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Reason Reified, Lord Logiker, Sciencomancer Superbus


I am a Roleplayer with an interest in science fiction and fantasy, with a preference for Casual. I have been roleplaying for several years, and have even taken a stab at running a few RPs.

Outside the Guild, I am an Australian science student, gamer, musician and roleplayer (that's right, IRL too).

Most Recent Posts

Squall Whisperers

Hujaya skipped into the village and told everyone she met of the marvellous meeting she had just had with Delphina. Many in the tribe had seen Delphina once, when she had gifted the tribe with music and listened to their first performance, but the goddess appearing to a single mortal was something that had been unheard of since Ippino. Many shared in Hujaya's joy at this blessing that had been bestowed. However, not everyone was convinced.

"Why don't you show us this... new trick of yours, eh?"

Hujaya stood still and stared out across the horizon, humming a soft tune and plucking idly at her lyre. The sky was overcast, but the earlier storm had rolled further inland. There were no squalls in sight, although squalls weren't exactly easy to see.

She furrowed her brow. "Hm. I'll have to find another storm spirit first." The words of Delphina repeated in her mind: 'Show all my strength through you.' She nodded her head. "Yes, I'll find a storm spirit and bring it here. Then I can show you all the power Delphina has gifted me."

The man who had challenged Hujaya smirked and whispered something to another man beside him as Hujaya set out on her little quest. She took a freshly fired fish to eat as she walked out of the village in the direction of the receding storm. For the first few hours, all seemed well as Hujaya walked, improvised on her lyre and composed a few new lyrics. However, as the sunlight grew dim and evening approached, Hujaya was yet to find a squall and she was growing anxious. She could not bear to return empty-handed, for that would humiliate herself and Delphina. Yet it would soon be nightfall, and Hujaya had not brought anything besides her lyre, not even food for dinner. She did not relish the thought of being hungry and alone in the dark.

Hujaya came to a puddle. She knelt down beside the puddle, cupped her hands and scooped up some water to drink. As she looked at the ripples in the water, Hujaya bowed closer and pleaded, "Oh Delphina, please, I need to find a squall. I need it to show people your gift. Please."

With her prayer spoken, Hujaya felt as if a burden had been lifted from her chest. She rose back to her feet and continued walking. It was only a few minutes later that she spotted a rocky hill through the trees and realisation came to her. The clouds could not properly see her down on the ground beneath the canopy of the trees. She needed to get higher, where the sky could see her and hear her. She climbed the hill and hauled herself on top of a boulder at its peak. The landscape which unfolded around her was rather dreary, under grey skies with the sun hidden behind clouds. She could see the smoke rising from her village's bonfire, the one which had been started by Ippino so long ago. To the east beyond the trees she could see the ocean, and although it was no brighter than the sky above it the sight of the sea gave Hujaya a spark of hope.

Hujaya lifted her lyre and plucked a few of its strings. She scanned the horizon around her and thought that a louder instrument would have been better for this. She shook her head and dismissed the thought - it was too late to find another instrument. She would have to make do with what she had. Hujaya took a deep breath in, then sung as loudly as she could while keeping in tune.

"Come to me, squalls, come to me,
Then happy I will be.
Come to me, squalls, come to me,
To one who loves the sea.

"I have been looking for long,
So now I sing this song.
Come to me, squalls, come to me,
Then happy I will be."

Hujaya continued to sing these verses as the land around her sunk into the darkness of dusk. The chill of the night pricked at her skin, and her voice was starting to waver in exhaustion. Yet, just as hope seemed to be slipping away, she felt a breeze whip around her. A squall had arrived. Quickly, she adjusted her tune, adapting to the preferences of the squall she had found until its movements settled into the rhythm she set out. Then, with the squall enthralled, Hujaya walked down the hill and back towards her village.

Her trek through the forest was mostly in darkness, with only enough light filtering through from the Lustrous Garden for her not to trip over every branch and root. The squall snaked around Hujaya, rustling the trees and sprinkling her with precipitation. Hujaya took care not to trip or falter, for to do so would be to lose control over the squall. And having spent so long trying to attract it, she did not want to risk losing it.

Throughout the walk home, Hujaya had been playing a simple melody on her lyre, something just to keep the squall's attention while being simple enough to play continuously. But for her arrival, she would need to put on a show, one which would impress her tribesfolk enough to be worth the disturbance at this hour of the night. As the clearing in which the selka lived came into view, Hujaya shifted her melody and began to hum, bringing the squall closer to her. Her gait became a skip, and the squall synchronised with her movements. The selka who were on watch for the night, along with those yet to fall asleep, saw Hujaya approach. One of them nudged a sleeping selka awake. A watchman gave her a wave, which she returned with a nod. But she did not speak, for her focus was on synchronising with her squall. Then, as she came to the perimeter of the village, Hujaya skipped forwards with four claps then broke into song.

"Praise to Delphina, for I have returned,
Now I can show you the tricks I have learned.
Awake now in this hour of the night,
To look and see a most marvellous sight."

Selka stirred and woke, pulling back blankets of furs and watching Hujaya dancing in the light of the bonfire.

"With my singing I can command the breeze,
For the storm spirits my song does appease.
With a word and a note I make it blow,
The wind obeys and follows where I go."

A strong wind blew around the camp and spiralled around the dancing Hujaya. Blankets flapped in the wind and a few awed gasps came from the audience.

"With my singing I can command the rain,
For that is part of Delphina's domain.
My somber melody makes the clouds cry,
For my goddess has control of the sky."

Rain suddenly fell about the camp, eliciting a few surprised shrieks from some of the selka. Hujaya danced and played music for a little longer, pulling the squall around the village in a dance mirroring her own. However, she noticed that the squall avoided getting too close to the bonfire - perhaps it was worried about drying out. Hujaya figured that it might have been possible to coerce the squall closer to the fire, and she might have created a more stunning show that way, but that carried the risk of the squall breaking from her control and potentially harming the village. So instead Hujaya slowed down her song.

"Sadly my song must now come to a close.
I must now send my squall to its repose.
I end my song with a sweet lullaby,
And I say to the storm spirit: goodbye."

There was stillness in the camp as the wind and the rain stopped. There was stunned silence from the selka. Hujaya turned around to look at everyone's faces. With the grace of a performer, she stepped back and took a bow. There was a moment's silence, then applause.

The next day many of the village's musicians asked Hujaya if they could be taught what she had been taught. And remembering Delphina's words, Hujaya took them on as apprentices. She tested their musical talent, keeping only the best and sending the others away. She showed them some of what she could do. She told them of her encounter with Delphina. She reminded them of the teachings of Ippino.

But there was another thing. This was a powerful gift she had been given, so was not to be shared lightly. Delphina had given her responsibility along with this gift, and this responsibility needed to be passed on to all others who learned the gift.

Hujaya stood in a circle with her three apprentices. Pyouroff was an older man, good with percussion. Kaleo was a male singer about Hujaya's age. Sulingu was a girl younger than Hujaya, only in her teens, who played the flute. Hujaya had carefully selected these three based on their musical talent and their piety.

"You want to be Stormbards like me?" Hujaya asked.

"Yes," the three selka replied.

"When Delphina taught me this talent, she also gave me a responsibility. Likewise, if you wish to share this talent, you must also share this responsibility."

Hujaya received affirmative gestures from her apprentices. "Now, repeat after me. I promise to always worship Delphina, who gives me my strength."

"I promise to always worship Delphina, who gives me my strength."

"I promise to use my power and skills to show Delphina's strength, and to create beauty wherever I go."

"I promise to use my power and skills to show Delphina's strength, and to create beauty wherever I go."

"I promise to teach others as I was taught."

"I promise to teach others as I was taught."

Hujaya clapped her hands together and smiled. "By making this oath, you are now Stormbards, and I can share with you the gift of speaking with squalls." The three selka cheered and patted each other on the backs in celebration. "Now, gather your instruments. Our first task is to summon a squall."

They set off on their task. Over the weeks their training and practice continued, for even Hujaya was still learning about how to control squalls and what she could do with them. And word of the Stormbards and their talent spread through the tribes of the Hyummin and Grottu.


Goddess of Oceans and Storms


The sickly stench of decay seeped over the ocean like an oil spill. Dead fish of all sizes floated in the water, their bodies blackened with white lesions. The few creatures who were still alive, as discoloured as the dead, swam without awareness, their faintly glowing eyes staring blankly ahead. A lumbering whale did not even notice the smaller fish eating its tainted flesh, so dulled were its senses by its affliction. Beds of sea grass and algae had turned from vibrant green to black and white, colouring the ocean a dreary grey. All around was nothing but death and decay. Even the things which still moved could not really be called alive.

A furious voice like a crashing wave cut through the gloom. “What is this?”

Ashalla rose above the water’s surface to look down upon the desolate scene. She could taste what remained of the creatures here (although part of her wished she couldn’t), and the decay of their souls was similar to that she had tasted in the Angler Leviathans. A conversation came to her memory.

“Orvus seemed quite enamored by them. He claimed they were the future. I’m concerned he’ll try to make more of them and other kinds of similar… entities.”

“If Orvus finds a way to replicate whatever caused this, he could inflict this state on all life, and then it will become a problem for the rest of the world.”

“That would be a problem. If he finds a way.”

“If he’s half as dedicated to the cause as I suspect he is, he will.”

And now Orvus had, as Phystene had warned. Ashalla should have foreseen this, for Orvus was a god, so had the power to follow through with his word.

Ashalla cast her gaze over the water once more, and her eye caught a white mote floating in the breeze. A pseudopod rose up beside the mote and wrapped around it. The mote promptly began to dissolve, and the watery limb froze to ice, trapping the mote before it could finish dissolving. The pseudopod grew around the ice and lifted it to be level with Ashalla’s gaze. It took only a moment’s scrutiny for her to discern the mote’s function and purpose.

More motes floated over the sea, carried by the wind and the waves. Squalls flitted around Ashalla and the motes, whipping up the water into churning waves. Her eyes traced the path the motes had taken. “This cannot continue.”

Dark clouds spiralled around the Maelstrom, lightning arcing across the sky and lancing into the swirling ocean. Countless squalls flitted about in the torrential rain and cyclonic winds, feasting upon the energy which fuelled the unnatural storm. The storm seemed to intensify slightly as Ashalla arrived, the storm which was the goddess merging with the storm of the Maelstrom.

In the heart of the Maelstrom the clouds turned from dark grey to desolate black and the ocean surface was churned into a mist by near-sonic winds. The area would have been in total darkness if not for the supernatural lightning which lit the storm with crimson light. And those scarlet beams hid something else in between their flashes. Something large and so, so angry, its shape but an image here and there as it moved around the new pretender storm. There was a new sound within the Maelstrom, louder than thunder and the sonic winds, an eerie call of a low rumble, growing in intensity before a beam of all consuming scarlet rippled through the clouds and straight for Ashalla.

The beam struck the clouds, although whether it had actually done any harm was impossible to tell since the clouds constantly shifted and blended with the storm around them. “Move aside,” commanded a voice of thunder.

The thing fell before her in a torrent of tentacles and sharp, biting teeth. With eyes ringed with hate it looked upon her with impunity. It pulled back, its chest beginning to glow as it craned its neck, opening it mouth to reveal crackling energy. But before it could unleash its anger, it stopped, the glow subsiding and as quickly as it had come, the clouds swallowed it from her view once more. The path was open. Warily, Ashalla advanced through the Gateway.

On Veradax, clouds billowed out from the Gateway and coalesced into a towering cumulonimbus which was the goddess, joining the natural storms of the shattered moon. Around her was nothing but a blanket of cloud and plains of dust. Ashalla cast out her senses until she found another white mote drifting on the wind, being slowly sucked towards the Gateway. She rolled out in the direction the mote had come from, a few squalls trailing behind her.

As she travelled, a scattering of objects marked the dusty plains, and the goddess paused to inspect them. Pieces of a curved wooden hull arced out of the dust. Tattered canvas billowed in the wind. Articles of worn Shengshese clothing hung from splinters. To one side lay a piece of wood carved in the likeness of Shengshi, and to the other side lay a statue resembling her own oceanic form. There was a pensive lull in the weather. Then there was a huff, and Ashalla carried on.

Eventually, Ashalla came to a valley, one beset by broken rock on either side; jagged and lonely they watched as Ashalla made her way into the twilight of the moon. The path was long, and slowly tightening, until at last she rounded the final corner. In the distance of the large clearing, there stood a figure of stars before the tree that had brought her there. Like a crown, the monument of soul decay, the Mar Tree, was the origin of the mote and wore many upon its blackened branches.

"I knew you would come here before the Mar Tree eventually, Ashalla." came Orvus’ voice as he turned around.

Ashalla filled the sky before Orvus and looked down upon him. A voice of howling wind spoke. “The destruction caused by this tree of yours must cease, Orvus.”

"You are right." he said, looking back at the tree. "When I created it so long ago, I was angry at the world and broken in my tainted beliefs, thus the tree came. But now… How can I justify such a thing?" his voice was but a whisper now.

The turbulence in Ashalla’s form seemed to calm to a more natural level. “Then we can neutralise this danger,” she said.

"How?" Orvus asked, turning around again. "I have not the strength to destroy it. However, I could turn it off if you wanted." he said.

Ashalla’s voice had almost lowered to a melodious whistle. “Yes, turning it off would be lovely.”

He lowered his head and shut his eyes. Before him the tree began to lose its glow, the humming ceased, drowning in silence. Then it became nothing more than a dark, blackened tree, as the last of the motes were swept up by the current of wind.

"There. It won't make anymore." he said.

A branch of cloud split off from Ashalla and brushed against the orvium tree, engulfing it momentarily and tasting it. The arm lowered and Orvus was likewise swallowed in cloud before the pseudopod withdrew. “Good. Thank you for your cooperation, Orvus.”

He nodded. "Is there anything else you require?" he asked.

There was a brief rumble. “No.”

"Then you should not tarry here, this sphere is dangerous. Even to gods." he said softly.

Ashalla huffed. Then the wind changed, and the storm was gone.

The Girl Who Loved the Sea

This beach was a sacred place.

This was where Ippino the prophet had been visited by Delphina.

This was where the skies had wept during Ippino's funeral, when his body was cast out to sea.

This was where a new shrine made of piled stones and Ippino's old boat had been built to Delphina, because this was clearly a sacred place.

This was where selka offered their fish bones to show their recognition of who had supplied the fish, as Ippino had taught them.

This was where selka would come to pray for bountiful catches of fish, and to admire the sunrise and moonrise over the great blue.

It was in this sacred place that Delphina had appeared again to her faithful followers, bringing knowledge of how to create new types of musical instruments such as flutes, rattles, and lyres, as well as the means to create them, spinning twine and drilling holes.

It was here that the selka of Hyummin and Grottu had gathered for their first concert, where they sung praises to Delphina.

It was here that musicians came to play their songs to Delphina, Kirron and Bobbo, to please each other and the gods, and in the hope that they might be worthy enough to be graced by a divine presence.

It was here, during a stormy day, that one particular selka played her lyre and sung gently in the rain.

As the rain pattered around her, Hujaya plucked at the strings of the instrument she had made herself, creating a gentle melody. As she played, she sung a song.

"There once was a man who lived by the sea.
He looked at the water and found beauty,
In light of the moon and blue of the sea,
That man sung 'Delphina how I love thee.'"

Wind stirred around her as she plucked another phrase from the lyre before singing the next verse.

"This man was cunning and did conspire,
To steal from the storm birds their mighty fire.
Thus a burning branch did he acquire,
And with it he sought out his desire.

"Fire burned until a tree no longer stood.
With stone he carved out the innards of wood.
It floated on the sea and this was good,
He would stay out there as long as he could."

As Hujaya came to the refrain, the rain seemed to ease around her, calmed by the music of her lyre.

"There once was a man who lived by the sea.
He looked at the water and found beauty,
In light of the moon and blue of the sea,
That man sung 'Delphina how I love thee.'"

She noticed mist forming nearby, twisting about in the wind. Yet she continued to play.

"One day this man met a mighty K'night,
And he joined his quest to make all things right.
His cunning saved them in the greatest fight,
For he loosed fire and set his foes alight.

"From then on the Hyummin did he advise,
All could see that this man was very wise.
Despite his fame he'd not yet found his prize,
Because only one woman had his eyes."

The mist had gotten closer, and she felt a chill as the damp wind caressed her skin, distracting her. Then she heard a voice like a gentle breeze, 'They like you.' So surprised was Hujaya that she briefly stopped playing and looked over her shoulder, trying to see where the voice had come from. The air about her seemed to stiffen, and the voice hastily commanded, 'Keep playing.' Quickly and with a hint of anxiety Hujaya strummed a chord and kept singing.

"There once was a man who lived by the sea.
He looked at the water and found beauty,
In light of the moon and blue of the sea,
That man sung 'Delphina how I love thee.'"

Hujaya began to wonder whether it had been Delphina who had spoken. The thought of Delphina listening made her heart quicken, and she did her best to focus on her performance.

"Then one day this man saw Delphina's face.
That meeting's memory none would erase.
This man taught all to love Delphina's grace,
Till Ippino joined the ocean's embrace.

"Now there is a girl who lives by the sea,
Taught by Ippino of ocean's beauty,
By touch of the wind and weather rainy,
I now sing 'Delphina how I love thee.'"

The last notes of her lyre hung in the air as Hujaya bowed deeply towards the ocean. Up from the water rose the form of a goddess with a watery burble. At an imperceptible motion from Delphina the strange winds around Hujaya shifted, returning to their gentle circular dance they had been performing before Hujaya had stopped playing and drawing the rain away from the selka.

"From all the mortals I have heard, none have been as beautiful a singer as you," Ashalla said.

Hujaya gasped and looked up at the goddess, bringing her hands up to cover her irrepressible grin. "I- You- Thank you!" she blurted, overwhelmed by emotions.

A tendril of water stretched out and brushed against Hujaya and her lyre. The tendril then lifted Hujaya's chin so that she looked at Ashalla's face. "Such devotion and talent is rare in a mortal," she said. Hujaya only beamed and trembled in excitement. Ashalla drew her tendril back.


Hujaya clambered to her feet.

Ashalla gestured to beside the selka. "What do you see?"

Hujaya looked to her right. "There is the beach, the rain, the-" she hesitated and scrunched her brow as she tried to find words for what she saw, "the wind and rain move and dance with a life of their own. These... spirits, they're..." She turned her head to the other side. "They're watching me." She wrapped her arms around herself and her lyre protectively, and she cast an anxious look at the two squalls circling her.

"Play for them."

Hujaya looked back to Delphina and relaxed. Delphina would not let any harm come to her, not now. Hujaya took a breath and strummed a chord on her lyre. She felt the wind shift around her and she looked back at the squalls. She played another chord and watched them react.

"They are squalls. They like music."

Hujaya smiled as she strung a few chords together and made the squalls dance with the music. She started to hum and the squalls moved differently. Then she started vocalising on top of the lyre's rhythm, and the squalls shifted their movements again. Hujaya watched the squalls as she improvised, observing how they responded to different notes, patterns and progressions. Yet it was not the technical details which controlled the squalls, but rather how the emotion and feeling of the music flowed.

Soon Hujaya had the squalls dancing around her, and she spun around with them. She picked up the tempo and the squalls spiralled faster. With a sudden crescendo she leaned forwards and one of the squalls pushed outwards, forcing a sharp gale against the beach and sending out a spray of sand. Hujaya sung a note which rapidly climbed in pitch, and the other squall tightened into a brief whirlwind and pulled a spray of water from the ocean high into the air.

Yet the wind around her was starting to get unstable, and Hujaya could sense that the squalls were getting too excited. So she slowed down the music, gently bringing the squalls away from a frenzy and into a more docile state. Melancholic notes wafted around them, prompting them to release a localised shower of rain heavier than what had already been falling. Hujaya turned down the melancholic tone, returning the rain to normal. She then transitioned into a lullaby, and the wind calmed to stillness at the gentle sound of her voice. With a final strum of her lyre, the squalls were gone.

Hujaya exhaled and flopped onto her back. The exertion of her performance had caught up to her.

"To speak with the squalls like that is a powerful gift, one which I have granted you, and which you can grant to others," said the voice of flowing waves. "I taste potential in you, Hujaya. You will make an excellent Stormbard. Now go. Teach others as Ippino taught you. Show all my strength through you. And create beauty everywhere you go."

Hujaya stood back up and bowed to the goddess once more. "Yes, Delphina. I am eternally grateful. I will serve you with all of my heart and strength, Delphina."

She looked up to see Delphina sink back into the waves. When the goddess disappeared, the storm ceased and the clouds parted, letting Heliopolis' warming rays shine upon the selka. Hujaya stared in awe at the sea for another minute, until she turned around and ran back to her tribe, singing all the way.

Posted on behalf of @Goldeagle1221

The Dawn of Blood, a summary conclusion!

“The Grottu tribe under Hoshaf grew strong and their immense battle prowess swallowed smaller tribes, and further still, their great zeal attracted others. In short time their size rivaled that of the Hyummin, but with each bloody victory, the evil Hoshaf grew more and more restless.”

Firelight crackled off the old and wrinkled face of Yupilgo, a decorated sharkskin bandage wrapped around his eyes. Time dug troughs into his flesh and wrinkled his body. He spoke with the breathy air of an elder, and many young warriors sat around him to listen to his words. He cleared his throat and powered on, the cold night wind adding spice to his story.

“He screamed in his sleep, and lashed out at his subordinates. Punishments grew more common, and then executions!” One child among the group of warriors turned to whisper what that meant, while others held stone faces, remembering their ancestors and those who had perished. Yupilgo hacked a breath and continued, unphased.

“Eventually his underlings grew tired of his ways and threatened to dispose of him. Fearing the worst, Hoshaf decided to act… and act quick. In a last ditch attempt to reaffirm his divine order of Kirron himself, Hoshaf declared war against the Hyummin…” Yupilgo made a fist and shook it, inciting gasps from the youngest of his crowd and head shakes from the oldest.

“Oh woe to the Hyummin,” Yupilgo shook his wrapped head, “Since their conception they bickered and fought among themselves. They were large, yes, but very weak and conflicted --that is-- until a new face appeared, flanked by a giant and by a poet.”

“Panganeem and his K’nights!” A warrior bellowed and at the sound of the name, the most grizzled of the group pounded their chests with wide fists, glory in their eyes. The younger members of the crowd stood inspired, a certain eagerness in their legs as they flipped back in forth, awaiting the rest of the story… and perhaps their own future.

“Yes!” Yupilgo pointed towards the voice, his old voice cracking with excitement, “Panganeem! The greatest of Selka hunters approached the tribe, Juttyu the Faithful Giant on his right and Ippino the favored poet of Delphina on his left. Almost immediately Panganeem was assaulted by the words of Gorpingu the Blasphemer, the Selka of the west.”

A warrior whispered the name Gorpingu to his lady friend, explaining to her to wait and listen to what happens. She scrunched her face and motioned for him to listen. Yupilgo held his hands above the crowd.

“They entered a debate, one of a snake’s tongue and a loyal man’s whisper. Gorpingu pulled the robes of the gods themselves down and exposed their flesh to the Selka before him, but Panganeem brought their gaze back to their face. His words were simple, but of truth, he pushed past the argument of the gods and into the heart of life itself. He called upon his deceased daughter’s name, Tyuppa, and convinced Gorpingu that in their own way, the gods have given Panganeem the tools to build the selka up, and that through these tools they can become reliant on themselves, and create a new future. Gorpingu was intrigued, as was his followers. He leapt from his mighty pillar and knelt before Panganeem, swearing his fealty to Panganeem and the K’nights of Tyuppa, should they serve the selka first.”

One of the members of the crowd eagerly tapped the ivory club he held in his hand, tittering about his own membership into the sacred order. A curl formed on Yupilgo’s dry lips and his voice lifted.

“Onward the K’nights went and only after slaying dangerous beasts, reuniting lost families, and safely bringing food to the hungry, were they able to approach all the leaders of the Hyummin tribes. Gorpingu, Ippino, Juttyu, and their leader, Panganeem, stood center before the mass of Hyummin and their five family tribes.” Yupilgo held out five fingers as he spoke.

“They looked at Panganeem and said ‘you are well known, your K’nights dot the land and perform great acts, but what would you have us do? You are no chieftain, you have no tribe, what would you have us do?’ At these words Panganeem bit his finger and thought in the simple yet honest way he did. He was not without his wits, and with steely eyes he turned to Ippino and called the wise man to the center. Together the two explained how they formed the K’nights and by what way they lead them. They explained how Juttyu, Gorpingu, Ippino and Panganeem all held council and voted on decisions. Ippino pushed forward, his voice blessed by the charm of Delphina and in an awe inspiring speech he convinced the tribes of Hyummin to each pick a patriarch or matriarch and to give each tribe one vote through them, and when trouble arises to convene in council and vote as one on what to do. The tribes were swayed and the council of the Hyummin formed.”

The crowd gave a slight cheer, some leaning to whisper what their own ancestors did on the occasion, and a few even explained that they were related to a patriarch or matriarch. Prayers to Delphina leaked across the crowd, only falling suddenly silent as Yupilgo held up a hand.

“But what of the threat of the Grottu?”

“Yupilgo the Blind warned them!” Someone shouted, forcing a smile on Yupilgo’s face. Someone smacked the shouter and called out:

“Yupilgo the Blessed!” There was a small cheer, one that warmed Yupilgo’s face. The sensitive old man grunted past a tear and he continued, his old voice pushing with new vigor.

“I did! In my arms was the baby scion of Viroh the first, on my head was blood -- brought forth from the sin of Hoshaf and the murder of Antorophu. I was struck blind by the divines, the gods taking my sight to save me from seeing any more atrocities. I had seen enough, but I had not done enough!” He was nearly crying as he shouted his story.

“I forced my way to the Hyummin, lead by visions not of my eyes and words not of my ears, and I held the baby Dradinku high on my shoulders. I was greeted by whispers, and harsh words, but I kept walking on knowing my final mark was before me. I started as a hunter in sight, and as a blind man I finished, laying the baby Dradinku at the feet of none other than Panganeem. He welcomed me as a brother, reciting our old hunts together and put me before the council so I may speak. I spoke of the Grottu, I spoke of war, and finally I spoke of Hoshaf the accursed.”

The crowd was on their feet, energy passing through them as the story thickened. They all held their breaths, watching the old man spasm as he forced the story out with incredible emotion. He reached down to the sand below, his back shaking as he bent over. Slowly he stood back up, a rusted iron spear in his hand. He slammed the butt into the sand, and the crowd stared in awe at the metal.

“I proved to the council the sort of weapons the Grottu were blessed with, and how they conducted their wars. I was at a loss of what to do about it, but I told the story all the same. In fear, the council quickly voted that Panganeem be the one to solve this problem, as defender of the Hyummin.”

The old selka smiled and laughed, “Kirron is a god of humor, it seems, because while Juttyu, Panganeem, and I --the great hunters-- thought of what to do, it was old Ippino who suddenly came up with an idea -- the perfect trap. It is no secret that Ippino was the wily youth of yore who once stole the beast known as fire from the wild and tamed it -- and this fact was not lost on him when he suggested we unleash this beast back into the wild against the Grottu.”

He sucked in a breath, “And so the evil Hoshaf came, waves of spears before us. Panganeem stood with Juttyu the Giant, nearly alone with only the bravest of the Hyummin. This small group was mocked and laughed at by Hoshaf and his mighty army. Ever of wit, Panganeem spat insults back, damaging Hoshaf’s pride and forcing his hand. The Grottu horde charged… and the ground shook. The sky itself even darkened, as if Kirron attempted to hide the innocent Bobbu from the carnage about to happen.”

The crowd was silent, eyes fixated everywhere. Some stared at the sky, realm of Bobbu, while others stared at the giant bone shrine of Kirron that stood behind Yupilgo, some still even looked to the ocean, the promise of Delphina. Yupilgo looked down.

“Many brave K’nights died that day, giving Hoshaf a fight he wouldn’t soon forget -- but just as it seemed as if the K’nights would never give in, Panganeem ordered a retreat. Hoshaf was shocked! He was grinning wickedly! He had them now, oh yes he did, and so he followed them into a golden colored hay field cut in half by a stream. His army sifted through the tall dry grass, while Panganeem and his men sneakily hopped the stream, and as soon as their heels hit the ground, Ippino struck!” The crowd’s eyes grew.

“Off to the side, Ippino (with prayers on his lips) and a handful of Hyummin people tossed some of the sacred beast onto the fields. A great wind blew in favor of the Hyummin and the entire field burned into a fiery sea never seen before, not even by the great fire birds. Those who made it across the stream in a panic were met by Gorpingu and his men, while others fell into the hammer of Juttyu. This continued until Hoshaf, by the grace of Kirron’s humor, escaped the flames -- only to be beaten to death by his own surviving men.”

“But this is not the end, oh no, as Gorpingu and the Hyummin circled around and captured these murderers and all the remaining Grottu forces. They were stripped of their divine spears and cast down before the council. The council asked ‘what shall we do with the Grottu?’ but their eyes fell on Panganeem and the K’nights. I felt it in my chest, I did. As they stared, and as Panganeem thought, a cold whisper entered my chest and I pushed to stand before the Grottu. What could only be the wind of Bobbu, or perhaps the charm of Delphina, I found words I didn’t know I felt. I asked and I convinced the council to hand the tribe over to Dradinku and to release the K’nights from the Hyummin so that they may be the protectors of all Selka, Grottu included. The council thought on my words, and Panganeem stepped forward, pushing my speech with one of his own. He explained that he was a hunter first, a K’night second. He spoke of his greatest hunt, one of peace. He said that in all his doings, and all his deeds he did not find Tyuppa nor did he find peace, not yet. He bent a knee to show his humility as he spoke, and he said that while he could not find this final mark, he saw ours. He said it stood right before us, a naked deer in the grass: the Grottu should be welcomed by the Hyummin and a friendship should form… there were too many selka on either side to keep in conflict, too many sons and too many daughters to neglect for the sake of revenge.”

Yupilgo stopped speaking, mulling over his words. A sadness entered the lower half of his face and he sat down slowly, “Revenge. Panganeem cut his heart open to us that night, he said that in all his travels he never found peace as long as he held onto revenge. He proposed, perhaps the only way to really find peace was to end that cycle right then and there. It was as if we were consoled by Kirron himself, the greatest hunter breaking into tears as he explained the nature of this final mark. By Tyuppa and by Kirron he swore, that should we accept the Grottu as friends, and build them up -- peace would find us first.”

There was a long pause as Yupilgo looked over the many faces now staring at him.

“And so we did.”

The tribesmen and women of the Grottu --who made more than half of his crowd-- began to cheer alongside the Hyummin tribesmen and women. Yupilgo smiled warmly.

“And so we did.” He whispered to himself.

“What happened to Panganeem?” Someone suddenly called out, “And the others?”

“Oh… many say different things, but here is how I know it,” Yupilgo rubbed his whiskers, “Juttyu came with me back to the Grottu to help raise Dradinku as chieftain. Gorpingu traveled west with the K’nights and spread the order across this whole region. Ippino stayed here with other K’nights and ensured that their help never faltered… he did this until the day he was swept up by the ocean itself. He now rests with Delphina. As for Panganeem, the greatest of selka…” Yupilgo’s face turned to a certain melancholy, “Well I’d say he went out among the creatures of Kirron, and in time he finally found what he was hunting for.”

The crowd grew quiet, a gentle thoughtfulness leaking through each individual. This silence held strong, even as Dradinku, now a grown man dressed in swathes of sharkskin approached the crowd. The chieftain blended in without much notice, eyes on the ground out of respect for Yupilgo’s story until finally, a tiny voice piped up.

“Can you tell us about Kirron and Delphina and her promise to him?”

The crowd began to laugh and Yupilgo looked up with a smile on his lips, “Long ago!” He voice boomed with renewed power, “After Kirron carefully crafted what we now know as land…”

Ippino and Delphina

Collaboratively written by @Goldeagle1221 and @BBeast

Ippino sat at the edge of the coast, his eyes weary and his arms dug into the sand. He sat with his legs splayed, so that the gentle lapping of the ocean rhythmically washed over him, creating one of the few sounds that intruded on the rather quiet night. His fingers clenched around the sand and he sighed, a smile forming at each shimmering wave. With a thud, he let his back fall to the sand, only for him to quickly pick himself back up -- already missing the beauty of the ocean.

The night wind rushed over him and sent a chill over his bare back, but he didn’t pay it much mind. His eyes and musing thoughts were transfixed on the marriage of the moon and the waves. He cocked a head, “How lucky even the light of the moon is, or the comets above, to always embrace such beauty.”

The waves lapped beside him and the water burbled as it flowed around Ippino. And in that burbling, there was what almost sounded like words. “And how lucky the ocean is, to have one who admires her beauty.”

The old selka seemed startled, his body tensing. He wiggled his nose and blunk his eyes, "Have I finally slipped or--" With all the energy of youth, the selka flopped onto his knees and splashed his ear to the shallow waves.

"Am I blessed with the words of the ocean?" His eyes twitched as he searched for further sounds, "Like a chiming bird song that only knows eloquence." He etched the words in the air, attempting to define what he had heard.

There was a trickle behind Ippino which seemed to say, “Like the melodious call of a whale in the sea. Like the caress of waves running over sand.”

"Yes exac-!" Ippino turned. Despite his elderly body, his face held the chipper beam of a child. His eyes fell on a large watery form which had risen out of the sea, the moonlight reflecting off her graceful flowing curves. A selka-like face smiled down on Ippino.

The old selka nearly seized if not for his shaking frame. There wasn't a shred of fright in his shiver, but pure ecstasy. His eyes widened to saucers and his age-sunken chest pounded against his heartbeat. He sucked in his breath and with every bit of emotion he managed to speak, "It is like I have opened my eyes for the first of times, my entire life I was in a cave stuck in dark and grimes, I had no idea but now I see, my very soul and heart shaken with glee."

The watery figure burbled at Ippino’s words, and a voice like a trickling brook answered in kind. “The wind and the waves have carried your praise, you have admired my beauty all of your days. My charms you have spoken in wondrous rhyme, so I bless you with a meeting this time.”

Ippino's face brightened even further and he scooted closer, the water rushing around him as he did, "Then how lucky am I, for years I looked out to the sky, looking for a way to see your face, never did I expect here in this place." He sighed, dropping his poetic prose, "And let it be known, though I suspect you already know: that my love for you has bred children on its own, and now the sons and daughters of Grottu and Hyummin united roar with your praise."

An aqueous pseudopod rose up and brushed Ippino’s face. “You have done well, Ippino. My name has been uplifted through you, and now many more selka appreciate my beauty, although none compare to you. My favour has always been upon you. The sea has always provided you with food. In your time of greatest need, I heard your prayers and sent the storm to fight beside you. A person who loves a god like you do is rare and precious indeed.”

Ippino's eyes watered, "I knew it. I knew I felt you through my days." A tear fell, "Even now in my old age, I will say to you what I've always said. My love for you and my admiration for your beauty will be as strong in my heart as it's always been, and should I have a say in it: even as my body disappears to time."

“Your adoration will forever be remembered. My worshippers shall always tell the stories of Ippino, the man who loved the sea,” she said in a voice like flowing waves.

The selka flicked a tear off of one of his whiskers, "May I… may I ask you one favor? It is all I have left to desire in this world."

The tear fell into the sea with a light ripple. “You may ask.”

"I am not much longer on the land of Kirron," Ippino started, "I can feel it in my bones that my final day is soon. I pray to you, in my final whispers, that as my friends lay my body by your beauty, you take me home -- to where I have felt my heart pull all these years. I wish to sink, in a final rest so I may never have to leave your embrace again."

A thoughtful rumble gently echoed through the water. “As you wish, it shall be done.”

Ippino threaded crooked webbed fingers through the seawater, "Then I have lived the best life, and have already died the best death." He looked up at the beauty of Ashalla, "Thank you -- thank you for always being with me during every moment of both."

A watery pseudopod wrapped around Ippino’s hand. “Continue to live this best life in the time you have left, Ippino.” The pseudopod released its grip and Ashalla began to sink back into the waves. “We will meet again.” Then she was gone.


Goddess of Oceans and Storms

Iridescent bodies swarmed about the island with the Gateway to Sanvadam in an unprecedented feeding frenzy. The Zhengwu had been atomised in the explosion, and the divine remains of Vakk had been dispersed across the sea for many kilometers. Iron Carrionfish converged on the island from as far as the scent had carried, ravenously feasting upon the shreds of godflesh and droplets of ichor. Never before had the entire body of a god been presented to these beasts to consume, and there was a good chance it would never happen again. The Carrionfish grew with every morsel consumed, and already their numbers were multiplying. This was in spite of occasional predation by Incorporeal Echoes.

There was one with smell even more keen than the Iron Carrionfish. Squalls rippled across the surface of the ocean, dragging clouds with them which cast shadows over the island and heralding her approach. Then near the island rose a mass of water, the manifestation of Ashalla. Her dreadful gaze scanned the ocean and the island. She could taste Vakk's remains throughout the water surrounding this island, and it would have made her gag had she possessed such a reflex. "So that was K'nell's 'holy cargo'," Ashalla muttered to herself with a voice like the churning sea. Her gaze inspected the crater which had once been the Zhengwu and another squall manifested to fly around the island. "How careless."

At least the Iron Carrionfish were able to clean up the mess, otherwise such a major spill of divine waste could have been catastrophic. But their progress was hindered slightly by the Incorporeal Echoes which still lurked about the island. Even now, a swarm of shadowy forms had sensed Ashalla's vast soul and was coming towards her. Ashalla was not in the mood to tolerate their presence.

"Insolent spirits!" Ashalla cried in a voice of thunder, and her eyes burned white. The clouds above broiled, and with a flash lightning arced down and pierced through the shadows. The first bolt had hardly faded when a second struck, and a third. Lightning fell like rain upon the Incorporeal Echoes, until all that was left was the smell of ozone.

Ashalla rolled up the beach and inspected the crater more closely. One taste was enough to identify orvium oxide, indicating that this explosion had been caused by orvium. She wasn't sure where the Zhengwu had obtained that metallic orvium, although Para was one possibility as that had some native orvium. That didn't really matter.

Inspecting the land around the island was more enlightening. The sandy remains and empty clothes of sixteen servants littered the island, clearly having been slain by the Echoes in a one-sided battle. She also saw marks on the stone which appeared to have been wrought by some destructive form of magic she was unfamiliar with, but which caused similar damage to the centre of the orvium explosion. Likely caused by that Orvus-kin, Arya, who had been on the ship with them, and would have attempted to defend herself and possibly the others in this battle. The absence of her body or even the slightest drop of anything which tasted of her suggested that Arya had survived.

There was still the question as to why someone had detonated the orvium on board the Zhengwu. She could only guess why. Maybe they did not want the cargo falling into the hands of the Echoes, not knowing the nature of the cargo and the environmental damage blowing it up would have caused. Maybe it was a desperate attempt to kill some of the Echoes. Regardless, the folly and futility of such a move demonstrated to Ashalla the unreliability of mortals. She would have to be cautious about trusting them to undertake important tasks for her.

Ashalla flowed inland towards the gateway to check that the Box of Orchestration was still where she had left it. Finding it undisturbed, Ashalla propped it open with a little pseudopod and listened to its melancholy melodies for a little time. The tune seemed fitting for such a sombre occasion.

"It's a shame. Qiang Yi was a good poet," Ashalla said in a voice like a distant wave. Indeed, all of the crew of the Zhengwu had been worshippers of her. It would not do to grow attached to individual mortals, though, as their life was as brief as a raindrop. She would need to make larger groups of worshippers who would not be so easily destroyed by a misplaced tragedy.

Eventually, she closed the lid of the Box and flowed back out to sea. The Iron Carrionfish were continuing the task of consuming every last piece of Vakk's body and cleansing the sea of this mistake. Before she departed, though, she turned her head northwards towards Tendlepog. "K'nell, if you plan to ship hazardous waste across my oceans, let me know beforehand." Then she slipped beneath the waves and was gone.


Goddess of Oceans and Storms

The Abyss stirred, for stirring was what it did. But it stirred without life, since no life had been created for the Abyss. There were some Iron Carrionfish adapted to the extreme conditions down here, although after having consumed the last of Narzhak's fluids they had migrated back to the surface. The Abyssal Leviathan was made from the Abyss, although when it was here it spent its time slumbering. The Abyss was a desolate place.

Yet it did not have to be. The Abyss had no shortage of usable energy, with strong thermal gradients and energy-rich volcanic gases. A steady trickle of biomatter sunk down from Galbar's oceans, which provided a modest supply of organic molecules. The life here, under the intense pressure of thousands of metres of water and distant from the life-giving rays of Heliopolis and nurturing influence of the World Tree, would be very different to life on Galbar. But Ashalla relished the creative challenge.

Ashalla stretched out her will, and mats of single-celled organisms grew on the rocky spires just above the magma. These organisms were unharmed by the extreme temperatures; rather, they thrived, and feasted upon the chemicals which billowed up from the magma. Just as chloroplasts formed the basis of all ecosystems on the surface of Galbar, these archaea would form the basis of the Abyssal ecosystem.

But while the archaea unlocked the energy of the Abyss for biological use, they could not thrive alone. Ashalla had seen how Shengshi had created symbiotic relationships between the creatures he had made, and she saw a measure of beauty in such coordination, as well as the efficiencies which could be gained by providing different roles to different creatures. Upon the rocky spires Ashalla created coral-like beings which clung to the stone near the mineral-rich waters. Some encased themselves in protective tubes, while others fanned out in all directions. They reached outwards with fleshy plumes and frilly tendrils to grasp at biomatter drifting through the water, and in doing this the archaea entered into their bodies. While the archaea were sustained by the bodies of these worms and corals, the worms and corals in turn benefited from what the archaea produced by chemosynthesis.

Next Ashalla created copepods and shrimps, tiny little crustaceans which fed off the coral and tube worms or were eaten by the coral. Many of these were clear, making them almost invisible in the near-darkness of the Abyss. Ashalla also created crab-like creatures with long spider-like limbs which hunted on the tiny crustaceans. Ashalla also created some cephalopods with gigantic eyes, and a few small fish with ferocious fangs, to hunt on those.

At first glance, these creatures appeared dull in colouration. The dim incandescence of the Abyssal floor made it almost impossible for mortal beings to discern colour by eye, so Ashalla had given only minimal pigmentation to these creatures. But then a copepod tried to eat some of a fleshy coral, and in response the coral suddenly lit up in a dazzling display of colourful lights. Seeing this light, a squid dove in and snatched up the copepod with its tentacles. A fish which tried to eat a shrimp was sprayed with glowing blue fluids. Another fish which was accosted by a squid lit up in blinking patches all over its body, drawing in other fish and driving away the squid. Copepods communicated to each other with timed flashes of coloured light. Indeed, it appeared that almost every species here used bioluminscence in some way.

Ashalla spread this life and others throughout the Abyss. In doing this she had turned a dark, colourless, hostile place into one filled with life. The stunning displays of colourful lights shimmering on the rocks and in the water were more dazzling than the stars in the sky. She had created not just life, but beauty too.

However, all these creatures were small and comparatively weak. Even an Iron Carrionfish would instantly be the apex predator in such an ecosystem. If a Leviathan Angler or some other creature found its way down here and survived the environment, it would have free reign until found by the Abyssal Leviathan; considering the size of the Abyss, such an encounter could take a long time. Ashalla needed another species of sea monster, one to lay claim to the Abyss and extend her dominion of Galbar's oceans.

Flesh was conjured and sculpted within Ashalla's influence. A spine longer than 20 metres took shape, and it was wrapped by organs, ribs, muscle and dark black skin speckled with white spots, forming a slender body which was flattened sideways. Stretching up from its tail end all the way along its spine and halfway along its underside was a single continuous ribbon-like fin. At one end a head was made, with two large eyes and a powerful jaw which could open wide to reveal a terrifying array of sharp teeth. To add to the terror, a secondary smaller set of jaws lay at the back of the creature's mouth, able to launch forwards and drag prey into the throat.

Ashalla breathed life into the creature's body, and its gills flared open for its first breath. Its body rippled and slithered in the water as it swam forwards. Its mouth creaked open, and the water flowing into its mouth was vented out through holes behind its head such that it caused minimal disturbance to the water currents despite its colossal size. Its beady eyes slowly scanned the near-darkness of the Abyss.

The most astonishing thing of this beast was not anything which could be seen with the eyes. Ions flowed through internal organs along the length of the eel, creating a difference in electric potential which formed an electric field curling along the length of the beast, pulling an electric current through the water. At first, the current was almost imperceptible, but the electric field was measurable. When an octopus swam nearby, the distortion to the electric field it caused was sensed by the eel. It waited for the octopus to come a little closer, then the vast eel unleashed the full force of its electric organs. The octopus convulsed as electricity surged through it, and went limp when the current stopped. The eel then lazily twisted around and swallowed its minuscule prey whole.

In the time this first eel had taken its first meal, Ashalla had created more of its kind. "Deep-terrors," Ashalla said to them, "the Abyss is your home. Here you will hunt and nest. Here your young can grow in safety. You are to guard this place from any who do not have my favour. But there is a world above, a whole ocean filled with life more abundant than this Sphere. There you will hunt. You are not to harm any person who has my favour, but otherwise you are free to take your rightful place as rulers over the beasts of the sea."

Having received their directives, the deep-terrors, giant electrified eels, swam off. Some went to the hollow rocky spires to nest. Some made their way towards the Abyssal Rift and Galbar. As they went, Ashalla's words followed them. "May all who see you see my strength through you."


A Watery Alliance

Collaboratively written by BBeast and Adorable Saucer

The ordeal with Azura had left a bitter taste in the snake’s mouth. Unheard of, he thought, to upset the delicate harmony between life and death over something as simple as the souls of the dead - they were already dead! Why on Galbar would they need to keep living as the soul they are. The whole argument festered in his mind like mould on bread and for a short while, the snake sat atop his tower contemplating various other arguments he could have used to potentially be more convincing. In the end, he cast the thoughts aside, already annoyed by the very existence of such arguments to begin with. He decided he needed to take a breather - a swim would be delightful. Perhaps he could pursue the length of Taipang and inspect the corpse of that foul dragon he so epicly ground to minced meat with a river’s worth of water. Thus, he dove from his tower into the Giant’s Bath below and swam towards the east.

Shengshi followed his newest addition to his portfolio of fine rivers down to the delta and found it distinctly lacking in colossal dragon cadavers. The snake cursed under his breath - he had hoped the monster would have died from wounds sustained by being ground against the rocky lands of the drylands for a distance three fourths that of Nanhe. He would have to put in greater efforts to end that many headed lizard some other day. He gazed to the west, to the smoking borders of his jungle. He felt a large clump in his throat and a need to hasten over there - to slay the intruders and end that fiery demon forever…

He pondered. The minions would be simple enough, yet facing Sartr himself would be… He would have to lay a strategy this time. For all he knew, another reckless attack like the one against the dragons could potentially level his jungle. His eyes fell on the delta again. The delta had sprouted shrubberies, but like any fresh river of his, the waters themselves were without inhabitants. Perhaps that was for the best - the armies of fire would have to cross this river again. It would perhaps be unwise to fill it with life for them to destroy on the way--

A sound brought the snake’s eyes up from the river and outwards to the sea. Turbulent dark storm clouds stretched across the horizon, rolling towards the shore quickly. Waves were driven forwards by the storm, but one wave was approaching at oddly high speeds. Waves and storms in the ocean were naturally no unnatural phenomenon, but these seemed almost guided and unusually fast - intentionally charging at his shores. The snake turned to face them, his mouth in a slight sneer.

The storm closed in on the shore Shengshi was standing on, and he was buffeted by chaotic winds and rained upon by the clouds above. Squalls circled around him, and also duelled in the clouds above which were constantly being torn apart and stitched together by the discordant spirits. The greatest of the waves Shengshi had seen reached the beach, but instead of breaking it stopped and rose up into a towering form which looked down on Shengshi with a watery face. A peal of thunder issued from Ashalla and the squalls harassing Shengshi scattered.

Ashalla did not speak at first, instead opting to look up towards the west. She could taste the smoke even from here, and the clouds of smoke in the west rivalled the swarm of squalls above her.

“Odd how there are still siblings out there that I have not met since the Creation.” Shengshi lowered himself down and kowtowed before the sea goddess. “Welcome to the Dragon’s Foot, dear Ashalla.”

Ashalla turned her face to look at Shengshi again, as if only just properly registering the serpentine god’s presence. “Hello Shengshi. It is indeed odd that we have not met yet, considering the similarity of our domains.” Ashalla looked up at the smokey horizon again, her restlessness manifesting in a few more squalls peeling off from her form.

The snake stood up again and followed her gaze with a raised eyebrow and sighed. “A horrible sight, is it not? If you do not mind me asking - are you here to fight the demon as well?”

“I am here to defend the jungle,” Ashalla stated with a voice like a crashing wave.

The snake nodded. “How splendid - we really do need some reinforcements at the jungle border. Judging from the wanton destruction, my guardian is either sleeping on the job, or…” He frowned. “Regardless, it is good that you are here.”

“Indeed,” Ashalla said with a huff. Ashalla turned her head behind her, watching a stream of churned white which had appeared in the ocean and was heading towards the shore. She looked back to Shengshi. “How much do you know of who is burning the jungle?”

The snake entwined his hands behind his back and squinted at the horizon. “I saw them briefly earlier - tall, yet weak humanoids of Flame, much like any fodder. They are, however led by a much stronger specimen, though I have not seen this creature with my own eyes.” All I know is that they wish for nothing else than senseless death - an inferno for all life on this continent.”

Ashalla rumbled in consideration. As she thought, the stream of bubbles and steam reached to the shoreline, and out from the water burst a colossal beast. Steam rose off the iron plates covering the crocodilian as it barrelled up the beach on its six legs. It then came to a halt nearby, its red eyes inspecting its surroundings and puffs of steam exhaling from its mouth. Squalls dove around it to drink up the moisture.

The snake blinked at first, then leaned in for a closer look. “My, what an interesting specimen. What is it, if I may ask? Some sort of dragon?”

“Narzhak and I call it the Abyssal Leviathan. Born from the magma of the Abyss, the heat of the fiery rabble will have even less chance of harming this creature than their fists, or whatever weapons they have,” Ashalla said.

The Leviathan met Ashalla’s gaze, and she rose a watery arm to point towards the western horizon. “Go. Trample all who burn down those forests,” she commanded with a voice of thunder. The Leviathan turned westwards and with surprising speed it hurtled along the ground, leaving a trail of churned soil and mud. The snake, who had been observing it eagerly, pursed his lips in disappointment at the monster’s sudden departure.

“Leaving right away? No, that is no issue. There are wars to be won, after all…” he mumbled.

Ashalla then lifted her gaze skywards and issued another thunderous command. “Go. Douse all the flames you find. Let them taste my wrath.” The squalls stopped their squabbling upon being issued this divine decree. The wind turned westwards as the squalls flew, carrying the storm clouds with them. The vast storm stretched across the sky, countless multitudes of squalls fuelled by Ashalla’s fury and united in a singular purpose. As quickly as the storm had come, though, it left, receding towards the west.

“Quite the reinforcements, I must say,” the snake mused. “They are most welcome, dearest sister. As are the storms. Will you join in the battle yourself, may I ask?”

Ashalla rumbled briefly. “Perhaps. Although, they should be adequate, especially if the arsonists are mortal. I can inspect their progress later.”

“I believe they are indeed quite mortal - the fire demon cannot possibly possess the necessary power to create an immortal army - not without aid, anyway.” He stared across the ashen wastes left behind by the Jotundar army. “So much death… Nanhe is among the most fertile woods in the mortal world - to lose it would be devastating to the future of the realm.” He collected his hands behind his back. “It will regrow in time, but I cannot help but fear that it will forever live in the toxic smoke of Mt. Eldahverr - within the marching range of the armies of flame…” He looked to the river next to him and his lip quivered for an instant. “Taipang will become a lonely village ripe for slaughter with every attack - any life I form within it will be the first to die in case of an attack from the east, as it will be trapped between the land and the sea. A terrible tragedy,” the snake finished with a sniff.

Ashalla turned her head to peer at the mouth of the river Taipang. “Why should the sea be a barrier?”

The snake raised an eyebrow and put his hands on his hips. “Well, fish of freshwater cannot exactly survive in saltwater, can they? Even brack is too much for their fragile gills.”

“Then we make sturdier fish for this river so they can survive,” Ashalla suggested.

The snake raised a protesting finger, but slowly moved it to tug at his beard instead, humming pensively. “... A valid suggestion, if not a little unorthodox. A river full of life that can potentially vacate to sea if danger approaches…” He looked upwards and pursed his lips. “Nay, why limit it to that? Your seas, dearest sister, are quite substantial in terms of food and nutrients, correct?”

“Indeed. I have occupied my oceans with life to fill all parts of the nutrient cycle,” Ashalla said.

“Then how about this,” the snake said and clapped his palms together. “We will fill the river with life that will not just escape at the sight of danger, but life that will live as citizens of both our two realms, laying their eggs among the safe, tall reeds of the river, and feeding on the bounty of the sea as adults. Their waste will be ferried down from the hatching grounds at the headwaters and nourish the surrounding plant life and insects, and any detritus that is washed out is free game for any sea-dwellers. How does that sound?”

Ashalla rumbled for a few moments as she pondered Shengshi’s proposal. “That sounds like a good idea. Let us make it.”

On cue, a school of ocean-dwelling fish swam up to Ashalla. She modified their physiology and instincts so they could enter the freshwater river. The snake snapped his fingers and from the distant point on the horizon where the river seemingly began came a rolling tide of leaves, reeds, shrubberies and lots of confused amphibians, insects and fish. He splashed them all with a little saltwater and snapped his fingers again. The fish wriggled and twisted as their gills adapted to their new lifestyles; the amphibians grew thicker and firmer skin; the insects’ chitin was reinforced and they morphed into odd, colourful crustaceans that swam just underneath the water surface or dug around in the brackwater sand. The reeds along the riverbanks took on a multitude of colours and seemed to duck underneath the surface whenever curious predators approached; and those at the very edge of the delta combined with wood leaves and grew powerful, girthy roots. Eventually they turned into small mangroves with an exceptionally deep and intricate web of roots that stabbed far into the soil, making them resistant to damage to the trunk itself. Around the roots sprouted saltwater-resistant shrubberies that would lay down in the water to cool off if the temperature got too hot.

As the mangroves took shape, a pod of dolphins swam close, called by Ashalla. These creatures were also adapted to better live in less salty water, and they were made slightly smaller to better fit in the river and cope with the warmer waters. These new river dolphins chittered as they playfully swam and hopped upstream.

“There is much life in the river. Perhaps the land around the river could also support more life,” Ashalla suggested.

The snake pondered skeptically. “The surrounding deserts and wastelands are dry and barren… But the immediate banks could potentially be turned into oases of life.” He picked up a fistful of seaweed from the nearby sea and some clay and rubbed them in with some crushed bark from a nearby mangrove. He then planted the clump into the sand by the river. A moment passed before the ground sprouted a palm tree with bark like hardened pottery and fronds like wavey, brown seaweed, complete with green veins. Underneath the fronds sprouted grey clumps and Shengshi picked one. He took a bite and frowned a little.

“I was hoping it would be sweet, but I suppose it may take better with other fruits.” He picked another one and offered it to Ashalla. “Here. It tasted a bit like a salt cracker, only that it is a little mushy. It is an odd sensation, actually.” Meanwhile, more trees of its kind sprouted around the delta and further inland, taking on greener colours the further in they grew.

Ashalla took the offered fruit in a watery pseudopod. “It is amply nutritious, if not more salty than other fruits,” she stated plainly.

“Then they will need something to eat it with,” the snake agreed. He raised a hand and the colourful reeds were soon joined by fire-resistant strands of sorghum

“There… These may burn up should the menace return, but their seeds will persevere in the ash and rise even stronger - in the spring and autumn, that is.”

Biomatter churned in the waves as more creatures were created by Ashalla’s hand. A few crocodiles crawled up the riverbanks. Numerous varieties of sea birds burst from the water and took to the skies. A few colourful long-legged birds waded through the shallows of the river delta. Shengshi smirked and kicked some rocks and sand into the water. Shadows formed underneath the surface as stone and clay grew to organs and hide. A herd of great, plump quadrupeds waddled out of the deepest parts of the water and settled on the bank, one of them yawning to reveal menacingly long teeth for a herbivore inside an even larger gape. From their nose protruded a single, long horn. A few calves swam about with vigour, and some of the males grew suspicious at the crocodiles. These horned hippos surrounded their young and began to roar territorial threats at all the others. Shengshi then tipped a tree into the sea and splashed it with river water. The tree sprouted four fins, two at the front and two at the back, and a long, razor-toothed jaw. Its bark turned into grey skin and the new predator soon became several and began to stalk around the deeper reaches of the delta.

“Let us see… How about some snails or other mollusks?” the snake suggested.

There was a momentary rumble from Ashalla. The water then swirled and darkened as she created more creatures. Shiny and colourful shells appeared in the mud of the delta, mollusks which would bury themselves at low tide or at any sign of danger, and display their colours and feed when submerged in water. Barnacles sprouted on the roots of the mangrove trees. Several snails with buoyant air-filled shells floated on the water surface, using the currents to carry them along, although they could sink if needed.

“Ah, fantastic!” the snake said happily and put his hands on his hips. He pondered for a moment before looking wryly at Ashalla. “Do you have any other ideas?”

A low rumble followed Shengshi’s question, until Ashalla eventually said, “I think this ecosystem is adequately populated.”

“As do I.” He gazed across the plethora of new species accustoming themselves to mortal life and sighed in satisfaction. “Say, would you like to come by for a drink to celebrate? I know the woods are aflame and the flame demon is burning my home province, but that should not stop us from commemorating this beautiful day of cooperation! What say you?”

Ashalla gave Shengshi a confused look. “Why would I want a drink?”

“... Because it tastes fantastic?” the snake proposed.

Ashalla appeared skeptical, although she said, “I can give it a try. Regardless, we can celebrate our latest creation.”

“My thoughts exactly! Come on, I will take you to the Giant’s Bath.” The snake skipped into the river and torpedoed upstream. Ashalla’s form collapsed into the sea and she flowed upstream after Shengshi.

Not much later than they had begun their swim, the two gods came upon the surprisingly underwhelming Giant’s Bath - a mere 20 metre tall crater of brown earth and hard stone that somehow managed to sprout three of the largest rivers on Galbar. The crater was intimately surrounded by wildlife, fronds and leaves of green harmonising wonderfully with the warm colours of the crater’s soil. The gods entered the lake atop the crater to see the opulent, gold-sparkling ship of Shengshi. The snake hopped aboard, snapped his fingers, and the servants came with pots of wine. As the servants spotted Ashalla, however, they nearly dropped the pots in a mixture of awe and fear. They cast themselves to the floor and thundered in unison:


Ashalla stretched up and towered as tall as the ship, looking down upon the kowtowing servants smugly. Meanwhile, tendrils of water - fresh water here - crawled over the sides of the ship and below the deck, licking against a few servants and inspecting the vessel. A few pseudopods also brushed against Shengshi.

The snake stood like a statue as the watery tongues brushed against him. While his facial expression betrayed a hint of discomfort, he seemingly largely elected to ignore them. He cleared his throat. “Splendid beings, are they not?” Shengshi asked.

“Indeed. You have taught these beings well,” Ashalla replied. The pseudopods then left Shengshi to search elsewhere,

The snake, in the meanwhile, had poured some wine in two cups and offered one of them to Ashalla.

“Here, have a taste.”

Ashalla stretched out a pseudopod which dipped into the cup, mixing the wine into the water. Shengshi was watching her expectantly, so she said levelly, “Fermented fruit juices with heightened ethanol content; a substance which lowers the inhibitions of fleshy creatures.”

The snake lowered one brow over his eye and smiled wryly. “Yes, that is indeed what it -is-, if not a little…” He paused. “Eloquently put. The flavour, though - how is the flavour?”

“The flavour is amicable in small quantities. However, an undiluted body of this stuff would be toxic,” Ashalla said.

“W-well… Naturally, though part of the charm is that inebriating toxicity.” He sucked in a breath through the nose. “Though I suppose quite a lot of it would be needed for you to feel the effects yourself, dear sister.” He sighed. “On another note, what do you think so far of my servants? You commented amicably at their subservience - dare I say you and I may be of one mind when it comes to the mortals’ relations to gods?” His lips split into a grin.

“It would appear so,” Ashalla said, “Us gods are higher beings than mortals, with power over their very existence. It is only proper that they demonstrate the appropriate deference and give recognition to our godhood.”

“As if quoted from my book, dear sister,” he said with a chuckle. “As you can imagine, that very idea pumps through these splendid beings like blood through a fish. I hope, one day, to have them function as my personal messengers. Seeing as the first sailing was a resounding success, I will send them to my various siblings with gifts and messages - adds a slightly more intimate touch than that silly mind speak nonsense, do you not think so?” He tugged at his beard. “Oh, and speaking of the first sailing, I heard through prayers that my precious, loyal servants had been saved by a certain ‘Queen of Oceans’. Thank you, truly, from the bottom of my heart.”

“Your gratitude is appreciated, as is theirs,” Ashalla said. “Qiang Yi also wrote me a wonderful poem.”

“Is that so? My, the servants did indeed pick an able captain. An officer well-versed in the arts is a gift to their crew.” He drummed the railing of the ship in thought. “Have you considered making any personal subjects?”

Ashalla rumbled briefly. “I have not. I might, although attracting worship by deeds rather than creation feels more satisfying.”

“Oh, certainly, certainly. As lovely as they are, there is little satisfaction in being praised by beings fundamentally programmed to, well, praise you. Still, having loyal mortals to run errands and service you makes for quite a comfortable rule.” The snake held out his wine glass and a servant filled it from a pitcher.

“I have made unintelligent creatures to wrest control of the seas, and also to maintain my sculptures on the North Pole. Perhaps if I ever require the loyal service of sapient mortals I can create some. Or, perhaps, I could send off some fragment of myself, as you did with Xiaoli,” Ashalla said.

“Ah, yes… A holy piece of oneself. I can recommend it - it is always fun to have someone close by of near equal stature and power. My, I miss her sometimes… By the way, how did you learn of Xiaoli?” He raised a curious brow.

“I found her flying over the ocean north of the Kick with the Dreamer named Hermes, and a cloudling named Poppler. Hermes impressed me with her dancing. Xiaoli made some lovely music with her flute. Xiaoli also offered me tea, as you had with wine,” Ashalla said, then added with a wry ripple, “Poppler also claims to have beaten you in a drinking contest.”

“Hah,” the snake voiced flatly. “I would rather not discuss that night any further, if you do not mind.”

“That is one of the weaknesses of a fleshy form,” Ashalla commented with a wet huff. Shifting the topic slightly, she asked, “Have you seen Hermes since then?”

“I have, actually,” Shengshi confirmed with a cordial smile. “After the death of that maggot Vakk, we had a celebratory feast at their mansion and I am happy to inform you that both Hermes and Xiaoli are in good health. Last I heard, they have just gone through with one of my latest ideas: marriage. Oh, and they have two young Dreamer boys too, now. Is that not just adorable?”

Several surprised bubbles rose through Ashalla’s face and popped as they surfaced. Shengshi had managed to answer Ashalla’s yet-unspoken question as to whether Hermes had managed to fix her infertility, but he had raised so many more questions. “I have questions. I will start with the smaller one. Are you saying Hermes procreated with Xiaoli?”

“Correct. K’nell and I worked together to form a fertile womb within the Dreamer’s body as a reward - and one she wanted dearly at that - for having, well, been one of the first truly legendary mortals in this world. Then I believe Arae took care of the issue regarding the difference in species. They are now perfectly capable of ‘procreation’, as you put it,” he said with a sly smirk.

Ashalla gave a nod. “The other question: Vakk died?”

“Yes,” the snake said rather more grimly. “Or more specifically, he was slain by divine hand.” He paused and looked shamefully at Ashalla’s approximation of a face. “Two of them were mine. The others belonged to K’nell and Eurysthenes. Vakk was mad, insane beyond redemption - it had to be done!” He gripped the railing of the ship and stared out towards the greener swathes of the horizon. “At least that is what I tell myself,” he added somberly.

Ashalla was still for a few moments, and the entirety of the Giant’s Bath was still with her. “What happened?” she eventually asked.

“There was a great battle on Tendlepog’s grasslands,” Shengshi began. “I remember it well. The Warden’s forces clashing with the demonic wave of Echoes, Vakk’s threats against Hermes and Xiaoli, the final blow… The reason for the battle was so dull, too - all he wanted was some box he accused Hermes of stealing…” He shook his head disappointedly.

Ashalla hesitated. “It was not to retrieve the box. I had the Box of Orchestration, and Vakk knew it. He had called Hermes a thief, so perhaps this was attempted retribution.”

The snake closed his eyes and sucked in a breath of air. “So the whole attack was founded on a misunderstanding… That will certainly haunt me for eternity…” He collected his hands behind his back and slithered over to the dragon’s head, which he promptly mounted.

“So you fought Vakk to defend Hermes and Xiaoli?” Ashalla asked.

He sat down, propped his head on his right fist and sighed. “Yes, it was all for a mortal and a mere part of myself that I could have easily replicated at a later date - all for a bond of love and loyalty. I fought him for Hermes and Xiaoli, and I killed him for Hermes and Xiaoli.” He hummed thoughtfully. “Emotions are interesting, are they not?”

“Vakk attempted to destroy a part of yourself and a being you had promised to aid. Your retaliation is justified. It is Vakk’s foolishness for attempting to fight three gods when he could not even overcome one,” Ashalla said.

The snake flicked his tongue at the air and hummed again. “That is what my reason is telling me, yet the heart remains blue at the thought of being among the first to murder a sibling.” He shook his head. “Let us not speak of it further. My gut can only take so much. Have you seen the Beihese life I created the other day? I think you would like the colours.”

“I have not yet seen it. Perhaps you could show me,” Ashalla said. “Although, I still have another question. Why was Eurysthenes there?”

“Eurysthenes did it for his continent, I believe - after all, he rules Swahhitteh. Furthermore, I believe he had some… Scores to settle with Vakk from earlier, though I could never decipher exactly what those scores were.” He gave Ashalla a weary look. “Will that be all regarding the maggot?”

Ashalla rumbled for a few moments. “Yes, that is all,” she eventually said.

A smile returned to the snake’s lips and he stood up. “Then please, follow me. I am quite certain that you will love this.” With that, he dove into the waters below and began to swim towards the mouth in the crater wall leading to Beihe. Ashalla’s probing tendrils retracted from the Jiangzhou and Ashalla collapsed into the lake to swim after Shengshi.

They entered into the Beihe river and were immediately flanked on each side by a plethora of colours spanning almost the entirety of the visible spectrum. Flowers were beaming in the heliopolis, and bumblebees zoomed about leisurely between the many nectar-dripping blooms. Fish and birds were nibbling on plant detritus and water insects, and frogs sat croaking between the reeds. A farmer ape sat with its hind feet in the stream of the western bank, gnawing on a bamboo stick.

Shengshi stopped and gestured to the surroundings. “What do you think?”

“It is beautiful,” Ashalla said with the sound of a burbling stream.

The snake nodded. “See, I wanted to create an environment with seasonal blooms, much like those wheat plants I added along the Taipang earlier, and make it a changing experience - constant new stimuli for observers.” He pointed to the far end of the river. “Sadly, towards the Dragon’s Strait, the Saluran Mendidih makes the climate much too hot and wet for most of this vegetation… For most vegetation, really.” He put his hands on his hips and cocked his head to the side at Ashalla. “Would it be rude of me to ask if you could do something about the menacing tropical storms over there?”

Ashalla stretched her neck to better peer at the Saluran Mendidih in the distance. “With both the Saluran Mendidih and the Maelstrom, it is not worth me permanently suppressing the storms. I can easily create temporary calms, as I did for the Zhengwu. A useful point for manipulating mortals,” Ashalla said. “As for the boiling strait, that does pose some challenges for creating life nearby. Although, it does boil away most of Seihdhara’s ichor before it can reach the rest of the ocean.”

The snake made the sort of face one would make if someone started discussing cannibalism over dinner. “Please do not even get me started on that abomination of a ‘river’,” he muttered with air-quoting fingers.

There was a brief rumble, then Ashalla suggested, “Perhaps we could do something about that river.”

The snake grimaced. “Like… Touch it, you mean? Dry it out? Remove it entirely?”

“We can cleanse the ichor before it reaches the sea. Narzhak just made some sharks to consume stray ichor and clean up after himself. While sharks are probably not an appropriate solution, the physiology of something which would cleanse the river should be similar,” Ashalla explained.

The snake pursed his lips and tugged at his beard. “... I suppose I could make some sort of seasonal vegetable or grain that would suck the ichor out of the water and collect it in fruits or seeds for the boars to eat.” He counted on his fingers and mouthed silent plans. “Some shrubberies and water lilies could potentially also provide a decent effect.”

“Reeds and mangroves to filter the river. Possibly some animals to keep the plant populations in check,” Ashalla added.

“That could work…” he mumbled and sneered at the mountains. “Well, here we go, then.” With a quick bend of his tail, the snake burst into the air like a red bullet, breaking through the low clouds around the Qiangshan range.

Ashalla watched Shengshi leap away with a huff. Her traversal of those mountains would not be nearly as fast as Shengshi’s. To travel to and across the Seihdhar she would need to be a cloud, but unless she wanted to keep Shengshi waiting a manner to speed up her transformation was in order. A look downstream to the boiling ocean gave her the idea she needed.

Shengshi crashed into the dry, hostile lands of the Charnel Steppes, sending rocks, gravel and dry blood flying in every direction. He surveyed the grey wastes which were only occasionally broken by hills covered in vegetation. Ashen grass that looked more like iron nails stabbed up through the soil, contrasting the red mists that drifted lazily around. The snake sneered.

“How ghastly,” he muttered and looked to the four directions. Ashalla was nowhere to be seen yet - she may have taken the way around, he reasoned. In one of those four directions, or rather more specifically, in front of him, the red Seihdhar cast a stark contrast on the overall deathly greyness about the place. Still, its colour did little to please the snake. He picked up a strand of grass and split it in half with a claw. He dabbed two fingers on his tongue and stroked the inside of both blades before planting them again on the riverbank. Almost immediately, they took on a yellow, sandy colour and grew a metre tall. More like them began to sprout along the river bank, and as the plants drank in the water, they began to redden with an orange glow. Like many of his other plants, Shengshi decided, this one would also be seasonal, as they likely would not be able to handle constantly sucking up divine essence. The first two reeds sprouted seeds and Shengshi picked one to eat.

“Hmm… Dull, flavour-wise, but the blood of a goddess does make it quite rich in nutrients - and energy.” He snickered to himself. “The animals here will grow frighteningly strong.”

At this time a great storm rolled over the north-western horizon. Unlike the discordant storm clouds made from squalls Shengshi had seen earlier, this colossal storm was unified. As the storm came closer, thunder greeted him. “It is a start. But we’ll need more.”

Where Ashalla’s raindrops fell, reeds and moss grew along the Seihdhar, growing thick and strong in the ichor. Mangrove trees also sprouted up, and soon the river of blood was thick with plant-life filtering the fluid. While the ichor this far downstream was fairly dilute compared to the ichor upstream, as the plants sucked the ichor from the water it was concentrated within their sap. The water around the biofilter simmered from the heat of Seihdhara’s blood.

The snake scratched his cheekbone and looked around. Humming ponderously, he dug about in the ashen soil until he found strands of fungi. He pinched a blue fungus string between his claws and pulled it out of the ground. He rubbed it with a few droplets of the Seihdhar which he reluctantly had dabbed on his fingers, and replanted them on the bank. Next to the moss and around the mangroves sprouted thick-stemmed, orange-capped mushrooms that began to absorb excess ichor that the other plants drank from the river. He then patted himself a disc of gray clay and placed it on the water surface, making a water lily which soon sprouted siblings all along the river’s length and also began to redden from drinking divine blood.

“I reckon they will not survive the stronger concentrations further up, but they may reduce the levels of divine essence a little more for the plant life here.” He went over to inspect one of the local sanctuary trees that had already stood here from before they came. A barrier of energy extended around the tree, but Shengshi seemed to pass right through it, albeit with a slight hint of strain on his face. “Do you reckon we could do anything about these?”

A breeze whistled around the sanctuary trees. “These creations of Arae are already well suited for this environment. They may help preserve our biofilter against damage,” Ashalla said. Shengshi nodded with a hum and poked at the shield barrier around him.

The clouds lowered as Ashalla took a closer look at the river so far. “While we want the plants to be thick and prosperous, these plants will become overgrown as they gorge themselves on the rich blood unless we have animals to consume the plants and expend their energy doing things besides growing.”

The snake broke through the shield again and dusted himself off. “Agreed. They ought to be very large, still, as to absorb as much energy as possible without it overbloating and killing them from the inside.” He crossed his arms and glanced across the Charnel Steppes. “They also ought to be able to compete with the… Slightly more savage wildlife around here, I feel.”

Ashalla sent wind to stir up the soil around the river, and from the disturbance emerged many insects who could pollinate the plants of the river. Heavy rain fell over the water, and from the turbulence emerged schools of fish. The smaller of these fish ate moss and plants and hid in the reeds, and a few filtered through the water for traces of ichor which had bled past the many plants. Some larger fish stalked the smaller fish. Their consumption of ichor-laden food led to all the fish being unusually agile, durable and vicious. Some grew blades on their fins, or horns on their skulls, or particularly thick scales. The battles between predator and prey, or between two fish seeking territory or mates, would be fierce and energetic. A few fish also had such martial prowess that they could fire darts of water at insects in the air above them, knocking them down to be consumed.

Meanwhile, the snake had slithered over to the nearby foot of Qiangshan. He patted a tall boulder sticking out of the hillside and beckoned it to follow. Swiftly, the boulder hatched like an egg to reveal a stone-skinned beast with a trunk and two long tusks. It and others from surrounding rock eggs followed along to the river and began to drink the water and eat mangrove leaves. The ichor made them sprout two additional tusks on each side of the trunk, and their legs grew muscular and very swift for a creature of such proportions. These six-tusked elephants were accompanied by birds that perched on their backs and pecked at any curious insects. Water buffalo rose from the waters, their horns becoming antlers, and began to chew river reed cud. One of the water buffalo exited the water for a moment to test the hard ground for the first time, but out of the reeds suddenly came a massive tiger with particularly intense orange stripes and six powerful legs. Finally, smaller critters dared peek out from their hiding spots and began to sample the various grains, mushrooms and leaves around. Squirrels grew wings, tapirs grew thick skulls that could be used to ram predators, mice became bipedal and grew into kangaroo rats, and frogs grew into large, menacing toads with two constantly sneering heads.

Spiralling tornadoes descended from Ashalla and pulled up dirt, red ichor and plants. Out from these twisting winds came birds. Some of the birds possessed a streamlined form, able to plunge into the river like a spear and skewer fish on their sharpened beaks. Some were lightweight and camouflaged, darting with great agility among the plants of the river to eat their fruits while evading predators. And a few avians were colossal birds of prey, hunting all beasts smaller than themselves.

The snake broke off a branch from a mangrove and dipped it in ichor. In his hands the branch became a bundle of red snakes, their backs sporting impressive manes of flowing, golden hair, and their teeth dripping with yellow, nerve-killing venom. He put all but two of them on the ground and watched them slither off. The remaining two, he rubbed with soil and gravel and put down on the ground. The snakes sprouted six legs along their now-thickened central bodies. Their necks shortened and their manes sprouted straight, pointed horns. These maned iguanas sat themselves down by the riverside, basking in the heliopolis light.

The snake wiped his brow and put his hands on his hips. “How stellar! The water is functionally pure as it runs into the sea, now. Maybe in a few hundred years, it will be perfectly clean as it should be,” he said excitedly. “Got any more ideas?”

With her nebulous form it was impossible to tell where Ashalla was looking, but it could be reasonably guessed that she was inspecting their handiwork. “It is good. I think our work here is complete,” Ashalla eventually said.

“Yes, it would seem so… Well, that would be two tasks scratched from my to-do list! Thank you so, so much for your aid with Taipang, and your suggestion to… clean this ‘river’ here. Say, while we are at it, would you like to see what we can do about that Dragon’s Strait, too?”

Ashalla rumbled as she considered the offer. “Perhaps some other time,” she eventually said.

The snake nodded. “Yes, on second thought, I do feel quite drained from today’s endeavours. What will you do now, if I may ask?”

“I will inspect the battle for the jungle. If the fires have not been dampened by now, it will require my direct intervention,” Ashalla said.

The snake nodded. “And for a moment, I had completely forgotten that assaillants are at my doorstep… I will return to Nanhe to see if they have been forced into a retreat yet. If not, then I, too, will join the battle myself.”

A distant rumble of thunder signalled acknowledgement. “Then let us go.”

“I will secure the river itself. If you could defend the eastern forests, I would be in your debt,” the snake said.

“Alright,” Ashalla replied. The wind changed, and the storm billowed southwards. Shengshi once more skipped back over the mountain range and dove into Beihe on the other side, swimming along the stream towards the south.

@Zurajai Welcome. We have room for you to join as a demigod. I'll send you a link to our Discord server, where the vast majority of OOC communications happens. There you can propose ideas for your prospective character and see what other players think.
@Kho to your plans for Belru-Gadar-Vowzra, can you add a meeting with Teknall? He promised to not forget her, and now that she's made her existence public he should check in with her. Also, he has some things that belong to Yara.

Also, don't forget that part of the Vetros plot includes rebuilding the Temple of the Bond. Teknall pulled some strings to help that happen and get a trade school set up too.
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