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BBeast Scientific

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God of Death, Prince of Astral Fires


Ashalla

Goddess of Oceans


The black night sky of Galbar was speckled with many pinpricks of incandescent light. Some of these lights were bright and some were dim. Some lights winked out while others came into being. Yet of all these stars, one was brighter than all the others and had persisted since the stars first appeared. Those with senses attuned to the metaphysical would see that below this brightest fire was the great Vortex of Souls, and falling from this fire was a great quantity of incorporeal matter best described as soul ash.

Even to those not attuned to souls, the effects of this ash-fall were clearly visible. The plankton which Ashalla had seeded in the ocean multiplied abundantly underneath the Vortex of Souls such that this part of the ocean had many mats of green algae and swarms of drifting crustaceans and jellies. It were these signs which drew Ashalla’s attention.

Ashalla swam through the life-filled water, amazed at how rapidly the plankton had bred here. As far as nutrients were concerned, this patch of ocean was no more special than any other patch. Focussed as she had been on the physical mechanisms of life, it took her some time to notice the slightly bitter ethereal taste in the water.

She turned her attention to this new taste, and it did not take her long to elucidate its nature. She was tasting the substance from which souls were made. She had tasted similar flavours from the other gods, but their souls were richly flavoured by personality and divine essence whereas this soul-substance was formless, save for a bitter aftertaste of death. She watched as the soul-substance was taken in by the reproducing plankton and realised that the soul-substance was being used in the creation of new living things without any need for deific intervention. The souls of plankton had been so tiny that she had not noticed them before, but now that she knew they were there she could sense the tiniest speck of a soul, with hardly any more form than the raw substance it had formed from, within each organism.

But where was this soul-substance coming from? Ashalla looked up, and now that she knew what to look for she could see soul-substance falling from the heavens, drifting down like ash. Ashalla towered up out of the water to feel the rain of ash, and out of the water she could detect a faint influence, like a gentle breeze or slow current. It spiralled inwards towards the centre of this algal bloom and pulled upwards towards the stars, and Ashalla could see that in the very centre of this ethereal Vortex was a star burning brighter than all the others. As Ashalla watched for longer, she could see stray, tattered souls being pulled up into the Vortex. She also sensed the flow of microscopic souls from countless plankton as they died, usually from being eaten, and drifted upwards. It was a peculiar vision.

Yet despite the blooms of life around her, she still disliked the flavour of this soul ash. It was almost bland, yet it held the faintest scents of bitterness, agony, death and loss. In small amounts it was hardly noticeable, yet here the flavours were concentrated underneath the Vortex of Souls. It displeased her, and Ashalla made it known.

”Why are you dumping all this ash in my ocean?”



As he sat suspended in the void of his own Sphere, Katharsos meditated. Save for contemplating existence and watching the scattered memories that manifested in the flames, there was very little to do in the Sky of Pyres. The other gods all seemed busy with their creations or their quarrels, of course, but perhaps his lot was not to create.

Once more, the faroff voice of a goddess stirred him. This time, it was not Seihdhara’s enthused and overly animated chattering, but rather another one’s irritated question. Ashalla, he realized. The head of fire rotated effortlessly as Katharsos positioned himself to look down the Vortex of Souls into the voice’s direction. He could sense that Ashalla was somewhere down there on the blue world below.

He was just about to offer his answer, but then he saw a few tiny lights. The souls of plankton and the other microscopic organisms of Ashalla’s make were as little more than motes of dust, but to his perceptive eye, they glowed like sparks. He was able to readily enough discern the nature of these organisms and identify them as sealife. Perhaps she would understand, then.

”Without this ash, there could be no life. Consider it my gift to you, sister. Where your ocean is, it will receive a heavy ashfall, so it will always be virile and vibrant.”

”I noticed that,” Ashalla replied, her voice carried across the aether to Katharsos’ mind, ”Yet your ash also carries the bitter taste of death.”

That was an unexpected objection. In truth he shouldn’t have been surprised to hear that others found the ash anathema to their senses, for those who were not yet dead or attuned so closely to death as he was were bound to find the smoke and aura of the Sky of Pyres to be nauseating at best. It was not hard to believe that some of that would linger upon the ash.

”Has it caused ill effects to manifest in the living?” Katharsos asked.

Ashalla paused to inspect the waters around her more closely. Eventually she replied, ”I do not notice any ill effects, but I still find that it tastes unpleasant.”

”It is not in my nature to antagonize or create offense, but you surely understand that the ash must fall. To cease its descent and inadvertently harm all life, on little more than a whim, is beyond consideration.”

”I ask not for the ash to cease, but for it to be cleansed of its bitter impurities,” Ashalla said.

”Perhaps such a thing is possible,” Katharsos conceded. But he grew silent as he contemplated just how one would go about creating it. Even for him, there were still many mysteries surrounding the soul ash. This conversation was already demonstrating that he didn’t understand it nearly as well as he’d thought.

Ashalla did not have the patience to wait for Katharsos to finish his contemplation. ”Can you do it?”

Her question seemed to echo back, once, twice, thrice in the canyon of mental space between them. Katharsos’ silence remained, but as she continued to stare impatiently above, there was the dim light of a falling star that seemed to rapidly grow in size. This was Katharsos himself of course, rappelling down the Vortex itself to race through space and the upper Spheres at a blinding speed. Even so the journey took longer than he’d have liked, but he used the time to think.

The Sky of Pyres could carry on its work for a time even if he was not present, though it nonetheless distressed him somewhat to leave the place unattended. Still, there were too many pyres to count, and so at any point in time the majority were always unattended. Perhaps he would do something about that in the near future.

As the looming orb of Galbar grew larger in his vision, he confined himself once more to the present. To date, he had yet to ever even witness the glory of Galbar in person; it had always been through the lenses of an unfathomable distance or the garbled memories and strange perspectives of some of the confused spirits pulled into his pyres. He suddenly was met with the air of Galbar’s atmosphere, and at such high speeds it all but extinguished the fiery mass of his great head. But he persevered through the rapid entry of the planet, and upon coming to a halt just a short ways above the water surface where Ashalla rested, he regenerated his fiery flesh. His head flared and metamorphosed from some red globule into the incorrigible visage resemblant of a tiger.

His rapid descent had allowed him to shed away the worst of the foul smoke and toxic aura that clung to him, but some scent of the Sky of Pyres stubbornly remained nonetheless. In truth, he couldn’t notice it, though Ashalla did even from such a distance. Katharsos looked down into the water and regarded Ashalla for a moment, who had manifested a face at Katharsos’ arrival. He greeted her with a slight and wordless nod, then concentrated his attention upon the soul ash that surrounded them. The countless flakes of infinitesimal size aligned themselves to his will, and they quickly came together, arranged themselves into a lattice, and coalesced as a pallid mass floating in the water. That represented all of the ash in quite a sizable area around them, but already more of the stuff was falling from the Vortex above or diffusing from other waters to fill in the void that he’d left behind in sequestering this chunk.

The chunk of ash began to slowly levitate up from the water until it came to be suspended before the god of death. Katharsos eyed the crystallized substance and exposed its intangible mass to a great deal of scrutiny, visibly aggravated by something. Though they were small, yes--so small that perhaps no other god would have noticed through mere inspection, he sensed impurities in the ash. They were things that hadn’t entirely burned in his pyres, like tiny bits of charcoal. In such minute quantities he expected that they would be harmless enough, save for the minute possibility of an organism having a noteworthy such ‘charcoal’ inclusion in its soul and consequently finding itself born with a faint recollection or two from another life. Perhaps this was the source of whatever foul taste Ashalla was sensing.

The impurities tore free of the crystalline structure, leaving behind a few microscopic holes. The chunk of soul ash then crashed back into the ocean without even creating a splash. The impurities, no larger than a few granules of sand, remained in the air besides Katharsos.

”Inspect the ash once more. I suspect that you will now find it utterly tasteless.”

As the ash mixed back into the water, it entered Ashalla’s form and senses and was subject to her scrutiny. True to Katharsos’ word, the soul ash was now utterly bland, a flavourless base from which souls could be made. ”It is satisfactory,” Ashalla said in a voice like the swish of water. But her eyes looked around and saw more soul ash falling. ”We shall need to find a more sustainable way to cleanse the soul ash, though. Perhaps some form of life, like how there are lifeforms which convert carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen, or nitrogen gas into ammonia and nitrates, or dead flesh into useable nutrients.”

”Such a process requires powerful magic; what appeared effortless when done by my hand would prove quite difficult for mundane lifeforms. You must realize that this is a feat greater than any of those other mundane functions that you mention life fulfilling. Still, as you seem to possess an aptitude and an affinity for creating life, I believe we can design a suitable creature to fulfill this role. I will offer what assistance I may.”

”Then let us design it,” Ashalla declared. A watery arm emerged and scooped up some of the soul ash which Katharsos hadn’t purified. The end of the arm spun rapidly so that the ash precipitated to the edges of that ‘hand’. Ashalla moved the soul ash and sculpted the appendage until a large droplet thick with soul ash hung in front of her for them to inspect. Ashalla also scooped up a mass of plankton in another arm and held it aloft in another globe of water for comparison. ”This lifeform will need to filter through large quantities of seawater to process as much soul ash as possible. It will need some of your magic for it to perform this processing. It will need to contain the impurities in some form which will not leak into the ocean, a form which will probably need some physical container. This lifeform should be plentiful enough to be distributed across this area and beyond. It should be resistant to predators so that its processing is not disrupted. It does not need to be mobile like the drifters because we know where the soul ash is most concentrated. And this lifeform would need to derive some benefit from performing this filtration.”

He blinked to take all of that in. Ashalla took the silence for affirmation and continued creating a design.

Ashalla raised up a third arm between the other two and sculpted the end of the pseudopod into designs as she thought of them. ”A tube to suck in water and soul ash, and a tube to expel it. Something in the middle to process it. It will need tendrils inside to capture food and soul ash, and also gills to get oxygen from the water. A few basic internal organs. Perhaps a hard shell to protect it from the environment. Make that two shells, which it can open and close. It can accumulate the impurities from the soul ash inside itself, then it can expel the purified soul ash. The higher concentration of soul ash near it would promote the growth of plankton and other life, which it can feed on. As for the impurities, we need some way to contain them without it being able to leak into the environment, even after the creature’s death.”

”Surely there is a way that these impurities can be altered and made to take a more inert form,” Katharsos mused as his eyes narrowed to hone in on the microscopic grains before him. He was at a loss, admittedly. His divine fires would do nothing to help him here; in fact, his flames were what had created these pollutants to begin with. It would take some other power to remediate the ash’s impurities and transform them into something stable and benign. But what other power did he hold? What tools could he work with besides mere fire?

He wracked his mind and stared at the defiant grains of sand. They might not have been large, but they remained the very incarnations of his failure.

”I’ll make a start on the creature while you think,” Ashalla said. She pulled together flesh and matter into the form of the template she had designed. It took her a while to grow the mollusc, but when she looked up from her work Katharsos had hardly moved. ”Have you gotten anywhere yet?” she asked, impatience creeping in to her tone.

Flames bent such that one of his brazen eyes looked downward to meet hers. ”My progress is not easily measured,” he replied vaguely. In actuality it’d have been easy enough to quantify nothingness. The entire time, he’d wracked his mind and found little in the way of threads to follow. The Architect had imbued in him no answers to this question, and so he was left with his instincts--that were just as silent, of course--and his memories, useless and obscured and scattered as they were.

Warmth, heat, and fire. He remembered those aspects well; he had embodied them once. But this soul ash was not raw iron; exposing it to a fiery crucible could not purify it.

purify…purity

Ah, that seemed a promising line of thought. But what was purity as he’d once known it? He obviously understood the vague concept now, but once he’d had a much deeper knowledge. If only he could remember.

As Katharsos had been pondering, Ashalla had begun toying with the life growing in the waters about her, exploring new designs which could accompany the molluscs. Designs like some of the drifters, but instead static and unmoving. Perhaps creatures which would secrete underwater terrain for other life to live on. Maybe creatures imbued with colourful algae, the two species providing nutrition to each other. Perhaps a few more elaborate lifeforms, to take advantage of the richness of soul ash in this place, of similar complexity to the creatures in Phystene’s jungle.

Ashalla paused from her work for a moment to look up at Katharsos, who still had not moved. ”Have you thought of anything yet?” she inquired.

His patience was as a pool that often seemed as vast as this ocean below him, but now it had all but evaporated. The hint of a growl left him. ”Heat and fire will not work. I need some other means to alter it. Another tool to see it purified.”

I do not need tools,
he suddenly realized. The revelation manifested as if from nowhere. I am not some mere fire spirit, I am a GOD.

The tiny granules vibrated as if shook by some violent wind, and by force of will he remade the tainted impurities into something new. It was an utterly black substance that was smooth and cold, hard and lustrous, utterly inert and insoluble. Perfection.

He relaxed, having not even realized how his fiery head had just violently swollen in a bright flash of roaring flame. Then he let the tiny grains-turned-pearls fall into the water below. He breathed, then finally declared, ”It is done.”

Ashalla swept the black pearls into her form, tasting and testing them. ”Totally insoluble and unable to flavour the water. Excellent,” her voice rippled. She lifted the prototype mollusc up to Katharsos in a globule of water. ”Now teach this to do it.”

He moved so close to the oyster that the globule of water might have broiled and shrank back were his head made of more mundane fire, but as it was he didn’t radiate quite enough heat to boil it away and kill the clam.

”Teach?” he echoed back. The prospect of ‘teaching’ anything to such a basic creature seemed absurd, for it had very little in the way of mental faculties or communicative abilities. Still, it had the potential to propagate and survive. It was easy to imagine colonies of this creature forming to sift through great amounts of water and the soul ash within.

Raw iron didn’t learn, but it had a way of taking to the shape forced upon it. Likewise, this creature was simple enough to be malleable. Though Katharsos had no aptitude for the subtle changes that other gods might use to manipulate such creatures, this one could be altered rather drastically without suffering from any noticeable ill effect. Its lack of intelligence also allowed Katharsos to set aside any qualms he might have had about forcing such a change, power, and ultimately burden upon some lifeform and all of its descendents into perpetuity.

With a small black flames, he burned into the oyster an affinity for soul ash such that it would be almost magnetic to the stuff, drawing it in from the waters around. Then he provided it with the capacity to sift out the impurities and transmute it just as he had done. Though his technique seemed crude, it had worked. In time, these creatures would create pearls larger and more pristine than the little flakes he’d first conjured.

Then he let the mollusc fall back down to Ashalla. He had come here primarily to appease her and to witness Galbar for himself given the opportunity, but upon becoming aware of the impurities present in the ash, he’d grown rather consumed by the goal. More time had passed than he would have liked, and the Sky of Pyres had been operating unattended all the while. It felt...wrong to leave it. To condemn all the broken souls that remained (though by now there were not so many, and the tides were slowing) to being recycled in flames without any to watch them in their last moments seemed cruel to him, even if such a thought was illogical. He didn’t need to justify it with logic, though. His intuition told him that it was time to return to his Sphere, and he meant to follow it now that his purpose here was done.

Ashalla was inspecting the mollusc and already prompting it to reproduce. A watery face turned up to Katharsos’ fiery visage. ”Thank you for your help, Katharsos. This should help cleanse the water.”

He offered a small nod back. ”You are welcome. It was good to see you, and this world itself, with my own eyes. But now we must part,” he answered her as he began to ascend back to the Vortex of Souls. “One way or another, we shall meet again.”

As Katharsos left, Ashalla turned her attention to filling this part of the ocean with life. With such an abundance of soul ash to turn into living things, Ashalla could stretch her creative abilities. This ecosystem would require light, so she raised the sea floor up so that the water was about a hundred metres deep. To provide a foundation for this place she laid down coral. These static creatures left behind their shells and skeletons to build up terrain. She discovered that the deposition of soul ash was not homogeneous under the Vortex of Souls but rather was patterned in a spiral, which caused the coral to grow in a matching spiral pattern. They were also embedded with algae which allowed them to take a rich array of colours. Within each colony of coral were many of the soul ash processing molluscs, enhancing the virility of the coral and giving the molluscs plenty of food to consume.

While these static creatures were very pretty, Ashalla decided that there needed to be more motion. So Ashalla made creatures with vague similarities to the lizards on the Eye of Desolation. Scales, internal skeletons, complex organs, a modicum of intelligence. Those were the only similarities, for Ashalla also had to give them a hydrodynamic form, grant them limbs for swimming, make them breathe water instead of air and innumerable other adjustments. Her end result was a fish. Ashalla continued to make more fish, of every colour and shape she could imagine. She also made many more molluscs, some soft-bodied, some with shells, as well as more species of plankton. For a long time Ashalla’s laughter rippled about the ocean as she created one beautiful species after another in this great reef, its life enriched by Katharsos’ blessing.

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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Scarifar
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Scarifar Presto~!

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Arae

10MP | 26FP

(@Kho Special mention to you, cuz this directly addresses Seihdhara)


When Arae opened her eyes, she found herself in an unfamiliar place. Rather than lying on her tree in her sphere, she was standing on a stone floor. The room she was in contained a large amount of portraits and mannequins, many of them worn out over time, as well as a few glowing artifacts of power. The room had no windows, but the ceiling was open. Despite that, little sunlight shone through due to a massive cloud of black smoke. The door shuddered at regular intervals from withstanding powerful blows from the other side, and it seemed like it wasn't going to hold much longer.

Arae was confused by this sudden development, but soon realized a number of things. First, the place was practically radiating the energy of a god she recognized as K'nell, the God of Sleep. In other words, she was dreaming, and presumably this was K'nell's handiwork. She wondered what could possibly make the scenario she was in. His sphere, perhaps?

Secondly, this dream she was having was a memory, and it was one of her worst ones too. She hoped she would never have to relive it, but apparently that hope was not going to be. This memory was the day her fate was sealed. The war was finally ending, and the world began its descent into oblivion. Arae shed a tear.

Everyone... I'm sorry I couldn't protect you... Arae thought to herself, closing her eyes just as the door finally broke down with a loud, splintering crash.



Arae woke with a start. She shakily sighed, trying to brush off the horrible feelings from her dream. It was a bad memory, but that was all it was now: a memory. A thing of the past. There was no need to worry about what had already passed. What she needed to do now was focus on the present and future. Arae looked around, admiring her handiwork with the Pantheon. The lake was clean and crystal clear, and the Familial Trees were standing tall. Some of them were a little damaged, presumably reflecting the gods' current states, but that was fine. Nothing a little time and recovery wouldn't fix.

It was then, however, that Arae spotted something that made her eyes go wide with shock. It was so unbelievable that she remained frozen for several seconds before leaping and gliding over to the source of her concern. One of the trees was completely barren of leaves, and the flesh underneath the bark was dry. If Arae had not sensed the tiny bit of life force remaining within the Tree, she would have thought it was dead. Arae recognized this tree as Seihdhara's, the Goddess of Martial Combat. If her title rang true, that she could hardly imagine anyone actually besting her in combat. The fact remained, though, that something must've happened to Seihdhara that brought her to a state of near-death, if not outright death.

First things first, Arae had to determine Seihd's current state, and see if anything could still be done. Arae placed a hand on the tree trunk, getting a lock on her familial bond. Then she climbed up Seihdhara's tree and used that momentum to leap into the air, shooting upwards before arcing back downwards into the Pantheon lake. As she dove into the water, her body began to disappear as she used her power to send herself to Galbar. Once she was through the Gateway she had made, the water began to settle, and her sphere was quiet once more.



The water began to shudder slightly, the tremors only increasing in strength over time. The ground underneath was rising, all the way up to the water's surface. Soon, a crown of dirt and stone broke through, and it rose high into the air, trapping a small of portion of water within it. The ground continued to rise, molding itself to form an island around the crown. Then, the tremors stopped, as the island finally finished forming. Things were still for a moment, before a tremor started again, but this one was different. It was weaker than the one that formed the island, but it still radiated power as the water within the crown began to glow and shake.

Arae burst out of the water's surface, roaring as she shot up through the opening in the crown's top, and stopping to hover in the middle of the sky. Under normal circumstances, she might have wondered why she had roared, or what she had just created on Galbar, but right now she was focused on following the trail of Seihdhara's familial bond. Being so faint, Arae was having a bit of difficulty following it, but it was still there, and she could still find it. With that in mind, Arae flew off across the water, traveling southwards until she came across a piece of land. Arae continued flying, continuing to follow Seihdhara's trail while looking for any sign of her, until she sensed her power coming from an orange river.

Examining the contents of the river, Arae wasn't entirely sure what she was looking at, but she was getting an uncomfortable feeling just looking at. She then began traveling upstream to locate the source, and soon came across a pool of the liquid. Peering through the liquid's surface, she thought she could see something at the bottom. It was certainly the source, but certainly not part of the landscape. In fact, it kind of looked like...

Then the thought clicked for Arae. This river was flowing godly ichor! Seihdhara's own blood made up the river! And what was buried inside the pool was Seihdhara's body! Well, part of it, at least, but it was there all the same. Arae was filled with concern, wondering how Seihdhara could have gotten herself into such a mess. There was so much power radiating out of the river that it was its own monument now. Arae's first thought was to retrieve Seihdhara's body from the lake, but she didn't know how she should go about doing so. For one thing, this river was already well integrated into the land, and it seemed like trying to haphazardly alter it would cause extensive damage. Even if it could be repaired, it would most likely take an extraordinary amount of time and effort. In other words, it was too late to clean any of it up.

Well, if it had to stay, then Arae figured that it might as well be protected. She landed near the Seihdh Lake and began to poke several holes into the ground around it, and a sapling began to grow from each one. As Arae continued to channel her power into them, they grew larger and larger, and a portion of their roots began to extend into the Seihdh Lake. When they made contact with the ichor, though, they began undergoing changes. Most of them seemed to suffer some backlash when they made contact with the ichor in the lake and were about to die, but Arae was quick to reinforce their bodies with her power to better withstand it and even overcome the ichor afflicting them. It was difficult, and the trees were barely hanging on even with Arae's power, but she hoped they would persevere. The trees continued to slowly take in the godly ichor through their roots, and overtime, they continued to adapt and recover, enough so that Arae no longer needed to aid them. In fact, once the trees had absorbed enough of it, they underwent some radical changes. Some remained thin and flexible while others grew thicker and taller, and some didn't have any bark while some had multiple layers. All of them, however, had extensive roots that burrowed deep and wide into the ground, and flexible yet sturdy branches that could move with plenty of freedom.

Arae was a little surprised at the current development; she hadn't expected them to form so differently from each other, and wondered if it was the result of the lake's power. Furthermore, they turned into something much different than what she originally intended. The trees were supposed to provide a barrier around the Seihdh Lake, using the lake itself as its power source and additional nourishment to sustain it. Instead, the lake seemed to have mutated them into something else, and each of them held quite a bit of power in them. Also, from the way they moved, Arae could have sworn they were much more alive than what trees should normally be. Arae approached one of the thinner trees and raised a hand to examine one of its branches. In response, the tree bent forward, leaning towards her hand and rubbing against it slightly, as if it wanted to be touched. Arae was very curious about this development. She could sense that the trees were still capable of performing their intended function of protecting the lake, so she decided it was alright to leave things as they were, but she did wonder what future these trees would bring.

With the trees complete, Arae felt that her job here was done, and was just about to launch herself into the air once more when she sensed Seihdhara's familial bond coming from another direction. And unlike before, the bond was feeling like a fresh and strong rope, far different from the faint and almost dead thread Arae had been following before. That could only mean that Seihdhara had managed to overcome her predicament, and was presumably alive and well now. At the very least, Arae hoped so. With no time to lose, Arae launched herself towards Seihdhara's location, angrily sending a mental message her way, Seihdhara!!! I'm coming over to you! Wherever you are, you better be alive, and don't you dare go get yourself killed again!


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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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Shengshi


Kirron


@Kho


After Urhu had left, the snake slithered back up to his chambers. He quickly grabbed the scroll and walked back out on deck. He smelt the air for a moment and looked in the direction he presumed to be…

Wait, what should they call the directions?

Shengshi waved the thought away. That was likely something he would have to agree upon with his siblings. Either way, he was pretty certain the top of the Middle World was this way. He sniffed once again - this was the direction that reeked the most of the sea. Shengshi sneered. While he admittedly did not wish to wander out to sea, it was the truth of the universe that all rivers eventually lead there - thus, he himself had to see it.

The Giant’s Bath was filling up; now was the time. Shengshi mounted the dragon’s head at the front of his ship. He swirled the waters below it to turn the ship in the right direction. He unrolled the scroll and compared the wall of the Giant’s Bath to the observations Urhu had made. The terrain was no ideal for larger river valleys, but in time, future rivers would sand away the jagged terrain and carve newer paths until great valleys would form. For now, though, all he needed was a single one.

“Waters flowing, fresh and clean -
Hear your master’s call!”

The waters in the Giant’s Bath began to whirl and foam on the edges.

“Waters foaming, not yet free -
Make a waterfall!”

Like a sieging battering ram, the waters recoiled before blasting against the upper wall of the Giant’s Bath, breaking apart the upper layers of stone. In a violent display of gravel and foam, the beam of water flowed out of the elevated lake and down into the shale below, hammering at the rocks and cliffs below until they, too, succumbed beneath the sudden flood. The terrain caused the water to flow in all directions at first, something Shengshi found regrettable. He clenched his fists, pulled his hands back and, in a fabulous manner, brought both fists forward in a sudden motion.

The water falling from the waterfall began to twist and spin. It struck against the ground like a drill against rock, forcefully carving a way ahead through the nooks and crannies that offered the least resistance. Before long, Shengshi proudly looked upon the first river on Galbar.

“I think I shall name it… Beihe,” he said to himself. He slithered upstairs and grabbed a calligraphy set, which he used to write down the characters of the river into one of his poems.

Stranded among stone;
Freedom comes with Beihe’s birth;
The flow continues.


The snake nodded in approval at his work and steered the streams under his ship so they pushed the vessel towards the falls. The ship obeyed its watery rudders and soon tipped over the edge and into the frothing depths below. The snake nodded and headed inside and up to his chambers to take in the view. Shengshi did not worry about his ship, however - he was confident the rivers would catch him completely safe-

CRRNK!

Everything not secured to the deck lurched forward. While nothing fell overboard, the snake himself was tossed out through his windows and crashed into the neck of the dragon’s head on the deck below. The wood of the ship's stern hollowly rebuffed the water that pushed at its rear. They had stopped, but the river still flowed below.

"Huh?" A deep and familiar voice barked out from beneath the prow. "What's a hunk of wood doing out here?"

Shengshi lifted his face off the dented planks. It would seem that his enchantments did -not- make the ship impervious to physical impacts from divine beings. A thing to keep in mind for the future. No time for that, however, for another being had entered the vicinity. At the head of the ship's hull was the hulking red form of the god of blood, chest-deep in the rushing water.

Shengshi stood up, dusted himself off a bit, and greeted his brother with a bow.

“Ah, to think I would meet the beating heart of our family here. My most humble greetings to you, dearest brother Kirron. You would not happen to feel generous today, would you? I seem to be stuck.” The snake gestured sheepishly to the tilted ship.

Kirron lifted one arm out of the water to shield his eyes from the new sun. He parted his mouth and squinted his eyes. "Stuck!? You can move just fine up there, Sheng."

It only took a small crane of the head for Shengshi to notice Kirron's other arm outstretched and clutching the front of the ship's spine.

"I'm feeling about generous enough not to wreck your floating house for running right at me," Kirron continued. "But I've greater cares, brother. Tell you what, you can purchase my forgiveness by answering some questions. I'll just take your ship out the river while we talk, eh? Don't want you drifting off like some dreamer..."

Kirron braced both his arms against the stern and hoisted up. With an almighty creak, the ship tilted forward. Or, rather, the stern lifted up out of the water. Shengshi clutched the nearest object, the stern railing, and let out a sigh of relief.

“Oh, thank you, thank you! You are much too kind! J-just… Please put her down gently - GENTLY!”

There was another loud creak, though this came from the sudden weight on the luxurious planks as the ship hull smacked into the rocky ground underneath. At least the maiden voyage really got to test the ship’s capabilities, Shengshi thought, though he would definitely have to inspect the damages later. He got back to his tail again and slithered over to the edge of the deck and peeked over to spot his red-skinned brother.

“Thank you, truly,” he said somewhat sourly. “I would just like to add that I did not intentionally sail Jiangzhou in your direction - the flow merely guided it as such.” He cleared his throat sheepishly. “Now, what did you wish to ask?”

"Well, it happens I'm looking for something..." Kirron waded out of the current and onto the shore. With the ship leaning to one side on terra firma, it was a simple matter to pull himself up over the railing. "The blood spilt in the Architect's cave. Some of it went somewhere. I'm trying to find it." Kirron pointed at Shengshi. "I followed the smell to you. Here, upriver. Know anything about that, Sheng?"

The snake scratched the hair behind his left horn and looked up towards his left temple as to look extra pensive. Though, in truth, he had absolutely no idea. “I mean, it is unfortunately not quite in my nature to hunt for, uhm, blood to the extent that it is for you, dearest brother, so I admit that the only thing I can offer is perhaps some refreshments.” As with Urhu, he gestured towards the gates of the spire.

As Shengshi raised his hands to point, there was a blinding flash of fire and fury in the sky. Both gods shot their gaze to the spot which recently had housed Asceal’s little project - one that now had, apparently, been blown to smithereens. Shengshi’s jaw dropped.

Kirron stroked his chin. "Heh, nice trick."

“Well, if anything, that looks like a bloody endea-...” The larger pieces of what they assumed was the remains of the celestial machine entered the young atmosphere in another display of fire and light before finally crashing against the surface with a solid boom. Shengshi himself was unsure of what it was, but a weak yet ominously present wave pulsed through the aura of the surrounding environment, teasing that something unusual had happened. Kirron pulled a frown. He sensed it as well.

“I propose we look a bit around." Shengshi suggested. "Maybe we will find this… Whatever you’re looking for on the way? With everything that has happened lately, we may even find the planet’s first blood bath,” he said jokingly. “Though this river cannot take us all the way. It will likely only take us to the oceans in to the bei.” Shengshi scratched his chin. “Though I could carve more, I suppose… With your permission, of course, dearest brother.”

Kirron had been staring sternly down the horizon. Only after a second did he give Shengshi a glance. "Hm? Sure, whatever you like. I don't plan on throwing it again." Kirron stepped back onto the rocks and shoved the ship back into the river with one foot. It scraped into a splash but stayed afloat, even clonking against the opposite bank of the river.

A moment after, Kirron bounded back onto the top deck and righted his balance. Without showing a hint of his previous joviality, he walked up to the bow and looked out. "Take us downriver. It smells like...What was that you said we would find, Sheng?"

“A blood bath?” he proposed as he absent-mindedly twisted the streams a little to shove the ship forward. “Oh my, I merely jested.” His face went pale - there was indeed another flow of fluids in the distance. He hoped only that it was merely the work of another god.

It did not take long for his clear water to succumb to the pollution of the foul ichor that flowed from further inland. The grimy substance sickened Shengshi to the point where he found himself retching, yet there was a familiar essence about it that kept his curiosity piqued enough to keep his own bile down. The snake waved his hand in the stern manner with which he commanded all the fresh waters in these realms and found the flaming red river insubordinate. He gritted his fangs and glared down into the foul flows beneath.

“The arrogance…” he spat and tightened his hands around the ship’s railing with such ferocity that the wood planks, even with all their enchantments and reinforcements, groaned and snapped. “To have the audacity to not only create a gruesome excuse for a river like this - but to have it poison -MY- waters! Who did this?! Who perverted this beautiful flow into a poor excuse for… For curry?” Shengshi jumped down into the river and tasted the essence. He froze in the water, eyes wide and horrified. The substance was thick and wretched - almost metallic in flavour. The essence within it stabbed at his mind and body, as if trying to twist him into something he could never be. He immediately clawed his way back onboard.

“SERVANTS! CLEAN ME!”

Swiftly, globules of water soared out of the main gate to the castle and packed themselves around their lord, licking and wiping off the ichorous substance. Shengshi sat down, his face chalk-white with shock.

"Now you're starting to get it, huh," Kirron finally cut through Shengshi's rage. He looked down on the watery god with a deep frown. "This was no mere spit in your face, river man. We go to its source."

Shengshi did not say anything, but the flows turned the ship and forced it upriver towards the source of the ichor. After sailing upriver for a time, he looked back at Kirron, then slithered towards the edge of the deck, staring down into the wicked goo licking against his beautiful ship’s hull. He retched again.

“No… We must halt for a moment! There is something I must do!” In a hurry, he slithered to the stern of the ship.

Kirron followed his movement and folded his arms.

At the edge, Shengshi made great effort to slow the disobedient torrents below. The world’s beasts and plants could not be allowed to confuse this for his own clean, nutritious waters. No, this sacrilege demanded an equally heretical response. Shengshi tightened his fists and reached out to the moisture in the air; the rivers underground; the water spirits still uncorrupted in the stream beneath his ship. To all surrounding water, the lord of a thousand streams called.

“The flow is eternal - and in most circumstances, all should congregate in one great river…”

The earth behind the ship began to crack and heave as water from the air and the rivers drilled and dug its way deep underground.

“However, I care not what the purpose of this gruesome act was - it shall -NOT- be given the sanctuary of my realm!”

Massive shards of rock and stone erupted out of the ground across the horizon behind the ship, propelled by fuming blasts of water.

“You, cruellest waterway of filth, are banished from my realm!”

The earth shattered and quaked as the flow of ichor was interrupted by a wall of towering plateaus and peaks that soon stretched from the oceans in the distance to Shengshi’s right and curved around the horizon like a great dam. The reddish ichor slammed against the mountain walls, raging with all the foam and fury of a beast suddenly trapped. Soon, however, it realised its futile efforts and began flowing along the mountains towards the oceans. Shengshi wiped his forehead with the back of his hand.

“This is your prison, monster! May you never pollute my waters again!” Shengshi said, glaring down at the red river testing the new terrain. He gave the mountains a look, too. Some of them were still steaming from the heat of their birth. They were thin and sharp with small bases. Shengshi estimated that the tallest of the peaks could be no taller than five thousand feet, but that they should be more than enough to keep the red menace out of his pure domain.

“I think I shall name them Qiangshan… Yes, yes, a fitting name for their honourable task.” Shengshi wrote the characters in the air in front of him. There was a gentle shake as the mountains received their name. Shengshi let out a tired sigh and realised the enormous strain on his mind as the tumultuous torrents below struggled to be free of his control. He snarled and redoubled his efforts, quelling the resistance and forcing his ship upriver and onward. He slithered back to the bow and gave Kirron a fake smile supported by a furious glare.

“Now we can head to the source.”

Kirron looked down at his brother. His frown parted into a shark-toothed grin. "I was wrong about you, Sheng. I had you down as a pushover." He looked ahead. "I thought I was going to have to boil your blood to shut up your dry-heaving." Kirron clapped a hand roughly on Shengshi's back as he strode to the railing. He leaned down on his hands and squinted his eyes ahead. His grin lowered. "We're getting close."



The first visual signs started with steam rising over the craggy hills. Amongst the soft breeze fluttering by their ears, the gods heard another sound from the barren land. A churning and bubbling. The waters were so thick with the red ichor that Shengshi's hold over the water that bore it reduced, slowing them down. But it was no barrier for the gods to overcome. After struggling up the thin creeks aloft an upwards-flowing bed of water, the ship finally tipped up and onto a vast body of red liquid, hissing, steaming, and boiling beneath the hull.

"It's just ahead here," Kirron remarked.

They drifted forward for only a short time through the clouds of heat and steam until Kirron noticed something down beneath the water. He raised a hand and, mysteriously, the ship gently slowed to a halt.

Stepping back from the railing, Kirron lifted a hand as if to gently pick an invisible fruit. With it, a long, thin globule of red hot ichor emerged from over the side of the ship and drifted to a point over his hand. Kirron opened his mouth and willed a tiny droplet onto his tongue. Immediately, he shuddered and bared his teeth, letting the rest of the ichor splat in a steaming puddle on the deck.

"What a gruesome way to die." Kirron lashed his tongue as if to air out the taste.

Shengshi slithered over to inspect the ichor further. His short dip into the stuff had left him disgusted, and with Kirron’s confirmation, the presence of divine essence suddenly made a lot more sense.

“Was it a battle?” he inquired, voice cracking ever so slightly with confused sorrow. “Or was the Architect’s task too much on the mind?”

"No. It was a...an avoidable accident," Kirron sniffed. "A mistake. Something flew at speed. Must have sheared her in two if what I'm sensing at the bottom of this lake is what I think it is."

The strain on the snake as he attempted to control the now highly concentrated ichor below forced forth a pained groan from the god. He clutched his head and looked to Kirron.

“Would… Would you mind taking over for a bit? I will have the servants fetch us something to… Dull the senses a little.” He yelled out the command and there was a hint of a scramble of metal and glass from the decks below. “How did it come to this?” he muttered. Out the spire gates came a globule carrying two wine bottles and a pair of small cups on a tray, which it placed at the gods’ feet before sliding back inside. Shengshi filled his cup and flushed its contents down in a swift motion. He gave Kirron a nod.

“You go on ahead. I need a moment.”

Kirron paused in his thoughts to eye the bottle and cup. He took his hand away from his chin to swipe the bottle up off the ground. He sat himself down. "There's something I don't get." He snapped off the top of the bottle with his other hand and drank down half of its contents in a single swallow. He wiped his mouth on his arm and continued. "It was just a chunk of...rock, I think, that got her. Why didn't she defend herself? Not like she didn't want to -- the memory didn't have a, uh, resigned feeling to it. Was she really that stupid?"

Shengshi took another drink and shook his head. “If the Architect truly made us what we are, he would not make us vulnerable to mere… Mere rocks.” He furrowed his brow into a scowl. “No… Even if she was a fool of the most barbaric stupidity, rocks brush off our divine skin like water off a mountain, no matter the speed. This must have been a result of conflict. A cruel plot between feuding siblings. The question is… Who would do something like this?”

Kirron snorted. "I dunno. I might have done it if she pissed me off enough."

At that moment, a large dot in the sky beyond the Blue glowed with warm light and swelled at enormous speeds. Shengshi looked up.

“Is that Orvus making another meteorite?” he said, placing his hands on his hips with a disapproving scowl on his face.

Kirron only gave it a glance before looking into his broken bottle and swirling his wine around. "Would've thought you'd be used to it by now."

The stone in the sky grew bigger and bigger at a frighteningly rapid pace. Then, it finally stopped.

“Did he just make our planet a sibli-?”

The cracks of fire and lava that spread across the sphere were visible from the surface of Galbar. The following violent turmoil of cosmic forces broke apart the new moon, and pieces of debris entered the atmosphere is a display of fire and flash. Shengshi let out another sigh.

“I wish we could all just have some time without all this chaos.”

Kirron stopped swirling his wine and lifted his eyes to Shengshi. Suddenly, he threw back his head with a hearty guffaw, showing all his gleaming sharp teeth. He slammed a fist on the deck and laughed some more.

"Sheng, you gotta learn to lighten up!" Kirron gulped down the rest of his wine and tossed the glass over his shoulder. It shattered into pieces on the deck behind him. "This place is getting to you, I can tell. Why don't you show me what you've been up to before you put your boat up on a hill in this place? I'll only grab a few more bottles of that drink before I'll let you be, so you may as well."

Shengshi raised his head and pulled at his chin inquisitively. “What I’ve been up to, you say?” He pointed across the fresh mountain chain clogging the image of the horizon. “Well, I basically just arrived from my home in Fengshui Fuyou. If you would like to see it, well…” He looked around, then at the ship’s deck at his feet, then at the mountains.

“I may have made it a little hard for us to return to the river Beihe…” he confessed sheepishly. “Tell you what, I’ll tell you the password and you can go have a look if you would like! You simply need to present the water in the Giant’s Bath -- I think that’s what Urhu called it -- with a figure that looks like that.” He gestured to the dragon’s head at the bow. Kirron leaned to one side to look at it.

“Don’t mind me, I will find a way out of this…” He retched. “... Oh my, I will never be able to have curry again after today…” He shook his head and looked back to his sibling, a fanged smile on his face. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll sail the ship around. Also, help yourself to as much wine as you can. Bottom floor, room towards the stern. If the door appears to be locked, it isn’t, the handle is just being silly. Go grab some, please! I, uh, I need some rest.”

Kirron pulled a thoughtful frown and hummed. "Appreciate it, Sheng," he remarked before Shengshi slithered out of sight.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Shenshi's sleeping basket was not the end of his excitement for the day. He was permitted peace to lay down for all of four minutes before the world lurched to one side. Wood strained and creaked as gravity righted itself again, save for an odd bouncing motion unlike any ripples on a lake. The snake groaned angrily to himself and slithered out, scowling.

The first thing Shengshi noticed when he peered out of the nearest window was the craggy lands of the continent, and most definitely no water below. Shengshi had a vague idea of what was going on and looked across the room to the windows on the other side. Through them, all he saw was the majestic Blue dotted with red spots of burning meteors. He slowly pulled his hand across his face and let out another, surlier groan before slithering outside.

Upon arriving on deck and peering over the tilted side, his suspicions were indeed confirmed: The ship was being carried - and he would not require omniscience to estimate who was doing the lifting.

“Deeeeaarest brother Kirron,” he opened through a fanged, faked grin. “While I am -certainly- very appreciative of your aid in getting me home, I can assure you - you are much, much too kind! Please, do go on ahead! I will catch-!” There was a larger bump than usual and the snake was briefly slammed against the railing. “... Catch up shortly.”

"Settle down, Sheng!" Kirron called back from under the hull. His voice was only slightly constricted by the weight on his shoulders. "Rest your weary cartilage. I'm just borrowing your ship to show its figurehead to that bath you told me about. If you really want to stay back 'n' enjoy the scenery, I ain't going to force you to stay riding."

Shengshi pinched the bridge of his flat nose and let out a sigh. “No, you know what? Fine, be my guest. Just… Warn me before we get to the mountains, alright? I have to secure some of my wine casks…”



Kirron did not warn Shengshi when they reached the mountains. The snake had taken a break between tying together pots and casks and securing them against the wall when he noticed the ship came to a halt. He raised his head and looked around. Had they arrived already? Then, he felt a dip, then another one, as Kirron was testing the ship’s weight. Then, it dawned on him.

“Oh no…”

Everything around him creaked, cracked and crumbled as every natural force objected to the ship’s godlike acceleration. Even the snake was flattened against the floor by the sheer suddenness of the push, which then shortly after turned into a tingling tickle in the snake’s belly and a horrified stare as he realised that the remaining casks if wine began to float in the air. Fruitlessly, the water god tried to swim through the air to pick up the flying barrels, but had to resort to clawing at the floor to get any sort of forward motion. He manage to catch a few before his divine instincts told him that there was something very hard coming towards him at a very high speed. Shengshi placed himself underneath his precious caskets and prayed.

The impact shattered what remained of the poor wine pots that he had not managed to save. The snake laid weeping on the floor which was filled with nearly a foot of wine. He clutched his remaining two pots as if their were stuffed animals and curled up in a ball to mourn the loss of so much delicious drink… Until he remembered that he did not, in fact need to mourn it at all. His godly powers could easily fix this! He stood up, wiped his wine-splattered face with his hand and licked that hand.

Wait, what was that flavour? He had a sip of the rest of the wine on the floor. It was coming from somewhere… It was sour, but weak. Very weak, compared to the rest of the fragrant wine surrounding him, and yet its flavour was complemented by a gentle fizz. He slithered over to the source of the flavour and found a basket of old apples which had taken a swim in the alcoholic pool. He took one out and had a taste. Nothing special - they tasted like normal apples, albeit a little soft and stale. He tasted the water around the basket. What was this? The fizz and sour tang were back. Had the wine yeast eaten the apples?

His hypothesis was confirmed with some further testing in the bouncing room. The water around the apples, permeated with wine yeast, had become a new drink. A very weak one, granted, but perhaps one even mortals could enjoy in moderation. Shengshi kept a few bottles of the stuff for later examinations, cleaned up the room and headed out.

He peeked over the side of the deck. Sure enough, his red brother was still carrying the ship. Shengshi climbed down and caught up to him. Kirron looked around his arms as they held the ship aloft. "I see a glint in your eye. What have you got there?"

“Good day again, brother. It so happens that a serendipitous miracle happened in the briefly ravaged wine cellar and this was made.” He presented the bottle. “Care to have a taste?”

"Hah! Who am I to say no?" Kirron shifted the keel of the ship to rest on his shoulder and slowed to a stop. With one hand holding up the hull, he took the bottle in the other and brought it to his lips. He did not bring the vessel down until it was completely drained, at which point he exhaled with satisfaction and tossed the bottle back into Shengshi's arms. "You're getting good at making brews, Sheng! That drink left a tingle in my stomach -- a spring! Hop back on the boat, brother! I feel like picking up our pace a little!"

Kirron shifted the ship back into both his hands as he spoke. Already, he was virtually arcing with energy. His big grin and wild look in his eyes spoke of a dangerously brief last leg of the journey.

The snake grinned from ear to ear. “Why, you are most kind to commend this humble one’s drink. I will make sure to make a little extra just for you to bring along!” With that, he climbed back onboard.



Shengshi went back to the wine cellar for further experimentation. How had this substance not appeared in Fengshui Fuyou? Granted, there had not been any wild apples lying around, but this sort of flavour ought to have popped up while he was brewing. He pondered for a time. Perhaps it was the change in environment? Perhaps his siblings had made some microbial life forms that enhanced his yeast, or perhaps replaced it entirely. He tested his other brewing batches. Some had indeed grown fizzy and fresh. He sampled the contents and compared the strains of yeast in all of them. None of them were of his making; if they were, they had been severely altered.

“I suppose this is what I get for telling the Sleeper’s Sand yeast not to live in waters that other life depends on,” he muttered to himself, though there was no anger in his voice - if anything, he marveled at this property of yeast. He closed his hands around the jars of samples.

“Inhabitants of my waters, listen to your lord.” The samples began to glow. “You are not inherently of the Flow, I sense as much. You thrive in waters both running and still…” He sighed. “Yet you possess qualities that I want. As such, I give you sanctuary in my realm, and bless you with growth and strength on your paths to the other realms of fresh water.” The samples in the jars began to swirl and bubble.

“In return,” Shengshi continued, “you will obey these commandments given to you by your lord.” Shengshi let go for the jars. Their contents continued to glow, however, and went completely still as if to show their attention. “Firstly, you shall never produce any brew strong enough to kill. No matter the size of the beast, nothing shall die from outright drinking you. Whatever happens after, though, is not your fault.” Shengshi shrugged unapologetically. “Secondly, you shall never more infest other brews. While I forgive you this time, others will not be as joyous to find their batch of wine destroyed. Thirdly, you shall only eat fruits. You shall shun all other forms of sweetness apart from fruit. In return, you shall have the capabilities of creating everything from delicious dry brews, to sweet and sour drinks, and I will grant you the power to grow in old fruits even without the purpose of making wine.” Shengshi scratched his chin. “Lastly, you need a name.” A somewhat more melancholic thought dawned on him. “I think… I think I shall name you after our fallen sister. While her… Blood may have done the surrounding lands a disservice, her death is a tragedy regardless. A beautiful goddess that should be remembered with this wonderful drink.” Shengshi picked up sample jar, poured himself a glass and lifted his cup in a toast.

“I name you - cider.”

Around the time Shengshi swallowed, the ship dipped again to signal that it was time for another short flight. Shengshi called his servants in as fast as he could and had them surround the barrels and pots like belts. As the ship soared up into the sky, some pots succumbed to the pressure or simply fell out of the piles. Even though restoring the wine inside was a simple task, the feeling of loss stabbed Shengshi’s heart like a dull lance.

He slithered up on deck again and let out a sigh of relief. Kirron was atop the deck with his arms crossed, they were back in the Giant’s Bath, and Hemen had already recognised the dragon’s head. The waters before the ship sprouted two wide ribbons of water that first extended high up into the air, and then intertwined at the top, forming beautifully intricate arch of water knots as they stretched downwards along one another in a spiralling pattern. Through the dew dripping across the gateway from the top of the arch, the gods saw the tranquil sight of Fengshui Fuyou.

“Well, we have arrived. Would you like a smaller ship so you can go inside and explore?” Shengshi asked smiling.

"I was going to borrow one anyway," Kirron said. "I can carry plenty on my own, but my arms can only wrap around so many of those round barrels." He pointed a thumb off to the side, where one of the ship's dinghies resting on a frame on the deck, laden with a small stack of wooden casks.
“Of course,” the snake reasoned. He clapped his hands and his servants brought up a smaller vessel, large enough to fit roughly one Kirron and however much wine this one Kirron would like to bring along - up to maximum of ten barrel-sized pots. It was evident that the vessel had been fashioned from leftover planks from the construction itself, for some of the planks were uneven and it was not as laden with gold and ornaments as its mothership was. It also included an oar, as opposed to the mothership. Shengshi scowled in disappointment and turned to his servants, who were busy zooming around in circles in order to stay alive.

“This is what you bring when your lord demands a boat?!” Shengshi turned back to his brother and bowed deeply. “My most sincere apologies and requests for your forgiveness, dearest brother. They possess not minds of reason… Nor minds at all, when I think about it-...”

Kirron raised a hand to interrupt, smiling. "It's perfect." He walked towards the vessel, clapping Shengshi on the shoulder on the way past. "You're a real pleaser, Sheng. Thanks for everything." He took his previous dinghy and unceremoniously poured is selected casks in a rumbling pile into the new ship. Already, the servants brought up a few more pots of wine and cider to line the extra space.

While the servants hoisted the ramshackle boat into the waters below, Kirron turned around with his fists on his hips and flashed a grin. "I'll see you around, river man! I had great fun today! Fare yourself well!"

And with that he stepped over the railing and landed on his new vehicle.

Shengshi still grimaced at his agreement to send off Kirron on what in his eyes was such a shabby piece of flotsam, but he had by now learned that it was better to just let his brother do what he wished and avoid stalling him further. The snake leaned over the railing and waved to his brother. The red god was making a wake behind him with an oar in hand.

“I return the sentiment, dearest brother of mine! Have a safe and fortuitous journey!” A thought popped into his head. “Oh! And please do not mind the mud worms. They may bite, but they never bite hard. Oh, and do not mind the huge floods that may occur. They do that, sometimes!” Yet another thought surfaced. “And please do not throw any huge rocks around-... And he’s gone.”



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Vakk was in glee, knowing that his mere words could break those who would be considered weak-willed like Li’Kalla. His crooked smile was as large as ever, the sickeningly joyous feeling coming from him was perhaps the most terrifying thing about him. However, his job was not yet done and now he could be found moving across Galbar, namely towards the continent that had arisen while he and that damned puzzle god secured his gateway from other gods. It was that riddle that continued to mock the Lord of Speech, allowing him to know that Eurysthenes could desecrate his home at any point. This thought angered Vakk, but not enough to overshadow the joy he had felt from watching Li’Kalla break.

His reflection ended as came across the northern coast of that continent that had arisen so quickly. It was bleak, at least to him, the only notable thing that he had seen being the exit of the river that bore Seihdhara’s ichor, but he did not concern himself with the blood river quite yet. Perhaps it was time to add his own touch to this bleak and desolate place, however, he knew that he needed to make a proper ally in this realm that the Architect had crafted, and so he began to search upon the continent for any god that he thought he could convince to be on his side.

Fortunately, in these early days of the universe, gods were cheap.

The big worm was spotted from a long way away and the slapping of bare feet on beach sand rushed up to meet him. The newborn sun glinted off the edge of a huge, curved knife.

“Way hey! What’s sizzling?” Chopstick Eyes, too, was grinning fit to swallow a man. A floating lantern accompanied her.

Vakk craned his head to face the god, silently staring at the being for a mere few moments before he broke his silence, ”Ah, Chopstick Eyes, the merchant goddess. It is… good to see you.” His massive form moved forward, his neck lowering his head to where it was a few mere steps away from Chopstick Eyes, who ran, jumped, and promptly booped his nonexistent nose with a fingertip. They stared at each other, despite neither having eyes.

”You are a strange one.”

”I am? Huh.” Chopstick smiled and shrugged. ”Didn’t even know I was a goddess, actually. But that explains a lot.” She stretched, looking out over the ocean, and cracked her knuckles. ”Snazzy place here, ey Vakk?”

”It is a rock I have yet to explore,” he looked to the continent proper before giving a disgustingly, raspy grunt as if many people were doing it around the same time. ”I do not care much for this boring rock, it hardly knows a good talk,” Vakk said, his gaze going back to the one wielding the curved knife. His wicked smile once more came back to him as he formulated his plan to ally this goddess.

”You know, you and I share similar purposes within this realm, Chopstick Eyes. Did you know that? To beings meant to convince others into making the best deals.”

”...I have a purpose?”

”Indeed, we all do, Merchant Goddess.”

”Oh okay,” she replied. ”I figure… That was why I made the Bazaar. I just had to do it.” She looked up. ”What’s yours?”

Vakk allowed a grin to come across his face, his deep voice letting out a small chuckle, ”I talk. A merchant’s best tool.” A tendril slithered forwards, out of the sand to boop Chopstick’s nose as he continued to grin at her. She leaned into the boop. ”As such, I imagine that we can become close partners, yes?” he asked, his form circling the goddess, inspecting the blade that she carried.

”Okay, sure! Ten hut!” Chopstick snapped to salute. Then she clambered atop her newfound worm-steed until she found a comfortable spot, followed by her flying-lantern. ”What’s our first project?”

”Well…” Vakk began by sending a tendril to wrap around Chopstick’s waist and pull her off of him, setting her on the ground gingerly. She let out a small ‘awwww’.

”I suppose we can work on creating a bit of land, establish our branch,” he suggested before his head turned to the merchant goddess, ”Or we could make something to proclaim our… association. Perhaps a forest to watch the mortals get lost in?” Vakk’s words held a certain sway, making his suggestions seem more like the obviously right one while clouding other thoughts. The Lord of Speech grinned at his own suggestion.

Chopstick thought it over. This didn’t take her long. ”Okeydokey,” she said. ”Let’s do it!” Whatever glaze of enchantment Vakk smeared over his words had quickly sunk in deep, and settled in so snugly that the merchant goddess did not even recognise that the idea was not her own.

And then the moon exploded.

Unholy fire seared Heaven, murking the blue air with broken stone and tar. The scream of a dying Sphere echoed down into their godly ears, and they watched, in slow motion, the shape of the rain of black rock as the cloudless storm of Verdax began.

”...” Vakk looked to Chopstick eyes then back where the moon had been. She was silent. Only the flying-lantern remained, hiding in her shadow.

”Is that the power of the Architect?” he asked, mainly to himself but terrified of the possibility that the one who gave them their power could destroy a moon with such power. His gaze refused to move from the position where the moon had been, and now he finally felt fear for the first time in this realm.

”Don’t know, don’t care,” said Chopstick Eyes. Her head was down. A slip of paper had emerged from her purse, and she was writing something, writing with a needle-sharp pen in black, black ink.

Vakk hid an expression of pure shock that she could ignore such an event, a face of indifference to mask his true feelings, not that many could tell. Legitimately curious, the god gazed down upon the strange goddess and began to visually inspect her and the oddity that was her body. ”You are not concerned that we could be vaporized within an instant?” he asked, poking her back as a part of his inspection. She wheezed a laugh, and slapped him off.

”After all I’ve been through? You couldn’t vaporise me if you tried,” she said, and folded the paper into an envelope. She fished through her purse until she found a fractal stamp, licked its back, and stuck it to the letter, where it iterated colourfully.

She held the letter to the wind in the tips of two fingers. A great gust blew from nowhere. She loosened her grip just slightly, and the letter vanished.

”Why does everyone else get to throw giant rocks,” said the Market Lord, ”And not me?”

”You can throw rocks, any being with the capacity to breathe can throw a rock,” Vakk commented, a bit of snark coming to his voice. He twisted his head to be in front of Chopstick Eyes to begin speaking once more, ”If you wish to throw mere rocks, then do so. But that is an act by those who rely on their brutish nature, you and I are not such.”

”Speak for yourself,” said Chopstick Eyes.

The wind became a gale, sweeping the long fronds of Chopstick’s hair out over the ocean. The little flying-lantern clutched her in dread. She folded her arms over her chest to keep from shivering as something passed over the sun.

Kites, gliders, parachutes, airfoils of every kind, hundreds of thousands of them, swarmed on the wind and swooped into the stone rain. Some were as small as condors, others as vast as mountains, and each dragged behind them a huge net, woven from steel wire. One by one the shards of Veradax were caught by Chopstick’s gliders, and the gliders carried them home.

Some were carried only a short distance, others far. But the kites were swarming, and as they swarmed they circled on a circular wind, depositing their stone in a wavering, messy, vast and solid pile, now here and now there, now in the ocean, now on land, until two great heaps of rock had arisen: a great mountain, towering up on the beach of Kirron’s Boast, and a little continent, a hundred times larger.

Chopstick Eyes beheld her commission. She brushed off the flying-lantern, and smiled. Then she crouched, paused, leaped straight upwards, performed a perfect spin in midair, and, sounding her loudest kiai, struck the mountain with her foot. The stone exploded, and its remains shot into the new continent with such force that the hunks of rubble fused into a single, solid landmass.

Chopstick landed back on the beach with a splat.

Vakk watched intently, watching as this goddess performed such feats of power that he did not think gods were capable of. He did not believe that they could form continents in such a fashion, it was simply astonishing. The gaze went to Chopstick as he sent a tendril to help her off the sand. However, now he felt a need to do something, mostly in an effort to show that he was as strong as these gods. He snapped his jaws in frustration as his lower half began to dig into the sand of Kirron’s continent.

”Rising ground,
All around,
A god’s power,
All is bound,
In this hour!”


Suddenly, the ground underneath the newly formed continent began to rise into the air, making large cliff faces that towered above Kirron’s continent. Sharp rocks came between the two continents, some of them digging into the continent Chopstick had made, many ending abruptly mere meters from the older continent. Below the water, large jagged pillars held up the small continent, yet still allowing for small spaces to swim around.

”Oh...” murmured Chopstick. ”Sweet.”

”Would you like to see what we have made?”

”Yeah! Let’s go build that forest,” said Chopstick, pulling herself up onto Vakk’s hide again. He grumbled as she did so, obviously not liking being a steed for her.

Vakk launched himself into the air, arcing his way down to the continent, just on the edge of the cliff. A faint ”Yee-haw!” was heard miles away.

The new earth was rough, though hot and solid with the energy of Chopstick’s kick. The waters of the World Sea had yet to fully boil off, and it filled deep crevasses and little rock-puddles alike, scattered over the jagged stone. Dead kites lay sealed into the orvite, some still flicking little lines of silk into the wind. Spires and valleys made for an uneven ride, though Vakk managed to slither his way between the cliffs with ease.
Chopstick looked at their work with some astonishment. Not a single tree to be seen, and already the land was hard to navigate. ”Wotcha thinkin’?”

”I am thinking that you get off of me before I throw you somewhere else,” Vakk growled, twisting his head to gaze at her before he pulled her off with a tendril to set her on the ground. She whined. His gaze shifted to the landscape for a moment before indifference came back to him. ”Not bad,” were the words he chose, though he probably would have liked it better if he hadn’t felt the need to raise the place up. However, it was fitting as this continent was clearly superior and thus must stand above the other.

”You better believe it ain’t bad. It’s awesome!” Choppy had recovered from Vakk’s rejection and was kicking rocks around a gully. ”We need a name for this place! It’s too good not to market. Got any ideas?”

Vakk thought for a few moments, ”How about Pāṟa?”

”...I was thinking Rockville Jaggedton,” said Chopstick. ”Or maybe Chopstickland. Trademarks are very important.”

”Those are terrible names. At least try to be subtle, Chopstick Eyes.”

”Rude!” She stuck her tongue out. ”Alright, fine, we’ll keep it simple. How about ‘the Kick’?”

Once more did the Lord of Talk think to himself, before speaking to Chopsticks ”Very well.” His form moved forward, along the rocks and slopes to make it to a particularly high part of the continent. He tapped the rocks for a moment before speaking once more, ”I believe this will be a good place for the forest.”

”Perfect,” said Chopstick, scampering around a spire with her lantern. Behind it lay several crates, some big saplings growing in canvas sacks, and two shovels.

She threw Vakk one shovel, and cracked open a crate with the other. It was full of soil.

”Let’s get to it,” she said.

Vakk merely gazed at the tool, letting it hit the rocks. He had no clue what it was or what it was used for, apparently the concept of a shovel was never present where he had come from. His head went back to looking at Chopstick Eyes before he finally spoke, ”What is this… thing?” A tendril poked the tool, before he picked it up and smacked the wrong end against the ground.

”Well, to call a spade a spade...” said Chopstick, who broke down cackling.

After poking the ground for a while longer, he eventually threw it away, annoyed that it didn’t do anything. Vakk then said, ”While you use that, I will do what I can.”

The god thrust his tendrils into the ground and from the earth erupted trees of rock, spiraling and splitting trees that in the end left a sinister mark on the land as they lurched towards the ground. He let out a sinister chuckle as his portion of the forest truly looked as if the trees would kill someone if they got lost within it. They cast long dark shadows against the sun that remained sitting in the sky, however, Vakk continued to tower above it all as the tree line continue to stretch along the uneven ground of the Kick. ”Now this is beauty,” he said with an evil glee in his voice.

Chopstick licked one of the trees. ”...Tastes like rock.”

”That is because they are.”

”Oh. Okay.”

She heaped another spadeful of soil onto the ground.

”Too. Slow.”

”Don’t rush me! All good things take time,” said Chopstick, patting down the soil with her foot.

”And yet, I have done much in mere seconds.”

Chopstick stuck out her tongue and kept on shoveling.


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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Aristo
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Aristo

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Reunion


Feat. @Aristo & @Crispy Octopus


Aelius couldn’t tear his eyes away. His gaze was fixed on the ribbons of crystalline dust that had once been Asceal’s Lustrous Gardens. At once, there had been a flash of light and the blue sphere just… ceased to be. The pieces drifted from the epicenter, glimmering like stars. Of Asceal, there was no sign.

As the god of virtue watched, he felt his throat tighten into knots. What had Asceal done to deserve this? Why did they hate her light so? Aelius was caught between mourning and self-loathing. He’d done what he had to to defend Heliopolis. But it left him powerless. Powerless to save the Lustrous Gardens, powerless to save his only friend.

Aelius slammed a fist into marble. He saw her in his head, radiant in the Architect’s hall. He saw her as she beckoned him to see the fledgling furnace. He saw her next to him in the chariot, strands of light that passed for hair whipping behind her as they soared. And then he saw her sphere in a million pieces. His shoulders heaved and he let his tears flow freely.

He was sprawled on his palace’s steps, still weak from his encounter with Melanthia. Weak. Why was he so weak? He should have gone back to Asceal’s sphere with her. Maybe if he had, he could have spirited her away from the blast. Maybe he could have done more. Maybe, Maybe, Maybe…

It seemed like hours passed by as he watched the fragments of the Lustrous Gardens disperse, no longer recognizable as a sphere. He was tired of maybes. Aelius forced himself upright, brushing wet eyes. Asceal had a vision, and that didn’t change just because she was gone. He was still here, and so was this furnace. There was still light, and there was Galbar - a Galbar sorely in need of someone like him. He took a deep, shaky breath and turned to his palace to think. With the movement, his eye caught sight of something flickering in the sky. Too far to identify, but too near to be another sphere or distant celestial matter.

The bubble carrying Asceal and Liana streaked towards Heliopolis. Aelius watched it soar, first with his own eyes, then with his mind’s eye, as it penetrated the invisible barrier that was the atmospheric boundary of Heliopolis. With his barrier as his eyes, he could see the spherical shape of a bubble. He could barely make out its contents, hazy beneath its layers. He thought he saw the shadow of a humanoid. Or was it two?

Inside Asceal was weary, but even she noticed the transition from the cold void to the bubble of gas that enveloped Heliopolis. This close to his city the field Aelius had set up to warn him of intruders would herald her arrival. Well, hers and Liana’s. She glanced at her new friend and smiled, for a moment forgetting how they had met. Liana was pressed against the inside of the bubble watching as Heliopolis grew from a disant, though intense, light to the city of marble it was in truth. Turning her own gaze onto the city, Asceal’s grin faded. Much of it was still in ruins. Hadn’t Aelius had time enough to repair his home by now? She wasn’t sure how long she’d writhed in pain before summoning the will to save herself, nor how long she had spent rescuing Liana, but it couldn’t have been so short a time.

She hoped Melantha had not returned. Aelius had been in no shape to fight another battle, especially not alone. If Melantha had returned she could have overpowered Aelius and… Asceal shuddered as the memory of her own Furnace failing entered her mind.

No, she nervously ran a hand through her glowing hair and shook her head, it wasn't worth considering. Aelius had probably just taken a moment to recover his strength. Melantha was gone. Before she could dwell on the line of thought her bubble touched down on Heliopolis and evaporated, depositing Asceal and Liana before Aelius’s palace. Liana stumbled and caught herself before looking around in awe, but Asceal only had eyes for the one standing in front of the great edifice he had erected.

She wasn’t sure what to say, but at least the fear that Aelius, her first friend, had come to harm evaporated as she regarded him. With a relieved smile she all but whispered, “Aelius…”

Aelius’s stomach was ready to leap out of his throat. He blinked, once, and then twice. He opened his mouth but there were no words. Hadn’t he just seen the Gardens explode? And yet, she was here. Asceal was here. His eyes threatened to run again. Aelius was down the steps in an instant. In the next, he pressed Asceal to his chest and cried into her hair.

Aelius held her for minutes until gradually, his body stopped heaving. He forced his weight off Asceal’s shoulders. The lump in his throat reduced his voice to a pathetic squeal of, “I thought you were gone.”

She hadn’t noticed it, the cold numbness that had taken hold of her body and dulled her every sense in the moments since her world had been shattered. Shock wasn’t something she knew, and unconsciously she had attributed the feeling to an injury she’d been unable to mend. It was only upon seeing Aelius overcome with such emotion that she felt sensation begin to return to her, and with it came the tears she’d once stifled in the wreckage of her home.

She returned his embrace and wept with him, and when he finally let go she nearly pulled him back in. She was afraid the cold would come back. It was a terrible moment before she realized the warmth he’d returned to her had lingered and even grown in the seconds since they’d parted.

His admission hurt to hear, and she was unable to meet his gaze when she replied, “I know and… I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything.”

“What do you have to be sorry for?” Aelius asked, stooping to look at her face. “I thought the blast had taken you, and - and I blamed myself for it. But you? You owe an apology to no one, Asceal.”

A look of anguish passed over Asceal’s face and she finally met Aelius’s eyes, “You don’t know yet? Oh Aelius, you haven’t seen it have you? They’re gone. They’re all gone and it’s my fault.”

The look on her face tore at Aelius. He didn’t know what she meant by ‘they’re gone,’ but she was clearly distressed. He opened his mouth to reply, but as he stooped to look at Asceal, he noticed her companion for the first time, just a few paces away. Suddenly embarrassed, he said, “I’m sorry. Who might this be?”

Asceal looked back at Liana, who seemed quite content to ignore the gods’ conversation in favour of gawking at Heliopolis, and took a deep breath before smiling weakly, “Her name is Liana. She’s the only one I was able to save, Aelius, one among billions and billions. It wasn’t easy, wrenching her from his grasp.”

Aelius raised an eyebrow. “Who’s grasp? What do you mean billions?” There was clearly more going on than he had realized. Just how long did he spend gawking at the sky?

“He-” Asceal’s breath caught and anger crept into her next words, “Katharsos, he killed them all Aelius. I was such a fool, so obsessed with spreading my light, with offering all those lost souls some measure of hope, that I didn’t even notice when he did it. When he took them. When he stole them from Galbar and murdered them.”

Aelius’s brow furrowed. Katharsos. He wasn’t familiar with him at all. He’d left the Architect’s hall just as soon as he’d arrived, not one to mingle with his peers. Aelius’s Architect-given knowledge gave him only a vague understanding of the god’s role and power, and based on what Asceal was telling him, none of it was good.

“Why would he do that?” Aelius wondered out loud. “Why is everyone bent on destroying what we’ve been sent to nourish?” A pang of anger lodged itself in Aelius’s gut as he hissed those words. He forced his body to relax and took a deep breath. “What do we do when everyone is against us, Asceal? I… I don’t know,” he admitted.

“We do all that we can Aelius,” Her eyes lit up, burning with resolve, “I saved one, just one among billions, but it mattered. I don’t care who stands against me, I don’t care how terrible or wicked they might be, I will do everything I can for those souls less fortunate than us. Whether they survive Katharsos massacre or are reformed from the horrid ashes of its aftermath, I won’t abandon them.”

In those eyes, Aelius saw passion for life. It was the same passion he saw in her at the Architect's hall, only now it was honed, tensed like the string of a bow ready to fire. Just as it did back then, her passion stirred his heart and inspired him. Even in the face of overwhelming loss, she had such zeal.

“Come and rest a while,” Aelius said, leading Asceal up the steps by the arm. “You too, Liana!” he called to the soul. He smiled through the mess of emotions that tangled in his core. “I think we all could use some time to recoup from our trials. And then, we do what the Architect brought us here to do.”



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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Goldeagle1221
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Goldeagle1221 I am Spartacus!

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FP: 10 MP: 05


The midday heat of Heliopolis basted over K’nell as the god sat alone. Under his pants a flat stone warmed, and before him he watched his latest creations in motion. In the blue distance mountains shifted, but before that stretched a seemingly endless plain, it’s dirt cloaked in a brilliant red grass that felt akin to velvet and smelled of sugar. The ruby landscape was crowded with herds of trees, their massive roots creating large ditches and potholes as they stampeded across the plains. Little driplets of groundwater slowly filled the ditches, creating puddles which swarms of tiny cotton ball shaped pollinators sipped. The little things were made out of clouds, much to K’nells amusement, and now and again when two collided they’d sprinkle a little rain, sometimes accompanied by tiny popping sounds and even static.

K’nell watched amused as the tiny things crowded over bunches of flowers that grew on a completely see-through vine, fit for tripping the unaware, somehow the pollen of the flowers sticking to the cloundlings. Small beasts and beings, flora and fauna completed the circle of ecology before K’nell, and for the moment, he was at a certain peace.

A small sigh echoed around the unmoving smile and the god let himself lay back flat against the heated stone. His eyes looked straight ahead, getting lost in the great blue above. Popping cloudlings mused his ears, and the sweet aroma of the fields tantalized his nose, in all, he was stimulated. If it were any other being witnessing this paradise, comfort may have soon turned into a peaceful sleep filled with fuzzy thoughts and silly dreams, but such things never came to K’nell, for he was such things.

His brow furrowed, he was such things.


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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Antarctic Termite
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Antarctic Termite Resident of Mortasheen

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Chopstick had been gliding for some time. The winds that swept from the Blue, though rather inconsistent, were more than enough to hold her aloft if she was careful to follow them; it made for a swift and random journey and she had seen many things.

She saw islands with jungles, and birds of every colour, a sure sign that Azura had been nearby. Another was wrung with purple vines, vines that seemed tasty, if... very, very spicy. She saw bright colours rippling their tentacles on a hidden island just beneath the water.

She saw the continent where she had left the other Chopstick, now starting to brighten up with orange and grey-green, and full of all kinds of new scars. She saw the new continent, Pāṟa, on which a darker, dimmer green was forming. She saw the vast mass of Swahitteh-Tendlepog, flickering with strange energies, when she could see it at all.

Eventually she came back to the islands, one of which was oh shit oh fuck oh crap oh no.

Chopstick dipped the glider's wing as far as it could go, veering north to avoid the spectacle of an island burning at midnight. The Phoenix gobbled down charred meat and bone, and when it was done she could hear the crinkling sound of something chewing charcoal. If nothing else, the heat billowing from the island worked in her favour, and she caught an updraft and departed swiftly, hoping she wasn't followed.

Phystene would be pissed.

She was some ways north-east of the archipelago, now, and entering a dense bank of clouds. It was the first time she had navigated the like, but with a bit of divine oomph, she managed to climb to the higher-altitude winds without getting too wet. From here, she danced around the cloud pillars as through a landscape of grey, lit here and there by flashes of lightning that burned within the clouds.

Chopstick squinted. Was it just her, or was there a silhouette of something inside one of those clouds?

Something like... a ring?

...

Oh you BET I can make that. Descending again, Chopstick circled the ring one more time, then angled herself towards it. You bet I can hit that DEAD center-

The world disappeared around her and she crashed into a lake.

Chopstick Eyes fished her head out of the steamy spa, shook water out of her eyes and looked around. Her kite lay floating beside her. Beyond, a pretty little fogged-up landscape, and a manor house, well-maintained.

"...Huh."


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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Leotamer
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Leotamer

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Parvus
____

Parvus walked to the central, northmost Fel Island, which he had named Caput. The ocean waves were to free to intrude into the shallow northern beaches. A reef would secure the beaches, which he intended to use later, as well as grow new toxins. However, he doubted Ashalla would appreciate simply pouring primordial venom into her waters directly.

He gathered a sizable amount of rocks on the sandy beaches of Caput. He waved his hand over the pile, and green veins danced across their surface. He stabbed into the stack of rocks using his stinger, causing the lines of power to writhe and turn purple. One by one, he tossed the stones into the shallows. As they sank, they changed and began to form into a semi-circular coral reef surrounding the northern beach. Sand flaked off of the poison infused stone and transformed into jellyfish, sea cucumbers, pufferfish, and various other toxic marine life.

After inspecting the reef for any faults, he decided that he needed to expand his influence beyond that of the Fel Isles. He already knew of the Eye of Desolation, and that it already had fledgling life as well as being relatively close to the Fel Isles, making it a low priority.

He spent some time walking across the ocean, looking for new lands, eventually encountering the strange lands of Swahhitteh-Tendlepog. He could feel the residual energies from both K'nell and Eurytheses. He wanted to expand his influence to all of the major landmasses, while still be respectful of the other gods. He watched as the mountains moved, and noticed how the entire continent had illusionary aspects. While he did not wish to disrupt the nature of this place, he wanted a foothold here.

He thought for a few moments about how to best fit an ecosystem into the strange landscape. After a moment, he completed his mental preparations. He moved to the mountains, choosing it as an ideal location. He took a single leaf from his head and crushed it into the ground. From that spot, moss spread across the mountainside as though it were grass. Various strangely shaped mushrooms sprouted from the moss blanket. He tapped the ground with his chitin stinger, allowing a mere drop of primordial venom to permeate the fungal growths with poison. All of the fungi within this region had varying degrees of poison. However, none of the toxins had a strong influence on the body. Instead, the poison influenced the mind, and for the most part, had perception-altering effects.

From the moss blanket, he caused large, tree-sized mushrooms to grow from the ground. They were blue, semi-transparent, bio-luminescent, and contained mind-altering toxins. Fungi of his species almost always had a bend in the stock.

He then created edible mushrooms among the growth that appeared identical to various poisonous mushrooms that already existed. As a nod to K'nell, he created a fungus which caused whatever ate it to become drowsy.

He crushed his injured hand, drawing out a small bit of ichor and allowed it to drop to the ground. He created a few mundane insects, however, he also created a few exotic insects unique to Tendlepog. Butterflies which could only be seen by the still and quiet for a few moments. Moths who changed their patterns every time they went unobserved. Crickets who had songs that sounded like lullabies.

After that, he sat down on the fungal growth and rested for a moment, and considered what to create next.





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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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Once again, Shengshi stood on the deck of his ship squat in the middle of the Giant’s Bath, only this time, there was a weak current pulling him towards the north. Furthermore, opening the portal to Fengshui Fuyou seemed to have overfilled the Giant’s Bath - now, water ran down all sides. Shengshi looked to the direction opposite of Beihe. The distance harboured little more than barren, pointy rocks in varying shapes and sizes.

Wait, what was that? Shengshi slithered over to the railing of the ship and leaned forward, as if it would help his eyes focus on the small, flexible lines on the horizon. Had the mud worms made it through the portal and grown enormous in the span of a few minutes?

The snake scratched his chin.

“Well, only one way to find out!” he voiced with a grin. He turned around and reached out his hand, grasping the air. The thundering waterfalls below suddenly ceased.

“Waters of Beihe, your master calls!” Shengshi lifted his clenched fist. The horizon to the north was suddenly blocked by a slowly climbing pillar of water that curved and bent across the sky above the ship.

“Your task is simple - make yourself a sibling!” With that, the pillar shot forth downwards like a harpoon and broke the stone wall on the south-western edge of the Giant’s Bath in a spectacle of rock and foam. As he had done with Beihe, Shengshi grasped the waters still and had them forcefully dig their way ahead. After a few minutes, the third river of Galbar had been carved - the longest in the realm. Shengshi grinned smugly.

“Perfect. I think I shall call this one…” He pondered for a moment and naturally arrived at the most creative name he could think of: “I name you Nanhe, the southern river! Now… Onwards!” With that, the ship turned towards the new south-western flow and sailed down the waterfall and towards the southern tip of the continent. On the way, Shengshi prepared his calligraphy set and made great efforts to immortalise the moment in a poem.




“What the?” Phystene’s quiet question was lost as the sounds of destruction, of stone being torn asunder, echoed all across the continent. She had been in the process of checking on the progress of her lichen and rock worms, progress that she was thus far quite pleased with, when the sounds began. Her interest in the dirt below her temporarily lost as she looked around for what new Galbar shattering incident had begun.

New meteors? She looked up and saw nothing new in the sky. Perhaps someone had created a tsunami? No. It would have sounded different. She closed her eyes and listened to the horrendous sound. It sounded almost like… it was certainly coming from further east than her current position.

Deciding that she wouldn’t be able to learn anything new from her current position, Phystene turned towards what she suspected the source of the sound was and headed off. Hopefully this wouldn’t be some world ending crisis like what the last few days had brought.




Shengshi had only gotten halfway into his poem before he had left his room in a hurry to take in the unfamiliar surroundings. The gray, jagged mixture of rock and sand had disappeared, instead giving way to strange, sea-green nets that covered the stones not already buried in dirt. Furthermore, he noticed that the wiggly lines on the horizon earlier had not at all been mud worm escapees, but a much larger and more menacing type of worm, which diet seemed to be the very ground it traversed. This was surely the work of another god, and surely enough, the divine aura soon pulsed through the air like a gentle breeze.

The water drill in the distance had stopped - it had surely reached the ocean. As Shengshi observed the uncharacteristically blackish brown surroundings, he felt yet another spark of inspiration strike; the snake promptly slithered back up to his room to continue his poem - no, a painting, he would make! Augmented with a poem!

The surroundings were indeed too beautiful to not chronicle to the most miniscule detail: where land and ocean met - the first great river delta. He set up his canvas on his personal veranda. The divine presence grew stronger, however. It would seem the painting would have to wait. He slowed the currents underneath his ship and walked over to the railing for his veranda.

“I do not believe we ever got the pleasure of a proper introduction, dearest sister.”

Phystene looked up from where she knelt next to the new river, a warm smile spread across her face. She waved at Shengshi with her right hand while her left remained submerged in the river. “The pleasure is mine.” She paused for a moment before asking “Is this recent addition to the continent your doing?”

Shengshi bowed deeply. “Indeed. I hope I am not a disturbance to your most beautiful work. Oh, pardon me for a moment. I will be right down.” With that, the snake promptly went back into his chambres and made the quick trek down to the deck, where he promptly hopped off the ship and into the river below. He swam over to where Phystene was testing the waters and slithered ashore.

“There. Our throats would quick parch had we been standing so far apart shouting to one another. Also, this is so much cozier. How are you? How has creation been treating you?”

“I am better now that I have this beautiful river to quench my thirst.” Phystene answered. “When I first heard the sounds its creation caused - I’m assuming it was you making all that noise - I had feared that it was yet another tsunami or meteor strike. It's nice to know at least a few other deities are interested in creation more so than destruction.” Her voice had become tinted with sarcasm.

“Still” She continued, “setting that aside I have enjoyed my new existence greatly. I’m sure you’ve seen some of my work on your way here. It isn’t much, yet, but soon the soil created by my lichen and worms will nourish even greater life.”

Shengshi sighed. “Yes, our sibling flock does have a few…” He rolled the words around his in his mouth for a moment. “Well, never mind that. Yes! I did see your work! Lichen, is that what you called those fancy, uh… Nets? Is it a form of grass? Fungus, perhaps?”

“It's actually a combination of several organisms.” Phystene answered. “To think of them as fungi wouldn’t be too far off the mark.” She shrugged. “I created them to help break down the rock on this continent. They aren’t the fastest at that task, I created something else for speed, but the sheer amount of area I was able to cover with them more than makes up for that.”

The snake nodded, grinning. “Ah, a most wise solution! One that can last so that you will not have to manage the process, as well. A most admirable idea!” The snake gazed around. “Speaking of ideas… I may or may not have one, though it may require the use of some of this dirt. Humour me for a moment, if you would, please.”

The snake snapped his fingers and a globule of water came rushing over the edge of the ship carrying now wet paper and a calligraphy set. It exploded as soon as it left the ship, but Shengshi took control of the soaring water and used it to catch the flying tools, bring them safely down his level before he snatched them and let the water climb back up the side of the ship.

“I really have to use something else than paper to write on…” he muttered sheepishly. He quickly sketched a map of the region based on what he remembered from Urhu’s map and painted a circle around the south-western tip of the continent.

“We are here, correct?”

“I believe so, yes.” Phystene answered with a raised eyebrow. “You realize that’s made from dead trees, right?”

Shengshi slowly turned his head from Phystene to the sad, soggy sheet of paper. “... Huh… Imagine that.” He cleared his throat sheepishly. “I, uh… I can probably write on a rock if that would make you more comfortable,” he proposed with an uncertain grin on his face.

“It’s fine” Phystene answered with a chuckle. “The forest provides for all, as long as nothing is taken in greed.”

Shengshi let out a sigh of relief. “Still, I would like to apologise with utmost sincerity for this transgression. It was an amateurish choice of surface to draw on, and I am deeply sorry.” The snake bowed before the goddess, perhaps a little longer and a little deeper than necessary.

“I accept your apology, though I don’t feel it was truly necessary.” Phystene said. “To be honest I was simply… poking fun at you? I didn’t believe you were using paper out of any sense of greed and now I feel vindicated in that belief.” She seemed to be intentionally not looking at Shengshi’s ship. “But enough about this. You said you had an idea?”

The snake snapped to and turned back to the soggy paper. “Yes! Right, idea!” He regained his composure and gestured to the surrounding land. “I propose a union of cooperation - a union of gods to bring verdant life to this continent, starting here. Your creations have made much of this land prime for plants grand and small. I present you with this river, Nanhe, as well as any offshoots I may carve further up - all to colour this region green in the name of creation!” He paused for effect. “What say you?”

“I would be honored to partake in a partnership with you.” Phystene said with a smile. “And I had hoped that was your idea. With Nanhe here now, we have the perfect conditions to begin spreading plants and animals on this continent.”

She waved her hand at the surrounding area as as she did so grasses and shrubs began to emerge from the fresh soil. The occasional tree sprang to life where there was enough soil to support it, breaking up the tapestry of grass and shrubs that now covered the landscape. She focused her energies on the river and fish, amphibians, and other freshwater creatures began to appear. “A gift for you, friend.”

Shengshi lowered his torso and leaned forward to greet the beautiful little creatures. His eyes teared up at the sight and he stood up again, smiling sentimentally at Phystene. “What amazing little animals you have created. I am most grateful.” He bowed.

Her gaze shifted to Shengshi’s ship and her smile momentarily wavered. “Would you mind doing me a minor favor and move that....” She gestured towards his ship, her voice possessing just a hint of disgust despite her best efforts “someplace else?”

Shengshi looked at the ship and sneered. “Oh, of course. Just a moment, please.” He clapped his hands and a few globules tossed some pots of wine and a basket of what one could assume was picnic supplies overboard. Shengshi caught them all, with the exception of a single bottle of freshly made cider. He faked a whimper.

“That is unfortunate… Regardless, here we are.” He put the supplies down on the riverbank and pointed to the ship.

“Await me back in the Giant’s Bath. I will be staying for a while.” With that, the currents underneath the ship switched directions, shoving the ship back upstream in a terrible hurry. The tumultuous waters left behind splashed the river banks and sent the occasional fish flying out of the water. Shengshi made an effort to capture the flying fish in some water globules and toss them back, however. After ensuring that every last fish had been returned to its home, he turned to Phystene with a smile.

“Before we start, allow me to return the gift with one of my own.” The snake reached into his picnic basket and pulled out a bottle of wine which he promptly offered to Phystene.

“What is this?” She asked as she accepted the bottle, tapping the glass with a finger. She tilted her head to the side as she gazed at the strange object. She grabbed the bottle by its neck and hefted it as if it was some kind of club, giving Shengshi a bemused smile as she did so.

The snake snickered as she made an attempt to weaponize his most prized possession and reached out to her. He gently relieved her hand of the bottle, flipped it, uncorked it and gave it back.

“There. Place the opening to your lips and have a taste. It is a little something I have been working on. I call it wine!”

Phystene kept her bemused expression, but did as Shengshi had told her. She slowly lifted the bottle to her lips and tipped back. It became immediately apparent that she wasn’t used to consuming substance in this way, as some of the wine escaped out the corner of her mouth and began to run down her cheek, to her jaw, and continued down her neck.

“Grapes?” She asked as she finished her sip, seemingly unconcerned by the wine that hadn’t quite made it down her throat.

Shengshi gave the bottle a look. “I believe that one I made from lychee, actually. A little sweeter than most grapes.” He tapped his chin. “Is it not good?”

“It is… odd” Phystene answered after a moment of silence. “This is the first time I’ve gained nourishment this way. The sensations are… very odd.” She tilted her head to the side again. “It reminds me of something else from my… original world.”

Without much forewarning, the ground shook, strongly enough for it to be clear that it was not the wine taking effect. Then again. And again.

In the distance, what had dimly seemed to be one of the peaks of Qiangshan was conspicuously drawing closer. Before long, its metallic glimmer and fiery lights at the pinnacle became visible; a little later, and the sound of low rhythmical humming reached the two gods.

By the time the immense figure stopped in its tracks, it was clear enough this was not a mountain that had taken to walking for some reason.

”Shengshi, was that?” Narzhak’s thunderous voice called out from somewhere above, ”Phystene? That you?”

“Oh… hey you.” Phystene said with a flat voice. Her eyes focused on the metal armor he wore and she shifted her weight from foot to foot. “I would love to stay and converse further, but I have so much to do” She kept her voice controlled, albeit a bit rushed.

Her gave shifted to Shengshi as she gave him a slightly dishonest smile. “Oh look a new plant.” She gestured towards the river, where some reeds of sugarcane had begun to grow at her command. “Maybe you two could do something with it?”

Shengshi raised an eyebrow. “Wait, you leavi-...?”

One of the giant’s hand rose to disappear high above, and a loud scraping of iron on iron echoed down. ”...I guess we could?” The towering god sounded more perplexed than anything. ”Take one, sharpen the tip, skewer something with it. I’m sure there’s better things you can do with it, though. Maybe throw it instead.”

Shengshi looked first at Narzhak, then back at Phystene who seemed to be shuffling further and further away.

“My word, I hope the wine did not taste that bad.”

“It was fine.” She gave Shengshi a strained smile. “And it looks like you guys have things under control over here.” She inched further away. “So…. I’m going to go to the ocean and… make a coral reef or something to… try and mitigate some of the risks of a tsunami washing all of this away.” The last part was much more of a question than a statement.

Shengshi raised a finger in objection and then looked back up at Narzhak. He took a moment to absent-mindedly count the number of plants the giant likely had crushed on its way over and put two and two together.

“Aaaah, I see. Well, I whole-heartedly support this, uh…” He plucked at his beard. “... Idea? Yes, idea. Go make that quarrel beef- CORAL REEF. We will, uh, manage.”

“Great!” Phystene said, a genuine smile finally appear on her face. “Well good day to you. Shengshi. Narzhak.” She gave each a nod of her head before she turned and ran away.

Shengshi waved perhaps a little too enthusiastically before turning to Narzhak. “So, dearest brother…” He gulped. “How are you?”


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A voice brought awareness to Orvus’ senses, and he opened his eyes to blackness. He was in the nothingness again, and the overwhelming sense of peace he once had, washed over him like a gentle wave. He had longed for this moment the minute he had entered into… The Architect’s moon… He looked around, suddenly aware that this wasn’t right. He was not in the nothingness, he lay at the bottom of a crushing ocean. Unable to move because of the shame he felt. Because of the moon…

Just as it came, his peace abandoned him. Disrupted by a peel of laughter. High pitched and infuriating in tone. Orvus spun around to see himself. Four of himself to be precise, each a different color, and one was oddly shaped like a female.

There was a blue Orvus, a red Orvus, a purple Orvus, and the female Orvus was an inverted version of himself, color wise. They sat around a circular wooden table, suspended in the space before him. The table was bare, except for an odd dagger. It looked so familiar, but Orvus couldn’t quite place it. Each of these Orvus’ had different expressions in their eyes.

The blue Orvus held one of emptiness and sorrow, while the red Orvus looked perpetually enraged, while he fidgeted in his seat. The purple Orvus looked joyous, his eyes seemed to be smiling and both of his hands were interlocked upon the table. Almost as if he was expecting something. When Orvus looked at the female version of himself, her black eyes expressed boredom and as if she would rather have been anywhere else. These Orvus’ confused Orvus to say the least.

The Purple Orvus then spoke. His voice was perpetually delightful, and Orvus found it highly irritating.

”Well, what are waiting for you? Take a seat Orvus! We’ve been expecting your arrival for some time now.” The purple Orvus gestured to the spot between the blue and red Orvus. Orvus hesitantly sat down upon the wooden chair, and faced purple Orvus with a blank stare. Purple Orvus didn’t seem to connect with Orvus’ expression and continued talking.

”Who would have thought that talking to yourself would get so boring? Well, spoiler alert, it certainly does! But now that you’re here we can finally begin and I must say, I do hope you will enjoy your time with us. In fact, I might be so bold to say that you are the life of this little party. How would I even know that? Well, it beats me. You see, we couldn’t actually start without you, but now we can! Isn’t that exciting! I think it is! Can’t speak for them oh no, no no no! Can’t do that, it would be highly unsightly for me to speak for them, ya’know? They each have a voice, blessed as they be, but most times I can go on and on and on with myself for eons without a bit of a peep from those guys. Oops! And gal! I always forget about little miss Orvus. We can’t be too discriminating nowadays. Everyone matters and agendas can’t be forced, Orvus. At least that’s what they tell me, or that’s what I tell myself? Ahaha! Isn’t that deliciously confusing? Let me explain! Like I said just a little bit ago, they hardly ever speak, so then how would I know what I know? By talking to myself of course! Not like what you’re thinking, but like how I’m thinking! Get it, Orvus? Oh of course you do, fine fellow like yourself. So dapper in that suit and tie of yours. Hey look! Don’t we all just look fantastically fantastic?” the purple Orvus paused, his eyes seemed to smirk.

Further confused, Orvus looked down at himself to see that he was wearing clothing. A suit of the purest white, and when Orvus looked up the others were wearing suits and ties as well. Even female Orvus was wearing a fine black. The other three Orvus had the matching color to their bodies, and purple Orvus somehow had a cane. Surprisingly, the clothing didn’t bother him, but when purple Orvus began to speak again, he was bothered. It was no wonder the others didn’t speak, why add fuel to the fire when it was burning fine all the same?

”Tentatively tenacious as always Orvus. Why this reminds me of the one time red Orvus decided to fight a rubber duck wearing only his birthday suit. Can you imagine that? Orvus in his birthday suit? Ahahaha, how preposterous! Being in the nude is only acceptable for procreation, or for a nice warmth bath after a bit of lunch on a sunny day after having enjoyed a picnic with the misses and kid. Maybe kids if you’re feeling frisky. How stupendous! But why, you might ask, not take a shower? Well, let me tell you. It all begins with a flaming pe-”

”ENOUGH!” boomed the red Orvus as he bashed his fist into the table, shattering it instantly into small pieces. For a brief second, all Orvus could see were splinters, but he blinked and the table was back to how it was before, unscathed. The knife was still there as well.

Purple Orvus began to laugh uncontrollably, and the blue Orvus began to cry. This prompted the red Orvus to start pestering the blue Orvus, calling him a wimp, and baby for letting his emotions out of control. Oh the irony. Their exchange was one sided, with red only wanting blue to man up and take control of his own actions. Orvus was beginning to feel as if something was wrong. There was only one of him, wasn't there? And when exactly had they ended up above Galbar? Orvus looked around, everything looked as it should have been, and Veradax was there as well. He looked at his beautiful sphere with satisfaction. His moon still flashed with scarlet lightning, all across the orb. It truly was perfect, but somehow Orvus couldn't help but feel that something was missing. Hadn't a part of his moon exploded…?

”Shut up! The lot of you! You’re embarrassing yourselves in front of Orvus.” echoed a female voice, which brought Orvus’ attention back to the table. He cocked his head as he looked to the female version of himself. Her voice was different then the others. Bittersweet and soft, but laced with spite, it just was. All eyes were on her, and the quiet was godly. She turned to look at Orvus, her black eyes glowed softly in the waning light of the sun.

”Do you know why we are here, Orvus?”

He shook his head no.

”We’re here to play a game. You see that knife there?”

He shook his head yes.

”That knife is called H̸̡̧͇̪̜̟̃͌͛̋͒̒̋̃̅͒̑̊̽̎͆̀͝ơ̷̯͙͈͖̯̜͂͌͑͌̅͛͛͑́͝p̴̟̳͙͙̼͉͍̂̍̅͛̍̽͊͘͝͝e̸̛̫̅͒͐̑͐̐̓̕͠͝. Do you understand?”

Orvus didn’t understand, whatever she had tried to say came out a garbled mess, but before he could say no, she continued on.

”Good, Orvus. We are ready to begin. Now spin the knife.”

All eyes were on him, holding mixed expressions. Tentatively, he reached for the blade and grasped the metal with his hands. He felt compelled to spin the knife, and he didn’t know why, but he did.

Each Orvus watched the knife spin with anticipation. It began to slow down with each rotation, and at last when it stopped, the blade pointed at the purple Orvus.

”Ah, what a bother.” The knife, guided by an invisible hand, then lurched forward and planted itself in his chest. Purple Orvus began to fall forward before his body turned to dust. The knife was mysteriously at the center of the table again.

”GOOD RIDDANCE!” boomed the red Orvus.

”H-He was like a-an Orvus to me.” came the weak voice of the blue Orvus.

”That was fun, now time to spin again.” whispered the female Orvus, before reaching forward to spin the knife.

Unlike before, the knife spun once before stopping on the blue Orvus. He bowed his head as the knife lurched forward, turning his body to dust.

There was silence this time, not a word spoken. Orvus began to feel… afraid. There was three of them left, and he did not want to be next.

The red Orvus spun the knife this time. Orvus watched it like a hawk, but it kept spinning and wouldn’t stop. Perplexed at this, he looked up only to find that the red Orvus remained and he was looking at him with malice.

”You’re probably wondering where she went.” red Orvus spoke, his voice no longer booming. Instead it was calm, collected and but a whisper of ill intent.

”She doesn’t exist. She never did. None of this does. It’s all going on inside your twisted little head, Orvus. How tragic, in the end, you’re so alone that you must dream up company. And poor company at that.” The red Orvus rose, towering above him like a mountain.

His words were as sharp as any knife, and Orvus began to tremble. He no longer knew what to think. What even was a dream? Before he could think more, red spoke down to him.

”Look at you. You’re so weak. So scared. So alone. So rejected.You poor thing.” Red sneered.

”S-stop…” Orvus whispered. Just like blue had.

”S-stop,” the red Orvus mocked as he swiped the table aside with a massive hand. ”Do you even hear yourself? Pathetic!” red exclaimed before slapping Orvus aside like a toy.

He was sent sprawling, on a cold hard stone. He looked up, to see smoke and flame engulfing the edges of his vision. Red Orvus stood before him, smaller now but no less intimidating. In his hand, was the knife.

”I have never met a more worthless creature in my life. Everything you touch turns to dust. Your first impulse was to destroy! Not create beautiful things with your siblings, but to destroy them.”

”Stop!” he cried out as he trembled on his hands and knees. He didn’t want to hear it anymore. But red did not stop talking as he walked closer.

”How sadistic and cruel. Is it really a wonder you can’t feel anything? Who would EVER want to be touched by you? Look what you did to Seihdhara! You brutalized her as if she were nothing. You threw an asteroid at her because you were angry. You’re a monster, Orvus. You don’t deserve kindness, or compassion. The only thing you deserve is a dagger to the heart.”
Seihdhara…” Orvus whimpered. Tears of light began to fall from his eyes, each time he blinked they fell to the stone and shattered into pieces that could never be put back together. Everything red told him was true, and he could not bare such thoughts. He was a monster. He tried so hard to create, to feel anything but negativity, that he had already scarred the universe with his influence. With his desolation.

”Tsk tsk, still coming to terms with it all Orvus? Even in the face of death, you are powerless. I’m not even surprised. You, a being of destruction, to be feared be all! Cowering before me, a dream, like some mongrel dog. Bah!” red chastised, now standing above him.

”Why don’t you look at me!” red shouted as he kicked Orvus in the side, sending him sprawling across the floor like before.

”Just this once, stop pitying yourself and face me like a GOD! Get up and fight, or die like the nothing that you are!” red screamed, before charging at Orvus.

Orvus was going to let himself die, it only seemed right. He was destruction and served no purpose in the grand order of things. But before red was upon him, he had a selfish thought. He didn’t want to die.

And so Orvus looked up at red, his expression no longer sad, but full of rage.

”I! SAID! STOP!” and his aura erupted from his body and the flaming world was quenched in dark.




Suddenly he was floating before an unmarred Veradax. He looked around and did not see red, but instead the female Orvus. She floated nearby. A sense of relief washed over him at the sight of her presence. Her expression was blank, lie at the table but Orvus didn’t notice. Instead, he floated towards her.

”I...I thought you didn’t exist? That you weren’t real?” he said, no longer sounding so unsure of himself. No longer sounding like he was slow, or struggling to speak. His whispered voice was layered. It was low, dead sounding and yet still there was a trace of soft, honeyed words.

The female Orvus looked to him and spoke much the same as she had sounded before, ”Exist? I do, but only in here.” she gestured before her, ”I am more of a possibility. Something that could come to pass, or not, thus I remain.”

He floated next to her now, staring deep into the abyss of her eyes. ”Where is here? None of this is… real, is it? I remember Veradax shattering and yet, there it is. Unscathed.”

She sighed, ”Here is inside your head. Red wasn’t lying, you know. You are asleep Orvus, and have taken a journey to the Palace of Dreams. This is K’nell’s domain. Wasn’t it obvious?”

Orvus thought for a moment in the quiet, and it was obvious all along. He had simply been blinded by what he hadn’t wanted to see. ”Yes...I suppose. So why are you here?”

”You called me here. You know why. You wanted an escape from the torment of Red, thinking me to be any better.” She paused, and looked towards Veradax. Orvus followed her gaze as she spoke again, ”Red is the rage, the anger, the hate that dwells inside of you. Blue is the sorrow, the sadness, the depression. Purple was the joy, and the annoyance. There are others, but even you have not seen them yet.”

”I see... and you are the possibility.” Orvus stated flatly.

”Yes.” she said. ”Red wasn’t wrong Orvus. You are weak, scared, alone, and conflicted.”

Orvus began to shake his head in disbelief, this was not what he had wanted to hear from her.

She turned to look at Orvus again, her expression almost conveying something, but not quite.

”You are never going to be able to create like they do Orvus. Look to Veradax, the perfect example of why you shouldn’t try. Trying will only cause more pain, more suffering. You went against your inherent nature and the price was great upon you.” she whispered softly.

Orvus turned his gaze upon her and back to Veradax, where he watched it explode like before, powerless to do anything about it. He sank to his knees, utterly defeated as the weight of her truth crushed him.

She knelt down beside him, and placed an empty hand upon his back. ”You’re still not seeing the bigger picture Orvus. Look at me.” she said in a commanding voice.

Orvus hesitated, not capable of wanting to listen, but listen he did and so he looked upon her face.

”Your problem, is that you won’t embrace your nature. You are the end of all things, Orvus. The destruction of body, mind, and soul. A desolation. You can create things Orvus, but only that which is destined to destroy. You excel at it, you have no greater equal. You are better than them, for only you know true suffering and yet, still have the will to fight on. This is your purpose, Orvus. To create things that destroy, to bring about desolation. Make the architect suffer for disrupting your peace. Make them all feel as you do. Now wake up.”

He felt a sharp pain, and looked down to see the knife’s blade protruding from from his chest.




Not a moment later, his body erupted into light in the murky depths of the ocean. His mind was abuzz with mixed thoughts and gnawing emotions but one thing was abundantly clear, his confliction was no longer so overpowering. His sense of purpose was defined, and as much as he had hated that dream, it had given him precisely what he had sought since the moment of his arrival.

He began to walk, with no destination in mind. It mattered not where he ended up, for he would bring desolation to all.




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The river lord, a mere ant compared to the king of strife and steel, made his most courteous bow in the direction of the colossus.

”It could be worse.” Narzhak had finally stopped perfunctorily scratching his head, and gazed over the newly verdant landscape surrounding them. ”There’s these pebbles that keep falling on my head, but that blast was worth it.” He broke into a fit of cackling, recouping himself somewhat faster than the previous time. ”Pity I was not up there to see what’s the matter. There was also that river full of someone’s blood that sprang up on my doorstep. That wouldn’t happen to be one of yours?” He pointed a thumb over his shoulder, inasmuch as could be seen, as he spoke.

The snake let out a sigh. “No, I believe myself to be above creating such appalling excuses for rivers,” he said sourly. Remembering to check his attitude, he made an attempt to remove the bitterness in his voice. “Say, what brings you down to this part of the country? My word, had I known there more of my siblings would come, i would have brought more wine!” He chuckled cordially.

A wave from a gigantic hand raised a sudden gust of wind. ”Don’t mind that, I’m just surveying the grounds. I feel there will be all the time in the world to sit in a cavern, and it’s best to take stock of things while they’re still in motion. A good moment to do my part, too.” Narzhak’s eyes glinted asked as he lowered his head to one side. ”What’s this wine you speak of?” he added as a perceivable afterthought.

“Oh, ‘tis but a mere hobby of mine, if you will. A drink of most exquisite flavour - a drink with the power to even influence the mind’s control of the form, even our divine minds.” He tapped his chin pensively. “I actually have yet to test the drink on a mortal subject. I suppose I ought to do that someday… But yes, wine!” He lowered himself down and rummaged through his picnic basket, which thankfully had not been swept away by the natural forces awoken by Narzhak’s approach. He pulled out a small bottle, which he handed to Narzhak. It was likely the size of a speck to him - a miniature of a tiny candy.

Two fingers that could have well passed for hilltops descended from above to grasp the container with careful, almost mechanical accuracy, before disappearing in the blue yonder along with it. What transpired up there was indistinguishable from the ground, but a satisfied rumbling betrayed that the liquor had reached its destination. ”Not bad,” the Iron God remarked as the tip of his hand was lowered once again, this time holding a fully emptied bottle whose mouth was stained with some sort of thick black grime, ”But it’d be even better if it was stronger. I could do something about that. You have a spare one?

The snake shook his head apologetically. “I fear that was all I brought. Again, had I known that we would have been graced with your company, I would naturally have brought more.” Shengshi shot the newly sprouted sugarcane a look. “Although…” He slithered over and picked a few reeds.

“Humour me for a moment, please. I may have an idea.”

A conspicuous twisting of the shadows on the ground reflected Narzhak’s nod. ”Go ahead.”

The snake proceeded to carve a hole for brewing. He filled it with water and the crushed up reeds, followed finally by a handful of Sleeper’s Sand yeast from a sack. He stirred the waters to let the yeast breathe deep in the surrounding air as it ate its fill of sugars and protein. This process had become nearly second nature to him - a ritual of sorts. The brewing process, spurred on by divine influence, was almost instant, producing a liquid that gave off the familiar stabbing scent. He filled the bottle Narzhak had given him and filled a cup for himself. He handed the bottle to Narzhak and raised his own cup.

“This should be much stronger, dearest brother.”

Once again, the bottle rose beyond sight, and grumbling followed. This time, however, its tone was almost flat. ”Grhm. Doesn’t taste that different to me.” The hand holding the empty flask began to move downwards, but stopped midway. ”I think I’ve got something. Hold this.” The giant deposited the speck of glass on the ground before moving some long steps along the river’s course. Then his fist darted up with tremendous speed, and shot in a groundward arc with a tremendous roar.

The blow rang out like a fragment of Orvus’ moon striking the surface, waters rising in impossibly high waves as grass, bushes, fish and other river-dwellers were sent flying for miles around. Clumps of soil were still raining down as Narzhak clambered around the gulch he had dug himself into, smoothing its walls and edges with his hands. Slowly at first, but steadily growing faster and broader, glinting grey stains spread over the earthy cliffs as iron seeped out from them and spread from the behemoth’s claws, layering itself in a smooth, polished coating.

Once the pit was fully covered in metal, Narzhak hauled himself out of it, and lightly stomped down near its mouth. Narrow, deceptively deep cracks spread around its edges, running wide in an almost perfectly circular web, and the glare of welling molten rock soon seeped out from them. The air began to ripple as the gulch’s plated walls heated up.

Retracing his steps to the river, the god stabbed a single finger into the ground and dragged it back, gouging a trench between it and his handiwork. Water poured down the improvised channel, steaming and bubbling as it filled the incandescent basin.

Narzhak took a step back with a satisfied grunt. ”Heat. That always improves things. Try it here.”

Shengshi found himself completely dumbstruck by the spectacle that had just played out before his eyes. It took perhaps a moment too long for him to realise the blast had uprooted the first two hundred metres of forest and shrublands that Phystene and he had just spent half a day making. Furthermore, he realised that the blastwave had sent half the fish in his rivers, along with at least several dozen earthworths, flying into the sea. As such, the god struggled desperately to keep a calm demeanour.

“I assure you, deeeeeaaarest brother of mine. I am -TRULY- grateful for the effort, but there was absolutely. No. Need. To go all this way. A kettle and a fire would have been more than fine.” His voice so bitter that it could have been mistaken for poison. The snake jumped into the river and swam with godlike speed over to the hole.

“So, may I ask, how do you propose we use this?” he said sourly.

If even Narzhak did notice his sibling’s less than pleased tone, its import clearly sailed past his thickly-armoured head. ”When you did your wine-making thing in cold water, it wasn’t strong enough. Now, if you do it in hot ones…” he dipped a fingertip into the rapidly filling rift, and watched amusedly as water drops sizzled on it as it withdrew, ”...I have a feeling it’s going to be much better. If it works, there’ll be enough of the thing not just for us, but the rest of the family, and mortals too. Remind me, I’ll need to do something like this down in the Pit.” he added pensively.

Another dipped finger, and the iron skin was left sizzling with incandescence. ”Should be about ready.”

Shengshi gave the pit a skeptical look. “I think this cauldron is, well, a little big, but we’ll see…” He gave a compliant sigh as he waved the water flowing into the pit to the side, infused it with sugarcane and alcohol and let it brew for a few minutes. Once the boat-sized batch was ready, he sent it over the edge into the depths. A moment of silence broken only by the occasional metallic bubbling from below followed. Then there was a violent rocking in the earth below that was promptly followed by a pillar of steam that came rushing upwards through the shaft. Shengshi sighed.

“See? I told you it was too-!”

He suddenly felt indescribably dizzy - so much so, in fact, that he fell backwards and struggled to get back on his tail again. This was a familiar influence.

”No, hear that? That means it’s work-”

The growling voice stopped, followed by a whistling of air being drawn in through uneven fissures. ”Hmmm.” More whistling, and Narzhak’s bulk leaned dangerously forward as he took in the vapour’s novel smell. ”Now this…” His head swayed lightly in contentment. This is good.”

The snake called some freshwater to himself and used it to quickly purge his body of the alcohol. He shortly thereafter got back to his tail and looked down into the pit, both very frightened and very intrigued.

“Alright, I will admit…” He took a deep breath. “I had my doubts, but in the end, your method proved to yield results. I respect that, dearest brother.” He nodded at the tipsy colossus.
“However, one problem remains - what should we do after the vapours disappear?”

Narzhak righted himself and shook away the fumes from his head, quaking the soil in the process as well. ”Simple. We don’t let them disappear.” He lifted a hand before his eyes, as though measuring some invisible shape. ”If we put something over it to collect them…”

“A smaller size this time, thank you!” Shengshi added curtly. “I’d rather not make a tenth of the continent into a wine factory. At least, not right away...” Shengshi drew up some dimensions in the iron sand left over from the blast earlier.

“Would you be a dear and grab me a handful of molten iron from the bottom of the pit, please?”

An amused snort came in reply. ”Aren’t you the one who likes to dive? Watch and learn.”

With a step, the titan floundered into the bubbling waters, making them churn even further. The jagged crown of his head was the only part of him that remained visible as the shuffled through waves and intoxicating steam, conspicuously sinking from time to time, and after a time decidedly longer than it ought to have taken a vast claw emerged from the small tempest. Cupped in it was a small lake of dense, heavy fluid that breathed with sweltering heat.

Shengshi once again let out a sigh. Just be grateful, he thought to himself. He proceeded to bend some of the molten metal into a cauldron, another bit of it into a lid with a hole on the top, and a pipe that extended upwards and then downwards diagonally. He put the three parts together until they resembled a strange, big-bottomed vase with a severely broken neck.

“Now to light a fire and add the wine…” He quickly realised it might be better to swap the firewood for hot metal and just used some from the molten lake. Even better, he thought, was to trap the heat inside this metal, so that this contraption would never need firewood! Thus, he cast an enchantment upon the contraption - one that let him adjust the temperature with his will, and with no need for fuel. He then added the wine into the cauldron and put a flask underneath the end of the diagonal pipe. Sure enough, the vapours condensed along the pipe’s surface and poured down into the flask. After the flask had been filled to the brim, Shengshi took it, sniffed it and nearly retched.

“My word, what have we created?” He took a small sip and nearly cringed to the point of keeling over. He took a deep breath, held it for a moment or two, and exhaled slowly.
“We may have created a monster, dear brother.” He offered Narzhak the bottle.
For the third time that day, the flask was drained in the unseen heights. And surely, the reaction that followed it was the strongest yet, with a ”Grhum!” that sent a reek of spirits into the breeze.

”I can’t say anything more about the strength, for sure.” The titan’s eyes seemed to flare in a strange way as he lowered the bottle to the ground. ”This is going to kill anyone who’s not us on the spot. Besides, it still tastes…” He paused, slowed in his search for words either by the alcohol or his own lack of eloquence. ”Bland. It’s got a blow, but nothing else. Think you can better that?”

Shengshi, still recovering from the gruesome excuse for a flavour, plucked pensively at his beard with a shaky hand. “I… I could try storing it to see if the flavours develop.” He scratched his head to appear even more pensive. “Though that will take some time, most likely. What I can do for the time being is likely limited to perfecting the mash before the process. That will likely enhance the flavour somewhat.”

Shengshi proceeded to make several batches of the sugarcane wine. He proceeded to distill ten of the batches: Each sample was tasted by the two - the five best were stored on quickly conjured wooden barrels, each crafted from a specific wood type. The five worst were analysed further to find what exactly made them different from the ones stored in barrels.

“I think… I think I may have an idea as to how to improve the wine…” Shengshi proposed. He proceeded to take a few of the samples and blend them. He sipped the final product and found himself caught by surprise.

“Narzhak, my brother… Taste this!” Almost forcefully, the snake thrust a cup of the stuff in the colossus’ direction.

Up it went, and when it returned, it was accompanied by a contented metallic grinding.

”We’ve got it!” The joyous voice, comparable to the sound of an avalanche, and the smell it carried made the sparse surviving stalks of grass nearby droop to the earth in defeat. ”A backbone and a taste! And what if we put more different things in it? A host of flavours, it’d be.”

The snake licked his lips with a forked tongue. “All the things one could mix this with… My dear brother, we may have stumbled upon a goldmine of opportunities here!” Shengshi had another cup of the stuff and savoured the flavours.

“This reminds me of a poem of mine - one that I wrote a long time ago.” He cleared his throat.

”Parted by mountains;
The two rivers meet again;
United, they are strong.”


He bowed to the invisible audience. “Like the rivers unite stronger, so the flavours of different batches cooperate to pleasure the tongue!” He filled yet another cup and handed it to Narzhak. “This warrants another toast!”

”Done. We drink!” With this jarringly prosaic exclamation, the cup was borne away and emptied. The shrill scratching that indicated the Iron God was pondering something followed. ”You said this affects the mind and body. I’m not me if I don’t feel that, but I think there’s more to be done with that than we know now.”

Narzhak gathered up some of the slag he had still been nonchalantly holding in his other hand, and with an agility marvellous given the size of his fingers and the quantity he had drunken he fashioned a small simulacrum of Shengshi’s crucible. ”I’ll have to remember how this is done. There’s people back down home who’ll need to try it. And more.”

Shengshi, now under a considerable influence, waved his hand dismissively. “Of course, of course! Be my guest! Oh, by the way, could you be a… A dear ‘n put this on my ship, just over there?” He pointed first at the distillery, then at his ship, which from his position actually was not visible. To Narzhak, however, he saw clearly a small, golden dot floating in the middle of the Giant’s Bath like a shiny miniature duckling.

”That way? It will be easier if we just…” the colossal god shook the molten iron away from his hand, lifted the original contraption in it and trudged directly into the river. ”...followed the flow.”

For anyone else, wading a flow of water such as that would have been a more than daunting task, but Narzhak seemed undeterred as he made his way upstream, more or less large parts of him alternately disappearing under the waves. Before long, an immense arm stretched out to deposit the distillery onto Shenghi’s vessel, which rocked perilously but held its balance by some miracle.

The snake, who at this point was miles away, snapped out of his daze and hopped into the closest river. After a quick swim to get the alcohol out of his system, he arrived at the Giant’s Bath and boarded his ship. There, he found the distillery on the middle of the deck, somewhat bend after thinking its metallic body could somehow outmatch god-infused mahogany planks. Shengshi looked up at the titan, or made an attempt, anyway.

“Thank you so much! Truly lovely to have so many strong siblings around. Say, what are your plans now, then?”

”This place still looks flat. Dull. There’s plenty of room for improvement, and that’s what we’re here for.” Narzhak made a sweeping gesture towards the horizon, although all that could be seen from their position was water. ”And I need to find out what’s it with these falling stones. They’ll be a nuisance if this carries on, if a funny one.” He stopped to think for a moment, then added, ”And those things I made to manage the Pit. I’ll wager they still can’t even talk. There’s no time to idle for us now, I’ll say.”

The snake nodded weakly, finding himself unable to relate to most of what the giant said. He still kept a smile on his lips, however, and waved his hands enthusiastically.

“Well, I wish you the best of luck in those endeavours. Until we meet again! Oh, and Narzhak…” The snake paused. “Please do not make an attempt to break the continent in half the next time you make something, alright?”

A rumbling laugh bubbled up from below the waters. ”Don’t fret. When I want to break something in half, I don’t just attempt it. Hrah!” And, still gurgling to himself in congratulation for what he found to be an extremely funny joke, Narzhak turned about and began to wade back towards the shore, raising dizzying waves as he went.

The snake shook his head with a smiling sigh and went up to his chambres. He had to rest.

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Arae

7MP | 17FP

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M.P: 8 | F.P: 25

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𝔖 𝔢 𝔦 𝔥 𝔡 𝔥 𝔞 𝔯 𝔞




Time: The Day the Gods Came


The soul of the fighting goddess was swift, but swifter yet was the furious familial cry of the pantheon's guardian goddess, Arae. The Seihdhara's living strand was not far when the goddess' soul stopped and looked behind her for a sign of the one that had called to her. She did not know why, but her sister had sounded somewhat angry. Seihdhara could not remember interacting with the goddess of the goddess of the family or giving her any reason to be angry with her, and so she was understandably confused. And on the horizon there came the fearsome shape of the dragon goddess, flying with speed and fury and causing heaven to shrink back and the seas to bow, fearful and humbled. Seihdhara’s searing soul stared at the goddess as she grew closer and closer, and when the huge dragon was not more than a hundred handspans away Seihdhara rushed towards it.

What is it? Is something the matter? I got myself killed? Calm down! Rayster’s clear panic and sense of urgency seemed to have found its way into Seihdhara also, and the goddess could not speak fast enough.

Arae decelerated in an instant upon reaching Seihdhara, but she did not quite realize what she was looking at, at first. She was sure her familial bond was still active, but Seihdhara herself was nowhere to be seen. There was just a glowing sphere. The familial bond had led her here, but all Arae saw was a glowing ball. Only when Seihdhara spoke did Arae realize what was going on.

Oh, Seihdhara, you fool! I should’ve realized it sooner. You’re still dead; this is just your soul!” Arae groaned. This just created a new set of concerns for Arae to worry about. Though Arae could not see her facial expression, Seihdhara was somewhat taken aback by the goddess' words. “We have to get your body back, and… I-I don’t know, maybe someone can put your soul back in? Ugh, I knew I should’ve dragged your corpse back up from that lake of blood you left behind.

Arae sighed, then steeled herself. This was no time for dwelling on the past, but rather on the current issue at hand. Turning her full attention to Seihdhara, Arae said, “Ok, Seihdhara, you need to stay safe. I don’t know how vulnerable you are right now, but I am not about to take any chances here. You are to remain with me until we can get you up and alive again, ok? Don’t put yourself in more danger than you already are!” Seihdhara frowned and scratched her brow in confusion and was about to object, but she quickly stopped herself. She was in no danger that she could fathom, but if Rayster wanted to help her out then that was kind enough. She was not entirely sure she enjoyed how the other goddess spoke to her but considered that it would be something to consider another time. Indeed, the manner in which most gods were treating her, now that she thought on it, was slightly bizarre. Brightening up regardless, she gestured at one of the islands below.

Don’t worry yourself Rayster, I can sense the living strand down below. I don’t know what lake of blood you’re talking about, but if I can get to my living strand then it’ll be fine. I just know it! Come, let’s go. And with that, Seihdhara turned about and dashed down towards the small island where she knew the living strand was. As they descended, however, it became apparent that the island was burning and a huge fiery monstrosity was tearing everything apart and consuming just about anything. That’s a big bird. Seihdhara noted, observing how it tore apart anything and everything in its vicinity with abandon. It was quite clearly feeding. Then realisation dawned. We can’t let it eat the strand! Rayster! Quickly! And in a panicked flurry Seihdhara rushed down to save her only remaining link with the physical world and her life beyond the Door. How she would be of any use in her ethereal form she did not know, but she knew she had to be reunited with it regardless.

Rayster? Is that supposed to be my nickname? Arae thought to herself as she followed Seihdhara. It was a bit strange, but when Arae thought about it she realized that she actually liked it. She felt a little flutter of happiness inside her. It felt nice, getting a nickname. Seihdhara’s state of alarm, though, brought Arae back out of her thoughts. “Hair? Wha- hey, wait up!” Arae said, following Seihdhara down to the flaming beast. Arae could sense it had Sartravius’ divine essence all over it, which was not much of a surprise there. She had hoped Sartravius was not going to cause too much trouble, but evidently that was hoping for too much. Still, if it was causing trouble, then all she needed to do was stop it. “Seihdhara, I’ll hold back this flaming creature. You do what you have to do,” Arae said, landing in front of the Phoenix and blocking its path. Seihdhara looked to her sister and, glancing with a small degree of worry at the firebird, nodded.
Be careful though.

As the titanic Phoenix continued to devour the lush forest that covered the small island, it was completely unaware of the approaching goddesses heading towards its location. After all, the famished creature needed all the subsistence it could get before continuing on to the mainland. So when it looked up and noted a large serpentine creature blocking its path, it initially regarded at Arae with absolute confusion. In fact, the creature had no idea that this was a goddess at all. However, noting her rather aggressive stance, the Phoenix dropped the massive log in its mouth and issued an ear-piercing screech at the invader. In addition, it raised its massive wings up into the air in order to make itself appear more intimidating to its newly-found opponent. For every flap it initiated, gale-force winds billowed forth in an attempt to blow away this vile adversary, and chunks of rock and magma dripped from its crusted wings.

As Rayster faced off against the huge firebird, Seihdhara’s soul rushed about searching for her living strand. It was not too difficult given the link she shared with the strand, but the screeching firebird flapping its wings and sending dust and rocks and cinders into the air was certainly not helping. Still, she searched with determination. Meanwhile, Arae dug her claws into the ground as the winds blew into her, enduring the force coming her way. The creature was an annoyance, but Arae was not going to just let it do what it wanted. It needed to be taught a lesson. She roared back at it, trying to intimidate it just as it sought to do to her.

As soon as the Phoenix recognized that its intimidation tactics failed to disperse the rival monster, it quickly proceeded to change tactics. Already its body was glowing a hot crimson red - most prominently under its neck and belly - and fired a concentrated beam of extremely hot heat towards its opponent. As it continued firing, it slowly walked towards the goddess, where the heat would begin to grow even hotter as the source inched closer and closer to her.

Arae took to the sky, dodging the beams of heat as the Phoenix continued to follow her around. That looked rather painful to get hit by, and Arae decided it best to avoid such a thing. All that just meant, though, was that Arae had to get a bit serious herself. Looking down at the ground, Arae had an idea forming in her mind. She manipulated the ground below to mold itself around the Phoenix’s limbs and body in an attempt to hold it in place.

Once the beast found its right foot stuck in the ground, it ceased firing to assess the sudden turn of events. It attempted to get free, yet the dirt below seemed to mold into its feet, sucking them deeper into the ground like molten tar. The Phoenix began frantically trying to lodge itself free. Yet it did not need to. The intense heat radiated through its body - down towards its clawed talons themselves. Quickly the intense heat began to melt the surrounding ground, causing it to liquify and lose its solidity. And with a single flap of its wings, it rose into the sky with a strange grace. Yet the moment would not last as the beast suddenly unleashed its talons and swooped down to grapple the serpentine in its mighty claws. Once within its grasp, it attempted to peck at the downed serpent and get it within its gnarly beak.

As the firebird moved off to strike out at Rayster, Seihdhara suddenly spotted the living strand in the great fiery mess the firebird left in its immediate wake. Beside it was a small fire, but the strand seemed otherwise unharmed. Rushing towards the area, Seihdhara looked down at the strand which in turn was attempting to put out the small fire. On further inspection, Seihdhara realised that the fire was being fuel by- her face twisted in shock. It was the remains of her physical body! Bloody hell, that’s not good, she muttered as she attempted to find a way to put the fire out. There did not seem to be any water in the vicinity - or at least not close enough to get it and be back swiftly enough. The sea was some distance away. She turned to the strand and issued a quick command.

Roll the body in the earth, quickly. Put it out. The great strand, swollen and glowing from exposure to the firebird’s heat, wrapped itself about the body and rolled it over from side to side in swift motions until the flames were out. Inspecting the body expecting ugly burns, Seihdhara was surprised to find that the remains of the body had merely taken on a deeper bronze hue. The cheeks of the corpse radiated heat and - Seihdhara rubbed her eyes - why, it looked almost alive! Her curiosity piqued, fighter goddess bent closer to examine the corpse, the godly battle happening mere handspans from here suddenly forgotten. But the shaking of the earth almost immediately pulled her back to reality and she realised, with urgency, that she needed to get her body and strand out of there. Quickly! Let’s go! She spoke to the strand again. Tightening itself about the glowing corpse, the living strand followed swiftly after Seihdhara’s soul and, safe in the air, watched as Rayster did battle with the firebird. Seihdhara’s eyes registered the combat and she frowned. It did not seem to be going in Rayster's favour at all. Then she spoke into her sister’s mind, offering what assistance she could in the moment.

Rayster, use your body. Immobilise it using your longer form and constrict about it, then apply pressure. Its heat is great, but you are a goddess and will withstand. Once it is immobile, we may demand its submission and ask it why it is bringing about this destruction. Surely it can be reasoned with if it is an aspect of a god, as it seems to be.

Arae managed to grab one set of the firebird's claws with her own clawed hand, but the other managed to get a hold of her body. Its beak was rather painful as well, drops of godly ichor coming out of every hole being put into her. She was about to break free from its grasp when Seihdhara’s voice sounded in her mind. Constrict about it? Arae thought to herself through the pain. She realized that her longer form could give her an advantage like this, and with few other options to try, she settled for this one. Grabbing hold of the Phoenix’s body with her other hand, Arae flexed her body around the Phoenix, attempting to wrap herself around it. The heat of its skin was burning, but as Seihdhara had said, Arae could withstand it. All she needed to do was force the creature back down to the ground.

Once it recognized its quarry attempting to wrap around its body, the Phoenix recognized that it was in trouble. While it did some considerable damage to Arae, it still seemed as though this creature yet had some fight left in her. And the fact that her constrictive capabilities were succeeding even as its skin continued to burn her moist scaly skin was deeply concerning. The pressure that she was applying began to tighten every second. Its breathing began to hasten, attempting to pump more molten ichor and adrenaline into its immense body. But the more it struggled - the more it continued fighting her - the more strength it began to lose.

And soon enough, the Phoenix was forced to descend back onto the ground. Still it did not give up as it attempted to wiggle its way out and forced itself to raise its temperature even more. It also still attempted to peck at it to as far down as its available flexibility could take it. It would do anything just to get itself free from this tight situation. But as Seihdhara watched she knew that it was now merely a matter of time. Rayster had the bird in her grip and it may take an hour or it may take days, but the firebird would soon know sleep. Still, it was worrying how much it had managed to hurt Rayster before she constricted about him. The serpentine goddess would need a quick session in the basics of combat once Seihdhara had managed to get herself out of this situation - indeed, Rayster’s body gave her a number of extremely interesting advantages. She could become a truly lethal combatant if given the correct direction.

Bird! Seihdhara suddenly announced, you have been trounced, so give it up before Rayster here gives you a pounding you’ll not soon forget! And while you’re at it, you have lot of explaining to do. Why have you been destroying things willy-nilly hmm? Who set you up to this? The flame-red soul appeared above the firebird’s head, along with the living strand and glowing corpse.

The Phoenix perked its head to notice a fiery round sphere announce herself to the struggling creature. Its movement ceased momentarily as it angrily listened to what the two beings wanted. They apparently wanted it to explain why it was here and what it was doing destroying stuff. And in fact they wanted to know who was actually responsible. The creature realized that it was a creation rather than a creator. It was silent for a moment, glaring at Seihdhara with its blazing yellow eyes. Then, the two goddesses would receive its voice within their heads.

”I should ask you the same thing,” the Phoenix hissed in a deep raspy voice, ”Why have you both dared to disrupt my feast upon this insignificant patch of green?” Seihdhara glanced at Rayster. She was present here because Seihdhara had attracted her then enlisted her help. Seihdhara had come because she was searching for her living strand. This whole thing had come about because Seihdhara needed to get her living strand and this creature was in the way. But when Seihdhara thought on it, that was not the true reason they had interrupted the firebird, not really. Though circmstances had aligned to make it appear thus (even to herself had she not considered it), it was simply not the case.

We stopped you because no one else did, the goddess said simply. Your feasting has brought about chaos and destruction to a land that was sown and made virile by gods. Maybe in time your wanton destruction would not be a great thing and the land will recover, but in doing what you have done you have destroyed a fragile ecosystem that was not yet robust enough to recover. Or at least you would have had we not stopped you. She looked around, As of now, there is yet hope for recovery. But if you keep going, then divine intervention will be required for life and virility to return. That is why, firebird. Now tell me who sent you, for my senses are dulled and I cannot know.

The fire beast audibly hissed back in response, rattling its body as it tried to get free in that moment before subsiding yet again. ”And why would it matter?” the Phoenix bluntly retorted, ”The way I see it, you two miserable creatures assaulted a being minding its own business! What have I done to you? In fact, I don’t even know who you two are! Let me go and I shall be on my way out of here.” Seihdhara smirked mischievously at the firebird’s words.

Oh birdy birdy. Frustrated that we attacked you for no reason are you? And, in your words, what would it matter if we did? Had you been strong enough it wouldn’t. But you have proven weak and unable to protect yourself, and that’s why it matters. If it is your plan to attack creatures minding their own business as you have done, then prepare to be attacked also. The fox that feasts on the rabbit should not cry for justice when in time the eagle feeds on it. Now I asked you a question and you will answer me. We will release you as soon as we know who your master is and where we can find him. Seihdhara was already pretty certain that none other than Danglydong would create something like this. Her soul form was not able to sense anything much at all down here on Galbar, and Rayster seemed too preoccupied with keeping the firebird down to say much, but she could guess that much at least. What interested her truly was that this firebird’s heat had a strange strengthening effect on her corpse and on her living strand. If that was so, who knew what the heat of Danglydong himself could do - maybe it would even be enough to meld her soul back into her body! Here let me see - you’re a big angry fiery creature out to destroy stuff. Your master’s Donglydong or I’m a three-headed harpie clucking in the rain. Am I right or am I right? She looked down at the firebird, smiling as it she watched it struggle uselessly and waiting on its response.

”I don’t even know who you’re talking about!” the Phoenix replied in a more confused and frustrated tone, ”You will not get a single word from the mighty Phoenix! Not as long as Master Sartr allows~!”

He suddenly stopped his beak as he recognized his utter blunder. Seihdhara smiled down at the firebird knowingly.
Whoopsies, she laughed, plenty of heat from you, Mighty Phoenix, but you're not quite the brightest flame about. So I was right. Ol’ Danglydong it is! Now you should be a good bird and tell your auntie Seihdhara where your papa is hiding. I’m sure Danglydong will be very pleased with you when he finds out that you helped me find him - Danglydong and me go back you see. Good friends him and me.

The winged beast did not know the magnitude of whether or not it had to keep its master’s identity secret, but from the debriefing and what he wanted it to do, it sounded as though the less people knew about him the better. At this point, the creature’s divine ichor was beginning to boil and its skin began to grow even hotter than before. And with a newfound strength of adrenaline boiling through its crusty exterior, it used all of its kept up strength to suddenly break free of its entrapment and once again take to the skies with a mighty screech of pure rage.

”You will not hear anything more from me!” it bellowed furiously, ”When Master Sartr finds out about you both interfering with my gracefulness, you will feel his mighty wrath grind your souls to ash! Now get away from me you miserable lot!”

With a powerful flap of its wings, the Phoenix made a full 180 turn before flying over the two figures with hurricane force winds as it continued on its way to the main continent. And hopefully it would not have to see these two troublemakers again… or at least for a while. For it would complete its master’s orders no matter the circumstances. Seihdhara stared after the firebird with pursed lips and a none-too-impressed expression. The bird seemed genuinely convinced that it could take on just about anything which was both funny and worrying. So long as it did not bump into Narzhak or some other particularly angry god it would be fine, Seihdhara thought. But then again, it was not too bright either so a particularly cunning god might be able to manipulate it somehow, which would not be great. Seihdhara did not know whether to sigh or laugh. In any case, it did not matter. A creature like that would not be able to get too far on a destruction spree before one god or another checked it.

Alright Rayster, you heard that firebird. Danglydong is his master as I thought, and I reckon that big-sworded fellow might be able to help me with a thing or two. Where d'you think he’s hiding? I can’t sense him, or much else really.

Arae lay on her side, letting her belly cool down after all the heat it had endured. She never wanted to do that again. It made her remember how much she disliked combat, at least when it involved her. She may be an immortal goddess, but she still hated feeling pain. “You know, I could have told you myself that Dangly- I mean, Sartravius was his master. Even if we didn’t sense his essence off his creation, it was fairly obvious given the various themes of fire and heat,” Arae said. “And if he’s not on Galbar, then he’s probably in his Sphere like most of us had been before moving to Galbar ourselves.

Speaking of Sartravius, we should probably send him a divine message about this,” Arae added. “He may not exactly take kindly to our fight with that fire bird of his.

Yeah, I know you coulda just told me, but it was funny watching him struggling in the belief that he was keeping some great secret, Seihdhara chuckled. In truth I can’t sense much at all right now. I’ve no idea where Danglydong is or how to contact him - so it’s over to you if you want to help me out. Otherwise I reckon I could find him. Eventually. Probably.

Hmm. In that case, I’ll message him,” Arae said. “And, uh, I’ve been meaning to say this, but… please, stop saying… ugh, Danglydong.” Seihdhara perked up at this, considered it, then giggled slightly.

On that note, Arae began her message, “Sartravius, if you have any spare time, please come over to Galbar. Seihdhara and I found your Phoenix creature, and it burned through quite a bit of land before we stopped it. Also, Seihdhara needs your help. She’s a little… dead, right now. If you could come, that’d be greatly appreciated. Thank you.” Turning her attention back to Seihdhara, Arae said, “Alright, I’ve sent him a message. Now it’s up to him whether he’ll show up.” Seihdhara nodded at this and looked about her at the destruction. Now they waited.

Within the depths of Muspellheim, the great fire god felt a great ripple of disturbance cross through his mind. Once again sitting within his boiling magma pool, Sartr found his peaceful thoughts about fire and destruction to be disturbed by a goddess’ message. They ran into his Phoenix creation? And he told them what master he served? At this point the fire god did not care for this - so long as Ashalla did not come knocking on his volcanic doorstep. He paused for a minute, thinking on the best plan of action, before responding to Arae.

”HAH!" the fire god scoffed as he rubbed his arms with magma, ”YOU THINK YOU CAN COAX SARTR OUT THAT EASILY? DON’T HUMOR ME WITH SUCH FINATICS! IF YOU WANT TO TALK TO ME, THEN YOU WILL COME TO ME! MEET ME AT MUSPELLHEIM AND WE CAN DISCUSS MATTERS THERE."

Arae sighed, expecting as much from Sartr. It was quite unlikely it was going to be that easy, from what little she knew of Sartravius’s temperament. “Well, Seihdhara, he’s not coming out,” Arae said. “If we want to meet him, we’ll have to go to him. I’ll help you find the entrance to his Sphere.” Seihdhara nodded and the soul, along with the living strand dragging the corpse, leapt onto Rayster’s considerable back.

I’m sure it’ll be simple enough. Just find some place frothing with all kinds of angry fiery stuff. If you fly high and fast it won’t be too long before we spot it. This is Danglydo- uh, Dong that we’re talking about. And so saying, the two goddesses set off. While Seihdhara was reliant solely on her soul's eyes, Arae had the advantage of being able to easily trace her brother’s divine trace and so flew swiftly in a generally north-westerly direction. And so it was not long at all before Seihdhara spotted a great pillar of thick smoke on the horizon. As they grew closer to the pillar, there emerged out of the sea an enormous mountain from whose pinnacle the dark plumes billowed. It was difficult to see from here, but it was immediately obvious to Seihdhara that the gateway to Sartravius’ domain was through this mountain. Seihdhara looked to her living strand as Rayster circled near the top of the mountain (but not quite close enough to be caught in the suffocating smoke) and, with a shout of thanks to the dragon goddess, leapt off her back and made for the mountain at speed. The living strand swiftly did the same, Seihdhara’s corpse in its grip.

As the living strand followed Seihdhara’s soul closer and closer to the mouth of the volcano it only grew in strength and speed, glowing all the brighter. Seihdhara paused at the mouth of the volcano, looking uncertainly behind her at the strand. But the living strand surprised her by leaping right on by her into the volcanic crater. Staring down after it and the corpse for a few moments, Seihdhara braced herself and leapt after them.

Here goes nothing.


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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Darkspleen
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Darkspleen I am Spartacus

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It was not until she had reached the continent’s western coastline before she came to a rest. She had run the entire time since leaving Shengshi and Narzhak. No, leaving didn’t tell the whole story. She had fled. But how could she not have fled? How could Narzhak stand to touch, yet alone wear, so much metal? The mere thought of it caused a primordial near-rage to grow within Phystene. Thoughts of axes and chainsaws tearing through rainforests filled her mind. Only with great effort did she force the vivid images of the dying of her original world from her thoughts.

That was in that world and she had plenty of work to do to ensure this one didn’t go down the same path. For starters she needed to help mitigate some of the risk of tsunamis washing away all of her hard work. She may have used the excuse of making coral reefs to battle tsunamis as an excuse to cover her escape, but the logic remained. But would mere reefs be enough to mitigate tsunamis? If they were rare occurrences Phystene would have said yes, but with the staggering amount of meteors and explosions her peers were apparently keen on creating….

She would need corals that would create truly massive reefs. And they would have to create them quickly. Perhaps impossibly so. But first thing was first: she would need a base from which to begin with and the stony corals from her original world were perfect for the task. They obtained nutrients both from consuming other animals and by having a symbiotic relationship with algae. This symbiotic relationship was something especially beautiful in Phystene’s eyes and certainly something she wanted to expand on. Perhaps if… yes she could expand that symbiosis to seaweeds and other aquatic plant life to allow not only more diversity, but also enable the coral to benefit from larger symbionts. That, in turn, would allow the corals themselves to grow even larger. And it would also give them the energy to build reefs quicker.

Phystene spent the next few hours refining and perfecting her new creation, forcing all thoughts and memories of metal from her mind. By the time she was done her creation, the barrier coral as she had taken to calling it, was in her mind perfection. Due to its symbiotic relationship with plants it was able to tap into some of the benefits provided by the World Tree, growing faster and larger than they otherwise would. The reefs they would build would be impressive by anyone’s standard, stretching for hundreds and thousands of kilometers across the ocean floor. Even more impressively was how the coral would quickly start building up their reefs to be even larger should they detect an incoming tsunami.

As the new barrier corals began building their new reefs off the coast of the continent, Phystene couldn’t help but pat herself on the back. They would surely be the perfect solution to the whole meteor-tsunami issue that had plagued Galbar. Now she had to build the ecosystem that would actually support the corals and their reefs. She sent her energy into the ocean, spreading seaweed, numerous crusaceans, and a plethora of beautiful and colorful fish. That would, at least in the short term, be sufficient to support her barrier coral.



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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Not Fishing
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Not Fishing The Mediocre

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Kalmar





Things happened.

Suns and moons were created and then destroyed. Mountains were flung. Gods clashed, quarreled and schemed. Entire continents were forged and shaped.

And where was the God of the Hunt in all this?

Exploring his sphere. He threw some stones into a river, watching the water splash and ripple. He climbed one of his mountains, standing atop the peak and staring out into the void. He made a sandcastle in the desert, before kicking it over and watching it blow away in the wind. He climbed a tree, only to fall when one of the branches broke. He made a snow angel in the frozen forest. He chased animals through the plains. He even started experimenting, using his magic to invent a weapon, which was essentially a slender curved stick with both ends connected to each other by a tight, flexible string. It could then shoot smaller, sharpened sticks at target. What use did this weapon serve, to someone who could create life and move mountains?

Absolutely none. Yet he was content with his creation nonetheless. He promptly used his new bow to shoot a deer, which he then skinned and made into a vest. Kalmar looked down at his reflection in the water, and decided that it looked good on him.

But he could only spend so much time fawning over his own creations. He had a duty to fulfill. Besides, as beautiful and comfortable as this place was, he knew it would eventually either become dull, or worse, make him complacent. It was for these reasons that he reluctantly left his sphere.




Kalmar arrived in Galbar, and looked down upon the constructs of the other gods. A few islands and continents had already been made. No doubt the gods who raised them had their own plans for them, and some were already partly covered with mountains and vegetation. He would make his own landmass, he decided.

First, he had to a pick a location. There was a peculiar chain of islands that vaguely resembled an eye. North of that would be a decent location, he decided for no particular reason.

Although his power was limited, Kalmar decided that was no excuse to be stingy. What was the point in creating animals and ecoysystems if there was no land to place them on? At least some of them would have to invest heavily in continent forging. Kalmar decided that one of those people might as well be him. It would pay off in the long run.

And so, he grit his teeth and focused. The continent he created would have three main 'points.' The land he created would be much larger than his sphere. It would be wide and vast, with a pensinula in the southwest and a bay in the north. He would need plenty of space, he knew.

When he was done, he once again felt as though most of his power had been drained. That was enough building for the time being. He stood upon the barren rock of his new land and waited, wary of any who might try to claim this place for themselves.




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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Kho
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Kho

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𝔖 𝔢 𝔦 𝔥 𝔡 𝔥 𝔞 𝔯 𝔞




Time: The Day the Gods Came


And I floated like a distant dream
When there were none looking to see

And it was a dozen claps and beams
Across the shore and into the stream
I floated like a distant dream

And the mind perceived a simple thing
The heart, it danced and sang with glee

As we often used to dance and sing
Where you held the blade and hid the sting
I floated like a distant dream

There on that yonder red river bank
You gush and gush and gush and- flee

Till you breathe your last and break your flanks
And sink where all the other ones sank
Where I floated like a distant dream




And she knew a hotness beyond heat, so intense that the difference between hotness and coolness became indistinguishable - a heat where heat itself let up, fell down, and lost its meaning. And when meaning collapsed there only remained what meaning you had created for yourself in yonder days and times when ease was abundant and the promise of hardship was far and easy to shrug off and wave away like so many irritating flies. But that self-created meaning, for those who had taken the time and care to carve it when it seemed unneeded would prove to be the final crutch - the only crutch. If you did not stand on that, you in reality stood on nothing, on an illusion that slipped away the moment everything you thought so real became what it truly was: immaterial.

You are dead, and that is all that you are.

Strength rippled through her and she rejected the words with defences she never thought would prove so necessary. Because you will not kill me, much as it would please you.

I will teach you to respect your elder.

An inward flinch, a furious gaze. They who looked with the outer eye only, saw little. A massive eye stared unblinkingly as if hoping against hope that all its great one eye could see would make up for the closed eyes of soul and mind and heart and being. But for all your seeing you could never see me could you? For all your gawping eye.

My cause is beyond your understanding, but my instructions are not. When I give them, I expect that they will be obeyed.

So proud of your great big eye. So insistent on blind obedience. And this purpose you have violently carved into the minds of the free spirits you fished from the great beyond, this illusion you have given as a false crutch too fool those who attempt to see. For all your great big eye, you truly do hate sight don't you?

Child! This denial that you are experiencing is a most frequent thing.

Don't you 'child' me. What have I done for you to take such a tone w-

Equality in death! It is not a matter of whether your life was fulfilling, or whether you were a god or a tiny vermin. All must be subjected to the cleansing fires here. You are dead, and the dead must make way for the living. This is the only way.

No, not dead, I reje-

When you enter the Pyre, your thoughts will manifest to my eyes and I shall be elucidated. In that final moment, I will understand you. But before then, it seems unlikely.

I won't let you. You can't look i-

The fortitude of your frame, the blood in your hair and flesh, the very air that you breathe. I gave you all of this!

Not true. You're a liar. Why are you ly-

Oh, Seihdhara, you fool! I should’ve realized it sooner. You’re still dead.

W-what? No. Go away. I'm n-

Things fall apart, and souls do not last forever. Those that are not yet so decayed, like you, I feel no need to rush. Eventually all dead things must find their way into the pyres.I'm n-You are but a pale mockery of life, a lingering vestige. Once the death of body comes, the death of soul should not be protracted for long, lest they decay and become like the most wretched of specimens.H-Before I brought you here, you were nothing but a worthless echo, a formless shadow, doomed and trapped in the Beyond. Such a waste.Yo-Ugh, I knew I should’ve dragged your corpse back up from that lake of blood you left behind. I am not about to take any chances here. You are to remain with me until we can get you up and alive again, ok? Don’t put yourself in more danger than you already are!Notyourchildyo-The Vortex of Souls brings all of the dead here, and you are clearly dead.Ugh, I knew I should’ve dragged your corpse back up from that lake of blood you left behind.Call it misfortune, or happenstance, or destiny that killed you and brought you here. You are dead.Before I brought you here, you were nothing but a worthless echo. Such a waste.Fuck you. And you. And you especially.What a-Now that you are dead, there is no leaving this place. There is no more acting, no more doing anything anywhere else, no second chances. The only things left for you are rumination, and then taking the final step.Oh, Seihdhara, you fool!Equality in death!

Stop. Back o-

You cannot escape. There is no choice to be had in that all must find their way to the pyres.The fortitude of your frame, the blood in your hair and flesh, the very air that you breathe. I gave you all of this!Your purpose is nowhere near so grand as you purport; your lot was to die, so that I could look into your pyre and see you, and know you. Or perhaps there is no purpose at all. You are incorrect in your convictions, Seihdhara.Ugh, I knew I should’ve dragged your corpse back up from that lake of blood you left behind.I will teach you to respect your elder.One does not write their own destiny, or simply decree that he is beyond death.Such a waste.Fuck you. And you. And you especially.Can you just-It is disappointing to see you so unable to grasp my perspective or look beyond yourself, but I hold hope that the others are more mature. I can see that you will not be swayed, yet neither do your words or threats change my mind. Here you shall remain, until the end of your days.
Here you shall remain, until the end of your days.
Here you shall remain, until the end of your days.
until the end of your days.

Have you ever heard the screams of a dying god?

You may well not be expecting to hear this of all things, but they sound unexpected. No god expects to die, you see. It's not something we do, you know? When I was cloven in two, I admit that it was pretty unexpected. Gods are not meant to die - but if they were to, I would be the one that didn't. And yet I did, didn't I. I remember only that the world was very bright, and then my legs were falling down beneath me. I was still alive then - what was the loss of hips and a few feet? And then pain exploded behind me, I might have said something - umph or some such sound with meaning beyond words. And then I fell right out of my body, looking down at myself, blood exploding from the gored bald head as though my hair was back and as living as it had always been. And it tumbled awkwardly earthward like some tattered and broken ragdoll. That's how I died. My lot was to die. My purpose was nowhere near so grand as I purport; my lot was to di- w-what?

What?

Oh, Seihdhara, you fool!Equality in death!I will teach you to respect your elder.You are dead, and that is all that you are.that is all that you are.that is all that you are.that is all that you fucking are.
You are but a pale mockery of life, a lingering vestige.Before I brought you here, you were nothing but a worthless echo, a formless shadow, doomed and trapped in the Beyond. Such a waste.

Pale... mockery. Such... waste.

Tu emu soh oh yeokeahea ha ey

Rhu?

Oh, Seihdhara, you fool!

Tu emu nuyyu oh yeokeahea ha ey

Tu?

Tu emu soh oh yeokeahea ha ey

Tu emu soh?

Tu emu soh oh yeokeahea ha ey

oh yeokeahea ha-

Tu emu soh oh yeokeahea ha ey

ey

Tu emu soh oh yeokeahea ha ey

Child! This denial that you are experiencing is a most frequent thing.

TU EMU SOH OH YEOKEAHEA HA EY!

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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Strange Rodent
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Strange Rodent Rodent of Unusual Size

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The sheer rock plains of Swahhitte soared and dipped, forming colossal creases and crevasses. This One considered what it might do to create beauty in this barren waste. It could raise lakes, create a maze, introduce minerals… the possibilities were endless, though with a decisive finality it decided on plant life. A “forest” that would cover nearly a quarter of Swahhitte in a rough circle centered on the staircase.

It touched the rough ground tenderly, feeling the surge of power that seemed to come from being here. With an infinitely expanding mind, it threw itself off a cliff, into a pool of ripe ideas. As it plunged into its own head, the ground shattered as a thick fur spiraled out of the rock which was really a million million small strands of vicious muscle, twisting and grabbing at loose rocks to dissolve them. Who knows what it would do to other things…
Next shot up clear pylons of cord that stole the light cast upon them by Aelius’ sphere and twisted it into every colour imaginable, even the ones that can't be pictured in the mind. A low hum could be seen rippling through the meadows of muscle as these cords step out of the ground. At the top of each of the cords was a strange fraying that pooled and warped vision around them, so one could never quite focus on the top of the cord. At least, not with sight.

This One tiredly smiled. The swathe of rope was truly the beauty this land needed, though raising half a continent and populating the peak of it with hospitable conditions was… exhausting. It lay on the muscles, which graciously formed a pillow for it. Eurysthenes laid for a long time before the presence of another caused it to stir. Not hurriedly, it writhed and creaked itself upright. For whatever reason, after the rest, everything took a minor pallor. The colours seemed to be flat, and those looking on could swear they saw the cords were drooping, though this was indeed impossible.

This One regarded it's creation with the cold stare of the black bird sank to the bottom of an icy pool. In no small feat of strength, it tears a cord from the ground, the underground netting puking the ground within it all over the muscle. Eurysthenes peeled the cord apart and condensed it, allowing it to become the foul charge of rooted chance. This One reached into its sickening body for the Mad Ice and gathered the fog that'd just as soon kill you as smile. With an unclean and surprisingly straightforward meld, it caused the two to become one. This was promptly named Pûił.

The wildly nauseating new mineral sank in the vision of those who glimpsed it, sweeping perception around it like a cloak, morphing it into images of loss and worthlessness and horror. This One decided for whatever mad reason that Galbar needed more of this plastic substance, so it replicated the feeling and spread it throughout the underground of Swahhitte to be found and utilised later.

Eurysthenes walked off, unsatisfied but eerily happy. Someone had found Swahhite, and it was about time they saw a welcoming face. It didn't take long to see who it was. This One watched the Parvus creature for a while, just sitting there among the creation atop the creation within creation. With no sound, Eurysthenes approached, leaning over to whisper in the ear a riddle.
”What is unconditionally offered upon each arrival, conditionally removed, and can be worn?”




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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Antarctic Termite
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Antarctic Termite Resident of Mortasheen

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Between the great stone trees of the Feasting Forest, a subtle tapping could be heard. Tk tk tk tk. It came from a sun-dappled, hidden little grotto, and it was Chopstick Eyes, working with a hammer and chisel to gently carve away one of the last Forest Shrines.

Above here, and beyond, crept a dense canopy. It was green and thick- could even be called lush, by the foolish or naive. But green as it was, this forest was not lively, only quietly, insidiously, alive.

No leaf of Phystene dwelt here, no bright river of Shengshi, nor any of Ashalla’s lively algs. None of Azura’s birds sang, and what few insects crawled were shapeless, odd-legged black things with no eyes. The foliage warped and clawed its way around the great stone trees of Vakk, with roots in the air and gnarled trunks bending down over the earth as if dripping. It was difficult to tell where the roots of one tree ended and the branches of another began. So densely covered were the twisted stone trees with hefty, drooping creepers, that somehow they seemed more alive than anything else in this mockery of a forest.

Tk tk tk, went the chisel on the stone.




Earlier.

Chopstick reached into her purse and pulled out a little centipede, held it in her bare fingers. She’d found it crawling around the lower levels of the Bazaar before she’d left. Maybe it and its like could do some good here.

She flicked it a few times, and it duplicated itself each time, each generation of duplicates acquiring more and more error and asymmetry. Then she set it on the ground.

The land was yet young and the soil was yet unspread, though some odd fungi had blown over from the Kick’s southern neighbor and started chewing up the rock, which was handy. Chopstick had covered her bare feet with some boots and swapped her neat dress for overalls, and was filling in a ditch when she came upon the thing.

It was brightly coloured, soft, and quite dead. Chopstick sampled it and found it to taste a little like snail, but not much, and mostly like Azura. She turned it around and around. It had a mouth, but only a little one.

Hm.

Chopstick lifted a finger and waited for a mote of ash to fall on it, which it did. There was a lot of ash around these days. Maybe that’s where all the stray souls had gone.

She rubbed it into the skin of the Phase Mote, and began to work.




Later.

The earth-worm had swum for hours through desiccating water and a strong current, and when it finally made landfall on the other side of the strait, it was exhausted. The land it left behind had been abruptly upheaved of late, forcing it to depart, but it was only a young worm, with little strength.

This place seemed calmer. The earth-worm crawled on, trying to crack rock; but this rock had a bitter and desolate taste, much unlike the other place. Perhaps there were easier meals. It crept on, into the forest.

A huge creature slid before it, and it stopped. Eyeless, limbless, but glowing with odd motes, the giant slug-beast didn’t notice the worm at all. It waved its tentacles and slithered on, along with a kind of trail. The worm waited until it had gone, though that seemed quite unnecessary, then continued in the opposite direction. It smelled food.

What’s this? Dead matter, but somehow different to the raw leaves. The worm did not recognize the fine pies, breads, and cakes that were before it, nor the stuffed duck, or the broth or the pork or anything else that lay on the shrine. But it recognized easy protein. Cooked meat was not so different from rotten meat, and it gorged itself, as scavengers do.

The worm did not notice the Phase Beast returning on the trail. It did not smell it, it did not hear it. It did not feel the tentacles reaching around its body.

But the Phase Beast saw it. The Phase Beast saw it very well.

And the Phase Beast was hungry.




Vakk had seemingly tuned out of reality as Choppy had done her work, almost in a trance yet very aware of what was happening immediately next to him. However, nothing happened next to him because life generally didn’t like him, or he just didn’t want to be bothered. Eventually, the Lord of Speech came out of his thoughts, violently shaking his head and flicking his tendrils around. He had yet to see what Choppy had done as he began to groggily speak, ”Are you quite done yet? I grow bored of waiting for you to..”

He finally took in what was going on around him.

”... Finish.”

Vakk looked at what had filled the forest of stone that he had created, merely inspecting it for a few moments before impatiently going back to Chopstick Eyes. He did not like how she had done so much more than he had, it upset him so much that he physically could not show it if he could. This was a transgression that could not go unanswered.

”You mock me with how much you managed to do as I… meditated.”

”You snooze, you lose,” Choppy shrugged, leaning on her shovel and watching the hapless earthworm dissolve in the translucent belly of the beast. Her flying-lantern shivered. She looked up and nudged Vakk playfully. ”Maybe you should’ve taken the shovel, ey?”

He frowned. ”Holding it is awkward,” Vakk complained, before he reached to pick up the shovel he had thrown aside. He looked at it, then hit the wrong end against the ground as he had before, clearly not having paid attention to how Choppy used it. He threw it away again, not wanting to hold the cursed object any longer.

”I can make this place better.”

”Oh?” Chopstick let her head rest on the backs of her hands, which were leaning on the shovel. She raised an eyebrow, smirking.

Vakk gave a light chuckle before he opened his mouth, seeming as if he were inhaling the air. His body relaxed and from from the small gaps between his teeth leaked a cloud before he exhaled, a thick fog spreading over Chopsticks and her creations. It was blinding, certainly, no mortal would be able to know where they were going. The fog blocked sight of the life Chopsticks had created, save for the translucent beings.

He let out a laugh as the dense fog settled. Revenge had been exacted.

”Much better.”

Chopstick stared at the resultant gloom, took off her straw hat and scratched her head. She harumphed and walked off into the fog. For a few seconds, she may as well have been in another Sphere.

”Well, this’ll get ‘em lost, alright,” she said from about five meters away. She reappeared. The flying-lantern crooned. ”But now they can’t see the shrines. I’ll have to… Hang on, I’m just gonna fix that real quick.”

Chopstick strolled over to her purse and rummaged, inserting first one arm, then the other, then several more, and then her whole torso into the accessory. ”Uh, hang on… Ah gotcha.” She retrieved a tall, wrought-iron lamp-post with a glass cage, and tk-tk’d to the flying-lantern, who approached.

”Just hold still for a second… There we go.” Chopstick lit a splint on the flying-lantern’s flame, then transferred it to the lamp-post. The post nodded to receive it. It blinked, the flame flickering momentarily, and looked around. It hopped out into the forest on stumpy little wrought-iron limbs, and was soon joined by several more of wood and stone; they vanished into the fog together.

Vakk cocked his head, ”Was the purpose not to get them lost, Chopstick Eyes? It seems you more want them to find that particular shrine.”

”I mean, I guess.” Chopstick scratched her head. ”I… I guess I do.”

He snapped his jaw before he raised his head above the treeline, he saw it stretch on for a long way. Eventually, he figured that it was not worth the time to argue the point, after all, Chopstick did help him raise this continent not too long ago. Vakk lowered his head back down to her level before he continued speaking, ”I suppose it is not too much of a problem. A minor detail such as this is fine for whatever purpose you need it to do.”

”Yeah. Whatever purpose...” Chopstick wasn’t scratching her head any more, but she still hadn’t looked up. ”Whatever… I need it to do.”

She stared into the mist.

”...Vakk,” she said, very softly. “Why did we build this forest?”

The Lord of Speech thought to himself for a moment, an eerie silence coming over the two as the fog stood between them. After those few moments of silence, Vakk spoke, his tone being comforting, ”We made this first because we wanted to. We wanted to do this together because we are friends, remember?” a tendril reached forward to shift her view towards him.

”...”

His words wrapped around her mind, around her very existence. They invaded her mind, gently persuading her that Vakk was truly someone she could trust.

”...Yeah. Because we’re friends.” She looked down at the shovel, gripping it with two hands. ”We made this place because we’re f͝r̀i̴en̨d̵s. And we wanted to. We wanted to...”

She looked up and watched the mutant phase motes patrolling the forest, delicately heaping their mouths with sacred meals. Nothing wholesome would ever grow here, and nothing good would ever thrive. It was a deeply cursed place, and it was good for one thing only.

“Ki̸ll̛,” she finished. ”We wanted to ̷k͞i̕l̶l͘ ̡toge̕t̕h͜e̸r.”

Vakk’s caring smile turned sinister at her words, his head drew nearer, ”Precisely.”

The words settled in. Slowly slowly, Chopstick ordered her thoughts and regained her lucidity. She shook her head, as if to clear it, and Vakk’s spell disappeared beneath the surface like gold in mud.

And then she stretched, yawning like a cat. ”Mmmrrnnrnaaah! Well, that’s fine by me. Time to wrap this one up, eh?”

Confusion hit the inner soul of Vakk, who was unable to properly process what Chopstick Eyes has just done. Had she simply shaken herself out of his words? Or had his words not had enough power to them? He could not tell and it showed when he simply stated, ”... What?”

In reality, that word was supposed to be more internal than it was as the sheer force of Chopstick Eyes suddenly changing tone made Vakk unable to properly think of what to do or even say.

”Aww, don’t be like that. It’s a beautiful day!” Chopstick spun around the shovel and skipped off into the woods, accompanied swiftly by her lantern. ”I’m gonna go snatch some cursed breakfast, so gawk or come with, up to you. Catchya~”

And she was gone.

He stayed there, uncertain of what just happened, but he refused to question it as that would probably confuse him even more. Vakk sighed to himself before he spoke, knowing that she may not even hear him through the fog, ”Goodbye, Chopstick Eyes.”






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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by DracoLunaris
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DracoLunaris Multiverse tourist

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Triumvirate


Once again Azura soared through the heavens after having fired herself out of Galbar’s atmosphere. Once again her target was a sun hanging high above it. This time however that sun was intact, shining brightly down on the world below. This time Azura had wanted to make sure that she would not inadvertently ram the active sun like she had the debris field of the dead one. As a result her approach was a cautious one, one intended to pass by the sun so she could scout out a safe landing site, if one where available, instead of simply aiming herself at it and hoping for the best. It was though this measure that she was one of the first people to actually be able take in Heliopolis at their own leisure rather than being in a rush or too away from it.

At first Heliopolis was simply blinding light, the ray of sunshine emanating from the boxed star and projected by its lense dissuaded any closer inspection. The transition from that sunbeam and into the darkness beyond was a sudden one that took Azura by surprise. Once her eyes had adjusted she she got too take in the majestic city for the first time. It was, in a word, magnificent. She had seen creations of others down on Galbar and she had seen the ruins of a sphere before, but neither had prepared her for the beauty that her fellow gods were capable of when allowed to work without any constraints. Heliopolis was a vast metropolitan planetoid floated in the center of the sphere. It was a shining white cityscape, made of artisan carved marble that had been masoned into the finest architecture and then polished to an immaculate sheen. Stout columns stood in regimented rows along the sides of buildings, holding their great triangular roofs aloft. Yet despite its magnificence the city was empty of life, its pristine condition unmarred by the passage of the living. The emptiness of the lonely city spoiled its glory in a way, but perhaps, Azura thought, it was a home for those who had not yet been born.

It was certainly not what she had expected, but it did make landing a far easier task than it would have been on a giant super hot ball.

Azura had angled her launch so her flight would send her up, over and eventually around the sphere rather than straight into it, so she used some of the air she had brought with her to alter that trajectory, blasting some forwards to lower her speed so that when she began to descend she dropped onto the top of sphere. With far more grace than she had entered the Lustrous garden Azura breached Heliopolis’s outer barrier and was delighted to discover that there was air inside it, allowing her to cancel any left over momentum with just a few flaps of her wings.

In a matter of minutes, Azura’s feet landed on white marble and she was in the middle of Heliopolis proper. She stood in front of the central palace, from which the sun ray cascaded across the stars and to Galbar. She took a moment to marvel at the sight, when a voice from behind startled her.

“I know you to be Azura,” Aelius said. “Welcome to Heliopolis.” Asceal and Liana stood at his side.

Azura’s startled head twitched to the side to bring them all into view, but it quickly became clear that they weren’t overtly hostile to her intrusion she calmed down enough to strike up conversation, abit one that started rather clumsily.

“Hello! Yes, I am Azura. Love what you’ve done with the place by the way. Ah, If I’m remembering rightly you’re Aelius, Asceal and...” here the parrot paused, floundering monetarily as the architect given knowledge failed her “who might you be?” she concluded, her gentle inquiry directed at the unfamiliar figure made of vines who accompanied the two gods.

Liana, who had been busy admiring Azura’s multi coloured feathers and ignoring her words, jumped at the question and pointed to herself uncertainty as if seeking some confirmation before replying sheepishly, “I’m, uh, Liana. Hello.”

“Liana is still adjusting to her new form,” Aelius explained. “Asceal saved her and crafted her a body. The rest… could not be saved,” he said, suddenly sombre. “Forgive us if we seem out of sorts.”

Azura cocked her head to the side and, her voice touched by concern, asked “Saved her? From which disaster?”

“The only one that matters,” An expression of anger crossed Asceal’s face as she spoke, “Katharsos’s massacre of the souls that accompanied us to this universe.”

Azura was shocked by this information. The massive parrot’s beak opened and closed several times as she attempted to respond and failed to find the words each and every time. After a dozen or so attempts she finally managed to utter an almost uncomprehending “what?” followed moments later by a mournful “Why?” as the horror of such an act began to set in. Finally, after her mind had fully wrapped itself around the monstrous piece of information the same anger that had crossed Asceal’s face gripped her as she asked “how?”

“Asceal saw it for herself,” Aelius answered. “She told me Katharsos was pulling souls away from Galbar against their will. They were burning - billions of them.”

Part of Azura wanted to doubt, to reject the notion that she had been brought into a reality where such cruelty existed. If this was true however, then there was no time for doubt. “But can we save those that are left?”

Asceal felt some small measure of hope rise in her as Azura spoke. It was heartening to see another god feel as she and Aelius did, even if it didn’t change a thing in the moment. When she replied it was with a somber tone, “A few, but not enough.” She shook her head and hesitated, it was painful to admit her powerlessness, “Even saving one, saving Liana, it wasn’t easy. I’ve sworn to do whatever I can to help others, but until we know what Katharsos has done to ensnare and destroy so many I fear we can only pluck the occasional soul from his grasp.”

Azura tried to mull this over in her head, thoughts swirling around her mind like a hurricane but one thing stood clear in the eye of the storm: the memory of her conversation with Parvus. Though most of the discussion had been poisoned in her mind by the god’s manipulations he had spoken of the dangers of war with what she felt was sincerity. She had agreed with him that it should be avoided, for the time being at least, and yet here she stood on the precipice of divine conflict.

“If they are suffering and dying as you say, then I will do all I can to help them break free of his tyranny. If you don’t have answers I can help look for them and I can help spread word of this heinous act.“

Aelius nodded. “The more allies we have, the easier our task will be. The other gods must be made aware of this tragedy. In the meantime, we should investigate. The more we know about Katharsos’s methods, the easier it’ll be to stop him.”

“I agree. A good place to start investigations would be share what we already know? There is so much going on that I have not seen. So much destruction and chaos that could add to this crisis that I don't want to be blindsided by anymore. As things stand, i worry this sun might explode the moment I leave it.” Azura finally brought things back to why she had come here in the first place. She had learned of but one disaster. Greatest of them all it may be, but there were still so many others left to uncovered.

Aelius frowned at the mention of suns exploding. Heliopolis wouldn’t come to that, would it? As far as he was concerned, it was their last bastion of hope. No - he saved it once, from Mel. He’d do the same as many times as necessary.

“Agreed,” he said. “No more surprises. Come, we can talk more inside.” Aelius gestured to his citadel. The gods and their companion climbed the steps before disappearing into the hall. While they spoke of the past the unseen moon was born and shattered below them, the eye of desolation burned and conniving gods set traps for mortals yet to come.


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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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That night, Shengshi felt himself wake up. The snake sat up and stretched - only to realise that he was not in his basket. Upon rubbernecking his head around, he found that he was not in his own chambres, either. Where were his beautiful walls of carven wood? What had happened to his wonderful, somewhat stained carpet? How on earth had he not noticed this in his sleep?

He briefly glimpsed a wicked grin. The image moved without his consent. He had not even gotten out of bed, yet the ground beneath him disappeared, leaving the snake to fall endlessly in thin air. As a sort of futile attempt to mimic his more avian siblings, the snake tried his best to flap his arms to achieve lift.

It worked.

The river lord, for the second time, found himself flying leagues above the surface of Galbar. He saw the Dragon’s Foot, as well as the Kick. In the distance to the north, he saw two odd shapes twist and turn in ways that were too animated to be qualities of a landmass - and yet there could exist no living creature that large. Finally, to the far west, Shengshi saw a new land still steaming from its creation.

Another change of scene. He was in Fengshui Fuyou - or at least, the aura was familiar. However, this was no sphere of his. The rivers ran flaming hot, searing the earth around as well as its inhabitants. The snake covered his eyes at the horror, but his hands went through his face, instead gouging at his eyes. As the divine blood soiled the earth below, the blind god felt a sharp taste in his mouth - one that soon warped into a tangible cork in his throat. The suffocating god clutched at his throat, but found that his hands had long since melted to the bone from the surrounding heat. He finally coughed up the cork, but his throat would not yet know air. As asphyxiation stole away his consciousness and the magma below liquified his form, the river lord could only feel the taste of wine.




Shengshi awoke with such a start that he tipped his basket over, was sent rolling out of it like some tumbleweed, and crashed into one of his slider doors, breaking it in half. The river lord, now laying with his tail on his veranda and his torso on top of a bisected wood-and-paper wall adorned with one of his better poems, took a moment to assess what he had just witnessed.

He failed, however. All except a singular snippit had all but evaporated from his memory like water on burning coals. Shengshi licked the inside of his mouth. There it was again. He was certain he had not been drinking the night before, though… Was his mind playing tricks on him again? The snake stood up, fixed his door and turned around. His mask paled.

It would be a generous statement to call his room messy at this point. His adorned floor carpet’s divine symbol had suffered grievous discolouring, being no longer red, but various shades of purple and brown; the cracks between his floorboards were white with the dust of the pulverised porcelain cups that had all been swept poorly into all four corners; the main calligraphy station had originally been made of rosewood, but seeing as it had been marinated in ink a few nights straight now, it appeared to have taken on a rather charcoalish colouring. The roof was missing at least four lanterns and the veranda outside carried the faint scent of the vomit that the servants had not had time to clean up yet.

Shengshi let out a long, raspy groan, followed by a dry, hacking cough.

“SERVANTS! The usual!”

Two globules of water rushed in his door minutes later, one carrying a tray with a glass of blueberry juice and one of pickle water; the other, a plate of egg stir fry and pickled cabbage. The globules placed the breakfast on the small saloon table and zoomed back out. The snake slithered over slowly and nearly collapsed into a sitting position. He chugged the glass of pickle juice and winced, letting out a nauseating belch. He chugged the blueberry juice quickly to keep the bile down. Then, as he poked weakly at his stir fry with his chopsticks, he pondered the situation. How long had he demonstrated this neglectful, hedonistic behaviour? How had he managed to break so many cups? Had any of his siblings seen him like this?

“Servants! Bring me a drink!”

How did this keep happening? He was a god, by the Architect! He knew his limits - if he even had any! A globule came in with the usual bottles and a few extra cups. The river lord took the tray and waved the servant away. He poured himself a cup and walked out on the veranda. Today was an uncharacteristically gloomy day - the clouds to the south were thick and black. From his tower atop his castle, the snake saw the distant roost of flame - a work of that noisy, fiery brother of his, no question. He shook his head slowly and put the cup to his lips.

The cup soon went flying overboard. Shengshi instinctively leaned forward over the railing and stretched out an arm to catch it, though his effort was futile. He watched as the cup descended through the air and broke through the water surface below with an inaudible blop. The snake recoiled from the railing. What had come over him? He had fully intended to drink the wine, yet as soon as the scent entered his nose, Shengshi had retched. The stabbing stink had cut at his nosehairs like a knife, and for a mere second, he had seen demons in the drink.

He let out a sigh and stepped inside, only to find that the rank scent permeated his room. This made him retch again, this time to the point where he could taste his breakfast again.

“This cannot go on,” he reasoned and went down to the deck.

Shengshi descended from the ship and swam down Nanhe. His speed was not extraordinary this time - he merely paddled gently through the river water. He closed his eyes and attempted to clear his mind of everything: The dream, the wine, the mess. All that remain was the temperate licks of water against his skin, the gentle wash of water against his ears, and the moist scent of life all around. He had reached the northern tip of the rainforest. The occasional curious fish came over to nibble at the god’s red scales. A few tadpoles tried too. A small frog landed on the snake’s belly with a soft, wet slap and gave a light croak. Here, the god feel asleep again.

His eyes opened again. The sky was gone, replaced with clouds of soot and shadow. The river below him ran thick with scalding lava and the trees around were no more. He tried to swim faster, but could not muster the strength to crawl through the elastic molten stone. In a desperate attempt to free himself, he reached out to whatever water was around and-

Donk!

The snake laid still on the ground by the river, his head pressed up against a now bisected rock. Before him, the river rolled on merrily; behind him, several trees had either been knocked over or bent to the side. An educated guess lead the snake to believe he had cast himself ashore in his sleep with a torrent of water. What’s worse, the dream had mostly faded - yet an imagine remained: Fire.

Shengshi stood back up and slithered through the forest for a spell. Phystene had truly brought life to this land: Even here at the northern edge of the woods, the green thickets were still very much present, reinforced by mighty trees to the south, some of which were visible through the vines and leaves. The previous barren stoneplains had given way to a fantastical rainforest mirrored only in the imagination. Yes, yes… Here, he could find some peace and tranquility.

After wandering for an unknown length of time, he came upon a small beck, no doubt a tributary of Nanhe. It was barely even a metre across, and its water ran so clear Shengshi could see the old stones along the riverbed through the water. The snake found the beck entrancingly beautiful and sat down, admiring the simplicity of it. Around the beck sprouted tiny blades of grass and even taller leaf-bearing stalks. This was what he had sworn to protect - the flow’s mission to bring life to all of creation. His smile diminished.

“So why, then, am I haunted by these rivers of flame?” he whispered to himself, his voice laced with a droplet of desperation. The beck did not answer him; it could not answer him. Shengshi understood, for it was but an infant, yet the question persisted. He let out a groan and cupped his hands into the water, bringing a mouthful to his lips to drink. Yes… Purer water could not be found in this realm nor any other. A thought intruded into his troubled mind. Perhaps that was all he needed? A substance to calm his nerves, yet preserve his spirit. He smiled at the little beck, which seemingly looked back through streaks of reflected sunlight.
“Thank you, dear child. You have given your lord more today than any other subject can give him for aeons.” He wrote a name into the soil by the bank.

“From this day on, you are Xiaoli, the first of my court.” The beck began to glow. “You shall be my heart and my voice of reason; the jailor of my hedonism. You shall guide me and others in times of despair and confusion…” Slowly, the centre of the azure-glowing beck began to rise, fashioning itself into a humanoid shape. Shengshi’s smile turned to a grin. “You shall uphold the teachings of the Flow and pass them on to whomever wishes to learn.”

The shape grew detailed: Stones from the riverbed were ground into pale sand than floated to the form’s surface and hardened into soft, flexible skin; the dark earth from the riverbanks flowed through the shape and mixed with the remains of weeds and grasses than had been caught in the water - together, they sprouted from its top as long, silky strands of hair. The shape grew thin, yet toned arms which themselves sprouted beautiful hands with ten fingers each. The hair was soon complemented with a head and a soft face with sharp features. The shape grew sharp, protruding ears like its master; it formed eyes clear as the water into which they stare, like its master; its nose was a little smaller and pointier than the flat, feline nose of its creator, though. Finally, a pair of red lips formed on the pale face. Shengshi stared in awe at the creature before him. She was like a work of art given life - a statue carved from the finest marble by the greatest crafter in creation.

Xiaoli opened her eyes and looked at her creator. Her irises mirrored his: clear as water in a glass. She softly lifted her hands to her face and tested the sensation of touch. Her breath grew ragged as she felt her soft, somewhat prickly skin of fine sand brush against her cheek. She looked down to her feet, then the riverbank, then her master, who nodded eagerly as he slithered back a bit. The girl shyly lifted her right leg and placed the foot in the water by the riverbank. She pulled herself closer and let out a concerned sigh. She looked back at her master, who beckoned her over eagerly. The girl looked back at her feet before raising her leg again. She took a deep breath and lowered it.

“I… I can walk… On land,” she remarked in a voice as gentle and soft as the sound of a mountain stream. Shengshi grinned at her.

“Yes, my dearest Xiaoli. You are my heart. You may explore creation with all the glee and enthusiasm you can muster.” As she heard that, the girl’s lips parted to reveal a grin of teeth made from riverstones in all shades from white to brown to black. She jumped into the air shouting and yelling out of sheer joy, splashing dirt and earth into the beck and water onto land. Shengshi laughed softly.

“It warms my heart to see that you are so happy, my dear. Perhaps there is a link?” he jested. Xiaoli placed a hand on her naked chest, waited a moment and titled her head to the side as she smiled at Shengshi.

“I think that there just might be, my lord,” she responded. She then turned around to face the water. She moved her hands softly through the air and the two of them watched as the river water ascended and wrapped itself around Xiaoli’s body. It clung to her arms and her torso, and then dripped down over her legs. In a flash, the water around her legs hardened and became a short and thin azure silk skirt that flowed down to her ankles and a little further. The white silk torso draped softly over her every curve and bend, and the sleeves and cuffs hung low and were almost as wide as the skirt. The skirt itself was held in place by an azure ribbon around Xiaoli’s waist. Finally, she took a bright, polished red stone out of the river and made herself a necklace with it. Shengshi stood gaping in awe.

“Magnificent…” he whispered. “You… You have inherited my powers.” Xiaoli covered her mouth with her oversized sleeve and let out a chuckle.

“Well, you did make me a creation of the Flow, my lord,” she reasoned. “To be blessed with such a gift - one would naturally understand the Flow well enough to influence it.” The snake closed his gaping mouth and cleared his throat. “Indeed,” he voiced. Xiaoli looked looked around curiously at the surroundings. She skipped across her birthbeck and picked at some leaves hanging from a nearby tree. Shengshi could not help but keep observing the girl as she danced through the forest, laughing and singing in the shadows under the trees.

After an hour or so, Xiaoli had calmed down. She walked over to the river and laid down to relax. Shengshi slithered over and sat down by her. He let his eyes run freely across the girl’s form. He still could not believe that he had managed to create something so beautiful.



Xiaoli looked at the snake oogling her and let out a soft sigh. “My lord, as your voice of reason, I will have to inform you that good moral behaviour does not include giving young girls such a look.”

Shengshi recoiled, placing a hand at his chest. He felt blood rush to his cheeks and looked away. “Of course! Naturally! You accuse me of such behaviour? I was merely-...!” He chuckled sheepishly as Xiaoli gave him a light scowl. The snake cleared his throat. “My apologies.” Xiaoli sighed again and nodded. “It is what I am here for, my lord.” The snake raised an eyebrow and plucked at his mustache pensively. Suddenly, a grin so malicious he could not hide it formed across his lips and he looked to Xiaoli, who was playing with a curious frog who had likely never seen a person made from sand before.

“I know what we can do! How about we have a drink or two?” Shengshi said. Xiaoli looked at him and grinned. “My, that is a fantastic idea, my lord! Prepare a fire! I will get the ingredients.” This confused the snake, who was busy fashioning cups from a nearby pit of clay; however, before he could ask her to elaborate, Xiaoli had already sprinted upriver. Shengshi shrugged and got to making a fire. What could she possibly need a fire for, he thought. Unless…

The snake’s mind raced at the thought. Could she indeed be that much alike him? To order -distilled- wine as one’s first drink! Perhaps she possessed his hedonism as well? A part of Shengshi’s mind he’d rather give any thought to suddenly grew quite excited. He prepared everything to the best of his ability, and when Xiaoli came back, the snake had made a salon table, some pillows for seating, and a masterfully stacked campfire for the two.

“I trust you brought the still, too?” he said, smirking. Xiaoli eyed the surroundings, assessed the situation and let out a sigh that slowly turned into a groan.

“My lord…” She took a deep breath. “I am very grateful you created me.” Shengshi’s smirk widened. “Because I can see now that you have to learn…” She flicked her fingers as she looked for the right word. “Restraint.” Shengshi’s smile diminished slowly. Xiaoli sighed yet again.

“No, no matter. Fashion us a kettle, please.” Shengshi raised an eyebrow and effortlessly shaped a kettle from the nearby mud. Xiaoli took it, voiced an elongated “thaaaank you”, and took off the lid. She filled it with river water and set it over the fire to boil.

“Now fashion us a mortar and a pestle, if you would.” Shengshi snorted and made her what she asked for. She took it in the same way as before. She took out some leaves from her ribbon belt and put them into the mortar. She proceeded to grind them into a green mush with the pestle. Shengshi began to smile again and nodded.

“Aaaaah! I see! This is the wort for the brew, yes?”

Xiaoli looked up at Shengshi, and for a moment, Shengshi could have sworn he saw a horrified expression on her face. She merely shook her head and kept grinding the leaf mash. After a while, the pot began to boil over.

“Ah, it is boiling. My lord, would you please fill the cups you have made with the water?” Shengshi did as she asked. At this point, he was too curious to ask questions. Xiaoli slowly added a little mash to the water in each cup. Then, using a brush she had quickly fashioned for a handful of grass straws, she stirred the mash around in the water until it reached a green, almost thick consistency. He passed one cup to her master, slid a little away from the table and proceeded to kowtow before him.

“Please, enjoy your drink, my lord.”

Shengshi looked at the green liquid with a suspicious scowl. “There is no alcohol in this… You did not add any yeast,” he muttered sourly. Xiaoli, forehead still pressed against her hands on the ground, replied in a patient tone. “As your voice of reason and jailor of your hedonism, it is my opinion that you perhaps need a drink without any alcohol, my lord.” The snake muttered something about -her- perhaps needing a drink without alcohol and looked into his cup. He could compare it to Phystene’s skin, or a blade of grass, or anything green and grasslike. Even the smell was akin to a bland garden. He sighed and took a sip.

Where was he? He looked around. He had not moved, yet he did not at all feel like himself. In front of him, Xiaoli had gotten back into a comfortable sitting position and was sipping her own cup. She gave him a clever little smile as she did so. The snake looked around. Everything was suddenly so clear. The water in the beck trickled along calmly, yet he could hear its quiet song; the wind brushed through the leaves - had they been doing that the whole time? Downstream, he heard the frogs croak their little choruses. What was this feeling?

“... eace, my lord?”

Shengshi looked up. Xiaoli was looking at him, smiling as ever.

“Are you at peace, my lord?” she repeated patiently.

Shengshi looked back down into his cup.

“Yes…” He felt his body, his soul and his aura all pulse in a tranquil manner. “What-... What is this?”

“I call it the Water of Eternity. Granted, the name iiiis a work in progress, so…” Shengshi chuckled.

“I like it, but the name is a little long. How about just Eternity?”

Xiaoli shook her head. “No, that -is- already a word. How about Woe?” Shengshi grimaced.

“What? No, that sounds awful. Ternity!”

“What is that, some kind of game?” Xiaoli laughed. She snapped her fingers. “How about just… Tea?” The snake snapped his fingers and pointed at her. “You, my dearest Xiaoli, are a genius.” Xiaoli blushed. Shengshi summoned the leaves that Xiaoli had made this tea from. He laid them out on the table and held his open palm over them and summoned forth a calligraphy brush and some ink. Xiaoli watched curiously as Shengshi laid out three leaves and dipped his brush in the ink.

“Any property you would like to add, my dear?” he asked her. Xiaoli placed a pensive finger on her chin and let out an audible “hmm”.

“How about cleansing? As in, not only will it cleanse the soul, but also the body of undesirable stuff?” she proposed. The snake nodded.

“I agree. Anything else?”

“How about an increased lifespan for all who consume this leaf?”

Shengshi scratched his chin pensively. Immortality, huh…

“No, that is not a power I would like to give to just any mortal,” he mumbled, hand still on his chin. “I think it already is satisfactory.” Xiaoli nodded.

“Be attentive, Tea, for your lord speaks!” The leaves began to glow a warm shade of verdant. Shengshi wrote the first character down on the leaf to the right.

“Grow vibrant and green - reveal to all who see you that you are a herb of health. Bless those who consume you with purity of soul and system.” The rightmost leaf shone brighter than its two neighbours. Shengshi moved to the middle leaf and wrote down the character.

“Offend not the tongues of your consumers with appalling taste, but give them incentive to support your growth by giving their taste buds the most gentle and stimulating sensations.” The second leaf joined in its neighbour’s flashing display. Shengshi turned to the final leaf and wrote the final character.

“Be true to the Flow and all its teachings. You may not inherently be of my realm, but I accept you into it, my dear subject. You shall have sanctuary along my every river, and the soils that drink my waters shall forever sate your needs. In return, your lord demands loyalty and morality - never shall you poison those who consume you, nor shall you quench the thirst of those who would seek to end your lord’s reign. These are my demands.” The third leaf took on the familiar grow. Soon, all the similar plants in the forest around them glistened in the same way, revealing themselves as near and distant blinks through the foliage. Xiaoli’s widened eyes jumped between her master and the now-normalising leaves.

“Do you… Do you think I can do that?” she asked carefully. Shengshi raised an eyebrow and scratched his head.

“Well, uhm…” He plucked pensively at his beard. Xiaoli sat there patiently, but she was visibly itching to experiment. Shengshi shrugged. “Only one way to find out! Go find us a different tea plant.” Xiaoli, grinning from ear to ear, rocketed to her feet and zoomed off into the foliage.

In the meanwhile, Shengshi made himself another cup of tea. A gentle sigh left his mouth as he swallowed his first mouthful. This ease, this peace - it all seemed so foreign to him even though he had barely known hardship in all his short existence. He would have to consider the value of this sensation - perhaps prosperity did not necessarily mean hedonistic pleasure for all of creation - perhaps there was more to his goal than gold and luxury. A word came to mind, one that he had considered as an end goal through prosperity, but one that should perhaps hold an equal position to wealth and joy for all of creation.

Harmony: Peace between the source and the consumer; the perfect circle of resource recycling; calm in spirit and wise in mind-

“My lord! I found these!” Xiaoli thrust a fistful of flowers in Shengshi’s face. The snake recoiled slightly. Xiaoli stood still for a moment and then quickly regained her composure, bowing deeply before the snake.

“My most sincere apologies, my lord. I did not mean to interrupt you.” The river lord chuckled softly.

“I am happy to see you are so eager, my dear. Now, prepare a pot and let us taste.” The girl immediately did as asked and prepared a fresh kettle of hot water. She tried to mash apart one of the flowers. However, it soon became clear that the result was not satisfactory. She prepared two cups and neither of them could swallow the appalling liquid.

“Blegh… This tastes like plant oils,” the snake spat. Xiaoli covered her mouth with her sleeve and she leaned to the side to spit. She sighed, but soon an idea came to mind.

“How about we add the flowers to the water without crushing them?” Shengshi gestured for her to go ahead. Another kettle was prepared, but this time, the flowers were added to the boiling water. Xiaoli poured her master’s cup first and the snake had a taste.

“Mmm… The flavour is a little weak,” he said as he rolled the liquid around in his mouth. Xiaoli sighed and took a sip from her own cup. She raised an eyebrow and eyed first the cup, then Shengshi.

“What do you mean? It’s perfect.” The snake returned the expression.

“Let me have a taste of yours.” They exchanged cups and tasted. The snake ran a forked tongue around his lips after swallowing.

“No, you are right. Yours is perfect. Mine is a little weak.” Xiaoli put a pensive finger on her chin.

“Perhaps mine grew stronger because I poured my cup last?” The snake nodded. “That is likely the reason, yes… We cannot have that. How can a host serve tea to their guests if everyone gets drinks of different qualities!” With that, the snake fashioned a small clay mug. Xiaoli raised a curious brow.

“This shall be a medium between kettle and cup - the pitcher in which one stores the finished tea so all may drink the same brew.” Xiaoli smiled and clapped enthusiastically. “What shall we call it?” Shengshi paused, scratching his chin.

“Uh… The, uhm… The equal cup!” Xiaoli scoffed and tilted her head on the side, rolling her eyes sarcastically. “My lord, your creativity knows no bounds.” The snake returned the eyerolling gesture and hissed softly at her.

“Do not criticise your lord unless he is outright wrong in his actions, dear Xiaoli.” The girl winked at him and bowed her head. “Of course, my lord.” They brewed another kettle of tea, this time using the equal cup to distribute the tea. The two of them drank simultaneously and let out a satisfied sigh.

“It is much sweeter than the green one. The colour is also lighter,” Shengshi remarked. Xiaoli nodded.

“Naturally, my lord. This is but a mere infusion of flavour, not an outright mixture of ingredients.” The snake nodded. “Well, are you going to name it, then?” Xiaoli smiled and nodded, reaching for the calligraphy brush and the ink. Shengshi nodded proudly - the girl’s writing stance was nothing short of perfect, with a stiff grip around the brush and solid control over the arm. Xiaoli dipped her brush in the ink and placed two flowers down on the table.

“What qualities should we give it?” she asked. Shengshi shrugged.

“This is your creation, my dear. You may give it whatever you like.” Xiaoli deflated a little and her face flushed with the red colour of embarrassment. “Th-... Then… Since it is flower tea… How about we make it… Influence two creatures’ feelings for one another?” Shengshi raised an eyebrow, feeling beads of sweat form on his forehead.

“In-... In what way?” Xiaoli covered her blushing face with free arm’s her long sleeve.

“In… In…” She paused. “I am certain my lord knows the way I mean.” The snake cleared his throat sheepishly and drank the rest of his tea swiftly, looking away.

“G-.. Uh… Go ahead. It is your creation, a-... After all…” he said, looking away and covering his face with a clawed hand.

The girl lowered her sleeve so she could see what she was writing. “B-be attentive, tea of flowers - your lord’s ruh-... Your lord’s representative speaks!” The two flowers began to glow in a warm yellow light. She painted the first character on the rightmost flower.

“You are not inherently of the Flow, either, yet in return for your loyalty and morality, my lord will grant you sanctuary in his realm. You shall be welcome to eat and drink along his every riverbank, for his table always has food for his subjects. Your home along the rivers shall forever provide for you and all your offspring from this day, until the end of time.” The rightmost flower began to radiate bright yellow light. Xiaoli turned to the leftmost flower and let out a hacking, embarrassed sigh.

“A-and you shall forever be tasked w-with bringing people closely together! You shall tie bonds between strangers and tighten bonds between friends!” She took a deep breath. “A-a-and… You shall forge bonds of eternal love between those of the world’s creatures who share feelings for one another.” She finished the character and covered her face again. The bright yellow light briefly flashed pink before slowly receding. The two of them slowly revealed their flushed faces, avoiding direct eye-contact. Shengshi finally spoke.

“W-... Well done. It would s-seem that you have indeed inherited my p-powers.”
Xiaoli let out an embarrased chuckle. “Heh… Yeah.” The two sat in silence for a spell. Finally, Shengshi got up. Xiaoli’s eyes followed his movements, but she still covered the face below her nose with her sleeve.

“Where are you going, my lord?” she asked. Shengshi scratched his arm sheepishly.

“I, uhm… I need a cold bath, if you will. I will be right back.” Xiaoli nodded slowly. The snake god soon disappeared into the foliage. She looked down at the flowers, which almost stared back at her, making her feel even more embarrassed.

“I pray that he will not make this tea for me…” she said, sighing.




After calming down and packing their things, the two headed back to the Giant’s Bath and the Jiangzhou. Shengshi found Xiaoli’s method of swimming to be rather interesting: Instead of actually swimming, the girl simply reverted into the components that made her form and placed them inside a globule of river water, which travelled upriver with its master. The two of them ascended onto the ship’s deck, where Xiaoli promptly reassembled.

“Magnificent,” she whispered, mouth agape in awe. Shengshi smirked. “I will have to give you the tour during out voyage. We have a long distance to cover.” The girl raised an eyebrow. “Wait, are we leaving?” Shengshi nodded.

“Yes. We are heading for the new continent - the one I saw in my dream, the one far to the west.” Shengshi slithered to the front of the deck and prepared to influence the fresh waters below. Xiaoli followed him.

“But how do we get there? This boat cannot travel on sea! We cannot control the currents!” Shengshi smirked. “We are not going by sea.” Xiaoli stood there dumbstruck. Shengshi continued. “Now that there are two of us, we will travel as my sister Azura would.” Xiaoli put a pensive finger on her chin.

“Now, be ready to push the current forward when I say go.” Xiaoli still had several questions, but she made an educated guess and concluded that her master was not too interested in hearing a voice of reason right now. She prepared herself and shouted, “Ready!”

With that, Shengshi screamed, “GO!” at the top of his lungs and, in a display of water and foam, ripped a pillar of water out of the water in front of the ship. Xiaoli started, but quickly regain composure and pushed the ship forward. The ship’s hull creaked and croaked as it sailed uphill. Shengshi kept pushing the pillar upwards and Xiaoli kept pushing it forward. When the ship had ascended high enough, Shengshi cut the bottom of the pillar and let the it fall back into the Bath. The remaining water underneath the ship rolled around the underside of the deck for a while before forming an oblong surface that kept pushing the river forward like a current, but at the same time travelled with the ship. Xiaoli could not believe her own eyes.
“We-... We’re flying! My lord, we’re flying!” Shengshi felt beads of sweat form on his forehead, but ignored them and let out a strained laughter. “Hah! I experimented with this idea in Fengshui Fuyou! One day, I shall create a river in the sky that can connect all the celestial spheres - like a massive river network!” He groaned slightly as he had to refocus for a moment.

“For now, though, I can only keep Jiangzhou afloat.” Xiaoli walked over to her master and smiled. “As your voice of reason, I have to admit - I am in awe at the thought of this actually working.” Shengshi chuckled again. “I cannot keep this up forever, mind you. Get some rest. You will take over by sundown.” Xiaoli bowed. “Yes, my lord.” She turned and made her way to the palace, but before she entered the door, she turned back and faced the red-scaled back of the river lord.

“Thank you, my lord. Thank you for creating me. I swear upon my life that I will serve you with diligence and wisdom.” The snake laughed again.

“Thank you in advance for your service, my dear. Now rest up.” She bowed again and entered the castle. The snake looked over the side of the deck, seeing the endless ocean below. Ashalla was no doubt somewhere underneath, eyeing him. He paid the thought no mind.

It was time to bring the Flow to the new world.





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Atop a bed of crystals, Ekon hurtled through infinite black. Guided by an unseen influence towards a cerulean spheroid set adrift a sea of nothingness. Galbar’s visage grew ever-closer with each encroachment until finally, it was within reach. Wordlessly he advanced, slowing his pace to a halt until Ekon floated on the precipice of this new world. There he admired The Architect’s craftsmanship and might, for he birthed not only a pantheon of deities but shaped a universe in his image. A testament to a power he received, but a sliver of, though; the adolescent god harbored no covetous thoughts. Instead of longing for greater strength, the young god salivated at the prospects this rebirth promised him.

Teal eyes cast themselves into an endless dark, memories of yesteryear returning in hazy snapshots. A parting glance to old existences before the fear god embarked on his journey. Crystalline surfboard tilted down, he willed his chariot onward. Without warning the god along with the clear rocky platform upon, which he stood plummeted earthward. Ekon severed the sky, plunging into Galbar with meteoric speed. Inborn instincts newly installed by The Architect directed him towards his sphere. Somehow, he just “knew” it awaited him below mud and dirt. However, the predictably spectacular collision expected from such a crash was absent. Before the young deity struck land, jaws of darkness blossomed from the ether and swallowed Ekon. Still, upon his crystal steed, he emerged from a yawning maw many miles below Galbar.

Subterranean emptiness stretched endlessly around Ekon, with stalactites and soil as its only noteworthy features. After his tumultuous dive through the heavens, he’d, at last, reached his private sphere. Anxious to tread upon this new territory Ekon abandoned his interstellar taxi, after, which it collapsed harmlessly into debris. Pebbly terrain crunched beneath the scrutiny of bare feet, with every explorative prod of the area. Satisfied with his fleeting analysis of the situation, the fear god set into motion the rise of his kingdom.

Initially, he pondered what a realm for one such as he ought to look like. Should it inspire crippling dread? Only for him to dismiss such designs as cliché and beneath him. On the other hand, it was only natural for a person’s home to “mirror” them was another thought that crept its way into the god’s head. Indecision’s reign wouldn’t last for long as an errant thought had captured his attention. Aware that he lacked a fearsome visage of his own, Ekon thought it might be amusing to model his private sphere after this fact. First, he would craft a skeleton then he would lay upon its foundation a persuasive façade. No doubt something that his many past selves would have liked. After all, true horror often sprung from the most unassuming places.

Divine energies hurried through innumerable souls forged into the being called Ekon. Form rich with celestial vigor he expelled holy radiance in waves throughout the cavernous hideaway. Stony earth impregnated with otherworldly might birthed an explosion of light. After it faded, cracked dirt peppered with patches of dead grass sat in place of rocky formations. Hungering darkness devoured tapering structures of jagged rock that hung overhead after, which, it played the role of night. But what was a sky without something to fill it? He thought, and in that instant, he knew what it lacked. Layers of inky blackness peeled away to unveil a bright moon forever stalked by clouds. Still, he deemed this too flat and dull, it needed a little something else. Perhaps something with a bit more elevation, the fear god supposed before concentrating on the center of his sub-reality. From the realm’s desiccated heart, a mountain arose, jagged and imposing, it overlooked the land like a fearsome guardian. Lastly, a weathered edifice sluggishly ascended out of the great rock’s crown, accompanied by an eruption of stone and dust. It was an ugly ominous tower painted ebon that reached so high into the heavens it stabbed through a cluster of clouds.

Bathed in luminescence Ekon admired his newfound power. Eyes stapled to open palms, the terror god stood in silent awe at what he’d just accomplished. Never in any iteration of his previous existences had he wield supernatural forces, let alone those capable of reshaping reality. Divine gifts such as these were, but myths he’d read as a scholar, or fairytales he’d scoffed at as the fisherman. But as a united entity he realized the wildest dreams and fantasies of so many. If the fear god had been reincarnated as a more “virtuous” being, it would have been a humbling experience. Perhaps, it would have even inspired him to uplift others. Instead, there existed only a twisted amusement, and anxiousness to exploit these talents. A glimpse of withered fauna captured Ekon’s attention, and his mind refocused on the task at hand.

Arms outstretched, Ekon welcomed the fears of creation into his domain. Upon shrieking gales intangible horrors traveled into the god’s sphere, enriching it with a dreadful aura. The ground beneath him spiderwebbed, and through fractured earth, a legion of terrors became one with the realm. From financial catastrophes to warring nations all woes found purchase within the pocket dimension. Engorged with centuries of dread his realm “bled,” and like an open sore leaked until it saturated Galbar. More importantly, they would lead to the rise of aberrations and monstrosities the likes of, which he’d only dreamt of. Lips curled into a smirk before the newborn god spoke.

“Almost done.”

With a wave of his hand, Ekon unleashed another tsunami across the brown landscape. “Life” blossomed in the newly created sphere with greenery flourishing across the seemingly unending expanse. The previously gloomy sky turned a shade of cobalt with a blazing yellow sun sat atop a sea of clouds. This world would know fear’s majesty in all its many forms.



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