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Twenty-six years after Antiquity...

The smoke of burning wood and smouldering thatch stung at the eyes of the Dûnan warband pillaging the small village whose name now would be lost to history. The simple skin and hide boots left prints in the bloody soot, and the whimpers of captured prisoners followed the warriors in a long chain of hemp rope. It seemed that the Dûnans almost had gotten a taste for blood over the last year - with every conquest, the hunger for more land to call their own only grew more and more. It seemed almost difficult not to continue, too, for resistance was often meek and short-lived, none able to stand against the mountainborne tide. With spear, axe and torch, they seized the grain and livestock of their neighbours to fuel the machine of Dûnan growth back home.

At least, that was the case until their campaign reached the town of Grimholt, less of a village and more of a holdout. The Dûnans had heard stories of the unbreachable palisades of Grimholt - so built to ward off the bandit hordes of the north. However, the Dûnans were confident that their warband was better organised, better armed, had better numbers and, most importantly, had the support of the druids. Their pride had fueled them so far with nothing more than success to reap - Grimholt would fall all the same.

However, the first assault was devastating - the battle had been fought uphill, and while the Dûnans were no strangers to mountain climbing, they had never before done so under barrages after barrages of arrows. The hillside was barren when it came to cover - the defenders had cleared it completely of trees so that their archers could see every inch of the way. The druids didn’t even manage to break the gate - the poles were solidly planted in the stone of the hill, and landslides before they reached the top, too, proved only ineffective or, at worst, thundered down over their own warriors. Before evening, half of the Dûnan forces, the campaign which had sacked and captured over six other villages by now, laid bleeding out or dead on the hills leading up to Grimholt. The army commander, the druid Gene, had no choice but to sound a retreat.

They fell back to a forest at the foot of the hill, hiding deep among the trees and shrubs, separated into squadrons to hide their presence. The commanders shared a talk over a warming sphere of sunwarm, conjured forth by druidic spells to bypass the need to light a fire and attract the enemy with smoke. Besides Gene, there were two other commanders still alive: Vegard, a bushy-bearded gaardskarl whose muscle to fat ratio seemed about half-in-half, and Clement, a brasfortsian stone-faced hunter with an almost god-blessed aim with the bow. Right now, though, he was not alone in wearing his cold expression.

“... We have to pull further back - send word to Ha-Dûna and tell them that our charge was broken and that we need reinforcements. We can fortify ourselves back in Shallawick or whatever that village was called. We--”

“Oh, give it a rest, Kaer Gene. You know that place is not fit for a siege - not now. We just came from there and now, well, only the spirits of the dead roam that place with any luck of surviving longer than a week.” Clement’s harsh reply forced Gene to lower her head.

“So… That’s it? Have we, have we lost?”

Clement held up a hand. “No, we haven’t lost - not yet. If we can lure them out, we might still have a chance, and--”

“A chance? Clement, we do not know how many lurk behind that wall of theirs!” Vegard pointed out and gnawed into a loaf of stale bread. He chewed, swallowed and continued, “Even if they in their victorious stupor were arrogant enough to attack us in the open field - an arena which we have adjusted to so well over the course of the last year - they wouldn’t dare to do so unless they outnumbered us. By how much, though - that is the question.”

Gene brought a quivering hand to her face. “You mean I… I will never see my daughters again? My sweet, little Jaclyn? My Keely? My--” She was silenced with a squeeze of her shoulder from each of the other commanders.

“Don’t worry, Kaer Gene - as Clement said, this isn’t over yet. We just… Need to recover a bit and reorganise ourselves.” He looked at her tree branch staff and then up at the heavens through the treetops. “... And pray for a miracle.”

* * *

Truly the events around Grimholt were less than ideal. The druidic army had been quite the measure of interest, they had been doing such good work in improving the region, the evident defeat, and so costly one, was a grave measure of concern.

Thaa had cast his gaze upon the various clumps of hiding warriors at that forest so near to their intended prize, he always kept a look out for particular changes among the incoming souls, the Dûnans were a surprising and unwelcome addition. Although now reviewing the location it did become quite clear how such an unfortunate result occurred, and it now seemed even less likely that the situation would improve by itself.

By whatever amounts the minds of men were so enthralled by valor and courage, the arrows and axes and spears of Grimholt would care little for such things. Even if courage still remained in the hearts of the warriors now cowering from view of their foes, it was no shield against their weapons with piercing tips and slicing heads.

Luckily for this little expedition’s chances it did not have to stand alone against such things that those of Grimholt’s walls would wield against them, for Thaa had made up his mind to this matter.

* * *

To whatever conversation or looks of understanding that were shared in the shade of the trees or the soft shadows of the bushes, something came echoing out to each of those in that forest. A million voices spoke out in unison to their minds, each seemed only to whisper, some that seemed human and many others that were not. They came forth as a cascade, forming a voice in quality completely new and different from their parts.

“Warriors of Ha-Dûna, you had my attention, and now you have my blessing. Until Grimholt, the holdout against this holy force is taken and consecrated by the blood of those who stand against this mission, no arrow nor spear nor axe nor any other weapon of man made shall slay you noble warriors of Ha-Dûna. So is my divine will.”

With these words came a shock to all those that had heard them, the wounds they had nursed or tiredness they suffered seemed to drop away in pain or limitation. Their flesh did not mend but still they felt as though they were without harm. More than that a power seemed to remain in each of them, an energy that refused to go away. They were not stronger than they had ever been, nor faster or of quicker draw. Each and everyone could tell the indomitable effect that had come over them was present.

The warriors looked at one another with wordless bewilderment. The commanders rose up and looked to the sky, then at Vegard, who looked equally shocked. “... A miracle,” Kaer Gene whispered.

“A bloody miracle,” Clement echoed. Their warriors closed in around them, and in the distance, they heard the snapping twigs and rumble of boots that signalled the approach of the other squadrons.

“Who’s, who’s blessing was that, though?” mumbled Kaer Gene uncertainly. “Was it Caden?”

“Maybe, or maybe we’ve attracted the attention of a new patron god!”

Kaer Gene frowned bepuzzled. All throughout her training, she had heard the whispers of many of the gods - but these million voices were unknown to her. Completely unfamiliar. She stabbed the butt of her stick into the ground and looked up.

“Whoever it is, they have given us the miracle we pleaded for! They shall be revered alongside the Eight and the Three as the god who saved the Dûnans in their darkest hours! Now, let us see if their divine blessing holds true! CHARGE!” The druid stormed towards the edge of the woods, followed by the Dûnan horde brandishing their weapons and screaming their fury.

Up on the battlements of Grimholt, the defenders were sharing victoriously in a feast of meat, porridge, bread and fermented milk. They sat counting their arrows as they ate, exchanging jokes and records of how many Dûnans they had shot down, laughter booming with every outrageous claim.

“I shot down twenty one a’ them, I did!” came a claim.

“Carl, you couldn’t hit the broadside of a longhouse even if you stood right in front of it!” came a counter-claim. “You might’ve hit one of their fat warrior broads if you got lucky!” A nova of laughter exploded throughout the gathered warriors. By the edge of the battlements, a sentry watched valiantly over the hillside, his bow the only strung one. Colours of white, pale pink, dark greens, dark reds and browns caught his eye coming out of the forest and he frowned in disbelief.

“Uuuuhm, chieftain?” he called and the chieftain of the village, a mighty warrior by the name of Barth, approached the battlements with a curious brow. The brow lowered even further once they identified the assailants and saw them charge up the hill with unreal vigour, as though they had licked their wounds completely clean in the span of an afternoon.

“What in the… Pwah, they must’ve eaten the wrong kind of mushrooms, I reckon. Men! Line up, string bows and knock arrows! Let’s just get this over with.” The archers almost groaned and did as they were told. The Dûnans were almost within range of their arrows. Chief Barth followed the charge with a mixture of anticipation and outright disbelief. “Wow, when the messengers said they were fanatics, I took their words for it, but this is beyond anything I could’ve imagined. Well, lads, you can all rest easy tonight knowing that you’ve made the highlands a safer place. The Dûnans will no longer consume the country with wanton murder and pillaging. Ready? Loose!”

A cloud of arrows soared forth and blanketed the attackers. A good deal of them hit their marks. The chieftain sighed, shook his head and turned around. “What a waste…”

“Chieftain!” came a sudden yell. Barth spun back around and stormed over to the battlements. The charge hadn’t been broken - in fact, it only seemed to have been spurred on by the arrows. The chieftain squinted at the Dûnans, but couldn’t make out any details about them yet.

“Give them another volley!” The arrows soared again, once more hitting their marks. However, the charge was undeterred. Barth and the archers exchanged looks of wild confusion. “L-loose at will!” The archers lost all sense of unity as they sent out arrow after arrow, hammering down at the hill like the heaviest rain in history.

However, it became clear to them that their efforts were for naught once they could make out the first of the attackers in full detail. It was a woman, blonde hair blowing in the wind of her charge, her only armour being her plaid, a thin linen overshirt, a combat kilt and leather boots. Her chest, belly, face, arms, legs and back - all had at least one arrow stabbed deep into it. By all accounts, she should be dead. But there she was - tireless feet drumming against the grass until she reached the main gate, ramming her axe into the wood with beastly fury. Her peers weren’t far behind her, and almost all of them were equally mutilated, yet seemingly completely fine.

The archers froze in fear. A few of them caught sight of a young girl, barely even an adult, who grinned up at them with arrows in both her eyes, one in her forehead and three in her chest. They felt their hands weaken, dropping their bows in panic and scurrying for safety with squeals and screams. Chieftain Barth tried to keep everyone in place, but he nearly vomited when he tossed a stone down at one of the warriors, saw his skull crack open in half and was only met with a half-faced glare.

“Ch-chieftain! What do we DO?!” came a terrorised squeak. Chief Barth darted around for a solution. They all heard the whine and groan of the molested wooden gate breaking apart under the fury and rage of Dûnan axes and clubs.

“W-we--” he began, but then the gate broke apart, falling forward off the copper hinges moreso than actually opening up. The horde of warriors flooded into the village like a wave of death, and the village squealed with terror. Barth didn’t understand. He looked down into the village and very clearly saw spears and axes lodge themselves into the Dûnans’ flesh, but they did nothing - absolutely nothing. The Dûnans fought on all the same. He looked up to the heavens and fell to his knees. Was this the favour of the gods? It had to be - why, why did the gods support these, these bloodthirsty barbarians, why?! They were demons, demons sent to lay their lands low for, for some obscure reason. The gods were unfair like that. The chieftain’s vision was blocked. He blinked and his eyes readjusted to look into the bleeding face of Vegard, his torso impaled by at least ten arrows and his right thigh nearly chopped to pieces with what looked like axe marks. The chieftain looked to his left and right, where there stood one warrior on each side with spears at the ready. Barth drew a quivering breath and spoke, “h-how?”

He whimpered as Vegard grabbed him by the hair and wrested his face towards his own, grinning through broken teeth. “The gods favour the mighty, the strong, the pious.”

Barth didn’t understand, but nodded all the same. “You will be stopped. Grimholt has powerful allies to the north. They will not take kindly to this treachery.”

Vegard looked at the two other warriors and then all three burst into a cackle. The gaardskarl knelt down so his head was level with Barth’s. He unsheathed a copper dagger and placed it against the chieftain’s throat, slicing at it slowly. “Let them come,” he threatened as the blade carved gradually through skin, sinew and flesh. The chieftain twisted and screamed, but the two guards held him down. “Ha-Dûna is the capital of the gods - the holiest of cities in all of khatrfral.” The chieftain’s blood spilled all over his knife, hand and clothes, as well as their boots and the flooring of the battlements. “We will persist through any attack - any attempt at so-called ‘revenge’ against our righteous campaign. Your allies will fall as you have fallen today - this is the will of the gods!” With that, he sawed the dagger one last time and severed the chieftain’s head from his shoulders, rocketing to his feet and holding it up for all to see. “THE CHIEFTAIN IS DEAD! GRIMHOLT IS OURS!” The wave of cheers from below came almost as a physical shockwave. Vegard lifted the head to the sky with both hands. “We prevailed under the blessing of our newest god - our ally in our darkest hours! They brought us victory today, and they shall be remembered for this for all eternity!”

He passed the head to Kaer Gene, who had come up to join him. She held to high to the heavens, too, and shouted: “The new god shall become our patron of conquest and victory! Kneel!” The Dûnan warriors all fell to their knees and hands - those with arrows in their legs and arms pulled these out as though they were simple splinters. Kaer Gene spoke, “We offer your our allegiance and our loyalty for the gift you have given us today, great god, and pray that you will be with us forever more as we claim more land for our prospering city! Everyone, submit yourselves to our god of victory, SIGERAN!”

“We offer ourselves to Sigeran!” the warriors roared as one. Cheers and celebrations followed, during which the chieftain’s head, along with the heads of other senior staff in the village, were mounted on spears and displayed as a tributary altar to Sigeran. The druids in the warband quickly got to helping the wounded, but as the blessing of Sigeran wore off, they began to notice that the empowerment given to them had indeed only been temporary. They managed to save some, but the entire warband should effectively have died during the assault. Those who could not be aided in time ended up bleeding out, dying from organ failure or simply being crushed under the shocking pain they had to endure. In the end, the Dûnans suffered a loss so great that they realised Grimholt would be the last bastion they’d take during this campaign. Vegard was among those who didn’t make it, and the bodies of the dead were burned on a great pyre before the altar to Sigeran. Kaer Gene, who had acquired a limp, stepped up before the pyre and turned to the remaining warriors. They were fewer than fifty now - barely a ragtag band of brigands. Many of them were gravely wounded, and had just barely been saved. Kaer Gene and the other druids had completely spent their favour with Reiya to do so and would need weeks, maybe even months, to recharge to the same level. Still, they had their unbreakable spirit and their expertise from battle. They would live another day.

“Weep not for the dead, my brothers and sisters,” she began. “When I lost my dear husband and his brothers, I wept for a long, long time. I was without hope, without purpose, until Kaer Teagan gave me both. This is but a pause to rest on our journey to make Ha-Dûna the mightiest power in mondan. We will send word of our victory back to Kaer Teagan and the archdruids, and our people will spread here, too, and bring Dûnan prosperity and faith even to these distant hills. The Circle of the Long Stride will spread its faith long and far - this, I swear!” She took a breath. “We have done it, my brothers and sisters - we have brought glory to our home and to the gods!”

The warriors cheered and sang:

The enemy has fallen low -
Their weakest people, in our tow.
We’ve taken huts and taken land
To work them with our Dûnan hands!


A dark red dragon rested along the floor of Aquibeophates among the mists. Nearby was one of the great towers of the realm. She, as one who was familiar with dragons might be able to tell, was looking up the tower and occasionally around peering through the mists to see if any others may be nearby.

Aen’drannan was her name, she had spent quite a bit of time in the company of her fellow dragons and she quite found them to be somewhat boring most of the time. The majority seemed content to wait for a divine plan to unfold, and to rest and enjoy themselves, rather than actually doing much of anything at all.

She was not so complacent. It was in part what had drawn her to the towers, one could always see them in the distance, it was quite difficult to reach them as many had found out. Simply flying or walking towards them never seemed to truly shorten the distance as it should. Aen’drannan had figured out a secret of sorts, one needed not to journey towards the towers, but intend to arrive at the towers. It had something to do with the mind she could, something about this place had rules to it, rules one could learn to use.

And so she had arrived. It didn’t seem like there were any others about, dragons or otherwise. She had talked quite a lot with a number of dragons, most had spoken of mysterious beings in the mists with odd manners and even stranger purposes, some had even claimed to have spoken to one of the four rightly guided deities. She didn’t quite know about how truthful all the stories were, but one thing was clear. This was the great realm Aquibeophates, ruled by Thaa of the Great Eye, he was supposed to be a giant of sorts, although none were ever extremely clear on what he looked like, at least none that Aen’drannan had spoken with. The other three rightly guided deities were a little less clear although there were some stories of them too, she didn’t really know what to believe about all that.

She was here, she knew that, and it seemed like she was here alone. She had already circled the base of the tower, no entrance or anything of particular interest there. She tensed her muscles, prepared her wings and from rest threw herself into the air. Her legs acted to spring herself off the ground as her wings flapped to start giving lift.

Aen’drannan flew around the great tower in the mists of Aquibeophates, there didn’t seem to be much of great interest around the outside of the tower at all really, although she hadn’t seen what if anything there was far up above. She looked up.

“Aren’t you the curious one?”

A great eye looked back at her, the Great Eye it dawned on her. Suddenly thousands of things, too fast and too small for her to see properly, shot out from above and grabbed her. Instinctually she tried to swerve away or to escape his grasp, to no avail against the god’s strength.

“You should do well enough.”

“Well enough for what!? I’m sorry if I went somewhere I was n-not welcome- please don’t...”

This wasn’t how this was supposed to go at all, and she was rather terrified. The things shifted and grabbed her body but she was unable to look away as the eye before her seemed to bore into her. Suddenly she felt an intense pressure on her head before subsiding, and then a slightly sickening glow inside of her before that too subsided.

“You will know when you are done there.”

With that rather unsatisfactory answer the monumental god rather unceremoniously threw her at the tower. Rather surprisingly, or unsurprisingly if one really had time to think about the situation, she didn’t just have her body smash against stone. Instead she found time to gather herself back together and achieve flight once more with her wings, and then almost immediately land.

Aen’drannan had no idea what sun-damned place she was in. There were no mists, no towers, and of course Thaa of the Great Eye was gone as well, real helpful there. She could tell that she was in some manner of room. It was circular and there was a ramp that circled up the walls far into the distance. She couldn’t see if it ended somewhere and well that's another thing.

The lighting was off, in Aquibeophates normally one could see generally pretty decently, the light shifted never truly coming to darkness but never truly being all that bright either. Here where there were no mists, no hidden angles, there was light almost everywhere. Not a blinding light, it was a calmer level than that, but it didn’t seem to have a source, there were no shadows, no shades, it was a little unsettling. To her it seemed as though almost everything was just off enough to not be normal, in most of Aquibeophates things were sometimes odd, but there seemed to be rules that at least pretended to accord with what things should be, what it felt like in her mind was natural. Here was different.






Like many other times, Yamat found himself strolling through the great meeting place of gods, Antiquity, a pep in his step, ideas forming within his mind. His gaze darted from portal to portal, perhaps he could meet another god to spark some more ideas? So far he had met only agreeable gods, so he only hoped he could find another one he could agree with.

Finally, one of the portals caught his eye, inside he could see a strange misty and endless stone, a rather bleak realm that was for certain, similar to both his and Neiya’s, perhaps he should give this god a visit?

He pressed forward, entering into a vast stone plain, where thick mist covered the land and tall imposing towers dotted the horizon. Certainly interesting. He ventured further deeper, hoping his divine presence would attract the attention of whoever’s realm this was.

In any case, to his divine senses the entire place stank of death, it seemed to surround all aspects of everything there, not that it lent itself well to showing them. So overwhelming that it was the great fog present blocking almost all sense and ability to tell in any detail what was far away. Another thing was off, it would have taken another being some time to figure it out but the rules that governed reality here were not the same as those on Galbar or the facsimile that existed in Antiquity.

A mere few seconds after entering through the portal the ground shifted, the portal vanishing into the mist, the towers seemed to fade further into the horizon. What seemed to be stone shifted around Yamat although he felt like he was not moving at all. Soon vague figures at the edge of what he could perceive in the mists surrounded him and the stone came to stop. Several voices came from above, speaking as one in a demanding tone.

“Who are you and why have you entered Aquibeophates?”

”I am Yamat,” He spoke, offering a bow towards the figures. ”I merely wished to meet the company of the god of this realm and make their acquaintance.”

“Oh, Yamat?” The voices spoke much more pleasantly, almost cheerful. “I am Thaa, and I have to say I am a big fan of one of your creations. The Iskrill are quite a spectacular piece of work, at least I assume they are yours as they seem to be solely interested in the worship of yourself.”

From above descended a great eye, behind it fading into the mists were what appeared to be the corpses of numerous species on Galbar, sapients were overrepresented among their numbers. It twisted to be more in-front and above rather than directly overhead. The figures in the mist faded back into it.

“I have to say I don’t believe I ever did catch, from the souls of the dead you see, what exactly was the domain of your power? As you might suppose, I am Lord of Death, Guardian of Souls and all of the Afterlife. I am quite pleased to make your acquaintance, and would love to talk more if you have the time.”

Yamat’s eye and halo brightened to see another fan of his work ”Why yes! The Iskrill are one of my works, I’m glad to see there is another fan of my works, as for my domain,” Yamat bowed once more, his form doubling over and his left arm outstretched ”I am the god of Tragedy and Misfortune, I am pleased to make your acquaintance Lord of Death, and I am more than free to talk.” He returned to a standing position.

Thaa’s eye remained locked onto Yamat as he replied, “I am glad to hear that Yamat. In truth I have spoken little with the other deities so making your own acquaintance is quite welcome. Before your arrival I had just been ruminating on some plans of my own. Plans which I have to say were in part taken inspiration from your example with the Iskrill. Although very different in form and ultimately have a different purpose. Would you like to see a draft I have made of it?”

”I would love to see them.”

“This is just a facsimile of course, still too early in planning to truly create a form that would be suitable for Galbar.” As Thaa spoke a large figure that towered above came into form from the mists, it came closer thundering with each step. “In form it is quite dissimilar to the Iskrill, but in function and intent you might be able to take up a few notables that they may share.”

The great thing finally came into greater detail and view. Upon initial viewing it could be compared to that of a giant carnivorous lizard although on closer inspection it was apparent it was quite different from such a creature. For one it did not share the same gait as beset most lizards, that of the legs which came out supporting their body from the side. This creature was supported from legs fully below it, and it moved with an alertness and steady speed that spoke to a creature that kept its own body to a high temperature.

Four powerful legs supported the massive form, scales shimmered all across its body, evidently armored to extensive extent. A long tail circled back into the mist. Another dissimilarity with most lizards was the long neck that eventually reached out into a head, a mouth of sharp teeth, two forward facing predatory eyes and nostrils. Ears if it had them were a bit harder to see, ear-holes mostly likely partially obscured by the continuing scales. Thaa continued.

“This is a draft you understand, just a puppet, there's not a soul there but I plan for them to be sapient like many of the mortals Galbar, thinking, speaking and worshipping while they approach their own purposes. Oh and I should say I have a name for them, although it's just a work in progress like much here. ‘Dragon’ is what I've taken to calling it, not entirely original but it works.”

Yamat’s gaze was drawn to the mighty beast, taking in every bit of the “Dragon”, he found himself somewhat entranced with its being ”My my isn’t that a beauty, a mighty fine draft if i do say so myself Lord of the Dead,” He turned towards the large eye, finally drawing his focus away from the creature ”And what function do you wish for them to serve amongst the Great Play?

When Thaa answered, his tone was thoughtful, but not quite masking his own cheeriness. “Oh that’s the true beauty of them, their ability and strength, combined with their intelligence allow for a great flexibility of purposes to which they may be put. I of course do not wish to flood Galbar with them, nor even intend that they live lives down on the surface of that world. No I think they shall remain here and will be deployed as necessary, a single one could change a great deal in its region, they’d serve a great place in shaping Galbar in my thoughts. Although sending them all in great numbers does have some attractive results, ultimately it is too rash and unthoughtful to be in any measure a good idea with the current state of affairs as they are.”

”I see” Yamat replied, his own tone thoughtful as well, he stared once more at the draft, while its current form was indeed impressive and a beauty to Yamat’s eyes, it felt like it needed more. ”Their form is rather impressive, but, I do feel like they need a bit more, perhaps I can be of assistance?” He thought for a few seconds after ”I believe I could also get another god to lend a hand.”

“I would enjoy your assistance very much, to have the mastermind behind the Iskrill on this project is a sure thing to lead to even greater success.” Thaa paused, clearly thinking for a moment as gentle sounds of shifting could be heard through the mists. “I do suppose as per your latter statement that if you think they would be good for this project that I will trust your assessment of that. I do have to ask, which god?”

One could only remain languidly on a throne for so long before the simple act of doing nothing became exhausting in itself. Neiya leant back in her pavilion, staring out with bitter expression over her desolate realm. In her mind’s eye, she held herself apprised of Aveira’s progression on Galbar, and intermittently cut in to direct her avatar to take additional actions in her training of the Neiyari. Aveira was her own being, but was still so entirely in tune with Neiya’s desires that there was not much to do but watch her divine servant carry out the plan as it had been established. Like answering the prayers of the indulgent and insolent, it had begun to lose its novelty.

Suddenly, a familiar voice entered into her mind ”Hey Neiya? You there?”

Neiya drew a sharp breath, straightening herself out in her throne even though no one was looking. ”Yamat? Did something happen? Is it her?”

The voice paused for a few seconds ”I'm going to be honest, I have no idea who her is but everything is fine, I’ve come to ask your assistance with a design I'm assisting in.”

Neiya went through a range of expressions; bemusement, irritation, and finally resignation. ”I suppose such is to be expected,” she replied through the connection and glanced at her white talons as though they were nails, and Yamat was somehow watching. ”Shall I come to your realm?”

”No as I am currently not there, come to the realm portal with the strange mist flowing out of it, you can come meet me and Thaa there.”

”Somehow, Yamat, I feel as though that describes more than one of these portals. But very well.” Neiya responded, and lifted from her throne, hovering up over the ground in the pavilion. With a dismissive lift of her chin she preempted Yamat’s response and broke the connection. His tomfoolery was more pleasant in person, after all. Flexing her talons briefly, she drifted up into the sky of her realm, and towards the portal to Antiquity.

For the first time in eons, Fe’ris felt excited about something. He had just created shapeshifters, mortals that could be as fluid in their appearance as the gods, if not more so! If some other god had already created such a thing, he didn’t care. It was new to him, and that was what mattered. He couldn’t wait to see how it played out.

The bat god turned his gaze toward the ever-present orange moon suspended above his cavern, beckoning him forth with its autumnal glow. It reminded him of Galbar, perched above Antiquity. He stretched his wings and yawned. It had been a while since he’d last been. It might be good to catch up with whatever riffraff paraded around the stone coliseum.

Pumping his wings powerfully, he launched his massive form into the air, sending clouds of dust flurrying around the dark chasm. A few more impressive beats, and he climbed toward the moon, a portal to Antiquity appearing moments before he could crash into the hollow, floating rock.

Having learned about the importance of portal size last time he appeared in the nexus of realms, Fe’ris landed in his base form, tucking into a roll and popping out of the portal with a flourish. The moderate sunlight stung his eyes, and he blinked ferociously as he scanned the archaic landscape.

His eyes halted on a collection of three gods, none of which he had ever seen before. The fluffy, socially-awkward god approached, possessing just the wrong blend of self-importance and anxiety as he sauntered toward the other beings.

The three beings hovered just around the edge of another portal. Literally in the case of one, a thin woman with skin like snow. White bone and metallic edges jutted from her form in an asymmetrical distortion of an otherwise sleek silhouette. Her fingers were as talons, which she seemed preoccupied with as she fidgeted despite not standing on the ground.

One was a large eye that kept switching between the other two figures, it was emplaced onto a spiked disk which sat upon an enormous pile of corpses that shifted and stretched. Among the corpses were what appeared to be formerly members of life on Galbar, most were sapients that could be recognized as from one species or another, a few that seemed to be collating near the disk were not recognizably any particular mortal race, perhaps an amalgam.

The last of the gods was tall and lanky, they had black skin with golden symbols and runes seemingly carved into their skin and they wore a long bright golden skirt that flowed down to the ground. Their face was covered by a faceless golden mask that possessed a singular eye that seemed to be just a bright orb of light, and behind their head was a softly glowing halo of golden light.

Fe’ris arrived just in time to catch the tail-end of what seemed to be a longer conversation.

”This is all very pleasant,” the pale goddess intoned with resigned tone, barely taking her eyes off of her nails. ”but I hope you’re not going to call on me every time you make a friend, Yamat.”

”This isn’t just to introduce you to Thaa, my new associate has a design he wishes to make, and I thought you and I could be of some help to him, especially given your new area of expertise.” The tall god spoke, looking the pale goddess up and down with their single eye.

She lifted her chin with a regal confidence, the frown mellowing out to a more candid narcissism. ”Well, I suppose there’s no harm in hearing you out, now that I am here anyway.”

“Ahem.” The bat god did not seem to know where to start, as he had only ever seen one god at a time before, much less three. “To whom am I making myself acquainted? You aren’t the most sunny gods I’ve seen, to be sure.”

The tall god turned to face the newcomer, well, their torso did, their legs seemed to stay in place facing forward, their torso now entirely facing the new god. They leaned forward, observing them ”My my you’re an interesting figure, don’t believe I’ve met you before.” they extended their hand out ”Yamat, pleasure to meet you, and you are?”

”I am Fe’ris, and I am pleased to meet someone so unsettling such as yourself. A far cry from Cadien, if you don’t mind me saying.” He sniffed the air, pointy nose twitching as his attention shifted past Yamat, to the two equally sinister and beautiful beings behind them. ”Who might you be?”

The pale goddess scoffed quietly, watching the new arrival with a mixture of contempt and skepticism. ”Neiya. Goddess of Love, among other things,” Her red and black eyes matched her venomous tone as they studied Fe’ris. ”I’m surprised Cadien’s never mentioned you. Another name I did not know.” Yamat chuckled at the comment.

“I am Thaa.” His eye had shifted to watch the newcomer, otherwise he held off sharing further of himself. “And what might your area of expertise be Fe’ris?”

Fe’ris spread his gnarled, scaly hands, his skin shifting and cracking as he did so. Black keratin snaked up his arms as flexible spikes sprouted from the chinks exposing his bare skin. “Ambition. And change, as of late. I entail the good and the bad of yearning; the internal and external turmoil that goes towards changing oneself… and others.” As he spoke, patterns appeared on the scales, which were now covered in stripes and spots of all kinds. His voice deepened to a scratchy rumble. “Not every god is so… accepting, of the good and the bad. I hope that isn’t the case here.”

Yamat drew closer, their one eye investigating the god further, before they suddenly shot straight up and turned towards the others ”I like him, perhaps he could assist us in our little endeavor? More gods could make it easier.”

“I have had enough of these antics, if you wish to be apart of something truly important then come along.” Thaa promptly turned upon his little annoucement’s end, and entered the portal, returning to his realm once more among the mists.

Yamat quickly followed the god of death, motioning for the other two to follow as well, ”Come now Thaa, don’t be so dire.” they spoke as the mists returned around them. Neiya gave the fourth addition a last glance and frown before following along, hovering in behind Yamat.

As each entered the ground underneath them shifted till they were all gathered in the mists, away from the towers in the distance or the portal back to Antiquity which had so disappeared behind them.

The dragon came back into view, with all its armored scales, its four great legs and the long neck and nail. It came from the mists as if remerging from some long forgotten place. A giant beast with teeth like daggers and claws like mighty blades. Its eyes gazed forward as it walked into view with each thunderous step, the eyes seemed empty devoid of any sign of intelligence, for now at least.

"Now this Neiya is what I called you to help with." Yamat gestured at the dragon "Thaa wishes them to have a bit more pizazz to them, something I think we could provide.. They turned towards Thaa rapidly "I was thinking of adding an aura of decay, plants and the like wither away in a radius around them, would be a beautiful sight don't you agree?"

Neiya hummed a soft agreement, black and red eyes swirling intently as they fixated on the large beast with growing fascination. Rarely had so many gears visibly turned in the pale goddess’ head all at once. ”I’m pleased you called on me, Yamat. This is unlike anything I’ve seen. It’s-... majestic. Though perhaps a little too feral. True fighting spirit requires-... strategy.”

Thaa cut in, “Yes, yes, it will have greater intelligence but as of the moment it lacks a soul, something I will remedy. For now this is a mere simulacrum of the true end product. The plates on its body should turn aside most mundane weapons as would its notable natural weapons and large size provide it with great power on its own, combined with an intelligent mind as Yamat’s kind suggestion we might be starting to get somewhere with this.”

”Well,” Neiya retorted swiftly, ”Now that I am here, we can certainly get started.”

”It’s so… bulky. Does a beast of this stature not deserve more grace? More finesse?” He gestured at the long, winding, sinewy figure, full of sharp edges and smooth curves, yet stout and staunchly connected to the ground it prowled upon. “Should we add color, then we should also add wings, for brilliant displays of power and fury through the skies, as well as the earth.”

The pale goddess lit up with a sudden epiphany, as though her interest was relit after the initial novelty had worn off. ”Yes. Wings are an excellent idea. I’ve worked with them before for a project of… battle-testing… and I agree with-...” she peered at Fe’ris for a few moments. ”...our friend here.”

Not waiting for any other agreement, Fe’ris twirled a finger, the scales on it flipping and clicking back down like a set of dominos. On the dragon, scales shifted similarly, sliding out of the way to make room for the fleshy spines forcing their way out of its shoulder blades, expanding and warping to form a pair of branching, webbed wings, their exterior covered in strong, flexible scales molded to the shape of the wings. Patterns swirled and bubbled across the unfurled surface, almost like an avian mating display as they swirled and changed, from spots to stripes to glowing freckles, back to plain scales. Fe’ris grinned. “My, I think we’ve something spectacular on our hands.”

“Indeed we do.” Thaa paused in his speech as he shifted around the dragon, his great eye looking over it as the bodies that made his form coiled around at a distance from the form of the great beast. “Come aid me in making this beast we call a ‘dragon’ a reality, that it or its kith and kin may one day come to Galbar.”

The assembled deities each lended their power to bring the dragon forth, beyond just a replica of the ideas it became real. The Dragon became more full with contributions from each of the gods. Grown anew, massive wings stretched out from its back, long joints connected and controlled the wings, each connected by membranes that made the whole structure look like that of a bat’s writ large. The Dragon stretched out to its massive wingspan’s full reach before collapsing them onto its back to rest gently.

It’s body glimmered in the mists of Aquibeophates, coated with armored plates along the entirety of its form. No mundane weapon would pierce, crush or slash through such a defense. Plate sat half over plate, each reinforcing the next from head to tail, back to foot. Its massive form shifted as the mists still coiled around it, larger than most of any mortal species on or away from Galbar. It bespoke of things powerful and full, able to exist and grow to such a size far beyond what most were capable of.

Intelligence shined through its eyes as it gazed upon the figures before it, power radiated from the great beast in the eyes of divine beings that created it. Decay radiated from its form, its soul shining a brilliant gold resilient to all that would attempt to bend its will, its thoughts pounded with focus and desire for prey. Dragon lifted its head spew forth green fire, flames not of mundane means but rather a magical bane-fire, concentrated energies of death.

Soon the flame was joined by faint glimmers throughout the mists, fell flame burning, showing the faint outlines of similar forms throughout the realm of death.


There were few times that Kiim and Jaav agreed upon something, and now was not one of them. Guul had to admit that their continued ability to find something to argue with each other about was quite a skill, impressive in its own way even if quite tiring. The golden barge that they all rode upon was not big enough to escape it, especially considering they were all joined to the same body. Still Guul had found some pleasure in fully exploring the craft, even though it was her own effort that created it she was only going by Thaa’s designs. As it turned out he had quite the eye for detail, even if in rather odd places.

Of course there were the generalities as they approached the island that some of the mortals had taken to naming ‘Pakohu’, an odd name in Guul’s opinion but she supposed they would find ‘Guul’ to be an odd name. But yes, the generalities of the craft, it was perhaps a little larger than most mortal’s river barges, even if it was still well in their capacity and ability, they seemed to have little need for such larger craft. Ornate as it was, discounting how the entire structure shimmered in golden coloration and texture, it was in of itself well designed to show mimicry not so much of how the mortals actually did build on Galbar but something that they could understand, an expansion upon what was already shown perhaps.

Guul did not know how creative Thaa was really, but so far she could come to appreciate the delicate detailing of the sides of the craft. Where they could have been simply smooth instead there were inlays hard to see unless one looked closely. She seemed to find that the more she looked there seemed to be more details to find.

Guul found herself increasingly looking beyond the craft, to Pakohu and the waters below, it wouldn’t be too long before they would need to be presenting everything to the Night Elves. Thaa had been rather quiet of late, a blessing if there ever was one with how Guul had ended up taking the long way to their collective destination, but he had mentioned that they were skittish with death in his experience. Although, Thaa seemed abrasive at the best of times to Guul at least, easier to go along then try to resist for her experience at least.

The sun’s light seemed almost completely gone at this point, though they were not quite there yet, it would seem that they would arrive in good time to speak with Night Elves in any case. Their boat rolled slowly into the mouth of the river Tal, and divine eyes could even in the darkness see the fields and checker-pattern of irrigation channels. There was a frightening lack of Night Elves, however - at least until harder eyes affixed on various shapes all around. The shapes held javelins, and had taken positions in the darkness where the light was at its dimmest. From one corner of the shadows came a whisper, “Who are you and why have you come?”

In whispers came a reply, “We are the divine servant, Kiim’Jaav’Guul. We have brought a gift for King Safron, we assume you are our honor guard as none would commit such folly as seeking to threaten a divine servant.”

There came no response, and in the darkness, milk-white glares paid close attention to the divine servants. Eventually, one shape exited the shadows, clad from top to toe in fur clothes and with a herbal wreath on his head. He clicked his tongue in greeting and knelt. “I am Safron, son of Turmerick I, king of Fragrance lands. Our people are all pious and godfearing servants of the gods, so we pray from the bottom of our hearts that we will be spared their ire. Now… What honour have we been granted?”

Kiim and Jaav watched the Night Elves that remained in the shadows, all three moved their body closer to the edge of the barge closest to Safron. Guul spoke in a whisper that carried only to his ears. “An honor for you Safron, son of Tumerick. My Master hopes it will help your people and guide them on the right path forward, but that it left up to how you use this gift. Rise and board this vessel if you are willing.”

Silently, a path of stones from the river bed rose up, forming a connection through the air up to the barge and back to near where Safron knelt. The king swallowed nervously. Behind him, his wife, daughter and son approached and the king turned to see them.

“It’ll be alright. I will be back before you know it.”

“Father, why--?”

“We do not refuse the will of the gods,” replied the king sternly. Queen Clove nodded somberly.

“Come back to me.” The king leaned in and kissed her forehead.

“I will.” He did the same to his daughter and placed his hand on Turmerick’s head. With that, he turned to the barge and stepped aboard. The river stones drifted to the shore, forming a small pile. And the barge lifted, coming up above the river, above the trees and a far range above all the land below. Guul whispered to the King.

“I apologize for the necessity, but some of the instructions are very clear in how you are to receive this gift from my Master. This will not take long.”

The king took a deep breath. “... I understand. I will follow the wishes of the gods as they have planned for me.” He closed his eyes and stood ready.

Kiim broke in, a whisper but a harsher tone, “Open your eyes dear Safron, you will need them for the fullness of the gift.”

Jaav whispered, “Look out at the landscape, you have an opportunity to see the lands that you rule from a perspective most mortals won’t. There must first be some explanation of the full qualities of what will be given to you, and this is for your ears alone. Once you have accepted it and returned, speak as you wish of this whole encounter, it matters not who you tell, but we must only tell you.”

The king frowned, and moved over to the edge to observe the world below - he didn’t see much on account of the darkness, but the shapes known to him stood out. “... We irrigate smaller fields than I thought,” he remarked and went to the other side. “... There’s Scenta, Xiang, Lukt…” He drew a breath. “The world seems small from up here - as though conquest and domination were merely days away… How do the birds handle seeing everything this way?”

“Not our concern, but it is our hope that you take these sights to heart.”

“The gift has power innately, but it pales in comparison to the power one could achieve through properly applying it’s abilities.”

“It is time that you know of it.” A Sword floated towards Safron from out behind the three headed form of Kiim’Jaav’Guul, it stood in the air, hilt to the ground and pointed to the sky. It was almost entirely golden in color, shade varying between the blade and the handguard. The handle was dark in coloration, almost a complete black although hints of blue appeared under close inspection. Some small amount of decoration was evident along the hilt, although nothing that might impede function. “A sword, beyond that of mortal means. It is as sharp as any mortal blade, more durable than any weapon of mortal make as well. It will not lose that sharpness.”

“Most Importantly however are the abilities that this sword possesses. You need to know three. Firstly as Owner and User you could choose to upon your death embed your soul in the sword, you would then be able to speak with the next Owner of the blade.”

“Secondly, when the bright Moon of Gibbou is absent from the night skies you can wield the blade and speak questions to the souls of the dead at rest in Aquibeophates, the Afterlife. It does not translate for you, so be aware of your limitations.”

“Thirdly, this blade is far more dangerous to your enemies than a mere cutting instrument. To mortals, if you so wish it, the sword will rend their soul from their body upon the slightest hit from the blade.”

“Our Master has instructed us that you have the opportunity to refuse the Sword, but it will not be offered to you again. This is an opportunity for your people, for you, for your family, to take your fates into your own hands and to understand your world and fate better. Consider carefully Safron, son of Tumerick I, King of Fragrance.”

The king looked upon the sword and the three heads of the messenger. Was there truly anything here not to want? A sword like this could give him and his dynasty a reputation that could cull the morale of their foes. Sharper than any pi-xxois javelin, perhaps even the obsidian type, and durable for all eternity. He could stay as his son’s mentor even after death, and his son could be his son’s mentor, and this could continue for eternity, ensuring stability in his kingdom. The offer was good… Almost too good. He offered the servants another kneel and whispered, “The gift is beyond what we deserve… It would be foolish not to accept. However, before I do, I must ask - does your master demand anything in return for his weapon?”

Kiim was quick to whisper a reply, “It is indeed beyond what you deserve, but it is not our choice or decision.”

And Guul followed up, more helpfully, “There is one thing you, and all your descendants must do if you wish to keep the favor of our Master for this gift; use it. No worship is demanded nor how it is used, as long as you are bold and serve yourself and your people to your best ability.”

Jaav had one last thing to whisper, “Will you accept?”

Use it? A simple demand. The king clicked. “Yes.”

“Then rise and take your sword King Safron of Fragrance, we will return you now.”

When the king grabbed the hilt of the sword nothing immediately happened, a bit of a let down given the whole build up for this, well his new sword. Suddenly upon that very hint of a thought of ownership, he felt a wave of… ...something pass through him. The king hissed at the sensation. “What is this?” he whispered and wiggled his body somewhat.

Kiim and Jaav seemed disinterested in the king after he had accepted it, the barge began to move back towards the spot on the river. Guul replied with some measure of amusement, “You are now its owner. I trust you will learn to use it well, you may be unused to swords as I do not believe your people use them much yet. It is pointed like a spear but also the edges of the blade are sharp like that of an axe, practice and you may very well become a true adept. It is your fate to make now, learn to use it well and it will serve you well, that goes for all its aspects.”

“I…” The king pursed his lips. “Of course. It is what we agreed, after all.” The boat touched back down on the river, and the king disembarked back ashore. He reunited with his family and turned to the barge and its three-headed passenger. “The people of Fragrance thanks you and your master for this gift. We will be certain to use it within the moon.”

The golden barge already began to depart, taking to the air and away. A last call came out, Kiim was the last to turn away, “We will be watching.”

The king turned to his people, his sword in hand. It glistened a pale bronze in the moon which had begun to peek out between the clouds. He raised it into the sky and spoke, “Tomorrow, we will travel to Monsax and relieve it of its tyrannical vampire lord! This new weapon will see us through it! Fragrance shall grow stronger!” His words were met with low, celebratory claps.

39 BA
Jalina River
City of Mal Bagora

Although in the morning the crowds were silent when the troops had first marched into the city, by the noon parade they were cheering.

It hadn’t been a bloody entrance, he had made sure of that. As the captain of the guards he had betrayed the upper class of the city and made a deal with those that besieged them. Everything had been taken already before the sun rose. The army marched in carrying supplies, they had been distributed all day to gain the weakened populations trust, seizing control of the grain stores helped on that matter as well.

Next on the list was dealing with the former rulers and their wealth, he could tell some of it was being distributed to the poorer portions of the population. Bronze medallions and gilded gifts tossed to the thronging crowds, it was a good plan. If you didn’t have enough food you could trade a merchant, if you had enough, well you earned a pretty prize.

Hralin had to admit, with the siege and the battles before that, he did not expect the populace to be so welcoming to a foreign army. Then again, he wouldn’t have expected to see the king and the nobles parades around the city bound either and that was something to cheer about.

It was a rather large procession in true form to that of a conqueror. From the gates of the outer walls in the south, marching onwards to the inner city. Men with wooden shields and good spears guarded the procession from the crowds, led first by the disgraced nobles and the king, followed by the elite troops of the invader. The Elk-riding Conqueror himself and then a number of more troops behind him.

Hralin smiled and waved, to the crowds and the column marching now towards the inner city, he hoped he had made the right choice.

Khres of Solaria, or at least formerly of Solaria, even out here in the west the news of Solaria’s fall had brought concern, even if it reached Mal Bagora a while afterwards. Still the most surprising thing to Hralin about this Khres was not that he refused to be acclaimed King of Mal Bagora, but how young he was. Couldn’t have been much more than a kid when Solaria fell, although he supposed that might be why he was out here rather than as some refugee in the east. In any case, some manner of titles had to be upheld, if even just for the pride of the priests who were still free. Not much point in risking angering the gods even if half the priests were almost as bad as the King and his like.

After the parade and welcoming the new power into the heart of Mal Bagora, he had been brought along to the former Royal Palace where the Solarian met the Priests, dismissing most of the ones that he could soon afterwards from his presence. And then promptly seemed to ignore any real attempt at making merry in truth. He seemed, preoccupied.

Hralin approached the former dining table that Khres and his Captains stood around, looking at maps and occasionally talking. One of the guards moved to stop him but was waved away by one of the Captains, he looked more like a mountain-man than a soldier, but then he supposed it didn’t really matter given the situation.

“Conqueror Khres,” Hralin began, the title had been a compromise with the High Priest of Heresh. Continuing, “I do not mean to sound impertinent but you have just taken the city and you do not celebrate, you seem to be quite busy and I must ask what place you would have for me?”

Khres was young, perhaps only in his twenties really. Dark hair and eyes, hair cut short, his face was tanend according to one who wore a riding helmet, not surprising given the recent campaign. Khres spoke in an accent that was clear he was from the Great River, or at least kept up at that.

“Ah the Guard Captain! Yes, Hralin was it? You will be left in charge of the city, with a few of my men for now and your own of course. I would recommend you start making more permanent arrangements for rule, work out something with what of those priests you can trust. I may send a need for supplies or laborers in the future but for now your job is as we discussed before the city was taken, rule it for me. I trust you can get to that now.”

Hralin bowed low, Khres had gotten annoyed at the kneeling of some of the priests before, in Mal Bagora it was normally reserved for royalty. He noticed a small sun pendant around his neck, which made sense for a Solarian.

“Yes I didn’t want to go against any of your wishes O Conqueror.”

Khres waved him away, that went far better than he might have hoped. There was something about Khres which unnerved him, it seemed more like his eyes looked through you rather than stop, some kind of assessment there. Hralin was happy to get to starting to turn the city around from the old King’s mess.

Hralin was not upset to see them go, not that they interfered much with his control over the city. There was a ceremony for officially putting himself in charge of the city but beyond that Khres seemed much more focused on his next campaign, and was still early enough in the year to do that given his own help in speeding taking Mal Bagora.

In any case, most of his army moved out, towards Mal Pocora to the east, it was along the river directly unlike Mal Bagora. Three days was all he stayed after taking Mal Bagora, rest to his troops and supplies in good order. It didn’t seem like Conqueror Khres planned to stop there either, might be a while before he saw him again and that Hralin thought would be a good thing.


“Be calm, you are safe now,” In a thousand voices Thaa cooed the words to the newly arrived souls of the dead. Now that they were in his realm he brought them to restful peace, contained into bliss as he spoke individually to them to start working through the trauma that was life.

In truth, Thaa had been ruminating greatly on the matter of souls. True he was the supreme deity of Death, as was his moral obligation, but he worried that his focus purely on his realm of Death might allow others to inflict suffering upon the souls to which he claimed to guard. For truly he did not have much influence on them in the mortal realm of Galbar, he knew that the evil deities of life truly would like nothing more than inflict suffering, for what other reason would they be deities of life?

Thaa could of course extend his control over souls in their entirety, both as a measure of acquiring greater ability to defend souls from the terrible grip of life and its evil-hearted guardians, and to strike out against life itself through the core measure of souls. Yes that could work. If he could work to separate souls from the mortal coils that so entrapped them on Galbar, it was possible he might start making good progress to bringing moral order to evil that was enveloped Galbar.

“First he wants us to go to the Vescii Temple and set things up, well that's just fine. Then he was us go down to this stinking cesspit of life he calls a planet, fine! But making a Sword for the damn mortal things? Do you even realize how many souls could be saved from all this mess with the effort that’ll go into this overcomplicated gilded shit-storm?! It's a terrible plan!”

Without a moment's pause, “As I was saying this is core to developing trust and connections with the mortals and without drawing the extended ire of any of their immoral guardians! Simply killing a load of the mortals is not only certain to draw out the ire and response from other deities- something I might remind you despite your lack of interest in Thaa’s perfect plans that we are likely to be on the receiving end of their ill intentions- but also utterly inefficient given the rates of reproduction that these mortals so enjoy!”

Guul supposed she should not be surprised that the two heads that she shared her body with hadn’t developed a new favorite pastime with what they had been doing. Which was to say they hadn’t been doing much of anything at all, keeping an eye on this or exploring that, mostly all from the safety of the relatively small golden craft they were on now. Kiim complained a lot if they even had to touch most living creatures, which of course meant Jaav took great pleasure in eating the occasional thing he could reach.

And again Guul was left to do the work of Thaa as Kiim and Jaav bickered about it, not that they got in the way of course. The current bout of ‘discussion’ had been set off by Thaa informing them of the plan they needed to enact, that he had claimed domain over souls and such, and an update on numerous newly acquired souls he had taken an interest to, followed by the occasional rant on the evils of life and its guardian deities. Guul sometimes wondered how often Thaa actually got out anywhere, or even talked to anyone else really.

“Perhaps we attack their rates of reproduction then!”

“...that is not a bad idea actually. Sterility would be quite the effective measure and in appropriate usage could help limit the evils of life. Good job Jaav, you have quite the ideas sometimes I must say!”

“Why thank you! You are not so bad a thinker yourself you know.”

Even as she worked Guul took a moment to scratch a third mark into a relatively flat rock she had picked up, she had started keeping track of when Kiim and Jaav actually agreed on something or had a positive and pleasant interaction.

“Why don’t we celebrate some for coming up with such an idea? We could fly back south of those mountains a while back and pick up a few of those Rainbow birds huh?”

“Absolutely not! I won’t debase myself by such a thing as eating one of these mismade caricatures of good creation! What are you trying to pull?”

“I was just trying to be friendly you misbegotten lackey of Thaa! You haven’t even thought to try it and you wouldn’t unless Thaa suggested it anyhow!”

As usual they were back at it soon enough anyhow. Guul set down her rock and continued to work. Now, she had already gotten the sharpness and durability down, and made it golden in color as Thaa had specified in any case. The extra abilities while a bit more complicated at least were not so incessantly physical, that was always a trouble trying to work with her claws, hard to be delicate in construction sometimes.

And of course there was the specifics of soul management that had come with the Sword in the final case. Bit of channeling the specific interests and specificities Thaa had uncovered after putting the effort in to be master of Souls more than just his Afterlife.

A Golden Sword that would not be broken, could cut most things as swords did without losing its edge, allowed its users to speak to the dead, and keep their soul in the Sword, as well as be resistant to death energies, and finally the ability to rip souls from the mortal coil and set them free to go onto the Afterlife. Great, mission accomplished, one Aquibeophatian Sword done. Now she just needed to send them the right way to drop it off where Thaa wanted it and she could get back the blissful activity of doing nothing.

Guul looked up at the rising sun and thought? Did it rise in the east or west? Well Galbar was a sphere so could just start heading that way and figure out later. Figuring things out later did sound appetizing, Guul turned the craft to the rising sun and set it out flying above the waters away from Toraan, hopefully they would get to Mydia before Thaa changed his mind on where the Sword should go.

“ATTENTION FELLOW GODS! What if I told you there was a way to interact more closely with the world? All you need to do is bind a small piece of your soul to another form, and send that form to Galbar. It will be able to pass through without interference from the Lifeblood, walk the world, and perform divine actions on your behalf. You can thank Gibbou for this trick. Oh, and if you haven’t set foot outside your realm’s portal yet, please do; it’s perfectly safe! That will be all!”

Thaa was not particularly pleased.

In fact, Thaa was quite affronted that anyone would tell him what to do! Especially as he was planning on doing that anyway! Although the trick mentioned was quite a nice piece of information to have, and clearly rather than just not coming out of spite he now had much more important things to get to.

As Thaa retreated from the portal back into Aquibeophates, he did leave behind a few meager beings to guard that entrance to the realm, at the very least they might grant some pause to any interlopers as Thaa would act more properly on them, and determine their intentions.

A piece of his soul now was it? Quite the thing to try of course, although the whole thanking Gibbou he was not quite so sure of given that while some of her actions were quite good, it wasn’t entirely clear that they were intentional. Afterall he had the memories of the first trolls to mull over. While troll-kind had done a great deal of benefit to the world below, encouraging death and such, the first numbers revealed the intentions may not have been so noble.

To focus on the task at hand, Thaa had a great solution, he cut off his ‘hand’. More precisely he cut off a portion of himself to act as his soul-let piece to be sent to Galbar. He did not let this new thing form entirely on its own of course, he forced it to form properly into something that could traverse Galbar, as well as spewing most of his own knowledge about the world into the forming mind.

It is precisely this intervention that caused a bit of an inconvenient circumstance, as it happens, trying to form a barely prepared and still formulating divine creature, may not be the most stable of affairs. Almost immediately it tried to fall apart, Thaa did not permit this, roughly keeping it mostly together as it still stabilized before him. It was somewhat fragmentary at best, three pieces were quite distinct even if it could not quite fully collapse, still Thaa helped the fragment form into a stable being.

Three snake heads at the end of long necks came into being as a form of their curious fragmentation. Each met a markedly scaled body that served as their primary means of locomotion with four legs and a long tail. Soon each began to look around at the environs they found themselves. Thaa spoke.

“What are your names, little ones?”



“Good, well you know your tasks as I have imprinted them upon you and I expect great things.”

A brief pause as the three heads looked at one another, the middle head, Jaav, spoke.

“Actually, might it be possible that we could remain here for a little while longer?”

Thaa thought, he needed them to get to work so he needed to be firm but not too harsh. Make them see the necessity of the task at hand and that such pleasures could await another time, for now they needed to go to Galbar and complete several tasks. He needed them to know that they shouldn’t disobey but not to be so harsh as to distance themselves from him. Yes he could do that.

WIth the screaming of a million discordant voices,

“Absolutely not!”

With that Thaa grabbed them by their body that they shared and threw them through a portal to Galbar, specifically the Vescii Temple in orbit. Yes, very firm.

Once their heads stopped spinning, Jaav spoke,

“What a prick!”

And Kiim replied, [color=YellowGreen]“Come now, I’m sure he had his reasons even if it was a bit harsh and sudden.”[/color

“He threw us into this golden mess! I think we might have even dented the wall back there, if he’s as good as he makes himself out to be with all this shit in our heads I’d hate to meet those, ‘demon-hearted originators of evil’ he was sooo fond of ranting into my permanent memory.”

Kiim replied once more on the defensive, Guul however, was done listening and had started walking them to the central room of the Temple. The tasks wouldn’t get themselves done and Guul was quite hopeful about the possibility of sleep even as the other heads bickered. Let’s see now, deattach the central First Soul Crystal, form a remote control mechanism in its place…

“...and even if it was unnecessary to be quite so strong on the throw Thaa could not have known if there would be resistance on account of our divine nature now could he?”

“Resistance! He could have gotten us killed! What if we weren’t small enough to be ignored by the Lifeblood? Here you are making excuses when really we should…”

...take said Soul Crystal out of the Vescii Temple and create a secondary array to boost the signal from the Galbarian side and increase rates of Soul accumulation…

“...even given that, if it is the case, why should we worry about Galbar at all! If in the case that creatures born of and from the realm of death are superior and it is the case that death allows for the supreme victory in the end over any living thing, then why should it even be cause of worry what happens on Galbar? Truly I think your argument has…”

...finally a craft to descend to Galbar outside of the Vescii Temple with and to descend to the surface of a continent, what was it now…

“ is a moral obligation to assist those in need of someth- wait a moment, Guul! What have you been doing this whole time, where have you brought us?”

“Hey is that the Temple back there!?”

“Well I got tired of listening to both of you bicker about all that so I just went and did everything, goodnight!”

With that Guul rested her head, curling her neck in of itself and settling down on top.

“Well I have to say this craft is quite gaudy, gold and all that everywhere, just seems like a shinier version of a mortal craft really.”

“Oh you would say that wouldn’t you? I bet you think the Vescii Temple is ‘gaudy’ too. Just shows that you have no taste in the finer elements of design.”

“Finer elements of design? Slapping gold on everything you mean? I say you do not have a singular grasp of anything…”

The two large rivers rushed by the walls of the great city, the Great Azumai and the Riinara which fed into it. A great number of river boats had been docked all along the myriad docks, the peninsular city had a greater border with the rivers than it did the land.

In the great square of the city a crowd formed around the raised platform stone that led back to the central palace-temple. The palace was layered, level built on level, each ringed with ever more senior officiants. Noble Retainers ringed the lower levels as was their duty rather than their status. At the top the highest of priests and the royal family sat, as well as a few trusted advisors.

All around the square were shops for the most part, a number of closed market stalls that had been repurposed for guards in this event, most of everything was closed in the city for now, one bought and prepared in the days before the festival.

Horns blared from the parapets of the mid levels of the palace-temple, Noble Retainers calling the crowd to order below. Reluctantly the crowd went silent, watching with intent as the faint sounds of the river could be heard in the distance. A Retainer walked out onto the central lower platform to make her announcement.

The scrapping of her sandals along the stones of the platform could be heard throughout the square, the crowd held silence in the softly growing darkness waiting for the correct time.

Unlit braziers sat on rooftops around the square, guards with torches waited by them. The square was filled with the peoples of the city, Humans most wearing simple clothes as they came from their various workplaces during the day. And Night Elves wearing krazhafans, a kind of combined veil and hat to dampen the sounds and light of the city during times like this. The few Itztli in the city were among those in the palace-temple, serving in various roles there.

The Retainer stopped near the end of the platform, and she stood in the middle of the crowd and spoke out.

“I present to you the Guardian of the Peace of the City, the Supreme Architect on the River, your ever faithful King-”

She was interrupted by the crowd chanting the final word.


A shadowed figure at the top of the palace-temple stepped forward up onto the parapet and lept off. He was caught by streams of water that shot out of hidden jugs in the palatial levels, flames flared from every level of the palace-temple as the guards around the square lit the braziers lighting up the square.

Bolts of fire lit up the skies in many colors of brief mage-fire, the streams of water lowered the figure from the palace top down to the platform below as the Retainer hurried back to her assigned position along the palace-temple wall.

The crowd cheered and surged towards the platform trying to get as close as possible, the height of the platform made it impossible to scale with the disorganization of the crowd but some tried nonetheless.

As the figure touched down, his sandals landing on the stones of the platform the streams pulled back and he threw off his cloak, revealing the form of young Nazgamundi. Long curly black hair and pointy ears, bluish-grey skin, his eyes sparkled, some features pointed towards Elf, others pointed toward Human, a person who straddled both worlds there, the King as it was.

His hair cascaded down to his shoulders, his beard was long, styled and well groomed. He was bear of anything clothing save an elaborate kilt and jewelry. Armbands of bronze as well as rings of various metals, a bronze circlet encircled his head, all showed his high status. He stood for a minute, flexing and showing off his power. Not just physically, some signalled mages to direct out fire or other displays on his command. The crowd cheered louder.

He flexed his arms upward to the cheers of the crowd before clenching his left hand into a fist and lowering his right.

Horns blared out again to silence the crowd and they gradually came to a semblance of order once more, the various magics came to a halt as well leaving just the light of the grand braziers in the square and the dying light of the setting sun.

“My people! We have survived another year, another winter, we grow ever more prosperous!” He paused and the crowd remained silent, waiting. “For the fourth time I stand before you as your King at the start of this joyous time when great Amashu and her people will soon prepare the fields once more, and so once more we must celebrate the success of our great city, but also you the people to which I love so dearly.”

At the edges of the square, the guards had descended from the braziers to prepare the various jars and pots filled with beer brought out from the palace, they removed the sealing caps and placed the necessary drinking straws, no one wanted to swallow a barley hull after all.

“Under the gazes of the gods above I dedicate this Spring Festival to you! The People of Amashu! May the Festival commence, Luck for the new year!”

“Luck for the new year!”

With that most in the crowd fell quickly towards the beer, others stayed where they were eagerly watching the platform as King Nazgamundi left and performers came up.

They were of many kinds and types, some did great acts of ability or skill, others tricks of the eye, some were mages eager to show off some trick or skill. Over the course of the night many would come from acts of ability, or brief skits. The Skits always were the most popular, typically no one was punished for the skits so they easily ranged from the profane, to various criticisms or brief dramatic interludes often of foreign or far away events from the ‘civilized’ east or the ‘barbarous’ west. Some were better than others but the beer generally helped with that.

The night was long for Elves and Humans alike.

Thaa was in the Vescii Temple, he was comforting the many souls of the dead as it orbited over the surface of Galbar. He had not felt it coming, if he had perhaps he would have done some more, or taken other actions, but as it was he was preoccupied with the souls of the dead.

It hit without warning, the power of the Lifeblood drew Thaa out, taking him away from Galbar. Thaa tried resisting but such was nearly pointless, he did manage to grab onto one thing, the Second Soul Crystal before he and it were whisked away to a void.

Thaa was not pleased, although he kept himself enough in good mind to set down the Soul Crystal, for what limited value of setting something down was in this void he found himself in.

Returning to Galbar had turned out to be a complete waste of time in the attempt, still feeling the effects of trying Thaa was mostly creating and then destroying various stones or such things to try to release some of his anger. He had been getting close, he thought, he was getting a good picture that it might just be possible to make things better, to ease the tyranny of life. And now he was whisked away by the same foolish lifeblood which had birthed evils of the first life gods. In his rage he released endless waves of death energies out into the void, filling it with a deep fog.

A small whisper interrupted his ruminations, a soul. A dead fish as it was, or better yet its soul was here with him.


Thaa traced it back looking for the source of this surprising interruption, the Soul Crystal he had managed to bring with him, it was still in resonance with the First Soul Crystal, back on Galbar.

He moved quickly, he created many things. Towers and an endless world, not for some means of gratification but because he knew he had a purpose here. He was not yet finished and nor was him grip completely gone from Galbar, he could still comfort the dead.

He brought peace to fish as he set up the most important work, deep within the realm he was creating, although it did not follow those same rules off Galbar it did make sense to Thaa. Amplification. A stronger connection so that the dead may cross over into this place this…

...Aquibeophates. It would have to do.

And then they came, the souls. Those which he had stored away in the Vescii Temple and those of the newly dead. Drawn by the First Soul Crystal on Galbar and then in resonance with the Second Soul Crystal and with Amplification from Aquibeophates, they came to Thaa.

Thaa would bring them peace, joy, and a better existence then Life.

Thaa did not know how long he had been, there was always a new soul, with a new story, new developments but never any real change. They had not wanted to die. A last curse of life, to prevent the living from realizing the superiority of the dead. But Thaa knew better.

He watched them sometimes, and spoke with those who prayed. They were annoying for the most part, they did not listen. They spoke of relief from death or to bring it upon others, foolish nonsense.

Some however, wished to speak with those who had parted. They often begged. Thaa told them how to come and be with those they loved or needed. Some came then, others came later if they did not listen. He brought them comfort all the same when they arrived.

Thaa did not see the portal form, he had not bothered to try anything with portals for centuries. But he did notice it, and Thaa went silently to it.

This was unwelcome, but with many unwelcome things there might be an opportunity in it. And so Thaa prepared to go through, two thousand years was a long time, even if it was not in isolation. First however, he created some guardians limited to the realm, they were of death and imbued with purpose to protect the dead. They would serve him while he explored this new possibility.


The Tree of Genesis

Thaa was beginning to regret having set down that set of Elves on that endarkened land. In a fit of rage sure but still that village was a good set of numbers of the Elves that he had managed to acquire in their stubborn defiance. In truth they had done little to merit he had to admit, but when he was only trying to help and they did not see that, they tried to escape! Such defiance and utter arrogance, could they not realize that they might be wrong and that they should simply trust in Thaa?

In any case he would comfort them when they died, they would live out their lives on that island, whatever its purpose. Perhaps it was meant as some form of torture for a different kind of life? Without light or such? Sun Elves perhaps if such a thing existed, although he had not encountered such on his many travels so far.

He had seen floating sheep of a sort that betrayed a strangely ungalbaric nature. He had taken them from their Islands as he had so many other interesting creatures he had encountered so far. Those strange geckos that the Elves had ‘lived in harmony’ with before Thaa came around, using harmony for such a disgusting thing such as life was rather sickening he had to admit.

In any case he had moved on from that and picked up a type of lizard that fed on rocks, could have some good purposes there he felt, besides, he kind of liked the whole body shape somewhat but perhaps a little different...

...well it was something to ponder for the future in any case.

Of course then he had moved east away from the seemingly myriad islands to the mainland where he had acquired a great many species so far. First he had come across a kind of winged predatory beast, he had grabbed up quite a number of them. While they were quite the handful during the day to keep them in the Temple, he felt they would be well worth it in the end for his plans.

Besides it seemed somewhat cruel to have made a winged creature that was so clearly poorly aerodynamic and then set them in a climate that had many tornadoes and air disruptions. It truly spoke to the meticulous nature of whatever evil deities sought to promote life.

Next he had come across a floating archipelago in the skies above the continent and taken some of the inhabitants there, mostly of the more dispersed kind but he did manage to reach some of the others closer to the center of the islands. He was admittedly regretting it somewhat since they were persistent and inquisitive it seemed. Other intelligent mortals seemed continent to be miserable but clearly these were designed to spread their misery in their incessant ignorance. Admittedly their mind’s structure seemed to be sound, even if he could quite say that he liked them that much in their matters of living.

From there was the simple matter of taking up more life from around the continent and the islands, some dear that had the unfortunate effect of living even when they died. Thaa took them almost wanting to study how this happened so that he might even prevent such a cruel fate in the future, but for the meantime they might serve some useful purpose. As well he grabbed a few other less significant things, some kinds of plants for variety mostly.

He took a small detour off the continent after picking up a kind of wispy creature, he wasn’t quite sure why they existed, perhaps the life god was still trying to figure out the best way to make things suffer? In any case they didn’t seem to be much to them but he took them anyway as he hoped some of the more intelligent races might find them interesting enough to be somewhat excited at the prospect of a new home with new and wondrous things for their short lives. They did not seem to fulfill such hopes in any case.

The detour led him to another set of islands that had more mortal peoples on which he promptly took them as well. Of course they would turn out to already have an ingrained superiority ideals seemingly to the other races unfortunately enough. He could perhaps find some use for them but for his main project they would not do.

Coming back to the mainland however he had gotten a new bounty of useful subjects, another race, he would call them Day Elves or Sun Elves if they seemed to have any particularly strong attachment to that part of the cycle. They were remarkably similar, perhaps someone was copying from the same general idea? Or maybe one was made to replace the other in a different location? It was a mystery that these life deities seemed so compentent in cruelty and then so utterly incompetent in following through.

With the ‘Humans’ as the Day Elves insisted they should be called he had also found bounties of useful plants, a useful herbivorial creature with quills, and some birds which had some strange interaction with a force he did not yet fully understand. In truth he had found a whole lot of nothing in terms of grand plans or anything that bespoke of any organized opposition.

In Thaa’s various travels he had not yet come across something so obviously the work and development of a god, if not the present form of a deity in of themselves, as the massive tree he now directed his golden temple to now. If there was any present solution for his evident need and desire to meet his fellow deities and learn of at least one of their own selves, this was a good case for that.

In any case, Thaa still hung beneath his golden Temple and its great domes and spires on each towering layer. He still kept tendrils of his form out below should he need such to manipulate and guide his divine energies. The Vescii Temple, which still held his numerous collected beings and samples, approached the great Tree. Thaa centered his gaze on the thunderous form before him as he approached in his Temple, looking for any sign of communication for his purposes of communication with another Divine.

Out of the ground came several great roots, lifting themselves to the skies to meet and block the path of the Temple. It was far enough, it seemed. And on top of one of the closest roots was a single mortal form, with an intense yellow light leaking from within its wooden body.

It did not speak loudly, for it knew that the only kind of entity capable of such feats of power was a God. ”I am the First Voice, and I speak for the Tree of Genesis. I welcome you to The Garden of Dreams, Master.” He proclaimed in a deep, refined voice, bowing his head in apparent respect. ”May I be graced by your name, Master…?”

From the golden temple a thundering voice replied, “You speak to Thaa, God of Death and Protector of the Dead.”

Thaa continued as he recentered his eye on that of the mortal form before him, the Temple slowed its approach to stop right before it might collide with the great roots. “You will address me as Thaa or one of the titles I just gave, there will be no more of this ‘Master’ speech now that my name is known to you. Thank you for welcoming I must say, although I cannot say to have the knowledge of this ‘Garden of Dreams’, I assume it is some fantastic work of the Tree of Genesis? I can see clearly it is as Divine as I.”

”It is the wish of my creator to refer to all Divine entities as ‘Master’ or ‘Mistress’, Master Thaa. As for the Garden of Dream, it is what you see. A work in progress… It is the land within the direct orb of influence of the Tree of Genesis, where the Dreams of a great race shall be birthed and nurtured in the near future. It has shown me visions,” The Voice said with its monotonous tone giving way to a slight shiver, opening its black eyes and looking down at the view. Dozens of massive roots forming arcs, with vines and thick foliage growing on them… ”Visions of villages hanging from the Roots of Genesis, of a grand civilization populating the Tree itself… Of a beautiful People delivering the world from suffering and evil and violence!”

There was a moment of breathless silence as the Voice recovered, then looked at the Vescii Temple and nodded, recovering his stoicism. ”So, Master Thaa, how may I be of assistance to you?”

“I must say that the Tree of Genesis is quite ambitious in its plans, but I can help but approve of such, to attempt to purge suffering and evil from life…

...well it is an experiment well worth watching. As for how you may be of assistance, I would ask what you know of other deities as I have seen little of my own ilk and I am most curious to what you and the Tree of Genesis have to say.”

The Voice seemed to frown, an expression that proved somewhat difficult for him to pull off given his wooden and black hay flesh. After a while, it spoke again, lifting a hand to cup his chin. ”Mistress Gibbou of the Moon is rather pleasant. She visited us some time ago to ask for a blessing. I’ve personally met Aeinwaje, co-sign of Master Boris of the Mountains, and he was curious as is expected of mammals…” He trailed off and rubbed his face, then shook his head and relaxed. ”And we had an… ‘Encounter’... With Masters Firinn and Aicheil. I would suggest not touching what they call the ‘Weave’.”

Thaa shifted in his hanging perch on the Vescii Temple before he replied, “I will take your suggestion for now as of your ‘encounter’ and the no doubt valuable experience you have in the matter. It is good to have some names for my fellow deities. I must say there is one more matter that the Tree of Genesis could assist me in should it be so inclined as it has already been so kind to even provide you to speak with me.”

Thaa paused, shifting his eye away from the Voice to that of the Tree itself. “You see I have sought after the souls of the dead and I fear that some aspects of life have a tendency to keep them from fully embracing death, and so I would like to create a measure to ensure that the bodies of the dead are disposed of regardless. I also believe that some creatures would be best suited towards this task given the current state of life over this whole world of ours and I need some help in creating such a creature, I have no good understanding of what makes these things continue to live so and would appreciate the insight and assistance in such an endeavor.”

”Disposing of the bodies? What is the issue with the current system, if I may ask? I was under the impression bodies would normally rot and return to the earth over time, master Thaa.” The Voice asked, tilting his head slightly and clasping his hands behind his back.

“That, is precisely the problem with the current system,” Thaa shifted his eye back to focus on the Voice as he continued. “Over time and gradual change leaves too much to the operation of the world, it does not give proper severance from Life. While there may be some beasts which pick and choose the corpses of the dead as well, all is much too gradual, there must be an inducement of a stricter separation. It is not the content of the bodies, not the material aspects of what maintained their life. I have come across souls which bemoaned their fates, they all burned and in their death they remained, tortured with the gradual charring of their corpses as they could not move on.”

“I cannot say that I know this will be successful, but I know there must be proper severance between the living and the dead as otherwise I fear the dead souls may be much to enamored with the remnants of their lives. I wish to ensure that such a connection is completely rent apart, torn not for the sake of living things to make use of their corpses’ components, although I care little what actually becomes of them, but to ensure the dead look beyond that which was a part of them. That the souls of the dead might look elsewhere and so come more freely into my proper care.”

”I see...” The Voice muttered and closed his eyes. A minute passed, and suddenly his face twisted in what seemed to be… Pain. Agony. It only lasted a split moment, however.

”I’ve received a vision. After death, a soul usually yearns to return to their body in order to have another chance at life. This is a misguided wish and therefore should we make it impossible for a soul to locate or feel its former body, this should discourage their attempts at coming back and encourage them to embrace their new existence with you, Master Thaa.” The Voice explained and wiped at his nose which was leaking a little bit of golden sap.

”Apologies if I am mistaken, I am but a mortal trying to interpret the Great Tree’s Will.” He bowed his head apologetically.

“A most eloquent explanation as induced by the Tree of Genesis, clearly one of the better of the divine beings. Yes that is might intention to so create a kind of creature to accomplish that. I would tend to think that such a creature could survive on the remnants of the corpses after the appropriate rending has been done to ensure the true purpose of the continuation of soul movement. Such creation would be necessary to survive for long with the continued existence of such varied forms of life.”

”The Tree of Genesis is most pleased by your kind words, Master Thaa. As for the creature, the Tree of Genesis is capable of creating any and all vegetation-based creature you’d like to request. My personal suggestion would be different species of omnivorous flora that feed on the innards of corpses and perhaps still-living organisms. Perhaps using a substance that causes the skin to harden, turning corpses into hollow, brittle statues. Of course, the vegetation in charge of this process would excrete a big enough quantity of nutrient and mineral-rich material so that its activities would not disrupt the fertility of the soil.” The Voice shifted his weight.

“I will take your suggestion, I care not what form they take as long as they are mobile and capable of the task they need to accomplish, I can outfit whatever creature with the necessary ability to locate the dead that they need to proceed after.”

”I see. In that case, I trust you’ve brought sufficient samples of organisms from biomes around the world? The process to create our corpse processors will be long, but if you stay and provide the Tree of Genesis with ample samples, it is perfectly doable.” As he said that, the Tree’s roots began to retract back into the earth, taking the Voice with them on their slow, steady descent. ”Since the Tree of Genesis has perfect knowledge of the Garden of Dreams, it will most likely start by creating a processor for this area.”

“I do have a number of samples of many kinds of life around many locales as it would happen, and I can spare a good few of those. I do not know why they will be required but I also have no issue with providing it.”

With that Thaa’s great body began to move and shift from his perch below the Vescii Temple, the long tendrils of the corpse copies that made the majority of his bulk reached deep into the Temple on many levels to retrieve various kinds and forms of life from within. He took many living things from inside the Temple to serve as the Tree of Genesis's samples, whether they be of various forms of predator such as the western Landsharks, or a grasp on a prairie Leon, or other creatures such as the numerous Hedgecows.

For all the great and strange creatures of faraway lands that the God Thaa showed, the Voice never showed an ounce of fear. Despite being mortal, despite the fact that most of the samples could destroy him, unarmed and unprepared as he was, he was not afraid.

Eventually the roots had taken the Voice to the ground level, and he took to guiding Thaa into the hollow interior of the Tree of Genesis. It was a long walk, so long in fact that even though it had been morning by the time they came into the Tree, at the time they reached the ramp to go either up or down, moonlight was already shining through the gaps in the Tree’s outer shell.

And so down they went. One level, two levels, ten levels, twenty… Until the Voice took the God and his samples to the twenty-third level where the ramp ended, and also where several smaller roots were intertwined with a larger one in the center of the level, with a different colour of bioluminescence coursing through each intertwined root, each the width of two Voices.

In order to keep going down, one had to cross the dozen kilometers wide level to the opposite side, where a large crude door made out of bark and vines blocked the path. Of course, the Voice did not lead the God on any more walks. Being on that level was enough, as an untold amount of roots suddenly burst out from behind the crude gate leading to the depths of the tree and began prodding and yanking the specimens around.

”It is making sure which specimens are docile and which aren’t.” The Voice explained, just in time for one of the Leons to snap with a roar, biting down on one of the annoying roots with enough force to destroy its tip. However this did not deter the root’s advance, which even though it leaked its thick sap everywhere, quickly secured the Leon and at breakneck speed yanked it across the dozen kilometers to the gate, and then down into the Depths of the Tree. ”The more violent ones always go first, for safety purposes. The rest can be safely herded down. It will take a while.”

True to the Voice’s explanation, several other predators and some of the more stressed specimens were quickly zeroed in on by the roots and promptly given priority over the rest, and soon the calmer beasts were taken in a much gentler manner down into the depths.

”They’re lucky, to be able to step on the Heart of Genesis. Not even I know what’s in there...”

“As should be decreed by your creator and master, wondering will likely not do you much good.” Thaa spoke, having long given up his hold over the foremost specimens to the various roots grabbing out for them. The great mass of bodies had stretched out to manipulate and hold onto the many specimens while keeping pace with the mortal, now those specimens were gradually being brought forward to be handed to the roots. The central disk and eye of Thaa stayed upon a mass that sat by the Voice as the rest of his body brought the remaining specimens forward to be handed off.

As the process took place, the Voice seized the moment to, for the first time, truly take in the form of the God he was guiding. The sea of corpses. At one point deep within the writhing masses of flesh, he could see the dull shimmer of what looked like his own yellow light. The Voice looked away immediately and felt a shiver go down his spine. ”I believe I just saw my dead body Master Thaa’s own body. What does that mean, Master Thaa?” The Voice asked with a slight shiver to his deep voice.

“I take the forms of many who have died. All that live will also die and continue their existence as part of the dead, all those that did once live continue their existence as I care for them. Your life is temporary, your continued existence is not quite so fragile. You speak for the Tree of Genesis, a Voice as it were, you did not arrive into existence with no planning and no experimentation before hand.”

The Voice sighed. ”The bodies of the unborn, huh...”

Time passed. Eventually all the specimens had been taken, and waiting was the only thing left to do. That is, until bioluminescent plants and mushrooms lighting the level dimmed slightly. A very small number of them wilted, and some others never really regained their full splendor.

And then most of the lights recovered, and the gate at the far end of the level opened and from it a single root carried out an unidentifiable carcass, half-eaten by some unknown predator, still bleeding as if it was fresh kill. The root roughly threw the carcass onto the ground in front of the Voice and Thaa, and then retracted. Yet the gate did not close and eventually from the depths crawled out hordes of two-meter long worm-like vines. They moved slowly, but the God could easily see they had a purpose. They were all heading straight for the carcass. Eventually the fastest of them reached it, and the one vine immediately inspected the carcass. It felt the fresh blood, pressed itself against the unrecognizable carcass’s chest, then when satisfied revealed a row of short, sharp teeth lining a mouth as wide as its head, and wormed its way into the creature’s mouth.

The wet sounds of flesh ripping and the sickening crack of bone filled the air as the wormvine completely dug itself into the carcass, and the longer the show went on, the yellower the creature’s flesh became. At a certain point it stopped looking like flesh entirely.

Suddenly, the eating noises stopped. A few cracks appeared on the hardened skin of the creature’s chest, and from those cracks burst the wormvine, looking slightly larger and thicker. It quickly crawled out of the empty, hardened husk and disappeared up the ramp to the upper levels.

After a few moments, the Voice gulped and stretched his mouth into a grim line, then walked up to the husk and stuck his hand into the cracks from which the wormvine emerged. The texture was like smoothly carved stone, and yet it was so brittle that the mere act of leaning on it made the husk crumble. Still, the Voice dug in deep into the empty chamber that was the carcass’s thorax, and then pulled out a small, writhing green thing. A new wormvine.

”One wormvine enters a carcass, and two leave it. It is how they reproduce. The young will eat from carcasses and grow, while the adults eat and multiply. Any nourishment leftover will be excreted so the world can feed on it.”

“An excellent innovation I have to say, although not quite finished as I have a little touch to add to them of my own that should make them all the more effective.”

With that a mass of corpses that were a part of Thaa exploded out after the wormvines, grew into a stream from the shifting mass of corpses that was Thaa’s body. It wasn’t long before the wormvines were dragged back down by Thaa, the numerous corpse-forms grabbing them and bringing them back to the lower level.

The wormvines were now restrained, although struggling against the ‘corpses’ that were not the dead flesh they had been made to seek, and Thaa turned his eye upon them as his great disk shifted among the mass that made up his body.

“I have to say I think the design works better than anything I could have come up with, and will no doubt be of great use for my purposes, excepting a small ability they should have to be more effective in their task than the common carrion-seeker. You see, the issue with most carrion eaters is not that they are too unthorough, it is often that they are far too slow to the chase.” The wormvines began to writhe with increased fervor as energies poured into them from Thaa, changing and manipulating the essence that linked their souls to their bodies, a slight edit in how they experienced being alive. “These however, need not be the fastest of creatures no that would not truly solve the issue. They need to be much better at actually getting at the bodies soon after the soul has departed. I will give them both the ability and intense draw that they need in their little minds to go after it all so quickly.”

As soon as the last word left Thaa, so did the wormvines become freed from his grasp. They quickly bolted back up to the high levels, evidently in whatever reasoned within them to move with excess speed.

”A great addition, I believe. It’ll make the creatures more efficient.” The Voice said, just in time for the next batch of creatures to emerge from the open gate. As usual, a new carcass was dropped in front of the pair and these new creatures, human-sized flora-based birds with flint beaks, rushed up to the carcass and tore it apart, before taking the pieces and flying off into the upper levels. One of them got intercepted by the God of the Dead and received the blessing. The Voice took a step back and averted his gaze.

”It’ll be long. It is creating several creatures in order to adapt to all the biomes from which the samples came from.” He said, ”It’ll be long. So, Master Thaa, since we have some time to spare… I was hoping you could listen to a selfish request of mine.”

“Speak then Voice, tell me of your request.”

”The Tree of Genesis is going to create a new race of sapient beings. Mortals, like me, who will live for a short time and then die… So, I would like to ask if there is a way to reuse the souls of those who died. To bring them back, into a new body and life, and give them the chance to live over and over again? I believe this would encourage the living to create a perfect world, as they will be living in it forever in one form or another. Perhaps… In order to make it fair, the souls could spend an equal amount of time in the realm of the dead as they spend in the realm of the living?”

Thaa listened in silence to the whole of his speech, finally at the end saying, “I will allow this at a price, but I will say I will not force any of the souls to return to the realm of the living if they do not wish to, they will be allowed to remain dead should they so desire.”

The Voice let out an almost inaudible sigh of relief. ”That is fair, Master Thaa. I could not ask for more. What is the price you mention?”

“In some future time I may call upon these people, nothing too great, but I may ask little things of them, and I would expect them to honor such as I continue such a service for them.”

”I will take it upon myself, to teach these new sapients about the importance of upholding agreements and honoring traditions. This should not be a problem… But if someone refuses to honour your requests, whether out of ignorance, incompetence, or small-heartedness, then their souls are yours to do with as you see fit. Whether that be forgiving their transgression, or revoking their reincarnation ability...”

“As I see fit,” Thaa merely confirmed.

”Indeed. Thank you, Master Thaa.” The Voice said and fell into silence, and time began to pass more quickly. It seemed like a blur to him. Dozens of different and new species of mobile flora were birthed in such a relatively short span of time at the mere request of the God of the Dead… It seemed to the Voice that the Tree of Genesis was different from before. It had learned to be more accomodating, it seemed, from its encounter with the violent alien gods.

Eventually, one last species jumped out from behind the Gate, and then the Gate closed.

”It seems that is the last of them. By my current estimations, it should take one human generation for the species to spread across our current landmass. Less in the case of those capable of flight, of course. What would you like to call this group of beasts, Master Thaa? They’re an entirely new category, after all.”

“They are ghouls. Destroyers of the remnants of ended life. They take such a great many forms and manners that to name them all would a pointless exercise, their purpose is in common and their power is as well.” Thaa and shifted his gaze once more to directly look at the Voice.

“Now, I have much to do and this has taken some time already. I do have one more request of you and the Tree of Genesis, please tell me of any more interactions with the fellow kind of mine, I wish to keep in mind my fellow deities.”

”Yes, I will personally keep you updated, Master Thaa, as long as the Tree of Genesis allows me to.” The Voice confirmed, then nodded his head in respect, ”We are thankful for your visit and hope it was satisfactory. Where will you be going next?”

“I believe I shall be heading back finally to the Hreelcii isles to finish some still waiting work there.” Thaa responded, and the Voice watched as the huge form of the God started to move further away, then disappeared up into the upper levels of the Tree.

Once the Voice could no longer feel the soul-crushing presence of the foreign God present, he groaned and collapsed onto his knees, panting for breath.

”I swear, all these divine encounters will be the death of me...”

Returning to his Temple and ensuring that everything was back in its proper place was no small feat but Thaa did have the advantage of divine power in this instance. What he did not expect was to be comforting the dead souls of the Eloxochithli he had brought aboard, there were few enough of them.

Thaa did intend to get to the bottom of how exactly they all died but he had the feeling he wouldn’t like the answer.. While he wasn’t quite sure how they all were slaughtered in his several hour absence, he had a vague idea it might have to do with that fact that he had separated each intelligent mortal race from each other and there were several very predatory species on board of his Temple.

In any case he would have to sort it out later, he had work to do in the Hreelcii Isles.

It was actually fairly quick work all in all. Set up all the biomes and finish sculpting all the lands with plains and rivers and such good things. He even made some nice radiant cave systems for the Night Elves to live since they were so ungrateful. He released most of the creations that he had been collecting in various places over the newly lively islands. A lot of the plants he had made sure to bring along the various grasses that were most suitable for the mortals here and there. As well he decided to change the Land sharks to be a bit different given his experience previously in introducing mortals to predatory beasts.

He made two new kinds, one which stayed the same size roughly keeping a hammerhead shape but becoming much more group oriented and docile like the Quillats, also modified their diet to an omnivorous one. As well as the necessary digestive organs and other such necessary bits that made up life as it seemed. The others he made smaller and group oriented like some small hunting wolves or some such thing, he had no need to import such creatures here although he admitted that the cology might do well to have something in that place.

He released the Night Elves, the so called ‘Humans’ and the Itztli here. He did keep some of the ‘Humans’ and the Reshut of course as he felt he might set them up over in the Island chain he had started, he had gotten a lot more of the Humans than he had managed for the others so he figured splitting up their population would help keep things even here.

It was quite nice to have purged out the life from his Temple Thaa had to admit. It was quite the noxious stench having to keep so much of the living around. He didn’t dislike them as such, it was more that what the core essence of what they were was in constant denial, that living was actually good for them in some twisted way. It was a truly perversion he had to admit.

In any case he had finished his mission for now. He had settled the Reshut on the Western Islands in the chain and the ‘Humans’ he had settled in the center island, to the west of the Island that held the Tomb of the Forgotten. Perhaps he should pay a visit to make sure none had destroyed such a marker.

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