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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Muttonhawk
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Muttonhawk Let Slip the Corgis of War

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Teknall reclined on the workbench which had been his operation table, inspecting the flask of softly glowing opaque red liquid in his hand. A pillow angled his head upwards slightly and provided a measure of comfort. The lustrous red potion simmered and the fumes burned Teknall’s nostrils with their spicy scent. Teknall hesitated for a few moments as he considered his choices.

After being restored to consciousness, Teknall had said he needed to rest. His daughters had also needed to rest, and they had found a spot to sleep. Ilunabar, having departed a while ago to attend to other matters, delegated a diva to bring bedding for Conata and Kinesis. Even injured as she was, Conata was characteristically difficult to convince to lie down -- that was up until her head touched the pillow and her consciousness blew out like a candle. Ilunabar had also wanted to get Teknall some bedding but he still struggled to move, so they settled for just a pillow.

Even in this state, Teknall did not sleep. Rather, he was healing. But even the nanomachines were not enough to treat all his wounds, for while they battled against Xos’ decay they had few resources left to reverse the existing tissue damage. So Teknall turned to alchemy, which he had used to treat very similar wounds for Vestec.

Most of the ingredients Teknall procured from his satchel. The Workshop’s robotic arms and Promethean Manipulators were quite capable of following the alchemical recipes, and Goliath was just as capable of crafting when guided by Teknall. The burn cream had been easy to make. Applying it had been more difficult, but they had managed. As for the red potion, Teknall had made the decision to use the other half of the essence of Violence he had collected, leaving a tiny amount only suitable for analysis. To enact the tempering ritual to make the essence fit for consumption, he had sent Ilunabar (who had sent one of her divas) to collect a rodent of exact specifications: one year old, born under the springtime noon sun, spotless and white, without scars. Goliath had performed the ritual on Teknall’s behalf, and the tempered essence of Violence had been incorporated into the potion.

Now Teknall held the potion above his face and contemplated the risks. If the tempering process had not gone perfectly, he would be ingesting another god’s raw ichor, which could be catastrophic in his weakened state. Even tempered, there was no certainty about the side-effects, besides the intense itching sensation the regeneration process would cause. Yet as Teknall took another breath, his diaphragm spasmed in pain, his lungs burned and he had to restrain himself from coughing. If he did not drink the potion, his recovery would be slow and painful, if he ever recovered at all. He could not afford to be bedridden for years.

Teknall glanced over to Goliath. If something goes wrong, you know what to do, Teknall said silently. He then looked back to the potion and drank it all in one swig.

The potion was sweet and spicy. The sweetness soothed, while the spice burned. The warmth from the spice then spread out through Teknall’s body, from the top of his head to the bottom of his toes. Wherever the potion went, flesh pulled itself together and tissue regenerated. And throughout this process, Teknall squirmed and writhed. Vestec’s wounds had been comparatively superficial, but for Teknall every part of his body prickled and itched torturously.

There was nothing Teknall could do besides wait it out. His adamantine hand gripped the side of the workbench tighter and tighter until the surface creaked and bent. His other hand clenched and unclenched in mid air. His head twisted from side to side while making pained expressions and his legs kicked and squirmed. All over Teknall’s body skin regrew, wounds closed and scars vanished. His flesh became full and firm. As the potion finished its work, Teknall took a deep breath in. A deep, refreshing breath uninterrupted by scarred lungs.

Teknall let out a whoop. “Okay! Let’s go!” he declared. He rolled over to get out off his bench. Yet his legs were not as responsive as he remembered them to be. He fell to the floor, comically slowly under the Workshop’s low gravity, and landed face first with a dull thump.

He exhaled a dejected sigh and lay there. Goliath stepped up and helped him to his feet. His stance was still unsteady, although the low gravity helped him avoid falling again.

"Are you okay, father?" Conata revealed herself leaning around an idle furnace, looking a dull copper and curious. "Mother said you would need a long time to heal." She said as she stepped out and towards Teknall, revealing a white fabric sling to hold her heavily-bandaged arm and shoulder and wearing a new outfit with a shine to it. "I don't know if it's a good idea to..."

Conata trailed off when she noticed the conspicuous absence of Teknall's wounds.

The pause gave Teknall time to recognise Conata's new clothing as a diva's handiwork. The lustre of its deep royal blue at first struck the eye as a kind of satin, inlaid with bright bronze embroideries of four-pointed stars evenly spaced upon the shirt and leggings. A cute pleated skirt going down to Conata's knees was highlighted at its hem with the same bronze, though her character was maintained by a small, heavy apron of the same shining weave down her front, similar to any garb she preferred. The apron did not look practical in design, true, but Conata had already fashioned a style-breaking belt for herself out of brass to secure it. All the same, the true practicality of the clothing stood out in the material: pure, nigh-unmeltable tungsten thread. Nearly pure, if it weren't for the lovely colours Ilunabar ensured.

"How did you…?"

Teknall looked down at himself, then back to Conata. “I brewed up something to speed up the healing process. I’ve treated similar wounds before. But it’s good that you’re up now. I want to make things, and you can help.” Teknall’s natural eye had burning determination behind it. He took a few steps forwards before he tilted precariously and had to be steadied by Goliath’s hand. He grunted. “First things first, something to support myself.”

Teknall hobbled over to a workbench with Goliath holding him upright. Various tools were brought over, including a lathe. A tree branch was also brought over, and Teknall began the task of carving the branch into a wooden rod.

Conata scurried up beside him. "So...how are you feeling? What happened?" She glanced at the dust flying from the lathe. "Is the thing that hurt you still out there?"

Teknall was quiet for a few moments as he continued to shave away at the wood, although there was palpable tension in each movement. “Not long ago, Zephyrion, god of the elementals, had suffered some form of catastrophe, leaving a murderous shade in his place, along with the more benevolent wish-djinn you saw earlier,” Teknall eventually explained. “This shade, whose name is Xos to our best approximation, has killed one of my brothers and wounded four more gods. He or a proxy sent a band of wind elementals to capture Kinesis. I could not allow this, so when the defences set up by Ilunabar, Kinesis and myself eventually failed I intervened personally. Ha! Serves those wind-bags right for messing with the gods!” After that momentary outburst, Teknall became more sombre as he continued. “Of course, it was a trap. We knew it was a trap. Xos was trying to lure me out to where he could shoot me. Xos was stronger than me by far. Toun had also known of the trap, and if he had been there…” Teknall’s hands trembled in barely contained rage, although the task of carving forced him to steady himself. “But Xos was too fast. By the time Goliath got to the scene, Xos was gone and Toun and Ilunabar were left to pick up the pieces. You know the rest of the story.”

Conata looked at the red marks on the back of her hand. After all the commotion, Piena had confirmed that the porcelain god had indeed been Toun. Conata hesitated to respond. "...Why does Xos want to kill you and the gods?"

Teknall paused as he removed the wooden rod from the lathe. His grip around the rod tightened as his memory recalled what he knew of Xos. “He seeks to bring oblivion, ruination, retribution and death. He sees us as little more than bugs and himself as the true supreme being. As to why he targeted me, perhaps it is because of my affiliation with Zephyrion. Or perhaps it is because he took the Celestial Citadel which I had built, or because I had defended Galbar in the past, or maybe he suspected that I am conspiring against him. As to why he feels this way, I don’t know.”

Angsty after speaking, Teknall picked up a hand saw and started to shape the handle of the rod. “Now, to make something. Get me a sturdy hollow metal rod, about this size. High-carbon steel should do it. While you’re at it you may as well make the other components too.” As he finished speaking, one of the Workshop’s robotic arms brought over a freshly printed schematic.

Conata took the design and looked closely. It depicted several precisely machined components which would form a mechanism on one end of the hollow rod. Now with a measure more practice with such diagrams, Conata squinted her eyes. "Seems kind of complex for just making that thin bit poke in one end, but alright."

She strode over to the Elemental Siphon to gather the materials. It felt like cheating to have it all right there for casual use. She spoke as she mixed the steel. "I never heard of a god called Xos before today. If he could do that to you, and even kill another god, then..." She shuddered as magnesium broke out around her face and lower neck. "It's not really safe on Galbar, isn't it? All my friends. My family...Can we do anything about Xos?"

"You wouldn’t have heard of him. The elementals are the only mortals who know of him," Teknall said, finishing the stick’s wooden handle. "And we’re already doing something about Xos. Toun and I and a couple others have prepared a plot against him. Toun is probably tracking the shade down as we speak."

"Right," Conata sounded unsure as she drew the steel between her hands. "...Toun...sounded like he was just as concerned."

Conata was quiet for a moment as she slid together a mechanism of tiny springs and levers before fixing it to one end of her newly cooled steel pipe. She tugged on the largest small lever with one finger -- it made a satisfying click.

She handed the whole product to Teknall. "Can I ask what the plan is? For the plot against Xos?"

"I… cannot share any details. Collectively we are adequately equipped, though," Teknall said. He took the steel device from Conata’s hands and ran a finger along its length.

Conata turned her head to the other end of the workshop and her eyes lit up. "Heya, sleepyhead!"

At this point Kinesis walked into view. She had woken not long after Conata, but had been slower getting out of bed. "Morning Conata," she greeted with a smile. Then she looked to Teknall. "Father, you seem to have recovered remarkably."

"Indeed I have. Still struggle to balance, though," Teknall replied.

Kinesis then eyed the length of metal in Teknall’s hand. "Is that a…?"

"Yes, it is, although I don’t think Conata’s figured it out yet," Teknall said with a wink. "But it’s good you’re up now. Let me show you both a trick I saw someone else do not too long ago."

Teknall heated a few metal bands in a forge and brought them over to the walking stick and steel device. He laid out the walking stick and steel device parallel to each other, both having roughly the same length. Then he brought them together, but in a manner which defied physical reasoning. The wooden stick bloomed open along its axis to accommodate the steel rod, which Teknall affixed in place with the metal bands. Then Teknall rolled the object along the bench, and the object folded and unfolded along its axis with a strange twist, leaving just a wooden walking stick.

"There's no way..." Conata breathed.

Teknall picked up the walking stick with a manic glint in his eye. He walked a few steps supported by the stick, although his eyes were searching. "Now, for a target..." he muttered. Then his eyes found one. "Goliath!" he barked. The robot bounded away from the girls, over Teknall and to a patch of open floor some metres in front of Teknall. "Shields up!"

A mirror sheen surrounded the robot as Teknall lifted his walking stick. As the stick rose, it underwent a strange axial twisting-folding until it became the wooden-handled steel rod with a small lever right under Teknall’s finger. As it drew level, there was a clunk, followed by a deafening BANG! and a surprised shriek from Conata as she shielded her face with her arms.

Smoke and fire flashed out the end of the steel rod along with a half-dozen speeding pellets of lead, too fast to properly see. They ricocheted off Goliath’s mirror armour, denting metal or spraying up concrete dust where they struck in the Workshop.

Teknall let out a whoop, then hastily lowered the shotgun-walking stick (which turned back into a walking stick) to steady himself. "Yeah! That’s how it’s done!" he said, pumping a fist in the air.

Kinesis, meanwhile, was still poised with tension. She had tested and used firearms before, but this had been reckless. She had noticed other signs, too. "Father, you don’t seem to be yourself," Kinesis said.

The worry in his daughter’s voice seemed to sober Teknall up slightly. "Eh?" he said, then shut his mouth and furrowed his brow as he concentrated on his last few minutes of actions. "No, I haven’t been acting myself. I’m not sober," he explained. "I made a potion to drastically speed up the healing process. The central ingredient of this potion was essence of Violence, which is one quarter of Vestec. I had made an identical potion for Vestec when treating wounds he received from Xos - this arm you made me was also first designed for him. However, even though I had tempered the essence to not suffer any catastrophic effects, it appears I hadn’t completely removed its side effects. I should sober up in an hour or two."

Conata slowly straightened up. Spots of calcium faded from her temples and neck. "Isn't Vestec a...bad guy?" she asked.

"Well… yes, usually," Teknall said slowly, "But he’s more of a nuisance than an existential threat. I wouldn’t trust him or want him meddling with my stuff, but he’s still family. And he’s sometimes helpful."

"Huh." Conata quirked her head. Copper neutralised the look on her face. "I grew up knowing Toun and Vestec a lot differently." She held the red-inscribed back of her hand up to look at it again. "I'm starting to think I shouldn't have shouted at Toun."

"I wouldn’t worry about that," Teknall said, "Goliath relayed to me all that happened. Toun seemed to take it remarkably well. As for your mortal perspective of the gods, well, it is only natural. What you knew were the gods as pieces of culture, religion and history, not as family. Mortal institutions tend to filter and even distort how us gods are perceived." Especially when the gods who established said institutions were acting with ulterior motives, although Teknall decided to omit that part.

Teknall’s hand holding the walking stick fidgeted as he spoke. ”But enough banter. Goliath needs more weapons. Kinesis, start making some guns. Conata, I’ll show you how to forge adamantine.”

Conata's ambivalence was washed away in a flash of excited bronze. "Without burning down anything?!"

Teknall nodded. "Without burning down anything. At least, not uncontrollably."

"Yea-! Ow..." Conata clutched her slung shoulder right before she could jump for joy.

Teknall led Conata to a forge as Kinesis got to work elsewhere creating firearms. "The thing about adamantine is that it is extraordinarily resilient, even to most supernatural influences. But while you might not be able to magic it as easily as other metals, it still behaves like a metal in every other way, just a metal with superlative qualities," Teknall explained.

An ingot of adamantine was brought over along a conveyor belt, which Teknall picked up with a pair of tongs and placed in the forge. He then twisted a dial and the flames being channelled from the Stellar Engine into the forge intensified from a dull red to a white-hot inferno. Even Conata had to squint her eyes.

Teknall continued. "When you tried shaping adamantine before, you tried to manipulate it cold like any other metal. But unlike other metals, it resisted. It took you an enormous amount of energy to overcome this resistance directly, even with Helvana’s curse dampening the resistance. And afterwards, it reverted to its natural state and all that energy had to go somewhere, hence the explosions. But in between, when you had applied enough energy to break the resistance and were keeping that energy there, you could manipulate it as easily as any other metal."

"I guess." She twisted her mouth. "I did try to heat it, but it wasn't enough, apparently."

Teknall looked into the blinding light of the forge and said, "Okay, it should be ready now. Get it."

Conata made an uneasy glance towards her father. The metal tongs would have been hard to use with just one hand had she not the ability to will it into the forge, but when the metal quickly drooped like a wet stalk of grass and came out of the forge looking bright yellow and sulking, she sighed. She almost reached in with her own arm. The radiating heat made her think twice.

"You're saying I can move it around now? Like any other metal?" She asked.

"That’s what I’m asking you to do," Teknall said.

Conata rolled her wrist and grew determined, skin turning iron. She half-reached with her hand and curled her fingers up.

"That's weird," she remarked with confusion. "Are you sure this isn't just more tungsten?"

On a whim, she brought the ingot out of the forge and into the open air. While it began as a white-hot ball of pure light, it quickly hissed and crackled before abruptly falling down. Conata jerked forward as if trying to catch it but the adamantine thudded upon the floor without a trace of its former compliance. However, even the bright light it gave off could not hide its distortion from its previous bar-shape. It had been distorted by Conata like a knobbly lump of clay.

Conata's senses did not lie to her. "Well that was easy." She let out a single, bewildered laugh. "To think how this stuff really bothered me back before I made my hammer."

Teknall simply nodded, then asked "Now, can you tell me why it was easy?"

Her copper face grew little lines of tin out on her cheeks. "Er..." She rubbed her fingers behind her head, making her hair wire hair lightly jangle. "I'm not so good with the words like you are. It's a feeling. Like when other metal ores get heated up...The word I've always used for as long as I can remember is 'awake.' It's like heat makes metal wake up. But the adamantine wasn't an ore beforehand." She gave Teknall an unsure look. "Is that it?"

There was a brief pause to let her reflect on her words. Conata's cheeks pitted with magnesium.

"Yes, that is an adequate description. Teknall answered, "The tricky part is that the adamantine needs to be heated naturally until it is awakened. My Workshop uses starfire for that, but on Galbar you’ll need to get creative. You could try heating a tungsten sheath. Although once you have awakened the adamantine, you can keep it hot by your normal means."

Conata's slowly nodded. Her mind already ran with ideas as she turned her eyes away.

The corners of Teknall’s mouth twitched. Teknall turned down the furnace then walked up to the adamantine ingot. He bent over stiffly and picked up the still-hot piece of adamantine with his adamantine arm. A couple of steps brought him within reach of the furnace, where he deposited the metal and turned the furnace back up. "Now, make a weapon for Goliath," Teknall said, almost commanded.

"Huh? Oh! Sure." Conata snapped to attention and brought her good arm up. She drew out the adamantine with her tongue poking out of the corner of her mouth. She was much more careful with this than anything else she had smithed, whether it was necessary or not. "But what should I make?" she murmured to herself. "I could make an axe or a pick or a sword...but he's already got those...Hmm, maybe..."

Closing her eyes, Conata wordlessly made gestures with her unslung arm. It took her some time to shape whatever she intended to make. The light of the furnace made the weapon impossible to see -- Teknall worked it out by godly senses alone. The ingot was drawn into short rods capped with rings that linked them all together in a chain. The final rod only had one ring to link it, the other end being capped by a spike that sported barbs that hinged open.

"I heard the fishermen near Alefpria attach ropes to the ends of lances and stick them in big sea creatures to try and kill them," Conata explained. She finished her movements and looked up at her father. "Maybe Goliath could use this if he doesn't want something to get away?"

Teknall’s eyes lit up on seeing Conata’s creation. Goliath reached forwards and picked up the weapon and gave it an experimental heft. "How wonderfully creative," Teknall remarked. "Yes, that will be very useful. Now..." Teknall nodded to the Elemental Siphon, and a stream of adamantine powder poured out and along a channel towards the furnace where they were working. "Make more weapons."

Conata beamed and shone in polished bronze. "Can do!" she said enthusiastically.

Setting to work, Conata went about shaping with free reign. All sorts of creations came out of the furnace, from blades and spikes, to strange claws and projectiles. Many of the designs were impractical and discarded to be reshaped once Conata had Goliath tested them, but her spirits never wavered. She took a joy out of iterating on her ideas that was all too familiar to her father.

Kinesis too had been developing weaponry at her father’s behest, adapting blueprints used by the Prometheans to be integrated into Goliath. However, it soon became apparent that the manufacture of guns and missiles could be left to the Workshop and its mechanical workforce, so Kinesis joined her sister to better integrate their ideas. Conata’s harpoon received a mechanical launcher, and many other designs were brought to fruition by their combined talents.

The two girls leveraged the resources available to them and pooled their prodigious creativity to fulfil their father’s request. In the end, Goliath was equipped to at once serve the role of a small phalanx, a siege engine, a beast killer, an unstoppable plow through formations or just about anything Conata and Kinesis could fathom.

Teknall watched all this with intent interest. He was practically giddy from all the weapons being made and the possibilities they represented (although this, he reasoned, was an effect of the potion) and he was immensely proud of what the girls were achieving. Yet, while they toiled, he had another task to work on. His maul had been damaged in his fight with Xos and needed to be repaired.

Teknall’s weapons had been unceremoniously dumped beside a stack of spare machinery. Goliath took a moment to carry all of them to a workbench for Teknall to inspect. The railgun and Shard Conduit were undamaged, having endured the blasts in the fight. Of the three objects, only Teknall’s maul was damaged, for it had been in direct contact with Xos’ essence. The impression of Xos’ face had been etched into the maul’s head, the adamantine cracked and flaking.

Conveniently, repairing the effects of Xos’ decay on the maul was a simple affair compared to the ordeal Teknall had gone through. A plasma torch ablated away the corrupted portions of the maul. Teknall then affixed a square mold around the damaged head and poured out fresh, molten adamantine into that mold, replacing the metal which had been lost. Teknall massaged the heat and metal as the adamantine cooled such that it would form a seamless bond.

Repairs complete, Teknall stared at the maul pensively. He tried to lift it, but what had previously been effortless was now beyond his abilities. He could hardly balance while holding it, let alone wield it effectively. Teknall sighed. He bowed his head and stepped to the side with his cane as Goliath came over and claimed the weapons for its own arsenal. Only the Shard Conduit and his new walking stick were left to Teknall.

As Kinesis and Conata continued their work, Teknall went to produce his own additions to Goliath. If Goliath was to replace him in combat, it could do with some divine enhancements. Teknall produced modules implementing divine commands, blending electromechanical components with reality-altering calligraphy and infusing it with godly will. He then opened up Goliath and installed the modules.

The modules had three effects. They provided extradimensional space for Goliath to store its new arsenal. They granted Goliath the power to teleport, expending energy to ‘blink’ from one location to another. And they allowed Goliath to control its inertia, so it could be unmoving against massive forces or to ignore relative momentum when teleporting. With these additions Goliath was almost as powerful as Teknall had once been, at least with regards to physical prowess.

It had taken several hours, but eventually the additions to Goliath were completed. Teknall had sobered noticeably from the potion’s effects and was back to his normal demeanour. He walked up between Kinesis and Conata and hugged them around their waists (for he was considerably shorter than both his daughters in his current goblinoid form). "My daughters, I cannot thank you enough. Your ingenuity knows no bounds. As for your work with Goliath..." Teknall nodded to the towering robot. There was a flicker of shadow as a black rift appeared for a split second to swallow Goliath, then it was gone. "It shall help keep the people of Galbar safe from the threats the less considerate of my siblings produce."

"I'd like to see them try." Conata grinned and pumped a fist. "Goliath's unstoppable! I bet Aeramen would be jealous." She squatted down to properly hug Teknall, turning silver. "Thanks for helping me, father, sister."

"I’m always happy to help you, daughter," Teknall said.

The silver's polish faded on Conata's skin, growing somewhat rough. "I should probably let my friends know where I am. I've been here a while, haven't I? I think I lost track of time."

Teknall’s chest sunk. "You have been gone a while. Although, if you would entertain me a little longer, there is one more thing you can help me with."

"I guess it can't hurt..." She rose to her feet and pulled at one of the short sleeves of her dress.

Teknall hobbled towards the workbench where Kinesis and Conata had done their experiments in producing the nanomachines. He reached out a hand and rifled through a few of the sketches. "These nanomachines you made for me, incredible though they are, don’t last forever. Not when they are contending with a divine aura of decay. Your performance producing the machines was impressive and rapid, but unsustainable. Long-term management of my decay will require automated production of the nanomachines."

Conata lifted her brow, remembering something. "Hey...Kinny, didn't you mention something about making a grid to make the machines on?"

Teknall looked over to Kinesis. "What were your ideas?"

Despite having advocated for automating production from the beginning, she seemed slightly surprised by the directness of the question. "Oh, well, I figured electron beam lithography and photo-dye stencilling would be good methods, along with some chemical vapour deposition to build up the metal layers. It would need some lateral thinking to get these methods to work for full three dimensions, and getting the self-assembly to arrange the parts correctly would also be a challenge."

Teknall’s brow furrowed in thought. "Hmm." Although he did not say it, Teknall did not appear satisfied with the solution.

Conata tweaked two strands of her hair together. She went copper, looking as though she only understood half of what was said. Still, she had an idea. "When we designed the nanomachines, we had to start with the really basic parts that only did one thing each. Can you make flat nanomachines whose purpose is just to shift other nanomachines upright while making them? You could do it. The forces like to arrange themselves in three dimensional shapes if you form them together correctly."

"That could work," Kinesis said, "We could build nanomachines to manufacture more nanomachines. They’re probably the only method which gives adequate production rate and manufacturing precision."

Teknall drummed his fingers on the workbench, then stopped. "Not the only method," he said. Teknall straightened up and slowly started walking to another part of the Workshop. "Your nanomachines are incredible, wondrous, marvellous, but better can be done, not by machine, but by life. Before the beginning I told Slough to make sure life thrives in this Universe. I told her not to settle for bare survival, but to make life a wonder to behold, a wonder to challenge the work of even the best artisans. And she did that. Her creations are wondrously complex down to the microscopic level of order and beyond, their superiority unattainable and inimitable by any artifice."

Conata had her head quirked and one eye squinted for most of Teknall's explanation. Finally, she cut through to ask. "Who's Slough?"

Kinesis looked to her sister in surprise and asked, "You don’t know?".

Teknall shook his head. "No, she wouldn’t. Slough isn’t worshipped by the Rovaick." He looked back to Conata. "Slough is the goddess responsible for life itself. All organic life, besides some creatures made by Jvan-" Kinesis shuddered slightly. "-contains Slough’s designs. They are the designs I plan to leverage."

Teknall turned around and continued walking. "Living organisms have microscopic components which break down, transmute and rebuild matter into new forms, at an incredible rate and with astonishing ease. These microscopic components are readily made by living organisms. The variety of shapes and compositions they can produce are almost limitless. The challenge is to get these components to produce what you want." Teknall finally made it to a set of vats near the primary chemical refinery. He climbed a small step ladder and lifted the lid on one of the vats. Inside was a soup of grey flesh. "This is arksynth, and it provides a potential solution to that challenge. It grants artisans a way to utilise the marvels associated with Slough’s organic life. With patience, lateral thinking and a large amount of luck, even mortals can make this synthetic flesh produce incredibly useful compounds. I believe I can use this to establish efficient mass production of the nanomachines."

Conata felt the tin creep up her neck in her embarrassment. She let out an uneasy laugh. "That sounds really interesting, but..." She lowered her head and turned her eyes to Kinesis, grinning tensely. "Do you know how all that works?"

Kinesis rubbed her hand on the back of her neck sheepishly. "Well, um, not really. Something to do with chemicals."

"I don’t expect you to fully understand it. It is well outside your areas of expertise," Teknall said. He replaced the lid on the vat then hobbled down the steps towards the girls. "I can handle the rest from here myself. I shouldn’t occupy your time any further. Kinesis, I’m sure Ilunabar could do with some help cleaning up Pictaraika. Conata, I know you want to get back to your friends."

"I should," Conata said. "But, before that, is there a way we can see each other again?" Some flecks of rust blemished her cheeks. "I want to keep learning. And I want to be around mother and you both some more."

Teknall took Conata’s hand in his own and smiled warmly. "I of course intend for us to meet again. We might have a proper family reunion some time, one not marred by near-tragedy. And I’ll drop by from time to time. But, if you ever need to talk to me, you can pray. I’ll be listening when you do."

Conata blinked and smiled. The rust disappeared as she knelt down to hug Teknall one more time. "Thank you." She stood up and embraced Kinesis as well. "You should come visit some time, sis. I'll show you all the best places in Alefpria."

Excitement sparked in Kinesis’ eyes. "Alefpria? I’ve always wanted to go to Alefpria! Father, can I go?"

"You’ve never needed my permission to travel, Kinesis," Teknall said.

Kinesis bent down and wrapped her arms around Teknall in a big hug. "Thank you, father." She stood back up and grabbed Conata’s uninjured hand. "Come on, sister, let’s go!"

Teknall waved a hand and a black rift appeared beside the girls. "Have a good time, girls. And remember to watch your step on the way out."

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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)

32.25 Might & 1 Free Points

Teknall watched as his daughters departed, then was alone with his thoughts and the hums and clanks of the Workshop. He looked around and considered what he would do next. The vats of arksynth in front of him were where his experiments in developing a manufacturing process for the nanomachines would start. The Stellar Engine core above him was due for an upgrade to enhance its storage capacity. The Promethean Manipulators around him were a reminder to check up on the Prometheans and see if they needed any help in advancing. The scouting drone mainframe reminded him of Tauga and how he should check in on her. The leftover weapons from his daughters' experiments signalled in his mind that there were other threats on Galbar to be dealt with. And the ruined remains of Teknall's Mirror Armour...

Teknall hobbled towards the warped and torn plates of adamantine, partially lined with charred god-flesh. This armour, together with energy stored in the Stellar Engine, had shielded him from the direct blast of the Primordial Spark for a couple of seconds. That gambit had proven futile in preserving his own life, for he could not escape Xos' clutch, the Spark eventually overwhelmed the shields and help did not come in those few seconds. But for those moments he had seen with clarity the Primordial Spark in action.

He needed to speak with Toun.

Teknall had synchronised memories with Goliath, so he knew that Toun had departed to fulfil the favour he owed Aihtiraq. What that favour was or how long it would have taken, Teknall had no idea, but it was likely that Toun had finished that task and had resumed hunting Xos.

Teknall reached out to Toun with a message. Toun, can we speak?

Teknall!? The answer was uncharacteristically flustered but levelled out quickly. You are awake. Good. Your children performed as needed. I have the trail of the shade. Be swift or leave me to find it.

Teknall hesitated. He had hoped for a better reunion with his brother, but he could tell Toun would not tolerate any idle pleasantries at this time. I saw Xos' weapon in operation and can design a countermeasure. I'll deliver it when finished.

I cannot halt to wait for another tool, Teknall, Toun responded quickly and coolly. This will end whether you finish your countermeasure within time or without. See to it your delivery makes a difference.

Noted, Teknall replied.

Time was short. There was no shaking Toun from his quarry now. Enough time had been wasted already, so Teknall was fortunate that Toun had not already fought Xos. Perhaps Aihtiraq's favour had contributed to that delay, although Teknall could not say for sure. But if Teknall did not want to be late as Toun had been, he had to move quickly.

Teknall waved a hand and the Workshop's manufacturing lines came to life. The Workshop began producing satellites, similar to those the Prometheans had made, except with a few modifications and optimisations. These satellites would be deployed around Galbar and the solar system. They were connected to the scouting drone network and equipped with an array of sensors. While they would serve as standard spy satellites, they would also tell Teknall if any major outbursts of divine energy occurred, which would in turn indicate the location of Xos and the Primordial Spark when that battle broke out. Given Teknall's active involvement in protecting Galbar, this intelligence network was long-overdue.

As the manufacturing lines continued their work, Teknall stretched out his hand and the Shard Conduit appeared in it. Then he nodded and an inky black rift appeared in front of him, which Teknall stepped through.

He stumbled as a wave of nausea overtook him. His walking stick slipped, his balance gave out and he fell upon the barren surface of an airless planet. Teknall held back retches for several seconds before the worst of the sensation passed. Stomach still queasy, Teknall slowly crawled back to his feet, brushing dust off his face and muttering, "Right, gut was wounded too..."

Teknall looked up at the dark sky of stars above him. Among those stars, not too far away by stellar standards, was Galbar's sun. Teknall had chosen somewhere outside the Galbaric solar system because it should be far enough away from Xos and other prying eyes to be safe. He was grateful that he did not choose somewhere further away, otherwise the journey back to Galbar may have been unbearable.

Once Teknall had recovered fully, he looked at the ground beneath him. A thin layer of coarse dust lay across a vast expanse of bedrock. Teknall struck the ground once with his cane and with a dazzling pulse of golden divinity the regolith for kilometres around blew away from him, leaving only bare bedrock. Teknall struck a second time, and the exposed bedrock became perfectly smooth, a blank canvas for his coming creation. Then Teknall jerkily knelt down on the stone. He pressed one hand directly against the bedrock. In the palm of his other hand he held starburst shape the Shard Conduit, which he pressed into the ground. Then he closed his eyes and concentrated.

He had witnessed the Primordial Spark first-hand. He knew how it worked, since identifying the functioning of objects was one of his specialties. Its operation was tied to the Mechanism of Change, that plane of primal entropic energy which Zephyrion had breathed into the Universal Blueprint. It was not a direct portal to the Mechanism of Change, but it did draw from its vast power. That energy was then manipulated by Xos to be a force for destruction. It was a bottomless well of energy siphoned from the inner workings of the Universe.

While Teknall could attempt all manner of manipulations on the Spark, up to and including cutting it off from the Mechanism of Change and effectively destroying it, any such efforts would require personal possession of the Spark. The next-best countermeasure would be to block the bursts of energy Xos produced from the Primordial Spark. A brute-force approach was possible, pouring more energy into a barrier than the Spark could produce as Logos had done with his armour (according to the description he had received), but inefficient, especially since Teknall knew the nature of what was to be blocked.

As Teknall thought and designed, lines of glowing energy streamed out of the Shard Conduit and etched their way through the bedrock Teknall knelt upon, tracing symbols and patterns not unlike those in the Universal Blueprint. The Primordial Spark relied upon some of the underlying mechanisms of the Universe, so Teknall would also borrow from the Universe which he had helped design. He had designed the barriers between the Gap and Reality, barriers which had to withstand things much more terrible than the Primordial Spark, so he could use that as the base of his design. Kyre had blessed the Universal Blueprint with resilience, so Teknall borrowed from that resilience to make his creation able to withstand the fiercest blows. Niciel had blessed the Universal Blueprint with a bit of purity, so Teknall allowed his creation to share that purity so it would not be subverted from its design.

Teknall wrote these things with glowing lines in the bedrock using the language of the Codex of Creation. He also formed vast tracts of interconnected calligraphy and runes which specified the functioning of his creation. He took great care in each and every symbol, for it was a complex thing he was creating that could not afford to have any weak points. He granted it topological protection to resist localised breaches. He coded in regenerative energy feedback so its protective qualities would scale with the strength of what it was blocking. He implemented self-rejuvenation so it could recover from damage. And he implemented many other details and modules which would maximise its effectiveness against the Primordial Spark.

After what had felt like a long time, Teknall finished writing his creation in the stone. He checked it over again, then a third time, trying to find any flaws or further optimisations, but there were none. It was time to complete it.

Unimaginable amounts of power surged through the Shard Conduit, and every line and symbol Teknall had traced in the bedrock flared with brilliant golden light. The stone melted and crystallised under the flood of divine energy, the light bright enough to sear the words and runes into the fabric of space itself. The stone plain was washed out by the dazzling radiance.

Then, suddenly, the blinding white light gave way to a more subdued blue glow, uniformly coating the ground on which Teknall knelt. Teknall opened his eyes and looked around him. The ground was coated in a light blue barrier of opaque energy, slowly fading to translucence as the initial burst of energy faded. A smile crept onto his lips as he slowly returned to his feet.

Teknall raised his free hand, and in an instant the barrier curled up into a sphere around him. A slight lift had the bubble rise above the ground, carrying him with it. He then lowered himself and the bubble back to the ground, and with a twist of his wrist the barrier unfurled into a vast flat sheet above him. Tilting his hand rotated the plane so that it stood as a vast wall in front of him, and a turn of his hand curled the barrier around so it formed a tall ring surrounding him. Then he closed his hand, and it shrunk into a disc in front of him only a metre in diameter.

It had worked. Teknall let out a laugh, almost intoxicated by the power. He had single-handedly created a construct of immense strength, not from metal or stone or flesh but from warped space and interwoven rules of reality. The Hyperspatial Barrier, he would call it.

The disc floated down to hover parallel to the ground in front of Teknall. He stepped upon it, crouched down, then braced himself as he teleported from that distant planet to orbit around Galbar.

Teknall's stomach twisted and he retched and gagged on arrival. He was grateful that he had not eaten or drunk anything recently. He soon recovered and looked around him, checking for any nearby gods and finding none. The planet Galbar stretched out far below him. In a blink, Goliath appeared beside Teknall.

Teknall gently pushed off the blue disc. The disc then floated from Teknall to Goliath. Take this, and give it to Toun. If he is engaging with Xos, deploy the Hyperspatial Barrier, but do not engage yourself. The disc merged into Goliath's armour and the robot's shields took a blue hue. Then Goliath departed, trailing a stream of incandescent plasma from its rocket jets.

Still floating in orbit, Teknall reached out a hand and a black rift opened beside him. Out from that rift came the satellites which the Workshop had been manufacturing. Rocket engines flared to life to move the satellites into their allocated orbits around Galbar and beyond, where they could watch for any major events.

Teknall took one last look around him. "Should have left me alone, shade," Teknall snarled quietly. Then he floated through the rift which closed behind him.

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Hidden 20 days ago Post by Double Capybara
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Double Capybara Thank you for releasing me

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TSOTI 7 (Final) (64 PR to 73PR)

It didn’t take long for everyone to realize Mavadzugji was back. Of course, Dzora and Batsami were the first ones to find him, the Manyadjir hugging her friend.

“It has been so long! It feels like an eternity since we last saw you!” the girl confessed. “Gods! Things have been so intense over here that I feel like you were gone for ages!”

”I felt the same, in all honesty, I have discovered so many things it seems hard to believe such little time has passed since I have last been here. It feels like I travelled in time and am seeing old friends.”

Of course, upon looking up and down at the young woman, he had to bring up the elephant in the room. ”That… is a lot of silver, eh? Something happened?” with the generous donations of all those who were interested in his writings, Batsami had climbed up the social ladder considerably, her dress full of true silver accessories denounced that.

“This dress was a gift from Llapur.” she deflected. “Halele, you just arrived and is already judging me, I’d rather keep the memory I was constructing of someone nice!”

Dzora laughed, but looked at the side, Mavadzugji had grown into quite a celebrity over the course of one year, so it was best if they moved already. “Let’s go home, okay? You two can keep up with each other once we are in the privacy of our house. It should not take too long before your priest friends also come over.”

In the time he was away, a lot had changed, much of it was due to the influx of writings about foreign lands. The common spirit of unity among dusklanders grew stronger among the common folk, while the chieftains and elders of clans grew worried, many had also started to be more aware and worried about the situation of their people as a whole in comparison to the rest of the world. Written language was spreading fast, especially among the population of the larger towns and villages.

Batsami had been slowing down the process of releasing the new parchments, as production was hard and they were still ironing out how to make the whole thing faster, scribes worked faster on works they already knew, but after a few copies, they became irritated with doing it over and over, so she had created cycles of works and consulted with each of the six scribes Tsefo had to know what they would like to do next.

Another process stopping the release of new writings as soon as they arrived was the need of clay murals to represent each work. Mavadzugji wasn’t sure that was really a need, but Batsami had tried to add parchments without murals and many were ignored, most people learned to read as they tried to read these works, so a visual representation of it was welcomed. And the family Batsami had making the murals had become quite ambitious with their projects, in particular, the world map, based on Mavadzugji’s writings, was something that was taking a long time but was becoming quite majestic (even if largely inaccurate).

As such, all of his land studies had been taking a while to be distributed, so far only the one touching the harbour kingdoms and the hainlands had been released, but since the Tsefo priests had all read the writings, the whispers of what was in later works had been circulating wildly, and needless to say, Alefpria was a hot topic.

It felt too much like the tale of the man who had invited a cougar into his home to eat the rats, only to be eaten by it once the rodents were gone, but the apparition of this new popular foreign figure was a good hit on Elysian cults, eroding the strength they had within the dusklands. Llapur, in particular, had been excited for the release of the writings on Alefpria because of how good it could be in the tensions against the southern tribes.

Since both had a base in dusklander myths, the heavenly daughter and the earthly son, Mavadzugji expected to be able to tame the beast once they got tired of fighting one another. But that was for later, once he had a strong theory to support his ideas.

“Hmmm, what else, what else. Oh! Tura wrote a cookbook.” Batsami said, having run out of topics to update Mavadzugji on.

”A what?”

“Its a compilation of recipes from all the corners of the dusklands. She has been doing a lot of travelling, and in my opinion, is one of the best at organizing younger priests into doing observation work. She sent a bunch out to talk with distant villages or refugees and has collected recipes from all sides of the Dusklands, from the delta to the tsefo valley to the mountainlands.” saying that Batsami picked up it and then laughed “She is more worried about safekeeping the cultures of the duskland than you at times. I know it sounds impossible… I guess, she focuses more on individual cultures while you focus on a unifying common ground? If that makes sense… look, I don’t know, I am not a priest or a reader, just take the thing already.”

Mavadzugji nodded and picked it up, and immediately noticed it was not a scroll, but a bunch of sheets of paper one over the other and bound together. ”What is this?” he said in sheer confusion.

“Tura didn’t like how each recipe didn’t have proper separation in scrolls, so she kept playing around with types of paper, clue, leather, clay, wax, until, uh, she showed up with this. She is a bit of an erratic genius that one.”

”She is great at organizing things.” he noted, reading more of the texts before setting it aside. ”And Tsevami?”

“Just been doing poetry as of late, really vanished from the leading ranks of Tsefo, he doesn’t care much for all the politics and theoretical works.” she pointed at a scroll. “He did some amazing work teaching others how to read, though. Without his system we would have been done for.”

”Well, we shouldn’t force him to do things he doesn’t like.”

“But sometimes I feel like he wants to be more at the centre of it all and becomes frustrated when it isn’t the case.”

”Heh, it's cute to see you worrying so much about others, seems like the times as my Manyadjir has changed you a whole lot.” he said, playfully rubbing her head as if she was a child.

“You remember I can easily beat you down, right?” she puffed her cheeks. “Drop that.”

”But I am sincere, thank you Batsami, I could not have done this with you. Hopefully, I can ease your work schedule. How have things with Llapur been? It seems you have finally met him, and from what I got, you…”

She sighed. “Well, I taught him and other clan important people to read. I… got him to talk a bit with me, but I had no chance to be charming with a bunch of old men annoyed that they can’t figure out the squiggles on paper.” she then smirked. “But he will come around again, there is this girl, cute little one, red-ish hair but dusklander features, I think she is related to someone close to his cycle. I think some sort of bastard child? At first, he was a bit arrogant towards her, but he seems to want to train her. I was like, thinking of keeping her close.”

”Do you want to reword that? You are making it sound unethical…”

Batsami looked up and then widened her eyes. “Oh! Right! No! Like, she likes to read about other places, and I taught her how to figure out the language, I do like her, I mean, getting Llapur to visit more often is nice too, I guess… His brother will also come over to study, and that would bring Llapur over anyway, but, eh, I don’t like his brother, Tsilluhan, he is a bit on the weird side…”

The conversation was interrupted by Dzora arriving with a plate of juice and fried flour cakes. She brought a lot, as she expected more people to arrive soon, and she was right, it did not take long before many Tsefo priests were over to welcome back their unofficial leader.

”Tura, it is great to see you again, great work while I was away.” he bowed to her, and Tura bowed back. Hugs were a common greeting among dusklanders, but not between priests.

“Ah, glad you liked. But I feel like I have done little in comparison to what you have done. How do you write so much so fast!”

”I had one chance to write down all I was learning, and it was while I was in the abbey. I missed a whole lot of content, but I managed to do what I considered to be the most important.” he smiled. ”I still have things in my mind that I need to write down, but I will leave that for later, today, I want to see my friends and siblings in vocation.”

The conversation was pleasant and casual at first, but, it did not take long before the topic went back to the many questions the priests had had while reading the works of Mavadzugji. Some were silly, like if tiger-horses or ogres truly existed, where angels fell in the cosmology of the world and if they were related to the star-fire demons. Others, had implications the writer felt unsure if he could touch, but it seemed like they would not stop if he did not answer.

Mavadzugji’s approach to Alefpria continued the same, acknowledge the implications but imply uncertainty, he also added that some of the Harbours of the sunlands said Elysium had dandelion hair, so one could not assume themselves to be some lost tribe of some distant empire because of the distant empire… But they could question, why do the two divines have descriptions similar to theirs.

”Maybe one or the other, or both of them, perhaps neither.” was the answer of the priest to the question of human origin. There were facts known, that the sunlanders admitted other humans existed before they immigrated into the continent, that ruins similar to their building styles existed, that many writings described the god emperor similar to them, some even other gods, including the patron of mankind. The truth, he assumed, would be to cross those foreign legends with the core of what their own local tales told, the truth was hiding between the knowledge of the elders, someone needed to clear it.

It had become a consensus in the room, however, including even with Mavadzugji himself, that the people who lived in Mesathalassa before the arrival of the other people were likely related to the dusklanders. That seemed obvious with the little information they had on the topic. And this immediately set up an angry mood, as if they had been robbed of something they had never owned in the first place, however, the head priest would not have that, anger was not a good feeling to have inside one’s heart, and he didn’t want this kind of tension rising. He forced the topic to move, and slowly, the immediate thoughts of mythical ancestries faded for more mundane conversations.

“So, how was the food in the sunlands? Was it good?”

”They really like greasy things. They eat way too many meats of animals that are much heavier than fishes, I felt like vomiting after a while. They don’t really eat flour as much as us, they prefer to just fry cassava. They have coconuts but are not creative in their production. The wine, however, was great. The Hain’s rice is also pretty good, but very expensive. Carrots were a mixed bag, better in the coast than in the inland.”

“Huh, that is disappointing.” the priest who asked the question answered. “I had heard it was truly something good, it is a shame it is not.”

Taking the chance, another priest questioned. “I guess the tales sometimes are biased, are the villages truly that large in the sunlands?”

”Yes, absolutely, larger than anything you have ever seen if we are talking about the harbour towns in the coast.” he was simple and direct, they had to understand this, even if it was something a bit shocking, causing the whole room to fall in silence.

“And the buildings?” one asked, and before Mavadzugji could open his mouth other person was already questioning “Did you take any notes about Metalcrafting?” “Is their craftsmanship as advanced as we hear about?” among many others.

To everything, there was a time, and Mavadzugji first broke down the architecture, then started to address the individual questions, however, at one point, he realized his wording had a lot of power here, while it was true the nations of the sunlands had many techniques that had yet to break into the Dusklands, the gap was even larger when one took the distant nations into consideration, however, there were also things that the dusklanders did well… and things the dusklanders could do better, and one way to incentivize this was to pick something unique that they did and elevate it beyond.

”But all that aside, the best cloth is the sunland is still Dusklander textile. You’d also be impressed by how much they struggle with beekeeping, and use of wax over there is very sparse. I also found that glassmaking was in a weird situation, they know how to do it, but they don’t really care for aesthetics and variety, you don’t have multiple types of glass related to a region or another, unlike here.” in truth there were three major glass producing regions in the harbours, Lacesol, Mirny and Kivico, each was well known to focus on different objects, styles and colours, it was not a lie, however, that the dusklanders focused far more on variety and aesthetic usage.

The discussion lasted deep into the night, and then into the morning, but eventually, led by fatigue, the group dispersed. Mavadzugji had been left a bit shocked at just how intense it could get at moments, he planned to take a time to recollect his thoughts but had instead been flooded with countless questions and hard decisions as soon as he stepped into the land. More than the moment of arrival, it was the early morning next day that had the priest realizing just how much was on his back from now on.

Kadja Regjurnyarha arrived at the town not too long after Mavadzugji, but her presence, and the presence of the sunlander hunter with her, had had echoing effects that made a tangible change to how things were evolving. The priest’s wisdom was known and the Tsefo’s influence was acknowledged at the very least, but the mysterious dusklander born in the sunlands and the weird hunter she brought with her made it clear to all just the magnitude of the world outside and how much Mavadzugji had involved himself with.

The girl herself did not care much about politics and such, she just wanted to know the region, and to her, it all was very foreigner, very out of this world. Simply having a grandmother from the region did not attune her to it outside of maybe the vision, to her, the food was different from what she knew, the houses were far more closed off than she expected, the music was truly odd and many quirks of her village had no root in such culture. However, she made an effort to adapt, as foreigner and strange the Dusklands were, it was her homeland... Even if she did not feel at home. Where else could it be?

Mavadzugji was truly impressed she had brought the hunter with her, she was supposed to be in Mutaraka’s care from the moment they arrived, and the hunter was supposed to go back to his guild in Susah. Later developments along the week made it clear to him that perhaps the two had become quite friendly along the path. That was fine, albeit the priest found all the new talk they brought to be quite bothersome.

Not as bothersome, however, as the politics he would have to deal with despite his desire to focus entirely on his historical work.

The relationship between Dyetzu clan and Mavadzugji’s had always been a complicated one, the coalition of clans was positive towards his efforts, seeing it as the least problematic of the social changes the Duskland was undergoing, however, it was clearly the desire was for an ‘useful’ relationship instead of true devotion to the cause. The priest recognized they probably misjudged just how much was he proposed would change the way the Dusklanders would see the world and themselves, this was to his advantage, and from what Batsami told him, even Llapur’s own brother, Tsilluhan Dyetzu, seemed very interested in the Tsefo’s work, if not outright fully loyal to its ideas.

In return, however, there were dangers he should be aware of. Batsami was romantically interested in the chieftain of the Dyetzu clan, and it was obvious that getting to marry the Manyadjir of Tsefo would lead to some influence over the organization, however, that was also an understatement of Batsami’s loyalty to her friends. Nevertheless, it caused some complications with one of Mavadzugji’s closest allies… yet that was far from the only case of such trouble, it was clear Llapur desired not only surveillance but influence, countering Mavadzugji, to this purpose the figure of Tsevami was essential. The priest did not hide his love of luxuries and desire to be in the center of attention along with the likes of Mavadzugji, furthermore, he had always been friendly to the richer families and mastered the art of using beautiful words and strong imagery. So when the information that Tsevami was meeting with Llapur in secret was whispered, the priest knew that to be true, and feared it was not the only case, Llapur likely had been trying to influence every single possible internal rivalry within Tsefo, ready to try to tinker with the movement as soon as he felt their philosophical counter to Elysian thought had lost its use.

That was, perhaps, a bit too hopeful of his part, he was smart, but he was a man of war and politics, the world of strategies, and intrigues was a complicated one, but no wound or favor changed a man as much as history or philosophy could, and that was Llapur’s biggest strategic downfall, Mavadzugji thought, he was a man of clashing conflict, he could not see the underlying changes happening under his feet. As such, the priest decided to not ‘respond’ against his encroaching, but the accept it, to pull it in into the turmoil, this would be alien territory to the chieftain.

‘Order is able to manipulate time, the time between the sixty-second and the sixty-fourth years since the world was scarred by the fire of the stars felt eternal, each day was a new challenge and a new face, in comparison, once I was back at home and leading The Tsefo it felt like I could barely close my eye without a whole epoch going by.’

This was a comment Mavadzugji would make many times later in his life, and it was true that after returning home, his work turned into a far more monotonous one, and he did not mind that, at least initially. Far more important for him was to lead the priests into a more efficient way to collect the stories, forming what, in anachronistic terms, was a true supply chain of information, organized by him, Tura, Batsami and impressively enough, Mutaraka, who already used similar downstream ways of collecting information to keep track of the movements within his coalition of tribes.

As the collecting of culture continued, its character started to change in a significant manner, echoing the necessities of the Tsefo as a political organization. Simply put, not all agreed or supported with the Tsefo, Mavadzugji had learned no amount of kind words could lead to universal acceptance, and, much to his dismay, it became clear the group needed leverage to use against the most stubborn aspects of Dzanya society.

“I say, we just ignore them,” Batsami told, in a surprising admission of defeat, or so others thoughts.

“I cannot accept to just leave parts of our story untouched…”

“Oh… We don’t need to!” a smile suddenly showed the woman had other thoughts, hand going up to adjust her delicate hat before she continued her speech. “Others might be willing to tell their history for us, to say, if one clan refuses to tell us their tale, no problem, we ask their neighbors, I am sure they would love to share what they know.”

There was a sound of realization in the room, Mavadzugji rubbing his forehead, initially, he did not want to cover the more ‘recent’ story of the world, outright wishing to not write down even the mythical stories of clan foundations many were conveying to the priests, an act he had started to doubt the necessity later, and now Batsami had shown how such stories possessed a certain value to these nobles. It diluted the value of his work and it would create an unnecessary discussion of trivial political matters, but he accepted the implicit proposal.

From them onward Tsefo priests would not beg for information, they would not try to argue on why not telling them their tales was bad, there were other mouths to tell such things, what Tsefo provided was a chance to avoid being judged by what others had to say about you. This effort showed results quickly, and as Mavadzugji had reasoned in the difference between him and Llapur, the influence and prestige were being won with attacks that moved like mist, not with the clash of swords. The very nature of Tsefo’s work became a vicious cycle, more information meant more prestige, more prestige made others more willing to work with them, the more worked with them, the more information. All this was also on the top of the fact The Tsefo had so far had a true monopoly over most refined and cost-effective ways to produce paper and many of the secrets on training proper scribes, a clan chieftain who decided to seek to create his own tale had to do it with material and writing of lesser quality, which obviously was quite embarrassing for them.

Seminars on the topic of history, culture, and myth, and the release of great collections about the customs and tales from entire regions quickly became common as the group started to move past the initial moment of acquiral of information and instead started to digest all that they had collected, though a great deal of research was still being done. Initially, Mavadzugji thought this would have been the time to rest and let the Tsefo grow independent of his leadership, but his mind was sharp and he saw the patterns that others missed.

It all started with perhaps one of the most basic stories in all of Dzanya lore, the tale of the heavenly siblings, that perhaps because of its simplicity and social function, being the tale that set the differences in expectations towards males and females, was widespread from one side of the duskland to another, yet was so rare in the Sunlands that it was surely something related to Dzanya culture. The story covered two heavenly gods, siblings, who always competed over many matters. One day they discovered they could share their light with the world, the female did it first, filling the sky with countless shimmering light dots, her brother became anxious and envious, and decided to one-up his sister by creating the brightest and most powerful of the lights, thus creating the sun, though it was too powerful and ended up hurting him in the process, as well as all of the worlds.

In the simple cautionary tale of eagerness and envy, there were important bits of history, Mavadzugji noticed. For a start it was another tale that was set before the Earth was found, indicating that there was a time in which the Earthly and the Heavenly realms were separated, a second aspect was the use of sharing light, it meant light was natural to heavenly gods.

This was very important, especially in the context that some versions of this tale included, that presented the sunlight as invasive. That sounded illogical at first, how could light be invasive? How could creatures see without the light? And indeed it was not a motif that all versions of the tale shared, but then, one day, a priest was presented some proof by an elder, the exercise was simple, they waited until the dark night outside, looking at the woods bathed in the gentle light of the moon, then they entered the tent and stared at an intense fire for a few moments, when they left the tent again, the world seemed much darker, details that were clearly visible before vanished in the void of black. Light was addictive and light blinded living beings, a quick look up at the sun would provide convincing proof of the case.

This had been echoing in Mavadzugji’s head for a long while, especially in the context of the Dusklands. There was not a concise explanation of why the dusklands were dark, this was much debated in both the tribal cultural scenario of the land but also in the meetings of Tsefo. Explanations ranged from curses to blessings, to gods and chieftains. Why was the land covered in the dusk? Who knew. Chippers were also quite useless on this matter, despite being helpful in others, like for example, confirmed that indeed, the sun and the stars were the same things, thus proving the celestial siblings' tale.

Mavadzugji’s theory started with the concept of realms. Two heavenly gods, the Heavenly Daughter, and the Earthly Son, the latter inheriting or conquering the Earthly Realm. The tale was another one that was socially important to define the genders in their society, this time with a much more positive light into the male figure as new, harsher lands had been discovered, leading the the king of the heavens to divide all known lands between children, initially the Daughter would get the untamed lands, but The Son graciously took her role, leaving to his sister the tamer lands while he braved the wild. The function of the tale was clear from an outsider perspective, it thought about humbleness and courage in contrast to the previous tale’s take on envy and eagerness, but to those who grew listening to it, it was history, it was fact. It didn’t help that both gods were some of the most mentioned deities in the world and that indeed, there seemed to be two lands, one under a goddess, one under a god.

What left Mavadzugji curious was the separation of new and old land and how a new land was discovered. In his mind, the image started to become clear, and that is when his theory was formed, the theory that there was a third realm. It was impressive such a concept had not been developed before, considering how duality itself was a rare concept in Dzanya culture and they hard words for many things other people ignored, such as the space between earth and sky, among other empty spaces and frontiers.

The third realm theory was simple. It was implied another realm, that originally the realm of earth connected both to the heavenly realm and the third realm, the former being Elysium and the latter being Galbar. The third realm was one of darkness, and it was conquered by the heavens after the sun was created, this had been what made the mortal species unable to see in the dark as well as they did in the past. This included man. In Mavadzugji’s theory, mankind was not born in Elysium but was instead was native to Galbar, as seen in the ruins of buildings predating the exodus and the arrival of mankind in the region, of course, these humans were much more like the humans of Dzanya, the last unconquered part of the third realm, though now even it was about to fall. The man of the sunlands had been taken to Elysium by the gods, at the same time, Galbar became infested with other species, some civilized, but many barbaric and envious, this along with the years it took to adapt to the blindness led to the almost total extinction of humans in Galbar.

In Elysium, mankind was changed, adapted, and came back as the humans of the sun, bestowing gifts that led to great wars with the native Galbar population, likely aided by the Earthly Son himself. Why bring humans from other lands instead of using their own? It was a simple truth, the gods did not smile at those unchanged, as they were proof of Galbar’s true heritage, this is why both gods had light hair and skin colors like that of the Dzanya, but never blessed the land themselves, it was not that they had been made in the image of the gods, but that the gods had stolen their image, proof of this was the description of Lifprasil as a shapeshifter. This was a thought not only inspired by the strong Anti-Elysian feelings in the Tsefo, as well as suspicion towards the figure of Lifprasil and mainly, the philosophy of Runza Thanfong, the young queen conqueror and unifier of Imga and object of great admiration from Mavadzugji. Her denial of godly providence and alliances was key to turning the tides in the south, though due to her early death many started to have doubts about her philosophy in her own homeland.

Ultimately, the third realm theory was widely accepted in The Tsefo, as it echoed greatly with the frustrations and needs of the Dzanya population in such a delicate moment. They felt displaced and alienated from the world, after countless centuries living in isolation there had been a sudden influx of information about new and wonderful lands, sunlanders were no longer just those odd persons they met once or twice but an endless sea of lands foreign to them. Mavadzugji had provided a world where they were the centerpiece, the underdog, those who had been persecuted into nothingness despite their ancient history, it did not provide a sense of future in the precarious situation they were in, but it provided with pride, often misplaced, and a new sense of unity.

In 68 Post Realta, “Tsoti” was released, as the compilation of The Tsefo’s work in history, the work retold the entire history of the world, from gods to clans, and also presented counterclaims to ‘A sunlander vision of history’. The text was not only the apex of years of work in the collections of oral history and philosophical discussion but also of printing technology, illustration in mosaic and paper, and writing techniques, as Tzevami, despite his problematic relationship with Tsefo, ultimately would compose poetry to narrate the key moments of Dzanya culture.

The chieftain and other priests could do nothing but watch with a passive expression as the work had hit their world like a tsunami, in a year, Mavadzugji had become a better-known name than any other chieftain, dwarfing the fame he already had when he was the one bringing tales of foreign lands. When the next summer arrived, nobody felt like they were in the same land as they had been in last summer.

Much like Tsoti had changed from a factual book on history into something else between a glorification of the Dzanya and an analysis on early Dusklander history, Mavadzugji had changed along the way as well, his political thoughts went from just whims he had tried to control to something with actual weight and calculated positions.

A large part of this was due to the influence of the Mesathalassam Harbor Kingdoms and Hain Fortresses, texts arriving from the civilizations in the Firewind desert and many whispers of distant lands past the wilderness as well as the divine empire under Alefpria. There was a sea of information on the details of government and rulership, from factual… -ish accounts, to historical documents to philosophical text on the matter. As such, a natural shift from reactive political thought to constructive political thought started to happen, Mavadzugji no longer limited himself to question what he perceived as wrong but instead, he approached the matter much like he had approached math and history.

Obviously, his dislike of the influence the great clans had on his life meant those were to not have a place in a better society, in fact, Mavadzugji fully proposed a breakup and institutionalization of the clan society, with a division between military and economic clans, to fully prepare themselves for the urban shift that seemed inevitable, as well as greater social mobility. Centralization was a hot topic as well, with proposals of a hierarchy of city, army, and temple and organization that mirrored Mutaraka’s federation of tribes, though while that one was maintained by informal deals, friendship and a need of mutual defense, this one was formed by hard law.

His wish was not only to ensure the best for his people but also to avoid the mistakes that previous Mesathalassa civilizations had committed. The history of goverment in the Harbors had been one of constant failure, from the initial republics to the kingdoms and theocracies, people were often just thoughtlessly getting whatever remained after everything else had failed. Runza’s plans were by far the best the south had had, but they had to be spread through violence and ultimately had a fatal flaw, they focused on one single mortal being. A true society shouldn’t have to rely on anything but itself, a safe society doesn’t break down if their leader is killed.

All these thoughts would come to be compiled on what was somewhat of a sequel to Tsoti, The Dzarya, first published in 73 Since the Realta. The writings suffered internal resistance within Tsefo, and came out as weirdly utopic when reaching the public. To many, it resonated, a true future for the people, especially since the ‘oddlands’ were to spread all the way south, and leaving the homeland was inevitable, this was the time for a new society in their view. For others, it did not resonate so well, while the ideas of a unified Dusklander identity had been easy to spread due to the situation the region was in, and a denial of southern religion with the creation of a new philosophy and even a hypothetical god was quickly spreading, especially for the sense of pride and destiny provided in its absurd bias towards the locals, the ideas of society for society sake, and of not only defining a “dusklander people” but unifying them in one single state was a wild concept, that felt impossible without a deviation into something darker. The very idea of “economic” clans and “military” clans was foreign to the locals, and although already in practice, especially in the more urban areas, the creation of them as a concept felt complicated.

To further Mavadzugji’s issues, his monopoly on many topics was starting to waver, the very result of his acts and efforts to educate the locals had the obvious result of making his word questionable, even with the Tsefo, the organization growing exponentially as its prestige grew, his voice was becoming one of many, and albeit the most respect, it soon found itself stuck in the middle of growing factions and philosophies.

The cohesion of the movement was rapidly breaking as more and more clans had to migrate, so despite the fact the movement was slowly overtaking all of the traditional priesthood, Mavadzugji’s plans for it were not coming to fruition unless he had the means to keep Tsefo unified. A central priesthood was possible, of course, but not without proper economic and military backing, otherwise any attempts at that would be mere formalities and too easy to break, but Mavadzugji found himself not having the voice anymore to get enough backing, his new work was loved by fringe groups, but ignored by many, and nothing would keep Tsefo together if not the realizing of his utupia, the Dzanyavehar, the old word which had haunted his father were more possible today than it was in his time, but still, Mavadzugji could not reach it.

This was, after all, the way society work, as he had noted when he isolated Llapur Dyetzu, it was not something simple like a fight, it reached from under you like a wave. Mavadzugji had been the epicenter of a lot of change, his steps causing true tsunamis towards others, but waves after crashing bounce back, returning to the sender, and now the very prophet of a new duskland was stuck in a whirlpool beyond his control.

The priest, however, was not one to give up, even if the situation was deteriorating, he would do what he could. And what he could do was to prepare for the eventual exodus into the Sunlands. Kadja Regjurnyarha’s village was very fond of him, the whole region was, in fact, and the location was near the Abbey and far from the most crowded areas of northern Mesathalassa, where many of the local lords truly hated him. If he could not keep The Tsefo together, if he could not mend the relationship of the many dusklander clans and the “first lander” clans that had migrated before most of them, if he could not bring about the true Dzanyavehar, he would at least create something of his own, he could not let his political ideas die without at least trying them, and if they were of quality, the wealth and stability of the land would be proof his ideas were, once again, the ones that should be followed. Or at least that was what he assumed.

And so, as the oddlands crept ever closer to the last bastions of Dusklander society, Mavadzugji went on his last attempts to, if not convince more groups of the worth of his latest work, at least make sure more of the fringe groups who agreed with him would be with him when the time to leave came. Not all groups could, however, and he knew there was value in not centralizing it all on his project.

One of such fringe groups that truly believed in the worth of both The Tsoti and The Dzanya texts was about to have their first meeting…
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