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”So…” Atalantia spoke up after a long moment of silence. ”Do you have some thoughts in regards to the various gods of this world?” Atalantia, Karamir, and Pyrdon had been traveling about for some time. Most of the time had been filled with viewing the landscape and Atalantia teasing Karamir. The last few hours, however, had been spent in relative silence. At least as silent as possible given Pyrdon thunderous steps.

Pyrdon shifted his head, almost as if he meant to answer the question, but seemed to change his mind after a moment. It was impossible for any present to determine whether it was because he had no real opinion, felt it wasn’t appropriate for him to judge the various gods, or simply decided the question was directed at Karamir. Instead the massive dinosaur simple continued on his course, his head occasionally swaying from side to side as he watched the landscape, and various creatures in it, around them.

Karamir shook his head. ”I only know what Kalmar told me,” he said, raising his voice to be heard over Pyrdon’s thundering steps. ”Orvus is dangerous, Shengshi is stubborn, Chopstick is strange, Phystene is good. I haven’t met them, so how can I form my own opinions?”

”Fair enough. All I know I’ve obtained from mother. I know that she would never lie to me, but I’m sure even she would say she isn’t exactly an unbiased source of information.” Atalantia shrugged. ”I agree with you that Orvus is dangerous. He’s a foe we’ll have to completely defeat eventually. Shengshi… is something of an enigma to mother and I find him to be a bit odd as well. Chopstick is… probably a being to be wary of. As for Kalmar:” she looked over her shoulder at Karamir and gave him a smile. ”Well he seems like a cool guy. Maybe I should ask him to take me out to dinner some time.”

Karamir blinked in confusion, unsure if he heard that correctly. ”Whut?” he asked, after a moment had passed.

”Guess that joke went over your head.” Atalantia said with a sigh. ”Maybe someday you’ll get it.”

”No, what did you say? I really don’t think I heard you correctly…” Karamir said, the confused expression not leaving his face.

”What? I was just joking about asking Kalmar out to dinner.”

That only served to bemuse him even further. Eventually, he shook the feeling off. He did not understand this woman. ”I don’t see how that’s a joke. And besides, based on the memories he shared with me, I think he’d prefer to go with your mother,” Karamir said with a shrug.

Atalantia let out a soft chuckle. ”Well wish him the best of luck on my behalf next time you see him then. I think that, given mother used to be a plant, or something, that he’s got his work cut out for him.

”Where is your mother, anyway?” Karamir asked her.

”Honestly? I have no idea whatsoever. She told me she’d check in on me every once in a while, but didn’t give me the ability to send her a message.

”If she’s close enough” Pyrdon spoke up, She might be able to hear me.

”Wha-” Atalantia had just begun the question when Pyrdon opened his mouth and let out a roar.

”Ok, well that was less than pleasant.” Atalantia commented, wincing from the ringing in her ears. ”Like, give us a warning next time please.”

”You know you can just contact her by praying, right!?” Karamir shouted, holding his hands to his ears. ”Any mortal can do it, to any god! Kalmar told me!”

”Wait. WHAT?! Pyrdon why didn’t you tell me?!”

”I’m not the one with a massive amount of information implanted directly into my head by a goddess.” Pyrdon answered dryly. Atalantia scowled at the back of his head, which he was obviously oblivious of, before closing her eyes and ‘praying’ as Karamir had said she could. Her eyes shot open as Pyrdon came to a sudden stop, her hands grasping for handholds as she started to slip off of his back. Once she was settled and no longer at risk of falling off she followed Pyrdon’s gaze.

Phystene stood on the forest floor before them, waving at the three mortals with a soft smile on her face.

”Huh… well it actually worked. Phystene waved her hand in a wider motion and suddenly the ringing in both Atalantia’s and Karamir’s eyes subsided.

Karamir climbed down, jumping the last few feet and landing on the ground with a soft thud. He saw Phystene and his eyebrows raised slightly. Kalmar had not told him how to speak to the other gods. Awkwardly, he returned her wave and kept his mouth shut.

Pyrdon lowered his head to the ground so that Atalantia could slide off and stand next to Karamir. ”Hey mom. This is Kalson. Kalmar’s first mortal.”

”Hello Kalson.” Her smile seemed to widen ever so slightly. ”I hope my daughter hasn’t been giving you too hard of a time.”

”I am the best companion anyone could ever ask for!” Atalantia responded with mock indignation. Phystene only shook her head, her smile turning to one of amusement.

”My name is Karamir,” Karamir corrected with a frown.

”I figure if we all keep calling him Kalson it’ll eventually stick.”

Phystene rolled her eyes. ”Stop being rude to the young man.”

”Yes mother.” Her tone made it abundantly clear that the moment Phystene was absent she would resume her previous behavior.

”So Kalso- Karamir. How have you found life here?”

”I…” Karamir began, but was unsure how to continue. How could he describe it? He took a deep breath, and all the thoughts he had for the past few days came pouring out. ”Everything either wants to kill me or run away from me. Aside from Kalmar and your daughter, there has been nobody else to talk to. I drink, I eat, I sleep, and then I wake up and do it all again. What’s the point?” he asked, his voice a mix of curiosity and weariness.

”I suppose that would be… awfully lonely.” Phystene said after a moment. ”What did Kalmar tell you. Why did he bring you into this world?”

”He said he created me so that I could survive, adapt, and change…” Karamir said. ”And that I need to be able to do those things on my own if I want to become stronger.”

Phystene seemed to think for a moment before speaking again. ”It sounds like you need to create your own purpose in life. Perhaps you could produce some offspring? Or go on great hunts in Kalmar’s name?”

”I can’t produce offspring, and unlike your daughter I have no interest in fornicating with wolves,” Karamir sighed. ”That just leaves hunting… but is that all there is?”

Phystene gave her daughter a bemused look, but chose not to comment about any possible fornication with wolves.”Perhaps I can solve your offspring problem.” Phystene commented. ”But it sounds like that won’t resolve your underlying problem. I’m afraid there probably isn’t all that much I can do to help you. Some of us are lucky to find our purpose in life early on. Others.... Must expend some effort to find theirs. It may be difficult on you now, but eventually you’ll find that thing that gives you pleasure in life and the gift of purpose.”

Karamir frowned. Her words, though softer than Kalmar’s, more or less meant the exact same thing. It was not what he wanted to hear, nor did he find it helpful in any way. ”Then what should I do?” he asked her. ”Wander the land until either I die or something new happens?”

Phystene let out a soft sigh and gave a sad shake of her head. [color=forestgreen]”You hear, but don’t listen. You are not some rock stuck in the ground, unable to affect your surroundings except in a passive way. You are a living, thinking being. Don’t wait for a purpose. Seek it! Does a hawk simply wait for its meal to amble on over to it, keel over, and die? Of course not. The hawk takes flight and seeks out its next meal. You need to find your purpose. Or make it where there was no purpose before.”

”But when the hawk finds its meal, it only goes on to eat another. Why? It eats to continue eating. Then it dies and gets eaten by something else. How can I find a purpose beyond that? Where do I look?”

”That’s not a question I’m capable of answering.” Phystene admitted after a moment. ”I wish I had all the answers you seek, truly I do, but unfortunately the world doesn’t work that way.”

Karamir remained silent and grit his teeth. This was of no help. She would not tell him anything that his creator had not told him already. But there had to be something more. There had to be! He glanced at Atalantia, and then at Pyrdon. ”I’ll find my own path, then.” he said at last, with bitterness in his voice, and turned away.

”Sorry.” Phystene said and truly sounded like she meant it. ”I would help you, if I could. Perhaps in the future I will be able to, once you have found your way. Yes. I’ll give you a boon. Perhaps a power of some kind. A mate? Give some thought. Some real thought. And when you are ready pray to me.”

Karamir stopped in his tracks. For a moment, he almost looked back. Then he clenched his fists. ”I’ll think about it,” he said quietly, and continued walking.

”Good.” She said before turning to Atalantia. ”Now as for you…. Let’s make a few changes.” She walked over to Atalantia and placed a hand on her head, pouring a small amount of power into her. ”I’m giving you the same aura of fertility as the vitasaurs.” She said in answer to the question in Atalantia’s eyes. ”And I have been thinking that I should provide you with some… strength of your own. It wouldn’t do if you died of old age while I was looking away. Or if some foul beast of Orvus’ blundered upon you.” She poured yet more power into Atalantia, empowering her until she became a being beyond a mere mortal, a hero of sorts. ”Now go. Observe the world and see what the other gods have been up to.” She then turned around and disappeared into a nearby tree.

”Bye mom.” Atalantia said.




After having taken her leave of Atalantia and Pyrdon, Phystene had leasurily wandered the forests of Kalgrun, letting her mind wander as her body did. She would certainly have to keep tabs on her new daughter, but felt confident that simply contacting her every once in awhile would suffice. Atalantia was no fool and had Pyrdon to watch her back, at least on this continent. Of course Pyrdon posed a small problem in and of himself.

He was massive. Massive creatures, unfortunately, required massive amounts of food. And in Pyrdon’s case that food had to be meat. For now he was fine, especially if he wasn’t too active, but Phystene would have to be sure to work quickly to provide him with that food. Thankfully the continent was literally covered in forest, which could be, in a sense, converted into meat.

And it was with that train of thought that Phystene found herself stepping into an area lacking trees. Or more precisely she had stepped into an area of crushed trees and other plants. She raised an eyebrow as she looked around her, seeing that the area was actually quite large. Stretching out her senses, she could tell that there were other similar such clearings that stretched out in a line. ”What the?”

It was almost as if a large creature, something the size of if not larger than Pyrdon, had been stomping around the place. Had Kalmar made such a creature? Phystene was slightly annoyed by the destruction, but the surrounding forest was already beginning to reclaim the spaces and Phystene’s mere presence was speeding up that process.

The cleared areas were not a concern, but the… -creature?- that had made them certainly made the need for large sources of food more of an immediate concern. It wouldn’t do for the large creatures of the continent to go extinct simply because their creators had failed to provide them with food.

With that in mind Phystene went to work. Simple lizards would form a good basis for what she wanted to create. So, much like with Pyrdon, she took that template and made it larger, much larger. Only the largest of these creatures would rival Pyrdon in size, but their sheer numbers would be enough to keep him and other large creatures fed. Of course it wouldn’t do if these new creatures ate all of the plant life on the continent. There was a simple solution to that, of course. She would just have to make it so that each of these creatures possessed an aura of fertility, much like the Branch of the World Tree possessed. And so she added that to the template she was working with, nodding in contentment with her work before bringing the new creatures to life, sprinkling the continent of Kalgrun with them.

”Phystene,” Kalmar seemed to appear from nowhere. He emerged from the trees, his aura invisible until now. He glanced up at one of her newest creations. ”We need to talk.”

”Kalmar, how good it is to see you.” Phystene greeted her peer. “What do you think of my latest work? I think these will serve nicely as prey for the large creatures we are sure to make in the future.” She frowned for a moment before adding “I don’t suppose you would have any good name suggestions for these creatures?”

Kalmar continued to examine them, stroking his chin. He noted that the forest was beginning to slowly mend itself with their presence. They were more than just prey, he realized. ”I’m not sure.... Vitasaurs?” he said with a shrug.

“That sounds like a good name.” Phystene said. She couldn’t but help and wonder, drly, if Atalantia would agree with her. She looked at the nearby vitasaur for a moment before shaking her head softly and turning towards Kalmar. “I spoke with Asceal not too long ago. She agreed to support our efforts against Orvus and his kind.”

”I spoke to her as well,” Kalmar informed her, before his expression turned grim. ”Much has happened since I last saw you, and most of it isn’t good. I don’t know where to start.”

“Just go in chronological order then.”

Once again, Kalmar stroked his chin in thought. He sat down on a nearby boulder. ”Well… Orvus has a daughter.” he decided to open up with. Phystene’s eyes narrowed, but she didn’t interrupt Kalmar. ”She’s nothing like him, though. Might even be the opposite. He cast her out, didn’t even give her a name. My avatar rescued her, and I named her Arya.” he shrugged. ”I did my best to teach her to avoid her father’s path, and I think I succeeded, but she left.”

“I fail to see how Orvus could create anything other than some twisted abomination.” Phystene commented after a moment. “Are you sure she truly was what you believed her to be?”

”I was surprised too, and then I looked inside her head. There were no signs of hostility or thoughts of betrayal. Unlike her father, she enjoys creation. If she has any failings, she is naive, hot-tempered, and perhaps a bit too trusting, but she is not her father. If you encounter her, I would request that you don’t hold her father’s actions against her.” Kalmar advised, his tone guarded.

“I don’t believe that.” Phystene said flatly. She held a hand up to forestall any argument Kalmar might start. “I’m not saying that you are lying or even incorrect, I just can’t believe Orvus could create such a being. Not without seeing her for myself. It… defies his nature.” Her gaze shifted towards the sky in thought. “Perhaps Atalantia might be able to shed some light on this for me.... I’ll have to ask her later.”

”Who is Atalantia?” Kalmar asked. He noticed a thick broken branch on the ground nearby. He picked it up, then pulled out the knife that Chopstick had given him. He cut off a fist-sized piece, and then began to carve away at it.

“She is my daughter.” Phystene answered with a grin that only an overly smug parent could possess. “I realized I needed an advisor, much like Shengshi’s Xiaoli, to help me combat Orvus. Atalantia insists that she is more of a strategists than an advisor, but I honestly don’t understand what the difference is.”

”So many gods are making children,” Kalmar noted. ”It’s good that you have a second opinion. That’s part of why I made Arryn, though I don’t consider him my child. But back to Orvus… I confronted him not too long ago.”

“It is the nature of life to propagate and leave offspring.” Phystene commented. “And Atalantia is of my blood, but at the same time a fully separate being. It only makes sense to consider her my child.” She shrugged. “But more importantly: how did this confrontation of yours go? Surely you fared better against Orvus than I.”

For a moment, Kalmar was silent. When he spoke, it was not to address the more pressing question. ”I feel like it loses something when you can snap your fingers and will a being into existence, knowing what it already needs to know…” he continued whittling.

”As for Orvus… I half-expected it to come to a fight, but it didn’t. We only talked. I asked him why he wanted to destroy all life. He said it was because he wanted to die. His soul was frayed, and he said he would do the same to everyone else’s soul so they would wish for death just like him. It was madness, so I called him out. I told him that he was making excuses - that he wished to live, and that if he did not change, I would kill him.” Kalmar shrugged. ”I don’t know what effect my words had. He left without saying anything. So we must assume the worst and continue to prepare.”

“Of course” Phystene agreed. “Orvus is mad and nothing the two of us say to him will change that.” She let out a long sigh. “I just wish I had an inkling as to why the Architect summoned such a being. Does he have some kind of plan or does he simply not care?” She shook her head slowly. “And so after your confrontation with Orvus what happened next? Is that when you went to speak with Asceal?”

Once again, Kalmar did not immediately answer the more pressing question. This was not like him. ”I wondered that myself. Maybe he did not know what he was summoning. Maybe he chose us based on some quality other than our intentions. Maybe he thought we needed challenges to overcome - and our challenges don’t end with Orvus.”

Kalmar turned the piece of wood over in his hand and began whittling the other side. Something was beginning to take shape. [colorr=orange]”While I was talking to Orvus, I had sent Arryn and Arya to explore Dragon’s Foot - I wanted them to learn more about the world beyond what I had told them, and I also wished for them to develop independence. But when they arrived, Shengshi captured them and forced them aboard his ship.”[/color]

“What? Why?”

Kalmar began to put more force behind his cuts. ”I don’t know. Though he forced them onboard, he still extended a welcome. He kept asking Arya questions, and when my name came up his attitude changed. You might remember that he and I did not get along during that first meeting. He called my teachings wrong, insulted me, and accused Arryn of spying on him. Arryn told him to hold his tongue. Then, Shengshi threatened to kill Arryn if he did not leave. Arryn was ready to attack, but Arya stepped in and offered to serve Shengshi so Arryn could go free. After that, Arryn came back to me and told me what happened. I couldn’t let Shengshi’s threats go unanswered.”

“I don’t understand Shengshi. He’s supposed to be a deity of nature.” Frustration crept into Phystene’s voice. “Instead he acts like some damned avatar of civilization. I had thought the issues between the two of you were a minor thing, but apparently Shengshi hadn’t seen it that way. So… how did your fight go? I’m guessing you established your dominance over him?”

”Until Arryn came back to me, I didn’t even know I had any issue with the snake. I don’t understand him either. When I arrived I was furious, and though he tried to dance around the issue, he surrendered quickly enough. He agreed to never again threaten me or my followers, he would never come within sight of Kalgrun without my permission, and he would give Arya her freedom if she wanted it.”

Kalmar paused, remaining silent for a few seconds, and what he said next came out as somewhat embarrassed. ”I had him bow, too. I was petty and I regret it. The other concessions had been enough. After that, Arya found out he had lied to her about something involving her father, so she blew a hole in his ship and left. As for Shengshi… somehow he and I parted ways on friendly terms, I think.”

“You have certainly been through a lot my friend.” Phystene commented after a moment of silence. “Let us hope that the matter between you and Shengshi has been settled once and for all.” She let out another sigh. “Please tell me you didn’t have any other… run ins with our peers while I was away.”

Kalmar sighed. ”My stories don’t end there. I wish they did, but they don’t. After I resolved the issue with Shengshi, I went to meet Asceal - she had comforted Arryn after he was sent away by Arya, and I think that if not for her, Shengshi might not have been so willing to yield. She told me that some of the other deities - Sartravius, Katharsos, and Melantha - have gone mad. I told her to let me speak with them before she made any rash judgements, and I still need to do that. In the name of our alliance, I also helped her create some creatures that would carry out her will. And I suspect that she has even more difficulty naming things than we do,” he commented drily.

“I had much the same conversation out our peers with her as well.” Phystene said. “And to be honest I would take her judgements with a grain of salt. I don’t think she’s trying to mislead us or has any maliciousness in mind, but I feel quite certain that she is using a different set of criteria than you and I do. Melantha, for instance, is by her nature the very opposite of Asceal, yet I am very reluctant to call her evil or insane.” She shrugged. “Still it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to keep an eye on those deities. Also…” She let out a long sigh, “I must warn you that Atalantia will almost certainly end up mocking you at some point over your naming sense. She’s already done so to me.” She stated dryly.

Kalmar gave his small smile. ”My thoughts exactly. I’ll need to find a way into the Celestial spheres in order to meet Melantha and Katharsos. Perhaps Asceal has misjudged them, or perhaps not. A question - did you name Atalantia, or did she name herself?”

“She was rather insistent on naming herself.” Phystene answered dryly. “And she also named Pyrdon before I could give him a name.”

”This Atalantia shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Pyrdon is fine, but her own name is a mouthful.” Kalmar said, his tone matching Phystene’s in dryness. ”But back to more serious conversation. After that, the next deity I encountered was Chopstick Eyes. She is… strange, and unpredictable. One of her creations got loose, so I helped her recapture it. In return she gave me this knife…” he paused his carving and held up the Knife of Friendship for Phystene to see, ”and although she did not join our alliance, she agreed to help me fight aggressors.”

Phystene’s eyes latched on to Kalmar’s knife and although she didn’t step back, it was evident that she had to resist the urge to do so. “I don’t trust this Chopstick Eyes. And you shouldn’t either. She is a deity of civilization. Worse yet one of greed. She will stab you in the back the moment it becomes profitable She spoke the word with utter disgust, “to do so. And she won’t shed a single tear as she converts your blood into her wealth.”

Kalmar raised a surprised eyebrow. His impression of Chopstick had, overall, not been a positive one, yet Phystene spoke of her with loathing. ”She did not strike me as reliable, no. I won’t be sharing any plans with her, and I won’t involve her unless for some reason her help becomes absolutely necessary. Anyway, there is another god I must tell you about. Narzhak.”

“Wait… is he the one who put a bunch of holes in our forest?”

”Yes… and more.” Kalmar said. ”He stomped through this area without a care for what was beneath him, not bothering to fly or adopt a smaller form. Then, he found my trolls.” The Hunter’s tone was bitter. ”He changed them. They were already angry, aggressive, and hungry, but he took those traits and drove them into excess. He made them kill for pleasure, and made them unafraid to feast upon their own. Those two things combined may be the death of the entire species. And I was unable to stop any of it - by the time I found him, the damage was already done.”

“He’s not still in the region is he? It would be most… unpleasant if he did the same thing to my vitasaurs.” Her expression turned into a scowl. “What was the point in even doing such a thing to your… trolls you called them? Why would he want to intentionally push a species towards extinction?”

”He doesn’t think they will go extinct. He thinks he has made them stronger. What he fails to realize is that in order for a species to survive, strength must rest in more than just the individual. Infighting does strengthen the individual, but it weakens the pack. I do not think he thought it through as much as he claims. He does not care for consequences.” Again, Kalmar sighed. ”No, he is not still in the region. He took some of the creatures - ghouls, he called them - for himself, and then left. But he might come back.”

“Pyrdon is here now and while he probably isn’t strong enough to hold any deity off on his own, he should be able to buy enough time for either you or I to come back him up.” Phystene crossed her arms over her chest and leaned against a nearby tree. “Still it would probably be a good idea to come up with some other countermeasures. And we will need to do something about these ghouls. I’m concerned about them causing even greater damage to the ecosystem. I could task Pyrdon with hunting them down, but he’s a bit big to be truly efficient at doing so. And it would be an inelegant solution to the problem anyways.”

”I have some ideas,” Kalmar said. He stopped carving, closed his eyes, and focused. For a full minute he was unresponsive. Inside his head, visions flashed. One second he was a direwolf stalking a deer. The next, he was one of Narzhak’s abominations, mauling a troll. After that he was a griffin, carrying a carcass back to its nest. He flipped through countless other perspectives. Then, his eyes opened. ”I have just granted myself a new ability. It will allow me to monitor the continent, by seeing through the eyes of any predator. Even if we can’t respond to all incursions, we will at least know that they happened.”

“Can you see through Pyrdon’s eyes?” Phystene asked, leaning forward slightly. ”It’d be great to check in on him every once in a while since I tasked him with protecting the continent.”

”I can try,” Kalmar answered, then frowned. ”Where is he, and what does he look like?”

”He’s…. A massive lizard with a large head and some feathers. And she shouldn’t be too far away actually. He’s likely with Atalantia at the moment, unless she has decided to leave the continent.” Phystene paused as an idea occurred to her. She sent a mental message to Pyrdon and was rewarded a moment later with a distant roar. “That was him.”

Kalmar nodded, and once again he focused. He could sense the presence of multiple beings in that area. The strongest one, he assumed was Pyrdon. He attempted to enter Pyrdon’s mind, and then frowned, as he found himself blocked, as if he was hitting a wall. ”I… can’t,” he spoke aloud. ”You made him intelligent? His mind might be too advanced. Tell him to let me in.”

“He’s about as intelligent as Atalantia.” Phystene confirmed. She sent another mental message to Pyrdon before giving Kalmar a nod of her head. “He’ll try to let you in.”

Kalmar tried again, and this time, succeeded in slipping into the creature’s mind. ”It’s working.” What Pyrdon saw, he saw. It was immediately clear that Pyrdon was a massive beast. His gaze naturally rested well above the treeline, making it all too easy for him to see a few vitasaurs in the distance. Pyrdon gazed at them for a moment before his gaze shifted towards the forest floor, where a being who seemed similar and yet distinctly different to Phystene was waving at Pyrdon, or perhaps she was waving at the being looking through Pyrdon’s eyes.

Kalmar shifted his focus to a nearby bird that was watching Pyrdon, so he could see what the beast actually looked like. ”I’m impressed, he said to Phystene, as he stepped out of the bird’s mind. ”He’s a mighty beast.”

“As is befitting of my champion.” Phystene agreed. “He will protect Atalantia and this continent. And I believe he will do so well.”

”I don’t doubt it. I should create such a creature myself. But first, there is one more thing I must tell you about. Vakk, the God of Speech, and Li’Kalla, the Goddess of Rain.”

“Please tell me they didn’t do something insane and destructive as well.”

”I know only what I heard. Arryn tells me that there is a species of bird going around screaming it to all who can hear. As the story goes, Vakk attacked Li’Kalla. Somehow, he was able to fragment her soul and transform her into a monster. Before I parted ways with Chopstick Eyes, she had said that Li’Kalla was in trouble, and rushed to her aid. Knowing what I know now, I should have went with her.”

“Of course. Because its not bad enough that half of our peers have to be destructive and insane. The other half has to be made destructive and insane.” Phystene brought a hand up to message her now aching forehead. “How… why... This is getting out of control. I think we need to make a few companions for Pyrdon. Or strengthen him. Or both.”

”Arryn is searching for Li’Kalla as we speak. I will find out the truth about this, one way or another. But yes, Asceal had the right idea - we need to create creatures to carry out our will. And if that doesn’t work, at least we will have each other to rely on.” Kalmar rose to his feet. He sheathed the knife and pocketed the half-finished carving. ”Shall we begin?”

“Atalantia said much the same thing, though that was specifically about me fighting Orvus. It was why I made Pyrdon in the first place.” She pushed herself away from her train and walked over to Kalmar. “Do you have any specific ideas in mind?”

”I do.” Kalmar nodded. He floated into the air. ”Come with me.” With that, he turned and flew to the southwest.

The minutes passed, and, rather annoyingly, he noticed Phystene was not following him. But he did not wait. The idea had taken root in his head and he wanted to see it carried out. He came upon the lake he had made - the Hunter’s Eye, and flew to the island in the middle, which was now well-forested after so much time had passed. He landed, and briefly he glanced out across the water to see if Phystene had decided to follow him after all.

“So what’s this idea of yours?” Phystene asked, her voice coming from behind Kalmar. She was leaning against a nearby tree, having materialized behind him as if she had possessed some kind of secret passageway. In a sense she did.

Kalmar was mildly surprised at Phystene’s reappearance, but kept it hidden. ”Right now, nothing over the top. Just a larger version of something I have already made.” He looked out to the lake, extended a hand, and closed his eyes.

A black-coated wolf appeared above the water, indistinguishable from an ordinary direwolf. But then, it began to grow. And grow. And grow. Nearly one hundred meters in length, the wolf stood before them. And it stood. Its feet rested upon the water as if it was solid ground. The wolf reared its head back and let out a howl that could be heard for miles.

”Fenris, Guardian of the Hunter’s Eye!” Kalmar proclaimed with pride. ”You will protect this island, this lake, the marsh, and the surrounding forest, from those who seek to destroy it. That is your duty!”

“And a fine guardian he is. Though,” She lowered her voice, “mine is bigger than yours.” She gave Kalmar a wink to ensure he knew she was joking. Raising her voice she continued “I’m sure Pyrdon will be overjoyed to learn he has a new and powerful comrade.”

Kalmar smiled back. ”There are more important things than size,” he tried, and failed, to say in a serious tone. ”I will not stop with his creation. Meet me in the mountains to the north.” And with that, Kalmar moved to take flight once more.

Phystene placed a restraining hand on his shoulder. “Do you have a specific location in the mountains in mind or is anywhere in the general region fine?”

”Anywhere,” Kalmar answered.

Phystene smiled at him as she literally pulled him into a nearby tree. Their essences hurled towards the mountains in the north at incredible speeds, although quite reduced from what Phystene could have achieved on her own. Seconds later she pulled Kalmar out through another tree and gestured at their new vantage point from the peek of a mountain. “Will this location fit your needs?”

Kalmar nodded, impressed by her display of power. ”Yes.” And as he had before, he extended a hand into the distance, closed his eyes, and focused.

This time a troll appeared before them, suspended in the air. Not one of Narzhak’s ghouls, but a proper troll. It expanded in size, reaching eighty meters in height, its muscles bulging, and tusks grew from its mouth. Then, Kalmar allowed it to fall. The earth shook from its impact, but the creature was undamaged. It looked up at Kalmar and Phystene, as if awaiting instructions. ”Gorm, the Alpha Troll!” he named it. ”You will hunt Narzhak’s monsters, you will shield your kind from their excesses, and you will save your species from extinction. Go forth and do so!”

“Hopefully he’ll prove to be up to the task.” Phystene said as the alpha troll turned and left. “I’ll have Pyrdon provide what aid he can, of course, but as I stated earlier, he’s not exactly set up to hunt creatures that much smaller than he.”

”No,” Kalmar said. ”Fenris and Gorm are more localized. Pyrdon must guard where they are not, in order to ensure maximum protection. I will create more at a later date to make it easier for him.”

“Very well.” Phystene said after a moment. “I’ll be making other large creatures like Pyrdon in the future as well, but I’m going to wait and see how effective he is at his job first before doing so. Might as well ensure that any future creatures I make are best equipped for their tasks after all.”

Kalmar nodded. ”That would be best.” He turned to Phystene and then, with that slight smile of his, he extended a hand. She tilted her head to the side slightly before extending her own hand towards his. Kalmar clasped it, and then after a moment he pulled her in and wrapped an arm around her. ”Thank you,” he stated firmly.

“You are most welcome” She answered, giving his back a light pat. “We nature deities have to stand together after all.”

After taking her leave of Asceal, Phystene spent some time wandering the island. She wanted to take in her new creations. Enjoy their unique light while observing how the acted. But that was but one reason, and a minor one at that, as to why she spent time leisurely wandering about. She needed time to think. To work on some of the problems she had found herself with. Orvus was certainly the first, and largest, of those issues but some of the things Asceal said had helped nudge Phystene’s mind into considering other sources of trouble. She had completely forgotten about Melantha. At the same time she had never considered Melantha to be as great a threat as Asceal seemed to consider her, at least not yet. Phystene could understand Melantha’s actions and couldn’t fault the goddess for seeking a balance between light and dark. Katharsos was a deity Phystene hadn’t even considered up until Asceal had mentioned him. She wasn’t quite ready to deem him a threat. Death was, after all, an important component of nature, thus Phystene couldn’t find any fault with him overseeing that aspect. Assuming that was all. If he was anything like Orvus, seeking only to spread death and destruction with no regard for the balance of nature and the suffering of others….

Phystene needed to gather more power and strengthen the life of Galbar if nature was to defeat Orvus and the other forces of destruction. And, as she had previously discussed with her fellow god, Kalmar’s continent would serve as the base from which she created that strength. It was past time she returned. And it was past time she stopped simply running from continent to continent.

She gathered some of her power, refining it before merging it back into her being. All plant life on Galbar was linked, in one way or another, through the World Tree. If she were to merge her essence with a nearby plant, it was possible that she could travel along that link to another plant to a distant location. Traveling in this method would still take a measurable amount of time, but it was certainly going to be faster than running. The other issue was that she couldn’t merge with any random plant. It would have to be something sufficiently large enough to house her essence in, no matter how fleeting her presence would be. She would have to use trees. But that was fine, trees were almost everywhere on Galbar now.

She turned to a nearby tree, its glowing leaves swaying gently in the wind. Leaning against the tree, she let herself fade into it. For a moment she and the tree were one being, inseparable in every way it matter, and for that moment she felt as she had before the Architect had summoned her. But then the moment passed, and with it behind her she stretched out her senses towards Kalmar’s continent and the trees that called it home. Finding a tree near where she went out she reached towards it and in doing so separated her essence from the tree she had melded with.

The sensation was… odd, but not necessarily uncomfortable. As her essence traveled between the two trees, she technically didn’t exist. Well… that wasn’t entirely true. Her essence, her soul, certainly still existed, but not in a way it could interact with Galbar in any way. She didn’t know how long or fast she had traveled, but on some level Phystene could sense she was moving at a speed that far outstripped her running speed. With a jarring suddenness her essence all but crashed into the tree she had set as her destination.

“That,” Phystene commented to herself as she slowly separated herself from the tree, “is going to take some getting used to.”

She took a moment to gather herself before moving on to the next task. She had to think of a way of combating Orvus, but her mind simply didn’t work that way. She was a being of nature and her mind naturally defaulted to fight or flight, not sustained campaigns of attrition. As much as she hated to admit it, the greedy ones from her original world would have felt right at home waging war on Orvus. In a sense she had spent centuries observing the greedy ones and should have been able to use that knowledge of her own ends, but it wasn’t quite that easy. Before the Architect had summoned her she was in a more dream-like state than anything, aware of what was going on in the world, but not truly cognizant. On top of all that her mind simply didn’t work in the right way. It was like she had been a child watching ants. She could observe them, but had no real understanding of why they did what they did.

But that didn’t mean Phystene couldn’t make a being whose mind did work that way. She hadn’t missed how the mortal Xiaoli helped Shengshi. He had called her an… advisor. Yes, that was what Phystene would make. An advisor!

This mortal would be special. And not just because she was to be Phystene’s advisor. She would serve as a means for Phystene to experiment with ideas for any future race she might want to create. And she would be the first being made from Phystene’s blood.

She bit her thumb, intentionally drawing blood. She let a few drops of her ichor fall from the wound onto the ground before healing the injury. Then she focused on the ichor. The ichor responded to her will, drawing a few materials from the forest floor around it as it began to grow and assume a more solid consistency. As it grew it took a more definite shape, emulating the two arms and legs form Phystene herself possessed. But once the ichor had assumed the general shape of an adult female humanoid, that was were its similarities to Phystene began to end. Instead of feet the new being grew hooves. Her wooden antlers quickly thickened and took a shape similar to the horns of a ram. And her skin and hair were closer to silver or white than anything else.

Phystene couldn’t help but smile as the new being, her daughter, took her first breath. And then Phystene proceeded to cram as much of her knowledge and observations of the greedy ones as she could into her daughter’s head. It was only after her daughter had fallen to her knees and let out a scream in pain that it occured to Phystene that the mind of a mortal couldn’t handle quite as much as that of a deity.

“Are you alright?” Phystene asked as she knelt down next to her daughter.

“I… just give me a moment.” Her daughter gasped out. Phystene put a comforting hand on the mortal’s shoulder and patiently waited. After a few moments the mortal said “I… think I’ve sorted everything out.”

“I’m sorry.” Phystene said. “I should have known better than to do that to you.”

“You should have.” The mortal said, although the lack of heat in her tone and small smile took any bite out of the agreement. “The least you could have done was give me a name first. Actually don’t. Please. I’ll come up with my own name.” The hurt look Phystene gave the mortal quickly had her adding “Not that I think your name is bad or anything. It works for you, I just think I should come up with my own name.”

“Is my naming sense really that bad?”

“Eh… do you really want me to answer that.” Phystene simply stared at the mortal for a moment before closing her eyes and shaking her head. “So I was thinking Atalantia would be a great name for myself.”

“And you think I have a bad naming sense?”

“Oh shut up.” The two women stared at each other for a moment before both cracked a grin and shared a short laugh.

“Do you understand why I created you?” Phystene asked after the moment had passed.

“Honestly? No. You were a little too busy cramming knowledge about a species dooming its own world to bother with a minor detail like that.”

“Well I’m glad sarcasm is working well as a coping mechanism” Phystene commented with a raised eyebrow. She then described to the mortal the state of the world, the other deities, her interactions with Orvus, and her revelation that she needed an advisor.

“I believe you need a strategist more than an advisor.” Atalantia stated once Phystene was done.

“What’s the difference?”

“In this case? Thankfully none” Atalantia slowly spun in place as she gathered her thoughts. “From your previous confrontation with this Orvus character it's clear that he has a distinct advantage on you. You really aren’t set up for combat to begin with, but the interaction between your powers and his is far worse. Facing him head on will simply result in you creating more warriors for him. Thus” She stopped spinning and faced Phystene, “you’ll need to make your own warriors to combat him in your place. Or at the very least to support any deities who may fight him on your behalf.”

“I have an idea for the first such warrior.” Phystene said after a moment. She looked around the surrounding forest for a moment before spotting one of the many lizards that called it home. “Come here child.” She beckoned and the lizard happily scurried to her. “Are you willing to be a champion of nature?” The lizard pondered her question for a moment before feeling sorrow that it was not strong enough to be a champion of anything. It was barely strong enough to keep itself alive. “Fear not,” Phystene said with a smile. “I’ll give you the strength you need.”

She poured her strength into the small lizard and as she did so it grew in strength. And its size and shape changed to meet that strength. Its back legs grew larger and strong enough to support its full body weight, causing it to have a more upright appearance. Its head grew larger too, large enough that it matched, if not surpassed, Shengshi’s boat in size, with powerful jaws and sharp teeth to match. Its scales became tough and color feathers grew to cover small portions of its body.

“That’s… one big lizard.” Atalantia commented.

“Big and durable.” Phystene said. “He’ll possess at least some ability to resist Orvus’ vile aura.”

Towering over Atalantia and Phystene, the now massive creature lowered his head to get a better look at his two companions. He looked at Atalantia with a massive eye as his telepathic voice commented “So tiny.”

“Only from your perspective, Pyrdon” Atalantia shot back.

“Pyrdon. I… like it.” The massive creature responded.

Phystene gave Atalantia a bemused smile. Atalantia responded with a smile of her own. “We both know you would have tried to name him after a flower or something. I simply could let that travesty occur.”

Phystene rolled her eyes before turning her gaze towards Pyrdon. “You are to protect this continent and Atalantia from all who would cause them harm.” The massive lizard, Phystene had to admit that Pyrdon was probably a better name than anything she would have come up with, gave a single nod of his massive head. “As for you,” She turned towards Atalantia, “continue… strategizing.”

“Sure.” Atalantia gave a shrug. “It would help a lot if I wasn’t contained here though. As nice as this continent is, staying here won’t give me much of an idea as to what your peers are up to.”

Phystene frowned for a moment before nodding slowly. “I suppose so.” She placed her hand on Atalantia’s head. “I shall grant you the power of treewalking then.”

“Treewalking? Really?”

“You can stay on this continent for all of your existence if the name bothers you so much.”

“Oh no no. That won’t be necessary.” Phystene gave her daughter a small smile.

“Do as I have ordered and enjoy life while you are at it. I’ll stay in contact.”

And with that said she melded with a nearby tree and was gone.

A Helping Hand

Phystene wandered along Kalmar’s continent, following the eastern coastline north. She took her time, walking slowly to watch the calm ocean, trees, grasses, shrubs, and even a few animals sprouting from the ground she stepped on. It was a large continent, perhaps the largest currently on Galbar, and Phystene knew that it would take a long time to cover its entirety in wilderness. In the end it would certainly be worth doing so.

After a few hours Phystene turned to look behind her, seeing a sliver of forest stretching out behind her. It was certainly a start, but it was too narrow for her tastes. A few woodland creatures, such as the squirrels that even now peered at her from the freshly grown trees, would find the thin forest comfortable enough, but most would struggle in its confines.

Phystene doubled back, only this time walking further inland to spread the growth of plants further. The new forest would by no means be large, but it would form a decent enough ecosystem in the area. For the moment.

Several more hours and Phystene was once more near the southern coast of the continent. The new forest behind her was still quite thin, but it was good enough for the moment. For a while she simply stood in place, enjoying the sound of wind rustling through the leaves, of small animals moving through the brush, and the waves of the nearby ocean.

This was a place of beauty. A place of safety. A place that she would always enjoy visiting. And it would be the place from which she would travel Home when she so wished. She called out to the World Tree, funneling some of her power to it. The World Tree answered, the ground shaking as its roots burst from the soil before her, coming together in a large arch.

To most mortals that arch would look like nothing more than an interesting formation of plants, but it was so much more. To those the World Tree allowed, it was a literal gate to Phystene’s sphere. Phystene could see that the World Tree would be… particular about who was allowed in, and she agreed wholeheartedly with its criteria. Only those who possessed no products of advanced civilization, that being of a bronze age civilization, would be allowed through. Yes, only those in touch with nature, who had yet to succumb to the greed inherent in civilization would be let in.

As Phystene admired her work she heard the voice of Asceal speak kindly in her mind, “Hello Phystene. Would you have a moment to talk? I know it’s been some time since we last spoke, but I was hoping you could help me with something.”

“Asceal? What do you need help with?”

”I’ve raised an island in the south,” Asceal elaborated, “I mean it to be a sanctuary and a gift to whatever souls come to find it. I would ask your help with sowing the land with life and preparing it for whatever inhabitants may one day reside there. If you’re willing, of course.”

“I’ll be there soon.” Phystene said after a moment. “There’s something I need to talk to you about anyways.” She directed her next words to Kalmar. “I’m going to help Asceal with her new island in the south. I’ll return shortly.”

And with that she headed off to Asceal’s island. With a little guidance from Asceal she was able to make good time and the trip itself was rather unremarkable, but the sound of the ocean made it enjoyable. As she approached the island she told Asceal “I’m here. Where can I find you?”

“At the peak of the northernmost mountain on the mainland,” As Asceal spoke a bright light blossomed on the distant mountaintop and she asked, “Can you see me Phystene?”

“I can.” Phystene said and mere moments later she had made her way to the mountaintop as well. She gazed out on Asceal’s island as she said“I hope your day has been better than mine.”

“What do you mean?” Asceal asked as her form dimmed, revealing a concerned expression, “Has something happened Phystene?”

“Orvus attacked me.” Phystene answered. “He didn’t hurt me badly, but he very well might have killed me had my bluff not worked. Even so we… accidently created some kind of abomination during our fight.” She let out a long sigh. “And Orvus made it clear before retreating that he intends to kill all of the nature deities. Kalmar and I, mostly Kalmar if we are being honest, have been working to create a pact to combat Orvus and prevent him from going through with whatever mad plans he has concocted.”

A complex series of emotions played out on Asceal’s face. The Goddess seemed to be frozen in shock for a moment before, without warning, she hugged Phystene and spoke softly, “I’m so sorry Phystene. Melantha, Katharsos, and now Orvus? Are all the other gods mad?” Asceal held on for a moment before letting go and before speaking again, this time determinedly, “I’m here if you need anything Phystene, and you can count me in on this pact of yours. We can’t let Orvus, or any of the others, get away with this insanity any longer.”

“Perhaps they are.” Phystene said quietly. “Truth be told I might have been one of them if I had remained in my original world for too much longer.” She made a wiping motion with her hand. “But that is in the past and, as pitiable as they may be, our less than fully sane peers must be at the very least isolated so that they won’t harm Galbar and those who shall call this world their home. We are already preparing to make Kalmar’s continent our bastion. A base from which we can pull back to and know we and our creations are safe should things get… out of hand. But I feel that we can prevent things from reaching that point.”

She turned to Asceal and gave her a smile. “But let us get past all this talk of doom and gloom. You asked for help spreading life here. What did you have in mind?”

“I..” Asceal hesitated before shaking her head and matching Phystene’s smile with her own, “You’re right. We can’t forget what we’re here to do. I invited you here because I wanted your help crafting a sort of life here that will exist nowhere else. I want to create a place where every creature carries its own light. Where nothing fears the dark.” The glowing Goddess paused for a second and then quickly added, “And mangos. I would like mangos.”

“Mangos?” She raised an eyebrow, giving Asceal a bemused smile. “I suppose I could make some for you.” She crossed her arms, her smile turning to a thoughtful frown. “Carrying light… So you want all the life here to be bioluminescent. Only… I’m guessing you want their light to be a bit brighter than would normally be the case. It’s doable, though I do have to say that normal plants and animals don’t glow for no reason.”

“There is a reason,” Asceal ran a hand through her glowing hair and shuddered, “Plants, animals, I don’t want any of them to be defenseless against Melantha and her darkness. At least here, in this refuge, I want them to be safe.”

“That kind of ecosystem is going to take a lot more energy to sustain than normal. We are going to have to get a bit creative because the light from there” She pointed towards the sky, “simply won’t provide enough. We might be able to syphon some energy off of the wind, but I also doubt that’ll make up the difference.” She thought for a moment. “Perhaps we could use a volcano or hotsprings to help?”

“Not a volcano,” Asceal shook her head emphatically, “I don’t think going out of our way to invite Sartravius is wise. I hesitate to judge, but in light of all that has happened his actions in the Architects palace worry me. Hot springs though… I think I can do that.”

The Goddess knelt down and pressed her hand against the dark ground. Without a word the ground below the deities began to rumble. Great jets of steam erupted from a multitude fissures that opened in the ground all across the island, many of which were visible from the mountaintop. When it was done Asceal stood up and beamed, “There we are. What comes next?”

“My turn.” Phystene answered. She held her hand out as if reaching to touch one of the new hot springs and concentrated. Normally bacteria were the lifeforms that inhabited hot springs and were capable of drawing energy from the heat and chemicals in them. While it wasn’t quite as simple as enlarging the bacteria and making them more ‘plant-like’, Phystene certainly could adapt many of those same qualities to plants themselves. Slowly trees began to grow out of and around the hotsprings, their leaves letting off a soft glow reminiscent of the World Tree’s. After a few moments grasses and shrubs began to develop, they too glowed softly. Phystene let out a soft sigh and lowered her hand. “There are your plants. Anything specific you want in regards to your animals?”

Asceal spoke as she admired the glowing trees, “Just that they have some measure of their own light, even if it’s a lesser measure than can be afford to the trees.” The Goddess paused and looked to the horizon. There the tail of the Lustrous garden was beginning to rise, heralding the coming night. She frowned, “And I’d ask they be able to defend themselves. I don’t wish for them to be vicious, but they should never be helpless. Never.”

“I understand.” Phystene said and she truly did. The thought of the monstrous angler fish she and Orvus had accidently created and what beings Orvus might model after them sent a chill through Phystene. The creatures here would certainly not be defenseless. First she created mammals. Many of them were small herbivores that possessed quills that glowed slightly. Larger herbivores possessed the mass necessary to fend off most predators. Then she created wolves and other canines. These too glowed just as Asceal wished. Then Phystene began to spread birds throughout the island. These birds were large, flightless creatures that possessed strong beaks, their feathers giving off a radiant light. Some ate leaves and fruits, others feasted on smaller creatures. All told she hadn’t the energy necessary to spread as many animals as she had plants, but the island now possessed a small and dispersed population of animals.

”What do you think?” She asked with a soft sigh. She felt drained, almost as much as when she had created the World Tree and created her first ecosystem.

“It’s beautiful,” Asceal commented as she took in the colourful and varied plants and animals that stretched out in all directions. Again she hugged Phystene, but this time just for a moment. Asceal smiled and looked to Phystene, “It’s more than I had hoped for. Thank you.”

”I’m always happy to help a friend.” Phystene answered Asceal with a smile of her own. She gazed out at the island, a contented expression on her face. “Shengshi has a habit of coming up with weird names for his creations.” She lightly commented after a moment. “He sort of makes a big deal about it.” She shrugged. “Do you have a name in mind for your island?”

“A name?” Asceal pursed her lips in thought, “It’s name is…. Is…. Issst? Ist. Istai… Istais! It’s name is Istais!” She declared with a grin. The island thus named the two deities shared a comfortable silence as the sky grew dark and the long day past. Much had happened, and much would happen, but for the moment they were content to enjoy the fruits of their labour glimmering all around them.

It was not until she had reached the continent’s western coastline before she came to a rest. She had run the entire time since leaving Shengshi and Narzhak. No, leaving didn’t tell the whole story. She had fled. But how could she not have fled? How could Narzhak stand to touch, yet alone wear, so much metal? The mere thought of it caused a primordial near-rage to grow within Phystene. Thoughts of axes and chainsaws tearing through rainforests filled her mind. Only with great effort did she force the vivid images of the dying of her original world from her thoughts.

That was in that world and she had plenty of work to do to ensure this one didn’t go down the same path. For starters she needed to help mitigate some of the risk of tsunamis washing away all of her hard work. She may have used the excuse of making coral reefs to battle tsunamis as an excuse to cover her escape, but the logic remained. But would mere reefs be enough to mitigate tsunamis? If they were rare occurrences Phystene would have said yes, but with the staggering amount of meteors and explosions her peers were apparently keen on creating….

She would need corals that would create truly massive reefs. And they would have to create them quickly. Perhaps impossibly so. But first thing was first: she would need a base from which to begin with and the stony corals from her original world were perfect for the task. They obtained nutrients both from consuming other animals and by having a symbiotic relationship with algae. This symbiotic relationship was something especially beautiful in Phystene’s eyes and certainly something she wanted to expand on. Perhaps if… yes she could expand that symbiosis to seaweeds and other aquatic plant life to allow not only more diversity, but also enable the coral to benefit from larger symbionts. That, in turn, would allow the corals themselves to grow even larger. And it would also give them the energy to build reefs quicker.

Phystene spent the next few hours refining and perfecting her new creation, forcing all thoughts and memories of metal from her mind. By the time she was done her creation, the barrier coral as she had taken to calling it, was in her mind perfection. Due to its symbiotic relationship with plants it was able to tap into some of the benefits provided by the World Tree, growing faster and larger than they otherwise would. The reefs they would build would be impressive by anyone’s standard, stretching for hundreds and thousands of kilometers across the ocean floor. Even more impressively was how the coral would quickly start building up their reefs to be even larger should they detect an incoming tsunami.

As the new barrier corals began building their new reefs off the coast of the continent, Phystene couldn’t help but pat herself on the back. They would surely be the perfect solution to the whole meteor-tsunami issue that had plagued Galbar. Now she had to build the ecosystem that would actually support the corals and their reefs. She sent her energy into the ocean, spreading seaweed, numerous crusaceans, and a plethora of beautiful and colorful fish. That would, at least in the short term, be sufficient to support her barrier coral.

Phystene gazed up at the sky as the Lustrous Garden was torn asunder. A bright light spread throughout the sky, only to slowly fade away, leaving the Eye of Desolation in twilight as Heliopolis, the remaining source of light for Galbar, fell below the horizon. As the world turned dark, bright streaks of light tore through the sky, fragments of the once brilliant garden burning up in Galbar’s atmosphere.

“Oh. Ooooooh. Ooooooooooh.” Was all Phystene could say as she watched the spectacle play out above her. “Oh crap.” Now there was only one source of light left on Galbar. And if the Lustrous Garden could be destroyed, so could Heliopolis. Who would want to destroy the Lustrous Garden and would they seek to do the same to Heliopolis? Perhaps more importantly what could Phystene do to protect life on Galbar? She needed to spread and diversify life. And fast.

Her gaze shifted towards the horizon where she had felt another deity wield their immense power. Perhaps another landmass had been formed? It was something Phystene needed to check out. She gave the island and her new jungle one final look before heading towards where she believed a new landmass would be. She could have used some of her power to fly, but instead chose to be economical and instead simply run over the water. She would probably need every ounce of strength she could muster in the days to come.

As she ran she gave the matter of the destruction of the Lustrous Garden further thought. She felt certain that neither Parvus nor Kalmar were behind it. If anything they had only to lose from its destruction. She had not spoken to Ashalla, Azura, or Kirron, but none of them struck her as the type to destroy another deity’s domain, at least not so early and without provocation. Chopstick Eyes… could have been behind it. Her portfolio was one of greed and Phystene could imagine her destroying the Lustrous Garden so that she could try and somehow sell light or some such nonsense. But… that theory didn’t pan out. Chopstick Eyes would have to destroy Heliopolis as well for that to be feasible and there was no way waging war on two deities could be profitable. Orvus, the god of Desolation, and Narzhak, the god of war, both might have reason to attack the Lustrous Garden, if for no reason other than to spread destruction and conflict. Still if anyone truly had any reason to attack a source of light, it was Melantha. Melantha attacking the Lustrous Garden was, truthfully, predictable, especially given that it along with Heliopolis had chased darkness away from all of Galbar.

“How foolish could we have been?” Phystene mentally kicked herself. Now the question was had Melantha lashed out because there had been unending light or because she despised light itself? The first meant she could be reasoned with, the second would forever put her at odds with Phystene and the other nature deities. Phystene would have to meet with Melantha and ascertain the truth at some point, but first thing was first.

It had been several hours since she had left the Eye of Desolation and during her musings she had traveled quite the distance. And now what lay before her was not further ocean but what she had been seeking. A new landmass.

“Impressive.” She couldn’t help but utter as the sheer scale of the continent that lay before dawned on her. The continent stretched further than the eye could see and Phystene didn’t even bother slowing down as she made landfall. She wanted to see just how big it was.

After a few hours she had gotten a very good idea of what the continent was like. In a word: boring. It was rock and rock and more rock. Oh and a random river of blood that ran through most of the continent. Because why wouldn’t that be a thing? Or perhaps calling it a river of ichor would be more fitting as Phystene could sense it possessed a divine nature.

“Why are my peers so weird?” Phystene couldn’t help but mutter before deciding to just ignore the ichor river for the moment.

Phystene lightly tapped her foot on the rock beneath her as she considered the continent. There wasn’t all that much she could do with a continent made up purely of rock, so she would first have to change that. And he previous world possessed the perfect tool to do so. She placed her hand on the rock beneath her and let loose some of her power. A single speck of green appeared beneath her hand and quickly began spreading to all the rock around it. The small plant soon covered rock as far as the eye could see and beyond, spreading all across the continent, covering every inch of it except an area roughly a mile around the river of ichor. Phystene wanted nothing to do with that river for now.

The plant was called lichen. It was a simple plant, but one that was perfectly suited to this new continent. From her previous world Phystene knew that lichen were hardy organisms. They could survive basically any and everywhere, from the artic to deserts. And survive on anything, capable of growing on or between rocks and even growing on nothing at all, surviving as they were blown about the environment. In a word they were the perfect plants to survive on Galbar till the other deities got their acts together. And just as importantly they aided in the weathering of rocks, slowly turning boulders into usable soil. In her old world it had taken a… really long time for them to do so, but with the help of the World Tree the process would be expedited. At least to some degree.

But this continent needed something more. Something to help with the weathering process. She would create a new species of animal and, unlike the creatures at the Eye of Desolation, this animal wouldn’t be a copy of something from her original world. It would be an original creation. But what to make? She wanted something that would turn rock into soil and, later on, help keep the soil nutritious for plants. It would be a worm of some kind, but one unlike any that she had ever encountered alone. First she took a normal earthworm and enlarged it till it was several meters in length. She then began changing its structure, giving it bones and a functioning jaw strong enough to crush even granite. She then altered its digestive system to allow it to break down rock. Lichen and moss that would grow on its back would also help the worm do this. She then granted the worm sharp teeth that her harder than the strongest steel. While large molars would be better to grind rock down, the sharp teeth would allow it to break bone, meaning it could also act as a scavenger once other animals appeared on the continent as well as help it fend off predators later on. Even with their strength the act of chewing on rocks would wear the teeth down, so Phystene designed it so the teeth would regularly fall out and be replaced with new teeth. With all that done Phystene stepped back from her creation and gave it a critical look.

The worm was… well to be frank it was fairly ugly. It was, however, exactly what she wanted in function if no form. It would do for now. Later on, once their was fertile soil, Phystene could focus on creating plants and animals of beauty. Content with her creation, Phystene used her power to create more of them and jumpstart their population. The worms wasted little time, burrowing into the rock with ease. They, allow with the lichen she had already created, would surely turn the barren continent into a fertile land.

With that done Phystene could now focus on the matter of Melantha and the other reckless deities. But what exactly would she do?

And as she had that thought Phystene noticed a glow appearing in the night sky. It wasn’t quite as brilliant as when the Lustrous Garden exploded, but it was quite bright. Phystene looked up as a moon, which certainly hadn’t been there before, tore in two. One half remain in orbit as the other half crumbled into small fragments that began to fall towards Galbar.

“Oh for the love of-“

Phystene quickly made her way to the crystal that would take her to her own sphere after bidding Kalmar farewell. Phystene wasn’t the only deity who had tarried so long, but those left also seemed ready to be on there way. She wasn’t particularly interested in speaking to them at this point in time anyways. She had work to do.

Upon touching the crystal she was taken to an empty void. It was chilling, not in the sense of temperature, but in how a space could be so utterly devoid of anything at all. There was not even a single particle of gas. Correcting this was to be Phystene’s first task.

She held her hand out in front of her, palm up, as she gathered power from deep within. Once she had gathered enough, she forced it to coalesce on her palm forming a small seed. She gazed at the seed for a moment before allowing a smile to spread across her face. “You,” She said to the said, “Shall be my first child. As such you shall be special. You shall be this universe’s first tree. And I shall grant you the strength you need to grow large. Large enough to rival even a world. Yes… You shall be the World Tree.”

She held the seed close for a moment for this would be the one time she could embrace it so, before casting it out into the void before her. She then closed her eyes and focused on pulling upon the power the Architect had granted her. She drew deeply upon this power and sent it to the World Tree. Seconds turned into minutes, which turned into hours. Soon she lost track of all. It mattered not, all that mattered was nourishing her child.

After what had felt like an eternity she ceased nourishing the World Tree. She could have truly spent an eternity empowering it, yet she had more to do. She opened her eyes to gaze upon what the World Tree had become and was not left disappointed. True to its name, the World Tree had grown to rival a small world in size. Its roots formed a structure approximating ground, from which other plants had already taken root in. The World Tree’s trunk equaled its roots, seeming to go upwards forever. Phystene could sense that the World Tree’s top most branches brushed against Asceal’s domain, not quite breaching into the Light Goddess’s sphere, but coming so close that those branches themselves were being altered by the foreign sphere. Phystene’s eyes widened as she realized that the leaves of those top most branches were, themselves, emitting light. “How amazing” Phystene said, “you are my child.”

And it was at this point that Phystene came to realize just how much time had come to pass. Asceal and Aelius had already finished their first projects. And…. of course someone had decided to throw a big rock at it. That matter was something that Phystene figured Asceal would be able to deal with on her own.

Another rock, thrown by some other deity presumable, crashed into Galbar just as Phystene turned her attention towards it. She could only shake her head as she asked “What is with my peers and throwing giant rocks?” She gazed at the World Tree and asked “Any thoughts?”

If it had any, the World Tree chose not to share them. Phystene stared at the World Tree for a moment longer before returning her attention back to Galbar. The tsunamis caused by the asteroid was going to be an annoyance, but at least its impact had created an archipelago.

Phystene observed the new archipelago and, once she had determined it was safe from further tsunami and other extreme weather, departed the World Tree and headed for Galbar. Once on Galbar she went to the largest of the islands and looked around. Pleased with its characteristics, she gathered some of her power and used to as a spark to bring life to the island. Trees and other plants that would form a lush jungle. Giant scaled and feathered creatures that would inhabit the land. She continued pouring energy into this new ecosystem until it had grown into maturity before slowly walking around in it. She enjoyed the feel of dirt under her feet and the sensation of leaves against her skin. The sounds of the new wildlife creating a pleasant melody. After a few hours of walking she headed towards the middle of the island, where she had one more present for its inhabitants.

She gathered power from deep within, deeper than she had ever before, and called out to the World Tree. It heard her calls and immediately answered. One of the World Tree’s branches reached towards Phystene and, with her aid, breached the barrier to Galbar. The breach occurred under the soil before Phystene, thus as the branch continued to grow it appeared as if it were simply a tree growing out of the ground. A very large tree. Soon the branch of the World Tree had become the largest “tree” on the island, but Phystene wasn’t done yet. She poured more power into the branch, granting it characteristics unique to this particular part of the World Tree. “Use this to help your siblings grow.”

To say there had been nothing would be a blatant misrepresentation of reality. The entity had existed for hundreds of millions of years. It had felt, had acquired knowledge, during those megaannum it had existed, even as it lay in a state similar to coma for a living being. Even so it had been aware of what was occurring in the world. It felt as each flower bloomed, as each blade of grass gave its life to nourish an animal, as each tree was felled by the chopping of an axe. It felt as the plantlife, that which had caused her existence, began to dwindle. As the greed of a few led the world down a path of death and destruction. And through all of this the entity could do nothing except exist.

And then the entity awoke.

For the first time the entity had a coherent thought. It was a thought of pain and terror as it was torn away from all it had known and pulled towards a being whose power the entity could not even begin to comprehend.

And just as the entity had suddenly acquired consciousness, so too had it acquired form. It looked down, for now it had eyes, to gaze at a hand so very reminiscent of the greedy creatures from her origin point. Why had she, the entity realized it was female in both mentality and form, been given the appearance of those who had caused her so much pain? Even as the question had formed in her mind she had found the answer: because at one time they had lived alongside nature, loved it just as she had loved them. It was only after hundreds of thousands of years that they had allowed themselves to become tainted in the beings of greed that was even now destroying their world.

And just as she had acquired her form from the greedy creatures, so too had she acquired her name from them. Phystene. That was what the greedy creatures had whispered with reverence before they had become greedy. Mother of Plants.

Phystene listened to the Architect as she slowly looked at those who had also been gathered. She observed them with a sense of curiosity she had never before had. They were so odd… yet felt so familiar. Some of the other… gods, yes that was what they were, panicked. Others began conversations with each other. One even threw a rock at the Architect in a, in Phystene’s opinion, foolish fit of rage. And through all this Phystene felt only calm.

Phystene felt herself naturally drawn towards some of the gods, those whose duties most aligned with her’s or were most likely to be beneficial to the plants she would spread throughout this new world. But of all these gods and goddesses, Phystene was drawn most strongly towards the goddess Asceal, who would inevitably nourish the majority of Phystene’s plants. Without even being fully aware of it, Phystene began to saunter towards Asceal.

Going to gun for animals with an intent to get the nature cluster.
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