Status

Recent Statuses

1 yr ago
Current What an irredeemable mistake.
2 yrs ago
I want an rp where you can use words to write posts but I'm too lazy and tired
1 like
2 yrs ago
Y'all thirsty mofos need to chillax
6 likes
2 yrs ago
'A quote' -some dude
3 likes

Bio

It's not really that delicious unless it thinks is it?

An Isotope Alt.

Most Recent Posts

Part Two:

Fog


Andrey, and that was the boy’s name, dragged the Runecrafter back to the village that morning. Just in time to stop the search party that’d been assembling to go look for the young man and the mad fool he’d been chasing. The welcome hadn’t been smooth, but Andrey was safe. More than that, the Runecrafter had proved the boy’s testimony, and Wizardry was not something an isolated village scoffed at.

In fact, it was something they’d never even seen. By the nature of his trade the Runecrafter hadn’t been able to conjure more than he’d prepared, but that had been enough. In the span of a morning he’d gone from nearly being strung up, to eating fresh stew beside the village chieftain, Andrey’s father. He was a large man, calloused and scarred beyond what might have been expected from someone in his position. was friendly, even kind.

“So, my new Wizard friend, was it you who brought the birds? The holy mans been ranting about omens, but he hasn’t stopped doing that ever since the last time the rain was warm. I’d be glad to put his superstition to bed.”

The Runecrafter put his wooden spoon aside, reluctantly, and coughed before speaking, “No. They brought me here, but not because I made them. Don’t dismiss your holy man, Chieftain, I don’t know how much news you get from afar, but the gods are stirring. They were stirring before I was forced from the great city.”

The big man frowned, and lowered his voice, “Andrey told me you’d come from Ketrefa. You should know there isn’t much love for the city out here Wizard. The last travelers that came this way were on their way to join some fool marching on the walls, Kamolon, they call him.”

“It has been tried before,” The Runecrafter paused to take another spoonful of stew, savoring the taste of seasoned food. He looked to the Chieftain seriously and continued, “More times than even I know. The walls were raised by Tekret as proof against the first Trolls, men cannot bring them down.”

“Hrm,” The Chieftain grumbled, “Well, they’ll try. Just be careful about who you tell your history to. You were lucky the birds brought you here. That Andrey found you. The city doesn’t send men into the woods, not this deep. Most here only know the stories.”

The Runecrafter nodded and added between spoonfuls, “I’ll keep it in mind.”

The simple thatch house they spoke in afforded the two some privacy, but every so often they heard the commotion outside. The gossip, shock, and Andrey’s occasional boasts that the Wizard had promised to teach him. One particularly loud declaration from outside focused the boy's father, who finally asked, “Will you? Teach Andrey? If he’s gotten the wrong impression I understand, but I wouldn’t be opposed to you staying. No, I want you to. We could use you here, and I’ve always wanted more for my son.”

The question froze the Runecrafter. The man hadn’t been considering more than the stew, and the conversation. The future was a foreign topic to him now. Still, he’d made a promise to Andrey. With some certainty he answered, “I will. Andrey and anyone else that wishes to learn, anyone who has time. I can’t go back to the city, and I won’t return to the woods. I’m not the practitioner that I was, though. I fear I’ll make a poor teacher.”

With a big grin the Chieftain brought a hand down on the Runecrafter’s shoulder and joked, “Andrey was the first in my family to witness magic in generations, you can’t be a worse teacher than the air my friend! Well, assuming you can get the lad to pay atten-”

A harsh rapping on the door cut the Chieftain short, and with some annoyance he excused himself and stomped over to the entrance. When he pulled the door aside his eyes widened, and she shouted before the woman sent to warn him could, “Wizard! Have you sent this fog!”

The Runecrafter looked up in alarm, and saw what lay beyond the door. A thick white grey fog had shrouded the village, even the woman at the doorway was nearly invisible as it began to roll into the house. He stepped forward and spoke with some trepidation, “No.”

A look of supreme concern passed over the Chieftain’s face before he steeled himself and nodded, “Then perhaps the holy man wasn’t such a fool. Come, whatever this is, it’s for you Wizard. The birds brought you here, not us.”

The Runecrafter’s eyes widened, but he knew there was nothing for it. He stepped towards the door as the Chieftain ushered the messenger into the house, and with a look from the big man walked out into the fog.

The first thing he noticed was that, whatever he stood in, it wasn’t fog. As the Chieftain joined him the Runecrafter could tell he knew it too. The air was dry, and unnaturally still. There was no wind, and more disconcertingly, no sound. As soon as the Runecrafter stepped out into the pall everything went quiet.

He couldn’t even hear his heartbeat. He brought a hand to his chest, just to feel the evidence he was alive. The Chieftain said something, but the words were stolen from his mouth. The Runecrafter’s blood ran cold. There were things beyond his understanding of magic, things that were the province of gods and witches alone.

He didn’t know which one was worse. He only knew it was something he couldn’t fight, and so as the Chieftain lofted a club he’d retrieved from the house, the Runecrafter motioned for him to drop it. Once the man did so, a distant laughter echoed from all around them.

It was followed by a disembodied voice, “I see you followed my little hint! And here I was, worried you’d run from it Dyros. Or should I call you Runecrafter?”

A figure materialized in the fog, a woman whose features were nothing but the shifting of mist. She floated through the fog towards him, and the Runecrafter was paralyzed as she ran an ethereal finger along his cheek. She smiled at him, and the slack jawed Chieftain, “You’ve finally found your way home. Or to a home. Mm, semantics, what matters is that you’re here, and that your long struggle wasn’t in vain!”

The Runecrafter opened his mouth, but against his words were stolen from his throat. The misty figure only chuckled at his effort, but not too unkindly. She wrapped her arms around him and spoke in his ear, to him alone, “There’s no need for a reply. You toiled, and you’ll be rewarded. Questions just make these things harder.”

Her figure drifted away from him, and suddenly the entire village was around the Runecrafter and the Chieftain, the mists having thinned just enough for them to be visible. The Chieftain tried to shout from them to go back to their houses, but he didn’t make a sound. The Runecrafter knew they hadn’t chosen to leave them, anyway. The village’s guest wanted an audience, and as she swirled in the remaining mists between them all there were a number of silent gasps and screams.

“You’ve chosen to teach these folk your magic, Runecrafter. So I’ll reward them too. For ten years you wandered the world alone, and so for ten years I’ll grant you the sight. Them too, if they take on the same challenge. This world is filled with magic, of a sort beyond what is known in Ketrefa and Acadia. It was hidden from you, and perhaps the Lord of Magic hasn’t deemed you ready for it, but consider it revealed.”

A glowing, acrid smelling thing began to blaze at the center of the village, but only the Runecrafter saw it. A spell hidden in plain fight. The illusory woman snapped her fingers, and for the barest moment the whole village saw it. She went on, “Magic. You can see it now, smell it, hear it, it will be as real to you as the dirt you tread on. For every moment you spend alone, for every day lost to the wilds, I grant you and this village that."

With a little smile the woman began to fade away, but before the mists retreated she snapped her fake fingers and added, “Oh, but one last thing. If you must teach those without the sight, or without the will to gain it, use this.”

Without a sound, or even a feeling, the Runecrafter found himself holding a thin black book. The woman in the mist explained, “Once you’ve found a spell, transcribe it to this to capture it. Any can read the book's pages, if you let them. Now then, I think I’ve overstayed my welcome! Ta-ta!”

Without a warning the mists evaporated, and the village was left in silence. Well, all but the Runecrafter. He still saw the spell at the village’s center, and heard its faint ringing. Ten years, and he already felt the time passing.

At least, until the holy man fainted and the village erupted into chaos.




Part One:

Birds


He ran screaming, or he slunk away in the night. They caught and beat him, or he escaped before they even knew to look. He lived it or he dreamed it, but which one was a question he’d long since abandoned. He dreamed it differently every night. Or maybe he remembered. Who was he to say what was real, if he couldn’t tell the difference.

After all, as he woke from another dream, he was still here. Alone. He’d been alone ever since it’d happened. It had been months, years, maybe longer. He couldn't be certain, but he did have a beard. So it hadn’t been recently, not that it made a difference. All that mattered was he couldn’t return to the great city, even if he knew where it was. Where he was. Who could have guessed how easy it was to lose yourself in the woods.

Who could have guessed he’d survive them. That was due to his skill, his magic. He could carve Runes, imbue stone with great magic. It had kept him warm and fed in the winter. The winters? That wasn’t certain, but he did know he was alive. Magic had made it so.

Magic that had become him, in a way. He wasn’t even sure he knew his name anymore, but he knew he tried not to recall it. Or any of his past, save that which lingered in his dreams. All that he was, was gone. Now he was the Runecrafter. The man who’d survived the depths of the forest, who’d journeyed long to find no one and nothing. Not one village, villager, or road. He wondered if that was normal.

People vanished, of course. He’d known that before he’d run to, or been left in, these woods. Most left it to Trolls, Vampires, the wicked things in the world. Few credited the forest, and why would they? It was just trees.

What they didn’t know was that the trees were worse. You didn’t have to go far off the road before they swallowed you. The world wasn’t tame. How easy that was to forget behind the safety of ancient walls. Walls that held back only the smallest fraction of nature.

Yes, it made sense. This was normal, expected even. He could wander for a thousand lifetimes, and never see another soul. Never even cross an old path. He was only alive because he was the Runecrafter. The forest had swallowed all the others who’d found their way into it. It would swallow him, eventually.

A somber start to any morning.

---


By afternoon he’d packed his camp and begun moving. He had stayed put during the winter, but by now the snow had melted and as life returned to the world, so did he. A man could accept he would die, but it rarely stopped him from trying to live. So the Runecrafter moved, week to week, day to day.

The heavy pelts he slept in were rolled up at his side, and as warm light filtered through the forest canopy in ethereal rays he couldn’t help but grumble. The thick bedding was hot, even to carry. He’d tried something else once, a hammock? He wasn’t sure, but he knew it hadn’t worked. He was carrying the pelts, after all.

The Runecrafter’s thoughts wandered as he trudged through the forest, ignoring beauty that few ever experienced. The wonders of nature had long grown familiar to him. His gaze didn’t wander to appreciate his surroundings, but to watch them for any sign of danger. Like, perhaps, every bird within miles taking off at once, and flying in a great stream towards the horizon.

That made the Runecrafter pause. It was something that, well, it was something that didn’t happen. He imagined he’d been out here long enough to know. With a mix of the greatest caution, and a curiosity he’d long since forgotten, the haggard man began to follow the birds on their peculiar migration.

He couldn’t have anticipated where they led him. As it was, he almost didn’t recognize that what he was looking at was a village. Nor did he truly see the people eyeing him. They looked agitated, and perhaps that wasn’t so odd. What did you say to a man who’d stumbled out of the woods covered in mismatched furs, whose arrival had been heralded by a tremendous flock that still circled overhead?

Evidently, nothing. As the Runecrafter started at a small group of men, women, and children who’d come out of their houses to see the birds, they stared back. He opened his mouth to speak, but words failed him. One of the villagers held up a primitive spear, and at once the Runecrafter’s senses returned to him.

He ran. Away from the thing which had consumed his every waking thought. Away from what he wanted most in the world. It was bitter, and glorious. He’d found people, alive, and he knew at once how difficult it would be to ever speak to them. How they’d mistrust him. How he’d misunderstand them.

---


When the sun began to set the Runecrafter sat against a tree, shaking. He knew where the village was. He’d not lost track, not this time. He knew he’d return. Even if he wasn’t the man who’d first gotten lost, even if he was more a wild thing than the craftsman he’d been. Even if he risked everything. The Runecrafter was willing to brave the village's ire.

Or he thought he was. He was here after all, not there. The thought was heavy, but the Runecrafter had little time to ruminate on it before a face poked out from a nearby tree and startled him. The face of a boy. One from the village. The Runecrafter’s muscles tensed, and he prepared to flee, but he held back. He wouldn’t willingly go back to hopelessness. Isolation. So he watched the boy, the boy watched him, and by the time the forest was engulfed in twilight the two sat face to face.

The boy, a hale looking boy on the verge of manhood, spoke first, “You know we need a fire wildman, before it’s dark.”

“Wildman,” The Runecrafter huffed in amusement before nodding slowly. In a moments awkwardness he pulled a metallic looking rock from his thick furs. Without a word, he dashed what was an intricately carved crystal against a rock between him and his guest. The crystal shattered, and then its shards exploded into sparks and flame.

The boy scrambled backwards, and the Runecrafter watched his little fires ignite the brush beneath them. They burned white hot, and their glow didn’t fade. It endured, burning long after the moss and twigs beneath had been turned to ash. With a smirk the Runecrafter gathered what sticks were nearby and heaped them onto the little fires. Within a few seconds there was a small, but respectable, fire. It’d cost the Runecrafter something he’d labored on for days, but he had spent enough time alone. There was no reason to waste this chance.

With a disused and croaking voice, one he hadn’t used in ages, the Runecrafter motioned towards the fire and asked, “A wildman’s work, village boy?”

The boy stared at the flames. They flickered in his wide brown eyes, and the Runecrafter saw something familiar in them. It was no surprise when the boy’s next words were one’s he’d spoken, and heard, in the past, “Teach me. Please?”

Of course, there was only one answer.


its a wip
Unexpected Company


The rain was falling hard. She'd just been out in the thick of it, but here there seemed to be some relief. The driving downpour died down to a patter under the stand of dense trees she sheltered in. Listening to the storm, feeling the soft drops falling from canopy’s leaves, it was enough to make her reflect on things, her situation, and consider that if she was going to die, this wasn’t the worst place. At the thought she looked down.

The wound was still there. It didn’t look worse, but she'd noticed her vision blurring. She leaned against a tree, and before she knew it she was sitting down, not even minding the damp moss around the trunk soaking her pants further. By now, she imagined it didn’t matter. Her head lolled to the side, so she could see the trail she’d left.

Blood. It was being washed away, even here under the trees, but it was there. It would have led the thing to her. To this place, where it was already pooling around her. She should have been more worried about that but, well, she wasn’t worried about much right now. The pain was nothing but a dull afterthought, even though the beast had claimed a solid chunk of her thigh. She was too cold to feel it much. To feel anything much. To think, too much.

The storm had chilled her, but not like this. It hadn’t left her without the energy to shiver. She didn’t want to die. She wanted to cry out, pray, or even just cry. It was too late, though. It wouldn’t be much longer now. There wasn’t a thing in existence watching her now, except for that which was likely to eat her when she drifted off.

Her eyes fluttered, and for a second a wave of panic took her. She didn’t want to die. Again though, it was too late. Even the fear faded. She felt herself fade with it. She’d started to notice, now, that there was something there, in the space between life and death. She felt a pull, a knowing tug, towards something new, something else. She just had to let go.

She didn’t want to. How long had she been here now? It felt like a lifetime. Longer. Why was she so afraid? She’d been here so long, now. Maybe it was time to go. Maybe it would be better if she stopped fighting-

“Mmm, no, I don’t think so.”

She blinked, and even the effort of that weighed on her. Was she losing track of her own thoughts? It made sense. It had to be that-

“No, not that either. And don’t go guessing, please, you’re hardly in a state for it. You’re dying, you know?”

That was obvious.

“Well, no need to be rude. It’s not like you are going to die.”

She wasn’t? That didn’t make sense. She wasn’t just dying, she could feel it, something had happened. Oh. She wasn’t breathing. She was dead.

“Not quite, but I did need to wait until now to, ah, there we are.”

She felt the pull vanish, and something replace it. A warmth. A closeness. Without thinking to do so she heaved a massive breath, and then collapsed coughing. She was alive? That was, that wasn’t possible. The woman felt at her leg, at the gaping chunk of flesh she’d lost, and found only a long jagged scar. As if her flesh had been returned to her, and fused to what remained. The voice spoke again.

“Not precisely, but close enough. You’ll never learn if you don't have something to remember these things by, you know? Now, Amerra, would you care to guess what I am? Am I the madness that’s been festering in your mind, after all these years alone?”

Amerra felt at her leg with wonder, and she looked everywhere, up, down, all around her. She saw nothing. Heard only the rain. She swallowed hard, throat dry from the experience of dying, “Are you a Skywalker? One of the creators?”

“Yes, and no!” The voice was cheerful as it explained, “You see Amerra, there was a time before the Skywalkers existed. Well, most of them in any case. Just as your people are born, so were they! Albeit, under somewhat less messy circumstances. So, as it happens, I am a Skywalker! But, as I've just been born I can’t profess to be your or anyone's creator.”

That was beyond impossible. It was a blasphemy of the highest order. The Skywalkers had always been, from the very start, they had watched her people forever! Nevertheless, what was there to say against the truth of her own eyes? Amerra tried to speak a question, tried to say anything at all, but the shock muted her.

The voice didn’t seem to mind, “A good point there, blasphemy is it? Funny, how the others are so loathe to share. Well then, best keep this between you, me, and the family then.”

The family? Her father was a priest of Avend-

“Not yours, obviously.” The voice interrupted, “I mean our family Amerra. The ones who risk everything, just to see more than anyone else. Your brothers and sisters. My Explorers.”

Ah. So that was the Skywalker that had found her. Or maybe the one that had just been born here. Amerra didn’t care, she was alive. Better than alive, the longer the voice spoke the stronger she felt, the clearer her vision became. Soon she could hear the croaking of frogs in the rain, the rustling of leaves above as winds whipped the forest’s cap. She asked the question, “What did you do to me?”

“Pull you back from death?” The voice joked, “Or do you mean, the rest of it? Nothing bad, I assure you, but I won’t be spoiling the surprise.”

The voice paused, and Amerra heard the crunch of a heavy footfall from just beyond the trees. When it spoke again, it was with some urgency, “And it seems we have a guest. One you expected, if I recall. Try not to die?”

It was unceremonious, but it was all she needed to hear to know the Skywalker had gone from this place. The warmth faded, but she felt the forest all around her. Saw the world through the trees.

This time, she wouldn’t get caught.



Look Out Below


The endless, sandy beaches of the Kubrajzar deserts baked in the sun, almost to the point where one could wonder whether water could even exist nearby. Had the sun had its way, all the water would’ve likely boiled off this beach a long time ago. Except for the odd brave bird scanning the seas for anchovies, life was rightfully absent from this large slice of wasteland. The waves lapped weakly at the deserts, and the moisture they left behind seemed to disappear in an instant. Salt and oceanic refuse coloured the beach a murky gray, and it all it all just looked like the most hostile place on the planet, save for a few others.

And it was there one could find a corpse. A corpse? No! It was very much alive, give or take a few heartbeats and exhausted wheezings. He had done it, the madman: Twilight had swam across the largest ocean in the entire world, and he swore to himself and anyone who was listening that he would never do it again. His sea-salt crusted eyelids cracked open to reveal bloodshot eyes looking up at the burning fate awaiting him if he decided to walk forward. While not optimal, he also had no idea where these drighinas were - they could be living in the desert for all he knew. He dragged himself around in the slushy sand until his legs remembered how to stand. Then he cupped seawater into his hands, purified it and drank deeply. These divine powers were coming in handy, even if their owner bugged him about using them responsibly every now and then. What did she know about responsibility anyway.

The avatar rose up slowly and stretched out. He had done this all on his own. He was his own man, and nothing could stop him now from completing his mission and learning the secrets of worldsong!

NOTHING!

He heard it too late, all things considered. A distant noise, hardly audible over the lapping waves, rapidly resolved itself into the familiar sound of a woman screaming, "aaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHOHNOOOOWATCHOUTDOWNTHEREEEEE!"

Had he been mortal, his every bone would have broken and he would’ve rightfully been pronounced dead on the spot. However, considering he was in fact part deity, he managed to get off the hook with only a mild concussion and an aching back. He had been flattened against the sand once again, though, brought low by the weight of another, presumably female creature. Wheezing for air, he struggled to produce words one might say in a situation like this, such as “hello” or “how’s your day” or “get off me, dumb bitch”.

The dumb bitch, having had her fall cushioned by Twilight, wasn't more than a bit stunned. She lay on Twilight, looked up at the desolate landscape around her, and only after a good minute did she bother to check on the man under her. Or get off him. Despite her shaky legs the woman got to her feet, took a few deep breaths, and began lightly kicking Twilight, "Are you uh, alive? Hello? Helllllllo?"

The man groaned and slithered weakly around in the sand. With every kick, he whimpered angrily until he finally said, “YES! I’m alive! Stop kicking!”

"Oh, good. Great. Whew," She eyed Twilight's sand caked face for a moment before, eventually, asking, "Sorry are you Twilight? I'm supposed to meet a Twilight."

The avatar dusted his face free of sand and got to his feet. ”Pfft! Pwah, eh! … Yeah, I’m Twilight. Who’s askin’?” He beat the sand and leftover kelp off his clothing.

The woman stopped, hesitated, and slowly pointed to her face, which bore an increasingly concerned expression, “...Me? I’m asking?”

Twilight sucked in deeply. ”I understand. I realise this. It may have crossed my mind that it is, in fact, you - the only other person within what I can guess is a radius of forever - who is asking. If you would allow me to explain for a moment, that phrase is merely a way of asking…” He cleared his throat. ”WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU WANT?!”

“WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST SAY THAT,” The woman screamed back before, rather suddenly, deflating and protesting half heartedly, “It’s not my fault existing is so stressful! That fall wasn’t even a quarter as fun as I thought it would be, and then you start asking crazy questions and yelling at me. This is terrible.”

After a moment spent moping she let out a huff, stood up a little straighter, and held out a hand, “But I’m Kesheret. Which is long, so you can call me Kesh. Or K. Errrr, no, Kesh works. Anyway my Mom, or Dad I guess? Momad? Damom? Look Tekret is mad at you and sent me to tell you to go grab a sword and give it to a guy.”

Twilight froze. ”Oh, uh… That so. See, I was hoping it’d take him, her, it some time to, y’know, find me and give me something to do in order to, uh, repent. I’ve kinda got plans already aaaand, y’know, not too keen on being a delivery boy just yet.”

“Wow,” Kesheret regarded Twilight incredulously, “Seriously? I’ve been alive for like, a week, and I already get that's not how this works. Uhhh, but if you’re insisting well... I guess I can let mom know? I mean her first idea was to just have a whale swallow you, and oh! Oh! I did suggest she curse you with impotence. Maybe that one?”

Twilight flinched. ”W-well, I would just have Gibbou uncurse me! How’s that, huh?!” He looked up to the sky. ”You’d do that, right?” No response. He deflated and made hard eyes at Kesh. ”Look, look, look…” He pursed his lips. ”You said you been alive for a week, right?”

“Weeeeeellllllll,” Kesheret pursed her lips in thought, turned around, and started counting on her fingers before nodding to herself. Task done, she turned back to face Twilight with a flourish and proudly declared, “Nine days!”

Twilight scoffed in exaggeration. ”Nine days! Why, that’s plenty old enough to think for yourself, missy. C’mon, think for a minute - what has your mad-dom ever done for you?”

“Uhhhhhmmmm, made me?”

Twilight clicked his tongue in disapproval. ”Rookie mistake, kehd. Sure, they might’a done something dumb like that - like -making- you, but what have they done for you lately, y’know? Like, when was the last time they gave you help when you were in trouble? Or the last time they invited you out for a cup’a tea? Nah, nah, you gotta stick it to the man, ‘cuz the man’s never gonna look out for you. You get me, sister?”

“Well, one: I’ve never actually been in trouble, though that does sound fun. Uh, two: not sure what tea is? And pretty much every day Tekret was with me she was a lady.” Kesheret took on a contemplative expression for a moment before finishing, “Also I don't think I’d want to stick things on Tekret even when she’s, he’s a man? Kinda sounds messy.”

Twilight smirked. ”So y’see… You -could- get me to swim aaall the way back and, what, receive, like, empty thanks and another mission… Or…” He hooked his arm around her neck and gestured at the horizon. ”... You could try aaall the things you said you’ve never tried before - and more - if you do a liiittle bit of duty shirking.”

Kesheret ducked out of Twilights hold, turned to face him, and threw a thumb over her shoulder, “Sword’s on the other side of the desert. Which is where I’m going, to try all those things. Because unlike some, vaguely fish smelling people, I don’t piss off gods and get duties to begin with.”

With that Kesheret set off, took her first long steps into the blistering heat of Kubrajzar’s wasteland, promptly stopped, squinted in an effort to see anything other than sand and hesitantly added, “Buuuuuuut if you want to tag along, I won’t tattle?”

”Not tattling? Now you’re speaking my language. Buuut I have something I need to do first - I gotta find a drighina. Promise it won’t take long - I’m just tryna learn the secrets of the worldsong. A week or two max.”

A woman's head turned one way, then the other, and after seeing nothing but water and sand she concluded, “Well, no drighinas here. So uh, I was gonna go that way?”

She pointed into the desert, “Do you have a preference or? I don’t know if the uh, ‘world song’ has a directional bias, but I’m pretty sure I don’t.”

Twilight shrugged. ”I heard they live by the sea, so… I saaaaay we go that way.” He pointed due north.

“mMMmMMMmMMMMMMmmMMMmmmMMM, ok?” Kesheret mimicked Twilights shrug and set off....

That way.

Didn’t mean to do that.


“Oops.”

It was a beautiful day on Galbar, or a horrible windswept one. Or it was blistering. Or freezing. Quite frankly Galabr had more climates than was worth mentioning. The lifeblood wasn’t a fan of minimalism, really. Anyways the point is, somewhere someone was having the day of their lives. It was beautiful, where they were.

That person was, in fact, having the best day of anyone on Galbar. Why? Well, a god on high had made a mistake. It wasn’t something that happened every day, or every century, but the gods were as far from infallible as their creations. Age brought wisdom, yes, but nothing removes that particular stain of intellectual dishonesty which begins with ‘Well I thought it was a good idea’.

Because it was not a good idea. It was a terrible idea. The god who’d done it was entirely aware of this. In the future they’d defend themselves, if it came to it, but really they’d done it to see what happened. What happened was not good. Well, not good for certain people. For one person it was effectively the greatest thing that would ever happen.

You see, Tekret Et Heret, the god of Rulership and Contracts, the King Maker, had lost something. Well, it wasn’t lost so much as thrown at Galbar with a reckless abandon. Tekret had, as was their fashion, created something in the hopes that it would help some would be king or queen. This time though, they'd decided to leave it around and see who found it.

King or Queen, it was just a title after all. Often a good King was one who just blundered into it. That was the theory anyway. The execution had come up short. Extremely, terrifyingly, short. For Tekret had created an artifact of terrible power, something which could change the fate of nations.

It had been meant for a man or woman to change the world, or at least a corner of it. Instead, it had landed in the hands of Gregory. Gregory was, as it happened, the most alcoholic man currently alive, or close enough that the competition was essentially a toss up. He’d imbibed so much liquor that he was half blind, yellow in the face, and utterly destitute.

At least, until a ratty old book had fallen from the sky and knocked him out. Had Gregory been a smarter man, he might have thrown the book away, after all it was clearly trash thrown from a window. Sadly, Gregory was stupid like a fox. He’d opened the book, learned what it was, and using a finger covered in gutter filth written something in it.

This was how Gregory, a man with maybe a year or two of life left in his frail body, became Supreme High Lord King Emperor Man The Best of his shitty impoverished Mydian village. How did this happen? Well, he wrote it. Gregory had, through absolutely no merit of his own, stumbled upon the Book of Law.

Unfortunately, he had once been a better man and so knew how to write.

He wrote that he was in charge.



Contractors





The real problem, she reckoned, was that she’d never been good at vacations. Oh sure, if Illyd Dyll were to actually arrive and poke his head into her portal he’d see her lounging on a plush chair with an umbrella woven of solid gold keeping the light away from her face, but that didn’t change the fact that she wasn’t on vacation anymore. Tekret et Heret, the god of Rulership and Contracts, was back at work. At least, in her head.

New contracts, agreements, and some oaths were being filed away in thousands of amber palaces all around her. Sometimes she’d go out and file them herself, but that had always been an affectation. She’d done it because, well, there hadn’t been a reason not to. It was better than just sitting there. Now though? Well the beach was as good a place as any to watch the world, file away its agreements struck, and meddle with it here and there.

Her talk with Artifex had reminded her why she’d even bothered for two thousand years. The work wasn’t always great, and she’d have loved to dump the filing on another mind, but playing with things down below? Finagling to see her vision for an orderly and righteous society end up on top? There really wasn’t anything like it. Building a world.

Sure she made a mistake here, an error there, but that was the fun. Not even the gods could see the future, and why would they ever want to? As embarrassing as her follies had been, they’d helped her learn. She knew where to let the mortals have free reign now. That, and where to push.

Now, she was about to do just that. Not to shift the fate of civilizations, or to impact countless lives, but to give her more time to do those things in the first place. Cadien had been right, an Avatar would ease her workload, but something like that could never really choose to help her, and if even if could why would it?

So, she reasoned, the answer was simple. Foist the boring parts of her job, the filing mostly, onto someone who could choose. Who could be compensated. She was a god of Contracts, so why not contract the work out? Give a mortal this or that in life and in exchange get a soul to help with the work when they died. It was a raw deal, but she didn’t doubt there were an abundance of people who’d take it.

The upside was most of the ones who’d agree probably deserved an eternity filing away contracts. The downside was they might not be the best workers. Thankfully, that second bit could be fixed. After all, once their souls belonged to her, who's to say she couldn’t tinker with them.

It was a good plan, in her opinion. There was, however, a problem. She was trapped up here, and while she could spy around with her Seers there was a limit to how useful they were. Especially when it came to finding out what mortals wanted. Especially what they wanted bad enough to sell their souls.

It was probably one of the usual things. Wealth. Power. Sex. The issue was which mortals wanted which one of those, and how badly. No, it wasn’t a task a god could do efficiently. Oh Tekret didn’t doubt she’d be able to do it, but it would just be more busywork in an effort to reduce busywork.

That didn’t make sense. So then, she had to find an agent. Someone who would do that busywork for her. Of course that agent would be better compensated than the ones they’d be getting to sign away their souls, but it wasn’t a position she’d offer just anyone. After all, whoever took it would have to be immortal. Those few who had that little blessing on Galbar were problematic, in that they tended to stick around and remember all the gods little fuckups. Some were the gods little fuckups. So faith and loyalty were important.

Almost as important as not being boring. Again, forever was a long time. Tekret had absolutely no intention of blessing one of her less interesting servants with eternal life. Some of the priests... She shuddered at the thought of having to answer their questions forever. Oh she was a god of Order, but that didn’t mean she wanted to discuss nothing but tax systems for a few thousand years. The idea was enough to make her blood run cold.

Not that she had blood, really. Or could get cold. Mostly, she just snapped her fingers and was wearing a warmer sundress. If such a thing could be said of sundresses at all. So, Tekret reflected, she needed an agent who was faithful, loyal, and interesting.

A tall order, but she had someone in mind.




She grit her teeth as she felt it, the sting of the lash upon her back. The feeling of blood forming rivulets that ran down her naked shoulders and onto the floor. It hurt, but that was precise why she did it. Again, she brought the lash against herself and winced at the pain. Some in the House of Order called her mad, but only out of ignorance.

She bore them no ill will. Not anymore. The anger she felt at their gibes and taunts was carried away with her blood. She had started this ritual for penitence, but peace hadn’t been hard to find. The weight of the world, anger, resentment, sorrow. All of it could be banished with the lash. Pain was an excellent focus.

Satisfied with her work, even as her bloodshot eyes ran with tears, Hesari brought the lash to her basin and cleansed it of blood. It was a mark of the House of Order’s status that every member had a basin, and enough water to fill and drain it as they pleased. She knew it was more than she deserved, but unlike some of her brothers and sisters she did not take such gifts for granted. She paid for her comforts. Every week.

She found a small clay jar and filled it with water before using it to wash her back and cleanse her wounds. They were light, but deep enough to scar. The patchwork of pallid raised skin across her back spoke to that. When the blood no longer ran and she could see the wounds she applied a smear of oil to each injury, sealing it from the world.

With a pained sigh she picked up her robe and began to get dressed. It hurt, but her body felt lighter for the abuse. It was something she needed these days. Even craved. The only problem was that she could not do it forever, or even for long it seemed. She might be called upon, and there would be no room for injury or weakness if that were to happen.

She prayed it didn’t. Tekret et Heret had intervened before they were needed in the past. No true servant of Order would shirk their duty if it came to it, however. Everyone in the House of Order was aware that Ketrefa had become rotten, many of them had played a hand in furthering that rot. They had sought redemption, though. She had sought redemption. Now it fell to them to excise the disease if called upon.

It was rare, a thing that had happened only twice in written history, but the House of Order knew its duties. One word from their god and they would tear the King of Ketrefa off his throne and find another. Blood would run in the streets. She had to be ready, if it happened. Even as she hoped that it would not, that Tekret would correct the King’s weakness before she was ever needed.

So, she wondered if she should stop this ritual. To be ready. Then again, she had seen some of the other priests. The House took in criminals and killers like her, but the cult was not closed to normal folk. They were soft, weak even. She envied it, but it was a gift she had willingly surrendered long ago. Her place was to be hard. The militant arm of a faith that professed no martial capacity.

“Awfully dramatic, don’t you think?” A playful woman's voice interrupted Hesari’s thoughts, and her head whipped around looking for the trespasser. If one of her peers had gone so far as to mock her in her own room she would-

“But that’s why I’ve always liked you kid. You never played games, trying to get around your vows, you gave yourself to me entirely.” The voice echoed in her mind.

Hesari’s blood ran cold. Was it now? Had her god come to her to deliver a verdict on a kingdom? She spoke, haltingly, “Holy one. I- Is it time?”

“Mm,” The voice mused, “No, not for that. Not yet. I’m here for you kid. You’re eh, faith, hasn’t gone unnoticed. I’ve got a job for you, if you’ll take it.”

“Me?” Her breath caught and she reflected upon her life. It had not been a good one. She had been callous, even evil, and now this? It was beyond her in every way, and both she and her god knew she wouldn’t refuse, “I will. I’ll do anything you ask.”

“Knew you would kid. This will hurt a little, but hey you're used to that aren’t ya?”

Before she could ask a question she felt the scars on her back stretching, burning, tearing. She bit back tears and in her mind she began to see what her god was doing. On her back a contract was being written, her scars the ink it was penned with. She could not see the contract, but at once she understood it. Her god's dilemma, her part in it. She felt an entire new world opening up to her, but only halfway.

She understood as much as she needed to. For the rest? She still needed to sign. It wasn’t a question of how. She reached for her lash, and in one motion savaged her back with it. The gashes it left were brutal, deeper than she had ever cut, but they mended at once and formed into her name, written in a script none in the world but she understood.

Her mind exploded. She grasped things she had struggled with all her life, and she knew at once that what limited her now was knowledge, not ability. Moreover, she blinked and found herself little more than an apparition. Her god had changed her in every way, and as she blinked again she returned to the world as an agent. A proxy for her god.

She breathed heavily, “Thank you. I understand it. I can do it for you.”

The voice faded to a whisper as it bade her farewell, “I know. Be seeing you kid.”




Hesari, as she discovered when she revealed Tekret’s visit to the rest of the House, was not the only one Tekret had visited that day. After a thousand years Tekret et Heret had formally blessed his faithful in the Highlands, declaring them his chosen servants and approving their doctrine. Every member of the House, from all across the Highlands, had heard it be done.

Moreover, their patron had left them with a gift. Knowledge of the script that graced Hesari’s back, and the power it held. Across the Highlands priests of the House began to pen contracts that could never be broken. Or, more accurately, not broken without consequences. The House of Order had earned their gods trust, and so gained some of the divines power.

It was a poor gift, compared to hers.








Abomination


It was whispered everywhere, from the dank and dirty streets of slums beyond the wall all the way to the very halls of power themselves. Men and women of status hushed their voices as they spoke it under the light of illusory braziers. Street rats and cretins spoke it in the darkness, and even there they were careful. Cautious. For it was not a word you could utter freely. Everyone in Ketrefa, the great city, knew the word and what it referred to, but that didn’t mean they could speak it aloud. That terrible word.

Abomination.

The guards were always listening for it, and their orders were clear. None could be allowed to know. Even if everyone did. Because the truth was so terrible it would rock the very foundations of their society if anyone had the courage to speak it aloud. So, they whispered, and they whispered this: The queen is dead, slain by her young daughter. A witch. An abomination that called down fire from the sky.

Even now, if one was particularly brave, you could see the damage. The blackened and collapsed western wall of the Azure Palace, standing high atop its artificial hill and screaming what happened without words. Nobody could know. Everyone knew. The truth was written in ash and blood, reflected on each and every face. Citizen or slave.

It was a terrible thing, and within the ash covered walls of the blue palace itself, a decision had to be made on what to do about it.




Magical light reflected off the worn face of the Royal Steward, and as he spoke the deep lines of his face shifted and cast shadows of their own, “My king I feel for you, you must know this. I have known you since you were a boy. The pain you experience now is unbearable, maddening, I understand, but you cannot take out your grief on your daughter. This, this tragedy, was not something she meant.”

“Yefe,” The King of Ketrefa, a handsome man whose young features were darkened by rage, smoldered from atop his gilded throne, “Do not speak to me like I am a boy! Old fool, a twisted thing like my so called daughter, cursed in the womb, intends nothing. It just destroys. I want the abomination dead, before the sun sets.”

“There are ways!” Yefe pleaded, “I have heard of witches growing into their power, learning to control it. Traders from the south have brought us stories, we can look to them for guidance. She need not be a danger.”

In one motion the King stood from his august seat and smacked his old teacher across the face, sending the elderly man to the ground with a cry. Looming above him the King of Ketrefa, rightful Sovereign of all Mankind, spat darkly, “She will not be.”

The king drew a gilded bronze dagger from a sheath at his waist and stalked towards the throne room's entrance, wicked intent writ on a once admirable face. The noble court, those few of them who were trusted enough to have been summoned to this gathering, scattered and made way for their incensed lord. Eyes fell upon Yefe and none mustered the courage to gainsay their ruler. All but one held their tongues.

A young man wearing a shirt of bronze mail stepped into the king's path and spoke without invitation, staring nervously at his rulers feet, “My lord it should not be by your hand. She is of impure blood. A monster.”

The audacity of his servant struck the King like a blow, and he halted at once. Eyes burning with indignation, grief, and hatred bored into the man obstructing King of Ketrefa’s path. Amurat the third, sole living child of a dead king who bore the same name, came within a hair's breadth of shedding the blood of a member of his court. Only recognition of the man before him held the King's blade at bay.

“Move aside, Trehe,” Amurat uttered the name like it was a curse, “That you are not dead is only due to the closeness of our families. I will forget this one treachery, for the sake of my wife. Your sister. But only if you move aside.”

“I cannot,” Trehe uttered the words, voice shaking as if he did not believe them himself, “You are my King, and I will not allow you to dirty your hands. I ask you to use mine. The blood of a monster will not taint a lesser man like me. The Queen is dead. I beg you, brother, allow me to avenge her.”

Silence overtook the court. Neither man nor nature moved, and for a moment it was as if time itself had stalled. Slowly, wordlessly, a drawn blade found itself scraping against its sheath. The King scowled, nodded, and turned away before speaking, “Then see it done, and know that when it is we will be brothers no longer. Do away with the filth that binds us.”

Trehe blinked, straightened to look at the King’s back, and muttered, “I will.”

He fled the throne room, and all that could do so joined him. Only one remained. Amurat’s eyes fell on Yefe, his eldest advisor and stalwart friend, now cradling his bruised cheek and leaning against a nearby pillar. The King spoke and his words could have chilled bone, “I repudiate you, Yefe. Never enter my presence again. I will not be merciful twice.”

Yefe gazed into the eyes of a boy he’d helped raise, looking for the man he admired, who could be turned away from the awful path he’d stepped onto.

The old man recognized nothing.




As the sun crept towards the horizon two harnessed Quillat’s led a wagon out through the western gate of Ketrefa. It passed in silence, without challenge. Sitting in it was Trehe, the youngest man to ever be made Captain of the Gates, and a cadre of his closest men. Across from them, blindfolded, gagged, beaten, and chained was a young girl. Barely older than three.

Trehe’s niece. She had not moved since she was loaded into the wagon, and Trehe held back tears as he beheld the reason. Her legs, while not broken, were beaten black and blue. Her naked feet were reddened and bloody. The only sign she was alive was her roughspun tunic heaving with her shallow breaths.

Nobody spoke. There were no words to speak. The wagon led Trehe and his men to the foothills and the dark forests therein. They knew their duty, their terrible task. None wanted it, but all felt the weight of responsibility. The necessity. Each was armed, and as they regarded their weapons there wasn’t a one who wondered if that weight was enough. For before them was no monster.

Just a girl.

A girl that, for all the abuse she’d endured, made not a sound until the wagon stopped at the edge of the wood. Even then, she only whined through her gag as the wagon rocked and aggravated her injuries. Such was her terror.

The men that had accompanied Trehe looked at him, some opened their mouths to speak, but they could not. Not if they couldn’t meet his eyes. They tried, surely, but in the end none had the strength. Trehe stood alone as he lifted the frail girl out of the wagon and led her into the wood.

He held her carefully, caringly, and walked past the trees. Past the thick undergrowth that scratched at his face. Only when he was deep in the forest and the light had all but died did he stop. The girl was laid on the ground, the man knelt, and a blade was drawn.

She must have heard it, for despite the agony of the action she tensed. Just a girl. A baby. Three years old. Trehe thought of his sister, of the King’s fury. He spoke softly, sharing the words with a little girl he’d loved as if she were his own, “It would be a mercy, Qashat. Look what they’ve done to you. It... It would be better.”

She stirred at the voice, recognizing the man who’d brought her here, and she squirmed. It was too much. The blade clattered to the ground, and Trehe began to weep. He pulled the gag from his nieces mouth, undid her chains, and lifted the girls blindfold. She had her mother's eyes. Blue like the great river in spring. She stared at her uncle as he cried, and that she didn’t do the same made him weep more.

“I can do nothing for you,” He choked on the words, “Nothing. I can’t even free you from the torment they’ve put you through."

She stared at him, and her voice came out in a pained whisper, “W- Why?”

It was a question too great for a child to ask, let alone understand the answer to. It was a question too great for Trehe, for though he was a man he’d barely passed his twenty second year. He closed his eyes and bitter words escaped his lips, ”Because you’re different. Because you can do things. Because... Because you killed her."

Her eyes, her mother's eyes, stared back at him with all the pain in the world. The Captain stood, and a single hope filled his chest, “But it wasn’t your fault. You can’t be blamed for it, for being born. I am an excuse of a man for being unable to say that when it mattered. I’m so sorry.”

He turned, and spoke the last words the young witch would hear for years, “Live, Qashat. Please. Live.”

The girl’s uncle bloodied his knife on his own arm, tied the injury with a rag, and fled. Then, she was alone. Injured, unable to walk, betrayed and left to die with a worthless wish. Qashat, heir to the throne of Ketrefa, once a princess who would rule the greatest city in the world, finally cried.

As her tears streamed down her face the bruises on her body faded, cuts mended, and her strength returned. She didn’t understand it. How could she? All she knew was that she was alone.

The man who’d been her uncle would not return.





© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet