Lambda reared back on one leg, flexing the other, slowly, ever so slowly, in a perfect arc forward, leaning back as she did so until her body formed a perfect Y. With equal slowness, she held her muscles still as she brought her leg down, landing gently. Then she repeated the same motion in a fraction of a second. This time, when she landed, she didn't stop.
With her remaining arm crossed tightly over her chest, Lambda kicked from one side, spun with the movement, kicked backwards in the same direction, and, landing there, stepped backwards, spun, and kicked from the other side. She landed in a fighting stance, hand held perfectly still in line with her face.
The wind whistled through the branches of the feather-trees. The light was pink and pale yellow.
Lambda finished her training there, and bowed to the impromptu dojo as she left. The paper screens forming its walls had been woven here by Remph, and were a shadow of the Remph temple further in the multicoloured tropical jungle of Julia. She was always welcome. All Pronobii were.
Recombinance was hanging from a weaponstand 'outside'. She stepped past it and did some more calisthenics, not yet exhausted- but then, no one was watching, so she could probably call it a day. Eventually the huge reptilian tyrant
waiting under the canopy snapping at silky things bothered her with its crooning, and she went to comfort it with a cluck of the tongue.
Fighting had changed since her loss. With only one hand with which to strike, Lambda could no longer punch without also dropping her guard; she was unbalanced and side-heavy. The Remphs had taught her to make up for it with the use of her legs. With Jvan's blessing, she was gaining ground rapidly.
She smiled. A little. "Watch your ass, Vestec,"
she murmured. "I'm coming for you."
"I decided I'd come to you!" A voice declared cheerfully behind her. Vestec was floating behind her, laying on his side with his head propped up. A theater mask replaced the missing left half of his original mask. "You should really pray to Teknall. He can give you a new arm instead of having only one."
If Lambda had a heart, it would have stopped beating. As is, her neck flipped one-eighty degrees and froze there, like the automaton she was, unable to form any remotely appropriate expression behind her blindfold.
"What? No warcry? No making good on those oaths of revenge? I'm surprised. I would have thought that you would have leapt at this opportunity." He sat up, the theatrical left half of his mask forming a grin. "You should know by now that I like to appear randomly. Now, tell me l-"
Eight months of training vaporised in Lambda's head and she punched him twelve times.
Vestec didn't move. He even leaned forward into the punches, giggling as they hit. When they stopped, he flipped over on his head and looked at her. "Are you quite done? Get it all out of your system? If that's a yes, I've got something you might be interested in. Something to do with your little crusade to get all of Reathos' parts together."
Lambda, who had not yet gotten it all out of her system, responded by trying to drown out the sound of his voice with the sound of her shin colliding with his head- but Vestec had mentioned her god, and even if she wasn't listening, she couldn't but hear every word.
Vestec giggled again, head taking the kick without flinching. "I'll just keep talking then. You keep hitting till you get bored. Deal? Deal."
This seemed to floor Lambda, who promptly marched back to the dojo to fetch a bigger weapon.
Vestec followed, continuing to talk. "They're scattered across the globe. You have one. My daughter has another. I forget where the rest have gone, not interested in looking too hard you see, but thats not why I'm here. You know the legend I spread about it, of course, and how an undead and unbeatable army of your...cousins would you say? Th-""I know the story, you slimy prat!"
said Lambda, running at him with Recombinance.
Vestec giggled, continuing as he moved to the side of her spear attack. "That is why most people want it. That's why you
want it. The army, and perhaps to destroy it. And to do that, you're going to have to march across the continent and through at least two empires to go get it. Probably more since my son and his empire are going to want them too. Which means you're gonna lose your quest."
"Even if you get everything, even if you manage a big enough army or move fast enough, you're going to lose. Everyone. And everything. Your little mutated worshippers of Jvan are going to tumble down and she's going to toss you aside and move onto her next project. See, that's the difference between Jvan and I. I let you know that I'm going to abandon you for something more interesting from the beginning. Jvan, Jvan lets you believe you're special to her, and then tosses you aside. I can help so your race doesn't be eradicated entirely, Lamy dear.""We are not-"
Lambda swung at him with the spearaxe with increasingly less wild blows. "-Jvan's people! We rebelled against her! We don't need her and we don't need-"
She was an excellent fighter, when she wasn't a stupid one, and it was starting to show, even with one hand and no ice around. "-your filthy help-"
A nearby tree crystallised explosively as Vestec appeared near it. "-you utter mongrel."
"Creative insults! Not the best I heard, but pretty good. And, if you were so 'rebellious' and 'independent' then why do you reek of her blessings?" Vestec disappeared and reappeared holding a Remph. It looked resigned. "And why do you have so many of her worshippers in your people?" "...They're a gift,"
Lambda said, taking a moment. The brilliant flora at her feet began to die, an expanding circle of energy drawn into her siphon. "Jvan owes us. Now she'll repay us."
Vestec giggled. "A 'gift'? Gifts don't spy on you for their giver." Chaotic energy flashed and the Remph disentegrated into glittery dust. "There. Now she can't watch our conversations. As for Jvan owing you, she doesn't repay her debts. Not like me. She lies and evades them."
"Face it. You're as much Jvan's nation as you were Reathos'. Before I killed him, anyways.""..."
The deathly creep accelerated somewhat, approaching Vestec's feet. The already hot tropical air began to shimmer around Lambda's head. "...Maybe so. But even a self-centered, childish tyrant-"
her grip tightened on Recombinance- "-is better than you."
"I understand. You're upset. I killed daddy, then doomed your...cousins? Cousins. They're cousins at this point. To be slaves for whoever grabs daddy's bits and throws them together. And I'm not asking you to choose me over her. I find it delightful she's still getting followers and armies. Makes it easier for her to fight back whenever someone else
comes to kill her and her followers. I'm here to offer you help, so you don't die like the change eaters are. Or will be, at anyrate.""...I choose death,"
said Lambda, and the forest exploded.
Ice ruptured everywhere, from every tree and the humid air. Dewdrops condensed into a thick mist broken only by Lambda's blazing form, shot towards Vestec on a spear of dead ice, Jvan's weapon shining in the dimness.
"Oh nooo, whatever shall I do you're coming at me so fast I'm gonna die the panic the terror oh such hubris, woe is me woe is me!" Vestec wailed, his mask twisting into an exaggerated frown. Right as Lambda reached him he disappeared with a 'pop!', and appeared in the Realm of Madness, giggling. "I'll let her stew for a bi-"
Something tugged at the back of his coat, and Vestec found himself lifted up on the end of a long, burnt arm. "That was unfair, Vestec,"
said a voice he'd never heard before.
"...HOW MANY AVATARS DOES JVAN HAVE?!" Vestec exlaimed, looking behind him. The huge charred flower laughed."Still less than her sister,"
it said, and tossed him through a portal beyond which Lambda's weapon still waited.
Vestec hit the ground as the spearaxe sailed over him, halted, spun and then stabbed him in the chest. "Not very fair." He grumbled. He appeared to have been nailed to the ground. Looking down, he clucked his tongue. "This doesn't hurt as much as I thought it would." She stabbed him again. "...Back to my original point. What's not very fair is having an avatar do your dirty work."
Lambda was as surprised as he was, but didn't hesitate to continue impaling him with Recombinance.
He looked up at the angry pronobis. "Question. Why do you have an avatar of Jvan helping you? Its very rude. And doing nothing to disprove my point that you're a servant of Jvan. And you do know you're not... doing anything right? I mean, it hurts more than when Logos stabs me, but that's only because Logos doesn't even hurt me.""You bullied her,"
said the Isonymph, standing clear of the raging blur of fire and ice that was rapidly melting the surrounding debris into slush.
"I wasn't bullying
her. That would imply I was using my powers to make her do something she didn't want to, or to make her feel bad. The latter she's doing quite well on her own, and the former I haven't even been doing
. What makes you think I was bullying her?"
The Isonymph wasn't so easily swayed. "You bullied her."
"Did I though? She seems really okay." Recombinance shoved through him again, twice in succession. "I mean, aside from the eternal rage. You should really get that under control. You're getting Violence all excited. Tell me when you're done, then we can talk about it."
They were there for a while.
A Remph came and watched the scene. Vestec shot it with another chaos bolt, intercepted by the Isonymph. "You're no fun!"
It purred strangely, and let the bolt go. The Remph imploded into copper feathers.
Lambda's thrusts grew slower, shallower, and finally she raised Recombinance and sank down on it as it fell, sprawling loosely on Vestec's chest and dripping acid. The two floated in a puddle of cold mud, surrounded by ice. The body of her lizard lay frozen on the ground. Lambda's drain had killed everything visible and burned much else."Just die,"
"Mmm, no." Vestec replied cheerfully. He patted her on the back. "Feel better now? Got all that rage you were so impotent to use against Jvan because she rarely deals in person out? Would you like to listen to how I can stop your people from being eradicated as war hungry maniacs, or do you need a few more stabs?"
Lambda didn't seem to be breathing. Her mouth formed the outline of some unspoken words.'Stupid... bitch...'
"That's a new one. I haven't been called a bitch before. Stupid, plenty of times. You get points for originality." Vestec rolled Lambda off of him, pulling the spear out of his chest and tossing it to the side, taking her arm with it, this time still attached to her body. He sat up, rolling his shoulders, and looked over at Isonymph. "Alright, my meddling Jvanic avatar, whats your name and purpose? Phi's is to cause as much trouble as possible, Hearty's was to experiment and expand, so what's your goal in life?"
Isonymph kinked itself a few times, trying to figure it out. Eventually it raised its hands in a bundle. [colour=crimson]"Make... Things,"
[/crimson] it said, and between its palms there was a tiny planet, resplendent in its pride.
"Oooh, pretty. And for what purpose do you make these things?" Vestec wandered over, looking at the small planet the Isonymph had made. It was full of tiny life.
The big flower looked at him with its head of petals. "To make things."
"Innnnteresting. Any things, or do you have an annoying moral code that'll stop you from taking requests and doing them? I might have some..needs for someone as talented as you at making things. Think of all the fun we could have! You and I, putting our resources together to create all kinds of fun!""..."
The thing passed its levitating orb over to Vestec, then grabbed him by the wrist and leapt into the earth. After a moment's travel, the earth was full of stars. Then they hit the clouds, and it was all black again.
They landed on the surface of the planet called the Mineworks, on the slope of a coastal mountain of almost pure graphite. Great pipes sent glowing fumes into the blackening haze, and tcrawlers moved around their feet. Heavy carbon liquids spilled against the shoreline in waves. A shining swarm of gliders swept above.
"Ooooh." Vestec looked around like a small child, head glancing this way and that. He was impressed. "You made all of this? This... miners dreamland? Why? What does it all do? Make ore? Spew noxious gas? Hide Prometheans?""...I make things,"
it said, developing eyes with which to look him in. The flower blossomed and the ocean was suddenly drained into a deeper abyss, leaving a tarry jungle to harvest the sulphur it left behind, flickering with blue flame.
"Yes yes, but what do the things you make do
? Look pretty? Save animals? Create weapons of war to conquer galaxies? Protect innocents? What do they do?" Vestec turned around to face Isonymph. "There is no point in making things with no purpose."
The Isonymph's eyes boiled off, and it flipped the universe inside out, reappearing beneath an ocean in the Graveyard Worlds. Cold grey pulsar-light bleached everything, giving it a constant flicker, and stray Jvanic lances shredded time and space as they floated by, sleeping."I̷̡͘ ̛m̷̵͡a̸k̛e͡ ̀͘t͠h̨̀i̸̴n̡̡͢ǵ̢s.̵"
"Yes, you've said that before. But why?
What do these things you make do?" Vestec pressed, looking around in amusement as they went to a new area."I..."
Some of the Isonymph's arms went to its head, squeezing and tugging. Teeth were pulled out of the gaps between the petals as they moved. "They..."
Another pause. Tug turned into yank and the Isonymph drew blood, shredding the petals it managed to pluck from its face. "Ţ̴h͏͠e̡͟y̢.͞.̴̢.̵̕҉"
It looked to Vestec helplessly. "They are,"
Vestec held up his hands. "Alright alright, I can accept that." He spoke soothingly, moving towards the Isonymph. His hands gently grabbed hers,pulling first one set free, and then the other two. "Lets stop mangling our headfaceskullthing, shall we....Oh my, I don't know your name. What terrible manners. What is your name, Avatar of Jvan who makes things and doesn't like bullies even though I wasn't bullying Lambda?"
It grabbed his hand and pulled them into another ocean, a Galbar one, where a warpfisk was glowing. The Isonymph gently plucked a sea-lily from a nearby whalebone and handed it to him.
Vestec giggled, taking the flower gently. "Why thank you. This is a very pretty flower..." Something seemed to click. "...And its your name. Your name is Lily. Pleasure to meet you Lily."
"My name is Vestec, though I suspect you already know that. Shall we go back to Lambda and share your name, or do you have more beautifully and exquisitely crafted planets to show me?""She knows,"
said Lily, picking him up by the ankle and depositing him on Nihean, the ice daughter. The heat of their footprints caused a small garden of black plants to flourish. In the distance, a blue geyser erupted. "I taught her everything."
"Excluding how to give up, obviously,"
note to self: remember the 'I don't get mad' line Lambda drops in the epilogue when someone calls her out on how mad she is