s hesitation before Ashalla answered, “Yes.” Before Ya-Shuur could ask more questions, the sculptures all melted again, save for the globe, and reformed into many little pieces which locked together to form a tall skinny humanoid with seven arms, wide hips and a blank face. “This is Eurysthenes, master of puzzles. They created Swahitteh, twin continent of Tendlepog.” Sparks outlined the other circular landmass.

“They? Are there more than one Eurysthenes?” Ya-Shuur asked.

“Eurysthenes is singular, but neither masculine nor feminine,” Ashalla explained.

The sculpture melted, and a hundred metre long worm of water took its place, one end branching out into many grasping tendrils, and the other end splitting open into three flaps to reveal rows of sharp ice teeth. Ya-Shuur recognized his father immediately, though now he had a clearer understanding of his form. A dark, melancholic melody sounded nearby. “This is Vakk, god of speech.”

Li'Kalla choked and gasped at the same time. Her eyes opened wide and her pupils were pinpricks. She clenched her jaw and turned her whole body away from the sight, guarding her body with a barrier made up of her right arm, leg and wing. Her left wing shook uncontrollably and, although she need not breathe, her breaths came short and quick, and the decorative veins under her skin suddenly swelled up and seemed ready to burst. Ya-Shuur looked at her, concerned even though his face did not show it.

She was silent, whimpering, until she looked at the recreation of her abuser through the gaps between her fingers and managed to relax, taking in a deep breath and going back to her previous posture, sitting forward with a straight back, but this time with tightly crossed legs, twitching wings and a nervous vibe.

The cracks in her skin grew more noticeable. Ya-Shuur’s eyes remained on her for some time. He sensed that she was perturbed, but she appeared to have gained some control over her passions. Discipline and self-control were difficult to obtain, but his mother was already making significant progress.

There was a faint rumble. “This is distressing for you,” Ashalla observed. The music stopped and the sculpture dissolved.

“I-It seems to be. Somehow. I don’t even recognize that form… And the name is barely familiar...” Li’Kalla’s voice had a barely perceptible trembling to it, “I might break apart…”

The storm watched Li’Kalla for a few moments longer. When it became apparent that Li’Kalla was not falling apart, Ashalla continued. Although the presentation was being given to Li’Kalla and Ya-Shuur, Ashalla dropped her voice to be sure not to be overheard by any eavesdroppers. “It was Vakk’s actions which led to the fragmentation of Li’Kalla. However, he was a weak god. He was compelled to act by Eurysthenes. He was defeated in combat by Li’Kalla. And when he attempted to invade Tendlepog to inflict harm upon several favoured individuals, he was slain by Eurysthenes, Shengshi and K’nell.” Ya-Shuur had sensed Vakk’s death all those years ago. Now he knew who had killed him and why it had happened, according to Ashalla at least.

“What favored individuals were these? Why did he seek to harm them? Were these three gods together not powerful enough to restrain rather than kill him?” Ya-Shuur asked.

An ice sculpture of a dreamer woman appeared, one from before, and also the watery form of Xiaoli. “Hermes, the first Dreamer and creation of K’nell, and her lover Xiaoli, who is part of Shengshi.” A box of ice appeared nearby, the lid bearing an abstract impression of Vakk. “Vakk had given the Box of Orchestration to Li’Kalla, but the box was taken by Hermes. Vakk sought revenge for this theft. Shengshi described Vakk as ‘mad, insane beyond redemption’, which is why they decided to kill him.”

The sculptures of Hermes, Xiaoli and the box disappeared, and an ice sculpture of a male humanoid with wings formed. Ashalla’s voice returned to its normal volume. “This is Ekon, god of fear and creator of some monsters, including the creatures beneath this island.” Ya-Shuur had seen some of these creatures and had thought them an oddity, but he had not thought they were a direct creation by a divine being. A god of fear who created fearful things. Fear was a terrible thing, but with discipline it could be overcome like any other emotion. It arose from time to time, like when Ashalla revealed her great form, but even then he had not shown it and had been able to expel it. Perhaps if there was anything he truly feared it was the being afraid itself, and so failing to live according to his principles of mastering emotions like fear.

The sculpture shifted again, and became a towering giant humanoid man, unclothed. Steam rose from all parts of the sculpture. “This is Sartravius, god of heat. He and his Sphere are responsible for volcanoes.” A sculpture of two muscular humanoids appeared, male and female, towering about three times as tall as Li’Kalla and Ya-Shuur, although still dwarfed by Sartravius. “Sartravius is the creator of the jotundar.” A massive winged lizard formed from the clouds and exhaled a cone of steam. “And the fire dragons. He is prone to senseless destruction.” The dragon and jotundar dissipated, and a gigantic flying raptor-like beast made of cloud and steam appeared. “This is the Phoenix, who is an independent fragment of Sartravius.”

The figures dissipated, then the clouds stretched upwards. The theatre opened up to reveal a towering cumulonimbus in a bulky humanoid shape, with four points of lightning perched like eyes on the head which was kilometres above the ground. “This is Narzhak, god of war. He’s somewhat unhygienic, but strong and a good fighter.”

The clouds closed back in around the balcony. Before Ya-Shuur and Li’Kalla swirled steam which took the shape of a tiger’s head larger than they were. “This is Katharsos, god of death. He reigns over the Sky of Pyres, which are the incandescent stars far above Galbar. It is where the souls of the dead go to be burned into soul ash and recycled for new life.”

The steam dissipated, and was replaced by a flash of lightning, which shaped and bent itself to take the form of a woman. “This is Asceal, goddess of light. She owns the Lustrous Garden, which provides light at night and casts healing energy upon sources of pure still water. As you likely know, she was involved in taking souls of dead mortals from the Pyres and crystallising them.”

The lightning ceased and an ice sculpture of a large bird appeared, its feathers refracting the light into a rainbow of colours. “This is Azura, goddess of wind. Or, at least, one of her forms.” A sculpture of a feminine humanoid with wings, fins and gills floated up beside the bird. “Her Sphere is the Blue, which is the daytime sky of Galbar, and contains many flying creatures which resemble sea life. Azura is a very good musician. She is also responsible for the plans to preserve the souls of mortals, initially by crystallisation, rather than let them burn in the Pyres. That is the function of the Alma.” A few icy sculptures of the strangely accessorised birds fluttered into view. “She is hard-working, and has compassion for mortals.”

The sculptures melted and reformed into a three metre long snake-like dragon with wings, four legs and a jagged crest. “This is Arae, goddess of family. As you likely know, she was involved in the creation of the vallamir.”

The dragon sculpture was then replaced by a six foot tall humanoid, with a thick cloak made from snow, a bow by his side, a moustache and short beard on his face, and pointy ears. “This is Kalmar, god of the hunt and lord of winter. He was involved in the creation of the vallamir.” Two icy humanoids about nine feet tall appeared nearby. “He also created the Jotnar, frost giants.” The globe of Galbar reappeared, and sparks outlined the continent just to the left of Be’r-Jaz. “He rules over and protects the continent of Kalgrun. Kalmar stands against senseless destruction.” A falcon of ice appeared beside Kalmar’s statue. “This is Arryn, who is part of Kalmar, and has taught mortals in other parts of the world about the ways of hunting.”

Arryn, Kalmar and the globe vanished, leaving the Jotnar, and in their place appeared a sculpture of a ten foot tall, broad, hulking muscular man with sharp jagged teeth. “This is Kirron, god of blood and strength. He helped create the Jotnar.” A few more sculptures appeared of chubby humanoid creatures with the heads of seals and broad, flattened limbs. “He is the god of the selka.”

The sculptures melted and reformed into an unclothed humanoid woman with a pair of branching icicles emerging from her head like antlers and covered in motifs similar to leaves and roots. “This is Phystene, goddess of plants and animals. She is responsible for many of the forests and jungles upon Galbar.”

The sculpture melted again, and changed to be a humanoid figure without well-defined features. A thick mist curled around the figure. Light sparkled from within like stars, and two brighter lights were where the figures’ eyes would be. “This is Orvus. His domain is that of destruction. While in the past he had engaged in senseless destruction and created things which would destroy, he has since changed and no longer desires such violence. His Sphere is Veradax, the shattered moon.” Several more ice sculptures appeared of tall humanoids with lights twinkling like stars just below their surface. “He is the creator and god of the Nebulites.”

The sculptures melted, and in their place rose one of a large crab, one metre in diameter. “This is Ohannakeloi, god of stone. He raised the largest continent of Galbar out of the sea. He was partially responsible for the creation of the Nebulites.” Numerous chunks of ice came together to create a six metre tall biped with two arms made from the crudely assembled chunks. A light glowed from an indent on a chunk which could be called its head. “He is also the god of the Ihokhetlani, creatures of stone.”

The sculptures dissipated, and there appeared a sculpture of a young unclothed man with an athletic physique and a laurel wreath around his head. “This is Aelius, god of virtue.”

The sculpture melted and reformed into a somewhat tall human woman with braided hair and wearing hunter’s garb. “This is Urhu, whose domain is travel. She is responsible for a number of distinctive landmarks scattered across Galbar.”

The sculpture melted, and was overtaken by a twisting, writing mass of watery tentacles which towered high above the manor. On the end of one pseudopod was an orb of lightning which looked down on Ya-Shuur and Li’Kalla like an eye. “This is Anzillu, whose domain is that of a breed of monsters related to its own foul form.”

The watery mass collapsed and dissipated, and a statue of a human woman froze into shape. “This is Melantha, goddess of darkness.”

The sculpture melted and reformed into a tall, thin man with leaves instead of hair. “This is Parvus, god of insects. One of the places he created was the swamplands on the western shore of this island.”

The sculpture shifted, and became one of a tall man with long, unkempt hair and elaborate robes. “This is Abanoc, god of recording.”

The sculpture melted and reformed into an athletic unclothed woman with short hair and patterns engraved on her back and hands. The hair refracted the light in such a way as to almost appear red. “This is Seihdhara, whose domain is combat. She is responsible for many of the forests on Galbar which had not been created by Phystene.” The globe of Galbar reappeared, and a line of sparks traced itself along the smaller continent on the lower half of the globe. “Her blood runs thick in a river here, a limitless supply conjured miraculously. An ecosystem designed by Shengshi and myself prevents the ichor from polluting the ocean beyond.”

The sculpture of Seihdhara melted away. “Those are the gods of Galbar, who have dominion over reality.”

The globe of Galbar swelled to a far greater size than before. A shell of ice grew beneath the oceans of water, mapping out the sea floor in exquisite detail. The coastlines were also intricately detailed. The vast globe spun in place until the island of Be’r-Jaz was right before the balcony. “This is the island we are currently on. You already know about it.” The globe rotated slightly to the left. A gossamer-thin thread of ice stretched across the ocean between Be’r-Jaz and the continent to the left. “A bridge of Li’Kalla’s creation spans the strait between here and Kalgrun. At walking pace, it would take approximately five days to cross if you do not rest.”

The rest of the continent of Kalgrun rolled into view. “This is the continent of Kalgrun, created and ruled by Kalmar. It is home to many vallamir, and the jotnar in the frozen north. I have taught the vallamir there about carving and sculpting. The jotnar are a race of large and strong people who thrive on cold rather than heat.” Ice sculptures of vallamir and jotnar appeared as she described them.

“Kalgrun is mostly forested wilderness filled with all sorts of animals. Notable are the apex predators of the continent.” Ice sculptures of a direwolf, griffon and troll appeared nearby. In the background, cloudy forms of far larger versions of these beasts appeared, as well as a great bipedal lizard. “The continent is also guarded by these four powerful beasts, although they are only of danger to those Kalmar does not wish in his lands.” Sparks then outlined a lake near the middle of the continent with a thin straight line etched towards the strait to the right with a tiny trickle of water running through it. The lake had a tiny island in the middle. “This is the Hunter’s Eye. It is a holy place to Kalmar, and a chosen number of Vallamir tend to the site.”

A puff of steam rose from a tiny island below and to the left of Kalgrun. “That is the volcano of Muspel. It is connected directly to Sartravius’ Sphere.”

The globe rotated upwards, revealing a circular archipelago below Kalgrun. However, with the sea floor clearly mapped out, it was evident that this archipelago was the rim of a large crater. “This is the Eye of Desolation, formed from an asteroid impact in the earliest days of Galbar’s history. It is covered in a lush jungle. It is home to the Nebulites. They are a people created in Orvus’ image, who are notable for possessing the power of flight without wings.” A sculpture of a Nebulite appeared as she said this.

The globe rotated some more to reveal a small island a substantial distance to the right, and an island of comparable size to Be’r-Jaz below and between the small island and the Eye of Desolation, nestled between the two arms of the largest continent. Sparks outlined both the islands. “These two islands were created by Ekon. Besides wild beasts and plants, nothing much is on them.”

The globe continued to turn until the focus was on the top-right branch of the largest continent. “This is Atokhekwoi, the continent created by Ohannakeloi.” Along this branch of the continent, running vertically, was a great mountain range, and at the top end of the mountain range, if one looked very carefully, was a mountain with a flat top. “This region is filled with great beasts created by Kirron.” The clouds around them formed into the shapes of dinosaurs, megafauna, pyrgerakia and the other inhabitants of the Great Hooflands. But those figures were all blown away when a massive bird made of cloud appeared and flapped its wings with a beat of thunder, lightning arcing across its surface. “Of course, my Thunderbird is the greatest of them all.”

The Thunderbird dissipated as the globe turned further, looking at the southern end of the continent and the south pole of the globe. Sparks outlined the coast on the northern side of this southern branch as well as a large island sitting just off the end of the branch. Sculptures of selka appeared, and music of the lyre, flute, percussion and voice combined around them to create a lyrical atmosphere. “The selka live here. They are semi-aquatic, designed for swimming and diving as well as walking. Kirron is the foremost of their gods. I am another of the gods they worship, with the ocean such a core part of their existence. Some of the selka know me as Delphina or Lugo. I have taught the selka about music and painting.”

The globe turned back up, showing the left branch of Atokhekwoi. A sculpture of an Ihokhetlani formed. “In this region lives the Ihokhetlani, creatures of stone created by Ohannakeloi.”

The globe turned to bring the top-left tip of the continent into focus. Sparks highlighted an arrangement of small islands off the coast which seemed vaguely reminiscent of an insect. “These islands were created by Parvus. They are home to several species of highly venomous animals, and also the Gateway to Parvus’ Sphere.”

The globe turned up to bring an island below Parvus’ islands to the centre. This island was about as tall as Be’r-Jaz, but half the width. “This is Istais. It was created by Asceal, and is home to a variety of glowing life-forms.”

The view turned up and to the left, passing the equator and showing a fissure under the ocean surface in the sea floor. “This is the Abyssal Rift. It leads to my Sphere, the Abyss, deep below the surface of Galbar. The conditions there are deadly for most surface-dwellers, but it supports its own menagerie of life.” Among pillars of cloud skittered icy imitations of fish, crustaceans and other weird and alien small sea creatures native to the Abyss. These critters scattered when a vast eel of cloud swam through them. Static electricity crackled at the presence of the eel. “Though the deep-terrors are the largest species inhabiting the Abyss, there is a single creature there more powerful than they.” A titanic crocodilian with six legs, horns and a shield crest, covered in scales of ice and with steam rising all around it, thundered through the scene with a guttural growl. “The Abyssal Leviathan is a powerful beast created by the combined efforts of myself and Narzhak, able to exercise dominion on both land and sea.”

The diorama of the Abyss faded, and the globe turned to a large spiral formation just below the surface of the ocean, down and left of the Abyssal Rift. “This is the Great Soul Reef. It was created by Katharsos and myself. It sits at the base of the Vortex of Souls, which draws the souls of the dead to the Sky of Pyres and carries soul ash back down to Galbar.”

The forms of a whale, a giant squid and a giant shark drifted through the clouds. “The seas are populated by many beasts great and small of my creation, including whales, colossal squids and megalodons. There are some other creatures which I did not create, though.” A fish of ghastly proportions with tentacles growing from it, and an orb of lightning sitting at the end of a tendril on its head. “This is a Leviathan Angler. A number of these beasts were created long ago by a clash between Orvus and Phystene, and have bloated to severe proportions. They are less common now, with numbers dwindling as they were made without the means of reproduction.” The figure of another fish swam into view, coated in ice, with tendrils instead of fins, four eyes, and moving with serpentine motions. “This is an Iron Carrionfish, created by Narzhak. It is capable of digesting divine biomatter, so it can clean the oceans of refuse of a godly nature.” The figures dissipated as a gigantic cuttlefish took their place, dwarfing all the other creatures. “But greater than them all is the Kraken, another creation of mine.”

The sea life dissipated, and the globe turned to show the continent to the left. Looking at it from above and able to see beneath the ocean surface around it, it was evident that this continent had been placed with considerable force, with chunks of land splattered about the right end of the continent. “This is Dragon’s Foot. It was created by Kirron, and was one of the first continents to be formed on Galbar.” Sparks circled around a region in the top right corner of the continent, bounded below by a mountain range. “The life of this region was primarily created by Narzhak, and is hardy and aggressive. A river of Seihdhara’s ichor also flows through the region, with life created by myself and Shengshi to cleanse the river before it reaches the ocean.”

The globe turned slightly so that the land below the mountain range was in focus. There was what looked like a lake in the middle with rivers stretching up, down and to the left. Two wisps of steam rose from the continent, one relatively near the lake, the other from a mountain near the mouth of the river going down. Sparks pointed towards each feature as Ashalla talked about them. “Here are three grand rivers made by Shengshi. The Nanhe is the largest, and is surrounded by lush forests created by Phystene. The Taipang flows through the desert and past another volcano created by Satravius. Shengshi and I made an ecosystem there which thrives despite the harsh environment. The Beihe is a river populated by beautiful plants and animals made by Shengshi. At the source of all the rivers is Giant’s Bath, which hides a passageway to Shengshi’s Sphere.”

A few watery humanoids previously identified as Servants appeared. “The home of Shengshi and his Servants moves across Galbar, although it frequents this area. The Servants are made entirely of liquid water. Their society primarily revolves around serving Shengshi and his guests on his ship, and is characterised by a strictly defined set of manners. There are some rare occasions when Servants do leave the ship, but their primary location is on Shengshi’s vessel.”

The imitation Servants collapsed, and the globe rotated further, past the lower left tip of Dragon’s Foot to show the ocean between Dragon’s Foot and Atokhekwoi. The ocean here was quite deep, and it did not take too much imagination to think that the continent of Dragon’s Foot had been lifted out of the sea floor here and dropped to the right. Little flakes of snow sat clustered together in a small point near the centre of the slowly rotating water current. “Here is a rather pretty oceanic forest of kelp and algae created by the goddess with Chopstick Eyes. It feeds a large Leviathan Angler trapped there.”

The globe rotated back, this time settling just above Dragon’s Foot. A long, narrow and rugged landmass sat above Dragon’s Foot, and the strait between the two boiled. “This landmass was created by the combined efforts of Vakk and the goddess with Chopstick Eyes, using material which fell from Veradax. Between them is a boiling strait, created by Vakk. Inhospitable to most life, the goddess with Chopstick Eyes has created some peculiar lava-based flora within.”

The globe continued to turn until it was centred on a cluster of islands just above the Kick. “These islands were created by Arae. On the middle one is the Gateway to her Sphere.”

The globe rotated up some more, until it was centred on the space where Tendlepog used to be. The impression of the missing continent was still visible in the sea floor. The ice sculptures of the Dreamers reappeared. “The Dreamers lived on Tendlepog while it was still present. They were born from Hermes, creation of K’nell, and Xiaoli, Avatar of Shengshi, with the aid of Arae. They lived in an idyllic environment under K’nell’s watchful protection. Some Dreamers remain on Galbar.”

“Such a sad fate, being abandoned by your patron gods to the downward spiral of deviancy… And then having that deviancy compounded by Arae,” Li’Kalla said with a sigh and roll of her eyes.

“They were never abandoned by their gods,” Ashalla said.

The globe turned to show the continent to the left. It was round, with regular protrusions around the edge. And, if one looked carefully, it slowly turned in place. “This is Swahitteh, and was created by Eurysthenes. Illusions make it hard for mortal senses to find, and traps surround its border, although these traps can be circumvented by flight.”

The globe rotated down to show a miniature storm spiralling in place in the sea below Swahitteh. “This is the Maelstrom. In it is the Gateway to Veradax. When it was first made by Orvus long ago, it was a storm which roamed free beneath the moon. Azura and I worked together to bind this dreadful storm to a single location. To aid in that task Azura created Luis.” The clouds shifted to show a vast, kilometer-long whale made from a cumulonimbus. “The Maelstrom is still a dangerous place for those who do not have the durability of godhood. Not only is the storm extremely powerful, the way to Veradax is guarded by a powerful beast created by Orvus.” The image of Luis disappeared, and was replaced by a gargantuan beast with many tentacles with ice barbs. Its head had sharp teeth and six orbs of lightning for eyes. A terrific bolt of lightning arced from its maw and seared the sky above the manor.

The apparition of the Gate Lord dissipated, and the globe spun around to show its very top. A rough circle of ice floated on top of the world, and at its very middle there was an island with a ring of mountains surrounding a mountain so tall it seemed to pierce the sky. “Here is the north pole. I created the ice sheet.” A winter-spirit fluttered out of the clouds and landed on the railing of the balcony. Unlike everything else, this winter-spirit was no imitation but a living creature. “I also made the winter-spirits. They fly south during the winter, then fly back to the ice sheet over the summer and create sculptures of all they have seen.”

Finally, the globe melted away, and the clouds around Li’Kalla and Ya-Shuur withdrew. The previous cover of rain and storm cloud above the manor and surrounding countryside returned. In front of Ya-Shuur, on the ground, condensed a ball of ice, slightly larger than his head. It was a miniature globe of Galbar, not as detailed as the large one which had been present moments ago, but still adequate for indicating the lay of the land. Wisps of cold air drifted from it. Ya-Shuur picked it up.

“This ice sculpture will persist regardless of the weather,” said a voice like falling snow.

The voice then shifted to Li’Kalla. “Your people do not know of music?”

Li’Kalla flapped her wings and puffed out her chest proudly, “Of course! I’ve spoken to them about it before! Their instruments are crude, though, and sound rather awful. If you’re thinking of… Blessing them with knowledge, I’d be grateful, Ashalla.” The Winged Goddess hummed in thought, and then perked up. “I would have a request, however, for you to merely introduce them to music and instrument making, and to let them figure out the rest on their own.”

“I will teach them about music. And also about fishing, for it will be some time before the land can provide for them again,” Ashalla said. The wind then tugged at Li’Kalla’s dress and the rain pattered against it. “I could also teach them about processing fibers, a skill useful for tools and clothing.”

Li’Kalla sighed and crossed her arms, “Huh, well, that would certainly be helpful. I suppose that way I won’t have to look at crude loincloths anymore. It was getting old.”

“Excellent. I shall get started,” Ashalla declared in a voice like a rolling wave. The cloud which was Ashalla then lowered itself towards the village at the base of the hill. “Mortals, heed my words, for I have skills to teach you which shall uplift your lives.” The vallamir and valthumir, who had mostly stopped paying attention to the divine gathering above them save for an awed few, were pulled back to attention. Ashalla delivered her lesson and instructions, showing the valls how to make musical instruments, exhorting them in producing beautiful music, and teaching them about ropes, weaving and basic fabric.

Li’Kalla huffed to herself and stood from her seat, taking flight with a mighty flap of her wings. Gliding down through the cloud which was Ashalla, Li came to land in front of the crowd of her Faithful.

Immediately, they all fell to their knees and looked down at the mud. “Q-Queen-Mother!” Shouted one in awe. It had been the first time in weeks that Li’Kalla had shown herself outside of her Manor. And what came next shocked even Sun’Ka, who was standing at the back of the crowd with a spear in hand.

She smiled at them, and began teaching them, just like Ashalla had done before her. She taught them of the importance of roads and paths as well as how to construct them; taught them about the versatile, and indeed essential Wheel and even went so far as to personally show the settlement’s craftsman how to carve them out of logs; taught them about carpentry and woodworking; and finally, gave them the knowledge that the River Worm withheld from them: Agriculture. This would take her months to ingrain into her Faithful, perhaps years, but it had to be done if she didn’t want her herd to abandon her in favour of Ashalla.

Ashalla watched Li’Kalla as she started her lessons. Ashalla had finished her lessons, so made to depart. “Remember me, Ashalla, and what I have taught you. And remember also your goddess Li’Kalla and all she has done for you,” said a voice like the rain. Then the storm which was Ashalla blew away, seeking more groups of vallamir scattered across Be’r-Jaz to teach.






1x Like Like
Hidden 4 days ago Post by Not Fishing
Raw
Avatar of Not Fishing

Not Fishing The Mediocre

Member Seen 2 hrs ago

Goodbyes




They had flown back to the house without speaking, and not too long after they had stepped through the front door, Karamir’s energy was already beginning to flag. The shock of Arya’s ‘transformation’ had temporarily jolted him out of it, but he was tired. The sun was beginning to rise, and he had not slept since… since he had woken up from his nightmare. There had been no time. Arya had been asleep, and someone needed to watch the house.

To think… for all the powers and blessings they had each been granted, none of it would be of any use should an enemy happen to stumble across them while they were sleeping.

He rubbed the dark circles under his eyes, yawned, and then looked to Arya.

She smiled at him and said, "You’re tired, go sleep, I'll be okay." she moved some hair away from her face.

”Are you sure?” he asked her wearily. ”We still don’t know what happened to you, Vrog’s creatures could still be out there, and…”

"Go to sleep." she said sternly. "Nothing will happen while you dream."

Karamir looked as if he was about to disagree, but he was too tired, so he nodded his head reluctantly, and made his way upstairs. Wake me up… if anything happens. There had been a second bedroom in the house, one with an excessively large bed, but it was not full of blood. So it would have to make do.



We’re here,” Arae said to Orvus as they landed. They had arrived at the Eye of Desolation, in front of the house Arya was in. “Let us greet Arya and get Kalmar inside, shall we?” Arae also noticed the familial bond of another inside, this one tied rather strongly to Kalmar himself, and there was only one person she could think of. Arae wondered what Karamir was doing with Arya, thinking it interesting that he be with the sister of the one who wounded him so.

Orvus nodded, thankful for the journey's end. He grabbed hold of Kalmar, whose layer of ice was now gone. He tried to get ahold of the God, but he himself was still weakened and his strength depleted. "Arae, I nee-" but he was interrupted by the door slamming open and Arya's wide eyed face staring them down.

"Father! Arae! And… Oh no…" she said, a hand covering her mouth as she looked at Kalmar's body. Without hesitation the girl flew over to them and asked, "Do you need help?"

Please,” Arae answered, shifting to her human form and helping Orvus with Kalmar. “You may be the only one who can.

Orvus then morphed into his human form, his clothes tattered and grey. The man looked tired and haggard, but he gave Arya a weak smile nonetheless. "Arya… It's good to see you. But yes, we need to get Kalmar inside… He… Isn't well."

Arya nodded at both of them, blinking back tears as she cradled Kalmar in her arms, then floated down to the ground. Orvus slowly followed, landing behind them on his feet before falling to his hands and knees. Arae began to help Orvus at least get into a sitting position, then turned her attention to Arya. “Do you know of any way to treat Kalmar? We’re at a loss on what to do.” Arae asked.

Arya began to speak but stopped when the Hunter grunted, and his eyes fluttered open. He began to speak. ”Ar… Arya…” he rasped, his sole remaining eye settling on the glowing girl. Then, he squinted. ”Are my senses… failing me? How did you become… a god?” he asked weakly.

"I don't know… It all happened so fast, there was an orb and then I was hot and then I was fine." she said quickly. "What happened to you? To the both of you?" she said looking between Kalmar and Orvus.

Orvus’ Avatar, Abraxas, did this,” Arae answered grimly. “Kalmar fought him, and was injured to this state. As for Orvus… he gave up his divinity to allow us to defeat Abraxas. Orvus is... mortal now.

Arya froze in her tracks upon the porch. She turned fully to Arae, mouth agape, then looked at Orvus who nodded solemnly. ”W-What? That’s not… That’s… It’s true?” she said, tilting her head.

In that moment, with a groan of pain, Kalmar freed himself from Arya’s grip and stood on shaky feet. He swayed, and nearly toppled, but managed to remain standing as he gripped the porch’s railing. ”Where… is Karamir?” he asked.

Arya went to his side, supporting him with an arm wrapped around his torso. ”He’s inside, sleeping.” she said.

”Bring him.”

Arae grabbed hold of Kalmar while Arya went off to fetch Karamir. But Kalmar simply waved her off and slumped into a sitting position against the porch’s railing.




Inside the quickly flew up the stairs, and opened the door to Laurien’s old room. It was mostly plain, except for the figure sleeping in the bed. She didn’t want to wake him up, but the circumstances were dire.

She walked over to the side and gently shook Karamir. ”Karamir. You need to wake up!”

”What? What is it?” Karamir asked groggily.

”It’s Kalmar… He’s back.”

With a relieved look on his face, Karamir launched himself to his feet, and his cloak flew to his shoulders. ”Let’s go, then,” he said, running past Arya and out the room.

”Karamir!” she called after him.

Karamir ran down the stairs and exited the house, only to freeze at the sight that awaited him on the porch. His gaze first went to the missing hand, then to the hole in the chest, and then to the missing eye. ”No,” he said in disbelief, falling to his knees next to his creator. ”No, no…”

Arya came out right behind him, and fell beside Karamir, holding him by the shoulders as she knelt.

Kalmar stared up at Karamir. ”Your soul… it’s…”

At first, Karamir did not seem to hear him. Then he blinked in surprise. ”Yes… Abanoc saw what happened to me, and decided to fix it.”

The Hunter offered a weak smile. ”Good. That simplifies things.” He looked at the small group gathered around him. ”Orvus… why did you give up your godhood?” he asked.

The man sat down on the porch he had built with his two hands, and sighed as he looked at them. ”Ashalla and Abraxas could have kept fighting for years before either side won, and I could not bear another sibling to be hurt by my power. It was the only way to ensure I can never again be used for evil.” he said somberly.

”And Arya became a demigod around the same time…” Kalmar observed. ”Can’t be a coincidence.”

”A demigod?” Orvus asked, looking at Arya. ”I… I had no idea. I swear it. I would have asked you if… if…” his voice faded. Arya looked back at her father and knew his word to be genuine. He cared deeply for her and his other children, but how had he not known?

”You’ll both have to dwell on that later…” Kalmar said. ”I need to speak to each of you alone…”

I will take my leave then,” Arae said, setting Kalmar down gently and bowing, then walking outside to wait.

Orvus began to get up but Arya stopped him, ”You two should talk first, I’m sure my father is anxious to see the others.” she said, lifting Karamir up going towards the front door. Karamir moved his mouth in protest, but no words came out. He offered little resistance, almost too shocked to function.

Once they were gone, Kalmar looked to Orvus. ”Do you remember what I told you?” he asked.

”The bit about you killing me?” he said with a wry smile.

”The alternative to me killing you,” Kalmar grimaced, more in pain than at Orvus’s attempt at humour.

”I remember.” Orvus said softly.

”I assume you found it?”

”Yes, I don’t think we’d be having this discussion if I didn’t.” Orvus said thoughtfully.

”What was it?”

”To not be so alone.” he said.

Kalmar was silent, as if he had expected something else. ”I wonder how many others are driven by that,” he finally said, after a moment’s thought. ”What will you do, now that you’re no longer a god?”

”I once had a dream… Of simple life… I’ll do that now.” he said, looking past Kalmar.

”Well… for what it’s worth, I wish you luck in it. Some of the other gods might not believe you, or forgive you, but… I suppose I can.”

”You’re probably right… But oh well.” Orvus said, getting up. ”I… I’m sorry for everything, Kalmar. I never want you to… to end like this.” he said, his voice full of sorrow.

”I doubt you threw yourself onto that tree,” Kalmar said rather drily. ”Then again… you did make the tools that Abraxas used. But… no changing that now. You helped stop him, and you sacrificed your godhood to do so. If something like this happens again… it won’t be because of you.” the Hunter breathed deeply. ”Arae is next.”

Orvus paused at the porch steps, and looked back at Kalmar. He gave him a simple nod before descending. A little later, Arae appeared. “You wanted to see me, Kalmar?” Arae asked.

Kalmar nodded. ”I did. I have a request.”



Karamir paced back and forth restlessly. In a few days, it was as if his entire world was shaken up. His soul was decayed, then fixed. Arya was a demi-god. Kalmar was horribly wounded. That last detail was the most alarming. And it seemed there was nothing he could do but wait. He felt more powerless than ever.

”Karamir.” Came Arya’s voice.

He stopped, clenched his fists, and then unclenched them. ”What is it?” he asked, not looking at her.

”Take a deep breath.” Came Arya’s soft voice.

Inhale. Exhale. He turned to look at Arya, who sat on a chair, legs crossed, a worried expression on her face. ”I just… I never thought that… well, he told me, but…” he took another breath. ”Do you think he will be alright?”

”I… I honestly don’t know. Gods can take punishment but…” her voice faded for a moment. ”I wish I could do something.” she said, getting up.

”What I told you… about him beating me for nine days… when I said that, I didn’t have all my memories. It wasn’t entirely true.” he said regretfully.

”I was… I was hoping as much.” she said, crossing the room to look at a wall of artifacts.

Karamir nodded slowly, tears coming to his eyes. ”He did hurt me, yes. But he also taught me how to hunt, how to fish, how to forage… how to survive. And while he did send me away, he gave me everything I needed - clothes, weapons, blessings. I could have prayed to him at any time, and he would have answered, but I didn’t. I hated him, and I was too stubborn. It… it took me far too long to realize I judged him too harshly.”

She turned her head to look at him, then graciously flew to him in a blink. Arya then embraced him in a very warm, comforting embrace. ”Shh. It’s okay, he knows. I was just like that when I was young. It happens, there’s no sense in dwelling on it.” she said, her voice kind and knowing.

Something about the way she spoke, or the way she touched him, warmed him and made him relax. He returned her embrace. The tears stopped, and he continued speaking in a calmer voice. ”In the end, it was he who sought me out. I didn’t pray. I didn’t swallow my pride. He had to find me. He apologized, he gave me more gifts, he gave me permission to call him father, but… he is my father. And I shouldn’t have needed gifts to realize that.” Arya said nothing, but simply stroked the back of his head.

Timed passed, and he did not know how long they held that embrace. ”How do you feel about this?” he eventually asked.

”I’m sad…” she said. ”And angry and and… I feel like I need to do something.” she said.

”What can we do?”

”Bring him comfort and listen.”

Karamir only nodded in response.

Arae opened the door to where the two of them were, looking worse for wear. As she fought to hold back her tears, she said to them, “Kalmar would like to… to see the both of you.

Arae’s reaction dashed much of his hopes, but Karamir nodded. He looked to Arya, and then made his way toward the door. Arya followed.

Kalmar had not moved from his seated position against the porch’s railing. He looked up at Arya and Karamir as they exited the house and knelt beside him. ”I am dying,” he said.

Karamir shifted his gaze downward and closed his eyes, attempting to restrain tears. Arya put a hand on Karamir's shoulder, white tears beginning to flood from her own eyes as well.

”You’ve come a long way,” Kalmar said. ”Both of you. I’m sorry I was absent for most of it.”

"It's okay. We wouldn't be here without you." Arya said tearfully. Karamir nodded.

”Arya…” Kalmar said, shifting his gaze from Karamir to her. ”You’ve obtained godhood... somehow. What do you intend to do with it?”

"I...I think what I've always wanted to do… Help others." she said wishfully.

Kalmar nodded approvingly. ”That’s good. Just… be mindful of who you help. But now that we know mortals can obtain godhood… that has me thinking.”

”Thinking about what?” Karamir managed to ask.

”The Gods decide Galbar’s fate,” Kalmar said. ”But how many of those gods actually know what… what it is like to live on the world they have built? I didn’t. Not truly. I tried, but… I never needed food or warmth or drink. Maybe… if more mortals were gods... it wouldn’t be a bad thing.”

Arya blinked. She tried to find the right words but couldn't think of any.

”In truth, I’m not even sure I need to die,” Kalmar admitted. ”There might be a way for me to survive. I even have one or two ideas, but… I’m tired. I raised a continent from the sea... I filled it with life... I helped... guide those who needed it… I stood against… the forces of destruction when I was needed… and I lived longer than most creatures have a right to…”

”You’re… you’re giving up?” Karamir asked, shocked.

”Maybe I am,” Kalmar nodded grimly. ”I never thought this day would come, but… here it is.”

”But… what about me? What about Arya? Arryn? Or Kalgrun?”

Kalmar looked back to Arya. ”Will you take care of Arryn when I’m gone?”

She nodded as tears streamed down her face.

Kalmar breathed deeply. ”Thank you,” he said, and turned back to Karamir. ”As for Kalgrun… I leave it in your hands, if you’ll take it.”

Karamir’s eyes widened. ”M-me? But how? I’m only one person…”

”As I said,” Kalmar continued, ”If more mortals were gods, it would not be a bad thing.”

Then realized dawned. ”No…” Karamir whispered. ”No!” he said again, this time louder. ”I’m not ready for that. I… I haven’t accomplished anything. I’ve made mistakes. I’m not ready,” he insisted.

”You’ve accomplished more than you think. As for your readiness… none of us were ready to be gods when the Architect called us here. At least… I wasn’t. I wasn’t much smarter than a wild animal, whose only concern was his next meal. I… did what I could to learn, but… I’m not fit to watch over the Vallamir or the Jotnar. Not as a guide, or a leader… and that’s what they need. You may not be ready now… but you are better poised to learn than I was.”

Those words gave Karamir pause, and his expression turned thoughtful as tears ran down his cheeks.

Arya walked over to Kalmar and hugged him gently. "I wish you wouldn't go." she cried softly. "You were my first… first friend and I'll never forget the time I had with you."

Kalmar hugged her back. ”Thank you,” he said softly, as a single tear trickled from his own eye. ”This… this would have happened eventually, to either you or me. Nothing, not even gods, are eternal. Maybe I’m being selfish by dying first, but… I’m sorry.”

"Don't be sorry. You won, no one can deny that, and now you can rest. I…" she pulled away, a thoughtful look on her face, "What if I told you that… That you didn't have to die fully. That you could go somewhere else, rather than burn."

Kalmar raised an eyebrow. ”To tell you the truth… although I made a deal with her, I don’t have much faith in Azura’s plan.”

"This isn't Azura's crystals… but K'nell's Heaven."

”K’nell?” Kalmar blinked. ”What has he done? I thought he was gone.”

"He is gone. Tendlepog, Xiaoli, Hermes, the Palace, most of the dreamers. He created an infinite paradise and I know how you can get there." she said with a smile.

”So that’s where they went…” Kalmar was incredulous. ”Why am I only hearing about this now?”

"Because… K'nell did not know how the other gods would react to this. He wanted to ensure that it would be kept secret, for now, until the time is right for Galbar to know. I don't know when that time will be… but I do know that it's beautiful in its own way." she said softly.

Kalmar leaned back and looked up. ”If this is an alternative to Pyres… I’ll go there. If only to get more information and have a word with K’nell about it. One last… task. This secret could prevent... a lot of conflict.”

"Kalmar…" she began, "I know. I know. K'nell asked me… To only tell those I trusted. I want to tell everyone, I do but… I just don't know if I should." she sighed before moving her head next to his ear. There she told him the secrets of Moksha and how to enter paradise. She pulled away misty eyed and hugged him again before pulling back.

"I'm fortunate enough to be able to visit… So, this won't be a forever goodbye." she turned to Karamir. "I'll teach you how to visit as well." she said with a soft smile.

”I… I’m still not sure it’s right,” Karamir said hesitantly.

”Karamir,” Kalmar then said. ”Will you accept godhood?”

”I… I don’t know…”

”It’s your choice. But there is no one else I would give it to.”

Karamir looked to Arya. ”There… there was a time when I wanted this,” he said quietly. ”And now that I don’t, it’s being offered to me…” He looked down at Kalmar, and took the god’s hand. ”I’ll take it. I’ll… try to follow your example.”

”It’s not a perfect example, so don’t follow it too closely,” Kalmar cautioned. ”Now, listen closely. You can claim both Kalgrun and the Hunting Grounds. Kalgrun should be easy. The Hunting Grounds… that will be more difficult.” he let go of Karamir’s hand, and pressed a finger to his forehead. ”I’m blessing you so that you will be able to track the gateway. It moves, attaching itself to one animal at a time, which must be hunted in order to access it.”

Kalmar’s hand dropped, and Karamir took it once again. ”I have told Arae about this. Should anyone doubt your claims, she will vouch for their truth. Should anyone try to steal what I have promised you, she will help you get them back. Use your abilities wisely…”

”I will,” Karamir promised, as fresh tears began to reappear. ”I will. T-thank you.”

”Good,” Kalmar said. ”I’m sorry to you as well. I… am thrusting a lot of responsibility on you. Now… if there is nothing else… I think it’s time.”

"Thank you… For everything." Arya said, crying.

Kalmar nodded, and with one final smile, he held his remaining hand before the hole in his chest. Raw power began to flow forth, condensing into a swirling ball of ichor and essence in the palm of his hand. His skin turned pale, he began to breathe heavily, and what was left of his blood began to flow freely from the wound.

”G-goodbye father…” Karamir managed. Kalmar took one look at distant Moksha, then back at Karamir, and mouthed ‘goodbye’ in return. With that final farewell, his head slumped down, and his breathing stopped.

Kalmar was dead.

Karamir turned and immediately wrapped his arms around Arya, tears streaming forth like never before.

She embraced him and let her own tears fall in turn.

Arae walked onto the porch, staring at Kalmar’s body. Her sadness began to well up inside her more than ever before, and she could not help but shed tears as well. Getting onto her knees, she put her hands together and silently prayed for the rest of his days to be peaceful.

Karamir pulled away from Arya, wiped the tears from his eyes, and shifted his gaze to the ball of energy that still floated in Kalmar’s hand. Tentatively, he reached out to grasp it, and then rose to his feet. ”Whatever happens next…” he said to Arya. ”Thank you. For everything.”

Arya went to Arae's side and knelt down with her, placing a hand on her back. She looked up at Karamir and said, "You're so welcome. Be… Safe..."

Karamir descended the porch steps and took ten steps away from the house. He turned back to face them, and looked down at the orb in his hands. Then slowly, he pushed it into his chest. The orb sank through the fabric of his tunic, and into his flesh, before disappearing entirely.

He could feel the orb pulsing within his ribcage, full of power, but nothing else happened. For a moment, he only blinked in confusion, then looked up at the two questioningly. Nothing had happened. Why didn’t-

Then he fell to his knees and began to scream, as the orb expanded and energy surged throughout his body. His hands clutched at his chest, where the pain was greatest, but he felt it all over. His eyes began to glow, and as it had with Arya, blood began to fountain from his mouth. He grew deaf to the rest of the world, and slowly his vision began to fade as well.

Images flashed before his eyes. Kalmar. Atalantia. Pyrdon. Phystene. Diana. Vrog. K’nell. Keibrik. Ruby. Arya. Arryn. Temujin. Abanoc. Liv. Chopstick Eyes. Laurien. Mnemosyne. Orvus. Arae. They were all familiar, to some extent or another, but then he saw one image which was a complete stranger. A great humanoid dragon stood before him. He had never seen such a creature before, but it was this vision which lingered the longest.

It stared at him wordlessly, and then Karamir detected a strange glowing energy in the air. It was mana. Despite having harnessed it, he had never seen it with his own eyes before… yet somehow he knew. The mana coalesced around him, filling him. Both his pain and the vision began to fade, until there was nothing.



He awoke, lying on the grass in a pool of his own blood, and slowly reality came drifting back.

Arya looked down at him, a worried look in her eyes. "How do you feel?" she asked, offering him a hand.

Karamir took her hand, and as he was pulled to his feet, he saw the golden energy all around them. Ignoring her question for the time being, he held out his other hand, and pulled some of the energy into it to form a tiny ball on his palm. ”Do… do you see this?” he asked her.

She raised an eyebrow. "The ball? Why?"

”This is mana… I can see it now. It’s everywhere. I… I knew it was everywhere… but I can see it…”

"Mana… But… How did you get mana? I thought you'd inherit hunting?" she said confused.

”I… don’t know. I saw a… some sort of dragon… and then we were surrounded by mana. Somehow, I just knew what it was.” he said, as he allowed the ball of mana to disperse.

Mana, huh?” Arae said, watching Karamir test his newfound abilities. Allowing herself a small smile, she added, “That’s rather interesting. Haven’t seen that in a long… huh?” Her mind went cloudy, then she shook her head. “No, never mind. Just… do take care. You’ve only just become a god, after all.

Karamir looked toward the porch, and a fresh stab of grief surged through his heart. ”K-Kalmar…” he said, running over to where Kalmar’s body now rested.

Arya walked over quietly and rested a hand on his shoulder. "He's gone…" she said. "He should be buried on Kalgrun… That seems right." she said squeezing his shoulder gently.

Karamir gave her a solemn nod. ”I was thinking the same thing. Will… will you come with me?”

"I want to… It's just… Those creatures might still be here and I can't leave this place undefended, not yet." she said.

Karamir was crestfallen. ”Oh… I see… I understand…” he said dejectedly, as he looked away from her. Another tear rolled down his cheek, then he lifted Kalmar up and gently slung the Hunter’s wounded and ragged body over his shoulders. ”I’m… going to go, then. I… we will meet again,” he told her.

She quickly grabbed hold of his free hand and said, "I'm sorry, I am. But we will meet again." she said, giving him a quick kiss on his cheek. "I know it." she said with a giddy smile on her face before letting his hand go.

Taken aback, Karamir’s hand reached up to brush the spot where she had kissed him. ”I hope so,” he said, giving her a wan smile as he blinked away his tears. ”I’ve been hoping for another dance.”

And then he was gone, taking flight toward the north, and to Kalgrun. Arya watched him go.

Arya,” Arae said. “Before I leave as well, I thought I should mention a few things about Laurien. Are you aware of what she’s done to Orvus, and more recently to Karamir?

Arya spun around to look at Arae and sighed. "Yes… I know." she said with sadness.

Well, I’ve visited her shortly after, in order to give her... punishment. She’s been cursed. She will always be on the run, never staying in a single place for too long,” Arae explained. “I know she’s been through a lot already, but I couldn’t allow her crimes to go unpunished.” She looked around, making sure Orvus was not in earshot of what she was about to say next, then continued with a whisper, “In order to break the curse, she must change. She must become a better person, find peace within herself, and finally make peace with you and Orvus.” Giving a small smile, she added, “It’s a family matter after all. I thought it should be settled by family.

Arya scrunched her nose and sighed again. "I don't even know who she is anymore, Auntie. But… Thank you for doing that. Hopefully one day she comes around. I suppose I should try and find her eventually." Arya said.

Arae nodded in agreement. “There’s also the matter of her children, Andromeda and Phoset. The journey she is taking is a long and difficult one, so I gave her the choice to either take them with her or leave them in my custody. She has chosen the latter, and they are in my domain at the moment. I will extend the choice to you as well: take them into your custody, or leave them with me. I promised Laurien they wouldn’t be harmed, and I hope that still holds true should you decide to take them in.

Her eyes widened, "She had children?"

Yes,” Arae answered. “A boy and a girl, both bright and beautiful.

"Uh… Yes, bring them here, if you would, please. I have no doubt you would raise them properly, but they are my family, and they'll be looked after here." she said with a smile.

Arae nodded. Without another word, Arae transformed into her dragon form and shot up into the sky, returning to the Dragon’s Crown.

Arya watched Arae leave and then after a moment went to go find Orvus. It was time for some more answers.







5x Like Like
Hidden 4 days ago Post by Strange Rodent
Raw
Avatar of Strange Rodent

Strange Rodent Rodent of Unusual Size

Member Seen 4 days ago

Beauty is Deception


Zisqe stands before the gathered tribe, Ovainn standing small behind them. Anticipation littered the air like teeth littered their bodies. Or now, some of their bodies. Zisqe had been waiting to heal before doing this, and now that the chitin had stitched up, the time had arrived.

”My family. My loves,” they start, shaking. ”I bring before you Ovainn. The first of the Bujzii,”

There was silence as the tribe stared at Ovainn, who shrank back behind Zisqe’s leg. Zisqe sighs a shaky sigh. They pat Ovainn on the head in an attempt to comfort, but it could feel how shaky its parent was.

”Ovainn can see things that aren’t there, like those who are Ruined,” Zisqe says. Scowls grow deeper. ”But they are not Ruined. They can speak full words, and they can see things that are there,”

There’s a shift in how the crowd watches them now. Suspicion ebbs a little, making way for interest to flow forth.

”I made a trip to the mountains. There I found a monster in a maw of rock. I heard Uzit’s cries coming from this maw, but saw nothing before I had to run for fear of my life. Uzit is in the mouth of the mountain, and Ovainn will be able to see them. Do not shun how they stand on the edge of the Ruined, praise it, for it will return one of us.”

A cheer tears through the icy mood. One person, up the back. But these things catch, and Joy is infectious. Soon enough, the rest of the crowd is whooping at the idea, even if they never knew Uzit.

As it dies down, someone raises their arm. Antoz, the childhood friend of Uzit. “You will not kill the monster yourself. I will come.”

Zisqe nods, ”Antoz, you speak my words. I need one more,” Zisqe says. They smile.

---


The other one that joined them was called Eves. They all spent the night together, and set out the next morning, into the jungle. They were equipped with nets, spears, rope, and baskets.

The air was no less oppressive than it was with only one person. It seemed to jump forth and stifle any attempt at conversation before it even left the head. The heat, the wet, the quiet. All that could be heard was the footsteps, and occasionally some kind of necessary communication.
The river that had held dead fish last time Zisqe took this route was now full of nothing. There was only water, slipping away. They had to eat berries and fruits and nuts. They had to drink water from a stream that had once been full of life.

Birds chirped on the last morning of the journey. They had all slept at the bottom of the first foothill, the sheer cliff. Zisqe wanted them to be fresh when they came up against the monster.

As they climbed, and left the dense jungle air, a different type of oppression overcame them. One of sombreness. Someone important may die. Zisqe gripped their spear tighter.
The cliff was rocky enough that they could climb with ease. They all followed Zisqe up, and they all knew that if Zisqe fell, so would they all, and nobody in the village would know.

But they made it to the top. There was the bird, watching them. Zisqe helped them up, one by one. ”Now, you two,” they point to Antoz and Eves, ”Stand either side of the maw. I will stay out front and lure it out. When it’s here, catch it with this net. Try to reign it in. Tie the ends together, then we’ll work together to wound it until death.”

Antoz spoke next, “What if we fail to catch it?”

”Then we try to lure it off the cliff. If it does not become dead after that, then we run that way” Zisqe says, pointing across the mountain range.

“What do I do?” Ovainn asked. Their small, high voice was an absurd contrast to the feel of the place.

Zisqe stood and picked Ovainn up. ”You stay here, and only come out when I call for you,” they said, walking over to a small crevasse in the side of the mountain.

---


From inside the crevasse, Ovainn could see nothing but stone. They heard their creator walking away. Some muffled words. A long silence followed. It was stretched, like hide on a rack. Like a wave, just as it had clawed up the shore. Just before it rushes back out to sea, taking sand with it. It was a painful silence. Every moment was a spear. Every moment of nothing that passed suggested the idea that the monster had already come. It had already eaten. It ate so quickly that nobody could react. Or maybe there was no mo-

A loud roar.

Shouts, screams. Cries. Zisqe yelling for them to ”Hold on!”. Grunts. The monster letting out a roar, shredding the air. Eating wills and moving the bones in their bodies.
There was a loud scream, cut short.

Might it have been Zisqe? Ovainn had to see. Had to know. They moved their hand out of the crevasse, palm pointing towards the sounds. Opening an eye.

And immediately retracted its hand. Zisqe was fine. Ovainn was pale as the shadow of a doubt.

The image stuck in its head. Tentacles, teeth, parts unnamed. A jaw the size of them. Ovainn had to see again. Call it morbid curiosity. The curiosity only a child can muster, with all the reasoning alongside it. Ovainn sticks its head out, and opens the Fallen Eye.

What it sees is not at all what it saw before. Gone were the tentacles. Gone was the jaw. It no longer roared.

It cried.

It was curled on the ground, the net draped gently over it. It cried. Desperate cries, fearful cries. Betrayed cries. It was a Bujzell, curled up and wailing. The rest of them were fighting nothing, ducking out of the way of things that weren’t there.

Ovainn yelled out, but Zisqe rushed in.

Antoz cheered, and Zisqe turned immediately to Ovainn. They strode over, a storm on their face. ”Ovainn! I told you, stay behind there until I tell you to get out! It’s not safe. The mons-”

Antoz screamed a scream of despair.

Zisqe whirled around to see what was going on, and caught sight of the scene.

The monster was gone. In its place lay Uzit, spear thrust all the way through it.





Hidden 4 days ago Post by Lauder
Raw
Avatar of Lauder

Lauder The drunk kind of hero

Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago




Vakk looked to its children, walking as slowly as it guided them between the pillars of madness within the Infinite Maze, taking not of their inherent lack of interest in doing much. Though, they were alive and that was all that Vakk could be happy as it finally reached the stairway again, noting how much easier it was now that Eurysthenes could not actively change the maze at will. There was a pause as the Lord of Speech, stepped towards the exit of the maze, the undead Aroiox stopping behind it and merely watching their creator.

”My children, you do not have the ability to create more, yes?” the many voices asked, not turning from the exit.

The undead looked to each other for a moment, unspeaking before one stepped forward. Speaking in a clearly disinterested voice, “We are but mere bones, Lord Vakk.”

Vakk put a hand to its chin, wondering how best to remedy the situation of reproduction to allow its children to thrive upon Galbar like originally planned. It’s godly gaze rested upon a single outlying Aroiox, one who merely cocked its head at the god as the Lord of Speech stared at it before the thin veil that hid its mouth erupts into a wide and devilish smile. Vakk approached the skeleton before leaning down to be eye level with it.

“Eurav,” the Lord of Speech said before the glowing green eyes of the Aroiox grew brighter.

“Y-yes, Lord Vakk?” the aroiox squeaked, its body shrinking back in a clear display of submission and timidity before it realized the emotions it could feel. He could actually feel once more, though she could not feel in the physical sense, as he touched his talons together, before letting out a laugh at feeling even disappointment. The glow of his eyes shifted as he looked to the other of what was once his kind.

“I-I- Emotion!” he laughed, unable to find words to properly express all the different waves of emotions that came to him. Unable to cry and unable to use any facial expressions to show that very wave. He looked back to Vakk, feeling the phantom muscles of its face pulling to show happiness, but only the lower part of his beak separate as he attempted to show it.

”It seems that you can be given back your emotions, but there are too many of you to complete the process individually,” Vakk said, its gruesome smile plastered firmly on its face as it watched the emotional Aroiox tried to encourage his kin to feel as happy as he did. However, each one gave but a mere polite clap in response to support someone they generally did not care for.

One turned to its lord, before asking, “I do not see what this has to do with our reproduction.”

Vakk held out a hand to he who had felt emotion, ”Child, choose those to given part of your emotion to, each will be the harbinger of a specific emotion and each will be used to aid in the creation of each additional Aroiox.”

The aroiox looked to the mass, he first pointed to one, then another. Seven were chosen to stand alongside him.

”It is you eight who will facilitate the creation of your children, though they may not live or feel as you eight shall, perhaps, in time, you may find a way to bring back the emotion that you right shall feel. It is you eight, the Barayi Yara, who shall look to other races that inhabit Galbar. It is the Barayi Yara who shall lead the Aroiox and guide them to a golden age to last until the end of days!”

Vakk extended its hand out before the part of the soul that held emotion was split from the first, eight separate segments transplanted into the eight. Each a different core of emotion. Vakk looked to the chosen, allowing them time to revel in their new emotions.

”It is you eight, who must shape the bones of youth, convert them to undeath,” Vakk turned to the exit of the Infinite Maze, urging the undead to follow it through.




When they exited, gateway, those spiraling stairs into the heavens, the Undead found a land that distorted their sight and a ground that seemed almost as if it tried to grip them. Vakk inspected the landscape, still bearing its wide smile before turning back to its children to see them semi-curiously looking around and exploring their new lands. Swahhitteh was theirs for the taking, but Vakk new the ground was no place for their mind, for if they stayed then it would only prove increasingly troublesome for them. But it knew that it could not teach them everything, that it must learn to allow them to invent and do what they must on their own.

However, it first looked to the Barayi Yara. They would need a method to traverse Galbar easier and far quicker if they were to gather the necessary beings for conversion. It’s idea soon came to mind as it took the dirt below it and folded it in open itself to the point where it grew black and distorted the light around it. Vakk attached a handle to it, fashioning it from a branch, turning it to a metal so that the Barayi Yara may send someone to fetch them their youth.

”This shall allow you to traverse to any surface of Galbar. You must touch it, or someone else touching it, for it to work. But, might I say, it is possibly the greatest creation to travel Galbar. Now, I will need to to teach you to shape bone and reverse death,” Vakk stated, showing them the very bell that it had used to bring them back from the dead, they watched with mixed reactions, as to be expected. ”The power of Undeath, not a perfect process, is capable of greatness in your hands. I will give you eight the power directly. But you must learn to wield it for I can not teach you everything.”

“But what if we fail you?” One said, a voice overtaken by the grief and sorrow of being dead for a shorter skeleton.

”You can only fail me by not putting in the effort, my child.”

With that, Vakk touched each of their foreheads with a tendril, gifting them with the knowledge of Galbar and giving them to power of Undeath. It then brought them all into an embrace, hugging them as any parent would do for their children before it straightened itself, putting its hands behind its back. It took a singular step back before it spoke one last time to its children.

”I will be watching… I would also advise to nest in the trees.”

Vakk had left and the Barayi Yara held the staff that it had gotten them, the one holding it letting out angered noises at having to hold it. He looked over to one who seemed glued to the staff, almost as if it were in awe of the staff that their creator had gifted them. Wrath shoved the staff into Ecstasy's hands, allowing her to hop in in excitement as she held it in her hands. He looked around the group before a gruff voice sounded from it, “What do we do now?”

“We follow Lord Vakk’s orders, we must add to our ranks,” Admiration stated, standing proudly as he met Wrath’s eyes.

“But why should we? We are undead! We have until the end of days, and who knows when that will be?!” Wrath questioned, angrily stepping forward as Admiration gave an answer that he clearly did not want. He let out the sound of a sigh, before continuing in on a more calm, yet annoyed, voice, “I know we have to add to our own, but we also need to look after them. If you couldn’t tell, they are hopelessly uninterested in furthering any interesting interests.”

“That’s why we gotta give show them the path to joy!” Ecstasy said ecstatically, swinging her hips as planted the staff into the ground. She held herself on it by wrapping g her legs around it, as she continued her own spiel, “We need to know how to make some emotions happen for them or else how else is Lord Vakk going to appreciate all the joy we feel for him?”

“Speak for yourself,” Wrath chided.

“I would say that our best option would be to split our focus. One of us should scout a good location to find youth while others await and try to figure out how to restore our emotions fully,” Grief said, mumbling as the others simply stared at her. She shrank back in response as the others nodded their heads in polite agreement.

“Now who is gonna do the scounting?” Ecstasy chimed with a laugh.







2x Like Like
Hidden 4 days ago Post by Antarctic Termite
Raw
Avatar of Antarctic Termite

Antarctic Termite Resident of Mortasheen

Member Seen 6 hrs ago

?


Somewhere in the high heavens, a piece of stone began to move.

Forced by a hand that never touched it, sent from a broken place to seek places yet unbroken, the shard of Veradax flew blindly from the only home it knew. It travelled, tugged along by the rolling gravity of other, greater stones, playing in their slipstream. The other moonshards tumbled on, barely feeling its weight.

So weak was the path of the little stone that after a few such passes, it had been tossed far away from the lethal decay of its original path. Free from the onslaught, it drifted nowhere in particular, and, all alone, was halted by an obstacle it never should have met.

The Dusk Kite reached for the tiny meteor with tangled-thread arms and reeled it to its mouth, where little stitches of light started flickering around its core. It wrapped the stone in tentacles made of night and swallowed it whole, a blue glint pulsing through its mould-like veins. Then it spread its arms again and grew perfectly still, once more camouflaged.

Somewhere in its curious mind, it noted the great stones falling from the moon, lit for a moment as they passed through the twilight and fell, like the dumb crushing weights they were, with brutal impetus towards Galbar.


2x Like Like
↑ Top
© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet