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@Burthstone Let me tell you why: pinkbananamilk.files.wordpre..
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“I still don’t see the point of giving mortals these kinds of things.” Jaav was his usual charitable self.

“First the outer walls and duct lines…” Guul was, as always, more focused on the task than the other two of three.

“This isn’t some major philosophical quandary, although you have trouble with those so I suppose it makes sense you would struggle even here.” A replying harumph was all Kiim needed to continue over any objection, “It is quite simple, we display a matter of Divine will and power, a promised land to which a selected group can be carefully guided towards more right minded thinking while keeping them safe, ensuring the prosperity of Thaa’s ideals!”

”It would still be much simpler to burn a city or two and dictate to the survivors…”

“...the notable towers and gates facing the four cardinal directions, inner walls and ducts back to the central point…”

Explosively speaking, ”And would completely not serve the point! Even if short term the souls would be saved in the long term a philosophy enforced by force would again antipathy beyond normative reason!”

”Why do we bother convincing so many? A few diseases, some droughts and curses, we could bring down half a continent if tried on our own, all these little plans never seem to work out very much.”

”That’s because a little subtlety is beyond you as it becomes ever more apparent. Quiet down and maybe we can go unleash a blight somewhere I suppose.”

”...central chamber of blessed water to fill ducts when sluices are opened at appropriate levels, infrastructure for the city…”

”You’re just trying to play me off, you’re not that subtle yourself you overgrown puppet.”

Truly getting work done was actually somewhat easier with one head instead of three as it sometimes did occur to Guul. Shaping the city below, near a river with good access to trade routes, tribal populations and of course the alluvial plain. Now the defenses and ensuring everything was to specification that was a bit more…

...magical.

”Puppet am I? You’re a child, lashing out at his parent because he can’t stand to be the same, I can at least see good sense and agree when a good point is made.”

The mists bellowed out around the tower, death energies setting into the land itself and spread out from the newly arisen city, it was a careful guided energy. Guided with purpose beyond the avatar’s direction even as control ultimate came to them. The mists would target whoever was chosen, by Thaa, by The Three, or by the soon to arrive Dragon. A very strong protection against any attempt at siege, one that most mortals were by far ill-equipped to even conceive to defend themselves. A clever enough plan to protect a burgeoning haven as it was to be, a good place for good people was the thought as Thaa said.

”Agree-agree,” Sing-song mockery was well know by Jaav to be the height of argument, ”you don’t have an independent thought in the entire stretch of you, whenever you do something its radiates unoriginality.”

”You’re addled, its probably all those bits of life you insist on eating so much, I’d said you’re as dumb as a rock but even life knows not to eat them, most of the time at least.”

”THAT WAS ONE TIME AND YOU KNOW IT!” A flight of birds from some nearby trees gave Jaav pause and lowered his voice as he replied, ”Its not my fault it looked like an egg.”

”It was by a river, why would you think it was an egg?”

”Some creatures lay eggs by water…”Jaav trailed off as he noticed they were leaving the area. ”Hey Guul, we done?”

“I want to go to Mydia. I think I will try painting.”

”Huh, okay then.

And they were finally quiet.

For at least an hour.





A small conversation.





Going to another’s realm was always a useful option, especially when one had need to talk directly. Besides the information one could divine from the nature and status of things in their realm itself. Of course such things were not entirely without risk. One put themselves at risk to encounter another deity in their own field of complete control and power.

Thaa however did not worry much, a short and curt message. ”I will be visiting shortly.” He did not worry about such things for this one, or rather he did and had his own set of assurances that his work would not be impeded regardless of the happenings here. Celestine was not an object of great worry for Thaa, although he did have his matters to discuss. He entered through her portal even now to enter her realm. Keeping a broad mix of only a few thousand corpses and his Golden Disk and Eye.

Shortly after she received the message from Thaa Celestine would rise from the throne overlooking The Longhall and send a divine message out to the Virtus Elves and Death Dragons that inhabited her realm. The contents of this message were simple: ”There will be another god visiting. I trust them well, so you will all most likely be safe from harm. Best behaviour please.

With this message sent Celestine would walk briskly to the approaching path of her castle where visiting gods would be placed upon their arrival. It was here that she waited for Thaa to arrive, and when he did she would curtsey in greeting, as was typical of Celestine. When Thaa first arrived the first thing he would probably notice would be the sky being filled with a few dozen Death Dragons conducting their business as they saw fit. The next thing would likely be the massive castle that The Bulwark had been transformed into and the large city surrounding it. It was roughly around noon within Celestine’s realm, so the castle and surrounding city were almost radiant in appearance.

The two Death Dragons closest to where Thaa would manifest would be a pair of juveniles that were playing together. They pushed at one another and wrestled a bit before taking off into the sky to see who could beat the other in a race. Then they both dived down towards a few idling cows and took a moment to eat and chat. A few minutes later they would race into the sky again, resuming their play.

Rising from her curtsey Celestine would speak with a soft smile upon her face. ”Greetings, friend. What brings you to my realm? Did you have a desire to check in with the dragons that you sent over? Or was there something you wished to speak about?”

Stepping to the side and raising a hand towards The Bulwark and surrounding city, Celestine would speak again as a thought came to mind. ”Or perhaps you wished to see how our first arrangement goes? I’ll be happy to give you a tour of anything you wish to see, all you must do is ask.”

With that said Celestine would drop her arm to a neutral position and wait for Thaa to speak.

As the Goddess had spoken the great eye of Thaa drifted around his form gazing in the multitude of directions that presented themselves to him. He spoke finally a few seconds after she had stopped, his eye settling directly upon her once more as the mound of corpses that was his body took a more bipedal form. "We have much to discuss. Beginning with a tour of all things sounds like a wise proposition."

"I see there is a great deal of mimicry of the lands and places one might find on Galbar, although built to a grander scale than the mortals have accomplished on their own in most places to be sure." His form began to slow walk forward as he spoke, clearly intending to speak while walking with the Goddess.

Celestine gave a few nods as she turned to walk slightly ahead of the now bipedal form that Thaa took on. The immense size of it made traversing beside such a form less practical due to the possible margin of error of Thaa’s movement. As they walked, Celestine would pose a question so that she could better arrange the tour that she was giving. ”So, what exactly did you wish to speak on? And beyond that, did you have anywhere in particular that you wanted to see first? I could show you the city around The Bulwark, or The Bulwark itself? Or perhaps you would like to check in with the dragons and see how they’re doing? Of course, if you’ve another idea feel free to share and I’ll see what can be done.”

As they walked, Thaa would see the massive protective wall surrounding the town coming into view well before Celestine did due to his immense height, though it would be notable that Thaa could not quite see over the top of the wall, as it was roughly sixty meters tall to better shield the town behind it from the flying difficulties of developing dragons.

”The City, the dragons, Bulwark, all of these things I would examine. We have much to discuss and principally of Galbar, you have taken keen interest in affairs. You worry about the well being of mortals, it is commendable for one so young. You outstrip many of your peers in that regard, but there are some manners of wisdom and control that come with the perspective of time. It is my desire that your empathy develops along with your wisdom and perspective, to make full use of your potential.”

Thaa paused briefly in his speech, he kept walking as his eye glided along the surface of his corpse-body, gazing upon Celestine directly. ”What manner of things live here? What creations take care of any in your city?”

Celestine gave a few more nods at Thaa’s observations before she began to answer some of the more immediate questions that Thaa posed while walking with him towards the front gate of the city. ”My Virtus Elves live here, as do the dragons which pledged themselves to my cause. They form a fair sort of harmony and I’ve been taking steps to try and enable them to further coexist, like giving the Virtus the ability to leap great heights and survive great falls. That way a dragon does not have to land every time a Virtus that they’re interacting with wishes to descend to the ground or ascend to their back. Something else I’ve been thinking of trying to do would be to grant them the ability to communicate with one another mentally, but I worry about erasing their individuality if I tie all of their minds together. It’s a complicated issue that I don’t readily have figured out yet. As for what takes care of the people in my city, that is my job. The Virtus are largely self-sufficient, but any need that they come to me with I do my best to see answered. Though I am doing my best to prepare them for the hardships that Galbar will provide.”

As they now approached the front gate Celestine lifted a hand towards the Virtus Elves that were manning the gate and signaled for them to open it. Mere moments later the gate was pulled wide and the two were allowed to pass. A fair number of the Virtus that were manning the gate or otherwise stationed along the wall raised a hand in greeting towards Celestine and Thaa in an effort to be polite. Unfortunately for Thaa, the gate was a fair amount smaller than his current form and only stood at roughly fifteen meters tall. The gate had never really been considered as anything bigger than the gate also had a pair of convenient wings to access the entire realm with. Pausing before the gate, Celestine would look back and forth between the gate and Thaa before apologizing. “My apologies, the front gate of the city was never designed to allow for such a large being like your current manifestation through. I could take a moment to modify the gate to accommodate, or if you prefer I could walk with you to the rear of the castle wall? I left a large gap in the wall there to allow the dragons to have easy access in and out. Whatever would be your preference.”

Thaa gave a simple enough reply by collapsing the corpse-biped to the ground of its composite corpses in a mound which proceeded to creep along towards the gate, much lower in height. ”No need for such, we shall proceed.”

”What plans are you so certain to proceed with that you invest in your Elves to send to Galbar?”

Celestine raised an eyebrow at the sudden collapse of Thaa’s chosen form. Having a form so malleable was unfamiliar to her as her own form was overwhelmingly static and didn’t change shape much. But it did seem to solve the problem of the gate not being large enough. As Thaa asked what plans she had in motion there was a notable but slight delay before she began to speak. ”I will be deploying a portion of them soon, but I’ll be recalling them when the situation they’re being deployed for is resolved. Once that’s done I plan on interviewing them and learning what issues they encounter with being upon Galbar, and from that knowledge I’ll either grant more boons or more knowledge to them. Beyond that, I have a few more things that need to be arranged before they’re given a more permanent presence upon Galbar.”

As they moved through the gate Thaa would see that there was a small buffer of empty space between the wall and the city that it was protecting, and beyond that was a beautiful city constructed mainly of white brick houses with blue tiled rooftops. Webbed throughout the city were smooth cobblestone roads that linked every structure together and ensured that none who were traveling had to walk through fields of mud should the weather turn to rain. Within the town square lay the shrine to The Akashic Gate, which was currently closed and displayed the overlapping symbols of Celestine and Àicheil in full.

From six places in the city rose notable pillars of smoke, and due to Celestine’s lack of alarm it was obvious that she was unconcerned about them. Looking to Thaa and raising a hand to the city that lay beyond the protective wall, Celestine asked a simple question to better structure the tour. ”What would you like to see first?”

Thaa gave no easy reply to the answer to his question, instead waiting and responding at last when she had finished, his eye roamed both his form and in gaze all around, occasionally switching back to the Goddess. It lingered on the Akashic Gate for a moment. Thaa spoke, "I wish to see more of this city and the elves that do inhabit it."

Celestine gave a few nods, though found herself a bit puzzled with what exactly to show Thaa first, figuring that it might be best to slay two birds with one stone she opted to show him the nearest smithy and hoped that she would reveal both one aspect of her plans and allow Thaa to observe her elves at work. Raising a hand towards the nearest plume of smoke Celestine spoke once more to vocalize her decision. ”Very well. If you would kindly follow me this way I will show you what some of my elves are working on in preparation for their upcoming deployment to Galbar. I’ve been meaning to check in with how things have been coming along as well.”

With that said, Celestine would guide Thaa along through the city to the closest smithy. They passed a handful of Virtus who were carrying out their daily tasks, each dressed in plain outfits of green, brown, and white cotton and wool. Celestine took a moment to pause in her guidance as Thaa observed the elves for a time, but was able to resume leading him before too long passed. When they arrived at the smithy it had a notable amount of space between itself and the surrounding buildings, and beyond that the elves that worked inside wore thick leather aprons and gloves alongside their regular outfits of wool and cotton. Raising a hand and nodding her head in greeting, Celestine looked to Thaa once more before raising a hand towards the smithy and speaking. ”This is one of the six smithies I have placed around my realm. Teams of elves come and go to produce arms and armor for their upcoming deployment. Do you have anything in particular you would like to witness while we are here?”

Thaa spoke with out much delay, What metals are they working in here? This deployment is certainly going to be interesting as a solution and more than likely cause a few problems in its own right, but we shall see which is greater in the end, the current path or the diverged one. You may get more attention from other divines as well..."

Thaa seemed focused on the Elves themselves as he drifted off in some manner of thought after his little burst of speech.

Celestine gave a few nods before taking a moment to whistle sharply and approach the smithy. She exchanged a few words with one of the elves inside before they stepped away to retrieve something. It was a few moments before they returned with one of the swords they had made and offered it to Celestine. Taking it with a thanks, Celestine stepped back outside to Thaa before holding it aloft with both hands and speaking. ”They work with what I’ve come to know as steel. My own armor and sword are made out of roughly the same material, and so I felt it only right to give such a metal to my children. I do have aims to try and grant them more exotic metals in the future, but this one came to mind earnestly and is more than enough for the current deployment awaiting them. Do you think the other divines will take much issue with it?”

Thaa examined first the Elf stepping forward then the sword carried, his eye large in its own right barely shifted. "Iron and other base materials..."

"No, I don't think there will be much alarm among the divines of this metal in particular. I could see some having issue, or a desire to force their own pet projects into copying if they can recognize some logistical natures. I would worry more about the deployment itself for the deities therein. Many grow attached to certain locals and their peoples, they like the way of doing things each giving their own little boost to make sure their group dominates others. Most dislike more direct intervention, especially should it disrupt their plans."


Celestine gave a few more nods, though these held a distinct weight of understanding an intricate problem rather than just acknowledging that he had spoken. Before replying, she took a moment to return to the smithy and return the sword to the elves working there. Returning once more to Thaa she would hold a hand up towards The Bulwark before speaking. ”I’ve considered that heavily. Perhaps it would be best if we moved to The Bulwark? I can better illustrate the full details of my plan from there, and it will allow me to summon some Dragons should you wish to check up on them afterward.”

"This is acceptable, lead the way."

Celestine nodded once again before setting off through the streets of the city. This time it was approximately thirty or thirty five minutes before the two would arrive at The Bulwark. Once they were within the courtyard Celestine paused and made a mental note that it would likely be a good idea to arrange a sort of meeting room at a later point in time, especially given that her castle would likely be too cramped for Thaa’s form to easily move around in, even when not condensed into a bipedal form. The courtyard would have to do for now.

Raising a hand and tracing a circle in the air, Celestine willed into existence a small recreation of Galbar. Most of it was undetailed, but Toraan was replicated quite well. It grew to dominate the sphere as Celestine focused upon it, and now she raised a finger to point to The Anchor mountain before speaking. ”This mountain here is the foundation of my plan. I believe it is known as ‘The Anchor’. The key that I am noticing there is that it is relatively central to Toraan. This is where I have plans to place a mighty tower-fortress known as The Crystal Spire. It will be both a home and a base of operations for my Virtus elves and the dragons you have entrusted to me.”

It was here The Anchor would shift into possessing a massive tower-fortress, and lines pointing to the major corners of Toraan would project from the tip of this tower. Once that was done, Celestine would resume speaking. ”With their placement I will do my best to contact all of the mortals in the region with a message: Aggression shall be punished and stamped out. That is what I have aligned myself to do in an effort to break the cycle of war and violence in the area: Stop all aggression before it starts, and hopefully all that will be left is peace. Of course, I also aim to include an area for tournaments within The Crystal Spire, which will hopefully be enough for those who cannot contain their bloodlust to exercise themselves. Though now that I think about it again I will have to see about some sort of curse protection charms considering what happened at the one other tournament has taken place.”

Turning to Thaa, Celestine would pose a question. ”Well. There you have it. That is the general summary of what I plan on doing. What are your thoughts? And please, do not be afraid of offending me with truth. It is my preference that flaws and imperfections be revealed sooner rather than later.”

Thaa watched the changes in silence before finally speaking a number of long seconds after she had finished, his eye not moving from the projection. "What is 'aggression'? What is 'violence'? The Westfold as you know is predominantly controlled by humans, there are some trolls in hiding and a few settlements of the Merelli, but humans dominate. If they all disobey your edict will you wage war to bring them into submission? If trolls pledge to be at peace with humans and others alike, would you protect them? Or would you allow the unspoken war between man and trolls continue in a realm of 'peace'?"

He began to move and shift his form around the courtyard, his many corpses marching and crawling as a great crowd, slowly encircling the sphere and Celestine. Humans, Trolls, Reshut, Goblins, Nelves, and others seen and unseen on Galbar made up these corpses, their dull eyes staring in space or sometimes seeming to glance across the sphere of the world or the Goddess, "Is it violent to kill your own people? Kill those who think differently than you do, those who won't obey a tyrant? If their neighbors do nothing and watch and none can stop the depredations from within, will you watch? Will you act? Where is the line drawn? If there is a drought, or a flood, a people are starving and another eeks by, do you punish the hungry? Do you watch them starve?"

His eye moved with the great mass of his body, until he had made a circle in entirety. The great disk began to slide back along his great mound of corpses back to a position near the Goddess, "If you seek to control your Elves through ideals and knowledge, those will change as they must and want on Galbar, through force you make yourself Queen although distant. Will your Elves and their Dragon companions stay strong in their will? Should they have power to control the Westfold, they would have power to rule it. Even if you forbid them, what if in a hundred or three hundred years they decide it is better to do away with the pretense that all would not bend to their wills?"

Thaa turned his eye onto Celestine finally as his eye came to a rest, "I need not answers to all such questions, there are many more I can ask. You need those answers from yourself, from what your Elves are willing and able to do. Know the limits of what you can, and what you will do, long before you need to make a choice and action. Ensuring peace of a land has been the domain of rulers, you may become one, or create one, if this does be the path you intend to tread."

Celestine remained silent for a few moments after Thaa finished speaking. Then a few moments more as she took a few moments to study the corpses that surrounded them. When she finally spoke, the tone of her voice had changed slightly to one of contemplation and doubt. ”Your points are fair and just. To give my thoughts in the same order as you gave your questions: When I speak of stopping violence I speak of stopping the widespread warring that has been taking place. I cannot hope to stop every act of murder or assassination as I would have to be essentially everywhere at once, but if I can stop hundreds or thousands of innocent people from dying because of warfare and its aftereffects then I would think my mission successful. If all in the land sought to disobey such an edict I would likely see to it that a group of death dragons landed around their forward military camps at night and offer them one final chance to turn to home. If they declined… Well, balefire would be the response. If the trolls agreed to a peace with the humans and are later attacked, I would come to their defense. Likewise, if the trolls agree to a peace and then attack, I would come to the defense of whomever was on the receiving end of their assault. When I say peace for all I do truly mean peace for all.”

Pausing for a moment, Celestine gathered her thoughts and then continued to speak. ”If a nation turns to civil war I might try to send an envoy to cause a cessation of hostilities and a negotiation to separate. The issue of tyrants is a peculiar one, as I do not have a clear answer for it. Perhaps if my people are asked to intervene I might see about it, but I would hesitate to respond with dragons, as I feel like such an issue would require a more delicate touch. If there happens to be starvation and famine then I might see about bringing food to those affected and help them to become self-sufficient once more.”

Celestine paused once again as she was left with questions that were incredibly difficult to answer. In a surprising move, Celestine took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. Much like mortals did when they faced such difficult considerations. Then Celestine spoke carefully so that she didn’t say something she would come to regret. ”If I leave my avatar to reside at The Crystal Spire and assist with governing, I can likely slow the divergence of elves and dragons from the original ideals that I sent them with, but you are right in that such a divergence is likely inevitable. I cannot and will not try and shackle their ability to think freely to my will. As before, as now: I would have to use my words and promises alone to maintain the integrity of such a grand design. It is inevitable that some will leave to found their own towns or cities, or some will leave to wander. I cannot prevent them from expressing alternate desires, lest I myself slip into the trappings of being a tyrant. It is my greatest hope that I will never need to see Virtus Elf turn against Virtus Elf… But should that day come I will weep. If they desire a land of their own to rule over, I will use my divine ability to forge one for them in the hopes that they don’t seek to take the land of others. And, truly, that might have to be the stance I take for all people upon Toraan. Perhaps the land as it is has simply grown too small and too famished for people to coexist? I would hope not, but if peace requires that I expand upon the landmasses that exist upon Galbar then I will if I must. Though I will likely need to seek the assistance of other deities should I find my reserves of divine power lacking.”

Finishing her train of thought, Celestine looked to the map once more. Then to the corpses surrounding her. Then to the eye of Thaa. It was now that she delivered one final thought. ”Does this satisfy, Thaa? If you take issue with anything then please voice it. I will be happy to improve my ideals should they be lacking.”

"Having good answers is difficult, but nonetheless important. We both have our differences and I will not deny you your thoughts, however I will say a few things that my experience and knowledge may assist with. Firstly, there is plenty of land to use, even more so no doubt as technology and experience improves. I remember when the grandest populations of mortals sustained were in the hundreds in a small local, hunting and foraging long before they discovered the tilling of fields or domain over animals. With stone, then metal, the amount of food they could grow, the lands they could use improved. No doubt they shall find some new such way when means and times allow, bronze really has spiked their numbers greatly I must admit across much of Galbar."

Thaa took a moment to turn towards the display, "In truth, I believe your plans would likely transform the Westfold from soldiering to assassins as their hatreds grew from the unresolved feuds. From the evils of Ha-Dûna to the brutality and mercy of the Celeviaks, down to the people of Kirin's Rest. Perhaps that would be easier on the people themselves, but all the more likely to boil over should your intervention ever cease or be delayed. Ultimately, it is worthy to try in any case to reduce the suffering that abounds, I have sponsored other experiments as well so I will watch most eagerly. You may succeed in reducing suffering, even if I do not think you will be well liked, although I have never been greatly popular myself..."

His eye turned back onto the Goddess, "They may turn to plagues and poisons, divine aid and retribution from other gods they might corral to their whims, such is common enough. Wars have always been common, you might find a way to cease them perhaps, I have no doubt mortals will find means and measures to test your patience, your resolve and your will to continue your peace. I hope your will is strong and not brittle to the stresses of the task you set before yourself."

Celestine gave a few nods as Thaa spoke. His revelation that there was more than enough land to go around for the mortals was helpful in the sense that she could figure out the limits of what she should do better, but it was also disheartening to learn that there was plenty of land and yet wars were being waged to take the land from others. Such a lack of harmony was concerning, and perhaps that would be something else to strive towards once the current project was done.

When he mentioned the catastrophe that would likely result from a delay or cessation of interventions, Celestine couldn’t help but nod again and respond once he had finished speaking. ”That is something that concerns me. One possible solution that I’ve been considering is setting up multiple smaller towers to serve as outposts for a swift response force while the main tower serves to hold the bulk of their forces, but I think that such an idea will have to remain on hold until I have the main tower completed first. I suspect that there will be many hidden challenges that make themselves known when I put the main events of this plan into motion, and I hesitate to fatten my designs with additional ideas before those possible challenges are answered.”

Returning her thoughts to how Thaa had mentioned his lack of popularity and the trials that her plans would undertake Celestine raised a finger to her chin. If her plans were to make her equally unpopular then perhaps that would simply be the price to pay? It disheartened her that trying to do what felt right would cause her to become unpopular, but it would take far more than just unpopularity with the other deities to cause her to give pause. Such unpopularity might also prove useful in revealing the hidden agendas that Thaa had previously warned her of in their first meeting.

The idea of such truths being brought to light served to affirm the idea that what she was doing was a fair idea. Looking to Thaa, she figured to ask after something that might prove troublesome. ”Please excuse my curiosity, but I must wonder: You said that your designs have made you somewhat unpopular. Would you kindly elaborate with who, or how? Of course, if you would rather not elaborate I entirely understand and will rescind the question immediately.”

Now all Celestine could do was wait for Thaa to reply. And reply he did, ”I am the Lord of Death, few appreciate my work or know truly the results of it on the mortal plane of Galbar. I have no doubt that my actions have displeased other deities as well given their broad designs to disrupt plans set in motion as asked by the mortals that did request my aid and so want it. “

”Life does not take kindly to death, it has been built and made to find a kind of repulsion in it. Even as I seek only to reduce suffering, I fear most that the creation of life was never in the interest in a moral order or a lack of suffering but much the opposite.”

Celestine would raise a finger to her chin as Thaa spoke. Comparing what he said to her own plans she found that he made quite a good point for why he might not be popular. Her plans had lacked vision of what their ends might look like, and that might’ve cost her immensely. She would need to think about such details when she had the free time. Celestine took a moment to stop thinking of death as being something exclusive to just mortal beings. Could an idea die? Could a culture die? Did less physical things like ideas and cultures ever truly die in the same way as mortals or were they immortal in the sense that some part of them could possibly be adopted and carried forward by someone else?

It was a difficult thing to think about, but as she thought about it she gained a newfound respect for Thaa, and came to understand his importance in the pantheon of deities that had emerged: He was a reminder that things with beginnings typically had endings, and even beyond that Celestine could reasonably see Thaa as being a sort of divine clean-up crew for errant projects that had overstayed their welcome.

And with that understanding, she understood why he wasn’t popular.

Lowering her finger from her chin, Celestine nodded a few times before speaking. ”I think I understand, having contemplated a few things. Though in this contemplation I have been reminded that there is something that I would wish to ask after. Do you know of Boudicca of Ha-Dûna? She is one of my knights, and I have made a request of her to stay with me in my realm as an advisor after the end of her life upon Galbar. As I made this request she lamented that she would miss her family while accepting it. I would thus like to discuss the possibility of securing their souls to journey to my realm after their own deaths so that she can be with her family. Would that be something that you could arrange? Of course, if there is a cost you wish to request for this service I will gladly hear it.”

With her question posed, Celestine could only wait and see what Thaa would propose.

”I am very much aware of the one named Boudicca. I could easily arrange such an occurrence, I have two conditions one of the souls and one on your own being. The souls must be allowed to choose whether they go to leave Paradise and their ancestors and friends there to go with your Knights.”

“As for the condition on you, I would request you use your extant influence on Boudicca and Ha-Dûna to end the immoralities so prevalent there under her command.”


Thaa’s great eye lazily shifted along the ring of bodies he had made.

Celestine nodded a few times as Thaa spoke. The condition he placed upon her was easy enough to agree to, Celestine would not want to enforce her will upon someone so thoroughly. But the second request was more complicated. Especially since it did involve trying to actively influence someone in ways that might complicate the friendship between the two.

However, it would have to be done. Celestine knew that Thaa had already gifted her with many things without much of a cost, and she did not want to test this generosity too thoroughly. Speaking up, Celestine sought details about what exactly he would want curtailed. ”Immoralities? If you would be so kind to elaborate in detail about what you mean then I can certainly attempt to see such things done. I would also request that if these details come in the form of memories from a soul within your care, could you possibly make some form of copy of them so that I could show Boudicca herself? I can pass whatever medium you place them into onto my Avatar and then show Boudicca when I next see her.”

An orb appeared in the hands of a corpse of an unknown humanoid being nearby Celestine as Thaa’s eye drifted.

”Cold blooded torture of an innocent on conjecture is one. I worry you rely too much on Boudicca herself but perhaps my methods are at fault for my own lack of influence. Another is the increases in control and policing to the Dûnan will. Finally is the matter of denial of crimes, adventurism and the own growing tyranny of Ha-Dûna.”

“You may wish to prepare yourself before you view those memories…”

Celestine’s eyes narrowed slightly. Were secrets being kept from her? If they were, this was immensely displeasing and she would need to chide Boudicca on such practices. If they were not, Boudicca had another problem to manage, which would likely not bode well. Neither option was pleasant in the slightest, but now Celestine was too involved to merely back away. Looking to the orb that appeared in the hands of the unknown humanoid corpse. Celestine nodded grimly before speaking. ”I am ready, and will endure. Show me what has happened in Ha-Dûna.”

The orb was tossed gently to Celestine’s grasp. As soon as it was touched, the memory flooded, a rapid pace from that orb. Memories of a girl named Ciara, brief snippets of a life, arriving in Ha-Dûna, optimism and hope, distrust, betrayal. Accused of crime not commit and tortured beyond even the captors assurance of innocence.

Thaa’s words echoed out softly as the last faded memories to death, a hundred voices, ”The Dûnan’s manage to find more of the worst quite quickly. One would think a people so tortured by the past of Ketrefan atrocity would not be so quick to create a new legacy of atrocity all their own. Perhaps that is precisely why...”

Celestine caught the orb gracefully and closed her eyes as the flood of memories hit her. As the memories were played out, Celestine’s expression hardened. When it was done, there was little more than a thin mask of calmness to hide the anger that boiled in her mind. Opening her eyes slowly, Celestine lowered her hand. Nodding grimly, Celestine spoke softly. Her voice was barely above a whisper at this point, for any louder and she would find herself caught between screaming and crying. ”I see now why you desire this. Very well. Thy will be done. Justice shall come in one form or another.”

Celestine hefted the orb once more, looking at it with pained eyes. Then she lifted her hand towards the back of her head and pulled at her hood. Setting the orb into it, Celestine tucked the hood into the back of her breastplate for security. It would have to remain there for now until she found a better place to put it, or was otherwise finished with it. At that time she might just return it to Thaa in order to be rid of the weight that it placed upon her mind. These memories held a double pain for Celestine, for within them she also saw that fateful day once again. The day where a tournament had been defiled. The day where her good intentions had met their first true insult.

Celestine despised that day. What made matters worse was that the events of it were not yet fully corrected, and she had failed in her attempts to find the culprit. It was a humiliating time for her. To be reminded of it was something that she abhorred, but it was something necessary: Until the culprits were punished and the cursed given peace those events would be a splinter in her mind.

Emulating mortals once again Celestine took a deep breath into lungs that did not technically exist. Exhaling slowly she looked back towards Thaa to ask a simple but somewhat blunt question. ”Is that all you wished to see and discuss, Thaa? Or was there more that you wished to see or discuss?”

Thaa began to uncoil around the chamber, saying simply, ”The quarters for the Dragons.”

Celestine nodded before speaking as simply as Thaa did. ”Of course. This way, please.” She would then lead Thaa out of the castle courtyard before taking a side path that eventually led to a staircase that would bring them atop the wall surrounding the city. From here Celestine would walk to where the exterior curtain of the wall began to bend protectively around the town before lifting a hand towards the hundreds of individually customized homes for the Death Dragons. It was now that she would speak once more. ”Each dragon has their own home, made to their own tastes. When they want changes they call out to me, and I adjust things until they are satisfied. Do you wish to see any of them up close, or would you rather ask the dragons themselves?”

”No, I am quite satisfied as it does happen to see this. These seem to be adequate enough, divine prayers would likely have warned should there be any issue from you outright given they are evidently still extant and capable.”

Thaa’s form had snaked down to follow. ”I would also offer, should you require a locale or some assistance on Galbar, a number of assets that I still have as current under my control on Galbar. Certain things under my control that could be useful to your designs in the westfold region, lending a little more weight to your concerns in any matter.”

“You are young yet Celestine, while I may ask my price, the accumulated power of me or my fellow elder divines may be useful to your own acts I have no doubt.”


At the mention of having assets under his control in the area, Celestine couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow. That was something quite surprising to her, as she had believed that Thaa wouldn’t have too many things physically located upon Galbar in order to not interfere too much. But then again she wasn’t aware of all the prior activities of the gods and so this could just be something new to learn.

Turning to face Thaa Celestine inquired after what exactly Thaa had under his control so that she could better shape her own plans. ”A number of assets under your control? Would you kindly be able to elaborate as to what exactly you have active? Even if I do not request the usage of such assets I wouldn’t want to have a plan of mine knowingly interfere with a plan that you’ve got going already.”

”Its quite simple of course, most remain left over from when I walked on Galbar, a flying temple and some artifacts to ensure tranquility in a small area. Most under the command of my Avatar.”

“I don’t have much plans of the region myself anymore, however there is a Dragon in the region, she is leading a group of people to safety further out of harms way. We don’t agree on everything but she was moral enough and wished to attempt to make a change after gaining some perspective.”


Thaa’s great eye matched Celestine’s gaze moving along his form to face her. ”There are a number of servants and beings I could induce action upon that could be brought to the region, although they are few enough as you would imagine...”

Celestine raised another eyebrow at Thaa’s mention of being able to walk upon Galbar before speaking. ”You were able to walk upon Galbar? I’m rather impressed. I had thought that the gods were always disbarred from bringing our full might onto the surface of the planet, hence the need for avatars? Was this not always the case?”

Turning her mind to the other things that Thaa mentioned, Celestine decided that it would be best to press him for details so that she could better shape her plans. Out of all of them, the dragon he mentioned was the most interesting. If she could recruit her to assist in educating the dragons she would send to The Crystal Spire on the ways of Galbar then there would possibly be a lot less headache and complication from a dragon not understanding some of the unspoken rules that the mortals had. ”The dragon that you mentioned, where is she? Do you think she would be amicable to the idea of aiding the dragons that I will send to Galbar to reside at The Crystal Spire? I would imagine that she would have valuable experiences to share that the others could learn from.”

”There was a time when the world was new and the first gods were born of the primordial elements, land and sea, heat and cold, sun and moon, life and death. In these times before the first mortal peoples the lands and seas were made physics and laws of order, magic, and chaos were added to the world. Realms were no such consideration as each god acted directly in their full power on Galbar. The lifeblood was active then too, a much greater creative force than it seems to enact currently.”

“However, soon enough as the gods enacted ever greater powers on the world, the lifeblood cast us out, the realms our bubbles of power so far away from the centrality of Galbar and all the work we had done, all the good and evils set in motion. The lifeblood wanted, as much as such a thing could want, to keep us out, to force our way back in full power only threatened to destroy the surface of Galbar with the contest of will with the lifeblood. Not to mention the grave danger of defying something so powerful.”

“Two thousand years passed on Galbar, and then antiquity formed, connecting our realms and with the discovery of avatars we were capable to directly interact once more. I had busier myself with caring for the dead. Few or none talked as I know in time, a number of deities seemed to abandon their duties, Oraelia was not heard by any of the souls I had collected in that time I recall as example.”

“With antiquity and avatars came a new period of interaction, things once set in motion could begin again and new efforts undertaken. For example this is how Ha-Dûna first grew strong, it was empowered beyond any other Druidic locale by the might of deities I would not agree to their overall benevolence. In any case, when the full might of a god was in the primordial days we were so much more capable than the mere fragments we send down now. I personally built the Hreelcii isles in a matter of side project hoping to create a better land, moral and righteous and safe. Such things have been abandoned in part with the long absence I have to say, so much less power we have now. Even if we still can shape the course of mortal civilization.”


Thaa turned his great eye away from the goddess as he continued, ”It is possible that she might be of some help, that is her decision. She is a powerful champion of my will yes but I agreed to empower her so that she may attempt to follow her ideas and ideals. She has much more hope and feels it is possible to reform and improve much with good wisdom and a strong hand such as hers. A ruler, something I do not necessarily see yet but I agreed to let her try. Perhaps she might help you in exchange for her own plans to be assisted.”

”You will find her in the westfold, search on the East along the mountains, she leads her followers south to a promised land.”

Celestine gave a few nods to the history lesson, but didn’t have too much that she could really say about it. It was a curious time, and there was no doubt that she would’ve enjoyed being present upon the surface of Galbar with the others, but that time had passed and contemplating about something which could never be was a dangerous pastime. Making some mental notes on where to look as Thaa described the whereabouts of the dragon that was active Celestine reminded herself of the need to convince the dragon with words and promises only. Though this did pose an interesting question about the dragon that she had forgotten to ask before. Seeing as it would be quite helpful to the effort of convincing the dragon to offer assistance, Celestine asked after a small but critical detail. ”I see. What is this dragon’s name? I would wish to call her by a name that only you might know, to show that I am a friend of yours and not just someone attempting to exert my will over her mind or put threats towards the people under her care.”

”Her name is Aen’drannan, but you would get well along with the epithet ‘the curious one’.”

“Although, I do have to make one request to satisfy my curiosity in the matter of the Dûnans”.


As Thaa had turned away to gaze towards whatever he wished to gaze toward, Celestine had turned to look over her realm as a whole. She watched as a pair of more mature dragons engaged in a bout of play in midair. Pushing against one another briefly before racing off towards the more mountainous biomes of her realm to engage in a race of sharp twists and turns. Nodding at the mention of the name Aen’drannan Celestine made a few mental notes on how to approach that possible conversation and set them aside for later. She raised an eyebrow at the question that Thaa wished to pose. Pulling her eyes from her realm and turning to face Thaa once more, Celestine would give an eager nod before speaking. ”Of course Thaa. I will answer to the best of my ability. Please, ask away.”

Thaa’s great eye shifted again to look at another far corner as he spoke again. ”When you react in your investigation of the Dûnans, I would like to know if you can ascertain why Ciara was the one so chosen for their depredations. Whether it was her unusual openness to them or just happenstance that she was captured to be so tortured and blamed by them.”

“She cared for them greatly as a people I know, and Boudicca herself was much beloved, I’m sure you got a sense of that from the brief amount seen in the memories I shared. The sneaking away to visit Ha-Dûna in her teen years, her eventual apprenticeship to Darragh, her hopes of peace and growth for the Dûnans and the Cenél.”

“It made her not suspect that they would or could turn upon her, something that no doubt left her vulnerable in a way Darragh was not in his apparent fleeing the town. Dûnans began their first conquests under false pretenses of murder of a Dûnan by foreign raiders. Staged by Dûnan leadership they went and slaughtered the people and took their land. The point of such a tale is that to Dûnan leaders the killing of their own has not been an issue, so the torture of Ciara in a mostly unreformed society is no great mystery. What I would ask then is the chance for a scapegoat for war was merely stumbled upon or if this was another planned event. I’m sure you’ll find such answers in the course of your own search so if you would share your findings I would be most grateful. They dead arrive the same and paradise awaits, but to satisfy my curiosity ahead of time would be appreciated.”


Celestine gave a few nods, and began to ponder such a thing herself. Unfortunately, she was able to piece a few things together from the experiences that she’d had already, and was able to answer such a question promptly. Emulating mortals once more, Celestine took a breath before beginning to recount what she knew. ”This traces back to a day I despise. Do you recall the fate of Hilda the Leoness? The day where she was cursed and turned into a demon? On that day Ciara was in the stands of the arena with Darragh, and Darragh’s method of fleeing brought him into suspicion even if he was not the one to commit the original crime. According to The First Knight he slew a guard and wounded another as he fled the city, which made him appear the culprit as there is a lack of understanding of the Cenél arts. Ciara, being Darragh’s apprentice, was captured and placed within the Temple of Truth, and we are both aware of her fate thereafter. I do not think it was intentional malice on the part of the people of Ha-Dûna, at the very least not all of them. I think it was closer to a mistake made in panic and grief, but such a mistake is something that I do not approve of, especially not when it ends in a needless death.”

Pausing for a moment, Celestine clenched her fists tightly as she remembered her failings involving that particular situation. When she spoke again, her usual calmness had become a thin veil that barely hid an anger capable of sundering mountains. ”I have not been able to find out the whole truth of what happened on that day, but if someday I can find out the truth of what happened… It will never happen again.”

Following this, Celestine fell silent. After a few moments she released a slow breath and returned to her usual calm demeanor. Looking back to the horizon and her realm as a whole once more, Celestine used a question to cap off her train of thought. ”Does that satisfy, Thaa?”

”Truth is always difficult, I am perhaps not so content to accord that it was mass will that shaped such an event, their leaders have found deception and trickery of the masses easily enough but I know it not their direct action or not it of Darragh or Ciara.”

“A true tragedy in every case, ironic perhaps in some. The Dûnans turn on the one that would still trust them after all they have wrought before and after their civil war. The cursed one herself a great leader of the Dûnans and now one of their blights. I have a friend I should tell such a tragedy to, they might wish to know of such a tale...”


Thaa’s eye swiveled along his mass to stare at Celestine, he spoke again, ”It shall be enough for now of course, I’m sure if anything notable came up you might comment on it whenever we do come to discuss such a topic again. Tell me, have you meet much of our fellow divines since we last spoke on such a topic?”

Celestine did not inquire after who Thaa might wish to share the tale with, as her anger had already been roused enough that she truthfully wished to cease speaking about it, especially since she would need to speak with Boudicca about such an event in detail while retaining her calm demeanor. As Thaa shifted the conversation to be about the other deities that Celestine had met she nearly let out a sigh of relief. That was a much more palatable topic at the moment and one that she was happy to elaborate on. Looking back to Thaa as he had once again turned to look at her, Celestine would detail her encounters with the other gods quite frankly. ”Shortly before I came to talk with you about the issues that I was struggling with in terms of my desires for neutrality I had a communion with Àicheil and received a gift from them to ensure that my Virtus Elves will not lose knowledge or skills over time. It is a memory library of sorts, and they can use it to experience the memories of others and pick up the skills that they did from them. The large tome that you might’ve seen enshrined within the city is The Akashic Gate. It is the centerpiece of the gift and allows my Virtus to reach their memory library. When I send them out onto Galbar to live within The Crystal Spire I will be sending it with them. After our meeting to discuss neutrality I met with both Cadien and Neiya. In truth I had gone to visit Cadien to discuss tournaments for the souls that come to inhabit our realms, but Neiya arrived afterward and the discussion shifted a bit. It was however a pleasant experience overall.”

Soon after she finished, Celestine was reminded of something that she had thought of at the time and figured that it would be a wise decision to ask it now that she was face to face with the one who could provide the answer. ”Speaking of those tournaments, I had a proposal for an idea as to what to reward the victor of such a tournament, seeing as they would want for nothing in the paradises that Cadien and I offer: Would you be willing to allow a soul to reincarnate unto Galbar? Provided that they choose to do so, of course. I would not want to force reincarnation upon those who simply wish to compete for eternity.”

Thaa spoke in a low voice, almost a murmur, ”That would explain the oddity of those souls, Àicheil...”

He returned to a normal voice, ”I have allowed a race reincarnation before, at a nigh divine request, equal time in life and death. Paradise and... ...Galbar. In exchange for a service provided to me.”

“I will allow these champions of yours to reincarnate among their chosen race, for a price.”


Celestine nodded, but was quick to offer up a counter-proposal seeing as a critical party was missing. ”I understand your wish for a price and I have little qualms about paying it myself, but I think such a discussion would be best had with Cadien present. These tournaments are something that we have both equally contributed to in discussion thus far, and I would not want a decision like this to be made without Cadien being able to provide his own input. Perhaps in some time we may both go to visit him in his realm and resume such a discussion then and there?”

”I see.” a long pause.

He resumed in quick order and tone, ”I suppose we shall have to make a time to talk in some suitable locale.”

”If I may make a comment, you may when you have the time, wish to take a tour of some other notable places on Galbar besides the Westfold. The Kyslar Isles, dead east of the highlands, perhaps a little south. They have an interest warrior culture, as well interesting things happen all over that you might wish to take a look at. Keeping informed is valuable in more than just usefulness to a cause...”

Celestine gave a nod towards the suggestion put forward by Thaa before speaking. ”I have considered doing so once my involvement with the Westfold is finished. In truth I don’t know if I will send my first avatar around Galbar, as it will be needed to manage The Crystal Spire and serve as an extension of my guidance for the Virtus Elves and dragons that I send forth onto Galbar in order to serve as peacekeepers on Toraan. My fondness for the dragons that have rallied themselves to my cause has been an influence upon the next avatar that I have been considering: One made in their image, though most likely not possessing nearly as many abilities as they do, and possibly not quite so large in order to avoid provoking too much panic. But the wings that such a form would provide would be quite useful in traversing the land. Though I do feel as if I should ask: Would you be alright with me emulating the form of something that is so closely tied to you? I would not want to cause confusion and panic.”

Several arms from the mass waved dismissively, he spoke, ”Worry not of it, feel free to do as you will. They are not servants of mine and I make no slaves of my creations.”

Celestine gave a few nods as she made note of Thaa’s answer. Following this, she would pose another question to him in order to clarify what Thaa wished to do next. ”I see. You have my thanks. Beyond this, did you have anything else that you wished to speak about or see? Or do you perhaps feel that you will be departing soon?”

”We both have work to do, I am sure you will be interested in investigating many matters in mortal affairs. I shall depart, we will have further matters to discuss once we have taken our necessary actions and we confer with other such divines, your tournaments and such.”

Thaa’s form began to move from its position before pausing, speaking again, ”Please keep me informed as time permits on your concerns of course. And any developments like you moving forward with your plans for these Elves of yours...”

He began to move away to leave without waiting for a reply to begin such as his large form gradually and carefully shifted down the halls.

Celestine nodded silently as Thaa excused himself. As he began to move Celestine spoke simply, not expecting a reply. ”Farewell, Thaa.”




Most interested indeed Sigma, most interested





Ciara had forgotten what day it was. Was it even day? Time had faded. She had no idea how long she had been here. Strapped through the chair. Her mind felt fogged up. Memories came up occasionally. Names, laughs, trees. But they vanished just as quickly. She could barely hold on to her own name. Sometimes it slipped. Other names were just as clearly fading. Seva, Ora, Malgog. Looking down at the ground she feared every sound she heard. Every creaking from the door. The pain had been all there is. The loneliness cut worse though.

Some time ago, she had no idea how long, she would’ve wished to go home. Right now she had no idea what home was. Where home was. There was just the pain and the fogged mind and the names. Life was slipping through her fingers. “Sovas…take me.” The words came out like whispers to the wind. Easily misunderstood as just a sigh but a prayer none the less. The last prayer that she could form with her broken mind.

There came an on rushing presence in her mind, words soon followed, a thousand soothing whispers from a thousand mothers and fathers came together in one voice, "Be calm child, I will take you away, away from the pain."

"You will have to let go, but I will help you, no need to make a sound, rest and let go..."

She still sobbed twice. After everything that happened, a final few tears dropped from her eyes. But she had no choice. Her eyes closed, her breathing slowed. Inside she felt as if she was gripping rope tight and it was cutting through her hand and now she finally let go. Her body grew cold but not uncomfortable. It was as if at first she was pulling inwards, and then finally out.

Ciara felt herself drawing away as the voice spoke, "You're coming to a better place. Do not fear..."

Everything seemed to drop away bit by bit, as if she was being held by threads and each was unraveling in turn as she drew away from all of it. she was away, and there seemed at first to be nothing but herself and the presence in her mind. Then she felt it. The tug, the pull, and she was off. There wasn't a sense of control, one of movement or motion, but the pull was irresistible it seemed. She went, away from Galbar, from Ha-Dûna and the Westfold. She was arriving at what seemed to be a gateway, entrance to someplace else. "You will be with those that you love, and that love you, fear not Ciara..."

The voice, the presence, it stayed with her along the way, until she was through the gates that had so loomed above. Her mind began to clear. Her memories pieced themselves together. With every step taken the fog in her head disappeared. There was no hesitation, no fear as she nearly passed through the gateway beyond which it felt like an entirely new world laid. Yet before she would cross the threshold she stopped. Enough of her mind had pieced itself together. Laughs, smiles, home. “Those who I love aren’t dead yet.” She said softly.

"Yet is the operative word, paradise awaits until they join you. You still have opportunity to meet your people that you know not, that they are blood of your blood and kith and kin to you. Ones who will adore you and tell you of so much. You are not of the world anymore Ciara, rest and take time, you have joys awaiting you that you cannot yet conceive."

A small smile crept across Ciara’s lips. She leaned forward, almost setting the last step. But before she did, she looked back over her shoulder. At the world that was. The world she left behind. “I’ll be waiting for you.” She whispered with a tender voice and then took a resolute step forward. Crossing the threshold and passing through the gateway.




A divine voice of a million mortal men and women called out to a mind he knew was there, "Qael'naath, I request you come to my realm to discuss a matter of some import. I call upon you for a favor and assistance in matters in the Westfold of the Highland of Toraan."

“A most odd location to take interest in, brother.” Qael said as he stepped into the familiar realm of the god of death. Fog lapped at his feet already. Wandering souls went about their business and the usual structures towered over the grey and misty landscape. As before he merely walked through it to nowhere in particular. Thaa would find him easy enough. He kept looking around. Mostly to occupy his remaining two eyes, while the others flickered and shimmered with a chromatic glow. Blind to the realm he now walked in, they instead saw Galbar. The Winds had found itself watching over the Westfold, though that was not entirely an accident. “So what can I help you with?”

A voice descended upon him as Qael was brought to a void far from the rest of the realm, or right next door depending on your view. Thaa spoke from a ball of corpses his Eye traverse to gaze at Qael. "A most odd place indeed. One that continues to infuriate me through divine interventions and immoral acts."

"I would show you the depredations committed to a soul. I would ask not that you pity her, nor that you find a similar moral stance to mine. I ask only that you understand why I call upon you in the specific case."

Qael was about to stop the god of death. Of course, he knew which soul’s pains he would show. He was there. Witness to most of it. In the piece of Kal the sight hurt him in his heart. It was vile and terrible for a young woman, so full of ideals and hope, to suffer such a fate. Yet as a god he couldn’t allow himself to care. Still, he wasn’t about to tell a god angry about divine intervention that her death was a favored outcome. “Very well, show me.” The god of magic said as he closed his eyes. Allowing his essence to open up only slightly.

And so it came, all of it, the efforts and works of those of Ha-Dûna upon the body and mind of Ciara. This came not as observation but as feeling of her own, of her desperate thought and memory of each that Thaa had seen and saved to bring to this very showing. Every depredation and every attack and torture. All based on a false assumption.

Thaa gave such to Qael, in his memory, in his thoughts and his feelings he had opportunity to see it all. Thaa spoke, "She had been saved, I seek not punishment, nor retribution against the mortals. They bare only the sickening influence of life about their minds, the twisted depredation of living shaping their wills and actions. A declaration of will must be made, I can do as much of my own will. I ask of you a favor regarding mana and those who lead and follow in Ha-Dûna, the supposed inheritors of the Dûnlands as they name the Westfold."

“Few of them use my gifts.” Qael’Naath said as his essences sealed itself off again. Seeing what happened to Ciara was harrowing enough to the small mortal side he now had. Feeling it as a part of him had been much worse. That very same part wished to engage Thaa on the subject of life again. But the divine part of him knew well enough that it would be wasted time. “Druidism cuts them off completely.” A sacrifice too many were willing to make if you asked the god of magic. Then again, he knew he was somewhat biased. “So what would you ask of me?”

"Their enemies do not scorn such gifts, they have made enemies of many of those living, so aid them. Other divines will support the evil that prepares in Ha-Dûna, do not make it easy for them to spread such affairs to the entire Westfold. If any part of you has the least amount of abhorrence for what I have showed you, act to ensure it doesn't repeat a thousand fold, a million as the generations march on!" Thaa's voice had slowly grown to a thundering ring as revealed his anger, before he quieted. Continuing on in a more normal tone for him, "Bless those against them, curse the Dûnan who acts so callously, set the nature of mana against them so that the world may hold that which you find abhorrent, abhorrent to the world as well. Do what you will to act Qael’Naath, I have seen your daughters. I have some idea of your plans. If you let such things as are promoted here take root without cause you only endanger them, embolden those who would act against such dreams of theirs."

"The daughter of the Sun with all her power and influence stands idle as this happened, the Goddesses of Sun and Moon, Life and Protection, stood by and did nothing. Their silence supports the vile actions committed there. But I know you may not agree with me, you may not think matters of morality are important. So think of this too, I have given gifts to your daughters, pledged their safe return, we have worked together on projects. If I have earned any amount of goodwill, if you have any care for moral matters, do not stand by and let them set the mortal world on a path for such wretchedness!"

For a moment – perhaps due to his mortal affliction – Qael’Naath felt compelled to bring down his full, divine power upon the Westfold. To erase the troublesome Dûnans and have his chosen finally start his plans for the region. He even felt Kal’s heart quicken so far away as the mortal man was teaching the Solarians more magic. Visions or a rampaging storm flashed through the god’s mind. He would summon a storm of mana and send it raging towards Ha-Dûna. Flattening the area. Erasing all that was. A storm that would serve as a declaration. An expression of will, as Thaa had said.

Yet he quickly detached himself from such mortal feelings. It was odd to hear Thaa so thunderous. Qael’Naath paused for a moment though as he gathered his thoughts. “You’d do well not to insult one of my few friends, brother.” He said, though he offered a genuine smile together with his words. A smile Lucia or Soleira would’ve given the baleful thing before him. The god of the death made a fair point though. Lucia was meant to create peace. Qael did not think she would succeed but for things to get out of hand this quickly. Perhaps it was because she was tired. Two-thousand years of faithfully serving her mother was a long time for any mortal. She had earned her life within the godly realm.

“What you did for my daughters is not forgotten. But Soleira and Lucia have shown me to take things slower. We are gods after all.” He levitated up slightly as he folded his legs and floated in a meditative pose. “Why this place?” The god of magic asked. “Across Galbar there must be hundreds of mortals tortured unjustly. Yet something seemed to have riled you up about the Westfold specifically. What is it?”

"You are right." Thaa paused, as if giving moment or break to his speech.

He continued soon however, "There are many who have suffered, some worse than her. While this may serve as impetus, it is not cause. I seek to make a stand against this Evil, here and now as it becomes clear the Dûnan's are guided by deific influence to most immoral cause. They torture, imprison and seize their own people, their lands, their livelihoods and blackmail them the same. This is new, directed. The seek to make things worse, increase suffering for their own power. This reeks of divinely meddling in mortal affairs once again in the Westfold, it is the target of immoral deities seeking to start a wretched curse upon the land."

"The Dûnans fled to the Westfold from persecution, and from that they have learned and been taught by dark deities to make a new suffering greater than before. They have been bred in great numbers by divine aid, their population of natives are young, easier to lead, easier to bring to bear in combat. They endorse some of the worse means and they seek to crush opposition, disregard the respects or concerns for other peoples, and no doubt spread this suffering further. I fear this is a Divine plan guided by a deity such as Oraelia or another of her like, perhaps a cabal to increase suffering first in the Westfold, perhaps to expand from there or to export and improve upon the model to so descretate all of Galbar."

Thaa's great eye had been moveing slightly small images of dust had appeared as he spoke and now he started directed at Qael. "Tell me Qael'Naath, are you so sure that it is best to wait? To see what comes? I have waited and watched two thousand years and more, from the first death! I have seen the rise of slavery, cold blooded torture, a thousand upon a thousand upon a thousand atrocities and more. I waited to give them paradise, but I will not stand for Galbar to be come a hell for all which to live. We do not agree on all points, that much is clear and has always been so. I am not asking you to agree with me, I am asking you to look and see that things are measurably getting worse! Divinely backed civilizations exporting suffering at increasing rates, mass slaughter as a norm, torture! Bronze and blood! They speak with honeyed words, and they get ever more present options for atrocity."

"You want a world Soleira can save, or do you want one that will eat her alive in all her attempts at Kindness? Make a stand Qael'Naath, on my ask if not another cause, you may blame me as asker of a favor should you need explanation, I ask you to change the course."

“Do not confuse my patience with inaction brother.” Qael’Naath said. Two eyes lost their glimmering status as he momentarily released the Winds from his hold. Four eyes total watched Thaa’s singular great one. “As it stands I have already given my support in more than one way to those who oppose the Dûnan oppression but I’m not blind to your champion. This Jjonveyo? He is not the answer either. Arrogant and as war-hungry as the Dûnans. He will not bring peace to the region should he win. Just more suffering.” The god of magic took a deep breath in an effort to calm and distance himself again from mortal emotions. Distaste and anger were ill advisors to a god. For now the Westfold conflicts were small compared to the whole of Galbar. Though it received a significant amount of divine support nonetheless. Thaa was right, it could easily spill out if not reigned in.

With a calmer voice Qael said: “Even if we find a fitting solution for Ha-Dûna, this cabal of gods you speak of might simply move to another civilization and chose to remain in the shadows longer.” It was hard to deny the idea that his fellow siblings were conspiring in the region any thought. Was this Oraelia’s plan? Does Lucia know? There were too many questions. “I will speak to Oraelia and Cadien.” The god of magic said as he lowered himself and stood on his feet again. “Hear their intentions for the region.” He was about to say his farewells, but he stopped.

Thaa deserved a promise though. The god of the death spoke of the goodwill between the two of them. Qael’Naath would honor it. “You might think me weak now, brother. For choosing to talk instead of bringing down my own power to bear upon the Dûnans.” His voice remained calm, but there was something behind it. A glimpse of a storm growing in his heart. “But I promise you this. If your fears are true, if this suffering and pain is the works of our siblings’ evil intentions I will bring down a wrath so fierce it will be carved upon the very land itself.”

"Speak as you like, listen as you wish, some have lied again and again to the mortals of Galbar, perhaps a divinity could get them to ferret out truth. And fear not, I have better options to bring eventual peace than the Mountain warlord, he does as he wills as long as he lasts. There is no such thing as a solution, answer for the region as the state of the world stands, we might make things better however."

Thaa stopped, there was a great deal to say, and a greater deal to work on. "I would not have brought this to your attention had I thought you weak, my opinion stands as it was. Know this, whatever your findings of a cabal or whether they remained enshrouded, I will not stand by and watch mockeries made of innocents. This world is no ideal, but I will not allow it to become the opposite of one. You have my respect."

Qael bowed his head in a respectful manner but then walked away. Sooner or later Thaa’s realm would offer up its portal to him whenever it decided. And soon enough, he was out to Antiquity once more.




&




“You have been told why you have been selected.”

Indeed they had, their youth was to be considered an asset among the Gressinae populace, that combined with the fact that the Master wished for a Gressinae to pursue the task set forward.

“You have been told what you have been selected for.”

To be a mercenary in truth. To go to the peoples of Galbar and offer them a deal, payment in exchange for service, terms negotiable. It wasn’t odious to Var’s senses, afterall they would still be serving the Master even as they served others for whatever payment was expected. They had also been warned what such tasks may entail, Var accepted such risks.

“You have been outfitted for such work, in body and in tool.”

Var turned their singular glassy eye to look upon the gauntlet that now sat upon their right hand. It was golden in color and decorative in full view, there were inscriptions and designs that coated every plate and portion of the gauntlet, some were too small to see. Var flexed their hand forward and back, clenching their four fingers in a fist each way, it did not restrict such movements too badly. Besides, its more magical effects were far more important than the armor it provided, Var had their outer coating for such defense in any case.

“Are you prepared?”

Var turned back to the great gaze of the Master, their mouth parts’ chittered as they replied in the divine tongue of the Master’s will.

“I, Var, am prepared Master.”

Var turned their head around to take one last look at those they would be leaving behind, they waved their left antennae in silent good-bye to their progenitors. Greh, Cae, and Uoa waved their right antennae in reply. Var turned their head back forward.

A rift had erupted before them, green flame encircled it as they looked through to jagged rock and harsh forests. Var galloped forward, the three legs of each set that radiated out from their body propelling them forward into the rift and out into Galbar. Var landed on stone, but not of the kind they were used to, this barely registered from their hooves and paws as they turned their head around to witness the rift close behind them with a soft crackle.

It was quiet, and there was fading light. Var had been explained this by the Master, it was called sunlight. And the bright disk setting below the horizon was called the Sun. Additionally, seeing this told them many things. That the direction they were looking was called West. They turned their head back, facing forward once more. This was East. Var turned their head right. That was South. Var turned their body to face South, each leg taking a careful step on the uneven ground.

Var set forth down the mountain, they had to turn or divert course a few times, but they always turned back to head more properly South. Soon the ground began to smooth out, all had darkened significantly and it was much harder to see. Luckily, the Gauntlet’s flame did provide some light, and it came in use for its more destructive purposes when Var came up to the thicker forests. The flames did provide some warmth and comfort to Var as they used it to cut through a path that they could travel.

Var got the feeling they were being watched as the night went on, but they were not approached at all, nor did they hear much. Var had drawn their antennae close and was very grateful for the small amount of fuzz their outer layer had, it was not warm in these lands. The Master had said there were many names for the region they were in, mostly as few chose to live there fully and described it from their own regions of greater comfort. Var did not blame them, it was quiet, cold, and not very hospitable.

It grew warmer as the Sun rose in the east. Var had not been going perfectly South as it turned out. Rather with the Sun setting and little other way to tell direction from their own knowledge Var had been wandering south-west instead. It wasn’t a huge issue, one did not travel so far in a single night to throw off course the supreme direction of their journey.

The woods were still quiet, Var wondered where all the little living things were, there were supposed to be many wherever one went, although Var had not seen many. They wondered if they had been scared off by their arrival, or perhaps their steps were too ponderous. Maybe they were not looking in the right places, the Master had not specified much about the little living things that they were to ignore. Var was to focus on the intelligent ones, they would be small but larger. It worried them that they did not see or hear what the Master spoke of. Var did not know why they were not as apparent, perhaps it was something they would grow to recognize and the Master did not wish for them to grow concerned.

Var trekked onward, the feelings of being watched grew worse, Var had thought they had seen something moving between the trees as they progressed, but whenever they stopped or tried to investigate they found nothing. The Master had spoken of the greater hostility in the wildlife here rather than in other places on this land. It worried Var that they had not seen much of any of it at all.

The Sun was still high in the sky, Var had much more land to travel, even as their worries grew.



&

Gibbou





The news had reached the far north, the south had fallen with the capital city of Wek-Nor. The priesthood of Wek-Phon, the northern center of civilization and religious site of grave importance to all of Welkos, had come together with a solution. It had then subsequently helped that surviving armies from the south and Royalty approved of such action, too many of the lay priests had been wavering to the more end times approach than the higher powers could easily force back in line. Stability and recovering from the disaster were the goal, settling the populace, rebuilding and retaking what was rightful underneath the Divine Mandate of Welkos.

The Divine Mandate was a curious thing, coming from the days of the conquest of all of Welkos under the rightly guided rule of the Renabussan. When the High Divines were chosen, Mother and Father, the Aunt and Uncle, the Sister, and the Enemy were known to all and made to be feared and worshipped across the land, but they were not all that were known to the people of Welkos. All divines large and small supported the Mandate. In villages, in towns, in cities across Welkos on the Holy Days and Nights of realm, deities of the house, of a stream, of town and city, of bread and of beer, of fire and of sword. Those to be feared and those to be worshipped, the state cultivated all Divines, all favors forward to the state as all had to be united from the rightly guided people against all that was evil and cruel.

And so with the Divine Mandate so secured in the fight against all that was evil, it was of course a matter of great pride and importance who to petition for aid against the accursed. It had to be of the High Divines first, and after speaking and laying their request at each that they chose, they would seek to enlist the aid of lesser deities all through the realm. This was the chosen course of the High Priests of Wek-Phon.

Of who to choose to petition for aid and advice, there was no shortage. There were of course the Great Kitz’lae Father and Mother, paragons of good behavior, justice, and all good things. They were the ultimate inspiration and the guardians of the Kitz’lae. However no child wishes to admit that as they are in the world they cannot handle themselves, even as they go to their parents for advice, for what to do, it would be a great shame for the entire race if they went to them now tail in hand asking for help to take back the south and set back the righteous order. Much better to achieve the task then speak of their achievement to the Mother and the Father, prove that their children were capable and full of excellence!

No, the priesthood had decided they would ask each of the other deities for aid, and proving themselves knowledgeable they knew just who to ask first. Sister of the Great Kitz’lae Father, Supreme Goddess of the Moon, Keeper of the Dead and the Epitome of Envy, Vasj’casa. As known to be the most envious of the gods, asking her first was the clear and present choice, to ask one full of envy first could saite their pride and prove things good, this was known as common wisdom. And so the High Priests commanded, and as was custom the laity obeyed.

The city was mobilized, in the streets the Kitzon mobilized to lend their voices to the prayers of the lay priests, the Kitz’lae of the city crooned sacred praises of the moon, the High Priests gave sacrifice of Gold and Bronze, and upon the Altar of Prayer a humble monk led the whole procession word by word. Such as she was chosen to lead such events of importance by the High Priests, but rather than important matters such as Holy Days and Contemplation and Prayer this was a time to request aid. None could compare to divine splendor, so none would dare compete, such was the reasoning to elevate such monks. To her right and left, and behind her, the streets of the city were filled, eight of every nine were Kitzon, children of the Moon Goddess it was known they had been granted leave from work for this occasion. To the front of the monk stretched the river as the Altar of Prayer was elevated above all else in the city atop the half-ziggurat that supported it.

And her voice rang out, “Oh Vasj’casa, blessed Divine Goddess of the Moon!”

And the crowd followed, lending thousands to the cry.

And again her voice came, “We beseech you first in our call for aid, Great Sister, oh Hallowed Mother, and Beloved Aunt! Come to us and give onto us your most Holy Word!”

And the crowd followed, once more, each taking the opportunity after the call of family to ask for their own personal connection for aid in the calamity. Most however echoed the monk, it was easier if one did not have family in the south, or fears for others in the midlands.

The heavens quaked, clouds parting away from the moons to reveal the sacred orbs in the sky, still a few years away from overlapping, but both visible either way. There came another quake, this one slightly… Ceramic in nature? Glass-like, maybe, as though a stack of glazed pottery fell over somewhere in the cosmos. Then came a groan, a long groan of pain and exhaustion before it subsided in an instant, being replaced by a short, curt and flat, ”Yeah?”

Kasda had given herself over as a monk a long time ago, to expect to have a goddess speak to her was beyond all things she had held in mind when she did so. Even now it seemed surreal, and yet she had been coached by the High Priests on what to say next. “We call on you first among all the Divines of Welkos, please give aid unto us to save our homesteads, protect our clutches against the suhrvuj and drive them back into the sea!”

The crowds took up the final phrase repeating once, “Back into the sea!”

The voice was quiet for a time, just for long enough to produce doubt of her continued attention among the adherents. Then came an ”uh” followed by, ”Do I have to? It’s kinda, kinda… Effort, innit? What are they, even?”

Kasda had been asked questions by a goddess, it was duty to answer, “Evil beings of that most vile suitor Vuj’ar, webbed and finned, of taste for egg and blackened heart. Anathema to all good things!”

And the crowd took up a chant for a brief moment, “Anathema! Anathema!”

Kasda spoke again when they had quieted, she knew not whether this was a test nor what Vasj’casa was getting at but it was not important, she had been asked by the Divine and so she must answer. “All things must fight against evil, Lae’nat means it must be so, it is the Will to Resist! Good can only come when one puts themselves to effort and difficulty, evil bubbles forth slipping between any crack or defense yet the Will to Resist is the only path!”

And the crowd came back much more enthusiastic, the Will to Resist was well known and it became clear that the Divine was testing the monk’s moral fortitude, “Resist Evil! Do Good!”

The masses joined the chant, it was a phrase that came up often in speeches and holy phrases, now to them they found it as explanation of purpose.

”Yeahyeahyeahyeah, I get it! Be quiet, alright?! Ugh, my head...”

The crowds fell into an awaiting silence, quickly following the commands of the goddess that spoke to them. There came a dry rub, as though chafed fingers scratched a cheek exposed much too long to the elements. ”Right, okay, will you leave me alone if I destroy these soorvoojies or whatever? That’s what you want, right?”

"We would be overjoyed for you to aid us Oh Great Vasj'casa! All the Kitzon and Kitz'lae of the river would sing your praises till the eggs of now hatched their own!" It was more than Kasda would have hoped for, all the crowds stayed silent in wait of a reply.

There came a sigh. ”Got it. Where are they?”

"In the south of Welkos Oh Munificent One, they swarm from the sea and have overwhelmed the villages and even the city of Wek-Nor!"

”Sure, whatever…” With that, time seemed to stop for a very brief moment. It wasn’t clear exactly when it happened, but everyone present could very clearly see that the white moon at some point suddenly flashed like a star. Then, as briefly lived as the flash, a white beam crashed into the targeted location like an arrow of light. At first, there was no sound - only a distant, oozing, swelling cloud of steam, stone, droplets and sand that seemed to grow like a mushroom on the very edge of the horizon; then, a shockwave, strong enough to sway the trees and quake the houses even this far away from the actual blast. Nelven traders unfortunate enough to not have their cotton in went temporarily deaf, and pottery on the edge of the shelves in the pottery shops fell over and smashed against the floor.

The whole of all of the crowds were silent at the vast manifestation of Divine power, Kasda had not expected such a great display herself. Slowly however, even with the shaking and broken pottery, the crowds broke out in cheers, such a display of the supremacy of the Divine will of Goodness was apparent. The crowds fell into revelry even as Kasda watched the horizon and the vast plume still present over it, "Thank you Oh Divine One..."

She didn't know how she felt, it was something beyond anything she had ever known or heard except in the most sacred of stories.

There came a surly glug. ”Urp! Yeah, sure, whatevs. Will you leave me be now?”

Still more than stunned watching the horizon, Kasda replied, "As the Divine of the most Holy Moon wishes..." With that, there came a surkling sound like water down a drain, and the divine presence disappeared.

The crowds continued to cheer, Kasda eventually would be escorted through them by the Temple Guards, the High Priests would have much to ask. Pots not cracked began to circulate through the streets in a celebration, beer was most likely given the reed straws that came out as well, such an event would likely become a Holy day.

Still all thoughts of that would come later for Kasda, right now she had the view Divine Action in the sky to watch. She had never seen something so beautiful, and yet, still seemed so terrible and mighty at the same time. She would have to head south to see more. She had to know more.

The distant dust began to misshapen from its plume due to the soft and continuous efforts of the winds as Kasda was led away, crowds cheering over the apparent destruction of their enemies.




&
Soleira




A shining barge, golden in all color and aspect, coming down the river from the mountain way. None could see anyone on the deck of it as it moved with purpose down the flow, although they could have hidden in the interior of it as could be seen.

It was a bit overcast as the day had gone on, not something completely enjoyable but it was still warm enough. The barge moved on past the wonderful scenes of plant and animal life. The myriad of colors and luminosity that still bombarded every sense as any who called the Luminant home grew used to in time. And down it came further and further from the mountain getting closer and closer.

The barge suddenly stopped moving. The water beneath it laid still. The current moved along it. Slightly pushing up against the banks of the river they flowed around. On those banks, safely removed from the coursing water, stood Kal supported by his staff with his pet leon sitting beside him. Eyeing the barge with the natural paranoia of a predator. The human mortal looked more at ease. “Hail, avatar of the divine.” He shouted out. “I would ask a moment of your time before you continue on your journey.”

The ground beneath them lifted, carefully collected and solidly stable as it brought Kal and his Leon over the water and onto the barge itself. Three snake heads of large size appeared from the interior darkness of the vessel, and began to speak.

"You may have it servant of a God that we both know."

"Although we do not appreciate the interference with our vessel, you are granted option to speak."

Next to Kal the Leon began to growl at the creature. Spreading its wings wide as it tried to look ever bigger than before. “Easy dear. Easy. They won’t harm us.” He said as he petted the side of his companion. It didn’t particularly listen. “And my apologies for the diversion of the currents. I didn’t anticipate my siblings taking a note of this area so soon. I would’ve tried to reach you earlier if I was prepared. Regardless, I’d simply ask for your purpose here, in this quaint little corner of the world.” Kal was still smiling, but inside a battle raged between the primal response of the body and Qael’Naath’s own will. The god was winning, easily, but the flesh was still fighting the desperate battle.

Two of the heads ignored the Leon, the other looked with hungering eyes briefly before turning back to match the being before them. "Our master has sent us to gather information, and converse among such things. I'm sure you understand his wish for knowledge."

"And you know this corner of Toraan is hardly quaint or of little import, especially to the Undying God." The one of hungering looks chimed in.

"We bring no harm or such intents do not worry about such." The third and previously unspoken provided.

“That is a relief to hear.” Kal said with a smile towards the last of the three heads speaking. Then he turned to the second head. “Apologies. I forgot your master and I have a different viewpoint on what quaint is.” Then he turned to the final head. “If it is merely information and conversation you seek then I shall no longer keep you up. Qannet, veros nee utzelf.” The river began to flow normally again. Allowing the barge to carry on its journey. Meanwhile the older man climbed up the white fur of his mount. Atop the leon he said: “Before I forget. I know you refrained from speaking a certain name to a certain person far from here. You have my thanks for that but I would also ask you to still refrain from speaking that name now and here.” With a soft smile then, the leon lifted up from the deck of the barge. Flying away towards the riverbank again.

With him departing via flight, two heads, Kiim and Jaav watched and Guul dutifully returned the lifted with him originally back to the river back before the barge traversed too far down the river. And so they continued on their journey, visitor departed and earthen waste deposited, the three continued on the barge, disappearing back inside as the shining ship traveled. It would not be too long until the untamed realms along the river grew used with farmers and farming done all along its backs as they grew nearer to Soleras and the target of their mission.

Soleira was walking amid the planted fields. Standing amid rows of wheat. Her hand going over the kernels of the grain. People were standing behind and around her. Seemingly waiting. “Yeah.” She finally said. “Yeah I think they’re ready to be harvested.” She didn’t sound particularly happy about it but knew that if people wanted to survive, they had to farm. Still, slaughtering so much plantlife in one fell sweep hurt. The people behind her already walked away to grab their sickles to reap their bounty. Soleira remained, sitting down amid the plants. “I’m really sorry you know. Just know that your children will grow up tall and strong as well. And some of them will be planted free.” The plants just waved in the gentle breeze. “I’m sorry. That probably doesn’t mean much to you now. But I’m grateful. We’re all grateful for you.” She said, then looked up at the cloudy sky. “And thank you too. For a bountiful harvest.” She quietly said with her eyes closed, as a prayer to whatever god was responsible for the reaping.

“Soleira!” A kid came running. “A-a boat!” He yelled.

Soleira stood up. Almost towering over the golden plants around her. With a single clap of her wings she was out and saw the kid. She landed close to him. “What do you mean? What’s the problem?” She asked. Boats weren’t such a strange sight around Soleras. They had small fisher’s rafts of their own to use on the rivers. Some strangers liked paddling up and around the rivers to trade.

“No it’s.. it’s coming from the mountains.” The kid said, pointing up north. “It’s big and… like wheat but glittering!”

The Oraeliari frowned. Usually boats came from the south, from the lake. Once again she took to the sky and headed towards the river. The barge wasn’t hard to spot. She flew closer. Curious who’d come downstream in such an opulent fashion. Several farmers were looking at it as well.

The barge continued on its course regardless of the gaping sight of the many farmers. Three large serpents heads emerged from the interior, lazily gazing around before centering themselves on Soleira herself. No words or great sounds came forth from them but the barge stayed in course and travel with her.

Farmers screamed and shouted as they ran away seeing the three massive serpent heads. They were fleeing for their lives no doubt. The screams in turn pulled the attention of the few guards. Some swallowed their fear and ran towards the riverbank with javelins and spears. “Wait!” Soleira yelled. It was too late. The first few javelins were already thrown. Soleira dove down, right in time to create the shield. The javelins bounced off harmlessly against the translucent, blue shield made of hexagons. “Wait.” She repeated, keeping her eye on the three-headed creature. From her vantage point up high she saw it only had one body. Despite the frightening sight, it didn’t seem like it would attack.

“Maybe it’s a friend.” She said to the warriors at the riverbank. Who stood ready with javelins again. “You are a friend, right?” She then asked the three-headed creature.

"Friendly enough at any rate!" one of the serpent heads spoke out loud, its meaning understood by all present.

Another one of the heads watched the throwers speaking thus, "We have to thank you for your consideration alas we do not need more spears at this time." It turned towards Soleira. "And for your consideration although the donation of spears would not have harmed us."

The Three heads continued watching Soleira and the populace, but now came more fully out on the barge, revealing themselves to be three serpents heads and bodies serving as necks connected to a great lizard like form. A golden spear rested on one side of the creature.

“Oh.” Soleira said as she dropped the shield. The javelin throwers refrained from attacking, though kept their eyes on Soleira flying above. From the distance several more Oraeliari armed with spears came flying towards the barge as well. Those few outcasts that had chosen to join the relative security of Soleras. For a second everyone was quiet. The four winged Oraeliari observed it’s scaled body and the spear it seemingly carried. She didn’t land on the barge, but kept hovering just above it. “So… can I ask why you’re here?”

The barge lifted ever so little out of the water to meet her feet as she came close.

"My my, ever so many questions you have. The answer is a simple one."

"We came to talk."

"We came to visit."

"And we came to speak most of all with you dear, although your many friends and such we have some manner of interest as well."

For a second Soleira looked down. She didn’t fly down. How did her feet touch the deck then? Gasps from the side of the bank gave her the answer. The boat was going up. “Wait, me?” She asked, genuinely surprised. “Why me?” She asked. She wasn’t anyone special. Sure she was the ‘queen’ now but there were so many tribes and villages around. Some of them bigger than Soleras. There was also the Bastian and the Spire. Great monuments pulled from the ground by the gods. Soleras was of no real importance in the area.

The three exhaled in short bursts, it took a moment to realized this was something like laughing perhaps? In any case one followed up. "Yes, you. Did you not realize your own importance? Or perhaps you'd rather lie to your own self there?"

Another called out to all the others around them, "Let me ask all of you, how many of you believe her to be of great importance? How many think she is worthy to be spoken to as we have?"

The third head remained silent, although watched Soleira carefully.

She didn’t lie. Did she? No. No! She was just… an Oraeliari… with four wings on her back. Who could cast magic. Something she only recently learned. But does that make her special. She looked at the other Oraeliari in the sky. All had two wings. None of them could perform magic. The mortals on the ground couldn’t create the shields she could. Nor could anyone she ever met talk to animals. “I-I…” She tried to defend herself. Instead she felt shame creeping up.

Meanwhile on the bank many confused soldiers looked at each other. As did the Orealiari loyal to Soleira. One finally spoke up: “She is our queen.” The others looked up at the one who spoke, and then nodded. Each repeating the words. Soleira was their queen.

“Sorry.” She finally said, quiet enough so only those in the barge could hear it. “I’m still not really used to it.” Then she set her own feelings aside .”I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself.” A smile appeared on her lips as she looked up. Her face still quite red from the shame. “Maybe you would want to moor your boat somewhere so the- my people could bring some food and drinks?”

"That is accep-"

"VERY Welcome Indeed! I am sure we'll be fast friends yes surely."

The barge began to move, the third head spoke softly so that just Soleira may hear. "Do not worry, nor treat yourself harshly. We have understanding that such admissions can be tough, even if they are necessary. You have much virtue, your faults are like flecks among the ocean of gold. Worry not."

Soleira just offered her a meek smile. Meanwhile many of the Oraeliari were already landing. Rather frightened farmers came back. Holding baskets with fruit and bread. Soleira looked over the side of the boat for a second. “I… think it won’t really be a feast. I’m really sorry. If you stick around until this evening I could put something more grand together?” She offered.

A few pieces lifted out of the baskets, doing flips and rings in the air as they gently drifted towards the three headed creature. "I know not why you are sorry, but I am quite glad. We would love to stay and enjoy such hospitality. A feast would give up good time indeed to speak and get to know all much better I would say."

"And for you to fill our stomachs..."

That evening, as the sun started going low a grand fire was lit in honor of the visitor. During the day Soleira and the strange creature, named Kiim’Jaav’Guul had talked at length about all sorts of sometimes somewhat trivial stuff. The Oraeliari still had difficulty with the idea that they were three, yet all part of one body. Somehow. Still, she walked with him towards the fire. “I’m sorry for the lack of meat.” She said. No goats or cows had died recently. She knew it was a small tradition she was holding on to, and everyone else was holding on to for her sake but she knew in due time her people would have to raise and slaughter animals before their time. Still, the longer she could hold it off, the better. “But there is much fruit and- oh look! They baked fresh bread.” From one of the ovens one of the bakers pulled out the rather flat, dense bread and put it in a basket. “I hope it’s enough for you.” Soleira said as she took a seat around the fire, motioning towards Kiim’Jaav’Guul to sit beside her as someone handed her an empty bowl. Most of the humans around the fire had gotten eerily quiet, as they watched the scaled, three-headed creature.

"I will gladly take as much-"

"And as little..."

"-as you would provide."

They quickly moved to sit beside her at the fire as they were best able, lounging sideways on to allow their body to take in the warmth, their serpentine heads coiling near Soleira.

"A curious tradition to keep from slaughter of animals, one rarely found, even those who need not the meat have little inclination to keep completely clean of such."

“It’s hard to kill a friend you’ve talked to their entire life.” Soleira said, then leaned in a little closer. “People around here… don’t want to upset me I think. So they only eat meat when an old animal finally dies.” It was selfish really. She should tell them to eat meat. But she couldn’t stand the idea of looking over the little goat kids knowing they’d die in a few months or years.

She grabbed another bowl and put it by the three headed creature. “People will come around with food like berries and fruit. If you want some you just have to raise your bowl and they’ll- wait. Like this.” Someone was just passing with a much larger bowl filled with berries. Soleira just raised her bowl over her head, pulling her wings close around her. The girl happily placed some berries in the bowl. Then she walked on, putting berries in other people’s bowls that were raised. Meanwhile Soleira popped one of the fiery red berries in her mouth and smiled at the serpentine creature.

Without much ado a bowl floated above their heads. Jaav, turned to watch those with the larger bowls moving around. Kiim spoke, "You hold much influence over them truly there."

"Do you like it here, being the 'Queen' of all of these people?" Guul replied attentively as Kiim looked around at the various peoples, Humans and Oraeliari.

Soleira’s smile brightened even more. “I do, actually.” She said with an excited voice. “I get to help a lot of people here. Not just from the village. See them.” She nodded quickly to a family sitting by the fire. They were laughing and smiling at one of the little boys pretending to be flying around. “They came from south of here. Fled the War in the Skies. Now they have food and help us farm.” Then she nodded towards two men. They were quiet, but ate. “They were slaves. Now they’re free and help building houses.” Then she nodded towards the few Oraeliari. “Exiles.” Soleira said, her tone a bit more somber. “They didn’t want to fight our Neiyari kin. Here they don’t have to fear either side. People are safe here, because of me.” That one fact made her chest swell with pride. “And they prosper. It’s not all perfect. We need to farm more and more every week and I fear that some chiefs nearby might want what we have soon.” She would share, always. But not everyone was interested in sharing. “But right now… yeah. I love being their queen.” It was weird to say it out loud though.

Guul and Kiim looked at each other briefly when she finished before each wordlessly went back to the crowds and Soleira as before. Jaav was much too distracted by food and the carriers of food to discuss much as Kiim spoke. "You seem to care much about your people, truly care about them, a rarity among most of all mortals that claim a title such as yours."

They continued not quite waiting for a response, speaking low as their words guided solely to her ears, "Do you fear it? War? And all the conflict and death it may bring?"

Her smile faded as she looked down at her bowl. For a second Soleira was quiet. “I do. A lot.” She finally admitted. “I don’t want to fight and I don’t want people to die.” And she knew she couldn’t stop it. For some reason some people just wanted more, and would take it in any way they could. Soleira had been asking herself for days whether or not she would rise up against whoever would come. So far she couldn’t answer that question.

In an attempt to lighten the mood though, she raised her hand towards one of the people giving out food. Though the second she did, several others she didn’t mean to call moved towards her as well. “My friend’s very hungry.” She said as a few got close. “Could you give him some?” The people nodded and started filling the floating bowl of Kiim’Jaav’Guul with some torn off bread, fruits, cooked vegetables and berries. “There you go.” She said with a smile to the head named Jaav.

"Very much obliged." Kiim sighed as Jaav set in on his bowl, they turned back to Soleira even as Guul hadn't left focus. Guul moved down as Kiim came closer and spoke.

"Many mortals fear death, many take comfort in ideas of what comes after." Kiim paused looking back to the crowds and flowing peoples, continuing, "Many ensure it comes all the quicker to others, one people to their own, or to another. It matters not what it is, if they are alive then they seem all very quick to ensure another is not."

Soleira, for the first time since she met Kiim’Jaav’Guul, frowned. “That’s not true.” She said. “Not many. Few. Only a few people want others to die.” She motioned around, towards everyone around the fire. “If as many people as you say want to ensure the end of others, nobody would be sitting here. Laughing and talking. People don’t want blood, they want peace, safety, happiness. War and murder doesn’t give them that.” It was the few rotten apples amongst most people that caused that suffering. The problem was that they were prominent. One murderer stands out amid a flock of people who don’t want to hurt others.

Kiim did the same wordless exhalation that signified laughter as the Three had done earlier, Guul merely looked away. They replied, "You are entitled to your ideas, your opinions, and your view. It is your life to live. It is not our, or my, place to assuage you differently."

Jaav was actively eating a loaf of bread as one might have seen a snake eat an egg, slowly swallowing having engulfed the mass in his jaw.

“But you don’t agree with me.” It was more of a statement than a question. Soleira couldn’t quite understand why Kiim’Jaav’Guul’s views bothered her so much, but they did. They were overly simplistic and generalized. Assuming the worst of everyone. Yes, even normal people would march to war at times. She had seen it happen in the last thirty years amongst the human tribes. But they did so only to defend or protect their village. Even if that sentiment was misguided. Maybe… Maybe that’s why she was here. To make sure nobody would be misguided again?

“Then how do you think all of these people are still here together?” She asked the Three. The question was a genuine one.

"Well the food is good for one," Jaav interrupted just as Kiim opened to reply, causing a rapid turn and a glare before Kiim turned back, Jaav stuck out a tongue in defiance unbeknownst to Kiim as they replied.

"Do not misunderstand me by your own measures, dividing the world into dark and light when each only exists in contrasting shadow from the same source. You speak as though you know the whole host of life from pointing to its specs." Kiim nodded their head to others that were around, "You say these ones are good and only a few others are bad, yet by what judgement do you make of them, by what right and knowledge can you delineate good and evil in one when each is connected to a thousand others in making. I do not say that, that all are good, or all are bad in their souls. You cannot judge character, skill, or virtue in a rigged game of life. It is rigged to set them upon each other, whether they know they do such or not."

The words of Kiim overwhelmed her. She knew she wasn’t grasping the fullest of what he was saying but she believed, after a moment to gather her thought, that she at least understood what he meant. “I’m sorry.” She first said with a little shame. “I shouldn’t- you are right. I misunderstood you. This-“ she motioned at the people around her again. “-isn’t much.” But it was all she knew so far. “And when I say only a few are as… dark gray I only speak of what’ve seen myself.”

But then something else lit up in her heart. A fire nobody could quench. “But you are wrong about life.” She said, looking up. Normally she would be so uncertain. Now she wasn’t. “It’s not a rigged game. It’s just life. Painful things happen.” She remembered that fateful night in the cave, when the Neiyari had come. “Just as good things happen.” Her eyes wandered around the people around the fire. Her people. “And even if life’s rigged… I don’t care. Maybe the world is a lot worse than I think it is but I don’t care. I have these people and… and I’ll work – day and night – to give them more happiness than they have pain.” Then she turned to face Kiim with a smile on her lips and a fire blazing in her eyes.

“I might not know the whole host of life but I know this place and I know that I can make it a better place. Even if that’s just a speck. At least it will be a good speck.”

Kiim was silent for a bit, finally turning their head and speaking, keeping one eye centered on Soleira. "Very well, make the greatest spec you can at the very least. But do not forget that all things are connected."

"The hunter takes the game, the wolves go hungry and prey upon the herd, the herders bring their animals closer to the river, they pollute the water, the townsfolk complain of the evils and laziness of the herders. Keep a eye to the big picture if you are to make a good one, not just one that sells the idea of being good."


“A challenge of balance.” Soleira said with a smile. “I understand.” But she wasn’t sure if she saw the whole picture in her speck yet. That would take much more time. Though Kiim had given her plenty to think on. “Thank you.” She then said as she put her bowl down, leaned in and hugged the neck of Kiim. “For your lessons. I will never forget them.” When she released the hug though, she pointed at the bowl of Jaav and said: “Maybe you should eat a bit as well. I’m guessing with you three connected only one of you needs to eat, but tasting things is an experience in of its own. Trust me, the berries are delicious!” And to prove it, she popped a blue one in her mouth, but spat the seeds she could save from her mouth back out and put it in a small pouch dangling off her hip.

Jaav grinned, as much as a snake could in any case, as Guul took a small bite and Kiim replied. "I prefer not to consume much of anything alive or previously in such a state. Jaav has a much different opinion as you may tell..."

"Don't worry, Kiim just is a bit of a stickler for things, I've only gotten them to even taste things a few times, to actually eat something is another matter."

The feast continued on deep into the night. Roles were switched every so often. Those who handed out food were allowed to sit after about an hour, and others took their place. The queen herself even rose up to hand out bread from the basket. As the moon rose high above them though, she did silently pray to Gibboura to forgive them for staying up so late. But her people deserved it. They were hard working and kind, letting Kiim’Jaav’Guul join in with the feast. The Three and she had spoken at length about many subjects and had given her much to think about. Something she was grateful for.

When the moon was reaching its peak though, most people grew tired and the flames started to dim. It was time to sleep. The next morning, in the crisp morning air Soleira flew towards the barge upon which Kiim’Jaav’Guul had come carrying a basket covered with cloth containing fruits, berries and bread. A little gift for the Three. Well, mostly Jaav it would seem, as he thoroughly enjoyed eating.

The basket floated from her grasp towards the Three gently enough as Jaav spoke. "Thank you very much! It is much appreciated."

Kiim rolled their eyes looking away from Jaav, speaking to Soleira themselves, "Our visit has been most enlightening, we'll be keeping an eye on the region."

"We have a mutual friend, you should talk to him whenever he stops by with that rather unique pet, he does know a thing or two we have to say." Guul spoke last, even if rather cryptically.

For a second Soleira was confused about what Guul meant. Then she realized it. “Oh you mean Kal! He’s actually staying at the village. It was odd that he wasn’t there yesterday, but I’m happy you got to meet him anyway. Yeah, we’ve been talking a lot about a lot of things, but mostly magic.” She told Guul with a smile.

Then she turned to Kiim. “You can come visit anytime you want! I’ll try to have a bigger feast prepared for when you do.”

Guul nodded, as Jaav cut in. "That will be most welcome! Truly, we most enjoyed our time here."

Kiim huffed, or as much as they were able to, saying, "In any case we must be off, we have other business and matters to attend to further."

With that the barge began to pull away, slowly at first before rocketing to the north east. The Three were gone, at least for now.

Soleira waved for a while. They probably were already too far away to see her when she finally dropped her arm and walked back towards the field. The oxen were a little restless for some reason. They told her it was something in the sky. Like a shadow looming over them. She didn’t really know what it could be. The birds said they thought they saw some dark clouds that weren’t there. Though she hoped Kiim’Jaav’Guul had a pleasant flight without much rain. Then it was time to work. With ard ready she went off to the field.

“That’s a beautiful gift.” A woman noted who worked beside Soleira.

“Sorry?”

“Your necklace?” The woman said, pointing right under her neck.

Soleira looked down, confused. Only to notice the strange pendant hanging there. “That wasn’t-” She touched it. The metal was cold, but etched in a strange way. “Thank you.” She muttered while looking up at the horizon where the barge had vanished. It was as much a genuine thank you as it felt like a prayer.







&






“So where was this supposed to go exactly again?”

“As I was saying Jaav such things are not always necessary to know such things!”

It took a moment of thought before the reply came, “It's the soul fused guy isn’t it?”

“Perhaps it is.”

”Why them? Why not just some random mortal who can go screw up their lives with it as usual?”

It would be a lie to say that a honest and full discussion followed where both made excellent points in good faith. Guul mostly had lesser concern over such things now, Kiim and Jaav were excessively fond of bickering, excepting when they disturbingly fell into periods of agreement.

The weapon as such was already completed, a spear capable of unleashing bale fire, strong and stable in of itself and in general quite a capable and dangerous weapon in anyone’s hands. In the intended being’s hands it might be quite the terrifying weapon for many. Truly though, Guul hoped that they could explain things to the soul, although they had been put together, chosen by Thaa to enact his wishes of morality, Guul worried that they were confused and injured in ignorance of their condition, of their situation.

It worried her how quick the three had to take to Thaa’s commands of the greater good, there was no real other option of course. Still, she wished there was someone that they might be able to relate with and have a friend at least. Even as the three were never alone truly, they also never really had much separation, or anyone with conditions different from their own.

“Could we go to Mydia after this should Thaa not have further duties for us?”

The Two, Kiim and Jaav, stayed momentarily slack as they briefly reorganized themselves so rare it was for Guul to interrupt while they were in the midst of one of their ‘conversations’.

“Of course dear Guul!”

“You are feeling alright?”

“Yes, fine, I just want to have a break.”

Silence reigned, finding someone else was a rare chance at that, maybe she could practice with pigments some more.




Thaa had found it necessary to proceed forward in the claiming of ever new power, a greatly disappointing facet. The weaponization of death energies was an unfortunate necessity at this point. Bale fires driving to destroy the fabric of most life’s basic prisons. Truly it was only so necessary due to the greater need to combat the vile attempts of life to not only continue but make inroads against his own plans. Ever did he try to make the world better, to improve things for the countless souls and yet they still resisted.

The gods and goddesses resisted in their own foolish and petty contrivances, on their cruelty and their apparent hatred. And the poor unfortunate mortal souls, tricked and blinded to the truth of all such things. Far too many completely ignorant to the realm beyond life. And so to show them, to bring them beyond such means as they each have their own desires and needs of such. Mortals so intent on acting on one another could perhaps still do some good even in their manipulation by the great many deities of life.










With confidence, she told herself that was all that was needed. Confidence.

The mists curled and twisted below as she dove downwards, the dim glow of the portal present in sight even as she knew the guards lurked around it. Somewhere, she knew.

She walked steadily towards the portal, a chance to actually explore beyond the realm of the Great Eye. It was something her group of friends had been planning for a while to try, in secret of course. One did not ask the Great Eye for much, most who did regret such, as the stories were told, not many say those who spoke the Great Eye again among the masses of the race.

She had volunteered to try first, the others were watching in the distance she knew, but no time to look back now, she was being watched by things other than her people. And so close she was, the portal was becoming clearer with each step forward.

Her black scales shifted through the fog as her horned head lowered peering forward through the mists as she drew closer to escape.

“What be of your business, Dragon?”

She nearly froze, the voice was singular and echoing, why’d it have to be them on guard.

“Valued Echoes, I was not aware you were guarding the portal on this occasion or else I would have sent word of my mission to-”

“-search and see beyond the portal and the various realms and deities beyond it? Not much does escape the sight of the Master, Dragon.”

The echoing voice was on the other side of her now, such was the way of the Echoes, always more than one, and not pleasant at that. Iom’dryrar turned her head to the first one who spoke now. It was of course one of the Echoes, they sat on three legs, none of them looked like the other, five arms grasped spears that dimly glowed of balefire, they had no proper face on what passed for their head, a series of shifting gaping maws into the dark void that was at the center of an Echo. If there was one you could, there were thousands more at the edges of your sight.

She replied in a small voice, the fog grew ever thicker around her, “I did not realize the Great Eye was aware.”

“The Master has awareness over all in the realm of his being, Dragon.” First voice behind her, and then to the side. “The Dragon would be wise to remember such things.”

Iom’dryrar kept quiet in the next few moments, turning her head to watch and look at the Echoes that surrounded her. They did nothing besides their usual shifting in and out of sight, that was not exactly a relief. Echoes were terrifyingly unpredictable, they were small but many foolish dragons had found themselves held in terror for not obeying the Great Eye’s will at the hands of the Echoes. They usually kept harm to a minimum unlike some of the far distant servants of the Great Eye.

She gulped, and then again trying to clear her throat. “So what happens now?”

A voice to her right, “The Dragon continues, the Master has approval for this action for now.”

To her left, “The Dragon is warned that many places are dangerous, and many more so because of the Dragon being and life is so fragile and tied to the Dragon-kind makers.”

Off slightly right, barely visible in the mists, “The Dragon will proceed, the Master has decreed. The Dragon Group that has sent this Dragon may follow in time, or may not. The Master will decide upon their fate as befalls this Dragon.”

Behind her, “Does this Dragon understand?”

She replied as quick as she could, “Yes, I understand.”

It came into her head as quick and brief as one could blink, an infinitely of voices, of clamoring sounds and calls of every sort and kind imaginable.

Good.

Iom’dryrar walked as steadily as she could through to the portal, the mists had only continued to build up and it was faint. As she reached close Echoes stood by, the portal suddenly expanding to make her body fit through, she pressed her wings flat as she could and stepped out.


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