A small conversation.
The events of this post take place prior to ‘A Failed Gamble’ and subsequent posts.
Going to another’s realm was always a useful option, especially when one had need to talk directly. Besides the information one could divine from the nature and status of things in their realm itself. Of course such things were not entirely without risk. One put themselves at risk to encounter another deity in their own field of complete control and power.
Thaa however did not worry much, a short and curt message. ”I will be visiting shortly.” He did not worry about such things for this one, or rather he did and had his own set of assurances that his work would not be impeded regardless of the happenings here. Celestine was not an object of great worry for Thaa, although he did have his matters to discuss. He entered through her portal even now to enter her realm. Keeping a broad mix of only a few thousand corpses and his Golden Disk and Eye.
Shortly after she received the message from Thaa Celestine would rise from the throne overlooking The Longhall and send a divine message out to the Virtus Elves and Death Dragons that inhabited her realm. The contents of this message were simple: ”There will be another god visiting. I trust them well, so you will all most likely be safe from harm. Best behaviour please.
With this message sent Celestine would walk briskly to the approaching path of her castle where visiting gods would be placed upon their arrival. It was here that she waited for Thaa to arrive, and when he did she would curtsey in greeting, as was typical of Celestine. When Thaa first arrived the first thing he would probably notice would be the sky being filled with a few dozen Death Dragons conducting their business as they saw fit. The next thing would likely be the massive castle that The Bulwark had been transformed into and the large city surrounding it. It was roughly around noon within Celestine’s realm, so the castle and surrounding city were almost radiant in appearance.
The two Death Dragons closest to where Thaa would manifest would be a pair of juveniles that were playing together. They pushed at one another and wrestled a bit before taking off into the sky to see who could beat the other in a race. Then they both dived down towards a few idling cows and took a moment to eat and chat. A few minutes later they would race into the sky again, resuming their play.
Rising from her curtsey Celestine would speak with a soft smile upon her face. ”Greetings, friend. What brings you to my realm? Did you have a desire to check in with the dragons that you sent over? Or was there something you wished to speak about?”
Stepping to the side and raising a hand towards The Bulwark and surrounding city, Celestine would speak again as a thought came to mind. ”Or perhaps you wished to see how our first arrangement goes? I’ll be happy to give you a tour of anything you wish to see, all you must do is ask.”
With that said Celestine would drop her arm to a neutral position and wait for Thaa to speak.
As the Goddess had spoken the great eye of Thaa drifted around his form gazing in the multitude of directions that presented themselves to him. He spoke finally a few seconds after she had stopped, his eye settling directly upon her once more as the mound of corpses that was his body took a more bipedal form. "We have much to discuss. Beginning with a tour of all things sounds like a wise proposition."
"I see there is a great deal of mimicry of the lands and places one might find on Galbar, although built to a grander scale than the mortals have accomplished on their own in most places to be sure." His form began to slow walk forward as he spoke, clearly intending to speak while walking with the Goddess.
Celestine gave a few nods as she turned to walk slightly ahead of the now bipedal form that Thaa took on. The immense size of it made traversing beside such a form less practical due to the possible margin of error of Thaa’s movement. As they walked, Celestine would pose a question so that she could better arrange the tour that she was giving. ”So, what exactly did you wish to speak on? And beyond that, did you have anywhere in particular that you wanted to see first? I could show you the city around The Bulwark, or The Bulwark itself? Or perhaps you would like to check in with the dragons and see how they’re doing? Of course, if you’ve another idea feel free to share and I’ll see what can be done.”
As they walked, Thaa would see the massive protective wall surrounding the town coming into view well before Celestine did due to his immense height, though it would be notable that Thaa could not quite see over the top of the wall, as it was roughly sixty meters tall to better shield the town behind it from the flying difficulties of developing dragons.
”The City, the dragons, Bulwark, all of these things I would examine. We have much to discuss and principally of Galbar, you have taken keen interest in affairs. You worry about the well being of mortals, it is commendable for one so young. You outstrip many of your peers in that regard, but there are some manners of wisdom and control that come with the perspective of time. It is my desire that your empathy develops along with your wisdom and perspective, to make full use of your potential.”
Thaa paused briefly in his speech, he kept walking as his eye glided along the surface of his corpse-body, gazing upon Celestine directly. ”What manner of things live here? What creations take care of any in your city?”
Celestine gave a few more nods at Thaa’s observations before she began to answer some of the more immediate questions that Thaa posed while walking with him towards the front gate of the city. ”My Virtus Elves live here, as do the dragons which pledged themselves to my cause. They form a fair sort of harmony and I’ve been taking steps to try and enable them to further coexist, like giving the Virtus the ability to leap great heights and survive great falls. That way a dragon does not have to land every time a Virtus that they’re interacting with wishes to descend to the ground or ascend to their back. Something else I’ve been thinking of trying to do would be to grant them the ability to communicate with one another mentally, but I worry about erasing their individuality if I tie all of their minds together. It’s a complicated issue that I don’t readily have figured out yet. As for what takes care of the people in my city, that is my job. The Virtus are largely self-sufficient, but any need that they come to me with I do my best to see answered. Though I am doing my best to prepare them for the hardships that Galbar will provide.”
As they now approached the front gate Celestine lifted a hand towards the Virtus Elves that were manning the gate and signaled for them to open it. Mere moments later the gate was pulled wide and the two were allowed to pass. A fair number of the Virtus that were manning the gate or otherwise stationed along the wall raised a hand in greeting towards Celestine and Thaa in an effort to be polite. Unfortunately for Thaa, the gate was a fair amount smaller than his current form and only stood at roughly fifteen meters tall. The gate had never really been considered as anything bigger than the gate also had a pair of convenient wings to access the entire realm with. Pausing before the gate, Celestine would look back and forth between the gate and Thaa before apologizing. “My apologies, the front gate of the city was never designed to allow for such a large being like your current manifestation through. I could take a moment to modify the gate to accommodate, or if you prefer I could walk with you to the rear of the castle wall? I left a large gap in the wall there to allow the dragons to have easy access in and out. Whatever would be your preference.”
Thaa gave a simple enough reply by collapsing the corpse-biped to the ground of its composite corpses in a mound which proceeded to creep along towards the gate, much lower in height. ”No need for such, we shall proceed.”
”What plans are you so certain to proceed with that you invest in your Elves to send to Galbar?”
Celestine raised an eyebrow at the sudden collapse of Thaa’s chosen form. Having a form so malleable was unfamiliar to her as her own form was overwhelmingly static and didn’t change shape much. But it did seem to solve the problem of the gate not being large enough. As Thaa asked what plans she had in motion there was a notable but slight delay before she began to speak. ”I will be deploying a portion of them soon, but I’ll be recalling them when the situation they’re being deployed for is resolved. Once that’s done I plan on interviewing them and learning what issues they encounter with being upon Galbar, and from that knowledge I’ll either grant more boons or more knowledge to them. Beyond that, I have a few more things that need to be arranged before they’re given a more permanent presence upon Galbar.”
As they moved through the gate Thaa would see that there was a small buffer of empty space between the wall and the city that it was protecting, and beyond that was a beautiful city constructed mainly of white brick houses with blue tiled rooftops. Webbed throughout the city were smooth cobblestone roads that linked every structure together and ensured that none who were traveling had to walk through fields of mud should the weather turn to rain. Within the town square lay the shrine to The Akashic Gate, which was currently closed and displayed the overlapping symbols of Celestine and Àicheil in full.
From six places in the city rose notable pillars of smoke, and due to Celestine’s lack of alarm it was obvious that she was unconcerned about them. Looking to Thaa and raising a hand to the city that lay beyond the protective wall, Celestine asked a simple question to better structure the tour. ”What would you like to see first?”
Thaa gave no easy reply to the answer to his question, instead waiting and responding at last when she had finished, his eye roamed both his form and in gaze all around, occasionally switching back to the Goddess. It lingered on the Akashic Gate for a moment. Thaa spoke, "I wish to see more of this city and the elves that do inhabit it."
Celestine gave a few nods, though found herself a bit puzzled with what exactly to show Thaa first, figuring that it might be best to slay two birds with one stone she opted to show him the nearest smithy and hoped that she would reveal both one aspect of her plans and allow Thaa to observe her elves at work. Raising a hand towards the nearest plume of smoke Celestine spoke once more to vocalize her decision. ”Very well. If you would kindly follow me this way I will show you what some of my elves are working on in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Galbar. I’ve been meaning to check in with how things have been coming along as well.”
With that said, Celestine would guide Thaa along through the city to the closest smithy. They passed a handful of Virtus who were carrying out their daily tasks, each dressed in plain outfits of green, brown, and white cotton and wool. Celestine took a moment to pause in her guidance as Thaa observed the elves for a time, but was able to resume leading him before too long passed. When they arrived at the smithy it had a notable amount of space between itself and the surrounding buildings, and beyond that the elves that worked inside wore thick leather aprons and gloves alongside their regular outfits of wool and cotton. Raising a hand and nodding her head in greeting, Celestine looked to Thaa once more before raising a hand towards the smithy and speaking. ”This is one of the six smithies I have placed around my realm. Teams of elves come and go to produce arms and armor for their upcoming deployment. Do you have anything in particular you would like to witness while we are here?”
Thaa spoke with out much delay, What metals are they working in here? This deployment is certainly going to be interesting as a solution and more than likely cause a few problems in its own right, but we shall see which is greater in the end, the current path or the diverged one. You may get more attention from other divines as well..."
Thaa seemed focused on the Elves themselves as he drifted off in some manner of thought after his little burst of speech.
Celestine gave a few nods before taking a moment to whistle sharply and approach the smithy. She exchanged a few words with one of the elves inside before they stepped away to retrieve something. It was a few moments before they returned with one of the swords they had made and offered it to Celestine. Taking it with a thanks, Celestine stepped back outside to Thaa before holding it aloft with both hands and speaking. ”They work with what I’ve come to know as steel. My own armor and sword are made out of roughly the same material, and so I felt it only right to give such a metal to my children. I do have aims to try and grant them more exotic metals in the future, but this one came to mind earnestly and is more than enough for the current deployment awaiting them. Do you think the other divines will take much issue with it?”
Thaa examined first the Elf stepping forward then the sword carried, his eye large in its own right barely shifted. "Iron and other base materials..."
"No, I don't think there will be much alarm among the divines of this metal in particular. I could see some having issue, or a desire to force their own pet projects into copying if they can recognize some logistical natures. I would worry more about the deployment itself for the deities therein. Many grow attached to certain locals and their peoples, they like the way of doing things each giving their own little boost to make sure their group dominates others. Most dislike more direct intervention, especially should it disrupt their plans."
Celestine gave a few more nods, though these held a distinct weight of understanding an intricate problem rather than just acknowledging that he had spoken. Before replying, she took a moment to return to the smithy and return the sword to the elves working there. Returning once more to Thaa she would hold a hand up towards The Bulwark before speaking. ”I’ve considered that heavily. Perhaps it would be best if we moved to The Bulwark? I can better illustrate the full details of my plan from there, and it will allow me to summon some Dragons should you wish to check up on them afterward.”
"This is acceptable, lead the way."
Celestine nodded once again before setting off through the streets of the city. This time it was approximately thirty or thirty five minutes before the two would arrive at The Bulwark. Once they were within the courtyard Celestine paused and made a mental note that it would likely be a good idea to arrange a sort of meeting room at a later point in time, especially given that her castle would likely be too cramped for Thaa’s form to easily move around in, even when not condensed into a bipedal form. The courtyard would have to do for now.
Raising a hand and tracing a circle in the air, Celestine willed into existence a small recreation of Galbar. Most of it was undetailed, but Toraan was replicated quite well. It grew to dominate the sphere as Celestine focused upon it, and now she raised a finger to point to The Anchor mountain before speaking. ”This mountain here is the foundation of my plan. I believe it is known as ‘The Anchor’. The key that I am noticing there is that it is relatively central to Toraan. This is where I have plans to place a mighty tower-fortress known as The Crystal Spire. It will be both a home and a base of operations for my Virtus elves and the dragons you have entrusted to me.”
It was here The Anchor would shift into possessing a massive tower-fortress, and lines pointing to the major corners of Toraan would project from the tip of this tower. Once that was done, Celestine would resume speaking. ”With their placement I will do my best to contact all of the mortals in the region with a message: Aggression shall be punished and stamped out. That is what I have aligned myself to do in an effort to break the cycle of war and violence in the area: Stop all aggression before it starts, and hopefully all that will be left is peace. Of course, I also aim to include an area for tournaments within The Crystal Spire, which will hopefully be enough for those who cannot contain their bloodlust to exercise themselves. Though now that I think about it again I will have to see about some sort of curse protection charms considering what happened at the one other tournament has taken place.”
Turning to Thaa, Celestine would pose a question. ”Well. There you have it. That is the general summary of what I plan on doing. What are your thoughts? And please, do not be afraid of offending me with truth. It is my preference that flaws and imperfections be revealed sooner rather than later.”
Thaa watched the changes in silence before finally speaking a number of long seconds after she had finished, his eye not moving from the projection. "What is 'aggression'? What is 'violence'? The Westfold as you know is predominantly controlled by humans, there are some trolls in hiding and a few settlements of the Merelli, but humans dominate. If they all disobey your edict will you wage war to bring them into submission? If trolls pledge to be at peace with humans and others alike, would you protect them? Or would you allow the unspoken war between man and trolls continue in a realm of 'peace'?"
He began to move and shift his form around the courtyard, his many corpses marching and crawling as a great crowd, slowly encircling the sphere and Celestine. Humans, Trolls, Reshut, Goblins, Nelves, and others seen and unseen on Galbar made up these corpses, their dull eyes staring in space or sometimes seeming to glance across the sphere of the world or the Goddess, "Is it violent to kill your own people? Kill those who think differently than you do, those who won't obey a tyrant? If their neighbors do nothing and watch and none can stop the depredations from within, will you watch? Will you act? Where is the line drawn? If there is a drought, or a flood, a people are starving and another eeks by, do you punish the hungry? Do you watch them starve?"
His eye moved with the great mass of his body, until he had made a circle in entirety. The great disk began to slide back along his great mound of corpses back to a position near the Goddess, "If you seek to control your Elves through ideals and knowledge, those will change as they must and want on Galbar, through force you make yourself Queen although distant. Will your Elves and their Dragon companions stay strong in their will? Should they have power to control the Westfold, they would have power to rule it. Even if you forbid them, what if in a hundred or three hundred years they decide it is better to do away with the pretense that all would not bend to their wills?"
Thaa turned his eye onto Celestine finally as his eye came to a rest, "I need not answers to all such questions, there are many more I can ask. You need those answers from yourself, from what your Elves are willing and able to do. Know the limits of what you can, and what you will do, long before you need to make a choice and action. Ensuring peace of a land has been the domain of rulers, you may become one, or create one, if this does be the path you intend to tread."
Celestine remained silent for a few moments after Thaa finished speaking. Then a few moments more as she took a few moments to study the corpses that surrounded them. When she finally spoke, the tone of her voice had changed slightly to one of contemplation and doubt. ”Your points are fair and just. To give my thoughts in the same order as you gave your questions: When I speak of stopping violence I speak of stopping the widespread warring that has been taking place. I cannot hope to stop every act of murder or assassination as I would have to be essentially everywhere at once, but if I can stop hundreds or thousands of innocent people from dying because of warfare and its aftereffects then I would think my mission successful. If all in the land sought to disobey such an edict I would likely see to it that a group of death dragons landed around their forward military camps at night and offer them one final chance to turn to home. If they declined… Well, balefire would be the response. If the trolls agreed to a peace with the humans and are later attacked, I would come to their defense. Likewise, if the trolls agree to a peace and then attack, I would come to the defense of whomever was on the receiving end of their assault. When I say peace for all I do truly mean peace for all.”
Pausing for a moment, Celestine gathered her thoughts and then continued to speak. ”If a nation turns to civil war I might try to send an envoy to cause a cessation of hostilities and a negotiation to separate. The issue of tyrants is a peculiar one, as I do not have a clear answer for it. Perhaps if my people are asked to intervene I might see about it, but I would hesitate to respond with dragons, as I feel like such an issue would require a more delicate touch. If there happens to be starvation and famine then I might see about bringing food to those affected and help them to become self-sufficient once more.”
Celestine paused once again as she was left with questions that were incredibly difficult to answer. In a surprising move, Celestine took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. Much like mortals did when they faced such difficult considerations. Then Celestine spoke carefully so that she didn’t say something she would come to regret. ”If I leave my avatar to reside at The Crystal Spire and assist with governing, I can likely slow the divergence of elves and dragons from the original ideals that I sent them with, but you are right in that such a divergence is likely inevitable. I cannot and will not try and shackle their ability to think freely to my will. As before, as now: I would have to use my words and promises alone to maintain the integrity of such a grand design. It is inevitable that some will leave to found their own towns or cities, or some will leave to wander. I cannot prevent them from expressing alternate desires, lest I myself slip into the trappings of being a tyrant. It is my greatest hope that I will never need to see Virtus Elf turn against Virtus Elf… But should that day come I will weep. If they desire a land of their own to rule over, I will use my divine ability to forge one for them in the hopes that they don’t seek to take the land of others. And, truly, that might have to be the stance I take for all people upon Toraan. Perhaps the land as it is has simply grown too small and too famished for people to coexist? I would hope not, but if peace requires that I expand upon the landmasses that exist upon Galbar then I will if I must. Though I will likely need to seek the assistance of other deities should I find my reserves of divine power lacking.”
Finishing her train of thought, Celestine looked to the map once more. Then to the corpses surrounding her. Then to the eye of Thaa. It was now that she delivered one final thought. ”Does this satisfy, Thaa? If you take issue with anything then please voice it. I will be happy to improve my ideals should they be lacking.”
"Having good answers is difficult, but nonetheless important. We both have our differences and I will not deny you your thoughts, however I will say a few things that my experience and knowledge may assist with. Firstly, there is plenty of land to use, even more so no doubt as technology and experience improves. I remember when the grandest populations of mortals sustained were in the hundreds in a small local, hunting and foraging long before they discovered the tilling of fields or domain over animals. With stone, then metal, the amount of food they could grow, the lands they could use improved. No doubt they shall find some new such way when means and times allow, bronze really has spiked their numbers greatly I must admit across much of Galbar."
Thaa took a moment to turn towards the display, "In truth, I believe your plans would likely transform the Westfold from soldiering to assassins as their hatreds grew from the unresolved feuds. From the evils of Ha-Dûna to the brutality and mercy of the Celeviaks, down to the people of Kirin's Rest. Perhaps that would be easier on the people themselves, but all the more likely to boil over should your intervention ever cease or be delayed. Ultimately, it is worthy to try in any case to reduce the suffering that abounds, I have sponsored other experiments as well so I will watch most eagerly. You may succeed in reducing suffering, even if I do not think you will be well liked, although I have never been greatly popular myself..."
His eye turned back onto the Goddess, "They may turn to plagues and poisons, divine aid and retribution from other gods they might corral to their whims, such is common enough. Wars have always been common, you might find a way to cease them perhaps, I have no doubt mortals will find means and measures to test your patience, your resolve and your will to continue your peace. I hope your will is strong and not brittle to the stresses of the task you set before yourself."
Celestine gave a few nods as Thaa spoke. His revelation that there was more than enough land to go around for the mortals was helpful in the sense that she could figure out the limits of what she should do better, but it was also disheartening to learn that there was plenty of land and yet wars were being waged to take the land from others. Such a lack of harmony was concerning, and perhaps that would be something else to strive towards once the current project was done.
When he mentioned the catastrophe that would likely result from a delay or cessation of interventions, Celestine couldn’t help but nod again and respond once he had finished speaking. ”That is something that concerns me. One possible solution that I’ve been considering is setting up multiple smaller towers to serve as outposts for a swift response force while the main tower serves to hold the bulk of their forces, but I think that such an idea will have to remain on hold until I have the main tower completed first. I suspect that there will be many hidden challenges that make themselves known when I put the main events of this plan into motion, and I hesitate to fatten my designs with additional ideas before those possible challenges are answered.”
Returning her thoughts to how Thaa had mentioned his lack of popularity and the trials that her plans would undertake Celestine raised a finger to her chin. If her plans were to make her equally unpopular then perhaps that would simply be the price to pay? It disheartened her that trying to do what felt right would cause her to become unpopular, but it would take far more than just unpopularity with the other deities to cause her to give pause. Such unpopularity might also prove useful in revealing the hidden agendas that Thaa had previously warned her of in their first meeting.
The idea of such truths being brought to light served to affirm the idea that what she was doing was a fair idea. Looking to Thaa, she figured to ask after something that might prove troublesome. ”Please excuse my curiosity, but I must wonder: You said that your designs have made you somewhat unpopular. Would you kindly elaborate with who, or how? Of course, if you would rather not elaborate I entirely understand and will rescind the question immediately.”
Now all Celestine could do was wait for Thaa to reply. And reply he did, ”I am the Lord of Death, few appreciate my work or know truly the results of it on the mortal plane of Galbar. I have no doubt that my actions have displeased other deities as well given their broad designs to disrupt plans set in motion as asked by the mortals that did request my aid and so want it. “
”Life does not take kindly to death, it has been built and made to find a kind of repulsion in it. Even as I seek only to reduce suffering, I fear most that the creation of life was never in the interest in a moral order or a lack of suffering but much the opposite.”
Celestine would raise a finger to her chin as Thaa spoke. Comparing what he said to her own plans she found that he made quite a good point for why he might not be popular. Her plans had lacked vision of what their ends might look like, and that might’ve cost her immensely. She would need to think about such details when she had the free time. Celestine took a moment to stop thinking of death as being something exclusive to just mortal beings. Could an idea die? Could a culture die? Did less physical things like ideas and cultures ever truly die in the same way as mortals or were they immortal in the sense that some part of them could possibly be adopted and carried forward by someone else?
It was a difficult thing to think about, but as she thought about it she gained a newfound respect for Thaa, and came to understand his importance in the pantheon of deities that had emerged: He was a reminder that things with beginnings typically had endings, and even beyond that Celestine could reasonably see Thaa as being a sort of divine clean-up crew for errant projects that had overstayed their welcome.
And with that understanding, she understood why he wasn’t popular.
Lowering her finger from her chin, Celestine nodded a few times before speaking. ”I think I understand, having contemplated a few things. Though in this contemplation I have been reminded that there is something that I would wish to ask after. Do you know of Boudicca of Ha-Dûna? She is one of my knights, and I have made a request of her to stay with me in my realm as an advisor after the end of her life upon Galbar. As I made this request she lamented that she would miss her family while accepting it. I would thus like to discuss the possibility of securing their souls to journey to my realm after their own deaths so that she can be with her family. Would that be something that you could arrange? Of course, if there is a cost you wish to request for this service I will gladly hear it.”
With her question posed, Celestine could only wait and see what Thaa would propose.
”I am very much aware of the one named Boudicca. I could easily arrange such an occurrence, I have two conditions one of the souls and one on your own being. The souls must be allowed to choose whether they go to leave Paradise and their ancestors and friends there to go with your Knights.”
“As for the condition on you, I would request you use your extant influence on Boudicca and Ha-Dûna to end the immoralities so prevalent there under her command.”
Thaa’s great eye lazily shifted along the ring of bodies he had made.
Celestine nodded a few times as Thaa spoke. The condition he placed upon her was easy enough to agree to, Celestine would not want to enforce her will upon someone so thoroughly. But the second request was more complicated. Especially since it did involve trying to actively influence someone in ways that might complicate the friendship between the two.
However, it would have to be done. Celestine knew that Thaa had already gifted her with many things without much of a cost, and she did not want to test this generosity too thoroughly. Speaking up, Celestine sought details about what exactly he would want curtailed. ”Immoralities? If you would be so kind to elaborate in detail about what you mean then I can certainly attempt to see such things done. I would also request that if these details come in the form of memories from a soul within your care, could you possibly make some form of copy of them so that I could show Boudicca herself? I can pass whatever medium you place them into onto my Avatar and then show Boudicca when I next see her.”
An orb appeared in the hands of a corpse of an unknown humanoid being nearby Celestine as Thaa’s eye drifted.
”Cold blooded torture of an innocent on conjecture is one. I worry you rely too much on Boudicca herself but perhaps my methods are at fault for my own lack of influence. Another is the increases in control and policing to the Dûnan will. Finally is the matter of denial of crimes, adventurism and the own growing tyranny of Ha-Dûna.”
“You may wish to prepare yourself before you view those memories…”
Celestine’s eyes narrowed slightly. Were secrets being kept from her? If they were, this was immensely displeasing and she would need to chide Boudicca on such practices. If they were not, Boudicca had another problem to manage, which would likely not bode well. Neither option was pleasant in the slightest, but now Celestine was too involved to merely back away. Looking to the orb that appeared in the hands of the unknown humanoid corpse. Celestine nodded grimly before speaking. ”I am ready, and will endure. Show me what has happened in Ha-Dûna.”
The orb was tossed gently to Celestine’s grasp. As soon as it was touched, the memory flooded, a rapid pace from that orb. Memories of a girl named Ciara, brief snippets of a life, arriving in Ha-Dûna, optimism and hope, distrust, betrayal. Accused of crime not commit and tortured beyond even the captors assurance of innocence.
Thaa’s words echoed out softly as the last faded memories to death, a hundred voices, ”The Dûnan’s manage to find more of the worst quite quickly. One would think a people so tortured by the past of Ketrefan atrocity would not be so quick to create a new legacy of atrocity all their own. Perhaps that is precisely why...”
Celestine caught the orb gracefully and closed her eyes as the flood of memories hit her. As the memories were played out, Celestine’s expression hardened. When it was done, there was little more than a thin mask of calmness to hide the anger that boiled in her mind. Opening her eyes slowly, Celestine lowered her hand. Nodding grimly, Celestine spoke softly. Her voice was barely above a whisper at this point, for any louder and she would find herself caught between screaming and crying. ”I see now why you desire this. Very well. Thy will be done. Justice shall come in one form or another.”
Celestine hefted the orb once more, looking at it with pained eyes. Then she lifted her hand towards the back of her head and pulled at her hood. Setting the orb into it, Celestine tucked the hood into the back of her breastplate for security. It would have to remain there for now until she found a better place to put it, or was otherwise finished with it. At that time she might just return it to Thaa in order to be rid of the weight that it placed upon her mind. These memories held a double pain for Celestine, for within them she also saw that fateful day once again. The day where a tournament had been defiled. The day where her good intentions had met their first true insult.
Celestine despised that day. What made matters worse was that the events of it were not yet fully corrected, and she had failed in her attempts to find the culprit. It was a humiliating time for her. To be reminded of it was something that she abhorred, but it was something necessary: Until the culprits were punished and the cursed given peace those events would be a splinter in her mind.
Emulating mortals once again Celestine took a deep breath into lungs that did not technically exist. Exhaling slowly she looked back towards Thaa to ask a simple but somewhat blunt question. ”Is that all you wished to see and discuss, Thaa? Or was there more that you wished to see or discuss?”
Thaa began to uncoil around the chamber, saying simply, ”The quarters for the Dragons.”
Celestine nodded before speaking as simply as Thaa did. ”Of course. This way, please.” She would then lead Thaa out of the castle courtyard before taking a side path that eventually led to a staircase that would bring them atop the wall surrounding the city. From here Celestine would walk to where the exterior curtain of the wall began to bend protectively around the town before lifting a hand towards the hundreds of individually customized homes for the Death Dragons. It was now that she would speak once more. ”Each dragon has their own home, made to their own tastes. When they want changes they call out to me, and I adjust things until they are satisfied. Do you wish to see any of them up close, or would you rather ask the dragons themselves?”
”No, I am quite satisfied as it does happen to see this. These seem to be adequate enough, divine prayers would likely have warned should there be any issue from you outright given they are evidently still extant and capable.”
Thaa’s form had snaked down to follow. ”I would also offer, should you require a locale or some assistance on Galbar, a number of assets that I still have as current under my control on Galbar. Certain things under my control that could be useful to your designs in the westfold region, lending a little more weight to your concerns in any matter.”
“You are young yet Celestine, while I may ask my price, the accumulated power of me or my fellow elder divines may be useful to your own acts I have no doubt.”
At the mention of having assets under his control in the area, Celestine couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. That was something quite surprising to her, as she had believed that Thaa wouldn’t have too many things physically located upon Galbar in order to not interfere too much. But then again she wasn’t aware of all the prior activities of the gods and so this could just be something new to learn.
Turning to face Thaa Celestine inquired after what exactly Thaa had under his control so that she could better shape her own plans. ”A number of assets under your control? Would you kindly be able to elaborate as to what exactly you have active? Even if I do not request the usage of such assets I wouldn’t want to have a plan of mine knowingly interfere with a plan that you’ve got going already.”
”Its quite simple of course, most remain left over from when I walked on Galbar, a flying temple and some artifacts to ensure tranquility in a small area. Most under the command of my Avatar.”
“I don’t have much plans of the region myself anymore, however there is a Dragon in the region, she is leading a group of people to safety further out of harms way. We don’t agree on everything but she was moral enough and wished to attempt to make a change after gaining some perspective.”
Thaa’s great eye matched Celestine’s gaze moving along his form to face her. ”There are a number of servants and beings I could induce action upon that could be brought to the region, although they are few enough as you would imagine...”
Celestine raised another eyebrow at Thaa’s mention of being able to walk upon Galbar before speaking. ”You were able to walk upon Galbar? I’m rather impressed. I had thought that the gods were always disbarred from bringing our full might onto the surface of the planet, hence the need for avatars? Was this not always the case?”
Turning her mind to the other things that Thaa mentioned, Celestine decided that it would be best to press him for details so that she could better shape her plans. Out of all of them, the dragon he mentioned was the most interesting. If she could recruit her to assist in educating the dragons she would send to The Crystal Spire on the ways of Galbar then there would possibly be a lot less headache and complication from a dragon not understanding some of the unspoken rules that the mortals had. ”The dragon that you mentioned, where is she? Do you think she would be amicable to the idea of aiding the dragons that I will send to Galbar to reside at The Crystal Spire? I would imagine that she would have valuable experiences to share that the others could learn from.”
”There was a time when the world was new and the first gods were born of the primordial elements, land and sea, heat and cold, sun and moon, life and death. In these times before the first mortal peoples the lands and seas were made physics and laws of order, magic, and chaos were added to the world. Realms were no such consideration as each god acted directly in their full power on Galbar. The lifeblood was active then too, a much greater creative force than it seems to enact currently.”
“However, soon enough as the gods enacted ever greater powers on the world, the lifeblood cast us out, the realms our bubbles of power so far away from the centrality of Galbar and all the work we had done, all the good and evils set in motion. The lifeblood wanted, as much as such a thing could want, to keep us out, to force our way back in full power only threatened to destroy the surface of Galbar with the contest of will with the lifeblood. Not to mention the grave danger of defying something so powerful.”
“Two thousand years passed on Galbar, and then antiquity formed, connecting our realms and with the discovery of avatars we were capable to directly interact once more. I had busier myself with caring for the dead. Few or none talked as I know in time, a number of deities seemed to abandon their duties, Oraelia was not heard by any of the souls I had collected in that time I recall as example.”
“With antiquity and avatars came a new period of interaction, things once set in motion could begin again and new efforts undertaken. For example this is how Ha-Dûna first grew strong, it was empowered beyond any other Druidic locale by the might of deities I would not agree to their overall benevolence. In any case, when the full might of a god was in the primordial days we were so much more capable than the mere fragments we send down now. I personally built the Hreelcii isles in a matter of side project hoping to create a better land, moral and righteous and safe. Such things have been abandoned in part with the long absence I have to say, so much less power we have now. Even if we still can shape the course of mortal civilization.”
Thaa turned his great eye away from the goddess as he continued, ”It is possible that she might be of some help, that is her decision. She is a powerful champion of my will yes but I agreed to empower her so that she may attempt to follow her ideas and ideals. She has much more hope and feels it is possible to reform and improve much with good wisdom and a strong hand such as hers. A ruler, something I do not necessarily see yet but I agreed to let her try. Perhaps she might help you in exchange for her own plans to be assisted.”
”You will find her in the westfold, search on the East along the mountains, she leads her followers south to a promised land.”
Celestine gave a few nods to the history lesson, but didn’t have too much that she could really say about it. It was a curious time, and there was no doubt that she would’ve enjoyed being present upon the surface of Galbar with the others, but that time had passed and contemplating about something which could never be was a dangerous pastime. Making some mental notes on where to look as Thaa described the whereabouts of the dragon that was active Celestine reminded herself of the need to convince the dragon with words and promises only. Though this did pose an interesting question about the dragon that she had forgotten to ask before. Seeing as it would be quite helpful to the effort of convincing the dragon to offer assistance, Celestine asked after a small but critical detail. ”I see. What is this dragon’s name? I would wish to call her by a name that only you might know, to show that I am a friend of yours and not just someone attempting to exert my will over her mind or put threats towards the people under her care.”
”Her name is Aen’drannan, but you would get well along with the epithet ‘the curious one’.”
“Although, I do have to make one request to satisfy my curiosity in the matter of the Dûnans”.
As Thaa had turned away to gaze towards whatever he wished to gaze toward, Celestine had turned to look over her realm as a whole. She watched as a pair of more mature dragons engaged in a bout of play in midair. Pushing against one another briefly before racing off towards the more mountainous biomes of her realm to engage in a race of sharp twists and turns. Nodding at the mention of the name Aen’drannan Celestine made a few mental notes on how to approach that possible conversation and set them aside for later. She raised an eyebrow at the question that Thaa wished to pose. Pulling her eyes from her realm and turning to face Thaa once more, Celestine would give an eager nod before speaking. ”Of course Thaa. I will answer to the best of my ability. Please, ask away.”
Thaa’s great eye shifted again to look at another far corner as he spoke again. ”When you react in your investigation of the Dûnans, I would like to know if you can ascertain why Ciara was the one so chosen for their depredations. Whether it was her unusual openness to them or just happenstance that she was captured to be so tortured and blamed by them.”
“She cared for them greatly as a people I know, and Boudicca herself was much beloved, I’m sure you got a sense of that from the brief amount seen in the memories I shared. The sneaking away to visit Ha-Dûna in her teen years, her eventual apprenticeship to Darragh, her hopes of peace and growth for the Dûnans and the Cenél.”
“It made her not suspect that they would or could turn upon her, something that no doubt left her vulnerable in a way Darragh was not in his apparent fleeing the town. Dûnans began their first conquests under false pretenses of murder of a Dûnan by foreign raiders. Staged by Dûnan leadership they went and slaughtered the people and took their land. The point of such a tale is that to Dûnan leaders the killing of their own has not been an issue, so the torture of Ciara in a mostly unreformed society is no great mystery. What I would ask then is the chance for a scapegoat for war was merely stumbled upon or if this was another planned event. I’m sure you’ll find such answers in the course of your own search so if you would share your findings I would be most grateful. They dead arrive the same and paradise awaits, but to satisfy my curiosity ahead of time would be appreciated.”
Celestine gave a few nods, and began to ponder such a thing herself. Unfortunately, she was able to piece a few things together from the experiences that she’d had already, and was able to answer such a question promptly. Emulating mortals once more, Celestine took a breath before beginning to recount what she knew. ”This traces back to a day I despise. Do you recall the fate of Hilda the Leoness? The day where she was cursed and turned into a demon? On that day Ciara was in the stands of the arena with Darragh, and Darragh’s method of fleeing brought him into suspicion even if he was not the one to commit the original crime. According to The First Knight he slew a guard and wounded another as he fled the city, which made him appear the culprit as there is a lack of understanding of the Cenél arts. Ciara, being Darragh’s apprentice, was captured and placed within the Temple of Truth, and we are both aware of her fate thereafter. I do not think it was intentional malice on the part of the people of Ha-Dûna, at the very least not all of them. I think it was closer to a mistake made in panic and grief, but such a mistake is something that I do not approve of, especially not when it ends in a needless death.”
Pausing for a moment, Celestine clenched her fists tightly as she remembered her failings involving that particular situation. When she spoke again, her usual calmness had become a thin veil that barely hid an anger capable of sundering mountains. ”I have not been able to find out the whole truth of what happened on that day, but if someday I can find out the truth of what happened… It will never happen again.”
Following this, Celestine fell silent. After a few moments she released a slow breath and returned to her usual calm demeanor. Looking back to the horizon and her realm as a whole once more, Celestine used a question to cap off her train of thought. ”Does that satisfy, Thaa?”
”Truth is always difficult, I am perhaps not so content to accord that it was mass will that shaped such an event, their leaders have found deception and trickery of the masses easily enough but I know it not their direct action or not it of Darragh or Ciara.”
“A true tragedy in every case, ironic perhaps in some. The Dûnans turn on the one that would still trust them after all they have wrought before and after their civil war. The cursed one herself a great leader of the Dûnans and now one of their blights. I have a friend I should tell such a tragedy to, they might wish to know of such a tale...”
Thaa’s eye swiveled along his mass to stare at Celestine, he spoke again, ”It shall be enough for now of course, I’m sure if anything notable came up you might comment on it whenever we do come to discuss such a topic again. Tell me, have you meet much of our fellow divines since we last spoke on such a topic?”
Celestine did not inquire after who Thaa might wish to share the tale with, as her anger had already been roused enough that she truthfully wished to cease speaking about it, especially since she would need to speak with Boudicca about such an event in detail while retaining her calm demeanor. As Thaa shifted the conversation to be about the other deities that Celestine had met she nearly let out a sigh of relief. That was a much more palatable topic at the moment and one that she was happy to elaborate on. Looking back to Thaa as he had once again turned to look at her, Celestine would detail her encounters with the other gods quite frankly. ”Shortly before I came to talk with you about the issues that I was struggling with in terms of my desires for neutrality I had a communion with Àicheil and received a gift from them to ensure that my Virtus Elves will not lose knowledge or skills over time. It is a memory library of sorts, and they can use it to experience the memories of others and pick up the skills that they did from them. The large tome that you might’ve seen enshrined within the city is The Akashic Gate. It is the centerpiece of the gift and allows my Virtus to reach their memory library. When I send them out onto Galbar to live within The Crystal Spire I will be sending it with them. After our meeting to discuss neutrality I met with both Cadien and Neiya. In truth I had gone to visit Cadien to discuss tournaments for the souls that come to inhabit our realms, but Neiya arrived afterward and the discussion shifted a bit. It was however a pleasant experience overall.”
Soon after she finished, Celestine was reminded of something that she had thought of at the time and figured that it would be a wise decision to ask it now that she was face to face with the one who could provide the answer. ”Speaking of those tournaments, I had a proposal for an idea as to what to reward the victor of such a tournament, seeing as they would want for nothing in the paradises that Cadien and I offer: Would you be willing to allow a soul to reincarnate unto Galbar? Provided that they choose to do so, of course. I would not want to force reincarnation upon those who simply wish to compete for eternity.”
Thaa spoke in a low voice, almost a murmur, ”That would explain the oddity of those souls, Àicheil...”
He returned to a normal voice, ”I have allowed a race reincarnation before, at a nigh divine request, equal time in life and death. Paradise and... ...Galbar. In exchange for a service provided to me.”
“I will allow these champions of yours to reincarnate among their chosen race, for a price.”
Celestine nodded, but was quick to offer up a counter-proposal seeing as a critical party was missing. ”I understand your wish for a price and I have little qualms about paying it myself, but I think such a discussion would be best had with Cadien present. These tournaments are something that we have both equally contributed to in discussion thus far, and I would not want a decision like this to be made without Cadien being able to provide his own input. Perhaps in some time we may both go to visit him in his realm and resume such a discussion then and there?”
”I see.” a long pause.
He resumed in quick order and tone, ”I suppose we shall have to make a time to talk in some suitable locale.”
”If I may make a comment, you may when you have the time, wish to take a tour of some other notable places on Galbar besides the Westfold. The Kyslar Isles, dead east of the highlands, perhaps a little south. They have an interest warrior culture, as well interesting things happen all over that you might wish to take a look at. Keeping informed is valuable in more than just usefulness to a cause...”
Celestine gave a nod towards the suggestion put forward by Thaa before speaking. ”I have considered doing so once my involvement with the Westfold is finished. In truth I don’t know if I will send my first avatar around Galbar, as it will be needed to manage The Crystal Spire and serve as an extension of my guidance for the Virtus Elves and dragons that I send forth onto Galbar in order to serve as peacekeepers on Toraan. My fondness for the dragons that have rallied themselves to my cause has been an influence upon the next avatar that I have been considering: One made in their image, though most likely not possessing nearly as many abilities as they do, and possibly not quite so large in order to avoid provoking too much panic. But the wings that such a form would provide would be quite useful in traversing the land. Though I do feel as if I should ask: Would you be alright with me emulating the form of something that is so closely tied to you? I would not want to cause confusion and panic.”
Several arms from the mass waved dismissively, he spoke, ”Worry not of it, feel free to do as you will. They are not servants of mine and I make no slaves of my creations.”
Celestine gave a few nods as she made note of Thaa’s answer. Following this, she would pose another question to him in order to clarify what Thaa wished to do next. ”I see. You have my thanks. Beyond this, did you have anything else that you wished to speak about or see? Or do you perhaps feel that you will be departing soon?”
”We both have work to do, I am sure you will be interested in investigating many matters in mortal affairs. I shall depart, we will have further matters to discuss once we have taken our necessary actions and we confer with other such divines, your tournaments and such.”
Thaa’s form began to move from its position before pausing, speaking again, ”Please keep me informed as time permits on your concerns of course. And any developments like you moving forward with your plans for these Elves of yours...”
He began to move away to leave without waiting for a reply to begin such as his large form gradually and carefully shifted down the halls.
Celestine nodded silently as Thaa excused himself. As he began to move Celestine spoke simply, not expecting a reply. ”Farewell, Thaa.”
Thaa comes to visit Celestine, who offers him a tour around her realm. He inspects the Virtus Elves a bit and checks out what Celestine is working on with the smithies that have been placed within the city. They talk about a great number of things, and Celestine illustrates her plans about The Crystal Spire. Celestine also asks after the souls of Boudicca’s family, as she promised. Thaa agrees, but sets two conditions: Such a thing cannot be compulsory, and Boudicca must change her ways to be less tyrannical. Celestine agrees to these and is shown the memories of Ciara. These memories displease her, and she’s quite grumpy for a few moments. Following this she shows Thaa the vast amount of homes that the Death Dragons enjoy under her care and assures Thaa that she is keeping her promises. Thaa also tells Celestine of Aen’drannan The Curious One, and Celestine ponders over the idea of asking her to aid her idea with The Crystal Spire. They also speak on tournaments and allowing the victor to reincarnate, which Thaa agrees to before beginning to state a price. Celestine stops him before informing him that the discussion is best carried out with Cadien present since the tournaments are equally his idea. Thaa agrees to hold the discussion later, and after some more conversations Thaa departs from the realm on good terms.