Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Frettzo
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Frettzo Summary Lover

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Mesa Monks


-1-

Lorelei yawned and stretched as she watched the gypsy wagon ride away and waved a last farewell at her newest friends, Mawazo and Mahara. They were innocent and pure and naive, sure, but Lorelei found those traits to be refreshing when presented in the way that the two snowflakes had done. She smacked her lips a couple times, ruffled her short hair a little and moved her ears around a little before turning towards Astarte, who was already busying herself by poking a small round cactus nestled in between two of the reddest sandstone boulders she’d ever seen.

The cat girl sighed but couldn’t help the smile that came to her face. Ghosts of memories tried to resurface, like a particular scent or a strange prickly sensation across her ankles. After a while, the ‘goddess’ poking the cactus turned sharply towards Lorelei with a quizzical look in her eyes.

“Lore, why is this fruit so prickly? How am I supposed to eat it?”

“That’s not a fruit, it’s a cactus. You don’t eat it, not that I know of. It’s too small to hold any s-significant amount of water, too, so don’t even try any funny business.”

“Aw.” Astarte groaned, but for the first time ever actually listened and stepped back from the threatening little grenade.

“So… A-According to those two, there should be some ‘shiny stuff’ somewhere on this mesa. Let’s start looking, Ace. The sooner we find metal and someone that’s got the t-tools to work it, the quicker we can make ourselves some nifty equipment, like those forks I m-mentioned.” Lorelei explained, knowing full well that Astarte had probably forgotten by now what the whole point of leaving the darkwoods was.

“Ooh, yeah! The forks! By the way, can any of you feel that?” Astarte sniffed the air and dropped down into a prone position, ear against the sandy soil.

Lorelei watched the scene play out with one of her eyebrows slowly raising against her will, and eventually brought her barely-held-together-with-string messenger bag up to her face. “She’s d-doing it again, Smoke…” Lorelei whispered into the bag. A bit of smoke leaked out.

“Master Astarte can feel currents and track down residue, Lorelei. This shadow trusts its Master.”

Finally, she licked the soil, chewed on it and swallowed it. “Mmm! Yes, this is top-quality mesa dirt, and also yes! I’m sure we’re pretty close to a place of power, Lore. Wanna check it out?”

Lorelei psed her lips and crossed her arms, letting her bag fall to her side once more. “Aren’t places of p-power like, super dangerous though?”

“WHAT! Where did you get that from? You silly kitty!” Astarte giggled and scooted up to Lorelei’s side and pulled her by the wrist, walking in a seemingly random direction.

“H-Hey! I don’t think there’s anything down that way- Traveling without a set direction is bad news, too, we shouldn’t do it!” Lorelei desperately tried to reason with her, but Astarte wasn’t having it. In the end, the cat girl resigned herself to listening to the wannabe goddess for once and followed her.

For days on end.

The mesa was a weird place, clearly originally a sub-tropical lush-ish land which had risen high above the clouds into broken apart plateaus usually covered by a thin fog. The local flora and fauna had obviously struggled to adapt, something Lorelei realized thanks to the underwhelming biodiversity in the area. The few living beings that survived what must have been a divine cataclysm in the past had spread out unpunished, giving the unusual combo of visuals such as tall pine trees surrounded by cactus bushes.

The location had already been inhabited by sapients. Small bridges, often way too flimsy to be above endless ravines, connected different plateaus when the mesa broke apart, other times, they would have to rely on Lorelei making ropes or finding a rock outcrop or redwood tree that had fallen across the fissures. The closer they got to the center, the rarer these struggles became.

Finally, they dove into an area where the mist was very thick, to the point the two had to hold hands or risk losing each other. Their main guidance became only Astarte’s intuition, at some point, it felt like the mist enveloped them and almost seemed to try to lead them astray, until, at the last minute, it seemed to give up and slide away. Not long after that, they got up a hill and saw in the distance a tall layered stone tower with a whole complex of buildings around them. The echoes of a murmuring crowd and the smell of barbecued carp filled the air. A smell that immediately made Lorelei’s mouth water and stomach rumble. Astarte laughed at her for it.

- 2 -

Lektor perched on a stone pillar, as she typically liked to do, and observed the students as they fought each other hopelessly, the endurance of the human body was kinda pathetic, but she was sure she could train it over time. Her focus was suddenly broken as she noticed something walking past the main gate, where typically people would only leave.

It wasn’t just a single something either, but three. One of them had a body that lacked earth but was abundant in wind and water. The other had a body identical to that of the humans she’d grown so accustomed to but held a fire that threatened to spill out and burn itself out. And the last one had a body that looked like one of the chimeras’- With the one difference being that her feline ears and tail were not made of spirit, but of flesh and blood. Her fire burned brightly, and deep within her there was the glint of something she had not seen before, something smooth and tempered.

“We’re here! Place of power reached, I know it took a bit long, but what do you think Lore, Big?” The one with the brightest flame asked of the others, seemingly oblivious to everything.

“This shadow enjoys its Master’s joy.” Came an echo-y, disembodied voice from within the bag carried by the tempered one, who spoke next, rather incredulously. “You really haven’t n-noticed the God sitting on a pillar by the tower’s entrance? We’re soo gonna be ash-ified.”

Lektor observed the three stooges at her gate and continued to be extremely confused over it all. ”By the Core, who are you people?” she jumped down and made the whole of the place shake, her students immediately turning to look at the strangers with equally confused glances. The cat-eared stranger smirked nervously while the human grinned with stars in her eyes.

”A Chimera, a human and one of the shadow stalker things. But… my temple was supposed to turn all of you away.” she tilted her head, now towering over the newly arrived. ”Oh. I see what is happening here. You are…” for some reason strange words came to her mind and she almost lost her train of thought, almost. ”Foreigners. Not of this world. So you break the ward of my temple. It is set to ward off all those who leave it or who are born elsewhere on this planet. You… are neither of those. Well, at least not the two with legs. The shadow would likely be expelled if not the bag.”

She raised her golden gloves and grabbed Lorelei by the head, tapping her with a serious look, scanning her body using vibrations, a serious look that turned into a smile. Towards Astarte she would just rub her chin, before she started eyeing downard. All of the sudden, the goddess poked the “human” at her midsection and then seized the arm, squeezing at them. “Gods, are you a woman or are you a slime? I have never met someone so flabby.”

The human huffed. “Rude! I’m a Goddess just like you, you… You… Yoou… Pervy catbird?”

“Sphinx”

“Sorry about Astarte’s language, Goddess, she was dropped as a child and has been flabby in both body and brain since then.” Lorelei said and knelt with her head down.

“What! You never bowed for me before!”

“Huh! I wouldn’t guess the one with a punkish fashion sense would be the polite one. Do you want to join me for the cocoa ceremony?” she proposed before staring at Astarte with a far more imposing stance, letting the full gravity of her role as the earth goddess weight down on the faux-goddess, who shrank a little with an actually scared look on her face. “And you. Slime girl. Here is a uniform. You will do five laps around the temple then complement it with a brick lifting session. The material is improper, but I will carve a woman out of you.”

Astarte, or ‘Slime girl’ now, quickly nodded and took the uniform. “Y-yes ma’am! Where should I change into the u-uniform?”

”There is a changing room by the bathhouse. Or find a room for yourself, there is plenty of empty spots after I kicked out a whole wave of brats out of this hall.” Lektor’s voice had even changed and she had to put great will in not having the sides of her mouth turn upward in a smug smirk.”Now get moving, if I needed another statue standing around I would carve it myself.”

She then clapped her golden gloves together and turned to the punkish cat, who sported the biggest smirk she’d ever seen as Astarte ran off to presumably find a room. ”Now, where were we? Right. Hot cocoa time with my new feline pal.”

- 3 -

After Lektoria responded to Lorelei’s request for metal to fix her gadgets with a request of her own, the cat-girl decided to stay in the Temple for a while and learn their ways. It was good to have a set place to rest her head every night, and the incredible quantity of new faces to meet and new voices to remember made it so her stay in the Temple was always stimulating.

Before she realized, the next few months had passed by in the blink of an eye. Every day had been busy as Lorelei delved head-first into the Temple activities and training. She quickly became popular due to her proficiency at the Martial Arts, Acrobatics, and most subjects involving her hand crafting skills, but above all else she was also very highly sought after by the many cliques because of how open and welcoming she was.

Her time off was spent either helping others with things they struggled on or hanging out and laughing alongside whoever sat next to her during the many designated break times throughout the temple days.

The trio had been kept so busy (yes, even Big Smoke, who no one was actually sure if he would benefit from physical training) that they had not been able to see each other past a few distant glances and nods here and there. It was only as their 11th week at the Temple came to a close that they were finally allowed to reunite in the form of a competition.

It was a simple 100m run, pitting twelve different runners from different cliques against each other in a free-for-all. Lektoria clapped her hands and everyone sprang into a run. It was all over in less than 10 seconds, with the first, second and third place being taken by Hills of Bountiful Harvest, Gold Fanged Cat and Slime Girl respectively.

Lorelei herself got fourth place and Big Smoke smashed his previous record by placing 6th, mostly by hitching rides within the other runners’ shadows.

It was a surprise to everyone to see Slime Girl (Astarte) become such a fast runner and Lorelei and Big Smoke wasted no time walking up to Lektoria to request a feast for their friend.

It was Lorelei who spoke first, “Goddess, she’s earned it hasn’t she? She’s not flabby at all anymore!”

“This shadow agrees. Its Master has exceeded its expectations. When its Master first came into the world she could barely walk.” Big Smoke spoke, looking perhaps a bit more solid and denser than he did weeks ago.

Lektor had spent the whole time with the group poking all over Astarte, before letting out a prideful single tear. ”Ah! My little slime baby has grown so much! Look at her. You could grind a knife on these muscles.” she pulled the ex-goddess into a tight hug, and while that would be fatal to most, Astarte barely felt it aside from the fear that was clear on her face.

”And yes, she is more solid and denser, which is why tomorrow she is invited to a special class along with the other two winners and a previous winner of the brick breaking competition.” Lektor announced proudly. ”Oh, and of course, a feast will be served today, we even brought over some special snacks from the Shadow Woods, Master Shadow Hopper.” she looked at Big Smoke with a certain smirk, using the name the students had been calling the very popular Umbra.

“This shadow is eager to feel the taste of Home. It is grateful to you, Goddess of Earth.” Big Smoke bowed as low as he could, which was pretty low considering he didn’t have a lower half to worry about. “To think this shadow would be able to taste Chungusite Skewers once more…”

“They are a delicacy for real. Say, Goddess, could we be allowed to dress as we wish for this feast? I love the uniform but I feel like I’d lose something important if I had to wear it any longer.” Lorelei asked, patting her uniform for emphasis.

The goddess tilted her head from side to side. ”Very well. I guess you are not exactly equal to my students, and only a few hate you for being different, and half of those few were humiliated in that whole ‘arc’ with those smug twins from the Slide-Down-The-Snowy-Peak clique. Just make sure your clothing is properly washed for the time, when you arrived your smell was quite terrible.”

The goddess then sighed. ”To continue on my harsh honesty, Big Smoke, I am sorry. But I did make a certain promise to one of the students who won. Please forgive me for my betrayal.”

Just before she had announced that a new arrival had made it in, it was Hills of Bountiful Harvest, who stood at the door with her typical ‘aura’ of smugness. No, not only her, but most of her clique, The Phantom Wings. An all-female clique that had a certain fame for causing trouble.

“Neat that you will get your special feast later, but my feast, like my position, comes first” she announced, giving the group a little clap before leaning forward. “And we wanted a special guest to pamper about! And none other than Master Shadow Hopper will do for me~” she rose her hand and made a signal.

The Phantom Winger students marched forward, an army of the prettiest chimeras about, most carrying big two handed fans. Lektor had discovered these time of focused air blasts were some of the few direct ways to keep the Umbra away, and she had given that knowledge to a troublesome group. They started to fan poor Big Smoke about, slowly forcing him towards a scary group of giggling cute girls. To his credit though, Big Smoke seemed to embrace the treatment and happily engaged the Phantom Wingers as they blew him all the way into the darkest recesses of the Temple.

“I had been wondering for a while whether the Umbra had any kind of reproductive instinct, y’know! Since he never tried to pull anything on me!” Slime Girl quipped, having freed herself from Lektoria’s grip sometime throughout the commotion. “Maybe we’ll see shadow bunnies hopping around soon? Shadow Hills, huh…”

“Are we completely sure he’s not just playing along thinking they’ll just make him play a game of DOS with them?” Lorelei sighed.

”Maybe they will just play pranks on him or try to puff smoke ribbons into his head, maybe… terrible things will happen tonight. There are certain abysses it's best not to peek too far into. Whatever drives Miss Hills is one such a thing. We can only pray for Mister Big Smoke.”

The goddess shook her head in true resignation. ”Nevertheless. Let’s set up the details of the feast, and let me also give Miss Slime the location of the special training. Miss Lore, there will also be a reward, if smaller, to you. I have set aside a room with a forge and a supply of a variety of metals. I do not understand most of what you speak but will that be enough for your purposes?”

Lorelei snapped up to grin at Lektoria, wiggling her ears happily. “Y-Yes! Definitely! Thank you so m-much, Lektoria!” She shouted and jumped up to give the Goddess a hug.

- 4 -

The special training room was a field of perfectly cut grass above the main tower of the building, no walls would stop one from falling down but there was a winged goddess overlooking it all.

By the time Astarte arrived both Hills and a tiger man she would identify as the Golden Fanged Cat were already there, standing up and still, hands raised, in a tree-like stance perhaps.

”Ah, Miss Slime. It is good to see you.” Lektor swooped in. ”I hope your group had fun last night? I was unfortunately too busy to participate in the feast.”

“Oh y-yeah, for sure. Big Smoke was covered in some kind of goop when we got him back. What even was that, Hills? It tasted weird.” Slime Girl shuddered, “So what are we doing today?” She asked even as she assumed the same stance as the other two.

Hills for once did not answer, she seemed to be deeply focused. And when Astarte took that position, she could see why. This whole location, by accident or design, had a massive amount of earth mana flowing through it, the presence of the goddess only increasing it. It would resonate with Astarte as well, perhaps not for the same reason it resonated with the two earthling chimeras by her side, but it was still something she could tap into with the right technique, in fact, upon closer inspection, she already had. The perceived density she had gained under Lektor’s training was in part due to some of this Earth element infusing itself to her.

”One of the greatest weaknesses of our body is its systematic elements, water and air. Most fatigue, most injuries, are not born from a failure of flesh or bones, but of damaged blood vessels, lungs and other key organs.” the goddess explained, giving all three many memories of bruises and injuries. ”The stone too cracks, but at a much lesser rate. What I will teach you three today is a technique that allows you to imbue some excess earth energy into the water and air elements of your body. I like to call it the “Mud and Dust” technique, but it perhaps doesn’t give the right image.” she added with a chuckle.

While all three kept their eyes closed, Lektor called forth someone. ”Miss Spring Blossom, please come here.” everyone had a certain will to peek, but the very gravity of the earth's energy seemed to keep their eyes closed, still, they could feel the flow of the earth mane through the newly arrived student’s body.

“Hello Miss Lektoria. I am ready to showcase to our friends this technique.” she had a gentle, soft voice, giving a true ladylike aura. With a bow to the teacher, Blossom took a similar stance to them, but quickly shifted her arms, as if clawing and hoarding the mana.

”Miss Blossom’s willingness to test her limits with me is how I discovered the path to this.” Lektoria started, as the student started to technique, the Earth mana now flowing along the streams of water mana in the blood vessels and organs, as well as filling her lungs. ”It will strengthen all aspects of your body. Strikes against you will not cause even a minor bruise lest they are strong enough to crack bones, your brain won’t be jostled about when you move, a strike to the chest won’t take the wind off your lungs. And even your arms will feel more solid, acts such as dual wielding weapons or striking with full force with your fists will become much easier.”

Blossom finished her spell, a controlled, angular flow of united water-earth and wind-earth now all over her body. The other students started to follow the steps, meanwhile, Lektoria gave a few warnings. ”It will however fatigue you a lot, avoid running while this technique is active. And uh… Drink a lot of water after finishing it. As Miss Blossom discovered, use of it seems to increase the chance of kidney stones, a pain you would all benefit from not knowing.”

As Astarte finalized her spell, she could feel her body become much stronger and resilient than before. It felt like she’d recovered a tiny fraction of what she used to be a long time ago, but of course she wasn’t able to maintain the spell for long as soon as her memories got in the way. Once she safely dispelled the energies that she’d invited into her body, she dropped to a sitting position on the grassy roof while panting.

“Wow… That’s good magic. Better than anything I ever created, anyway.”

Lektor rose up an eyebrow. ”I would not say it crosses into the path of magic just yet. You are not really generating or even converting energies. But I will not overthink a simple term like this.”

A loud THUMP startled Astarte, but not the other two who were still trying to perfect the spell, showing lesser skill than Slime Girl had. The source of the loud noise was Blossom dropping a few wooden pillars at the center of the field, probably training dummies. This was the first time the two saw each other, Spring Blossom had pink-ish hair and a gentle face, plus the body of a 2.2 meters tall amazoness clearly influenced by her bovine spirit, as seen in her horns.

“Oh, she already woke up? That was fast. Here, have some water.” the gentle giant smiled and handed Astarte a bowl of fresh water she had been carrying on her head, as well as a smaller one to serve as a cup, both of which Astarte took. She’d had enough of pain for a whole lifetime already, so she took Lektoria’s warning about kidney stones very seriously. She drank several cups of water and nodded thankfully at Spring Blossom, then looked at Lektoria for a moment before speaking.

“So, I have a confession to make…” Astarte began, gulping, “I’m not actually a Goddess anymore! I lost my powers, and I’ve been looking for a way to get them back…“

“Oh. Is that soo?” Lektor purred, but then undid her entire playful mood noticing how serious Astarte was about. ”Right. Hmm. Homura would be a shot at this, but if she didn’t give you direct divinity, she may have some opposition to the concept, plus, she is beyond this planet from what she told me, and I am a bit of an earthbound goddess so I would not know how to meet her.”

Then something clicked. ”But ah! Perhaps the Goat boy will know. Ahem, I mean Jeon. He is the god of adventures and quests, if you told him your tale, he would surely be enthralled beyond belief.”

“I have never met these brothers and sisters you just name-dropped. The Homura one sounds like a big shot though. Then again, this John guy…” Astarte furrowed her brow in thought. After two seconds, she shrugged “Whatever! At least I have two names to chase. Thanks, uh… Sis?” Astarte said awkwardly. “Goddess. Lekt-”

“Haycha!” Slime Girl was saved from this moment by the bunny chimera, having woken up and deciding she wanted to test herself against the wooden pillar, carving it with fifteen kicks before she stood back and just went “Wow!” with a smirk, patting her legs as she did not feel a hint of pain or wear down.

Lektor sighed. ”You can go back to CatBird if other terms are complicated to you.” she confessed to Astarte. ”But Miss Astarte, I am sure your Umbra companion, Mr. Smoke, is from the area where Jeon is active, that is why I expected you to have a hint of that. Ironic no? That you seem to have arrived so close to the person who can help you, and then moved a third of a continent away from that.” notably, this was the first time Lektor had bothered not saying the other name. Astarte nearly teared up at that.

”But, I am glad you are here. You, Smoke and Lorelei. It has been fun. But if you must continue traveling, I will also not impede it.”

“Yeah… Lorelei’s on a bit of a quest to remember her past and fix her stuff. Right now, she’s probably busy in the forge you built for her. She’ll probably spend a whole week there, at least. Then we’ll have to go seek the help of a more esoteric deity for those memory bits. I bet she’ll be surprised that I remember what comes next in our journey.” Astarte smiled and stood up. “Is there anything else to the lesson? I need to go for my morning run, I can’t slip up or I’ll look like Hills before I know it.” Astarte smirked.

“Oi, you brat.” Hills pouted at that. “You wish you’d get this flowing form of mine~” she added with a wink.

”No flirting during class please.” the rock cat goddess added with an obviously forced sigh. ”Hmm~ Well, there will be new things we can try, I can built some stone walls to see if you can run through using these powers~” there was a mischievous grin. ”But overall, you did it to an excellent level~ Bet your strong hands will also be super useful for Lorelei with her metal thingamajigs. The way the kitty has to put all her strength to mold those things is cute but also worrisome, one of these days she will fall into her forge and make herself into a marketable iron keychain.”

“She’s too quick on her feet to fall at all, but I’ll ask her to make us matching keychains! Not that I have any keys.” Astarte giggled. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Hills isn’t the only gym bunny around.” With that, Astarte took her leave.





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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Ciaran
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Ciaran Lord's Blade

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In a quiet field somewhere far from the few civilised places that yet existed in the world, there was suddenly the sound of ticking where once it had been silent. Had there been any mortals present to hear it, they probably would've likened the sound to something an insect would make. Only, this was far more regular than anything in nature. Two beats per second, every second, with mathematical precision.

In this remote pasture there lay a mighty stone, immense in size and overcome with moss, half-buried in the ground. In a world this young, you might think it was older than the earth it lay upon. You wouldn't be far from the truth. The stone was the origin of the ticking noise, though again, none were present to track it so.

Maat'eyi's arms outstretched and blast the stone apart from within, wings both feathered and metallic flaring out to their fullest span as she hung in the air for just a moment, before falling to the ground on her hands and knees. The ever-present ticking of her mechanical form accelerated to match her breathing and her heart, then all gradually slowed to a resting pace. Maat'eyi stood, and took bearing of her surroundings. The beautiful, starlit sky of the first night hung above her, and all around her were the walls of the immense crater she had just made. By her feet lay a smoking, ornate helmet that had been penetrated a shard of rock accelerated to incredible speed. It felt inexplicably familiar to Maat'eyi, so she picked it up and laid one finger upon the torn metal. An invisible force popped it back into place as the metal began to glow red from heat. Mere seconds later, it was fused together again such that not even a sign of the damage remained. Satisfied, Maat'eyi pulled it over her head and took flight.

As she took scope of the world, Maat'eyi realised quickly that she was somewhat late to the scene. The newborn earth had already been shaped by the wills of others like herself. She took it all in with a passionate curiosity, excited to make her own mark. A thousand miles passed beneath her gaze as she swept over the continent she had come into being upon. In particular, a swamp of blood stood out to her, but for now she was interested in more hospitable locales, so she made a note to return there some other time. Instead, she landed perhaps a mile from a city she didn't know was called Earthwall and set to work. She had seen the elves there, and they inspired her to create something similar.

Maat'eyi could have simply willed her vision into existence. It would've been faster, and easier. But that is not her way.

Instead, what she willed into being was a modest home, and a forge just outside. She also summoned the tools she would need, and the materials - predominantly bronze, but also a single diamond. She then set to work crafting her vision, not by any divine power but by her own hands. What would've taken a mortal blacksmith a number of weeks was finished by Maat'eyi in just a few hours.

Inside a skull made of bronze, clear blue light gradually grew brighter until it shone out of its glass eyes. The finished project lay on the table before Maat'eyi: a mechanical humanoid, seemingly alive and conscious. It was moulded to resemble an elf, since that was the only kind of sapient being Maat'eyi had ever come across, aside from herself. It had the impressions of a stern expression carved upon its face, and the approximate shape of long, neatly-kept hair made up part of the machine's head. The typical androgyny of the elves was only exaggerated by Maat'eyi's design for the machine; she had not wanted to force it into any one possible expression of itself. If she had succeeded, then it would have the free will to decide for itself how, or even if, it wanted to express anything resembling a conventional humanoid's gender.

Above all else, that was Maat'eyi's chief anxiety; had she created a being able to think for itself, or merely being programmed to act like it was thinking for itself? Well, only one way to find out.

The machine turned its head to make eye contact with Maat'eyi. With an awkward, tinny voice, it asked "Who am I?"

Maat'eyi smiled beneath her helmet. "I created you," she said "but I do not claim authority over you. Who you are is your decision to make. However, I offer you the name Exordium, if you would accept it."

"I would, it seems fitting," Exordium replied after a brief hesitation. "But I don't understand. Why are you so... skittish? Why do you take such pain not to make any assertion? It's not as though I would pose any threat to you, if I had a problem with it."

"I shall be blunt. I created you because I wanted to know if I could create a being that could learn and think for itself. Any assertion I might make would run the risk of manipulating you, thus corrupting that purpose. The best method would have been to ensure that you never meet me at all, only I thought that too cruel."

"Hmm..." Exordium trailed off. It seemed to resent being her experiment, but that only made Maat'eyi happy. Resentment, after all, suggests independence.

"I have left you with the method and materials I used to create you, if you wish to procreate. This home, too, is yours if you want it. You are not far from a city called Earthwall, if you wish to live among the elves. I have provided these things to make your existence easier, but please only absolve yourself of them if you wish to. Remember, all I want from you is to do what you want."

Exordium had been about to say "Thank you," but Maat'eyi had already shot off into the sky before it could finish.



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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Timemaster
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Timemaster Ashevelendar

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And time passed. A mere minute for a divine but for the Umbra and the Satyrs it was a long time. Months or maybe a year or two? Ashevelen didn’t teach them how to count days as there weren’t any at first but then, night came and with night, the Umbral Woods became a proper home for the Umbra. No longer “trapped” in their part of the forest, some decided to scour the lands and do what it was commanded, trade with the other mortals.

A village was built in the southwest, close to the forest border where the Umbra were first created. The village was designed in a squared manner with each inner square having a designation. Living quarters, market, hunters etc but the most important square was at the centre of it. A house of worship or simply a bazaar where Ashevelen would occasionally rest from her travels, spend time answering questions for the Umbra/Satyr combination and maybe the most important thing for her, trade with the Umbra. Menial things for a Goddess were brought forth and if Ashe found the traders good in their deals, rewards were given out.

The leadership of the village was of a dictatorial order with a High Archon in charge of everything of the village. Coincidentally, the High Archon was also the best merchant in the village and the one that Ashevelen chose herself after a trade deal that lasted 4 full days.

Outside of the village, a circle of houses, barracks and watchtowers was formed. The Circle was the home of the Satyrs. Protectors of Umbra and the forest. While they weren’t Ashevelen’s creations, they were viewed as such but still they had a purpose and the Umbra had a different one. They weren’t meant to live together, they were meant to protect the Umbra and that’s what they did. Every day from morning to evening, they would train with sharpened sticks and they would scout their part of the forest, eliminating anything that might pose a threat to their charges.

Their leadership was of a militaristic order as it was decreed and they answered to none but the Goddess herself. Together with the High Archon, they would meet every week and talk about concerns and plans for the future.

In this whole time, Ashevelen turned to studying something that always fascinated her. Shadows. The Umbra were her first experiment and they proved successful for now but further study was needed and study she did. Each day she would manipulate the shadows in different ways, moving them around, making them solid for seconds or simply creating them in places where shadows weren’t supposed to be until… something unlocked in her.

Shadows swirled around her and it was said that all the Umbra felt her transition to the Goddess of Shadow-Trading.



Suddenly her form changed, shadows twirled around her and bent with her every move. Hair turned black and her robes would constantly change colours from a black that almost seemed alive to the flowery gold she had before and as soon as her transition ended, she appeared in the middle of the Umbra village.

With a shout and a move of her hands, shadows gathered around her body and an explosion of energy was expunged from it in a circle and spread around the village, Circle and bit further up the forest while leaving most of it to the original inhabitants. Changing trees, animals and everything in its path into shadowy forms of themselves. The Satyr’s weapon, made out of the wood from the trees Ashevelen changed, turned shadowy as well, barely being able to be held by the Satyrs now as their almost intangible form was different from what they trained with.

Shouts of wonder, joy and confusion could be heard in the village as well as in the Circle but with a held-up hand, Ashevelen stopped them all.

Listen to me, my creations and listen well! I have made this place your home, everything around us has now been transformed into an Umbral way. Rejoice for I was not able to give you this gift earlier but now you have it.

My Satyrs. Umbral forest guardians. Learn how to use your new environment to your advantage, know that shadows are now your friends and you shan’t need to fear them. Your weapons are made now out of the same material as the Umbra, use them wisely.
” said Ashe, her voice like a thousand thunders so that all could hear her. The forest resonated with her voice and wind carried it long outside the forest borders.

The Umbras were elated by the change and tried approaching their Goddess with offerings but as soon as they approached, Ashevelen disappeared. Using the shadows to transport herself in a different part of the forest.

Looking upwards from where she was, Ashevelen took flight and surveyed the home of the Umbra. A part of the forest and land around it transformed as per her will. Barely anything was green anymore, everything bowed down to the shadows at night, while during the day, it would look as they did before. Such was the shadowy aspect of Ashevelen.

Thinking about what might happen if others would try to attack the Umbra and potentially defeat the Satyrs, Ashe got another idea and with a smile she gathered her power once more.

Out of nowhere, shadows appeared and gathered around Ashe, forming a circle that went on and on into the sky until they finally got into her hands and with them joined she pushed all the energy downwards.

A black crater formed where the energy hit and out of it, things appeared. More and more of them came out until the energy stopped and so did their appearance.

Ashe flew downwards where a number of Satyrs already gathered, surrounding the creatures which didn’t enjoy it. Teeth bared and talons sharp, the Satyrs wouldn’t have stood a chance against them.

The Tarsk stood up to 2 metres tall with long sharp teeth and even sharper claws. A number of eyes on their heads that allowed them an almost 360 view around them. Carnivorous and highly territorial.

Peace! Calm my creations. Calm. Satyrs, these are Tarsk. Your new animals of burden. Use them as you will but don’t harm them on purpose. ” said Ashe with a wave towards the Tarsk to signal them to be calm.

The Satyrs approached carefully but upon seeing that the Tarsk were calm and welcoming to their presence, they quickly forgot their previous caution and started guiding them to the Circle.

As the Tarsk were brought to the Circle, Ashe looked with curiosity upon the Umbra/Satyr combination as they began feeding them with shadow meat from an animal they recently killed but tragedy was bound to happen. Unused to tending animals, one of the Satyrs approached too much to the mouth of a Tarsk as it fed and like any animal, it leapt towards the Satyr in a protective manner. Mouth open and claws poised to strike.

Before anyone could intervene, a nearby Umbra jumped in front of the Tarsk with one hand turned into a large spike. The Tarsk went straight through it but not before taking a huge bite from the Umbra which couldn’t turn intangible as its spike was stuck in the Tarsk. Another spike was put through the Tarsk as it clawed the Umbra, each not wanting to die, each clinging to life with as much power as they had.

That is, until Ashevelen appeared next to the Tarsk and Umbra and with a flick of her hand they both were pushed aside. The Tarsk was slowly dying, letting out a deadly howl and while the Umbra stood up to nod in thanks to the Ashevelen, it quickly went down as well. Not dead yet but slowly fading from life.

Ashe approached the dying Umbra and was surprised to see it smiling.

Did…did…I…save…him?” said the Umbra with its dying breath.

You’re dying, in the presence of your creator and you’re worried if you managed to save the other one? ” replied Ashe with a grin of her own. Shaking her head, she touched the Umbra with the tip of her finger and a dark substance came out of it, surrounding the Umbra, healing any and all wounds it sustained.

Rise, my child and be blessed. You have earned yourself a second chance at life. ” said Ashe, as the confused Umbra stood up. Its dark form somehow becoming darker and more malleable than before.

My Goddess? What is happening to me? ” asked in a very confused manner the Umbra.

I name thee, Penumbra. My hero. My champion. I have made the Umbra to be traders and avoid conflict but you’ve jumped straight into danger to save your fellow mortal with no fear for your own life. Fighting and killing a stronger opponent than you. While not a very successful merchant, you’ve proven yourself to be a warrior. You shall only answer to me from now on and none may ever take this status from you, no matter what.

Penumbra stood silently and listened with reverence as he was praised by its creator. In the end, it went down on the floor, arms opened wide to each side in a sign of respect.

I thank you, my Goddess. Whatever task you give me, I shall strive to accomplish it. May I ask what your first task is for me?

Gather whatever weapons you wish and know how to use and go north. Walk until the edge of the forest, meet your neighbours, let them know they’re always welcome to trade and determine if they will pose a threat to the Umbra.

With a nod of respect, Penumbra stood up, only to see the amazed looks of the Satyrs and Umbra alike. All gathered around forming a circle around him and Ashevelen. As Ashe took her leave, the crowd burst out in cheers. Some congratulating their new champion, while others offering advice on what’s to come.







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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Commodore
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Commodore Condor

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Fire burned land and empty fields, a glade gone and choir disappeared. Once there had been hope, a propensity to recover. Now there was ash, such voices silenced.

Silenced. A common affliction to those who had passed. Their words not spoken, their songs not sung. None for the departed, none for the truly lost. Those who would come again, would not even know how much was gone.





More than ones and twos, she could’ve counted by it seemed to be all the more pleasant to watch the many. Ia’Akhul floated above the world, carrying her human gift with her still. She watched the first descent of the Iava’Oge, children of Oge’Ivu. They kept to her form, and her hunger, seeking out the oceans and soon after mountain peaks and other such places they could find what they needed.

It was peaceful in its own way, watching them float downwards, such a pace left them gently descending over the world below- she wondered what the view would be from that place.

Their mother had taken a roundabout trip, passing behind the curve of the world-orb. Quite curious they would be evidently, not something planned, not something surprising. They were alive, and that came with its own wonders and amazements along the path.

The butterfly spread her wings, and power flowed forth. Creatures of will and power beyond the means of flesh and form. To the abilities fantastical even as the form remained solid. She embraced it, with her creation and essence retwinned.

As she refocused her senses, a new idea came to her. From a place she had not thought about for sometime in the deepest hardiest corner of her mind, from Before.

She would have to adapt to this world all that she thought- or make room for the world to adapt to her creations. But to take inspiration from others was a heartfelt joy.

Like an elf, even Homura in her grand designs and perhaps slightly unhinged philosophy had seen such a form had good purpose. Bipedal, kept most focus on height for advantage while mailing a dexterous pair of hands to manipulate the world around. That would be especially prevalent as beyond her own form was protected by her innate divine strength…

Her thoughts drifted, she did not forget what she had planned, but rather remembered more. She remembered Po. Action, excitement, and a call to do and act rather than think. There was definitely a value in that, and she had plenty of time for thinking.

And then the butterfly dove, first was a simple stop, setting a certain sphere in a secure Iava’Oge. The next dive, took her down to the seas faster than any of the grand floating beasts could imagine.

She soared first above the waves and then below them, she loved life. The seagulls above and the mantas below- fishes in skies of air and water. She gazed upon the beautiful fields of coral building, and the multitudes dashing through the underwater world.

It was beautiful, but familiar, new and yet known. She had planned and made much, yet the action, the existence was a sight to behold amid all her many senses more than what a mere thought may convey. To plan and to prepare was different from doing and the result.

She burst from the waves before they crashed upon a rocky cliff face. It was a quick burst before she soared over the treetops further inland, the physical power of a deity was useful yes, but also exhilarating. So many lives lived at the limits of their capabilities, Ia’Akhul took some time to experience hers even if it wasn’t strictly necessary.

Trees, bushes, and all manners of undergrowth. Leaves and branches, vines and flowers. So much to see and to draw from. Her mind dotted skin with design and purpose in that project so close to her.

And then she stopped, looking upon one thing she knew she had wrought. It was a Huwu’idang, one of the great deer- a Stag. Caring for some dying bushes, from a stream it lapped up a good amount and walked over, releasing that water for the daylong plants even as its fur flowed along the colorful patterns, bringing forth life amid a desolate ground.

It was a sight to see, something that had been made- created and thought off. But yet, to see it, with her prodigious senses, feel its heat, the flow of its power as it sought to help with understanding of another’s hurt. Especially one so different.

She took off once again, this time heading again for a mountain top to make another most important creation.

The skies above had the dots of Iava’Oge floating ever down now, and yet her mind could not be further from them it seemed.

From her mind and with her power came forth, elvish in looks but carefully perfected in form. Skin of flower and leaf almost, but ever more. Antlers jutting behind pointed ears and blonde hair.

Her daughter. She had much to teach her beloved Asar Sen.


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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Frettzo
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Frettzo Summary Lover

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Wonderful Acquaintances

Before arriving at the Mesa


-1-

Mawazo the prophet and Mahara the prophetess did not know what they were to each other. Amongst the many things they had not been told, that had swiftly become the most acutely inescapable. Were they the children of the Anath and wonder - and so siblings? Or were they the creations of those two mighty beings, and so a divinely ordained couple? Were they to be platonic companions- in fact, were they to be companions at all? Were they to separate and, separately, see to their prophetic duties? And if they were companions or siblings or a couple, were they equals or were they leader and led, commander and commanded, master and slave? Prophet and prophetess though they were, and granted seeing most discerning at that, the thick fog of the ineffable will and intent of the gods was impenetrable to them. “And it’s probably for the best!” Mahara declared one day as Wonderlust, shrunken to a fifth of his normal size, trudged through the muddy forest. Mawazo glanced at her bemusedly. They had both been quiet for days and he could not fathom what she could be referring to. She ignored him and continued gazing out into the dark forest. It had escaped neither of them that they were being watched by odd creatures stalking in the shadows. They did not seem harmful, though they also did not appear desirous of being detected. And so the prophet and prophetess, independently and without communicating to one another, decided to go on as though they had no perceived them.

They eventually found themselves by a boggy lake, from which trees grew, and decided to stop there for a while and let Wonderlust roll about in the water and muck as he seemed to so love doing. The two pale humans, eyes as dark as night and lips as crimson blood and whose hair was as black silk, sat on their wagon in stoic silence. Now and again Mawazo scratched his long, curly beard of ebony, but beyond that they neither looked at each other nor spoke. It was neither an uncomfortable silence nor a particularly joyous companionship. It simply was.

It was at the edge of Mawazo’s vision that a pair of orbs of light appeared in the total darkness of the forest. Golden and perfectly round, they stared at him intently before tilting towards Mahara and then coming back to him. A voice came from underneath those orbs, youthful but with the telltale rasp of someone who’d done their fair share of shouting in the past.

“Jeez, w-will you two do something already? It’s like I’m tailing Primes…” The orbs flickered a few times, until from out of the darkness walked out a young humanoid. She had a healthily bronzed skin tone, along with most importantly a pair of cat-like ears and a tail. She moved gracefully and silently, so much so that had Mawazo not been looking at her directly, he probably wouldn’t believe that she was moving at all. “Anyway, who are you two? Humans? T-Too white to be- Not machines either. I’m Core-Lorelei, by the way, am I right to assume you two are related to divinity in some way?”

The two gazed at her for a few moments, then Mahara spoke. “I am Mahara. I do not know if I am related to the gods. They never told me. It is a pleasure to meet you, Core-Lorelei.” After a pause, Mawazo spoke up. “I am Mawazo. I also do not know what relation to the gods I have, for they never spoke of that. It is a pleasure to meet you, Core-Lorelei.” They were both rather monotone. Wonderlust leapt from, covered in mud, and circled around Lorelei excitedly, who immediately grinned and patted the big softy’s side. Whatever life Mawazo and Mahara lacked, the strange flying-running lizard seemed to have amply. “I have not seen your like before, Core-Lorelei. Are you, perhaps, related to the gods?” Mawazo asked.

“I’m not, funnily enough! T-The cat ears are a rare s-sight in this forest.” Lorelei wiggled them for emphasis. “You’d do well to know that people who look very unique are most likely closely related to the gods. You two, f-for example, are chalk white with jet black hair, which never h-happens in normal humans. Plus you have a massive Atson-Nin for a pet, and a wagon that should never have been able to r-reach this deep into the woods. Therefore, you two were definitely made or mutated by the Gods!” Lorelei declared, placing her hands on her hips and puffing her chest out. Her teeth would’ve glinted had there been any significant light source around. “I-I gotta say though, I’m glad to finally meet some normal people. One of my companions is a bit, uh, off I guess.”

The prophet and prophetess looked at one another for the first time in… well, a long time, and seemed to notice the features Lorelei spoke of for the first time. “Unique?” Mahara asked quizzically, looking away from him and to Lorelei once more.
“Atson-Nin?” Mawazo asked, likewise looking away from his strange twin and returning to Lorelei.
“There are others… with you… like you?” Mahara added stoically.
“It is no secret: we were made by the gods. It is true.” Mawazo intoned. He looked sorrowful, but nothing in his voice suggested that it was the case. It seemed to just be his face.
“The Anath and wonder.” Mahara agreed.

Lorelei pursed her lips. “T-Those names mean nothing to me, I’m not from around here. Don’t be sad, though, being made by the gods is usually a good thing. You’ll probably never get kidney stones, for once!” Lorelei chuckled and walked closer to the twins, nodding at Mawazo. “An Atson-Nin is what the small version of your beast of burden is called.” She then looked at Mahara. “And nah! I-I don’t remember much, but I know I’m the only one of my kind left. It feels f-familiar, to be honest.” She shrugged.

“So what’re you two doing here? Do you like being s-stalked by shadows and cats?” The catgirl asked, her tail swishing almost hypnotically behind her as she put her arm on Mawazo’s shoulder and leaned her weight against him.

Mahara stared at what Lorelei was doing with inexplicable shock. “What are you…” she began, then her words seemed to evaporate on her lips and she simply gazed at her slack-jawed, while the catwoman smirked back rather smugly. Mawazo looked from Mahara to the catwoman’s arm on his shoulder. He had only ever been touched by the god. He had not enjoyed it very much. This was different though - not as invasive.

Ignoring - or perhaps failing to have noticed - Mahara’s shock, he responded. “We’re just wandering. We’re meant to teach… or warn… or, um… something. I think if we keep moving we’ll eventually work it out.” He sighed and looked at his feet.

“Waow, you guys are c-clueless for real.” Lorelei sighed. “Maha, gimme your hand.” She requested while offering her own hand to the pale woman and stepping back slightly from Mawazo, before offering her remaining hand to him as well. “You too, Mawa.”

The two humans looked aghast and brought their hands to their chests almost simultaneously. “Give you-” Mahara began.
“My hand?” Mawazo finished.
“That’s terrible!” Mahara cried, tears welling up in her eyes. “They weren’t made to be given.”

“H-Hey! Now wait just a- Gosh!” Lorelei groaned and just placed a hand on the twins’ shoulders. “Feel that? That’s warmth. R-Real warmth, not the kind that burns. Forget about all that crazy god quest stuff for a second and focus on what’s right next to you. From your reactions I c-can tell you two have never touched anyone else before. You should start now, physical contact is one of the best things in the world. And after that, just travel and see things and enjoy the w-world, one step at a time. Like adventurers! ”

The two blinked for a few moments, and then sat there quietly, focusing on the feeling of Lorelei’s hand on their shoulders. Even through the thick fabric of their clothing, they could feel the incredible warmth and life. Slowly, Mawazo raised his own hand and placed it curiously atop that of the catwoman. The movement immediately drew Mahara out of her reverie and - for no reason she understood - she frowned. “Hey!” She spoke sharply, causing the man’s hand to flinch away from Lorelei’s. He glanced guiltily at his cold twin, then coughed.
“Adventurers?” He asked Lorelei, desperately ignoring the daggers in Mahara’s eyes.

Lorelei desperately tried to hide her laughter. “Uh, y-yeah!” She nodded, “You know, go on trips and do things that make your heart beat faster and harder in your chest, meet new people, fall in love, get mugged and scammed… The works! Say uh, are you two going to travel to any place that has a lot of shiny rocks anytime soon?”

The two were quiet for one long minute, clearly ruminating too deeply on the catwoman’s words. “Do things…” Mawazo mumbled under his breath, staring at his feet again.
“To make your heart beat faster and harder…” Mahara continued.
“Meet… new people.” Mawazo added.
“Get mugged and scammed.” Mahara said. Mawazo stiffened and looked at her.
“No, she said something else before that.” He advised gently. Mahara raised an eyebrow.
“No she didn’t.” The woman assured him calmly.
“I am sure of it, there was one thing before that.” Mawazo insisted with the faintest smile.
“You must have misheard.” Mahara responded, a larger smile breaking out across her face. It gave Mawazo pause, and he stared at her for a few surprised seconds. “Mawazo?” Mahara asked, after he had been staring for an oddly long time.
“Oh, uh. Yes. I… I guess I must have. How odd.” He looked away, his eyes returning to his feet. Mahara turned back to Lorelei.
“I don’t think we had any plans, really. But I do remember flying over just such a place before landing here.” She gave the wagon a once-over, then glanced back at the catwoman. “We can take you there if you like.”

Lorelei removed her hands from the twins’ shoulders to allow herself to fist pump the air victoriously. “Yes! Transport obtained! T-Thank you guys, I’ll go get my friends and meet you back here in a couple hours, sounds good?” She asked hopefully.

Mahara nodded simply, and Mawazo followed suit after a few seconds. And with that the energetic catwoman was off into the foliage and quiet returned all about them. The prophet and prophetess sat staring at where she had disappeared for about an hour, and then Wonderlust came up onto the wagon, now cat-sized, and distracted them from that. He did not stay long, however, for he was soon off into the bog. Mawazo sat back and sighed. Mahara glanced at him. “Uh-” she began, but then stopped. His eyes flickered toward her.
“Hmm,” he grunted. She almost winced at the sound, and promptly reddened.
“Uh, yeah. Ahem.” She cleared her throat and fiddled with her fingers. He scratched his beard and repositioned himself for comfort. And perhaps accidentally grew closer to her. She patted her dress down, stood slightly to get a wrinkle out, then sat back down. Perhaps, by no conscious intention at all, shifting closer to him. They sat straight and rigid and tense, by one another. If he focused he could almost feel her warmth through the air. Or maybe that was just his imagination. No no, he was sure it was her warmth. He leaned back. It was nice.


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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Chris488
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Chris488

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Broken - Beloved

Anath Homura & Family



Thousands of eyes were upon them…

Awaiting what would come...


The Archai encircled them, ever imposing with their slender stature and astral attributes, exuding an enigmatic serenity with their graceful stillness, but it was primarily their unyielding devotion to Anath Homura that concerned Desire and Harmony as the two goddesses assessed what would avail them and what would prove to be a hindrance soon. Their mortal sisters were too weak to stand against their mother, and it would be especially difficult to simultaneously protect the two of them and fight against Anath Homura as well.

“The Archai adhere to my commands, and I have told them to serve my family. They will not harm me or my children, and they will obey our orders.” Anath Homura intoned, and she sundered the stifling silence that lingered too long with her authoritative voice. The continual wind that blew outside had become quiet, and none among the Archai spoke aloud to contradict her words.

“Is that so? Another reason for us to be furious then… This isn’t what we meant when we said we wanted to help them! This is slavery, not salvation!” Desire shouted, and afterwards she shook her head with unruly agitation. She glanced at her twin sister, and indicated with her heterochromatic gaze towards Pride and Fear, conveying without words her intention. She lacked the strength to speak carefully around the two fragile members of their family at the moment.

“Archai! Escort our sisters to Skydancer and guard them. They are to remain on the ark until either mother, or Desire and I, step out of the citadel.” Harmony ordered, echoing a similar level of authorization as her mother, and aside from the white rose that had replaced the second eye of Anath Homura, the daughter was almost identical to the mother. The Archai acted in accordance with her command, and swiftly retrieved both Pride and Fear as the two slowly recovered from their surprised state. Neither were pleased by the situation unfolding.

“You can’t force us to go! To stay away like this! You… can’t! We’re not supposed to be fighting! Please don’t! Let me go! Let me go!” Pride shrieked, as she struggled against the much taller Archai, and was easily lifted before it had begun to carry her. Fear trembled with terror and evident sorrow, but did not resist the Archai that had begun to guide her towards the exit. Fear and Pride were led to the doorway, and the twin goddesses within the citadel could hear the last words of their smallest sister as she screamed. “You’re just like her!”

“I know…” Harmony murmured, and Desire sighed as she stood beside her sister. The interior became more and more empty as many among the Archai began to depart as well, spreading throughout the other sections of Keltra and awaiting whatever would happen next from a mostly shielded spot. Only the three deities; Anath Homura, Harmony, and Desire, remained within the Citadel, which would soon become the site of their battle. Eager and enraged; Desire had already begun a combination of flexing and stretching her spiritual strength and magical muscles in preparation.

“There’ll be no messing with my mind; no mental torture - lest you want my unending wrath.” Desire quipped with grim humor, and a sinister smile. Her expressive malice contrasted with the impassive visage of Harmony, but both were equally exasperated and desperate to defeat their mother.

“I am becoming weary of these tantrums, and remain uncertain what it is that you expect to achieve. Do you imagine that you can overpower me?” Anath Homura asked, unfazed and unmoving.

“Well, that would be something, wouldn’t it. Hehe.” Desire replied, as she began to step around her mother and approach her from behind. Harmony marched forward to confront Anath Homura directly, enacting the simple yet effective strategy of coming at an opponent from multiple angles. They had lacked the agility to overwhelm their mother in their previous battles, but they had also become divine in the time since then.

“You said it would be our choice...” Harmony asserted, exuding an aura of otherworldly power as she summoned her sacred strength. She shifted before reaching her mother; then the contours of her fiery shape blurred as the known world struggled to comprehend her true form, and the threads of the Tapestry were becoming slightly unraveled. The mortal mien she had clad herself with became translucent and its outlines were wildly fluctuating like enticed flames.

The skin of Desire seemed to burst as she surged faster than light and a myriad of afterimages were left in her wake. She unleashed a flurry of blows, swift and sharp enough to slice through the space between airborne particles and to strike at the back of Anath Homura directly, as Harmony summoned the weight of the world within herself and pulled back her own fist for a devastating hit. Desire felt herself drawn in by the gravitational forces of her sister, increasing the incomprehensible velocity of her strikes further, yet their mother did not move.

Tumultuous thunder and flames roared in all directions, obscuring the scene until three silhouettes became visible. The attacks of Harmony and Desire had collided with and tore through the flesh of Anath Homura: The clenched hand of Harmony had crashed into the skull of her mother, shattering the surface and sinking deep into the broken bloodied chalice that was what remained of the fractured head. The many fists of Desire punctured the back and shoulders of Anath Homura numerous times, leaving behind a collection of sunken bruised craters and bleeding crevices upon her foe from the hips to the neck. The force of their assault staggered and heaved Anath Homura upwards, and they ascended with her without relent.

There was a blinding pulse of white light from the wounded deity, and before the twin goddesses could react; Anath Homura had healed her head. There was only an iota of space between the duo and their target, but it became a much greater distance as the world around them was rearranged and extended. The distance did not deter Desire and Harmony as they sped towards their mother once more, watching as the one-eyed gaze of Anath Homura began to burn with an ominous glow.

“Forgive me…” Anath Homura murmured, and her heavenly voice was an audibly crystalline sound so easily heard despite the violent explosions echoing throughout the interior of Citadel. Violet flames poured forth from her ruby eye, cascading all around her as she swept her gaze across the vast chamber, consuming the colors as their surroundings became grey and burnt black, and forcing Desire and Harmony to carefully maneuver around the strange and scorching heat in order to approach her.

The twin goddesses generated spears of sacred energy in their hands, and then threw these summoned weapons at Anath Homura. The spears did little damage to the swirling inferno, only temporarily splitting the streams to create new paths for Desire and Harmony to navigate the area. The spears were a distraction, dividing the attention of their mother between offense and defense, allowing Harmony to avoid the violet flames and come close enough to hit her opponent.

“Not enough…” Harmony uttered, as she lashed out with her legs and struck the scalp of Anath Homura once more. Her foe was not harmed though she received renewed wounds to the head. Her foe did not stagger, and proceeded to hastily grasp her leg with one hand - Harmony attempted to free herself, but she swiftly realized her struggle was in vain as the strength of her mother was overwhelming. Anath Homura held her, and Harmony was paralyzed by the power wielded against her, stiffening her movements until she remained still in her awkward and vulnerable position.

Desire dashed towards them, aiming to assist in freeing her sister, but before she could help, Anath Homura employed an ancient technique. Harmony did not think it was appropriate to lose herself in the past during such an intense fight, especially when her suspended body was currently being used as a sword by her manipulative mother, yet she immersed herself in recalling memories that did not quite belong to her. Desire definitely was not impressed by her sudden lackadaisical antics though.

“Harmony! Help me! Help me!” Desire yelped, as she repeatedly dodged an onslaught of violet flames and the improvised blade that was the body of her sister. The oppressive force that held her finally relented when she was finally successful as a temporary weapon against Desire, and her body slammed into her sister. It barely hurt both of them, yet it launched Desire far away and caused Harmony to fall limp on the floor for a brief moment as she regained the ability to move her limbs again.

There was no opportunity to recover further, as Anath Homura seized Harmony, and held her afore her searing gaze. The cacophonous cackle of violet flames shifted into a shrill scream as the inferno funneled itself into a concentrated lance of luminous destruction - it shot forth from the blazing eye of the Creatrix, and pierced through the chest of Harmony. The deafening blare of the heated beam was accompanied by the agonized screams of Harmony as her innards evaporated, and the flesh around her wound melted into bright orange sludge. The beam drifted upwards traversing along her torso, and continued to slice and incinerate more flesh, marking its passage with a gaping scar until it reached her head and scorched away half her face.

The destruction ceased as the luminous lance lapsed and only the pain wailing of Harmony persisted. Anath Homura silenced her daughter with a backhanded strike that blinded the mutilated goddess by rending from her face the one eye that remained after her maiming. It splattered on the floor as Harmony fell and did not rise. Desire trembled with rage upon witnessing the malice of her mother, and surged forward once more.

“Let’s end this!!!” Desire called out.

Anath Homura retaliated by rushing forward as well, and the two deities clashed like stars crashing into each other, as Desire unleashed a series of crushing blows, and her mother blocked or parried each and every attack. Desire was frenzied, a manic glitter in her multicolored eyes as she let loose her defiant rage - only to be perpetually repelled and gradually weakened. Cracks were quickly forming along her limbs, threatening to break should she continue to strike the stronger force that was Anath Homura.

The fight was only prolonged by a lack of more aggression from Anath Homura, and yet Desire did not succumb to despair. She began to utilize more diverse tactics, relying upon ranged attacks and misdirection; she conjured clones of herself and an arsenal of sacred weapons to divide the attention of her opponent. She attempted to conceal her presence behind woven veils of light and manifested materials, in order to ambush her target. It was not enough, and to expend further power would permanently cost her.

“This is your defeat…”

Anath Homura did not grant her the opportunity to surrender either. The absence of aggression suddenly changed, and the Creatrix delivered a single brutal blow to Desire. Her clenched fist flew forward and came to a halt before Desire, without directly landing upon her - yet hitting her despite this lack of contact. Desire felt her limbs burst, and what remained of her body be sent soaring towards the edges of the room. She crashed into one of the ornate walls, and lost sight of the world around her as her vision became dark, and faded completely into black. The last thing she could see was the bloodstained visage of Anath Homura, still and silent like a desecrated statue - standing in sorrowful solitude.



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CyKhollab production presents:


Pester a Metal Hunk and Call it Wisdom




Onward, ever onward, marched justice’s godly incarnation. Having fully crossed the great mountain range after his brief return to the desert and encounter with the spirits of Conquest and Wonder (though he still thought the latter to be more emblematic of some queer breed of madness), the spirit now followed the rising sun. His going was quick and his path and pace both devoid of any deviation. He kept vigil for signs of other spirits that he might arrest them in their goings long enough to hear their commandments, but in those early days the world was in disorder and the other spirits were scattered all about such that he chanced upon none. Indeed, though life had begun to flourish and spread, even it seemed somewhat sparse.

At one point the metalclad giant’s going was disrupted by the sight of a bird sitting upon a tree’s branch. This, the spirit suspected, was a great crime against nature and an affront to whatever spirit had conjured the creature into existence. Its place was clearly in the sky, with those wings, so why did it rebel against its lot and dwell in a tree among squirrels? Justice was a complex matter at times – what was one to do in the face of these crimes? First the spirit considered smiting the bird, but he looked about and perceived a thousand similar villains in the vicinity. Then he contemplated enchanting that tree with the desire to execute any such bird that would trespass upon it, or to curse all fowl to wither and die were they to desert their posts in the stratospheric plane.

It was the Wonder spirit, who (for some reason unbeknownst certainly to the Divine Enforcer and most probably even himself) had been clinging onto Justice’s massive helmet and riding along all this time, that persuaded Justice otherwise and spared all the world’s avian creatures from being condemned to fly forevermore.

“Wherefore smite them, noble justice, when they so prettily prance about the treeline, vibrating so artfully and singing so soulfully?” Wonder asked, now sitting and now standing on the metal god’s helm, bleeding elf yet in his mouth and splashing blood prodigiously on his chest and on the armoured god beneath him. “And behold, did not conquest herself, imperious and of haughty eye, winged as she was still descend down to the lowly earth and set her feet firmly on sand? Were it justice to smite her? Were it justice to declare: thou who art granted wings, oh ingrate! What hath brought you to earth! Such crimes are paid for in death! Had it been justice to strike her then and end her? Nay, I think not! Aye, they are winged these avians of the trees, but behold they have feet also! Wherefore have they legs and feet and talons if ‘twere not their lot to descend to earth? Hold thine fist, noble justice! These are not yet the critters for your smiting! Set your unseen eyes on the horizon: beyond that line may we behold the beings made for divine chastening and just destruction!”

Wonder argued well and with reasoning that seemed soundly enough, so the other spirit had merely given an affirming nod in response, so slight that it seemed as if his helmet had just tilted like a branch in the breeze. But of course, Justice was no tree, and no wind could ever faze his dauntless posture.

Without much further in the way of incidents worth recounting, the unlikely duo went ever further east until at last they came upon that place where the ground’s gradual downward slope finally terminated in a dreary shore: the end of the world, or so the justice-spirit might have thought. Yet already seaweed had grown and died and been washed ashore, and in the distance, he could faintly perceive a dark gray haze. Finally, the god stopped his tireless march to stand still and briefly reflect upon these sights.

Some other spirit had clearly left its touch here, and something was out there. With determination, he set out to discover the spirit that inevitably waited yonder! As he waded straight into the water, the tall metallic giant found himself in water so deep that it came to his breastplate. A particularly large wave rolled forward, but the top of its surf only threw its froth upon his greaves; the god’s armor had warped and groaned in protest, but ultimately stretched to accommodate his unyielding will. Metal did not float, after all, so he would never be swimming. The thought of trudging along on the dark bottom of the sea similarly seemed foolish if he could just splash through.

He went further out, stepping off a great ledge into waters that were suddenly much deeper – but now the sea merely came up to the tassets of his plated armor. He’d made himself so colossal that he was like a gigantic, walking gray tower. He could see burning islands way out there, on the horizon. Still, the water grew ever deeper, and he was nowhere even near the islands. It looked like he’d have to go underwater, so with a sigh, he just kept marching onward until the waves passed even above the crown of his helmet. Deep waters, indeed! Wonder would have to learn to swim or grow used to breathing water if he intended to make it to the fires on the other side, but Justice still was not especially concerned with Wonder, even if he now thought the being was at least passable as a proper spirit, if not entirely worthy of his station and the sacred charge vested unto him.

“You’re getting me all wet! What’s the point of you if I get wet!” Wonder cried out in protest as his feet descended beneath the waves. “I’ll show you something wondrous! Behold!” and so saying, he raised the Son-o’-Falyn in one hand and the Sword of Wonder in the other so that the waters caved in before them and a wave rose to their left and another to their right and the seafloor manifested before them. “Am I not the wonder of the world? Am I not the very splitter of the seas? He has beheld, he has conquered, and now he has sundered and cloven! Do you behold me, noble justice? Ah, but how stupid that I ask - you are yet blind!”

And though Wonder’s words were truer than he ever could know, even the blind spirit of justice could sense some things. “I do sense the water yielding to your whim and parting for our passage,” the statue rumbled, ever serious, “but is water meant to do that? Have you the authority to incite it into such an odd state?”

Wonder scoffed. “Have I the authority? Brother justice, I am the wonder of the world! I have every authority to cause the wondrous, the marvelous, the improbable and implausible, the very impossible, to occur! All the dreams and imaginings, all the impossible hopes and nightmares that flit across the minds and souls of creation: I am that! Look on this sea: it daily dreams to kiss the sky, it wonders and beholds, it sighs and cries and flings itself thus. I have caused its wondering dreams to erupt before us. I have every authority; I am the self-creator of my authority. How so, you ask? Hah! By so doing, noble justice, that’s how!”

Justice still couldn’t understand Wonder and suspected it to be a most useless aspect. Well, at least in this moment it was proving to be of some marginal benefit. If Wonder was not some state of madness, perhaps it was a means of travel? One day, he would understand, the spirit promised to himself. “The Steward did say that the other spirits could make up these laws, so I suppose that I need not punish you if you make your deeds legal as you do them.”

Wonder raised an eyebrow, pursed his lips, then smiled. “Well, of course everything I do is legal. You should’ve known that! Do I strike you as some lowly criminal?” He looked down at the colossal metal god and the blood of the elf splashed down like a waterfall on him. “I think not!”

In what seemed like a very short walk, the titanic armored spirit and his passenger neared the first of many volcanic islands. All around were little mortals that had come to behold the wonder and madness and terror of a sea that parted to permit the passage of a strange gray giant and a funny little creature atop his head, though the spirit’s helmeted head was not the head to be concerned with here -- it was the mortals and their heads, for they all seemed to have somehow managed to set themselves ablaze. As the bizarre duo neared, however, the skies above darkened and the waves began to hail down upon the islands as they had never before hailed. Crying out in fear and panic, the fire-headed creatures scattered for shelter and were nowhere to be seen when at last justice and wonder arrived.

The spirit took a few giant steps towards the nearest of the hotheads, and in so doing he somehow seemed to compress himself down into a much more manageable size, just enough to stand above his companion, when before the palm trees had been like blades of grass by his boots. Of course, this abrupt shrinking had left Wonder in a precarious position up in the sky, and this time he was left to unceremoniously fall down rear-first onto the sand and surf. The wonder spirit looked quite silly and undignified down there with the crabs scurrying around his face, so naturally his fellow spirit advised him to cease. “Get up from there.”

“Do not search for me where the crablings crawl -I am not there!” Wonder declared at once, manifesting in his glory by the metal god, “I did not fall.” He looked around as thunder cracked and rain pounded the isle. “Strange, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t raining like this before. What could have possibly caused it?” He turned full circle and looked at where the cloven sea had been left to fall all at once, water steaming and rising, crashing and churning, swift clouds forming and spitting their innards upon the earth, thundering and crackling with lightning even as they did. “Hmm,” wonder said gravely, “how terrible this weather is. To think the elements could be so fickle and utterly utterly unpredictable. And without any form of divine meddling too, none at all. Powerful indeed is Galbar, mighty is the earth, terrible the seas, majestic the clouds as they hurl their lightning bolts and thunder.” He turned, arms spread. “It is well that you should fear, flame-headed islanders! The world is flighty and cruel and will very suddenly - and without any form of divine intervention, mind you, none at all - hail down on you. Marvel in it then, wonder at it too, and truly fear it!”
All was quiet for a moment, save for the pounding of the rain and the occasional clap of a thundercrack. But then, the not-so-titanic-at-the-moment-titan suddenly declared, “You lie, little wonder-spirit, but Justice can see through your deceit. You caused this storm; it was created by divine intervention. I would persecute and destroy you for this lie, if you were not a spirit. If the Steward had not given you the ability to proclaim whatever you like to be law. Hmph. She may have lacked foresight. How is Justice to hold any spirit accountable when they can brush aside Justice with mere words?”

This was a very stark, startling, and troubling revelation. Wonder turned to him with an amicable smile, eyes innocent and wide. “Accountable? Accountable for what? I have done no wrong - if you call me a liar (and that is not true!) then even if I were, it is no crime. Everyone lies - even you have lied! You said, for instance, that you see me - that was a lie!” Justice butted in, “No.”

“You said, for instance, that I was mad - that too a lie!” “No.” “You said, for instance, that you would sever my head with my own sword -- “ “I still may yet.” “--oh lies lies lies! Who will punish you? Who will hold you accountable, hmm? Forget this whimsical accountability of yours and don’t think too much. You are not the arbiter of justice, only its enforcer after all.” The god’s eyes gleamed with mischief. “Is that not right, brother?” Thunder rumbled all about and in the darkness of the storm lightning flashed, illuminating the two statuesque gods. Justice gazed into the impish face of wonder, and wonder smiled warmly into the metallic helm.

“I must think upon all of this without your maddening words to distract me. You must await my return here, in case I decide that indeed I must sever your head with your own sword.” And then the strange god was a towering titan once more, and with a few huge steps that practically shook the whole island, he climbed up to the volcano’s peak before shrinking again out of sight. Wonder was left alone to sigh in the rain, questioning how anything or anybody could be so obtuse and blind to wonder. A great flash of lightning illuminated the darkened island as it huddled beneath the stormclouds, and in that instant of clarity, the god looked out into the sea and beheld the waves dancing wildly to and fro. Chuckling, he found himself compelled to join them, for why shouldn’t the sea dance in a duet?

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CyKhollab productions presents:


Burn in the Rain and Don’t Get Wet




Huddled in a hollowed out lava tube, safe from the flash of lightning and crack of thunder, sat a little flameling of a porry by her mother. She was Bright-Eye, and she was brave. Oh, she was very brave – so very brave that she dared to venture near the entrance where the occasional gale blew in the painful raindrops. The other porries looked at her like she was mad; why would any sane porry stand so near to the wind and rain and risk their headlight being extinguished? Her mother snapped at her for what must have been the tenth time, telling her to step away from the entranceway. But brave Bright-Eye was not listening anymore. She had listened at first, but now she only thought that they were the mad ones; why would anyone be so worried about death when there were so many great and new things to see, to marvel in, to wonder at…

A great lightning bolt streaked across the sky outside, and in the distance she could just barely see the beach and the sea. Even from so far away, she could see the mighty waves crashing and flailing. “Woaaah,” she breathed, and then before she knew it, she’d searched along the cave’s ground and found a big, flat, grey stone. It was a little bit damp already, but it’d do. Holding it right above her head, she ran out of the lava tube and into the rain. The cries of her mother and all the others disappeared behind her, and the world was full of thunder and her laughter. She hurried through the rain, eyes wide, heart racing, flame flickering and flaring, hither thither blowing in the wind and fizzling as the stray rain drops sizzled against her feverish form.

Her little feet pitter-pattered with the rain against the stone and sand of the beach, and she ran and whooped and twisted and twirled, heart hammering as it had never done before. The rain was wonderful! The whistling of the wind was elating! The crashing of the waves was awe-inspiring! She stood at last, eyes against the overcast skies, ears perked and nose flared, a joyfully silly smile plastered across her face. This was what everything was about!

“This is what everything’s about!” A voice reverberated across the heavens, and her face fell in startled wonder as a great form spun across her vision - he moved like the wind, he spun like the storm, he leapt like the flame! And he came to a bright-eyed stop before the little girl, his eyes glowing amber in the darkness. “Isn’t it, my wonderful wandering darling?” And despite how strange it all was, despite the profusely bleeding creature in the storm-man’s mouth and the baby in his left hand and the glinting implement in his right, Bright-Eye could only half-giggle in barely-restrained excitement and stare at the being in the storm.

The rock was swept from her hands and she was exposed very suddenly to the elements. The rain fizzled and screeched against her form, and she winced in pain and flinched back. But the hand of the storm man - gods! He had three arms! Four! - was on hers and there was no pain and no fear anymore, only broad-eyed awe. She was one with the storm, her flame spinning for many hand spans and many feet behind her like a tempestuous fire within the storm of wind. The rain did not reach her, her heat was too great, and the wind seemed to sweep her only to greater heat and life. The hand of the storm was upon hers, spinning and twisting and laughing and crying. And her voice was mixed with his, her heartbeats jumped with his, her eyes grew wide and bright as his. She leapt on the liquid air, she jumped from raindrop to raindrop, her voice echoed in the heavens - she was the thunder, her eyes the crackling lightning bolt!

Her body flared, so hot was she that her flame became white, and so much hotter did she become that before the eyes of the man in the storm her flame became blue, then violet, then darkened. So great was the heat, so absurd the flame, that not even the light shining forth from the god could pass through her. Hers was a flame as black as the inky nothingness between stars and so hot that even the god’s skin singed and the blood of his eternally bleeding elf sizzled away in a red vapour. Her flame had beheld wonder and had become glorious and unquenchable. She no more feared the rain!- the rain now feared her! She took heed of the storm and wind no longer!- they took heed of her! She had no need for eating now, her flame was eternal, absolute!- all her years would be given to wonder, all her time would be granted to seeing, all her heart would be given to beating, hammering, roaring, bursting! Aye, now at last she would live- truly live!

Bright-Eye tore through the storm, swept away from the grinning god in the storm, the god with amber eyes and glinting sword, and she returned to her people all black and mighty and oh so very very bright-eyed. She laughed at their awe, she grinned at their curiosity, she gloated as they fell in worship before her. She did not cease from telling them of the god she had beheld, did not think it unwise to speak all her bright bright eyes had seen. “This I was granted for my boldness! Now my heart beats as never before! Now my flame is immortal! Now I don’t fear the cold or the storm! Now I only wonder - I have the divine Tama flame, I have the divine Tama flame, I have aaaaaaaaaaaaaaall the divine Tama flame!” She crowed and rejoiced and gloated as she tip-tapped and floated and burst about the tunnel where everyone else was hiding away.

The storm passed and Bright-Eye’s clan bore patiently her endless gloating. They sailed out to sea and bore patiently her fearless swimming and jumping into the water. She did not help much, but in all ways pursued her pleasure. “Tama! Tama!” They would cry out - for that was what they called her now - “catch us a fish Tama, catch us the biggest fish there is!” But Tama only laughed and cooed, she had no need for fish and food, she had no mortal needs at all!

When she shot up into the island’s air - so mighty was her thick black flame, so far beyond their power was she - they called up to her, “Tama! Oh Tama! Catch us a bird Tama, catch us the biggest bird there is!” But Tama only laughed and cooed, prancing with the birds above and never hunting them, not one. She had no need for birds and food, she had no mortal needs at all!

When storms came and the clan was huddled in the tunnel, she did not huddle there with them but skipped and laughed and played without pause. “Tama! Oh Tama!” They cried from their cave, “bring us rocks, brings us earth, let us play with you too.” But Tama only laughed and cooed, prancing free in the wind and rain. She had no need for rocks and earth, these sights alone made her heart leap - no, she had no mortal needs at all.

“Forget about Tama,” Sizzle-Tongue spoke, “she will not listen to aught we say. She has no need for any of us now, she has no mortal needs at all!” And some despaired at this declaration, and others thought it terrible and bad, and they grew angry at Tama and blamed her for all their hardships and woes. “Oh if only Tama could feel our pain.” Some would moan. “Surely then she would not be so selfish. Surely then she would share her flame with all. Oh if only she knew the terror of the storm, if only she knew how terrible lightning, how frightening thunder, how deathly rain, surely then she would feel our pain.” And there were rumbles of agreement, and there was anger towards Tama.

“Well then let us catch her and throw her down, let us take the flame from her!” One bold and bright-eyed porry declared - and his name was Flame-Heart. There were cries of shock and grunts of assent, and in their hearts they were all agreed. Yes, they would catch Tama Bright-Eye and take the flame from her. Then she would know their pain.

They stalked her when the sun was high. She thought it a funny game. “Come Tama! Come Tama!” They cried to her. “Come down and let us play with you.” They called affectedly. But Tama thought it more fun to twist and taunt and stay just out of reach. Round and round the isle they chased, through the trees and across the beach. Up the mount she flitted at speed, passing over the strange gray stranger that they had emerged from their tunnels one day to find up there, sitting in silent meditation. One day it was not, and then it was, that odd metal thing, unmoving and unmoved. Tama flew about its head and laughed - aye, for it looked like a gray porry, a cold porry with no headlight. And all around the metal porry’s place on the summit her clan chased her. Oh what fun Tama was having, oh how joyous to lead the clan hither thither as she pleased, up and down the mount, across the beach and into the forests and back again and again. But ah, ‘twas not to last- for as she was busy taunting (as she had done so many times before) sharp-eyed Flame-Heart leapt forth suddenly and caught her by the leg.

“Aha, Tama! I have caught you!” He cried triumphantly.

“Oh Flame-Heart!” She laughed. “So you have!” And she made to release herself from his grip, but his hand held tight and his eyes were hard crystals in the flame.

“You have not been good to us, Tama. You have been selfish and bad. You have not shared the divine flame- you have not helped us at all.” He spoke sadly as all the others gathered around her.

“What do you mean, Flame-Heart? I have been having fun - you all never wanted to have fun! Only I wanted it, and that’s why I was given the Tama. The Tama is not for hunting and work! The Tama is not for hiding away in fear! The Tama is for the brave and the bold and the joyous and the living!” She struggled, but the hands of the others were upon her now.

“We too want to be brave and bold and joyous and living, Tama. We too want that!” Flame-Heart declared, and the others roared in agreement even as the first hungering lips fell on her form and began to drink in her flame. She cried out in protest, she kicked and twisted and turned, but they supped on her flame for hours - its darkness turned to violet, its violet turned to blue, its blue became white, and then at last even that white became yellow and orange and even after that became a dull and flickering red. “Now we have the tama!” They cried out when she was spent. “We have the tama! We have the tama!” They sang and laughed and danced about her weak form, and then they left her there and went leaping and prancing about the isle.

They forgot all about Bright-Eye - she had forgotten them too when she had the divine flame. And when the storm came again they all rushed - as they by instinct knew to do - back into their tunnels and stared out into the rain. Some thought, in their hearts, that they had the tama now, that they could brave the storm. They thought it strongly, their eyes hanging on the world outside. But not one of them stepped forth, no, not one. “But…” one of them murmured, “where is Bright-Eye?” And none saw Bright-Eye, for Bright-Eye was not there. They thought they heard laughter in the storm, thought they heard the pitter-pattering of feet, thought they saw a black-flame dash across the dark heavens. That is what they thought; when next they walked where they had left Bright-Eye they found only scorched remnants and fading footprints that disappeared into the sea.

Oh, they knew it then, they knew it well. The tama was gone! “The tama is gone!” They cried out in horror and fear. “It’s gone!” They ran in circles and slapped their own faces and tore at their burning scalps.

“No! No!” Flame-Heart shouted, silencing them all. “Not gone, not gone at all. It’s here, all here, in us.” And their eyes widened in realisation - and some backed away in fear while others stepped forth, eyes glinting with dark intent. “No!” The cowardly cried out en masse as they turned tail and ran. “You can’t!” They cried.

But oh, they could. They most certainly could.

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Darker and yet darker still (woods)


The elves of the dark woods had had, for the first time, a reason to get together at anything but a tribal level for something other than a festival, and unfortunately it was for dire tidings.

A voice had boomed across the forest from a being they did not know, buch which many assumed was a god. Unfortunately for them, their own god had gone on a wander after introducing them to levels and so they were stuck with trying to figure out what was going on on their own.

The ones close to the mountains sent messengers to and fro looking for answers from those closer to where the voice had been coming from. What they found was that the south of the woods south had changed. By day all was the same, but by night?

The trees became dread apparitions which felt strange, alien and haunting, causing many on the first knight to flee in terror. Worse than that fear that could be overcome, the beasts of the woods seemed to be able to turn intangible right up until they didn’t want to be. Sky sharks had already been nasty pieces of work, but now that they could phase through the floor with only their fins sticking out of the soil? Utterly terrifying.

The only blessing was that the forest-kin remained unchanged, the bark wolves, root serpents and other large predators were just as confused by the shadow woods as the elves. That confusion seemed to cause a great deal of anger, as the woods being twisted and warped into unfamiliar forms at night made any treekin in there at the time mighty furious and very temperamental as well. Trying to hunt them was a good way to get swarmed by any and all of the plant-beasts in the area predator and prey alike.

All this was why the people on their way deep into the chunk of the shadow woods that had once been part of the dark woods were not tribes people, nor hunters, but the newly minted [adventurers]. Because if anyone was going to be both brave and strong enough to actually seek out the source of the voice, it was those foolish enough to walk in Jeon’s pawprints.

The party who would make the fateful meeting were led by two people. The first was the level 21 [shadowlands survivor] Blackberry, rugged a raven haired elf who had lost her tribe when the woods changed and caused mass panic, and had only survived thanks to luck and the kind of rapid levelling a crisis apparently provided. A small pile of skills dedicated to hurting or defending against the intangible was seeing off the shadow beasts that lurked in the night.

The other was the emerald eyed and blond haired Fang, who was but a meer level 7 [adventurer] but who had a fair amount of connections and acclaim within the tribes deeper into the woods thanks in part to his charming looks and lovely singing voice, and in part due to rescuing a child from the clutches of an ent (which had ment the kid no harm, the lad had climbing atop it while it was sleeping, and then got stuck up there after it woke up) via the closest thing you could do to negotiation with a non sentient tree man. His [sooth] skill, gained after that renowned rescue, was what was keeping the lost and angry kin from blaming them for this whole phenomenon.

Those two, along with a band of less notable [adventurers] stalked through the woods, [traversal: forest] guiding their already swift steps between the trees as the sun was setting above the canopy.

“The dark comes soon, how far are we pushing on?” Fang asked the expert on these woods, to which Blackberry silently directed a finger along the river they were following towards a particularly sturdy tree only some way away, never taking her hands of her wooden spear while doing so.

Fang nodded, and they pushed forwards, the [adventurers] reaching their intended resting spot as the sun set, and the woods changed, sturdy comforting trees turning to shadowy reflections, especially not from the hammerhead sharks which seemed to have adapted particularly well to swimming through the ground to ambush prey from below.

So, to survive, they would change that, as the [shadow survivor] reached her hand forwards and touched the tree she had pointed out and muttered “[sanctuary tree]” which caused it to slowly revert to its day time form and for a calm aura to permeate its branches, soothing the dread the woods instilled in their hearts and returning the leaf cover within which the elves could hide from sight.

With limber hands and nimble feet the [adventurers] used their movement skill to slip up into the sturdy branches where they would be safe from the unthinking predators. What they had not thought of, at least in a negative light, was how their little sanctuary stood out to anyone who did think, and one such being had been sent out to meet the neighbours, only to discover them having invited themselves in already.




Penumbra gathered some meat from the Satyr hunters, a few sharpened sticks and some very shiny rocks they’ve discovered close to the river. Not knowing what those rocks were but made out of a shiny yellow material after they were cleaned in water, they seemed valuable and might attract the eyes of their neighbours. Provided that they haven’t discovered a use of the rocks which would make Penumbra look very dumb and lose their trade value considerably.

Saying their goodbyes to the gathered Umbra & Satyr combination, they ventured forward into the forest. There was still light outside and as such, the trees were green and full of life but night was fast approaching and with it, the domain of shadows would soon take reign.

It was the first time for Penumbra to leave the village being made by a food-maker, they saw no need nor want to leave it. Living a sheltered life up until now, his first adventure was certainly bound to be scary but his faith in the Goddess was enough to make them walk forward without heed of any danger or so they lied to themselves.

Penumbra floated for a long time, not taking any breaks until eventually they had to. Darkness soon replaced the light and forest started changing. Shadows swirled around and the trees started to change, green gave way to a misty black and soon, everything changed. Penumbra looked around in amazement, seeing it when the Goddess made it was one thing but away from her, it was truly mesmerising. The Goddess’s love for her creations was great and so was their devotion.

While waiting for everything to change, they started to move their hands around. Testing their new powers. Their shadowy form responded almost instantly to their commands. Spikes, hammers and a multitude of different forms. Anything that would come to mind, their body could reproduce with amazing accuracy.

Eventually they had to keep moving. Their task was more important than their new form, after all. And so, they floated and floated. Taking in the sights and praising the Goddess for every new lifeform they saw and then they stopped. Something was weird. Further down the road, a tree stood tall. Green as it was during the day. Thoughts of meeting some kind of tree divine ran through Penumbra’s mind and if they had knees, they would shake in fear.

One was to jump in front of a Tarsk to save a fellow Satyr, a thing which Penumbra still wonders how they were even able to do. One is to jump in danger, head first out of their own free will. Penumbra prepared a spiky hand in case they would need it and approached the tree, cautiously and with a raised voice shouted :

If anyone is out there, please, come out and if you’re a divine, know I have the protection of the Goddess Ashevelen and she won’t take kindly to your meddling in her affairs!” shouted Penumbra in the Umbral language.

For a moment there was no response, and then there was a faint rustling and shimmying in the tree and then as one a gang of armed elves dropped from it. They raised their wooden spears towards her and fanned out defensively. All of them seemed to be covered in tattoos or body paint of some kind, which covered their bodies where their light leafy clothing did not.

The one who had black splotches that look a bit like a blackberry on her cheek seemed to be the leader, who was barking instructions at the others. Another elf, one with a pair of points over his lips like fangs, placed a hand on her shoulder and spoke softly, but the first shook him off and gestured her weapon towards Penumbra’s own spiked hand.

Penumbra stayed still and watched the elves surround them. In a one-on-one fight, they’d win with no problems against an elf but against multiple potential enemies? They had to be smart about it.

Calm. Calm. I’m a friend. ” said Penumbra in a non-threatening voice. Their hand going back to a normal state. It could be brought back almost instantaneously if needed but the elves didn’t know that.

I am Penumbra of the Umbra people. ” continued, pointing towards them when they said “Penumbra”.

This caused a burst of incomprehensible words between the elves as they presumably argued about what to do now that the Umbra had put their weapon away. At the very least, a few of the ones on the edge shifted to be pointing theirs outwards towards the woods rather than at Penumbra’s, but the one with the blackberry was still very much on edge, teeth and weapon bared and a haunted look in her eyes. The one with the fangs however seemed to get the idea and gestured towards himself and tried to get a word in, only to be elbowed by the angry one before she advanced, her weapon raised threateningly.

Penumbra looked at “blackberry”’s spear and smiled. Pointing an arm towards him, their arm changed as well to mimic the weapon exactly. After a second or two, they put their arms together and they changed shapes again. This time, into blackberry’s almost exact face but with a smile on it.

I am a friend. Me. Penumbra. You? ” repeated Penumbra, their hands becoming normal and pointing from themselves to blackberry.

Blackberry however was not listening, she was instead shocked for several seconds, as were most of the other elves. Then she grabbed the spear the fanged one was holding and yelled [something] that engulfed her new pointed stick with a glowing light as she thrust towards Penumbra, a mad look in the elf’s eyes.

Penumbra looked at the glowing light and started to evade, not knowing if their ability would work against light and not wanting to try it out. At that moment, shadows started to form around. Similar to a mist, it enveloped the nearby area and Ashevelen appeared in the midst of it.

Stop. ” said Ashevelen, voice strong enough to stop even the most stubborn mortal.

Penumbra, I’ve given you a task. That was to befriend these mortals and what are you doing? Fighting with them, while I understand this ain’t fully your fault, I still hold you responsible. I shall offer you a boon and then I will take my leave. If they wish to kill you afterwards, it would seem I made a mistake. ” continued Ashe as Penumbra and likely the elves around, bent their knees in respect or fear of the Goddess.

With a snap of her fingers, knowledge filled Penumbra’s mind. The knowledge of the elven language or at least the one the nearby elves used and before Penumbra managed to utter a word, she disappeared in the same way she came.

My Goddess…I…thank you. I shall prove that your faith in me was not misplaced. ” said Penumbra to no one in particular, hoping that their Goddess would hear them.

The elves certainly did hear the Umbra’s words, though they still did not understand them. They’d backed up a fair bit in fright and Fang was presently trying to sooth Blackberry, who was visibly trembling and holding the spear with a deathgrip.

Penumbra did, however, understand, or at least in part, when Fang said “[sooth]” while caressing the shocked and angry elf’s hair and telling her it was going to be ok. Miraculously, his words seemed to come true as Blackberry’s breathing calmed from the fever pitch it had been at and she let go of the weapon at last.

With a look of surprise, Penumbra focused more on Fang. Whatever magic they used, clearly worked and blackberry calmed. Shaking their head in surprise and closing their eyes to center themselves, Penumbra smiled.

Hello? Can you understand me? I am Penumbra, I am a friend.” said Penumbra in the elven language. Their accent was thick but still understandable, even with the unfamiliar words coming out of their mouth.

“Friend?” Fang echoed, a touch taken aback by the sudden comprehension between them, before nodding and agreeing that “Good. Then this is a miss understanding” before pointing up and saying “then please, join us in sanctuary, and we can talk safe from the shadows” pausing, and then clarifying “the other shadows” before he and the other elves practically vanished up into the foliage of the lone leafy tree in the world it's dark reflections.

With a hand in front, Penumbra shook their head.

You don’t need to fear the shadows while you’re with me. Shadows and Umbra are friends, so, I am sorry but I cannot in good conscience follow you. Stay down, so we may speak freely and let anything that may come, in my care. ” quickly replied Penumbra, their voice full of courage.

Fang’s hea popped back out of the foliage. Upside down.

“Umbra? You're not a ghost?” the hanging byh is feet elf asked, ignoring a muffled “ha knew it!” coming from another elf and then glancing to the other side as Blackberry's voice, but not her form, emerged from the leaves as she asked “You can guarantee the sharks will leave us alone?”

Penumbra’s face was one of confusion. “ Ghosts? I don’t understand what you mean. I’m the champion of the Goddess Ashevelen and a member of the Umbra race, created by herself.” replied Penumbra quickly, not understand at all what she meant by ghosts.

Even if they don’t leave you alone and one approaches, let me handle it. My kind has been hunting them for food since we were made. ” they added, with a smile.

There was a pause, and then Blackberry dropped down out of the tree again and told the not ghost “then we are in your care,” before glancing up at the head of Fang, who grumbled and flipped around to land beside her.

“The dead remain as intangible beings called ghosts according to Jeon, our creator. Some of us had caught glances of your kind and thought they were that” he explained to them.

“Like you” the gloating elf popped their head out of the tree to say, before returning to it. While some of the other elves dropped down to join Blackberry and Fang, the majority, it seemed, were going to stay safe and alert in the tree just in case this was an elaborate ruse.

“Like… me yes” Fang continued, ”but it seems I am wrong and that superstition can be put to rest”

“Still. What are you? How are you related to the shadow beasts? Do you know what happened to our woods and why the edge is no more?” Blackberry took over the conversation to ask, desperate to know why her life had been turned upside down.

Dead stay as intangible beings? Hmm… ” replied Penumbra with a look of confusion on their face and then, they slapped themselves over the side of their body.

AH! You’re talking about souls! My kind, the Umbra, haven’t seen any souls around here. It’s just…us and the recently created Tarsk, and you, I guess.

Looking at the group, this was the first time Penumbra actually studied them. Two hands and two legs, same as the Satyrs but their feet looked different. Like hands but not really. A weird sight for Penumbra.

As I said, I am an Umbra. I have been called Penumbra by our creator. Your forest was aukcendun by Ashevelen. She is one with the shadows now and as such, she made a part of the forest to be more welcoming to my kind. ” explained Penumbra. The word they said was in the Umbra language, a word they simply eluded them in the elven language.

“Everything has one, and they all remain behind after death. According to Jeon anyway” Fang explained regarding souls, his tone giving an indication that he was presently finding the claim a little more dubious than he had before.

Blackberry meanwhile was scratching her head at the word ‘aukcendun’ but frowned at the idea of making the woods more welcoming for the Umbra, saying “But the woods were made for us, and now your god has gone and made part of them less friendly to us. People have died because of what she did. My people” that last filled with an undercurrent of pain that made it clear the loss was oh so personal.

Penumbra put their hands forward and bowed their head in forgiveness.

While I cannot talk about the hows or whys of why my Goddess did this or if she even considered the lives of other mortals, I can only say, sorry. I know it isn’t enough and I know it doesn’t mean much but know that the Umbra wish to be your allies. Our part of the forest is kept clear of threats by our Satyrs, another mortal race. If you ever encounter them, tell them this word, avrade , it means “trade” in our language. They will provide protection against the shadow creatures. ” replied Penumbra, a shade of remorse in their voice.

After a few seconds, they took out of a holding bag made of leaves that they had strapped to their body a few of the shiny rocks they discovered and then the meat.

I offer you these. They are very hard rocks, you can use them to bring down many animals if you tie them to your spears. Take them as an offering and a sign of positive future relations between our people. ” continued Penumbra, smiling.

There was hesitation. Then Fang moved to accept, only to be blocked by Fern’s arm, though the elf looked deep in thought rather than angry as might be feared.

“Her actions weren't yours” she finally decided “and who really understands how gods think? So, I accept this gift for elves and the … intent behind it. That you are people, not prey or predator” giving something of an incite into how the elves thought, lived, and had been taught. The woods were grand and in many ways dangerous and so there had been no need for alliances other than that of elf vs nature.

She stepped forwards, took the bag in one hand and then suddenly pushed closer to Penumbra and wrapped her around them in a one armed hug and apologised “I am sorry for trying to strike you. Will you forgive me?”

Penumbra, not being used to being touched, turned incorporeal almost straight away and moved backwards. Their arms becoming sharp swords, eyes looking at all the elves in confusion and at the same time, threat.

What, what are you trying to do? Is this how your people trap others? I’ll let you know it won’t work on me. I offer you trade and you attack me? ” quickly said Penumbra, their anger clear.

“Huh?” Blackberry looked confused as she was left holding the peace offering and faced with an angry Penumbra, while the rest of the elves bristled back to being on edge and she found herself as peace maker instead of Fang “No no. It's a hug. A hug. It is. its. It’s a thing you do with people to show, um, affection? And empathy and trust?” she tried to explain to the Umbra, having not realised that such a gesture was not universal.

Penumbra, still in a fight-or-flight state, thinking they were somehow being tricked, left their “weapons” on but the look on their calmed down, if just a bit.

Hug. I know this word in your language but we have none in mine. I don’t know the meaning of it. Affection? Empathy? Same like Satyr? Touch, touch, make more? ” realisation overcame the confusion on their face and anger replaced it, quickly. Their whole body this time got covered in tiny spikes and they stood tall.

Were you trying to breed with me, Elf?!

The elf’s month worked for a few moments as she tried to find the words, and then just resolved to power past all the confusion, raised questions, objections and the bit of her mind wanting to know how that would even work and got to, simply: “I’m trying to be friends”

Suddenly Penumbra’s shadowy form came back to normal and they smiled at Fang, slowly nodding their head.

Friends? I don’t understand. “Buesnauk”? Ally? Is that what you mean? ” replied Penumbra quickly, the word friend had no translation in their own language but maybe, ally, is what the elf meant.

“Um. Maybe? Friends are like. Family. But not related? Closer than just another member of a tribe or just another person. But not a lover or anything like that” Blackberry tried

“Comrades?” Fang interjected to suggest another pseudonym that might bridge the gap between their ways of looking at things.”Me and Blackberry are that. We work with each other because we have skills and talents that the other lacks, but don’t know each other well enough to be friends? Unlike the rest of my party, who are for sure my buddies”

I don’t understand what you mean with those words. Work together, ally. Trade together, ally. You have to know each other to be these “friends” you’re talking about? All should be allies, trade flows where allies meet or so, the Goddess teaches us. That is my purpose here, to make allies.

“What is… ‘trade’ again?” Fang asked, glancing at Blackberry, who shrugged. The elves had been born with a lot of words, but a whole host of them had fallen out of usage due to, well, lack of usage, and that was one of them.

Penumbra looked at Fang, then Blackberry and then back at Fang. An incredulous look on their face.

What? What do you mean? You don’t know what trading is? Oh, my. May the creator strike me down right now if I don’t teach you. This cannot stand. Trading is a passion. Trading is a test of wits between two or more parties, each trying to earn a profit over the other one, each trying to outsmart the other. A trade is a service to yourself and to your community. Trade is a part of any group of people, be it a trade of goods or trade of services. ” their tone changed with every word, slowly becoming inspiring. Penumbra spoke with conviction, duty and especially, devotion.

The pair of elves looked at each other and then back at the Umbra, who’s passion and poetic words they found impressive, but not all that informative.

“Perhaps… demonstrate?” Fang suggested

Moving side to side, looking around, Penumbra was thinking and thinking. Looking for objects around them to prove a successful trade and then it hit them. Their two arms each took a different shape, in miniature. One was the face of the Satyr they saved, the other was of Fang. Then Penumbra started mimicking the voice of each…to the best of their ability, putting up a show in which the Satyr wished to buy a fish from Fang while offering some fruits from the forest.

The puppet show went on, showing how the Satyr wished to trade 1 fish for 4 fruits, arguing that it took him a long time to catch the fish. Fang countered that the fruits had to be foraged from the woods which meant that their life was in danger while doing it. Quickly, the Satyr changed tactics, mentioning the many uses of the fish he caught while also pointing out how good the fish looks and how big it is. Eventually, they both agreed that 1 fish for 2 fruits was a good trade and they both were happy.

The little show managed to lure basically all the elves down, or at least into view, so they could watch, and at the end they gave the shadow puppeteer a quiet round of applause for their efforts. Unfortunately the take away from what they had been demonstrating was: “So it’s like two really picky people exchanging gifts?” from Fang while blackberry was more hung up about wanting to know where someone would get fish that wasn't the forest.

Penumbra shook their head in a sad motion.

They aren’t exchanging gifts. Each had something that the other one wanted or lacked. The Satyr was a fisherman, he spent long hours catching some fish but he had too many fish and a meal with only fish is a poor meal. He wanted some fruits but he had no skill in finding those fruits nor did he want to endanger his life. On the other hand, Fang had the skill to get fruits but not the skill of a fisherman. In essence, one had what the other one needed. But, then, the Satyr wanted 4 fruits for his 1 fish because he believed that the labour he put to catch 1 fish would be equal to the labour it took Fang to get the 4 fruits. Fang disagreed and countered that her life was in danger all the time while getting the fruits while the fisherman simply had to wait for the fish to bite, no danger at all. Does that make more sense or should I provide another example? ” explained Penumbra with the patience of a teacher.

“You have never hunted fish. Their bites can be nasty” Blackberry replied, before lifting up an arm and pointing to a suspiciously chomp shaped scar “Got this one from a barracuda that came right through a tree trunk at me” she explained

“I think I see the point, outside the strange ideas about fish” Fang said, likely giving the Umbra hope before dashing it by saying “but why argue about it so much? Or focus so much on the now?” He scratched his head and tried to think of a good way to explain how the elves' economy worked, which was not something he’d had to do before. “If I pick berries today, I will share them with my party who will have been doing other useful things. When I was with my tribe we pooled everything we had together so we could all eat. Then when tribes meet we exchange gifts, and it is bad manners to argue about what is given or received”

That’s not how it should be. If one of you decides not to work at all because the tribe will sustain them, eventually the whole tribe will suffer. Irrelevant of whatever punishment you may give them. If you trade with one another, there will always be a need for one to work. ‘Lest they find themselves with no food or shelter. But, even as you said it, that’s still trading. In a way. You exchange a service, say, berry gathering while the others do something else for you. ” replied Penumbra and then with a smile, they took a stick from the ground and became incorporeal for a few seconds, in which they put the stick through their hand a few times. “ It helps to be an Umbra when you’re out fishing, they can’t bite what they cannot touch.

"An annoying trick. Makes the fish here a pain when its night. Or did, I got my own trick after enough levels” Blackberry replied to the fishing comment, while Fang continued to debate with Penumbra over this whole trade thing “If someone is lazy, we give them a good kick. If someone keeps being a problem, we exile them. It works. Less wasteful than arguing all the time about what is worth what and carrying thing around to ‘trade’ with people in the tribe”

Not a trick, an ability. ” a quick reply to Blackberry came and then, Penumbra turned towards Fang with the patience of a long winded teacher “ If you exile people, you lose one member of your tribe. After time, cold, creatures of the forest…you’ll end up needing the same member you exiled to help out. We aren’t carrying stuff around all that time. We’ve got a place where we go and trade, called a marketplace. ” added Penumbra and then an idea hit them.

Ah! It’s a hard concept to grasp but there are others in my village who can explain it better than I can. Would you be willing to follow me back to it? I’ll show you how the Umbra live and you’ll understand. I guarantee you my protection. ” said Penumbra after a few seconds, bowing their head and closing their eyes. A traditional sign of solemn vow in the Umbra society.

“A person who you allow to starve can’t help either” Fang countered, but left it at that and considered her offer along with the others.

" No one starves, we've got something against that as well! You'll see! " replied Penumbra.

The elves glanced at each other and exchanged muttered words, knowing that while Penumbra seemed safe there was no guarantee that they were not pulling some long con, or overestimating their abilities. That said, they hadn’t exactly gotten out here without being willing to take risks or by being unable to handle themselves. They had come here to learn all they could to help their people, grow their acclaim, and earn more levels. So the response was something of a forgone conclusion.

“Please, by all means, lead the way,” Blackberry replied.








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Tuujaimaa The Saint of Splendour

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Endings and Beginnings

The Kathetikon & Anath Homura



Just outside the newly minted halls of Keltra did the stirrings of a long-dead shade begin to rise once more, the sounds of shuffling and dragging feet echoing across the outermost ring of the flying fortress, reverberating through it with increasingly sonorous echoes. There was no particular aim or goal to the shambolic movements, and the swirling of the winds gathered around the place seemed to carry them far and wide. The footsteps stopped as the shade reached the rim of the ring and stared out towards the distant landmass for which it had no name, nor sense of a name. It looked at it with a strange wistfulness, seeing not the beauty of creation as it would have done so in aeons past, but the darkness-to-be that waited at the end of everything. It let a weary sigh escape from its thin lips, and as it shook its head in some semblance of an emotion it had forgotten the name of, there could be heard yet more rustling, this time of papers and pages. Sprouting from its shoulders were a hodgepodge array of stitched-together bits of vellum and paper and inscribed crystal, topics ranging from various treatises on the universal constants of mathematics to encyclopaedias describing all manner of wondrous and terrible creations alike. The fragments of lost knowledge from worlds and universes beyond counting, melded together in some facsimile of a wing designed to allow knowledge to–literally in this case–raise one up to the heavens. It stretched the faded and torn papers out with its exhortations of melancholy, but decided not to shirk its purpose and turned, as much resolve as it could muster plastered across the gaunt and disinterested face.

“Anath Homura… as you called to me, I call to you.”

The voice was at first soft and quiet, barely audible as more than a whisper. As it travelled through each of the rings and gathered more of the energy built up around this realm, brimming with barely-contained power it seemed to echo and intensify until within the spire at the centre it reached the levels of a focused and dramatic proclamation directed at the divine themselves. The shade’s gloomy eyes looked ever-inward as it heard its utterance head towards its destination, and then it turned back around to look at the nascent world unfolding in the distance. “I wonder where I put my pens…” it mused to itself, suddenly rifling through the many folds of its ripped and torn robes, eagerly searching pockets that had long been disused with the first shred of purpose it had had in unliving memory.

“Be welcome.” Intoned the familiar voice of Anath Homura, as she suddenly appeared before the shade and offered a short respectful bow - though more prominent than her stance were the myriad of wounds across her visage. Divine ichor soaked her small hands, and she bled from numerous lacerations along her limbs and torso, yet her face indicated no feeling of pain, or any other emotion, so it seemed. She stared at the shade with an impassive expression, one eye glittering red like a ruby reflecting the light of the sun, while the other eye was replaced with an otherworldly white rose.

The shade turned around to gaze upon her, and as its gaze travelled across her visage the corners of its lips turned up in the beginnings of wry amusement. One of its ersatz wings folded down gently, some bit of text coming directly into the shade’s eyeline, and it read from it with some small amount of energy that seemed like excitement only when compared to the drabness of the rest of its movements and its voice. Its wing occasionally changed positions, so as to be able to read the crumbled and misplaced lines of text more freely, but also to be able to study the divinity before it from different angles and perspectives.

“I expected something… else. Not one freshly returned from the fields of battle–though your standing here would posit that you had won, no? What did you fight about?” it asked, its intonation slowly becoming higher as dormant partitions of its mind appeared to awaken with time, perhaps some side effect of the ichor’s scent wafting through the air. Something about the shade seemed less impermeable the closer it stood to the goddess, though it was still little more than a transparent image before her overpowering might and presence.

“Ah, how rude… You do not know my name, but I know yours. I am…” it began, but paused suddenly as a look of confusion came across its face, a look of searching its memory for an answer that it simply could not find. Its lips opened slightly as if to begin to speak again, but it did a double take and then wrung its hands in idle frustration as it could not think of a way to finish the sentence that made sense to it.

“... well, I appear to have forgotten. I have wandered for so long, and… I heard your voice, the first thing to rouse my curiosity in many long moons.” it stated, before presenting itself with open arms and gesturing feebly at the awe-inspiring presence before it as if to say ‘here I am’.

“Then I shall refer to you as Seeker, until you have chosen a name.” Anath Homura replied, and then glanced towards the centre structure that served as the heart of the flying fortress. “To answer your question; I have emerged victorious, and yet I have lost. An aimless battle, an embodiment of blindly wandering adrift, violently flailing. Indeed. It is what it is…” She murmured, before her one-eyed gaze returned to the shade and she silently studied its appearance.

The shade’s gaze turned towards the citadel as Anath Homura’s did, and as it listened to her words the same semblance of sadness and loss could be seen stretched across its burdened features. Suddenly visible were the many long years it had endured, the lines across its face deepened into vast crevices. The light long-gone from its eyes, now dull and apathetic. In this distant apparition was an earnest reciprocation of that feeling of loss, and though its smile became sad it continued to smile nevertheless as it spoke:

“I, too, know what it is to blindly wander adrift…” it mused, suddenly looking away into nothing as it scoured its fragmented thoughts for the source of the feelings welling up within it. “... I have seen the endings of entire worlds, entire universes. Though once the secrets to unseam the barriers between realities and garb oneself in the fabric between graced my library, only this paltry collection of tatters is left of my collection. I recorded so much, always asking if it was enough. If there was something I had missed, some secret that if I knew it I could perhaps save something, anything… it began, and though it did not fully grasp why it began to sob silently, tears running down its face as its little breaths began to wrack its slender frame with spasms. It opened its mouth as if to speak again, but could only swallow the lump in its throat as the tips of its wings came to dry the little rivulets of tears gently flowing down its face.

“Hmm… the answers you seek await you further upon the Sacred Path. The first step is the act of creation. You have answered my calling, and have become divine. Now it is time to create anew.” Anath Homura proclaimed, perhaps intending to soothe the shade that endured such sorrow by boldly offering an opportunity to amend its absent knowledge by forging that knowledge itself.

“Have I? I do not feel divine. I feel as hollow as I ever was, as if… fate is simply having its way with me once more. What use is creation if all is destined to fade and crumble, if all of this,” the shade gestured, sweeping its arms and wings out towards the distant landmass, “is simply fated to end? I have seen gods before. I have seen them end. I have seen the darkness that consumes everything, the very essence of warmth and life give way to cold and bleak nothingness. What salvation does this Sacred Path offer that has not been tried a thousand times before, what hope will bloom from following it that can withstand what is to come?”

The shade’s features slumped, and even the very idea of colour seemed to drain from its face. It looked at Anath Homura with something almost resembling pleading, studying every detail of her face even as the tears continued to well in its eyes. It let several moments pass, simply continuing to gaze at her as it awaited the answer to its question, but as it continued to stare its features began to soften slightly, and some sense of self seemed to return to it.

“There is no known ending to the Sacred Path. It continues onward, infinitely, and perhaps… even weaves annihilation along the way within it. Akin to myself, you still linger; you still have yet to fade and crumble, so we are ultimately immortal until we are forsaken and perish. Evidence indicates that the darkness cannot consume everything. The hope that will bloom resides in the truth that though the Tapestry is not woven by our hands, our stories have no eternal endings, no contrived conclusions, no destined demise.” Anath Homura answered solemnly, ever enveloped in a serene stillness.

“Hope…” the shade laughed, its voice hollow and dull. It turned to look towards the distance once more, and dragged the tip of one of its wings down towards it in order to begin writing upon it. It took a few moments of solitude to consider, drawing elaborate designs and formulae that held no relevance in this new world, before it finally turned back to face the one-eyed goddess before it. Though still shaking off the dregs of its prior despondency, its vacillating caprice seemed to have finally settled upon a path of resolution.

“I do not know the answer, and nor do you. You simply hope that it will be as you describe–and I suppose that, in the end, I share that hope. Perhaps hope is the answer I should have looked for all along. When all is said and done, when this new world’s light is extinguished, I hope that we will meet again. That at journey’s end we may speak to each other about all we have learned, and that we may rest knowing that the path stretches e’er onward.” it spoke, its form regaining more colour and definition with each word uttered. When it finished, some look of apprehension came over its face, as if realising the tone in which it had spoken to a being vastly more powerful than it, but a little twinkle of curiosity in its eyes betrayed its latent excitement at such a prospect rather than any sense of fear.

“Indeed. The first step is creation, and creating an embodiment of that hope. I believe that is the essence of faith. When we meet again, hopefully we shall have our answers and amend the hollowness within us.” The Creatrix replied without inflection, remaining impassive.

“What is your question? You must have a question, to have called so loudly and to so many. If your call reached my distant ears, it must have travelled far indeed, so… what answer could be commensurate with your effort?” it asked, cocking its head to one side as it continued to draw and doodle upon the little scraps of parchment that served as its wings. The more it spoke, the surer it became, the more the paper seemed to grow and envelop the shade. By the time it had posed its questions to Anath Homura its arms were all but overtaken by illuminated manuscripts, by incunabula, by scrolls and by vellum–and the growth showed no sign of slowing.

“Hmm… the question I have? The answer I seek? I wish to see how to take the second step on the Sacred Path. Perhaps, it is the second step that is the way to transcend the boundaries between my prison and attain the freedom of the otherworld.” She said, and shrugged after she had spoken.

“Prison? Freedom? These are not answers, these are simply… means. They speak nothing of your intentions once the path is complete–that is what I wish to know. Or perhaps it is what the ending of the path is? Heh, perhaps I simply wish to understand it all. That was always my motive in the past, always why I could not rest. Without your offer of divinity I would still be wandering the distant cosmos, suffocating in the endless void–I believe I owe it to myself to…” it began, before briefly pausing for thought. It turned once again to look the goddess in the eyes with a wry smile upon its face, and continued: “... well, perhaps not help, but to at least know. Though if the only way to know is to help you, then that is what I must do: only this question’s answer can let me rest at long last.”

By now little was left of the shade’s humanoid figure, its metamorphosis continuing apace as it embraced the apotheosis it had accepted fully. Swirling geometries and mathematical formulae began to dot the surface of the increasing mound of pages and texts and drawings, slowly condensing into something more fitting for a god of curiosity than the long-dead husk of a man.

“The answer awaits you further along the Sacred Path. You have begun to take the first step and I have yet to take the second step… Aid me, if that is what you wish.” A hint of anger seeped through her voice, as Anath Homura turned her one-eyed gaze to the lands where others shaped the world with their sacred might.

“... I think I recognise in you, perhaps for the first time, what I always lacked. So determined was I to know it all that I forsook all else: I took no lover, I sired no children, I had no friends. So convinced was I that the answers I sought would invalidate those needs that I wandered in search of them for lifetimes beyond counting. But in that loneliness there can be no answer, for the answer must lie in kinship. In the walking of the path alongside those who also hope for better. I know little about you, but I can see that same loneliness in you… perhaps these wounds of yours are from struggle I cannot comprehend, perhaps they are merely a manifestation of that fact–but I do think I know this: neither of us can walk the path alone, and it would be folly to assume otherwise. I will tend to the intellectual wellbeing of this new world, guide them all to where they must go. I hope that by the time we meet again, Anath Homura, you have found someone to guide you.”

By the time the shade had finished speaking it was a shade no longer, and the encroachment of writing upon its flesh was complete. In the place of the humanoid silhouette was now a book, glowing with ominously roiling tendrils of energy, and though it did not speak, the words it used simply reverberated throughout the area and their meaning was made known. Though a book could not be said to look at a thing, the single eye it possessed on its front page seemed to press its gaze into Anath Homura’s, and it waited expectantly in idle curiosity of just how she would react, given the slight hint of anger it had detected prior.

“You have my gratitude, Seeker. It is true that we cannot walk farther when we are alone, and you have graced me with your companionship, akin to the others I have invited here. I suggest speaking with them as well, as I believe you shall find an answer among those conversations and their acts of creation. I shall remain here, but all among the pantheon are welcome in my home.” The red goddess replied, and allowed herself the shadow of a smile as she peered back at the book that had become a god.

”Then speak to them I shall, and from them shall I learn. Perhaps when I return you will have more news of the Path to share with me, and I you.” the Kathetikon almost-spoke, before it turned to peer out towards the distant landmass. A singular question surged through its divine intellect in that moment: What use would a book be to those upon this newly minted world without one to read it?

Ink began to flow from its pages, words and sigils becoming liquid as they ran from its pages and began to coalesce into a form somewhat reminiscent of the shade that it had once been. A suit of ink-black knowledge, to represent the ignorance this fragment of itself would need to possess. A silhouette of brilliant white, to represent the purity of its ideals and its function. A vessel with which to experience the world through new and enamoured eyes, and a being to read from its Master’s forbidden pages without fear of consequence or misunderstanding. The form coalesced slowly while the winds whipped around them, and only after several long moments did a new being stand upon the outermost ring of Keltra that was capable of all that which the Kathetikon had desired. It stared at Anath Homura with a blank face, cocking its head slightly in curiosity, before it picked the book up and nodded at her eagerly. Without another word it simply jumped off of the edge of the ring and soared on the winds attempting to carry it back up, pushing through them with a burst of divine power to head towards the coast of the landmass so far in the distance.




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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Double Capybara
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Raised in the Dark


Lektor grimaced as she realized a very sad thing. That school and those damn brats Homura had put on her lap were such a chore, such a drain, that normal work, which Lektor would complain about a while ago, was now almost relaxing.

The earthlings were abusing of her big avian-feline heart without mercy, whenever near them (and their fluffy ears and tails) she became far more selfless than she would like to be. To everything there was a limit, and as soon as the correct time came she would kick most of them out and never again answer a single prayer! Humans were NOT her responsibility!!

Though... Well she could do some networking, seek similar mortal focused gods and try to counterweight all the troubles, Jeon was one, she was sure there should be others as well. Between her work as a teacher, as a goddess and her unmatched laziness, Lektor had truly ignored most gods within the world, only having a vague notion of who was where and who was what. For example, she could guess there was a fire deity, but no god of the waters or winds, she should check with the fire deity sometime, the elemental gods would likely find common ground very easily, unless the fire deity was some maniac out to burn and melt the whole world, but what are the chances they would be like that?

The sphynx's internal monologue was stopped by the arrival at the place where she wished to be. A large cave system, truly, one of the rarest things in the underworld!

...

She could get why the mortals didn't care much for the place. But that was about to change, massively, quickly.

This cave was notable for being one where, due to waterflow and other circumstances, a lot of nutrients and dead matter would flow downward from all over galbar, as if the planet had a bad case dandruff... internally?

Mushrooms, were the first thing the goddess thought about, and mushrooms she would get. It was natural right? You have a lot of matter, you have a lack of sunlight, giant bloody mushrooms. Her mood deflated along with the spores, as both the passage of time and the extra pressure found underground killed her idea.

Fine, reality wanted to play hard to get, but she was Lektoria "The Rock Cat" Tellur, and she would not give up over a bit of gravity.

A bit of extra silicates and maybe a bit of metal to the shroomy cells and both the issue of them dying too faster and not handling that lil' bit of extra pressure well. And it worked, she made sure to make some that were more rich in calcium as to be more edible, and then called it a day as she saw her mushroom forest.



This was a pattern she could repeat as much as she desired and it surely would work in other bits of the underworld despite the lack of a constant flow of nutrients but...

Now that she had done it she realized it was kinda boring. Like, wow. She expected more.

Another idea came to her in another cave.

Perhaps she was looking at it from the wrong perspective, volcanoes were adequate source of nutrients and carried massive energy, so why not break open a few geothermal vents, incite some life to grow from that? It was easy and worked equally well, towering coral reef-like towers rose up, emanating small glowing clouds as they dealt with the rush of geothermal power and nutrients. That was great...

She looked up with some worry as the roof of the cave turned a bright orange, a result from the always burning gas emanated from the towers of life which were as eternal as the roof-fire of the cave. Dark 'clouds' formed on the orange 'sky' as the cooler bits of gas and detritus which would, over time, fall in a rain of dark heated slog. Nutritious though!

So Lektor went for the most sensible approach to salvage the cave from becoming a hellhole version of a coral reef, she planted a jungle, thick and damp trees fed by the light and ash of the ever-burning sky, with a design made to keep that heat going upward, facilitated by eventual openings from the cave system to the Sunset Sands above, causing bits of the desert, at times, to randomly explode with hot sand (and in the worst case, glass) tornadoes follow by the oily black slag springing out and pooling up.

Lektor would copy the system in some other locations, when she had controlled the 'reef pillars' to not explode and burn her damn caves, and she also added more mushrooms about for the sake of variety.

Near the great lava ocean there was no worry about energy, far from it. Light was plentiful, so was heat, but it was a bit toxic given the amount of elements in the dust that no mortal should sniff. This presented an interesting situation and the goddess decided to work with that. While adding some of now properly adapted flora, she created other types of functional trees which were very much dead ends in the food chain, as they would gather much of the metals and rock fragments in the air and bind them to their own form, growing into peculiar shrubs with 'fruits' of lead and rock, sometimes, a small berry of gold or other 'neat' stuff. Forming metallic mangroves around the lava lake, and the goddess even allowing it to advance upon the pools of lava, letting rocky lily pads to grow and bloom in the flow of magma.

That was about as much as Lektor was willing to do in this one sitting of creation. Fauna was lacking, she had no idea how most animals worked and was sincerely not in the mood to learn, many caves were not cared for too, oh well. She would see after all that later, and it was not like there weren't a few animals, some of them she had even created, like the charming rock crabs, while others had found themselves wandering in and adapting to the environments.

Speaking of wandering in, after her half-assed work, the goddess was in the mood for a slice of pie, failing that, a nice elf stew.




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Oa’qeisskesi


The deserts overlooked the dark clouds of the north as a figure wandered through its sands. “The Nature of existence and the meaning of life is to seek…” “what?” a voice uttered in a dark tongue as Oa’qeisskesi wandered the sand lands of the west heading south, the sun high in the sky. The winds blew, the shifting dunes as Oa'qeisskesi wandered through the land. From the sun's rise and set to the rise of the night she wandered, the land mortals along her way perished and their souls consumed as she wandered. She found a lost soul wandering in the sand before she plunged into it devouring it and soon stood still pondering as her victim is none existent anymore. “...is in fear of death that meaning is found?” She soon moved forward, passing through the sand occasionally, stopping to make a pit before crossing through the channel. Beyond the lands of the great desert, her mind was aware of some things in the world. Yet the information was still being gathered in her travels under the sun and the night for many days and still she pondered about herself while learning about the world. Staring at the night sky, seeing it pass with every minute seeing the magnetism of the planet but also the pillars of reality, she soon said. “...is meaning found in discovering the unknown?” sitting on the sands she sighed seeing the night set and a new day. The red scorching moon, burning in the heavens soon disappeared with the rising sun as the sky turned blue time, seemed to move fast and the sun reached high in the sky. She soon sighed, closing her glowing red eyes.

“It's not good to lay in the sand” She opened her eyes seeing the dark sun floating above her head sighing she soon lifted herself off the sand saying. “I am relaxing…” “In the middle of nowhere?” The dark sun asked, walking forward and she then said. “I am thinking…” Several whispers could be heard as she moved from several feet before saying. “can you all stop…” She sighed moving forward, at the silence, finding a dead husk of a tree in the sands. She sighed and she then said while taking a seat “What do you guys want can't you see I've been trying to not be found?” A million whispers could soon be heard all talking in dark tongues. She then said “I don't have enough power to bring everyone to this side… well not yet anyway” She cracked part of the wood, grabbed the broken-off branch and moved up the small sand hill. After arriving at the top the dark sun soon said. “Not when dealing with small beings that can't think much and from your zig-zag from coast to mountain don't you think I didn't notice the tar pools you made.” She soon stopped thinking and gave a nod.

Turning around to the empty area below, raising both hands she soon grabbed her palm with her other hand and with pressure tar began to flow down her hand into the pit. The previous small depression soon began to quickly be flooded, with a black liquid akin to tar until it covered the dead husk of a tree and became a large pond of black goo. Touching the liquid with her hand it laid flat like touching smooth stone instead of a liquid. Closing her eyes the pond soon had white eyes looking at her and she said. “Neu kie Lana’sou osa Siaasouai rasrosu Aolrihas.” The sun moved quickly across the sky and began to twilight on the horizon. The region soon glowed in a strange purple aura for hours, Oa’qeisskesi stood at the pool staring at it; she soon gave a nod and rose up as the pond and others in the desert glowed red before the light faded as she soon moved away walking away and looking at the moon staring for a second at the burning planetoid in orbit she soon said. “Better keep my head low if it's true what I felt…” She continued moving going up a hill and marching on, she soon saw the sands end and become grasslands her vision could see a mountain and a passage leading to a forest she fixed her eyes in the woods giving a nod and moving on changing her form a person with a large cover and a walking stick moving through the grasslands south stopping for a moment the figure seemed to say. “Arise…” with a pause in silence it soon began to move away.

Meanwhile back at the dark pond one of several she made along her journey a giant arm with claws emerged scraping the sand appeared rising up two arms were shown but also four legs, spikes were common at its back, and three white blank eyes appeared as the tar left its face its teeth were razor sharp, skin pala black with red spots its tail was akin to a mace. Many others soon emerged as well, all looking up, staring at the night sky before opening their mouths and screaming with a howl akin to a banshee in despair. All of them soon turned in that direction as they noticed the presence of life and the smell of a soul nearby. Before running in a desperate rush. Across the sands more of the ponds awakened more of the monsters being born, the ponds drying up in a single night as they were born the Seis’huenaoi marched in many numbers across the sands of the west. Oa’qeisskesi marched ever closer to the woodlands and the dark sun soon said. “Why did you make them like that?” “What?” she asked, still marching forward the forest getting close. “Nothing just noticed they are not meant to last…” “Exactly...” She said with a small smile. “You are devious…” He said with a chuckle as he disappeared she got close to the Umbral woods.




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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Frettzo
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Darkwood Adventurers!


It had been months, but, at last, the seekers of the pie were ready. They’d been gifted the mighty power of leveling which Jeon Du Termas claimed was the very same that had once let him slip free of all realities and into the void beyond which had been the pathway to his divine power (the god had left out the indeterminate amount of time he had spent starving to death) and been dubbed the Forest Furies. Then they’d trained hard and gone on practice missions during which they’d lost two of their number ( to injuries) and gained one more.

As such when they approached the place which they had been told the secrets of pie could be found, Pebble (level 15 [traveling tosser]), Fern (level 16 [adventurer]) and Stag (level 11 [spearelf explorer] and level 4 [hunter]) were joined by Lorelei (level 3 [beastkin adventurer]), whom they’d met by chance at the weekly dance party last night.

The four of them were crouched in the underbrush, and looking out at the wide patch of dead earth that lay beneath the towering tree within which their prize was said to lie, who’s branches blocked out the sky high high above them. There was only one question.

“Wait. So. How do we get up there?” Stag asked from the back of the group

Lorelei smirked and showed one of her clawed hands. “Easy! I climb up and drop a rope for the r-rest of you guys.” Without waiting for the others, Lorelei rushed forth out of the bush and gracefully climbed the tree. One, two, five, ten meters up to the first branch, where she deftly grabbed one of the tools she kept on her toolbelt at all times - a hammer - and used it to nail a big metal stake into the tree through a hoop at the end of her rope. She uncoiled the rope, which she’d kept tied around her waist, and let it drop down all the way to the ground. After testing if it was secure, she sat on the branch and waved at the rest of the adventurers, her tail swinging gracefully behind her.

“Is that… stable?” Stag asked only for fern to brush past him saying “Probably, lets go!” followed by Pebble, who was going to get that pie or die trying.

The monsters who were going to try and make sure Pebble ended up taking the die option took that moment to introduce themselves to the group. A rotting corpse of a hammerhead shark with glowing red eyes proceeded to poke its head down out of the foliage of the big tree to see what the banging noise had been about. Upon seeing the cat it made a guttural hiss -which she responded to in kind with one of her own as she crouched down low- and lunged at her, while a small swarm of other undead tonnikala started to rain down out of the branches with vicious intent.

“Look out!” Stag called out in warning, while Pebble was already trying to help, calling out “[two birds!]” before tossing a stone with remarkable strength that proceeded to thwack into a skeletal piranha and then defect off at a right angle to smack another one with perfect precision, causing both to drop from the sky.

More were coming however, but Lorelei didn't have the time to worry about that. She dodged the undead shark’s charge by throwing herself back-first onto the branch and in a smooth fast movement, Lorelei’s clawed hands swiped at the shark numerous times, severing some fins, popping an eye and disemboweling it. The shark’s rotting maggot-filled guts spilled all over the catgirl, and the shark continued to crash head-first against the tree trunk with a sickening crunch.

The flimsy undead construct practically pulped itself against the thick as a clearing tree trunk and the remain’s dropped down, lifeless, towards where the rest of the [adventurers] were dealing with the rest of the trouble.

“Oh no no no what do we do?!” Stag stammered, backing up as a stinky ol salmon came swimming at him, only for Fern to dart ahead of him and skewer it with her weapon

“It’s just like spear fishing!” she told him, before gagging at the smell of her kill. That was all the opportunity another tuna thought it needed to go after her, causing a panicked Stag to call out “ah, look out, [quick stab]!” as he rushed forwards and then his spear moved in a flash to skewer the tune before it could strike Fern.

“Wow. Hey, not bad. I should get in danger more often if it's gonna get you to get over your nerves” She taunted him, before flicking the sammon off of her pointed stick and charging another, leaving the worried Stag to go chasing after her.

While the elves dealt with the droppers down below the slowest of the past it’s sell by date seafood introduced itself to Lorelei as two coconut crabs crawled down the tree trunk, their big old meaty claws twice the size of her clawed hands beared.

“Wao!” Lorelei hissed and deftly jumped back along the tree branch, giving herself a little bit more time to delve her hands into her tool belt pockets. Coming up empty, she instead dropped her whole back onto the branch and pulled out a long collapsible quarterstaff from it. As the crabs caught up with her, she gagged and spoke, “[Sweep]” And in one fluid motion, swept both crabs off the branch and sent them reeling into the depths of the forest. “N-Nasty things-” She whispered before dropping to her knees and leaning over the branch to throw up due to the scent.

“EW. Hey watch it where you chuck up up there!” came a shout from Fern who had narrowly avoided being spewed on while the rain of vomit was the last straw for stag, who upchucked against the tree. While they were dealing with that nastiness, Pebble was toughing out with a scrunched up nose as she used a big rock to smash the last of the rotten fish’s brains out.

“Well. This has been the worst” she complained, as she discarded the stinky rock and grabbed a rope and started to climb, leaving Stag and Fern to follow once the latter had patted the former on the back sympathetically.

“Sorry about this. Most of the ‘training’ we’ve been sent on has just been dangerous not. Well. gross. Never seen anything like this before, and I hope we never do again” Pebble apologized to their newest member once she caught up with her, though Lorelei was too busy retching to reply.

“Yeah what was this?” Fern asked as she got up into the branches

“Maybe it's the g-g-g-ghosts. They've found a way to come back and haunt us for eating them!” Stag suggested worriedly.

“G-Ghosts or not, they’re disgusting… I will have to wash my clothes l-like 20 times once we’re done here…” Lorelei said in between gags, then sat up and wiped her mouth. “S-So the reward should be at the top, right… There can’t be many more c-corpses left…”

“We can only hope,” Pebble agreed, before grasping a branch and beginning to climb. They got about two meters before suddenly bursting out into a clearing, the thick covering leaves smothering the light having suddenly thinned out, being replaced by a looser knitting of spaced out strong branches. These would have been harder to climb between, if there hadn’t been the strangest thing.

A village, grown out of the tree itself. Branches twirled and twisted and wrapped around each and grew in unnatural ways other to form walkways, streets and stairs connecting stylish homes with leafy roofs. All this spireld up and up the tree, forming a lovely looking community that even had denizens. At least that was how it looked at first, but the humanoid figures they had spotted were not elfish in proportion, squatter and wider as they were, and, as the keen eyes of the elves could see, they were not made of flesh but rotting wood.

They stumbled through the tree village, patrolling its walkways on the look out for intruders.

Those intruders ducked back into the foliage as one of the red eyed monsters started to turn their way. It paused, groaned, when it found nothing to see, and then kept walking along the branch road they had popped up next too.

“Ok. not over” Pebble noted, while Stag asked the obvious question:

“What are those t-t-things?” to which Fern’s only answer was “Whatever they are, they can't smell worse than the tonnikala”

“Smell or no smell, I don’t think we c-can take on so many of them… There must be dozens…” Lorelei furrowed her brow, and after a while nudged Fern with her elbow, “Time to sneak. I’ll go first.” The catgirl nodded, her tail accidentally slapping Stag across the face as she snuck out of the bush and across the branchy street to hide behind a hut. The others followed after her, and just like that they began to make progress.

By being patient and using as much cover as possible and thanks to Lorelei’s superior hearing, they had soon made it over half the way to the top.

It was when they used a tight and particularly humid alley as a hiding spot that things went wrong, as what they had at first thought was a regular mound of plant-y rubbish was actually a tree-zombie covered by rubbish. As the group of adventurers leaned against each other with Lorelei peeking out of the alley to decide when it was safe to move on, the tree-zombie-hobo awoke and sat up with a groan, its glowing red eyes looking straight at Pebble, who was standing behind everyone else.

“Huh, what was that noise?” the [thrower] said, turning, only for her eye’s to go wide as she beheld the lumbering monster coming at her, arm’s ending in splintered claws outstretched. She bit off a scream and stumbled backwards, only to bump into Stag’s back and for them both to go sprawling.

“I got you” Fern whisper shouted as she nimbly stepped over her companion’s forms and drove the spear deep deep into the rotten chest of the zombie, a victorious sneer on her lips, only for that smile to be wiped away as the organless undead was barely slowed and kept trying to push forwards, impaling itself further on the spear to get to her.

“What the- ah!” Fern cried out in pain as it slashed at her, thorny claws nipping at her belly before she could pull fully away, leaving a pair of bloody streaks on her torso. The adventurer cursed, and delivered a knee to the thing’s own stomach, but as there wasn’t one under there all it did was crack the wood more, and did nothing to stop it from grabbing her by the arms. The thing held tight onto Fern’s arms and growled at the elf, baring its gaping hole of a maw.

Before it could try anything however, Lorelei jumped over the two elves still sprawled on the floor, hissing. The thing hesitated, and that short moment was long enough for the catgirl to close the distance and break one of the thing’s arms in two with a lethally quick ax kick.

The thing screeched and recoiled and let go of Fern, only for Lorelei to press forward. She lacked the weight to tackle the thing to the ground, so instead she baited it out and used its first strike’s momentum against it. By taking a hold of its arm and sweeping her legs against its rooty limbs, she brought the monster down, a crack echoing down the alley as Lorelei stomped on the thing’s shoulder, disabling its other arm.

As the tree-zombie whined and groaned, flapping about on the floor, Lorelei panted. A moment later, she wiped bits of wood and sap off her clothes and went back to the edge of the alley, checking to see if any other entity had heard their little encounter.

The numerous sets of red eyes already looking right at her when she peaked out made it safe to say that they had. The zombies were coming. At least they were slow.

Back in the alleyway Fern was hissing with pain as she used a combination of some gummy wax and a relatively clean leaf to primitively bandage her wound shut, her [field aid] skill doing most of the work of actually getting it to stick. Stag meanwhile had pinned the un armed zombie to the floor with his own spear and was nervously looking on as Pebble inspected it

“It's just wood. Not like the kin who have guts. Just rotting wood all the way though” she noted, as the cat girl returned with the bad news.

“Bad news guys, we g-gotta run. The whole town heard us!” She explained quickly, her eyes wide as a pair of (adorable) saucers and ears flat against her head. “They’re pretty slow, so we s-should be able to outrun them all the way to the top.” She didn’t sound too confident, but came up to Fern and patted her on the shoulder. “Y-You okay? Can you run?”

“Yeah. I think I can-” Fern began to reply before Stag wrapped an arm under her shoulders for support. “Oh. Ok yeah definitely good to go now” Fern correct herself, giving Stag a smile before Pebble started to shoo them forwards.

“Get a move on you two, I’ll stick to the back. Slow them down even more” she then said, tossing a stone up and catching it “So let’s go!”

And go they did, racing upwards on their long elfish legs and nimble cat feet, with Pebble dancing at the back and giving the front runners of the growing horde a pin point rock shot in the knee for their exceptionalism whenever her skills came off cool down.

Ahead, at the top of the tree, sat of all things a tower, the upper most oranges all joining together to make a mighty spire that looked out across all of the forest. The winding road they were on led up to two mighty gates, which were, oddly, open slightly ajar rather than sealed shut to keep intruders out. Not that the elves noticed discrepancy, the lot of them having only just learned what a door was during their sneaking, and the why’s where less important than what it let them do, which was squeeze in through the gates and then slam them shut behind them, sealing them in the tower that became swiftly besieged by the undead hordes.

As the lumbering dead moaned and clawed at the door the [adventurers] took in the room at the bottom of the tower, which was fairly specious, and featured mainly an reception desk (ot that they knew what was) varios chairs to sit in while waiting to be served and, behind all of this, a shallow spiral staircase leading up the wall.

Behind the desk bathed in light shining in through amber windows, sat a much more put together wooden undead, clad in a cloak of dead leaves, the hood of which framed a considerably more detailed head stylised like a skull. It was casually flicking through the pages of a book that matched the description of what the [adventurers] where here for, but its red eyes flicked up upon hearing them enter and cleared its throat

“Greetings heroes, and welcome” it said with a polite customer service voice, before slamming its hands on the table and standing up and concluding with “TO YOUR DOOM! Nyeh he heh!” in a cackling voice.

“What.. Who?” Stag stammered, before being cut off by the undead’s introduction:

“I am Jim, the legendary, the magnificent, the stupendous, and mortal kind’s eternal foe!” he declared, arms spread wide and grand as himself proclaimed titles

There was a pause and then Pebble said “Well I’ve never heard of you?”

“Till today, Nyehehehe. My legend starts here, and it will spread far and wide. If you survive to tel lthe tale that is! Now, prepare yourself for my most devious plot yet!” he said, before grabbing a gnarled wooden staff sitting by the desk, thrusting it forwards and shouting “furniture attack!”

At his word’s the dead wood making up all the rows of chairs around the sprung to life and began kidna awkwardly stumbling towards them on stiff legs while the litch sprinted up the stairs, pie making instruction based brize tucked under one arm, cackling wildly as he went.

Lorelei kicked over one of the attacking chairs and watched it wiggle about until it stopped moving, tail swishing curiously behind her. “T-This is kinda cool!” She mused, casually knocking over another chair that had approached her, then another, watching each one until they stopped moving.

It was a stare from Stag that broke her out of her reverie. “Oh! Um… Right, l-lets catch this wooden prime!” She shouted with renewed vigour and deftly ran past all the wiggling chairs and up the stairs after Jim. Vines dropped from the ceiling and wooden roots emerged from the walls and floor to try and trip her up, but Lorelei’s catlike agility made it seem like she was effortlessly dodging every single trap. As she neared the top of the stairs and saw Jim run off into a long hallway, she shouted. “Hey, gimme that recipe book or I’ll turn you into c-charcoal! Come on guys, keep up!”

I’d like to see you try nyeh heh heh!” Jim jeered, before shouting “zombie ambush!” as the doors on either side of the hallway were flung open and a mini horde of lumbering dead shambled out to give the [adventurers] a bad time. Lorelei could do nothing but jump back with a yelp as she narrowly avoided being grabbed by the zombie horde. “W-What the heck kinda skill is that? Cheater!” She hissed and stretched her arm towards the horde, “[Zombie Retreat]! [Zombie Kill]! [Cat Luck]! Ugh!” When none of the things she shouted actually did anything, she huffed and stepped back even further .

“You can’t just make up skills,” Pebble informed her, before shouting “[enhanced improvised toss]” and throwing an undead chair at an incoming zombie, both it and the chair exploding into splinters.

“Yeah well then where the heck did that thing learn to do all this stuff!” Fern complained as she and Stag arrived, their [traversal: forest] having proved to have a second use of avoiding tripping over an re-animated forest of root and vine as well.

“M-maybe focus on getting him to stop?” Stag countered, while using his spear to flip an aggressive bit of furniture off of the staircase and sending it smashing down to the floor.

“Right. Arms, legs and heads, let’s go!” Pebble tried to regain order, before hefting another of her diminishing supply of stones and aiming for headshots with them. Fern scowled, speared another zombie and cursed as she ran into the same kind of problem she had already had: Pointed sticks were not good against the lumbering dead. So she ditched it, yelled “[improvised weapon]” and then ripped a door off its wooden hinges and started using it lengthwise as a battering ram.

“What!” Lorelei didn’t know what was happening anymore, and just decided to go along with it and followed Fern closely, kicking away any tree zombie that strayed too close from the group’s flanks. “[Cat Kick]! [Cat Kick]! [Cat Kick]! [Cat Kick]!” She yelled many times, even though she didn’t have any skill with the words “cat” or “kick” in it.

Eventually, they had pushed through the thickest part of the horde and found themselves at the foot of yet another staircase, though this one was a spiral kind and went straight up, with windows (more like holes) looking out towards the forest. It wasn’t like the group could stop to admire the view though, with the undefeated horde hot on their tails. “A-All of this to learn about pies!” Lorelei screamed as she began running up the staircase, lungs starting to burn.

“My life is on the line here. Maybe. Just keep running!” Pebble ordered as she raced ahead while Stag helped an increasingly winded Fern climb up the staircase until, at last, they reached the top of the tower for a dramatic final showdown.

They emerged under a blood red sky and once again found Jim opposite the stairs, only this time stood atop a set of battlements with only a bearskin rug between them and him. As they arrived he swept his staff towards them and cackled “nyeh he he, you may have bested my hordes, but are you ready for my final and greatest minion!” he declared before thrusting the staf up dramatically and crying out “rise my creation!”

And rise it did, the ‘rug’ pulling itself off of the ground to reveal itself to be the, rather beaten up, remains of a mossbear, hulking brutes of the forest, big as a grizzly and twice as tough.

“Lets see how you deal with-” Jim began, only to be drowned out by a triple cry of “[forest-kin slayer]” followed by twin shouts of “[rock hard throw],” “[piercing javelin]” from two of elves as they unleashed all of their long cooldown priority target skills at once on the rotting form of a beast they’d had to deal with before down in the darkwoods.

Stag’s last (and only) spear lanced out, stabbing right through the mossbear’s eye, Pebble’s small stone hit with the force of big rock and caved in its other eye, and finally Fern just ran at the blind thing, jumped and brought the door she still was caring down in an overhead smash with a cry of “[expend weapon]”, the door dealing a spectacular blow that brought down the moss bear before it literally disintegrated into ash.

“This…” Jim trailed off as his final gambit failed spectacularly.

“Ahh,how the turns table! N-Next time, get yourself a few elf friends. Maybe then you’ll stand a chance!” Lorelei grinned and cracked her knuckles as she approached Jim “Any l-last words, machine?”

“Last… words? Last words! ” the lich cried back as he as scrambling up onto the battlements to and right up to the edge, before turning with a leer and holding up the book and began to threaten them with “not one step closer or I’ll-” only to receive a rock to the chest that sent his pitching towards the edge and his arms pinwheeling for balance. At that exact moment, Lorelei shot forward and snatched the book off of Jim’s flailing arms and watched as the villain fell off the tower.

“Heh. Neat.” She muttered as she stowed the book under her arm and walked back to the group, only for a cackling to rise back up from below the tower and the litch reappeared, seeingly flying.

“Foooooool!” Jim cackled, before taunting “remember this day, heroes, as the day you alost stopped the legend of Jim! nyehehehehehehehe!” and then rising up further, revealing himself to be standing on the backs of two flying sea turtles that swift bor him away front the tower while he laughed at them from on high.

He also ducked the rock tossed at him this time.

“What a weirdo” Fern commented, before sitting down, the exertion and wounds catching up to her, Stag sitting down next to her and adding “well at least it's over”

“Thanks to you, Lorelei. You really saved my skin there” Pebble said , her eyes locked onto to the book the catgirl had under her arm

“That eager for a p-pie, huh?” Lorelei sighed and handed the book to the elves, “Well, it was fun tagging along with you guys, and I got to prove that short people are as cool as any e-elf.” She declared and nodded to herself with a satisfied grin.

“Yes!” Pebble practically snatched it from the offered hand and then raised it up triumphantly and delcard “pie!” which was greeted with a shower of confetti bursting out of the now open pages in celebration of a quest complete. Then there was a little pause before Pebble noted “wait… how do I use this too make pie?”

She frowned and brought the book down and after turning it over a few times and poking it figured out how they worked and started leafing through it. “it’s… pictures. And little squiggly things” she said, describing her interpretation of the contents.

“Guess we’ll have to figure it out” Fern said “later. Sit down and rest Pebble. We still need to get back down and past all the ‘zombies’ and stuff”

Stag moaned at the prospect, till Fern punched him lightly on the shoulder “ah come on, don’t be like that. Least it’ll be easier”

“Mmm, short rest, and then we get back at it” Pebble agreed, first sitting, and then laying, down as Jeon’s system made up for his delayed gratification of the pie book with some instantaneous rewards for surviving his treehouse of dread puzzle:

An absolut bevy of level up notifications.



And after that, well, zombies never stood a chance.






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Hidden 5 mos ago 5 mos ago Post by Timemaster
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Timemaster Ashevelendar

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The Abyssal Warning


It was time, Ashevelen was ready to leave the Umbral Woods and travel the world. The first time since her creation of the Satyrs. Sure, she scoured the woods and the badlands around it but this time it was time for her to go farther away. See what others created and meet the other divines. More than once she felt the presence of a divine approaching the forests only to leave but as she started walking, she felt something.

Yet another divine was approaching and this one was headed straight to the forest and there were no signs of them changing directions. “Step” by “step” it got closer and that was enough. Transforming in her fully divine might, Ashe took flight and awaited the other one.

The divine seemed to stop on its steps for a minute after getting close enough, before its movement started again but not at the same pace, more like a run through the woods, its movements going erratic and unpredictable, rotating around her.

Ashe shook her head, whoever this new divine was, she wasn’t in the mood for games. Taking a deep breath, shadows swirled around her and with a snap of her fingers, the shadows of the forest became her eyes. Looking for a few seconds at the “intruder” she smiled and the shadows enveloped her, appearing a few metres away from the new divine.

Welcome to my forest, divine sister. ” said Ashe, in a friendly voice. Whoever this new one was, she looked fierce.

The area seemed empty except for a strange lack of light yet she could feel the deity nearby still moving but this time very close as she looked around a tree fell to the ground before being lifted a dark being could be seen saying. “Certaais!” The tree was soon flung in her direction.

Ashevelen shook her head and the tree soon got enveloped in the shadows. Her power made the tree what it was, it can as easily take it away. The tree fell on the ground with a loud thud , its branches still in one piece, as if it wasn’t just thrown a few metres away.

These tricks don’t work on divines, sister, as you well know. I suggest you come out of your bubble of darkness or whatever hides you from my senses and calm down. Let us talk in peace. ” gone was the friendly voice of Ashe, replaced with a steel voice, similar to how a staff sergeant would speak with his privates.

The area seemed to be surrounded by darkness as the light began to fade around Ashevelen the deity seemed to prefer a lack of light or anonymity until she heard “Keiayei? Hiy ai kriuaik yhe?”

Darkness, not darkness, all the same for Ashe. But she was getting annoyed. This delay was taking longer than she wanted and this other divine seemed keen on destroying her work.

Because I'm divine as well and because you’re the one going over my domain. It is considered a sign of respect to say your hellos when we meet one another. Not enough divines left out there, believe it or not. ” replied Ashe.

She soon noticed a pair of red eyes staring at a distance; the darkness soon faded as a being dressed in heavy armour appeared. She quickly approached dark veins and red eyes was a feature on the divine face she opened her mouth saying “Blether less mah leid then ah imagined…” (A bit different your language is from what i imagined.) her accent was a bit off the common.

Ashe inspected the armour for anything powerful enough to actually hurt her but discovered it was merely that, an armour. Still, a dangerous opponent if she needed to be one. Even more dangerous to her Umbra and the elves. Hearing her accent from closer, Ashe paid no mind to it. In her travels around the cosmos, she met a multitude of divines and mortals, each with a different one.

I care not about the language. Speak in whatever tongue you may wish. I am Ashevelen, the lady of the trade. Who are you and why are you attacking a fellow divine without warning. ” quickly replied Ashe.

She crossed her arms, seeming to examine Ashvelen before saying. “Met no deity and the ones I trust say trust nobody… so forgive my paranoia.”

Nodding, Ashe smiled for the first time “ I understand that but know that Homura is the one that called us here. Maybe you recently woke up due to her call, doesn’t matter really. Welcome to the Umbral Forests, my current home and the home of my creations. I beseech you not to harm them as long as you are here.

The divine raised an eyebrow saying “this lands is yers?” taking a quick look around before giving a small nod she then said “My name is… Oa’qeisskesi” she said her name after thinking for a few minutes, probably never thought of it for a while.

Greetings, Oa’qeisskesi. Yes. I am sharing them with another divine and currently in contact with a few others. There are quite a few of us out there. Some are wandering around, some have created mortals and shepherding them and others found themselves different jobs to do around here.

“How many of us are there?” Oa’qeisskesi was interested in the information and a few whispers could be heard around her before she said. “Siauta!” Turning to the empty forest, before turning around with a straight face.

I don’t know, I haven’t met them. I personally met 3 of them and I’ve seen the works of at least 2 more but there are many, many more. Travel towards the big elvish city and you’re sure to meet a few. I’m surprised that I’m your first.

“I don't know if that is good or ill…” Oa’qeisskesi said with doubt thinking for a moment “Very close our powers are… What portifolio you have?” she kept her regular straight face.

Ashevelen laughed out loud at the word “portfolio” but not of malice. “ Apologies for that. Portfolio. One one I haven’t heard until now to describe our domains. As I said before, I’m the lady of the trade and recently of shadows, if you look around, I’ve colonised this area. Yours?

Oa’qeisskesi seemed interested but after hearing trade she was confused upon hearing her domain she soon said. “A bit complicated to explain besides the words abyss…” As she gave a small walk to the right her shadow seemed to have white eyes looking at Ashevelen Oa’qeisskesi, said. “Whit's trade?”

Ashevelen shook her head and launched a tirade of words towards Oa, explaining what trade is in all the ways it could be possible to be explained. From normal trading to pacts and everything in between. It was the type of explanation that only a divine being would truly understand.

I hope that clears it up a bit. Nothing is complicated for a divine being, sister but I get what you mean.

“It's strange…” Oa’qeisskesi said who retained a straight face throughout the whole explanation. She then said, rolling her head to the north “you said somebody lies north?” her vision isn't far enough to see what it was but she could feel a bit more activity in the north.

Yes, a city of mortals raised by one of us. I haven’t been there myself but managed to see it from the air sometime ago. Just…don’t go attacking them as well. Divines are supposed to be above these mortal squabbles, if you know what I mean. ” replied Ashe, thinking about the massive city and large number of elves she managed to see.

“Difficult…” She heard from Oa’qeisskesi her shadow seemed a bit erratic, she couldnt see through it but she could feel something else. Oa'qeisskesi soon said her eyes seemed to glow “... their souls are what we need…” her aura seemed a bit more savage before stopping with a sigh from her she then said “I must go around then otherwise too much attention to draw…”

If Ashevelen noticed the difference in Oa’s shadow, she didn’t care. It was Oa’s business what other demons she had to deal with but she seemed dangerous and could prove a threat in the future.

May I ask, why do you care about attention? Attention from whom? Surely not mortals. ” quickly replied Ashe.

Oa’qeisskesi stared at Ashvelen after hearing that, she soon said “fear i have not all can be kind… all seek themselves to be better” looking to the right while Ashevelen could just see she just seemed to look at a distance but for Oa’qeisskesi the black sun stood beside her it soon said “I also agree… After all, who knows what lies beyond… but are you sure we shouldn't go there a lot of souls to fuel the abyss” Oa’qeisskesi soon said. “No… too dangerous…”

Everyone is kind if you offer them a good deal, trust me on that. Nothing is dangerous for a divine but each with their own sister. I’d like to ask you not to harm my mortals or any that are in these forests. They’ve got the protection of multiple divines and we’ve got plans for them. ” replied Ashe.

Oa’qeisskesi pondered before saying “i will keep mah word, for now but when those I care can't wait, I’m sorry but my word won't hold a contract. Can’t last forever when times change…”
I cannot fault you for that. Each has to take care of their own. ” replied Ashe sagely. She knew very well what that meant, a threat for the future and not of now. That was fine for Ashe, more than enough time to prepare.

Oa soon started to move forward but she stopped after a few steps, throwing something to Ashe. Divine energy glowed around it until it landed in her hands.

As she held it seemed like a copper coin with Ashe’s face on it and on the back it seemed like words from the abyss. Holding tight in her hand it soon started to make several copies of itself made out of copper

. “Keep the change…” said Oa as she kept walking.

I’ll take this as a fine for attacking me in my domain for no reason. Have fun in further endeavours. ” replied Ashe in a hurry.

As soon as Oa’s energy went farther away and she was sure she wouldn’t come back yet, Ashe quickly scoured the whole of the forest for any hidden surprises but she found nothing. Nothing but a champion that was about to fight with some elves. Exactly what she told them NOT to do.

Interjecting quickly in their conversation and potentially saving Penumbra, Ashevelen raised herself up in the sky. Looking at the whole of the forest and started thinking, something had to be done. This Oa proved to be dangerous and that will only grow in time. Ashe’s Umbra and not only were in danger and it was the duty of all divines to protect their mortals unless they don’t deserve it.

What to do, what to do…” said Ashe to no one in particular and then it hit her, she once thought about some upgrades for the Umbra but they would have to prove themselves for it. Nonetheless, they did for now and the danger anyway was too great to be bogged down by stuff like this.

Flying in the middle of the village, Ashe gathered all of the Umbra that were around and asked the Satyrs to let no one get inside the village until she’s done. The High Archon bowed their head towards Ashevelen in reverence and asked what they could do for their creator.

With a wave of her hand, the Archon and all the other Umbra shushed. Gathering her power, the whole village became darkend. Nothing could be seen inside it and if someone were to watch from afar, they’d see a black dot where the village stood.

With a great shout the “dot” shrinked and shrinked until it reached Ashevelen and then a great column of shadows rose from it and hit the sky with staggering speed. Each of the unmodified-by-other-divines-Umbra would then get hit by a string of shadowy energy, wherever they were in the world, enveloping them all in it. Dark sparkles went around and around in a circle around the Umbra and so, they ascended .

Soon they’ll discover their new abilities and they will thank the Goddess for such a kind boon.
Blessed with higher resistance to light, they would find themselves able to walk in the sun of the day with no fear. The ability to put a few objects inside themselves to store for later on would as well be very useful for the Umbral merchants as they would not need to carry everything on them, making them targets for the bandits that would be sure to appear with the rise of civilisation and perhaps the most useful ability the Umbra received, was to be able to become one with the shadows of the world and in a limited area be able to transfer themselves from one to another. The last thing the Umbra will notice will be the fact that some of them would've grown legs or tentacles that would work the same as legs.

Rejoice for I have looked upon you and I decided to deserve something in return for your devotion. The sun is no longer a source of fear, you shall now be able to walk like the Satyrs if you so wish and now, now, you will be able to store objects within your shadowy forms. Same as I can do. ” shouted Ashe to all the village.

The Umbra rejoiced and a celebration was soon starting to be made around the village with food and drinks being prepared.

And. ” added Ashe before the Umbra could start their mortal celebration.

Ashevelen showed them the coin she received and created a large number of coins for the Umbra to use, she then went on and explained what the coin is and how the coins are to be used while also going into finer things about inflation and so, as much as she could without scrambling the brains of the Umbra.

In the days that would follow, the Umbra will have a very early payment system done between them with each job they do, getting them coins which they can use to trade with. The Printing Coin was to be left in Ashevelen’s possession but before Ashevelen went on her trip, she dug a whole in the ground and released a very large cache of coins inside it.







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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Based and RPilled

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The Ferryman

&




“I WANT MY MOMMYYYY!”

“O-okay, lil’ fella’, I understand that, but–”

“WUUAAAAAAAAAH!”

Hell had just been created, but the Ferryman had been living it for weeks now. Back and forth, back and forth to the Ghostel to drop off the souls of the dead. Of course, he had no idea that Hell was a thing. All he knew was that souls were appearing like flies - recently, the grass plains had offered souls by the score, with villages laying in ruins all around them. This latest shipment was its own horde of children, parents and smelly old people. The Ferryman could hardly muster the spirit to share tales with them on their travels.

As Wellington made landfall and the souls hopped off and into the grossly overcrowded Ghostel, the bell of death rang once more in his breast pocket. He felt his eyes roll back into their sockets and released a primordial groan. When the Ferryman groaned, it was always from the bottom of his soul - it was the one action he poured his entire spirit into. The sound was so powerful that living flowers died and passed into the afterlife all around. The souls in the Ghostel, so packed with cacophony, all fell silent. The Ferryman cast the building and its inhabitants an exhausted glance and sat down on the rim of Wellington.

Over by his side appeared a concerned shadow, mostly appearing the same as it always had except it now wore an apron and a funny hat. The Umbra, whom the Ferryman had named the Chef, patted his master on the shoulder and whispered, “The Chef senses the Ferryman struggles.”

“The Chef would be right,” the Ferryman concurred. Another two Umbra came out from the Ghostel.

The Janitor adjusted his shirt and offered the Ferryman a handkerchief. The Ferryman took it and dabbed his forehead.

The Groundskeeper picked one of the flower souls and offered it to its master. The Ferryman took it and gave it a scenic sniff. He paused and sighed again.

“My friends… I fear I may have grown overworked.”

“Should the Janitor fetch the Masseuse?”

“No, that’s alright, Janitor. My shoulders are fine.”

“Perhaps the Bartender, then,” the Groundskeeper suggested.

“No, I’m not thirsty…”

“Is the Ferryman bored, perhaps?” It was the Puppeteer who had come out of the house, and already he was playing around with shadows from the ghastly lanterns, forming pictures and dancing animals. From the Ghostel came light applause.

“No! I mean, yes, but… I’m sorry, Puppeteer, I don’t think it’s the sort of boredom that can be cured with shadow puppets.”

The Puppeteer shrank and got a shoulder pat from the Janitor. The Ferryman sighed for a third time. “Look, it’s nothing personal - not at all. I love your puppet shows. It’s just… I guess boredom isn’t the right word, either. It’s just… Work. A lot of work. And it doesn’t end. I pick up souls, take them here, and then repeat it. This is no afterlife, it’s just a Ghostel!”

“Not to mention the souls run off all the time,” the Groundskeeper added sourly.

The Ferryman blinked. “Wait, run off? What do you mean?”

The Groundskeeper shrugged. “The Groundskeeper has no idea. They keep saying they can’t help it and we have to escort them back and put them in the chest in the cellar.”

“The Janitor counted six souls down there last time he checked.”

The Ferryman felt a tug in his brain signalling that he had heard something like this before. However, he couldn’t put his finger on it just yet. His mind boarded instead his earlier train of thought and made him purse his lips. “... Well, uh, that’s odd. Anyway, I’ve been thinking I need to expand my staff somewhat.”

The Umbra looked his long rod up and down. “The Puppeteer thinks the Ferryman’s staff is sizeable enough as it is.”

The Ferryman blinked. “No, the–... Nevermind. What I meant to say was that I think adding another colleague to our party would be beneficial for future management of the Soul Business.”

“The Chef thinks a different name for the firm would be better…”

“Right, we can vote for the name later,” the Ferryman conceded witheringly. “Either way, we need someone, in my opinion, who can take over management here and (Homura willing) in our future branch offices while I’m out ferrying. Someone with a mind for numbers and efficiency.”

The Umbra exchanged looks. The Ferryman snapped his fingers. “Someone who fixed stuff like -that-, you know? Like a really good deputy manager.”

“The Ferryman speaks in riddles,” mumbled the Puppeteer.

“Oh, sorry, the corporate lingo comes all too easy to me.” He snapped his fingers again. In an instant, a ghostly man in strange clothes appeared. Lacking significantly more colours than the rest, the white and black gentleman adjusted a tie about his neck and combed his hair back, sticking the comb into a small portfolio suitcase in his opposite hand. He then stuck out that hand, palm open and welcoming in the Ferryman’s direction.


“Afternoon, Mr. the Ferryman. Name’s the Bureaucrat.”


The Ferryman blinked and shook the hand. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Bureaucrat, but you can drop the ‘the’.”

“Oh, apologies. My bad.” With lightning speed, he reached into his suitcase, took out a form, crossed out a tiny word and filed the form back in its correct folder. The Ferryman clapped in brief awe. The Bureaucrat grinned and pulled out a different form. “By the way, I trust you will fill this out at your earliest convenience.”

The Ferryman took the form and scanned it briefly. “Terms of employment?”

“For the archives, you understand,”

“... ‘The employee reserves the full right to spend divine power to’... Wait, what?”

“Why yes! It’s in my contract.”

“What contract?!”

The Bureaucrat produced a separate document. “The one you signed by summoning me, of course.”

The Ferryman scanned this document as well, discovering that, indeed, someone or something had signed The Ferryman in neat little cursives at the bottom of the page. “Well, I’ll be damned.”

“You won’t, but your passengers sure will,” chuckled the Bureaucrat and filed the contract under the correct folder once again. “Well, circa 59.2% of them. You have collected a considerable number of sinners. You would want to ship them to the Hellforge right away.”

The Ferryman blinked. “The Hellforge? What's the Hellforge?”

The Bureaucrat nodded with infinite patience. “That would be the afterlife, sir. Well, one afterlife - I’m certain someone will make another once they read the reviews for it.”

The Ferryman could hardly believe it. An afterlife had been made. A real, proper afterlife! A place where he could take the souls - well, at least sixty percent of them! The ecstacy boiled him to the core and he hopped into his boat. “People! Gather all the souls headed for the Hellforge!”

“But how will the Groundskeeper know–”

“Not to fear, my solar urticariatic friend,” said the Bureaucrat and popped out a list. “I have a registry right here.”



Aldion and Zylana walked the streets of Hell, pondering new ideas.

”Hellspawn,” Aldion said aloud, before shaking his head. ”No. Forgeborn? Ehhh…”

“Aldionites?” Zylana offered.

”Tempting, but no. Hm. The Fallen? The Reborn? No, no. The Convicted? The Wardens? Such names will only convey a part of their role.”

“Have you settled on a name for the larger island around us?” Zylana asked.

“Hm? Oh, yes. I have. Infernus.”

“Hellcast Infernals,” Zylana proposed.

Aldion stopped, and his eyes widened. That was the greatest name he had heard yet! Unfortunately, it had not come from him. He shook his head. ”No, too long. Let’s keep it simple. Hm. Made from the souls of the damned. Damned. Damnen. Damnon. Damon.” He snapped his fingers. ”Demon! Yes, demon. That will do nicely. Rolls off the tongue easily, and it is its own word.”

“You are truly clever, Your Infernal Majesty,” Zylana said in a tone that sounded sincere, but definitely wasn’t. Aldion allowed it. It may not have been intended as truth, but it was the truth. And besides, inferiors should always be prepared to flatter their betters.

Then, a presence. It was hard for Zylana to sense, but to Aldion it was as tangible as a touch. Another deity was approaching, and the black flames of Hell boiled hungrily as though sinful souls were near.

Aldion looked up. ”A visitor?”

Zylana shook her head. “An invader,” she corrected. “They bring an army of sinners with them.” She extended her claws and licked her lips, eagerly anticipating bloodshed. “Perhaps even using their souls to track us.”

”Well, that won’t so,” Aldion remarked. ”But it would be best to determine their intent first. It could be an offering of tribute, or perhaps the Trade Goddess making her first shipment - she is the only one I told, after all.”

Zylana looked disappointed. “That may be so,” she reluctantly conceded.

”Still, best to be on our guard. Here in our Realm, we hold the advantage. Let’s not squander it.”

And with that, Aldion and Zylana returned to the top of the tower, where they awaited the newcomer’s arrival. Though the colourful smoke emitted by the Forge might make it hard for a mortal to see, for a divine it was clear enough.

On the Horizon, a small boat sailed swiftly on a magical river of light that formed before it and faded behind it. Aboard were, to the soul-seeing eyes, a veritable crowd of anxious dead, all gulping as one at the torturous purgatory designated as a forge. At the back of the boat, steering with a stick, a bald humanoid in a robe whistled joyously to soothe the situation, much like an ant attempting to lift a melon.

As the boat approached, the robed man waved and shouted from a distance, "Pardon me, sir, but is this the afterlife where all those mean souls are supposed to end upl?"

”That is one way to describe it, I suppose,” Aldion replied. ”What is your purpose in coming here?”

The boat stopped right at the edge of the tower and the pilot smiled from ambiguous ear to ambiguous ear. “Fantastic! You have no idea how happy this makes me.” He stuck a hand out. “I’m the Ferryman. I’ve been looking for places to take the souls of the dead for, oof, ages now. Heard from an acquaintance of ours, Miss Ashevelen, that a Mister Aldion collect the sinful sort. Are you Mister Aldion, by chance?”

”King Aldion,” Zylana corrected. “To be referred to as ‘His Infernal Majesty’, and to be addressed as ‘Your Infernal Majesty.’”

Aldion waved her off. ”He is a fellow god, Zylana. Some liberties may be allowed.”

Zylana bowed her head. “Forgive me,” she said, clenching her fanged teeth.

The Ferryman waved his hands apologetically. “Oh no, please don’t apologise! I confess, I only glanced over the contract (especially the introduction), so I only caught bits and pieces relating to titles and such. I’m in the wrong here.” He cleared his throat. “So, uh, Your Infernal Majesty - where’d you like me to put’em? Got about, uh, seventy in here with another two hundred or so back at the Ghostel ready to be shipped.” The souls aboard squealed and begged loudly for mercy and forgiveness. The Ferryman regarded them largely as a fisherman would regard dead fish in his hull.

”Into the Hellforge,” Aldion said, gesturing to the mass of colourful flame behind him, which was already hissing with the burning of screaming souls. ”Cut them loose and the forge shall do the rest.”

“Yessir!” trolled the Ferryman and sailed off. Once over the sea of fire, he whistled a little jingle as he shoveled weeping souls into the gruesome pit of doom and destruction. It was brief, swift and professional, and the Ferryman had soon pulled up next to the tower again and offered Aldion and Zylana both a courteous nod. “Right, that was the first delivery! Say, Your Infernal Majesty - got a moment to discuss that contract of yours with Miss Ashevelen?”

”Indeed I do,” Aldion said, flipping open his Black Book. ”If you would step off that vessel and come over here…”

The Ferryman nodded again, brought Wellington to the bank of its magic river, and stepped comfortably off the boat and onto the tower floor.

Aldion gestured for the Ferryman to stand next to him, then showed him the book. ”As you can see,” he said, ”The terms of the contract are quite clear.”

The Ferryman nodded. “Oh, absolutely - and just to make this clear - I don’t intend on challenging any of these clauses and upset this very nice cooperation you’ve got going with Miss Ashevelen, cross my heart.” He paused to briefly regard the book’s pages. “Lovely handwriting, by the way.”

”Good.” Aldion nodded. ”Then I suppose I must also inform you that it is not just umbra souls I will be claiming. My judgement must extend to all mortals who sin. In many ways, this contract is merely a formality, one I primarily agreed to because most of Ashevelan’s ideals seem compatible with mine - in letter, at least, and I find cooperation preferable to conflict.”

The Ferryman nodded politely. “Yessir. That soul business was actually what I wanted to talk about. If it’d be alright with you, I’d like to sign on as your main partner in shipping.” He supported his fists on his hips and equipped a smile.

”My Forge already draws all the souls I lay claim to on its own,” Aldion noted. ”But I must confess it is a slow process. Another deity willing to transport them manually or introduce his own system will greatly expedite this process,” he mused. ”And yet I must wonder what you gain from this. What are your terms?”

The Ferryman shrugged. “I suppose I gain the satisfaction of doing my job,” he reasoned. “Besides, seeing slow processes in need of effectivisation be unmanaged and unimproved makes my fingers itch.” He hummed as he looked down in the books’ pages. “I guess if I had any terms, uh… Don’t sign on with a competitor without consulting me, I guess? I don’t know how many are in the soul shipping business, but can’t be too careful, right?”

“That is a reasonable request,” Aldion decided. ”I shall in turn put forth a term of my own. Should a soul qualify for two or more afterlives, and one of those afterlives is Hell, I have right of first refusal.”

“You’ve got it, Your Majesty,” jingled the Ferryman. He held out a hand. “Looking forward to a good and fruitful partnership!”

”As am I,” Aldion said, but he did not yet accept the hand. ”Before we shake hands, however, we must first discuss the finer details of our cooperation, and also draw up a contract.”

“Oh, uh, right!” The Ferryman cleared his throat. “The Bureaucrat’s a bit sharper on this than me, but I’ll try. What do you need from me?”

Aldion quickly launched into an explanation of his ideals, and what sort of behaviours he deemed worthy of eternal damnation. He provided a few examples as well, in some cases becoming surprisingly heated as he described them. A few other minor terms were raised - things that should mostly go without saying, but Aldion thought were best to have in writing. He also included a helpful definition for the term ‘right of first refusal.’ As he spoke, he wrote all this down, and added the Ferryman’s own condition as well.

”Would you prefer your copy in stone or in parchment?” Aldion asked once he had finished.

“Uh, stone, I suppose. Nothing lasts like stone!”

Aldion snapped his fingers, and a stone tablet fell into the Ferryman’s arms. ”Just sign your name there,” Aldion instructed, handing him a hammer and chisel. ”Then sign the copy in my book,” he held up the quill.

Amateurishly, the Ferryman chiseled in his signature, then signed the book page in ink with similar green inscription skills. Evaluating his work for a brief minute, he shifted to Aldion and nodded. "That should do it, I think. This'd go nicely on the wall of my house… If I had one." He eyed the rest of the forgegrounds "You do real estate, by chance?"

There was a look of appraisal in Aldion’s eyes, as he signed his own name. ”Why do you ask?”

The Ferryman waved dismissively. "Oh, nothin'. Just thinking out loud. Alright, got everything you need, Your Majesty?"

”I shall inform you if I require anything else,” Aldion said.

"Sounds good, Your Majesty." The Ferryman offered a polite nod and strolled over to his boat. Setting a foot aboard, he faced Aldion and gave him a thumb-up. "Well, I'm off to fetch another shipment! About a hundred-and-sixty-seven additional deaths have passed over the course of our conversation, so there's plenty to do." He boarded fully and grabbed his oar. "Farewell!" With that, he sailed off.




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

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To bake an apple pie from scratch (in the Darkwoods)


As Stag the [ranger] watched a young elf lad cautiously edge towards the towering redwood deer among a herd of its fellows. Rather than a spear on hand as might have been expected in days only recently gone by however, the boy’s only ‘weapon’ was a juicy green apple. The forest-kin snorted and turned its gaze on the elf when it sensed his approach. In response the boy froze in alarm, only to sigh in relief as the deer’s eyes left him and instead looked at the apple he was holding. He moved closer and then offered it up to the majestic creature who gave it a sniff and then, after a final tense moment, took a chomp out of it.

The elf lad beamed, and then ever so carefully reached out and gave the deer a pet on the head and a scratch behind the ear, which it seemed to appreciate just as much as the apple.

Then he looked even more delighted as a little notification spoke in his mind:



And he suddenly connected to the deer with his skill, and marveled as he found its simple mind quite content with this offering.

“I did it” the elf whispered to himself, and then he looked ever so proud as he got a little smattering of applause from the other [herders] who had been standing around supervising/watching the initiation of another member into their class. Stag joined in, reminiscing about the time he essentially created the ceremony and gained the class himself. He’d promptly lost it a level later when his [ranger] class devoured his new [herder] class (there was no escape from the life Fern had dragged him into apparently, not that he’d really been trying to get away from it anyway) and ‘upgraded’ [herd creature empathy] into [companion: deepened bond].

He was half sure that his [animal companion] Doe (he had been amazed to learn she’d somehow gained a class thanks to that same [companion: deepened bond] skill) being jealous of the other deer he’d tamed had been what had caused that particular change. Or maybe he was being paranoid.

Still, though the initiation had been nice to watch, that wasn’t why he was here, and so once the [herders] finished congratulating their new comrade the [ranger] strolled over to speak with their leader, Doe trotting along at his side.

“Ah hello there Stag, so good to see you again!” the elf in question said, stepping forward to clasping arms with the [ranger], who smiled as he took part in the gesture and said “and you Spear”

“So, what brings a famous [adventurer] like you out here to my little herd?” he teased, knowing full well how to push his old friend’s buttons.

“Just a delivery” a slightly flushing Stag said, before he turned and opened a few leaf based packs hung over Doe’s side and pulled out a set of acorn bread loaves that had been made by the tribe. He handed them over to the [herder] before adding “and another request for the usual”

“Ahhh, Pebble still hard at it eh?” the [herder] guessed, as he handed over the bread and then moved over to one of their herd animals to get Stag what he had requested “you know how I love this new bread stuff, but I feel bad for you lot, putting up with her whole pie making thing. How long has it been?”

“Eh, not too long. I mean we only have this bread because it's a step on the journey to that” Stag replied, defending his friend, though his stomach protested at the thought of taste testing another failed attempt.

Still, as a friend he had to do whatever he could to help her out, and in this case it was personally heading out here to get more ingredients after Pebble had exhausted her existing supplies. This he got after a bit of complaining from a few of Redwood deer, the [herder] doing his thing with the the help of his [induce lactation] skill and getting the [ranger] several leafy containers worth of fresh forest-kin milk, which, if he had any point of comparison, he’d have was akin to a mix of soymilk and almond milk in taste and consistency. As it was, it was the only kind of milk he had known, and it had been one of the trickier things to figure out how to get on the ingredient list.

No one had had to invent a whole new class and way of iterating with the wildlife to get acorns or eggs for example.

Either way, now that he had (more of) it, the [ranger] bid farewell to the [herders] and headed back home. And yes, it was home, rather than just back to the tribe, because in the time since retrieving the book, they’d settled down. Stag still found himself wishing they’d chosen anywhere else to do so though, because the place they had still gave him the odd set of nightmarish flashbacks.

A short trip later he exited the treeline and entered the shade of the canopy of a single massive tree. Once there him and Doe headed over to the trunk and the [ranger] gave a whistle up into the branches.

An elven head popped out of the foliage, in response to his summons, and it did not look pleased to see him. Or, rather, his companion. “Uurgh, didn’t we just let you down Stag” the elf complained, “can't you just leave it down there?”

“You know how she gets” Stag replied, Doe had a tendency to complain, loudly, about being left behind, before adding “Besides, I need her to carry all this milk”

“Uuurgh, fine. I’ll go get help” the elf replied, before adding a last spiteful “again!” before vanishing back into the trees.

A few moments later and a whole lot of pulling later and Stag and Doe had been hauled up into the tree via vine ropes, and they were back in the place he and his party had claimed the cookbook: the tree house dungeon, once home of Jim, now renamed simply to Sanctuary.

After they’d finished their quest, the [adventurers] had left this place behind, but after telling tales of it to others, some of the other people had come to check it out to see if there was anything else to be found. There wasn’t any other treasure to be found (something Jeon hand made notes to himself about to the tune of ‘add secondary loot’), they had found that, once the last of the dead were cleared out, it was actually quite a nice place.

Stag and his [animal companion] trotted along the roads of the now lightly occupied tree house town, trotting past the dwellings that were far more secure against shark attacks than any leafy nest, and past elves gathering from branches that had been somehow made to bear all of the tree’s seeds in one place, the mighty oak bearing plethora of acorns in a scattering of concentrated gardens, ripe for the easy pickings.

Still even this might not have been enough to keep them here, but they had stuck around for two other additional reasons. The first was that Pebble’s research had resulted in them being able to make stone ovens, which you obviously didn’t want to leave behind or tray and carry with you, and the other was Jeon’s debatablely helpful addition to the situation he’d made once he’d found out they were thinking about setting up shop: fermenting.

The smell of baking, alcohol and cheese greeted Stag as he arrived in the area they’d set aside for all their baking and brewing needs, and then he headed for its heart, pushing open the door and meeting back up with his fellows.

Fern was sitting at the table on a (fortunately unanimated) chair, next to a member of the underground exploration adventure that hadn’t made it to the treehouse adventure: Bark, the once (primitive) shield and armor bearing elf who had been injured during one of their interim adventurers. His leg had never healed right and he had had to retire from that life. Now he’d ended being the unfortunate test subject of Pebble’s many baking attempts

“Hi all. I brought more milk. I’m sure you're quite happy about that Bark right?” Stag said as he and his [animal companion] entered, not above making that joke himself

“Oh lay off. That joke is so overdone at this point” Fern chided him, but Bark just laughed it off

“Actually, that last one wasn't so bad. Though maybe the cider is helping” the wounded adventurer joked, before sipping from the stone bowl that held his drink.

“Did I hear something about milk?” came a voice from the kitchen, before a soot faced Pebble popped her head out, saw who had arrived and brightened up a bit “oh, good, you're here. You know I think I’m on the edge of a break through, so thanks for being so fast”

“Yeah. No problem” Stag replied, before guiding the stooping Doe over so Pebble could retrieve the milk. Then he went and found a seat at the table next to the other two, with Doe joining them a few moments later once she was unloaded, the redwood deer settling herself down and stealing a drink from Bark’s bowl, much to his annoyance.

The three elves + animal relaxed together for a time after, leaving Pebble to her experiments.

She had in the back room a load of bowls, eggs from varicose waterbird species, some apples, assorted nuts and seeds to be ground into flour, the newly acquired milk, and, in the middle of all this, Grannysmith’s cookbook, popped open on the apple pie. Despite having everything she needed, there was one major thing holding her back:

Not a single elf in the world could read. This meant getting the exact measurements of the various ingredients out of the book absolutely impossible, not to mention the cooking times.

Still, through trial, error and practicing with simpler recipes, she was sure that this time, this time, it would be the one. She swiftly set to work, pulling together all the ingredients in a stone bowl. Pastry was made, filling created, and then more pastry on top. Then once that was set up she took her latest attempt and pushed it into her stone oven that was little more than a stack of rocks holding up an upper and lower shelf made of stone slabs.

Then all there was to do was wait. Pebble joined the others, counting the time in her head as they drank and small talked. Then once the self made moments of time were over, she stepped away and used a bit of hide as oven mitts to grab the encouragingly tasty smelling pie and pulled it out.

And then her eyes went wide



There was no skill this level, but as omens went it was ever so good.

“Oh. my. Gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh. I think I’ve done it!” she cheered, hurrying into the other room and almost tripping with excitement, Fern managing to catch her friend before fate ruined her moment.

Instead of a disaster, the pie was slapped down on the table, a knife was acquired and the dish divided up for the eating. There was a bit of well earned apprehension before the elves tucked in, paused, and then just utterly devoured the pie slices.

“Well. How was it?” Pebble asked, ever so redundantly, and got a chorus of approval from her friends that made her tear up a little.

She’d done it. She’d baked the pie! Now all she needed to do was pull it off consistently, and also make a pie worthy of a goddess.

No pressure right?




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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Tuujaimaa
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Tuujaimaa The Saint of Splendour

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The Birth of Logiopolis

The Kathetikon & Assembled Villagers

@Tuujaimaa & @Utrax




Rolling waves lazily broke ashore. This was a beach made of smooth stones and scarcely little sand. Warm winds blew here, as it was situated far to the south, and so close to the equator that the weather tended toward hot even in the night. This crescent shaped bay–inhabited by a collection of Centaur, Kinnaras, Human, and some few Umbra–had become something of a home to those people since they had been placed here by Myrtu, a god which was known only as a fleeting streak of light in the night sky.

Along the rocky beach a Centaur and Kinnaras walked alone, collecting driftwood. Most of the salt-paled scraps were charred already, having come from some distant and unknown blaze to the north, but it was all still valuable for every evening's gatherings, where questions and debates thrived with healthy curiosity and moderation. Though these people were still a new species, their jump-started knowledge for survival–which most reasoned had been divinely granted–had helped them thrive in this untamed land.

Idly, the Centaur and the Kinnaras were engaged in conversation of the usual fare for these people of the infant coast:

“Yes, but for what purpose were we granted this knowledge?” The Centaur sighed heavily, readjusting the bundle of sticks tied to her back, “And for what reason were we placed here with it? This is still a question of much debate.”

“But they’re questions for which there’ll not be an answer soon,” replied the Kinnaras, picking up a sizable driftwood log, “For now, we’ve a bonfire to tend to–the others are likely waiting for us. We’ll have much discussion at length on this topic, were you to bring it forward. Again. ‘Tis one of the circular types of discussions, is it not?”

And for a silent moment, the Centaur stared at the other, her brows kitting tightly, “Is tonight the night of names?”

“Tis,” replied the Kinnaras with a clever smirk, “For how many nights from The God Star have we not decided upon them? Methinks they are overdue–for how else should we know each other, if not by name?”

The lapping of waves upon the shore continued to punctuate the idle prognostication of the various assembled thinkers, the swelling and breaking of the tide thrumming in time to the back-and-forth of their inquiries. The gentle moonlight radiated its crimson-tinged glow through the celestial sphere above, and as the light made its way to the shore it could be seen to glitter and sparkle through the crests of the waves. They glistered as brilliantly as jewels before they broke upon the shore, and to their learned eyes it would look almost like some unseen force guiding them towards the various objects that the waves broke upon as the scattered effulgence dispersed around them in a most pleasing way. Only when the final question was asked did a peculiarly radiant glow deign it appropriate to intercede, making sure to attempt to catch the attention of all nearby with a dazzling display of light.

Laying upon the shore was suddenly an opened tome, its pages filled with spidery script that even from afar seemed to beckon their attention towards it. Whispers carried on the gentle zephyrs of the night reached the ears of the assembled, barely-audible voices filling their heads with the gentlest hints of secrets and knowledge far beyond their ken. It called to them like moths to the flame, setting alight that fire within their minds that they knew was named curiosity. As they would approach it, however, they would be stopped by a featureless silhouette that took the barest hints of their shape but little else. A great expanse of soft alabaster made up its face and body, topped with a messy sprawl of inky-black threads that swept themselves about in a pale imitation of hair and down into what could only generously be called clothing. Before any of them could approach too closely it picked the tome up from the beach with the most reverent deference, bowing and nodding its head as it did so, and words spilled from its mouth like ink flowing onto the page:

“The Master requests that you do not look at it directly, as tempting as that possibility might seem. To glimpse it without protection would surely drive you mad.” Its voice was soft and smooth, whisper-quiet but with all the sonorous force of a gong settling deep within the back of their skulls.

Both the Centaur and the Kinnaras halted at the sound of the voice, for they'd indeed been curious enough to move closer. The two exchanged a look, one filled with emotions both curious and anxious, before the Kinnaras finally turned his back to the silhouette.

Nervously he said, as he grabbed his companion's arm and encouraged her to turn away as well, "Ah, forgive us our intrusion upon the Master’s… space?"

Unsure, the Kinnaras looked up to the Centaur pleadingly. She hesitantly picked up the trail of thought, "We've only just begun to know of this world and what offerings it has for us–ours are eyes which have never beheld such a creation as this. Erm. Which… Well, we lack a term or name for such a thing, so we ask you… What are you?" She dared a glance over her shoulder but only barely, "An Umbra, perhaps? And what is that thing you hold?"

Then the Kinnaras blurted out, "And what is it, to be driven mad?"

“Oh–fear not! I’m sorry! You see…” the shade-like silhouette began, scrambling to the ground in order to pick the ominously glowing tome up off of the ground, and swiftly closing it shut between their hands. Though no facial features formed on the silhouette, its form began to subtly shift around the edges like the pages of a book rustling softly. It flickered through several iterations, becoming progressively more detailed, until its silhouette seemed to match that of the Kinnaras’. “It is the book who is the Master, but this is not its space–we have simply ended up here because the Master was curious about you. It wanted me to… experience things as you know them? I am Anagnostis!” It began, its voice initially something of a whimper. As it continued to speak it seemed to gather more of a sense of self, the clear look of understanding coming to rest upon its face.

“The Master here,” it pointed down, suddenly looking like a lifelike drawing of the Kinnaras, ”is the Kathetikon, the God of Curiosity and Knowledge. Do you know what a God is?” and opened its eyes wide at truly beholding the creatures before it. The book in its hands suddenly opened itself once again, and though it spoke no words the world seemed to become utterly and enchantingly curious. Strange glyphs and symbols began to emerge from its pages and displayed themselves directly in the air before them. Though at first they were entirely nonsensical, they quickly began to change and shift in the minds of everyone who beheld them, intuitively displaying a sense of understanding about what they intended to display: “I am the Kathetikon, the god of curiosity. I wish to know what you are, to understand how you live. To that end I have created Anagnostis. They will communicate with me for you. If you wish, I could teach you how to create language, as I have just done for you. All shall be able to read, though few may be gifted to write. All I ask in return is that you allow Anagnostis to join you for a little moment, to write down its observations about you…” it began, but then suddenly focused its attention on the Kinnaras intently, seeming to single it out with a projection of presence.

“You cannot comprehend what is mad until you comprehend everything else. Ask Anagnostis whatever you like, but for every question you ask you must answer a question from it. You will see for yourselves what madness is if you are hasty.” the words lingered in the air for a few moments before rippling away on the night breeze. Anagnostis’ face cocked up at the Kinnaras with a bright, wide smile on it, and nodded at it for it to react.

Once again, the Centaur looked to the Kinnaras, and the other returned the gaze. Both seemed to exchange a silent plethora of emotions solely in that stare. Not only were they impressed but they were curious, practically burning with the feeling, in line with the God's will.

At last the Kinnaras spoke, "Anagnostis?"

And the Centaur also asked, carefully pronouncing the word, "Kathetikon?"

Slowly and carefully, the two turned to face Anagnostis. The Kinnaras answered while looking over its new form carefully, "We know of Gods only in the sense that we are here by the will of several." A thoughtful expression came to his face as he continued, "Anagnostis… we have no reason to turn you away, for if this is the will of a God, for you to be with us, then we have not the means to refuse."

Nervously the Centaur spoke, "And we two are not ones who can show you much–there are many more of us…" she pointed to a trail, leading up a hill and into dense coastal vegetation, "...where we now take the wood for the gathering fire. To the place we all sleep and share in meals and topics of conversation. Perhaps that is what you seek?"

Mid-thought, the Kinnaras also spoke up, "The God said language–to teach us–perhaps it can help us too, with the names we're to form tonight? With what we shall call all the great many things for which we have no words?"

With a nervous chuckle the Centaur agreed, "Such things as ourselves. We should have grand names like Kathetikon and Anagnostis, too." She looked to them in that moment, "We'll lead you to the others–we're quite done gathering wood now, methinks."

"Trading–" the Kinnaras blurted out mid-thought once more,"–an answer for our question in return for an answer to yours. It is as those few made of dark, which we call the Umbra, would prefer it to be. They will be pleased to find another which values such an exchange."

Anagnostis’ face lit up with a beaming smile, its form slowly moulding and shifting until it became almost entirely like the Kinnaras and could easily have passed for a member of the race rather than simply being a very lifelike interpretation of it. “Anagnostis isn’t actually a name, you know… it’s a title! A name is… a name is what a thing is, but a title is usually what a thing does! Anagnostis means… how would you say it…” it began, bringing its hand up to its face and beginning to rub its chin thoughtfully. It did so for a few seconds before its eyes widened in a sudden burst of epiphany and it opened the book to a random page. Though they would be unable to read the writing itself, the others would clearly see the strange symbols forming across the leaves of parchment within the book, writing themselves in neat little lines that Anagnostis’ eyes followed unerringly.

“To be Anagnostis is to read, the Master says! To be one who reads the Kathetikon, this thing that is the God of Knowledge. It says that Anagnostis can also write in the book, to record new information about the world… Things like the names you deserve, yes! You’re right.” It laughed, its voice suddenly musical and filled with wonder. It began to prompt the centaur and the kinnaras up towards the village they’d pointed to, and a glittering feather with a pointed tip suddenly appeared in its hand. “... gathering of people, a place where people come together to eat and discuss their thoughts…” it mumbled idly, adding new symbols to the book in a frenzied flurry as it walked towards the trail and beckoned for its new compatriots to follow.

“Oh, this is so exciting, isn’t it? To be so close to answers, to be just on the cusp of knowing more and more! I can’t wait to hear what your friends have to say, what discoveries we’ll make!”

The Centaur was the one to catch up first. She began leading the way, her pace easy, but there was a nervousness to her steps and a quiver of uncertainty in her swishing tail. She did not speak on it, instead walking in a thoughtful silence, as behind her the Kinnaras spoke to Anagnostis.

"So you've possession of a title but not a name? Somewhat like us, this is true," he noted, "But what use are titles? What is the purpose of titles other than God?"

Ahead of them the trail wound dark and sandy, around unnamed trees with wide leaves, which drank in the sun and produced fruit of a puzzling nature–huge green husks which these primitive people had yet to figure out how to harvest. Gently the sea breeze became a whisper of its shoreside gale as the underbrush thickened to either side, deepening the darkness, yet bringing with it the sounds of the uncounted and unnamed creatures residing in the coastal jungle.

Calls of creatures cried out as bushes shook at their approach, unseen things which fled from sight, at the sound of their hooves. Bugs innumerable cried, hissed, chimed, and chirped in the cool night air as the trail wound upward still. The dancing lights of flying insects, in numbers few, flashed about in the salt-touched air. Blossoms opened from vines, glowing slightly in the light of the Wondermoon.

Eventually, as all trails had ends, they came upon their destination.

Here the forest came to a clearing that had been subjected to some minor trimming and logging. The wood had clearly been used for the erection of the primitive fencing that surrounded the clearing, wooden posts driven into the dirt. Made of sturdy logs of young trees and connected by woven and dried reeds, the fence created a perimeter around the area, and only two entrances could be seen in the relative darkness–a telling tale of how the fencing was meant to guard against creatures from the nearby underbrush.

From where they stood the clearing opened only to the level ground that the fence surrounded, before sharply ascending as a hill further toward what was a sea-facing cliff. The vista could be easily seen, as the way toward it had been cleared by these people's extensive use of the trees and brush, which left the ground bare and stony near the hill.

A large primitive shelter, of the woven branch and stick variety, had been made stronger by the use of rudimentary ropes and the sheer size of the logs used as support. It stretched out to the right of the path, where before them the hill and second path converged, and there were others already gathered there.

Notably there was quiet, despite the hundred or so gathered in the simple village.

Some conversed in hushed tones but, on the whole, the villagers (consisting of Centaurs, Kinnaras, and Humans) were focused on tending to a variety of tasks.

A ring of moderately sized rocks was host to a large fire, which was surrounded by various stands and logs staked into the ground. Large boars, fish, and even an odd bunch of roots were set to roasting around the fire, tended to primarily by humans.

Centaurs, wielding massive logs sharpened to points, were the majority of those that looked to be watching the underbrush. These were defenders, armed in case the wildlife decided to come to dinner–or in case it wanted to become dinner.

And the Kinnaras, for the most part, were hauling more wood toward the fire or hauling rudimentary skin-jugs full of water about, lifting this or that in some late night construction. To the other side of the fire a large pile of logs had been gathered, with implications toward the future construction of a second longhouse.

Other villagers were resting about the fire, conversing in their hushed tones, without regards to any particular groupings other than those of friendship or affection. A few were weaving the bases for the first baskets, others were figuring out how to comb and care for the hair of their children and friends, while some fewer still seemed to simply be silently enjoying each other's company.

The group including the Anagnostis was not met with any particular attention. It seemed everyone was waiting for something else, for the quiet had an anticipatory edge to it, with a notable amount of glances cast toward the hilltop.

“A title is something that denotes a function, whereas name denotes an identity! A title tells people what you do, like ‘gatherer’, but a name tells people who you are. Gods are important, but they are more like titles than they are like names–they do a thing, but sometimes they are also that thing? That is certainly the case with the Master!” Anagnostis replied, stroking its chin thoughtfully with the hand not holding the Kathetikon as they walked. Every time something new caught the avatar’s attention it could be seen to be glancing down towards newly forming glyphs and sigils within the pages of the now-open book. Sometimes its eyes went wide with wonder, and sometimes it narrowed its eyes in what could only be disbelief.

Anagnostis looked without hesitation upon the hastily assembled village, eyes rapidly darting between the newfound marvels before it and the Kathetikon, and each new thing it found to look upon and either research or record was accompanied by a little giggle or a sigh of contented wonder. As the little group finally reached the village Anagnostis made sure to huddle closely to the kinnaras with whom they’d gotten the closest so far, making sure to slam shut the pages of the Kathetikon as they did so:

“I’ve noticed that people keep glancing up towards that hill… is that where the main feature of tonight is going to happen? The…” Anagnostis began, opening the book just a crack in order to take a look at a particular passage, “night of names, yes? It is most curious that you’ve been given a language without a concept of proper nouns, and yet are able to communicate amongst yourself in their absence without too much difficulty! A noun is the name for a thing, and a proper noun is the name for a person or a place, according to the Master…” it finished, laughing gently under its breath as it whispered to the kinnaras.

Even the Kinnaras, initially, had been lost in his own curiosity, staring toward the hill, before Anagnostis spoke. In response, he said softly, “There is where it is easiest to hear the voice projected, by all those gathered.” And he grew thoughtful at the concept of nouns, “So that is the name of words used for how things are named?” A smirk came to the Kinnaras’ face then, “Tis a loop of nouns, as you say they are called. Nouns for nouns about nouns.”

The Kathetikon then began to glow in the moonlight, gentle ripples of gold and azure surrounding it in such a way as to not draw attention to it unless one was close-by and actively looking. ”You are not to interfere unless asked, Anagnostis. Observe and record.” it stated, the words pounding in Anagnostis’ mind without sound or motion, and the kinnaras-shaped avatar looked towards its new companion expectantly. Even with such a limited application of power the world seemed to grow more and more interesting by the moment, and the groups of mortals surrounding them seemed to point out little things they’d previously noticed but dismissed. In a matter of moments the entire village had set themselves to feverishly whispering, furtive glances and less-than-subtle pointing motions causing the conversations to list towards the philosophical and the unknown alike.

“Hm. Perhaps just a little of my influence to prepare them for the grand truths to come. Let them know the joy of curiosity, let its seed take root in their minds and never let go–these beings may well serve my purposes best by finding their own path in the world. All I must do is show them that the path exists, and they will be the ones to follow it.”

Next to them the Centaur who had led the way had already left their small group, having made her way toward the bonfire. A few humans moved to assist her in adding the numerous sticks and logs she’d gathered to a pile near the blaze. Fodder for it later, it seemed, as there were quite enough logs and branches gathered to keep the blaze going for quite some time. While the conversations picked up, four people made their way up the hill.

One was a Centaur with black fur and black hair, skin that appeared a tone of golden brown in the moonlight, and a particularly stern air about the way she moved. The hardness in her expression hinted toward a strict and disciplined personality, even further expressed by how neat and tightly braided she kept her hair.

Next to her stood a human male, pale skinned, with a shorn head of hair and light red brows, and mischievously gleaming silver eyes. He looked at those gathered, then gave them a smile. Some few that he made eye contact with seemed to snicker at some unspoken joke.

Floating next to the human was an Umbra. Normally, their kind was wholly of a shadowy and murky black variety, composed of a featureless and smoky lower body, an upper body, head, and arms, all composed of shadow. This one’s darkness had become geometrically interlaced with intricate patterns of emerald and deep orange, which glimmered despite the shadow’s darkness. Their eyes glowed a soft orange and their shadowy features were rounded, smooth, and artfully flowing.

And finally a Kinnaras joined the group atop the hill, and he carried with him a stick which had been topped with a conch shell and decorated with numerous other shells, bones, and generally pretty rocks, strung together with rudimentary twine made from plant fibers. Oddly, this Kinnaras appeared older than the others gathered, as his brown hair was flecked with gray and silver.

Quietly the Kinnaras next to Anagnostis gestured for the other to follow him, before proceeding toward a patch of grass near the bonfire. He settled down to sit, legs splayed out before himself.

The four upon the hill exchanged a moment of quiet glances with each other, before the human spoke first, “Oh, they all know why it is that tonight is different than the usual night of philosophy! Well, despite the sudden urge I have to debate what it means for us four to have been chosen to speak and collect and monitor and examine and–"

“–Please, fellow, we understand your point,” the black-haired Centaur cut the human off with a huff, despite the soft snickers that came from those gathered. “Rather than spend more time than needed gathering sentiments, let us proceed.” Helplessly, the human threw his hands up to the Centaur's interjection, though he smirked in good humor.

The Kinnaras next to them nodded, then turned to address the village, “We all know words.” This, caused snickers within the crowd again, and the Kinnaras continued with an amused chuckle, “And tonight we’ll assign those words to ourselves as representation–though not for the means by which we speak of the Tree or the Stone, for those names belong to the Tree and the Stone. No… tonight, we’ve all decided to declare to each other the names of sounds–those sounds which suit us for use. For like the Tree and the Stone, these will be suitable sounds for referencing us.”

“It has been precisely thirty three suns since our previous declaration for want of names,” the Umbra picked up, “And in those thirty three suns, there has been time enough to contemplate our personal sounds. Tonight we tell each other our sounds–our names–and commit them to memory. Let us each know the other.”

Gently the Kinnaras on the hill shook the stick, which jingled from the noise of the collected shells and rocks atop it in a rather musical manner, “Who’s first?”

The human on the hill snickered, “Shouldn’t you go first?”

Murmurs from the crowd began, as everyone seemed both nervous and eager, and next to Anagnostis, the Kinnaras snickered. He lowered his voice, a smirk upon his face, as he told Anagnostis, “Ah, ‘tis something I’ve not given much contemplation to personally, I admit. Though I do like the name of the title which you bear, new one. The title of yours is a sound most pleasing among sounds, from those which we know.”

Anagnostis watched the display with rapt interest, a beaming smile plastered to its face as it simply enjoyed the scene unfolding before it. To the avatar of the God of Curiosity and Knowledge this was perhaps the ideal first experience of the world: watching a group of beings come together to decide on the names they would call themselves was a privilege beyond words. Anagnostis’ heart burned with the desire to participate in the ritual–but a gentle tingle of energy from the Kathetikon reminded Anagnostis of its place in rather quick measure and it disabused itself of the notion its excitement presented. It joined in the crowd seamlessly as they laughed at the wry humour, and hummed along under its breath to the little tune that the kinnaras’ stick made.

“The Master was once a mortal like yourselves, in a place far away from here, and it gave me this title from the tongue it used to speak. If you like the sound of it, I’m sure the Master would be happy to–” Anagnostis began, but was quickly interrupted by a now-familiar pulse of energy. This time it was not reproachful, however, but instead a warning as the Kathetikon opened itself in Anagnostis’ palms and began to glow fiercely. The imprinted sigils and symbols on its pages began to leak out, spilling forth in a tide of multi-hued ink that quickly overwhelmed the entire village below the hill. The assembled villagers seemed not to panic as it overtook them, however, instead merely intensely curious about what on earth could generate such a phenomenon as their hushed whispers became a riotous discussion.

After only a moment the ink seemed to dissipate, soaking into every object and every little thing as it disappeared, and when the villagers had wiped the murk from their eyes they found themselves standing in an enormous amphitheatre, each with their own seat of honour and looking down upon those speakers who had previously been atop the hill. Anagnostis remained where it was, now seated next to the Kinnaras quite close to the action, and gasped in an equal measure of surprise along with the others. In the base of the amphitheatre now stood a resplendent podium made of rainbow-hued marble and lapis lazuli, and atop it awaited an opened Kathetikon.

”I am the Kathetikon, God of Curiosity and Knowledge, and on this most auspicious of nights I have chosen to teach you the mysteries of language in accordance with your resolution to name yourselves.” the Kathetikon stated, its words simply appearing in the minds of the assembled villagers. Ornately curving symbols began to manifest in the air, their loops and whorls at first unintelligible but quickly revealing their intended meaning to all of the assembled villagers simply by gazing upon it. ”Polyglos is the name of this language, and it shall begin the ceremony of names! Just as it has been named, so too may you name yourselves using it: all you must do is picture in your mind’s eye the essence of who you are, the sounds that you enjoy, and the stone tablets beneath your seats shall display the name that you have chosen for yourself. Once you know what your name is…” the tome began, this time its words displaying themselves in the air in Polyglos for all to read, ”it shall be recorded within my pages forevermore!”

Anagnostis was the first to stand and clap loudly, before it took a detachable stone tablet from the base of its carved seat and walked through down the stairs in order to take its place at the podium. Fires of every colour imaginable burned in magnificent golden braziers, each exploding in a shower of light and sound as Anagnostis passed them, and when it finally stood in front of the opened tome it scrawled a little passage within the Kathetikon’s pages and then turned to its newfound friend, the kinnaras it had been sitting with.

“Come! You’d better think fast…” Anagnostis laughed, beckoning them down with a cheering gesture to a bout of raucous applause.

Laughing heartily, the Kinnaras shook his head, "But I've yet to-" and then he looked down. Upon his tablet, was already written a name. Hesitantly he picked the tablet up then tilted his head, reading aloud, "Pyonexos?" With a carefree shrug, he got to his feet, then moved toward Anagnostis quite fearlessly, tablet in hand. Once next to the podium, he couldn't help but take a long look around.

Off to the side, the speakers were examining their own names, whilst becoming quite engrossed in conversation. Their enthusiasm was mirrored by others in the room, as the multitudes began actualizing names–as the tablets etched the sounds into being, a notable increase in conversation volumes could be observed.

Several others were already examining the architecture, the structure itself, and the manner in which things were shaped and carved. A few of the more militant among those gathered simply looked nervous, as they stared with a mix of fear and curiosity toward the Anagnostis.

Pyonexos took a deep breath, then looked toward Anagnostis at last. A rather pleased smile came to his face, "We'd only just a few suns ago debated if there were other gods, do you know? Besides those that the Umbra know, of course. We debated if they'd had a sense of responsibility to us–questioned the memory of a god long departed–and now one has given us names."

He took a deep breath, his eyes rather misty with emotion, and his voice choked up, as he told Anagnostis, "I do not doubt they'll come–" he gestured with his head toward the four speakers "–with grander thanks and better words to express our joy, but I offer mine to you and the god. My deepest gratitude in amounts not even an Umbra could quantify."

"And what is given in return?!"

This voice came from the Umbra who stood on the floor of the amphitheater. The other speakers clamored in response, trying to halt the Umbra's motion, but the Umbra simply became intangible and passed through them.

It fixed Anagnostis and the Kathetikon with a glowing orange stare before it asked, with some modicum of emotion, "For what you have given us, there must be something asked for in exchange, correct? What would the God ask of us? What do we owe?" When the Kinnaras speaker moved to the Umbra's side, the Umbra looked over and spoke before the other could, "We are now in debt. There is inequity in what is given and what is received. The trade is not fair for the Divinity."

Anagnostis had begun to offer its sincerest congratulations to its newly named friend, but quickly turned to scribe the new name within the pages of the Kathetikon. As it did so the writing seemed to settle into the soft, radiant light emanating from the pages and then suddenly Pyonexos himself seemed more realised, more solid and definite than the others who were yet to receive their names and have them recorded in the tome of all things. Anagnostis turned to the Umbra who’d raised their queries with an equally curious expression on its face, but quickly turned back to the opened Kathetikon and rifled through its pages while holding a finger up towards the Umbra in order to try and get it to wait while it divined the answers.

After only a couple of brief seconds Anagnostis was interrupted by the sonorous rumblings of the Kathetikon’s overwhelming will, and it simply wove the words it wished to speak into the minds of all assembled:

”You speak of the concept of bargaining, of trade, that one thing cannot be offered without something being given in return? Is this the will of one of my siblings, I wonder? Very well: what I have given you is not truly names, nor is it even Polyglos, but curiosity. I have inspired you to wish for things you did not know that you wanted, for things that you could scarcely comprehend before my gifts elucidated you. The way for you to repay this debt you have incurred is simple: indulge this curiosity always. Seek to understand all things, aspire to create new marvels, and record your observations in Polyglos always that they might join my hallowed pages. Assemble a great collection of writings in my name and offer your thoughts and prayers to me through them, and I shall stoke the curiosity within you and lead you to where you may find new knowledge for yourselves. Now come! May your names be written within me as an agreement of this covenant!”

The flames grew even grander, colours more vivid, the sharply carved architecture of the amphitheatre all the more pronounced–and as they did so, the overwhelming sense of curiosity permeating the area only grew, that all would be compelled to see what could be created in the world and strive to work out how they could make it for themselves. The Kathetikon knew that its manipulation of the reality around them would not last long once it chose to stop actively maintaining it, and so this also conveniently served as something of a test: had they the ability to prioritise knowledge above all else, to serve as extensions of the god’s will as they so clearly wished to? The Kathetikon’s idle musings were soon drowned out by more and more of the villagers traveling down the steps of the amphitheatre (while taking some time to consider how it could be built, of course) and towards Anagnostis, who happily continued to write their names in the god as both a way to give them the gift of knowledge and ratify the deal that the Umbra had insisted they make.

There was much willingness yet, there was an undercurrent of apprehension lurking here and there. Questions about the god were common as people conversed. Questions about the God's honesty and what it meant for the God to have come here, of all places. Some few mentioned the fleeting presence of a different Divinity as they received their names, and stared in curiosity toward the night sky. Yet, plenty of others were eager to accept the path offered by a new Divine, for this gave them a semblance of structure or clearer purpose.

When the Umbra speaker came fourth in the procession, they told the Anagnostis, "Charaondes, as this one is now called, was indeed created by another Divine, whose will all Umbra follow. My soul, if sinful, is promised to another." Reminiscing, Charaondes continued, "It was whilst riding on a tour of the lands with the creator, aboard a Divine vessel, that Charaondes became blessed by a second Divine, through a sacred trade. To you, Charaondes gives the names of Ashevelen, Aldion, The Ferryman, and Myrtu–those other Divines which are recalled from the earliest point of Charondes as a whole. Ours is the memory which spans generations, through division and whole-spawning." They bowed somewhat, as well as a shadow could, before making way for the next to be named.

Steadily, the procession continued, though there were more than a few that seemed far more skittish than the rest. Among those last few that came forward for a name, there came a nervous question from one scrawny human, "And what is the punishment, if we are unable to fulfill the will of the god?"

”Let me make this plain: I exist only to guide mortalkind towards the path of knowledge, and to banish the blackness of ignorance that surrounds you. I am a servant of mortalkind more than an overseer or a ruler. That which I rule over is curiosity, not punishment–I am the source of the itch in your mind that draws you to discovery, and all I wish is for you to walk that path of your own volition. There is no reprimand for failing to do so but the lack of knowledge and agency you invite upon yourself: to reject me and my teachings is to never know the joy of learning something new, to never know the pleasure of ensuring those who come after you may do so less afraid and more equipped than you. It was asked of me to propose the terms of a trade, and so I have: but I am not Ashevelen, nor Aldion. I am not the Ferryman, nor Myrtu. My siblings are not yet recorded within my pages, but you have already given me a great gift by revealing their names and their existences to me: if you would ask something of me in return for this knowledge, you may.” the Kathetikon rumbled, the amphitheatre beginning to shift and change with the cadence of its words. Where before there was wonder and mystery to inspire curiosity there was now a sense of comfort, familiar and affable surroundings to allow the assembled the peace they needed to tend their minds. The carved stone chairs became cushioned with luxurious fabrics, goblets of water and wine placed on sturdy wooden tables, and the chill of the night banished with a soothing warmth. The Kathetikon then focused its will towards the human that had addressed it.

”You think all divinities wish to punish those that do not follow their will? How curious; recount to me all those experiences you have had that have made you think this.”

It was most of the small Umbra population which spoke in answer–only six of them remained within this village’s number. Some recounted having witnessed at their 'earliest divisions,' Ashevelen punishing two Umbra with death, for those Umbra had tried to feed themselves upon the flesh of another Umbra in cannibalism. Another Umbra recalled seeing a "Red Divinity" come to collect those two souls, before having been sent away by the Gods, that they might speak alone.

Rather more philosophically, a Centaur proposed during this discussion that they were all currently being punished–that they were abandoned here by Myrtu as some obscure form of reprimand, for something none had any recollection of. This, of course, began a few moments of debate within the amphitheater. Some few shouted that the Centaur’s words were but conjecture and theory while others took his side in the matter, and called it both likely and possible.

"But even if we are not punished," came the rather strident voice of one of the speakers, which was the bald human, his voice brought the discussions down to a whisper, "Then should we not, while there is a God in our presence, use the opportunity to ask our most burning question?"

He turned rather dramatically toward the Anagnostis, taking a few strides toward it, while really building the suspense up, as those who were last whispering soon fell silent. With open arms and gestures meant to catch the eye, the bald human newly named Sinosceros, asked, "For what purpose would we perform such tasks?"

He was ever the performer himself, a natural, as he walked across the floor, capturing attention easily, speaking both to the Kathetikon and to the audience. "For the purpose of performing in thy name, of course- oh but of course- though, why perform? Deeply and in essence, for what reason? As we live and breathe, in your name, of course, we ask why? Why live? Why breathe? Why be curious when all are destined to become bones upon the stony shore?"

”Long did I ponder the answer to that question myself. I who have hoarded worlds of knowledge within my pages have arrived at the following conclusion: the universe must experience itself, for what does it mean to exist at all if not to experience? If there was no sorrow there could not be joy. If there was no dread, there could not be wonder. If there was no ignorance, there could not be curiosity. You do not yet understand that the journey is more important than the destination, that you must gather fragments of joy and love and wonder knowing you are destined to lose them. We deities exist to ensure that your journey is all-encompassing, that you may find your own path through it. If you feel lost, it is only because you are yet to understand–and in order to understand, you must be curious. That answer is one you must search for yourself in order for it to have any meaning at all.” The Kathetikon did not deign to press its words into the minds of those present this time, electing simply to project its meaning in Polyglos in the very skies above. The curved lines of script interwove themselves with the patterns of the distant stars above, and the meaning was clear to all within the amphitheatre who simply deigned to look up.

It was Anagnostis that spoke next, its eyes full and bright and a gentle smile playing upon its lips:

“If you do not discover the answer for yourselves, what would it mean? Do you lack direction so keenly that you believe only a God could divine the answers? The Master could tell you anything you so desired, but it is the journey of discovery that allows you to make sense of it! So… learn! Work out a way to answer all of your questions, learn how everything works and come to the conclusion yourselves! Purpose is something only you can grant yourselves, just as the Master has said!”

Sinosceros clasped his hands together in an empathetic gesture before applauding gently. Of course, a few other onlookers and listeners joined in the applause. When it seemed that others were becoming convinced of the reasoning, a few murmurs from the crowd dedicated to the topic, the black haired Centaur speaker shook her head, then stomped her front hooves sharply.

This, something that had commanded attention many times before, cut off discussions sharply, so that she could pose her question."But for what purpose are we, those who would seek such a path, made mortal for?"

She shook her head, her front hoof scraping the floor anxiously, as she continued with feigned stoicism, "Death has come to us from the creatures of the jungle and seas–even those few that sought independence from us. This is not the whole of us left ashore by the God…"

She let out a heavy and disparaging huff, "At their hands, have we found violence and pain. They would, in their continued envy, try to take from us what curiosity and wonder we'll seek. For what reason do we learn, if there will only be those committed to ignorance? If there will be those whose anger leads them to destroy that which you have given us?"

And she, who was named Kletimisis, asked firmly, "And what do we do for them? Are we to help them? Are we to destroy them before they destroy us? What is the lesson we gain from such a path, then?"

”Even Gods can die. There was once a world whose inhabitants had conquered death…” the Kathetikon began, the world around them once more rippling as divine energy coursed through it. The words of the story began to unravel themselves and then insert themselves into the very reality around the assembled villagers, taking their dull and improvised works and transforming them into a truly resplendent sight. Their houses of woven sticks became grand buildings of wondrous materials they had no names nor thoughts for, carved and sculpted so beautifully that it was as if the world itself had catered for their deepest desires. The sky became awash with colours they had never seen before, their refulgent light illuminating the world in ways that were soothing and enchanting beyond all measure. The very ground became illuminated with gentle hues of golden light, and their basic encampment against the ravages of the wilderness was suddenly a grand metropolis, filled with people idly reclining in pleasure and joy beyond anything the villagers could imagine. No danger to harass them, every physical and mental want catered for at a moment’s notice–all things a perfect and peaceful utopia the likes of which they could scarcely conceive of. It lasted for a few moments to capture their awe and their wonder before the Kathetikon began to narrate further, writing its words in the sky and the air and the gilded ground:

”... but as they banished all ills from their world, they realised that they had forgotten life’s joys and its trials both. Their search for perfection had robbed them of the journey of life, and left them apathetic shells with no quest for meaning, no curiosity, no existence at all.”

As its words wove themselves through the world once more the glistering veneer of perfection began to peel away, and the rot of apathy and stagnancy made itself known. The shadow of ignorance emerged from the perfectly curated heavens, dimming the stars one by one as their light became dull and uninteresting. The buildings lost their fluidity and wonder, and were soon no better to the world’s inhabitants than the ramshackle huts of wood and leaf and dirt. Time itself stretched out towards infinity, dilating itself in the minds of the villagers as they experienced a fraction of the overwhelming apathy and longing held in the shadowed hearts of the inhabitants of this strange place.

”Death is neither freedom nor a prison. Death is simply an inevitable part of life, for light without shadow is as destructive as the dark mire of ignorance. Not all will understand; pain will make those without the elucidation of reason rage against their existence, make them give in to the cold lifelessness of despair. What is my gift of curiosity if not the light that tempers darkness, the fire that chases away the cold, the journey that gives meaning to the destination? You cry out because you do not understand, but even the very secrets of creation would not deliver you from this ultimate fate. You must live and experience for any of it to have any meaning at all. The answers you seek cannot be laid out before you, they must be learned through experience. My gift is the ability to choose your own meaning.”

The words began to eat away at the visage of perfection until only reality as it truly was remained, and the light of the moon shone down upon the hill where the Kathetikon and Anagnostis resided, alongside the four speakers. The inquisitiveness in the air remained, as rich and powerful as ever, but this time it was not the will of the Kathetikon but instead the will of the people in whom the raging flames of curiosity had been placed. To have gazed upon such wonders and learned of their insignificance was a cruel burden to bear, but they had asked the God of Knowledge for its answers, and it had warned them that they could go mad if they could not withstand the answers they so desperately sought. Some would take refuge in the truth of its words, and some would be unable to accept it at all. Some would feed the fire that had begun within them with logic and facts, and some would let it consume them entirely. Such was the fate of the curious, of those who would know at any cost–and such was the lesson of the Kathetikon’s tale, which had been made manifest at their request.

And this was the contemplative silence which soon became light with a musical chime. Gently, the older Kinnaras shook his staff, breaking the silence and gathering attention, with its light and rhythmic motions. Steadily he tapped it upon the grassy ground, slowly, and gently, before a smile came to his face. Mnaseas, as he was named now, started with a chuckle, "Such grand questions to ask of the God–our new God–yet I do wonder…" As he trailed off, he brought his hand to his chin, a gesture which caused a few people to shift forward in their seated positions, those standing shifting their feet anxiously, as the pause lasted for moments nearing too long.

"Do we, then, have your belief, as we believe in you?" Mnaseas smiled widely at both Anagnostis and the Kathetikon, before continuing, "For you've shown us so many great things– these buildings, which we've no means of creating. That world, which we've no concepts for. Shared with us tales and a means of… writing… with what, we've yet to discover."

He chuckled again, "Only just have we gained names, so we've no idea as to how to build such a thing," he said, sweeping his gaze about where the amphitheater once was, "And likely, many of us shall leave the work for those to come. Those who even you've yet to meet." Looking back to the Kathetikon, Mnaseas asked, "If it is to us that you give such a divine task, to go after our curiosity with our whole hearts, something which I do not doubt we all feel, then do you… trust us to do so? Do you believe we'll find a means to make such grand structures which shall facilitate our… path... forward? That we'll survive to serve you? None may know the future but.. as the Shadows would say, it is an investment. A risky one. So why us?"

Mnaseas chuckled again, tapping his staff to ease a few murmurs which were caused by that last question. "As we can all admit, ours is a way that has scarcely begun. We have no doubt there are places far more advanced- the Umbra hail from one such society. Yet, it was us, who you have chosen, just now. But why? Is it due to such belief in us? That we'll be so grand… and survive?"

”Do you understand what belief is? Belief is hope made manifest, created in the lack of knowledge. When one does not know, one chooses to hope for better; I am the God of Knowledge, and so there is little that I do not know–I have no faith in you because I do not need it. I know that you will succeed, for all has been ordained within my pages. I know because I am here to tend to you, and because you believe in yourselves. I know because the path has been revealed to you, and your curiosity as to what lies at its end will never wane. It is not I that have chosen you, my beloved mortals, but you that have chosen me: so long as you embrace curiosity, I will always be with you. I will be with you all, from now until the end of time. I will be there every step of the journey, and when the time finally comes for those who carry on after you to reach the answers at the end of all things I shall greet you all once again and welcome you as my peers.” The words made no grand gestures this time, instead weaving themselves through the simple and humble beginnings of all curiosity. They were the curiosity of how one could make walls that would last for longer and protect against the elements more, present in every woven leaf and carved bit of wood. They were present in the warmth and solace of the fire atop the hill. They were the bonds forged between newly named brothers and sisters, united in their feelings and thoughts.

”All you need do now is walk.” came the voice of Anagnostis, who had finally finished penning the last of the newly minted names in the Kathetikon. It picked the book up and closed it firmly between its hands, turning around once more to smile at Pyonexos. It nodded its head and gazed up at the stars, seeming to divine within their patterns something that the others simply could not, and it turned to begin walking away. After a few paces it abruptly stopped and turned around, a deep crimson flush spreading across its face.

“Oh–the Master says I am to help you begin, to stay with you awhile and learn from the journey with you! I think we should get started…” it laughed, and it sprinted towards its new friend with open, bookless arms.

Pyonexos, who had been staring after Anagnostis, laughed as he said, "And I was just about to ask when or if you'd return." Then, he too, opened his arms wide.



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Ravdur


"Here," Ravdur said as he finally stopped moving and landed on the coast of the large lake in the taiga region. Here he decided that here in this place that his new race will be born. Plenty of fresh water, and to his back, the many trees that cover the region. Plently of building material. A good start for a fresh face on this planet, he thought.

As he turned his back to the lake, Ravdur, with his arms raised, his hands started to glow, and soon enough. An image formed in his head of what this race will be. Tall, grey-skinned, and with pointed ears, a race that oddly does not resemble him, and yet Ravdur is fine with that. Their design seems oddly familiar to him, like he has seen them before, and he can not place it, but right now, it does not matter. This will be his race, a hardy, and strong people. Their name will be the Eosin, and time for them to be born.

So without another thought and with his hands glowing so bright that it would blind any mortal that would gaze on it. The Eosin came into being, albeit with only minimal clothing. Thousands laying on the ground, and yet they were not conscious, not yet. For Ravdur has one thing to pass on to them before awakening them. Taking off his helmet, revealing his short gray hair. He sent a message into the minds of the sleeping Eosin.

"Hello, my people, I am Ravdur, Lord of Ice, your maker. I have created you to not just survive in this world that we both call home but to thrive and stand tall against any that seeks to control you. And I have given the knowledge needed to survive in this world, but it falls on you to thrive in this world. Only you can do that, and good luck, my people." Just before he ends the message, Ravdur imparts his code of honor to the Eosin, and when he was done.

He snapped his fingers, and every Eosin wakes up and when they first opened their eyes. Ravdur was gone, already on the move, as he was curious about the other gods and what they have created. Leaving his creations on their own for now, but he will return to gauge their progress once enough time has passed. Now, it is time to see more of this world, his new home, and see if any of the others gods are as strange as Myrtu.





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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by AdorableSaucer
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AdorableSaucer Based and RPilled

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Sashla stood motionless on a rock on the empty plain. Blood trickled from her knee in branching paths, and her torn robes danced in the wind like banners on a pole. He held in her hands a necklace - the only remains of her mother. At the roots of the tower of smoke splitting the endless horizon in two, the smoulders of her home village surrendered themselves to a settling cloud of ash and dust. Her elven eyes were not strong enough to make out details, but in the centre was the unquestionable shape which had heralded the tide of doom for her people:

Druzhik Maneshaver.



“Those are some beautiful locks you have.” An ever-young man, hair like gold flowing over long, sharp ears, glared daggers into the flesh of his adversary. A tough, leathery hand held him by a fistful of those golden strands, one not even his elven strength could best. Its owner, a bald, ox-horned centaur with bloodshot eyes, brought the hair closer to his nose and gave it a deep whiff. The man struggled against the perverse beast.

“Unhand me, you animal!”

“Ah…” whispered the blissful creature. “You must bathe regularly. An impressive feat out here in the grasslands…” He lowered himself to eye-level with the man. “You know what happens now, don’t you?”

The man grit his teeth together. “I… I will rip your disgusting, fungus-ridden tongue out–!” All around the two, a rocking choir of laughter rang out and hooves clapped to the ground. The man withered briefly. The Maneshaver grinned mockingly and stuck his tongue out.

“Heeh! Go a’eah! Guh ih ou’!” After seeing nothing but a fading scowl from the elf, the Maneshaver sucked his tongue back in to the sound of more laughter. “See, this is why I don’t like your kind. You’re just so…” He snapped his fingers searchingly. “... Well, you just don’t know when to quit, you know?” He gestured to the charred ruins and several corpses around them. Groups and lines of prisoners tied with simple rope intermittently appeared in between walls of centaur slavers. “I didn’t -have- to kill and enslave all of you. You could’ve just paid up as I asked.” A mighty hand extended to accept an obsidian knife while the other lifted the elf by the hair. “And yet, you always resist… Always, always, always.”

“You… Horsefucker…!”

“Don’t bring Aslimor into this!” The Maneshaver sighed. “Honestly, I almost don’t feel like punishing you.” A brief pause. “... Longlegs, what are your thoughts?”

An imposing mare answered sharply: “Grind him into the grass, I say!”

The Maneshaver nodded. “Towfur?”

A blonde stallion tugged at a link of ten slaves and kicked up a front leg. “INTO THE GRASS!”

The Maneshaver nodded again. “Mossnibbler?”

A black-spotted white mare with great horns rubbed her chin pensively. “The grass is thirsty at this time of year. It would do good with some moisture.”

Yet again, the Maneshaver nodded appreciatively at the advice. “And you, my dear lieutenant?”

A mountain of muscle, bulbous from hoof to halo and crowned with a forest of antlers, huffed like a bull in heat. “He insulted me by name. I will peel off his skin with my nails and use it for rope; I will grind his bones into meal and use it for facepaint; I will plant tree seeds in his organs and bury them, then chop down the trees that grow from them and use them for firewood. All this I will do, or my name isn’t Aslimor Horsefucker.”

The Maneshaver nodded one last time. “My bloodsworn have spoken. You now know what fate awaits you, little man.” He then brandished the knife in front of his eyes. “... But first, I will have my way with you…”

Before the man could reply, an unspeakable pain sliced into the top of his forehead, slowly and coarsely making its way along his entire scalp, far down his neck.



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Hidden 5 mos ago Post by Double Capybara
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Double Capybara Thank you for releasing me

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A low rumble echoed through the dark woods, it had a rhythmic beat, and while most of the animals were merely scared, to the elves it represented a much bigger threat, not one man, woman or child was left without a hint of worry.

The source of the small tremors could be easily followed, next to the village, in a small makeshift ritualistic area near the temple. As one got closer they would feel that strong ‘gravity’ effect felt from the presence of a god who was not holding beach their power.

One elf made a silent prayer, while hearing the “BANG BANG BANG” that was causing tremors over the entire region. Could his friend truly defeat the beast? Or was today her doom?

At the middle of it all, there was Lektoria Koreh Tellur. Banging her hands against the monolithic stone table, going “PIE PIE PIE PIE PIE” like a petulant child while waiting for her dish to be served. Sure she could summon pies with her own magic, as she had done in Haven, but like, it didn’t taste as good if it was made from your own divine essence, she was hungry for the real deal, and this elf teasing her with the promise of pastry better deliver the goods.

Up above in the tree house city of Sanctuary, Pebble was running herself ragged trying to make the perfect pie. Or even just a pie. Because it had been all of a day since she had managed to make the one that leveled her up, and recreating that, especially with the intense stress and head pounding petulant command of a goddess, was turning out to be a nightmare. She’d comandered every oven, and gotten all hands on deck, and still, the bakery was filled to the brim with ones that weren't just quite right.

Jeon, ever the unhelpful god, sat at a table just outside the bearkery, silently laughing to himself as this all went down, watching as Pebble churned out more pies in the span of an hour than she had in all of her experiments combined. A thing she was mainly doing because he kept shaking his head solemnly at her latest attempt. It was a cruel cruel thing to do, and a cruel cruel thing to have encouraged his fellow devine to do, but there was an end to this, and end that came in a little notification in Pebbles mind thanks to the amount of grinding she’d been tricked into doing.

Everyone else was suddenly kicked out of the bakery by Pebble and her supportive if confused friends. Free from distraction, other than the goddess, the level 5 [backer] focused, and put all her efforts into one final dish. A humble apple pie.

There was a tense hush outside of the bakery as the elves waited nervously, and then a silent intake of breath when Pebble emerged holding a pastry in her hands. She looked at Jeon, who’s eyebrows raised a little before he nodded, and the elf let out a sigh of relief. Then Jeon smirked and delivered one twist to the proceedings by pointing out simply that “now you better run along and present it before it gets cold”

THere was a pause, and then pebble cursed loudly and started running, drawing the masses of elf kind in her wake as she sprinted down the bark roads of Sanctuary to its lower floor, then grabbed a vine and went swinging down it to the forest floor.

A multitude of elves went swinging down after her, while one and his redwood deer took the new stairs Jeon had added to the trunk after laughing at the elve’s animal hauling strategy.

With the masses in her wake, the elf sped through the woods with skill-powered stride, only to slow as she approached the sound of the banging dinner bell. She caught her breath, steeled herself, and thens stepped into the clearing, still steaming pie held in hide covered hands and held in a stone pie tin.

Lektor's eyes widened, the little scamp had actually done it, she would not have guessed, the humans at Haven would have failed her pie quest for sure, despite their magical martial arts. As she sniffed the air the whole of the forest was able to calm down, the constant earthquakes coming to a sudden halt.

Yet, this also meant all of the goddess's focus was now directed at pebble, the full gravity of her presence now pinpointing at her, along with a glowing stare of her red eyes. Instead of being armored, the goddess wore a party dress with a tiny hat held by one of her cat ears, it was all overwhelmingly golden.

"Come on, come on. Don't freeze in place now, it's just a few more steps and your quest is over."

The elf took a deep breath, approached under the gaze of god, goddess and kin. Then whens he got close she instinctively knelt before the goddess as she raised up the desert as an offering and said with shaky breath “I p-present to you, oh, goddess, [the perfect pie]”

Lektor stared, rubbing her chin. “Hmm… Guess you did not spec into the [humble] stat, eh?” she let out a feline-ish crackle and then picked the pie, summoning forth silver tableware, picking up a slice, and then scooping a bit with her fork, she would sniff at it, stare at it, and finally, took it into her mouth.

Immediately, the goddess’ ears went up, her eyes widened, and her face gained a dark red blush, her wings extended even, and only until she swallowed she relaxed again. “Holly molly. HOW” she picked up the rest of the pie slice with her hand and then ate it all in one gulp. “THIS IS GREAT. You must truly be the best baker in the world… and the only one, so far, but STILL.”

She stood up and straight up jumped over the counter, forcing the elf to her feet so she could give her the proper compliments. “Damn, I did not even prepare a proper reward for you, though Jeon warned me I should, I expect your pie to be trashy, no offense, like, rubber milk and poisonous thorny berries pie, not this golden apple pie.”

Then it clicked on her. She did have one reward, it was a bit excessive, but the pie was excessively delicious too!

[Quest Complete: “The Primordial Pie”]

Reward:
4 golden coins
Set of silver tableware
CROWN OF THE UNDERWORLD
Deed to Impyra, Fortress of the Magmatic Ocean
10 [Throwing Rocks +1]

Title Acquired:
Queen Pieapple I

Job Acquired:
[Monarch - Level 1]

New quest acquired:

[“Down Under” : Settle the hold of Impyra deep in the underground caverns.]

“Oh wow, you’ve out done yourself. And me. Love all those notifications I am sooooo stealing them” Jeon called over to Lektor, before starting out a round of applause for the actual triumphant elf herself that was quickly picked up by the rest of the elves, first hesitantly, and then with growing genuine enthusiasm for the triumph of their friend and comrade.

Pebble’s mouth just kinda worked over and over as the notifications pinged in her mind and the quest rewards tumbled down out of thin air into her lap until she finally found a question to start: “W-what am I? What is a [Monarch]?”

The comment brought Lektor straight out of the pie zone. She looked very bothered. "Oh Jeon, did you make the elves here into a bunch of hippie anarchists?" She said in mild annoyance.
"Sigh. So… a king, queen, monarch… uh. How can I explain, hmm, you make the rules of the place you own, it's like your home, but your home is an entire city, and the people within it are your property. They will give you a part of the money they make, you will define what they can or cannot do, and uh, they are also supposed to fight for you if anyone wants to be the monarch instead of you."

“They're a nomadic tribal society, and didn't really think they needed any kind of complex societal structures. Besides, I have been focusing on teaching them way more important things. Like how to make booze!” the god defended his choice of teaching methods and priority, before tossing the goddess a stuffed wineskin to give her something to drink along with her dessert. This had basically no skills or skill put into making it, so it was practically moonshine, but it still did the trick.

“Money? Property? City?” Pebble murmured as the god and goddess spoke, ever so confused as she looked down in her lap and noticed something that was kind of familiar: the crown. After a moment of admiring it, she pulled back the hood of her cloak, then reached up and pulled off the little bramble tiara she wore. It was nothing special. Stag’s one with antlers and Fern’s one of thorns were more impressive. All hers had only a little pebble at the forehead. She set it down, and hesitantly put the crown in its place on her brass skinned brow.

And it felt right.

Suddenly, as she put up the brass crown, with rubies and amethyst decorations, a lot of information was relayed to her. For one, she had an exact replica or the map of the underworld memorized, then, she could perceive some simple facts about her realm. Her city would have exactly one building at the beginning, Impyra Keep, a series of towers custom made to survive the heat and make the elves comfortable within, but it could be easily expanded with simpler constructs and cheaper materials, not unlike the tree town of the undead where she had acquired the cookbook.

Her mind wandered to her own bakery in Sanctuary, and in the project of Impyra in her mind a bakery was formed at a convenient location, where she could use the magma vapours of the underground to make up for a lack of wood. Instinctively, she knew how much stone, iron-wood and mushroom stems she would need to make the place, and that she would need someone of the class [baker] to run in. Of course, she could fill that spot easily. And if she did, she would be able to produce enough Firebread (a recipe made of flour from local plants) to feed about 10 people. Of course, agriculture could be improved, housing could be improved, routes could be created and more workers could bring more grains which would feed more workers. Of course people wouldn't just go about working for any random monarch, she would need prestige, thankfully, her being the baker at the bakery alone was a big source of prestige for the town, given her achievements as a baker, including making a pie worthy of the divine.

As she was lost looking at the mental spreadsheets delivered by the crown, the other elves would stare in mild shock as from the place where she put the crown a change started to happen thought her body, her skin gained a pinkish hue, while a vibrant color of polished marble spread from the root of her hair all the way to the tips.

There were gasps among them, and then her friends pushed forwards to the newly crowned queen’s side

“Pebble. Speak to me. Are you alright?” Fern shook her friend as Stag followed close behind and Bark hobbled after bringing up the rear, all three crouching down beside here

“Huh.. oh… yeah… also its Pieapple now apparently” the [Monarch] murmured, before adding “oh, and, we have another quest, to find somewhere called Impyra in the underground”

“Oh no, not there again” Stag bemoaned

“Compared to the tree, it was kinda nice. Safe, just dark. Plus we have fire this time” Fern replied, their twin responses making it ever so clear that there was no question about them coming with her.

“Ah well, I guess this will be goodbye then, if you're settling so far away” Bark said sadly, leaning of a walking stick next to Pieapple

“Huh? What? No!” Pebble said, shaken out of her reprieve by this admision, before insisting “We’ll… we’ll figure something out. I promise”

As the [adventurers] broke into planning and/or examining Pieapples other rewards, and the other elves sort of semi dispersed into smaller groups to chat themselves now that the bit worth gawking over was over, Jeon sauntered over to Lektor.

“Sooooo, poaching my people now are we? And my high level [adventurers] too! For shame” he said to her, tongue firmly in cheek

Lektor had a guilty face, cheeks stuffed with pie. “I thought it was a nice prize, plus I had made it clear I wanted more folks down there.” her tone was a bit muffled, then she swallowed. “Plus, its not like they will stop being adventurers down there, it's a good spot to prepare new grounds for adventurers towards the north, and, well… I might have a proposal to make up for it.”

She hummed. “It's a bit hard to describe, but I noticed that a girl named Lorelei has been around, have you ever seen her? In particular, her strength and fighting style?”

“Hmmmm,” he tilted his head away and gave it a thing before remembering
“ooooh yeah. That girl with the cat ears. She helped them get the recipe book you know” Jeon replied, before tilting his head back towards her and asking “what about her?”

“I taught her a bunch of cool moves in my little secret monastery.” Lektor said proudly. “But apparently she forgot half of them already, that silly cat. Aaaanyway, the point is, maybe you’d like to have a look around that monastery? I am about to kick out all but the best and wisest from it, as I am about done with babysitting humans. This creates two opportunities for adventures in the north, both on those going out, with the will to be heroes or new kings of their own, and within the temple, as I am sure a group of uh, overly powered animal people with magical powers would be good material for adventurers.” she always felt out of her depth, yet excited, when talking about the whole adventure business with the other god.

“Oh? Inviting me back to your place, are ya kitten?” Jeon teased, before actually addressing “but for real, that is for sure something I wanna look into. Been hanging around these woods for long enough, and it’ll be nice to take a trip out and see some of the other stuff that’s out in the world. Go to interesting places, meet interesting people, that’s my whole deal after all”

He leaned back and looked at an elf who had totally not been listening in with their long ears and added “and don't you worry, I’ll be back. Besides, you’ve been able to handle yourselves just fine for a while now. Buuuut I’ll leave you with some extras to tide you over, don’t you worry”

Then he turned back to Lektor “So yeah, sound fun, aaaand I can spread the good words of adventure and levels, what more could a guy want?”

Lektor clapped her hands. “Right. I need to go back home and get all ready for this, and overlook the elves on their way down… and actually finish the building I just gave the deed of to Pieapple, uhm. I need to do a lot. Thankfully, it's like, miles of deep forest, a whole ocean canal and then more forests, a steep climb, then a cold desert, before you arrive at my place, so I should have the time to overlook all that before you arrive. Feel free to take the scenic route though.”

Jeon had a good laugh at her selling a deed to a house she hadn’t even built yet before reassuring her that “yeah don’t worry, I will. Plus I need to tidy up around here before I head out too, so don’t push yourself too hard, kitten. Maybe give them a few more tools for their trip, stuff like that. How big a trip is that gonna be for them, do you think?” he asked, while gazing over at the crew who were arguing about whether they could safely have Doe carry Bark all the way through the underground or not.

“The underworld is smaller than the overworld… but uh… do they know how to preserve food for a few, uhm… weeks? Months?? Uhhh…” Lektor may have forgotten one little crucial step, but surely, something could be worked out… surely.






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