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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Lauder
Avatar of Lauder

Lauder The drunk kind of hero

Member Seen 0-12 hrs ago

(In collaboration with @Rtron and @Antarctic Termite)

Once more did a hand strike the ground in frustration, the being blaming itself for allowing her friend to be taken from her. That was Keriss, and her anger knew no bounds that day as the face of the worm played in her memory like a damned loop. It was another dead end, the now dead jvanic monk had lied to her in an attempt to be freed, though that would mean the impatient one would have to start from the beginning all of her leads gone. At least she was not alone in the search, Orphan keeping close at all times, even when Keriss began raging at the fact that she could not find her lost friend.

”Damnit! That is the second dead end I've hit!,” Keriss roared as she slammed her fist into the ground thrice now. Her face was a mix of anger and sadness, desperately trying to do what she could to find the worm that had beckoned her to find him, frustrated on where Tauga was. A small, gentle touch came upon her back as Orphan attempted to silently to comfort her. ”Why must it be like this? I feel like I'm being taunted at every turn, yet when I feel like I got something it is false!”

The child remained silent, allowing Keriss to curse more and more, before eventually the Demi-goddess collected herself. The pained one stood and looked around before letting out a sigh, ”I may actually need help for once…” Keriss gave a defeated look before her gaze went directly into the air, ”Father, I require your assistance!”

Vestec appeared in a flash of multi-colored light, looking around. He tsked, looking at the carnage. "My my Keriss. It seems like mass murdering and torturing cultists isn't very helpful. It works in a battlefiled, but when you're searching for information you need a more...delicate hand. What would you like from me daughter dear? Jvan's sleepwalking, the Pronobii are back and quite angry, there are many things that require my attention, all at once. But for now, you have all of it." He gestured expansively, giggling.

"So. How can I help?"

”I have been summoned by an entity and I need to find him. I know not his name but I know what the worm looks like,” the demi-goddess responded, motioning her hand as ash sprouted from her back and formed the very image that she had seen when she was in the thick of slaughter, ”Do you know who this is and where I might find him?,” she asked in a calm and collected tone, looking at the sculpture with eyes that held back emotion. Her arms crossed, before forcing her attention to the chaos god.

Orphan, being her naturally quiet self, observed the figure Keriss made before walking a few paces away from the two, only to sit in the grass and wait. There was little time that she got to rest with her new mother, but it was better than being a hopeless and homeless cripple who couldn't do much. The child let out a sigh, allowing herself to relax while the two divines talked.

"Oh! That's Heartworm. One of two avatars of Jvan. Totally seperate from her and the other one, I should add. I think she's accidentally compartmentalized parts of her and shot them off. Anyway, Hearty there is pretty good at manipulating genetics and organics. Turned the dwarves from their proper, alcohol fueled, selves into whatever they are now. Not so good at fighting. Hid the entire time the Realta was purging the world of Jvanic taint. Gave me the location of Logos' little hideaway world in return for protection. All in all it was quite the lovely little deal."

"I can't give you his exact location without breaking my promise. But I can give you the location of someone who hates him enough to give you both his location and the training or tools to get there."

Vestec strolled over to 'Orphan' looking down at her. "Who is this? Don't tell me you're feeling guilt about the last little incident and you're trying to make up for it?"

"That is not something you need to know. Besides, she was helpless when I found her, missing an arm. I took pity upon her brought her under my now metaphorical wing," Keriss responded, walking over to Vestec's side as the reconstructed picture dissolved. "She is strong, I'm surprised she hadsurvived this long before I had found her. She is a good student, obedient, determined." A light look of pride came upon her face before speaking to the girl this time, "Introduce yourself, child."

The child obeyed, standing and turning to face the two and bowing, "My name is Orphan, student of Keriss."


The child straighten herself and looked up at Vestec, showing her brown eyes, her pale skin, and the blackened mark that was permanently stained on her forehead. She pulled her hood forward, revealing the ashen arm that she now possessed, before looking down and rocking herself gently on her heels.

"Ooooh. Very nice. Starting up that little Order I see. Remind me to get you more of them later. You're going to need an army if you're going to take on Heartworm. Regardless, you need to head to Metera. Chirally there would just love to send you to Hearty's location. But make sure she teaches and arms you properly. Make her prepare you as best she can, or you'll die in the tunnels."

He tilted his head, idly patting Orphan. "Anything else dear? Also, you should know, there is a necromancer with a sizeable army of undead in the North. I think he's dominated all the Packminds, but I'm not sure. I'll have to go destabilize that soon, but I don't know if you're still interested in mass murdering undead and chaos or not."

”I would love to help you, once I get done with Heartworm and find my lost friend, I'll get right to helping you if nothing of importance gains my attention,” Keriss stated, looking at Vestec. Then she realized she needed to make a point of clarification to her adopted father, half-asking, ”I have no reason to attack Heartworm, mayhaps you could take me right to him then?”

Vestec wagged a finger at her. "I don't think so. You had no reason to attack a lot of things, those Cursed, those Hain, all of the Sculptors you've brutally murdered in an attempt to learn Hearty's location, so on so forth. You're a violent creature Keriss, and while I cherish that about you, I can't risk breaking my promise. I'll get you to Chiral Phi, and she'll get you to Heartworm. Be forewarned, she hates him as much as she is able, so she might set you up to attempt to kill him."

”I had plenty of reasons to kill all those people, you just can't see them. Now, take me to Heartworm,” Keriss growled, annoyance clear in her tone. However, she knew clear what she had done, but her pride would not allow her to believe Vestec was correct in his statement.

Vestec giggled. "That's not how you ask someone whose help you need. That's all my help you're getting. Take it or leave it Kery dear." He spun in slow circles around Keriss and Orphan. "I'm the only one who can help you and you know it."

She loathed the fact that he was right, but it was something she would have to swallow for the time being. Annoyance became her primary expression, arms crossed and eyes avoiding the godly being. ”Fine, take me to her,” Keriss mumbled, gritting her teeth to mask any other rising expressions that might make her seem like a violent being to Vestec, wanting to spite him so badly.

"See? Was that so hard? Don't answer that, you look like I made you swallow knives." Vestec giggled as he held out a hand to his daughter. "Take my hand, Keriss, and I'll take you to the being that can help you finish your quest."

They were gone from that place, and suddenly knee-deep in clear water. Keriss, of course, was only in up to her shins.

There wasn't any landscape to speak of. The only sounds were of nearby waterfalls, and distant yaks. On their one side, folded walls of grey basalt leading to high platforms and chambers. On the other, nothing but the tops of the clouds.

The demi-goddess looked around, gazing upon the surface of the water before simply giving a confused look to Vestec.

"Oh! Morning!"

A strange knot of looped-up light bounced its way up from the greenish seawater. "My favourite sponsor! And... Who's this lizard cousin of mine?"

Vestec gave a bow. "Chiry, this is Keriss, Keriss, this is Chiry."

"Finally figured out how to tack an '-y' to the end of my name, did you?"

"-She doesn't have any hands, and can get you to Heartworm. Chiry, Keriss wants to talk to and probably attack Hearty. Have fun!" He was gone in a flash and a giggle, which Phi took up.

"Doesn't waste time, does he?" A 'shrug'. "Call me Phi, or God, if it suits you. Welcome. I've heard of you, Keriss."

”A pleasure to meet you, Phi,” Keriss stated, gazing upon the light before giving a small sigh at having to be forced to go along to a place she didn't want to be. ”What exactly have you heard about me?,” she inquired, narrowing her yellow eyes as her mind began to list off the things that might have gained attention from unknown beings. It was probably the Battle of Xerxes, if she could pin anything down.

"You're not exactly stealthy." Not mocking, just truth. "A trail of tortured Sculptors isn't hard to see. Not for a god like me, anyway. You'll probably have to answer to Jvan for it at some point, though."

"But that's just that. I've been watching Tauga, not you. And speaking of! Come, follow. We can talk on the way."

The light bounced off into the folded city, caught somewhere between the air and the clean water below.

At the mention of her friend, Keriss began to walk with a bit more with an enthusiastic step as she awaited to see exactly what had come of Tauga. ”You know where Tauga is?” she asked, an excited tone coming upon her as she bound after the light. Each step she took created a very small wave, though much larger splashes came first, her eagerness to follow Phi now showing.

"Thanks to you," said Phi. "You've done me some favours just by showing your face. Unfortunately," though her voice was ever far from displeasure, "I cannot say the same for that worm. I've been looking, Keriss. I think it's somewhere in the Submaterium, that planetary sewer where wyrms dwell. Beyond that..."

Phi rounded a corner and led Keriss up a flight of escher stairs. Meterans pulled handcarts up the walls and herded alpacas on the ceiling. Gentle waterfalls crisscrossed in the open space, going nowhere in particular.

Keriss looked around at the very strange place, never have expecting something like this to be made at all. ”This is an unusual place,” came the obvious comment from the demi-goddess as her eyes snapped back Phi. Then a look of confusion came upon her face as she realized an even stranger fact about the planet they inhabited, ”We have a planetary sewer?”

"Call it Hell. Demons live there." Phi turned to 'face' Keriss as she moved, though the difference was hard to name. "The creature you're looking for showed its hand. It sent a messenger to an empire south of here, riding a demon wyrm. Only the Submaterium bears fiends like that. It's a dark place, full of monsters, where living sacrifices are made. I made it even darker," she continued, "So my people wouldn't have to see the horrors."

”Understandable, I suppose. Protecting one’s own people is reason enough to do something that may seem dark to others,” Keriss commented, simply looking around at the setting around her.

They reached a hub in the newborn city. A channel of fresh water ran backwards across the courtyard, surrounded by bundles and pots of supplies. As if the sun wasn't bright enough, a small black hole illuminated the forum, bending light into a golden halo.

"Ah. I see they've already gone." Phi gestured to a trail of mild wreckage and prayer circles that cut across the open space. The Meterans stared cautiously at Keriss, and pulled their children away, but didn't seem to notice Phi. "Little further then. Act nice, nobody knows what you are."

Keriss looked around at the Meterans, seeing their fear of her yet not really responding to it, instead following Phi closely. ”I have never seen these people before. They are all strange,” she said, gesturing to the citizens.

"I said act nice! Here, I'll help you." Phi brightened into visibility and spiked over Keriss's head, forming a thorny halo and the sound of a long chime. The crowd instantly became a congregation, falling prostrate before the blessed lizard. "Now raise your hand like a good girl," she whispered, "and get out of here before they offer sacrifices."

With a exasperated sigh, Keriss did as she was told, raising her right hand before he body crumbled to ashes and speed away with post haste. She was getting impatient from all the pointless effort that she had to put herself through, wanting nothing more than to get her original task done. ”Now, please just take me to wherever it is that we are going,” the irritated one commanded in a neutral tone.

"Very well," said God. The light and the ash disappeared along the trail of damage.

They passed a wall of pure black set into a penrose quadrangle. A dark altar stood before it, trails of footprints stamped across the floor. A guttural wet noise purred deeply as they passed.

"The Submaterium," said Phi. "We're close."

And they were.

The footprints led to a creature just as filthy as they implied. Huge and fat, corded with muscle and spattered with warpaint made of blood and viler things, it stood in a grim loincloth and watched them with a face that was nothing but thorns and spines above its teeth.

The grotling pointed with one hand and kept its grip on three knives with the others.

"Thank you," said Phi, rushing on. Impatience had Keriss shown, and impatience she was granted, as it was written.

They surmounted a final set of stairs.

"Are you ready?" she asked, halting before a half-open door.

”Probably ready as I'll ever be,” Keriss responded, her guard hadn’t lowered for a moment, though her eyes remained looking straight forwards as she prepared for any horror that may lie beyond this door.

Chiral Phi flicked into the room, and said, "You can stop burning my things now." Keriss pushed the door open.

Tauga stood on an enormous chest of fine silk and gold, holding a lit torch over the goods. A lithe grotling licked knives above her head. Her shoulders bulged with muscle, and the eyes of her mask were black as a blowfly.

When she saw the newcomers, she lifted a hand to the back of her neck and pulled off the guise, tossing the torch loosely into a corner. "Keriss," she said, her beak cracking open just slightly.

”Tauga!,” Keriss exclaimed, her form shifting into ash and the next moment it was right in the hain’s face. It was clear that Keriss was happy to see her friend once more as the smile on her face was stretching from horn to horn. ”It's good to see you again,” she stated to her emotionless friend.

”I was worried that you may have disappeared for good after the battle.”

"Oh. Well, I didn't," she summarised. After a second she realised it probably wasn't appropriate to leave it at that, and said, "I was in places that are hard to find. Holes in the ground. A city covered in mist. Mountains. At the bottom of the world. So, I guess I did disappear."

Tauga reached out and touched Keriss's face, pushing her eyelids back with thumb and forefinger to look directly into the eye. "You're stressed," she said. "You've been hunting the worm."

”Perceptive as ever, I see,” Keriss noted, pulling away from Tauga and her hands. ”Yes, I have been looking for Heartworm, he told me to find him and so I have been trying… with little success,” she informed her friend before going onto speak some more, ”Luckily, I’ve had some help, a little girl who I’m sure you would love to meet.”

The demi-goddess turned to speak to the young child, her mouth opening, before finding that the child was not there. It seemed she had forgotten about Orphan entirely. ”Erm, you’ll see her another time, I suppose. She’ll be fine on her own,” she said, clearing her throat.

Tauga made an 'mph' sound.

”Tell me Tauga, what brings you to this place, with these strange…,” Her eyes flicked to the Grotling ”...things.”

"You," said Tauga. "And that thing."

"My apologies for existing," purred Phi.

The Grotling appeared unperturbed by the exchange. Its eyeless face went on cocking and twitching and licking, for all the world a blind animal, though it was sizing up Keriss for a challenge and sensing Phi on the wind.

"These pirates are mine now. I beat the shit out of them and now I'm their god." Tauga pulled a shuriken out of somewhere and pitched it at her companion. The grotling smacked it out of the air with a knife. "They're okay."

"But I keep them around because of, yeah." She gestured to Phi. "That. Keriss, Heartworm is a coward. It knows you're looking and you scared him. It swore an oath to meet you, but it can't bring itself to crawl out of its godawful metal hole. Now that you're here, it. Mm. It can't handle the shining blue shit. So, it sent me to take you, and it sent the pirates to take the maze, because it hates that God here was going to do all that anyway."

Phi glowed.

"Don't ask me if it makes sense. I don't fucking know. It's a worm, Keriss. Its eyes are full of blood."

”I understand, though I am not going to lie, telling someone you want to speak to them and then hiding seems counterintuitive,” she shrugged before taking a step away from Tauga, eyeing the Grotling once more. ”Regardless, it’s good to see you again.”

"Yeah sure you too," recited Tauga. The words were hollow but came quickly, as if she'd been practicing, which was probably the closest she'd ever come to warmth.

She looked over at Phi then back to Tauga before stating, ”Yet, it is strange, there is a faint part of me that is clawing to get away from the situation, afraid of the worm. At the same time, I don’t feel afraid or concerned, strange.”

Phi made to say something and Tauga's eyes shot towards her, shutting her up until she motioned to speak. It wasn't clear who was conceding to who.

"Keriss, your anxiety may be a fear of the unknown," she began. Gentle. "If you learn more about Heartworm, your misgivings about hunting it may clear. Right now it's just a name. The creature itself is always hiding. Its nature. Its face."

"So don't fall for its tricks. The worm in the root is seen in the dying leaf. Heartworm is Tauga's creator and tormentor. Your father's murderer. The nightmare of Vetros, Dundee, Basheer, and others. It's the Emaciator. 'The one who makes others starve.' "

At the mention of her father, Keriss eyes became wide as thoughts began to run rampant. ”My father’s killer…” she echoed, her gaze lowering as her breathing became shallow. Without a thought, the Grotling began screeching in pain as Keriss used her powers, unable to control herself as the aura formed around her. An aura that brought pain.

The Grotling bulged in the neck, then, clutching its thorny head, jerked violently. The screaming stopped and its left hands crossed to its chest. Knives appeared from belts in the right and it leapt at Keriss, screaming: "OUT of it! Leave it ALONE!"

Tauga tripped it with the staff of her polehammer and smacked Keriss on the skull with the head. "Breathe," she ordered unflinching.

Keriss, at first, continued with her conflicting thoughts and emotions before she finally took that first deep breath, regaining control over herself. When the aura vanished Tauga rolled her shoulders and slumped, breathing a small sigh before straightening. "Fucking hell, Keriss. That hurt."

”I’m sorry, it has been a long time since I have heard of anything related to Vakarlon,” she stated, blinking a few times before she looked away from the two, focusing on breathing. Still looking away from her friend, she continued in a more normal tone, ”The last time I saw him was when I was fighting you, Tauga, the metal tube seemed to contained a very faint portion of him. You may not have known it, but that was it.”

"Yeah. Uh. Heartworm told me." Tauga sat on the edge of the chest and let herself fall back into the fine silk. Her Grotling friend scrabbled to a stand and she bapped it on the head without looking. "He's not gone. Just dead. His ghost is still playing tricks with that stuff all over the world." There was a thorny groan nearby. "Sasha. You done?"

"Sysh tanan ict," said Sasha.

"Grotling says fuck you, Keriss."


Keriss sighed deeply, turning away from the two and taking a few steps from them, allowing herself a moment to think and process everything that was told to her. ”I just want to get to Heartworm, that is my only desire, and I would prefer to not stand here and talk away my eternal life,” the Demi-goddess spoke, briefly looking back at Tauga for a brief moment. Shaking her head and returning her gaze away from the Hain, she continued ”I am a busy person, Tauga. Now that I am free from Amartía, I can continue my plans, which are now once again halted by another. Now, what is stopping us from being on our way?”

Tauga's head cocked but her eyes were still blank. "Didn't you say you had a child? A kid." She shrugged with one shoulder. "I don't know what your deal with her is, but we're gonna be gone a long time. The maze was built to break people. And the god who made it was named 'the Enemy'. He spent so much time building it that he died, down there in the tunnels. Not even the goddess of measuring shit has-"


Tauga rolled her eyes.

”I am sure I can handle whatever lies within that maze and I’m sure that we will be able to solve it. The child would merely slow us down as she is still learning how to use her new found powers,” Keriss stated, her tone filled with overconfidence.

Tauga blinked and said, "Okay." Then, "I'm stopping at Valnever, though. It's a Grotto town in the shallow labyrinth. We'll pick up supplies on the way." Sasha looked up at the mention of the settlement.

"If I may." Phi brightened. "You're not the first to come to me over Heartworm. Teknall, who you may remember as having cursed the walls of Xerxes, may also be searching for it. He kept his plans from me, but even if you think you'll handle the Emaciator without summoning him, keep an eye out."

”I am not concerned with some god who has yet to show his face to me. If he did not want to find Heartworm then he might have said something, for now, my plan to find him remains,” Keriss stated, moving away from the two a slight bit before continuing ”Let is be in the move, Tauga, I would assume we have much ground to cover, I can finally go over a few ideas of torture I’ve had stewing in my head.”

"...While your feet are twitching, then," Tauga replied, hopping out of the chest and taking a fine silver scarf with her. "Sasha, let's go. Painter."

"I bless your path. I'd offer journeygoods myself, if I thought you'd take them."

Sasha stuck its tongue out at both of the demigods as Tauga walked out. The fat Grotling was still waiting for them in the shadow tunnel. Tauga stared into the darkness.

A few ideas of torture, huh.

For Tauga, it was finally time to go back to the beginning.

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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Slime
Avatar of Slime

Slime (Former) School Idol

Member Seen 1 mo ago

Helvana, the Corvian Witch
Level 2 Demi-Goddess
Might: 7
Followers: 4

A week after the encounter with the Pack-Minds, Helvana, Lloyd, Gwyn and Violet headed southwest on Frederic's back and were now approaching the Ironheart Ranges. Exhausted from having flied all day, Helvana had Frederic land in a hill near a few trees. The sun was now about to set, so the travelers would now set camp for the night. Getting down from the crow's back, the group dropped their bags and checked their stored food. Helvana started to hunt more than needed recently so they could keep a stock for emergencies.

"We have enough for tonight. I'll get the fire ready in a minute."

"Alright. Frederic, are you hungry?" She asked her servant as she caressed his beak.

Caw. The giant crow replied with his deeper than usual voice.

"Okay, I'll make sure you get well fed tomorrow to make up for tonight."

She petted Frederic one last time before heading to where the brothers were. Lloyd had just started a fire and sorted out the food he would prepare for dinner. Standing a bit far from the fire was Gwyn and Violet. The fiberling had really taken a liking to the boy as they mostly hanged around him, or rather, his neck.

"Hel, how's Frederic?"

"He's fine for tonight. I'll have to catch something good for him tomorrow though."

"Hmm... You'll be hunting tomorrow anyways, right? I'll put something on the fire for him so he doesn't sleep on an empty stomach, even if it's not much for him."

"Thank you. You're being really considerate of him."

"He does carry us around all day, after all. He also has an irresponsible master, so I feel bad for him."

"Quiet, you."

"Anyways, check on the Hairball while I skin the meat."

"Okay." Leaving Lloyd to his work, Helvana headed to where Gwyn was sitting and sat down beside him. Violet was wrapped around his neck as usual and covered by his feather cloak. "Hey, Gwyn, how goes the Hairball?"

"It's doing fine, I think."

"Can you talk with it yet?"

"No, but I'm starting to understand it a little. You can talk with it, though, right? How do you do it?"

"It's because I'm a demigoddess. I can understand all languages and others can understand me, too. But I can't really understand the Hairball since it doesn't talk. Say, Hairball, are you hungry?" Violet formed a head, kept it still for a moment, then nodded. "Alright. Lloyd, the Hairball will be eating tonight."

"Got it."

"You can do really amazing things. I hope I can talk to it some day, just like you do, Helvana."

"Hmm..." She held her chin in thought for a moment, then replied. "I'll look into it. If it's just making it understand you, then I can probably do something about it."

"Really? Thanks, Helvana." He hugged her from the side and she stroked his hair in return.

"Fufu, I'm not your mother, you know? Not that I mind it, though."

"Can I..." He looked up to her.

"Yeeeeees?" She looked down on him and he looked away in embarrassment.

"Can I...call you mom?"

"... Huh?" The request left her dumbstruck for a moment.

"You're really like how our mom was. She'd go out to hunt with dad for our meal often back then and she'd always have a kind smile on her face when she came back. And... she'd also ruffle my hair like this. You're even wearing her dress. So...can I call you mom?"

Helvana smiled warmly as she heard his words. She stroked his hair one last time before returning the hug. "Of course you can, Gwyn. I don't mind it at all."

"Keep it a secret from Lloyd, okay? I don't want him to think that I'm weak."

"Okay, I promise."

"Thanks, mom."

Helvana felt warm and fuzzy inside. They kept hugging each other for a while, not minding anything else.

"Hey, you two, meal's almost done."

"Ah, we'll be there soon."

After their meal, Helvana went straight into thinking up ways to make Violet understand others. Since Helvana's ability to understand all languages comes from her divine origin, perhaps she could share it somehow. Her thoughts absorbed her as usual.

"Hey, Hel, are you listening to me?"

"Huh? Is something wrong, Lloyd?"

"I've been calling you for a while now. Aren't you going to sleep?"

"Oh, it's that time already. Sorry, I was thinking about something and lost track of time. Let's go to sleep then."

Helvana, accompanied by Lloyd and Gwyn, got under Frederic's wing and nestled together under her feather cloak, like they have been doing every night.

Next morning, while the sun was halfway up, Helvana prepared to go hunting while Lloyd checked their stock.

"We have a little bit left, but it won't last until lunch."

"Alright. I still need to get something good for Frederic."

"Don't take too long. Here." He tossed her an apple. "Today's breakfast."

"Just an apple?"

"Either that or you'll have to wait a while for me to cook what we have left."

"Fine, I'll make do with this." She climbed on Frederic's back while eating the apple. "Take care." She straddled Frederic's neck and took off to hunt for food. They began by circling around the camp high in the sky, scouting the ground. Soon enough something caught the bird's eye and he cawed to Helvana, who looked to check what it was. "Is that...a village?" It had about two dozen tiny huts and a plantation. From what she could tell it wasn't very far from where they had set camp. "It's pretty small... We shouldn't bother them though. Let's fly away from here." At her command, Frederic steered away and headed to the opposite direction.

A few minutes later Frederic cawed again, this time he spotted a herd of deer. "That's it, dive in!" He swooped in, the deer heard the approaching beat of wings and began to run when they saw the giant bird. They were too slow, however, and the first was picked up by Frederic, while Helvana threw quills at some others. She kept attacking them until four of them fell from their wounds then let the rest of the herd to flee. Helvana got down from Frederic's neck as he landed and picked up her game. "What a haul. This'll last us a good while." She glued the deer to Frederic's leg with her darkness and set off back to camp.

Frederic landed a bit far from the camp and walked the rest of the way there. "I'm back, boys. I brought a lot back today." Helvana jumped off of Frederic and began to unload the deer from the bird.

"W-wait, just how much did you get, Hel?"

"Frederic ate one right away when we spotted the herd, then I got four more. See?" She stacked them up on the ground to show the bounty to the brothers.

"Amazing. You got this much on your own?"

"How are we going to eat all this before it spoils?"

"Frederic will be eating another later today and tomorrow too, you know?"

"So you'll start to take care of him now?"

"Yes, two for him and two for us."

"Alright, so long as nothing goes wasted. I'll get lunch ready then." He grabbed one of the deer and dragged it to the bonfire to prepare it.

Seeing that lloyd was busy now, Helvana called Gwyn over and got down to his level. "I thought about what we discussed last night on my way back. It's not quite ready, but I think I figured out a way to make the Hairball understand you."

"You already did?!"

"I'll try it out later today, look forward to it. Let's wait for lunch for now though." She said as she got up and ruffled his hair.

"Okay." And he replied wit ha beaming smile.

After the meal the three sat under the shade of one of the trees. They were discussing were to go from there.

"So from here we continue going south?"

"Yes, but soon we should head west. If we go too far down south we'll hit Xerxes."

"Right, so where exactly are we going?"

"I decided to go to Alefpria, it's a city further down south beyond the Ironheart Ranges."

"Never heard of that place before. What's it like?"

"I don't know myself, but I expect it to be big. That reminds me, Frederic and I spotted a village not too far from here. Want to pay it a visit, you two?

"That would be nice."

"But a village, huh..." He said while looking at her suspiciously.

"I promise I won't curse it."

"I'd hope so."

"Gwyn already gave his vote, so what about you?"

"Well, I kinda miss how a bed feels. I guess it would be a good change of pace."

"Alright then, we'll swing by before heading south."

A while later they landed near the village. Helvana ordered Frederic to not get too close to it just yet since he could scare the villagers. The villagers, however, surprised Helvana: white exterior looking like armor and breaking up at the joints, oddly shaped limbs and heads resembling a bird's skull. They weren't much taller than Gwyn, from what she could tell, standing up to Helvana's stomach at most.

"What are they?"

"Hain, I think? We've seen a few of them on rare occasions."

A few of them came to greet the visitors. "Welcome, travelers. What brings you here?"


"We were just passing by and thought of paying a visit. If you don't mind, that is." She said bending over a bit.

"We don't, of course."

"You can understand them too, Hel?"

"Wait, you don't understand them?"

"Not at all"

"Hmm... Hold on." She concentrated for a few moments then snapped her fingers and a slight shift was noticed by the bystanders.

"What was..."

"Ah, I understood that!"

"Me too."

"Was that..."


"She has arrived. Inform Long-Beak Logan." One of the Hain ran off and entered the biggest hut in the village, which was still pretty tiny in their perspective.

"Wait, you knew I'd come?" She asked with furrowed eyebrows.

"Yes, our shaman foretold of your arrival. Please, follow me, you must go to him at once."

Helvana, Lloyd and Gwyn looked at each other, not quite knowing what to do with the sudden development.

"I don't know about this, Hel."

"It can't hurt to try. I'm curious about this shaman too."

"It should be okay, right?"

"...Well, fine. Let's go."

They followed the Hain to the hut at the middle of the village, squeezing their way in, except for Gwyn who could fit in just fine. The place smelled of incense and herbs and had almost no illumination save for the small candles scattered around the room. "Please, head to that room. Long-Beak Logan awaits you." He pointed to a curtain on the other end of the room.

"Can they come with me?"

"Yes, of course. Please, take your time with him." After saying that the Hain left the hut.

"Alright, let's see what this is all about." Helvana went ahead followed by the brothers. She pushed the curtain aside and looked inside. The smell of herbs was even stronger there.

"Greetings, children, I am Long-Beak Logan. Come closer, take a seat." A single Hain laid sitting at the center of the room. True to his name, his beak was longer than the other Hain's. The three entered the room and sat in front of him. "I am sure you have questions for me."

"Indeed. How did you know I'd come?"

"I foresaw that an outsider woman bearing great power would come to us. My earthly eyes can't see anymore, but my spirit has never seen farther."

"Interesting. And what else did you see?"

"I saw our home burned to the ground. Burned by a star-fiend."


"A being made of malevolent light. A long time ago they came upon this world and destroyed all in their path, but they have grown silent as of late. Many star-fiends were brought down by Stone Chipper himself, one of which fell not far from here. It still lives, though weak as it may be, and in as little as two suns it'll come for us."

"And you foresaw that I'd stop this star-fiend."

"Yes. Though this village doesn't house many lives and has little to offer, I ask of you to aid us, child of gods."

"I accept."

"Wait, Hel, are you sure about this? Shouldn't you think about this a little?"

"I did, and if he knew I'd come then he's not wrong about this star-fiend."

"But isn't it dangerous, Helvana?"

"Of course it is, but I won't let this place be destroyed, even if we just arrived here."

"You really were made pure after all."


"I'll tell you about it at a later time. For now all that can be done is wait, so make use of our village until then."

"Alright. I have a question though. You said this star-fiend fell nearby and it's weak right now. Can't I just go after it now?"

"Perhaps, but it fell near the mountains and was covered in rock. If you can find where it fell and lift the ruble then you are welcome to do so."

"I see. I'll pass, it's better to just wait."

"Very well then. Enjoy your stay, don't be afraid to request shelter from anyone, we are prone to help those in need."

"Alright, I'll come back if I have any more questions." Saying that the three stood up and left. Once outside the first thing Helvana did was take a deep breath. "It was a little hard to breathe in there." Then she looked down and saw that all the Hain in the village gathered around the entrance of the hut. "...Huh?" The forty-some Hain covered them in pleas of 'you'll save us, right?' 'you'll help us, right?' and the like. "Y-yes, yes I will, I will help!" The excitement of the villagers took a while to die out.

Night came, they had spent the afternoon in the hut of the Hain that had guided them to Logan. He introduced himself as Ferron, and as it turned out he was the village chief. He lived with his wife, Safin, and daughter, Manna. They passed the time by discussing Hain culture with the travelers. They learned how the village worked and about Stone Chipper. Helvana and the brothers also talked about their journey so far.

"You three came quite the long way, haven't you?"

"All thanks to our over sized friend outside."

"Your powers are amazing, miss. I bet you can do anything." Said Manna.

"Well, I can do a thing or two. I haven't tried many things at least."

"But since Long-Beak Logan trusts you with our protection then you must be powerful indeed."

"Well, not like I doubt my abilities. Still, I don't really know what I'll be up against."

"Logan has already seen that you'll save us. So long as you give it your all I'm certain everything will work out." Safin said confident. "In any case, it's getting late. I'll prepare a meal, are you all hungry?"

"Yes, quite."

"You never miss a chance, huh? Would you mind if I help, miss? We have some meat left, so you don't have to use what you have here."

"Ah, I don't mind."

"Okay, I'll go fetch my bag." Saying that, Lloyd left the hut.

"Manna, you help out too, okay?"


"The Hairball's not hungry, right?"

"I don't think- huh? Where is it?" Violet was nowhere to be seen. Did they slip away at some point? "I only noticed it now, but it's gone."


"Is something wrong?"

"Well, a friend of sorts is missing. The Hairball usually hangs on Gwyn's neck like a scarf."

"Hairball, huh... Does it feed on the hides of animals?"

"Yes, actually."

"You have a Fiberling?!" Ferron tried to contain his voice as much as he could to not startle his wife and child. "Those things are dangerous!"

"I don't doubt you, but it didn't hurt any of us. If it did I would've tear it up on the spot."

"And you said it's missing?"

"It's probably hiding with Frederic. We fed it yesterday, so it should be fine."

Ferron sighed. "So long as it's not seen by anyone... Our people aren't very fond of Jvan's creations."


"A deity responsible for many abominations. Fiberlings were created by her as well. For your own safety, don't get involved with her, nothing good can come out of it. If I were you, I'd get rid of the Fiberling."

"But...the Hairball won't hurt us! Right, Helvana?"

"Maybe it didn't hurt you yet, but can you say it'll stay like that forever?"


"Will you please stop that? You're making Gwyn uncomfortable."

"Ah...Sorry if I offended you. We don't like those creatures, but that doesn't mean others should do the same. Still, I ask that you keep it away from us."

"Excuse me." Lloyd entered the hut just then. "Hey, Hel, the Hairball grabbed on to me when I wasn't looking then hid on Frederic. Did something happen?"

"There you have it, the mystery solved itself."


"We Hain don't like creatures like this 'Hairball' of yours. Seems like this one's smart enough to avoid us."

"Oh, I see."

"Anyways, now that you're back..."

"You want your meal right away. As unrefined as ever..."

After eating their fill, the travelers were now tucked under Frederic's wing. They were too big to be comfortable inside the hut, much to Lloyd's dismay, so they asked to at least bring Frederic close to the village.

"What day. I'm beat."

"From laid-back demigoddess to a savior of prophecy in a day. I hope you made the right choice."

"Do you think you'll be okay, Helvana?"

"I'm pretty tough, you know? You don't need to worry about me."

"Just be careful, okay?"

"Alright." Violet descended from Frederic's wing and wrapped themselves around Gwyn's neck. "Everyone's here now. Let's forget about it and rest."

The next day started off a lot more busier than the last. Helvana and Lloyd were helping around the village with heavy lifting, while Gwyn helped with minor tasks. With the star-fiend coming in the following day, they had to prepare however they could. Small makeshift barricades and hunting weapons were all that they could prepare in time.

The main strategy didn't rely on them, though. The plan was to evacuate the village and have Helvana face off with the star-fiend, while the Hain that could fight supported her however they could from behind the barricades. Helvana protested against the idea, saying it was too risky, but the Hain stubbornly insisted in helping.

Helvana helped how she could, bringing wood and rocks to the edge of the village facing the mountains. She also crafted some cloaks for the Hain and though she could only make a handful she'd make enough for the rest of the warriors later.

She was now taking a break walking around the village and decided to check the plantation field. She was curious about them ever since Lloyd and Gwyn's village and relied on Oscar to tell her about it. Now she could finally see it up close for herself. The field was just big enough to supply the village, so it wasn't as big the first one she saw. It had a few variations of crops and a handful of fruit bearing trees separate from each other. As she explored the field she happened upon Safin and Manna.

"Hello again, Helvana. What brings you here?"

"Hello miss."

"Hey there. I was just looking around. I never had the chance to see crops up close, so I was curious."

"Well, some of these aren't quite ripe yet. But since the star-fiend will be arriving tomorrow we have to take what we can just in case the crops burn."

"I hope my crows aren't bothering you then. I told them not to eat the crops, but some of them are like bratty children."

"Hahaha. Oh, don't worry, they come by from time to time, but so far they didn't steal anything. They do tend to ask us to feed them though."

"I see. Tell me if they ever take anything without permission."

"Hey, you two, no slacking off just yet." Another Hain called Safin and Manna from afar.

"Ah, sorry. If you don't mind, Helvana, we still have work to do."

"Oh, that's okay." As the two were about to walk away, Helvana had an idea. "Actually, do you think I can help?"

"If you want to, you're more than welcome."

With a smile, Helvana crafted herself a makeshift satchel and helped the Hain collect the food. Some time later, Lloyd and Gwyn passed by and called Helvana.

"So there you are."

"What, did something happen?"

"We stopped understanding the Hain after you left, Helvana."

"Oh, sorry about that. The only way I could come up with to make you understand them needs you to be close to me. Hmm..." She thought for a moment then plucked two of the feathers in her cloak and charged them with her power, then handed one to each of the brothers. "Here, if you two keep these feathers with you you should be able to understand the Hain while I'm away."


"Alright, they will. Satisfied?"


"How goes the other preparations?"

"We don't really know, we just got back from our breaks."

"It looked almost done though, right?"

"Pretty much. We should be able to finish up without you, so have fun here. We'll call you if we do need you though."

"Okay, see you later, boys."

"Bye, Helvana."

"And keep the birds away from the crops."

"I already am."

A few hours later when all the food that could be used was picked up, Helvana, Safin and Manna were on their way back to the village.

"Thank you for helping us, you were even at your break too when you started, weren't you?"

"Don't worry about it, I actually had a little fun out of it."

"It must be so nice to be able to reach the fruits in the trees. I wish I could be as tall as you, miss."

"You'd have to be as tall as Lloyd then, or even taller. I'm actually pretty short..."

"Not to us at least. A lot of things are very big to us. Your crow is the biggest one yet actually."

"Hey, miss, Is it safe to fly on him? I'm kinda scared of it..."

"Oh, don't worry. Frederic has a special power, you see. You'll barely feel the wind hitting you even if he's pretty fast. If you hold on tightly there won't be any problems."

"I'm a little scared myself to be honest, even if you say it's okay. No one in this village has ever flied before."

"You know what? Lloyd was really scared on his first time too." She said giggling a little from the memory. "But if it's fear of flying, I'll give you two a demonstration." Before the two could react, Helvana grabbed the both and lifted them in her arms. In their surprise they dropped the baskets they used to gather the food.

"Wow! What are you-"

"Get ready, girls!" With a leap she took flight and went high enough to see the whole village.

"Wahh! P-put us down!"

"Calm down, I'm here with you." Despite Safin's protest, Helvana flew around the field calmly. Soon Manna's laughter was heard and with it Safin calmed down. "How does it feel? Not bad, right?"

"This is so nice!"

"To fly like a bird is..."

"Frederic will be flying a lot faster, of course. But he'll be careful with everyone, you won't need to worry about anything once he's taken flight." The surrounding Hain gathered to see the three flying. "I think that's enough, I'll take you two home now." She headed back to the village, some of the Hain followed running. After she landed several other villagers wanted to try out flight as well. Helvana indulged them all, and by the time they were satisfied night had come.

The preparations were finished in time, as rickety as they were, and all the food was being gathered. The stored food was going to be taken along the Hain the next day as a safety measure. Unfortunately the whole amount would be too much for Frederic to carry on top of all the Hain that would evacuate, so the remaining sacks would be stored in Logan's hut. They did all they could in the time they had and now they would rest for the following day.

The next day dawned a lot more tense than the previous one. The sky was covered in clouds and anxiety filled everyone in the village, even Helvana. The star-fiend was supposed appear after sun fall if Logan's prediction was accurate, but Helvana had sent her crows to scout the area just in case. The food sacks that would be transported were already left near Frederic for the evacuation and the villagers were prepared to mount him at any moment. All that could be done was wait, and it only served to further fuel the anxiety.

Helvana was waiting near Frederic with the brothers at all times. She had already prepared the sacks with her darkness so she could just stick them to Frederic when the time came.

"You're pretty tense. You didn't sleep well, did you?"

"No, not really. But I'm fine."

"Relax, Hel, you can do it."

"I'm confident that I can, but...what if I screw up? The lives of these people depend on my success."

"No one said it's easy being a hero. You just gotta do your best and hope it works out."

"Pssh. When did you become so reliable?"

"Since forever?"

"Yeah, He's just shy around you, Helvana." Lloyd winced, but tried to hide it by clearing his throat.

"Oh really?" She asked as she approached his side. "If you're really that reliable then I'll like to see it myself. You two still have the feathers I gave you, right?"

"Yeah, we kept them with us all the time."

"Good, because you two'll be responsible for the evacuating villagers. With those feathers you can even make Frederic understand you."

"That makes sense. Alright, I'll show you how reliable I can be. You too, Gwyn." He said brushing off his embarrassment.


Time passed. They couldn't see the sun, but it was already setting. There was no report from the crows just yet, maybe the star-fiend was buried above the clouds. Even so, the food sacks were already strapped to Frederic's legs and the villagers were starting to gather. The ones that had already gathered were either already climbing on Frederic's back or saying their goodbyes to the brave that would stay behind. Among them were Ferron and his family.

"Be careful, dear. I wish you all the best of luck."

"We'll be fine. We have a child of gods with us, the star-fiend will surely be defeated."

"Daddy, I really can't stay and help?"

"No, it's too dangerous for a child like you."


"I'll be fine. When you're an adult you'll be able to do all sorts of things, but not until then. Now go, you two."

"Okay. Goodbye, daddy."

"Goodbye, dear."

Safin and Manna climbed onto the giant bird as Ferron went to join the front line.

After the last Hain had mounted Frederic, Helvana, Lloyd and Gwyn gathered in front of the bird.

"Everyone's on Frederic. We're ready to leave anytime."

"Okay. What about the Hairball?"

"It hid among the sacks."

"I hope they don't eat the sack... Anyways, take good care of them up there. I'm counting on you two."

"Good luck, Hel."

"Good luck, Helvana." The brothers hugged Helvana before climbing on Frederic as well.

"And you." She caressed Frederic's beak as she whispered. "Don't even think about coming to help me. If it looks like I'm about to lose, then flee as far as you can." Frederic nudged against her and she hugged his head in return. "Lloyd's in charge while I'm away, okay? Listen to him as if it were me." She broke from the hug but kept holding his beak. "Wait for my signal and fly away immediately, okay? Goodbye, Frederic." Finally, she let go of the crow and headed to the front line.

Darkness came, the torches around the village being the only source of light. The wind slowly started to pick up, but it didn't threaten to blow off the fire. Helvana felt something on the distance, though she couldn't see it. She put on her mask and looked towards the mountain. Then a ball of light came through the clouds heading straight towards the village. Helvana lifted her mask and whistled, Frederic and the other crows alike flew off to safety.

"Finally here. I was tired of waiting."

The star-fiend lowered altitude as it approached, but before it could reach the village it fell to the ground on its knees. Helvana didn't tell anyone, but she placed a curse on the village. Any outside entity that threatened to harm the village would grow weak and it worked as expected.

The creature regained its composure and stood back up. As it radiated light it was easy to see its hulking frame: the right arm was torn at the shoulder, probably from when Stone Chipper shot it down, and the plating was all around damaged from the fall, especially the face with half of it being torn off.

It stepped forward, Helvana remained motionless, but the Hain behind her were visibly shaken. Helvana drew her barbed sword and dashed toward the star-fiend and it responded by spewing its white fire at her through its left arm while more leaked from the right shoulder. Helvana dodged to the right then moved in to attack; the star-fiend blocked with its arm as it barely got dented from the blow. Before it could lunge at her, she jumped back and threw quills at its feet in an attempt to pin it down then moved in again to thrust at the creature's stomach. This time it pierced through slightly and light came from the puncture. The star-fiend tried to bash her to the ground, but it only struck the dirt as she narrowly rolled to the left. White fire spewed from the star-fiend's shoulder again and Helvana covered herself with her cloak as she jumped back. The darkness withstood the heat and light, but the feathers burned to ash instantly. Now with her back to the village again she clicked her tongue as the star-fiend effortlessly tore the darkness at its feet.

"This thing is tough..."

The Hain merely watched the two fighting, their fear overwhelming them. One of them notched an arrow and shot it at the creature, though it bounced off the plating. "What are you waiting for? We stayed behind to help her didn't we?" Ferron said loudly. "Even if it's just a little, help her as much as you can!" Another Hain took up his bow and shot as well. Soon all the Hain were firing their arrows. The arrows didn't do anything to the creature, but when some came close to its face it protected itself with its arm.

"Keep attacking! Aim at its face!" She covered her dress in a thin layer of darkness while the creature was distracted and attacked again, aiming at the hole she made on its stomach. It punctured deeper this time, but the barbs prevented the blade from going much further. The star-fiend uncovered its face and Helvana went for the hole on it, but her hand was grabbed right before it could reach. She was lifted off the ground by the arm then thrown back down. Before she could recover she was grabbed by the head this time; she quickly covered her head with darkness before the white fire spewed at her, reducing her mask to ashes. She was lifted again and thrown at one of the houses, breaking its wall on impact. The darkness saved her life, but didn't protect her completely as parts of her face got burnt and most of her hair burned away. She was now too weak to stand and her sword reverted to a ring.

The Hain stood in shock as the star-fiend approached. The ones that didn't run were met with white fire. "No..." Some crows that refused to flee tried to attack the creature, but they were burned as well. "Stop..." She struggled to raise her body and looked at the monster approaching her. A rock struck the star-fiend and it and Helvana looked to see who it was. "No way." A chill ran down her spine.

"Get away from her!" Manna shouted as she threw more rocks. They didn't do anything as it was expected, but it shifted the creature's attention away from Helvana.

The star-fiend outstretched its arm at her. "NOOO!!" Ferron pushed Manna away just as the white fire came, killing him instantly and hitting Manna's forearm. The monster approached Manna as she screamed in pain, but before it could reach her several quills pierced its back. It turned around and saw Helvana back on her feet with her wounds closing and hair slowly growing back. Her face was devoid of any emotion as she shot curse after curse at the star-fiend. She felt nothing, only the pure desire to see that creature dead.

She formed more quills in her hands and threw them at the star-fiend. The creature tried to raise its arm to block them, but it failed to lift its arm and the quills pierced its chest; the curses Helvana had thrown at it began to weigh it down. The star-fiend backed away while trying to point its arm at Helvana, which she immediately targeted, but this time the quills melted on impact and covered the star-fiend's hand in darkness. It tried to shoot its white fire all the same, but the darkness clogged most of it. Helvana walked forward slowly as she continued to throw quills at the star-fiend. Chest. Legs. Abdomen. Feet. Head. Arm. She repeatedly shot the creature all over while it still tried to retaliate.

Eventually the star-fiend walked his way outside the village, now being filled with holes and with its light growing dimmer. Drawing her sword again, Helvana dashed forward and targeted the creature's leg. The curses Helvana used softened its armor enough for the blade to cut through, making the creature fall on its back. She climbed on top of the creature and stood on its chest and looked down at it. She raised her sword and thrust it down at its face then plunged it deeper, the creature's light faded soon after and she could feel its soul flowing into the Scythe.

She pulled the sword off of the scrap metal and reverted it back into a ring. She walked back to the village, the surviving Hain waited for her at the edge. They got down to their knees and thanked her. She payed them no mind, however, and simply walked past them to where Manna was. Helvana knelt down and placed a hand on her chest to confirm that she was still breathing. The porcelain on her arm was burned black and Ferron, who laid beside her, was the same.

Helvana lifted Manna on her arms and headed towards her house. Once inside, she sat on one of the beds and laid Manna on her lap and started to remove the burned porcelain shell on her arm, carefully so as to not hurt her. When she was finished removing the shell, she covered her arm in darkness. Just then, Manna started to moan and opened her eyes.

"Miss?" She called weakly.

"You're awake... You don't have to worry about your arm. I'll make the pain go away." She said as she stroked Manna's cheek.


"Why did you stay behind?"

"I wanted to help you."

"It was too dangerous. You should've stayed with Frederic."

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Because of me, daddy is..." She started to cry. Helvana continued to stroke her cheek. She felt extremely sad herself, sad that she couldn't save all the villagers, sad that Ferron had died under her protection, but for some reason she didn't shed a tear. And so, despite her sadness, she continued to treat Manna's wound.

"Manna! Manna!" Dashing through the door came Safin, who immediately rushed to her daughter's side. "You left the bird! Why would you leave the bird?! And your father. Oh, by Stone Chipper!" She was crying as well.

"I wanted...to help too. I'm sorry."

"If it wasn't for her, I would've probably died. It wasn't much, but she saved me."

"Then...daddy didn't...die for nothing..."

"Safin, I'll need to heal Manna overnight. Would you mind if sleeps with me for tonight?"

"Do what you must. Please, save my daughter." She said between her sobbing.

Helvana lifted her head and saw Lloyd, Gwyn and a few other villagers at the door, watching.

Next morning the villagers performed the burial rites for the brave that fought last night. Logan left his hut for what seemed to be the first time in a long time to perform them. After the ritual was finished, Helvana followed Logan to his hut, the ever present smell of incense still permeated the air. She immediately too ka seat in front of him.

"I owe you my gratitude, child. were it not for you this whole village would have been lost."

"I only regret not being able to save everyone. I feel that is I was stronger I..."

"What's done is done, there's no point in brooding over the past. All that matters now is the hereafter. The brave hain that stayed behind knew the risks."

"But still, I didn't even know I had that much power in me. If I was better prepared then no one would've had to die."

"If that is what you believe, then strive to learn more about yourself. I trust you will be leaving us soon."

"Yes, we should leave while the sun is high."

"So be it. Before you go, however, I saw some of what lies in the path ahead of you. Would you like me to tell what I saw?"

"Yes, please."

"Then..." Logan closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then opened them again. "Poison given life, made pure by the world... A tree bearing fruit most foul, spreading death freely... In the shores of the river of tears, an unforgivable act is committed for the greater good..." Logan closed his eyes again and remained silent for a few moments. "Forgive me, my visions are usually not as vague. Do you make anything out of this?"

"No... Is that all you foresaw?"

"Yes. I couldn't see any more than that, perhaps you being a child of gods interfered somehow. I can, however, tell that this does not foretell of good times. I can't tell when, but you will come upon great misfortune eventually. The vagueness must mean it is yet not set in stone, perhaps you can avoid these events entirely."

"Hmm... I see. Thanks for that, I guess. I'll do my best to avoid that future then. Goodbye, Logan. I won't be around to help, but my protection will last a good while."

"I noticed. Good luck in your travels. And may Stone Chipper watch over you."

Helvana got up and left Logan's hut. She took a breath of fresh air and went to Safin's house. Lloyd and Gwyn were inside as well, talking with Safin and Manna.

"Ah, Hel, you're here. How did things go with Logan?"

"Fine. I'll tell you about it later. Are we about ready to leave?" She sat down beside Lloyd.

"You won't stay for a while more?"

"Sorry, but we're trying to reach Alefpria. We're in an adventure to explore the world after all. What do you boys think?"

"Well, I think we could stay a while longer, but I don't mind leaving either."

"I'm fine with it too, even if I end up missing it here."

"But...you stayed for such a short while miss."

"Sorry, Manna, but it can't be helped. We'll come back to visit in the future though, so don't worry."

"Safin, are you here?"

"Yes, what is it?"

"The others are calling for you, could you come over for a moment?"

"Okay. If you'll excuse me, I'll be back as soo nas I can." Safin got up and left.

"Ah, Manna, before we leave I have to finish treating you." Helvana held Manna's arm and slowly peeled the darkness off of it. There was some scarring left, but aside from that her arm was completely healed. "All better now. This is the least I can do for you."

"Umm... Miss..."

"Is something wrong?"

"I... Can I...go with you?"

"Huh? Go where?"


"What?" Helvana was taken aback. "Why would you do that?"

"Because...I don't want you to leave."

"But what about your mother? You'll just leave her here?"

"She can come too, can't she?"

"Hel, you didn't do anything to her, right?"

"Of course not, I just healed her arm and nothing else. Unless..."


"I don't know why this would happen." She took a deep breath to calm down and palced a hand on manna's shoulder. "Manna, you can't come with us, not even if Safin comes along."

"But...they're traveling with you, right? Why can't I too?"

"This is where you belong, Manna. I took them with me because they had nowhere else to go. You still have your home and your mother. She'll need your help a lot more now that Ferron isn't here, so you have to stay and take good care of her, alright?"

"I... Okay, I'll do that. I promise. So promise you'll come back too, okay?"

"Of course. I already said I'd do that, didn't I?"

Just then Safin came back with three more hain carrying in some food.

"Wow, what's this?"

"Payment, I guess? The village wanted to repay for your help. Safin told us you were about to leave, but would you mind staying for a meal first?"

"Well, if you insist."

"Always thinking with your stomach... When will you change?"

After they had finished eating, Helvana and the brothers were saying their goodbyes to the villagers. Aside from what they had already eaten, the villagers had all agreed to give them some of their food.

"Travel safe, you three."

"Thanks, and...good luck, Safin."

"Thank you."

"Goodbye, miss. Come back soon, okay?"

"I'll try. Farewell."

They climbed on Frederic's back and left without further ado. They would continue heading south for now, but soon they'd have to avoid Xerxes by crossing the Ironheart ranges. They would still take a few weeks to reach Alefpria.

"Hey, Hel, what happened to your mask?"

"Ah, that thing burned it... Can you make me a new one?"

"Of course. I'll work on it as soon as we find some good wood."

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Muttonhawk
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Muttonhawk Let Slip the Corgis of War

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Turn 12

This turn's era: 5 to 80 years Post Realta (PR)

Might Limit for Level 1-5 Characters: 45
Might Limit for Level 6-10 Characters: 50
Might Limit for Level 11-15 Characters: 55
Fate's Might Pot: 167.5
[+8 from Astarte, +25 from Belruarc]

God Name - God Level - God Might - God Freepoints

Astarte - L6 - 50 MP - 10 FP <Overflow MP went to Fate>

Belruarc [NPC] - L7 - 50 MP - 11 FP <Overflow MP went to Fate>

Ilunabar - L6 - 35 MP - 1 FP

Jvan - L6 - 17 MP - 1 FP

Logos - L7 - 33 MP - 9 FP

Niciel - L4 - 27 MP - 7 FP

Teknall - L5 - 32.5 MP - 2 FP

Toun - L8 - 33 MP - 4 FP

Ull'Yang [Dis boi's hiding] - L5 - 38 MP - 9 FP

Vestec - L4 - 17 MP - 4 FP

Zephyrean Pantheon - L6 - 48 MP - 4 FP


Demigod Name - Demigod Level - Demigod Might - Demigod Worshippers (1 Might for every 1000 to a max of 4 Might)

Belvast [NPC] - L3 - 20 MP - 82,531 W

Lifprasil [Dis boi's hiding] - L1 - 28 MP - 0 W

The Bard [NPC] - L4 - 22 MP - 82,531 W

Amartía - [Stripped of divinity by Vestec] - 1,193 W

Keriss - L5 - 8 MP - 0 W

Lazarus - L2 - 7 MP - 2,066 W

Kinesis - L4 - 23.5 MP - 0 W

Conata - L1 - 23 MP - 400 W

Helvana - L3 - 8 MP - 51 W
[Someone didn't report their updated worshipper count in their latest post~! Tsk, naughty naughty!]

Farxus [Dis boi's hiding] - L4 - 17 MP - 0 W

Maeus [Dis boi's hiding] - L1 - 20 MP - 0 W

Thacel - L3 - 7 MP - 0 W

Jydshi - L1 - 7.5 MP - 0 W

Osveril - L2 - 6 MP - 0 W

[Dis boi's hiding] = Did not feature in person in a post last turn.

Please note: There have been a couple of changes.

- I added an arbitrary might cap for levels 11 to 15 as a patch until we work out a better might limiting mechanic.

- We have a 75 year time-frame for this turn, starting from a year referenced as time since the the realta invasion. This window will slide forward in time every turn to encourage progressing divine storylines. The default slide will be +50 years and will remain 75 years wide, but this may change depending on the narratives in play and player requests.

- The demigod spreadsheet has been altered to be more consistent with the god spreadsheet.

Do not hesitate to ask any questions/corrections you may have.
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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Antarctic Termite
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Antarctic Termite Resident of Mortasheen

Member Seen 9 days ago

Midnight. The moons echoed over a white-splashed sea.

A faint wooden scratching sound, even and repetitive, followed by a rustle in the palms. Tauga raised the pole on her palm, perfectly balanced and still beneath its weight.

Once a glass khopesh had rested in a sling over her shoulder. Now there hung on her belt a sheathed Alefprian gladius, wrought in bronze. The light of the Ophanim competed with the eyes of Vulamera far above her head.

A presence emerged among the palms. Tauga's tongues curled around it by reflex. For a while there was quiet.

She looked up. "So."

"You have returned."

"Felt like it was time."

Quiet. She went back to trimming her mast. Flakes of bark and wood fell from her obsidian knife.

"You're out of your shell."


The response drew her eye. There it coiled, barely the length of her forearm, a snake or fluke lined with bulbous blood eyes. Not 'correct'. Just 'yes'.

"Aren't you scared?"

"Your presence makes me safe."

She looked down, watching the ocean with her spare eyes. "Oh."

"Tell me where you came from."

Cocked head. "But you already know."

"It would benefit Tauga to recall her story," said Heartworm. "Start at Alefpria."

Her head dipped. She took out a pair of callipers and began to measure.

"When the Alefprians beat me, I blacked out. By the time I came to I was halfway to their city. I'd never heard of it before. I was in chains. I didn't care."

As she spoke, she heft the mast on her shoulder, an impossible burden, and carried it to the waves. A catamaran rested on the lagoon. "I learned that the Rotflies were dead. Sen, Dracces, Jinini, everyone. And the City was gone. Just a hole in the ground. I didn't think much about. Much. I just ate when they told me to. I said words when they talked to me. Sometimes, anyway. I'm dead. I don't know what they wanted."

"They put me on trial. There was no one to confess. No Énas to answer to. It was so quiet. Like a... I was a quiet beggar. They expected me to say something but I had nothing to say."

"After a while they decided I was broken. And, guess I am. They sent me to a gibbon monk who... She'd seen girls with fear dreams before. But she knew I was different. So, she arranged to let me go."
"I was in the city for a few months. Eventually the god-emperor found me. Their god-emperor.""He told me to go back. Said he had work for me. Said that my sins could be atoned, and he needed a loo- lieute- a right hand. To govern Amestris, and build a new City. While he went on conquest."

"He named me Marquise. That means, 'border lord'."

"So I spent the year... learning... The gibbon had sweetmeat..."
She shook her head, beak to the sand. Her memories weren't too clear. "And now here I am."

"Not Amestris."

Tauga shrugged. "If he wants me to rebuild Xerxes, I'll go to where Xerxes is."

They looked out together. The Metatic waters spread in all directions for thousands of miles.

There was a sound like a weight in the sand. "This."

Tauga picked up the maul. The Emaciator had disgorged it head-first, like a trick from a hat, though it was eight times Heartworm's length or more. It was the same weapon she remembered: an executioner's hammer, all haft and a small head, with a dull point on one end and a curved spike on the other. But it was more, too. A new weight suffused it, more suited to her obscene strength. The bronze gleam was only a tint, and a spike had been affixed to the killing end.

"You found it," she said.

"Adamantium carbide. Used in divine weaponry."

Faint nod. She spun the weapon, feeling its weight. A small mace had been flanged onto the butt end. Setting it to the sand, it was maybe twice her height, and taller than any man. She gripped the bludgeon cords whistling high above. It was an aerial weapon, not meant for close quarters. Hovering a few feet above the sand, she rocked it back and forth in her hand, then fit it to the clasp in her suit. Once more her silhouette was complete. Sword and hammer, polearm and sidearm.

Heartworm inspected the pile of canvas inside the catamaran. As Tauga swooped down to set her feet on the boat, it unzipped its teeth and stretched the fabric with black tongues, cutting it evenly into shape.


"Triangular sails. Efficiency."

Tauga watched it work. Together they attached it to the new mast. Heartworm perched on her shoulder as she did so. She regarded it coolly with her side-eyes.

"You and I are a team, Tauga."

Birth of the Marquisate
Part I: Islanders

Grey conquered the sun and then the waves. Fierce winds lashed the ocean into a spitting mess of turbulence. Spray flew from the prow of Tauga's catamaran and ran in droplets from the eyes of the Blowfly mask.

Her hands clenched rope, heaving the sail high into the air with the strength in her arms alone. Firm in the buck of her ship, she worked knot, yard and spar, guiding through force of will a vessel meant for ten.

"Change tack! We'll circle Mimichti and pull up on Long Beach!"

Behind her head rose a cry of loyalty: 'BLOWFLY!'

As the catamaran raised a crest of foam, the line of boats following behind her came into hard determined focus. Men and women of all colour bent into the wind and drove their hulls into the water. Human, hain, goblin, troll, they wore trousers of black leather and bared chests lined with muscle.

It was a Tlaca fashion. Xerxes may have thrived on the islands, but their people were old, and their songs were powerful. What came from the city and what came from the sea were no longer so clearly apart.

Tauga rode her cat into the far surf and sprang into the water, submerged entirely only to force herself from the toppling force of the swell and onto the beach, dragging the huge boat behind her. The young men of Axotal followed her shortly onto the sand.

The wind cut across her words and she roared in defiance of it. "We'll take the route to Ihuian tomorrow! Tell the villages to ready eight days supply!"

A disparate mass of teenage fury called back. Tauga! Mason God! Blowfly!

And among it, a new call: MARQUISE!

* * *

Hurricane gales screamed past the ophan cords, washing the great iron spheres with torrential rain as Tauga navigated the storm. Numbers clicked in her head as she felt her changeling body mark the miles on Galbar's web of magnetic field-lines.

She yanked at the ophanim to follow her lead, but even her sprawling tentacles were not enough to force them to bear. Slowly they drifted off course, perfectly yielding to every command that did not bring them to the eye of the storm. Finally she paused, miles high over the middle of the ocean, sensing the djinni as they whipped and chattered in swarms around her.

Her tentacles knotted hard over the cords. Even the ophanim would only withstand so much without marking a challenge.


A presence in her skull.

"I need a new-" She struggled for words, not breath. The winds howled, but her mask could still air in the void itself. "-Mount. A pair of wings. Something that can kill Djinni," she appended, knowing that this storm would make landfall. "Something that can hunt."

Will take time. Can reconfigure the Opha-

"Do it now, you wormy fuck! I don't care!"


Tauga gazed into the storm. Soon, very soon, she would map the winds.

* * *

Auricolor slammed into volcanic earth, scattering shards of brittle glass stone over the magi. Laughing a scream that Jvan alone would call musical, the slick change-eating shapeshifter leapt from the dirt and twirled as she flew.

A'a groaned deep fury as his alien quarry escaped him. The volcano shuddered and spat more stone into the sky, driving back the elementalists fighting at his feet, but Tauga did not fear the scything ash.

Planting her feet in stone as it exploded beneath her, she propelled herself heavenwards on the cords of the grand ophanim, their lesser cousins whipping around her skull, shattering every pebble that dared face her, tiny fists of a foreign god.

Tauga leapt from hunks of steaming magma as they fell around her, and as Auricolor again savaged the elemental lord with her Stance of the Threefold Ferret, the Blowfly descended upon him-

And smote the fiery giant's skull.

TCAKK of splitting stone.

Auricolor cackled. Glass smoke streamed from A'a's head. The change-eater pierced him with six claws and split her face nine ways, and her other three hands kicked and jittered as the golden creature gorged.

Tauga settled on the Djinni's nose.


"Then they will die," said the Blowfly. She leapt to one side as an elder Bludgeon crashed into the crater, striking A'a's head from his body. Her invisible tongues crawled over his corpse like a wind. She tasted his Flicker dying with tendrils that were only now learning how to feel.

The mass of tentacles seized a young lava swaying with psychic distress. It floundered for lack of a lord, and was easy prey for Tauga. Her grasp was growing stronger. "You. Tell the magma lords of Xiloxoch and Axotal what you saw here. Tell them that I am a God, and this is my proof. They chose the right side to play on."

The invisible monstrosity lifted the djinni, and tossed it down into the waves. A tired cheer of azibo sorcerers followed it's splash.

Tauga felt something move behind her. It had a different taste to elementals and the cords, and yet was of the same Flickering substance.

"Not now, Auri. I fucking hurt."

Disappointed chatter.

Tauga turned and pointed her hammer high into the face of the Diaphane. "You're like a moulted kid, you know that? You think you're so... So, fuckin'... Fresh. God, do you ever, ever get tired?"

Sheepish eldritch mumbles.

"Whatever. Just get the hell out of here and let me sleep." Heartworm's vessel stepped lightly onto a nearby stone from nowhere. The draconic three-tiered ferret giggled and teased at it as it busied itself with Tauga's suit, addressed her myriad wounds.

If Tauga could ever feel glad for anything, it would have been that Heartworm wasn't smug.

* * *

Saws rasped at the palms. Planks clacked together, and humans worked late into the night as the hain tired of measuring canvas. There were few porcelain folk on the islands and their sharp eyes were widely sought.

The planks were being laid out in long piles, carried off to be weighted and hammered into the sediment. More were laid atop them to produce a flat surface. A friendly tribe of urtelem had taken to the task of moving stone into place over the reef, producing a sheltered harbour. The growing wooden structure within it was being dubbed a sea-path in Tlaca, but Tauga knew a Xerxian dock when she saw one.

Forges were bright enough that they could be operated night and day, without lamps. Buckets of bronze pegs were being filled and hammered into overlapping planks, then hammered on the other side to flatten them, forming a link. More and more planks were added this way, until the Tlaca saw something new: a ship made not out of one great tree, but many small ones. A long-boat.

Clink, clink, clink, went the hammers on the rivets. Clink, clink, clink, went the rivets in the forge. No wonder the work was called clinking. No wonder the boats were called clinker-built.

The problem was rivets. The Tlaca had long ago learned to connect their canoes into catamarans and outrigger vessels, more stable in the water and able to carry a greater load. Now that the Blowfly demiurge walked among them, teaching how to make sails in mountain-shapes that could easily fly in the face of the wind, they could travel even faster. Yet, fast as they were, they still would not carry a hundredth as much as the vast and sluggish triremes on which the Xerxians had come. Somewhere between the extremes were these new, sleek creatures.

But copper and tin were both scarce on the island. Tauga had already scavenged all she could from the nails of the old triremes and it was still not enough.

She walked into the forge carrying a sack of heavy rocks that clicked together under a layer of char. The workers here were used to her, but they still looked up when they felt the chill in their spine.

A woman who was mostly shoulders looked up from her bellows and squinted through her sweat.

"You have much coke here?"

"Yes," said the woman, flinching as the heavy bag smacked into the floor. She pointed to a pile of cooked coal with which they'd been feeding the forges.

"Nice. I'm going to take over this furnace for a while. Go work with the saws, or, sleep," she said, sensing the smith's exhaustion. "And. Don't expect this chimney to be here tomorrow. I need it."

The woman nodded. "...Um, Blowfly?"


"Tauga. What, exactly are you doing?"

"Making cheaper clinks," she said. "See for yourself."

The woman looked. "This? This is pig metal."

"Mm. There's a way to soften it, make it stronger. Learned it in the mist city." Tauga waved her hands over the forge, feeling heat. No mortal hain could work here. They'd dehydrate themselves panting within an hour.

"And you can make it with nothing but coke and clay chimneys?"

Affirmative grunt.

"To think, we've been throwing this out for years," said the smith, already yawning. "And praying for more copper. Ironic."

"Yeah," said Tauga, who didn't know what that word meant. "Sure. Ironic. Hey, does this metal have a name?"

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Kho
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It haunted the camp by night, a creature of silence, darkness, and wispy blood. Wherever it marched, there came with it despair and grief, and the guards would back off or look away from the manifestation of misery. It had haunted the Azad camp ever since the pyre had been built for Shaqmar and Layla, and they could not proceed with the cremation of the Qa'id Adheem and his beloved until the black- and red-clad creature made peace with its grief. Dressing thus and haunting the moon-stalked nights was a grieving custom for widows whose men had met with particularly abnormal deaths - except that Shaqmar had not left behind a widow, nor had he willed that he should live to be a widower.

And yet, these Azad nights were haunted by the forgotten-left-behinds, they were stalked by the red-black terror that wailed in silence and gave all a reason to flinch away though it did not so much as move to strike. No, it was not so much the mourning Surayka that they feared, but a weeping widow - for all knew that the Eternal Sky itself shook and trembled, and grew furious and vengeful, at the cries of a widow who thought herself oppressed. Woe! Woe to you, oh widowmakers!
None forgot the fate of Jurhama's killers, upon whom fell the anger of that ancient rider's widow. She had donned the red and black and would see no living being for days - even weeks - until the Eternal Sky was so moved by her misery that it brought forth from the north a creature pulsating with red fury and vengeance. It was an ant-like creature larger than any man, easily able to overpower even the most stubborn and fearsome stallions. Jurhama's killers had nowhere to hide, and they could not hope to outpace the screeching terror brought forth by the Eternal Sky. With her husband so avenged, Jurhama's widow - whose name, carried from one Rukban generation to the next, was Ariha - removed the red and black. The strange creature did not remain in Rukbany long thereafter, leaving for the south. But Ariha became in her own time a much respected and feared shamaness, with most shamans tracing back their lineage in some way to her. And so, Surayka's donning of the red and black was rightly reason for great fear and anxiety.

The elders of the Azad met repeatedly over the days following her having donned it, pressing her old father to speak with her during the day and have her return to reason - she was not Shaqmar's widow, after all, she had no right to don the red and black at his death. The old Ja'ikae had watched silently the growth of his daughter's affections for her Shaqmar from the dawn of her days. And in those early days, he had thought it the natural progression of things that Shaqmar should one day accept her into his life, and dedicate some of his days and some of his nights to her in exchange for the years and days and nights she dedicated to none but him. Even when Layla stole Shaqmar's eyes and tongue and heart, and all his days and nights and sighs, he had thought it would not be too long before he turned his eyes on Surayka and allowed her some of the happiness and joy that all humans were, in their short time in this world, entitled to. But Surayka's lot, more so than anyone, was silent sadness and pain, silent heartache, silent self-sacrifice.

'Let the woman grieve, for by the Eternal Sky she has been Shaqmar's widow long before he died.' Old Ja'ikae told them.
'But what of the pyre? We cannot leave Shaqmar and Layla like this for much longer, the Azad cannot go without a Qa'id Adheem much longer.'
'Then do not wait on her to remove the red and black. Light up the pyre, give your allegiance to a new Qa'id Adheem, and let the widow grieve long as she needs,' Ja'ikae told them. The elders looked around uncertainly. They knew the traditions well, a man could not be cremated so long as a woman donned the red and black for him, and a new Qa'id Adheem could not arise before the previous one had been cremated. But Ja'ikae's words, for whatever reason, seemed to have weight among them and they eventually came to a consensus in alignment with his suggestion.

And so on a night dark as the deed that released into the abyss the souls of Layla and Shaqmar, the people were gathered and the flames were lit, and the silent Surayka stalked forth with Layl behind her. The black stallion had seemed but a mere shade of himself since his rider's passing; his fabled power and the lethal spark that had in bygone times caused men and equines alike to fall before him in worship and awe was all but gone. His noble head was now brought low, his eyes downcast, his hooves dragging, his once untameable black mane had waned. Was this the steed known by the deserts and night, by Rukbany's mounted men? Was this the stallion feared by sword and spear, and even by the pen? No, Layl had withered into the night the very moment the untrue blade had made in his rider's chest a home.

And the women loosed their hair and wailed, and they struck at their chests and thighs, and the men gurgled and growled their grief-song, and they struck at the ground with their feet even as the women struck their heads and chests and ripped at their hair and swayed their heads back and forth so that their hair flew now this way and now that way in a mesmerising letting loose of pure emotion. The wails and the growls, the thumping of earth and the striking of human flesh, the neighs of horses brought forth to the slaughter. It was a night of terrible grief, of great blood-spilling; a farewell worthy of the Qa'id Adheem. And when the moment was upon them and the deed was done, Surayka lit up the pyre and the thousand slain horses; and the burning of horse flesh and the smoke and the flames and the blaze and- GOD! She fell to her knees before the blaze and stared at it. She did not wail like the women wailed and she did not growl and moan like the men moaned. She was silent, her grief raging in a silent pit unseen in the depths of her heart.

And she remained there, watching the great firestorm light up the night until it seemed like the sun had risen from the earth and all was day. And the smoke rose up, and the men moaned, and the women wailed, and Surayka silent remained, until the one true sun rose on the tired horizon and all departed for their roundtents that they may rest and allow the spirits of the departed to rise in peace. And Surayka likewise rose and, though she little knew what she was doing or where she was or what she was or why she was, found her way to her lonely roundtent and collapsed therein and held back a sob. But she let out a moan and spoke, and a single tear became trapped in her black lashes.

Peace to the world and all on it, for it is not peace
If the heartstrings of your life are cleft from the heartstrings of mine

It is as though we were created in error and it is as though
It was forbidden upon the world that we should be united

I collected the memories of yesterday's meeting in my lashes,
And I went reigniting them, one by one, on the tired horizons.

There are none so confused as I: the eye runs wet and dry,
Weeping and laughing in the depths of my secret heart...

I forgot from his hand to take back my hand,
Lost my very mind after a brief kiss.

There are none so confused as I: I collapse exhausted
Behind the curtains of my roundtent in illness and heartache.

I love this love if it comes to visit us with its fragrance
Oh perfumes make your nest at the door and spill everywhere.

And she remained there until the risen sun returned into the earth and all was darkness again. And as she lay there, moaning her verses still and thinking of the departed beloved, there gripped her a feeling of intense fear and dread. Climbing to her feet, she approach the door of the roundtent and looked out into the darkness uncertainly. All was silent (bar the neighing of this horse or the moan of this cow), but all seemed well. With a hesitant step, she emerged from the roundtent and was at once struck by the brightness of the heavens. The moving heavens.

Up above her the stars were out and burning with an intensity never before seen. And they were moving at speed and growing in size and - GOD! The heavens were falling. The Eternal Sky itself was descending upon them. And Surayka's silent wail was no longer silent, and her scream caused all to awaken and emerge. And they looked upon the heavens and fell to their knees, and others looked with horror from the heavens to the wailing Surayka.

Once again the tears of a weeping widow had brought about the wrath of the Eternal Sky. Woe to you, oh widowmakers!
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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by WrongEndoftheRainbow
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Citadel Dundee

The winding streets of the Citadel were alien to Leian, a Hain pilgrim from Alefpria. He had decided to explore the world, and the world seemed so alien compared to the orderly confines of the city he had called home. New people, new appearances, and new locations whirled in his head. A book by his side, he was sure none of these people could read Alefprian script, which meant that it would be worthless to steal.

The journal was a record of his travels. He’d explored the territories of the new Marquise, the ruins that were left of old Xerxes. He’d wound his way to Messethalassa, and finally he had walked all the way to Citadel Dundee. In the years after the destruction of Xerxes at the hand of Alefpria, he had heard rumors about a new form of magic and grand projects in the citadel.

Now, he was going towards an area in the middle of the mountain curiously called ‘The Staging Port’, whatever that meant. He’d travelled for weeks throughout the mountain, and he’d come to a rather large city that he assumed held the mysterious location. Maybe he’d get to see one of the grand projects the Citadel had been working on.

In his pocket jingled strange round things, stamped out of metal with a picture of a mountain on one side. There was a small hole in one of the sides, that appeared to allow for string to be threaded through. Supposedly these small circles made of valuable metals would allow him to pay for things. He’d always lived on the outskirts of Alefpria, so he was unfamiliar with anything but barter. Nevertheless, he had procured those coins, as they called them, to pay his way through the mountain.

He had seen traders at the edge of the mountain, the few who dared journey that far, wear them as jewelry, like some sort of mark of honor. He had no interest in that, he was a simple man with simple desires. He wished to perhaps write a book, but that was the extent of his dreams. Exploration was its own reward. He would document the many wonders of the world, and he would see that others could share in his adventures.

When he could finally see the staging port in the distance, he was agape. There were thousands of.. Floating ships? Floating ships, in the sky? They had some sort of sails and galleys, and they flew through the sky with ease. He pushed through the crowd as best he could, running to the entrance to the grand docking structure. A shaft of light beamed down upon it, a hole in the roof.

So this was the grand project the Citadel had spent so many resources on. He came to a collection of warehouses, and he continued on past them. Stopping a nearby batlike creature, he spoke, “Excuse me, where can someone get on one of those ships in the sky?”

The creature looked down at Leian, saying, “Go to the bar straight from here. You can charter a ship.” and began to walk off. Leian did not stop the creature, though he was unfamiliar with their species. He had heard that the Dwarves had undergone some kind of change, but he never thought it would be so drastic. With that out of the way, he walked down the street, still pushing through crowds.

Once he reached the bar, he entered, though he wasn’t one for drinking. He had to find his way onto one of these ships. Flying contraptions! An amazing prospect for an explorer. Looking around, he then realized he had no idea who to talk to to charter a ship. He asked around a bit, often confusing the men in the bar with his lack of knowledge, but eventually he was pointed in the right direction.

A group of sailors, several batlike creatures, a lynx-like creature, and many yeti-like creatures sat in a corner, cheerfully drinking. They silenced when Leian neared, and watched him, as he fumbled his words, “Uh- excuse me, are you the captain of that.. A ship?”

“Indeed I am,” said the lynx-like creature, putting down her drink, continuing, “what exactly do you need?”

“I wish to charter a ship. Cost is no issue. I do not care where we go.” the Hain said.

The captain nodded, saying, “Well, we have room for one more. Twenty coins, and it’s a deal. We launch tomorrow morning, if you don’t arrive, you don’t get a refund. Fair?” to which the Alefprian Hain nodded, scattering twenty of his coins onto the table. The captain invited him to drink, and while he did not drink, he did sit and learn of the crew all throughout the evening. More to put in his journal.

The next morning, Leian boarded their ship, a large galleon-like ship with many oars and even some sail rigs. He was curious as to how it floated, however. But, when he went to the captain to ask, he was shushed. It was apparently a secret. That much he understood, they did not want their ships spreading to other empires. Petty politics always held sway in the land.

Then, the call went out. “Loose the tethers!”. The ship rocked as the lines connecting it to the dock were cut, and the gangplank was retracted. Leian barely kept on his feet as the ship lurched away from the dock, floating towards an empty space in the port.

“Heading South by Southwest!” came the second cry, and the ship was roused into action. The sails were dropped, and the oars began to work. The rudders in the back turned, and the ship began to list, turning to another direction. This time Leian did fall over, tumbling across the deck into a crewmember, who grumbled and lifted him to his feet.

To him, it was a magical world of wonder. He could care less about losing his footing, he was flying! Then, came the third and final cry. “Full speed ahead, Albe’s Route, to the Wilder Company docks on Mirus!”

That final part gave Leian a start. The moon? Wouldn’t they suffocate? When he confronted the captain about it, however, the woman just stated, “The magic will protect us from the cold.” to which he responded, “What magic?”

“The magic that allows us to float. And, also, a word of advice. Don’t bring up the Empress in the colonies. There’s a reason she’s called our Enduring Majesty, the Divine Traitor. They’ve got cults up there, and a lot of them. As long as they pay their share of goods to the empire, though, they’re left alone. Nevertheless, nobody would miss a single Hain. So watch yourself on shore leave.” The captain spoke, searching her bookshelves in her cabin for something. Finally, she pulled out a scroll, which was exquisitely drawn. On it, what could be best described as a map of the solar system and the main routes.

The Hain looked at it.

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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by BBeast
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BBeast Scientific

Member Seen 8 hrs ago

The Great Artisan, Divine Mason, Builder of Civilisations
Level 5 God of Crafting (Masonry, Carpentry, Smithing, Alchemy, Armaments)

32.5 Might & 2 Free Points

As Tauga and Keriss entered the Submaterium tunnels from the sky city of Metera, they were being scrutinised by an unseen God.

Tauga and Keriss are heading for Heartworm. Tauga, Heartworm's proxy, and Keriss, Heartworm's potential next target. It is important that I find Heartworm before they do. The Well Labyrinth is a maze, and a very extensive one, but wherever Heartworm is it is somewhere connected to these tunnels. Tauga probably knows the way, although it is a long trip. That they are not using the Shadow Tunnels to travel faster are indicative that Heartworm's lair is, to some extent, isolated from the Shadow Tunnel network- not surprising, considering Heartworm's attempts at hiding and the apparent rivalry between Phi and Heartworm. I will need to leverage substantial resources to win this race.

Teknall left Metera and arrived at one of the blood wells scattered across Galbar. Shadows which defied the sunlight shining upon them stretched across the entrance to the cave. The essence of Julkofyr from the shadows mingled with the essence of Mammon rising from the labyrinth, creating a faint divine stench.

Teknall stepped into the cave mouth and ran his fingers through the near-corporeal shadows. He tugged and stretched the shadows, felt the ripples in the submaterium, and peered into the inky blackness of the caves and how they blended dimensions between Galbar and the submaterium. "So that's how this works," Teknall muttered, "Nothing with Mammon's touch can be free. No matter."

In a blink the scene changed to the surface of Auricolor, covered by the darkness of space, the stony landscape a sharp black silhouette against the starry sky. Teknall stretched out his hand, and the ground was illuminated by its own incandescent glow. The stone wept tears of liquid gold, which rose up and collected into an orb in front of Teknall. With another gesture, rocks shifted and a few gemstones shot up and orbited the golden orb.

The scene flicked back to the blood well, and Teknall set down the gemstones and the ten tonnes of gold near the mouth of the cave. Normally he would have acquired resources from the Elemental Siphon, but such conjured matter, while having all the physical properties of normal matter, lacked much of the submaterial value attached to matter which had existed in the Universe for billions of years. But minerals would not be a sufficient sacrifice. Mammon's trials demanded blood, and Julkofyr's flesh would only cover so much.

The scene shifted again to the Realm of Madness. Among the chaos of shifting terrain and weather was the ongoing conflicts between the innumerable demons which called this demiplane home. Demon blood, and other demon parts, generally had much greater submaterial value than the blood of many other creatures, and so was an extremely potent alchemical reagent. Demons were also extremely plentiful in the Realm of Madness, and had little other value besides fighting each other and the other denizens of this Hell.

A large demon, ten feet tall, with four arms and covered in horned purple skin, cackled as it beat a lowly imp against a rock. This was a prime specimen of a demon; powerful and cruel, having feasted on the souls of many hapless beings.

Its laughter was cut short when adamantine cables coiled around its limbs and lifted it from the ground. The demon thrashed against its bonds, but they only grew tighter, restricting the demon's movement until it could only roar. The imp who had been the demon's victim a moment ago limped away as Teknall stepped into view. The demon cursed at Teknall before the cables wrapped around its mouth and muffled its speech. "Nothing personal. I have a toll to pay."

The scene shifted back to the blood well, a place where the terrain was static and the weather didn't change every two seconds. The gold orb reshaped itself into a golden octogram on the ground, with the gems at its tips. The bound demon was maneuvered into position above the gold, and the cables anchored themselves into the ground. Teknall turned to address the tunnel.

"Mammon's bones and Julkofyr's skin,
To Phi's prying ears, I seek your kin;
This labyrinth is a gruelling road,
So take me to Heartworm's abode."

In a blur of shining metal, a scalpel sliced across the demon's throat and its foul blood spilled upon the gold below. From his satchel Teknall took out a pressurised metal canister and threw it down on the golden octogram below the demon. The canister ruptured open and released a cloud of chlorine trifluoride, which caused the whole sacrifice to immediately burst into flames. With unholy vigour the flames consumed the sacrifice, and the noxious smoke wafted into the mouth of the cave.

The shadows around the mouth of the cave thickened substantially. Teknall stepped into the darkness, and there was a sensation like falling as the shadows surrounded Teknall's senses.

Teknall felt as though he was travelling at great speed, although when the sensation stopped a few seconds later he had no residual motion and there was no impact. The shadows wrapped around him receded, leaving only the normal darkness brought about by a lack of light. The brief jaunt through the Shadow Tunnels was disorienting, but Teknall was not so easily swayed.

A golden light was conjured at Teknall's fingertips, and revealed that he was inside a tunnel deep within the Well Labyrinth. The cold, damp cave walls stretched out in both directions, the walls relatively smooth. Behind Teknall the thicker shadows of the Shadow Tunnels clung to crevices and ripples in the stone, defying the efforts of his light to completely dispel them. At least, the tunnels were mostly stone, although they had strange metallic undertones. Faint, indistinct, and mildly distressing sounds lingered as echoes on the edge of hearing, demonic sounds to torment those who wandered the tunnels.

Yet the creepy ambiance was of little concern to Teknall. He was more interested in the hyperdimensional topology of the Labyrinth. It was the kind of twisted impossible geometry that would normally be attributed to Jvan or her avatars, although Teknall knew it to be the work of Mammon. Being so closely tied to the Submaterium, these tunnels were almost a plane of their own. Tunnels looped in on themselves without ever bending. There were intersections which could be travelled one way but led to a dead end when trying to return. Euclidean geometry had no hold here. Distance was an ill defined construct. This was a torturous web of passageways which all looked alike and which didn't have the decency to follow sensible notions of geometry.

While distance within the Labyrinth was poorly defined, Teknall could tell that he was a long way from where he entered. A god always knows to some degree where they are in the Universe, even if they are in a demiplane, and Teknall could tell that he was far from Galbar. Even without divine cues, Teknall could tell that the tunnel materials here were not quite native to Galbar, and gravity was noticeably weaker. Yet Heartworm's lair was no where in sight. The Shadow Tunnels, as he had suspected, had been inadequate to take him all the way to his destination. For all he knew, the shortest route there might be thousands of kilometers, although he suspected that he was closer to Heartworm's lair than to Galbar.

If the tunnels were simple, then Teknall might have been able to explore them manually. But because of the innumerable intersections and branches in the Labyrinth, that would have taken far too much time, even for a god, because it would have demanded traversing potentially millions of kilometers of tunnels. Nothing with Mammon's touch can be free.

Teknall had been travelling the tunnels while contemplating this and considering his options, when he felt another presence gnawing at the back of his mind. Shadows curled into tendrils, reaching and grasping. The demonic whispers grew into eldritch chittering. The damp air seemed to press down on Teknall with leaden weight. Teknall spun around, and could not find the source, but the nightmarish visions clung to the edge of his vision. He spun again, yet still the source eluded him. Taunted him. Haunted him. Closed in on him.

Then the tunnels were flooded with star-fire and the world turned white.

When the light faded, Teknall was standing protectively cocooned in his Mirror Armour with his arms wrapped around his head. Above him spun the Shard Conduit, spread out like a stylised star, the mote of fire in its core gently twinkling. Teknall tentatively lifted his head out of hiding and he looked around slowly. The tunnel walls around him had been molten and twisted. It still glowed cherry red from the heat, and lava dripped from the ceiling. There was no sign of the haunting shadows from seconds ago.

Hesitantly, Teknall unfolded from his protective stance and dematerialised his armour. His breathing was shallow, and his hands trembled slightly. He looked around again, this time with his own eyes, and still saw no sign of the nightmare. Some foul vision concocted by Mammon's essence, probably... Teknall told himself.

Teknall waved a hand above his head and the Shard Conduit folded like a concertina fan into nothingness. He wasn't keen on staying in these tunnels much longer. In a blink he was back at the point where the Shadow Tunnels had first deposited him. The Well Labyrinth was a gruelling maze, but not nearly powerful enough to prevent planar travel. Satisfied that he remembered the spot, Teknall departed from the Well Labyrinth and appeared on Galbar.

Teknall had a design in mind, but he needed a template. One of his brothers had already made a creation which performed a nearly identical function to the one he required. He just needed to adapt it to his own style.

It did not take Teknall too long to locate one of Toun's droningbirds, because they have the predictable habit of following the same charges. With swift hands and a firm yet controlled grip, Teknall caught the droningbird and clasped it between two hands. "Apologies, Toun, but I need to borrow this bird for a few minutes."

Teknall stepped through a rift into his Workshop. He placed the droningbird on a workbench and released it with his hands, only to pin it down with invisible force. He would have preferred anaesthesia over restraints for the added flexibility it afforded, but since the automaton did not drink, sleep or even breathe that was not possible.

He then sat down next to the bird and skillfully dissected it, removing plates and inspecting components. Wings. Flight muscles. Legs. Skull. Control symbols. Telepathic link. Eyes. All important to the function of the droningbird, but they were of secondary interest to Teknall. The principle component Teknall wanted to understand was the siphon.

The siphon was a device which exploited aspects of the Codex's patchwork design in order to harvest a continuous supply of Astartean magical energy. It was a fragile contraption, and highly unstable if damaged, yet also extremely useful due to its ability to supply unlimited energy. Toun had managed to get the design down from the large and cantankerous prototype used in the White Giants to something small yet powerful enough to maintain continuous flight in an object that could fit in his hand.

Teknall took careful note of Toun's design for the siphon, including the Calligraphy used. Then he reassembled the droningbird and picked it up from the table. He checked over it once, ensuring that he had reassembled it to the same quality as he had found it. Then he released the droningbird through a rift back to Galbar, where he had found it previously.

With all the information he needed, Teknall sat down at a workbench and began assembling a machine. Elsewhere in the Workshop the sizeable group of Promethean Manipulators which now resided in the Workshop, together with the robotic arms integrated into the Workshop, got to work on rearranging some of the Workshop's manufacturing infrastructure. In particular, they assembled a dedicated production plant for plastics.

Teknall, meanwhile, worked on the prototype machine. He assembled a miniature magical siphon, made from mechanical parts with precisely embossed Tounic Calligraphy, with transducers to make it output electrical energy. It was not exactly Toun's design; Teknall had made substantial modifications to fit his purposes rather than the droningbird's and to allow for easier manufacture, but fundamentally it was the same device.

Teknall then worked on the other components. A lightweight hybrid supercapacity-battery pack would store energy and keep up with varying power demands. Four electric motors would convert electrical power into motion, with each motor attached to a set of carbon-fiber composite propeller blades. A set of optical night vision cameras and ultrasound echolocation sensors would provide information about the surrounds. A Calligraphy-engraved antenna chip would allow for unlimited-range telecommunication. A computer chip provided the drone the ability of thought and computation, at least to a simple extent. And the whole thing was encased in carbon fiber composite.

Teknall took a step back, and the drone buzzed to life. Its four rotors spun and lifted the drone off the workbench, and the drone hovered in the air. Including the rigid arms holding the rotors, the drone was about the size of a dinner plate. The siphon was able to provide enough power to suspend the lightweight drone in the air indefinitely under Galbarian conditions, and under weaker gravity the excess power would allow it to travel faster. Its sensory array provided information about the world around it, allowing it to navigate. The drone was even designed to be capable of operating underwater, at least to a limited capacity, so it would not get blocked by flooded tunnels.

Satisfied with the design, Teknall set the full manufacturing capacity of the Workshop to focus on creating these drones. The new plastics plant started churning out carbon fiber by the sheet. A very precisely calibrated machine, assembled by Teknall himself, was dedicated to creating the siphons. The Workshop whirred with the sound of machinery as it produced drones en mass.

As the Workshop manufactured, Teknall built another machine. It was, to external appearances, less impressive than the drones, but it was crucial to the drones' success. It was a reasonably sized computer, interfaced to a large Calligraphy-engraved antenna array with symbols matching those on the drones. It would be the brains of the operation. The drones, individually, were too small and low-powered to perform the complicated and memory-demanding computations required to map the Labyrinth. The drones would send their navigational data to this central computer, which would then process the information to generate a hyperdimensional map, and then inform the drones as to what route they should take.

It was a little while later when Teknall returned to the Well Labyrinth, at the exact location that the Shadow Tunnels had deposited him earlier. Beside him opened a rift in space, and from it poured forth the drones. Like a plague of locusts these mechanical contraptions buzzed through the tunnels and flew off in every direction. This swarm had hundreds of thousands of individuals, each one tasked with exploring the Well Labyrinth.

Teknall watched as the last of the drones exited the rift. This army of scouts would probably map the Labyrinth better than any of its other residents to date by sheer brute force.

"I will find you, Heartworm. It's only a matter of time, now."

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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by LokiLeo789
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LokiLeo789 The Old Man

Member Seen 14 days ago

The soft, shadowy light of predawn seeped through his city. The brightest stars still shone overhead, though they would soon be snuffed out by the rising sun. The night sky was not as he remembered it; the stars and the constellations were misaligned. A year had passed.

With every step, his heavy walking staff struck a lonely note, echoing through the capital outskirts empty streets.

When last he had walked this path, an honor guard of 300 elite warriors had marched in his wake, and the cheers of the crowd had shaken the city. It was to have been his moment of glory – yet it had been stolen from him.

Now, it was a city of ghosts. What had become of his people, again?

With an imperious gesture, he commanded the sands beside the roadway to rise, creating living statues with a crackle of red energy. This was a vision of the past, the echoes of Xerxes given form.

The sand figures looked forward, heads tilted toward the ghostly image of the immense Eye of Cipher hanging above the great pyramid palace of Xerxes half a league ahead. It hung there, declaring the glory and power of his empire, though no one remained to see it. Vestec had reduced him to a measly shell of his former self bound to the pubescent body of angsty teenager. Nevertheless his sense of divinity never waned. He could sense those of the chaotic family as they moved about Galbar, ignorant of his profane existence. Blood bound them together. But blood cycled through the heart, and the heart was treacherous.

As he walked the broken street, the sand-echoes of his people pointed up at the sky, their joyful expressions turning to horror. Mouths opened wide in silent screams. They turned to run, stumbling and falling. He watched this all in despairing silence, bearing witness to the last moments of his people.

They were corrupted by a deluge of red rain, reducing their flesh to dust and cast to the winds, leaving behind an abomination of divine production. What had gone wrong with him to unleash this catastrophe?

His focus narrowed. His march became more resolute. The power of the red stone marking the tip of his staff recreated his city in shimmering purple sand. He reached the base of the Cipher and began to climb up makeshift stares, taking them five at a time.

Sand versions of his most favored subjects lined his path, faces upturned, grimacing and wailing in silence before they too were swept away by the winds and became demons of jaded perfection.

He ran, taking the steps faster than any man could, toes digging into the granular substance, carving furrows where they caught. Sand figures rose, and were then destroyed, to either side of him as he climbed.
He reached the top.

Here, he saw himself, rendered in perfect, heartbreaking detail.

In his divine form, he rose up into the air, arms wide and back arched. He remembered this moment. The power coursed through him, infusing his being, filling him with ecstasy. He dropped to his knees. In horror, he saw this own expression change into one of utter pleasure. Though he knew what was to come, he could not look away.

The unseen event blasted Xerxes to nothingness. Blood rained from the sky, hurricane winds of rage and desire whipped across the once gleaming city, it's citizens became demons.

It was too much, but no tears welled in his eyes. That simple act of grief was forever lost to him. He regretted nothing.


A brutal shockwave of sand flared out, disintegrating the final moment of Xerxes. He stood alone among the dying echoes of his past.

He killed his people.

The divine made mortal turned away, just as the first rays of the new dawn struck the barren landscape.

He'd seen enough. The sand image of himself collapsed behind him.

The dawn sun reflected blindingly off the flawless red stone atop his staff. In that instant, he knew that divine power still stirred within him. He sensed the essence of his own power in the air that he breathed.

He lifted a hand, and multitude of sand citizens; hain, human, and roavick alike, rose from the sands in the barren basin that was once Xerxes.

"Hear me Xerxes,” he said, his voice tinged with renewed sense of vigor. “Your king will return. I swear it.”

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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Muttonhawk
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Muttonhawk Let Slip the Corgis of War

Member Seen 6 hrs ago

Our Antiphon

Stand, Claidebites
Hark your purpose

You are called to give yourselves
You are called to fight the chaotic
You are called to fight the malnatural
You are called to fight the tyrant and the destroyer
But any may fight
You must fight to protect

Cast to the lives of lost ages
The days of bare earth, sour wind, and hail
The great wild realm where before we thrashed as whelps
By what grace of Fate were our nests left uncrushed?




None of these things

Nay, it was gods

Years ago, gods fought for the world
They rallied the just around them
They showed us themselves -- what we could embody
Flickers and souls alike grew to reach their shoulders

Not the wind could have their finesse
Not the water could weather them away
Not the earth could have their strength
Not the fire could consume their valour

They grew above the desires of power
They grew above life and death
In that moment
They opened their eyes and saw the heavens

They lived true honour
And there is no greater sacrifice

The world now lies threatened
For Kyre is dead
And scavengers gnaw at the bones of old giants

Chaos itself threw down Kyre's sword before us in a challenge!
Who are we but flickers and souls?

We are flickers and souls with the legacy of a god!, I answer
This sword shall rally the just around us
This sword shall show us Kyre himself -- what we can embody
Flickers and souls alike shall grow to reach his shoulders

Not the wind will have our finesse
Not the water will weather us away
Not the earth will have our strength
Not the fire will consume our valour

We have grown above the desires of power!
We have grown above life and death!
In this moment
We open our eyes and see the heavens!

Kyre may be dead
His sword remains
His messenger guides our arms
And we live true honour

For we are the Knight Protectors

We are necessity from chaos
We are the invader's bane
Conata, witness our custody!
Forth! Children of Aeramen!

We Live True Honour

East Amestris
c. 7 PR

"NOW!" The line of hain raised their long spears from flat on the ground. They thrust forward in unison. The oncoming troll had too much momentum to stop if he wanted to. His deep battlecry was cut short as the spears bent into his exposed front. And he gurgled his last, dropping in a pool of dark blood.

"Drop! Next rank!" The commander barked. The hain line filed back to let the next line of spears come through.

A familiar chorus of shrieks leapt over the dying troll. The smell of blood, dirt, and soil.

"Maces! Maces!" The front hain pulled out a variety of sidearms. Stone clubs. Obsidian blades. The goblins practically jumped over one another to meet the formation and brawl. Most were stuck on spears from the rear row. The rest felt the wrath of hain arms.

The commander feinted the first to come his way and chopped the goblin's arm with a razor-sharp hatchet. Deft follow-up across the throat cut off its scream.

Around him, more hain struggled to survive.

"Pergia! Where are Blue-Stone's force!?!" The commander barked to one of his messengers.

Pergia's beak was flitting all around him. "There, Sorn! Look, sir! Incoming!" He pointed.

The commander, Sorn, turned his beak. A rolling urtelem intercepted the next line of rovaick, flattening goblins and crashing into tedar and trolls. A group more followed in and bowled over more. They unwrapped after impact. Glowing runes gave power to their already formidable fists as bones broke and blood flew. One slammed a stone fist into the gut of a troll. The force thumped against Sorn's chest, even from his distance. The troll fell. Further thumps took the fight to them.

A great tedar with oversized hammers in each hand roared. He threw a hammer strike down. An urtelem head was crushed. The urtelem folded into the earth. The tedar threw his other arm out, striking down another. He bellowed something in the mountain language and gestured forward with a hammer.

Another wave of goblins sprinted forth like a screaming swarm of flightless birds. More trolls backed them up with maces the size of tree trunks.

"There are too many, Sorn! They're too strong! We have to fall back!"

"There is no falling back!" Sorn snarled out. "Our families and stores are behind us! Here, we win or die."

Beak forward, knife and hatchet drawn, Sorn screamed a battle cry and countercharged the incoming goblins. His hain soldiers cried in his wake with weapons raised.

They crashed into one another in clashes of stone, hainshell, bones, and blood. Cries of battle joined shouts of pain, shrieks of death, and ripping limbs. Sorn stabbed and slashed at every creature around him. They bit him, they struck him, they tried to hold him down. He felt no pain. He was a mightier hain than most.

A shell crack and a pained grunt heralded the death of one bodyguard. Another fell soon after. A third was mobbed to the floor and his arm twisted until it made a sickening sound.

Blood sprayed onto Sorn's white shell. He lost his knife in the throat of a goblin several paces behind. A huge foot stopped him in his tracks.

The urtelem-felling tedar loomed over Sorn, looking down with an animalistic gurn.

"Kill me or retreat, beast! I shall not turn back!" Sorn taunted.

The tedar wound one of his hammers up behind his head and bared his massive tusks. Sorn braced to roll out of the way.

A bright reflected light glinted onto the Tedar.

"We live true honour!"

The tedar's brow lifted and he turned to the right.

"Conata, witness our custody!"

Strange voices across the din joined flashes of light. The sound of ringing and slicing and fear. Sorn snapped his beak to lay his second set of eyes on them.

Six shining humans. Young females. They danced through the lines of goblins and trolls. They cut them all with blades for hands. Their pirouettes and leaps threw blood far and wide in an unstoppable waltz. Nothing got near them alive but the hain and urtelem they passed harmlessly over. They slaughtered all else with frightening speed.

"We are necessity from chaos!" One cried.

"We live true honour!" Said another.

They were grey-skinned, grey-clothed. Shining. They were made from the metal of their blades. Though, these were no realta from the bright night seven years ago.

Sorn's opponent, the great tedar, sprinted away. The raiders broke immediately. Goblins sprinted away stumbling, leaving their crude clubs behind. The not-realta pursued.

The defending hain cheered and raised their weapons. Even some of the younger urtelem raised their large hands and brayed with excitement.

"We are the invader's bane!"

Were these the Claidebites? Sorn thought, contemplating his now-unnecessary acceptance of death. Were these the mythical sword-djinn of the dead god Kyre?

"Fear no longer! The Knight Protectors shall meet your oppressors in force! The fire djinni Crucibar has power no longer!"

That confirmed it for Sorn. Crucibar was the master of these rovaick brigands. Sorn did not quite see the heavens that day. However, he did now believe in Wind Striker and those that prayed to him. They would be ransacked no more.

He lifted his blood-dripping obsidian hatchet. He opened his beak wide and joined in the growing chant in his army.

"Knight Protectors! Knight Protectors! Knight Protectors!"

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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by BBeast
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BBeast Scientific

Member Seen 8 hrs ago

Gerrik Far-Teacher

Level 8 Hain Hero
30 Khookies

Day 1

Tallgrass is empty and quiet. The tents are gone, save for my own. All the people are gone. It feels strange and lonely.

I've got my tent, the communal fire pit, my carapace-working oven, the farm, my tools, and some dried venison that will probably last seven more days before going off. No people. I'm on my own for the next hundred days, give or take. Even in my travels I haven't been alone for that long continuously.

I've got plenty to do, though. The potatoes should be ready in about twenty days from now. The tomatoes in forty. The wheat in about seventy. Assuming they grow as I remember them, that is. I also want to plant more crops, because the farm should be able to provide food all year round, or close enough. The plants need tending then harvesting. I can also make more tools from the star-fiend carapace. They'd be useful to have, and they'd trade pretty well if I need anything to trade. And, of course, I need to keep myself well fed in the mean time.

Let's get to work.

Day 5

Wild animals which might like to eat the food I'm growing are an issue, especially without a tribe of people to ward them off. A violet slug tried encroaching on my farm today. They're pretty stupid animals, not paying any attention to other creatures. So I ran it through with a spear. The meat is bland, but I know a few recipes which should make it nicer.

Day 8

Rain today. Too heavy to work outside, even with my leather jacket. It will water the fields, although I need to make sure that the blight doesn't return. Moisture tends to attract it.

I stayed in the tent and inspected the toy I bought from Dibbler. It is truly a marvellous creation, clearly artificial yet somehow quite lifelike. The parts are so intricate and delicate, yet they all fit together perfectly. It is mesmerising to watch.

Day 14

I'm out of manure. Without a village full of people, I'm using the stuff faster than I'm accumulating it. It isn't a huge issue. The plants are well established, so shouldn't need excessive nutrition.

Day 18

The first of the potato crop is ready. I've dug them out, cleaned them, dried them and put them aside. It should add some nice variety to my diet.

One thing I've had to consider is storage. It is no good collecting a whole bunch of food if it will all go mouldy before I can eat it all. Fortunately, plants are generally a bit easier than meat for storage. I know that I need to keep the potatoes dry and out of reach of anything which might eat it (besides myself, of course). However, my data is fairly scarce beyond that. Villages tend to gather only enough food to eat within a relatively short period of time. Farming, however, will tend to produce little food for a long period then provide all the food over a short period. This necessitates better storage.

So I'm trying a few things out. I'll store some fresh, while others I'll bake, and others I'll dry. I'll see if storing in sealed containers helps over storing in a tent. I might even try burying a few of those containers, as long as I can prevent them from leaking.

Day 19

Storage isn't the only thing I'm thinking about. I also need to consider my next crop of potatoes, and how to make it better than the last. For that, I have a plan. I'll take the best potatoes of this harvest, those which grew the fastest and the largest and didn't succumb to the blight, and plant those. Their descendants will likely share those traits, and hence the average quality of my crop will improve. I'm not sure how many iterations it will take for significant improvements to occur, but it should work, and would provide a substantial benefit over gathering wild food.

Day 23

I've harvested all the potatoes, and planted the eyes from those which I deemed to be the best. Another twenty days can I can pick the tomatoes. Until then I need to tend to the vines and make sure they are growing well, and keeping the bugs away.

The potatoes taste good. Somehow having grown them myself makes them feel more satisfying.

Day 25

I've got to find a better way to collect star-fiend carapace. I've run out of limbs to cut off with the Eenal Bow, and even that was tedious. With the torso remaining, it's going to be very difficult cutting it into chunks I can carry. If I can get the carcass closer to Tallgrass, then I'll be able to work it better, possibly soften it in the forge or develop some tool. I'll cut it in half and drag it here if I have to.

Day 27

I'm aching. Dragging it didn't work. It's too heavy, such that it sinks too much into the soil to move easily. I got half of it maybe a quarter of the way before I couldn't go any further, my muscles aching. I'll need a better plan. After I recover.

If Sharon were here, she could have massaged some of the tension out of my body.

Day 35

The tomatoes are almost ripe. It's been pretty dull, otherwise. I'm still trying to think through how to move the star-fiend carcass.

Day 38

Tomato harvest is done. Tomatoes are wetter than potatoes, so storing them fresh for extended periods won't work. I'll have to dry them first- those I don't eat over the next few days, that is. There is also the matter of the seeds. I can't replant the tomatoes immediately, because they don't like the upcoming winter weather. I'll extract the seeds and store them separately. With no flesh on them, the seeds should last much longer on their own than the whole tomatoes.

Day 43

Ashlings. They're rare, but vicious and cunning all the same. A pack of them tried sneaking up on my camp during the night.

Of course, they didn't count on me being able to see them through walls while I slept. Once I Perceived them circling I got my Bow and quiver and went outside. They probably thought they had some safety, because it was a dark and overcast night, but I don't need light to see. I shattered a couple with empowered arrows from the Eenal Bow before the rest turned and fled. I shot a few more as they ran. Most exciting thing to happen for many days.

Hideous creatures, though. I hope they run into a White Giant or some urtelem.

Day 47

I've implemented a solution to my problem with the star-fiend carcass. I had been thinking about how useful it would be to have some urtelem to help, since they would be strong enough to carry the carcass. Unfortunately, no urtelem herds reside nearby. However, that got me thinking about how they roll to get around, which made me realise that rolling was a good way to move heavy things across the ground, since it removed the issue of dragging through the dirt.

Now, I can't roll the star-fiend carcass itself, since it isn't round enough, but I realised that I could push it over smaller things which rolled, which would produce a similar effect. So I found some straight branches, smoothed them into cylinders and laid them out side by side and rolled the star-fiend carcass over them. I had to move the rollers from the back to the front continuously, but it is still a lot easier. I managed to get the carcass all the way up to my camp. This will make things much easier.

Day 50

I've added onions to my crop. They tend to grow well over winter, and grow plentifully. While they only last up to ten days once harvested, they don't all have to be harvested at once, so that's a bonus.

Day 54

The farm is pretty much taking care of itself at this stage. I've removed all the plants I don't want competing with my crops. It rains frequently enough to avoid the need to water the crops manually. Wheat and root vegetables tend to be low maintenance. I just have to keep animals away. I've built a star-fiend carapace tool which should help me harvest the wheat when it comes. I practice my spear technique. I whittle some arrows. But other than that, there's not much to do.

Day 56

I'm barely half way through, but gods am I lonely! I thought I could do it. I miss having people to talk to. I miss everyone. I miss Sharon. Why did they have to go? The farm's working. I could have fed them. Why must I be alone?

No one said you had to be.

Stone Chipper! How glad I am to see you!

Likewise, Gerrik. You're doing a good job here. It's the least I could do to provide a little support. Now, show me what you've learned about farming.

Day 57

Tell me a story, Stone Chipper.

Alright. There once was a young girl named Conata. She lived in a distant land in the Ironheart Ranges. Ever since she was a little girl, she knew she was very different to the people around her, and the people of her village knew she was very different too. Although she was different, her adopted parents took good care of her and loved her very much.

Conata worked hard, using her special skills to help the people around her. She felt that she could do anything, so boundless was her energy and stubborn her determination. In spite of her uniqueness, she made some good friends. Yet, she still felt out of place. She wanted to know where she really came from, but her adopted father promised to tell her only after she reached adulthood.

Then came the Blinding Purge. She survived, although barely, yet many people she knew were killed. Understandably, she was quite distressed. Perhaps to cope, and perhaps to be better prepared, she trained in the ways of battle, and became a mighty warrior.

But her mind was elsewhere, for she had learned something about her origins. She was a daughter of the gods, which was why she was so dissimilar to the people around her, but still many questions were unanswered. Her parents asked her to wait until adulthood to be told the answers, but Conata's patience had worn thin. She was so different to those around her that she felt like she didn't belong, even among her adopted family. So one night she packed her belongings and sneaked out to run away to a distant land where she heard she could find the answers, without even saying goodbye. So determined she was that she was willing to travel the great distance alone. As she was leaving, though, her close friends met her. They insisted that they come along, not because they needed to go where she was going, but because they were her friends.

And so Conata was joined by her friends on her great journey. Although she could have travelled faster alone, the company more than made up for it. At one point in their journey, to take a shortcut, they travelled through the territory of a djinn lord. Conata was confident that they would be fine, although half way through they encountered the djinn lord and his lesser elementals. A fierce battle ensued. While her friends were terrified, Conata was brave and fought the djinn directly. Ultimately she was victorious, but only just, and she was wounded in the fight.

Yet while the physical wounds healed, the emotional wounds did not. She thought she was tough. She thought she could handle her problems on her own. But she was starting to realise that there were problems which could beat her. Yet Conata did not want anyone to think her as weak. She pushed back the doubt and tried to be stronger, but all she did was push away her friends. Finally, Conata had become so distraught and stressed, and still so defiant, that her friends turned back and left for home, while Conata travelled onward, alone.

Conata despaired at how difficult things had become. In battling to repress her feelings, to attempt to be stoic, every step became a chore. Then, suddenly, she met a strange girl. A strange yet very friendly girl. Conata went to this girl's village briefly, and they had a deep conversation. This girl told Conata that her fear and trauma was like a wound of the mind, and that it would hurt but heal. She also told Conata that true friends don't simply leave, and that Conata should go get her friends back, because being alone is hard.

So Conata did. She ran through the night until she caught up with her friends. She confessed that she had been trying to act tough about the star-fiends and the djinn lord, that she didn't want to show weakness, while really she had been just as scared as her friends. But her friends was all she had, and she didn't want to travel alone.

Having bared her heart and made amends, they were reunited and continued on their journey, friends once more, supporting each other.

That story felt particularly relevant. Thank you, Stone Chipper.

The emotions you're feeling are normal, Gerrik. Don't think less of yourself for them. And remember that you don't have to face them alone.

Day 60

A group of violet slugs tried encroaching on my farm again. I killed a couple for food and beat the rest back. A mild pest. Although, with their mild demeanour and rapid life cycle, it gives me an idea. I need to make some kind of enclosure.

Day 65

Am I glad for carapace tools. This makes working wood much easier. Making the enclosure will still take some time, though. But I've got plenty of time.

Day 72

The wheat harvest is under way. I use the long curved bladed implement I made earlier to help harvest it, for with it I can just sweep it and it catches all the wheat stalks and cuts them down and gathers them into a bundle. This makes for easy collection of the wheat, which would probably be useful as the farm gets larger.

Some of the grain I have put aside to seed the next crop. The rest I will store somehow. There are a few variables to test, such as how aerated it should be and how much I need to dry it. I'll set apart the grain into batches. I've also set aside the stalks. They normally aren't edible, and I don't intend to eat them myself, but I think I can find a use for them.

Day 78

I have finished the enclosure. It is a rectangular region of ground bounded by a short wooden wall. I put in half a hollowed out log, buried to be at ground level, to provide a basin to hold water. I've set up a little door to allow me access.

To put inside the enclosure, I have captured some violet slugs. They're so slow and helpless that I can just pick them up, carry them and drop them into the enclosure. I've got water for them to drink, and I can give them the wheat stalks and any other food which isn't any good for me to eat for them to eat. They'll crawl around within the walls, and breed and produce more of themselves, and I can harvest them for the meat just like I would harvest the plants in the farm. I can also work on ensuring that the best slugs, on average, end up breeding, such that the next generation of slugs is better than the last, and so on.

The only downside I can think of is that the meat isn't especially appetising.

Day 81

I've collected numerous seedlings from herb plants and planted them around the farm. They're really easy to grow. The main benefit of having them in the farm is that it means I don't have to search through the forest for them.

I also need to look out for seedlings from fruit trees. Those will take a few years to grow to maturity, but should provide a fairly steady crop once grown. As such, I need to get working on them fairly soon.

Day 82

This violet slug farm requires more work than plants, predictably. I need to ensure they have an adequate water supply. I have to feed them as well as myself, and they're fairly voracious eaters for their size. And I need to make sure that their enclosure is kept relatively clean, although that process does provide some good fertiliser for the farm.

Not only that, but I have to keep out predators too. A hawk swooped in while I was sleeping and snatched one of them away. I've chased away three foxes and a marble-eyed gargoyle already. It's one more thing to look out for.

It'll be easier when people get back. Extra hands would be greatly appreciated.

Day 85

I didn't expect to see Dibbler here, and he didn't expect to find anyone here either. His White Giant takes him on a fairly regular route, which means he knows when he'll arrive at different locations, and he's been to Tallgrass often enough to know their migratory patterns, so he wasn't expecting to make a stop here. But here we are.

I traded him some hides and food for some salt. Salt water, or specifically the salt left after boiling it, has been used by coastal people to help preserve food, but there's a significant shortage of salt this far inland. Dibbler, being the merchant he is, knows this, and had some ready to sell for such an occasion. This salt should help make harvested food last longer. I'll need to keep buying more, of course, but it'll be worth it to make the food last longer.

It was also nice to have someone to chat to, even if it was for just a little while.

Day 89

I've found myself an apple tree sapling out in the forest. I dug it up, taking as much of it as I could, and went and planted it near the river in my farm. I'll need to take good care of it to make sure it survives and grows nice and strong. Plenty of water. A nice helping of manure. Then five or ten years later, I might have apples.

Day 94

The weather's been pretty good down here. I suspect that the village should be returning relatively soon. I think they'll be impressed with what they see. The onions and potatoes should be good for harvesting when they return. I've got a good amount of grain which has survived. And I've got my violet slugs. Just working on my own I've been producing a surplus (although I admit that I have a few advantages). With a whole village farming, I suspect that we'll produce plenty of food to eat.

Day 96

Any day now.

Day 99

Tallgrass has returned! What a happy reunion! Everyone is here now. Arlen. Tami. And, most importantly, Sharon. It's so nice to have her back.

And, as I predicted, they are all quite impressed with the farm. I showed them a harvest of onions, more in one spot than they've ever seen. I showed them the containers of grain I have. The captive violet slugs were of particular interest, although some seemed less than impressed at the idea of eating them regularly. I'll find ways to make it taste better. Regardless, I've managed to gather enough support for the farm that I should get a few full-time workers. The extra hands will allow us to expand the farm, to produce more food, which will let us expand the farm more and attract more people, and so on, and then, and then maybe Tallgrass won't be such a small village. Wow! Wouldn't that be exciting.

But that's all in the future. I want to add more crops to the farm. I think I'll add peas next.

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Cyclone
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Cyclone Phlegmatic

Member Seen 14 days ago

The Jungle's King

Though the night was a dark and cold one, the land was alight with sounds. There was the chirping of a million different breeds of strange insects, and the rustling of worse things moving through the trees. Even here, in the hills a good ways from the true depths of the Venomweald, the land wanted to kill you.

Fortunately for the one who trekked down the path so early in the morning, there were few things in these tamer parts that would challenge an ogre. He climbed over one last wild, wooded hillock before nature's dominion suddenly gave way to a crude civilization. A sliver of burning orange sunrise illuminated the scene: there was an entire glade that had been felled. Amidst the forest of stumps there was Omokog in the distance. It wasn't particularly impressive; it was a sprawling, ramshackle cluster of hovels. There were low huts of wood and mud that rose from the ground like ugly scars, and between them were holes gouged into the ground. Some of the caves were natural, and some had been dug out by the ogres for living or storage space.

Omokog was a city of many thousands, yet there was utter chaos. With no urban planning whatsoever, the streets around the huts and holes and hills created a labyrinth of winding dirt paths. It was a regular sight to see ogres brawling out in the open, and one could hardly move without trodding over a pile of rubbish, rot, or shit. It seemed as though a cloud of flies perpetually loomed over the city, yet the ogres paid this no heed; their skins were too thick to suffer at the hands of any bugs, and most had never known anything but this manner of filth. To the slaves, it was damnation upon Galbar. With their recent excursions having been so successful and warbands pushing ever farther south, some enslaved hain were finding their way back to the ogres' capital.

Dargok passed by two or three of the wretched creatures as he navigated his way towards Ommok's fortress. The king made his lair in a discreet hole in the wall of a hillock, but nonetheless that bare hill amidst the conurbation seemed to loom over all else.

At the cave's entrance were an assembly of a half dozen guards standing abreast to block the way. They were bulky, brutish oafs even by ogre standards, with a glazed look in their eyes. The king's servants all had that dumb look about them whilst they were under the sway of his Stone. Though they might have looked foolish, they stood with a silence and stoicism unbecoming of ogres; Ommok's thralls were absolute in their loyalty and discipline.

Recognizing Dargok as one of the sorcerers that served as the king's lieutenants, they silently parted to allow his entry. The cave-fortress was even more labyrinthine than the city outside, for at least the sun's light shone outside. Down here, there was only the glow of a few braziers to light the otherwise pitch-black tunnels. The shadowy walls were covered in ogre glyphs and crude ochre paintings that made a record of all things from history to arcane rituals and spells.

One barely-lit wall even had a crude map.

Dargok heavy footsteps echoed loudly upon the stone floor. It was quiet here; there were only about a dozen sorcerers that dwelled in the lair with Ommok, and the bulk of them were on campaign in the south or otherwise dispatched. For company, those that remained had only the king, a few mindless servants, and Flayr. Even now the scheming flamedjinni was hiding in some brazier, no doubt smugly thinking himself clever and unseen. At Slag's behest Flayr had taught all the sorcerers the secrets of shamanism, yet perhaps in the ogres Flayr had found surprisingly worthy disciples. They had all learned his teaching quickly, and perhaps become better than he had wanted. At the very least, their skill was better than he realized. Dargok longed for the day that Flayr would whisper the wrong word in the king's ear and draw out Ommok's wrath.

Ommok. The mighty king, great and powerful in figure, rested on his throne snoring. Even in his sleep, he clutched his Stone.

Before Dargok could debate the merits of waking his master so as to deliver his report, there was a stirring in the corner of the room. Gormon, the king's hulking yet half-witted ancient, groggily rose up, noticing Dargok with a start. Always one for ceremony, he bellowed his line, "Enter! Da great an' powerful king will hear you beg now."

As the proclamation had Ommok bolt awake, Gormon laid back down in the corner and tried to sleep once again.

The king's voice cut through the air, "Speak."

Dargok lowered his gaze down to his master's feet in respect. "I come bearing news from the campaign in the south. Another nine settlements have been taken in the past two fortnights. Most were empty when we got there; the Heen that remained were all resettled farther north and the villages burned. Most of the Heen are fleeing south now, and Stog leads his rabble after their heels like a mad dog, but Skagoth has turned east."

"East? Away from the fertile grasslands ripe for picking, into the savage and worthless mountains?"

"We've encountered a few wandering bands of creatures called Rovik. Big things, almost as big as ogres. They fight well and always carry treasures, and the Heen tell rumors of great Rovik hoards hidden deep in the mountains to the east."

The avarice gleamed in Ommok's eyes brighter than the faint reflection of torchlight. "Then Stog is a fool for chasing after the Heen vermin when there are riper fruit. Has Grekogork led his band to Skagoth's aid?"

"No, Grekogork and those that followed him have ventured in the opposite direction. They press west into the wild lands, searching for treasures or worthy foes."

Ommok gave a derisive snort. Silence followed, broken apart only by Gormon's hacking snores.

"I have not been idle in these past moons," he declared. With one gargantuan hand he reached to the side of his throne and lifted a stone tablet, upon which there was drawn the likeness of the land. Only the map was centered upon the nightmarish jungles to the north of Omokog, and in the Venomweald were the marked locations of many places and rough drawings of many of the jungle's twisted creatures.

"We lost many scouting parties in expeditions into the jungle, but now we know what lies just beyond our reach. There are several tribes of ogres there, living like filthy animals. They must be brought under my reign, and then all of our kind would be united as one empire."

"There are warriors enough left in the city, even with the hundreds of them gone south. I take it you have already given the orders to assemble another horde and have them conquer these stray tribes?"

"No, I do not intend to bring them under my heel by brute force. A horde would not fare well marching through the Venomweald. Even finding these tribes will be difficult; only one of the three was found by our scouts. We know of the other two only from what was told to us by the first; they might be only rumors.

An army would fall apart trekking through the jungle looking for hidden tribes, but a small expedition and a show of power might succeed where brute force would fail."

"A show of power?"

"I will go myself, and they will witness their king and the power of my Stone. If they are too foolish to submit of their own free will, then with the Stone's power I will subjugate them."

"A fine plan," Dargok admitted. "Shall I begin making the preparations for your escort?"

"That is already done," the king answered. "I simply awaited the return of one of my apprentices to accompany me and document the journey. With your timely arrival, the journey may begin."

The Venomweald Expedition
As recorded by Dargok
Written in simplistic ogre cuneiform using charcoal and ochre, upon a series of cumbersome stone tablets

There about ten of us with king Ommok. We going into jungle.

We leave Omokog when sun beats on heads.

Sun no beat on heads in jungle. Dark in here. Hard to see and hard to walk with plants always in way.

Mean plants. Some got poison and try make us sick. Some try eat us. We set those on fire.

Ommok uses magic Stone to keep bugs and beasties away. We still hear and see them though. Good thing Ommok is here or we have to kill lots of beasties and swat lots of bugs.

We walk for lots of days. Hard to keep track. Hard to follow map because everything look the same.

Pretty sure we lost.

We start running out of food. That bad because the berries here no good for eating. Rocks taste better and not make our bellies sick so we eat rocks and meat from the beasties we can catch.

Argue over whether split up. Decide to stay together. Nobody want to go without Ommok's Stone keeping beasties away.

While we argue we yell and make noise. Other ogres hear noise and come. They from one of the lost tribes, so we find what we came for. Not lost. Never was lost.

We go to their village. They all live in caves under jungle. Nice caves, all close together. Wet and dark holes in ground, very nice caves. Nicer than most caves in Omokog. We call them cave ogres since they all live in nice caves. They talk really funny. Funny faces. All look the same and act kinda dumb. Not too many of them. Have a boss called Clem. Grow mushrooms in their cave for eating. Drink a funny juice that taste weird and makes us dizzy.

Cave ogres nice and let us stay in their caves. Don't want to be ruled by Ommok because they think they have the best cave. But Ommok tells him how his cave is better, so then they okay with serving him. Me not sure if Ommok's fort bigger or better than this huge cave but me not say that because cave ogres seem to only care about size of cave. Bigger cave means better ogre. Dumb idea. Only bigger or stronger or more magical ogre means better ogre.

Clem swear loyalty to Ommok. Ommok asks Clem about other ogre tribes since Clem was that ogre that told the first scouts about the other tribes.

Clem kinda dumb because he not know much about other ogre tribes. It like he stay in a cave all day. Not know the other ogres just know where they live. So we leave looking for the other ogre tribes and not knowing what to expect.

But Clem does tell us about jogres. The jogres used to be ogres but then they got messed up by the jungle. Now they not ogres, they jogres. You can tell they not ogres because they run around on hands and feet like doggies, got big teeth, and also because they always hungry and usually try to eat you. Jogres are mean and dumb. They no talk. We find some and capture them. Gonna take them to Omokog and use them as war beasts since they too dumb to do anything other than eat things, but at least they fast and good at eating things that try to run.

After we got the jogres we go to a little river that Clem tells us to follow and we follow it deeper into the jungle. We walk in the river because there so many trees that it hard to walk beside the river. Feet are wet and annoying and sharp rocks in bottom of river are annoying. Some mean fishies try to bite toes so we stomp on them.

Eventually we find a dead jogre with its head smashed. We think that the ogres we looking for killed that jogre so we keep going that way. We see two dumb looking gits with big clubs. They see us and look at us funny. Probably think about beating us with those clubs but Ommok is big and scary so they act nice when he steps out of trees.

Ommok tells them hello and that he is the true ogre king. They pretty dumb because they not know what hello mean or what king is. They also dumb because they talk even more funny than cave ogres and use strange words. Hard to understand them but they say that their names are Twig and Pretty Fing. They brother and sister.

We laugh because we think they make funny joke. Twig is big like boulder not little like twig, and Pretty Fing has face that like mushroom. So it funny since their names are dumb. We laugh and ask their names again.

They no laugh. They look at us like we dumb and say their names Twig and Pretty Fing. Must just have dumb names that are bad. Ask about their boss and they not really know what a boss is. Dumb. After lot of talk they say they bring us to Mum. Maybe their mum not dumb.

We go to their village and see a lot of huts. They have wall and fires and stuff around the village to keep jungle beasties away from huts. Place stinks worse than Omokok and they all look dirty and mean. Their mum must be boss because they take us to biggest hut. Inside hut is really big ogre. Biggest ogre ever if Ommok not ogre.

They call that ogre mum and we really confused because he not a mum. We know because these ogres not wear anything. Maybe they just too dumb to know what a mum is.

Mum is really mean his ogres and his house got lots of smashed skulls in it. Mum also yells a lot and keep talking about how he want to fight something. They all scared of Mum but we not because Ommok is bigger and he protect us.

Some dumb ogre with us asks Mum why they all think he a Mum, and Mum gets really mad. Wants to know what that ogre's name is and he says Azog. Mum asks what a zog is. We all confused and Mum says it probably something puny and dumb like a rock or a bug. Makes fun of Azog for eating zogs.

We confused but then we get it! They all named after first thing they try to eat. Or maybe favorite thing to eat. Not sure but now we more scared of Mum. He getting really angry for no reason and wants fight. I sense Ommok try use Stone but it not work. Some ogres not feel magic and Mum probably one of those. Pretty bad!

No magic from Ommok's Stone means no way to make Mum stop yelling and throwing things. So Ommok take the fight because he bigger and they wrestle.

They wrestle for long time and lots of big punches. Mum really strong even though he smaller because he all strong but Ommok kinda fat.

They still fighting and we worried if Ommok gonna win.

Ommok won like we knew he would. Mum looks like little girl. Says first time anybody ever beat him in wrestle. Likes us now.

I kinda think we shoulda bashed Mum's head in and put some other ogre in charge but Ommok lets Mum live. Mum swear serve Ommok and join kingdom and those things. Other dumb ogres swear too. Some gonna go back to Omokog with us and some ogres from Omokog gonna come here to keep an eye on the place but first we gotta go back into jungle. One more lost tribe out there and Mum knows where it is because Mum not like that tribe. That tribe bad because they like Jok Funk and their boss kinda messed up.

Mum tells his dumb ogres show us the other tribe and when we get there we see a big temple built into hill. Most of tribe lives inside hill in big cave but the temple on top keeps jungle beasties and things from getting into cave.

These ogres really funny. Always talking quiet even when nobody around to listen. Got funny marks on their skin too. Some of the marks just paint but others carved into skin or burned on forever. Their boss is Glutton and he even more messed up than Mum said. Glutton really fat and has no legs. Slithers around looking kinda like slug. Nobody sure if Jok Funk messed him up or if he just eat way too much. Glutton is high priest and rest of tribe worship him and Jok Funk like some kinda cult. Kinda want to bash all their heads in but Ommok talk to Glutton and thinks Glutton smart and maybe useful. So no head bashing.

Glutton is chef. Really funny chef. Likes to cook more than Mum likes to fight. Cooks everything and makes really funny food. Mum's tribe mad at him because they think he cooked and ate some of Mum's dumb ogres. He cook us lots of food from funny jungle things and some is tasty but most is really bad and make us feel sick.

Ommok and Glutton talk while eat. Ommok tries to make Glutton swear to serve and join kingdom but Glutton talk back about how he doing fine in jungle and not want trouble but also not want be bossed around. Lot of talk back and forth in circle where Ommok tries tell Glutton he better off in kingdom so he better join. Glutton not really listen until Ommok tell him about how much new stuff he could get for cooking if he join kingdom and trade his yummy food for new cooking stuff. Then Glutton swear fealty pretty quick and his cult go along with it.

We make long trip back to Omokog. Pretty tired because we been stuck in jungle for lots of days. Not long after Ommok gets tribute sent from the three tribes.

Big feast at Omokog when we get back.

Clem send mushroom juice. Mum send big but really dumb ogre named My Fist to fight for Ommok. Not sure what Glutton sent but nobody want to eat it. Trophies also come from hordes down south. Stog send thousands of the little heen slaves back. They all starving and weak but they said to be the strongest so they what we get. Stog killed the weak and the disobedient and built pile of skulls that like a hill.

From Skagoth there lots of weapons and things made from strange shiny rock. Really hard and sharp. Taken from some rovik. A few rovik slaves sent too. They much stronger and better than the little heen.

Nothing from Grekogork! Not know what he thinking but he always been funny in the head.

They all looked around nervously, feeling oddly exposed in the barren grasslands. The land was so flat that everything within a league could see the ogres, and that made them uncomfortable even though there was ostensibly nothing here that could truly threaten such a large group of ogres.

Low to the ground, Grekogork crouched and quickly tore up tufts of grass with his hands. Then he laid on his belly and pressed an ear to the exposed dirt. "Da groun's whisperin' to me," Grekogork muttered. Most of the ogres looked at each other and wondered aloud how this 'magic' and 'shamanism' stuff could make dirt talk. "SO SHUT UP SO THAT I CAN HEAR IT!"

Their chatter died instantly, replaced only with the sound of the grass rustling in the wind. Grekogork laid down for a long time. When he finally rose, he pointed west. "That way!"

They marched two leagues without a single halt, Grekogork only granting them a short respite in exchange for a grueling march until nightfall. Fortunately, they arrived at their destination long before then. At a first glance it seemed to be little more than a tiny hole in the ground that could barely be seen on the flatlands until you nearly fell into it. Upon closer inspection, the warband saw that they had come across the opening of a larger ravine gouged deep into the earth. Though the wound had scarred and the top of the ravine had been covered in soil, the opening was still large enough to allow them entry.

Their feeling of unease had only grown as they had approached this place, so they were more than happy to wait on the surface when Grekogork insisted that he enter alone with only the djinni bound to him for protection.

It was not long after their warboss entered the cave that they heard horrifying roars, a shout of surprise, and then the sound of earth sundering. The sounds quieted down as quickly as they had began. The bravest of the ogres ran into the cave to come to their warboss' aid, but they found him as he had been ascending back to the surface.

"Herag den," the sorcerer explained. "They tried to eat me, but I smash them with magic. No treasure down in there, just a buncha bones." They looked at the the Grekogork's stonedjinn and saw spattering of blood upon the minions' earthen fists.

Grekogork spat on the ground and looked at something in his hand. His bodyguards followed his gaze into the empty eye sockets of a strange, jet-black skull, but then the shaman tucked the skull away into his loot sack.

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by BBeast
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BBeast Scientific

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The Great Artisan, Divine Mason, Builder of Civilisations
Level 5 God of Crafting (Masonry, Carpentry, Smithing, Alchemy, Armaments)

31.5 Might & 2 Free Points

The whir of servo motors. The buzz of saws and drills. The heat of forges. The crackle of electricity. The rumble of excavations. The clanking of wheels on rails. And the invisible light show of radio and microwave communications. These were the sensations Teknall felt as he walked between the rows of Promethean Processors, arranged like houses along a street. Promethean Manipulators scurried around and over their larger cousins like ants, assisting in the perpetual tasks of upgrades, re-purposing and maintenance. One could almost be forgiven for thinking the Processors to be static buildings, except they would get up and crawl to some other destination whenever the Nexus readjusted its priorities or otherwise deemed a rearrangement of the colony necessary.

The Processors were connected to the supply network by a system of motorised trolleys on rails. Via this railway minerals were brought in from the mines, intermediate parts were moved along the supply chain, and finished components were sent to the Nexus to be assembled into more Prometheans, or sent to the other colonies to supply their needs.

And many Prometheans had been made. Thanks to the kick-start to their population provided by the Workshop, the Prometheans now numbered in their millions, and their population was growing exponentially. One thing that helped to maintain that exponential growth was some more advanced chemical synthesis techniques provided by Teknall. On planets like Galbar, life performs a lot of the work in making complex molecules, and the work of the synthetic chemist would generally involve manipulating these preexisting molecules. However, on this lifeless rock, short-chain hydrocarbons was the most complicated naturally occurring chemical. In order to access advanced chemicals such as functional polymers, plastics, carbon fibre, and metal-organic semiconductors, as well as creating advanced materials such as superconductors, far more sophisticated synthetic methods would be required. So Teknall provided such methods, which saw extensive use within his Workshop, allowing the Prometheans to synthesise materials from the raw elements if absolutely necessary.

Teknall came to a clearing among the Processors, where there was a new type of Promethean he had built earlier. Its chassis was a large box, 40 meters long, 15 meters wide and 15 meters tall, covered in lightweight composite materials in an aerodynamic form. Wings 40 meters wide swept back from the top of the Promethean and shaded the clearing. The sides of the chassis were opened to reveal a hollow interior, with robotic arms moving cargo in and out of the hold. An Energiser was nearby charging this Promethean.

This new Promethean was a Carrier. Their size would vary significantly depending on their intended cargo and means of locomotion, but their primary purpose was transportation. Gifted with the ability of powered flight, Carriers could rapidly transport resources, equipment and other Prometheans between colonies.

Teknall stepped into the Carrier's cargo hold.

>new_task(Type="move",Destination=[21.50 -15.11])
promethean.C000073: New Task received from "Teknall" (Task No. 089102)
promethean.C000073: Completing loading/unloading Sub-Tasks
promethean.C000073: Loading/unloading Sub-Tasks completed
promethean.C000073: Processing Task No. 089102
promethean.C000073: Running launch sequence

The Energiser disconnected from the Carrier and withdrew as the Carrier's jets roared to life and vectored their thrust downwards, lifting the Carrier into the air.

As the ground dropped away, the colony came into view. In the center towered the Nexus, now over a hundred meters tall and surrounded by scaffolding and ramps, providing a continuous flow of components to be assembled into new Prometheans. Radiating outwards were roads and rails, and between those were grids of Processors, arranged like an organised city and stretching outwards for many kilometers. Manipulators traversed the colony, swarming around and being busy. A few Energisers, distinguishable by their large roundish forms, dotted the colony, connected to vast webs of conductive cables. Other Carriers could be seen landing and taking off from various places in the colony like great metal birds. In a few places, in pits breaking up the otherwise continuous cityscape, Harvesters worked, extracting every bit of useful ore from underneath the colony.

However, the majority of resource collection was now being performed in the other colonies. Larger railways connected this central colony to the others, shipping in raw materials and shipping out fresh Prometheans in cargo trains stretching for hundreds of meters. The Carriers, as far as terrestrial applications went, were good for rapid deliveries and transportation to and from newer colonies which did not yet have the rail infrastructure.

While the interior of the colony was relatively static in layout, the outer fringes were in constant motion. Processors were moving into place. Harvesters were clearing stone and levelling ground. Manipulators were building infrastructure. Nearby a new railway hub was being constructed, a logistical center for more efficiently distributing deliveries, for efficiency was vital if exponential growth was to be maintained.

Yet Teknall hadn't come here today to marvel at the efficiency. Today Teknall was troubleshooting. One of the mining colonies was reporting some quite strange errors. And considering the robustness of everything Teknall made, that any errors at all were being reported was troubling.

When the Carrier arrived at its destination, Teknall disembarked and walked down the road. Around him hummed the Processors as they did their work, and to the side was a slightly different Energiser. Rather than have a nuclear fusion core fueled by water, this Energiser operated on the principle of nuclear fission. Several of its side ports were dedicated to moving parts associated with control and fuel rods. At one point a Manipulator came up to the Energiser as it ejected one of the spent nuclear fuel rods. The Manipulator removed from a lead box a fresh fuel rod, which it inserted into the Energiser, and placed the spent fuel rod into that lead box. The lead box was carried away for its contents to be safely processed. While Prometheans might not contain any biomatter to be mutated, sensitive electronics could still be harmed by radiation, so care had to be taken when dealing with these hazardous materials.

This particular colony had been set up as a uranium mine. While nuclear fusion provided more energy, nuclear fission was a lot cheaper to manufacture, and cheap energy led to more rapid expansion. Many of the Processors here worked on isotopic enrichment, converting pitchblende into fissile fuel. This was then used in nuclear fission reactors, both here and in other colonies as a cheaper power source for the earlier stages of development. The fission byproducts were also being processed into radioisotope thermal generators, to provide more power options for the Prometheans.

Yet the mines had hit a problem.

promethean.N000028: Error: Survey data corrupted [21.502 -15.129]
promethean.N000028: Error: Unable to continue part of Task No. 069738 (Type="harvest",Target="Uranium"): Unable to access location [21.502 -15.129]
promethean.N000028: Error: Communication failure with H100298. Last known location: [21.502 -15.129]
promethean.N000028: Access to [21.502 -15.129] restricted.

When Teknall's Perception reached the site of the problem, in the mining trenches, he understood why the Prometheans were having problems. Teknall walked on into the mines and approached the scene. An exclusion zone had been set up around this trench. While the Prometheans outside that zone carried on with their work, busy as always, all activity stopped abruptly at the border of the exclusion zone, into which no Prometheans entered.

Teknall strode in. In the bottom of the trench was a Harvester, which seemed strangely inert. One might have assumed it had succumbed to radiation, frying its electronics, except that would not have caused such a fuss. As Teknall approached, though, the continuous radio chatter which normally filled the air became distorted, muffled with white noise and interspersed with strange chirps. When Teknall got close enough to touch the Harvester, he was able to hear its weak radio signal.

proṃethe̎an.H1͇͞002̗9᷊̾͒8: Runn͛ing reboot seq̽uencė
prome͙the̱͊a᷃n.H100298: Sys̃tems scan: ͯTel̀eco̙mmunic̖atio᷀n̮s͇ ̸̞̥̕f̣ail̂ure
p̯rom̒etheaṅ̯ͨ.H100298ͧ:̹ Sỷst̥ems sca᷅̌n̻̅: Hard drỉve̩ corrup᷿ted
promethean᷾.͊H1002͚98: Syst̨͉͕̍eṃ̱᷃̿s scan failed͡
p̄̿romethe͗ȁ̭n.̦H100298:̶ Assisẗ́ance ̾ͩcall̄ f̋ailed
promethea̱n.H̩10͊02͇9ͦ8:̤᷾ Re̗ͫboo̾tͧing͐

Teknall walked around to the Harvester's hopper. The gauntlet of his Mirror Armour covered his hand as he reached in, and pulled out a rock. Yet this rock writhed against Teknall's gaze. Nearby shadows seemed to lurch and stretch, and a low buzz rose on the edge of Teknall's hearing. He had seen an artefact similar to this before, way back in the cave from which Lazarus had been born. This rock carried traces of the Gap in it, and was interfering with nearby telecommunications and electronics as well as slightly warping reality.

Teknall waved his other hand and the pitchblende ore vein glowed incandescent. From it flowed forth molten lead, and this molten lead wrapped around the Relic of Perfectus and sealed it away from the world. The distortions faded and radio chatter was heard clearly again. Teknall slipped the object into his satchel and tapped the Harvester.

promethean.H100298: Running reboot sequence
promethean.H100298: Systems scan: All systems optimal
promethean.H100298: Reboot complete
promethean.H100298: Synchronising task list

The problem removed, Teknall headed out of the trench. The Prometheans proceeded with their regular activities. Teknall informed the Nexus what to do if it encountered a similar error again- quarantine the area and contact him. It seemed very odd that such a Relic would be found all the way over here, in this far corner of the Universe. He had not sensed any divine trails other than his own when he scouted out this region of space, and in such an isolated area even the faintest divine trails should be noticeable. Based what he knew of the last Relic, it was probably Vowzra's doing, but why he would have sent a Relic way out here was a mystery.

Perhaps he'd find a use for these Relics some day.

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Oraculum
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Oraculum Perambulans in tenebris

Member Seen 13 hrs ago

It was not often that the wind from the sea did not bring any scent with it. Be it a distant waft of some curious bloom upon the waves, the light sting of salt or the stench of a rotting carcass borne ashore, it always carried a touch of the unquiet waters. Even when it had no distinct smell, a waft of fresh air was all that was needed for one to know where the whistling breeze came from.

Yet, on that day, the wind brought nothing.

The breeze blew as it had ever since there had been air to move, but it was hollow. It had no smell, no voice. It did not breathe life into the world that eagerly turned to meet it, but choked and stifled. Grass and leaf did not rustle as it slid among them, creeping with a sickly gait, and drooped down where it had passed. Though the sun shone bright overhead, its touch was cold, as though something had gnawed away at its heat and left it mutilated and ravenous.

With it came silence. And dust. Though the air itself was clear and empty, all in its wake was left covered by a thin grey veil, not a flake of which stirred or fell.The dim shroud clung to its prey with unnatural eagerness and tenacity. It crawled to envelop even those places where the wind could not have carried it. It wound around every blade of grass, slithered under every leaf, filled every nook under a loose pebble, every crack in the earth. Life was entombed and left to wither beneath it. For plants, beasts, gnats, even the minute, impalpable motes that drifted everywhere unseen, nothing was left but dark stillness, so that they might neither see nor hear what walked behind the breeze.

Heavy steps fell soundlessly upon the devoured soil, shattering the husks they trod upon and sending their remains to drift forward in a blind cycle of consumption. The faint whistling of a breath without lungs was lost amid the gnarled folds of space heaped upon one another by void-knives twisting in the wounds they had carved, and only the clouds of razorlike flesh it exhaled spread and lashed at the world around them. Sharp fingers moved slowly yet purposefully, directing the forces that radiated from the Hollow One as they wrought their grim work. An eyeless gaze pulsed outwards from a mask that concealed nothing. It saw the ruin of the earth, and it was good.


Once, Osveril would have chastised itself for weakness. Instead of bringing restoration, here it was - inevitable - doing nothing but making the world more agreeable for itself. But now, all it was concerned with was not reducing anything worth being assimilated along with all the clutter and pestilence. Advancing further into reality was a constant painful effort, but the new perspectives it offered, as numerous as the facets on it body, justified it. Every span of time gave it a new piece of insight into the workings of this alien construct, and each was a victory over the forces of havoc and excess. For one, the true meaning of space had told it something: this surface alone was so vast that trying to simply force oneself to endure all of it was futile. All of it would have to be swept before reaching what Osveril imagined was the relative safety of the partial void between bodies of matter that Mother had spoken of, and it was quite simply too much. Thus, finding a compromise between duty and comfort was now part of the plan of action.

Like every other part of that plan, this had given Osveril much to think about. This crude simplification of material forms was obviously only a temporary solution - it did little but hide the worst of the impurity under a thin cover. The most offensive shapes and bulges were shorn away, but the abominable mass from which they were born, and many more like it, remained, and would eventually spawn more if left unchecked. If this universe was to be refashioned into something more acceptable for a start, it had to be struck everywhere at once with a strength Osveril suspected not even all the gods could have. Its cacophonic evolutions could only be matched by a quietude with no equals, that which dwelt in those dear depths of the Gap. It would have to bring it forth, bridge the non-space between worlds.

Fill the Gap between the none and all. How obvious had everything been then. Thoughts and words made its motions slow and clumsy, but it could still call back glimpses of that lost clarity. No, Purity had not displaced what was once the intention behind blind contractions. All was part of its vast design, breathing tiles of a grey mosaic that spanned the void.

The Other would feast on reality and mingle with it, and a pure cosmos would rise on the bones and broken shells of both.

This I swear, by the Void That I Am.

Osveril stopped and struck its staff into the dust. The harpoon-tail pierced the ashen layer, but did not touch the ground beneath it. Immediately, a burst of formless maws bit into the air to all sides, sending a circular grey wave crashing outwards along with the receding cold rush. The Hollow Absolute looked around once more and, satisfied, turned to Transgenesis. What it would strive for was clear, but not everything could come at once. The superficial acclimatisation of this globe was the first step, and it could not be completed without tools. Tools it could now at last fashion.

Since it had left the coast, it had not left the staff idle. All that harboured life had been sought out, tracked down, examined and struck, its essence harvested by the seemingly insatiable stinger. Some of Osveril’s theories had been confirmed in the process. Extension, for example, was proportionate to power: smaller beings had not endured the sampling, and the vital glow was crushed out of them. Others, however, were so limited that the spike had been unable to touch them, even though they were ubiquitous. This was unfortunate, as assimilating even some of them would have allowed it to assemble a weapon finer even than its dust, and one that could reach everywhere. A way would eventually have to be found to control them as well, but for the moment larger creatures would have had to suffice. No great loss, for, among all their multitude, Osveril had found two whose potential was tremendous.

The first were among the lesser of size, but held an array of prodigious qualities. Wherever it had encountered them, there had been many - hundreds, sometimes thousands, living all together underground. Even when they moved to hunt and feed, it was in groups. There was no dissension among them, no deviations, no disobedience to the imperative that bound them all. They spoke in a language of scents and motions, but did not seem to have heavy minds to burden their bodies, nor did they need any. They were cohesive, driven, strong in their numbers and unity. They did not avoid prey larger than themselves, and some had even moved against it as it passed by their nests. Their hunger was great, and they fed on all that lived. Their mandibles were sharp, and, for their size, their bodies were robust. To neglect to give a purpose to such beings as these was something that could only be expected of flawed gods.

The second were more wondrous still. They were much larger, and, while they lived and fed alone, their voracity was unmatched by anything else it had seen. The only aim and law of these beings’ existence was to devour. They ate as they moved, and as they stood still; even when other bearers of life sought to repel them by whatever means they could, they continued to eat, unfazed and indifferent. Had Osveril not known better, it could have thought that inside them there was a craving nothing. They had no other thoughts, if thoughts they had at all; they did not speak, and only stopped to rest their imperfectly designed flesh. More so even than the first entities, their lives were dominated by one command alone, and it was one the Void That Was understood fully. To fail to give such hunger a clear aim was a sign of even deeper corruption.

For Hunger could have a purpose. Not, as lesser minds could have thought, to force that which contained it to seek sustenance for itself. This base use it was put to did nothing but squander its hidden power. Hunger was more than a mere instinct conveyed by living bricks of matter. More than a longing, more than a wish. It was the Void in motion. Emptiness that fought to be filled, but whose immensity made this impossible. The ever-doomed, yet undying struggle of a Hollow to find something that could change it and make it hollow no more. It would never cease as long as there was absence, and therefore it was eternal, though it might consume all things. Not even infinity could sate it.

Hunger is the quest for Purity.

And the nascent amalgamations that rested within Transgenesis would be its heralds.

All they needed were vessels to bear them, and Osveril had found some at last. They were the largest animate beings it had felt yet, vibrant bodies of heat and substance almost larger than its own, and they were numerous. Despite this, they had fled before its cold breath as it approached, and continued to move away even as it drew near. It could have held them in place by giving them nowhere to run, or overtaken them by consuming the distance they shielded themselves with. But it did not. In its slow, leisurely pursuit, it saw how strength could be sapped and eroded, and this pleased it. Nights, in particular, were painful for the creatures, and they were already faltering after the first one; it drew force from the darkness.

They walked still, not far ahead. Those in better shape were at the head, still dragging their thin legs forward at a stable pace. By contrast, those that trailed behind were barely standing, and not even the wind and dust that scourged them incited them as it first had done. At last, they began to drop - one, then another, then a third. The others did not so much as turn, but blindly forged ahead.

Enough. I must have them in one cluster.

Osveril traced a line in the air with the tip of a finger, and the ground and sky before the herd quivered and collapsed into formless absence. The foremost of the beasts almost leapt up in fright, but could only stagger and drop to one side. The rest stood, disoriented or too weak even to start, and it was thus that the Hollow found them as it descended among them. Its inner revolutions flared up as it sought what it had come for, and, when they called out in low relief, Transgenesis darted down, striking exactly where it had to. Not a single motion was wasted, and the grunts and huffs of pain that followed went unheeded. Horns and hooves scraped feebly at the grey shell, but the triangle did not even turn to face them. All who had remained upright fell under the blows, the cold and the dust.

Yet this was not enough for Osveril. The foundation had been laid, and now it remained to ensure that they would stand firm until the time was ripe. It motioned with its hand, and grey tendrils poured forth from every rift and gap in its carapace. They split, bifurcated, dispersed into swarms and clouds as they swept over the creatures, and their silence deadened the last sounds the beasts would make. Fur and flesh were sliced away by innumerable minuscule blades, leaving behind hard plates of skin and bone; muscle was cut, rearranged and welded into shapes never seen by mortal eyes; skeletons were pushed outwards, and brain and marrow blossomed within them. And, all the while, voids drank heat and colour.

Another gesture, and the arms withdrew, sealing the last traces of their grisly labour as they went. What they left behind resembled what they had first touched only in the broadest of terms. The beings had each a body, a head and four limbs to stand on; beyond this, they were the reflection of that which had altered them. There was not a part of their forms that was not broken into sharp facets. From their thick, pillar-like legs to their trapezoidal heads, adorned by parallel slits that might have been eyes and vicious bone blades, all was faded, smooth and symmetrical. Functional.

The Hollow Absolute rested its staff on an armoured flank, and spoke:

”Go, and serve your purpose.”

Then it turned from its works and strode away without a sound. Nothing that was natural would grow in its steps.


Finding the incubators again at the end of their time was not difficult. The mark of purity had sunken deep into their flesh, and called to Osveril even from afar. Another useful lesson. While there had once been nothing but a sheer, impenetrable wall beyond the reach of its surrogate senses, a grey stain had now appeared on the barrier. It could not perceive as this patch did, nor even say where exactly it was, but its silence stood out starkly amid the avalanche of noise and colour that crushed and stifled from all sides. Following it was like seeking respite, and, in a way, it was an apt comparison. That quiet blind spot concealed the germs of a new age of solace, for itself and all the world.


Distance shrivelled and crumpled before the urgency of the void, only resentfully stretching back into shape once it had walked past. Dust billowed about in a ragged nimbus, extinguishing life and light in intricate if haphazard patterns. For perhaps the first time, Osveril was heedless of its surroundings. One immediate goal hung before it, and it hurried on as befitted one whose entire life had been nothing but starvation.

When it arrived, the birth was already complete. The herd had not moved very far from the site of the bestowing; the creatures’ improved bodies harvested all they could find from every inch of soil before moving on, and had not needed to wander as widely as they had before to remain fed. It was little wonder, then, that the ground under them should be barren and dry, save for puddles of the thick, murky sap that had replaced the beasts’ blood.

Those who had been unfit to bear the first tools were the only ones left breathing when Osveril approached. They stood in a wide circle around what remained of the rest, dimly staring into the distance. Their purpose was to protect, and it was not yet fully complete. Behind their backs, a mass of toppled bodies, disjoined plates and torn membranes lay strewn in disorder. Though no flies or worms had come to scavenge, perhaps out of distaste for the unnatural carcasses, the chaos of dripping limbs was crawling with new, voracious life.

The harbingers had come.

Large, heavy shapes clambered over the ravaged corpses, and dug through . The plates of their faded brown carapaces heaved and slid over one another as thick, short limbs ending in spikes dragged their bloated, quivering masses at a deceptively fast pace. Though most of them were still wet and the sun was yet high, they did not glimmer in its rays. If anything, dampness made them darker, as though they were made of unpolished, spongy wood. Tentacles tipped with barbed stingers darted around, smelling, skewering loose morsels and dragging them into nested circles of mandibles that could barely be described as a mouth, and powerful bladed pincers tore and crushed larger prizes. The newborn did not lash or snap at each other over their prey; they had been made to devour, and devouring was all they knew.

The Hollow One passed its perception over each of them, prodding into every fold and crack, sliding over every edge. All was as it had intended. Not a single superfluous part. Nothing out of place. The creatures’ design appeared to be as perfect as flesh could bear, just as it had wrought it to be. To one who made such distinctions, it could even have appeared beautiful.

But if there was something Osveril had learned well, it was that perfection and beauty were not enough. What the flesh could bear was no threshold. Not all that was necessary had to be left in place.

”Purity is the only Absolute.

So come, and become flesh of my flesh, void of my void.”

It breathed out dust. Grey night fell over the lurkers’ feast, and still they pulled themselves placidly from meal to meal. The living cloud descended in columns and jagged spirals, burrowing and clipping, reshaping and reinforcing.

”The Void is the wellspring whence we all came. Though you know only blessed oblivion, you shall carry its memory in the flesh. It shall mark you as not of the world of matter, for that which is Hollow must overcome its constraints. Purity is your destiny and your birthright. This is its seal. Wield it for the destruction of the false order of substance.

Welcome the Blessing of the Void.

Hunger is the voice and the will of the Void. It gives us direction when we are lost and strength when we are crippled. It is greater than all the words that drive tainted minds, for no shade of desire or feeling can match that which pervades what is and what is not alike. It lives and grows forever. As long as it dwells within you, you shall never forget, and you shall never relent.

Welcome the Blessing of Hunger.

Our lot is one of pain and struggle. We may never rest from scourging the corruption that is the All. We may not avert our senses from how foul and repugnant it is. Always it encroaches and debases all it can touch. Yet we are the only ones that can stand against the impurity and unmake it. Our calling speaks from what we are and what we are not, and its silent words will never cease to flow until our duty is done. There is no other gift or curse. Endure it alongside me, and alongside me know the bliss of unbeing.

Welcome the absence.”

The dust lifted, and the crawlers were born anew.

Like the wombs that had carried them, they had been remade in the image of the Hollow Absolute. Their brown hue was gone, replaced by the eternal grey. No longer were their shells smooth and curved: sharp ridges had risen to split them into even, symmetrical polygons. Even their tentacles, though they remained as flexible as before, seemed to have grown angular in shape and motions.

But the greatest changes had yet to become visible. The creatures remained still for some instants, then resumed their eating; and in this they were wholly transfigured. With regular, almost mechanical steps they converged on a corpse and their stingers whipped to and fro like maddened snakes even as their mandibles dug into the discoloured meat. With every bite and every breath, plumes of dust shot out from under their plates, so large that nothing they swallowed could have been retained inside. When they were done with one body, and Osveril itself marvelled at how fast they were, they moved on to the next, and then the others, until none was left.

This did not satisfy them. Without flesh to consume, the horrors turned on the soil, digging it up and thrusting it into their maws. When their dust covered all they could reach, Osveril raised a claw and pointed into the distance, away from the sea. Immediately, its spawn ponderously swung their bulk about and scrambled away, grasping, tearing, gorging themselves on all they could reach. A trail of dust followed them. They were as thorough as the breath of their grey master, and much hungrier.

And they would multiply.

As if suddenly reminded of something, Osveril extended its hand, and the space between it and the last of the crawlers fell into itself. Holding up the creature, which continued to blindly wriggle in its grasp, it carefully sliced away a number of small bulges from its hindmost legs with a finger. Another collapse, and the devourer was back with its fellows. The Hollow One slid its prize into a gap between arm and shoulder and began to walk towards the sun.

The transformed sentries followed. They had no wishes of their own. They would protect.

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Rtron
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Threads and Stitches

BBeast, Muttonhawk, Rtron

Teknall. I need your help. Give me access to your workshop? I know you have one, and I need to meet you there. I promise not to break anything.


Vestec's plea reached Teknall, although it was met with healthy scepticism. That the cry could be traced to the Realm of Madness only deepened Teknall's suspicions. Yet this cry was uncharacteristic of Vestec. There was a strange weakness in his voice. So it was that Teknall answered Vestec's call.

The god materialised in the Realm of Madness, alert and ready in case it was some dirty trick. "What do you think could possibly make me-" Teknall started, but when he laid eyes on Vestec he stopped dead. A knot formed in his stomach. "Oh."

There were plenty of things of interest to Teknall in the Realm of Madness which he had only just Perceived for the first time. Here lay the ruins of Xerxes, conspicuously missing from its proper location on Galbar. There were the spirits of creation, which actually seemed to be a strangely kind gesture on Vestec's part (assuming he had established them intentionally). Even, in the distance, was a long-lost sibling. But these sensations were all brushed aside. Teknall beheld Vestec clutching the stump of his severed left arm. Multicoloured blood spurted out in streams. The Chaos God's strength was failing.


Vestec giggled weakly, blood launched from the missing left half of his face as he did so. "Oh indeed, brother."

Teknall's dumb shock was quickly overtaken by a search for a solution. Vestec needed medical intervention immediately.

"Promise never to go there uninvited or take anyone else there?" Teknall asked hastily.

The God of Chaos feebly waved a hand. "Yes yes. I promise. And I'll promise more if you want after we stop all of my blood from pouring out of my body. I'd personally say that takes precedent, but if you want more promises by all means ask them. I'm not going anywhere."

"A simple yes would have sufficed." Teknall put a hand on Vestec's back and led him through a suddenly opened portal. They emerged in the greys and metals of Teknall's Workshop.

"You know me, always the talker," Vestec added.

Teknall, on the other hand, thought now was a bad time for talking. He sat Vestec down on a metal box and quickly inspected Vestec's wounds. Arm torn out at the socket. Flesh ripped from face and shoulder. Bleeding profusely. Severe burns across most of body, but those aren't bleeding. Divine being- function of blood is to store divine essence, not perform homeostasis. No risk of shock or infection, but bleeding must be stopped. Cutting blood flow to wounded areas not practical. Must block the wound.

Pulling on a pair of thick latex gloves and picking up a roll of steel wire, Teknall worked nimbly to tie off Vestec's exposed arteries. The bleeding slowed, although it did not stop. The wire wouldn't hold long. Even now it bubbled and thinned in contact with Vestec's corrosive ichor. Picking up a plasma torch, Teknall cauterised the open arteries. The chaotic flesh shrank and melted shut. The wounds now no longer spurted blood.

With both hands, Teknall applied gauze to the wounds and tied it firmly in place with a bandage wrapped around Vectec's chest and head. They applied pressure to the wounds and further slowed the bleeding. As Vestec's blood discoloured the first layer of fabric, Teknall applied several more layers until he was satisfied that it would last for at least a few minutes.

Teknall stepped back, stripped off his blood-soaked gloves and dropped them in a metal tray on a table. The gloves had almost been eaten through by Vestec's ichor as it tried to corrupt its way through everything it touched. With a gesture, the puddle of blood on the floor was scooped up by an invisible force and funnelled into a glass jar beside the tray. A discoloured recess remained etched into the concrete floor where the blood had pooled.

Emergency over. Teknall sat down at a different workbench opposite Vestec, placed his satchel on it and began rummaging around inside. With the worst dealt with, Teknall spoke. "Your wounds are pretty severe. As gods, our bodies are not mere machines of chemicals and hydraulics but extensions of our very essence, imprints on reality of pure divine will. We aren't wounded easily, but we don't heal easily either."

Vestec swayed in place, giggling. He wasn't sure exactly all that was going on, but "You know the Gods. We don't do anything easily."

From his satchel came ingredients; Holy Tree leaves, Lex ring ice, rose petals, powdered silver, cinnabar ore, aloe vera, isopropyl alcohol, and a bioluminescent mushroom native to the ice caves. Robotic arms carried over a mortar and pestle, a crucible, a distillation apparatus and a few beakers and conical flasks. Teknall carefully measured out precise quantities of each ingredient and then ground, boiled, and mixed. He continued speaking as he worked.

"So what happened? It can't have been Logos, I know that much."

Vestec stared past Teknall, gathering the scattered images. He began rambling from the beginning. "Kyre's dead. Killed by Zephyrion, or whatever he calls himself now. His sword shattered. I..." He swayed again, catching himself. "I dealt with his remains, and rebuilt his sword and activated his holy site. The Hilt I think he called it? Created an Order out of the Djinni living there based on his ideals, and now all the power the Hilt is generating is flowing into his sword. After that I went to go ask Zephy why he killed Kyre. Could have been self defense." He shook his head, scattering more droplets of blood.

"It was not. We had a chat, then he attacked me and ate my arm and half my face."

He waved his remaining arm. "I'll deal with that later, but it's the culmination of an alarming trend. All of you are all getting stronger than me."

Teknall noticed how unsteady Vestec was. A robotic arm carried over a reclining seat which had been made moments ago and placed it beside Vestec. Teknall gestured to it. "Lie down."

Teknall stepped aside from his alchemy and a Promethean Manipulator carried on with the task. It printed strange patterns in orichalcum and coloured chalks around the bowls and beakers as it continued to stir and mix the ingredients. "I'm aware of the circumstances surrounding Kyre's death. Toun came to me with the news not too long ago. He commissioned a device to trap the murderer, this fragment of Zephyrion, and enlisted Logos' help for the confrontation."

Teknall checked that the jar holding Vestec's spilled blood was still intact. The next task required other equipment he collected: A tall and narrow glass jar with a hole in the bottom, a rubber tube and a wide syringe needle. He attached the three, set it up on a stand to the right of Vestec, inserted the needle into Vestec's arm, taped it in place, and poured a portion of Vestec's blood into the glass jar, which was slowly fed into Vestec's veins. Teknall affixed a weak air-pump to the top of the jar to compensate for the weaker gravity of the Workshop. "Don't knock it over."

Teknall returned to the main jar of Vestec's blood and poured an aliquot into the distillation apparatus. He gently applied the heat and watched as red vapours boiled out of the distilland. "As for us getting stronger than you, what do you propose to do about it?"

Vestec giggled from his position on the reclining seat. "My my. Toun is more well connected than I am. It must be his little birds." His stump of a shoulder twitched slightly, as if he tried to wave the nonexistant hand. "As for power, it's simple, Teky, very simple. I just use the power from Death's Mountain and The Arena, and strengthen myself till I catch up with you all. Of course, I will have almost no more creations in the world, but you probably don't think that's a bad thing at all." He giggled again, watching his blood flow. "A trap you say? Why not just kill him? Also, the only way you're going to get Logos to properly help is if you threaten his precious acorn. Arocn? Aaaaanorc. Arcon? Arcon! It's his planet he made while hiding from all of us. Remember, he's disdainful of all of us. He'd rather we die and he clean up the remains than help us."

The first portion of the distillate of Vestec's blood was a simmering red liquid. Teknall removed the flask containing it and replaced it with an empty round-bottomed flask. He wafted the fumes of the red liquid towards his nose. He exhaled sharply at the scent. It outright burned his nostrils. Although it burned, he could smell a carnal strength from this portion of Vestec's essence. He stoppered the flask and put it to the side.

The remaining distilland was boiling in fits and bursts, with some of the vapours spontaneously crystallising on the sides of the distillation head before melting back into the distilland. Teknall carefully adjusted the temperature to prevent it from passing the boiling point of this component.

"Although I also doubt that Logos would do anything purely for our benefit, he has agreed to confront the shade regardless. Logos has already forged for himself a suit of armour which could probably weather an attack from the shade's spark of power. From all appearances it is Logos' intent to fight the murderer head-on. I believe Logos is going to fight not because the murderer threatens us, but because the murderer rivals his strength and threatens the stability of his so-called Natural Order, or something along those lines."

"He's going to kill him." Vestec shook his head as if trying to clear a fog. "Logos. He's not going to go with your 'trap the murderer' plan. You're lucky as is he only chopped Jvan in half instead of absoultely murdering her. He hasn't signed your little oath either, so he's going to kill Zephyrion. And you can't stop him. I might be able to, but uh..." He wiggled his stump again. "I'm missing an arm and half my face. I think. It's a large blob of pain right there so I don't really know the extent of the damage. Do I still have part of my left skull at least?"

"You still have most of your skull. I'd get you a mirror, but you can't see anything through the bandages." Teknall removed the latest portion of distillate from the distillation apparatus. Even though it had cooled to room temperature, the substance seemed intent on freezing, boiling, subliming, condensing and melting all at the same time. The colour also changed erratically, jumping between the visible spectrum and Beyond Colours, making it maddenning to watch for too long. Teknall stoppered the flask and set it aside. In the distillation apparatus, the vapours currently rising from the distilland were highly turbulent and etching away at the glass.

"Toun and I are aware that Logos intends to kill this fragment of Zephyrion. Toun's plan is to ensnare the shade before Logos can get to a finishing blow. If the trap works as I designed, then no trace of the shade will be detectable from the outside, so Toun could pass it off as having obliterated the shade. Even if Logos sees through that facade, it would be foolish of him to break the trap open and free the shade. The precise details of the execution of that plan are up to Toun." Teknall ran his hands over the glassware of the distillation apparatus. The glass, bending to his will, recovered some of the damage from the corrosive fumes. "You've seen how it is with Toun. The deaths in the family have taken their toll on him. The Oath of Stilldeath is ample evidence of that. He'll do everything in his power to prevent more murders, even of corrupted murderous fragments of his siblings."

Vestec stared at Teknall for a moment, assessing whether or not the crafting god was taking his weakened state as an opportunity to mess with him. "That's not gonna work. Either he's going to kill the murderer, take the trap, or try to punish you two for trapping away a known murderer. He chopped Jvan in half for killing Vowzra. What do you think he's going to do to you two for protecting someone who has cannibalized Kyre?" Vestec shook his head, ignoring the pain it caused. "As for Toun's oath, try putting me like this in front of him. He'll either watch me die or try to make me another one of his slaves."

"Toun wouldn't let you die, although I wouldn't put it past him to leverage it for his benefit."

Vestec made an unconvinced noise.

The last batch of distillate condensed into the round-bottomed flask. It was a turbulent fluid with streaks of colour like a puddle of oil. It was highly corrosive, dissociating the atomic structure of the glass flask it was in and slowly etching its way through. Teknall decanted it into a thicker flask, stoppered it and put it aside.

What remained of the distilland was thick like honey, and even had a slightly sweet aroma to it, yet it was black as tar. It clung to every surface, soaked into every microscopic crevice, and left a black sheen on all that it touched, slowly eating away at the material. Teknall also decanted this substance into a thicker jar and put the contaminated flask and glassware onto the metal tray with the other contaminated materials.

On the table sat four flasks of distilled godly essence, each some aspect of Vestec. Violence. Madness. Discord. Corruption. Each was potent and dangerous in its own right, although some posed more challenges for long term storage than others. But those could be dealt with later.

Teknall nodded to the Promethean dealing with the potion, who attached a pair of alligator clips to the metallised alchemical circles it had drawn. The patterns glowed, their light scintilating off the bowl of polar ice in which the paste sat, with two small fires of incense sitting on either side. The light was sustained for a few seconds before the orichalcum lines suddenly rusted and crumbled and the fires flared and turned into thin wisps of smoke. Their submaterial essence had been consumed. Teknall carried the bowl over to Vestec. "Burn cream," he explained as he rubbed it over Vestec's skin.

"You seem to assume that Logos is fighting the murderer to avenge Kyre. While his motives are always veiled, it seems more likely that Logos is fighting to protect his title and 'his' Universe. Eternal imprisonment and stripping the shade of its power serves those goals just as well. Even if revenge is the motivator, trapping the shade in a featureless pocket dimension for all eternity is also pretty decent vengeance. And that's assuming Logos can even sense the continued existence of the shade beyond the Tesseract walls."

Done applying the cream to Vestec's burns, Teknall changed over the needle of Vestec's blood transfusion drip. Vestec's blood had already corroded the metal. "It is, I admit, a somewhat risky plan, but the most likely outcome of failure, besides losing the battle, is for the shade to be killed. Logos might get a bit mad, but he's already disappointed in us, so that doesn't really change anything."

The Chaos god snorted, shaking his head. "Avenging Kyre? No. Logos is doing this to carry out his justice. Which, in this case, I happen to agree with. Trapping Zephyrion will only result in him inevitably getting free and trying to kill us all again. It will be much safer to just kill him and remember what he was, not what he's become. If you don't, that trap will break and he will be either insane or angry. Perhaps both!" Vestec giggled again, shifting slightly. "Thank you Teknall. I feel less agonized already."

Teknall replaced the intravenous drip and adjusted the tubing. "The murderer is not Zephyrion, but some fragment of him. When Chronos collapsed with Zephyrion inside, he escaped through..." Teknall mentally pulled together Toun's description and his knowledge of the Codex. "...the Mechanism of Change and was torn in half. One half became an apparently more benign spirit, Aihtiraq in name, and the other half became the murderer."

Teknall stepped in front of Vestec. "Killing the shade would have been the easier path, but to allow more gods to die is anathema to Toun and I'm inclined to agree. Besides, you seem to understate the effectiveness of the prison I constructed. It can hold him in indefinitely." An accusing gaze pointed at Vestec. "You should be quite knowledgeable in the long term imprisonment of a god."

Vestec rolled his injured shoulder, testing it. He was unperturbed by Teknall's accusing gaze. "I presume you mean the imprisonment and trapping of Julkolfyr. Believe it or not, brother, I didn't do it out of random spite. If you may remember, Julkolfyr challenged Logos for the crown of 'King of the Gods'. It was rather dramatic too. Crown of dripping shadows, deep voice, all those shiny bits. The difference, Teknall, is that Julfkolfyr didn't have Logos' restraint."

"That may come as a surprise, Logos having restraint, but consider something for me. When he came back to Galbar, ready to claim his throne, why didn't Logos kill everyone who opposed him till everyone else cowed out of fear? He could have done it. You and I both know he could have. He didn't. He still believes he should rule, but he is not willing to kill his siblings, or maybe subjects, to ensure it. Well." Vestec giggled. "He isn't able to kill some of us. Regardless. Logos has restraint. Rules. He only sliced Jvan in half because she's a murderer. Julkolfyr, didn't." Vestec's colors flashed a brief red, quickly returning to their normal randomness. His voice remained disgusted.

"He didn't have restraint. He planned on killing, imprisoning, poisoning, and generally violently harming anyone who stood in his way. The bonds of family meant nothing to him. Only power did. Family is everything Teknall. Even I care about it. The only reason I killed Reathos was because I had no choice, and once he died he became a tool, not family. So I found Julkolfyr and had a chat with him. Pretended to be cowed by his 'magnificient power and ruthlessness' then trapped him in an Orb of Darkness, and have used him for my own devices ever since."

Vestec raised his deifant mask up at Teknall. "I'm not going to release him. It's already too late anyway. All that's left is madness, hatred, and sadism. And before you accuse me of being wrong, brother, may I remind you, you let Jvan get so bad she killed Vowzra, and are getting ready to imprison what remains of Zephyrion in a prison no better than the one I have Julkolfyr in."

Teknall stared at Vestec for a few moments longer, and Vestec stared back, until Teknall's posture softened. "I suppose that is valid."

Teknall turned around and walked back to the workbenches. He picked up the flask of Violence and carried it over to his satchel. The Promethean had cleared away the remains of the last potion brewed. Teknall sat down and produced more ingredients. Holy tree leaves. Powdered silver. Red mercuric oxide. Rare lichen from high up a Deepwood tree. Roots of a particular plant of the Venomweald. Water from the Firewind Resort. Teknall combined them all.

"So how did you turn the Orb of Darkness into a prison? They're normally pretty big and tend to dump things in the Gap."

"The Realm of Madness is infinite and constantly expanding. As for dumping things into the Gap, it was fairly simple. You take the inside of the Orb and throw it in the Gap. All you're left with is a very large barrier of darkness that repels most mortals. Do a little shifting on the inside and you have a large prison." Vestec shrugged. "You'll have to create your own restraints however. Once you take away the 'dumping in the Gap' bit their walls tend to resist being shifted about."

"Hmm..." The gears turned in Teknall's mind as he considered the possible designs. Meanwhile, his hands continued to perform alchemy. A distillation apparatus collected essence of holy tree leaf. In one beaker he added napthalene, reductants and oxidants, butyl lithium, allyl alcohol, thiol and a few other ingredients in a particular order, in particular stoichiometries, then filtered out the precipitate, evaporated the solvent to leave a white solid, redissolved it in hot toluene and then allowed it to cool slowly. Pure crystals formed.

Teknall turned his attention to the vial of Violence. It was a potent reagent, but some of its aspects would need to be suppressed for the present application. Teknall bubbled through some concentrated aura from the Valley of Peace, then poured in some crown ether and benzyl alcohol. He wafted the vapours and found them to still be too hot, so he set up a pair of coupled alchemical circles. In one he placed the vial of Violence and in the other he placed a live rat sealed in a glass box. Teknall drew some runes around the circles in lines of colourfully burning metals. Muttering some occult incantation, Teknall touched the vial with a sprig of burning willow, and then touched the rat's cage. The rat screeched, convulsed and died. The surface of the red essence of Violence stopped simmering. Teknall wafted the vapours again and found them to be suitable.

Teknall mixed together the other ingredients in a single vial, then added the tempered essence of Violence last. The result was a lustrous red opaque potion which cast a very soft, barely perceptible glow. Teknall carried the flask over to Vestec and handed it to him. "Drink. It'll help."

A grinning mouth split open on Vestec's face. He took the flask. "Thank you, Teknall."

The liquid was warm and sweet, and when swallowed it gave Vestec a feeling of fullness and warmth which spread across his body. When it reached Vestec's wounds, they prickled underneath the bandages. The discomfort grew until it itched to the point of torture.

Vestec's mask returned to normal. The god of chaos shifted uncomfortably. "Teknall, dear, I think the potion or whatever is you gave me is working a little too well. I feel like my skin is regrowing and trying to break free and murder someone. Could we, perhaps, take off these bandages so I can start scratching?"

"Scratching would interfere with the regeneration process. Once it's finished, your wounds will be healed over and you won't have to worry about bleeding or falling apart. Until then, deal with it," Teknall said.

"How cruel." Vestec grumbled. After a few moments of uncomfortable shuffling, he became distracted by something else. His head tilted to the side, listening to some unheard voice. "I'm sorry Touny dear. But I can't let you in here. That's Teknall's special place." He looked over at Teknall. "Toun wants to join us for some questions."

Teknall's expression betrayed pleasant surprise. "Toun? If he wants to see you, invite him over. Tell him you're in Teknall's Workshop. He's been here before."

"Oooh, I see. The brother who makes slaves and treats most of his creations poorly is allowed instant and trusting access to your workshop, but the one who causes mass destruction and war isn't. How fair." Vestec teased, tilting his head again. "Touny, dear, you can join Teknall and I here in his workshop..."

A space in reality snapped on the other end of the rotating workshop. Above Teknall and Vestec, a flash of white shrunk into a bead of glossy clay.

"...It's really quite nice," Vestec finished his sentence.

The bead erupted into an expanding, opaque white fluid that took the larger and more familiar shape of Toun, the featureless robed man. A shock of shining grey sprung from his arm -- an oversized needle -- and stopped with a hand clenched on its length. Toun lifted his head to show his glowing blue eye.

He did not speak. He stared across to Vestec with a suspicious gaze. The draping clay fabric of his robe trailed behind his floating movement through the workshop. He slowly turned upright. His feet touched the ground between the two gods gently enough to make only the sound of a teacup on an anvil.

Toun broke his gaze. His head twisted to eye the alchemy, the essences, Vestec's wounds, Teknall's instruments, and, finally, back to the remains of Vestec's mask. Teknall stepped up to Vestec, removed the drained intravenous drip, and unwrapped Vestec's bandages. The potion had finished its work, and where exposed tissue and blood vessels had once been was now a layer of fresh skin. The skin pulsed and shone with the dulled multicolored waves similar to his mask and clothes.

Toun began in a monotone. "You survived Xos."

Teknall perked his head up. "Xos? Is that the shade's name?"

"My closest estimation." Toun turned his head a fraction towards Teknall, though his unmoved eye did not release Vestec from his question. "The djinn I read were damaged of mind. The name they learned was only ever close to the sound."

"Hm, interesting." Teknall turned his attention to the accumulated pile of equipment and materials tainted by Vestec's ichor, and the task of safe disposal and decontamination.

"Survived is a strong term, Touny dear." Vestec experimentally rolled what remained of his shoulder, tsking at it. "Thank you Teknall." He hopped up, experimentally touching the healed side of his face. "I met Zephyrion, or Xos as he seems to be calling himself. We did what our family seems to have a penchant for doing. We disagreed, gave speeches to one another, and then we fought." He paused, considering. "Have you ever thought about that? Every single time our family has fought one another, we always prelude it with these big speeches. It's really quite dramatic."

Toun did not react.

Vestec giggled, returning to the subject at hand. "Regardless, Zephyrion, Xos, was stronger than me. Tried to eat me and only half succeeded. It seems he's determined to destroy Galbar and us and return everything to darkness or some such. I don't quite remember that bit particularly well, as he tried to kill me right after." Vestec waved a hand at Teknall. "I was just telling our dear brother that your prison isn't going to work. He'll break out of it, somehow, someway, at somepoint. Death is the only thing that keeps whatever you want gone, gone."

Toun's knuckles bulged from the closed fist around the needle. His eye narrowed. The seething lasted and built. And then, Toun's eye relaxed. He remained direct. "The attack. Describe it."

"Same as all attacks Touny. He made an aggressive move at me and I wasn't skilled enough to stop all of it." Vestec giggled. His stump wiggled as he failed to lightly wave his missing arm. "Don't have a seizure Touny dear. Zephyrion leapt at me and tried to consume me with his very essence. Consumed about half of what he touched and then I got away before he could get the rest."

From behind the bench holding the four flasks of Vestec's distilled essence, Teknall asked, "Vestec, do you mind if I keep these?"

The god of chaos nodded cheerfully. "Sure Teknall. You saved my life, least I can do is let you keep the various fluids you got from my body at the time. Do tell me if you make anything interesting out of them, though. I'm very curious to see what you can do with them." As Teknall decanted the essences into fresh flasks, Vestec turned his attention back to Toun.

"Xos carries a weapon. Did he use it on you?" Toun demanded.

"Weapon?" Vestec paused for a moment, searching back to the fight and his near death. He remembered the awesome surge of power, much more than Xos should have been able to generate by his own energy. "Ah yes." He murmured, his colors muting. "He did. He's hiding it somehow. I didn't see any weapon, just a surge of power and death, so fast I couldn't avoid it. Almost got me right then and there, but as it burned me I fled to my personal plane. I came back after he was done, too angry to think about not fighting him again. That's when he did all this to me, by trying to eat me."

Toun stared. "You may then mark a rare agreement between us, brother," he said. "It would have killed you."

Taking a step back, Toun half-turned and bowed his head in thought. "If he can hide it, he can take it into the prison," He mumbled to himself. "It will be contained as well, but irretrievable without releasing Xos with it. Unless...he was not carrying it at the time. Did he use it at all? What is the nature of that weapon?"

While Toun quietly pronounced his thoughts, Teknall returned from his forge. He brought the result over to Vestec and its form was obvious. It was an arm, with bones and skin of adamantine and muscles of pistons and motors. "I've made two prosthetic arms since coming in to being. This one should last longer than the last."

Teknall fitted the arm to Vestec's shoulder. He strapped a polymer sleeve (internally reinforced with metal cables) firmly to Vestec's residual limb. "The control system is a tricky matter. I wouldn't trust an implant with your hostile physiology. But I suspect that, you being a god, a direct bio-interface shouldn't be necessary to control it."

Vestec flexed his new arm and wiggled his fingers. His colors flowed over it, marking it as his own. "My, my. Thank you, Teknall. This is an impressive and unexpected gift. I'll take good care of it."

"If you can temper yourself another question, brother, you mentioned hearing his motives." Toun twisted his head up to peer at Vestec again. "Do you remember anything else about what he said in that regard? Did he say why he wishes to destroy us?"

"Not us, per se. Just destroy in general. Everything, really. He seeks to return all to the chaos at the beginning. You know, where we were all non-existant and everything was just divine energy flowing around and smashing into one another and such. I get the feeling he doesn't like us much."

Toun broke his gaze. A moment of contemplation passed. He stepped away with his head straightening. His feet made barely a scrape on the floor. "I shall stop the murderer," Toun said. "No more of the family shall die by Xos' hands. And though you may doubt me, brother..." Toun half-turned back and raised the point of Tomb Weaver to Vestec's masked face.
"...There is potential yet on yourself for fresh divine blood. My leniency is not unending. Do not doubt that any acts to obstruct the plan may result in more family dying, and such an accessory may find Xos with an inmate. And you..."

Toun lowered the needle and squinted at Teknall with a twitch to his head that hinted at reluctance. Not that his tone was any less venemous. "Your tongue is your responsibility, brother. But with every soul you teach of this prison we made, you make it less secure. You..." Toun's porcelain neck bulged and contracted. Something restricted the rising volume of his words. "...have disappointed me."

Teknall lowered his gaze at Toun's rebuke. He looked back at Toun to say, "I shall take more care, then."

Vestec laughed aloud. "Don't feel bad Teknall. You have freewill. That automatically makes you bad in Touny dear's book. Do you have little birds for him too Touny boy? Or is that just for people you can't drop in on randomly?"

With a step, Toun turned to faced Vestec fully. His eye squinted.

"It must be frustrating, mustn't it, to know that there are so many like me out in the world, and you have only so many birds. And you haven't even tracked down Logos' little hideout have you? I could show you, you know. I could even help you spread your birds far and wide." Vestec gestured widely, as if to emphasize how far Toun's birds could spread. "For a price."

A frozen moment passed. Whether Toun was processing the absurd offence taken or considering the offer, it was unclear. He could have been considering pinning Vestec to the floor and removing his other arm. He could have been considering testing the Tomb Weaver on a live subject. He held the needle tightly enough that even his pure white knuckles were white upon their surrounding clay skin.

"I neither need nor desire your help with the droningbirds," Toun hissed in disgust. He lowered his voice and continued.

"But you would present knowledge of Logos' holdings. Take care what you ask in return. Knowing him is not beyond my means; anything that desperation would pay is not worth my time, so if you must barter, appraise wisely. Speak your offer."

"Ah, ah, ah." Vestec wagged a finger."You don't want me to make you need help with your little spies, do you? It'd be a shame if there were to be something to counteract them, wouldn't it?" Vestec giggled, flexing his new arm. It would take some getting used to; he would adapt. "Anywho," He began, walking around the workshop and looking at everything in interest, drawing Toun's gaze with him. He hadn't noticed anything when he first got here, busily trying to not pass out and die as he had been, but now he saw all sorts of interesting things.

He idly poked one of Teknall's prototypes. Teknall watched him like a hawk.

Vestec continued. "I can give you Logos' planet's location. I can even get you and your little birds there quietly without him noticing and getting very angry with you. You saw what he did to Jvan, yes? She's not dead, but that didn't look pleasant at all. So we'll go for the quiet route. In return for getting your spies into Logos' private planet without them noticing, I want to be there when you deal with Xos. More specifically, I want to be the one who uses your pretty little trap on him."

Toun drew the needle down and away almost protectively. "You?" Toun huffed. "Absurd. You are just as likely to kill him instead as you are to steal the Tomb Weaver away and try to break it. What is your interest in this if not fratricidal mischief?"

Vestec held a hand up placatingly, looking over with obvious interest at the small vats of Arksynth. "Relax, Toun. I'll promise to not kill Xos or break your Tomb Weaver if you are that concerned. You may think many things of me, none of them pleasant, but you know that I won't break my promises. I'll even promise to Amul if you're really concerned." Vestec idly made his way over to the vats, humming merrily as he did so.

He resumed talking when he got to the vats, picking one up and examining it. "If you must know, its because I actually like you, Toun. You're my brother. And Logos will try to kill you if you suddenly stop him from killing Xos by trapping him instead. If you try to talk him into it, he'll merely dismiss your claims and then break your prison. His form of justice, which I'm inclined to agree with, is death. You and Teknall and the rest aren't okay with that, and I'm fine with that. Logos isn't. So if you do this he'll try to kill you like he tried to kill Jvan. I like you, despite our differences, so I'm not interested in seeing that happen." Vestec looked over at Teknall, gauging if the craftsman would be upset if he took one or three vats.

Teknall's eyes narrowed. "What are you doing with that?"

"Who knows, Teknall? It makes things mildly annoying when it comes to dealing with mortals with it, our dear brother Vakarion's last will it seems, but it has all sorts of interesting properties. I'll find something useful for it. If you really insist I'll go steal some from Lifprasil or Jvan, but this is just right here and isn't doing anything. Though I do wonder if it'll confer the same resistance I have to Logos to others."

Teknall stared down Vestec for a few seconds longer, before rolling his eyes and sighing. "Fine. It's not as if my refusal would slow you down considerably."

"Thank you, Teknall. And it'd slow me down a bit. Not supremely much if I took it from Lifprasil, but a bit." Vestec giggled, then paused. "Though he did take on Logos, so maybe it'd be a bit of a fight."

Casually tucking the vat he was holding under his arm, Vestec continued. "Which brings me to the deal. As I'm sure Teknall has told you, Logos literally cannot harm me. And I cannot harm him. We're bound, two sides of the same coin, and any attempts to hurt one another only result in me completely healing and him being unaffected. If I spring your trap, Logos will be angry with me. What else is new? But he won't be able to do anything. A little bit of aesthetic additions on my part, a few assumptions, and he'll think it was all my idea. My creation. You keep your standing with him, I get some revenge on Xos, your little birds visit Acron, and no one dies. Seems like a good deal to me."

"Too good to include your good faith with it," Toun grumbled in return. "Is revenge your only motive here? What do you intend to do with Xos and the Tomb Weaver once the ruse is done?"

Vestec shrugged. "I am a very simple being Toun. I don't need a reason other than personal pleasure or gain. You should have known that from the beginning. It's why I do many things. As for Xos and the Tomb Weaver, once we've done our clever little ruse, I'll hide it in my personal plane. I suspect Logos will be very interested in getting it and breaking it to kill Xosy boy, and you don't want that to happen, so I'll hide it where he can't go. He doesn't know the Realm exists, and can't even go there without my permission. It's perfect really."

Toun's face regarded Vestec with no less suspicion. His silence was as much a lack of insults to throw as it was scrutinising Vestec's offer.

Rather than wait patiently for his brother, Vestec looked over at the Prometheans, visibly perking up. Those were definitely new. He made his way over to them, looking them all over. "Teknall, you didn't tell me you had made another race. Where are these delightful creatures going?"

"These specimens are staying right here," Teknall answered firmly.

Vestec shook his head. "I know you, Teknall. You've got plans for them." He tilted his head, looking over at the craftsman. "Specimens. Interesting term. You've got more don't you? Not on Galbar, I would have found them. Somewhere beyond then. Where? Close by our brother Ull'yang, wherever he's hidden himself? Certainly not by Arcon. You wouldn't risk Logos finding them. Come now Teknall, tell me where they are. I promise not to destroy them."

"Their location is for me to know and me only."

"Very well, make me do it the hard way. You wouldn't happen to know where Ull'yang is? He's not on a personal plane, I'm fairly certain. He's probably made his own planet like good ol' Logoy. Any idea where that is?" Vestec asked, unperturbed. He'd find where this new race was going, one way or another.

"I've been to his star before," Teknall answered. "Ilunabar made a sunflower which points the way. However..." Teknall closed his eyes and raked his memory, "Last time I saw his essence he was in New Chronos. Although, that was some years ago."

"Hmm. Wonder what he's doing there. Did his star have a planet near it? Yangy isn't the type to just aimlessly wander space and fire rays at things. Him showing up at that, rather unfair, ambush of yours proved that."

Toun broke his look at Vestec and lifted his angered eye up above. He shook his head as if frustrated at Vestec's speculation.

Teknall still talked. "All I saw at the time were rocks and asteroids, but that was thousands of years ago."

"Disappointing. I'll have to find that the hard way too." Vestec left the Prometheans. A tiny bit of chaos energy surreptitiously slipped from his finger, onto a Promethean, and quickly disappeared inside the robot. He wasn't going to give up on the easy ways quite yet. "Very well, if you won't tell me where they are, what's their purpose? They're not a defence force. You would have already deployed them around Galbar if they were. And you're not like me, making things willy nilly with no plan. So. What's the goal?"

"They build things," Teknall replied tersely.

"Oh come on Teknall. You know I'm going to find them eventually. Unless you've made two hidden planes, they're somewhere in the universe. And I can scour that endlessly without ever leaving Galbar. Be a good sport and throw me a bone or two." Vestec wheedled, walking over to more prototypes and designs.

"With in excess of ten-to-the-thirty-two cubic lightyears to search, I doubt you will find them in any reasonable timeframe, and I have no intention of helping you to do so."

"Ah, but I will find them. It's just a matter of how far along their goal they are. But fine, be cryptic and possessive. I'll let you know when I finally do find them." Vestec tucked the Arksynth into his coat and then shrugged. "I should point out, however, that I never hid or denied you access to any of my creations."

"Have you had that chat with Jvan yet, by the way?"

There was a few seconds of silence before Teknall eventually said. "In a sense. She was barely conscious, so mainly we talked with Chiral Phi."

Vestec's colors flashed brightly and he exclaimed in delight, "Chiry! I recently talked to her! Well. Recently enough. She's a happy, cunning, power-hungry little box that's holding back all the horrors of the gap, isn't she?"

Toun muttered a complaint legible only to him and the nonexistent god of ears and mumbles.

"Did you know she planned to make an alliance with Lifprasil then was going to attempt a bloodless coup when she had helped him conquer the world? I sent her to a different budding nation, so that mess was avoided, but still. She told me something very interesting and concerning about Jvan. Which I need to talk about with Niciel soon. Anyways, I'm going to guess your chat didn't go as well as planned, as all of Jvan's things are still doing their various things, and her change-eaters are still quite ready to do what they're designed for."

"We managed to clear the air on a few matters, although there were some matters better deferred for Jvan directly, rather than being discussed through Phi."

Teknall turned his head to Toun. "Have you made up your mind yet-?"

A spray of tiny metallic flakes hit Vestec just before the sharp crack of a sonic boom behind them. A fingernail's worth of air separated Vestec's mask from the point of the Tomb Weaver needle, floating in the air. Behind it was a bright yellow trail that lead straight to a new hole in the dormant Promethean. The Promethean Vestec so surreptitiously touched just moments before. From another hole in the machine's hull, the same thread also trailed to Toun's outstretched palm across the workshop.

Vestec noticed a mess of zapping power around the needle. It petered out. His now impaled chaotic mote died to natural entropy in a small demonstration of the Tomb Weaver's power.

"How dramatic." Vestec giggled.

"You will use the needle to trap Xos," Toun declared.
"You will hide the needle with Xos trapped. You will keep the needle's origin and the rest of our plan a secret. And you will not use the needle on anyone else." Toun turned his head to draw Vestec's gaze to his.
"Those are my terms."

Four white lumps grew on Toun's fingers until they took the form of clay hummingbirds. Metallic glints shined between their outer plating. In formation, they each spread their wings and droned forth. One, two, three, four little metallic clatters on the needle and they were perched on the floating Tomb Weaver.

"You keep your promises. I will keep mine by oath."

"I agree to your terms, Toun." Vestec picked up the Tomb Weaver, his colors flashing ecstatically. "Ooh we're going to have so much fun, the three of us! Xosy boy isn't going to want to go quietly, and Logos isn't going to like my presence and it'll just be great! Send me a message when you want me to appear with this lovely little device!" With a bow and a flash, he was gone. The glowing thread winked out into thin air with him.

There were a few moments of quiet.

Teknall's gaze scanned from the point where Vestec used to be, across the damaged Promethean, then finally rested on Toun. "What are the odds that Vestec's going to twist this in a way we'll both regret?"

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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by Scarifar
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Scarifar Presto~!

Member Seen 7 hrs ago

Level 4 - MP: 27; FP: 9

Niciel traveled across the lands of Galbar, moving from city to city, from forest to desert to mountain, seeing as much of the world as she could. Certain notable sights were the most vivid in her memory.

The Changing Plains were, for lack of a better word, chaotic. She wondered what went through Vestec's mind when he created this. From what Niciel could gather, though, she highly doubted it was anything good. At any rate, it was quite the sight to behold. She didn't stay for long, though; the very nature of the place gave her an unwelcome feeling.

Gently gliding along on the surface of a ocean of white water, Niciel noted just how odd it seemed compared to the usual clear waters she was familiar with. It was rather peculiar, this.... what was it called again? The Metallic Ocean? No, that didn't seem right to Niciel, though she felt it was awfully close for some reason. She didn't know why; the waters didn't even look like liquid metal. The thought passed quickly, and Niciel went on her way again.

Niciel paid a visit to the Oath of Stilldeath at least once a year, paying her respects for her fallen siblings. She knelt down and put her hands together in prayer as she closed her eyes, allowing the feeling of grief from the Oath to wash over her. This was an unfortunate piece of the Gods' legacy. Such meaningless death, such a shame. Niciel prayed for the Oath to keep its power, hoping that death like this would not happen again. Finally, Niciel left to resume her travels, the aura of grief losing its effect on her as the distance between them extended.

She was especially fond of entering cities and towns, taking on the form of a white dove, watching through its eyes and the various Wisps that were still in them. Mortals were quite something, really. They weren't as long lived as Gods, but they could still do amazing things when they work together. She often toyed with the idea of granting them the same magics the Angels possess. A reward for those pure of hearts. Each time, though, she decided not to. Everyone was already living their daily lives as best they could; there was no need to add further complications to them.

Of course, she was not simply wandering around to sight see. Everywhere she went, she also did her best to keep tabs on her siblings and any potential demigod children, using her Wisps to search everywhere they could. Try as they might, though, her Wisps had a tough time finding the locations of most of her siblings. Perhaps they were in locations that her Wisps could not reach. Regardless of the problem, there were still a few notable places and events.

The Celestial Citadel was on the ground now, but had been rebuilt into a grand and heavily fortified structure. Niciel paid a visit to it in person, walking up to the doorway. Niciel could feel the divine trails left behind by others, including Toun and Vestec. Niciel had no idea what the cause of this was, but hopefully it was not anything unfortunate. If she had to hazard a guess, though, she would say it was definitely something unfortunate. Still, it looked like something good came out of it at least.

Going inside, Niciel turned in a circle as she marveled in the fortress' glory. It was not difficult to tell that Teknall was responsible for this, between Teknall's divine power radiating from the place and the messages left on the walls. Niciel felt that it would be a place that would do well, and hoped that it would go to someone deserving of it. Then she had an idea. Niciel gathered a small amount of energy in her hand, then split it up into three spheres. Within them, she infused the three energies of Holy, Pure, and Protection, creating three Wisps. The Pure would scan for a being's purity, the Holy would drive away the unpure, and the Protection would protect the other two Wisps.

Niciel could sense the enchantment left by Teknall to drive away the unwelcome, and knew her gift was redundant, maybe even unnecessary. Still, perhaps it would help warn and discourage the unworthy before Teknall's fortress was forced to do its job. A mechanical bark sounded, echoing around the chamber, and Niciel turned to see a mechanical creature running towards her, stopping at her feet. Curious, Niciel knelt down and began patting it on its head, to which it responded positively, nuzzling closer towards her hand. Niciel smiled, and gave it one last rub on the head before turning her attention to the Wisps. "Help him," Niciel ordered them, and they flew off to accompany the clockwork dog, circling above it as they waited for the first beings to try to claim ownership of the Citadel. While the dog spun around in a circle to try to follow the Wisps, Niciel bowed to the fortress before leaving, disappearing with a flash of light.

Niciel made her way over to a shoreline to rest. She found that the gentle sound of the waves made for some great relaxation. As she reached a spot to sit down, she noticed something about the place. More specifically, some of the rocks had an unnatural shape to them, and the place looked like a storm went through it. It seemed someone had been here before she did, and judging from the remnants of divine power still lingering in the area, it was someone of divine birth. Perhaps one of her siblings had another demigod child.

The most interesting part to her, though, was the nature of the power. This power was that of Purity, but it was not like Niciel's, the Purity of Light. No, this was... pure Purity. Niciel didn't know what to make of this. Niciel raised a hand, calling upon a few Wisps, and almost immediately, three Wisps flew over to her. Bringing them down, Niciel mentally sent them instructions to stay in the area and keep an eye out, in case the same being would return. While unlikely to happen, there was still a chance, and Niciel would like to meet this being. Who knows, she might find a new friend like she did with Athanasios. At least, she hoped that to be the case. On that note, Niciel knew she would find no relaxation at this shore, and set off to find a new spot.

The journey had to end, eventually, and Niciel finally returned to the Valley of Peace. She wondered how the Angels have grown during her absence...

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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by BBeast
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BBeast Scientific

Member Seen 8 hrs ago

Gerrik Far-Teacher

Level 9 Hain Hero
10 Khookies

circa 8 years Post-Realta, roughly 5 years after the last post

The golden wheat fields around Tallgrass rippled in the breeze. Hain with sickles made from hammered star-fiend carapace were out in the sunshine reaping the grain, collecting sheaves of wheat. Gerrik supervised the harvest, selecting sheaves which he deemed suitable to be used to seed the next crop of wheat and taking them aside.

When the grain which was ripe had been harvested, the farmhands worked on threshing and winnowing the wheat. Gerrik walked down the rows of young fruit trees, still a few years off from producing fruit. He crossed over the fields of potatoes and onions, and plucked one of the onions from the ground and tucked it into the pocket of his jacket. He passed by the crop of peas, and went in to remove a single leaf which had been infected by some small insects. He strolled past the pens of violet slugs.

Then, having finished his rounds of the farms, Gerrik headed down to the river and briefly washed his shell of the accumulated dirt and muck of the day, as well as washing the onion he had picked. Then Gerrik walked back into Tallgrass.

Tallgrass was no longer a little village of tents. While tents remained, partly to house the growing population, the burgeoning town now boasted a small number of smooth mud-brick huts. Between the huts were racks of drying hides and food. Outside children were playing and craftshain were working. Gerrik walked through the town until he came to his own hut and walked inside through the colourful woven cloth door.

Sharon looked up from her loom as Gerrik entered and lifted a palm. "Gerrik. Welcome back."

"Hello Sharon," Gerrik replied warmly. He leaned down to Sharon and they kissed each others' hands before Gerrik sat down beside Sharon.

"Where's Arlen?" Gerrik asked.

"Off hunting still," Sharon replied.

Gerrik nodded. "Tami is playing with her friends."

Sharon gave a snort. "I told her to do wood-carving with Sarey. I'll have to have a word with her when she comes home."

Gerrik got up, put the onion he had harvested with the other food in the hut, then walked over to a corner where there was a small nest with a large white egg in it. Gerrik knelt down and stroked the egg. "And how's our little baby going?"

"Why don't you tell me?" Sharon said.

Gerrik stroked the egg again. Sharon knew that Gerrik saw more than just the shell. "The embryo is growing healthily and is at a level of development typical of its age," Gerrik reported.

There was a moment's hesitation before Sharon asked, "Can you tell what gender it is?"

"Yes," Gerrik replied. He waited for a moment to gauge Sharon's response before continuing. Her body language indicated anticipation. "It's a boy."

"Oh wonderful!" Sharon exclaimed. She got up, came over and cupped her palms around the egg. Gerrik wrapped an arm over Sharon's shoulder as they crouched side by side.

"I think Tami would have preferred a baby sister," Gerrik commented lightheartedly.

"Well, she's getting a baby brother instead. Maybe the next one can be a sister, though." Sharon gave Gerrik a wink.

Gerrik winked in return and tapped Sharon on the mouth, who gently bit his fingers in response. Then Gerrik stood up and walked over to the cooking area, where he picked up the fresh onion, laid it against a wood block, and withdrew the star-fiend carapace knife from his jacket. "I'll cook up some dinner before tonight's lesson time."

"Something other than Violet Slug, please, Gerrik."

"Alright, just for you, Sharon." Gerrik rummaged among the baskets of food. "How about some of those mushrooms you collected yesterday."

Dibbler's white giant was parked outside Tallgrass, and a crowd of villagers were carrying sacks to and from it. In exchange for sacks of farm produce like grain, and secondary products like beer and clothing, Dibbler provided various commodities, such as cloth, rope, salt, dyes and spices.

Gerrik stood just aside from the throng barking orders, ensuring that the planned trades were being made. Dibbler and a few volunteers were helping to drop things down from the white giant and to hoist sacks up onto the giant.

The trade route travelled by Dibbler, and recently a few other aspiring merchants, had become essential to Tallgrass' growth. The trade routes provided access to many commodities not available locally. And since agriculture reduced the pressure on everyone to go hunting, the people of Tallgrass have had more time to pursue various crafts and trades, some of which produced viable export commodities. Dibbler's business boomed once he gained access to Tallgrass' high-value products, and in a positive feedback loop that allowed Tallgrass to buy more commodities as trade began to flow more freely along Mesathalassa.

Gerrik organised the bulk of the trade, as he organised most of Tallgrass. Always aware of every event and detail in Tallgrass, and better qualified than most for the cognitive gymnastics of coordinating a complex entity, Gerrik was well equipped for such a role. Being at the forefront of the fields of innovation, having gained the respect of the townsfolk, and having a commanding presence naturally qualified Gerrik for a position of leadership within the growing town. Of course, the village elder was still formally in charge, but for matters of economics, industry, civic planning and agriculture the villagers would listen to Gerrik's direction.

As the last of the sacks was loaded onto Dibbler's white giant, Gerrik approached.

"You have the star-fiend carcass I ordered."

It was a direct statement. Dibbler shuddered a little. Gerrik always knew everything he had in stock, regardless of whether it was clearly visible or not.

"Yes, well, about that-"

"We had a deal." Gerrik interrupted sternly, "Our price was surely more than enough for you to buy it. I'm sure they would have been happy to get rid of it."

Dibbler almost believed Gerrik could read minds too, given how uncannily he could see through his lies and exaggerations. (This was not entirely accurate. Gerrik has no psychic mind-reading powers. However, his ability to observe and interpret body language and other physical and physiological cues was indeed uncanny.)

Dibbler waved a hand, then gestured to one of the bundles on the white giant. "Yes, yes. There, third one on the right. Let it down."

One of the helpers undid the ropes binding that bundle and it plummeted to the ground with a very heavy thud. Gerrik walked over to it and pulled back the coarse cloth, with many other hain peering over his shoulder or around the side. It revealed a hainoid figure, twice as tall as a hain and made entirely of a lustrous grey material. It was also quite dead, being totally immobile with a puncture clean through the skull.

Gerrik pulled the rest of the cloth off the star-fiend. There was a deep indent in its back and a minor puncture on its left wing. This was the Realta Gerrik had fought back in Fibeslay. His expression darkened for a few moments as memories of the event resurfaced. Then he stood up and said, "Excellent. This should provide enough carapace to make tools for a few more years. We will likely want another one in future, Dibbler."

Gerrik still taught lessons in Tallgrass on most evenings. The topics were wide and varied. Some nights he had blacksmithing demonstrations. Some nights he lectured on herbs for treating particular ailments. Occasionally he would retell one of the many stories from his decades of travel.

The lessons were usually well attended by the people of Tallgrass. However, owing to Gerrik's fame, Chippers from other villages would sometimes attend the lessons as well, staying for some days before returning to their home villages. As such, Gerrik hadn't thought much about the latest Chipper to come into town until he came up to talk to Gerrik after a lesson on fletching arrows.

"Gerrik Far-Teacher! It is an honour to meet you," said the hain.

Gerrik's beak turned and he sized up the newcomer. He was about 24 years of age, and carried a leather bag holding his belongings and his own tools. This hain had shown exceptional aptitude during the lesson, and demonstrated a keen mind and inventiveness beyond that of most other hain.

"Indeed," Gerrik replied, "We haven't been properly introduced."

"Of course. My name is Elword, and I've travelled here from Ambermoor," said the hain.

"That's a long way from here. How long are you intending on staying here?" Gerrik asked.

"Indefinitely. I have heard great things about you, about how much you know, and I want to study under you," Elword explained.

Gerrik paused and stared at Elword, scrutinising him. Elword met Gerrik's gaze. Here was a hain who showed remarkable intelligence, thirsted for knowledge, and wasn't afraid to put himself on the line for it.

"Alright, Elword. Come along."

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Antarctic Termite
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Antarctic Termite Resident of Mortasheen

Member Seen 9 days ago

Prime Meridian: Atoll Caldera, 209 kliks south of the equator.
Coordinates: 48.772°N, -80.141°E, -3,704m.
Submaterium of Mirus.

"Hey, Scritches! I found another one!"

The centaurine Sculptor pitter-pattered over to the source of the sound, clattering around it, towards it, away from it, all at the same time because these things were not mutually exclusive in the metalhell, until she was waiting some meters ahead of it on a fairly straight path. She flattened herself against the wall.

The quadcopter hummed towards her and she smacked it with a heavy staff.

The thing spun out over the floor and she stopped it with a prehensile foot. She applied the tool at the end of the staff and cut it open, jabbing at the circuitboard until it stopped moving. She scratched up the calligraphy like she'd been instructed to.


Scritches skittered down the tunnel and folded up at Skele's side, carrying a bag of drones.

"Look at it. It's a good one."

Scritches signed something. Skele was indignant.

"They're not all the same! Some are better. Cuter."

Scritches picked up the drone and pointed at it, then put it in its bag and turned to go. Skele followed with a huff.

"Ugh! You have no taste."

Coordinates: -27.843°N, 85.058°E, -2,622m.
Submaterium of Mirus.

Steady high pitched whine as the quadcopter made its way down the tight bundle of forks and loops. The walls were thin in this sector, highly permeated, and the tunnels tightly packed, like the interior of a lung.

The constant screech was the mark of a damaged motor. This drone had survived one encounter it likely shouldn't have, and blindly whirred its way onwards to another.

A whorl of metal blinked as it passed.

There was a sudden snap. Acrid smoke hung in the air where it lay, thinning slowly in the lack of gravity. Shrapnel lay across the floor.

Ten tentacles reached out and gripped their shards of metal, retracting back into a seamless face. The drone lay where it fell. Its siphon leaked a stream of liquid sulphur and went out.

Coordinates: -50.366°N, -30.284°E, -460m.
Submaterium of Mirus.

Quadcopters homed in on foreign sounds in the maze. The sounds were recorded by the central processor and used to mark dangers, as well as possible leads.

This was the deep booming sound that the drones had learned to associate with tunnelling wyrms. They avoided it as best they can, but to escape completely was impossible- too many wyrms, blocking too many tunnels.

A quadcopter veered left to avoid the long-echoing sound of a distant wyrm. It sang in a tiny voice of its own, a pinging echo that kept it company between the walls.

Its pathfinding equipment detected a dead end. It stopped. It turned around.

A set of white orbs ignited into a glow, but the darkness was no weaker for it.

A long sharp tongue speared the drone upon its barb and dragged it skittering into the wyrm. A second clanging rumble echoed through the tunnels. After a while, the first one stopped.

Coordinates: 14.926°N, -7.350°E, -6,621m.
Submaterium of Mirus.

A lone figure strode through the tunnels, carrying a long net. It swished it effortlessly through the air and tangled an approaching quadcopter.

The figure bent, human-like, and took the drone in its jagged fingers. It pulled out a plate marked with scarlet runes and pressed it to the fibre shell, causing it to lie still. It examined the copter closely, then wiped some residue off its lense and wound a patch around its damaged arm.

"There isn't much I can do for you, Teknall," it murmured. "Heartworm will not tolerate a traitor in its ranks. But I will keep my oath."

A second plate touched the quadcopter, and it spun into life. Help watched it rise up and head on down the tunnel.

"Good luck," said the mentor.

Coordinates: 81.983°N, -26.900°E, -11,545m.
Heartworm's Laboratory.

"Heartworm looook," pleaded Skele as Scritches dragged their creation down the corridor.

Heartworm looked.

Skele posed beside the big mess of bone-flesh and metal, a crowd of Sweethearts monitoring its constant hisses and fizzing. The most cobbled-together divine siphon ever seen on Galbar lumbered towards them on pseudopods looted from about eight other projects. Skele gestured up and down gleefully. It looked set to explode.

"Eclectic," it said.

Skele slapped her hands on her cheeks and grinned 'til her teeth shone. "You do love me!"

"Continue harvesting quadcopters," said the Emaciator. "Consider the following project: Sweetheart disassembly teams. Their empathy does not preclude them from setting traps."

Skele saluted sharply. Scritches sighed. "Yessir! And..." she looked to one side. "Once we've dealt with the drone problem, can we go on a..?"


"...That means yes," she whispered to Scritches as Heartworm disappeared. Scritches smacked her.

Coordinates: -31.146°N, 34.865°E, -903m.
Submaterium of Mirus.

A sharp kick out of nowhere. The drone ricocheted around the tunnel and fell. Heartworm picked it up.

Teknall was overwhelming it, little by little. Its power was limited and even if it set all of its energy to mass-producing counter-drones to wage a grand tunnel war against the god, it would eventually be outperformed. Eventually, luck and persistence would carry one of Teknall's probes just far enough to follow.

Heartworm picked its limbs up from the ground and hovered there, disassembling the drone. The sensors on its vehicle were keen but not made for its current purpose. Heartworm opened its mandibles and extended a bundle of microfibres.

A calligraphic link, identical in each drone. To disable the swarm was increasingly implausible. If Heartworm were to buy itself time, it would have to strike at the data as it was stored- somehow corrupt the veracity of the map itself.

The pattern of silicon and earth-metals imprinted itself on Heartworm's mind. The fundamental nature of Tounic sigils was clarity: there was no question of where the stream of data led. Another receiver, elsewhere, bore a complementary mark, and thus received its input in the exact same manner. Somewhere there lay another processor, much like this one, to which every single drone was somehow linked.

Heartworm had already discerned the site of the original portal with which these devices had been released into its den, but that gate was now closed. There was nothing entering Teknall's headquarters but telepathic data, and very little being received. Without access to the center, it was impossible to discern its properties, let alone engage with its hidden defenses.

The idea of an infohazard was hot in Heartworm's mind. With pure data its only avenue of retaliation, it had planted several in the tunnels, and observed closely the result of those that had already been triggered. All was futile. Its measures had been shot blind, and as such, no matter how powerful they may be, they were crude.

And yet, Teknall had made one critical mistake in his plans. One that could yet be its salvation.

Heartworm wasn't alone.

Heartworm kicked a hole into reality and emerged in another lab entirely.

It was a Dwarven lab, an arksynth refinery. Here the basic goods that oiled the lives of the psyker elite were produced: Mineral tests, acids, stimulants and refined armour material. Lay resources like fertilisers and elastics were manufactured elsewhere. There masses of the twitch-eared craftsdwarf caste sat in rows and rows, lost each in their own unique little desk of chaos and rogue flesh.

But this was a resort for the oligarchs, and conditions were roomy. A long shelf of labelled samples covered the far wall. Tubes and bladders stood carefully strutted on stone tables.

Heartworm took a moment to examine the shelf as the psykers stared at it, falling into whispers. It had not been here in some time.

"Arctic midge and peasant fur typically creates a microtubule polymerisation catalyst," it said, striding easily to read the labels on the other shelf, which was packed with flesh. Its limbs were too lanky for this room by far, but the fang-like pod it piloted was not. It lifted the arms beneath it and hovered. "Apply to tissue one five four."

The psykers nodded. Some of the younger ones bowed. Heartworm extended its twin hooves in sync and stamped the floor.


Somewhere distant, Lazarus felt a draw, as if somebody was calling for her. She put down the lab equipment she was holding, returning it to a mass of disparate objects ranging from a test tube of dwarven-make to a wooden device of unknown enchantments. Unknown to anybody but her, at least. Stepping out of her lab, she began down a winding maze of tunnels to get appropriately far away.

When she was far enough away to make it difficult to locate her lab, she reciprocated the message, giving away her location. "Heartworm, it has been long. Come to me if you wish to speak to me."

Heartworm swished its hoof in an untidy loop and vanished through it. It emerged in a disused passage. At the other end stood Lazarus, at the base of a particularly dense set of tunnel intersections.

There was no need in Heartworm's psyche to catch up with affairs. It reached its limb through the void, plucked a drone from the air in its own maze, pulled it back and smashed it on the floor. "Aid," it said. "Your sphere is necessary. Privacy?"

Lazarus waved her hand dismissively. "The entire set of tunnels is hidden from both dwarven maps and divine signatures. You wouldn't have found it if I hadn't let you find it. Privacy is assured," she paused, saying, "I can detect an energy siphon on this creation. Powered by divinity? Primitive. Whoever made it doesn't truly understand how divinity works."

Heartworm scratched the stone wall with its hoof. It made a horrible sound. The defenses Lazarus had laid on that particular spot gained a tear. "Privacy, Lazarus. Arcane boxes researched in location of absolute secrecy." It tapped the drone. "Five orders of magnitude of these. Heartworm's tunnels more secure than these and they are cracking. Time runs short. Where is it?"

Lazarus pondered the question, responding "If you are asking about my lab, it has long since been secured. My experiments are too delicate to allow anybody in, even you," she paused, taking her journal box from a pendant on her neck. Opening it to reveal a confusing swarm of millions of arcane runes, overlaid on each other and constantly changing, she breathed power into it, the runes expanding into the air around the two. "If you wish for privacy, this will do. It won't last forever, but it will allow us to speak without any.. Listeners," pausing, she looked about, continuing, "what you say here will appear to the outside as a mass of arcane runes, as secure as the writing in the box."

Heartworm spun in a wide ring, gouging deep arcs in the surrounding stone. It kicked the wall and a dead rune sparked. It opened its mouth and something slick and shadowy crept across the floor, liquefying it into magma. The magma glowed purple with Lazarus' magic.

"Insufficient," it said, at the end of its tests. It picked up the shadow and swallowed it again. "Research. Your lab. Where?"

Lazarus stared at Heartworm, saying, "My lab is strictly off-limits. I will not take you there. That is final." with that, she leaned against the wall, crossing her arms as the millions of runes continued to multiply exponentially as the full effect of the box came into existence. It was as though the runes were 'unpacking' themselves into even more complex sets of runes.

"Time," said Heartworm, and stalked away down the corridor of encryption. A flick of stars in the dark and it was gone.

Much like Heartworm, Lazarus was not a perfect being. And she was right: Heartworm could see no conceivable way in which it could penetrate the layers of compressed countercode and divine interference.

But Teknall had lately taught Heartworm a valuable lesson: Divinity wasn't everything.

Lazarus' maze was substantially darker than Heartworm's, yet in concrete physical nature, it was simple- hundreds of tunnels of stone hewn into three-dimensional space, by slaves who had then been killed to silence their memory. What Heartworm lacked in time and the ability to compromise, it had gained by observation.

Urtelem flesh preserves easily, yet must still be kept alive. Heartworm kept its samples in a form of heated glass, tubes of it standing in rows embedded in the floor of its expansive genetic archive.

It was time to add a species to their genus.

The humanoid form of urtelem is not strictly necessary to their function, and Heartworm had no intention of keeping it, nor their size. Their ability to manipulate the very substances of which they are created gives their physiology a special kind of flexibility, one it knew Jvan was exploiting in her martial arts. The new creatures came easily.

They were heavily spiked granite worms, multisegmented and bearing many legs. Folded they were smooth spheres; active not so much. A single line of crystals flashed fluorescent signals down their back.

Urte lemma nobilis, et Urte vermis isopoda, it thought.

Heartworm had no time to breed them exponentially, but it did have cloning vats for urtelem, and each one could hold a hundred urteverm. Additionally, it still had the massive and powerful altering vats it had used to create the Bludgeons; These could be repurposed.

A few days later it fished the final and first generations of urteverm from the embryos of their failed sisters and assembled them in a great stack. Each was like a polished igneous marble.

Heartworm cut a portal directly into the stone of the World Mountain and released the hordes of urteverm. They swam into the rock and were gone.

It opened a model of the mountain's interior with its flickering augmented-reality visor and stalked around it. Heartworm watched green lines begin to spread within the walls of the labyrinth, forming the outline of Lazarus' maze.

Within the lab, Heartworm found various half-completed projects of little note, which it catalogued anyway. However, there was one major project that stood out. A vast wood-and-bronze mechanism stood at the center of the lab, covered in various gold-inlaid arcane runes, cogs, and gems. When Heartworm entered, one of the gems began to glow brightly. Underneath it, a simple Dwarven heiroglyphic read, "GOD".

There was a second gem, that did not glow, the labelling under it saying, "LAZARUS".


The machine churned as the gem remained lit, fascinating yet bewilderingly complex in its function. If the divine siphon used in Teknall's drones were high points in divine technology, this machine was indistinguishable from magic. Yet, it looked in no way mobile. It was a massive machine, covered in easily-broken moving parts. Heartworm's own specialties were no help in identifying its purpose.

It nonetheless memorised everything it could see. Its systems sparked with momentary panic when the glyphs of the Empress' name light up before its eyes.

Heartworm stood, re-scanned its surroundings. "Lazarus."

Lazarus was nowhere to be found, but a voice spoke up, seeming to come from every corner of the room. "Give me one good reason why I shouldn't collapse the protections of the lab and leave you trapped in there."


Suppression. Heartworm doped itself with the knowledge that it could find its own way out, and it was probably no more poorly equipped for a fight than its fellow recluse. And, it had an excellent reason either way.

"Heartworm is about to die," it said. "Aid."

The room fell silent for a short while. Then, the voice, again, this time somewhat strangled. "You come to me for aid?"

"Lazarus was informed," it said, using a few too many words and a little too much emphasis. "Will be repaid in equal measure. Within limits."

Lazarus' voice seemed mistrustful, a hint of recognition in her voice, as if she'd experienced this before, "And who is to say you will uphold your end of the deal?"

"I invoke the name of Amul'sharar."

That was apparently satisfactory for Lazarus, as one of the walls split open into a flurry of runes, and out she stepped from it. The runes died down into nothingness after she was through. "Name what you want."

Heartworm unlocked its mouth and revealed the core processor of a quadcoptor, holding it in a worm-tongue and placing it ever so gently on the edge of a table. "Observe."

Fourteen seals on its back hissed open and Heartworm's whiplike tentacles wavered through the room. It released a bubble of luminous aeroplankton and popped it, the cloud of light forming a projection. The left seven tendrils arranged it into a circuitboard and silicon chip schematic, the right seven adding a massive display of digital language.

"Secrecy must be preserved until Keriss's arrival. Necessary for Heartworm to disable or distort the accumulated hypergeographical data. Number and constant replenishment make manual methods unviably inefficient.

"Given programming observed in drone processors, no precaution was taken against offensive counter-programs. System is nonetheless highly robust. Centralised. Data sent and read to a core. Heartworm's knowledge strictly limited."

"Lazarus' sphere encapsulates language. Divine. Hidden. Heartworm requires a sequence of offensive information. A weaponised secret. Adaptable. Independent. Undetectable. Capable of moulding to whatever lies at the end of this signal and assigning control to Heartworm. Heartworm has access to resources unavailable to the Lazarus demideity.

"In this, there exists an opportunity."

"If this is the drone you plucked from your realm earlier, it will be simple. It apparently does not befit a god like Teknall to ask for help, and he clearly settled for subpar workmanship with the intricacies of divinity. I could have made the same drone, minus the shell, in moments. It would be simple to subvert," Lazarus said.

"However, my work does not come cheap. I will be upfront, I wish for a plane to call my own. To research what I cannot in my demideity form," Lazarus responded quickly, observing the divine aspects of the chip.

This was not a small request.

Heartworm's power was limited and with the awakening of Jvan it was smaller still. It had access to All-Beauty, but not all of it- just part of what Jvan had originally assigned it, when she was smaller, weaker, and then what it had manage to steal since. For one without magic, creating a demiplane by hand was an almost impossible challenge.

But Heartworm's sins were nihilism and cowardice, not idleness.

"Done," it said. "To the limits of my ability."

"Very well," Lazarus responded, picking up the chip. She said, "I will prepare for you a sigil that will corrupt the divine energy around it. When converted into electrical energy, it will return a random, yet specific enough to damage things, path through the chip. I will essentially be running arbitrary code of my own instead of Teknall's trusted and tested code," she paused, turning the chip over in her hand.

"Replicate the sigil and leave it in your tunnels. When a drone gets near, it will take in the corrupted energy and attempt to use it. Teknall clearly made no attempt to distinguish between the various forms of divine energy," pausing again to walk away, she went to a table and rapidly began inscribing runes onto a nearby gem.

"After the drone sends back corrupted data, that data will be acceptable to the system but subtly wrong for the area the drone was surveying. And, with a little bit of good fortune in the idea that Teknall did not assume the drones would be weaponized in the way that I am doing it, in that I will also send bad code designed to escape any blocks keeping it sanitized." She stopped, seeming to consider something as she carved runes into the gem.

"The code the drone runs will attempt to send packets of divine energy with the rest of the information. If his network is robust enough, then it will go through and make his master processor's data essentially fall apart into corrupted fragments, and if it is not robust enough, then the extra data will be lost and the map will just be too wrong to use, but not wrong enough to notice."

Finally finished, she stopped inscribing runes, looking at Heartworm to get its thoughts on the matter.

"Unusual," it said. It seemed to be studying the sigil.

"Upon subverting the system, Heartworm may discover information worth exploring. Can the mechanism allow the connection to be made two-way?"

Lazarus thought on it a moment, saying, "It depends. If the malicious code packets aren't lost in translation, if his network is robust enough, and the master processor has the capability to, it would be possible. Unless he doesn't plan on sending new orders to these drones, meaning they are single purpose. Then I doubt the processor will be able to send data."

"Calligraphic receivers used to update navigational data."

Continuing, she turned back to the sigil, "I will make it so instead of corrupting the map, the data will attempt to co-opt any transmission devices to control itself. The question will be, has he centralized everything or gone with security? You'll have to find out. Now, I'll repurpose the drone chip you gave me to be your personal master processor. Some of the data may be lost in translation, though."

After a pause, she continued, "If he gave the chips more processing power than they need, then you'll have a copy of his master processor, essentially. Otherwise, your data may be incomplete, but enough to give you an idea of how the situation is unfolding."

Heartworm jittered a tentacle. "Drones are efficient. Few unnecessary components or capabilities."

Lazarus pondered on the comment, "If he's looking to reuse these drones afterwards, or modify them, he'd probably give them slightly more than they need. I doubt so many drones will be just left behind after they've served a purpose. That'd be too inefficient for Teknall."

Heartworm wordlessly enhanced the processor schematic to confirm.

She continued to carve into the sigil, sometimes looking at the chip. After several minutes of carving, she was complete. Holding out the chip and sigil, she said, "I simplified the sigil. It should be easy to replicate if you've got steady hands. Or, make one of your organic machines do it. Just make sure to imbue the runes with power. Otherwise, it will be a trinket."

That would be a problem. The Emaciator was not a source of divine energy the way other deities were. Heartworm would solve it later.

She finished the statement with, "Also, keep that chip safe. The sigil will corrupt the drones into sending data to it as well."

"Noted." Heartworm stretched out a tongue designed for this exact purpose and picked up the microchip with a touch no wider than a hair. It encysted it in a protective cavity and froze the exterior with a drop of nitrogen.

When the time came, it would make backup processors of its own. Bacterial networks spun on conductive graphite or metal deposits seemed promising. The graven gemstone was scanned and then swallowed.

"Time," said Heartworm. "Will return to provide Lazarus' demiplane. For now, Heartworm must act." It waited a moment.

"Very well. I expect that plane," came the response.

Heartworm paused to let the moment wait a second longer. Its thoughts waved between Lazarus and the sigil, and back to the Empress' augmented face, and what lay behind.

"Expect Tauga," said the Emaciator, and slipped through a slit in reality's throat.

* * *

Heartworm emerged into outer space, then into its lab. It didn't trust Lazarus quite that much.

Skele's machine had been left in the middle of her sizable workshop, a space cleared for it and a coolant system brought over, the Sweethearts as always making up in diligence what their masters lacked in organisation. Heartworm examined it again.

Genius, for mortals. Shoddy for a god. That said, waste not.

Heartworm slipped out of its visor and ran a Mammonic connector made of demon veins out from her device. It secreted an epoxy and scratched the sigil into its surface. Magic sparked.

Within hours, wandering Sweethearts were disguising identical carvings under layers of metallic paint.

Heartworm coupled its new processor to an existing cerebral construct in a vat as monera spun nanoscale wires in hexagonal growth patterns. Aeroplankton filled the darkened room. Behind it, bulbous things formed from a vat of black tar, sparking violet as they breached the surface. The sigils disappeared under a light-eating skin and they waited in slick bundles to be scattered into the dark.

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Hidden 3 yrs ago 3 yrs ago Post by Kho
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The Great Artisan, Divine Mason, Builder of Civilisations
Level 5 God of Crafting (Masonry, Carpentry, Smithing, Alchemy, Armaments)

28.75 Might & 2 Free Point


Level 7 Dormant-Goddess of Magic (Pacts)
Might: 50
Free Points: 11
Concelmeant/Detection: 10

The sun shimmered off the surface of the Mahd and its heat was cast over the dunes of the Firewind. The river valley was an oasis in its own right, the silty soil covered with green grass and desert wildflowers and shaded by the branches of acacia trees. A well-worn path ran along the top of the bank of the Mahd. Along this road walked a couple of camels burdened with sacks of wheat and barley, and a traveller with dusty clothes and a leather bag also walked the trail. Across the Mahd were floodplains in which farmers worked, planting crops in the fertile silty soil, and fishermen cast their nets into the river to catch fish.

Although none could possibly tell, the traveller was no mere man, but a god. Yet for now he walked as a man and observed the unaware Vetruvians. His first observation was their agriculture. It's a good start. The fertile silt-plains of the Mahd River Valley are excellent for farming. Their methods are still a bit primitive and will need a boost if they want to sustainably support a higher population. Irrigation would be a good start.

A boat sailed down the Mahd, swiftly slicing through the water as it was propelled by a team of oremen, carrying a merchant's cargo to villages downstream. Teknall turned his head to watch it pass. Astonishing. Not even Alefpria has boats that good. Someone must have taught them.

Soon the greenery of the Mahd gave way to clusters of mud-brick houses. People bustled along the alleys and streets. Teknall felt quite comfortable amidst the bustle of people, the lifeblood of Civilisation. He made his way through the market district to a metalsmith. Inside was a man standing by a furnace pouring molten bronze into a cast. Teknall addressed the smith. "Hello."

The smith looked up from his work. "Give me a few moments." He finished pouring the bronze, set the mould aside, put down his tools and headed over to Teknall. "How may I help you?"

"I have something I'd like you to fix." From some folds of leather Teknall pulled out a worn bronze chisel. "My chisel has become quite blunt. Could you repair it?"

The smith took the chisel and looked at it closely. "I should be able to do that."

He nodded to his apprentice, who pumped the bellows and stoked the furnace. The smith heated the end of the chisel, then hammered it, reforging the tip. Teknall stood and watched, observing the smith's technique, as well as the tools and techniques available to the smith. Metalworking is still a new technology here. Techniques are still a bit crude. Furnaces aren't nearly hot enough to smelt iron yet. Their alloy of bronze is not yet optimised. Actually... With a subtle wave of his hand, Teknall imprinted into the smith's subconscious mind the ideas which would lead to a few improvements: good ratios of bronze and brass, the difference between quenching, annealing and tempering, and a few potential smithing techniques and tools. None of these ideas manifested immediately, but would slowly emerge and subconsciously direct future work.

Done hammering the chisel, the smith plunged the red-hot metal into a bucket of water and quenched it. He then returned the chisel to Teknall. "There, good as new."

Teknall took the chisel and returned it to its leather pouch. "Ah, thank you." He then took out a flask of olive oil. "Will this be adequate payment?"

The smith opened the stopper, smelled it, and tasted a drop of the oil. "That will do. Thank you. Come by again if you need any more work done."

Teknall nodded and walked out the doorway back to the streets of Vetros. Vetros is getting big enough to have some form of currency. That would be more efficient than bartering. Once the mines get some more gold and silver into circulation those commodities can be used to standardise the unit of trade.

His walking took him out of the merchant district and into the upper-class district. There he passed the training grounds for the Vetruvian army, where he saw a platoon of cloth-clad spearmen running drills and practising formations. A sergeant paced in front of the platoon barking orders, a bronze sword by his side - a sign of wealth and status, especially compared to the stone spears wielded by the rank and file. Also in the grounds were a few wooden boards peppered with arrow holes. Weaponry is mediocre, but adequate. Metal weapons are rare. Spears are in common use, as they should be. I expect a gradual transition to more metal weapons over time, although I see little reason to hasten the development of Vetruvian warfare.

Continuing his walk, Teknall soon passed the palace. It was, naturally, one of the grander buildings in Vetros, along with some of the temples, and was likely to grow in grandeur as Vetros became richer. While ordinary citizens were not permitted to simply walk into the palace, the residence of the Priest-King of Vetros, Teknall did not need to enter the building to see inside. Priest-King Akthanos, head of the chosen bloodline of Zephyrion (a dynasty of chosen mortals- that's an idea), ruler of Vetros, and wielder of the King's Law, the most powerful artefact in mortal hands and rivalling most other divine artefacts too. Conspicuously, the King's Law is missing. This is troubling. One does not want to misplace an object of such power.

Teknall continued his walking until he reached the temple district. The temples were grand buildings, for the Vetruvians were a devout people. What was peculiar was that these temples were all dedicated, in some way, to Zephyrion. The Vetruvians were quasi-monotheistic; they believed that other gods existed, but only Zephyrion, the Master and Eternal Sky, was deemed worthy of worship. So rather than have temples dedicated to different gods, as was the case in Xerxes, Alefpria or Rulanah, the Vetruvians had temples dedicated to different functions in society, and also different philosophies and ideologies surrounding the Vetruvian faith (with as much variation as could be permitted under the Priest-King's guidance, that is).

Yet among these temples, one stood out from the rest to Teknall. One had only a tenuous link to Zephyrion. One served the community through medicine and education. One held a school to teach children and a library to store knowledge. One was a great boon to Civilisation.

The Temple of the Bond.

Teknall ascended the steps and walked inside.

Sat where she was in a circle of students, Yara had sensed the arrival of Teknall even before he had properly set foot into Vetros itself. The last time she had sensed a creature laced with divine energies was when that slithering Jvanic being had come and...savaged those people. There had also been - not too long ago - that incident witnessed by a great number of the people (and felt by Yara even though she had not dared leave the protective walls of the Temple). Those who saw it said it was a flying mountain. Yara knew, however, that it could not have been any other than her fleshly sister. She had wondered momentarily what was happening up there in the world of the gods but had swiftly let her wondering cease, for the answer was always simple: nothing good.

And now there was a god at her doorstep - and an enemy of Vowzra too. She did not know what to make of her mysterious brother, but Vowzra had - in his own strange way - attempted to be kind to her, and so those who wished him ill (and who had, in fact, harmed him!) were certainly not looked upon kindly by her. She remembered well Teknall's passionate defence of Jvan before the Vicegerent was killed. She admitted that she understood little of what the Vicegerent had been raving on about - but he had not deserved death. Who knew, maybe Teknall - having destroyed Vestec's creation as well as Vowzra's avatar - now came for her. The thought sprung into her mind rather unbidden and was quickly dismissed - that was ludicrous. But they had killed before... shaking her head, she rose slowly.

'Sister Olakhat, I must go. Please, continue in my place.' The fact that Teknall had not made right for the school meant that he was not actually looking for her...that, or he did not know she was here. As she walked out of the school, she found Gadar waiting for her.
'There is a god in the Great Chamber,' he said. Yara froze and looked at him hesitantly for a few moments.
'Um...G-Gadar, how did you-'
'You are not planning to go to it, are you?' Frowning still and eyeing her husband, she shrugged.
'I don't think he knows I'm here...'
'Or it knows you are here, and knows that you know it is here.'
'By all things- will you stop calling him "it"?' She snapped as she began to walk towards the Great Hall.
'Well, it doesn't have a fixed sex, so calling it anything other than it would be inacc-' he stopped talking when she gave him that mischevious glance of hers. 'What are you thinking?' he asked, his scarred face breaking out into a small smile. But she said nothing and, with a small laugh, moved lithely ahead and quickly began ascending the Temple Stairs. Quick though she was, Gadar's tremendous body outpaced her, and she remained in his protective shadow as they entered the Great Chamber.

'Hello,' Gadar hailed the god while keeping his distance (not that such could have protected him had Teknall wished him harm), 'I don't think I've seen you around here before. If you are searching for the prayer hall it is just ahead and to your right.'

Teknall turned to look at Gadar. "Hello," he hailed in return. "I'm from out of town. I came here because I've heard that this temple is a place of knowledge and learning. I came to see it with my own eyes, and perhaps see what I could learn. Would you be able to help?" Gadar glanced at Yara who, after a nod and a brief smile, stepped forward.
'Yes, this is just such a place as you describe, though admittedly we have never had anyone come to us in pursuit of knowledge as you have - other than the children, that is, and the priestesses who have dedicated their lives to the Temple. But we are not ones to turn away those in pursuit of learning. Are you in search of...any particular information? If you are, perhaps the Temple Library holds something that may be of use to you.'

Teknall smiled at Yara. "Ah, the Library. That sounds like the right place. You wouldn't happen to have anything on construction or masonry, would you?"
Yara raised an eyebrow, remembering the reaction of one Priest-King to the library's proud collection on construction. He had seemed far from impressed. 'Yes, this way please,' she said and led the way. 'We do have some tidbits on masonry and construction. They are admittedly not exactly contemporary manuals though. We hold on to them for archival reasons - protecting Vetruvian heritage and ensuring we have a documented history of developments in the various areas of Vetruvian life. These matters are easily lost, I find. It was by pure good luck that I came across some of the works on construction and masonry - and they were certainly not in the best condition. It took us a good bit of time, but many have been copied to a good standard. We will have to work on our more up-to-date collection in time, but for now, it is the old works that are of more immediate interest to us. But do pardon me, I ramble.' She took a sudden right into a rather small hallway and they found themselves very suddenly in the large library.

Making her way to a nearby shelf, she scanned the various codices and scrolls on it for a few moments before picking one up and moving along. She eventually placed some three scrolls and the codex on a table and gestured to the stranger. She realised that, though she knew he was Teknall, they had not yet been formally introduced. 'Sorry, I think I got so caught up in getting you to the library that I never introduced myself,' she smiled sheepishly before continuing, 'I'm Yara, and this is my husband, Gadar. And you are?'

"I'm Harun," Teknall replied, "Nice to meet you."

'Harun...' Yara murmured thoughtfully. 'So, Harun, this scroll here concerns early Vetruvian construction methods, most likely a manual at some point. It is highly outdated, but there are some aspects of it that are surprisingly advanced and, strangely enough, seem to have been abandoned by the people of Vetros. Why this is so, I can't say. The other two scrolls are more or less the same, though the originals were in such a bad state that I'm certain they come from an earlier period. As for the codex, it is the closest thing we have to a contemporary work on construction. It was written by Priest Harukin who, in his youth, worked in construction. The book is not purely a manual, it is semiautobiographical really, but in it the Priest discusses in detail things like brick-making, the manner in which they went about mixing clay, and much else. Keep in mind that the Priest has been dead now some fifty floodings.'

Teknall stood over the texts and scanned his finger over the words. As Galbarian civilisations go, Vetros has pretty decent buildings. These texts refer to techniques almost a century old, at least, although it is not as if progress was rapid. I can tell that not too much has advanced. Although it seems that some of the finer points are not remembered too well.

"To be honest, I'm surprised you had anything on this topic at all. It is a most interesting look into the past. Most of the teaching I and other tradesmen had was from what our masters showed us during our apprenticeships. I suppose that if something doesn't get practised for a while or very widely, it gets forgotten, and if someone finds something new, it spreads very slowly." Teknall paused for a moment. "You teach children here things like reading and history and anatomy. Have you considered perhaps teaching things like construction and smithing and things like that? Maybe not here, but have some centralised location for teaching these skills, such that all the expertise can be funnelled into a single location, and some of these more advanced pieces of knowledge will be retained, and perhaps new techniques proliferated."

Yara considered Teknall's words for a few moments before shaking her head.
'Neither I nor my priestesses are qualified to teach these kinds of skills. At best, we can make the content of these books available to those already proficient in the field and help them explore these old techniques - if these craftsmen would accept advice from a Temple on such matters in the first place. But the Temple of the Bond itself does not have the resources or craftsmen to create anything like this centralised location at the present time, much as it interests me.' Yara said it as she gently opened the codex containing Priest Harukin's works. This one had been copied out by her from cover to cover and contained some rather beautiful illustrations which she had painstakingly toiled over for weeks on end. 'If only there was someone like Priest Harukin. He would certainly have been able to do something like what you say.'

"We can dream, I suppose, and keep an eye out for opportunities," Teknall replied before turning his attention to the book in front of him. When he saw the hand-written words, he paused, and his brow furrowed. Teknall appeared to be in deep thought for a few seconds, then he turned to Yara and inquired, "Who wrote this copy?"

'I did,' Yara said, smiling. She was clearly quite proud of this one. Seeing Teknall's furrowed brows, however, she could not help but feel that something was wrong. 'Why, do you ask?'

"I recognise this handwriting," he said. Teknall's mouth curled into a knowing grin. "It has been a long, long, long time." Yara looked from Teknall to Gadar and then back to Teknall.
'You...recognise my handwriting?' she asked with a calculated slowness, 'that's very interesting. I would love to know where you think you saw it before - I can assure you that no work of mine has made it outside the Temple. Am I to understand it that I have an imitator?' she ended her words with a degree of humour, her eyes twinkling slightly with silent laughter.

The smile didn't leave Teknall's face. "I saw it in a very special Codex coauthored by about twenty powerful people a very long time ago." Yara raised an eyebrow at this and the humorous glimmer faded slightly.
'Oh really? Twenty powerful people a long time ago writing up Codices? This sounds like a rather nice story, please do tell us what you saw.' She looked back at Gadar as impassively as she could manage, before looking back to Teknall.

"Just one Codex, although at one point people called it a Blueprint. Written within were a lot of very fundamental things. One of the authors was an expert in deals and Pacts, and wrote extensively about a form of magic designed for scholars and thinkers." Yara cleared her throat and nodded quickly, dropping a 'wow' or 'fascinating' here and there while her eyes shifted rapidly from Gadar to Teknall.
'A Blueprint, you say. A Blueprint for magic and other "fundamental" things... would I be right in understanding that you think the world came about when twenty people got together and wrote a book? I don't think you're from around here, are you? Where'd you get these ideas, hmm?' Despite her attempt to play it cool, it was clear that she was not quite as unperturbed as she attempted to seem.

"I was there." Teknall leaned forwards slightly. "We were there." A few moments of silence followed Teknall's fateful words... and then Yara chuckled and shook her head.
'Yeah, uh,' she laughed nervously, 'that sounds...amazing. It really does. You should...uh, write about it. Definitely,' she paused for a few moments and quickly composed herself before continuing, 'I would actually be very happy to oblige this fantasy of yours, if you like, as you write it all down. I'm sure it will prove an invaluable addition to our section on variations in beliefs and founding legends across Vetros - a book by a god is not to be passed up. Like, for instance, what were your additions to this "Codex"? In fact, you really need to tell me all about this. Come, sit sit. I'll write.'

Teknall sat down. "I'm sure you know how it went almost as well as I do, but I'll talk anyway. I procured the parchment and wrote about the metals of the ground, among other things. But I'm more interested in what happened next. The woman of Pacts went missing shortly after the writing, and none of us heard from her again. Most of the authors went on to make wondrous things, some fought among each other and were killed," Teknall's smile dimmed at this phrase, but perked back up as he continued, "but still there was no word from their absent sister. Save for a strange artefact embedded in a tree up north, that is. Although, perhaps, she had disguised herself as a human, found a city where her siblings rarely went, and started some kind of... institution. One which promotes knowledge and study. One where Pacts of miraculous power are struck. Yet still she hides. Why?" Though her hand shook slightly, the fact that she was busying herself with writing meant that Yara's nervousness at having been so easily discovered did not show.
'I cannot really say why - but for the sake of indulging you...' she paused for a few moments, 'from the very little you have told me about these fellows. You say she went missing - you say it as though it was her that did it. Have you paused to consider that maybe she did not go missing, but that the others just...forgot her. Why would anyone want to return to those who forgot them?' She paused and placed a finger on her chin, 'but who am I to really say, you've really not given me much to go on here.' She managed the slightest nervous chuckle.

Teknall's expression became sombre. "Perhaps they had mostly forgotten her, which is saddening. Although, one of them did make her a flower. Her absence was subtle, and her disappearance unannounced. She was also not the only one who had vanished, who had faded into the background and stepped away from the world stage. Yet one does not get forgotten while they are still in view. Something happened to hide her away, and I don't know what. Regardless, I'm sure they would welcome her back if she were to let them know she was still alive." Yara frowned and considered Teknall for a few moments.
'I...uh, your story, this cosmology of yours, very interesting. What do you mean when you say "vanished"? What happened- happens to these twenty?' There was a small pit of dread in her stomach, and a part of her did not truly want to know. But the question had been posed, and for better or worse she was about to find out.

Teknall frowned and steepled his fingers. "The Trickster, Adversary and Shadow have gone absent without known cause, their fates unknown. The man of War has also gone quiet recently. The King of Order is alive, but has departed for a distant place. The Gale has been banished to elsewhere, although should return at some point. The woman of the Mind perished under presently unclear circumstances. The man of Death was killed when he fought Chaos. And the man of Time was killed by the Engineer of Flesh." Yara stared at the other god in silence at this revelation, her eyes wide and face suddenly very pale. In her shock she momentarily forgot how to breathe, but eventually took a quick breath and licked her suddenly very dry lips.
'Th-that's- I. Perhaps this woman of the Pacts with whom you are confusing me had the right idea,' she said with a shaking voice. She pushed the parchment she had been scribbling on away with a trembling hand and got up. 'I think - I mean, it's been very...nice, speaking with you - but I think you should go.' She was gripping her hands and fiddling with her fingers as though struggling to hold something back. 'I think you should go now. Gadar, please sho- show him...' and without even finishing her sentence she turned and left the library, leaving Gadar and Teknall alone together. The scarred man looked at Teknall with clear suspicion, but he was far better than Yara at concealing what lay behind his face and eye.
'Unless you seek after anything more, I can show you the way out.'

Teknall looked sadly where Yara had departed. He rose to his feet. "I think I shall go." As they started to leave, Teknall added, "I was serious about that school. Do let her know that." Gadar nodded in response.
'I will speak to her of it. If she agrees, how can we find you?'

Teknall thought for a moment. "I will be keeping an eye on any opportunities which might arise. If she wishes to speak to me, then she knows who to call." Gadar gave the other man a sidelong glance with his one good eye and shrugged slightly.
'If you say so.' And arriving at the Temple Arch he turned and extended a hand, 'until we meet again, Harun.'

Teknall took the hand and shook it. "Yes, until we meet again, Gadar."

Having made their farewells, Teknall turned and walked off, disappearing into the streets of people.

That evening, as Yara entered her bedroom, she found a new object sitting on her windowsill. It was a clay pot, filled with dirt with flowers planted in it. The flowers were forget-me-nots. When she inspected it more closely, she found engraved on the inner rim of the flower pot the words 'From Teknall'. Pursing her lips, she placed a finger on the words and looked more closely at the flowers, as though feeling the ingrained name would help her better understand. He had asked her why, but with his gift in her arms and staring out into the moonlit night and the star-strewn sky, it was only her that wondered why. Whatever the reason, though, there was no doubt in her mind that this here was an act of kindness.
'What's that you have there?' Gadar's voice came. She turned to him with a broad smile.
'Just some flowers,' she said, and moved away from the windowsill. Gadar looked from the flowers on the windowsill to the single rose on her desk and frowned slightly.
'Shall I bring a few palm trees in too?'
'Don't be silly,' she reprimanded him, 'one will do!' And, chuckling, the two of them prepared for bed.
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Hidden 3 yrs ago Post by WrongEndoftheRainbow
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There was a tree in the distance, atop the hill.

Lasis walked towards it diligently, her ancient satchels of supplies, which consisted only of paints and brushes, creaked as they swung lightly. Every so often, something clinked or shifted in the satchels. She no longer had the energy in her to secure her satchels so that nothing moved. What did it matter, anyways? That was the question that often ran through her head.

The tree was but one in a clearing, the steep hill overlooking the rest of the forest, giving a view of its light canopy. The leaves shook in the breeze, every so often a leaf falling off and drifting away. Curiously, the leaves were pink. It gave an otherworldly impression, and once upon a time, may have served as inspiration. Lasis never gained any enjoyment from inspiration anymore, and indeed, took little enjoyment from anything at all.

She sat down under the tree, the satchels coming to rest against the ground. Some of them were clearly too large for her. For a while, she stayed still, wishing she had the capability to sleep, or do anything to take the edge of time passing by away. But no matter her ability, none of it was as powerful as the fundamentals of the universe.

She had not seen anybody in a long time. They hid from her when she neared, even if she didn't know why. She could no longer remember when she had last seen a friendly face. She slowly drew her hand into one of the satchels, taking out a roughshod piece of scrollpaper. With hesitance, she took out her brush, the one Jvan had given her so long ago, in better days.

Withdrawing a phial of black paint from yet another satchel, she dipped the brush in it and lightly began to create a rendition on it. It was of a young-looking Rovaick, with a serious look upon his face. Atop his head was a helmet. In the corner of the paper, the tip of a spear could be seen, as though the Rovaick was holding it. Once she was finished, she propped it against the tree, weighting down the bottom with a few rocks.

She kneeled in front of the art she had just made, looking to the ground. Her eyes dimmed a bit, though she was not capable of truly blinking. Then, she began to sing, in a practiced, almost heavenly voice. Her voice was slightly high-pitched, though not annoyingly so, and it gave the impression of a very musical gait.

"Leaves from the vine," she began to sing, looking up to the artwork.
"Falling so slow," she continued.
"Like fragile, tiny shells," her voice got quieter.
"Drifting in the foam." She finished, pausing for a long few seconds before launching into the second verse.
"Little soldier boy," her voice cracked, and she had trouble finishing the line.
"Come marching home," lowering her voice to a whisper, she hurried through the line, clearly barely able to bear singing it.
"Brave soldier boy," her voice continued to drift off.
"Come marching home." This line was barely above a whisper, spoken under her breath and petering off halfway through. She just dropped her head again, letting her balance drop.

Her body hit the ground. She simply curled up and waited. Maybe, just maybe, even though it had been years, and she had seen what happened with her own eyes, he would indeed come marching home.


Hidden 3 yrs ago 2 yrs ago Post by Cyclone
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Prince Heru
Scion of the Firewind, Eran Ambaragbed, Grand General of Vetros
Heir to the Sands beneath the Stars


His brother,

Scion of Vetros, Exile, Wanderer

Year of the Realta

The desert sands beneath their feet had long since given way to rocky soil, but the sands' familiar burning had not left them. It had merely taken residence in every sinew of their muscles, and still they pressed on. Their charge was sacred and the fate of the kingdom and the Holy Land rested depended on what they did now. The King's Law was gone, and Prince Heru would stop at nothing to reclaim it even if that meant trekking to the very edge of Galbar.

Here, they were surely coming close to that edge. The flatlands were giving way to rolling hillocks and rocky craglands, and life here was limited to whatever shrubs stubbornly grew from rocks. They had followed the Mahd upriver until it gave way to a thousand forks, then followed one of the smaller streams until it too gave way to tributaries. The muddy creek that they followed had little more than gravel on the bleak banks astride it. If the water was not fit for even plants to drink, then Heru and his men knew better than to drink from it either, no matter how parched their throats.

"Master, I pray to you and all your djinn for salvation."

"My prince," panted his cousin and bodyguard Dorias, as if he had heard Heru's hoarse and half-silent prayer, "Here, the last of the water we brought."

The man handed him a bronze helmet turned upside down, filled with perhaps a single gulp of water. Heru saw his wretched reflection in the metal's sheen as he looked longingly at the water. But then he raised his vision to his men and looked upon their weary faces. There was a splash as the water was poured out onto the ground. "We walk, fight, and suffer as one. For my father, the Priest-King! For the Master and Vetros!"

There was a cheer, and with renewed morale and vigor they marched on. Another day passed and by now desperation began to overpower reason. They stooped down to drink from the creek, but the muddy water refused to enter their mouths or be cupped by their hands. Despite prayer and righteous cause, the faceless, unseen djinn of the creek condemned them to die.

Yet Zephyrion was merciful, and by his grace a Stormlord passed overhead that night. They opened their mouths greedily and felt heavy raindrops sweet as honey fall upon their dried tongues.

Early in the next morning, they saw the silhouette of a lone building rising on the horizon. Heru knew that this is where he needed to go; the Golden Djinni had told him as much when it had appeared, though it spoke in tongues. The Prince knew also that he would find his brother at that temple, if the coward had not fled. Even now Y'Qar probably knew of their impending arrival, for Heru and his party had done nothing to anger the creek's djinn and yet they had been spurned; the only explanation was that Y'Qar had whispered poison into the spiryts' ears in hopes of hindering their journey.

The thought made Heru's blood boil. His brother had been showered with kindness and wealth, and yet his envy and selfishness were so great that he had spat upon it all and left. He would spurn family, abandon country, and defy God simply so that he could leave and be a king of the dirt out here rather than settle for being the prince of the Holy Land, second only to God and his own brother. Even so, some part of Heru had still longed for his brother's return; that was, until he had stolen the King's Law. Now Y'Qar was nothing.

The morning's breeze rustled the exile's long hair. Between his waving dark locks, an eddy danced and whispered, 'Your brother is not far from here, now.'

Y'Qar clenched his jaw and balled his fists. He had hoped that the local djinn would be able to impede Heru progress such that he would turn around long before coming here to make a fool of himself. But Heru had never been anything but persistent, and the King's Law had a way of exposing the greed in men and the jealousy in family.

"Then I must stand before him. How I had hoped and prayed that it would not come to this."

He turned back to one of his disciples. "Have everyone inside the temple's walls, for I know not what my brother and his men would do to them. I will meet with Heru outside the gate."

The robed man hurried off at once. Y'Qar gazed to the horizon and saw a few lonely shadows in the golden morning's sun. They were small figures, following the stream below. It would be perhaps two hours before they trekked up the hill and were upon the small temple at the end of the world.

Y'Qar sat upon the rocky soil and meditated.

From the river gully below, it was a slow trek up a winding dirt path. At the end was a small stone complex, placed strategically atop the highest hill in the area such that one could look down and witness all approaches. Fittingly, it was reminiscent of a crow's nest.

Though it felt like an eternity for the men as they climbed upwards and steeled their resolve, eventually that afternoon they crested the hill. Beyond that was only a short path, and at its end was a lone man sitting before the temple's great door. Upon his lap was a staff that shone with the glory of a thousand jewels and suns. It was Y'Qar and his stolen prize.

"Though you have followed me to the end of the world and I would trade your companionship for nothing, you must stand back. As he is alone, I face him alone; for I know not what my brother and his men would do to you."

There was a soft murmur of agreement; the very sight of the King's Law plunged icy daggers of fear into the mens' hearts, for they knew of its power. Only one of the purest soul and royal bloodline was exempt from the staff's sacred magic, so only Heru dared face his brother who wielded the scepter.

Their swords already drawn, they advanced forwards with Heru a good ways ahead of his fellows. Y'Qar remained stoic as a statue, eyes closed and as peaceful as death. In contrast, from the windows of the temple their peered timid faces.

Only when Heru was a mere ten yards away did Y'Qar rise.

"Y'Qar, I-"

"Brother, you have come to here to the last hearth, the end of civilization and the edge of the world. There can be only one reason that would drive you this far, so I know your purpose. How I had hoped and prayed that this journey would be too arduous for you."

"No suffering is too great if it is taken in the name of god, kingdom, family, and duty. My cause is righteous! You should have known that there was no place far enough to escape from your crime."

Y'Qar softly laughed.

"You still think yourself just when the King's Law chose me? It flew all this way to me, of its own volition, so there can be no doubt of its choice. You think yourself wiser or more fit to judge than this staff and the Master? You think yourself righteous when you go to the end of the world to steal from your own brother? I prayed that you would never come not because I feared you, but because I know you too well. I knew that you wou-"

"Enough! You a blasphemous thief that wielded black magic against your father's kingdom in some ill attempt to seize power, and here with the Master to witness, you dare preach to be in the right. How could you be the one that the staff chose? You, who has never known anything but envy and contempt, who abandoned his own people, and who would cower in the wilds with the King's Law whilst Vetros is left exposed to the vultures and barbarians?

By the order of mine father the Priest-King and the sacred charge of God, I demand thee surrender the King's Law!"

A soft scowl crept onto Y'Qar's face. The hatred in Heru's eyes, too, was echoed. "Never," he whispered.

With a roar, Heru charged forward with a scimitar in each hand.

"Winds!" Y'Qar pointed forward, and at his command unseen windjinn surged forwards and created a gale the likes of which were seen in only the most horrific of hurricanes. It slammed into Heru, breaking charge in an instant and sending him tumbling backwards. But he drove his curved blades into the ground, and gripping them to stabilize himself, he rose to his feet and slowly pressed forward even in the face of that mighty wind.

Y'Qar watched his brother struggle forward, exhausted step by step, for a long minute. When he had made it nearly back to where he had been at first, Y'Qar threw a hand forward and battered his brother back onto the ground with another gust of wind. The gales then finally died down, the windjinn having exhausted their strength.

Heru still had not given up. Ragged and covered in dirt from having been thrown to the ground, he nonetheless charged forward with fury in his eyes.

This time Heru called upon water. From an aquifer far below the parched soil, water emerged and near instantly turned the dirt path beneath Heru's feet into a pool of mud. Submerged down to his waist, Heru nonetheless kept on, half trudging and half swimming. Y'Qar commanded the water back to the depths and left his brother suddenly stuck in hardened dirt from the ribs down.

He then walked towards his trapped brother.

"Are you blind to the truth, or just in denial? Do you not see how your efforts are in vain? You may have been better than me, once upon a time, but you will never surpass me now! You are the finest swordsman in the Firewind, but that means nothing here! When will you give up, brother?"

Y'Qar was now so close that Heru was quite literally in his brother's shadow. With a howl, Heru broke one of his arms free from the dried earth and swung at his brother's waist. With a start, Y'Qar blocked the wild swing with the King's Law; the bronze scimitar bent when it struck the golden scepter, but the King's Law was not even scratched.

Overcome by a second wind brought forth by anger, Heru scrambled halfway out of his earthen prison and used swiped again at Y'Qar, this time aiming for the ankles. The exile jumped back in time to avoid the attack, and before Heru could fully break free he called upon the power of earth.

A great hand of stone erupted from the ground and closed around Heru's torso, holding his triumphantly three yards above the ground. The prince flailed helplessly, utter trapped in that grip of stone; each finger of the mighty hand was as wide as one of his arms.

At that point, some of Heru's more fiery bodyguards ignored their prince's earlier command and charged forward to their prince's aid. "No!" Dorias shouted as he grabbed at one and pulled him back, but for the others it was too late.

Y'Qar's eyes shot to the swordsmen charging forwards. "You dare bear those arms against me here? You take up weapon against your rightful prince and the one chosen by the staff?!"

They ignored his enraged shouting and run forwards, almost upon him.


A rain of blood droplets fell upon Heru, even as he was suspended ten feet in the air. He twisted his neck to look back, then recoiled in horror and fear; Y'Qar had merely raised the King's Law and in an instant six great spikes of stone had erupted from the ground and impaled the six soldiers that had come forwards. They had all died in the time that it would have taken to blink.

"Yes, look at them, brother," Y'Qar whispered. "Look at what you have done! They were good men, our countrymen! They had families and they had lives, and look at them now. You brought them here to their deaths. They died because of your greed, your envy, and your hatred. You killed them all."

Heru looked back to his brother. "No, you mad fool...you killed them. You are no brother of mine! You're nothing!"

"And you're no kin of mine either! So if I am nothing, what does make you, you helpless, useless, wretched fool? You, who would bear sword against your own brother even as he tries to spare your life and turn you away? Perhaps it is best if I strike you down now; Vetros deserves better than your ilk!"

Seizing upon the distraction, Dorias had crept forward. In Y'Qar's ultimate moment of vulnerability, Heru's cousin and best warrior made his move. He threw a bronze dagger that whistled through the air as it spun, and as Y'Qar turned to face the sound it buried itself into his abdomen. He clutched his bleeding stomach and fell to the ground heaving.

The great hand of stone that held Heru in its grasp suddenly became nought but sand and gravel. The prince fell back to ground with some semblance of dignity, landing upon his feet mostly intact. But he was already wounded and battered enough.

Sensing Heru's fatigue, it was Dorias who stepped forward to claim what they had come for. "And you too, cousin?" the other prince choked. Dorias spat down beside the one who had slain six of his men, then wrenched the King's Law from Y'Qar's weakened grasp. "No! No...!" the prince tried to yell, but his lungs lacked the strength and his words devolved into coughs of blood.

Dragging Heru to his feet, with one hand Dorias carried his prince and in the other he held the King's Law. Without a moment of further hesitation, they all fled back to the lands from which they had come.

As in for Y'Qar, from the moment that he fell all chaos was unleashed. The djinn bound to him and his disciples alike panicked and flocked to him, trying to save his life. It was many days before his peoples' bandages and the healing waters of the local djinn saw him to a full recovery, but in that time he had little to do but brood. And brood he did: how he hated Heru and ruminated over every memory, swearing that he would have vengeance for each and every one of the countless slights (be they real or imagined!) inflicted by his brother's hand. And there would be vengeance against Dorias, too!

Y'Qar had been prepared for Heru, had known what to expect from his brother. But Dorias, his younger cousin, had never shown him anything but warmth. For what reason had his cousin betrayed him? It mattered not, in the end; they were all nought but dust now. He was alone, or soon enough would be, for all of his kindred died in his heart that day.

They ran all the way back to the desert, fearing vengeance at the hands of Y'Qar's followers or the djinn that he commanded. But no such retribution ever came; Zephyrion's protective hand was over them. That was how they knew that they had been right.

Still, with every fleet footstep an increasingly exhausted Heru dreaded his arrival back in Vetros. They would expect a triumphant parade of some sort, no doubt. But this had barely been a victory; he had lost his brother. Or perhaps Y'Qar that he knew had died long ago. Either way, he prayed that there would be no parade, that he would be able to return quietly and mourn with his father in peace.

But unfortunately, his prayer was answered. As they neared Vetros, there were embers and smoke upon the wind that boded horribly; for though the desert was called the Firewind, its burning winds were always pure and never tainted by any smell like smoke.

He feared for the worst; perhaps in the mere weeks that they had been gone, a great host of Horse People had amassed in the steppes and stormed through the hinterlands to sack Vetros. But what terrible times were these? Never had the heretic Rukbans been so bold before!

It turned out that that there was something worse than the worst. There were no Rukbans to be seen in the streets or around the city; only screaming and fleeing Vetruvians, some of whom were aflame. Ashes choked the Mahd river, for the shipyard was burning with a particularly intense fury as the epicenter of the sky's fiery wrath. In the center of the city the Great Temple that was also the Royal Palace had caught aflame.

They were under attack from some unseen assailants in the sky, great gleaming winged figures that called down the fury of the sun. At first Heru was overcome by despair, thinking that this was the scourge of god, that perhaps Y'Qar had been right and this was a punishment sent by the Master himself. But then a strange thought entered his mind: none of the holy texts were djinn of that sort mentioned. These were demons, the vile spawn of Y'Vahn or some other monstrosity. The King's Law would punish them!

Heru was called a prince but in heart was only a man, a simple warrior. In truth, he had never been been possessed of any particular affinity for theology despite the attempts of his father and many priests; he could not remember all the stories of arcane history and the names of all the thousands of spiryts and various lesser gods, and his prayers were rarely answered, and even more rarely in the way that he had hoped them to be. So he knew not how to wield the King's Law, nor fully understood just what power he wielded against his enemies now. But he hurled all of it at them all the same.

He lifted the scepter and commanded the desert sands to strike down the unholy invaders.

The sands answered, and in the distance there was suddenly a sandstorm so mighty that it blocked the sun. It approached the city.

When the Realta witnessed divine retribution approaching with the speed of the wind, they turned their backs to it and began to flee the other way, towards the poisoned Mahd. Heru called upon the power of the djinn to smite the fleeing demons before they could escape justice.

He had expected a great djinni lord and his army to come forth as a righteous gale. But instead, over the horizon there loomed a grand palace of white built atop a field of clouds. The Master himself had come!

From the top of the Celestial Citadel there was a great storm the size of a village, with two crackling eyes of lightning. Heru beheld that sight, even from miles away, and finally understood what Primus had felt when he faced the Master. The Master himself raised a great hand and hurled a javelin of lightning. It raced from the horizon, covering miles in an instant even as it coiled and forked, and struck one of the Realta square in the chest. The raw power shattered the demon and sent its molten pieces raining down.

And then the Master hurled another lightning bolt. And another. And even as he raised his hands to smite those that dared assault his chosen people, the djinn flew through the air. They were legion. The Realta stood no chance against so many djinni lords, and in the heavens above there was a glorious massacre. Heru looked up and witnessed an entire patch of the sky tremble and oscillate as if it were a desert mirage, and then his eyes discerned the sound of a thousand thunderous booms. It was the great djinni lord of thunder, Mamoor!

He watched as Mamoor raced across the sky, his mere touch blasting apart the demons disintegrating their pieces into sand. By the time that the sandstorm neared the city, the Realta were all but destroyed; the sands engulfed the last few stragglers, and then the storm settled and died before so much as touching the city itself. With his people, who still streamed out of the burning city, Heru fell to the ground and wept.

The stormlords above wept too, once the short-lived battle was over, and their rain extinguished the flames and washed away the ash. The Celestial Citadel was born away upon the wind, off to deal with some sort of crystalline menace according to the diviners and priests.

Heru and the Vetruvians were left with their ruined city. When they found Akthanos' body, they wept once again. But then they crowned Heru as the new Priest-King, and under his rule they rebuilt. With time, their pride and their resolve came back as well.

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