Melantha took her time as she travelled through space towards Katharsos' Sphere. When she had first taken off, the space surrounding her had been nothing but an empty void, undoubtedly influenced by the energies emitted by her Sphere. However, as time passed and the distance between the death god's Sphere and her seemed to not be decreasing, the dark goddess started getting impatient."Hmm, let's see if I can speed things up a little," she thought as she came to halt.
At once, she felt the darkness firm and coil around her body as she exerted her power upon reality. She formed a mental image, a simple yet effective way that would enable her to traverse vast distances in the blink of an eye, and directed her essence towards its realisation. A faint wisp of power escaped through her mouth, forming a dark, gaseous cloud in front of her. As if answering to her wishes, the essence cloud started transforming, changing both qualitatively and quantitatively. From pitch black and gaseous it turned to milky white and almost liquid-like. Melantha waited patiently as the small now, essence current swirled around her following its transformation before being slowly absorbed back into her. Letting out a deep breath, she turned inwards, inside her mind.
There, in a corner of her mind, a long, ivory string danced among the darkness. Appearing in one place for a brief amount of time, before disappearing again, it moved erratically from place to place, seemingly without pattern. Nevertheless, while she was observing the string, Melantha realised that either by choice or by instinct, the string was jumping to places where darkness was at its strongest, shadows. When It finally noticed her presence, the string started "jumping" up and down, if that was even a thing. In an instant, it appeared in front of her and then proceeded to rapidly make circles around her while emitting strange, whistling sounds. Melantha smiled and extended a hand. "Now now, calm down and come here."
The string flew into her palm, coiling around itself and forming a tiny, ball-like shape. Melantha closed her palm and felt the string burrow inside of her arm, binding itself to her core. "Let's see what this little guy can do." With that thought in mind, she returned back to reality and immediately tested her creation. The result was even better than what she expected; after picking a direction, Melantha felt her body react to the strange power of the string, and she started rapidly fading out of existence. The more her body faded, the stronger she felt the power of darkness envelop her until eventually, she disappeared. After a split second, she re-appeared once again some distance away from her previous location, a little disoriented but nevertheless okay.
"Yes, this will do just fine. A little difficult to control for now, but nothing that cannot be fixed with time." Having achieved a method of fast travel, Melantha once again took off for Katharsos' Sphere.
Soon enough, Melantha started closing in on Katharsos' Sphere. The strange spheres of energy that populated the area near the death god's home were certainly felt by her. After a closer look at one of them using her divine sense revealed that they were, in fact, giant balls of flame suspended in space, Melantha became even more curious about Katharsos' strange ways. Why would someone create and scatter around things such as these? What was their purpose?
It was then that Melantha felt a different type of energy, a more faint and ethereal one. The great surge of souls heading towards the inner reaches of the Sphere gave out an entirely different tone to the whole image she had conjured up in her mind. Masking her presence from them, Melantha flew silently along the current of souls, observing them and occasionally probing them with her senses. Having steeled herself about learning how to forget, Melantha's only clue was the strange soul ash, the origin of which was seemingly Katharsos' Sphere and these very same souls. The dark goddess toyed with the ashen bead in her hand that she had condensed from the ash she had previously gathered. With her thoughts swirling all over the place, she nevertheless decisively plunged inside the foreign Sphere, opting to put aside her questions for when she eventually met Katharsos.The god of death suspended himself in space, hovering right beside the raging flames of a great pyre. The mighty flames writhed, licked, contracted and expanded with the coming of more souls, so by comparison even Katharsos' gently burning form looked utterly still and statuesque.
Looking into the depths of the pyre was akin to watching a wild and uncoordinated play unfold, with each actor trying in vain to take the spotlight and tell their own story. The memories that the burning souls released into the flames tasted of hope, despair, passion, love, and (quite often, for those broken souls that yet remained) agony muddled with incomprehensible madness. It was hard to stare into the vastness of the flames and take in more than the occasional flash of a lifetime without focusing intently upon a given individual, and there were no individuals in that particular moment that caught his utter attention so.
He was left to behold the entirety of the souls' experiences then, or at least the small fraction of the vastness that his mind was able to latch onto and comprehend. Even then, his mind did not come to acquire as much as it might have, for he had been lost in thought for many days and not especially attentive to the fires.
Since Seihdhara's words to him, his mind had been plagued. The journey down to Galbar and his conversation with Ashalla had been nothing but a brief moment of respite, a bright and clean glimpse of lucidity within the quagmire of the greater reality. Troubled thoughts beset him, and though he was certainly not bereft of the inner strength and determination that it took to stay true to his path, he found himself caught in an endless argument as he tried to justify his actions. This time the accuser was not Seihdhara, but rather just her voice. Occasionally, there were other voices too, but he knew them all just be disjointed aspects of his own conscience. How he loathed those voices so! He understood well the mindsets of mortals and all the faults and fallacies of their thoughts (or so Katharsos believed!) and so he just as easily realized that these voices were nothing but figments of his own glazed imagination. They were hallucinations, harmless as they only held as much power and sway over his mind as he gave them. Yet even as he cursed his mind for being weak enough to suffer such a schism and conjure such voices, and even as he knew that in doing so he only gave the voices more power and made them more real, he argued.
Not because he was in doubt, of course, for though he went into every conversation with an open mind and strived to never become fixed in false witness to the illusory merit of flawed ideals, he ultimately listened to each and every one of Seihdhara's (or those other nameless voices') arguments and condemnations fall flat and hollow. They were like children; they were too immature, or perhaps too shortsighted, or even too naive to realize that what he did was necessary and that the alternatives were... grisly... terrible... fruitless. So though they might call his actions a necessary evil, his 'necessary evil' or indeed any 'necessary evil' was ultimately no evil at all.
The main reason that he argued with the voices was to try to make themunderstand. His own guilt and doubts and sorrow for the burden that he carried was enough; it was almost shattering to think that instead of thanking him for his sacrifice, they condemned him and thought of him as a tyrant. Perhaps even an abomination. They were so shortsighted, but that was all. They just didn't understand, but if he could just find and use the right combination of words, perhaps they could be made to. Their words and their actions were rooted in misunderstanding, not hatred and cruelty. He had to believe that.Immediately upon her entry, an uncomfortable feeling overwhelmed her. To say that the space inside the Sphere was different was an understatement. Huge masses of billowing clouds filled her surroundings, and Melantha could feel a deathly aura being emitted from them, akin to the aura of the souls she had come upon earlier. "A fitting residence for a god of death, that is for sure..." Melantha could practically smell death in the smoke released from the strange fires hidden amidst the many nebulae that dotted the inside of the Sphere. Behind her mask of darkness her eyebrows frowned up, but her curiosity was enough that she was not deterred by the strange sights and smells of Katharsos' Sphere.
Melantha had found him hovering next to a giant ball of fire, watching the flow of souls falling to their demise inside the pyre. He had yet to notice her presence, and Melantha was not in a hurry to change that. The dark goddess quietly observed the distracted Katharsos though her divine sense, the fluctuating flare-ups of the fiery mane that surrounded his animalistic visage clearly visible in her mind's eye. Melantha could understand that the god of death had a very introspective personality as even after having waited for quite some time, she realised that she would have to make herself known to him in order for her visit to have any meaning.
"Katharsos..." Her voice was soft but clear enough to break the silence and, hopefully, Katharsos' trance.
His fiery head effortlessly spun around to face the source of the voice (for he felt this one be more real than all the others) and gaze into the blackness of the void between the stars. Melantha had a way of blending into that inky emptiness, but the light of the pyre and Katharsos' own brazen head cast light upon her like great torches and illuminated her silhouette. There was a hint of surprise evident upon Katharsos' face, though not panic. The dark bronze of his mane gave way to a friendlier gold after he recognized the unexpected visitor.
"Melantha," he breathed back, and the force of that one word pushed away the hazy fog and smoke, and suddenly she was freed of all but the faintest smell of that rancid smoke that permeated his Sphere, and its nauseating effect similarly was waned as it was dispelled. "I am glad to have your company."
Taking note of Katharsos' consideration, Melantha nodded her thanks before moving closer towards him. One would think that after spending so much time among the funeral fires, Katharsos would have long been infused with the aura they emitted, but as she now face to face with the god of death, she found herself unable to sense any kind of deathly aura coming from him. An interesting observation, but inconsequential in the end. Melantha collected her thoughts and returned his greeting.
"Thank you for having me, Katharsos. I hope to not have ruined your state of contemplation," Melantha replied.
He briefly contemplated telling her the truth--that in disturbing his solitude, she had offered him relief if anything, yet ultimately rejected the notion. He did not yet know why she had come, after all. And it seemed selfish to lay his own burdens down upon her, in any case. So he answered her with every bit of warmth and genuine care that he had, even as he kept his innermost thoughts closed away. "My meditations can wait. There will be time enough for them; however, time spent in the company of others is precious and always to be cherished above all else."
"Mhmm," Melantha listened to him and nodded her assent. "For some, the company of others can indeed be a precious source of contentment. For others, it is only in solidarity that they can truly be who they are. It is all a matter of perspective..."
She turned her attention to the giant pyre some distance away from them, and "watched" as the souls slowly entered in whole and exited as grains of ash and dust, scattering in space and carried outside the sphere and into the rest of the universe, tiny seeds of life waiting to find a new vessel to make their home. "What is a soul, Katharsos? For me, they are nothing but tiny specks of energy, weak beyond comparison, and yet they are able to bring life to even the most powerful of beings, namely deities, like ourselves. How is that so?" Melantha posed a set of questions to the god of death, opting to ease into the topic of memories and the reason for her visit by asking some general questions first.
"Souls are something vital--a resource, like food or water, without which life does not thrive. You yourself have identified their importance, so you will understand that they are a most prized resource indeed, one that must be conserved and cared for. But they are more than that, too. Though it might make my purpose more palatable to see souls as mere 'specks of energy' as you call them, they are something sacred and special. We can conjure food and water with mere thoughts, but to conjure a new soul? It seems...impractical, if not impossible. For that reason, and for more sentimental ones, I find myself awed by souls. Each one must be cherished, no matter how large or small. Here, though it pains me, I must recycle the souls of the dead that new ones may form and life can go on," he slowly explained in an even tone before realizing that he'd rambled. "But perhaps you think that I did not answer your question directly. I told you what I think of souls. To actually speak of souls? I admit that they are something of an enigma that I still struggle to understand. In time, I will come to unravel their mysteries and better understand their nature...or so I hope."
Somewhere along his speech, Melantha turned her attention back to him and listened on as he explained his interpretation of souls to her. Admittedly, she felt somewhat disappointed by what she got. "I see," she said with a sigh. "It seems that even the god of death has limited knowledge on a topic such as this."
Melantha raised her pale hand and pointed at the pyre. "Let's talk about something closer to you, maybe?" she suggested. She brought her other hand forward, and from within her palm a small black vortex spat out the soul ash bead she had. As it lay there in her palm, ready for inspection, the contrast between the colours of the shiny greyish bead, her pale skin, and the light emitted from Katharsos' flames made for a quite interesting little image indeed. "I discovered a peculiar kind of ash drifting into my Sphere recently. After capturing some, I observed the properties of souls in them, although faint to the point of inconspicuousness."
A soft growl escaped his head, now resemblant of a lion, as he muttered one word, "Impurities."
Melantha raised a brow due to his reaction but continued on. "These..." Melantha pointed at the pyre with her hand again, "fires, let's say. I assume that this soul ash is the byproducts of whatever is happening inside of them?"
"The soul ash is not a mere byproduct, but rather the sole reason that I made this place. Deteriorated souls can be recycled to yield that ash, and given sufficient time, that ash can take the form of new souls. Life can spring forth given this soul ash to enable it, and the cycle can continue. There is one ill byproduct. It is this smoke all around us; you doubtless felt it as you came to me here. I try to confine its taint here that the harm is mitigated, but nonetheless, some of it fails to separate from the ash. On Galbar, I have created a crude mechanism to cleanse the taint, but the ash that drifts to your realm would have no such way to be purified. For that, you have my apologies. Perhaps I can help you to purify the ash of your Sphere and be rid of the impurities' lingering stench and aura."
"Oh, I will take you up on that offer then. Although I do not really mind it, I suppose any future beings that might come to reside in my Sphere will not take kindly to it," Melantha said thoughtfully. "Anyway, on a different note; I wonder how this... "purifying" process of yours works exactly? I find it quite interesting that you have managed to somehow create souls anew, in a sense, even though you yourself just now told me that it is practically impossible to do so. What exactly goes on inside that flame, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Souls are not birthed here, nor are they truly destroyed. These pyres just recycle them. Ash to ash."
"Well, yes, that's what I meant when I said 'create souls anew'. But you didn't really answer my question..." Melantha replied.
For a long, long time she received only silence and his level stare as an answer. Melantha, however, waited patiently. She could not see that Katharsos was staring at her and thus thought he was just gathering his thoughts.
As in for Katharsos, he grappled with the question of whether to tell her the truth of it and if he did, of whether to try to lighten the gravity of just what occurred inside the pyres. He could justify it easily enough--his cause and his actions were just, after all, but there was the eminent question of whether Melantha would understand. Even after endlessly debating himself over the blurring and unintelligible timespan of his trance, he felt... reluctant to truly debate Melantha and try to argue his case, even if he was prepared.
But would he ever want to face judgement? It seemed unlikely, and in the end, perhaps Melantha would be more sympathetic to the harsh nature and grim of reality and to the correct interpretation of the greater good. So, he finally decided to tell her.
"I ask that you not be harsh or rash in your judgement of me or your actions; know that I value your sentiment dearly. Allow me to explain what happens here: these cold yet raging infernos scattered about us contain no mundane flames. They are magical fires that incinerate memory and emotion, and through their otherworldly and intangible heat, they break down and crack apart the ether, soul-stuff. When mortal souls enter the flames, they undergo a catharsis and are made to surrender their memories, one by one, reliving their life thought by thought until there is nothing left to burn. And then they are ash, ready to be scattered that new souls and new life may form.
"It is a grisly and perhaps ignoble ending, but it is the only way. In my meditations, I have contemplated the other paths and deemed them all ultimately worse...more disruptive to the balance of things."
He looked to her in anxious anticipation of whatever reaction her shrouded face might reveal. Melantha, for the most part, stayed quiet throughout the explanation. It was only after sensing that Katharsos was finished that she found herself exhaling the breath she had been holding in. Truly, she did not, could not, imagine that this is what had been going on inside those pyres. She took a few seconds to sum up everything she had heard.
"This... I have to admit that this is not what I imagined death would be... To relive everything one last time, I cannot begin to imagine the strain this puts on the soul..." Melantha told him and continued. "A lifetime of memories stripped away one by one... no wonder the souls collapse afterwards," she concluded.
"I do not derive pleasure from presiding over this eternal holocaust, but one of us had to do it."
"Eternal..." Melantha turned towards the pyre in deep thought. Although she could not see the blazing flames taking in the souls, she could feel the energy they let out as they burned brilliantly one last time. Eventually, she decided it was time to tackle the topic of her visit.
"Katharsos, do you think this same process can work on divine souls as well as it works on other souls?"
Of this, he was certain. "Divine souls? I do not know if there is even such a thing. The ichor, that which imbues us with power and divinity, seems wholly separate from the soul. One of our fellow divines met an untimely demise, and upon arriving here, seemed to be in a rather weak and mundane state. It seems natural to conclude that the process would go much the same for one of our souls."
Oh? A god has died already? I wonder who...
There was a pause. But then before he allowed her to respond, he had to clarify, "But I did not verify this, as I refrained from committing the one in question to the pyres...not this time. My sentiment stopped me."
"Hmm, a very noble thing to do," Melantha did not like how that word rolled off her tongue, but she didn't dwell on it. "You said earlier that memories and emotions are burned by the fire. Does that mean that those two are inherently tied to the soul?"
Katharsos was stricken by that word. It was very peculiar that she called such an action noble of all things, and though he pondered such a choice of words for a short time then and for an eternity later on once his solitude was renewed, he didn't stumble upon it or get caught upon it in conversation.
"They seem to share a powerful affinity for one another, though they are not one and the same. The astral fires here can thoroughly burn memory and the other various 'dyes' that colour a soul, but the soul itself is of hardier stuff. When subjected to the pyres, a soul is broken down into smaller units that can later reform into new souls. Thus, it is due to the memories and other aspects of a being that we are left with all of these nebulous clouds of waste product, as well as these faint...impurities in the soul ash," he offered, but then he began to think, and it was his turn to ask a question. "You seem most fascinated by these phenomena, Melantha. Am I too optimistic in my hope that this is because you would like to assist me?"
"Ah, this... unfortunately no. Although, as you said, I find this process interesting, death, and I mean not to offend you in saying this, is not really something that I plan on tackling anytime soon. As much as I wish this universe remained a utopia in its emptiness, the rest of the pantheon along with the Architect seems to have other ideas about it. The reason for my visit today and the motive behind my questioning is entirely personal." Melantha stopped there, for a second hesitating to continue on. What would happen if he refused to help? Of course, she would have to find another way. Her determination would not deteriorate due to one small step back.
The frown upon Katharsos' face and tinges of green in his flames didn't conceal his disappointment very well.
"I want to learn to reproduce what you are doing here, albeit in a smaller, individual if you will, scale. Would it be possible to create the necessary conditions that would enable the burning of memories without the soul breaking down due to it?"
"So you have come to ask for my assistance," he concluded. "I could help you do this, but I must question whether I should."
"I must admit, you would not be gaining much, if anything, from helping me achieve this. I have no real offer I can put forth in exchange for this type of knowledge. However, much like how you have a role and a purpose to fulfil, so do I. By helping me with this, you would be contributing towards the eventual realization of my purpose and the Architect's plans for this universe," Melantha said, the latter part of her speech being especially taxing for her to admit, considering she still had doubts about the Architect's motives.
"What part of your role pertains to meddling with the memories of others?" He stopped to think for a moment, realizing that she might see hypocrisy in that. "I destroy memory in order to recycle souls; besides, the dead need not clutch onto memory. I think it natural and good that life may begin upon a blank slate and each soul can make of its own existence what it will, its experience fresh and unsullied by its predecessors. For what cause would you tamper with the memories of the living?"
Melantha sighed, seemingly abandoning trying to conceal her true intentions. "It's not so much as tampering with other's memories as tampering with my own memories."
There was an instant where a dozen prismatic colours flashed rapidly through Katharsos' bewildered eyes. He blinked, a strange look upon his face, and rested there confounded and visibly struggling to comprehend what he'd just heard. His eyes asked, 'Why?'
"I.. I have been suffocating in self-doubt and uncertainty ever since our summoning that fateful day by the Architect. You yourself were not present when it happened since you left right after awakening, but I chose to ask Him a simple question, one that any of the other gods could have asked in my place." The goddess turned her back to Katharsos, the darkness around her fluctuating erratically, evidently influenced by her roiling emotions.
"Yet, he did not even deign to answer such a simple question. Instead, he showed a level of disdain towards me for even thinking of questioning him that completely shattered whatever illusion his 'brainwashing' had induced upon me." Melantha flew closer to the soul pyre, however, the little bit of heat emitted from it was barely felt by her.
"Have you ever stopped and considered why? Why were we summoned in this universe? Every single moment since being brought here from the endless Beyond, I have pondered on this question. At first, I came to a single conclusion, that we were just an experiment—his playthings if you will. From atop his throne, he watches as we go along our lives, a false sense of freedom and purpose instilled in our minds that most other gods take for granted. What purpose? Smoke and mirrors, and nothing more..."
"I once vowed to myself to stop worrying about His motives behind our summoning, but time and time again I have broken that vow. I know that If I continue to have these doubts, there will come a day that I will break. I will fly into a rage and start destroying everything around me. Evidently, the Architect would not have any of it. That would also be the moment I cease. In the end, I decided that the only way to prevent that from happening would be to seal away my memories of that time, maybe even destroy them along with any doubts I have. By curbing my own self-destructive thoughts, I will gain the ability to survive under the shadow cast by Him."
Turning her attention to Katharsos once more, Melantha continued. "This is the reason behind my visit. You are evidently the only deity well versed in the matters of souls and hence, the only one that I can ask for help in this matter. What say you?"
In his attentive state of listening, Katharsos had appeared deathly silent and still and pallid the whole time, or as close to those things as flames could ever be. When Melantha finally stopped speaking, he still remained quiet in his contemplation. For a long long time, she had the pleasure of waiting.
Who knew if it was an hour or a day or a week that passed? It might have been easier to track the time by counting the endless souls that were arrived before the duo. There were the spirits of plankton and plants and critters (and still a fair few broken ones from Beyond) but the tides of their wispy forms seemed to all meld together into a meaningless blur.
"I think that you are rash. Do you not see that fault in yourself--that you jump to conclusions so quickly?" were the words that he finally spoke. The irony there would eluded him.
"...but if you have contemplated yourself and deemed your mind's destination true, and this the surest path, then who am I to deny you?"
"I wish I could find a better solution, but this is the only thing I can currently think of. Maybe one day, in the future, I will be able to release myself of this self-induced restriction without the aforementioned consequences..."
"You have swayed me," he assured her. He took a moment to internally breathe. "Burning away the intangible is no small feat, but not beyond your capability, especially given my tutelage. The first step for this, as with all things, is to breathe and reflect..."
We pick up from where Melantha was last heading towards the Sky of Pyres, trying to seek out Katharsos to ask about souls and soul ash. Mel grabs a nifty new ability to make such long-range travel easy.
She shows up and is somewhat confused by all the stars and the uncomfortable feel of the smoke that pervades the place. Katharsos wasn't expecting company and doesn't notice her; she finds him just sort of floating about next to the biggest pyre. He's doing a lot of thinking, mainly about things provoked by Seihdhara's words, and it appears as if that confrontation only had the effect of making him even more convinced of his path. He now questions not whether what he's doing is right, so much as how he can make the other gods understand that his way is right. Also, he's been talking to himself a little bit.
Melantha and Katharsos talk. Both are polite enough. She asks him what he's doing and what he knows about souls, then ultimately drops the big bomb: that she actually cares more about memories and wants to figure out how to wipe some of her own memories.
Katharsos is a little bit shocked, but ultimately decides to help her out. He shows her how he does that thing that he does with the fire that burns memories 'n' stuff, so with that bit of help she is able to buy the ability to erase memories.
Nothing spent by Katharsos.
Melantha MP Usage:
3 MP to create the ability Shadow Step An advanced method of travelling using the power Melantha possesses over darkness. She fades out of existence, becoming one with darkness and teleporting to a set location. The location she teleports to can be any place where the power of darkness is at large. (i.e. shadows etc)
1 MP to unlock the ability to burn away memories, counting towards unlocking Oblivion Portfolio [1/5]
Map suspended pending the return of Chenzor, my cartographic monkey. Sorry folks!
The Lycan Covenant
There was some good news, at least--producing the spears from the black stone took only a matter of a few days. Several boulders of basalt were from freed from the ground and carried (or rolled, in the case of some rounder ones) back to their encampment. The Goldtooth were experienced craftsmen, so even without th benefit of being accustomed to knapping such stones, they were able to fashion hundreds of sharpened points and affix them tightly to the end of wooden shafts. Though of potentially dubious quality (the spear shafts could probably be easily broken by creatures like the rhino men, and the spearheads were prone to occasionally falling off) there were soon too many spears to count. There were enough for all of the lycans capable of fighting or hunting, which even included some of the pups. The spears of better quality were naturally claimed by the most accomplished warriors, many of whom also claimed one or two backup spears in case their primary ones broke.
Drilling with mere sticks, and then shortly after with the new spears, was carried out. The Covenant's warriors didn't fight in dense formations like the pikemen of other lands, and nor did they have an understanding of that sort of organized warfare. Still, it was easy enough for them to figure out how to hold their spears, fight with them in one-on-one duels or in small skirmishes, and use them to keep enemies at bay. The weapons were so primitive and simple that wielding them felt like second nature for many of them, and perhaps in the future even some of the hunters would turn to using these spears in favor of fang and claw.
Their position seemed reasonable safe now. They had fully relocated across the river, and now with some crude fortifications and Bloodfang and Silentpaw patrols to spot out any surprise attacks, they were not wholly unprepared for battle.
Mex also had a few scouts on the other side of the river, operating out of Seagard. They had barely managed to hide the two slain giants before a large band of the Rhino Men was spotted out. Presumably lead to the area by the third member of the trailblazer trio (the one Rhino that'd gone missing before the Lycans performed their ambush), there was a wandering caravan of about two dozen of the Rhino Men as well as ten or so regular rhinos which walked on four legs and seemed to be used as pack beasts. They were clearly trying to find their two missing friends, and after scouring the area for an hour or two, they began to make their way straight towards the unusual structure of Seagard.
By the time Vlath heard word of this, there were mere minutes to react. If he rallied the warriors he would likely be able to make it across the river to that makeshift fortress just as the Rhino Men arrived, and hopefully he'd be able to gather the attention of the Void Gods' two champions along the way and summon them to the fight as well. But then they would be throwing away their advantage of a fortified position across the river...perhaps it was better to just order the Bloodfang garrisoned inside of Seagard to retreat?
Time was of the essence, and Vlath couldn't afford to ponder for long or to be indecisive.
A) Improve food B) Improve military technology C) Improve infrastructure D) Improve culture E) Explore F) Improve resources/technology G) Prospect the land H) Expand military I) Take diplomatic action X) Other
Population: 140 men, 143 women, 68 pups. Livestock: Small number of rabbits Military: 2 void monsters. Militia spearmen able to be conscripted up to about 40% of adult population. Food level: Slightly below average Resources: Lumber (low quantity; increasing), basalt (small amounts) Wealth: Nonexistent Trade: Nonexistent Growth:Low; impacted from food level. Morale: Average; brought up by respite from rain, brought down by food level Foreign relations: Rhino Men: (Hostile)
You've not posted anything for this turn! Did you need another month and a half? :P
"But how am I supposed to know which stupid animal we need to find and bury? I've hunted dozens! And I still think that this 'spirit' stuff is probably nonsense..." Salvdal remarked to the shaman in a tone that sounded almost entirely unapologetic. Lady Saphira, or whatever was left of her, just peered at the foolish hunter with the empty eyes of a ghost. There was a bit more fire to be seen in the shaman's baleful glare, and together the two of them stared Salvdal into a repentant silence. They treasured and kept that silence for most of the journey's remainder; they found and buried at least a score of skeletal gazelles (and for good measure a few other carcasses that they stumbled across, too) in the hopes that one of these had been the particular animal whose vengeful spirit had returned, but there was no telling whether or not that was the case, nor was there any true way for them to know if the mere act of burying the bones and offering a quick prayer would even be enough to exorcise the spirit that was guiding their enemies. Nonetheless, they continued their work for two days and then began to make camp. Then, the Spirit Vessel suddenly craned its host's head and looked to the distance.
"I sense their presence. The enemy is near."
Salvdal muttered something to himself and quickly climbed up one of the steppe's rare trees, the one that they had been meaning to camp beneath for the night. About halfway up, he let out some exclamation. "Fires!" he said.
The shaman squinted into the distance, and sure enough, there was the faint glow of two campfires. The steppe here was so flat that they could see that from miles away, but it was hard to make out any more detail. But then to their horror, the two fires became six, a dozen, more, and more...
This was no small band that was pursuing their people; it was an army!
The shaman was distraught. "We must head back to warn the others, right now! There's no time to sleep!"
"No; fleeing is the coward's way. We can strike now and sever the snake's head," the Spirit Vessel declared. The shaman looked up into the tree for the dark silhouette of Salvdal, trying to find support in that scoundrel of all people.
At their camp, it took the better part of an entire day as well as the following night to create a ritual to summon the local spirits and ask of them the great favor. It was always hard to tell whether the spirits understood what was being asked of them, because even with wisdom accumulated in death they ultimately remained animals at heart. But as they shuffled away in the morning, one could only hope that they were somehow muddying the path for the Attolians' enigmatic pursuers. Progress migrating north was much slower than they would have liked. It had grown to the point where they hadn't moved camp in years, and over time complacency had led them to accumulate more belongings, and to simply lose some of the readiness and hardiness that their people had once had. In addition to simply having more belongings, they now also had to worry about driving their substantial herd of cattle onward. It was hard to move the animals at anything that could be considered a fast pace, and impossible to cover the entire herds' tracks.
It was quickly becoming apparent that this was not a foe that they could flee from, at least not without abandoning nearly everything that they had worked so hard to earn over the past years. And with two days already wasted, time was running critically short.
A) Improve food B) Improve military technology C) Improve infrastructure, and some w D) Improve culture E) Explore F) Improve resources/technology G) Prospect the land H) Expand military I) Take diplomatic action X) Other
Population: 143 men, 144 women, 78 children. Military: 1 elite warrior (spirit vessel). Militia able to be conscripted up to 30% of adult population. Livestock: A large herd of cattle Food level: Above Average Resources: Horses (A small number) Wealth: 200 pounds of gold; some precious jewels Trade: Some internal trade, facilitated by currency Growth:Average; impacted by racial traits, good food level, and good morale. Morale: Below average (ill omens) Foreign relations: None
The Mustaqilun Tribe
The shaman was not pleased by this compromise that Rukdug had devised. For that matter, neither were the people who wanted to fell those trees for charcoal, as twenty trees worth of fuel was hardly enough to run the smelteries and forges for long. Still, there were some that said that a good compromise was one that left all parties unhappy, and if he kept to that philosophy then Rukdug could take pride in the outcome of his decision.
As the miner-turned-poisoner took to his new role with glee, for it was much more amusing to concoct and test toxins than it was to break rocks and perform hard labor for days on end, the shaman ironically seemed unhappy. He claimed to have no fondness for woodcarving, yet refused to suffer any of the artisans to aid him in creating the axes supposedly for fear of them ruining the magic or making 'dumb mistakes'. It was nonetheless interesting to watch him work, and a few orcs spent their spare time shadowing the shaman (much to his chagrin). They told Rukdug that the shaman was performing all manner of bizarre and seemingly pointless rituals along every step of the process. He took a cut out the sturdiest part of each tree an carved an axe head from it, but seemed to pay little mind for the handles and just found whatever sticks or branches were thick enough to suffice for such. He would whisper to the wood, then pound it with a mallet. Rub it with ointments, then immediately wash it clean before covering it with filth. Occasionally there were incantations, too. It all culminated with him carving symbols into the totally wooden axes in an attempt to imbue them with enough enchantments that they wouldn't be totally useless in battle. In the end they looked sturdy enough. Despite not even being made from stone or metal, they were sanded to have a sharp edge and had enough heft to hurt. They probably wouldn't fare well against armor, though.
True to how he first described it, the final step of creating this cursed weapons involved him using the axes to slowly cut down the very trees from which they were made. It seemed almost a formality at that point, as cutting a large section out of the trees' trunks had left most of them dying anyways. Still, he very slowly finished the job, which naturally took a toll on the weak axes. So he repaired them as best as he could, then surrendered them for inspection.
The first axe was tested upon one of the pig runts just as the miner's poison had been, and it seemed utterly unexceptional. The end product looked flimsy and borderline useless for combat, even if ornamental enough to perhaps serve as a ceremonial weapon. All eyes fell upon the shaman and many were furious, with the miner-turned-poisoner's laughter cutting through the cloud with particular clarity. When demanded to explain himself, the shaman stammered that perhaps there had been a mistake and that one axe had been used to chop the incorrect tree, but that the others should still work.
So they cast aside that useless one, and tried again with another one of the eighty axes that had been chosen at random. This one worked as expected. The piglet's fate was not to be envied, and the baleful axe seemed to drink its blood and grow sharper from the feast. The butcher that had held the thing claimed to have felt uncomfortable even holding the weapon after the fact, but such objections were quickly brushed aside. Now there was the question of what to do with these 80 cursed axes--or 79, now that one of them had been discovered to be useless. A few pointed out that if that one had been used on the wrong tree, then surely there had been a swap and at least one of the other axes would have similarly been ruined. In fact, for all they knew, half the axes could have been ruined.
The shaman blamed the meddling or tampering of those that had hounded him throughout the entire process, and said that they must have touched the axes, rearranged them, and ultimately caused him to misplace them through no fault of his own. Some other orcs were vocal in their suspicion that the shaman was just a half-senile fool that had lacked the foresight to even keep track of which axes were meant to go where, and others tried to deflect the blame into nothingness by saying that perhaps some of the axes just hadn't taken to the magic well. In any case, though there were a fair deal of pigs there were not enough runts to test 79 more axes with seriously harming the food supply, so it seemed likely that the Mustaqilun would just have to carry these all into battle (defective and successful axes both) and hope that most of them performed.
Later that day, a messenger returned from Nyorgha's expedition to report that the logging camp was coming along. Some minor setbacks had taken place, but the messenger claimed that the first shipments of lumber were likely to arrive before he even completed the journey back to his captain. That was welcome news, because as of yet the prospectors were still failing to find any coal. On one or two occasions they did hear or see ninja patrols down in the tunnels below, but the goblins never stayed around to talk. It seemed that there were other ways to enter the mining caverns below, as even with the entrance to the firestone chamber now completely blocked, the goblins still seemed capable of accessing the other parts of the area below Riverforge. In fact, many were beginning to suspect that these goblins lived somewhere down there...they probably didn't want the orcs to know exactly where, and that'd explain why they'd been so careful to blind or render unconscious all those that they'd kidnapped.
A long ways down the mountains, in a secluded defile, Pak waited alongisde the other orcs. He passed the time by staring into a small campfire and toying with the flute that Ie had given him. One of the others tossed another green branch onto the fire to make more smoke; they were trying to be noticed, after all. The tengu had assured them that he and the goblins were not far away, not far at all. They were just barely out of sight hiding in the thickets and trees on the cliffs above, lest any of the bandit scouts perchance spot them out. But of course, Ie had assured them, it would only take a moment for them to strike once they heard him play the flute as a signal.
It was hard to figure out what a goblin's or a bird-spirit's word was worth, though. Probably not much, but here they were nonetheless.
Eventually one of the bandit scouts came creeping down the path, hugging the wall. It was right on time. The youth was sneaky enough, but because Pak and the others had been expecting him, they practically smelled him the second his head peeped at them from around a rocky outcrop. The hardest part was for them to make conversation and act busy to make the trap seem believable, all while trying their hardest not to look toward the human spying on him and betray the ruse. But they seemed to have done it, for after only a minute the scout disappeared. He'd be running off to tell the other bandits, who wouldn't be far.
And soon enough, the bandits began to creep in. Silently, like pale ghosts of the mountain wilderness, a dozen rounded the corner. And then a dozen more. And another dozen. They were dangerous--sure, they still wore mismatched leather and metal armor and some had straw hats instead of helmets, but their gear and weapons seemed cared for and they didn't have the starved look that most men of their position carried on their faces. More and more of the bandits flooded in. Then came out from the chokepoint and fanned out a bit to surround the orcs' campsite against the cliff wall, but the bandits didn't come closer than twenty yards. They held their yumi bows, their swords, and their spears, and they inexplicably just waited in a staredown as the outnumbered orcs also readied their weapons. More bandits were still coming in, but wading through their ranks with his thighs at the level of their heads and shoulders, there was a hulking figure that could be none other than the Bandit King.
He pushed through the crowd, past the front ranks of the bandits, and brazenly walked right into the orcs without so much as drawing the massive sword sheathed by his side. The red giant breathed deeply in a long and exaggerated mockery, then fixated two fiery eyes upon Pak. "And what little slave-thing are you? I can smell the tengu from here," he suddenly laughed. Something about the demon's eyes was making Pak hesitate...he rubbed his fingers over the flute and reconsidered blowing it. As his grip on the tiny wooden instrument had tightened, the great oni's eyes fell upon it and he let out a diabolical rumble of a laugh.
"Do you think they ever cared about you? That they would actually help you? They sent you here to die. Fortunately for you, I've already slashed your mongrel of a master in two!"
A) Improve food B) Improve military technology C) Improve infrastructure D) Improve culture E) Explore F) Improve resources/technology G) Prospect the land H) Expand military I) Take diplomatic action X) Other
Population: 203 men, 205 women, 101 children. Military: No standing military. Militia able to be conscripted up to 60% of adult population. Livestock: A large group of pigs Food level: Average Resources:copper, zinc, and arsenic (decent amount; not yet being worked or smelted into alloys), charcoal (tiny amount), paralytic poison, cursed axes Wealth: Some semi-precious gemstones Trade: Nonexistent Growth:Average Morale: Below average (improved by sending away the worst complainers) Foreign relations: Ful's Ninjas: Neutral
Orr'gavol: The Hammersworn
The way back for Kadol and the explorers was treacherous, even as they'd come to know well the path between the mountains and the Hovel. Freshly thawing snow and half-melted ice along the ground made every slope and patch of ground into a nuisance at best. Still, the unusually clear skies (which had over the past few months been almost always grey and overcast with snow-laden clouds) and the steady dripping of water from melting icicles were welcome things. After Trollheim, even the unmelted snow around their lands felt warm.
As they traversed the wood, a few astute dwarves realized that rising up over the trees were more plumes of smoke than there'd been before. Upon their arrival they saw that this was due to the addition of numerous crude smokehouses. The food situation was now no longer so dire, and hope was rising with the temperature. Naturally, Kadol expected that their ill tidings would shatter all of that. Food was prepared in anticipation of the expedition's return, for Kadol's ragged group looked worn and tired so all the Hammersworn thought that surely such a state indicated that they'd undergone the journey and returned home to tell the tale of how they met their success. Still, it was hard for those on the expedition to not gulp; their stomachs turned with the nervous anticipation of all the ill news that they had to bear.
Godrim was dead. Kadol had to kill him. Godrim said that a troll had corrupted him.
A troll had corrupted him. That meant that the ice trolls had somehow made it to the mountains, and that they had terrible powers!
They didn't find the Sorcerer-King. Godrim said that it was a trap. It was unlikely they'd ever be able to find the Sorcerer-King's tomb and live to tell the tale.
How was Kadol going to deliver any of this? Was it better to bear the burden himself, or perhaps only share it with the Foreman, and not subject all the others to despair?
The next day, word came from the mines that the Abductor had been sighted flying around one of the mountain peaks yet again.
A) Improve food B) Improve military technology C) Improve infrastructure D) Improve culture E) Explore F) Improve resources/technology G) Prospect the land H) Expand military I) Take diplomatic action X) Other
Population: 238 men, 237 women, 118 children. Military: No standing military. Militia able to be conscripted up to 30% of adult population. Food level: Average Resources: Lignite coal (low grade; large amount, increasing), iron ore (substantial quantity, increasing), iron (substantial quantity) Wealth: Nonexistent Trade: Nonexistent Growth:Average Morale: Average, influenced by food, end of winter, Abductor sightings, and Godrim's (re)dying
The final crack of dusklight illuminated a snowflake as it fell down onto the pallid flesh of a skratti. The troll allowed his gnarled staff to fall into the snow as he looked up at the darkened sky. Something wasn't right...one of the brightest and most auspicious of those stars wasn't as it was supposed to be, glowering most strangely and moving where before it had always been unwavering and still in its post. A portent of some sort, perhaps? He would have contemplated it, did the glory of the full moon not beckon to him and draw his attention away from all else...the hide of the evil sorcerer's fur clothes melded with his flesh, his elongated tusks became great fangs, and then he was suddenly no more than a beast. The crazed, gargantuan wolf howled to the moon.
His mind and vision were engulfed by madness. A ringing reverberated incessantly from all around; there were dancing flames within that strange place just beyond the corner of his sight, but even so there were sharp lances of icy pain that pierced his mind, and there was a familiar scent that conjured hazy memories of panic and terror. Some overpowering blunt force had struck his mind and shattered it like glass, and now there were only shattered memories left swirling about in the schism that remained. All of the trauma and the pain was still there, but now it was oppressive and omnipresent.
What is this? What am I?
I am become Death: Preserver of the World, Keeper of the Cycle, Guardian of Life.
Katharsos blinked sharply, and just like that, he reclaimed his lucidity and was suddenly made aware of his surroundings.
The concussive pain and the strange sensations that had wracked his mind until that moment hadn't left him. No, they had only grown worse. With his stupor broken, the garbled and distant ringing was now accentuated by the vivid screaming and wailing of too many souls to count. They voices of billions of lost souls in varous states of agony mixed together into a maddening cacophony, and there was no escaping from it--at least, not for him. He heard them all. He sensed their collective misery and pain so acutely that it was as a burden upon him, too.
There were other things, too. Something was inside of him. He felt it, the foreign object, inside the fiery prison that was his mouth. The scintillated light of a strange crystal shone through gaps in his teeth, reflecting brazen glow of his own body (a massive, detached head made of writhing flames, he realized!) as it propelled him onward. At first he felt bewildered, but understanding came within the span of a few instants--he had been summoned here by a great Enlightened Being alongside many others. But whilst those others were still manifesting or bickering or coming to grips with their reality, Katharsos had been so driven by his instinct and his purpose that he had leaped onto his awaiting crystal and left the Architect's palace before he had even truly become cognizant of what he was doing.
What was he doing?
Saving the spirits, of course. The souls were his to watch after. He swore an oath!
When? What oath?
His reverie ended as he rocketed past a wailing collection of spirits. Immediately he wrenched his head around with enough force to shift the crystal such that it began carrying him to the left, and then back around to circle towards the stray souls. But when he looked out to where they had been, they were all gone!
He summoned even more of his strength to twist his head farther around, and upon wheeled all the way back the spirits came into his vision once more. They were right behind him, being swept along in his wake. Of course they were. He was a shepherd of souls, and any such spirits in his vicinity could be made to go where he directed them. That would make this long task easier.
He soared back and forth through the cold and dark depths of space, collecting a dozen souls here, one or two stray ones there, sometimes great groups of a few thousand all huddles together as if for warmth. He could hardly blink without gathering another one or two, but still, there were so many that awaited his call. And these were just those that remained adrift in the cold of these upper Spheres; there were untold millions cast into all other far corners of the universe as a result of the diaspora caused by the Great One's careless expulsion of all the lesser souls.
Katharsos looked down to the blue jewel below, a place that he instinctively knew to be the most perfect and balanced of all Spheres. seat of this universe's future, the inevitable origin of mortal life--Galbar. It looked even more beautiful in the light. The God of Death turned his gaze to observe the distant sight of Heliopolis' blinding radiance. Already the other gods were making progress with their works. Soon they would have need for souls if they were to create any forms of life to populate and glorify the world, yet all of these souls he gathered were broken.
From the great throngs of wailing dead that were swept along by the warmth of his wake, Katharsos witnessed with crystalline clarity the apparition of a single man that laughed maniacally, chanting strange and unknowable words between cackles as he lashed out at all behind him.
There in the crowd were all manner of ruined forms. Spectral reflections of beast, men, and things altogether alien were all congregated before him. There were some that remembered what they had been, and warped their appearance to take on such favored forms. Others appeared as they had when they succumbed to death. There were some with horrific wounds that still seeped ethereal blood; perhaps they were warriors who fought and died in a place so distant and far into the past that it was may as well have just been the stuff of fevered dreams.
"Ask the great bright One! He'll know," he heard one childlike voice whisper among the deafening tumult.
Katharsos looked upon the speaker, the revolting husk of a girl that had been gnawed at and twisted by the terrible Things in the Beyond. The expression of his eyes flickered with the faint light of horror, and the crimson flames of his head withered and became a sickly yellow. He wept a single tear of ash, and then finally addressed the souls.
"I was once a great healer," he found himself saying. "My old memories are...returning. I know what can be done for you, what must be done to one day make you whole again...please, step into my light."
The fury of the fires within him swelled until it became so great that it cracked the crystal inside his maw. Odd astral fires, cold to the touch, raged and consumed the inanimate crystal. Katharsos opened his mouth and a great glowing ember of light came forth. Though she had no head and no face, the girl's spirit seemed to smile as it advanced to the front of the crowd. She was the first to lay a hand upon the golden orb.
A sepulchral tide swept forward as other lost souls rushed closer in an attempt to bask in its warmth. And then there was a flash, and suddenly there was all aflame. A massive inferno roared to life and engulfed them all in its dull light. Some struggled for a few moments, but then the astral fires began to eat at their memories, and their struggled ended. They squirmed like insects caught in a spider's web, shaking in cathartic spasms as they relived every flaming memory. Great plumes of sickly smoke billowed forth into the cold expanse of space as a byproduct of the burning souls, along with countless tiny flakes of near-invisible ash. The smoke was a noxious thing anathema to life--the very quintessence of death. So the god breathed deeply and drew it all about him lest it pollute the world. But the ash was just the opposite, being the metaphorical clay from which new life and new souls would be formed. To watch it drift down to Galbar and away into the other Spheres almost made Katharsos feel solace.
He didn't know how many millions of souls he'd just condemned to oblivion. While the other gods feuded or played, sculpted or philosophized, Katharsos was alone in space left to dig graves and build pyres. He envied all the others--for who among them could ever claim to bear a burden as heavy as his?--but begrudged them not. Someone had to do this; it was the only way. Those souls had been so weathered and corrupted that they were far beyond the ability of his warm flames to ever heal, if indeed he still possessed such a potential to heal. But they were not beyond the capacity of his otherworldly fires to purify.
He let out a long and drawn out sigh, somehow oblivious to the faroff explosion of a Solar Furnace, the upheaval of entire continents on Galbar, the Architect's never-ending stare...he only saw the billions of souls that remained for him to gather and recycle. It was not feasible to fly about the cosmos gathering them all and herd them together to set aflame. He needed a more permanent solution, so he claimed the empty Sphere that he drifted through. It was a dark and cold and distant and abandoned one; only Melantha's equally gloomy lair seemed nearby. As none of his immortal peers wanted to occupy such a plane, it seemed a fine place for Death to lurk and do its work in serene quiet.
Over the course of some meaningless time that might have been mere hours or countless decades, Katharsos assembled a thousand great firepits. They sat suspended everywhere in his Sphere, wrapped all the way around the Galbar's plane of view and scattered across the night sky. At the heart of every pyre was a singular tiny ember. The embers themselves glowed far too dimly to be seen from below, but the blinding light of the gigantic conflagrations came closer than anything else to rival the brilliance of Asceal's own solar furnaces. It was only their great distance from the other Spheres, as well as the hazy smoke of death that was growing to shroud the entire Sky of Pyres, that obscured and dimmed them to the point that from Galbar's surface they appeared as nothing but distant stars.
And distant they were, but not so distant that their pull could be resisted! Unseen by the living or those that knew not to look, Katharsos had been softly stirring the fabric of the Spheres themselves. From what had started as soft ripples there had grown a great maelstrom that extended all the way from the Sky of Pyres down to the surface of Galbar, and then its pull reached through the other gateways to reach even farther. Slowly, but surely, stray souls were being gathered up in that maelstrom and swept into the clutches of Death. A thousand more of them arrived every instant, but Katharsos had pyres enough for all.
After setting aflame some odd billionth soul, he no longer felt quite so emotional about it (inwardly or outwardly) as he had the first time. There were hardly any more tears of ash that fell from his burning eyes as he witnessed the memories of the dead transform into nothingness. There was already plenty of ash raining down, after all.
Katharsos reflects upon his purpose and has some vague, perhaps false, memories of his past. He eventually ceases his nostalgia and begins gathering up the various souls that the Architect banished from his palace seemingly oblivious to the chaos that such spirits might go on to wreak.
Katharsos speaks to one or two of the souls, looks at them closely, and realizes that they are far, far beyond his capacities to mend. And life and creation simply cannot proceed with all of these spirits around in the way, so he concludes that euthanizing the spirits and recycling their souls is the only reasonable option. For those ends, he creates the Sky of Pyres and begins burning the souls. He's rtaher oblivious to the other happenings of the universe, but then again, most of gods are apparently preoccupied and none immediately notice him creating the Vortex of Souls. But now that it's acting like a magnet for all the stray souls and sucking them into his new Sphere, and now that there's suddenly the faint light of hundreds of stars in the sky as Katharsos lights all of these pyres, the other gods might start to take notice.
8FP spent shaping and creating the Sky of Pyres, a sphere. 7FP spent on the Vortex of Souls, a gateway.
They took shape and scurried about so quickly...it was jarring to have so much motion, so much vibrancy, all of this life in his lonely world of dust and dark. But his one great eye kept track of them all, nonetheless. In the wake of the first one's departure the other gods began to gain their bearings, some faster than others; however, only one had the audacity to address him.
She had only a simple inquiry, "Why?"
His piercing gaze had already all but impaled her, but the moment that the word began to leave Melantha's lips -- or was it an instant before? -- the ancient god began to tense and shift in his throne so as to face even more directly at her, and by that point his eye was practically swallowing her whole. The depths of his black pupil were bottomless and unfathomable, yet even still, one could sense his anger in there without even seeing it. The very question had seemingly offended him.
'What could you hope to know of such things? Your mind could not fathom what I am,' the cyclops whispered without lips. Though she did not escape his eye, for none ever could, his stiffened body relaxed ever so slightly as he spoke louder, addressing them all. "My cause is beyond your understanding, but my instructions are not. When I give them, I expect that they will be obeyed."
As he spoke, there was one goddess wreathed in fiery red hair and equally fiery fury. Even as some other struggling divine fought to free itself from the red one's overbearing grasp, the fiery Seihdhara met his eye with two of her own. Her hands reached down to the ground, and finding no loose stones, used a titanic grip to tear free chunks of the palace's tiled ground. And then there was a whistling in the air as she hurled the first stone at his massive visage.
Her aim was true, but the stone never struck. By his will, it froze in the air and was suspended halfway through its arc, as was the second stone, and the third. And the god upon his throne was furious.
"I will teach you to respect your elder."
There was a slight flick of his wrist, and suddenly an explosion of light erupted from beneath Seihdhara. She tried to jump in panic, but that movement brought her into a collision with some unseen object. She flailed her arms, but they couldn't move, for the magical seals had enveloped her body and trapped her in what might as well have been an invisible sarcophagus.
A small stir of his finger made the cage contort in strange ways, and for a brief moment the air simmered and light bent as the barriers came to press into her long tresses of hair and become entangled.
The god that embodied confusion began to offer some riddle, its quick clicking and jabbering coinciding with a momentary pause in the Architect's speech; however, there was hardly time for her to contemplate its puzzle even if she'd wanted to.
The Enlightened One leaned forward in his throne, watching Seihdhara squirm. 'The fortitude of your frame, the blood in your hair and flesh, the very air that you breathe. I gave you all of this! Before I brought you here, you were nothing but a worthless echo, a formless shadow, doomed and trapped in the Beyond. Such a waste.'
With a shearing pull that painfully tugged at her hair and tore a few tufts free, the seals shattered. The force of their breaking threw Seihdhara onto her back, on the cold hard tile of his palace floor. The Architect's eye told her to flee and thank the stars for his mercy, but perhaps that was simply a projection of her own imagination.
Quickly the Architect's expression once again became unreadable as he followed the motions and doings of all the other gods, even those that had departed.
Archie thinks Mel asked him a dumb question. Or maybe he's just miffed that she had the guts to even ask a question. Either way, he gives a somewhat annoyed and dismissive answer.
Then when Seidhara throws rocks at him, he puts her in her place.
It is now the third age, where each god gets 8 Free Points per turn.
This is the Age of Lords. The chaos of the wilds is still a terror to the mortal folk of Galbar, but as they grew, it has also become a challenge. The lands are ripe for the birth of civilizations, great and small. The start of a mighty empire may require only the smallest boon from a god or two. The Architect awaits the blossoming of the worshipping peoples with anticipation.
This Age, FP can be used for the following acts:
Create an Artefact (Limit 2 each, must be left in the hands of mortals)
Create a monument (Limit 1 each, must be on Galbar)
Form a holy order
Teach an idea or technology
Bestow a one-time gift to mortals beyond their ability to craft
Bless or Curse (Groups of mortals only)
New act: 1 FP - Create an impressive and/or fantastical landmark or piece of architecture (Limited to the size of a large citadel or a small town, give or take. Basically a variant of the one-time gift above)
TAKE NOTE: Azura and Asceal's broadcast via the Alma to present all mortals with the choice of their fate after death has constituted a world-wide, high-impact event! This is a landmark in the passage of time from which years shall be measured, until such time as a more appropriate event takes place.
A blast from the past! Everything below here is now outdated.
It is currently Turn 0, and the gods have no MP or FP to spend. 1) Everyone was just summoned; the Architect has imbued them with understanding of one another and of a vague idea of what their purpose should be. 2) You have a chance to (briefly) try speaking to the Architect or one another, but he's willing all of the gods to step onto a crystal and fly off. 3) These crystals are one-way tickets to wherever your god's Sphere will be. Galbar is currently quite empty and has little besides a great ocean and a few rocky and barren islands.
It is currently Turn 1, and every god has 5MP and 20FP to spend. This is the Age of Creation--the very dawn of this world, the time in which the Spheres are to be crafted and Galbar shaped and readied for life.
This Age, FP can be used for the following things:
The creation of Spheres,
The creation of ecosystems, on Galbar or in Spheres,
The sculpting or creation of landscapes and geographical features
The creation of one Gateway (only the first for any given god can be bought with FP; all following ones will require MP)
As a reminder, it has been decided that during this Age FP cannot be spent to purchase abilities or create artifacts. That will require MP. Also worth mentioning is that the creation of sapient mortals and/or extraordinary beings are NOT on the FP catalogue for this turn; the following Ages to come will shift focus towards mortals and monsters. For now, the focus is on laying the groundworks with basic ecosystems like forests and relatively simple wildlife.
It is now the second Age, where each god gets 8 Free Points per Turn. This is the Age of Monsters. Where the previous Age laid the foundations of Galbar and the Spheres to make them habitable, the Age of Monsters is the time for gods to really flex their creative powers in creating life both mundane and extraordinary. While time was uncertain in the previous Age, what is apparent is that enough time has elapsed for the ecosystems and lifeforms created in the Age of Creation to take root and fill their habitats.
This Age, FP can be used for the following things:
Creation of ecosystems.
Creation of extraordinary yet unintelligent species.
Creation of individual beasts of phenomenal power.
Conferring abilities upon species or peoples.
Blessing, cursing, praising or censuring beings, but only to make them supernatural, extraordinary or monstrous.
It has been decided that intelligent/sapient species can NOT be bought with FP during this Age (although individual beasts of phenomenal power may be intelligent), although such races can be made using MP. For now the focus is on filling the world with weird and wonderful forms of life.
A singular droplet of water seeped through earth and stone before tumbling into the void below. It fell and fell in silence. Then, the sound of its splash suddenly and finally echoed through the cavernous expanse of a bleak hall which lay beneath the empty shell of a barren rock, which itself was perched upon the very boundary of existence as it overlooked a singular pristine jewel, which was the world called Galbar floating dark blue amidst a black sea of nothingness.
The Architect slowly rose from his throne and clenched a fist. His body's strength was fleeting, but like a faithful companion it still returned whenever he called upon it. He stood alone on a great dais. An island in the center of the flooded and utterly dark hall. Up from the deathly still waters jutted massive columns of stone. They rose to soaring heights before they finally tapered to the earth above. The Architect turned his head upward and raised his fist.
'Part,' his mind wordlessly commanded, and the earth shuddered, and a great gash opened in the ceiling as the stone above slid away. A dim attempt of light spilled into his ancient palace, spread thin; the sky outside was devoid of any sun or star save that of the many great glowing seals and bolts of magic that held the Barrier together. Where before there had been but the smallest drop, now a thousand mighty cataracts of water sheeted down from aquifers above to cascade down into his hall between the columns.
This would provide ample enough space.
The ancient reached into the unknowable nothingness of space and came to rest his hand upon one of the many intangible seals that he'd erected to protect his creation from interlopers. He faltered for a moment, but then dispelled his doubts. He had only one eye, only one ambition, and so he knew that there was only one perfect path to follow. He had meditated for many aeons and seen that this was the shortest path.
So it was with an indomitable resolve that he tightened his grip enough to shatter any matter as if it were glass. However, the seal still held firm, for it was of his making and his works were not so easily broken.
In the very instant the command had been conjured, the water’s fall ended to shout away the hall’s quiet. A rift opened a blinding flash of radiance. Primordial Light, Fire, Ruin, and Chaos wreathed the Architect’s weathered hand as the boundless energy of untold hordes of souls surged through the gap and into his world. With a voracity greater than a thousand raging waterfalls they billowed outward. His palace heaved, but by his will it endured and was preserved from the raging power of the Beyond.
Within the blink of an eye it was all over.
The one-eyed Architect was left with a cacophony of wailing souls, detached thoughts, and stray memories. Formless though they were, many were already trying to manifest forms and inflict themselves upon his creation. Though loathsome to his senses, all of them were of use. Some more than others. He needed to separate the grain from the chaff.
"Baser beings, your place is yonder," he decreed, and suddenly the discordant choir was all but snuffed. All but a few of the greatest souls were banished from his palace into the cold space of their new plane.
'I must rest, now,' he whispered, barely audible, as he sank back into his throne. His one unflinching eye bored into each and every one of the remaining souls from the middle of his strange face as they took their natural shapes.
The air was laden with divine essence, and it seeped into the spirits assembled before him. It made them into something more.
He waited in utter silence, his brown flesh statuesque to the point of blending into the rock of his throne. He was entirely invisible if not for the power that he radiated, the air that simmered about him, and of course that unnerving oculus that seemed to dominate his skull, and indeed the entire room.
"I bid you welcome to the realm of my creation," his words finally resonated. "I am the Architect of this place, of these Spheres. I have chosen you serendipitous few to be my builders, my hands, the extension of my will. There is much work that remains before us."
Massive crystals broke the surface of the dark depths of the water. They rose up like creeping fingers from below, then floated like icebergs, and then slowly parted with the water and came to levitate in the air. "You know what must be done," he declared, and suddenly they did.
The first among, some floating face of fire, timidly ascended into the air and came to rest upon one of the crystal platforms a short ways above. For just those first few moments, all of them were one, at peace, and knew each other perfectly; they sensed face’s name, saw the turmoil in his mind, and felt his trepidation. But they also felt a strange fire deep within him that had been kindled--like a shepherd witnessing his flock's escape, Katharsos wanted nothing more than to chase after all those fleeing souls that had been cast out into space.
With the ancient god's order echoing behind, Katharsos felt the crystal accelerate to some unknowable speed, the power of its binding him safely to its surface even as it soared through the darkness of the void.
Each of the remaining gods simultaneously became once more aware of the Architect's unwavering gaze. His sight had a smell, wretched, in thought and in body. And with it was little time left to comprehend further. That giant pupil defied logic and made eye contact with each and every one of the scattered gods at the same time, silently commanding them to take their places.
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 also have a bastard child named [url=https://www.roleplayerguild.com/topics/174472-civilization-iii-a-new-world/ooc#post-4760762]Civilization III: A New World[/url]...
<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>! I also have a bastard child named <a href="https://www.roleplayerguild.com/topics/174472-civilization-iii-a-new-world/ooc#post-4760762">Civilization III: A New World</a>... </div>