Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Zurajai
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Zurajai Unintentional Never-Poster

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Klaarungraxus


Deep below the roiling surface of the sea, below the thundering clouds of the hurricane above, the hungry minds of Klaarungraxus were cavorting with thoughts most numerous.

The God of Oceans had been submerged there for some time, past the great kelp forests, coral reefs, and schooling fish that filled his realm with color and life. Beyond all those, where the craggy sea floor shattered into a crevasse so deep no mortal life could survive its crushing deeps. It was the first place Klaar had escaped to when the sun had first named itself his hated foe, so long ago. Though the burning orb of Oraelia now meant little to Klaarungraxus, that deep place in the world that had once been his small pond still felt as home to him. There he rested, tentacles reaching out in all directions both along the trench or up it, like vast roots growing out from a most disturbing tree.

The many-minds of Klaarungraxus were in flux. A dread prophecy, determined by the alien mathematics played out by the tentacles that formed the skein of Klaarungraxus’ decentralized mind, had cast portents into the future that were each coming to pass. With the creation of the Akua and the teeming of life in the seas, Klaarungraxus was made all the more aware of this disquieting doom that hung above him. Soon, he was sure, something would change in a way he would be most displeased by. More than anything, this created a sense of great consternation within the tumultuous storm that was the Ocean God’s mind.

How dare reality plot so fervently against him!?

Despite months of constant calculations and intensive consideration, nothing arose in either his overmind or the many minds slaved to it to come up with a solution. Entire portions of the undersea trench had been smoothed from constant friction as Klaar sat, completely lost within thoughts. Even the water that flowed about his form seemed incensed by it all, vibrating and shuddering with empathetic displeasure.

This fate must be denied by any means necessary!

A single mind spoke back with potentiality; the ever useful Right-Forward Two-Down had come up with a possible line of thought that could lead to success. Continuing on the same sort of thinking that had led to the uplifting of the Vrool and the alteration of the Akua, perhaps mortals could serve in an additional role beyond simply maintaining Klaarungraxus’ deific legacy. The minds lit up with curiosity, manipulating this new idea in their clutches as the overmind pinged back excitement; possibility was never to be ignored!

Over the next cycle of the sun and moon the plot was hatched, revised, and reconsidered. Though Klaarungraxus was a god, the time in which he had available to him and his capacity to consider reality was inherently finite. His minds, regardless of how decentralized, were nevertheless bound to the same divine perspective that the whole of the entity that was Klaar held. But, what if after this prophesied calamity came to pass, there were those who could continue the Old Growth Below’s numerous works and seek to reverse the fate that Klaar was sure would befall him. They would need to be given the capacity to learn and comprehend reality as Klaar did yet remain entirely mortal to keep their perspectives pure.

The Vrool would make natural agents for this intended plan.

Vast, glowing eyes pushed forth from their sockets in a mockery of eyelids, lighting up the darkness of the sea floor with voracious intent. Powerful limbs dug deep into the sides of the trench as his huge form was lifted from the depths. A rumbling began to emanate from what amounted to a throat in Klaar’s pseudo-anatomy, vibrating the very world around him in an ever escalating tremor. All around the world the ocean rose and fell by several inches at a time, enough to only be noticed by those who truly knew the sea. The God of Oceans dragged himself from his hiding spot and into the cool light of his ocean abode, intent on his travel to Ku. With one great suction of water, Klaar propelled himself through the waves and dragged a tidal wave worth of water behind him.


Ku, that most ancient of stones, sat at the bottom of Klaar’s sump as unmoving as it always was. The gentle voices and hums from its smooth basalt surface rang out as never before, reacting to the coming of its creator. In the distance the great shadow of Klaarungraxus filled the undersea horizon. All about Ku, where worshipping and brave Vrool had come to hear the voice of the sea utter its babbling advice only they could hear, life burst into action. They swam away in all directions, for many of the creatures knew not the great entity that swam upon them or knew all to well that he was their creator and in no way prone to acts of benevolence when foul moods befell his storming mind.

With his sump cleared of life Klaar sank into the depths, surrounding Ku in his mass. The stone hummed pleasantly, its words loud but calm in distinct opposition to Klaar’s own roiling mind. The great devilfish lowered himself to it, that stone of his own making, and whispered sweet nothings in return; though they stung of fiery passion and intent, Klaarungraxus could never speak ill or with rage to his beloved ocean.

”Oh ye’ who’s voice soothes, how I have yearned for your calming gyres. My mind is astray, tumultuous waters, and We who need thee have come most longingly. Assist me, o’ beloved oceans, for I dread what will come to pass.”

At the edges of the sump numerous Vrool watched. They were worshippers in their own right, followers of the ancient creator god who had made them in his image. Each was born with knowledge of his greatness and craved nothing more than to emulate him in all things. For many, particularly those youngest spawn, this was the first time they had ever laid eyes on him. He was in all ways exactly how they imagined and they jealously hoarded the memories of his presence in the depths of his mind. One day, they all believed fervently, they would be as large as He who had given them life and thought and mind. His words, spoken in that Holy Tongue of the Sea, rang out across them in waves and eddies that only succeeded in increasing their voracious curiosity. The throaty warble of their presence was, undoubtedly, entirely intoxicating.

”Declare unto gyres my convictions, o’ urstone of oceans vast and wide, so that Our will might be made manifest in the souls of those who live beneath the waves,” came the call of Klaar, weaving into Ku new words to spread across the skein of the sea, ”Make one the thoughts of those for whom the World’s Will doth shine, and begat them as mages, these Warlocks mine!”

With the final utterance of Klaarungraxus’ will, a ripple of power emanated from the urstone Ku in all directions. In him the change started, a mantling of powers before uncontrolled and now the Old Growth Below’s to command. Carried on this stranger tide was a whisper that sank itself into the hearts and minds sentient races of the sea below, their very souls marked with its power. For most it would do nothing, a simple marker of the Ocean God’s demands upon them, but to those very few who resided in the depths that little light would become illumination equal to any of the Orbs above.

Awareness and curiosity unfold as, through unmatched will and desire to know, the gift and curse of sorcerous power was granted to them.

Thus were the Warlocks born.




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

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The Kavijama | the thing of ink & poetry | The Hibrach

&
Lucia


The breeze was pleasant that morning. The sun sat high in the sky, warming the land with it’s gentle rays. Lucia felt the tallgrass between her fingers, each yellow blade soft against her skin, almost tickling her. She stood upon the edge of the Prairie with bated breath. She was anxious, and uncertain what she would find within. Though she was familiar with the area, it was an entirely different beast up close. Most of the grasses grew up to her stomach, while others grew over her head. The smell was… Not what she had imagined, but it was growing on her. Floral scents with a strong smell of grasses as she stood before the sea of yellow that it came from.

She had left Orb back in the Temple, as insurance, and in case anyone showed up while she was away. Orb was well hidden, but could see a majority of the temple from his vantage. Lucia had decided to venture out, she needed a break from her training, something to occupy her for the remainder of the day. She smirked, before taking her first steps into the unknown.

The first thing she realized was that the grasses could not only be ticklish, but itchy upon her bare skin. Maybe she needed to invest in what Qael had been wearing. What did they call it? She snapped her fingers trying to remember the name, but it came up blank. For now, she let the sun warm her with each step and scratched when it bothered her too much. She came upon many different flowers, with bees and other pollinators going about their day. She stopped to say hello, but they gave no reply. That was okay though, they were just busy little bees.

She continued on, coming across a small stream, or rather she stumbled into it, because the grasses were so tall beside it. She felt the mud underneath her toes, and squished about as she couldn’t help but smile widely. The mud was about the same color as her skin, perhaps a little lighter, but it was odd nonetheless. It gave her pause as she grabbed a blade of grass and compared it to her arm. The difference was startling, the colors were so different but contrasted well. To prove her point, she flipped her hair over her shoulder, and the golden hairs matched the grass almost perfectly. As she compared, there was a rustling in the grass, and instinctively, Lucia brought herself low and almost into the water. It gave her shivers and then goosebumps, but she couldn’t complain as she saw a trunk emerge from the grass, followed by a white tusks, and a large gray head, with eyes even larger than hers!

It dipped it’s trunk into the water, and scooped it up before giving itself a drink. A deep rumble came from the creature, as it continued to sate it’s thirst. Before long more heads peeked through the tall grass to join the first, even a baby! Lucia remained very still and breathed quietly as she watched with a sense of fear and excitement. Her heart was pounding in her chest and she could feel energy coursing through her veins but she remained calm. There was no need to panic herself, all she was doing was watching, and before long, the giants meandered off. Slowly and surely, she felt herself relax, letting loose a loud sigh.

Still, she decided to follow them. Carefully, she walked through the water where it was shallow and there she pulled herself up onto the opposite bank, before following one of the large paths of trampled grass. It wasn’t long before the grasses became shorter and in the distance she could spot them. They were large animals, with powerful legs that carried them. They traveled in a single file through the grass, following the largest one, with the baby in the middle. They began to descend down a hill, and were eventually out of sight to Lucia. She pursed her lips and slowed down, not knowing what awaited her on the other side. As she got closer, she began to see many brown animals, and when she crested the hill, she took her breath away. She had seen the fields of brown before at the temple, but up close, she was blown away at the sheer size and vastness of them, before her. The animals from the stream wandered through the ocean, giving them no heed. It was a strangely beautiful sight and one she would enjoy for a time. The gently swirling sky of red and green and blue and yellow, and a myriad other colours and hues, seemed to lend the scene a greater life and energy and vastness. The plains stretched out gold and eternal to kiss the equally endless sky, and everywhere she looked life teemed.

As she continued to watch in a state of utter ease and peace, parts of the heavens seemed to stir and boil, and gently - ever so gently, so gently that one would hardly notice that anything was odd or out of place - swirls of sky descended in a coiling, darkening cloud. And with it came a soft humming and crooning, full of immediate and inexplicable, agonised joy. All about, the creatures of the golden grasslands were caught up in the sound and looked up, and they gave off their sounds - gently, ah, gently - and they buzzed, and chirruped, and bleated, and trumpeted, and bellowed, oh and they sang to the tune of a higher song. Dust rose and the song echoed - soft yet present - across the yellow flatlands. From the sky came a long, low moan as the descending heavens could descend no more, and it disintegrated against the plains of gold in a great spattering of colour and melody; and hidden amidst nature’s sublime tune came mournful words of ecstasy.

The sun does not rise, and it does not set
Except that by love of you I am beset
I am amazed by you and me
Oh love that I’ve not seen or ever met!


And the sound fluttered off and the clouds ebbed away and the animals all stood in stupor for what felt like the longest time… before they returned to the banal business of mere survival. But among them something seemed to stir, and even from a distance Lucia could see that elephants and deer and a myriad other animals seemed to congregate around a single space far off.

And within Lucia, too, something had stirred. Wholly different from the power she felt when she practised with mana. No - this she felt in her heart, deep, deep down inside. It had filled her with a happiness so profound, she had thought it would break her when the feeling subsided. She yearned to feel it again, and it was not long before she wiped the tears from her eyes and walked down the hill, the congregation awaiting her. No longer did she feel anxious around the animals, for they only acknowledged her presence and nothing more. She wanted to hear that voice again.

She passed trumpeting grey giants, shivering gazelles and bleating deer, grunting bisons, and even little voles that seemed to chatter in excitement amongst themselves, running between the legs of their larger comrades towards the epicentre of… this. When Lucia first saw the thing at the centre, it was a cloud of vibrant colours, without form. It swirled slowly, bobbing in silence as the animals around it turned and snorted and bellowed and trumpeted in an oddly rhythmic and harmonious orchestra, seeming to direct all their sounds at the formless cloud of colour. But something changed when Lucia approached and the subdued swirling of the cloud changed into something quick - a drum, swelling suddenly and contracting, pigments bursting, shedding, ebbing. And the cloud shifted and changed in a roiling frenzy of colour - soundless, mind you, there was not so much as a sigh or moan - and it condensed until a vaguely humanoid, pitch-black, eddying form stood there. Writhing tendrils of ink were its hair, and its face was in constant flux. And as Lucia looked, colour seemed to slowly seep into its form - a dark green at first. A hand rose and gestured for her to come closer, and another rose to where its mouth might have been and brought an index finger to it. And a passing breeze seemed to whisper - shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Lucia, mesmerized by the form she saw before her, did not hesitate as she walked closer. She did not feel threatened, and she was not afraid. So closer she went. With each step she took, the strange thing gained definition to its form and more colour, so that when Lucia was little more than a handspan from the thing, its face - mimicking her features -, was as clear as the dark liquid it was made of could be.



Green and grey and yellow and blue mingled in him and around him, and his glistening eyes looked upon her and he seemed to breathe her in. He leaned in and his eyes stole a glance at the animals all about them before he closed them completely and sighed. And when he spoke, his voice came soft and rhythmic though he did not sing and did not speak in rhyme. ‘You sound… beautiful. A wondrous solo. The centrepiece when joined by creation. Ah!- can you hear that?’

Lucia, if it could be seen, blushed as she avoided eye contact momentarily. Why was she feeling this way? The man, if she could call what was before her a man, was a pleasantly strange sight. One she had not known she would find so intriguing. But why did she sound beautiful? Had she spoken before this man in the past? There was only one way to find out. She looked at him again, and asked, ”Hear... What?” Murky eyelids drew open and the thing of ink & poetry smiled ever so slightly and extended a hand to her, and from his newly-formed lips came song and word and moan and sigh.

‘If eyes must see then ears must hear
And for that I must disappear
Oh ink-stained beauty of eyes bright
Come hear with me what’s out of sight :-
The tinted sky’s where music grew
On hearing it you’ll see it too;
Beneath the depths, beyond the veil
The singing stream, the dancing dale
The bull, the deer, the bird up high
All dance and sing to the world’s sigh -
The song of lovelorn ecstasy
That lies beneath the deep blue sea,
The dance that woke a sleeping bard
The face it blessed and soul it scarred -
If you too want to sing and dance
Then come with me, let’s steal a glance!’


And Lucia heard the call, and she was intrigued. There seemed to be an electric energy in the stranger’s eyes, a barely contained excitement and building fervour that yearned for release. He seemed on the verge of bursting at any moment - at the briefest touch -, and his words elicited such joy to her heart, and temptation to see what he offered. She eyed the hand and thought about Orb back at the Temple, a little guilty for not going back, or bringing him with her. But such an opportunity might never present itself again and she so badly wanted to steal a glance. And so, tentatively, she took the man’s hand. His grasp was gentle, soft… trembling. His expression contorted, wincing and smiling as black tears exploded from his eyes. “Oh!” He sighed, and gave off a long trilling sound broken by rhythmic rises and falls even as his body disintegrated all about her and the great cloud of colour and ink swirled and rose and whipped the air around, before lifting her from the ground in a sudden explosive gale- and almost as suddenly and fervently as it exploded, it all came to a pause. Ink and sound swirled all about Lucia in a frozen miasma of wondrous roiling colours and shapes and patterns. Words swirled here and there and a tender, intimate voice whispered into her ear…

Hear the Song the sunrays sing
If you don’t yet hear
As the light of life they bring
Day on month on year:
Feed your visage love and peace
If you want for bliss!
Gift all faces joy and cheer
With gifts joys increase!
Life feeds joy and zeal and zest
Suckle at her breast!
Brave life’s crags, don’t live in fear! -
Or from living cease!

‘Tis the Song and divine verse
That sunrays rehearse,
Hear and learn the wisdoms there
For a life most fair
For a life that teems with glee
Love, for you and me!


Sunlight seemed to momentarily pierce the thick roiling ink, and there came with it an intense warmth and husky monotonous note that, gently and persistently, rose and trilled, then ebbed before rising once more - higher, more piercing, more powerful, hot. No words could be discerned, though it was almost certain that the rays were indeed singing a song of sonorous sound that, even cleft of meaning, carried pure, unadulterated heat and steadfast will and hope - an unbreakable hope and will to life.
It permeated through the ink and turned it into the gold of Lucia’s flowing hair. And arms seemed suddenly to wrap about her and discarnate fingers traced her brows, along her cheeks, her lips, along her neck, her arms, the curve of her breasts and the flat of her dark stomach, the subtle contour of her hips, her thighs and calves and feet. Her body seemed all of a sudden aflame as singing ink of pure light carved itself into her skin, and the cloud of ink & poetry seemed to sigh all about her with rhyme and yearning.

And though her body was there, carried off in that stirring celestial inkpot, it was not the light and ink she saw but the world of colours and the eternal opera and anthem of the world - not with her eyes of gold, but with a hearteye that had long been closed. She heard the ink freshly sculpted and engraved into her, loosing love songs to the skin above and the flesh below, yearning madly and impossibly. She heard the rays from which the ink - the how of it escaped her - had been drawn. She heard the echo of the sound that had emanated from the thing of ink & poetry when first she heard him, but even though it was a mere echo was it clearer and more heartrendingly joyful than she remembered. And then she heard… I? And the moment it was heard there was no more I, there was no more a thing of ink & poetry, no more earth or sky or sun or moon. There was only the song -

At the door of the beloved I stood
Said he: who is it at the door?
‘By the door stands I, as though upon a distant shore!’
‘You do not speak as lovers should
‘And define love poorly in distinguishing us.’
And time passed and again I knocked at the door
Said he: who is it there on the outer floor?
‘Come look! It is none but you here at the door.’
‘Oh you speak as lovers should
‘And have defined love only as true lovers would
‘So enter, oh me!’


Poet and poem, singer and song, hearer and heard, seer and seen, all of them rose up and- disappeared. There was no Lucia, for what was Lucia before was now the Song - had always, in truth, been the wondrous, breathing, sighing song. She was submersed in it, and could hear (and was) the song that emanated from her body as it floated within the roiling, pining thing of ink & poetry. And she could hear now and feel - and she was - the urgent pain that emanated from the joy-anguished god. It was immediately paradoxical and manifestly right, for to love was the greatest joy and to be ever-denied its ultimate and perfect fulfilment the greatest misery; but that was the stuff poetry and song was made of.

Lucia inhaled, breathing deep with the world, and released a sigh that sent tremors throughout the Worldsong; and she travelled with the tremor, and she was the tremor. She breathed the thrum of the mountains, tasted the giggling of the grasses, ebbed and flowed with the timeless, unceasing roar of the world-ocean. She rode the winds, laughed and whistled and fell in a great tumult only to rise again with some flexing updraft. She swayed with the trees and listened to their snoring hymn, and raced with the auroran deers, heard their noble song and felt the sting of their rays. And somewhere in all of that she - they - danced. They danced to high heaven, they danced past the moon, they danced amongst the infinite failures of a desperate, yearning, tormented creator. She danced with him and he with her, his song erupted with her voice, the hand that held her hip was hers, her hand about his back was his. They danced, they twirled, they burst and spewed across the world.

She did not know how long she was the Worldsong, how long Lucia was nothing and all things, but in time she found her again. Beneath a lone tree, lying in the cloudy, unformed arms of the thing of ink & poetry; eyes closed (now fluttering open), breath deep, and visage at utter peace. And she noticed, then, that her body was no more the obsidian it had been before her ascent into the Worldsong, but one that was stained with many beautiful swirling patterns and glowing golden shapes. And they seemed to shift slowly and to be in constant flux.

She let a gasp of air escape her mouth, as she brought her arms up to look at the designs before moving her gaze all over her body. She sat up then and blinked rapidly, feeling every emotion begin to fade, with one lasting longer than the others - longing, but that too soon faded into a lull of confusion.

She looked behind her, feeling a familiar presence that wrapped around her comfortably. ”T-That was… Beautiful.” she said, her voice full of awe, dropping into silence as she re-lived the experience through her memories. They weren’t as vivid, and a lot of it began to fade, but it was… Everything. She lay back down into the inky cushion and let out a relaxed sigh. The thing of ink & poetry made no response, but it too seemed to sigh, and with sighing deflated between Lucia and the tree until it had constricted into that colourful humanoid form. Shaking hands on her onyx shoulder, he brought her gently into him and, placing his head over her shoulder, looked at her.

‘Did you see how the headsprings mingle with the river, and the rivers with the ocean?’ He asked musically, though even through his voice of silk she could hear the nervous trembling.

She tilted her head lightly as she looked at him with a smile. ”Why yes, yes I did. I never knew that the water flowed so far!” she said excitedly. Her expression then changed to one of slight concern and she asked, ”Why does your voice tremble? Are you alright?” The colour on his face seemed to drain to a pale white for a few brief seconds, and then flushed a deep crimson.

‘I- uh.’ His hands on her shoulders shook even more violently and he quickly, if sadly, moved them away so she would not notice. ‘I am…’ he leaned back against the tree and inhaled, and all he breathed was her. ‘I am shaking. Because- ah. What you saw and heard.’ He bit his lips. ‘Is what I see and always hear. It- it fills the cup to bursting!’ The calm he had been attempting to maintain disappeared with his final exclamation, but he quickly balled his hands into fists and pressed himself back against the tree again, as though wishing it would swallow him whole. ‘Sorry!’

Lucia turned her body to look at him, her face inquisitive as she looked upon the man. Her symbols shifted and shimmered (causing a sharp intake of breath from the wide-eyed bard) and slowly got to her feet. She brought her hands together at her belly button and relaxed her shoulders as she asked, ”Is there… Is there anything I can do?” her eyes wide and soft. The god’s eyes glazed over for a few seconds before a convulsion shook him out of the trance.

‘Love, nothing but your holy name
Can assuage my hurt of late
Without it I’m ill and lame
For ‘tis my reason, end, and Fate’.


The words were not as smooth and easy as what Lucia had heard from him before, but there was no doubting the well of wild emotion from which they came. She smiled warmly, her eyes briefly shutting before they opened again. ”My name is Lucia, daughter of Oraelia. Who might you be?” she asked, taking a step closer. He visibly relaxed when she spoke her name, as though her name alone was a cure for all the affliction that welled up within him and was the source of his inexplicable joy and pain.

‘I love all names that are like Lucia’s name
Or come from the same wellspring that hers came
All other styles, though great may be their fame
Fall silent before her in awe and shame’.


He spoke with far greater calm, a fond smile decorating his inky face, and when his eye caught hers the smile grew into an embarrassed laugh. ‘My name… ah -

‘She spoke her name and smiled at me
Don’t blame my name if it should flee
Why, curse my name! Of it I’m free
It’s Lucia’s name I sigh to see
In sublime grace ‘tis matched by she
A goddess of pure pedigree!’


He paused with a sigh, ‘but if you must refer to me, call me love; and if that is heavy then - but only then - call me Meghzaal. As for who I might be - I don’t know, but I only know that there is a yearning here, a song, a poem, a dance; and I have gone singing and dancing and searching the world over until - ah! Until I found you, Lucia. And you have filled the cup, and you have emptied it with your name and filled it again.’ He rose to his feet and gazed into her golden eyes. ‘Is it not more fitting that I ask what you are, Lucia, and what it is that you have done with my heart? Why is it that I came into this world yearning - for you.’

What was that feeling, she had felt? The one where her heart beat fast, where she perked up and felt embarrassed, even though she knew she shouldn’t be. Her eyes blinked rapidly, as she didn’t know what to do with her hands other than twirl her hair with one, and rest the other upon her hip. She looked at him, and she knew what that feeling she had felt was, the same one he had asked for her to call him. But what is actually love? Or perhaps a sense of connection, an intimacy shared between the two like never before felt? She did not know.

”I-I-” she stammered, before taking a deep breath before exhaling. ”I do not know, love. I do not know many things, but perhaps it was for a reason. That reason being to show me so much beauty from your heart, that I might take a little with me so I can always have it. Always know it.” she paused, smiling again as the gold upon her body expanded, giving off warmth. ”It is nice to know your name, for it rolls so easily from my lips. Love.” Meghzaal gazed upon her, failing to keep the helpless adoration from his eyes and face.

‘My heart has no beauty, dearest, but is a perfectly calm pool. All beauty you see is but a poor reflection of your sublime visage and song.’ And he extended his hand and took hers, bending low and placing an inky red kiss on her palm that made itself at home amongst the golden tattoos and onyx skin. ‘I will not offer you a little of my heart, nor even all of it - for you are my heart; love for you was planted in my inky flesh before I knew of ink or flesh. In my sleeplessness in the times aforetime, I was naught but love - pure love - for you. For after all, nothing in the world is single, all souls - by a law divine - in one worldsong meet and mingle; so why not your soul and mine? My soul is your soul, and your soul mine; if you will, then I will, and if I will, then it is because you have willed.’

Lucia couldn’t help but blush as the god kissed her palm, yet she did not look away from him. Her golden tattoos began to pulse ever so slightly as the shimmer never stopped. She could hardly wrap her head around the confession. How could a god love but a simple mortal? Her mother never gave mention of this, nor did she ever think that love would come to her so soon. It made her heart beat quick, her palms grew sweaty as she shifted back and forth. Why did the sun suddenly feel so hot upon her cheeks? Her breath quickened as she spoke, ”I-I’ve n-never-” she began, her calmness broken by a wave of uncertainty. ”I-I will.” she whispered softly like a gentle breeze, her tattoo’s pulsing faster. The lovelorn poet seemed to freeze in place for a time, his wide eyes on hers, waiting… waiting on the song to end, the vision to fade, the dream to burst. He opened his mouth to speak, but doubt shot through him. What if he had misheard or misunderstood? The overflowing cup caused the lover to see and hear what was neither present or spoken, after all.

‘Oh you contain a gaze that felled my heart
Its piercing ray has split my pith apart
Were’t so that my beloved spoke again
A speech that heals all wounds and cures all pain
Her word may then treat ails upon me pressed
Or else I’ll perish, and so be at rest’.


He looked at her, the hand holding hers tightening ever so slightly. She had but to affirm that his ears had not deceived him the first time, that it was no jest or joke. Lucia squeezed his hand back, and placed the other one on top of his, before she leaned in ever so close, eyes fading shut, lips trembling in anticipation. With but a whisper she spoke, ”Yes.” conveying a grander meaning behind the simplicity, as the mortal kissed the god. Their lips met in an explosion of momentary silence, before god and lips and ink shattered into an infinity of sounds and songs, the cloud of ink & poetry wrapping around the form of the beloved Lucia as though desperately trying - hoping, yearning - to melt in her; to no avail. But there came a song, full of warmth and joy, savouring in the pain of being unable to truly annihilate the stubborn selfish self into the beloved.

Oh passing breeze, convey my joy and agony
Drinking of love has only increased me in thirst
My beloved’s love is planted in my body
The union of our lips has caused my soul to burst
Her word is law; her will has me in love submersed!


And with that, the great cloud of ink condensed all about Lucia into the form of flowing, wispy garments of ink, and every now and then those garments sighed, and every now and then one sleeve or another tightened - as though seeking reassurance - around her wrist or hugged her body in a yearning to be desperately lost in her. When the lover is lost in the beloved they are found!

He felt cozy, and Lucia couldn’t help but smile as she looked at the cl-

Clothing!

That was the word!

She laughed out loud (and her laughter sent an aching shiver through the ink), before beginning her journey back to the Temple, humming as she went.


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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by BootsToBoot
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BootsToBoot Bear Enthusiast

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Iternis


The ground buckled and bent underneath Iternis’s feet. Great forces broiled under the earth that sent waves of power towards the surface. While any animal or mortal would merely feel a slight tremor, the God of Journeys sensed the true, terrifying energy rising and threatening the world. Iternis knew that if he had been closer to the source, the great Verdant One, he would see and feel much more physical upheaval, but regardless, he could still feel the dangerous and angry energy swirling through the vast underground beneath.

Something had enraged the Tree of Genesis.

Although Iternis had never laid eyes on his older sibling, he had memories and feelings held over from his time in the Lifeblood and could also feel the behemoth’s massive roots that pierced through every corner of the globe. There was no doubt in Iternis’s mind that, if the Tree was truly angered, if it decided to fight something with it’s full strength, the galbar that he had just come to experience would be destroyed.

Iternis shed his mortal form, exploding into a cloud of feathers as he flew towards the heavens; while being caught on the ground during a Great Upheaval would not kill him, it certainly would inconvenience him. He turned his flock to the World Anchor, listening to the faint song that had begun to emanate from the whole of everything grow in anger and urgency. From his viewpoint, Iternis could just make out the Omnibloom on the horizon, great, serrated roots thrusting skywards.

Iternis sighed, he did not know what could possibly be foolish enough to assail the Tree of Genesis, but they had certainly destroyed any chance at Galbar continuing as it was now.

Suddenly, Iternis felt the raging energy recede from the roots below and the Worldsong returned to its quiet harmonies. In the distance the vicious roots of the First Tree retracted into the earth and Iternis let out another sigh, this time it was one of relief.Galbar was so young but already the whims of the gods threatened to burn its crib to ashes.

Iternis swarmed back down to the ground and condensed into the form of a man. He began walking, taking in all the world around him. The trees still grew. The bird still sang. The deer still browsed and the Stone Birds still charged through the mountains. None seemed to be aware they had almost been snuffed from existence not moments before. Things probably couldn’t go on like this. No, they won’t go on like this.

Iternis didn’t know how he knew, but he knew that eventually, and probably soon, the Gods would have to leave Galbar or stop using so much power.He could already feel some small tumultuous eddies within the Lifeblood. Not the kind that shatter into new gods, but something different, something new. Iternis broke himself away from that train of thought.. The problem with inevitabilities is that you always get there, so trying to plan how to approach it seems a little superfluous.

One way or another, Iternis will soon have to leave Galbar and he would be damned if he didn’t experience as much of the young planet as he could before that day. The god dropped to his knees, taking the soft, loamy soil of the Anchor into his hands. He could wander around aimlessly, hoping he found satisfaction, or he could make a guide.

Iternis tossed the dirt up into the air, letting it fall back down. But before the clods of moist earth could return to their starting places, they seemed to splatter against some invisible form, sticking to and revealing the shape of the object. Iternis then spun his foot through the dirt, casting upwards a spray of material that filled out the image of a large chest. Iternis took more dirt into his hands and began patting it on the new form of his creation, shaping it as he went.

He wanted to make something special, not just a new type of animal or some race of mortals. Those were done to death at this point. Sure, Iternis needed mortals to survive, but he also needed more than just survival to be happy. As Iternis’s hands ran along the soft soil, shaping smooth, strong legs, he began to think about what he wanted. He mostly wanted company, but he could probably get that from any manner of god or mortal. He wanted something a little bit more intimate than that, something that wasn’t just one of his creations but also something that was his own.

A child?

Iternis shuddered at that thought as he crafted a strong neck and began to work on the profile of a proud face. He had a very limited knowledge of the way families worked, what with him and all his siblings “birth” being ejected from a tumultuous and primordial soup of an entity. Even so, he didn’t think he wanted to attempt procreating at the moment. He probably could do it with a mortal if he wanted- he probably could do it by himself- but at the moment that role didn’t quite jump out at him. He picked up the last clump of dirt and began to shape a long tail before stepping back and admiring the figure he had created.

He stood before what looked to be a large statue of a four-legged beast. He stood tall, taller than Iternis’s form, which was stylized after the common mortals. Long legs descended from a barrel chest and ended in large paws. A lengthy, sweeping tail hung behind powerful haunches and the stout, sturdy neck was capped in a wolf-like head that held rounder and softer features.. With a small smile Iternis snapped his fingers, causing the pert ears of the new being to flop down playfully.

Iternis realized, above all, he just wanted a simple companion, a loyal friend.

Iternis breathed life into the soil statue and in an instant long wiry fur covered the beast’s body. The figure fell to the ground, supporting its weight for the first time. Iternis was worried he may have hurt himself, but the sound of a tail thumping quickly dispersed the god’s worries. The new life turned his enormous head towards his creator, intelligent, copper eyes glinting from underneath long-furred brows and a wide tongue lolling from his maw.

“Who are you?” the figure asked, looking quite shocked, “-Oh... I wasn’t expecting to be able to talk!”

“You must forgive me,” the god laughed, “I did take away the chance for you to learn language on your own, I hope you don’t mind.”

The large dog cocked his head, thinking for a little before speaking.

“I don’t think I do: it would be a lot harder to talk to you if you hadn’t,” He rumbled, his voice like warm rain on dry dirt, “So I guess that means you are my creator?”

“Maybe,” Iternis ducked his head in a very noncommittal gesture, “But I certainly could have had a role in it. I am, however, without a doubt, Iternis, God of Journeys.”

Iternis gave a little bow as the great dog stood up to his full height. The hound pressed his wet nose into Iternis’s face, taking in deep draughts of air and ruffling the god’s feather crown.

“You don’t smell very godly.” He murmured as well as any dog could murmur, “And you are rather small.”

“Perhaps. Maybe you are just very big!”

“Perhaps, but that still doesn’t explain why you don’t smell like a god,” The dog retorted, sniffing Iternis’s whole being for good measures.

“How would you even know what a god is supposed to smell like,” Iternis laughed as he pushed his companions great muzzle away from his face, ”You don’t even know your own name!”

“Oh…” the dog reeled a little, falling onto his haunches as he pondered that statement, “I guess I don’t. What is my name?”

“I was hoping you would be able to figure that out,” the god said as he looked up at the sitting dog, “I wouldn’t want to steal that honor from you.”

“That’s very kind,” the unnamed one bowed in gratitude, before pondering for a while, “But don’t you think that is a little tricky, naming yourself?”

“Nonsense, I did it,” Iternis waved his hand in the air as if swatting the idea away, “I did it and that certainly helped me a whole of a lot in finding out what I wanted to be.”

“But you are a God, no matter how little you smell like it,” the dog rebutted, “It is right for you to name things, even yourself. As far as I’m aware, I’m no god.”

“So are you wanting me to name you?”

The great beast nodded.

“Well,” Iternis started as he set himself down on the ground cross-legged, “That is a really big task. While I can’t say I expected to have to name you, I did have a few ones bouncing around that I liked. Are you sure you can’t think of any for yourself.”

“Positive,” the creation rumbled as he filled Iternis’s lap with his head.

“Well, then we have some work to do,” Iternis chuckled as he began to stroke and scritch his companion’s ears, “When I got my name, it came to me in an instant and I felt like I had always known it, so I probably just have to try and puzzle it out until you feel the same.”

“If you wanted something fierce, we could go with Verren or maybe Khal, but I don’t think those really fit. We could always default to just descriptors, like Gray or even just Hound but I like being original. Bartholomeo? No, far to regal, I don’t think you would like to have to always be living up to a name like Bartholomeo. Maybe Alder? Harrung?” As Iternis talked and pet the dog’s head, he began to lull into a soft, tired state of contentedness, “I know sharing names with plants is a thing people like so Pepper, Oak, and Lantana are all options, but I feel like you are more than a plant. Bear, Leon, Dragon? No, I don’t think names coming from other beasts suit you either. What if we named you after another god, wouldn’t that be funny. Although it could be confusing with two Fe’ris’s running around. How about my name? Do you want to borrow Iternis? I figured not. Allai, Juri, Nambi, all good options. Dalthal, Cerius, Teva, Po, Toog-”

At that last one the dog perked his head up, meeting Iternis’s silver eyes with his copper ones.

“What does that one mean?” He asked, curiosity pricking up his ears.

‘Toog? Well, I suppose it means you!” The god laughed, ruffling up the dog’s head.

“I suppose it does,” Toog rested his head back into Iternis’s lap, “I suppose it does…”

“Well, now that you have a name, what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know,” Toog responded, standing back up and towering over his creator, “Explore this world, probably.”

Iternis broke into a broad smile. He laughed and slapped his thighs as he sprung from his sitting position, bouncing as he landed on his feet.

“I was hoping that’s what you would say!” Iternis laughed, “I hope you don't mind if I tag along?”

“Not at all,” Toog chuckled, standing to his full height, “Climb on top, I can carry you faster than you can walk.”

“I can fly.”

“Oh…” Toog paused for a moment, “Do you still want to go with me?”

“Of course I do,” Iternis reassured his new friend, hopping onto the large dog’s broad back and grabbing his coarse fur for support, “Plus, I’m pretty sure that big ol’ nose of yours is way better at finding the interesting stuff to find in this world than I am”

Indeed, when Toog took a great sniff of the world, he could feel all the tendrils of something mixing within his mind. Some divine ergey that swirled around the world and radiated from objects that he could somehow sense from great distances away. In fact, he was startled to realize, he himself radiated that same energy.

“What is all this,” Toog said in awe.

Iternis just chucked, “I can’t smell all that you can smell, but it is probably Divinity. The essence of all that is godly in this world. The more interesting a thing is, the more a god’s touched it I suppose.”

“So I was made to track down all these interesting things for you?”

“Hardly,” Iternis patted Toog’s neck, “You were made so you could track down all these interesting things for you! And you’ll be incredibly good at it, we don’t have much time after all.”

Toog turned his head to face Iternis, his eyes full of surprise, “We don’t have much time? Will it all go away?”

“No, I guess ‘we’ wasn’t the best choice of words there,” Iternis clarified, “I don’t have that much time. I will have to go away. Maybe not soon, but eventually, and any limit makes it not enough time.”

“But why?” Toog seemed frightened at losing his new and first friend.

“Don’t you worry, it isn’t really in our control,” Iternis ruffled the fur around Toog’s neck, “All the gods are going to have to leave. Maybe they all know it, or maybe it's just because I never truly broke all my connections to the Lifeblood, but I know that we will either have to leave or destroy Galbar. I don’t really have a say over which path the rest of the gods choose, but I certainly want to be able to experience Galbar in person while I can. And I figured you would want to come along for the Journey.”

Toog turned his head away, not quite sure how to respond. His flanks swayed in a great sigh and he began to walk. He walked in silence for a while, Iternis sitting straight on his back. As he plotted through the woods, Toog realized that this was the first time he had ever walked, but that didn’t seem like a big deal. He much rather would think of it as that he had been walking for the majority of his life. Which was also true in a sense.

As they walked, Iternis began humming a meandering and rough tune, if you could call it that. It hardly had any rhythm or musical element to it and was barely more than random noise, but still it filled Toog’s chest with contentedness. The two happened upon a chasm, hewn from the rock and that split the mountains. Toog came to a halt at the precipice, looking across the canyon at the other end which was about three hundred feet away.

“Why did you stop?” Iternis broke the long drought of conversation.

“I can’t make that jump.” Toog stated plainly.

“Sure, if you only jump…”Iternis trailed off rather unhelpfully. He leaned down and patted Toog’s neck, “I’m sure you can figure out what to do.”

Toog stood confused for a moment before realizing he did, in fact, know what to do. He took a few steps back and drew in a deep breath. Dirt exploded outwards as Toog’s paws pounded into the soil, a deep rumble growing in his chest. He bounded into the sky and flew over air as Iternis clutched tight to his neck. Toog reached deep into that feeling that rested in the base of his being and then, with all the joy at the idea of living, he let out a deep, earth shattering bark. The sound echoed through the chasm and caused the air to ripple, almost like it tore a hole in the fabric of space. The shimmering ripple of air existed for only a moment, but a moment enough for Toog to pierce through it and land safely on the other end.

Iternis’s laugh dispersed the still echoing bark as the god cheered and hugged Toog’s neck tightly.

“C’mon boy, let’s go see the world.”

Toog smiled as best as a dog could smile and tore off at full speed, leaving everything in his wake. Their Journey had just begun.










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Cadien

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Artifex




”And that, children, is the tale of the first ant, and also the tale of how I came to be” Artifex said as he finished telling the story to the gathering of Mantarin children.

The queen of their kind had chosen one of the gatehouses to the massive city Artifex had created as the initial home for her brood. Primitive nests of grass and leaves littered the rooms found in the small smattering of prebuilt buildings enclosing the stone gateway leading out from the empty city and into the enclosed wilderness beyond. Though this gateway that had never been closed the first generation of Mantarin trickled in and out as they set out to forage and brought back the bounties of the ant lands. Sat atop the battlements of their home their god kept one eye on them as they gathered berries and the other on the prepubescent youth he had been entertaining before night set in.

The young Mantarins more closely resemble their mother than the adults below did, walking on 4 legs mounted on an abdomen used to store the large supplies of nutrients they would need to undergo pupation. Most would become the hunched female workers bustling about in the grasslands beyond. With their elbow mounted blades they sliced through the foliage to gather the oversized berries growing in the grassland beyond while avoiding the mildly dangerous beasts roaming the plains. Under the gods watchful eye they were never in any real danger however, as anything truly life threatening was either kept out by the city's walls and insectile defenders or received a quick smiting from their overprotective parent if it managed to skirt past both of their home’s unantrual defences.

“Another another” cried the children, craving more stories real or imagined, but the god had to decline ”I am afraid it's time for you all to get some rest. The sun is setting after all.”

“Aww”

”Now now. I can regale you with more tales tomorrow children. If I keep going you might nod off in the middle of one and miss the ending. Now off to bed with you, there is always tomorrow” he told them.

Aftera bit more encouragement and promises of more tales tomorrow the children were escorted down into the gatehouse by a number of adult Mantarin, most of them male. One however lingered behind.

“Father?”

”Yes child?” Artifex asked, tilting his head in curiosity over what this one desired

“What are they like, creator? The other gods? You have spoken of what they have achieved before, how they shaped continents and created the woods beyond our home, but never about who they actually are as people” he asked

Artifex clicked his mandibles together thoughtfully and then confessed ”I could speculate based upon what I have seen, but to truly tell you who they are I’d have had to have shared words with them.”

“So you have never met them? Any of them?”

”None but the great tree, and she was not much of a conversationalist,” the god glanced upwards as he said this and then added with quiet surprise ”Ah, but it appears that may be about to change”

“Did somebody say… ’meet?’” a deep baritone voice boomed, as a smooth-skinned white haired figure quite literally flew overhead in a series of flips. He had come from the over the city’s main keep, sailed all the way past the wall and over the heads of Artifex and his child, only to finally arrived in the vast courtyard. He landed in a squatting position, his arms crossed, and looked up at the gatehouse. “Hello there!”

The sudden arrival of the flying being caused a panic among those milling around the entrance, the Mantarins scurrying either away from the strange person towards the safety of their fortified home. Only a few held their ground, bravely placing themselves between the others and the distant squatting figure, raising their arm blades in uncertain defiance. Even the brave ones were startled by the sudden arrival of their god as he dropped down from the keep and onto the stone floor in his own squat, giant fists placed on the ground while his smaller ones crossed in a mimacary of the new arrival. The son whom he had been speaking with followed them down, his wings buzzing frantically to slow his fall to something more survivable than Artifex’s plummet, until he landed gracefully behind his father.

”Hello there,” Artifex replied, before asking ”To whom do I owe the pleasure?”

“I am Cadien, God of Perfection,” he introduced himself with a smile. “I have to say, you’ve chosen a very unique form for yourself. I don’t suppose you’d have anything to do with those small multi-legged creatures I’ve been seeing everywhere?”

”I am Artifex, God of Construction. I see you have met what remains of the murderers of the beings that dreamt my form into existence after I banished them to the four winds.”

[color-violet]“Huh… alright then. I suppose we’ve all had eventful births. Anyhow, I was out exploring the stars when I saw this land from above. After I settled some things back on the mainland, I decided to come see what’s out here.”[/color]

”It makes more sense in context I assure you. Perhaps i will tell you the full tale someday. For now, I welcome you to Sancta Civitas, the greatest city on the face of Galbar!” Artifex announced, as he stood and spread his arms out to take in the vast plains of stone surrounded by high walls.

”It’s a work in progress,” he admitted after a few moments.

“Mmm… looks rather nice, though its status as the ‘greatest’ might soon be contested. I do believe another god is attempting the same thing.”

”Is that so? Well I welcome the competition, if only to prove my superior craftsmanship when compared to theirs. Where might this second city be might I ask, so I might inspect it in future?”

“In the northern reaches of the mainland,” he said, pointing back the way he had came, “in a land of forests, rivers, and hills. Last I saw it was just a wall, really, but who knows what it’s like now?”

”I see, quite some distance away, at least by mortal means.” Artifex replied, a hand reaching up and grasping his chin below his mandible thoughtfully ”Now that I think of it, I suppose it is good that mortalkind has more than one place of sanctuary in these most interesting of times. Do you happen to know the name of the wall’s creator?”

“I do not. I’ve yet to visit it myself. I meant to, but I spent so much time preaching to the local mortals that I got bored and wanted a change of scenery. I’ll introduce myself when it’s more developed.”

”Ah I see, you saw it from the stars. Preaching you say? Pray tell what you have been preaching? Perfection?” Artifex asked, his curiosity mirrored by his children who had mostly calmed down at this point. The mortals and their newly arrived mother crowded around this meeting of gods at a respectable distance, marveling at the divine spectacle of it.

“Indeed,” Cadien nodded. “I’ve been urging them to better themselves, in every aspect, without succumbing to petty jealousy or needless conflict. They seem to have listened, but how they will do so remains to be seen.” Then he waved a hand to indicate the other insectoids. “And what have you been teaching these mortals here?”

”Your’s are noble lessons. I have spoken of peace, harmony and cooperation. The wars of ant, bee, termite and wasp that caused my birth have ingrained the horrors of interspecies warfare firmly in my mind. It cannot be allowed to happen in a mortal kind. They have such potential, these mortal creatures. It would be terrible for them to squander their potential on death and war when cooperation may lead them to build wonders and marvels to rival even the works of gods.”

“Hmm… I don’t know about rivalling the gods, but yes, they do have potential,” Cadien stroked his chin. “Speaking of which… all of these creatures you made look rather… samey. No offense, but the differences seem to be mostly based on gender. That just seems rather… disappointing, I have to say.”

”I have my hopes, and perhaps I am wrong, but on a long enough timescale I believe that anything is possible through planning, effort and cooperation” Artifiex replied before looking a touch offended by the suggested blandness of his mortals ”Well... Perhaps they look similar but for identification you need only pay attention to your olfactory senses to be able to tell that each has a distinctive set of peremonal scents to identify them.”

”Besides I would have thought a god of perfection would appreciate sticking to a singular optimal design?”

“What seems optimal to you may not seem optimal to others,” Cadien pointed out, his smile fading. “Hmm… I have an idea, and one that will be of some functional use - more than just aesthetic, I mean. With your permission, I think I’ll give these beings the ability to change their colour.”

”Their color? Hmmm, interesting. What functional use would that have? Camouflage? Communication?” Artifax asked, drifting away from his offended state as the possibility of such an ability erupted in his mind.

“Those, and others,” Cadien nodded. “Make themselves more appealing to potential mates, shock potential predators… there are quite a few uses, really.”

“What is a mate?”

”Don't worry about that” Artifex ordered before agreeing that ”Yes. Yes, that does sound like it would be useful.” before glancing back at his children ”Don’t you agree?”

There was a mix of hesitant nodding and outright trepidation prospect of this sudden bodily alteration before the male he had been speaking with earlier stepped forwards and asked “May I be the first to try this?”

“Mmm… very well,” Cadien said, and then abruptly stepped forward to place a hand on the creature’s head. There was a brief spark of purple energy, and then suddenly the creature’s shell took on a myriad of colours, like an ever-shifting rainbow. “Focus,” Cadien ordered. “Think of the colour you prefer, and control it.”

The male looked shocked at first at the sudden change, but then focused, closing their eyes and clenching a fist as they did so. Slowly the riot of color settled down into a dark navy blue. The bug opened his eyes and examined his shell with delight, only for his body to flash yellow as he did so. He blinked in surprise at the sudden change and then focused again, bringing back the blue hue. He gave a satisfied nod as he got it back and then looked up to Cadien. “Like that?”

Cadien nodded. “Yes,” he said, then looked too the others. “Would the rest of you want this power as well?”

Hesitantly, but with rowning confidence as they saw the first color changer playing with his new power to create colorful 2 shade patterns over his body, they advanced to accept this gift. As the colors began to swirl and shift their mother carefully picked her way through the crowd along with a gaggle of quadrupedal children.

“This is marvelous isn't it Artifex!” she said as she watched her offspring play with their new skill and admire the colorful displays of one another. Somewhere using it for more practical camouflage purposes, shifting their pearl white to shades of green and brown, while others rapidly shifted in mesarising displays or inscribed fixed patterns on their to differentiate themselves from the swarm of their siblings

”Yes. Yes it really is. Self expression, built in to their very being. Thank you Cadien, this was an excellent idea”

“Might I also accept this gift so I can pass it down to their brothers and sisters?” the grand queen asked, crouching down to sit before the god of perfection. Cadien nodded, and granted it to her as well.

“Anyhow,” he said, stepping back. “Is there any other intelligent life that dwells on this island, or is this all?”

”Not that I am aware of, though I have not traveled beyond the bounds of the city in some time. Also, before we move on from the wonderful gift of yours, know that I am happy to repay the favor should you require them in future.”

Cadien smiled. “I will keep that in mind,” he said. “In fact, if there is no additional sapient life on this land, then perhaps I might make some. I could use a hand with that.”

”Oh? Hmmm.” Artifex took a long moment to contemplate this. ”Yes i think i’d be open to the prospect. Did you have any particular form in mind?”

The prospect of neighbours also got the attention of the mortals present, who mostly looked rather interested at the prospect of new neighbors.

Cadien shook his head. “Not yet. I still need to explore these lands further. I will return when I have something in mind.”

”You will always be welcome here Cadien. I can tell you that the lands around here are mostly heavily forested, and infested with shaggy furred toothy creatures. I put some wolf ants in there and… one other thing I would like to remain a surprise.” he explained before asking ”Will you be leaving soon or would you like to stay for dinner? The fruits around these parts are delicious if i do say so myself.” he said, his self aggrandisement for once being made in a humor rather than being genuine.

The God shrugged. “I don’t see why not.”

”Excellent. Then please, do come inside. I’d love to hear a little bit about your trip to the stars.”




“You’re a shrew!”

“Nope”

“A... hmm... A brown ant?”

“Wrong”

“Oh oh oh. A scary big tooth rat”

“Yeah that's it!” the Mantarin, who had been giving his best impression (complete with faux fur colored shell) of one of the dangerous furred creatures that sometimes wondered out of the forests and through the distant outer wall, called out to the correct guesser “your turn”

The guesser, a female Matarin who had decorated her armored skin with swirls of yellow and orange, took the stage, or rather moved in front of the sitting crowd as the rat actor took her spot, and began to attempt to convey the more abstract concept of safety to her onlookers while they attempted to guess her intention.

”You can't just point at me, that would be against the spirit of the game,” Artifex called over as the woman did just that. Her chiten flushed pink in embarrassment before she tied to single handedly mime out an armed (with long sticks) foraging party.

The god chuckled to himself and turned back to his work. Using a relatively mundane looking hammer and chisel he was hand carving a mural onto the back of the great wall. It depicted the creation of the mantarin queen, the growing of their species, their forays out into the walled garden and finally the visit of Cadien and the granting of his gift of color changing to them. The history of a race carved in stone. Soon, he hoped, it would include their first meeting with another mortal race.

Then, a familiar figure launched himself over the wall, and landed into the courtyard. “I have returned!” Cadien announced somewhat dramatically, as he turned to face Artifex.

Artifex’s antena perked up with surprise before he calmly released his work tools, which turned back into hovering crystals, and turned to greet the returning god.

”Cadien. A pleasure to see you” he said as he approached. Cadien’s arrival instantly drew the attention of the mantarin, be they at work or at play, causing a crowd to gather to watch the gods speak more.

”How do you fare?” Artifex asked as he stopped a respectful distance away from his fellow god.

“Quite well,” Cadien nodded. “If you recall our previous conversation, I do believe I have an idea.”

”I do indeed. A second mortal race who will call these lands their home.” Artifex replied ”I take it your travels have been fruitful in terms of both inspiration and surveying the land for a place for them to take their first breaths?”

“They have been,” Cadien agreed. “In fact, I have two races in mind, though I only need your aid with one.”

”I did say I was in your debt for your wonderful gift to my own mortals. Yet I’d be more than happy to help create more mortal life regardless.” Artifex replied, before asking ”Now my glamorous friend, please don't hesitate to tell me all about your ideas for mortal races.”

So, Cadien did, and his idea was a most unusual one. “Do you think that is agreeable?” he asked once the explanation was finished.

”An intriguing idea. By all means, lead on”

Cadien extended his arms, and a glowing ball of bright green energy began to grow into his palms. “Pour as much energy as you can into this,” he instructed, as the ball’s size began to stabilize.

Artifex directed a singular titanic hand towards the small glow. A swarm of crystals few along it from his halo and then formed up around the green orb, pointing down at it so that when raw power arced down the insectile god’s arm it struck them, was focused, and then shot down into the orb in a myriad of golden beams

The orb’s size began to grow even further, until at last, it became too much for the two gods to contain, and then suddenly Cadien launched it up into the sky. It immediately shattered, breaking off into seven fragments, which dispersed into different directions. One went north, and another went east, both travelling across the sea. Four flew off to the west, and a fifth was heading in that direction as well, but at a sharp upward angle.

“There, I think that did it,” Cadien remarked casually.

”Seven groups. Interesting. Ah, so they can grow on each island. Now that presents some interesting possible futures. I wonder how they will differ.” Artifex mused while his children marvaled as they watched the birth of a race. Several raced away from the gods and up onto the walls and a few even braved a Hiver nest tower, carefully climbing their way past the giant bees to reach the roof of their wall mounted home, to try and see if they could spot where the shards would be landing.

It simply wasn’t possible, however, because all but one of the shards soon vanished beyond the sight of even the gods. Cadien and Artifex would watch that one shard fly upward, high above the island they currently stood upon. Then, just as it reached the clouds, it exploded into a series of spores, which gently rained down the island from above. None they looked like they would be landing anywhere near the city, however.

“The species will spawn from those spores,” Cadien explained. “I will call them Goblins, I think. On each island, and on two locations from the mainland. They’ll all be the same physically, but each group will lean toward a different personality. I’ve imbued the ones landing on this island with a cooperative spirit - they’ll be more willing to work together to solve their problems.”

”A gentle easing in to inter species diplomacy for my children. I appreciate it. But what of the others. Why not bless them all with cooperation in their hearts?” Artifex asked.

“I want to see how these differences in behavior affect their development,” Cadien said. “See them each try to achieve perfection in their own way. Which ones will succeed, and which ones will fail.”

”Hmmm. Then I'll be interested to see how they grow. Which does raise a good point. What, pray tell, do these mortals look like? Or would you like to keep that a surprise?” Artifex asked

Cadien looked up to the sky, his gaze focusing on a point far off in the distance. Then, he stretched his hand outward, and drew it back. One of the spores flew to him, crossing the vast distance within seconds, and as soon as it reached his palm he dropped it.

It fell to the ground, and then sank into the soil. For a moment, nothing happened. Then suddenly, a green hand burst out. A second hand soon followed, and after that came a head. The head’s skin was smooth and green, with angular features - a pointed chin, a pointed nose, and pointed ears. The creature sniffed and examined its settings, blinking at the light, then began to pull itself up even further, until at last it was free from its earthly prison.

As the creature adjusted to its new surroundings, he wildly looked back and forth - first at the colourful creatures surrounding him, then at the two gods. “Who… who is you?” he demanded.

“Hmm… its speech isn’t quite as refined as I intended,” Cadien mused somewhat disappointedly, then shrugged. “It matters little, I suppose. I am Cadien, young one, and I am one of your creators.”

”Well they did just pop out of the ground. Form a certain perspective the fact that they can speak already is impressive,” Artifex noted before addressing the small mortal ”And I Artifex, a god who aided in your creation, and these are the Mantarin,” he indicated to the mass of insect people staring at the small creature with inwraped fascination. Several waved. ”Welcome to Galbar, I do so hope your existence is an enjoyable and interesting one.”

“Shiny-Hair,” the creature said, pointing to Cadien. “Big-Eyes,” he then added, gesturing to Artifex. “Why I here?”

“You are here to experience life,” Cadien told him. “And to strive to be the best you can possibly be.”

”To build. To ascend. To leave the world a richer place than you entered it. As for how you will do that, what you will create? That is something we are excited to find out alongside you.” Artifex agreed with the other in his own words

“To make friends” yelled one vey excited Mantarin from the crowd.

Artifex colored his own shell yellow, deliberately showing happiness to his children, and concluded ”and you’ll do that alongside so many other wonderful people.”

“Mhmm,” Cadien nodded, before turning to Artifex. “Well then, I suppose I’ll leave this one in your care. It’s time I was on my way.”

”So soon?” Artifex said with a hint of sadness, before more resolutely replying ”, of course. I'm sure you have much to do to see to the prosperity of your new race’s many tribes. I bid you farewell. Do not hesitate to come visit in future.”








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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by LokiLeo789
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LokiLeo789 The Old Man

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"Lay down your spear, Qaram." Her brother brushed away a fly on his sweat-darkened beard and squinted at the battlefield. "The enemy retreat."

Qaram, her face part-hidden under a swathe of furs, squeezed the haft of her crude spear so tightly her fist trembled. If a romantic were to kneel before her then, they would find beauty in the curve of her jaw, the length of her narrow neck. (Her turban hid the pale scars crisscrossing her right cheek, and the long one that split her top lip.) An elder would be drawn to the shadows pooling beneath her brow, where a weak light rimmed her irises in gold, as though a dying fire hid there. In a way it did. But this is a battlefield. On it, there is no place for the romantic nor elder.

So far as Qaram was concerned -- is concerned -- there was her and there were the dead.

Her foot wrappings were old moccasins, worn and supple. She could feel the ground beneath the thin soles, earth made soft by scattered formations and the blood and bile of many corpses.

"Qaram," her brother barked. Desperation soaked into his voice, bright as varnish on oak. "These were once our ilk.”

Her answer was silence.

"Child." Sadness too now. "It is enough." Fear.

Her brow creased, a ripple in her conviction. Then, in her inner ear, the wet sound of a knife leaving flesh and her brow smoothed again, hardened. Her eyes turned up, and the band of gold shifted from the top to the bottom of her irises.

I have known many winters, she thought. I am not a child, and it is not enough.

Sunrise crept up behind the forsaken hills of the highlands edge, casting a long shadow that reached all the way to her feet. In that shadow, some of the rival warriors tried boldly to keep formation against waves of howling attackers. Some scrambled towards the yellow sea of grass, others, the pine forests to the left. Most fled towards the decrepit remains of their settlement.

"They even revoke the divine, gods help them." If Qaram had looked at her brother, she would have seen the threat of tears in his rheumy eyes. "Lay down your spear and accept their surrender."

The gods. Their gods. They even revoked their names.

Let them. She signed this to her brother with her free hand.

There were bodies strewn in a rough circle around her, somewhere between ten and fifteen, most dead, some groaning. Let them throw down everything they have. Qaram, not trusting herself to keep her voice low, did not say this aloud.

"Qaram!"

"Not yet." The air around her mouth rippled as if suddenly warped by a great heat. She had barely whispered. She breathed deeply then, absorbing the quiet anger of her voice, and when she exhaled to dispel it, her breath came out in wisps of blue smoke.

"Not yet?" Her brother peered at her through the blue-grey haze. "They have given up, child. You have won the battle – this is vengeance now."

So it was. What of it?

Qaram clicked her tongue; it was the sound of an old oak cracking in half.

Two or three of the closest bodies moaned, faces buried in the mud. All of them wore matted furs. One crawled all the way to Qaram and clawed at the fur skin greave strapped over her right shin. His head lolled forward as he started weeping onto the top of her boot.

"Mercy," he sobbed. Someone had relieved him of his left leg from the knee down. How? She did not know. The wooden point of her spear gleamed.

That's the last thing I've brought you, Qaram thought, biting down on the walnut shell that never left her mouth.

"For the last time, Qaram – enough. Lay down your spear and end this." Her brother stepped in front of her, blocking out the battlefield, and pointed a finger at her heel. "Or at least spare him some mercy. These are your people too now, as they once were before."

The warrior clinging to Qaram's ankle gurgled unintelligibly now. Soon his leg would make him pass out, but it would be a mangled organ that killed him. His mouth was wet and red, the shape and colour of knife holes in a woman's back.

When Qaram signed now, her hand trembled. Do you know this man, Older Brother?

"Give him mercy, Qaram."

If you say you knew him, I will.

His nostrils flared. "I do not know him, that should not make him less deserving."

He is my age. He would have been there when you took me and ran away from the pointed spears of his tribe. He had many moons to pray for mercy and the gods did not strike me down in that time. Qaram stopped a moment and breathed in through her nostrils, for her jaw was clenched tight enough to gnash her teeth. Do you know how long a cycle is when you starve in the day and scream at night?

“Long enough to taste deer when we had to eat the refuse of drakes." The lines in his brow smoothed and his voice softened. "Long enough to mourn our brethren and far too long to dwell on the dream of seeing my people again."

The gold in Qaram's eyes flared. Turn around and you will stop dreaming.

"Look down and so will you."

Qaram's lip twitched. It was neither smile nor frown, just the tug of her scar.

Her brother nudged her aside, ignoring the gurgling of the traitor clutching her foot and disappeared into the pine.

She looked down at the warrior with his arm hooked around her ankle, face pressed to her boot. She could feel his lips moving, perhaps in prayer. Qaram let go of her spear, though it still stood tall and holy and damning in the mud. She sat down and cradled the young warriors head in her lap. As he bled over her knee, she bent down to whisper in his ear. Keeping her voice so low that only he could hear, she brought out the fullness of all its hidden tones and tenors, turned over every corner of it, and poured it into his ear with a hum.

His gurgling stopped. So did his heart, but so long as she hummed, a part of him would cling to life.

It is too late to ask for your name, she thought, stroking his hair. Still, I will honour you, Nameless One, though you fought for those that make me want to sing Death in the face of your offspring. But death is not mercy, so I will not kill you, not in the traditional sense. Instead, I will sing Life for you, and I wait until you have had your fill before I walk into the innards of your people.

She heard his last sigh and stopped humming.

"If you want more, tell your decrepit gods to come over here and take it."


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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Blessed Beekeeper

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Gibbou and Boris





With a relieved sigh, Gibbou soared lethargically in a zig-zagging pattern, trying to woman herself up for her encounter with the boar. She wasn’t looking forward to it at all, but if anything could be used for self-defense, it would be stone - that was a truth of reality. She would lay a plan - sneak in, capture the pig’s consent and be halfway across the planet before the boar got wise, and--... Wait, how would that even work? Okay, okay - she’d go in, politely say hi to the boar and just ask, like she’d done every other time so far, and…

Oh, but what if the boar got difficult again? How long had it even been since they saw each other? A week? A year? Millennia? No, wait, it couldn’t be millennia - then Adrian would’ve already died long ago, and that hadn’t happened yet.

Right?

A pang of anxiety slammed into Gibbou like an oncoming meteorite and she wondered for a moment whether she should rocket back to Mydia to check up on him. It would only take her a few minutes and--...

No! No, no, no, she couldn’t have been away for that long. Come on, Gibbou - focus! She just had to obtain the final blessing on her artifact - then, she could return home and offer one of the night elves the first drink. Although, she would then have to take it back to Toraan… And then take it over to Kubrajzar. Wow, it was such a hassle to move this thing! How would mortals even do it?!

She pondered this thoroughly as she approached the tallest peaks of the World Anchor. She landed on the highest zenith, completely ignoring a certain nearby punctured stone with a sword stabbed through it. She sat down on a similar, yet much healthier stone and pondered the solutions some more.

Unbeknownst to Gibbou, the boar kilometers away, chuffed in the crisp fallen leaves of the subalpine. For hours he sought the perfect spot to spoil himself upon. And for hours he rustled the damp undergrowth in his self-pleasure. He deserved the moment of respite. Creating had drained him, and the Lifeblood seemed to need a break itself. What better to do then to disturb the rest of fallen leaves with his nose and break them apart with his mighty hooves and back.

Amidst his activity, the presence of another caught his attention. He froze. He recognized this scent. The moon girl. The one her rump upon his former woman.
The boar snorted, blowing leaves every which way. What could she possibly want? Maybe a divine had come through these parts, doing every sort of weird thing. But this one in particular peaked his interest. Not so much as to what she could be doing, but it gave him a chance to reconcile…”past misdeeds”.

And so the boar sunk into the earth, crashing his hooves against rock and anhailiating it until he reached the peak of the World Mountain. Earth shifted and Boris poked his head out of his hole, ignoring the sword and gazing at the god.

”Hello you.”

Gibbou jumped with a ‘waaah!’ and fell backwards off her rock, kicking her legs all around as she struggled to get back up from the snow. It took a few good seconds before she regained her posture and redeposited herself upon the rock. There, she attempted to assume a majestic, formal pose with a raised chin and a partially squinted look, almost as if she was looking down at him. “Hello, mister Boris,” she said curtly. She then looked around, twisting her neck an unbalanced angle further right than left, challenging the seriousness of her composure. “Nice place.”

The boar snorted. ”Thank you. What brings you here? I hope you brought snacks.” Boris intoned curtly.

“Oh, uh, yeah, hang on…” With the snap of her fingers, Gibbou conjured forth a tray of blueberry muffins. She willed the snow between them to pack itself into a table, pulled her stone seat over and leaned her elbows on the table, propping her chin on her two hands. She hardened her squint at the pig and voiced with a mouth hidden behind intertwined fingers, “The muffins are fresh. Baked them just now. Go on… Have a taste.” She punctuated her sentence with a raised brow.

Delighted, Boris dug himself out of his hole and plopped his rump in the cold snow, his body large enough to reach the table. Clumsily, he craned his neck to take a muffin into his gullet and chew. Blueberries exploded in his mouth and Boris’ eyes widened. ”Ohhhhhhhrrrr…how did you know I loved blueberries!?” he bleated between mouthfuls.

“Call it… Intuition,” Gibbou replied, her right eye squinting to the point where it was almost closed. Her voice put on a certain odd wheeze and she took a muffin for herself, biting into it with cold, calculating snaps. She drew a breath through the teeth and clicked her tongue. “Listen, I’ll be straight wit’ch’yu, mister Boris - I’ve a lil’ proposal for ya.”

”Mmmhmmmm.” he hummed, swallowing another muffin.

She extracted the horn and put it discreetly on the table, looking over her shoulders as if someone who definitely wasn’t there was watching them. “This is the ‘package’ - it needs a blessing from the mountains. You in?”

Saucers of white fire became rivers as the Boar’s eyes narrowed.The thing reeked of divinity. ”You ought to explain.”

“Sure, I owe you that much, I can see that.” The stone Gibbou was sitting on formed a chair-like back which she leaned against and crossed one leg with the other. “This is Hir, the druid maker. It’s a tool me and my sister made to help mortality protect themselves. Using it, mortals can summon miracles in our names to do wonders so we won’t have to. Of course, their power is dependent on our willingness to help them - this is why these ‘druids’, as I call them, will piously work to show they are worthy of this help. I used the example of taking care of groves for Mister Tree, but for mountains, uh… Stop exploitative quarries, I suppose?”

If the mountainsmith could laugh, it would sound sort of like a boulder crushing a howling monkey. Such was the sound the boar made. ”In return for my blessings, thinking-things will love and protect my crafts? A fair trade.” the boar affirmed.

“I knew you’d see it my way, mister Boris.” Seeing as the sun was coming up, Gibbou snapped into reality a pair of disks fashioned from black glass, held together by strings of metal. She deposited the central metal string, which was slightly curved, over her nose, and wrapped the others behind her ears. “Please, if you would offer it its blessing,” she said and gestured at Hir.

The boar nodded, and summoned from the depths of the earth a great energy. The mountain quaked, and the foundations of Galbar twisted under the weight of the mountainsmith’s power. And granting himself the power of the world, the realm of Actuality folded upon itself, and from the depths of his throat he hacked and coughed and spit a loogie the size of a pea upon the horn. And all stilled.

”Be sure to rub it in now.”

A frown formed behind the glasses. “Do, do I have to? Caaa-, can’t you do it?”

Boris tilted his head. ”Hooves.” he said flatly.

There came a groan, followed by surly mutters as the moon goddess flexed every muscle in her face and started rubbing the ‘blessing’ all over the horn, releasing quiet squeals of displeasure every now and then.

The boar nodded. It was done. ”The blessing of the mountain is yours.”

In the hands of a god the small increase in weight would go unnoticed, but the spirit of the mountain had been imbued in the artifact.

Gibbou washed her hands thoroughly with the ice cold snow, sobbing dryly a “boo-hoo” to show that she felt sorry for herself. She took the horn, tied it to her belt and eyed Boris where he sat. “Know that this only accounts for -half- an apology for what you did to my moon!” she scolded with the point of a finger. “I won’t forgive you that easily!”

”Hath no mercy? She has long forgiven me. You need plenty of healing time.” Boris surmised. She and Moon were nothing alike honestly.

“Has not! She, she would’ve told me if she had!” She looked up at the moon, which was retreating away from the scene over the horizon. “You would, wouldn’t you?!” The moon gave no answer and dipped into hiding behind Galbar. Gibbou was stunned. “You, you cheater!”

A gaze followed the moon. ”O Moon, O Moon, fair and sweet and soft like milk, forgive your keeper. She doesn’t mean it.”

Gibbou sucked in a breath through the nose and pointed at the boar once more. “This isn’t over, mister Boris! I, I’ll be back - and we’ll settle this score once and for all!” With that, she squatted down and jumped, soaring westwards with great speed to outrun the sunrise.

”Farewell.” the boar intoned. Noticing a untouched muffin left over, Boris dove and snapped the thing into his gullet. Divine.





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DracoLunaris Multiverse tourist

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Artifex invades space from the comfort of home


“Big Eyes”

”yes child” Artifex replied to the goblin. Night had fallen since Cadian had left the single member of the newborn race with him, and Artifex and the Manarin had been more than happy to answer the unending barrage of questions and curiosities that had been pouring forth in the green skinned mortal's crude tongue.

“What those?”

Artifex looked skywards to where the only goblin in the city was pointing with both hands, one at each of the great moons.

”Those are moons” Artifex respired.

“Oh.” the child replied, before thinking for a bit and asking “What they do?”

”They light up the night. Sometimes. It depends on their phases how much light they give off. The purple one isn't as good at that so it's mainly there to look nice in contrast to the first. I think. Perhaps I should have asked.”

“Someone made them?!” the child spoke with surprise

”Oh yes. Well. Cadien made the purple one. I do not recall a time when the white one did not hang in the sky but presumably it was made by another before I awoke.”

“Woooow.” the child awed at his creator's power “Shiny-Hair very strong... Can Big Eyes do that too?”

”Oh yes. In-fact, now that I think about it, all this second mood has to differentiate itself from the first is that it loops round the other way and is purple. Frankly, I think I can do much better.” the god gloated before flicking a finger skywards.

Around the first moon a giant paper lantern, spawned from nothingness, and lit up the night sky.

”Now this, this will be far more complex than the others. I shall make it feed off the mana in the heavens to glow of its own accord with a great fire within. It shall orbit the other celestial bodies, looping dancing and twisting in a path that will take exactly a year. As it does it will shift through the color spectrum as it rotates at a fixed rate to denote the passing of seasons. Oh and it will not simply be a glowing orb but a home for life. Hmm. yes. Perhaps even mortal life? Yes. Yes I think that would be an excellent idea. They live on land and beneath the waves so why not among the stars? Someone has been adding plenty of life up there already, so why not add some intelligence to the mix.”

Artifex spoke at length, piling on complexity and intricate machinations to his idea with little self control, before waving a hand at the new moon. Its surface rippled as it transformed from plain sheets into a multi colored landscape smothered in life and dotted with the premade hives.

“Wow. People up there. Wait. I can't see them. How know they there?”

”Oh yes they. Hmmm. No I suppose you won't be able to see them yet. But in the future however I predict you might be able to view the ecosystem using a series of lenses.” Artifex began to describe the intricacies of the creation of telescopes to an utterly uncomprehending audience while up above, almost forgotten for the moment, the swarm stirred as it awoke to it’s new existence.




In space the currents of mana and lifeblood were rudely interrupted by the formation of an entire, miniature, world. A giant furnace raged at its heart, sending heat up to warm and illuminate the surface hanging above it, held aloft by massive metal beams. These beams formed a rigid frame holding the thin paper landscape aloft, while also deciding down around the furnace, holding it in place via magnetic currents so the land and core did not drift into one another. Currents of mana were sucked into holes in the top and bottom of the lantern where it was devoured to fuel the heavenly light. On and under its thin surface plants formed to leech energy from the other celestial bodies and from the lantern's heart. Many strange alien insects of various sizes who grazed upon this foliage formed, and upon them preyed the swarm.

The swarm took many forms. Myriades of vicious wasps descended upon prey in a cloud of stinging death. Titanic centipides thundered across the land devouring all in their path.

Giant Arial Queens soared through the air surrounded by their vicious children and fearless Mortal subjects while deep blow the wise and rare Hive Queens plotted their races future guarded by acid spewing guards.

For all their viciousness they were made united and in harmony with their home realm. The herbivorous would prune the foliage to keep the light below shining brightly on the world below, while the swarm would keep them in check so they did not gouge themselves into overpopulation and extinction. And the void would keep them separate from all else till they could be taught harmony with other beings.

Yet this delicate balance, this perfect system, was tainted from the moment it was born, for just as soon as the lifeblood was pushed away by the sudden birth so to did it pushback. It was a simple change the lifeblood made. A random one. A mutation. In an ironic mimicry of Artifex’s own history his new race knew unity for a moment, and then suddenly they were different. Just a little. A few different genes here and there. But it was enough that the instantly created sub hives were different, divided. Many still saw to their intended task. But some looked up at the beasts of the stars and others looked down at the blue and green sphere. And they yearned. Be it with awe, hunger, longing or fascination, It did not matter. It only mattered that they were different. From each other. From those that were contented.

The divisions were small. But as all things do they would grow in time. If it had only been these differences, then perhaps things would remain stable, at least in part. The pure could hold the mutants in check. But in the heart of the lanturn the lifeblood left one final gift. For the engine devouring mana was not allowed to be stable. It beat. Slowly. Ever so slowly at first. A pulse, quickening, pulsing. A drumbeat heralding doom. All it would take was a push for things to go hideously, hideously wrong.




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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Zurajai
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Zurajai Unintentional Never-Poster

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Collab by @Zurajai and @yoshua171


Submerged within the endless sea of thought, Àicheil crossed its Dreaming Depths with haste. From his form there swelled great tides of baleful thought and mindless ideation. However, so recent was the unity between the two-as-one that the riptide of his passing became reflection and so entwined and returned to find the vessel of his choosing. Entangled then by the weight of experience both populous and diverse, the Dreaming God slowed and in a moment of indecision, split itself in twain.

Gravitous intention struck the chords of consciousness and amid the storm-song of the God, a divergence did occur. Two silhouettes thrust forth then into the depths, each held within itself a purpose. Though they would remain apportioned for a time their distance did not equal disconnection, for to the Dream disunion was but a false conclusion.



Carried then by the tangling tentacles of intent, Àicheil burst forth from the Dream and into the murky deep of yet another enigmatic realm. Though before his form had blotted out the stars, now it was but a shadow of its former shape, and none too similar was its silhouette. Like smoke bogged down by liquid, his cloak of gray stardust had become and from him it did billow, reaching out for many miles of the sea. Where before his visage had been bipedal in its make, now there existed no rhyme or reason to his sundered form. He was as a mantled jellyfish whose organs had distended, keeping only their starlit form.

Acclimating to this new place the Dreamer's mind expanded and like a rolling tsunami, garbled deepspeak thundered from his form.

”You who I do not know fill my waters with form of your own making,” trumpeted Klaarungraxus, indicating through his intense language the magnitude of his displeasure, ”And blot out life from its rightful look at the skies. Mine eyes see you and you are betrayed by your currents, God-Kin, and your invasion has not gone unnoticed.

Klaarungraxus, for his part, was equal parts massive compared to this new intrusion onto his realm. Perhaps it was something naturally ingrained into his psyche but this particular encroachment onto the sea rankled with the God of Oceans. His many minds expressed great consternation at this thing, unannounced, entering what was solely considered his world. Surely these numerous new gods, spawned from the makings of mortal minds, could bare to act with respect towards those more elder than they? And its size! The immenseness of its existence affronted Klaarungraxus to his core. How dare it challenge him so blatantly in his waters?!

”Give countenance to thyself or prepare for violence.

”You who I do not know fill my waters with form of your own making,” trumpeted Klaarungraxus, indicating through his intense language the magnitude of his displeasure, ”And blot out life from its rightful look at the skies. Mine eyes see you and you are betrayed by your currents, God-Kin, and your invasion has not gone unnoticed.

Klaarungraxus, for his part, was equally parts massive compared to this new intrusion onto his realm. Perhaps it was something naturally ingrained into his psyche but this particular encroachment onto the sea rankled with the God of Oceans. His many minds expressed great consternation at this thing, unannounced, entering what was solely considered his world. Surely these numerous new gods, spawned from the makings of mortal minds, could bare to act with respect towards those more elder than they? And its size! The immenseness of its existence affronted Klaarungraxus to his core. How dare it challenge him so blatantly in his waters?!

"Give countenance to thyself or prepare for violence."

Not-words rumbled without cause or source, the trembling turbulence of the sea did swell and surge through the expanse of his godly mind. Yet, Àicheil did not turn, did not move at all, beyond the subtle shifting of tendrils long and vast. For though silence and stillness were laid upon his vessel, the mind of the Dreaming God felt every nuance to the subtle communication, and for the first time it was as if another being--beyond its twin--had spoken its native tongue.

A roar thundered from its mind, infused into the sea, but in it there was no challenge or declaration beyond that of immeasurable joy and unity. That sound, it spoke, but not with words. It said:

One of mind so near to mine, I finally understand. One whose communication I can truly comprehend. I am Àicheil--Os-fhireach--Neo-Àicheil oh great oceanic sibling. Welcome thee, and welcome me? If you so desire my would-be friend.

Though in deepspeak there was only garbled nonsense, as if a young spawn of Vrool did speak, within that vast impression there was great meaning to bridge the deadly breach. Where now hostility did threaten to erupt, the Dreaming God, he laughed and rejoiced as if an accord of friendship had been struck. Movement then touched his vessel and smoky tendrils caught on currents, pulling at the sea.

Beyond even the shifting form of that starlit silhouette, Àicheil's realm, the endless Dream, bid Klaarungraxus welcome. Though before the Dreaming God had merely thought, now its first utterance could be heard, its like a single solitary word.

"Harmony," it said, and the ocean itself shuddered with its passing. Yet where before its eldrich drone might have killed a score, it did not do so anymore.

The endless Dreaming mind had held apart its chaotic causal current, and in so doing, upon viewing, it saved many a solemn soul. Its intensity, still, did not relent. For within that word, Àicheil had said many more than a single thing. It said, "Desire," and "Accord," in equal measure, but beyond these blatant chords dwelled its truer meaning measured.

Friendship, kith and kin, it proclaimed with ideas and echoing memory. Images of Gibbou's Moon cast throughout the sea, followed too by emotions like happiness and glee. Beyond these two there was a single bout of imagery, which to the Ocean God implied, a meeting of limbs briefly if he was willing to abide.

So, with hope, Àicheil reached out with tendrils three. In the movement of those smoky things there was revealed a Truth, for there before Klaar unveiled was a triquetra quite familiar. The symbol of the twins; one he'd seen before, a mark most cosmic and divine, whose use implied a history most pure. Perhaps, in all his oceanic glory, Klaar might recall a certain being, one whose name would ring right then, as Firinn, the Truthbound God.

Klaarungraxus fell inwards on himself as the two alien entities share thought to thought what passed within their mind’s eye. It was a unique experience, to say the least. Although he did not particularly find the experience any more appealing than communication with other deities who shared equally in their difference from him, he could not deny that this God spoke to him in a manner far more fitting of deities. Klaar seemed to approve. As indications of further thoughts waterfalled from this intrusive God of Dreams, Klaar’s many-minds took up each and every one and twisted manipulated them into understandable concepts. Most interesting of all was the clear connection to Firinn, friend-deity to the Sea.

”Ahhh,” rang out the realization from Klaar’s mind, as stormy skies above their meeting place calmed and tall waves dropped suddenly to the waters below, ”Kin of Firinn Rux, friend and ally to oceans vast; you are he of who Truth made reckoning of. We who understand he, understand each other clearly. Calm tides and bountiful richness, gyres turning in harmony.”

Though physical interaction was entirely irrelevant to the massive deity, he could clearly perceive that Àicheil had intentions of such contact. As he had experienced with Gibbou so too would he with this new entity. One tentacle, Right-Forward Down-Two, reached out to make contact with the jellyfish-like construct that made up the form of the Dreaming God.

A murky shadow of light reflected as if upon the ocean floor sprang forth from the contact, ringing across the seas like some great chime. The vibration shot through Àicheil's vessel and suffused him with its meaning and intent, the context of that great oceanic god. Vast ribbon tendrils pulled in and danced about him, gently mirroring the ocean's natural tide. A smile emanated from the Dreaming God, the sensation content and calm.

Klaar's many minds might feel the attunement as a tingling undulating understanding. An ever so subtle warmth, embraced in a great cold like the deepest tracts of the ocean floor.

"Klaarungraxus," Àicheil intoned, now in deepspeak clear and true, the force if it just short of Klaar's own resonating tune. He let the sound travel the currents for a time, changing them subtly, his many ribbons gray shifting at the disturbance. It was as if Àicheil were tasting these new sounds upon the unreal palette of his eldritch mind.

"Your name, it favors you, brother-ocean," in that moniker there was held a hint of deference, a respect, as if he now understood Klaar to be his elder if by time they were to measure.

"Mine twin conferred to me our bargain. Honor it I shall. Still, a reflection of their memories and the truth of the experience are not the same. So, thusly, I was drawn to you, so that perhaps me might confer and learn of eachother's minds something new."

”A bargain struck is a bargain kept, Àicheil Rux,” retorted Klaarungraxus as the Dreaming God intoned his thoughts to the God of Oceans in his own tongue ”We who are many find solace in such dealings; soft gusts and calming white waters turned smooth and glassy. Alliance made whole between we, who are three, is most pleasing to the eyes of the oceans vast and deep. Surely in our unity as many-minds made one, so too will we be stronger for it. Consider this, for our thoughts right out in polyphony. Tell us, thee Rux who is Ours, what hath your tides pulled thee to?”

Gently wandering across the tides of the ocean vast, Àicheil's ribbons began to diverge from currents fast. They coiled about some ocean life with gentleness and care, and with that contact the god did learn what within them was true and fair. So too did his connection with the Oceanic God reveal, that in the elder being there was a pettiness and angry jealousy. It was writ upon the dream in actions before he'd not glimpsed true, but now as he had attuned they touched his mind anew.

So too did the thrumming water words course against his mind, and with their coming he processed them and responded then in kind.

"I wish to create, my Oceanic brother, but to do so I must make rise stone above your water," therein held was intent and meaning great, but though Àicheil could intone words, his intentions they could not wholly recreate. So, bereft of words or rumbling tidal speech, Àicheil unveiled to Klaar the Dreaming Realm and so spoke from beyond the Breach.

From the breach a dreaming essence spilled, its likeness prismatic light unreal, its intent pure and without substance one could physically feel. Nonetheless it coiled, rolled and filled the sea, submerging them doubly and as it began to overwhelm Àicheil closed the gate to his endless experiential realm. Then, with ribbons gray, and unfurling he wove the fabric of imagination and mortal yearning.

Unseen to those beasts and other mortal minds, a vision revealed itself to Klaar. Rising continents, shelves of rock most bare. Yet though they seemed to disrupt the ocean, in them there was something different than those which had come before them.

"Unity," Ѻs-fhìreach intoned, for beneath those newborn continents there was little earth which could be known. Instead it differed from its siblings in one way most bizarre, as from it there shot pillars reaching deep into ocean afar. On its surface, Àicheil revealed then, that those coral and oceanic creatures would continue to prevail. Salt rivers and lakes aplenty this land it would possess, so that the ocean Àicheil would not cause so terrible a duress.

Slowly, the gray-cloak ribbons calmed in their tumultuous movements and slipped once more into the drifting currents. Neo-Àicheil focused then upon Klarungraxus, and let forth words of great atonement and treaty.

"Dreaming Beasts I shall create, and upon many they shall prey, but on your kin--ocean children--their attentions will always stray. Further still to mortals landlocked in their nature, I will bestow knowledge of you and their fealty so will be gained. As time does pass of them I'll ask the oceans to traverse, and in so doing a challenge will ring out across the sea. In those ages which will come the land-men will fight and treat with your kin. From this will be born in both greater cunning and introspection. From this, I will ensure, that both are enriched, sure and true. All I ask, oh eldest Klaar, is permission--a new accord from me to you."

The God of Oceans did not once lose focus as the dream that Àicheil presented unfolded before him. The many-minds of Klaarungraxus devoured the displayed information with ravenous hunger, absorbing each new concept and adding them to their own understanding. All the while the overmind filed away these new ideas deep within the dark corners of the Ocean’s thoughts, deeply fascinated by the numerous potentials offered by Àicheil’s dream. It was an offer that the Old Growth Below could not possibly refuse.

"Your thoughts to Our thoughts make harmony as one, and one tide from many makes many waves mightier. This accord, enshrined by Vonu oaths, is one the will of waters gladly accepts. May the urstone of oceans, Ku, hear our oath and speak forth our words into the waves to echo for eternity. You may have your rock, o’ god of dreams, for it shall return to the sea in good time. This vow you will keep, of that We have no doubt; the mortals of this place will walk to sea as you have sworn, for the voice of Ku will make them yearn for her vast blue embrace.”

As the Ocean met the Dream halfway, a great joy Àicheil did feel, for now unchained he need not constrain his true creative zeal. So burst forth did the Dreaming God's shouted ululation. It shook the waters, but faded fast, the sound a sign of the Dreamer's endless elation. Moving then, Àicheil bound one ribbon to Klaar's limb, and without thought or further act, he split it from his form.

Contact ceased in that single moment, Àicheil felt the gradual decay from clarity, and so uttered a final word.

"Sign," he said, and in its stead there came a meaning-storm. That which he had left Klaar held within it a fragment of his form, and from it the elder god might reach out and touch the dreaming realm and all its experiential lore. It was a gift, from Àicheil to the tentacled behemoth. As it remained about Klaar's limb, its shape a twisting spiral, it glowed and grew as if it might be viral.

Satisfied, the Dreaming God withdrew and as he slipped into the Dream a fragmented power inside the ribbon bloomed.



Held then within the Dream, Àicheil called forth beyond the seam, and so were pulled from waves to limb the vestiges of a great vision. Colors swirled beyond pale veil and coalesced into the ribbon. Within them were held concepts most numerous and vague, but in this his place of power, he to them purpose and substance gave. Those once abstracted echoes of experience and sensation, they merged then with the ribbon and crystallized--their existence an enchanting sensation.



Reforged by unconscious intention, the ribbon yet remained upon Klaar's limb. No longer gray, it remained plain, though its surface was clear, colorless, and true. Now metallic and translucent it appeared deep beyond piercing, though perhaps not at all imposing. Yet, as it was gazed upon, the shifting strands of minds and unseen hands would intimate a truth. For within that band of god-shorn hand there dwelled a psychic source.

With this boon bestowed Àicheil's fickle mind began to wander. So it was that he left Klaar to ponder 'pon waves and tides and fish. For to Àicheil had he given a most momentous gift.



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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Enzayne
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Enzayne Invading Eldar

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Neiya





She had been adrift for longer than she could remember. The two moons and the sun spun endlessly over the vast blue expanse as she drifted just over the ocean in the air, aimless and lost in thought. Ever so often, a particularly aggressive wave would crash high enough to clutch at the sky during stormier weather, grazing her naked toes with cold saltwater. That too became a constant. Each touch of the water became a brief lull from the pull of reality – out of the prison of her own mind, and the onslaught of emotion. Even out here where life barely existed above the surface, the flood of affection, the pang of guilt, the warmth and chill of bonds forged and broken, they were overwhelming. On occasion she had heard her name – that had been enough to drift back into the present, but eventually the lull of waves lured her back into her isolated existence carrying the raging torrent of mortal emotion.

The enmity of a jilted lover, the deep and blissful warmth from complete trust, the agonizing pain of grief, the fleeting but intense need to protect another. They toiled within her in violent turmoil, voices and whispers refusing to sort themselves, blending seamlessly with an endless tangle of raging emotions. It was inescapable – unmanageable. She hated it. Hated them for forcing her to feel this way. All she had wanted was to open herself to the world, and now the world had revealed its true cruelty. The experiences were vivid, but random. Chaotic, unordered. Barely had she focused an emotion and allowed herself to feel as the mortals did, before it was replaced by the pressing intensity of another – bitter, sweet, pining, painful. They did not wait.

In her mind Neiya tried her best to focus on the one focal point of emotion she had experienced. Mortal emotion beyond what was sent to assault her. The memories returned of the grieving tribe, the envious man. She understood him, she felt it too. His desire was blinding, his deluded devotion complete. It was beautiful – it could have been great. But he was fated to hate, kill, and suffer for his emotions. And the girl he loved; she understood her too. The singular, insidious emptiness gnawing at her thoughts. A despairing refusal to accept that what she once had was gone. The anguish and rage borne out of suspicions confirmed. It was sickening. There was no happy end. Not for any of them. Not the man, nor the girl, nor the lost love. The three of them were doomed to suffer the moment they met one another. Or perhaps…?

What if there was another way? Were they still there? What if she had acted differently? She commanded all their virtues and vices – why had she ruined his chances to comfort her? It would have been hollow. It would have been false hope; but it could have eased her pain. Not knowing could have let her set it aside. Dull the pain, appreciate the closeness of another. At least one of them would have been happy, then. The thought burrowed deep into her mind, slowly dominating her waking dreams until the roil of emotions was a dull thud in the back of her head, and the need to know what could have been screamed at her. Snapped out of her aimless drift, spellbound by new purpose, Neiya turned back towards the coast beyond the horizon.




Following the river mouth up along the rapids, Neiya drifted with some speed to retrace the original path she had taken to escape towards the ocean. Back to the place of her birth. Back to them. She would think of something. Ease their pain. Set what she could right, even if the torrent remained. The Highlands returned in ever greater measure around her as she travelled upstream, soundlessly drifting just above roaring waterfalls and quick streams to follow the massive river back to the site of her first experience. Beyond the occasional curious look from an animal, nothing stood in the way on her journey. The distance had been considerable, and she had covered it in what felt like a split second, unable to let her new drive go. The trees began to look familiar, the twist in the river signaling the end of her path. The riverbank clearing was not far now. She’d find them – she’d set it right.

Only no one was there. The sight of the riverbank sparked brighter recollection of her birth, of the trauma she felt in each of them. It was as if they were still there. But they weren’t. Beyond the rush of water, it was quiet. Beyond the rustle of tree, it was unmoving. By the edge of the river sat a lone stack of stones as a silent memorial, adorned with a simple effigy of sticks and straw that had now begun to fade and wilt with time’s passing. The grass had grown, new plants had sprouted around the area. How long had she been gone? If only she’d been quicker. The thought turned bitter, impossible. Of course. It had been a fool’s errand from the start. She knew that it was supposed to be this way. She had seen it in their hearts and then put them on that path.

Her frown grew as she closed her eyes and turned back to the river. She was as much part of their pain as they were hers. They were intrinsically linked. That was how it was, and always would be. Slowly, she drifted further upstream, away from her birthplace, and eternal shame.




Blocked from what kept her determined for so long, the thought passed back into obscurity, overwhelmed by the returning roil of emotion. She followed new waterfalls, new twists in the large river. Her interest had drained out her, stuck with a sour apathy swelling with the package of guilt building in her gut. When new mortals came running at the side of the riverbank far beyond where she had gone before, shouting and pointing her way, she glanced their way only long enough to assure herself they were not the same that she had met before. There was no immediate pull of emotion from them, nothing to catch her interest. She was a sight for them to ogle and gawk at. Why should she stoop to award them her attention? No, she pressed on, drifting above the water as she had found had become her routine.

She didn’t stop again until she found the river came to an end. A massive waterfall pouring down from the mountain pooled into a clear blue lake that split into a few river creeks and the large river she came from. Almost surrounded by dense foliage and trees, the stillness of the lake caught Neiya off-guard. Despite the waterfall, and the river turning into a rapid not far from here, this lake – this resting place for the water – was serene. Timeless. The forlorn goddess quietly drifted to the center of the lake, releasing a breath she did not realize she’d been holding. It was beautiful. It was peace. A sanctuary from the turmoil of the world. A moment of stillness and peace in a raging stream. Like that time with… him. Neiya released a quiet sigh, closing her eyes to relive her embrace with Cadien as she hovered over the timeless lake. She had been at peace, then. At cost of his own peace. She could see it in his eyes. That was the way it would always be. Her presence was toxic, tainting. But she had found peace in that moment.

She drew on her own emotions and those of the mortal world. She could not change her nature, her fate, or that of others, but she could work against it. Even if peace could only ever be as fleeting as happiness or mortal lives – it should be there – everyone deserved to feel what she felt in that moment, even if only for a moment. The result was always pain, but it did not need to be constant, it did not need to be impossible to live with. Again, the goddess drew on her time at peace, finding a moment to center herself in between the turmoil. It was time to see what she could do. She knew she should. She knew she could.

Silver strands released from her fingertips, and azure tears ran down her cheeks in sharp patterns along her markings. Slowly her essence drifted away from her in ever greater measure, coming to rest over the lake in a gentle shimmer. The roar of the waterfall, though ever present, quieted to a manageable background murmur. The silver and azure essence mixed into a mist, slowly lowering into the water and layering over it, creating a new ever shifting reflection of blues and silvers, like a shifting, translucent mirror. Neiya opened her eyes once more to regard her work. It was a start. A sanctuary. A timeless place where pain and sorrow would not reach. The goddess drew a long breath and closed her eyes once more. Perhaps she would just stay here forever.




The grief cut into her like a sharp blade tearing into paper, ripping Neiya from her serene rest hovering above her newly established sanctuary. How long had she remained in place? How long had she reflected over her own place in the world? Another hard pang of anguish roiled through her, like a flame calling to a moth. An itch in her bones drew her gaze to the tree line. Someone out there was in pain. Someone close. Hovering over towards the highland grass, the goddess left the serenity of her claimed lake and set out to investigate.
It wasn’t hard to find the source, the intensity with which this mortal experienced their anguish pulsed like a building migraine over Neiya’s eyes, and the closer she came, the more it grew until their pain was her own. She exited into a clearing as the final wave of emotion washed over her and came face to face with two battered humans – a man and a woman. They were embracing when she arrived but broke it off as the leaves rustled to give warning of the goddess’ approach.

“Who goes there?” The man queried, though his gaze lifted to regard Neiya, and by his widening eyes Neiya assumed he realized the answer.
Still, she deigned to answer as both their attentions drew her way. The man was injured, and they both looked tired, dirty. “I am Neiya, Goddess of Love,” she spoke at last, thinking before adding “…and loss.” Her eyes followed the woman as she felt the grief roil within her. As the man lowered himself to the ground in humility, Neiya approached the pair.

“You… honor us with your presence, great Neiya,” the man murmured as humbly as he could muster, seeming a little off-guard. The woman watched her warily as he continued speaking. “Have you come in answer of our prayers?”

Neiya looked at the woman, studied the wariness in her eyes. She was angry. At her limit. Despairing. ”In a manner of speaking,” The goddess voiced in return, gliding soundlessly over the grass to close the distance between the three of them. The woman tensed up, but the man stood to place a hand on her arm.

“It’s alright, Sanya. A god has heard us.” He offered and gave a gentle smile towards Neiya. That much was certainly true, Neiya thought to herself.

”What ails you?” Neiya drew ever closer, extending her hand towards the woman slowly. The man began to speak in response, but the goddess did not listen to his words. Daring not to recoil, the woman remained in place as Neiya laid her hand on the mortal’s cheek. Tears rushed from the woman’s eyes and a sob bubbled up from the back of her throat. Neiya drew on her emotions, her loss. Her little village gone, attacked by a strange and hideous being twice the size of any human. What survivors had remained together after the attack had fallen one by one. Picked off by hunger, injuries, snakes, or other humans. Until only she and the man remained. Everyone she cared for was dead. Her bond to this man was one of trust grown out of necessity. ”I see,” Neiya offered with sadness mirroring that of the woman’s own as she removed her hand. The sobs died down slowly as the woman recovered, finally recoiling away from the goddess. Just to be certain, she repeated her gentle caress upon the man’s cheek, and she saw the same in him – simply muted. Hidden beneath the surface. ”You have lost all that you held dear. You two are all that remains to remember and cherish what once was. I am sorry.”

The man stammered briefly, unsure of what to say. Finding some courage, the woman called Sanya spoke up in his stead, oaken eyes staring down the goddess defiantly. “Will you help us? Avenge the fallen? Destroy the beast, and the Sentti tribe, for what they did to-.. to all of us.”

Neiya watched the both of them quietly for a moment, pondering what she had experienced, and the emotions that toiled within the woman. ”No. That would bring you no peace.”

The woman grew red with anger, fists clenching as her initial suspicions appeared to now be confirmed. Neiya continued before she could launch into an outburst. ”Nothing will bring you peace. Not truly. Neither of your lives will ever return to what they once were. You are forever changed by the horrors you have endured, by the people you have lost,” Neiya shifted her gaze between the two. The initial fury in the woman’s eyes seemed to abate for a time, and when her eyes locked with the goddesses’, she looked down with guilt and anguish. ”But you can live your life with new purpose. You can temper your existence with the pain you feel now. If what you truly wish is justice for those you lost, for revenge, then you must do so yourself.”

The man drew a shaky breath before finding his voice once more. “We are barely surviving, great one-... we are not fighters, nor do we desire revenge.”

“I do.” Sanya said through gritted teeth. The man blinked and looked towards his partner in survival.

“Sanya, I thought we talk-…”

“Enough, Yaian. You called for the gods and the gods came. Now she speaks and you refuse her words.” The woman continued with a venom to her tone, a returned determination. The touch of hatred that stemmed deep from within that pain in her core. “After all we have been through. After trolls, and kidnappings, and raids, you want to give up? Waste away here in the forest? I want to see their eyes when they realize they missed one. That’s what Saaen would have done for you. Or your father. Not this cowardice.”

Neiya watched the two of them for a time, before slowly lifting a hand to the jagged black tangle of horns on her shoulder. Centering herself with a breath, she pulled on one of her coiling horns, and it seemed to stretch and come loose with her coaxing. She slid both hands over it as she brought it down before the two humans, and the long black horn became slim and elongated. Slowly warping into a black, glasslike staff under Neiya’s caress, the new item slowly grew a silvery edge that expanded from one edge. Twisting and shifting under her administration, the creation slowly settled into a sleek and otherworldly spear, with a blade that seemed to shift ever so slightly in size whenever gazed upon. ”I will not fight your battles, mortal, but I offer you this. Do not reject who you have become. The pain is an honor, a mark of your character. It is the memory of those you cared for, however bitter. With this weapon, you can wield that bitter memory against those who have wronged you. I offer you Sorrowsting.”

Neiya extended the strange weapon to the woman, who hesitated only briefly before accepting the offering. Her words of thanks were muted, captivated by her tool of vengeance and deep in examining it. With an excuse of gathering their things, she wandered towards the edge of their little clearing.

The man was not pleased. A growing frustration and worry visibly forced onto his features, the man glanced after her as she walked off towards her quest for revenge. Before he could voice his concerns, Neiya extended her hands to take one of his. Caressing one of his fingers, a band of silver slowly materialized around his skin, adorned with a gemstone black as the night and glossy as the spear’s handle. ”It is not injury, starvation or age that will consume her. The grief she endures will never end.”

“But-… you are a goddess. That thing-... that thing you did with your hand. Can you not heal her?”

“There is nothing to heal. The woman you knew is gone. Her soul carries a heavy burden, as your own. You cannot return to who you once were, but you can lighten her burden. The gemstone will take her sorrow. Perhaps she will find a moment of peace.” Neiya removed her hands from his, leaving his finger adorned with an ornate ring. The black gemstone seemed to swirl and shift behind the gloss. ”This is your charge. To understand her loss, and lighten it. Perhaps then she will not walk to her doom.

“Will you not save her?”

”She does not want to be saved. She wants to avenge the fallen. There is beauty in grief. Or doom.”

The man seemed distraught at the goddess’ lesson. Neiya watched him twist and fidget in place, looking down to the ring slowly. He was about to speak, when the rustle of leaves brought his attention to the woman now leaving the clearing, scarpering away into the woods. A single moment of hesitation, a glance back to Neiya, who simply stared at him. Then he turned to run after his partner. She knew he would.

Neiya released a soft sigh as the man vanished into the forest. It was not long before she questioned her decision. Her judgement. No. She had given the woman what she wanted. She wouldn’t hurt her like that, deny her innermost desires. In that, there was some measure of peace. Some greater purpose, and power. She felt her own grip on reality strengthen. Her attunement to the grief and anguish in the world expanding. She had understood it, the core of that bitter fruit - the end result of happiness, of love. Her mastery grew, as her experience with the world did.

Satisfied enough to feel a lingering emptiness in place of doubt, Neiya drifted in another direction, resuming her aimless journey - lost to thought as the constant stream of emotion returned to the forefront.




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Commodore Condor

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From the west came the great temple, casting a long shadow on the sea in its approach to the great island north-eastern island of the continental chain. Seen from the coasts and high points of the isle came the shimmering temple of gold, the gargantuan form that was Thaa hung beneath its spiral towers and tower domes of the layered temple. His great eye peered out at the isle he now approached for he had come across other islands in this chain and sought further collection even as he had as of yet failed to meet any of his sibling deities.

He kept his purposes to himself, for the least matter that he had not yet encountered any to explain his actions. In the great halls of the Vescii Temple he had collected some wildlife already, a kind of shark that found itself walking the land and a peculiar crab which he thought he could find some use to put it towards.

Although such additions were a bare fragment of the space in his grand temple, he was not selective for lack of space. Thaa simply had found little to be impressed by those landed creatures he had yet encountered on the journey, for he knew there would be a great many that he could find a greater purpose for from merely the dead that had yet come to him.

And so his gaze continued, settling to examine the land as the Temple approached, to examine its land for any life he might find useful for his purposes, and of course to watch out for signs of his fellow deities. Even as he kept himself attached to his temple through the masses of the sympathetic corpses that he kept as his form, he kept some free in loose chains hanging down, he found they were useful in collecting the life he found of some interest.

Unfortunately, perhaps, for the life beneath the temple, it was the black of night, meaning there was, indeed, activity below. Particularly, right beneath the temple at the moment, there was a young night elf female picking some dewy mushrooms by a crevice creek. The temple’s quiet, predatory approach was inaudible even to her, and she had no way of seeing it, as dark as it was on this night.

Thaa’s gaze shifted along the landscape below him, and while it did settle upon the young night elf it did not linger long. That did not mean he had no interest however. In the dark of the night the loose chains of corpses brushed down to the land below and reached and plundered it. Here the grasping mouths of fish tore grasses and plants from the dirt and soil, and over there a stray animal, or insect was caught by the simple grasping talons of a predatory bird. All were lifted upward to the grand Vescii Temple.

Amid this sudden cacophony of action, of the bare escapes of a few and the squeals and cries of the many captured, a chain reached for the elf and even the mushrooms she picked. Grasping arms and hands reached to lift what Thaa sought to the sky, although safely even in his rapid attempts at acquisition.

The screams from above had tilted the elf’s head upwards in a curious manner, but it had been much too late. She was drawn upwards by the chain, kicking and screaming all the way up. “HELP! HEEELP! CAYEN! ROSE! ANYONE?!”

“What is your name, little night elf?” The voice echoed around her, seemingly drowning out any other noise even as it was not quite itself thunderously loud. The chains continued their work, Thaa continued to take samples and examine the land for more even as he spoke to the young elf.

She didn’t respond at first, too frightened of the voice. Eventually, though, she caved: “Ci-Cinnamon,” she responded shudderingly, frozen completely with fear.

“It is good to meet you Cinnamon. I am Thaa, Protector of the Dead and God of Death.”

“H-hello,” she replied and looked down. “Wh-why have you taken me?”

“You are going to lead me to others of your kind and then we’ll all go together to other lands where you will all have a much better time while you live your lives.”

“I-I--...” Cinnamon took a deep breath. “Do you mean you’ll… Take us to the afterlife?!” She began to hyperventilate. “I-I-I-I… I can’t! I don’t wanna die!”

With those words the great disk and eye of Thaa shifted to look at Cinnamon, gliding over the great mass of bodies that the chain was slowly drawing them towards. “No. Not until you have died in whatever course you choose to let life bring you.”

“Why do you not wish to die? You have a long time before your life gives way but you do not embrace death nonetheless?”

“B-because!” Cinnamon swallowed. “B-because I’d leave my family behind - my friends. And death is, is scary.” She shook her head. “Please, Thaa - great Thaa! Sp-spare me!”

“You will not die yet, or for a good many decades, nor will you leave behind your friends and family. There is nothing to be spared.” Thaa paused before switching tracks, “Why do you pick mushrooms by a creek?

“T-to eat. The air is moist there, s-so the mushrooms grow large and, and juicy. Oh, please, great Thaa, I don’t, I don’t want to leave here!”

“There will be many more things to eat where I will take you, many better things to have, it will be easier there.”

As Thaa stopped speaking the chain went into a great motion once more, taking Cinnamon up into the great upper levels above where Thaa perched below. She was set down safely in one of the great halls of the Vescii Temple, having taken through a gate into one of the many domed structures that helped form the Temple. What little light there was in the dark night shone through the great windows of the entrance hall, deeper into the Temple where Cinnamon had been recently set free and the chain that was part of Thaa still sat in the golden hall.

After setting Cinnamon free the chain of ‘corpses’ shifted, and a cornucopia of life sprung out around Cinnamon. Soils flooded the floor around her, and mushrooms half again the size of the largest from the creek sprung up. Flora collected from the land grew anew around her, more lush and if tried succulent than normally on the land below.

“You and your family, your friends could have this and more, not just in my Temple but you would have a new land to live upon, one that suited your needs and made life all the easier, you need not fear this young Cinnamon. Where do you live? What is it like that so entices you to stay?”

The night elf did not seem particularly enticed by anything at the moment; rather, the slew of magic and divine growths around her clearly frightened her, for she dove for cover underneath a mushroom cap and started sobbing.

Thaa was nonplussed, it was the nature of life to be so ill designed that it had to fear from every such thing. He could only pity that such creatures were made in the first place by such cruel and despicable gods. Thaa did little more with Cinnamon, he did not comfort her for he knew the attempt would likely to more damage than the temporary suffering she was undergoing. When she died he could comfort her in all the horrors that had been inflicted by life, for now he had work to do.

Outside the Temple, Thaa’s eye searched onto the land once more, looking for more of the night elves to take with him, as well as any other creatures that he could think of some use for.

Nearby, merely what would’ve been a thirty minute walk from where he had found Cinnamon, a small grouping of animal hide tents leaning against canyon crevices stood out in the darkness. The village centre was buzzing with silent activity, as night elves villages did at this time of night, but as the keep approached, the activity halted and all the elves ran for cover inside their homes. A small band armed with sharpened sticks and rocks was all that remained in the village centre.

The chains descended once more, a few circled over the village as if looking for more subjects. All around the village however, chains dived into the ground around the village. Soon the ground the village built on and into, a great portion of it was lifted out of the land below. It was held together by divine energies as Thaa kept the village intact, merely taking the whole of it into sky.

The chains of ‘copses’ that were a part of Thaa made their purpose clear in circling above the village, in keeping any of the elves from getting off of the platform. Only upon reaching up high to a gate in the Temple did the platform split, taking in the whole of the village in pieces into the great halls of Temple, each piece was brought settled down in that same room he had left Cinnamon to cry in.

The elves tumbled into the room, screaming and crying in terror and shock. Cinnamon, who had begun to calm down, tried her best to calm her friends and family down, but to no avail. The guardian band that had stood ready to protect the village fared little better - some ran to make certain their families were alright; others hunkered down and tried to shut out all the panic. Cinnamon had managed to find the chieftain, but even she was completely lost to her instincts, hiding inside her still-intact tent and trying to convince herself none of this was happening.

Even if Thaa knew that this was the manner of life, he could not do nothing. Clearly the creators of these beings had been cruel, to make them live, to give them an existence which was so begotten by the need of fear and terror at change for the danger it might present. But their cruelty was no excuse to act poorly on his own part, and while he knew it would not be easy, it would not be moral to do otherwise.

In the center of the grand hall a shining silvery ball appeared, it was faceted not as a purely smooth orb but rather a gradually sloping series of plates, each in turn shining out soft divine light into the room. Although the light shone out in Thaa’s divine sense, to mortals they could not see, for rather than a light such as that of the sun, this light was of a feeling a sense of serenity. Everywhere the light touched, with each beam that shone out briefly then disappeared again, fears and worries slide away, all over the great hall, no matter the coverings or where the elves cowered, the light put them at ease.

Although a brute force solution of divine power and influence, the Orb of Serenity was something that might be a tool to help at least. Thaa was not one to use brute simple solutions alone however. Whispers, whispers at that combined, in parts and pieces in different places to say different things. Thaa spoke not just to the night elves as a whole, to but each group or family or quivering individual, he explained what was happening, why he was doing it- to bring them to a better land. He spoke to them to ease their worries, although cheating perhaps with using an artifact of divine power rupon them at the same time.

The elves settled down eventually, the gentleness of the orb oozing through the hall like a gentle perfume. While many of them still struggled with the trauma of the experience, they didn’t show it - everyone instead sat down in a circle in the centre of the hall, eyeing the surroundings curiously. Cinnamon rubbed her eyes tiredly and looked up. “What did you do to us?” she asked the presence.

“Forced Serenity upon you, it is temporary while the Orb remains. Your own feelings and sense will return gradually after it is removed.” Thaa’s spoke to them although most of all of his form in the chains had retreated from the room.

One of the elves, an elder female, rose up. “I am chieftain Alspise. Cinnamon whispered to me the gist of our situation… You say you will take us to a land much richer and greater than our home of Scenta? Where?”

“The Hreelcii Isles is the ultimate goal, although I will be passing through many lands collecting many others before then. Most directly once I am finished here, I plan to head north to the islands there. Why do so ask Chieftain Alspise?”

“Well, up until a few moments ago, we were living below in harmony with the land and each other in accordance with the law of the Great Peace. Then, like a sapling trampled over by the buffalo hordes, you ripped us from our soil by the root. I believe we have the right to know, since we evidently don’t have a choice in the matter.”

“An interesting proposition, a right to know. A novel idea I must admit, I do not believe it has been one that many of my fellow deities have decided to uphold. I hope you were not too attached to the idea as it may not be very popular. And what is this law of the Great Peace that you speak of, if we are to be sharing such that we know.”

“What is the law of--...” started the chieftain as if someone asked her to explain why water is wet. She cleared her throat. “W-why, the Great Peace is a rule upheld by nightkind all across the land - silence and quiet are to be upheld at all times, so as to not disturb your fellow men and women, whose ears would be much too pained by all the noise. This is why we speak as we do, play our music as we do, sing our songs as we do. You ripping our village out of the ground, however - that breaks this sacred law.”

“How cruel a creator you must have had, I did not realize they were so clever so as to make such a race with a necessity such as this. While this is all very fascinating and I would like to keep speaking with ones such as you Chieftain Alspise, I am going to bring more of your kind to this Temple and bring more of them with me. You have a choice in that you may be able to help me to do so. I would ask you to tell me where other villages of your kind might be, and if all of your village are present now?”

The chieftain shook her head, internal emotions evidently battling with her ability to express them in face of the Orb of Serenity. “We are all here, but we will not give up more of our kin. To have ourselves rooted out this way - we wish it not upon anyone else. We are sixty here already - can you not be sated by that, great Thaa?”

The last chains in the room finally shifted, instead of the long chains they retreated to the entrances to the hall, sealing them with a wall of ‘corpses’. Thaa remained silent for a long moment as he did this, he finally responded. “My name is ‘Thaa’, no need for this ‘great’ nonsense. And no, I cannot be sated at this Chieftain Alspise.”

“I can proceed without your assistance, I would have hoped otherwise but it shall have to work for now.”

“So be it,” said the chieftain and sat back down. One could tell that her inner emotions were erupting within her, evidenced by the shivers running up and down her body where she sat. Her tribe members, Cinnamon included, all huddled around to comfort her, quivering immensely as their emotions were suppressed still.

A small chain of bodies reached for the Orb of Serenity now that the conversation had finished and Thaa prepared to move onwards.



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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Scarifar
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Scarifar Presto~!

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Koine

As more and more sentient life was formed, their thoughts began to influence the Lifeblood slightly. Their thoughts of gathering more resources and amassing large abundances resonated with the Lifeblood, with a portion of it beginning to have thoughts of its own. Thoughts of amassing its own fortune, its own self. And from those thoughts bore shape. The Lifeblood began to form an arm, a leg, a well-sculpted face with flowing hair. With this new shape, this portion of the Lifeblood began to separate. The Lifeblood itself seemed to resist, struggling to retain this mass of thoughts and feelings within itself. It could not resist for long, though, as this portion broke free. It fell to the earth, and it- no, she, was born.



As Koine lay on the ground, she took in the world around her for the first time, breathing in the fresh air, feeling the grass on her back, and staring at the sun. "So this is what it feels like... to be alive. I think I like it," Koine said to herself, bouncing up off the ground. She then began to examine her body, quickly taking a liking to her gold skin and sparkly, diamond fingernails. It was a body to be proud of, to be composed of such... wealth. Finally, Koine turned in a full circle, trying to figure out exactly where she was. It was then that she finally noticed the primitive buildings and the beings nearby that were staring at her in wide-eyed wonder.

Ah, humans. Perfect, Koine thought out loud, and smiled cheerfully at them, showing off her pearly teeth. "Hello~" Koine barely managed to utter before they exploded in a flurry of emotions and reactions, from running away in panic to getting on their knees and babbling. One brave soul, however, was calm enough to come up to her and respond back, "H-hello, um... Shining One. What brings you to our village?"

"Hmm... Shining One... I like that, but please, call me... Koine," Koine said with a chuckle. "Right now, I am a being with nothing to my name. No need for a title yet." After a dismissive wave of her hand, Koine continued, "So, what is your name?"

"Oh, i-it's um... Ailsi," she managed to stutter out.

"Well, pleasure to meet you, Alisi," Koine said. Walking up to her and placing a hand on her shoulder, Koine continued, "Show me around this little village of yours, won't you? Tell me what this little slice of the world has accomplished."

"I don't think there's much to tell, but I can try," Alisi nodded, and began to lead the way.

"I'll be the judge of that," Koine followed closely behind her.



"Well, that was an interesting tour, to say the least," Koine said, nodding as she made her final judgement. "This seems like a good location. Large enough space, with a decent workforce. Given enough time, it may even become a center of trade."

"A what?" Alisi asked, confused.

"Thank you for your service, Alisi. Here, this is for you," Koine continued on, ignoring Alisi's reaction as she flicked a gold coin toward Alisi, who barely managed to clap her hands together to catch it. Alisi's eyes were wide with surprise at the fact that she had just received something from Koine, but was also tinged with confusion. "Umm... Koine, what is this?" Alisi asked.

"Payment for your services, of course," Koine said, with a matter-of-fact tone. "Is there anything wrong with it? Because there shouldn't be. I would know, I made it."

"N-no, it's just..." Alisi stuttered. "I, um, don't know what this is."

"It's... money," Koine said hesitantly. Alisi's continued look of confusion already made Koine dread having to ask her next question. "How far along are we in the development of businesses? You know, the... exchange of goods and services for profit? I do hope it's more further along than those two neighbors exchanging vegetables with each other."

"...Ummm..." Alisi looked away, unsure of what to say, which was all Koine needed to hear.

"...I see I have my work cut out for me," Koine sighed. "I will be staying in this village for a while longer, it seems. I will teach you the ins and outs of the world of business, and you will in turn help me spread this knowledge to as many people as you can. You're a smart enough girl, you should be able to do it."

"Uh, wuh, but-" Alisi tried to stutter out again before being quickly interrupted by Koine. "No buts! This must be done, for the sake of the world."

"...Yes, Koine." Alisi resigned herself, wondering what she had gotten herself into.

"That's the spirit!" Koine said, placing a hand on Alisi's shoulder and giving a wide pearly smile.



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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Legion02
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Qael'Naath

“Just imagine Oraelia. When she’s high above.” The man said as he sat on a rock inside a cave. For the past three days, he had done nothing but run. A troll had destroyed the little family he had. Now he was hoping he could reach the fabled place called Haven. They said it was a god-made paradise. Ro wasn’t so sure about that. Never the less, he knew there would be humans there. Or more importantly, there wouldn’t be trolls there.

“I’m trying dad. It’s just so dark in here.” His daughter, Ora said. Named after the goddess during better times. She was nine, yet despite her young age she had already seen too much. Right now she stood in the cave with her hand out but facing away from it. She was almost afraid of it. “I don’t think lady Oraelia wants me to make light.” She said as she was shaking head to toe. The cave was cold and damp, but Ro found it the best hiding place from trolls. “Can’t we just light a fire?”

“No fire!” The father said. Lighting a fire would draw gods knew what towards them. “Just concentrate. You can do it. I believe in you.” Those were lies. He barely believed in himself now. A day ago they had encountered a troll while they were running. A troll that took Ora. She would’ve died but in his rage, a flash of light akin to the sun burst forth from his hand and seared the troll’s hand. It had released Ora and ever since then, Ro had been practicing that flash. He had only cast it twice since. Still, he was hoping Ora could use this divine given power as well.

Then a stranger entered the cave. He suddenly appeared, without Ro noticing. The man had come far too close to them. Ro shot up from his rock and held a stone in one hand. Ora stayed behind him, partially hidden in the shadows the little bits of low moonlight cast into the cave. “Calm now, my friend.” The stranger said in a soothing voice. “I come in peace.” Suddenly light flickered in his own hand. It wasn’t a sudden burst of searing light. Instead, it was gentle and illuminating. Yet there was no fire in his hand. Only pure light.

Ro let his guard down again. The stranger came closer. He has oddly dressed yet still clearly some sort of disciple of Oraelia. When he got close enough Ro could see the six eyes peering from under the hood. None the less, he did not fear the stranger. Ora, on the other side, did. The stranger took his place on a rock a few feet away from Ro and his daughter. “Would you tell a man your story then, Strangers?” He asked.

“We’re running!” Said an overly nervous Ora.

The stranger leaned forward to look at her. “Oh? And what are you running away from, little one?”

“Big ugly things!” She exclaimed.

“Is that so?” The stranger turned to Ro now. “I happen to have seen a big ugly thing a day away from here. His entire arm was burned like he had put it in a fire.”

“Dad burned him!” Ora said. Ro just nodded in confirmation.

“Oraelia blessed me with light to fight the troll scourge.” He solemnly said. He patted his daughter on the head with a strange mixture of despair and hope on his face. “I was hoping she would’ve blessed my daughter as well. I’ve been trying to teach her, but it seems like it just won’t happen.”

The hooded man nodded understandingly. Then he turned back to Ora. “I want you to do something for me. I want you to hold out your hand like your dad did and think about the sun really hard. Okay?”

Ora nodded and did as she was told. Even though deep down she knew it wouldn’t work. Her dad and her have been trying for a long time now. She closed her eyes and thought about the sun. About how bright and nice and warm it was during the summer days. She heard a gasp suddenly and opened her eyes.

Ro picked her up and hugged her tight. “You did it! You did it! Oraelia blessed! You did it!”

But to Ora, her father’s voice wasn’t the only one she heard. Instead, she heard something else too. Your father cannot hear me. A whispering voice said to her. You’re not blessed by Oraelia, little one. What you did was magic! Which can do so much more than cast a light. You’ll learn that quick enough now. You’ll learn many things quickly from now on. And you’ll start hearing others like you’re hearing me. Now try it. Talk to me, without moving your lips.

Ora opened her mouth for a moment, they closed it. He said no lips. How do you talk without lips? Maybe if she thought really hard about it. Like this? She asked.

Yes, little one. That is exactly how I meant it. You’ll be asking and answering a great many questions soon but I want you to remember one thing forever: be kind to the others you’ll talk to like this. They’re going through the same thing as you are.

“I must go.” The Stranger said with his full voice now, as he rose up.

“So soon already?” A surprised Ro said as he put his daughter back down. “You must eat something with us.”

The stranger excused himself though: “I cannot. I’m afraid I must push forward. Ever forward. Blessings of the gods upon, and especially the blessings of Oraelia.” Ora and Ro bid him farewell. But remained in the cave for the night. The next morning Ro decided to continue one. Though when they came out of the cave and into the light, he noticed something different about his daughter. “Are you okay, Ora?”

“Yes…is there something wrong?” She asked.

“Well, I don’t think so.” He said with a reassuring smile. Yet in reality, he was a little worried. The eyes of his daughter weren’t beautifully blue as they had once been. Now they had little shards of a hundred different colors in them. She didn’t seem to feel anything, but he was still worried.

Ora tugged at his arm. “Daddy, what’s magic?”
Work had been endlessly tiring for Qael. Every sapient race so far had been blessed with an affinity towards mana now. The encounter, and the creation of the Servants, had emptied him to the last bit of power he had. Now he wanted nothing more than to return to Xal-Zastarha and rest until his power returned to him. Yet as he flew through his Streams, his mana began to tug on him again. It had found another place. Akin to the well but not entirely. It was…strange. Still, it was a place of supposed healing so he let it take him there. The Stream led him towards the south of the Boreal Highlands. There, at the foot of two large mountains, he found a gentle lake. Yet it was unlike the Lake of Radiance, which felt warm to the touch. This, to Qael’s divine senses, felt cold and numbing. Still, he landed at the banks of the lake and looked over it. Mist of azure and silver floated over it, and the surface looked like an almost perfect mirror.

Only when he approached the lake did he realize the extent of his own desperation now. The wound hadn’t healed for quite some time now. Oraelia was gone and Qael couldn’t find her. He looked into the pool for a moment and saw his own six eyes peering back. Or perhaps he didn’t want to find Oraelia. Maybe he didn’t want to be healed? No, no that was a foolish thought. He had to heal and continue on with his duty. Something began to gnaw at him in his mind though. He walked closer towards the lake, right until he nearly touched the waters. For the first time, he realized just how deeply tired he was. Or how untrue his own thoughts about tiredness were. He wasn’t tired. That suggested that energy could return. For the first time he realized that perhaps, he no longer had the ability to be as energetic as he was at birth. Something had deeply, profoundly changed him. The answer was obvious but Qael’Naath could not admit it. Nothing has been right since he expelled the essence that named itself Qullqiya from his self. Worse, that very essence had seemingly taken something vitally important of him with it.

Did Qullqiya take his capacity to care?

Rage rose into his heart. This lake, it was nothing but a horrible creation! Something that would indoctrinate you and accept your worst ideas! No, the god of magic was complete! The expulsion of chaos was a necessity, as is it’s destruction! With pure spite, he outstretched his hand. Mana, not divine power, heeded his command and rushed across the lake. Freezing it and dulling its elsewise mirror-like reflection. He flew up again towards the stream. Had he become so desperate for healing that he nearly accepted the idea that his sister was necessary? This wound was becoming dangerous now.


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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Not Fishing
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Cadien

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Neiya




Neiya had drifted for what felt like a paradoxical eternity and a few moments all at once. Beyond the blur at the sides of her vision she registered the sun moving to set, the moons lifting in the sky, as tree and branch and cliff all skirted past beside and underneath her. Her work with the mortals - with her channeled sanctuary - had left her drained and tired, and though the emotions never stopped streaming in, the roar of roiling mortal feelings had become manageable and dulled in its own way. It gave her room to contemplate. To focus better on individual emotions, and their sources. Perhaps one day she would be able to square the storm away in the back of her mind - but until then it colored her every thought as it passed by.

So too did the landscape shift beneath her hovering feet. Cliffs, grass and trees became sparser until finally a vast expanse opened up, replacing the dense greenery with vibrant and inviting yellows, sun faded and speckled with flowers. It was an ocean on land, Neiya thought to herself as her mind wandered from her woes, offering brief respite in comparing this majestic prairie to the ocean that had enraptured her so on first sight. Hesitant for a time, Neiya eventually continued her journey adrift above the tall grass. She thought she had seen all the world had to offer. How much was there beyond the mountains? Beyond the limits of her previously-thought unlimited perception? New animals - proud bison grazing the massive fields, and massive beasts circling in the sky far above. The novelty occupied her mind for a time, as she set about exploring this endless golden brown expanse. Humans had spread to this land also, and she offered them no more than a passing sight to be in awe of.

When the initial rapture wore off, the melting pot of emotions began to stir and boil once more. She could sense the allure of the beautiful ocean once more, taste its’ scent in the air. In an effort to escape the returning flood of her internal struggle, she made further west over the prairie, eager to reunite with the blue. It didn’t take her long to reach the coast, where yellow turned white, and finally that deep blue that she had left behind to return to Toraan. She closed her eyes, content to listen to the crashing waves for a time, letting them lull her to a delusion of calm. She drifted out a small distance, ready to succumb to an eternity of crashing waves and turbulent thought.

The ocean was not the only thing she could sense, however. A divine presence was nearing her location. Off in the distance a familiar figure approached, walking across the water.

Cadien.

He had noticed her too, and was now hurrying his way toward her, carrying on with his melodramatic leaps through the air.

Neiya released a sharp sigh as her eyes confirmed what she had felt at first, and for a moment she felt herself fidget, almost impatient. She cleared her throat as she batted her thoughts away, and patiently hovered in place above the water as she awaited his approach with a serene look on her features.

He landed just a few feet away, and came to a stop. “Neiya,” he greeted her with a pleasant smile. “I did not expect to meet you out here. How are you doing?”

The question seemed harder for her to answer than it would be for most. A flash of a frown ran over her thinning lips, before she did her best to remain approachable. “Appreciating the ocean, as ever,” she responded in a soft murmur. “You look-... You look well, Cadien. As I remember you. I am glad I did not tarnish you permanently.”

Cadien furrowed his brow. “Tarnish?” he asked, visibly confused. “In what way?” Then his eyes widened slightly in realization. “Oh. The memories. No… I wouldn’t call that tarnishing.”

That seemed to wash the frown away, as Neiya parted her lips to breathe a gentle sigh of relief. “You understand, then. I’m glad.” The goddess moved closer towards Cadien, lifting her hand almost as if on cue. She blinked, catching herself in the motion, and slowly rolled her fingers into a fist and retracted her arm. What was wrong with her? What was this need to touch all she saw experience emotion? “I-... I have had much time to think since last we met. The world was very confusing, then. It still is, but I am prepared, now.”

“That’s good to hear,” Cadien nodded. “I’ve done some thinking as well. What conclusions have you reached?”

“...Sorrow and pain,” Neiya began, and guiltily glanced towards the sea beneath her feet before continuing. “The things I showed you. They do not need to be the end. Mortals may not be able to recover who they were, who they loved, but they can still improve their lives. Learn, grow, and maybe even find some peace. Maybe we can too.”

Cadien’s smile returned, warmer and brighter. “It seems we are of the same mind, then. Improvement is always worth striving for.”

She hummed a soft agreement, looking away from Cadien and his infectious smile. “As the God of Perfection, naturally you would say that,” she eventually agreed out loud, in as jovial a tone as she could muster. She cringed internally at what must’ve sounded like sarcasm. “...but I agree. There is beauty in seeking betterment. In learning from what ails you. And mortals have many aspirations to ail them.”

“Yes. Exactly,” Cadien nodded eagerly. “And now that you’ve learned this, can I ask if you’ve done anything about it?”

Neiya brought herself to nod back. “I have. Or at least… I’ve tried. I made a place of peace, of rest, where the great river joins the mountain.” She thought briefly, glancing back to Cadien. “And I gave two mortals mastery of their shared pain. I can’t do much-... nothing great like the ocean, or your humans.” She resisted the urge to clutch her torso as her internal doubt grew in her stomach.

“Still, that seems like a fine start,” Cadien said. “Though I think you underestimate yourself. Hmm… perhaps we might work on something together?”

Another breath of hesitation. “...Together?” Neiya offered a small nod. “I’d like that. I’m not sure I can match Perfection, though.”

“Sometimes I’m not even sure I can match perfection,” Cadien said, his smile dimming slightly, before returning. “Whatever we make can always be improved later on, though.”

Neiya found herself flexing her fingers, watching Cadien with building anticipation. “That’s true,” she breathed quietly, almost to herself, before looking out over the ocean, and turning to face the land. “But what would we do? ...How?”

“The world can always use new life,” Cadien pointed out. “We could make something beautiful, and intelligent. Similar to the humans. And since you’re so fond of the ocean…”

“Life?” The suggestion seemed to rock Neiya to her core, and her eyes widened as she considered the growing number of possibilities. Similar to humans. Her fondness for the ocean. “Something-... a mortal that can cherish it as much…” she cleared her throat as she realized she had looked back at Cadien with something akin to muted glee. “...as much as I do? I like that. Everyone should be able to enjoy this beautiful expanse. How does it work? I’ve only made things that had no life. Parts of my own essence.”

“It’s not too different, really,” the God said. “Imagine what you want to create. What it looks like. What qualities and abilities it will possess. What it will need to survive. Then focus your power and make it a reality.”

Neiya watched him in anxious thought, slowly turning back to watch the coastline and the expansive beaches and the sand. She closed her eyes and lifted her hand towards the ground in the distance, trying to follow Cadien’s instructions. Within, self-doubt roiled and lashed at her imagination. What if she couldn’t imagine something that would please him? All she had ever made were simple things. Shapes. Still, she did her best to focus her creative energies, and her thoughts. Her only reference for mortals were humans - perhaps they should resemble them. But humans were built for land, and unsuited for the whipping waters. She tried to imagine all the ocean life she had observed in her time, and tried to conjure the features that made them different from humans. That made them suited to the water. She grasped at what she could in her mind, and the wet sand in the distance began to twist and assemble into shifting piles of matter. She was doing it, slowly, and unfocused.

Then Cadien stepped beside her, placed a hand on her shoulder, and added his power to her own. “You’re doing fine, just keep your focus,” he whispered to her.

She faltered for just a moment, shocked by his touch, but soon stabilized and kept to her thoughts. His power and hers together made her feel the shaping sand take form, and rise to a height comparable to that of the humans of Toraan. Their features too were similar, limited by her experiences on Galbar, yet narrower cheeks and in hues that ranged from humanity’s tan to a paleness reminiscent of the water. Some grew out of the water itself, seeming to grow legs to stumble onto the beach, while others confusedly stumbled into the water and immersed themselves, shifting their lower bodies into something coiling like a fishtail. Neiya opened her eyes as she felt her first creative stint finishing, to watch the creation. Her shock was immediate. Not unlike herself, these dualistic creatures had horns sprouting from their heads. Many in the same pattern, just beside or on the forehead, but there were variations. Mutations.

“Excellent!” Cadien said, squeezing her shoulder slightly. “Well done! They look magnificent.”

A warmth Neiya usually only felt in flashes lingered on her cheeks and in her torso, the initial shame and shock at her creation wiped away by his words. “You think so?” she asked hesitantly, watching them move on the beach and in the water. A few of them had already seemed to master their dual nature, their bodies shifting and twisting at considerable effort to adapt to either the beachside or the water. Neiya was in awe. Had she really had a hand in this? With new appreciation, she marvelled over the depths of her own mind’s ability to create - with Cadien’s aid. They were beautiful. Marvellous. When she ignored the horns - and the memory of her own reflection they inspired - they were very captivating. “I love them.” Neiya murmured over her breath.

Cadien released his grip on her right shoulder, but rather than pull away, he stepped in closer. He placed his arm around her upper back and rested his hand on her other shoulder. Neiya did not seem to mind, captivated by their joint creation and stilled to calm by his presence. She leaned against him ever so slightly in her idle hover, a gentle tilt of weight and humble affection. She could already feel the tug of their creations’ nascent emotions, proof that if nothing else they were a creation beyond that of mere beasts. “...Thank you.” She offered demurely.

They stayed like that for some time, watching their newly created species experience its first moments of life. Once again they seemed to lose track of how long it lasted, but nothing could last forever, and eventually it was time to pull away. Cadien looked like he wanted to say something, but seemed at a loss for words.

Neiya stole the moment from him in his hesitation, lifting her hand to touch at his cheek as she had done in the past. This time, either through control or compassion, no onslaught of emotion followed. A gentle gesture, further enshrined as she spoke. “I am not sure they will need improvement, but perhaps we should keep an eye on them together, from time to time.”

Cadien nodded. “Indeed. A new species can always use a guide. Besides, I won’t object to spending more time with you.”

That seemed to coax a lighter crease from the edges of her lips. Neiya ran her thumb against the handsome god’s cheek for a moment before lowering her hand. “I want to see where else the coast stretches. Then I will return to the highlands. I will wait for you there, Cadien.”

“Then I look forward to our next meeting,” he smiled.







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Dewfrost97

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The Lifeblood





Small things rumbled underground. With the numerous gods having exerted their many wills upon the surface of Galbar, the Lifeblood had had less and less to do, fewer ways to shape the world. But beneath the surface, in the chasms and yawning pits, was potential. The Lifeblood set to work.

It flexed, filling the incomprehensibly vast tangle of tunnels with its essence, swelling to occupy every inch of space beneath the surface. A single pulse, and ecosystems exploded— icy, crystalline pillars populated by gooey, frigid creatures capable of asexual reproduction; petrified forests submerged by water, where fish with sharp teeth swam around the stony wood; vents that spat hot gas and sulfuric soup, eagerly and greedily sucked down by lobsters made entirely of calcium; jungles of mushrooms deep, deep underground, that fed off of the decaying organisms that liquefied and rained onto them from above; porous domes of granite, phosphorus, and iridium, that crackled like lightning when exposed to heat; sludgy rivers of pure thorium, plutonium, and uranium that vaporized any nearby organic life before it could even touch the water; rugged, obsidian walls covered floor to ceiling in tiny spiders; bubbling waterfalls of tar and quicksand. Tunnels lined in gold and platinum that abruptly dropped off into smoking holes of lava. Explosive bursts of thorny plant life that needed no sunlight to survive. Mounds of wax populated by wicker termites. Stalactites made of diamonds that were sharp enough to split hairs. Geysers of gushing blood and bodily fluids. Dark, reflective caverns made of perfectly smooth flint, filled with vain penguins made of marble.

The pockets of what the Lifeblood affectionately thought of as “The Jumble” permeated Galbar with true randomness. Each micro-biome was small, no larger than three square miles, with the majority of them hovering in between a half mile and a mile. They were shaped oddly, and highly prone to starkly giving way to plain, regular stone. They could appear in great bunches, with great mixing between their various environments, or be the only Jumble biomes for many, many miles. They were nearly impossible to map out, and could be breathtakingly beautiful, or heart-stoppingly dangerous. And though its various, flighty, impossible-to-nail-down emotions had been dulled by the exodus of so many gods, the Lifeblood felt a tingle of joy.

But a few things were missing. The Jumble needed a crown jewel, something fantastic that mortals could appreciate and adore. Once more, it flexed, but this time, it concentrated its power into only three areas: a few hundred feet below the world anchor, a few thousand feet below the highest point on the Mydian island of Pakohu, and right below the surface of the Kubrazjar headwaters. In those three places, and those three alone, something lovely formed. Pale yellow trees sprouted, their roots anchored into crystal clear springs that stirred with delicate carbonation. Their leaves unfurled to reveal small pink worms that chewed on the bark and spun gossamer-light silk to coat themselves with. Mineral deposits formed around the roots, hardening around the base of the trunk into protective, vitamin-rich bark that could be chipped off. The pastel, golden leaves themselves smelled sharp and tangy, and when consumed, made one’s tongue glow yellow. Round, rich fruits grew off the delicate trees, occasionally falling into the bubbling water and becoming entombed in minerals. If cracked open, they would burst in a cloud of pleasant smelling orange and lemon dust. It was all rather lovely, the Lifeblood had to admit. The Neralis Trees would act as a precious oasis to any spelunkers. They needed no cultivation, and would live as long as their carbonated waters lived.

All was well. The Lifeblood moved on.



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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by LokiLeo789
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LokiLeo789 The Old Man

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Her brother rammed her head against the tree so hard the thing threatened to crumple.

"Out!" he bellowed, clawing at her mouth.

She clamped it shut and beat at his face with a child's fists.

Her brother threw her to the dirt and pinned her down by pressing a heavy forearm across the fine bones of her collar. His voice was the thing of thunderclaps. In that moment, he was Ogel the Mighty again, great hunter of their nameless tribe, and he was sobbing. "Where did you get it? Out!"

He would never raise a fist to strike her. Even as Qaram clawed silently at his arms and kicked at the hard bone of his hip, even as the new panic of seeing her brother angered poisoned her, she knew it would never come to that. Ever.

His tears fell on her pursed lips. One rolled into her nostril but she kept her jaw shut, a walnut hidden under her tongue.

"Please," her brother said, his voice gone now, his braided hair hanging about his head like the limbs of a burning willow. "Qaram, please, my child."

He pleaded with great pain splitting up his words, even as he reached for the stone knife in his belt.

"Don't make me do it, I beg you. You are courting with the forces belonging to gods. Do not make me, Qaram."

Qaram looked up at him. Her tongue came alive and soaked up her fear. She stopped clawing and kicking, simply stopped, and the fractals in her eyes glowed dimly for the first time.

In the end, her brother's knife cut open the flesh of her cheek, in vain. Her teeth were clamped shut and all the while the crude stone burned through the side of her face, she patted her brother’s ribs in a weak imitation of comfort, as he tried to cut out her tongue.



There was war in the village. Well, not war exactly. Where were the tents? The embankments? The scouts and the cooks and the stories to waste away the night watch? No, let us say it like this. There would be a bloodless slaughter in the village, though not the sort to get worked up about.

Qaram walked -- is walking, shall walk. Time and sight became such arbitrary concepts to her. As far as she was concerned, Qaram walked up the main thoroughfare of the hodgepodge of tents and shacks the village offered as shelter. She was not too concerned about the wide, empty square in front of her, where she would walk, or the stones pressing against her soft-soled shoes, where she walked. Her gaze was set forward but her hearing was trained to the barking of her company behind her. They broke down doors, dragged screaming families into the street.

Ogel was not a Wassa, a wicked name in which her parents cursed her with, meaning siren. He walked beside his sister but he looked back often, and each time he turned back to face forward, his shoulders were heavier and the muscles in his face loosened a little more.

“Child, this is not how you treat your people."

The bloody tip of Qaram's spear caught the midmorning light that beamed between two trees. She signed with her left hand. I would never treat my people like this.

"That is not the words of a Chief, child."

I am not their chief, yet. Hold your silence.

Ogel's mouth worked silently inside the woolly mass of his beard. The spike on the butt of his stone axe cut divets in the dirt every time he slammed it down in time to his steps. Qaram could smell the anger in him, a sharp thing like blood in the air, and she knew that if not for his great love, her brother would have cut her down with one blow right there. That was really the only difference between them.

Qaram had decided her name would mean darkness. In her mind, darkness was as sacred as silence. It is a void to fill with your dreams and terrors, it is a place of reflection where the silence spoke back. As such, when she had prayed, it was in silence and the night was more sacred than the day. But when the void had been filled, it had to be purged for a river filled to the brim with water was only useful until it rained again. That is the problem with Wassa. She filled the void and then continued to pour into it, unable to purge. When it overflows, pray it is with good reflections. Pray it is not overflowing with envy, with rage, with murder. That makes all the difference.

...because Qaram could kill even the thing she loved most fiercely if it was responsible for a single drop in her flooded banks.

She blinked. Now she stood at the end of the thoroughfare, facing back at it. There were dozens of panicked villagers huddled together along the path. When Qaram looked at them, the hues of their dull furs and tunics blended together in oily swirls of hide. Their eyes were frightened brown studs in a sea of blurred faces and only the way they shiver separated them from the warriors at the flanks.

But their voices...

There were more than fifty but less than seventy. Each ragged breath stood out boldly. There are flashes of individual lives in each: a seasoned runner at the end of his -- her? -- her prime years, a sugar-spoiled child, an old hunter. The families of the village. They have no faces, but she heard each one.

"People," said Ogel, holding up his free hand. "Please, listen!"

The chaos only swelled at that, and the individual voices became a hateful, fifty, ten. One.

Qaram pushed the walnut to the underside of her tongue. "Silence."

The wind is silent, but when it is emboldened it howls. The ocean is silent, but when spurred it roars. The most serene mountain makes thunder when it crumbles. But when Qaram spoke that one, sacred word, the world obeyed.

When Qaram spoke that holy word, no sound came out of her mouth. The truth of it simply manifested. Mouths moved, bodies shuffled, people jostled, but there was no sound anywhere on the path. The people grew frightened at that and their panic doubled, then the madness struck them. Several went down to their knees, clutching their ears as the rush of their own blood suddenly became deafening. Others swallowed great gulps of air and clawed at their chests, where hearts pulsed with claps of thunder. It was a passing madness, and soon it would fade and simply leave them all frightened and weary. While she waited, Qaram let her attention drift.

Will you translate for me? Qaram signed to her brother.

A tentative nod.

Having granted permission to Ogel, Qaram leaned on her spear as she faced the villagers. Ordering silence had banked the fire in her eyes and left her drained, but her voice was still soaked with power, and the walnut in her mouth was close to burning with the effort of containing the simple huff of her breathing. In this state, a cough could have killed hundreds. She raised her left hand and Ogel spoke in a whisper.

"Citizens. Do you know who I am?"

Some opened their mouths then closed them again, brows creased.

"Nod if so."

They all did, a blur of bobbing heads. A lie.

“Know that I have not come as a reaper, but as an executioner. Who is the most senior among you?"

There was much head swivelling. With her power slightly dimmed, Qaram could focus enough to pick out the face of the middle-aged man and woman who stepped forward from the crowd.

They both stepped forward and Qaram frowned. Bare feet poked out of their tunics. They had been dragged out in the middle of prayer.

Qaram exhaled in her direction, a breeze cutting mist, and the couple’s heartbeats gave the midmorning air a pulse. She signed again and Ogel whispered.

"Who are you?"

“Atal.” one said. “Amari.” said the other.

“Please do not harm us.” the man called Atal cried, the chief. “I beg you, for all the grace in your father's name do not--“

Qaram grabbed Atal’s hand and squeezed like an iron vice until she felt knuckle bones shift. Atal's scream knocked every other person on the path to their knees, clutching ears, some with blood between their fingers. Tears pearled in Atal's eyes. Qaram's own had a sheen of anger brighter than flame.

My father's name is not yours to invoke, Qaram signed and Ogel translated, nearly choking on his own words.

Atal nodded, breathing rapidly through his mouth.

“It was you Elder, who called your hunters to arms and chased my people out of the heartlands. It is you who stand upon the grave of my father and build up like a tree with deep roots leeching off the corpse of my mother.”

Atal had shuffled away from Qaram now, long since being let free and sought refuge in the arms of his beloved.

I will not kill you, she signed with her left hand. You only inherited the nature of the gods, as have we all . But you must live with your sins.

They both visibly relaxed. Inside, Ogel's heart broke, because he knew his sister.

"Flesh of Atal, flesh of Amari”, Qaram said. "Painlessly so you will never know: live as the sea when together. Live as the air when apart. Forever."

Amari's face changed first. She winced as her body lurched as though taken by hiccups. Then she frowned, and her frown deepened, then her lips started to turn blue. Atal's eyes bulged as he put his long fingers to his throat. Amari's arms tightened around her beloved as both their legs began to tremble, and the veins in their faces stood out like angry blue worms. Ogel knew the signs of suffocation, but he could not even move his mouth to scream.When Amari's head started to loll and the focus went out of her eyes, Qaram stepped forward. She planted a heel on the side of Atal's head and kicked him a few steps away.

As soon as he hit the floor, he sucked in a big gasp of air and hugged his chest as breath came back into his body. A few feet away, Amari did the same.

You have often found comfort in each other's arms. Now you must know what it is like to always have that comfort just beyond your reach, Qaram signed. Ogel's nostrils filled with the stench of char and ash and cooking blood. When your bodies touch, your minds will tell you that you are deep underwater. You will drown even when there is air around you, even when all others around you are breathing. That is my curse for you. Thank you for mine.

Qaram rubbed Atal’s hair while he was still gasping on the floor, then she stood, and stared at Ogel, her eyes rivers of fire. The scar on her lip twitched. If Ogel were a mountain, he would have crumbled then.

The entire village was silent.

In one swift motion, Qarum whispered into her spear and tossed it into the opposite direction. It rode the wind like an eagle and disappeared into the horizon.

Gather the people. she signed. Where the spear lands, we will settle. None will bare my name upon the blood of their ancestors.”

Oh, Qaram. What god did I so sorely offend, that they made me incapable of turning you away from this path.

“As you wish, Chieftess.”


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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by dylonk
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Naaro

Three months.

Naaro had been alone for three months.

And only after three months of wandering through the desert was the exhausted Alminaki desperate enough to return to this place. Jagho had made the terms of his exile very clear, and the memory still rang whenever he dreamed.

His tribespeople were gathered around him, faces grim and unmoving. Two torchbearers illuminated the trial while the rest brandished spears.

“The gods say that your leadership has brought a curse upon this land, Naaro”

Jagho’s words were muffled by the witch doctor’s mask he wore, a hideous and ill-fitting piece of bone haphazardly strapped onto his face. He claimed to wear it as a conduit to the many gods he spoke with: vague, ill defined creatures of ever-changing power and personality whose only defining link was that their desires, more often than not, were also Jagho’s desires. But he was a persuasive one, and as his following grew, Naaro’s grasp on his tribe became more tenuous. Both of them knew this day would come. And both knew that in this moment, Jagho’s mask served only to hide his smile.

“The berries have not sprouted during your tenure, the insects have grown scarce, and the hunts have come up short. It can be no coincidence”

The people that he had once thought of as friends and family murmured in agreement. The famine that had stricken the tribe in the past months had come to be informally known as Naaro’s blight. Around a fifth of the population had perished since its beginning.

"The gods say that execution for this man would be justified. And they are not wrong, for he is the wellspring of our pain. Every week, another of us falls. What we are experiencing is not the cycle of life. It is a curse, unnatural and unholy. It is death."

Jagho turned from his audience to point at the bound Naaro, torchlight dancing across the mask as his speech crescendoed.

"He is death"

"But we do not have to be. For the gods say mercy is a virtue, and his blight will follow him to the wasteland above, where there is nothing for death to take. Chief Naaro, I sentence you to wander the wastes for the remainder of your days. Return and be killed."

"But first, you must be marked, as a warning to any of those who may cross your path. Do not struggle"


Jagho’s pocket knife found scalp and dug in, forming a bloody X on Naaro’s forehead. It went deep enough to ensure that it never fully healed. It burned like nothing else. As if by afterthought, Jagho yanked the ruby pendant off of Naaro’s neck, wasting no time in donning it himself. He raised the gem to Naaro’s forehead, letting the blood drip in as Naaro slipped out of consciousness.

"This will not nearly repay all you have taken from us. But it is something"

When Naaro woke up, he was in the desert.
Three months later, he was here.

The dual beasts of hunger and thirst had clawed away at him, together with the pendant’s magic turning him to a shadow of himself. He knew he would be killed if he returned. But if he did not, then he would simply die. Better at least have a chance.
Sneak into the cave by cover of night.
Get water.
Get food.
Get out.
His plan was hazy and hinged mainly on improvisation, but he had no knowledge of how the tribe had changed in his absence. This was the best he could do.

He creeped through the cave mouth. The water pool was near the back, past the inhabited parts of the cavern. As he inched through the bedroom filled with his snoozing brethren, he let his gaze linger on familiar faces. A former friend. An ex lover. Most of his family, huddled up in the same corner. His little sister was noticeably absent, and the entire tribe looked emaciated. The famine had not stopped. Silently, he cursed Jagho’s name.
Naaro neared the water room. It took all of his will not to sprint. So thirsty.
Finally he entered the large chamber. It was as he remembered. Luminescent flora made the entire room glow, their colors shimmering on the clean blue pool in the center, the sound of the stream that fed it providing pleasant background noise to the spectacle. He walked, spellbound, to the pond, before snapping back around. Footsteps. Voices.

“Yes, from right here. I know what I have heard”

Jagho.

Naaro quickly hid himself in a crack in the limestone as Jagho walked in, trailed by two warriors whom he vaguely recognized. In sharp contrast to the rest of the tribe, Jagho looked strong as ever. Whether this was due to Naaro’s stolen life force, smuggling food while the tribe starved, or both, Naaro did not care. All he knew was his anger. Jagho’s masked visage scanned the wall opposite Naaro’s hiding place. He could escape right now, if he was quick enough. Sharp left. Right back through the bedrooms. Try again another time. But this train of thought was interrupted by a tapping sensation on his bare feet. As he looked to the ground, the limestone moved on it’s own, etching a trail with perfect silence.



Naaro felt something placed in his palm, stress causing him to clutch it with a strangling grip. An arrow, tip made of hardened glass. Sharper than any obsidian he had ever seen. There would be no further hesitation.

Bursting into vision, Naaro lept at Jagho, his rage manifesting in an animalistic screech. One hand tore the divine pendant from Jagho’s collar, reclaiming the life that had been stolen from him. The other drove the mystery arrow deep into his jugular, silencing a terrified yelp within a split second of its beginning. Though Jagho’s face was hidden by his mask, Naaro knew his fear, and it provided a catharsis that knew no equal. The moment was a single fluid motion, nothing short of explosive.

When it ended, Naaro was gone. Both the arrow and Jahgo’s corpse disintegrated into a fine stone dust, scattered along the cave floor. It was as if reality itself had cleaned up the mess, leaving behind nothing but two very shaken Alminaki.

Naaro found himself deposited in a small and tranquil log cabin. He had not really planned to live through his stunt, but his heavy, gasping breaths seemed to indicate that he had anyway. Panicked eyes darted across the room. No danger presented itself. It was disconcerting, being in a place so cozy and relaxing while adrenaline still flowed through his veins. As Naaro’s breathing slowed, His suffocating grip on Tekret’s jewel began to loosen, and his eyes were drawn to the worn wooden wall across the room. In the same manner as the cave floor, it slowly tore away at itself, revealing five scratched letters.

Hello.

Whatever force this was, it seemed helpful. It most likely Saved Naaro’s life. His patience was the least he could offer in return.

“Hello"

Naaro was about to speak further when he was interrupted by another noiseless scratch.

Questions?

Why yes, Naaro actually had quite a few of those.

“What are you?”

A god.

A slight pause before the next word, spelled out slowly and deliberately, special care given to each individual letter.

Azaris.

Naaro walked towards the wall, transfixed by the motions of the writing. A strong sudden jolt pushed his arm aside as if a colossal spring had been unleashed on his wrist. It was the lack of visual or auditory accompaniment, sights or sounds to associate with the feeling, that made it all the more shocking. He let out a startled yelp a second before more letters appeared, hastily scratched on the opposite wall with a pressure that deeply scarred the wood.

DO NOT TOUCH ME.
Next question.


“Why did you help me?”

Had been watching you. Impressed. Masked one peddled fake gods, and was annoying. Now close your eyes, and hold still.

Naaro did as he was told, and within a second he felt a peculiar sensation, like pins and needles over an entire body. He did not know why he was not scared. When he opened his eyes, an ornate bow and quiver was laid out on the floor, the glass tipped arrow from earlier sitting in the dark leather pouch. A gift.

“What did you do to me?”

Figure it out yourself. It will be fun.

Even without voice, Naaro could notice the irritation, that of a parent telling a child to go outside and leave them alone. He decided to restrain his further questions for now. Best just ask the big one.

“What now?”

The text moved to the other wall to avoid running out of space, and Naaro intently watched it form, finding a certain beauty in motions.

For you to decide. I have given you my tools for you to use as you please, because I rather like you. Plenty of game in the forest, if you desire to stay here until ready. Will contact you again if needed, but your life remains yours. Likewise, you may contact me in emergencies.

A brief pause in the scratches.

Being bored is not an emergency.

A curt nod was all Naaro would give to that sentiment.

If there is nothing else?

Whatever final thoughts Naaro had on this encounter could not collect themselves in time; And when it came time to speak the words still had yet to arrive, leaving his jaw hanging open without purpose, content to simply mix his breath with the outside air.

Goodbye.

After four very long seconds, he had found two words.

“Thank you.”

There was no response.





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Fe’ris

and

Tekret





Shun Tzao was gray in the fur. In his lifetime, he had seen many Lapites come and go. When the tribe grew large, some would go their separate ways, striking off into the gently bobbing plains to make their fortunes. When some of the tribe were born with horns, he treated them no differently than he treated any other. When times were plenty, he gave thanks to the sun for every seed, nut, and blade of grass that kept the tribe healthy and full. When times were harsh, he still gave thanks, for he believed with all his soul that the gods were out there, watching. It was like his great-grandfather had said: The gods were among them, watching. They were being tested. And Shun Tzao liked to think he was doing a pretty good job at passing the test. He was sure there were other leaders out there, ones wiser and cleverer than he. But he kept the tribe together as best he could, and he doubted there were any among them who could do better.

He looked out over the rippling fields of grass where his Lapites worked, harvesting the useful plants that could be woven into a great many things. The setting sun set the prairie ablaze, a million wavering fronds painted gold and red by its rays. One far off, hunched over Lapite raised a paw in greeting. He raised his own back, twitching one long ear noncommitally. Yes, it had been a good life. And when he looked out over what he had helped build, his nose full of green growing things and peat, he felt good. They had fresh snowmelt to drink, miles and miles of foodstuffs, and the cold days were finally over. When the time came, they would do alright without him. Though, there was still one thing gnawing at his list of worries….

The back of his scruff stood on edge, and he hit the dirt, narrowly avoiding a cascade of pebbles that whizzed over his head, peppering the ground right in front of him like a vicious spat of hail. Still on all fours, he whirled around to see the mountain was enraged, chucking forth volley after volley of massive boulders, all on a collision course with the various huts, camps, and people below.

“Scatter!” He bellowed. “It’s happening again!”

For many cycles of the sun, the mountain that had birthed them had seemed determined to end them. Without warning, it would plague the valley below with quaking earth, mudslides, and rockfalls. He could only assume it was their fault, that they had angered the gods somehow. But without knowing how he could fix it, all he could do was tell them to run and hope for the best.

He sprinted one way, then sprang the other, paws slipping on the slick grass, constantly battling to hurl himself out of the way of one boulder, only to find himself in another’s path. The squealing of terrified Lapites haunted his ears, worsened only by the death shrieks and crunches of snapping bone. They were only reminders of how old he was, how his joints weren’t what they used to be, how--

His leg twisted in a knotted hole of sod, and he went down hard, chin thumping violently against the packed earth. Well, Shun Tzao thought as he lost consciousness, at least I won’t feel my body being crushed.

He woke up to darkness. No, not darkness-- a cloudy night sky, devoid of stars. A slightly less gray muzzle loomed over him, beady black eyes full of concern. His speckled brown eyebrows knitted themselves together, surely thinking of how they couldn’t bring themselves to worry so much about their old leader for much longer.

“Shun Tzao,” whined Lu Bu, “you shouldn’t have been so close to the Angry One. You know how volatile it’s been. That’s the third disaster this cycle. The does are afraid.”

“I’m sorry,” Shun Tzao replied, running a paw over his aching jaw, “but I couldn’t get a good enough view of the valley otherwise. Is everyone alright?”

Lu Bu’s eyes told the answer before his mouth even moved. He chose not to answer the question. “It’s been happening more frequently. I think… I think you should reconsider my idea.”

“Absolutely not,” huffed the older Lapite. “This valley has always been our home. Do you really think that life below the ground, beyond the rays of the Bright Mother, is a life worth living?”

“At least it’s life!” Lu Bu folded his arms, furious, refusing to help the injured Shun Tzao to a sitting position. Even in the dark, he could see the destruction the mountain had wrought. Their beautiful fields were pocked with craters, and the falling rocks had gouged massive trenches through their stream of drinking water, flooding some huts and waterlogging many sleeping nests. And all that annihilation didn’t include the lives lost in the chaos. Shun Tzao continued to rub his hurt jaw, not wanting to look Lu Bu in the eyes. “It’s more than what those who’ve died got! You don’t have the right to condemn us all to death, just because you’re the descendant of the first leader.” He was so livid, his whiskers trembled with every word. “It’s too dangerous up here, and you know it.”

Shun Tzao looked around, still taking in the demolition. Much had been leveled, and with there not being much of a settlement to begin with, it was especially devastating. Weak fires had sprouted up all around their living site. If they were willing to light tinder near such flammable grasses, just for a bit of warmth, they really must’ve been in a sorry state. It was heartbreaking.

“I will think on it, my friend. But in all honesty? It is not a decision I wish to make. I feel my time with the living is growing ever shorter.”

Other Lapites peered out of the springy stalks, their noses having brought them to the side of their hurt leader. They surrounded him, dozens of pinpricks of reflected eyelight, each pair of eyes and pair of ears attached to every word. Somewhere among them was his son. He took a deep breath.

“When I am no longer for this world, and have gone to be with the gods, Fengxian will take my place. He is ready to lead you all.”

“No! The boy is too young. Shun, your head is rattled! You’re not thinking clearly. Let’s get you to a nest, where you can recover and mull this over properly.”

“My mind is made up. Lu Bu, you will serve as his confidant, and aid him in his decision making.”

Lu Bu’s eyes glittered. They both knew that that meant he could have a hand in deciding whether they stayed in danger on the surface, or dwelled in safety underground. “Very well. The people have heard you. But you are not done with this world yet, old timer! Come, rest.”

The Lapites surged forward and wrapped him in comforting paws, whisking him away to a place of soft grasses and soothing woodsmoke.




The old lapite awoke to the rustling of leaves above him, each one given an amber glow by nearby fire that was now little but a smoldering pile. The steady light of embers was an orange red beacon in the night, warding off the cold and illuminating not only the rare tree above Shun Tzao, but a peculiar marble coloured Lapite sitting on the other side of the fire from him.

The odd Lapite seemed to be waiting for him, and as the elder woke a feminine voice spoke to him, its pitch and flow mirroring the crackling of the waning fire, “I’m glad to see you well, child.”

He didn’t speak. He couldn’t speak! In all his years, he had had many glimpses of the gods, but none so direct. Rather than stand, he knelt at the wide, flat feet of the alabaster Lapite.

Finally, he found his voice. “And I am glad to see you, Great One. I am humbled by your presence.”

There was a long pause before the, as Shun Tzao now noticed, faceless white Lapite replied, “You’ve served your people well, child. Better than they know. Were you only as naive as them, you might well consider what I have come to bestow on you a gift.”

“A gift?” Shun Tzao was honored, but confused. “My days are not many. If I am to receive a gift, I would prefer it go to my son, so that they may all know he is truly divinely selected.”

“Were it only that simple,” The voice grew gravelly, male, and rose with the flames of the once dying fire, “You have lived a life worthy of what I come to give. Your son has only taken his first steps. It is unfair, yes. Cruel? Perhaps. I have been both of these things in the past.”

The porcelain Lapite held out a hand, and in it a golden band materialized. It hung from the outstretched hand, growing as if it was alive, branching out until it sported two gleaming antlers. The god continued, “But only when it was necessary. I am sorry, child, for the burden you must bear. I am sorry that you will not have the rest you yearn for, but know that you are not alone in this world. Others have been chosen. They have only rarely found joy in my gift, this is true, but all of them have played a greater role than they might have without it. So too, will you.”

Shun Tzao took the band, his furred fingers trembling. “If you say I am best suited for the task ahead, then it must be true. I will lead my people for the rest of my days. I can only hope that I fulfill the role you have laid out for me.” He slipped the band onto his head, folding his ears through the gold loop. A great sense of trepidation washed over him. “I thank you for this gift. But who, may I ask, is the one giving it?” He stared deeply into the expressionless canvas of a face that the god bore. “I would like to share the name of a god with my kin.”

“I am Tekret Et Heret,” a thousand voices of every kind and creed rang out in a disjointed harmony, “God of Contracts, and the living furtherance of Order. Remember me if you will, forget me if you must, but take comfort in the knowledge that your gift is more than a symbol. That which you wear now will keep your people safe, for you will know of the danger that approaches them long before it reaches your tribe. It will do this for any man or woman your people see as their leader.”

The voices died down, and a fire that had been renewed was left once again a tiny city of embers. Again Shun heard the soft voice of a woman in the crackling of the dying fire, “Perhaps in time your son will be that Lapite, child. There is yet work to be done, but all find rest in time. Rule well, Shun Tzao.”

The God stood and there was a rustling from above, a branch bowed under an unseen weight, and soon Tekret Et Heret was in the distance, casually taking steps that seemed to propel the divine across the ground.




The old hare was asleep, Lu Bu was sure of it. If he wasn’t sure, he wouldn’t have dared slink back up the mountainside that had caused so much strife, but he was sure, and so he did dare. The rugged terrain was home to many dangers, not limited to the occasional rockslide and avalanche. It was rife with ferocious, deadly creatures, like the stocky stonebirds and strange, terrible Embryos. If one survived those, eventually the air itself would turn against them, growing bitter and thin. But thankfully, Lu Bu wasn’t going to the peak. An hour or two of hopping his way up the slopes, and he had found his goal.

A small patch of dried blood, nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding brown dirt. To any other creature, it would’ve been unnoticable, completely impossible to make out amidst all the miles of granite, gravel, dirt, and snow. But to a Lapite, it was like a beacon. Something in their instincts, something deeper than thought, told them that that was their birthplace. That that patch of blood was made of the same stuff that pumped through all their veins at a million miles a minute. He crouched down and stuffed his paws in it, coating them thoroughly in the iron-rich dirt.

“Please,” breathed Lu Bu, “I don’t know if you’re out there, or if you’re real, but please hear me. Shun Tzao is an old fool, and his son is a young idiot. We have been lead well for many cycles, but I fear that that time has come to an end. He has proclaimed to them all that his son shall follow him, not me. Please, if you’re out there, give me a way to save my people.”

A chill ran down him, setting every tuft of fur quivering. Was something watching him? Was it a stone bird? A wolf? An embryo, even? His bony knees knocked together uncontrollably, sending up a cloud of shedded fur. Something was out there. Something not necessarily nice. His heart beat so hard, he thought it might burst. Every part of him screamed to run away, to tear back down that mountain before they found his mauled corpse spread out across the valley floor.

He gulped and found his resolve, tenderly smoothing back down his ruffled chest fur with his dirtied paws. No. He was desperate, and desperate people didn’t run. The gods would protect him during prayer, he was pretty sure of that.

“I promised no such thing.”

Gasping with fright, Lu Bu whirled around frantically, searching for a source that was not there. All he could see were stones and sky

“Hello? Who’s there?”

“You prayed to me, did you not?” The voice flowed down his spine like a trickle of ice water, already sounding annoyed. Not a good start.

“If you are a god, yes, I did! If not, s-show yourself!”

“I give in to no demands.”

Lu Bu gulped again. This was clearly a god. He had to be more tactful! He didn’t want to get turned into a frog, or worse, a worm. He needed to be more polite.

“My deepest apologies, O’ mighty god. Can you help me?”

Footprints appeared in the grit, neat and severe in their impressions. Every new print threatened to stop his heart, but he did his best to remain calm. He was rather old himself, and he had no idea the next time he might meet an actual, real, god.

“I would prefer you helped yourself.”

That gave Lu Bu pause. A god who didn’t do godly things, like help mortals? What sort of god was THAT?! That wasn’t very godly at all. What was even the point of answering a prayer, then? He scuffed a back paw in the dirt, trying to hide his confusion and irritation.

“I have tried, your godliness, but no such circumstance has arisen. Every time I have tried to take power, the rest of the Lapites have deferred to Shun Tzao. There are only a small minority of us who are not entranced by the sun, who would prefer safety, even if it means darkness.”

“Darkness.” The god’s chilly voice was an ominous purr. “I am quite fond of darkness.”

“Will you help me?”

His heart beat a hundred times. Then two hundred. He was starting to wonder if the god had abandoned him, when a pair of reflective, black flint chips floated up into the air, a few ear lengths in front of his face. Before his eyes, they yellowed, turning shiny and golden, fashioned by an invisible force into a fat, gleaming, embossed rings, streaked with veins of reddish ore.

“I give to you the Band of Want. It will further enable you to pursue your desires. You will be incredibly driven, and your strength and energy will be far greater. Those around you will also feel its influence, so you must be careful, lest they covet it for themselves.

“I am grateful, but I cannot discern how I am supposed to lead my band of Lapites with this ring. It’s not like it makes me strong, or a good leader, or anything of the sort.”

“Patience,” hissed the voice. “It amplifies what is already within. You will become a tireless, diligent worker, and others will rally around you. If you wish to delve into the caves, you must be willing to carve a new life for yourself. Are you willing?”

“I am willing.”

“Good,” rumbled the voice, sounding much like a snake that had finally cornered its mouse, “this pleases me greatly. But I give no such gifts without proper recompense.”

“Recompense?”

“You will do something for me, in return. You and your coven of cavedwellers shall value hard work above all else. You will honor the horned ones. And you must worship the moon.”

“The moon? Your holiness, I don’t understand, how can we worship the moon if we can’t see the sky--”

“Unfaithfulness will render your ring useless! Now begone. I tire of your questions.”

Too scared of the deity to argue further, Lu Bu snatched up the rings and skittered away, back into the safety of the darkened fields.




Fe’ris stood there, invisible, his gaze on the valley below. If they were smart, they would leave, for the wide spaces of Galbar remained many, and there was more than enough room for all the fledgling races to sprawl. But he had made them as stubborn as they were skittish, and should they be gripped hard enough by tradition, they would stay until every one of them was crushed by the residual rage of the mountain. It was as frustrating as it was inevitable.
He went to return to his domain form, to spread his sinewy wings and renew the search, when he felt it. The same presence he had felt in the Blood Basin, only a thousand times stronger. It was near! His journey was over!

It ended on a hill. A simple mound of dirt covered in golden tallgrass that was far from the Lapites, though near by the reckoning of gods. Upon it a god sat cross legged. Gone was the form of a Lapite, Human, or Vrool. The divine had assumed another shape. Lithe, tall, bearing the ever common two legs and arms, but topped by a narrow head with sunken holes where wide eyes might have been; it was the form of a memory half forgotten. Nothing that lived now looked like it, and it was not a perfect copy of anything that had ever lived. Still, it was close. Close to the beginning.

“Greetings,” said Fe’ris tentatively, approaching like one would approach a deer. “You are the God of Contracts, correct?”

The porcelain figure that was a god looked up to its peer, and voices that had only ever sounded once called out from the wind, “Yes. And you are Fe’ris, though what you are a god of I know not.”

He willed himself visible and spread his arms wide, dark cape fluttering around them as a hot and heavy wind swept down the mountainside, carrying with it the scent of heavy metals, of copper and iron, of blood. “I am the God of Ambition. Where mortals are desiring, I am there. I pick no sides, neither good or evil. And I feel you are the same.”

“The same?” The wind questioned, “Perhaps they see it that way, sibling, but I fear I am ever a creature of sides. I exist to further Order, to uphold the Contracts that define it, yes, but I do not act towards that goal without reason. There must be Order, for Order is respite. A peace from a world in which there is nothing but competition, violence, ambition.”

There was a pause, and the wind stilled with it, before a breeze carried the god’s message, “I fear, sibling of mine, that you rule over a far greater world than I.”

The red god’s arms fell to his side once more, and while his expression didn’t change, his sharp voice took on a tone of disappointment. “It seems we are less similar than I anticipated. Your constrictive Order and my freeing Ambition are at odds. It would take a conscious effort to keep the two of us from following suit, sibling. May your gifts bring prosperity, as mine bring intrigue.” The wind kicked up again, stirring around a cloud of russet dust, and his humanoid body fell away to reveal a towering, hulking beast of fur and scales. He nodded his angular head at Tekret’s true form, then turned to fly away. Perched on an outcropping of stone, he hesitated, hoping the voices would leave him with a parting gift of sorts, perhaps a promise of peace between their opposing values.

Tekret grasped a single stalk of grass and tore it free. The god casually regarded the simple thing, and as it did an assurance was carried on the tepid gusts as they moved across the plains, “I wouldn’t worry, Fe’ris. I cannot stamp out the chaos in which you thrive, nor would I. Life requires pain, change, and more besides. All I seek to provide is a break when it’s needed. A moment of peace in a greater story, if allowed.”

He swished his tail in response, and with a great gust of wind, the bat dragon was whisked away. He was off to meet the one he’d always wanted to find.

He was off to meet Gibbou.






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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Frettzo
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The Tree of Genesis


I


It was an early morning in the Garden of Dreams. The warm light from the sun danced across leaves and bathed the land in its soft glow. Insects were already abuzz with activity while diurnal animals started to wake up, and a light breeze weaved its way through the dense, lush forest.

With the advent of light, the more exotic of the species of flora in the land woke up in a flurry of activity, with Minus and Magnus orbs, as well as all kinds of flying flora taking to the skies in order to soak up the sunlight and attract prey with their scents.

That calm morning, a morning like any other, things changed forever.

For weeks now the Tree of Genesis had been hard at work. It had been so consumed by its project that it had stopped communicating to the Voice, who sat cross legged in the middle of the entrance to the Inner Tree.

He took in deep, long breaths as he felt the gentle sunlight revitalize him. With his eyes closed, he was free to wander the memories he had accumulated in his short life. He re-lived moments over and over, reflecting and learning from his mistakes.

That is, until a set of many hundreds of footsteps suddenly breached the peaceful silence of the morning.

There were some gasps and some muttering as the footsteps came to a stop quite a distance away from the Voice, who opened his black eyes to see a human tribe standing there, at least five hundred meters away. He couldn’t see their eyes and yet somehow, he knew what they were feeling.

His usually calm heart started to race, he trembled and shivered, and his jaw would not stay still, making his lower teeth strike the upper over and over again.

It was something he had felt before in two occasions, but never to that extreme, and never mixed with so many other feelings. Fear.

The Voice stood and began to walk closer to the humans. It saw how the men pulled the women and children behind themselves and gripped their crude stone cudgels and knives.

It worked both ways, however. While the Voice was feeling their emotions, they were feeling the Voice’s. So, no matter how much he approached, they could not force themselves to truly draw their weapons. They didn’t want to do so, as the calmness radiating from the Voice settled their hearts and minds. And when they had grown calm, so did the Voice.

”Humans,” The Voice spoke and scanned the crowd with his eyes, the glow coming from inside him growing intense as he came upon several small, brown-green things covered in cloaks, ”who do you bring with you? No one whose identity is unknown shall be allowed into the Great Tree.”

The tribe was confused. Of course it was, they did not expect this walking tree to be able to speak. But there were a few sharper people in the crowd, thankfully. A man wearing the furs of a Leon, conveniently covering most of an ugly scar running along his side, stepped forward while motioning to the women to bring the little brown-green things to the Voice.

The woman only brought two of them to the man, and he put his rough hands on their backs, pushing them forward and allowing the voice to inspect them as their hoods came off.

One had green skin, the other brown. Clearly a male and a female, but they seemed… Young. They had similar features to humans, but the way they were exaggerated and sometimes slightly misshapen gave them away as an entirely different race.

“They are Goblins.” Said the man in a relatively high-pitched tone.

”I see. Have everyone take their hoods off.”

Everyone in the tribe did as requested, showing their faces to the Voice. Well, everyone but one boy who had to be slapped over the head by his mother.

After the Voice had memorized each of their faces, it turned around and walked back to its spot on the entrance to the Inner Tree, then spread his arms in a welcoming manner and nodded his head in approval.

”Welcome to the Garden of Dreams, Humans and Goblins. Whether you are visiting or planning to stay, you should make yourselves at home. The Tree of Genesis provides and it will ensure your safety as long as you make your home inside of it. Now, settle your hearts and walk towards the future!” He proclaimed, and let his arms fall back to his sides as the tribe began to move once more. They would make their home in the lower levels of the Tree of Genesis. He knew this to be the case. He was not expecting, however, for one of the women to speak to him as the rest of the tribe made its way into the God.

“W-Who are you? What is this place?” She asked, keeping a tight grip on her children’s hands.

The Voice let a small smile slip. ”I am the First Voice of the Tree of Genesis, the Omnibloom, the Great Tree. I am its representative, and speaking to me is akin to speaking to the Great Tree itself. Be honoured, for the Tree of Genesis has given you permission to live within it. How many of your fellow humans can say they have made their homes inside a living God?”

The woman’s eyes sparkled, but she did not smile. Instead, she frowned sadly. “You’re a… God…?”

”I am merely its Voice. A weak servant to the Tree of Genesis… I will one day expire, much like all of you.”

“Oh… First Voice, have you or the Tree seen my husband…? Or his friends… It was many moons ago, they left our camp in the direction of the Tree. They were supposed to return quickly, but they never came back…” She fought back tears with a sniffle. Her children, who were extremely young, didn’t quite seem to understand the situation. Of course, the Voice himself had never met a human in his life. He merely held knowledge of them thanks to the Tree of Genesis.

”I apologize, you and your tribe are the first humans I’ve seen.”

“Ah… Yeah, okay…” She muttered, pulling her children closer to her and then catching up to the rest of her tribe. The Voice looked at her for a while, and then furrowed his brow as he felt a dull headache begin to form.

II


The Tree of Genesis was quiet. As the rays of warm light were replaced by the soft cool reflections of the moon and day turned to night, the world became quiet. Few creatures chose the night as their preferred time for activity, but there was always one. One that was eternally active, working, plowing through problems and providing solutions to issues that had yet to exist in the Garden of Dreams.

Deep within the Tree of Genesis, in the lowest, most visceral level, there was a small chamber with a single wooden table in the center. Sitting on the table was a small form, wearing a hood made of writhing vines. The figure felt conflicted. All the things it did, it had done in order to prepare for what was about to happen. So… Why? Why did it feel so… Distraught, and alone? It would be breathing life into a people so beautiful and pure… A people designed to make the world a nice place to live in, and still it felt like it needed to do more.

Had it not done enough already?

With a shake of its obscured head, it laid down on the table and, with a tiny sniffle, closed its eyes.

III


That night, while all the newly arrived humans and goblins rested, the Tree of Genesis acted. In the twenty-second level, roots came to life. They lined the walls, created subdivisions in the level, and lined the walls of those subdivisions with more roots. All in all, there were ten thousand roots, and through each one was cursing a dim stream of light, and they all radiated heat enough to take the whole massive chamber into a comfortable temperature.

All over the ceiling, numerous kinds of intensely bioluminescent mushrooms started to grow, spilling their bright purple lights down onto the whole level and giving the ceiling the appearance of an alien night sky. Beautiful, unrecognizable, and mysterious.

In the center of the level, roots carved a hole large enough and then filled it with desalinated water straight from the ocean.

Interestingly, very few of the roots lining the walls actually had a clear view of the central lake. Only twenty of them had that privilege… And it was those twenty that shone the brightest and the most beautifully, for they would be the firstborn of the Great Tree. It was the Tree itself that poured most of its energy into their creation and their nurturing. It gave its all so these firstborn would be perfect and healthy in every way, and soon the first of the roots became thin and translucent and slowly ts form into that of a pod. That pod started to leak a clear golden liquid, and then it spilled open.

The twenty-second underground level of the Tree of Genesis had a convenient slant, and all the liquids immediately flowed down towards the central lake, mixing with the pristine water in the middle.

And then, from out of the pod dropped a single shape. A being, a new life.

He, was all the Tree wanted. Bones made from ultra dense wood cores, flesh and organs made of all kinds of plant fibers… A completely functional body, capable of living perfectly fine without solid sustenance, but perfectly capable of supplementing its ideal diet of sunlight and water with more mundane food sources.

His skin was a spring green pigment, his eyes were slanted, with huge honey-coloured irises, a black pupil and what little could be seen of its sclera, was black. Instead of the abundant, hard-to-wash hair that humans all had, he had strong, beautiful leaves and flowers sprouting from the top of his head and the top of his shoulders and Instead of nails or claws he had soft bark covering his fingers and toes.

He truly was what the Tree of Genesis wanted. As soon as the new life stumbled onto his feet, groaning and taking in his first breaths, its creator let go of its deep connection to its mind, giving it a deep sense of loneliness and sadness.

Even though he knew nothing of the world, even though he didn’t know where he was or what he was supposed to do, he still knew he had lost something important to him. He slipped and fell onto his knees, sobbing. He didn’t know what was happening, and it scared him. He rubbed and rubbed at his eyes, trying to get the tears to stop, but they wouldn’t let up. he tried to get his breathing under control, but the sobbing seemed to be there to stay.

It felt like his heart was broken in half, but he stood and stumbled his way to the lake, illuminated by the strange purple lights. There, he saw his reflection. For the first time, he saw himself, and then he saw the sea of lights coming from the ceiling, and he turned to stare at them in awe. In a split moment, his sadness had vanished and it had been replaced by a sense of childlike wonder. His heart, still broken, was already healing and it beat strongly and steadily.

As he stretched his left hand up towards his night sky, nineteen other pods opened, and nineteen different cries were as one.

That chilly, breezy spring night, the first of the Sylphi were born.




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Act One, Scene Four: A Chance Encounter





Yamat, as it were, didn't really need to walk. It was far more efficient to fly about or use some other godly means of transportation. However, if he did either of those it would be far harder for him to enjoy the more pleasurable things in life, such as moving your gangly body down overgrown paths in the forests and scarring of any poor deer or birds that just wanted to eat some grass. Sure, it was petty and hardly on the scale of Tragedy, but there was still something to be said for mild inconvenience.

Besides those small moments, there was also the great secondary benefit of walking to your destination of there being other people who were walking to their destination. And sometimes, people were lucky enough to cross paths, or unlucky if they crossed it with him. So, while Yamat traveled back to his home in the Kyslar Isles, he, as with all the journeying he did, did it by foot.

As he plodded along the trail that pressed through the fens, Yamat found himself quite content. He had just passed by a small group of Thumblings, lost in their travellings, and had been happy to help. It was quite unfortunate, however, that the directions he had given them were a tad bit too cryptic and the two most trusted thumblings were so hot headed. They would surely start to argue over which would be the right path, forcing the party to split in two depending on who they believed, instead of listening to each other's arguments. Well, either way, at least half of the Thumblings would make it back home.

It was pleasing to be able to work such simple works; he didn’t even need to use his godly powers! Which was a good thing, since he had been feeling just the smallest bit weary as of late. It would be nice to rest for a while back at his home.

Well, maybe he had enough left in him for one last jaunt. Yamat took a step off of the trail and pressed his body against a gnarled tree. He toned down the glowing of his halo and, in that strange way things that are unmissable when they are moving do, disappeared from sight as he grew still. Yamat lay in wait as the unmistakable sound of someone singing drifted down the trail. Someone singing really badly, but singing nonetheless.

The singing figure soon showed themselves from around the bend in the trail. An older looking woman was swaying on top of a large beast of somesort. Her simple gray robes hung down and over the tall animal’s flanks as it trekked through the swampy lands. Besides the laurel of feathers she wore on her head, she looked incredibly familiar, although Yamat could not remember where he knew her from. That didn’t matter though, Yamat smiled to himself. Usually he doesn’t meet people twice, but if he did, that would be extra special. As the woman and her mount made their way down the path, Yamat stayed silent. He could swear that the animal she was riding could sense him somehow, although since it never did look at him directly, he stayed still.

Finally, when the pair was right next to him, Yamat decided to reveal himself.

The god unraveled himself from the tree, taking a step out onto the pathway, he gazed upon the pair and spoke ”Why hello there travellers, what brings you to this neck of the swamps?” He asked, cutting off the woman’s singing and performing a slight bow with his strange body.

The mount instantly swung his head towards Yamat, beginning to issue out a low growl, but the old woman put her hand on his head to calm him, a small smile on her face.

“Well, I believe that is a personal matter,” She said plainly, “Although if you must know, we were simply passing through. Now, what might you do with that information?”

The god chuckled ”Merely curious is all, he extended one of his arms, gesturing towards the swamps ”I take great care of any who enter these swamps

“That is a pretty big job,” The woman chuckled as she passed Yamat, her mount not stopping, “May I ask, are you one of those gods who have been running about, or just some hero or magical creation. There seem to be so many of those these days.”

”I am merely a humble guardian, built by the creator of these swamps to guard it from those who would seek to destroy it,” Yamat followed the mount, spinning his tale and using his long strides to keep pace ”I also tend to offer help to those travelling within, so that they may find the right path, it can be rather dangerous here if one where to, get lost.”

“That is quite kind of you,” The woman nodded slowly, as if in thought, “You know, I happen to be a little bit turned around myself, would it be a bother if I could ask for directions to the next town?”

At that, the woman’s mount turned its head to look at its master, something akin to surprise in its eyes. The woman just gave it a knowing smile and it turned back to the road. Yamat frowned, although no one could see it. The mount was not acting much like a simple beast of burden, it seemed rather smart. Yamat scrutinized the woman’s face, certain he knew her from somewhere but couldn’t quite remember where.

“Well,” Yamat began slowly, trying to not create any suspicious silences, “There are hardly any groups of humans for a long while… I could show you to a village of the Thumblings if that would suffice.”

“That sounds quite lovely.”

Yamat smiled, she was just all too trusting. He would give her directions, but he would also lead her straight to a deep mire. There, her mount will surely get stuck. She seemed to have a great bond with the creature, so it would all be so tragic if it were to die. Either she would get herself killed trying to save it or she would abandon her close companion, only to be trapped in the land of the Thumblings, none of her own people around and having to live with the guilt of letting the great beast die. If she chose the latter option, Yamat would make sure to show her after the fact how many ways she could have avoided the situation, a little salt in the wounds. A perfect addition to his play.

”Here, I’ll part the trees to make a path for you,” Yamat made an enormous and dramatic flair, a whole lot of pomp for an action that was very insignificant for a god. The undergrowth that spurred away from a new trail that shot off into the swamp, straight towards the most dangerous parts, “Now, be sure to stay on the path, and never stray no matter what. This trail leaves my part of the swamp and enters my brother’s, and he isn’t nearly as helpful as me.”

Yamat made a mental note to line the trail with all sorts of things that would make an old lady disobey that advice. The old woman smiled in thanks and then patted her mounts neck to get it to turn. It seemed rather adamant about not turning and Yamat briefly considered working some charm on it to force it down the path. Luckily, it did listen to its rider and the pair started down Yamat’s doomed trail. Yamat smiled to himself, another fine work completed.

The duo stopped just a few steps into their tragic direction and the old woman turned back to look at Yamat. Yamat felt a sudden twinge that everything just went horribly wrong…

“Say, Mr. Guardian,” She began, a foul glint in her eye, “What is your name? Just so I know who to say helped me.”

“Oh, a simple swamp spirit like me has no name,” Yamat tried to maintain the act, despite the fact that some sixth sense told him it was falling apart, “Why do you ask?”

“Oh, no reason,” the woman chuckled, “It just is’t every day you meet a God who lies, I didn't think that any of you could do it.”

Yamat took a step back, his one eye narrowing and the glow of his halo growing angry: “Who are you, have we met before?” Suddenly realization dawned in his eyes and Yamat begna to laugh, “You’re that woman, the one who I helped a few months back. Did you track me across the whole continent? Well I’m sorry to say that it isn’t really my fault; you are the reason your son commited suicide. I’m sure if you hadn’t exposed his lover both young men would still be alive!”

Yamat felt giddy and completely out of character but he couldn’t help it. A character from a previous scene had gone on, adding more layers to her tragedy. And all by herself! Wasting the rest of her life to track down a god she could do nothing against, all for petty revenge! It was beautiful.

”Wow, you sound like a real piece of work!” A sudden gruff voice rumbled out, interrupting Yamat’s laughing.

“Who was that,” Yamat growled, surprised that someone had somehow slipped his perceptions.

”That was Toog,” The woman laughed, her entire aura changing in an instant, taking Yamat aback, “And I’m Iternis. I’ve got to say, I am quite fascinated by you, ‘Mr. Guardian'”

Yamat looked at the great beast, Toog, and realized he had been the one to talk, finally realizing the intelligence glowing in them. He then turned back to the woman, who had extended her hand in greeting and seemed to be radiating some invisible energy.

“You are a god.” Yamat sighed, disappointed in himself for not noticing sooner, “That is quite the plot twist, the extra turned out to be a lead role…” He trailed off but then jumped slightly before going into a deep, almost sincere, bow, “Yamat at your service.”

”As if we need any of your services,” Toog the dog growled, “He reeks of all sorts of misdeeds.”

“Now, Toog,” Iternis playfully scolded, “He is technically my brother so we have to at least be somewhat polite… But in all honesty, you do seem a little sketchy. What are you the god of?”

Yamat chuckled ”Would it surprise you if I were to say you were the first to ask?”

“I think it would surprise me if I wasn’t the first to get the chance to ask. Judging by the fact that this path you made me would lead me fairly close to certain doom, I don’t get the feeling that many of your travel companions end off that well.”

”You would, be rather correct by that, but, since you managed to outperform me, I guess I owe you at least that.” Yamat spread his arms out, performing a few more extravagant gestures, ”I, am the god of Tragedy, bringing misfortune and pain to all who walk these lands.” As he ended his words, a nearby tree suddenly fell, landing upon a group of toads situated nearby.

“That is hardly godly,” The great dog growled, “Going around, doing harm to innocent people.”

“Well, I think that is a lovely work!” Iternis interjected, “Despite Toog’s opinions, I can appreciate a good Tragedy.”

“What!?” Toog barked indignantly, “How?”

“Well, we pretty much do the same things as Yamat here all the time.”

“No we don’t!” Toog shook his head in disapproval, his ears flopping all about.

“What about that human we stripped and threw into a ditch? That was pretty much the same situation.”

“It was not!” Toog growled, “He was stealing from passing wanderers and robbing them blind! The only reason he died was because he had driven anyone who could have helped him away from that trail!”

“If I may interject,” Yamat said, “that does sound a little tragic to me. What if that man was only stealing to feed his family.”

“He wasn’t”

“But what if he was?” Iternis interjected unhelpfully, causing Toog to buck the God of Journeys off his back in a sign of rebellion.

Iternis plummeted into the dirt, making no attempt to stop his descent which launched swampy mud all across Yamat’s legs.

“Regardless of Toog,” Iternis addressed Yamat, his voice muffled as he was still face down in the dirt, “I think Tragedy has its place in this world. Although try not to go too overboard.”

‘I’ll keep that in mind,” Yamat chuckled as he bent down to hoist Iternis out of the mud, “Although have got to ask, how did you know to take the form of that woman?”

“Oh, this ol’ thing?” Iternis gestured at his body as he hung from Yamat’s arms, “I’m pretty sure it just decides what it wants to look like on its own. I’ve given up trying to make it stick to a single style.”

Iternis exploded into a swarm of birds and flapped back towards Toog, where he coalesced back into the form of a mortal, this time a tall, rugged-looking Alminaki male.

“See, the damn thing just up and changes on you!”

Yamat chuckled and then gave a bow, “It was nice to meet you, Iternis, God of Journeys.”

“Likewise, Yamat, God of Tragedy,” Iternis parroted Yamat’s theatrical delivery of lines.

“I disagree-” Toog tried to interject but was cut off by Iternis.

“I get the general feeling that you want to be kept on the down low,” Iternis said as he leaned back on Toog, “So I won’t tell any of the other gods about you if you don’t want me to.”

“That would be nice of you.”

“Then, until next time,” Iternis declared as he returned Yamat’s bow.

Iternis patted Toog’s neck who muttered something along the lines of “finally!” and then shot off through the swamp at breakneck speeds, leaving Yamat standing alone. Yamat stood there for a short while before smiling and starting back off on his way to the Kyslar Isles. You see, this is why gods should walk everywhere even if they can fly. You never know when you’ll have a pleasant chance encounter.




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KhoZee Productions & Partners. presents:


Gibbou

&

Fìrinn

&



The Kavijama | the thing of ink & poetry | The Hibrach

&

Lucia





Gibbou had made it to the western shoreline of Toraan by the time a thought struck her like a lightning bolt. She nearly fell out of the sky as she turned around, a finger stuck up into the air as if saying, “Eureka!” She needed a way for the Hir to move about! After all, she was kind of tiring from this constant flying back and forth - she couldn’t very well serve as the delivery girl for this thing! She had to do something - some kind of spell or blessing or…

Her train of thought brought her to the ground, which by now was in the middle of the Blood Basin. A distant Alminaki caravan passed by, eyeing her curiously. Gibbou sighed and sat down in the sand, drawing schematics for how she wanted the horn to move around.

It took only a moment or two for Fìrinn’s perception to locate the moon goddess, and as she sat in the sand a sudden gust of wind blew across the plain, directly behind her. A moment after it passed, the voice of Fìrinn rang out, clear and true:

”Gibbou.”

The god of Truth hovered above the sand, as still as a statue, while its mantle-claws idly traced signs and sigils in the coarse grains below. It looked down at Gibbou--if one could consider Fìrinn to be capable of looking at anything--expectantly, awaiting the inevitable burst of surprise that its sudden entrance would garner. Fìrinn predicted that she would react very similarly to her sister and was eager to put this notion to the test.

“Wah!” squealed the Moon goddess and peered in every direction, holding her horn up defensively. Her eyes fixed on the expressionless form of the Truth god and squinted. Slowly, she stood up and made a diplomatic wave of her hand. “H-hello. D-do I know you?”

”After a fashion, yes. You spoke with my night-self, just as I spoke with your day-self--I am Fìrinn, god of Truth and Reflection. I am the twin of Àicheil.”

The response was simple and fast, accompanied by its mantle-claws giving a gentle wave like Fìrinn had seen so many mortals do to one another. It was still a strange concept, to the god’s mind, but it would likely have the desired effect of pacifying any surprise that Gibbou might have retained.

”I am here because I have seen your plans, mother of the moon. A calamity is due to befall we who stand above all others, and I am spending the remainder of my time ensuring that mortalkind do not suffer through the uncertain future alone: I come to offer you a boon and a solution to your problems.”

“Wait, calamity? Wah?” She looked down at her horn. “I was just looking for a way to make this move by itself. What kinda calamity’s going on?”

”That is something that I do not know. Have you not felt it upon the wind, and in the currents below? Have you not looked down from your moon upon this Galbar and felt the consternation? There is a change simmering beneath the fabric of this world, and I do not know that reality’s Truth includes us in that change. Perhaps it is nothing, or perhaps it is everything--I can only say for certain that things will cease to be how they are, and they will become something new.”

Fìrinn’s response was--for once--intentionally cryptic. Those gods who had not felt it must have been concerned with more immediately pressing concerns and the alignment of reality with their truths. It would not do to interrupt such noble work, but Fìrinn could also no longer afford to tarry and mortalkind still required adequate protection for what was to come.

”I hear and feel each prayer. They float across the subtle weave like rays of moonlight, collecting deeply within the embrace of the holy Tairseach--and it is through these prayers that your gift to mortalkind will find locomotion. Through mirrors and reflections; through zeal and righteous fervor.”

“You really are your brother’s brother, huh,” Gibbou mumbled with a rake of her head. “You could’ve just said ‘something’s coming, but I don’t know what’.” She sighed and shrugged. “But nitpicking’s mean, I’m sorry. So, uh, you wanted in on the Hir project?”

”We are Twins, but not brothers. It may be challenging to explain to you, given your relationship with your sister, but we are not like you in that sense. Àicheil takes on the male pronoun simply as a matter of becoming more approachable--to speak with my twin is challenging, as you well know. Every advantage he can get is one he must take, for the nature of the Dream is to find infinite meaning in a shallow pool.”

Fìrinn’s mantle-claws traced another pattern in the sand, etching into the coarse grains of earth the holy symbol of the Two-as-One. Within that triquetra it drew another symbol, and just as quickly as it was drawn the entire design bubbled and writhed as if suffused with an intense heat until only glass remained, and within that glass was contained a reflection of a mortal man--the caravanner from earlier.

”I do not require the worship of mortality to be content with my role in their survival and flourishing. I desire no credit, no mention, no accolades--I only wish for mortalkind to continue to align reality with Truth, and in so doing become the most ideal versions of themselves and shape the most ideal version of Galbar. I only offer this gift to ensure their livelihood and to align your Truth with reality.”

Gibbou frowned in confusion. The talk of alignment of Truth with reality seemed to fly over her like the clouds themselves, so she offered a polite nod and a confident, “Yeah, totally!” Then, she got out the horn for Fìrinn to bless. “Well, whatever your reasons, mister Fìrinn, your contribution to the Hir project is most welcome! Just for you, I’ll make sure nobody knows you helped!”

Fìrinn’s mantle-claws picked up the shard of glass from the desert floor, and its true hand touched the shard gently, aligning it with the rays of light so that within it the Hir was reflected. Then, with a surge of divine energy, it reached through the glass and into the reflection of the horn, infusing it with aureate hues and a corona of light. Then, the light shifted, and the reflection was gone--but the glow remained within the strange horn.

”It is done. The merit of the work exists within the work itself, Mother of the Moon, not in being known or seen to have done it. The legacy of what we leave behind and what changes we make are what defines us, and long after our last footsteps upon this fertile soil have been washed away by the tiny pitter-patter of mortal feet what we have made and what we have done shall remain. You live in your day-self’s shadow, hoping that the transitive property of success shall pass through all you do if only you emulate her and follow in her footsteps. You worry that you are incapable of protecting mortalkind, and that all you have done will be insufficient or forgotten. These things are not your Truth, child, and continuing to cling to them will leave reality a less fulfilled and realised place.”

Fìrinn’s mantle-claw reached out to the Moon goddess’ shoulder, resting upon it supportively.

”You are Gibbou, Mother of the Moon, Guardian of Mortalkind. You are not just Gibbou, sister of Oraelia, and Shadow of the Sun. Eternity stretches out before you like the vastness of the open sea, and each wave that you make will return to that great demesne before you are gone. That you made them at all and laboured so fiercely to give them protection is Truth enough; think not upon the fact that they will end. It is the fate of all but we to end one day, but in the brevity of life they find meaning. In your love and your Truth they find gentle solace. I taught the concept of openness to your elves, Mother of the Moon. Perhaps you may follow in their footsteps?”

It seemed as though the words of Fìrinn had taken Gibbou completely off-guard, for she stood quite still, torso almost huddled together a little in a somewhat defensive manner, with her neck pulled gingerly down between her shoulders. Large, moon-white pupils looked up at the empty face of the Truth god and showed clear signs of increasing moisture. However, it didn’t last longer than a minute, and as quickly as the change of emotions had come, she gently pushed Fìrinn’s hand off her shoulder and went, “W-worry? Hah! I’m not worried! I mean, with this here, mortalkind will be perfectly well protected! I-I don’t need their praises to let me know I’m good enough, and I certainly don’t need you telling me that I’m anxious about stuff! Stuff that I am confident about, by the way! I’m not jealous of my sister - you are completely wrong!”

”You linked minds with my twin, child. I know your mind as he did--a moment of perfect clarity, suspended within glass. I hope only that you become what you can--what you are meant--to be. Mortalkind will thank you for your efforts, in time. They already sing your praises in their thoughts and in their dreams. I could show you each prayer, each dream, each fluttering feeling within their breast as they look up at that wondrous orb in the night and wonder. But perhaps that is for another day, another time. Is there anything else I may do for you, to align reality with your Truth?”

The offer was not heard so much as it was felt, waves of compassion and empathy vibrating through the air as Fìrinn’s meaning and intent made itself known within Gibbou’s mind. It was a brief embrace, free from judgement or guilt or ulterior motive: a resonant chime to open the mind to what lay beyond, if she was ready. Today was not that day, however, and Fìrinn knew that before it asked. Sometimes, asking the question was all that was required to get the answer.

“Pfft! Yeah, right - mortalkind are singing my praises… Half don’t-... They don’t even know me! Even the night elves, my own people, don’t like me. All because I was, was such a--...” It seemed that the emotions invoked previously by the Truth god’s kind words hadn’t quite dissipated yet. She did her best to rub the quartz-like tears out of her eyes, but failed miserably. “Why, why am I even still here? I don’t need this right now! I-... I have a purpose, a mission, and I won’t be distracted anymore!” She kicked off, stopped midair and floated back down to the ground. “Goodbye!” she spat angrily before soaring off again. Another moment passed before she once again returned, picked up the Hir and went, “Forgot the, the damn, thing. Ugh!” And then, she soared off - but northwards instead of westwards.

Fìrinn looked upon Gibbou as she departed--and then returned--and departed again. It seemed to stare at her impassively, as if deep in contemplation, before simply vanishing from that sand-filled basin and making its way west. There remained more work to be done, and many places yet to do it in.




A few hours later, Gibbou crash landed in the Prairie to the north. She hadn’t lost control of her flying and the fall hadn’t hurt her at all - her train of thought had simply taken her focus off of her journey and she had felt like lying down to think. For the time being, all thoughts of Adrian and the Night Elves had faded to the back of her mind as she pondered the words spoken by Firinn - what was her truth? Who was she doing all this for? Mortality? Oraelia? Herself?

Was her mission to protect mortalkind or was it simply guilt for killing the very first life in the world?

She cringed. She hated these thoughts, but chasing them away did nothing but intensify them. The more she wanted to forget them, the clearer they became. She had to fasten her mind to something else. She propped herself up, Hir dangling faithfully at her side. She gave it a reassuring pat and said, “I sure am glad I made you durable, little guy.” She then stood up and walked in the direction of what she believed to be a temple of sorts on the horizon - maybe meeting someone would get her mind off of all this.




“You have to force yourself, Lucia!” Orb lectured. “You have to will it to come! To be! Do not be weak!”

She stood next to the pool, Lucia with an angry look on her face as Orb hovered around her. Sweat dripped off her brow as she had her hands cupped in front of her, a small flame dancing between her hands. It took her weeks even to manage that, now Orb wanted her to make it bigger. The tattoo’s upon her face looked agitated, angry even. Her Love still wore her, or she guessed she wore him.

She gritted her teeth. ”I’m aware, Orb.” The flame grew slightly larger, but then winked out and she gave a frustrated sigh before sitting down. Orb landed in front of her silently.

“You know,” he began, “That was an improvement Lucia. Forcing mana to be what you want it to be, to take from the flows, is no easy task. Your progress is moving… Swimmingly.”

She laid back, wiping the sweat off her forehead as her tattoos shimmered back to an exhausted state. ”You keep saying that, but I don’t really see any substantial improvement. Why couldn’t it be easier, like… singing or dancing?”

Orb was silent, as if processing the question. “That’s just how it is.” He said finally.

Lucia sat back up, a comb of solar energy materializing in her hand. She began to comb out her tangles as she looked at Orb again. ”You think it would be easier, since I can use the sun to make stuff. Isn’t the sun made of fire? Like, honestly.” she mused.

“Hello?” came a sudden echo from the entry hall of the temple complex.

Lucia suddenly snapped her head in the direction of the voice and got to her feet, comb shimmering away in the light. A visitor! She could hardly contain her excitement! In her haste, she left Orb behind as she made her way to the stairs, where the voice came from.

In the entryway stood a plum-skinned female, with hair like a deep blue night, clothes like the darkest abyss and a pair of dark disks over her eyes. Bright pupils through the black glass hinted that she had noticed Lucia approaching, and she waved a greeting. “Hi! Sorry, I came in to seek, uh, refuge from the, uh, Sun! Woah, gotta tell ya, it’s so bright out there.” She strolled up the stairs and extended her hand. “Hi, the name’s Gibbou - Oraelia’s my sister and I’m from the Moon, ya-da, ya-da.” She looked around. “Nice place you’ve got here, miss Mortal. Built it yourself?”

Lucia’s tattoos lit up, shimmering with excitement as she looked at her Aunt in the flesh. She looked at the extended hand and not really knowing what to do with it, she instead went in for a hug, saying, ”I know your name, Mother spoke so highly of her sister, my Aunt!”

“Your what-now?” replied the moon-goddess, every inch of her momentary confidence blown away like smoke on the wind.

Lucia pulled herself away and looked at Gibbou again. ”I am Oraelia’s daughter, and she told me that you are my aunt! I was wondering when this day would come, and now it has!” she said happily.

Gibbou blinked. Then, jumping backwards, she shouted, “OREY HAS A DAUGHTER?!” She leaned back in, put on a star-bright glare and held a quivering, tightened fist a few inches from Lucia’s chin. “You better start explaining to me just when you were born, missy - my sister would never, ever keep something so important a secret from me, so if you’re lying about this, I swear…”

Lucia’s happy smile faded, replaced by a look of shock, then confusion. ”She never told you about me?” she asked aloud. ”I was… Born when this Sunlit Temple was created. Maybe around… uh… I don’t really keep track of time here…” she said softly, holding her arm. ”I’m Lucia… By the way.”

“No mention,” Gibbou confirmed and pursed her lips. After looking Lucia up and down again, though, she pulled away again and dusted her shoulder off cinematically. “But you do look like her, and I saw her recently, so she could’ve made you after that.” With a sigh, she clenched her fist so a spot on the stone floor twisted and molded into a small stool, upon which she sat down. “I don’t see a reason for you to lie about being her daughter anyway, so… Sorry. I’ve had a rough day.” She laid her face in a propped-up hand. “... And wouldn’t you know it, this is just another thing to add to that list of more things - woah, well done, Gibsy, protector of all life.”

Lucia sat down on the floor, a look of concern on her face as she looked at Gibbou. ”She did mention she came from the moon.” Lucia said at first, before continuing, ”There’s no need to be sorry, I came on too strongly, I think. You seem troubled… Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“No, it’s… It’s just…” She sucked in a deep breath through the nose. “Do I have the aura of a protector? Actually, before you answer that, do I remind you of your mother, my sister? How alike are we? Is she nicer than me? Does she maybe give off a better feeling of guardian… -ness?”

Lucia blinked as she thought. There was something deeply troubling her aunt, that much was obvious. She would have to approach this carefully. Just like with Qael. She stroked her chin and said, ”You remind me a lot of mother, you both look the same with some differences. I can’t say how alike you are, I haven’t gotten to know you yet but I can say that I do know you are the nicest goddess she’s ever met and one of the few she loves unconditionally. You’re her sister, how could you not be nice, if not nicer? As for a guardian… I feel safe at night knowing you’re up there. I like to watch the moons, your moon in particular. It makes me feel… at peace.”

Gibbou frowned. “You’re just saying that to be nice, aren’t you? You don’t even know me and you still say these things like we’re friends or something.” She drew a quivering breath and shook her head. “I’m-I’m sorry, that was awful of me to say.” She stood up from her stool and it retracted back into the floor, not even leaving a scar in the stone. “I’m sorry, coming here was a mistake. I- I need to go somewhere, anywhere. My moon, probably. The silence up there is… It’s soothing. I’d show it to you, but, uh… You’d die.” She sighed and hung her head. “Like a lot of things I come into contact with, it would seem.”

A look of pain flashed across Lucia’s face before she stood up, hands in her robe. That hadn’t gone right. She pursed her lips before saying, ”That’s okay Gibbou. You don’t know me, how could you? I haven’t been alive for very long… But I didn’t just say those things to be nice. I meant them. You don’t have to be friends with someone to know they’re a good person but I apologize if what I said was upsetting. Please don’t go…” she said sadly, ”I’d like to get to know you and I can’t if you’re up on the moon. I know my Love would too.”

“Look, I really appreciate your concern, Lucia, but I’m not really sure I’m, y’know, the mood to meet more mortals - I have a bad history with most of them, see.” To illustrate her point, she started moving towards the exit again.

”My Love isn’t a mortal though!” Lucia called after her.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” replied Gibbou and spun around at the absurdity of the claim. Well, at least she had stopped.

”Have you met Meghzaal, before?” she asked, swaying back and forth.

“Gesundheit,” said the moon goddess politely, feeling an odd sensation of déjà vu.

She smirked, her tattoos blazing to life as she said in a melodic voice,

“You’ve seen him you see,
For I wear him all the time,
And he’s never one to leave me,
So please stay and listen to his rhyme?”


And with Lucia’s speech the robes of ink trembled and pulsed, and a rhythmic sigh echoed throughout the temple of the sunmother. Blotches of ink dripped and swirled upwards, tendrils snaking away into the growing cloud of shifting colours above the tattooed Lucia - and even when her god was gone and her body was revealed in its original sublime splendour, a tendrilous inky hand grasped at her wrist or this finger or that, as though to lose contact was to lose all.
As the cloud grew the sigh became a louder and more complex trilling - joyous, hopeful, but containing an inescapably agonised undertone, as though calling from across great distances to the absent beloved. In that twisting nebula, the ghost of a visage seemed to form - the hint of eyes, the thought of a nose, the inkling of a mouth; and with the mouth came words.

When you have lived and raged to a great age
Those embers dance and sing the death of rage
To rage and weep does not befit the moon
With many tears we bring ourselves to ruin
Far better ‘tis to leap and twirl and prance
Release that rage and madly sing and dance!
Hear it from one who walked with tears the way
Unleash your silent lungs and swing and sway!


And even as the song reverberated throughout the temple - with a melancholy that pervaded the walls and a paradoxic electric energy that seemed to have the pillars gently vibrating with the tune - the cloud of ink & poetry slowly mushroomed and flared, and through the clouds a vaguely humanoid thing of ink and smoke came leaping - a slow, long leap - towards the moonmother. A hand came forth, and the inky many-coloured face of Meghzaal appeared from the inky mists. His eyes glistened and tears of ink seemed to flow freely down his liquid cheeks. ‘Come, let us dance and sing our woes away - oh let’s jump the maelstrom and watch where joy and misery play!’

Gibbou recoiled defensively and eyed the inky form up and down. “Ah! Oily! Wait, no, I don’t really want to dance right now, can’t we just--...” Her hand was snatched up regardless and she was pulled into a spinny dance. “No, waait!” But the love-mad bard was listening to a higher song, and - ah, gods! - heard not her cries of protestation and refusal, so taken up was he in that eternal song and dance.

The trilling sigh took on a greater urgency, there was a beat to it now and the electric energy seemed to suffuse the entirety of the temple complex. Gibbou on his left and Lucia on his right, the poet rose up in a great bubbling cloud, and all about them ink and colour exploded, and sound converged on them in endless rhythmic waves, permeating their hair - why, now even their hair seemed to leap and twirl with the ecstatic song! The shifting nebulae of bursting colours and gushing sound rocked all about them and danced, urging Lucia and Gibbou to be the heart of the song, the core of the dance. Lucia, once again, was caught up in the moment, going along with the dance in her own way.

My love's a woman lovely in her bones,
When worldsongs hum, she hums right back at them
And when she moves, all songs are sighs and moans:
She gives the formless form, the wind a stem
To watch her dance is to know majesty
To see her sway is to rout sanity
Between her blessèd mad there's only amity!

Her dance is war - a war without a truce
Don't close your mouth, there's power in your pleas
Her dance is life, her sways are light and loose;
The head goes swinging by her gliding knees;
And swirls go flying, she from them removed
Her hips stir life - it need at all be proved
She moves in circles, and those circles moved.

The clouds can weep, and earth be swept away
I'm victim of a dancing not my own
What's godhood for if not to kneel and pray?
I swear I've worshipped all her hairs, her bone
And never thought to count out time in days
This inky gaze was made to learn her ways
I measure time by how a body sways.


Gibbou awkwardly blew along with the gust that was the dance, frequently trying to protest throughout the song, but never feeling it to be appropriate. Finally, once the last verse had been sung, she broke out, “C-can we please stop? I’m not, I don’t--!” She was spun in a pirouette. “No, please listen, I don’t like this! This is not helpful!”

The song suddenly halted and Gibbou was released back to the ground, and Lucia too was gently put down. Meghzaal blinked down at the moonmother quietly, trembling and not daring to make a sound, before slowly collecting himself and rolling up behind Lucia, away from sight. ‘S-sorry.’ He trembled. ‘G-gets out of hand sometimes.’
Lucia shot a glance behind her, flashing her Love a reassuring smile. She then looked at Gibbou again and shifted awkwardly as she looked to the floor. Her tattoos seemed to shrink, fading in color. ”I-I get carried away too.” she sniffled, ”I feel terrible, I’m sorry Gibbou.”

Gibbou frowned. “No, no, it’s alright. I know a thing or two about getting carried away, too, and-... Well, I think I’m starting to understand how those I, uh, carried away are starting to feel. If anything, you at least got my mind on other things, so, uh, thanks.” She offered the two of them a lopsided smile. “Say, uh… Any of you want to just sit and, like, exist? Just take in the peace and sound of the world for a minute?”

Lucia looked up, surprised. She began to nod, ”I- We would love to.” she said. Meghzaal’s hand flowed around Lucia’s arm and he peeked out timidly at Gibbou, before bringing a hand up and covering his face so as not to see the goddess or be seen, and said nothing.

“Great.” The moon goddess went over to a spot in the shade and sat down, leaning backwards with her arms propping her up. She stared outwards at the great prairie and closed her eyes, trying to focus her sensations on the soundscape and scents of the surrounding world. There, she sat with a small smile on her lips.

Lucia walked over to a spot near Gibbou, but kept a respectable distance. She sat down in the sunlight and then beckoned for her Love, who had maintained distance though a tendril of ink remained enwrapped about his Lucia’s arm. At her beckoning, however, he seemed to melt from his place and appeared almost at once about her, in the vague form of robes that clung momentarily to her before congealing by her far side; keeping her between him and the dance-hating goddess who disliked song (not that he blamed her, mind you, or held it against her! Far be he, who knew well woe, from pouring contempt on another’s sorrow!) Lucia took his hand in hers, the tattoos on her skin glowing intensely as they shimmered. The god’s grip tightened around hers and his form pulsed and lost definition briefly, before condensing back into humanoid form. Tiny birds of ink broke away from his back or hair and whistled and sighed about her before disintegrating into clouds away.

Gibbou straightened her back up, crossed her legs and bent her neck slightly forward. She slowed her breathing down until it barely existed anymore and intertwined her fingers in her lap. In contrast to how she had looked the rest of the day, really, she appeared most peaceful here, even in the shade of the baking sun outside. The bard looked out at the prairie, but he did not see as Gibbou saw, or hear as she did.

The world was abuzz with a bursting melody that wept to see them sat idly - here it was singing its soul out every minute, every second, that the world may know the endless song and dance, and here they were, who heard it, sat unmoving and unmoved! If those who heard were thus unmoved, what then those who could not hear? Ink burst from his eyes at the thought and he sighed, and his chest shivered and shook, and his hand tightened around that of his beloved to contain himself from bursting up once again and joining that cosmic melody. But even the sighs of the silent god caused the seed of love and ecstasy to burst in the hearts of the animals and winds and earth all about, and birds fluttered towards them chirruping now by Lucia’s face of sunlit night, perching briefly between the moonmother’s quartz-coloured laurel crown before zipping away and flying off with the god’s rhythmic sighs.

Other creatures approached also - the bison now and now the elephant, the great elk with antlers sprawling like trees upon its head, the spritely gazelle danced towards them and looked upon them with her glistening great eyes as though she too, like Meghzaal, wished to shed ink tears - and they sang their soul-felt heartsong to them; but could the moonmother hear? Or were all but his beloved and he deaf to the stirring song and dance of the cosmos? ‘Oh!’ The god moaned, and was in tearful silence once again.

The moon goddess squinted her eyes further closed. Then even tighter. However, the more the song went on, the harder it was to concentrate on that ever-waning silence. Eventually, she, too, started sobbing quietly, before she finally burst out: “Do they have to sing so sadly?! It’s actually making me depressed!” She pointed at an elephant. “Mister elephant, would you please at least sing in the major scale?”

Lucia looked over at Gibbou with sad eyes. ”You can hear the Worldsong too? What am I saying… Of course you can.” she briefly looked away, ”My Love, when he awoke, the silence made him sad so he awoke everything to the song. Even now, he wishes to be with it. It’s hard for him to be quiet and still.” she looked back at Gibbou. ”I’m so sorry Gibbou, this isn’t how I wanted our first meeting to go.” she said softly, on the verge of tears. She gripped her Love’s hand tighter. The god pressed her hand gently and a quick and liquid smile moved his face, and he planted a kiss upon her shoulder to comfort her.

‘But silence has a music too, sometimes. Here now,’ he breathed deeply and looked out at the prairie, gently shushing, and all around them (though not beyond, for who has the power to shush the Worldsong entire?) the cosmic song began to fade and the animals all hushed and flitted off, and the sunlit Prairie was bathed in a great and baffling silence as spirits held their breath or placed their ethereal hands about their faces to stop the melodious deluge from bursting out.

How still, how silent is the world
That once could not but dance and sing -
I love when silence is unfurled
That great and dreadful breathless thing!

Like crashing waves and roiling skies
The singing, soothing wind and breeze
And jungles with their great green sighs;
The silence has an unheard wheeze.

How still, how silent now we are
For silence brings a sweetness too
A singing that is, oh by far
As rhythmic as the cosmic spew!

Now we may sit in the sun's shade
Or winter's moon may wash the moors
And we may in the wet sea wade
Or lie beneath wide heaven's shores

There in the golden grass along
The flowing prairie in light bathed
We see in silence winter's song
That yet in summer's light is swathed

But I do love the full moon's gaze
Just as I love that old sun's smile
So let us sit in silent daze
And watch and hear it for a while.


And he closened himself to Lucia and watched with trembling hands the sprawling and silent prairie. The kaleidoscopic heavens shifted slowly and turned, and colours came by in their turn and left. They sat there in absolute silence - why, even the natural chirping of birds and crickets, and the rustling of the grass in the breeze, seemed muted as though one were sat upon a comet or a deadstar in the endless silence of the spaces that the sad old moon called home. But eventually Meghzaal’s voice broke the awesome silence. ‘B-but, uh. If you don’t mind me asking,’ he peered at Gibbou from behind Lucia, ‘what has made you so sad?’

“It’s--... Well…” She hung her head. “I just feel like I’m, I’m no good as a goddess, as a guardian of life. All around me, I encounter, or more often, cause pain. I make stuff, but it never seems to be right enough - my trolls were all so sweet until, well, they weren’t, and I don’t know what happened to them anymore.” The inky god perked up at mention of the trolls, “I’m rash, I’m stupid, I’m not even worthy of looking my sister in the eyes, and, and…” Tears like twinkling quartz dripped down in her lap. “My sister does everything so much better than me and, well, everybody loves her. Meanwhile, I’m just here causing trouble. I-... I even ruined your dance!” Her face collapsed into her hands, through which rivers of moonlight flowed like runny glass, accompanied by sobbing to match the earlier worldsong.

Lucia remained quiet, unsure of what to say. She wanted to go to her aunt, to give her an inkling of comfort, but she did not know if it would go well. Gibbou said it herself, she hardly knew her. She put out a hand towards her, but pulled it back as her tears silently flowed. ”You didn’t…” Lucia began, ”There will be other dances.” she went silent again. She then turned to her Love with pleading eyes, as if begging him to do something. She had no idea how to attack that other part, for Gibbou’s heart hurt and she was only mortal. There was perhaps one who could do something, and that was her mother. But was it right to call her? Perhaps not right now. She had to prove to Gibbou that she was her niece, that she could become something more than just a stranger. But how?

Lucia’s pain seemed to reverberate through Meghzaal’s liquid form, her wants and plights clear to his heart - for they were naught but his wants and plights. Effervescent tears bubbled out of his inky eyes and drifted away, forming up and building up before them into a great ocean nightscape. The full moon shone brightly in the scene, and the waves slapped and kicked gently - but for all the sound, it was somehow silent. In nearby shallows a great creature with a terrible visage formed and stood, its maw gawping, and immediately the scene was filled with glorious poetry and song springing from that hideous face and mouth. All at once the sea seemed to buzz with energy and the moon above seemed to shine with a greater radiance, swaying in the black heavens. And a song was born and a music sounded and the seas bubbled and churned as from their depths a great darkness rose.

The darkness sang and the draug sang too, and he seemed to lose himself in song and stepped forth, away from the shallows and into the ocean depths. But he did not sink or drown, but danced on the water and swayed and swirled about a great black tree that was forming - and singing! - out of the sea. And the tree unfurled and burst to unveil a blossoming flower from which emerged a great glowing creature - a mere child - that spoke with a sound so lovely and so sweet that the draug could only laugh with joy and weep. The two sang and the little creature within the inktree swayed and hummed in place, shaking its head gently from side to side.

And soon the draug was not alone, but was accompanied by one, two, three, more! They danced and sang about the tree in a strange moment of coming together for the lonesome trolls. And in the scene Meghzaal grew and the draug were soon no longer just draug, but something changed. The scene shifted as they sang and danced off to the west, and the world burst with colour and sound as the birth of the Worldsong sent the cosmos into an unending deluge of swaying and song, an eternal and joyously agonised melody; and the sky too exploded with eternally shifting colour.

All this that had come about due to the single creation of an inspired moonmother unfurled in ink before them and then- disappeared, leaving nothing but the gently gazing moon in the inky sky, and a song.

Let me not say that I despise sorrow
Though I have wept plenty when seeing woe,
And I am one who leaps and swiftly goes
To battle grief and grow joy from its throes -

Why, can I watch while tears of pain are shed
And not myself to grief and sorrow wed?
Oh has the dear gazelle a heart of stone
To leave her calling child in pain alone?

And can the cosmic sound sit silent long
Unmoved, unmoving at an infant's song?
Or a true lover sit and gaze upon
His weeping loved one grieved and webegone?
Then how can I, who rains down songs on all
Ignore the grief that fills my heart and soul?
How can I hear the songbird's toot and blare
And not forthwith away to comfort her?

And sat beside the grief-struck bird I'll sing
Pouring the joys all back into her wing;
With cooing whispers and poetic smiles
We'll slowly call back all of joy's exiles!
For how can I, who rains down songs on all
Ignore the grief that fills my heart and soul?
For one who knows the joys of grief too well
Can wipe the tears and calm the old heart's swell!

Not all can welcome pain with ecstasy
And so offset its deathly potency;
Come forth, you tearstained weepers in the night
Unload with me your sadness, let us write
An inky altar, seeping maddened tears
And on its slab give up the grief of years!


And as the song faded, the inky scene too began to fade until nothing was left but the bright full moon. It swelled briefly before disintegrating into a glorious cloud of colour and joyous sound, and then was gone. The inky god looked shyly over at Gibbou. ‘Y-you didn’t ruin it. The song… the dance… me. Without that singing troll calling me out, I would never have been. If you had not made it, the world would not sing and dance and the sky would not be so… vibrant. And I would never have known Lucia; her love has given life sweetness and… fresh, joyous pain.’ He brought Lucia’s palm to his lips and placed a kiss on it again. ‘The moon - your moon, Gibbou - and your night are muses that cause the hearts of poets and lovers everywhere to swell. Beneath that dark blanket, hear the world’s lovers worship one another - and in worshipping one another they worship you! Hear them pine with words so lovely and so sweet. I have looked upon the sun with joy and watched the restless toil of day, but night has always brought me calm and rest and is the breeding ground of love and poetry. And so for those things, that I with my limited knowledge know, I thank you Gibbou.’

The moon goddess looked up from her palms with huge, round, white pupils. “Do, do you mean it? My… My little draugs did that? They did that for you?” A fresh wave deluged its way down her cheeks and she hastened to rub it away. “Do you mean to say that I, I, my creation helped create those, those dancing lights in the sky? Helped teach those animals how to sing? Helped…” She rubbed some more tears away and took Lucia’s hand. “... Helped my niece find love? All because of my sweet, little draugs, and, and, and my moon?”

Meghzaal’s colours shifted and he smiled, covering his eyes with a shaking hand and hiding behind Lucia once again. ‘The pain that wracks you, moonmother, lies to you. I-It is not a pain you can mix with joy - i-it is not…’ he looked to Lucia, ‘love. It is a pain that wants to destroy you with its lies. Oh! You mustn’t let it!’ There was a sudden desperation and intensified fearful trembling to his rhythmic voice, ‘you m-must fight it off - and the world itself s-sings and dances in defiance of those lies. Y-you don’t need my words for proof, the world itself is proof.’

“So I’ve done something… I’ve done something! In your face, Firinn, I--!” She paused for a moment. It seemed as though her fervor had cast her to her feet and sent one of her fists up into the air. She retracted it and shrunk somewhat. “I guess… I guess he was trying to warn me, huh, about these exact feelings.” She turned to the other two. “Lucia, mister Meghzaal, I’ve drowned you in so much emotional baggage that shouldn’t even exist, and probably not made your day any better by doing so; and yet, the two of you helped me without me even asking. Is, is there anything I can do for you in return?”

A small smile came upon Lucia's lips as she shook her head. “I'm just happy to help you, aunt Gibbou." she said. "And please, it's alright to cry every now and then, whether alone or not. It's good to lean on others in times of need." she said, subsequently leaning back into her Love, who blushed a thousand hues of red and pink and brought his hands about her, placing his fingers on the tattooed Hand of Ink & Poetry that decorated her navel.

‘I-if I may, moonmother... decorate you too.’ He mumbled inaudibly into the back of Lucia’s head. Gibbou blushed.

“What… What kind of decorations did you have in mind?” She pulled down the sleeves on her arms to reveal her numerous white lines and markings, almost like tattoos in themselves. “If you’d like to colour me like Lucia, I’m afraid I’m already marked.” She suddenly snapped her fingers as if remembering something. “Although… Do you know what you could decorate?” She pulled forth the horn on her hip. “This!” The inky god looked up and observed the strange horn and shivered.

‘A- a cup?’ He asked, extending an inky tendril towards it to examine it. ‘A cup with a wondrous song. Ah- ah!’ He shook and convulsed around Lucia, who giggled, ‘it overflows! Why have so many added to its tune and song?’

“Oh, it’s because this is Hir, the druid maker! It lets mortals perform miracles in the names of a select few gods so that mortality can keep itself safe when we can’t! To make sure this power is wielded by the nicest and kindest, too, me and Orey added a little piety clause - all power must be saved up from doing good deeds. Neat, right? Got loads of companions who’ve added their power to this thing!”

The tendril of ink flowing about the druidic horn curled up above and squeezed itself so that two ink droplets of shifting colour dripped inside, immediately causing the horn to glow a thousand different tints before returning to its original colour. But every now and then a sudden pulse of wild veins of a thousand different hues rippled across it, eventually forming into the unmistakable form of the Hand of Ink & Poetry, before disappearing again. ‘Poetry is a sickness, and it is a cure - the former’s madness, the latter love that’s pure. To the druids of the world I give this wild madness - or what all will think is madness; a tongue that speaks with poetry that they may be friends to the Worldsong, and so that they may learn the cosmic song and dance also. I give them, too, the Hand of Ink & Poetry and all the arts of ink for them to uncover, its glyphs and its carvings on rock or skin. I give them these things to uncover and make.’ And with that the tendril withdrew and the ink god looked at Gibbou timidly, his thoughts returning to decorating her. ‘I, uh. I don’t ask to decorate you as I have my beloved - t-that is her honour alone. But p-perhaps an ink of... night and moonlight. Between your shoulder blades or on the nape of your neck. M-maybe that will go well?’

Gibbou’s blush deepened. “W-well… Since, since you’re so pushy, I guess I have no choice! Between the shoulder blades, then. Oh, and thanks for the blessing on the Hir. Druids’ll be, like, the best protectors and advisors out there! This’ll be incredible!” She giggled happily to herself, only joy filling her dried, reddened eyes now. She hung the horn from her hip again and loosened her shirt, turning away from the two others before letting the shirt drop a little down the back to reveal a back of blueberry skin with moonlight markings going straight down the spinal cord in two parallel lines.

The god rose, taking his beloved with him, and flowed towards the moonmother where he gently set her and himself down, staring at the two parallel lines. He sat looking for a long time, waiting on the sun to set and the three moons to show themselves in the heavens, so that when the prairie entered the depths of the darkest night he began to weave an obsidian ink from the dark of night that congealed in one hand, and into the other the twisting light of the three moons curled up and blossomed. Only then did he begin, whispering inaudible verses into the little spaces between them and every now and then trembling and burying his head into Lucia’s hair before continuing.

He eased the parallel lines already present into the new tattoo, coaxing them both into new forms with the moonink, and then applied the ink of night to bring about a weaving tapestry of moonlight and darkness that came together to form the Hearteye and the Hand, the very same pattern that decorated his beloved’s abdomen.



The Hand of Ink & Poetry and the Hearteye


Lucia had, in the meantime, been preoccupied looking up at the newest moon. It hadn’t been there last night and it looked so… Strange. Her eyes eventually found their way back to Gibbou and she gave an audible gasp as she looked at the ink. “So pretty, auntie.” she said. “You’ve done good work my Love, as always.” she said again. Her own tattoos grew and expanded as they shimmered with warmth. The god blushed his hues of red and pink and mumbled inaudibly - not as pretty (if only as pretty!) as you, my dear, my dear - into Lucia’s shoulder as he lifted Gibbou’s garb back up to cover her.

“It turned out nice?” asked the moon goddess timidly and stringed together the neck of her shirt again. “Thanks. Thank you so much, mister Meghzaal. What will it... will it do anything? Or is it more for decorative purposes?”

‘I w-will tell you. But, uh. What is a… mister?’ Asked the nonplussed bard. Gibbou blinked.

“Oh. Uh… Good question.” She paused just long enough to make it awkward. “I don’t know. I’ve just kinda always said it. I, I can stop if you want me to.”

‘Oh! I see.’ He closed his eyes for a few moments and hummed before opening them again, ‘then I will call you srita Gibbou.’ Then he turned to Lucia and put a finger to his lips, frowning. ‘It doesn’t feel good to call you by anything but your name,’ he smiled at last, ‘and I think it only right.’ With that he turned back to the moonmother. ‘I will tell you what the mark I’ve placed on you will do - it will have your back! Whenever you weaken, whenever that lie returns to destroy you, it will shine bright for you - with all the good and purity you bring to the world, and with all you have given reason to sing and dance and adore the gazing moon. It will always have your back, srita Gibbou.’ His hands were trembling and his smile shook, and so he quickly brought a hand to his face and coiled himself up behind Lucia. ‘S-sorry!’

“That’s…” she started and tried her best to swallow another wave of deluges. “That’s the nicest thing someone beyond my sister’s ever done for me.” She stood up and stepped into the moonlight. She let it trickle down and bathe her in its luminessence. She held out one of her hands, and the light encapsulating her coalesced there into a small, white stone that then swallowed its own light and became dark as the dome above them. She turned and handed the stone to the pair. “Here… Let me return one of the many favours you’ve done me today.”

Lucia tentatively took it within her hand and looked it over. ”Oh how pretty.” Lucia gawked before looking up at Gibbou. ”What’s it do, auntie?” she asked with a smile.

“This is the Nightstone! I figured, y’know, since you two like dancing and singing in the light of the moon, then I’d give you something to help keep you awake.” She leaned forward a little and wiggled a finger warningly. “But only for one night, okay? You need to make sure you get loads of sleep outside of this one use. Using it more than once a week will mess with your circadian rhythm, got it?”

Lucia’s eyes widened as she showed it to her Love. “Oh this will be perfect! Thank you aunt Gibbou!” she said with genuine joy in her voice. “I’ll remember to get sleep, I have a feeling we’ll be using this a lot.” she giggled. The god exploded into a deep crimson behind Lucia and swiftly dissipated into a cloud that seemed to plant kisses all over the body of his beloved before congealing back into inky robes about her. Inky birds joyously chirped their thanks and adoration around the moonmother for a few brief seconds before diving into Lucia and joining the god worn by his beloved. Lucia giggled as this happened, a wide smile on her face as she stood up to face Gibbou.

”I’m glad I got to meet my aunt.” she said. ”I… Uh… Hug?” she asked unsurely, opening her arms up.

“D’aaaw… Of course!” She wrapped her arms tightly around Lucia’s torso and giggled. She rubbed her cheek softly against hers and whispered, “You really are Orey’s daughter, huh; I can tell from your hugs.”

Lucia squeezed her back tightly, the tattoos on her face growing larger and warmer as they pulsed. Gibbou was soft, and carried with her a sense of peace. It was a wonderful feeling. ”Thank you, auntie. I feel so loved.” she sniffled.

“You are - both of you are.” She squeezed tighter for an instant before pulling away and gave the dark sky above a smile. “I suppose I should start heading back now. I should deliver this horn soon.” She turned to smile at the two. “I guess this is goodbye for now, huh?”

With a sad smile Lucia nodded. “For now, but I have a feeling we will meet again. I wish you a very fond farewell, aunt Gibbou.” she said with a grin. The moon goddess offered a nod to the both of them.

“Don’t worry. It’s not like the gods are disappearing anytime soon!” With that, she set off. Lucia and her beloved watched the moonmother go, and the god tightened around her. No, they were not going to be disappearing anytime soon.

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