A shape flew through the sky with a silhouette of a pterodactyl yet far larger than even the beasts of Kirron’s Hooflands. A mild heat wave followed in its wake. Eyes which burned like embers scanned the razed ground below.
A spot of midnight blue stood out among the grey and brown. Swiftly the shape descended and the Phoenix landed beside the heap of blood-soaked blue feathers. “No, no, sweet Thunderbird, no. Why?” The Phoenix lowered his beak to the Thunderbird’s. Scalding tears welled up in his eyes and sizzled as they fell on the ground below. “I should have been there. I- I-” The Phoenix sobbed, his deep guttural cries echoing across the land.
The Thunderbird shuddered as if waking again, but it was just the mocking twitch of dead muscles. The ground was strewn with the dead and dying, and almost in unison the corpses seized. Those slowly succumbing to their wounds laid still save for ragged breathing or gurgling, in many ways looking more lifeless than even the dead about them.
A hazy grey figure emerged from over the horizon, flying and fast approaching the scene. It didn’t circle around like a vulture, for its senses were keen and it easily found the carnage that had attracted its attention. The ghostly figure landed besides the oldest carrion, the shredded and mangled remnants of the first beast that the Thunderbird had slain. And then it set to work. In its grasp was a long pale rod, and the merest tap of that staff upon the ground brought a reek of decay so potent that it could have been smelled from leagues away. The Phoenix, however, was much closer than that.
The Phoenix’s nostrils flared at the stench and he raised his head. His eyes locked onto the ghostly figure. He rose to his full height, towering far above the newcomer, and puffed out his chest. “Who are you?”
Zotz cast little more than a glance at the monstrous bird. “The one who is left to remedy the filth left behind by the living who are destined to slaughter one another.” His gaze returned down to the yellowing grass that withered beneath his feet and the now almost indistinguishable mounds of rancid flesh. He stepped carelessly over the bodies, raising his magical staff before the carnage and willing it all to become dirt once more. He did not know who or what the Phoenix was, but nor did he care enough to ask.
The Phoenix watched the circle of decomposing matter spread out from around Zotz. He looked around at the battlefield through eyes still clouded with tears and properly inspected it. A short distance away lay the body of Azadine, the burns of lightning clear. Around lay the dead bodies of both Azadine’s spawn and giant red crabs, slain in battle against each other. Any survivors had probably scattered and fled by now.
He looked back down at the body of the Thunderbird. Fresh tears welled in the Phoenix’s eyes as he bowed his head down to the bird. “My sweet, I shall not leave you to scavengers or decay. You deserve a proper funeral,” he said softly.
The Phoenix exhaled a breath of cinders and the body of the Thunderbird caught alight. The Phoenix stepped back and watched. As the fire took hold the feathers burst into dazzling flares of brilliant white light. As the Thunderbird was engulfed in an inferno some of the midnight blue feathers came free and billowed up with the smoke into the sky. Soon the feathers were gone and the light faded to just the flames, supernaturally hot though they were. The Phoenix released a mournful cry which carried far and wide as his beloved Thunderbird became ash.
The blaze caught the ghostly one’s attention. Zotz turned from his work and watched attentively. “Less work for me,” he concluded. When the Phoenix finished its infernal wailing, Zotz unraveled his humanoid form into a gust of billowing smoke and approached at a frightening speed, then insensitively loomed over the Thunderbird’s remnants and inspected the ashes. ”Purified!” he noted with some surprise.
“You have garnered my interest with that display. Might you burn the rest? You would make for a good assistant, better than my wretched fool of a brother--”
And then almost on queue, the ghostly silhouette of a giant monkey manifested at the edge of the battlegrounds, mouth cackling and a strange whip cracking. The corpses of the dead kicked, rolled, twitched, or seized with every snap of the whip, and even after all the years Ku couldn’t find anything more hilarious than their spasms.
The Phoenix regarded Zotz critically. “The Avatar of a God reduced to a servant of a lesser being? I think not.” His gaze cast over to Ku. “Who are you?” the Phoenix asked both of them.
“Servants of the god Katharsos,” Zotz explained, unconcerned with the Phoenix’s slight. “I am meant to decay corpses when great quantities of them are made, before their poison spreads and their carrion feeds scavengers and worse. And my brother is supposed to mark the dead that I do not disturb those that yet live; however, to him our sacred charge is nothing more than a game.”
“I do what the god told me to do,” the eavesdropping monkey called out. He never ceased flailing his whip, cracking it between every other word and grinning as he made some mangled corpses twitch and spasm so violently that they appeared to rise once again and dance in some crude fashion. “But I find my own entertainment too, because if I took my job as seriously as Zotz takes his then I’d have gone mad long ago. Ha! Maybe I already have!”
The Phoenix watched Ku’s peculiar display. Some of the brothers’ words echoed around inside his mind. “I should probably return to Muspelheim. I have been away too long already,” he said.
“Why hurry? Loosen up, take your time, stay and watch the show. Hey, see if you can light these things on fire!” Between giggles, Ku used his whip to goad the throng of ‘dancing’ corpses towards the Phoenix at a clumsy gait.
A slight smile might have crept onto the Phoenix’s face if he had lips. “Burning things is in line with Sartr’s will.” The Phoenix took a deep breath in, then exhaled an incandescent beam of heat which vaporised the moving corpses. In the thick of it all, unperturbed by mundane flames, the ghostly monkey laughed and danced. His whip flew back and forth at a blurring speed, and Ku sent hordes more of the dead forward whilst guiding their every motion like a crazed composer. Some tried to use others as shields, some tried to stealthily approach the Phoenix from behind, and still others just bounded forward like rabid beasts. Yet all fell to the flames as the Phoenix swept the beam around.
When some of the corpses from behind reached the Phoenix, having escaped his notice, they burst into flame as soon as they reached for the Avatar of Heat. As he felt their claws and teeth clatter uselessly against his hide the Phoenix paused his fire breath. He swept a wing which caught the small horde and hurled them away, leaving a flaming heap.
The surge of animated dead suddenly came to a stop, though many lumps of flesh still remained on the periphery of the battlefield where the Phoenix hadn’t bathed the ground in sweltering flame. “Pah, the rest still cling to life, and Zotz would be fuming if I tried to move them around. But good show! Working with you is fun. Say, care to do this again next time the fleshbags leave behind a big mess?”
“I had already extended him the offer. It remains from my end, still,” the forgettable Zotz whispered. The bat-shaped ghost had watched with far less glee than Ku, but he’d seemed pleased enough all the same.
“Great! So we’d only have to run it by Balam! When are you, uh...available?” Ku asked the Phoenix.
The Phoenix looked around the scorched earth around him with some satisfaction. It had been a long time since he had properly incinerated anything. “I would be open to collaboration. Although I am only available when my master does not need me elsewhere.”
The monkey’s neverending smile widened a bit at that. “What is it that you’re supposed to do, anyways?”
The Phoenix hesitated for a few moments as he tried to remember his purpose. “I burn what Master Sartr tells me to, watch the world for him, and do anything else he requires of me,” he answered.
“Huh. To have such freedom! What’s ‘watching the world’ supposed to mean anyways? You could probably bend that one to do whatever you want! Well if you stick around us, you’ll get to have lots of fun and laugh at Zotz’ expense, and maybe we’ll put in a good word to the god of death for you, eh? We’ll be able to find you next time there’s something worth doing. You’ve got a particular scent to you, and we’re sharp enough to smell a bloated corpse halfway across the world!”
Zotz, lacking words, silently backed away and began to attend to the remaining monsters one by one as they drew their last breaths. Ku’s absentminded fidgeting of his whip and the dead’s resulting motion made it easy enough to spot them once they’d expired, and then a quick tap of Zotz’s staff left them rotted within seconds.
The Phoenix looked guiltily away. “Sartr will be asking where I’ve been…” he mumbled to himself. He shook his head and looked to Ku. “If we cross paths again then I would be happy to burn things with you. I cannot guarantee when that will be, though.”
Ku shrugged. “We have all the time in the world. It’s been fun, fiery bird! See you next time!” Then the monkey fled and left his brother to finish their macabre work.
“Yes, next time.” The Phoenix then stretched out his wings and with a wingbeat which stirred up dust across the battlefield took to the skies and left.
The Phoenix finds the body of his beloved Thunderbird. He mourns.
Zotz and Ku, two brothers created by Katharsos to dispose of the dead, arrive. Zotz starts rotting the bodies to dirt.
The Phoenix cremates the Thunderbird. This impresses Zotz and Ku. Ku orchestrates a little game where Ku makes the corpses move while the Phoenix incinerates them.
Zotz and Ku ask the Phoenix if he’d like to tag along and do this again some time. The Phoenix says he would like to, but he needs to return to Muspelheim and answer to Sartravius.
The distant beehive finished the last of their evacuation procedures as we dispatched the first raider squads into the deep forest. Some of the hostile beetles that remained entrenched in the woods were eliminated while others (mainly those in larger groups) were simply harassed and driven out of the forest, to the northwest away from our territories and into the desert wilderness. Careful watch was kept over the captive and domesticated beetles during this effort, and no signs of contact between them and the foreign beetles was observed. Information quarantines also ensured that they remained blissfully unaware of our systemic efforts to rid the forest of their (now distant) kindred.
With that matter dealt with, the forest was scoured and after many days of searching we were finally able to rest satisfied that there were no wasp nests anywhere in the woods. But a few days later, a team of workers reported having witnessed what they thought to have been a wasp scout flying in a westward direction. A new caste of our own winged scouts was quickly dispatched to search in the direction that the wasp had purportedly came from, and after following the southern river for a long enough time, they surely enough came across a gnarled, twisted, and long dead tree. It must have been grand in its prime, for even as a withered husk the thing is massive and it serves as a landmark for a long ways around. At the top of that weathered and venerable tree is a blight, though; a massive wasp nest is up there.
Work continues on the newest hive that we built. A small tunnel now connects it to its sister hives, despite some concern about the potential for flooding. The channel between our great pit and the river was finally carved out, so we now have a shallow pond (though the bottom is a goopey mesh of organic matter mixed with sand, dirt, and gravel). Some of the newest berry bushes have also started to bear their fruits, leading to record harvests.
I think it's somewhat misleading to put this in the NRP section when close inspection makes it look as though this will be a character-driven RP where we're all in just one colonial nation that's presumably detached to some extent (whether by their backward status as in point 2 or their own will and isolationism if in point 1) from the old world and most other nations in this world.
Your idea for magic seems unique, I'm not sure whether I like it or not; maybe some examples of what you might do would help me to decide.
I'm mildly interested in this and might join, but no guarantees from me yet. For the record I do prefer option 2.
The bees, it turns out, really don't know much about own old enemy. They do know wasps are hiveminded and live in nests, sometimes building said nests up in trees or high places but sometimes even in the ground. The wasps tend to attack suddenly and in great swarms; they work together to take down larger prey, and only rarely go hunting for smaller things alone. So if a lone wasp is ever spotted, it's probably just trying to scout, but that's perhaps even more dangerous, for the wasps adore honey and will apparently massacre an entire hive just to steal its honey and sometimes even eat the larvae.
Beyond that, the bees claim that they wouldn't know anything about the loathsome wasps. They've never made any efforts to launch an offensive against the wasps, viewing it as utterly futile given that the giant wasps are easily capable of killing a dozen bees each. The wasps hunt other insects and will gladly wage war to feast upon the fallen, but for the bees, fighting the wasps can offer no benefit and risk only utter ruin. Whenever they see a lone wasp scout, they do everything in their power to kill and silence it lest its nest learn of their presence and launch a raid.
But if the bees should ever fail to spot and kill a wasp scout, and sometimes if they even so much as suspect that there might be wasps nearby, they take the precaution of abandoning their hive and fleeing elsewhere. They note that sometimes certain birds prey upon the wasps and help to cull their numbers, but at the same time those birds will readily eat bees, so they have never been able to successfully pursue any sort of alliance with the wasps' enemies. But if we would be able and willing to kill off the wasps, the bee queen nearest to us ensures that it would gain us the gratitude of just about every bee colony in the land.
Regarding our search efforts in the far end of the forest, we began to redouble our efforts by sending groups of scouts, some of which developed more advanced tracking pheromones. We sent a few larger groups into the areas where we seemed to have had the most scouts go missing, and we quickly discovered the culprit--more beetles! We accidentally discovered a small group of them trying to head west and leave the forest, and they attacked upon sight. Fortunately a few scouts from that group managed to successfully flee and live to tell the tale.
We don't know whether this means that there's an entire second nest of them that's been hiding out here, or if these are just the exiled remnants of the nest we conquered. Either way, in a fashion similar to how the bees did everything they could to ensure that one wasp scout never returned to its hive, these beetles seem to have been trying very hard to hide from our scouts and kill any that witnessed them or discovered signs of their presence. Unfortunately, that very strategy is what drew our attention to them. The governor in charge of the fallen log and its fungi farms (who has continued working on the beetle breeding program, to some limited success) is naturally an eager proponent of subduing this group of beetles as well, but if that is the path that we choose, we'd best hurry because it seems that at least some of the beetles are fleeing the deep parts of the forest to get even farther away from us.
Coating the entire bottom of the sandpit in a woody mesh is going to take a fairly large investment in time and resources. Several hundred worker drones have been devoted to the task, but because we're confident that the new floor will be able to retain water, we've started simultaneously digging a small channel to the nearby riverbank. Rather than relying on infrequent rains to keep the pond full, the hope is to have a small waterway with a removable floodgate (though rather than one solid, cohesive gate it's probably going to end up being more like a pile of rubble that acts as a dam; but that's no matter, we have the manpower to dismantle and replace the dam as necessary) so that we can empty or fill the pond whenever needed. Assuming no delays, the construction will hopefully be done in the near future.
A few worker drones maintained a cautious presence near the bee colony that had encountered the wasp. They started planting flower and berry seedlings in as nonthreatening a manner as possible, but the bees there seemed to pay them very little attention. In fact, they've started evacuating their hive and seem to be in the process of trying to find a new place to move. We spoke to our bee allies, and while they too expressed horror and apprehension at he prospects of a nearby wasp nest (it seems that the bees and wasps are ancient enemies) they're almost as concerned that they'll now be facing even more competition for the resources in their territory if these other bees move closer.
Meanwhile, a small council of princes were placed in charge of overseeing further expansion. They ordered the establishment of a small hive close to the river's edge. To protect against flooding they built it on a small rise and kept most of the space above-ground, with minimal tunnels underneath and (as of now) no underground connection to the other two hives. In order to get the materials to build this great hollow mound of a nest, they had to excavate a sizable sandy pit nearby. The hope was to just leave it there in order to create a pool, but that's been met with some obstacles. Small puddles have been forming in it after the rain, but the sand underneath is porous and most of the water sinks down before long. Building an artificial pond might take some more work and cleverness!
Numerous scouts have been sent out to the southwest to search deeper into the forest for the wasp nest; however, several have gone missing, and the others kept trekking through forest until they came across a great body of water where the trees finally come to an end. It's obviously natural to suspect that the wasps were the culprits behind our scouts' disappearance, but in fairness, we never saw that happen and to date neither we nor the bees have even so much as seen a second wasp scout. In any case, we could continue sending these small scouting forces and perhaps suffer even more attrition, or we could consider blindly sending in an entire army with orders to seek and destroy. They'd probably stop being picked off one by one if we sent an army, but having a couple hundreds bugs rummaging around in the forest will probably destroy any element of surprise that we might have been able to gain if we could find the wasps before launching our attack.
The initiative to create a strain more adapted to the water found success in an unusual pairing with the beetle breeding program. Our efforts to create a hybrid between the beetles and our own species have finally borne fruit, and we now have a small number of these hybrids. As our species has evolved it has gradually become larger and larger, but these hybrids surprisingly resist that trend in that they are smaller and lighter than both the beetles and many of our current phenotypes. Initial experiments have shown that they are capable of floating in water where most of our heavier insects eventually sink, and they can swim (albeit somewhat awkwardly, and not easily through moving water as in the river).
As a sign of goodwill, we planted a number of flowers and other plants near the beetle nest. The local beehive there has begun to pollinate those plants and seems quite appreciative. We attempted to similarly reach out to the third and most distant colony of bees, but when our worker drones arrived bearing seeds, they were witnesses to a brutal skirmish between a giant wasp and a dozen bees. Though the wasp was a giant when compared to the bees and it easily bit one or two of them in half, it was soon overwhelmed. The bees almost suicidally threw themselves onto it in a great heap, covering it so completely that it fell from the air before suffocating and overheating. That particular beehive seems highly distressed and they have been in a frenzy ever since that hostile encounter with the wasp.
While preparations were being started for a much larger and well supplied caravan of explorers, complete with a portable "tent" built from papery mesh, we sent a drone to ask the bees about the surrounding lands. They know quite a bit as their flying nature and a desire for variety in their nectar has led to them exploring a wide area. Though it was difficult and slow for them to convey much about the outlying regions through gesticulations, we eventually gleaned some knowledge. We're getting better at communicating, too; a sort of pidgin language is developing.
They warned us that the grasslands eventually give dry up and give way to a bleak and sandy landscape out west. It seems to extend quite far, but as there are hardly any flowers to pollinate, the bees rarely venture in that direction. Perhaps there is something beyond the desert, but they've never tried to go out so far. They also warned us of the presence of dangerous predators, confirming our suspicions of what might have happened to that fateful scouting party that vanished in the northwest so long ago. They described one type of lizard that lurks still and hidden in plain sight with natural camouflage, and which likes to stalk the various flowers or edible plants. In light of these revelations, perhaps the expedition and colonization efforts should be focused elsewhere. There still is a reasonably large patch of land between our central hive and the swamp that is both habitable and seemingly rarely frequented by frogs.
But the bees told us of more than just the west. If we can ever manage to cross the river, they have claimed that the land there is lush and rich with a natural bounty of fruits and berries. However, there is a forest much denser than the woodland near our own home, and within those trees lurk all manner of other insects and creatures that would prove to be competition.
The queen that we spoke to surprisingly knew little of the lands south and the rest of the forest. It turns out that the various beehives are all independent from one another, and that we've only ever been in communication and good relations with one--that one nearest to the forest's edge. By longstanding agreement with the other bee colonies, our friends do not venture south or very deep into the forest, as those lands sustain the other colonies. Presumably they're rich enough, though, as the other two beehies seem to be getting along fine.
The beehive nearest to the beetles' former territory has been somewhat skittish near us, which probably doesn't come as much of a surprise seeing as they were a front-row witness to our invasion and conquest of the beetles. But after seeing our dealings with the other beehive, they don't seem to feel overly threatened or fearful, just a bit cautious. Perhaps we should investigate establishing relations with them as well.
The continued usage of the mutated spitting workers has led to their saliva gradually becoming an even more powerful adhesive agent. Our two hives have finally been completely coated and built with our biological concrete, but now they are being fortified with additional layers and built even taller. Some attempts were made at developing a breed of flying warriors, but the effort was in vain. Our warriors have evolved to be much larger and better armored than the rest of our species, and it's gotten to the point that any wings are just vestigial. They are too bulky to actually take flight, and perhaps we would achieve better success by starting with the princes or even the workers. But then we would face the issue of having flying insects suited perhaps for scouting, but without the stingers, strong forelegs, armor, or mandibles of the warriors that make them adept at combat. They would need to gradually develop those weapons again, or else adapt a new means of fighting.
Lol thanks, it's actually the artwork for an obscure Hearthstone card.
Basically what Gentleman said; I'm trying to preserve at least some element of realism (so no mind control or telepathic powers), but if there's some way to use a bunch of scientific jargon to explain away an ability (like maybe hallucinogenic venom that makes a creature receptive to commands, instead of outright mind control) then it might slide. No harm in trying, though. Your suggestion might get taken and just get toned down a bit if I think it's too far out there.
In response to the threat of large creatures, the warriors developed stingers on their rear ends. While their mandibles still contain a light paralytic agent, their stingers inject a venom that denatures proteins and effectively "melts" flesh. It is somewhat slow to act and usually only lethal in quite large doses, but quite painful. The threat of being stung has begun to deter most animals from our berry bushes, but the bees have agreed to help us by giving warning when larger beasts come near.
Additional evolution of the warriors has lead to them now possessing latent receptors for a certain hormone found in the saliva of princes. It has no effect upon young warriors, but the bodies of more mature ones react quickly to it. Upon receiving the hormone, they become incapacitated for some time as their bodies once more enter a state of rapid growth usually associated only with the larvae. At the end of their vegetative state, they are much larger and stronger with thicker armor. Their minds are somewhat enhanced, and their lifespan is elongated as their age is practically "reset" and old wounds are regenerated during the growth phase. In this way, our princes are able to find the most grizzled veterans among the warrior drones and "promote" them that they can continue to serve the hive in a greater capacity.
No new notable threats seem to have emerged, which allows a brief respite where we could look inwards or perhaps focus on expansion.
Current Supreme Tyrant-Opressor-General-Archon GM of [url=https://www.roleplayerguild.com/topics/176075-divinus-the-god-rp-mk-iii/ic]Divinus III[/url]!
I've GM'd many, many other RPs in the past and have been roleplaying online for about 10 years now. Jeez, that makes me feel old.
Enjoy a random picture!
<div style="white-space:pre-wrap;">Current Supreme Tyrant-Opressor-General-Archon GM of <a href="https://www.roleplayerguild.com/topics/176075-divinus-the-god-rp-mk-iii/ic">Divinus III</a>!<br><br>I've GM'd many, many other RPs in the past and have been roleplaying online for about 10 years now. Jeez, that makes me feel old.<br><br>Enjoy a random picture!<br><br><div class="bb-center"><img src="https://i.redd.it/qq7lk8mli08z.jpg" /></div></div>