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Current a completely public status bar might not be the best place to talk about your mood imbalances, just saying.
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Ashalla

Goddess of Oceans, Storms and Ice



Li’Kalla

Goddess of Rain
MP 9 FP 16



Shortly after the Rot was halted…

On the island there was the Rot. Although the plants had stopped dying and decaying, the refuse remained. The incessant rains of the land washed the rot across the land and into the sea, fouling the waters.

Fish were dying. Sea plants withered. Algae thrived on the decayed biomass and suffocated the ocean around the island. Sickly browns and greens marred the once-pristine azure.

Frustrated squalls flitted across the ocean, churning up the scum. The waste parted and a vast figure of water rose and declared with a voice of thunder, "Who has polluted my ocean?"

A pseudopod rose beside Ashalla, holding a globule of the rot at its tip. She regarded it with disgust for a few moments, then flicked the globule away. She looked towards the coast - the answer to her question lay on the island.

As she neared, she saw something else on the island. A small tribe of emaciated vallamir wandered the beach. One found the bloated corpse of a fish which had washed up on the shore. He ran forward to snatch it up and held it close. The other members of his pack closed in, and there was a squabble as the one with a fish refused to share. So desperate and pitiful these mortals were. Yet Ashalla sensed an opportunity.

Subtly Ashalla merged with the rain clouds above, the rain intensifying as she did so, and she tasted the island around the vallamir. Many plants had died in the Rot, and animals were also scarce, save for swarms of bugs which had reached plague proportions. On the island itself now, Ashalla was able to identify the divinity behind the curse, and with the realisation a dozen more squalls flitted into existence and thunder pealed in the stormclouds. Shengshi.

Yet there was another trace of divine essence from an act which had countered the curse and ceased the blight. This trace was unfamiliar to Ashalla. She would have to find who was responsible.

Back by the beach, the vallamir were still squabbling when a woman made from water rose out of the sea and announced with a voice like crashing waves, "Vallamir."

Immediately the vallamir ceased their arguing and looked at Ashalla. They crossed their fists across their chests and bowed their heads. "Greetings, Divine."

"You are suffering through a famine which has befallen your land. Yet I can provide you with food aplenty. You will not have to fight among yourselves for mere carrion."

The vallamir looked at each other, and there was a hushed discussion between them. "We're saved." "But what if this is a Divine like the Accursed Worm?" "Li'Kalla has abandoned us, why should we listen to what she said?" "Can we trust her?" "Do we have any choice?" The rain drizzled on them as they debated.

Finally, one of the vallamir turned to Ashalla and asked, "What do you want for such a blessing?"

"Only your gratitude and acknowledgement of myself, Ashalla. Although, receiving the gift will require a small amount of work on your part," answered a voice like a shower of rain.

The vallamir looked to each other, to the single bloated fish that one of them still held, then they looked to Ashalla, crossed their fists across their chests and bowed their heads. "We would be most grateful, Ashalla."

"Gather from the forest grasses and other plant fibres, several fist-fulls of strands at least as long as your arm. Then return here, and I will show you what to do next."

The vallamir bowed their heads again, then set off into the forest to achieve their task. They returned after nightfall with bundles of fibrous strands (which had survived the Rot, for they were not edible). It was dark, for the clouds overhead blocked out the Lustrous Garden, but when they arrived on the beach lightning illuminated the vallamir.

An arm of water reached up from the ocean and took a few of the strands in fingers which had turned to ice. "Twist the strands together like so, then twist them again like this." The vallamir did as instructed, joining the strands together into twine. "Now tie them together as so, and tie rocks onto the end." The twine was tied together into a fine grid, the edges of the mesh weighed down with stones.

The lightning above shifted to illuminate the ocean before the vallamir. A voice like thunder announced, “Now behold the bounty of the ocean.”

Before the vallamir’s very eyes the waste and algae floating in the ocean clumped together. The rot shifted forms and turned into fish, innumerable schools of fish which made the sea churn with new life. Their scales glimmered silver in the lightning. “Now cast your net into the sea, and you will have food aplenty.”

The vallamir did as directed. One of them ran forwards with the net, got knee deep into the water and threw the net out towards the sea. It spun in the air then landed above a shoal of fish, where it was dragged down by the stones along its rim, ensnaring numerous fish. Several vallamir waded and swam to where the net had fallen. They dove down and picked up the net by its edges, making sure to lift the net in such a way which kept the fish trapped. They then dragged the net and its thrashing catch of fish up the shore and dropped it on the sand.

The vallamir did not even wait for the fish to asphyxiate before rushing forwards and snatching up fish from the silver pile which spilled out from the net. Ravenously they bit into the fresh meat, savouring every scrap of flesh and drop of blood. As they finished their initial surge of hunger, the vallamir turned to the sky and the ocean and gave their customary salute. “Thank you, great Ashalla!”

Thunder peeled in acknowledgement. Then Ashalla moved on, heading inland. She had a goddess to find, and she could sense a strong divine influence in the southern part of the island. While she flew as clouds, she passed over more packs of vallamir, all as desperate and emaciated as the first she had seen. Soon the forest gave way to rolling hills and grass, and it might have not been raining if not for Ashalla’s presence.

Further along there appeared one hill which stood above the others, a grand manor standing atop it. A pillar of steam rose up from the base of the hill, where there sat a boiling lake which bore the powerful mark of Li’Kalla’s divinity and the Sphere of Rain. Dotted around the base of the hill were crude huts, with sleeping vallamir within and a few vigilant white-haired guards.

The storm which was Ashalla was soon upon the settlement. Used to rain, the people who were outside simply pulled up their hides to cover their heads. The storm settled above the manor, where Ashalla could taste fresh traces of Li’Kalla’s essence. “Li’Kalla,” called a voice like pouring rain.

A few of the Valthumir looked up at the divine storm, and yet many, including some of the lesser Vallamir, seemed to acknowledge it and move on with their daily lives.

It took a few moments for the beautiful winged Goddess Li'Kalla to step out onto a large balcony and look up at the sky, her tightly furled wings and her pleasantly surprised smile contrasting wildly.

"Ashalla," The Goddess of Rain said, then walked to a nearby sunbathing chair and sat on the edge, prim and proper with a straight back. She gestured to the chair beside her, "Would you like to adopt a more portable form and take a seat beside me?"

There was a pause, then mist lowered from the cloud towards the indicated chair and crystallised into a woman of ice mirroring Li’Kalla’s posture, sitting slightly taller than the Goddess of Rain. The storm overhead continued unabated. Beside Li’Kalla, a watery pseudopod rose from a puddle and licked against Li’Kalla’s arm and wing, causing Li'Kalla to visibly shudder. A voice like the rain spoke and the mouth of the ice woman moved, although the sound was not quite localised on the mortal-sized ice woman. “You appear to have recovered from your injuries.”

"It is remarkably easy to heal from injuries that have been forgotten," Li'Kalla said and looked at the pseudopod with a slanted smile, "Would you care to describe my taste?"

If Ashalla was caught off guard by the question she had never been asked before, she did not show it. “Your divine essence is the dominant flavour. The water you are coated in is quite pure, with a faint petrichor. I taste a faint trace of orange citrus and lavender. And this,” the pseudopod traced out one of the almost-invisible fissures in Li’Kalla’s skin, “is not quite stone. Its taste reminds me of the Architect’s place. A binding or sealant of some kind.”

Li’Kalla winced and looked away, cursing Ashalla’s perceptiveness. She was the first Divine to actually bring up the fissures going along her body. For a moment, Li’Kalla was unsure if her surprise and stress showed on her face, but she quickly regained her composure and shrugged, “The Architect’s touch. A lasting gift he left me after rebuilding me. It reminds me not to seek out the past.”

Li’Kalla continued, “I am surprised I taste of lavender, however, I believe that might be my favorite flower. And thank you, I do try to keep my water and body as pure as possible.”

Ashalla rumbled for a few moments. “If you do not wish to speak of the past, then we can speak of the present. What brought the blight upon this land?”

The Winged Goddess froze and, after a moment, sighed. "Shengshi." She said as if the mere mention of the name put a heavy weight on her shoulders. "He disapproved of my opinion on certain mortal affairs and my choice of words on certain matters and saw it fit to attempt to destroy the ecosystem here and in the seas around. Really, marring the beauty of the clear waters you have blessed us with… It's a low blow."

Ashalla huffed. “I had thought Shengshi cared more about the purity of water.” There was a rumble, then she asked, “What did you say to him?”

“Huh, I merely expressed my opinion on homosexuality in species that reproduce heterosexually, and I may have implied he was uncouth for supporting deviancy that has no biological purpose... It was all weeks ago, and therefore I don’t quite remember the exact words exchanged. It was a hurtful development.” Li’Kalla said casually, bringing a wing to the front of her body and absentmindedly beginning to straighten and groom her feathers.

Ashalla was quiet for a moment, then said, “I see why Shengshi was so angry. Not only did you insult him, but his favourite mortal and avatar too.” The icy woman leaned closer to Li’Kalla and spoke in a conspiratorial whisper as light as a snowflake, below the hearing of any prying mortals. “Them being two women who Shengshi favoured so highly he slew Vakk to protect them.” She leaned back as Li'Kalla perked up with a glint in her eyes, and Ashalla’s voice returned to its normal volume. “Regardless of his reasons, his actions here were unacceptable.”

Li'Kalla chuckled, and then she laughed out loud, hugging her wing close to her body. After a moment, she calmed down and wiped a few tears of mirth dry. "Oh, that's golden. His avatar was a homosexual. That, by extension makes a part of himself a deviant. I was right! And now that I think about it, someone so obsessed with alcohol could have never been a prim and proper God! And here I was thinking that if he had a pair of legs I'd organize a dinner for us… Guess that's not happening, he prefers practicing with the spear rather than going spelunking." Li'Kalla giggled but quickly gasped and covered her mouth, "My apologies, that was rather uncouth of me."

The clouds which were Ashalla wavered and her icy form remained motionless, uncertain what to make of the outburst. “Irrelevant,” was her eventual comment.

“Who was it that countered Shengshi’s curse?” Ashalla asked.

"My son, Ya'Shuur. Apparently someone named Vakk and I made him. He's lived on this island the whole time."

“I would like to meet him.”

"Would you? What are your intentions?"

“I wish to thank him for cleansing the blight.”

“I see, would you like me to call him here? That way you can save yourself the trip further inland,” Li’Kalla said with a slight tilt of her head, a shiver going through her spine as she touched a particularly sensitive feather.

“Yes, that would be convenient,” Ashalla answered.

Li’Kalla looked at the Water Goddess for a few long seconds, her gaze slowly losing interest and growing icier. Eventually, she looked away and stretched and flapped her wings before furling them up again. “I’ve told him to come, he should be here soon, relatively speaking.”

It did not take too long. Ya-Shuur immediately stopped what he was doing and summoned Zer-Du to him to reach his mother and her guest in good time. His horns had begun to grow back now and he made no attempt to hide them as he approached the table and kissed the back of his mother’s hand in respect. Zer-Du hovered within sight and watched with relative disinterest, though the valls in the settlement reacted with a mixture of shock and awe and fear to his presence. The icy woman which was part of Ashalla rose to her feet with a crackle of ice, and she appeared to stretch to one and a half times Ya-Shuur’s height. Ya-Shuur looked at the icy woman and greeted her before turning back to his mother. “You summoned me, mother.”

“I did. This,” Li’Kalla motioned toward Ashalla with her hand, “is Ashalla, Goddess of Water. She wanted to meet you.” Ya-Shuur had never seen or heard of Ashalla before so it was strange that she wished to meet him, but he turned back to her with a small smile.

“Hello Ashalla. You are the fourth divine being I have seen and the third I have met. I am happy to meet you.” He paused, thinking back to how the god with chopstick eyes had given him a gift when he first met her, and he thought that maybe it would be good for him to follow this practice. But he did not know what to give. If he had some sudi-shrib on him he might have offered her some, but he did not. All he had was gim-sa and he was not sure if that was a good thing to offer someone as a gift.

His hand came to the hud-sa (knife) medallion that he wore. It was made of metal and he had replaced the handle from wood to ivory and he had been carving it and making it more beautiful in his travels. The carvings contained things like vines and leaves and various animals like goats and molves. The metal of the blade had also taken on a strange pattern that was extremely similar to flowing water. Ya-Shuur thought that maybe the constant rain and the closeness of the blade to him had made it take on some of the patterns of the water, but he was not sure. He took the hud-sa medallion off and presented it to Ashalla. “Please accept this small gift from me. I was taught to give gifts by my good friend the god with chopstick eyes and you are the first god I have had the pleasure to implement her lesson on. This is a hud-sa, or a knife as the valls call it. The god with chopstick eyes had an exceptional collection, and I was inspired by her to make one of my own. I hope you find it pleasing, even though it is a simple token.”

Ashalla’s gaze went down to the knife. Her right arm melted and reach out, swallowing the gift. Tiny currents flowed across each of the carvings. “The craftsmanship is marvellous, and the design is elegant,” burbled a voice which seemed to come from all around Ya-Shuur, with the lips of the icy woman moving in sync. “It is a good gift, and I do find it pleasing, although I have no place to keep it.” The water receded from the hud-sa, which sat on top of the palm of Ashalla’s hand. Ya-Shuur reached out, took the medallion, and put it over Ashalla’s icy neck.

“You don’t need to hold it, it can just hang around your neck. Your form allows that just like mine.”

“You misunderstand, godling, or perhaps your senses fail you,” said Ashalla’s voice like crashing waves. “This form of ice you see before you is but a transient fragment of my full majesty.” Without warning the icy woman melted, the hud-sa lowering to the ground as the blob of water collapsed then evaporated. There was then a crack of lightning and a harsh light was cast down on Ya-Shuur and Li’Kalla. Above in the storm clouds there had formed the same face Ya-Shuur had been looking at moments ago, yet a thousand times larger and with eyes made from orbs of brilliant lightning. “I am the ocean. I am the storm. I am far too great to wear such a trinket,” declared a voice like thunder, echoing from one horizon to the other.

It took all of Ya-Shuur’s discipline to keep from showing his fear and awe at what Ashalla had become in mere seconds. If the valls below had been afraid or awed by Zer-Du’s presence then Ashalla’s thundering voice and great visage in the sky was a great terror and majestic thing. At last Ya-Shuur breathed deeply and expelled the passions from him, and then he bowed his head to Ashalla. “I am sorry great Ashalla. I meant no disrespect. Perhaps in time I will be able to offer you a more fitting gift. But as you say, I am nothing but a godling and am ultimately nothing of great importance. It will be an auspicious day indeed when I am able to offer something that truly complements your majesty. Until then, you will undoubtedly be plagued with the amateur attempts of those less majestic than you.” Ya-Shuur looked back up.

The face faded from the clouds. From the rain-soaked floor in front of Ya-Shuur rose a mound of water which adopted the form of a woman similar to the icy one before. A kind smile was on her lips as she spoke like a trickling brook, “Self-deprecation is not befitting one of divine status. And it is untrue that you are nothing of great importance. You cleansed this island of its blight. Do you know who inflicted the curse?”

“I agree, though humility in good measure lends dignity to those who seem debased, and pride makes ugly many great and glorious things. As for who inflicted the Rot on Be’r-Jaz,” he looked to Li’Kalla, and then returned his gaze to Ashalla, “I have been told about the god by my mother. But I have never met him, and I do not condemn him for his actions before I have heard from him (terrible as the Rot’s effects on the land and people was). I was merely doing my duty.”

“And a good duty it is. To stand up against a stronger god takes courage, and while on many occasions it would be fatal folly in this instance I deem it a worthy cause. The Rot had fouled my oceans around this land as well as the land itself. To express my gratitude, I am willing to offer you a boon. If your request is reasonable, I will grant it,” Ashalla said.

Ya-Shuur had never really considered what he had done as taking a stand against a god, but simply as removing harm. When he thought of it as Ashalla described it, it seemed a bit concerning and it made him wonder if he had inadvertently made an enemy out of the god who inflicted the curse. It hung on his mind for a few moments, and then he freed himself of the anxiety because he ultimately had no control over that. It did not matter. And so there was no need for anxiety.

“Thank you for your offer of reward, Ashalla. Doing as justice demands, and living by those principles which I have come to hold, is all the reward I seek. But I do not want to seem ungrateful, and so if there is any reward you give, let it be that you sate my curiosity about the world and gods. I know very little. This island is my home and I have knowledge only about it. Could you tell me about the rest of the world, its mortals and its gods?”

A perplexed little bubble rose through Ashalla’s features. “If that is your desire, then so be it.”

The clouds above then descended upon the manor, and Li’Kalla and Ya-Shuur found themselves momentarily blinded by the thick clouds and buffeted by the winds before a patch of calm spread around the balcony. In that moment the water woman had disappeared, and the two deities looked out onto an empty stage of cloud.

Before them condensed a large globe of water, impossibly floating and slowly spinning. On its surface froze large shapes with jagged outlines and intricate details. “This is Galbar.” An electrical spark illuminated a point on the lower part of a large island, which itself was just right of a larger continent in the upper hemisphere of the globe. “We are here.” Ya-Shuur looked at the globe and the various land masses on it, and he committed it to his memory so he could replicate it in his cave and inspect it more closely.

“The land and seas of this planet form only a part of the greater cosmos.” The globe contracted. It was sheathed by a thin layer of mist. One orb of ice appeared, shattered in half and trailing a ring of fragments, orbited the globe which was Galbar. Another smaller orb, crystal clear and glowing faintly, appeared slightly further out. A spark of lightning sat on the opposite side of the globe to that orb. A smear of mist which refracted the light in such a way as to appear slightly red floated between the orbits of the shattered orb and the light-givers. Tiny flecks of snow glinted like stars, one layer just above the mist sheathing Galbar, another layer beyond the light-givers.

“Each god brought here by the Architect was given charge over a Sphere. The things you see in the heavens above are some of the Spheres - there are many more you cannot see from Galbar’s surface, either hidden beyond mortal comprehension of space or buried far beneath the ground. The Spheres control aspects of reality and mediate various factors of existence.”

Ya-Shuur looked at all this without any expression and it seemed that he was not going to interject. But just before Ashalla continued a question came from him. “Who is the Architect?” he asked.

The visage of the celestial spheres moved aside, and behind the clouds towered the silhouette of a vast figure seated on a throne. A singular orb of lightning illuminated the centre of the figure’s head like a vast eye. “The Architect is the god who created Galbar in its original state, formless and empty. He filled this universe with souls from the Void beyond and bestowed a few of them with godhood, creating the gods who act on Galbar. He is powerful, and distant.” A tiny orb appeared in orbit around the globe beyond the outermost stars, highlighted by a brief spark of lightning. Then a shell of ice encased the whole diorama. “The Architect resides by and rules over the Barrier which separates Galbar from the Void beyond.”

The visage of the Architect and the imitation of Galbar and the Spheres dissipated. “Galbar has been shaped and is commanded by the gods. The Architect brought twenty-six gods into this world. There is myself. I wield dominion over the ocean, storms, ice and all things water. My Sphere lies at the very depths of the ocean and makes the water move. I am goddess over the beasts of the sea. Li’Kalla requires no introduction. She is the goddess of rain, and her Sphere can be reached through the boiling lake at the foot of this hill.”

Before Ya-Shuur and Li’Kalla manifested an ice sculpture of an oddly proportioned woman, shorter than Ya-Shuur, with more than two arms, and a bristling bundle of narrow icicles emerging from where eye sockets. Ya-Shuur smiled when he saw the figure. “Ah, Butterwort in Midsummer,” he said.

“This is the goddess with chopstick eyes, who Ya-Shuur has already met. She has dominion over things regarding the exchange of goods and services by mortals. She has reasonably good creative taste.” The sculpture turned to face Li’Kalla. “When I last met Chopstick Eyes, she was looking for you, Li’Kalla. Now that you are whole, you can contact her if you desire a meeting.”

“Yes, when she came here, she was looking for mother,” Ya-Shuur said.

“I will contact her in that case, thank you for the information, Ashalla.” Li’Kalla smiled and nodded.

The sculpture melted, then froze again, depicting the torso of a man and the lower body of a snake. “This is Shengshi, god of rivers and harvests. While the Rot is a foul mark against his reputation, he has done much good for Galbar, creating luscious river ecosystems. He appreciates beauty and art, and travels upon his opulent vessel.” An ice sculpture of a grand and intricately decorated ship flowed into view atop spiralling currents of water. On board stood humanoids of liquid water. “Shengshi is god of the Servants, a cultured people made of water.” Beside Shengshi appeared a similar female of water. “Xiaoli is an independent fragment of Shengshi, who is a similarly good artist.”

Ya-Shuur considered Ashalla’s words inexpressively though he was curious, and then asked, “You say that he appreciates art. What is that? And what is cultured?”

“Art is beauty which is created. A culture is a set of ideas and customs which drive the behaviour of a group of people. In the case of the Servants, they have a strict hierarchy and elaborate means of displaying respect to their superiors.”

The sculpture of the ship disappeared into the clouds, and the sculpture of Shengshi melted and reformed into a well-dressed gentleman with a cheshire smile. The melodious song of a violin wafted around them. “This is K’nell, god of sleep and dreams. He is lord over the Palace of Dreams, where mortal minds visit while sleeping. He is the most wonderful musician.” Ya-Shuur had never slept, though he had imitated the action and so was under the impression that he had indeed slept. But he did not know what dreams were, and he did not know what this musician was.

“What are dreams? And I have never seen mortal minds leave them during their sleep, and mine certainly hasn’t. And what is musician?”

“Dreams are scenes which the mind imagines while sleeping. The mind does not physically leave the body, but comes in contact with the Palace of Dreams all the same. You can ask mortals more about dreaming,” Ashalla answered. “A musician is someone who plays music. Are you saying you do not know what music is?” There was a huff. “I will have to rectify that.”

A few more humanoid ice sculptures, both women and men, appeared nearby, these with similarly broad smiles and spirals on their foreheads. “He is the god of the Dreamers, a sapient species, and ruler over the land of Tendlepog.” A smaller globe of Galbar condensed, sparks crackling around the right-most of a pair of circular continents.

Li’Kalla raised an eyebrow upon recognizing one of the Dreamers depicted as Hermes but… Different. Less Hermes and more woman. She kept quiet.

“However, K’nell, Tendlepog and many of the Dreamers have since been sequestered away by K’nell.” The continent marked as Tendlepog on the globe melted. Ya-Shuur looked at the empty spot on the globe.

“Where did he take them? Are they somewhere else in the… you called it cosmos?”

There was a moment’s hesitation before Ashalla answered, “Yes.” Before Ya-Shuur could ask more questions, the sculptures all melted again, save for the globe, and reformed into many little pieces which locked together to form a tall skinny humanoid with seven arms, wide hips and a blank face. “This is Eurysthenes, master of puzzles. They created Swahitteh, twin continent of Tendlepog.” Sparks outlined the other circular landmass.

“They? Are there more than one Eurysthenes?” Ya-Shuur asked.

“Eurysthenes is singular, but neither masculine nor feminine,” Ashalla explained.

The sculpture melted, and a hundred metre long worm of water took its place, one end branching out into many grasping tendrils, and the other end splitting open into three flaps to reveal rows of sharp ice teeth. Ya-Shuur recognized his father immediately, though now he had a clearer understanding of his form. A dark, melancholic melody sounded nearby. “This is Vakk, god of speech.”

Li'Kalla choked and gasped at the same time. Her eyes opened wide and her pupils were pinpricks. She clenched her jaw and turned her whole body away from the sight, guarding her body with a barrier made up of her right arm, leg and wing. Her left wing shook uncontrollably and, although she need not breathe, her breaths came short and quick, and the decorative veins under her skin suddenly swelled up and seemed ready to burst. Ya-Shuur looked at her, concerned even though his face did not show it.

She was silent, whimpering, until she looked at the recreation of her abuser through the gaps between her fingers and managed to relax, taking in a deep breath and going back to her previous posture, sitting forward with a straight back, but this time with tightly crossed legs, twitching wings and a nervous vibe.

The cracks in her skin grew more noticeable. Ya-Shuur’s eyes remained on her for some time. He sensed that she was perturbed, but she appeared to have gained some control over her passions. Discipline and self-control were difficult to obtain, but his mother was already making significant progress.

There was a faint rumble. “This is distressing for you,” Ashalla observed. The music stopped and the sculpture dissolved.

“I-It seems to be. Somehow. I don’t even recognize that form… And the name is barely familiar...” Li’Kalla’s voice had a barely perceptible trembling to it, “I might break apart…”

The storm watched Li’Kalla for a few moments longer. When it became apparent that Li’Kalla was not falling apart, Ashalla continued. Although the presentation was being given to Li’Kalla and Ya-Shuur, Ashalla dropped her voice to be sure not to be overheard by any eavesdroppers. “It was Vakk’s actions which led to the fragmentation of Li’Kalla. However, he was a weak god. He was compelled to act by Eurysthenes. He was defeated in combat by Li’Kalla. And when he attempted to invade Tendlepog to inflict harm upon several favoured individuals, he was slain by Eurysthenes, Shengshi and K’nell.” Ya-Shuur had sensed Vakk’s death all those years ago. Now he knew who had killed him and why it had happened, according to Ashalla at least.

“What favored individuals were these? Why did he seek to harm them? Were these three gods together not powerful enough to restrain rather than kill him?” Ya-Shuur asked.

An ice sculpture of a dreamer woman appeared, one from before, and also the watery form of Xiaoli. “Hermes, the first Dreamer and creation of K’nell, and her lover Xiaoli, who is part of Shengshi.” A box of ice appeared nearby, the lid bearing an abstract impression of Vakk. “Vakk had given the Box of Orchestration to Li’Kalla, but the box was taken by Hermes. Vakk sought revenge for this theft. Shengshi described Vakk as ‘mad, insane beyond redemption’, which is why they decided to kill him.”

The sculptures of Hermes, Xiaoli and the box disappeared, and an ice sculpture of a male humanoid with wings formed. Ashalla’s voice returned to its normal volume. “This is Ekon, god of fear and creator of some monsters, including the creatures beneath this island.” Ya-Shuur had seen some of these creatures and had thought them an oddity, but he had not thought they were a direct creation by a divine being. A god of fear who created fearful things. Fear was a terrible thing, but with discipline it could be overcome like any other emotion. It arose from time to time, like when Ashalla revealed her great form, but even then he had not shown it and had been able to expel it. Perhaps if there was anything he truly feared it was the being afraid itself, and so failing to live according to his principles of mastering emotions like fear.

The sculpture shifted again, and became a towering giant humanoid man, unclothed. Steam rose from all parts of the sculpture. “This is Sartravius, god of heat. He and his Sphere are responsible for volcanoes.” A sculpture of two muscular humanoids appeared, male and female, towering about three times as tall as Li’Kalla and Ya-Shuur, although still dwarfed by Sartravius. “Sartravius is the creator of the jotundar.” A massive winged lizard formed from the clouds and exhaled a cone of steam. “And the fire dragons. He is prone to senseless destruction.” The dragon and jotundar dissipated, and a gigantic flying raptor-like beast made of cloud and steam appeared. “This is the Phoenix, who is an independent fragment of Sartravius.”

The figures dissipated, then the clouds stretched upwards. The theatre opened up to reveal a towering cumulonimbus in a bulky humanoid shape, with four points of lightning perched like eyes on the head which was kilometres above the ground. “This is Narzhak, god of war. He’s somewhat unhygienic, but strong and a good fighter.”

The clouds closed back in around the balcony. Before Ya-Shuur and Li’Kalla swirled steam which took the shape of a tiger’s head larger than they were. “This is Katharsos, god of death. He reigns over the Sky of Pyres, which are the incandescent stars far above Galbar. It is where the souls of the dead go to be burned into soul ash and recycled for new life.”

The steam dissipated, and was replaced by a flash of lightning, which shaped and bent itself to take the form of a woman. “This is Asceal, goddess of light. She owns the Lustrous Garden, which provides light at night and casts healing energy upon sources of pure still water. As you likely know, she was involved in taking souls of dead mortals from the Pyres and crystallising them.”

The lightning ceased and an ice sculpture of a large bird appeared, its feathers refracting the light into a rainbow of colours. “This is Azura, goddess of wind. Or, at least, one of her forms.” A sculpture of a feminine humanoid with wings, fins and gills floated up beside the bird. “Her Sphere is the Blue, which is the daytime sky of Galbar, and contains many flying creatures which resemble sea life. Azura is a very good musician. She is also responsible for the plans to preserve the souls of mortals, initially by crystallisation, rather than let them burn in the Pyres. That is the function of the Alma.” A few icy sculptures of the strangely accessorised birds fluttered into view. “She is hard-working, and has compassion for mortals.”

The sculptures melted and reformed into a three metre long snake-like dragon with wings, four legs and a jagged crest. “This is Arae, goddess of family. As you likely know, she was involved in the creation of the vallamir.”

The dragon sculpture was then replaced by a six foot tall humanoid, with a thick cloak made from snow, a bow by his side, a moustache and short beard on his face, and pointy ears. “This is Kalmar, god of the hunt and lord of winter. He was involved in the creation of the vallamir.” Two icy humanoids about nine feet tall appeared nearby. “He also created the Jotnar, frost giants.” The globe of Galbar reappeared, and sparks outlined the continent just to the left of Be’r-Jaz. “He rules over and protects the continent of Kalgrun. Kalmar stands against senseless destruction.” A falcon of ice appeared beside Kalmar’s statue. “This is Arryn, who is part of Kalmar, and has taught mortals in other parts of the world about the ways of hunting.”

Arryn, Kalmar and the globe vanished, leaving the Jotnar, and in their place appeared a sculpture of a ten foot tall, broad, hulking muscular man with sharp jagged teeth. “This is Kirron, god of blood and strength. He helped create the Jotnar.” A few more sculptures appeared of chubby humanoid creatures with the heads of seals and broad, flattened limbs. “He is the god of the selka.”

The sculptures melted and reformed into an unclothed humanoid woman with a pair of branching icicles emerging from her head like antlers and covered in motifs similar to leaves and roots. “This is Phystene, goddess of plants and animals. She is responsible for many of the forests and jungles upon Galbar.”

The sculpture melted again, and changed to be a humanoid figure without well-defined features. A thick mist curled around the figure. Light sparkled from within like stars, and two brighter lights were where the figures’ eyes would be. “This is Orvus. His domain is that of destruction. While in the past he had engaged in senseless destruction and created things which would destroy, he has since changed and no longer desires such violence. His Sphere is Veradax, the shattered moon.” Several more ice sculptures appeared of tall humanoids with lights twinkling like stars just below their surface. “He is the creator and god of the Nebulites.”

The sculptures melted, and in their place rose one of a large crab, one metre in diameter. “This is Ohannakeloi, god of stone. He raised the largest continent of Galbar out of the sea. He was partially responsible for the creation of the Nebulites.” Numerous chunks of ice came together to create a six metre tall biped with two arms made from the crudely assembled chunks. A light glowed from an indent on a chunk which could be called its head. “He is also the god of the Ihokhetlani, creatures of stone.”

The sculptures dissipated, and there appeared a sculpture of a young unclothed man with an athletic physique and a laurel wreath around his head. “This is Aelius, god of virtue.”

The sculpture melted and reformed into a somewhat tall human woman with braided hair and wearing hunter’s garb. “This is Urhu, whose domain is travel. She is responsible for a number of distinctive landmarks scattered across Galbar.”

The sculpture melted, and was overtaken by a twisting, writing mass of watery tentacles which towered high above the manor. On the end of one pseudopod was an orb of lightning which looked down on Ya-Shuur and Li’Kalla like an eye. “This is Anzillu, whose domain is that of a breed of monsters related to its own foul form.”

The watery mass collapsed and dissipated, and a statue of a human woman froze into shape. “This is Melantha, goddess of darkness.”

The sculpture melted and reformed into a tall, thin man with leaves instead of hair. “This is Parvus, god of insects. One of the places he created was the swamplands on the western shore of this island.”

The sculpture shifted, and became one of a tall man with long, unkempt hair and elaborate robes. “This is Abanoc, god of recording.”

The sculpture melted and reformed into an athletic unclothed woman with short hair and patterns engraved on her back and hands. The hair refracted the light in such a way as to almost appear red. “This is Seihdhara, whose domain is combat. She is responsible for many of the forests on Galbar which had not been created by Phystene.” The globe of Galbar reappeared, and a line of sparks traced itself along the smaller continent on the lower half of the globe. “Her blood runs thick in a river here, a limitless supply conjured miraculously. An ecosystem designed by Shengshi and myself prevents the ichor from polluting the ocean beyond.”

The sculpture of Seihdhara melted away. “Those are the gods of Galbar, who have dominion over reality.”

The globe of Galbar swelled to a far greater size than before. A shell of ice grew beneath the oceans of water, mapping out the sea floor in exquisite detail. The coastlines were also intricately detailed. The vast globe spun in place until the island of Be’r-Jaz was right before the balcony. “This is the island we are currently on. You already know about it.” The globe rotated slightly to the left. A gossamer-thin thread of ice stretched across the ocean between Be’r-Jaz and the continent to the left. “A bridge of Li’Kalla’s creation spans the strait between here and Kalgrun. At walking pace, it would take approximately five days to cross if you do not rest.”

The rest of the continent of Kalgrun rolled into view. “This is the continent of Kalgrun, created and ruled by Kalmar. It is home to many vallamir, and the jotnar in the frozen north. I have taught the vallamir there about carving and sculpting. The jotnar are a race of large and strong people who thrive on cold rather than heat.” Ice sculptures of vallamir and jotnar appeared as she described them.

“Kalgrun is mostly forested wilderness filled with all sorts of animals. Notable are the apex predators of the continent.” Ice sculptures of a direwolf, griffon and troll appeared nearby. In the background, cloudy forms of far larger versions of these beasts appeared, as well as a great bipedal lizard. “The continent is also guarded by these four powerful beasts, although they are only of danger to those Kalmar does not wish in his lands.” Sparks then outlined a lake near the middle of the continent with a thin straight line etched towards the strait to the right with a tiny trickle of water running through it. The lake had a tiny island in the middle. “This is the Hunter’s Eye. It is a holy place to Kalmar, and a chosen number of Vallamir tend to the site.”

A puff of steam rose from a tiny island below and to the left of Kalgrun. “That is the volcano of Muspel. It is connected directly to Sartravius’ Sphere.”

The globe rotated upwards, revealing a circular archipelago below Kalgrun. However, with the sea floor clearly mapped out, it was evident that this archipelago was the rim of a large crater. “This is the Eye of Desolation, formed from an asteroid impact in the earliest days of Galbar’s history. It is covered in a lush jungle. It is home to the Nebulites. They are a people created in Orvus’ image, who are notable for possessing the power of flight without wings.” A sculpture of a Nebulite appeared as she said this.

The globe rotated some more to reveal a small island a substantial distance to the right, and an island of comparable size to Be’r-Jaz below and between the small island and the Eye of Desolation, nestled between the two arms of the largest continent. Sparks outlined both the islands. “These two islands were created by Ekon. Besides wild beasts and plants, nothing much is on them.”

The globe continued to turn until the focus was on the top-right branch of the largest continent. “This is Atokhekwoi, the continent created by Ohannakeloi.” Along this branch of the continent, running vertically, was a great mountain range, and at the top end of the mountain range, if one looked very carefully, was a mountain with a flat top. “This region is filled with great beasts created by Kirron.” The clouds around them formed into the shapes of dinosaurs, megafauna, pyrgerakia and the other inhabitants of the Great Hooflands. But those figures were all blown away when a massive bird made of cloud appeared and flapped its wings with a beat of thunder, lightning arcing across its surface. “Of course, my Thunderbird is the greatest of them all.”

The Thunderbird dissipated as the globe turned further, looking at the southern end of the continent and the south pole of the globe. Sparks outlined the coast on the northern side of this southern branch as well as a large island sitting just off the end of the branch. Sculptures of selka appeared, and music of the lyre, flute, percussion and voice combined around them to create a lyrical atmosphere. “The selka live here. They are semi-aquatic, designed for swimming and diving as well as walking. Kirron is the foremost of their gods. I am another of the gods they worship, with the ocean such a core part of their existence. Some of the selka know me as Delphina or Lugo. I have taught the selka about music and painting.”

The globe turned back up, showing the left branch of Atokhekwoi. A sculpture of an Ihokhetlani formed. “In this region lives the Ihokhetlani, creatures of stone created by Ohannakeloi.”

The globe turned to bring the top-left tip of the continent into focus. Sparks highlighted an arrangement of small islands off the coast which seemed vaguely reminiscent of an insect. “These islands were created by Parvus. They are home to several species of highly venomous animals, and also the Gateway to Parvus’ Sphere.”

The globe turned up to bring an island below Parvus’ islands to the centre. This island was about as tall as Be’r-Jaz, but half the width. “This is Istais. It was created by Asceal, and is home to a variety of glowing life-forms.”

The view turned up and to the left, passing the equator and showing a fissure under the ocean surface in the sea floor. “This is the Abyssal Rift. It leads to my Sphere, the Abyss, deep below the surface of Galbar. The conditions there are deadly for most surface-dwellers, but it supports its own menagerie of life.” Among pillars of cloud skittered icy imitations of fish, crustaceans and other weird and alien small sea creatures native to the Abyss. These critters scattered when a vast eel of cloud swam through them. Static electricity crackled at the presence of the eel. “Though the deep-terrors are the largest species inhabiting the Abyss, there is a single creature there more powerful than they.” A titanic crocodilian with six legs, horns and a shield crest, covered in scales of ice and with steam rising all around it, thundered through the scene with a guttural growl. “The Abyssal Leviathan is a powerful beast created by the combined efforts of myself and Narzhak, able to exercise dominion on both land and sea.”

The diorama of the Abyss faded, and the globe turned to a large spiral formation just below the surface of the ocean, down and left of the Abyssal Rift. “This is the Great Soul Reef. It was created by Katharsos and myself. It sits at the base of the Vortex of Souls, which draws the souls of the dead to the Sky of Pyres and carries soul ash back down to Galbar.”

The forms of a whale, a giant squid and a giant shark drifted through the clouds. “The seas are populated by many beasts great and small of my creation, including whales, colossal squids and megalodons. There are some other creatures which I did not create, though.” A fish of ghastly proportions with tentacles growing from it, and an orb of lightning sitting at the end of a tendril on its head. “This is a Leviathan Angler. A number of these beasts were created long ago by a clash between Orvus and Phystene, and have bloated to severe proportions. They are less common now, with numbers dwindling as they were made without the means of reproduction.” The figure of another fish swam into view, coated in ice, with tendrils instead of fins, four eyes, and moving with serpentine motions. “This is an Iron Carrionfish, created by Narzhak. It is capable of digesting divine biomatter, so it can clean the oceans of refuse of a godly nature.” The figures dissipated as a gigantic cuttlefish took their place, dwarfing all the other creatures. “But greater than them all is the Kraken, another creation of mine.”

The sea life dissipated, and the globe turned to show the continent to the left. Looking at it from above and able to see beneath the ocean surface around it, it was evident that this continent had been placed with considerable force, with chunks of land splattered about the right end of the continent. “This is Dragon’s Foot. It was created by Kirron, and was one of the first continents to be formed on Galbar.” Sparks circled around a region in the top right corner of the continent, bounded below by a mountain range. “The life of this region was primarily created by Narzhak, and is hardy and aggressive. A river of Seihdhara’s ichor also flows through the region, with life created by myself and Shengshi to cleanse the river before it reaches the ocean.”

The globe turned slightly so that the land below the mountain range was in focus. There was what looked like a lake in the middle with rivers stretching up, down and to the left. Two wisps of steam rose from the continent, one relatively near the lake, the other from a mountain near the mouth of the river going down. Sparks pointed towards each feature as Ashalla talked about them. “Here are three grand rivers made by Shengshi. The Nanhe is the largest, and is surrounded by lush forests created by Phystene. The Taipang flows through the desert and past another volcano created by Satravius. Shengshi and I made an ecosystem there which thrives despite the harsh environment. The Beihe is a river populated by beautiful plants and animals made by Shengshi. At the source of all the rivers is Giant’s Bath, which hides a passageway to Shengshi’s Sphere.”

A few watery humanoids previously identified as Servants appeared. “The home of Shengshi and his Servants moves across Galbar, although it frequents this area. The Servants are made entirely of liquid water. Their society primarily revolves around serving Shengshi and his guests on his ship, and is characterised by a strictly defined set of manners. There are some rare occasions when Servants do leave the ship, but their primary location is on Shengshi’s vessel.”

The imitation Servants collapsed, and the globe rotated further, past the lower left tip of Dragon’s Foot to show the ocean between Dragon’s Foot and Atokhekwoi. The ocean here was quite deep, and it did not take too much imagination to think that the continent of Dragon’s Foot had been lifted out of the sea floor here and dropped to the right. Little flakes of snow sat clustered together in a small point near the centre of the slowly rotating water current. “Here is a rather pretty oceanic forest of kelp and algae created by the goddess with Chopstick Eyes. It feeds a large Leviathan Angler trapped there.”

The globe rotated back, this time settling just above Dragon’s Foot. A long, narrow and rugged landmass sat above Dragon’s Foot, and the strait between the two boiled. “This landmass was created by the combined efforts of Vakk and the goddess with Chopstick Eyes, using material which fell from Veradax. Between them is a boiling strait, created by Vakk. Inhospitable to most life, the goddess with Chopstick Eyes has created some peculiar lava-based flora within.”

The globe continued to turn until it was centred on a cluster of islands just above the Kick. “These islands were created by Arae. On the middle one is the Gateway to her Sphere.”

The globe rotated up some more, until it was centred on the space where Tendlepog used to be. The impression of the missing continent was still visible in the sea floor. The ice sculptures of the Dreamers reappeared. “The Dreamers lived on Tendlepog while it was still present. They were born from Hermes, creation of K’nell, and Xiaoli, Avatar of Shengshi, with the aid of Arae. They lived in an idyllic environment under K’nell’s watchful protection. Some Dreamers remain on Galbar.”

“Such a sad fate, being abandoned by your patron gods to the downward spiral of deviancy… And then having that deviancy compounded by Arae,” Li’Kalla said with a sigh and roll of her eyes.

“They were never abandoned by their gods,” Ashalla said.

The globe turned to show the continent to the left. It was round, with regular protrusions around the edge. And, if one looked carefully, it slowly turned in place. “This is Swahitteh, and was created by Eurysthenes. Illusions make it hard for mortal senses to find, and traps surround its border, although these traps can be circumvented by flight.”

The globe rotated down to show a miniature storm spiralling in place in the sea below Swahitteh. “This is the Maelstrom. In it is the Gateway to Veradax. When it was first made by Orvus long ago, it was a storm which roamed free beneath the moon. Azura and I worked together to bind this dreadful storm to a single location. To aid in that task Azura created Luis.” The clouds shifted to show a vast, kilometer-long whale made from a cumulonimbus. “The Maelstrom is still a dangerous place for those who do not have the durability of godhood. Not only is the storm extremely powerful, the way to Veradax is guarded by a powerful beast created by Orvus.” The image of Luis disappeared, and was replaced by a gargantuan beast with many tentacles with ice barbs. Its head had sharp teeth and six orbs of lightning for eyes. A terrific bolt of lightning arced from its maw and seared the sky above the manor.

The apparition of the Gate Lord dissipated, and the globe spun around to show its very top. A rough circle of ice floated on top of the world, and at its very middle there was an island with a ring of mountains surrounding a mountain so tall it seemed to pierce the sky. “Here is the north pole. I created the ice sheet.” A winter-spirit fluttered out of the clouds and landed on the railing of the balcony. Unlike everything else, this winter-spirit was no imitation but a living creature. “I also made the winter-spirits. They fly south during the winter, then fly back to the ice sheet over the summer and create sculptures of all they have seen.”

Finally, the globe melted away, and the clouds around Li’Kalla and Ya-Shuur withdrew. The previous cover of rain and storm cloud above the manor and surrounding countryside returned. In front of Ya-Shuur, on the ground, condensed a ball of ice, slightly larger than his head. It was a miniature globe of Galbar, not as detailed as the large one which had been present moments ago, but still adequate for indicating the lay of the land. Wisps of cold air drifted from it. Ya-Shuur picked it up.

“This ice sculpture will persist regardless of the weather,” said a voice like falling snow.

The voice then shifted to Li’Kalla. “Your people do not know of music?”

Li’Kalla flapped her wings and puffed out her chest proudly, “Of course! I’ve spoken to them about it before! Their instruments are crude, though, and sound rather awful. If you’re thinking of… Blessing them with knowledge, I’d be grateful, Ashalla.” The Winged Goddess hummed in thought, and then perked up. “I would have a request, however, for you to merely introduce them to music and instrument making, and to let them figure out the rest on their own.”

“I will teach them about music. And also about fishing, for it will be some time before the land can provide for them again,” Ashalla said. The wind then tugged at Li’Kalla’s dress and the rain pattered against it. “I could also teach them about processing fibers, a skill useful for tools and clothing.”

Li’Kalla sighed and crossed her arms, “Huh, well, that would certainly be helpful. I suppose that way I won’t have to look at crude loincloths anymore. It was getting old.”

“Excellent. I shall get started,” Ashalla declared in a voice like a rolling wave. The cloud which was Ashalla then lowered itself towards the village at the base of the hill. “Mortals, heed my words, for I have skills to teach you which shall uplift your lives.” The vallamir and valthumir, who had mostly stopped paying attention to the divine gathering above them save for an awed few, were pulled back to attention. Ashalla delivered her lesson and instructions, showing the valls how to make musical instruments, exhorting them in producing beautiful music, and teaching them about ropes, weaving and basic fabric.

Li’Kalla huffed to herself and stood from her seat, taking flight with a mighty flap of her wings. Gliding down through the cloud which was Ashalla, Li came to land in front of the crowd of her Faithful.

Immediately, they all fell to their knees and looked down at the mud. “Q-Queen-Mother!” Shouted one in awe. It had been the first time in weeks that Li’Kalla had shown herself outside of her Manor. And what came next shocked even Sun’Ka, who was standing at the back of the crowd with a spear in hand.

She smiled at them, and began teaching them, just like Ashalla had done before her. She taught them of the importance of roads and paths as well as how to construct them; taught them about the versatile, and indeed essential Wheel and even went so far as to personally show the settlement’s craftsman how to carve them out of logs; taught them about carpentry and woodworking; and finally, gave them the knowledge that the River Worm withheld from them: Agriculture. This would take her months to ingrain into her Faithful, perhaps years, but it had to be done if she didn’t want her herd to abandon her in favour of Ashalla.

Ashalla watched Li’Kalla as she started her lessons. Ashalla had finished her lessons, so made to depart. “Remember me, Ashalla, and what I have taught you. And remember also your goddess Li’Kalla and all she has done for you,” said a voice like the rain. Then the storm which was Ashalla blew away, seeking more groups of vallamir scattered across Be’r-Jaz to teach.






Part One
Existence


It was dark.

It was cold.

Shackles made of concrete and asphalt kept a vicious grip around her wrists and ankles. They were connected to chains that snaked all the way into the darkness.

Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. Not one of them cared to find what the chains were attached to until the first time they went taut, and the screaming girl was pulled into the darkness never to be seen or heard again. The shards had all mourned, and then they tried to come up with a plan akin to the one they had to fight the Beast...

And the chains went taut again, and both the elegant woman and the playful one were swallowed by the Dark.

Only two were left, for the longest time.

One of which was Laina, Second Princess to the Sen’Kalla Clan of the Plains and Mountains, the beautiful yet timid girl with platinum hair, baby blue eyes and the fairest skin only seen on those within the Royal Families in Dai’Sora’s Expanses. The Princess that after months of daily abuse at the hands of those she once loved, respected, admired and trusted with her life; had died due to disease all those eons ago, in a different existence.

And the other was Silver, herself, who had only received a name after meeting her first friend, Orvus, and who had only considered herself a real person with real feelings and thoughts after meeting her first love, Laurien. A love that she could truly call hers, and not Laina’s or Li’Kalla’s. A love that she had held close to her heart throughout the worst moments, throughout the loneliness of Orvus’ peaceful farm, and throughout the fear and desolation within Li’Kalla’s sown-together soul. It is what gave her the strength to keep trying, to keep fighting as the chains went taut over and over again.

Silver was the one thing that held steadfast against the pull of the Architect’s influence. She was the one to keep Laina on her feet and away from hopelessness, in spite of everything that had happened, in spite of everything that could happen.

There, in the darkness, the bond between two parts of the same soul grew stronger than it had ever been. Laina with the role of the princess, who gave Silver a reason to move forward and a person to care for; and Silver with the role of the knight, who served as a pillar that Laina could rely on in her time of need, and hold onto when the darkness came screaming at her.

In the end, what they all needed to overcome the thorns digging into their hearts, was being accepted and loved by themselves.




Silver and Laina lied on the dark ground, with their heads side by side as they stared at nothingness. There were no words to exchange, as everything that could be said had been said long ago. Now, there was just the comfort of being next to each other, as the last time the chains went taut had been so long ago they’d almost forgotten about it. Who knew that being chained and imprisoned inside your own soul could be so... Peaceful?

The darkness cracked. Beams of light, something Silver had forgotten existed, penetrated the thick dark fog and converged on the two lying individuals.

“Laina.”

Her own voice sounded almost foreign.

“Laina, the sky just broke.”

There was no response and Silver turned her head to look at Laina and realized, that she was all alone.

The next thing she knew, she saw Laurien. She spoke to her, after all this time. It was like a dream, like it didn’t really happen, and then the darkness claimed her back…

Except it didn’t.

She wouldn’t let it. After all this time, after losing herself in it for so long, after becoming so accustomed to it and seeing the world for the first time in so long… After having a real body again, she would never let it take her again. Never.

A small thread had tied itself to her the moment she’d been pulled into the world to meet Laurien, and when the time came for this thread to leave, Silver grabbed onto it as tightly as she could, baring her teeth and digging her own nails into her palms. She pulled and pulled, and screamed and grunted as the silver thread gave way and the sky cracked more, showering Silver in the pure light of reality, and just like that, the thread fused into her and she found herself expelled from the darkness.

It was all a blur. There was no sound, no sight, no speech, no taste, no touch, and yet she knew.

She was alive, and the darkness around her was no darkness, but a world she could not see. And with life and independence came the loneliness she’d missed so much. She thought of Laina, of her fellow shards, and of Laurien. Even still, she thought of Li’Kalla, the one she knew had kept her trapped for so long, and found it in her heart to forgive her.

There were those that she had to leave behind, and nothing could be done about that. She would shed a tear and move on as life always did, as she was sure it moved when it was her who was left behind.

Half-awake, half-conscious, half-real, the falling star that was Silver phased through the high leaves and branches of the largest tree in the Land of Li’Kalla, through its thick trunk and past the happy, simple Foreas, and into one of the pods. Inside of it there was a half-developed body with no soul of its own, and so the bodiless soul took it as her new home away from home.




In time, her body would grow in size and consciousness. What once was a pleasant warmth inside the pod, embraced in the loving aura of the Eternal Tree, was now a blazing hot dance with the collective soul of her species, her brothers and sisters. And one day, Silver opened her eyes in a dream.

She could see without seeing, and could hear without hearing. She was in a forest, surrounded by flowers of all shapes and colors, bees, butterflies and small animals.

She reached up to her head and felt her new leaves. Bipartite, large leaves covered a dense foliage of smaller, sinuate leaves. They all quivered as she ran her hands through them, and a smile graced her face as she felt her heart swell and eyes widen.

Why? Why…

It flashed before her eyes.

Her nanny, patting her head after she helped her peel some potatoes. Her teacher, patting her head with a proud smile on her face after she successfully recited the Clan’s Ancestral Poem. Her beloved knight… Running his right hand through her hair as he wiped away her tears with his left hand, before leaving for battle on the frontlines.

Warm tears fell down her face at the sudden recollection. Then she blinked, and saw a tall humanoid in front of her, replacing those she saw in her memories. A beautiful, lush foliage covered her scalp and reached down her back, resembling furled wings. She was smiling proudly down at Silver and patting her head.

”My sapling,” The voice was soft, motherly, loving… It felt like a cool breeze in a summer afternoon. Silver’s tears didnt stop, and she embraced the figure’s waist, crying silently. The figure, her new Mother, hugged her in return, and she couldn’t help but bawl like a child… Except, no sound came out of her while doing so. ”My young one, I love you, from the bottom of my heart… I am so happy to have you, I am so grateful to the world, to the air, to the earth, for giving me such a bright young sapling. I love you, so much.”

Silver hugged the figure tighter, but in the end it gently pushed her away and got on her knees, coming to Silver’s eye level as she planted a kiss on her forehead. Tears glistened in the sun, tracing paths along her mother’s pale yellow cheeks and welling up in her light, completely brown eyes.

”I am so sad that I can’t spend more time with you, that our Dream should be this short, my love… That I can only tell you I love you so few times, that I can only hold you this one time… Do not feel alone, however, as I will always be thinking of you and I will tell everyone of you...”

Silver wiped her eyes and sobbed silently, looking into her mother’s deep eyes.

”My young autumn sapling. The world you’re awaking in is beautiful, and there are so many things to see and love. As I have done for you here, as I made you feel, that is how I want you to make others feel. In my stead, sapling, love the world and be happy.”

As her mother spoke, everything grew blurry, and her eyelids felt heavy. While she drifted off to sleep, she heard her mother’s words in the distance.

”Visit me every once in a while… Tell me of your travels, of your experiences. I will listen, I will be there for you, my sapling.”

And just like that, Silver awoke from the Dream and opened her new eyes.




Step.

Step.

Thud!

“Glorious solid material!” Orb whimpered happily, their entire form face down on a sandy beach. Their cloak was drenched and crusted with what could have been weeks of salt. Two hands gripped the sand tightly, a soft happy sob breaking from the cloaked figure. Their modified boat creaked in the gusting beach wind, keeled up onto the shore completely -- having been propelled by a major tidal surge.

Orb’s knees and elbows were screaming, having finally been released from their sitting and paddling positions. They haggard a victorious breath, thankful their stomach was still full from their rations and their mouth was wet, because otherwise, Orb felt that they could lay where they were forever. They closed their eyes, still whimpering happily along with their buzzing muscles. The sounds of Kalgrun echoed around them, the vast forests off the shallow shore repeating with bird calls. Orb couldn’t help but smile softly, their mind slipping into a sudden sleep.

They could see it... the sun blasting down from the heavens, blanketing the golden desert with a scorching heat. The horizon wriggled as the air seemed to boil, turning the distant, massive spires of limestone into yellowed serpents. Great jets of power shot from each steeple, invigorating Orb as they stood witness to the desert. Crystal water flowed in moving canals of water, and a mighty tree stood center an oasis.

Sniff

Orb’s eyes strained open, met by the darkness of the sand -- their face still buried into the shore. Suddenly, a wet pressure made its way through their hood and up the back of their head, followed by the rustling of leaves and subtle shifting of sand. Orb made a face for a second before suddenly and urgently rolling over.

One hand shot out to grab the perpetrator and found its way onto a soft, uneven surface. There were lines along the surface made of tiny leaves, ridges and decently sized orbs that kind of felt like closed eyes. When Orb’s eyes made contact with its attacke, it realized that it was indeed a face that it had been fondling, with a pale green unblemished skin, soft features and thick eyebrows consisting of leaves, and a thick mass of vivid green sinuate leaves finishing off its appearance. The leaves were quivering and the eyes fluttered open once Orb’s fingers moved away from the exotic being’s eyelids, showing two shiny black spheres that stared intently at Orb’s mask, mere inches away. Its pale green lips curled into a gentle self-pleased smile and its expression and the quivering of its leaves gave off the impression of purring.

Hesitating, Orb let their fingers fall from the strange creature. Cautiously, Orb moved to sit up, scooching further away --Uselessly as the plant only scooched closer as Orb moved away-- from the plant-person before issuing a standard runic, “Hello.”

The plant perked up. Its eyes widened and its mouth fell agape as it tilted its head curiously and wrapped one of its hands around Orb’s wrist. Orb shook their wrist free and slipped their hands back under their cloak, squinting behind the mask. They shifted languages to that of the Nebulites, “Hello?”

Again, the Plant perked up even more, its leaves standing on end and making its head look more like a cactus than a cute shrub. It closed its mouth, then opened it and closed it again before looking away. Without looking at Orb, the feminine humanoid pulled a piece of the masked figure’s coat up to their nose, took a sniff of it, and then began nibbling on it.

Orb narrowed their eyes, a hand snaking out of their cloak. Slowly they brought their gloved hand close to the living-shrub’s face, curving to gently grip its jaw. The shrub seemed to chuckle although no sound came out, and its leaves went back to their relaxed state. It let Orb handle its jaw however they wanted, sticking out its tongue slightly through gently biting teeth.

Squeezing the plant’s cheeks between their fingers, Orb peered inside the plant’s mouth, humming a curious tune. The plant’s teeth were remarkably similar in appearance to the Nebullites’, although upon closer inspection their pigmentation was slightly darker, and there were wooden patterns along the edges of the teeth, like those one would see in the core of a tree trunk. Its tongue was a darker shade of its skin color and taste buds could be seen along its surface much like on a Nebullites’ tongue.

Suddenly, the plant opened its mouth and poked its own tongue, then tried to guide Orb’s finger into its mouth by grabbing their hand. Orb gulped, “If you bite me, I’ll be very upset.” The said as they willingly let their finger prod into the shrub-person’s mouth. The shrub gently bit down on Orb’s finger and smiled innocently.

Orb’s eyes narrowed again and they gently slid their finger out of the creature’s mouth, “So you can understand me? What is your designation?”

The creature tilted its head once more then grabbed Orb’s cloak with one hand and pointed at the sea. Orb nearly jumped at the grab and slapped a hand over the plant’s -causing it to jump back- a hidden frown forming on Orb's face, “Please, no interaction with my clothing.”

After a moment of stillness and anxious staring, the shrub-person crawled back up to Orb and veeery slowly moved its hand closer to Orb’s cloak, never once taking its eyes off Orb’s mask. Orb inched just out of reach and pondered out loud, “There is a possibility that you are incapable of speech as well as understanding. We will need to confirm a level of alternative communication if we are to continue our interaction. Yes.” Orb pinched the end of their mask thoughtfully, “I must assess what senses you possess.”

The creature merely looked on, and when Orb finished speaking, it leaned forward and showed the top of its head to Orb, leaves quivering in anticipation.

“Desire?” Orb pondered, reaching out and touching the creature’s head gently with a single finger.

The creature seemed to freeze, then after a moment it peeked up at Orb’s mask pleadingly.

“You possess touch, and earlier you portrayed taste, smell, and sight,” Orb concluded, resting their gloved palm flat on top the creatures head. As Orb pondered, the creature began rubbing its leafy head against their hand, closing its shiny eyes in what seemed to be pure bliss.

Orb made a curious face and patted the head gingerly, “I assume you are very sensitive in this particular area. I hope and plead that it is simply perchance and not the result of something unsavory that I am unaware of.” Orb shook their head and retracted their hand, “You can’t understand me, either way. Yet you do have ample use of facial expression.”

The creature looked at Orb and then patted their hood-covered head while grinning happily.

“Yes, yes,” Orb said, scrunching under the petting reluctantly, “Uh... thank you.” Orb moved a hand forward and pinched their own mask. “Right, we are going to experiment on a theory of mine, now.” Their other hand moved the plant’s own away from their head, two hidden eyes staring intently at the plant’s own.

“Look at me,” Orb commanded, well aware of the uselessness of their words. Sliding their mask up, they took in a deep breath. The once hidden band of the mask fell from behind Orb’s head, their hood falling to their shoulders. Orb pulled the mask from their face and anxiously held it against their lap with both hands.

Two big eyes colored similar to a starry sky twinkled at the plant. Orb’s feminine face was gentle, with a deep tan. Their cheeks were full and angled to their gentle sloping chin, indeed giving their face a heart shape, with a small nose and a mouth that seemed to have a slight natural curl at each end. Orb had two tiny thin strip of burgundy down feathers where eyebrows would normally be, matching the long silky burgundy feathers that trailed down from their scalp, many strange beads tied into the cascade of shoulder length feathers. Orb let out a beaming (albeit forced) smile, showcasing a white brilliance. They pointed eagerly at their face, “Happy.”

The shrub-person looked between Orb’s lap and their face, and eventually put a hand on each. One rubbing the mask and the other Orb’s now flinching face, specifically their nose and feathery eyebrows, which the plant seeming to enjoy the most, running its fingers back and forth along the eyebrows in amazement while the other hand inspected every accessible surface of the mask.

“You are a touch based learner,” Orb suggested, letting their mask fall to the sand below for the meanwhile, allowing the plant creature to focus both its hands on Orb’s bare face, with one slowly settling around their throat. At that moment, the plant froze, and then mimicked opening and closing its mouth. Orb hummed in their throat, vibrating against the plant’s hand. It reeled back and stared agape at Orb, then with the tip of its finger traced a path from Orb’s throat all the way to their chest, over where their left lung would be. Orb backed up a little and grabbed the plant’s hand, putting it back on their throat.

“Orb.” They said, poking themselves as they did. Making sure the plant’s hand was steady on their throat, Orb poked the plant gently on the forehead, “Shrub.”

The Shrub stared in confusion, wincing everytime Orb poked its forehead. It leaned in and lightly pressed its hand against Orb’s lips and opened and closed its mouth.

Sucking in a breath through their nose -causing Shrub to look at Orb as if it had performed some unknown forbidden magic- Orb patted Shrub on the top of its head, gently speaking into Shrub’s palm, “Shrub.” They took Shrub’s free hand and patted the hand against their own feathery scalp, “Orb.”

Shrub’s eyes lit up in understanding and she nodded, petting Orb’s head with an airy smile on her face. She mimicked Orb’s lip movements and mouthed ’Owb’. Orb nodded with a big exaggerated smile, “Good.”

And then Shrub started mouthing off, ’Owbowbowbowbowbowbowbowbowb...’ over and over as she slid up to Orb and hugged her new friend, nuzzling their feathery hair. Orb squirmed uncomfortably, slipping from the grasp, but gave Shrub a gentle pat on the head and a weak smile.

“This is a start.”

Shrub suddenly released Orb from the hug and nodded fervently, standing up and trying to pull Orb onto their feet, ’Owb!’

Scooping up their mask, Orb rose to their feet, “What is it, Shrub?”

Shrub intertwined her fingers with Orb’s, but the cloaked figure broke free to run to their paddle boat. Leaning onto the deck and out of sight, Orb quickly grabbed a backpack (depositing their mask into it) and swung it over their shoulders before running back to the waiting Shrub. Hesitating for a moment, they placed their hand back into Shrub’s who led them further into land, looking back every so often to confirm Orb was really there. After what felt like a long time, they arrived in a particularly dense patch of jungle, where the overgrowth went almost past their waists. At that point, Shrub gave the air a few sniffs and squatted down into the overgrowth, emerging a few seconds later with quivering leaves and presenting a newly hatched griffon to her new friend. ’Owb.’ There, with strong rays of light reflecting off of every possible surface, it was easy to see the crystallized sap going along Shrub’s arms, shoulders, chest and back, with deep gashes visible under the crystal-like fluid of life.

“Wha-” Orb suddenly had a flashback and shivered, “Ah, one of those.” Staring at the scarring of what could have been wounds, Orb began to piece the puzzle together, “I was taken by one of those too.” Orb offered helplessly, braving a single touch of the baby griffin. It cried weakly in response, squirming away from Orb’s hand. It seemed to be half-starved, and so it could do nothing but cry once more as Shrub thrust it into Orb’s hand.

Orb fumbled with the weak baby for a moment before finding an appropriate grip on the squirming creature. Orb’s starry eyes studied it intently, “It requires sustenance.” Their own stomach rumbled, “I also require sustenance.”

Shrub tilted her head and pointed at a nearby ray of light and at Orb’s rumbling stomach.

Orb hummed and shook their head. They pushed the baby back into Shrub’s arms and slipped their pack off their back. Snapping the bag open and after rummaging through it briefly, Orb pulled out a strip of cloth. Unraveling it they plucked a dried fruit from it and tossed the fruit in the air. The small fruit looped and came back down, landing square onto Orb’s blue tongue. They chewed and swallowed, giving Shrub a wink, “See? Consumption.”

Shrub stared on for a long few moments, until her eyes suddenly lit up and she placed the baby griffon on her head, proceeding to scratch at the crystallized sap on her arms until it fell apart with a silent grunt of pain and fresh new sap began to slowly leak out of her flesh. After letting it accumulate for a while, she coated her finger in a generous portion of her sap and brought it up close to the griffon’s beak. It took the baby a split second to react, and then it began energetically licking up the sap. Shrub’s face lit up with a wide grin and starry eyes and she looked at Orb.

“Well that’s one solution,” Orb surrendered as they ate the rest of their fruits, “But I have a feeling that infant requires fleshy sustenance.” Orb swallowed their meal and rasped, “Come.” they coughed on a loose rind stuck in their throat, “Come aid me in relocating the materials and supplies of my vessel, I think I spotted an adequate clearing on the way here where I could lay a foundation.”

After the griffon finished licking her finger clean, Shrub nodded to herself and skipped close to Orb, wrapping her arms around one of Orb’s.

Orb seemed to freeze for a moment before reluctantly sighing, allowing the cling, “Let’s advance.”



Li’Kalla

Goddess of Rain
MP 18 FP 16

Year 57, 10 years after the Rot.





“But Queen-Mother-”

“I ordered you to stay at the camp, and you disobeyed. I know what your intentions are and I am happy you care this much about my wellbeing, Child, truly… But what I require right now is solitude.” Li’Kalla explained calmly, walking into the forest without looking back at the one following her with quick and light footsteps.

“W-What if the River Worm comes back and hurts you again!” A pair of small, thin arms wrapped themselves around Li’Kallas wrist, and she stopped with a sigh, turning around to look at the black-haired and blue eyed child with a motherly smile.

“Rann’Ka.”

The child looked straight into Li’Kalla’s eyes, his own ice-blue eyes filled with fire and determination.

“… Very well. I will reward your passion by allowing you to accompany me. Go to the the camp craftsman, get a knife, and catch up to me. That is your quest for today.” Li’Kalla nodded and the boy ran off without hesitation.

Without wasting time, Li’Kalla turned and went on her way. Her objective today wasn’t simple solitude. It had been almost ten years since the day Shengshi had cursed the land, and while Ya’Shuur had cured the land of its illness, the shockwaves left by the attack were still reverberating to this day.

The Rot had only lasted for slightly over 6 weeks, and in those 6 weeks many species of wildlife, as well as hundreds of Vallamir and Valthumir across the Island, had perished. Every secluded tribe immediately turned their backs on Li’Kalla, and over the years more than a handful had tried to attack her Faithful to no avail. And they would keep trying to hurt her and her chosen herd if she didn’t do something.

It was two years ago that a party of Valthumir explorers came back from an expedition to the west of the Island and reported a large forest that consisted of a single tree. A large tree in the center had roots spanning beyond the horizon, and those roots came above ground very often, turning into what looked like independent trees but were in fact all part of the same entity.

That’s where she was heading. She’d been travelling with a small group of her people for a few days now to reach this place, and now she had to impress them. She would make this entire forest immune to the effects of any curse involving Shengshi and Harvests, and to do that she only needed to do one thing according to her theory.

Power and Essence.

When she climbed a hill, she saw it. A forest stretching as far as the mortal eye could see, with pretty trees everywhere you looked, all blooming with beautiful flowers and leaves of different colors and shapes. It was impressive even to Li’Kalla that a single tree could have parts of it be so different from one another, with the one similarity being a pale-colored trunk.

When Li’Kalla was about to enter the forest, Rann’Ka came down the hill, wielding a stone knife with plant fibre rope wrapped around the handle for comfort. One of the finest tools in their camp, she recognized, due to the exotic material in which it was made — Obsidian. It seemed like her people’s admiration and respect for her grew with each day, with the adults being willing to give such a great tool to a child of barely 10 years of age in order to protect her serving as proof.

The child caught up to her and grinned widely, holding the knife with both his hands and showing it to her, “I got it, Queen-Mother, Uncle Jin’So gave it to me!”

Li’Kalla chuckled and ruffled up his straight black hair, “Jin’So, huh? As expected of a Valthumir like him, he sees the potential you hold, Child.”

Rann’Ka gasped in delight and his cheeks turned red as he stared with starry eyes at Li’Kalla, who after a second turned around and resumed walking. He followed closely and silently, like he’d been taught to do by his caretaker.

Until at last they arrived at the center of the forest and saw the great tree. It stood as tall as the mightiest wild dragon, and it breathed life. Birds and small animals made their homes in the endless branches and canopy of the tree, and its soul seemed to emit a calming aura, enveloping every being near it. Even Li’Kalla could feel it, and a spare look at Rann’Ka afterward she confirmed he was feeling the same way.

“Rann’Ka, I will infuse this tree with my life force, and in doing so I will protect this Holy Land and all of my beloved Children from attacks like the one that the Accursed Envy launched on us ten years ago. I do this, hoping in the depths of my heart, that you nor any other child has to witness death, famine and insanity like that.” Li’Kalla’s voice was serious, and her face hardened. Rann’Ka watched in amazement and nodded excitedly.

And so Li’Kalla walked to the tree and placed both her hands on it, closing her eyes…

And let her energy pour into the Tree freely.

It was an incredible sight for young Rann’Ka. A blinding light had consumed the Goddess and the tree, and the latter grew and grew until it blocked out the sky, and its trunk thickened and warped around him, and created large halls and openings, with several levels. It was becoming more of a living, empty village than a tree, but that was only because Rann’Ka was inside the tree and couldn’t see that from the outside, the once mighty tree had now pierced the sky and had grown slightly paler. Its canopy was as wide as a city, and its trunk was equaly as amazing.

The flow of energy slowed and the shapes became more visible and detailed as time went on. And then…

“AH!” Li’Kalla yelped, and a shockwave went through the tree and the land, and she fell to the ground in a heap.

It was dark for a long time, until an odd warmth reached her. It was soft, sometimes prickly but she felt at peace and… Happy. Happy? Had she ever felt that way…? Without thinking about it, and without caring to open her eyes, she sighed and cuddled up against the warmth, nuzzling into… Leaves?

Did the warmth just squirm?

“… Get away from me!! Mom, mom! Wake up please!” Rann’Ka cried, and Li’Kalla’s eyes shot open to come face to face with a delicate, green, soft face and a pair of half-lidded, shiny, all-black eyes staring at her happily. The face was framed by soft-looking leaves which were squirming lightly and gave the entity cuddling up to her the appearance of gentle excitement. It seemed humanoid enough, with a feminine, delicate shape but unfortunately small breasts. They weren’t suited to breastfeed newborn, Li’Kalla thought and then realized that this entity wasn’t a mammal at all. After pushing her knee up between the entity’s legs, she confirmed that it wasn’t able to engage in intercourse. Interesting.

“Agh!” Rann’Ka groaned and fell, and reminded of her situation, Li’Kalla pushed the little soft humanoid plant away and stood up, turning to see Rann’Ka’s blushing face peeking out from under a mountain of feminine green, brown, pale yellow and orange bodies. He didn’t seem hurt, and was just embarrassed. So Li’Kalla looked around and saw how the Tree had changed and that they were now inside a great hall of some kind, with multiple levels above and below, reaching up into the sky and down below the earth, with bioluminiscent plants wherever the light didn’t reach.

On the level below there were hundreds of pods lined in strips of the solid wood of the tree, and those pods were quickly opening and letting out many of the plant-like humanoids. Around her and Rann-Ka’s location, she noticed a few plants, much bigger and stronger looking than the others. Those were the males, hulking and gentle and shy.

In the end, she chuckled and waved her hand at the pile of bodies smothering Rann’Ka, and they got off him reluctantly.

“It’s been done, let’s go back to the camp.” The Goddess said and started walking away toward an opening in the thick walls of the tree. Rann’Ka jumped up to his feet and ran up to Li’Kalla, holding onto her dress tightly as he composed himself. At the exit, Li’Kalla turned to look for the plant humanoid that had cuddled up to her and pointed at it. “Come with me.” And it obeyed happily, skipping up to her and wrapping her soft arms around Li’Kalla’s.

“… W-What did you do, mom?” Rann’Ka asked after a while.

“I gave the tree the power necessary to protect this land’s flora from outside interference through an enhanced capability to heal the land’s plants. For all intents and purposes, this tree, which I will name ‘The Endless Tree’, has now become our first line of defense againt Demonic influences.”

“And those weird green… Things?”

“Ah… An unexpected side effect. Let’s name them… Foreas.”



Li’Kalla, Goddess of Rain

MP 18 FP 16

&

Shengshi




Rivers and Rain


“Alright,” the snake sighed. “I suppose we should go pick up those… What did Laurien call them again?”

“Nebulites, Your Lordship,” He Bo replied helpfully.

“Ah, yes - the Nebulites. Have their rooms been prepared?”

“With impeccable attention to detail and comfort, Your Lordship.”

“Splendid,” the snake praised with a smile. The great vessel of Jiangzhou was currently cruising lethargically through the clouds due west. The ship had been primed and prepared for the coming day-long feast, and the army of servants zoomed back and forth with towels, bedsheets, food and drink. Everything was going to be perfect - nothing less could be expected.

However, an odd sensation suddenly prickled at the snake’s mind, and as he looked outside, he saw heavy, gray clouds on the horizon like dark wool. Behind them, a presence teased its position like the final cookie in the jar.

“Say, He Bo - what is in that direction?”

The master servant followed his finger and squinted at the clouds. “Cannot say, Your Lordship. The holy vessel Jiangzhou rarely sails these clouds.”

The snake hummed. “If we have sailed in the right direction, there should be an archipelago below us. Though this presence is… Awfully unlike the one I was expecting. We shall investigate.”

The ship dipped down under the thickest cloud cover, but it seemed to extent forever. Moisture clung to the cool wood and cloth onboard and the snake pursed his lips.

“He Bo, I think we may have taken a wrong turn somewhere.”

“It could be raining over the isles today, Your Lordship,” He Bo suggested. The snake shook his head.

“No, no, we are definitely somewhere other than where we intended to go.” He slithered out onto his veranda and stared ahead. He Bo followed swiftly after, even his controlled steps slipping on the wet floorboard. Before them a great island stretched towards the north, and above them fell raindrops upon raindrops in a ceaseless manner. The snake blinked and snapped his fingers.

“Oh, now I know what this presence is!”

He Bo opened a silk umbrella. “What is it, Your Lordship?”

“A goddess - one whose presence I have not sensed since the dawn of time. Oh, what a splendid opportunity! He Bo, have the servants deck the feast hall for two.”

“At once, Your Lordship,” the master servant answered dutifully and hurried inside. The snake scanned eagerly across the vast lands: the froth of waves at its coast, the thick growth of trees, and, his divine eyes observed, a particularly hot lake next to what looked to be a house.

“Ah, wonderful.”




Some time later, the impervious vessel had landed neatly on the boiling lake. The snake peered over the side of the deck, backed up by a few curious servant eyes, to see several barely clothes shapes on the shore, staring at the ship in both fear and awe. All in all, at least fifty of those shapes were present, with most being very young children and babies in the arms of females. More were arriving quickly, however.

One male, pale with white hair and grey eyes, pushed his way through the small crowd and took a stance, pointing his stone spear at the magnificent ship.

“You land in the Holy Lake of the Eagle Clan,” The male exclaimed with all he had, his voice barely reaching the ship, “You dare bring foreign materials into sacred lands without the permission of the True Queen-Mother, state your identities now, invaders!”

As he spoke, three more of his kin, these ones with black hair and brown eyes, joined him, one of them with a primitive bow and the other two with clubs.

“Ouch, what a greeting,” the snake muttered. “He Bo, fetch a meal for each of these as a peace offering.” The servant replied in his nasal, musical language and disappeared behind the top of the deck. The snake wrinkled his nose and turned to look down at the creatures below. In a bombastic move, he swung his arms open and boomed, “Lower your weapons, people of the Eagle Clan, for I, Shengshi, am not your foe! I come in nothing but peace, for the sake of peace, and with an invitation of peace. In but a moment, my intentions will be clear for you all to sample.”

He clapped his hands together once and smiled. “In the meantime, would you tell me a bit about yourselves? I do so love a mortal story or two.”

The male hesitated, but ended up relaxing. His kin followed suit, casting uncertain gazes at their leader. Just as he opened his mouth to continue speaking, a loud knocking echoed through the land. Heavy metal on thick wood, it came from the large front doors to the Pristine Manor on top of the cliff, overlooking the crude huts and workshops of the mortals.

Three times the knock was heard, and after three times the doors dragged open, the wood creaking and allowing light into the dark interior of the building. Behind the doors, the tall Goddess Li’Kalla, Goddess of Rain, stood proud. Her pure white wings were stretched at each side of her body, tips touching far above her head, outlining a sort of halo behind her head. It barely fitting through the frame of the entranceway. And so she walked out and the doors closed behind her, one last heavy knock reverberating through the bones of the mortals present.

Every primitive watched with tears in their eyes and happy smiles, the only one who remained watching the foreigners closely was the male leader.

The Goddess walked gracefully to the shores of her Boiling Lake and made herself float up to Shengshi’s level, without drawing too close to the Jiangzhou.

”I welcome you to my humble abode, and I introduce you to my Herd, the Valthumir and Vallamir who reside on this land… Shengshi, God of Rivers, am I correct?”

“Very much so!” the snake replied and bowed low. “It is an honour and a joy to be welcome. Forgive me for not contacting you ahead of my arrival - for a while I was a little uncertain as to who exactly was down here; I am glad to find that it was you, after all.” He tapped his chin. “This is the first time we have met since the dawn of time, is it not? Or did we even formally meet even then? My apologies, my recollections of the eons past are a little jumbled of late.”

”I say the same of my recollections. That is not important now, however. We shall treat it as our first meeting.” Li’Kalla said with a placid smile.

“So we shall! So, this Herd of yours…” As he spoke, a train of servants came out the palace gates behind him. As soon as they laid their eyes on Li’Kalla, they collectively put the covered plates they were carrying on the ground, turned to her with inclined heads and then proceeded to kowtow. Then, they thundered as one: “TEN THOUSAND YEARS TO LI’KALLA, GREAT MISTRESS OF THE RAIN!” The snake spun around and smiled proudly while Li’Kalla nodded at the servants in appreciation.

“... Fantastic, aren’t they? Right, so this Herd… It has a…” He sniffed the air and hummed. “... A certain scent about it - a four-way split of essence. Were they a collaborative project?”

”Ah,” Li’Kalla held back a sigh, ”They are a product of Arae, Roog, Kalmar and I. Unfortunately. Had I been the sole creator I would’ve been able to ensure all of them showed at least one Streak of Divinity… As it stands, I’ve separated the lesser ones from those worthy of leadership.”

“Ah! A hierarchy! Finally, something familiar,” the snake applauded. “A proper civilisation needs its castes. What would my servants be without it, I wonder?” The servants in question had made their way down from the ship on a watery staircase and proceeded to offer the Valthumir and Vallamir clay plates covered with lids to keep the rain out. From underneath the lids oozed mouth-watering fragrances, and seeing the look on the faces of her mortals, Li’Kalla made the rain stop and the clouds disperse.

When she turned to face Shengshi she was blushing slightly and frowning, ”I apologize, Shengshi, they have no tables to place the plates on. They shall kindly accept your offering and eat it in their huts, away from sight. It’s a very young civilization, I hope you understand.” As she finished, she quickly motioned a dismissal with her hand to Van’Kalla, the male leader who still watched the two Gods speak.

“Understood, Queen-Mother, at once.” Van’Kalla replied with a respectful nod of his head and turned around to begin shouting at his kin. each one took one plate they liked the scent of and disappeared into one of the few huts.

The Goddess watched the mortals go one by one until there were none left but the servants, and then she turned to Shengshi. ”Would you rather speak on neutral ground? Have your servants set up a temporary meeting spot some distance away from the Lake and we shall discuss things further there, I have need of your expertise in some matters.”

“Oh, is that so? How fantastically convenient. May I come with a proposal, though? While it may not be neutral perhaps, we have already stacked the table in my feast hall below deck high with snacks and drinks for just such an occasion - would that suffice?”

Li’Kalla pursed her lips, and then nodded, ”That will do.”

“Then,” the snake said with a bow, “if you would follow me, please.” He then spun calmly on his tail and slithered towards the palace gates, with Li’Kalla letting herself touch the ground and walking next to him.

”I couldn’t help but notice the efficiency at which your servants work and the plates they carried. Clay, correct?”

“Correct. It is of my own making, as with most of the items onboard. The servants have a complex and fascinating culture, and while they are slowly reverse-engineering much of the equipment they have been using over the centuries, there are certain processes that offer more obstacles than others, hence why the clay plates are not made by them.” The pair entered into the palace where the walls along the great corridor to the feast hall were lined with kowtowing servants, all of whom were shouting their humble, praising greetings with one voice. The snake continued, “They are nigh infinitely loyal and rigorously well-trained. There are none in this universe but the gods who can best them in service and servitude.”

Li’Kalla watched with some discomfort as the servants kept going out of their way to greet them, ”I see,” She said, ”Gods are not meant to serve others however, so they might as well be the best there is in that aspect for now.”

“I could not agree more,” the snake said with a smile. The pair descended a great staircase draped with crimson silk carpets and before them unfolded a room of gold and glory. Its walls carried splending paintings on colossal rice paper canvases; the roof was lit with red paper lanterns; nearly every surface and column wore a golden coat. In the background sang flutes and harps and in the centre of the hall stood a long table with a golden dragon throne at the far end and a beautifully bejeweled throne of wood upholstered with silken pillows on the left side of the far end.

When they arrived at the thrones, the snake took the liberty of pulling Li’Kalla’s throne out for her. “Please, have a seat.”

”Thank you,” Li’Kalla said furling up her wings and sitting down in one graceful movement. ”Beautiful decoration, was it all decided by you, Cardinal Courtesy?”

“Down to the last tablecloth,” the snake confirmed with a smile and sat himself on his golden dragon throne. “The feast hall is the jewel of my vessel - only perfection is acceptable. I would have nothing less for my guests.” A number of servants came over to the table and, with swift, courteous movements, they placed down warm clay plates for the both of them upon which sat rolled up, hot towels. The snake took his and rubbed it over his hands.

“Forgive me for jumping straight to the point, but I am so curious: What was it that you wanted to discuss?”

Li’Kalla imitated what Shengshi did, and she nodded, ”As you surely observed, the state of my civilization is rather… Unsatisfying. You saw how they greeted you. Their ignorance comes from a lack of knowledge and respect, so upon seeing your servants I wondered if you would be able to teach some basic etiquette to the Vallamir and Valthumir, and while at it I would be thankful to receive advice on how to ensure the loyalty and productivity of the lower castes.”

“Ah, so that which ails you is issues of the state,” the snake mused. “The request for basic etiquette can easily be solved if a few servants were left behind to educate them. Etiquette stems from respect, which can be achieved through fear or fame. Let us examine these two,” the snake stated. “If they respect you because of your might, they would never dare to rise up unless they thought that they could win - which they cannot. For a god, it is safe, reliable and simple.”

Servants came over to them with cups of light wine. The snake took a small sip from his and continued, “If they respect you because of your heroism or out of their love for you, they are likely to be loyal, as well. Working for a master one knows will care for you is a great motivator, so productivity is assured as well. However, mortals are ungrateful and easily corrupted by worldly riches. They may not love you forever for the gifts you grant to this generation. Therefore, my advice is to establish clear boundaries - offer them a stern rule set that tells them what will lead to wealth and riches, and what will lead to sanctions and punishment.”

Li’Kalla set down the hot towel, now soaking due to her rainwater, and brought her hand up to her mouth as she thought. After a moment, she nodded again, ”I see. Yes, I will create a concise ruleset. There is another matter...” Li’Kalla grabbed her cup and gave it a long sip, gasping quietly in surprise at the flavour, ”... Wine? And it’s exceptional.”

“Like it?” the snake smiled and chuckled. “This one is a pear wine, made from Atokhekwoian pears. It is very much a new favourite of mine. I will give you a pot if you like it that much. Oh, why not take two, to honour our friendship.”

”Heh, you take large strides, Shengshi.” Li’Kalla chuckled and kept sipping at her cup, ”We can do business later, I am very interested in your selection of wines. For now, the other matter I had in mind was requesting you share some technology with my Herd. I am willing to do business, should you wish to ask for anything in exchange.”

“Hooo?” The snake raised an eyebrow and put down his cup. He intertwined his fingers and placed his chin on top. “What technology did you have in mind?”

”You clearly have the ability to produce wines in large quantities, so that means you have access to agricultural techniques beyond most of those I’ve seen in this world. On top of that, you have access to sugar, an important ingredient in the making of wine, which is also an important ingredient in black powder. You see where I’m going with this, I expect.”

The snake’s eyebrows furrowed together and he wrinkled his nose. “I am sorry, but there may be a misunderstanding here. While I do have expansive knowledge of agriculture and brewing, I personally do not use any extra sugar in the brewing process - not even to carbonate the drinks. Certainly, I can plant for your mortals fields of sugar beets or sugar cane, but I believe you know as well as I that for mortal hands to extract refined sugar from these plants, they require technology that they simply are not ready for.”

”That is no matter, if you can teach my mortals these techniques and technologies, I’d be happy to sponsor any project of your choosing in exchange.”

The snake raised a palm. “I will gladly teach them to work the soil and harvest its produce, and I will teach them to make the tools that will bring in the season’s bounty and where to store it. However, until they at the very least grasp concepts like pottery, furnaces and metalcraft, I feel teaching them sugar extraction is wasted knowledge.”

”That is a fair point. They should be ready for that knowledge soon, however. After agriculture is established, the Valthumir will begin to truly shine. Without having to spend so much time foraging and hunting for food, most of them will be able to focus on scientific pursuits... We may yet be able to turn these savages into proper civilized individuals.”
“A worthy mission. Few goals in this world are greater than the search of prosperity for one’s people. However, I feel a need to stress my earlier point about respect. The mortals respecting you will be simple - however, the mortals respecting one another necessitates that one of them, preferably the leader you have chosen, has a considerable force behind them. How skilled are your people in combat? Will there be a state policing force?”

Li’Kalla finished her cup of wine and set it down on the table, ”Not very skilled. We lack the numbers or stable food source to establish an army. I do know of one Valthumir that shows real potential for warfare, however. He is on a quest at the moment, below ground where the shadows reside.”

“What was that? Below ground where the shadows reside?”

Li’Kalla raised her eyebrows in surprise and leaned back in disbelief, ”... I expected a God with a taste for stories to know this, somehow. I suppose no one visits these lands too much. There are hideous, dangerous beings under our feet right now. Forgotten creations by a Forgotten deity… They seek only to sow destruction and pain and death, and they guard the underground where all the significant sources metals and combustible resources are.”

“How absolutely barbaric - to make life for the sake of destroying other life for nothing but sport.” The snake grimaced and waved the foul thought away. “And here I thought the pinnacle senseless destruction was that bloody flame-bearded dog. To furthermore stand in the way of your people’s future prosperity, too. Horrible - simply horrible.”

”it is good practice,” Li’Kalla sighed, ”I can’t shake this feeling that something horrible lies in wait for us over the horizon, so this is more of a blessing in disguise… It will serve to toughen up the Valthumir. Especially because not even I know how deep the underground goes, or what creatures are down there.”

“... I certainly hope that I will remain merely a blessing in disguise, then… Still…” He waved over a servant who placed a plate of small appetisers on the table: various bits of fish, biscuits and rice balls. “... You will not have to worry about an army. Once they have been taught to work the soil, they will not hunger for many, many years.”

”Indeed,” Li’Kalla tapped the rim of her empty wine cup then looked straight at Shengshi, ”Back to business, I would be interested in obtaining seeds for several different crops, including grapes and these pears you mentioned. Oh, and lastly, would you mind taking me to your cellar? I would like to taste your different wines. If they’re tradeable, I’d like to get as many of the ones I find agreeable as possible.”

“They are both tradeable and giftable, my dear - I am inclined to offer the wine to you as the latter in addition to the gift of seeds, tools and knowledge. The wine shall serve as my letter of friendship and siblinghood to you - the rest can be traded for a favour which I may call upon at a later date. Does this sound fair?”

Li’Kalla smiled and nodded, raising her cup up in the air, ”It sounds fair. Now, take a girl to you cellar, will you?”

“Of course,” the snake said with a smile and rose, slithering over to Li’Kalla’s throne to offer her a hand which she gladly took. “Please, follow me.” And so the two walked to the far back of the feast hall, towards the ship’s stern. There awaited them a colossal metal gate sealed with chains and locks. The snake snapped his right fingers and the pair watched as the locks opened themselves and pulled away from the door like retreating serpents.

“A safety measure to keep out any curious mortals. I had three once who spent their entire days emptying my cellar. Never again.” Li’Kalla responded with a chuckle.

The doors slowly swung open and an aged, sour smell fell out like a cloud of dust. It was dark inside, and in the red light shining in through the doorway, one could see fifty litre clay pots stacked in mountains around the room, surrounding research benches and boiling basins. In the centre of the room was an enormous metal contraption, adorned with brass stills and pipes. A vent of steam escaped it with a loud whistle.

“Pardon the mess, my dear - I so rarely bring guests here these days. Not that I do not wish to show it off, oh no, it is merely because so few request it.”

Li’Kalla shook her head and waved her hand nonchalantly, ”No complaints here, I prefer it when workshops are well-used and slightly messy, myself. It shows the one in charge is diligent.” She spoke as she walked around the vast room, taking in all the various tools, rolled up parchments and most importantly, the metal contraption. ”This is the first contraption I see in this world that comes close to a machine. It’s beautiful, really! Pray tell, does it require manpower or is it automated?”

“This is the Distillery. While the fires must be kept alive by mortal hand, it boils the wine and collects the vapours on its own, concentrating them to create liquor. It is a stronger sort of wine, if you will - specifically made to be consumed in small doses at a time over the course of a long night.”

”Oh, I see, impressive nonetheless,” Li’Kalla took in the sight and then looked over at one of the research benches, ”I’m sorry, I’m unfortunately not too well versed in the different kinds of alcohol that can be consumed, so all I can talk about is my admiration for machines and research. I’m a bit of a bore, really.”

“No, no, you are certainly no bore, dear!” Shengshi supported. “Machinery and industry are two fascinations of my own, too, so I could gladly talk about them for ages. How about we talk some over a cup of… Uhm, let us see…” The snake ran his fingers over a number of labels. “How about a mango liqueur? It is a little thicker and sweeter than the one we had for lunch.”

”Hmm...” Li’Kalla brought a hand up to her cheek as she thought, ”Why not? Let’s try a few different ones as well, this is a great opportunity to experience something new!” She said with a smile on her face.

The snake smiled and took off the lid. He took a wooden ladle and poured some of the thick, orange fluid into two cups. He offered one to Li’Kalla and gave his own a whiff. “Ah... Such a sweet scent… Tell me, what sort of crops would you like your civilisation to live off of? With these rains, I reckon rice and various vegetables can thrive.”

Li’Kalla brought her cup up to her nose and took a whiff as well, then tried the concoction. She made a face and coughed, then perked up. ”Ah yes, business. Rice is a great idea and I was thinking of adding corn and a good selection of fibrous vegetables. I do not mind which vegetables, as long as they’re fairly nutritious to ensure the long term health of the genetic stock. What do you think?”

“Rice and corn will serve as the main source of carbohydrates, then - vitamins and fiber will be covered by asparagus, cabbage, carrots and okra. Cucumbers as well, I think. Few of these will suffer too much from monsoons and rain seasons, and they offer many different flavours, textures and nutrients for your mortals to enjoy. As for proteins, I can offer various beans and legumes, though I still recommend either fish or meat for the warriors and labourers.”

”Yes, I expect most of their protein and fat intake to come from animal sources, excluding milk of course. Milk is… Disgusting, to say the least. We can supply them with two types of beans however. What’s your opinion on black beans and green lentils? The former is amazing with some salt, in my opinion.”

“You do not like milk?” the snake asked with a surprised look. “Well, suppose we will be skipping the fermented elephant milk, then…” He cleared his throat as Li’Kalla barely held back a gag. “Black beans and green lentils are satisfactory, though lentils in particular are very vulnerable to floods. May I suggest cowpeas instead? They are a little more comfortable with humidity.”

”Sure, sounds great. In due time we’ll be able to cultivate whatever we desire with just a little help from hydro, aqua and aeroponics however, so all of this might change in the future. Who knows, it might even be sooner than expected! Oh,” Li’Kalla gasped and shuddered, wrapping her arms around herself for a moment, ”I get all shivery thinking of the future, sorry!” She giggled and took a long sip of her drink.

“Oh, nothing to apologise for,” the snake chuckled. “Excitement about the future is something we all should feel! The future is prosperous, harmonious! A promise of peace, stability and joy for all life in this universe.” He knocked his cup gently against hers and flashed her a grin. “Starting with ensuring every mortal goes to sleep with a full belly.”

”Yeah! That’s a prosperous future, indeed! And let’s make sure my Faithful get to taste these sweet drinks as well! They will be a hit, I can imagine all the fun that’s going to be had in reunions and meetings between friends already.”

“Naturally, my dear! The wine shall flow through the camp of the Eagle clan like rain water over their soon-to-be-sown fields of food. Now…” He finished his cup. “Allow me to show you this one… It is an experimental blend…”




”... Aaaand daswhy, Sssheng… Daswhy you can’t mIX WHITE HAIR WITH COLOURED HAIR! Yuknoo… Sgood am here... Nooobodyhasshpreparedathing! I hav’ t...” Li’Kalla let her blushing face drop against the soft surface of the table she found herself to be sitting at and after a moment, ruffled up her own hair and looked up at Shengshi with a flushed, placid grin, ”... I liiiike, likelike youur PRODUCTS, Ho… Li… Ness~”

The snake shuffled uncomfortably in his throne. “I suppose my tolerance may be a little more robust.” A sharp burp escaped him and he covered his mouth. “Oof, pardon me. Li’Kalla, my dear, would you like one last sample before we return upstairs?”

Li’Kalla barely nodded and pushed her cup toward him. ”yuush…!”

The snake poured her a half-full cup of something purple. “For our final taste test, my dear, we have a very, very, -very- mild grape wine. I reckon it would serve you well to drink it and then gulp down some water so as to not appear…” He tapped his chin. “... Inebriated before your subjects.”

”W-Wuh- Am not!” Li’Kalla exclaimed, jerking upright and looking straight at the empty air next to Shengshi, she went to grab her cup and missed, then tried again and downed the cup in one go, letting herself slink back onto the table. ”... Maybeh a lil beet… Am in troublee… Haeelp meh...” Li’Kalla moaned, tearing up.

”I... cant go out like dish… Waddidyoudotoomeee...”

“Would you like to take a nap, dear?” the snake sighed and patted her comfortingly on her shoulder. “It usually helps.”

”... Ok, yesh.”




A few hours later...

Li’Kalla had been moved to a large bedroom with white walls painted with blue and green images of river valleys in the rain. Outside the skies were still gray, and it was quickly evident that the day was still the same as it had been before the wine tasting had begun. Beside the queen-sized, silk-sheeted bed was a small bed stand topped with a tall glass of water and an even tallen pitcher of the same. Between the two was a note.

With a groan and a stretch, Li’Kalla opened her eyes and sat up. She was feeling light as a feather and as beautiful as ever, and the sight of the gray skies invigorated her. By the Architect, did she love rain! Immediately she grabbed the tall glass of water that had been left on the bed stand and drank its contents. ”Hyyaaaa! That water’s good! How is Shengshi so good at picking out the taste for liquids? Maybe that comes with the title of River God… Hey… I am the Rain Goddess, I should be able to make great water as well.” Li’Kalla thought out loud, then shrugged, tilted her head back and opened her mouth, dangling her index finger over her mouth before thinking twice about it and shaking her head.

Instead she picked up the glass she’d just drank from, gave it a quick wash with her control over water and made sure it was dry before sticking the tip of her finger into it and letting a steady stream of clear, cool water fill it up. She took a sip of that water.

”Bleh. Could use some work...” She set the glass back down on the bedside table and got off the bed. She walked to the dresser and looked into the mirror, fixing her disheveled appearance with a mere thought and finishing with hand-grooming her wings. Why was that the one thing she did by hand? Because it felt good.

After a while, she looked through the drawers and the dozen wardrobes and found what she had wanted for so long -- Footwear. A pair of lace-up sandals made of leather. They weren’t a perfect match for her dress, but they were good enough, considering the dress covered up most of the leather strips reaching all the way to her knees anyway.

She also got herself a piece of parchment and a brush, and with impeccable control of her arm, wrote a divine message into the surface. They were beautifully crafted, the sigils, and each of them carried parts of a concise message.

There was no hurry, of course, but it was important for a God to be as efficient as possible. Therefore, as soon as she was finished with her small masterpiece of a letter, she rolled it up, tied a string around it and opened the door to her temporary chambers.

The Sandy Servant posted outside her door tensed up briefly, but otherwise kept her composure as she turned slightly and bowed deeply, never making any eye contact with the Goddess.

“M-”

”My apologies for cutting you short, but I have a task for you, female.” Li’Kalla said with a polite smile, handing the servant woman the rolled up parchment. ”Take this to Shengshi at once. Thank you.” And just as quickly, the Goddess had closed the door again, leaving the Servant alone.




‘Steemed Shengshi,

Your stock of spirits is incredibly high-quality, as expected of a fellow God. I write this brief letter to you to highlight a few concerns of mine. First, nothing improper happened earlier on, and I never got to any stage of inebriation; and second, I am ready to bestow the gifts mentioned before onto my Herd. How should we proceed in order to strengthen both our positions? I would wish for this event to strengthen yours as well, within reason.

Li’Kalla Lithokelles.’





A few moments later, a knock came on Li’Kalla’s door.

“Li’Kalla? It is me, your brother,” came a muffled voice.

There was a moment’s worth of silence, and then the door opened. Li’Kalla herself was standing a few paces back, with her hands clasped in front of herself.

”Brother is a strong word, I believe. We are not related by blood, are we? Though it is true we are both Gods. I suppose it’s more of a gray area. Come in, please.” Li’Kalla smiled and nodded.

“Oh, forgive me if the terms makes you uncomfortable, my dear,” the snake said as he entered. “It has stuck with me somewhat since the first time I met Arae at the dawn of time. It personally brings me quite a bit of joy to see the gods as my siblings--” He frowned a little. “... Even the less civilised lot.”

”Such as Kalmar and Roog?” Li’Kalla asked suddenly, tilting her head innocently.

“Roog? Now that is name I am… Unfamiliar with, to say the least. Is it godspawn?”

”Indeed. It takes the form of an animal made of fire. Spawned between two male gods, as well. It’s a… Disappointing situation.”

“The personality, or the being’s conception?” the snake asked with a confused frown and a scratch of his temple.

”Both.”

The snake cleared his throat sheepishly. "My apologies, dear sister, I, uhm, I do not quite follow. The creature is rude, that I can see as problematic, but why is its male parentage an issue?”

Li’Kalla raised an eyebrow, ”Procreation should only be done between a male and a female, to set a healthy example for our creations. We want them to build new generations for us, right? If everyone turns deviant, their very continuity would be threatened. As a God, it is our duty to be the best of the best.”

The snake’s brow fell low. “For your information, dear, there are several mortals upon this good world that do not require two individuals of different sexes to reproduce. My Servants are among them, and if I am not mistaken, them numbering over ten thousand makes them the most numerous group of mortals in this universe.” He crossed his arms over his chest. “Besides, in addition to this Roog, my son Anu was conceived with the blood of Narzhak and I - both, I assume, have a male form and consider ourselves to be male. I will not bat an eye if you wish this to be the view of your mortals, dear, but please do not equate all mortals to one another, nor mortals to the gods.”

Li’Kalla’s expression darkened, ”Let me ask you this, Shengshi… Why do you and Narzhak identify as males? By adopting that identity, you take upon your shoulders the laws of nature that keep sexually reproducing entities in line. What good is a male that seeks to copulate with another male? The Goddess rubbed her temple and sighed, “And you referring to the product of your interaction with another male as a ‘son’, just further confirms your actions as the product of rampant deviancy. A true son is brought to the world by a mother and father through sexual intercourse, anything else is either a creation or a deviation and must be purified.”

The snake recoiled as if he had been shot. He placed a palm on his chest and sucked in a breath through the nose, a scowl overtaking his visage. “There is no law of nature that says sexual reproduction is the only way - the only law of the universe is that there will be life, and there will be death. Anu is my son - that fact is as true as my very existence - regardless of whether he had been made with another male, female or something else. Mortals will reproduce regardless of whether homosexuality is normal, dear, and to enforce such a view upon all of mortalkind is to deprive them of a staggering joy.”

”Homosexuality is a joy? No. It is a perversion. See, why have two sexes when everyone can procreate with everyone else? There is no practicality to that, you might as well have created all mortals as hermaphrodites or completely sexless beings. It is disappointing to see Gods defend perversion and deviancy so freely, truly. In fact,” Li’Kalla smirked mockingly, ”We have no need for deviants here. A God that chooses his form to be half an animal’s and half a man’s? I should have realized you were worse than Kalmar or the dog. Shengshi, you may take your leave whenever you’re ready. Please do forget any business we spoke of, and keep your spirits. I wouldn’t want any of my followers doing things they’ll regret while inebriated.”

Li’Kalla then frowned, flicked her hair and walked past Shengshi, letting her slightly unfurled wings bump his shoulder on her way out.

”I know my way out, I shall not bother you on that.”

As the goddess left the room, the snake stood there speechless, opening and closing his mouth. His pupils were less than slits, near utterly empty. A quiet droning escaped him, one that slowly turned into quickened, furious breaths.

“... The nerve…” He closed his fist and sent it straight into the mirror in the room, reducing it to dust. He let out a livid scream at the top of his lungs and eyed himself up and down. “Half man and half animal?! DEVIANT?! Worse than-...” He reduced the wardrobe to sawdust. “I invite her into my home; I offer her my services…” His finned spine turned to a row of quills; his claws extended; his teeth lengthened into fangs. “THE NERVE!”

The snake stormed out the door, blasting it off its hinges, over the rails of the veranda walkway and into the depths of the belly of the ship. The echo silenced the whole vessel, and it did not take long before a train of nervous Servants trailed the snake with their heads bowing. At the head of the group marched a sweating He Bo, his watery eyes quivering with fear.

“Y-your Lordship, what is the matter?!”

“We are leaving this instant,” the snake spat back. “See to it that none of the gifts reserved for the Valthumir make it off the ship.”

“Y-yes, Your Lordship!” The master servant began to bark orders left and right. In the hallways, wine pots were sent back to the cellar; grain and seeds were thrown into the hearths; tools were left to collect dusts in their storages.

The snake climbed up onto the deck. There, he saw the goddess enter the mansion again, acting as if his ship was nothing but an insect flying by. The ship had begun to sail away by now. The snake grit his fangs and hammered at the ship railings with such force that the elementally-impervious planks began to shatter. Slowly, the rage manifested itself through a glare that could set fire to water.

“... So… We are supposed to set examples, are we?” he droned menacingly. “... And you want your little Valthumir not to do things they will regret…” He rubbed a claw against the wooden railing. “What a poor, poor example you make, my dear.”

The snake raised his hands into the air. A black sludge formed between his fingers and began to drip down into the soil far below.

“From this day forth, no soil upon this island will ever sprout a single grain, a single fruit, a single vegetable. As this bile runs black as night, so in kind shall every harvest yield nothing but filth and rot. Neither wild nor domestic trees will spawn anything but putrid slime; any sown grain will be as salt to the soil. From this day until the end of time, this island will be a pool of rot and decay.”

The ship disappeared behind the clouds before Shengshi could move on to a curse on the rivers, as well. Down below, the effect was immediate: All around Li’Kalla’s island, wild fruit, grain, vegetables, legumes - any edible yields of plants - all began to rot away in minutes. The stink was staggering.

Li’Kalla’s island, was sentenced to death.






Li’Kalla

Goddess of Rain
MP 16 FP 8





Now that she’d gotten far enough from the centre of the Hunter’s eye, Li’Kalla felt comfortable enough to do what she had to. She raised her hand toward the sky and the sparse clouds in the sky all congealed and mixed into a humongous, deep gray mass. It crackled threateningly, dim flashes of light making their way out of the thundercloud.

As if on cue, a single blonde-haired Vallamir walked out from the thick bushes surrounding the clearing Li’Kalla had found herself in. She smiled warmly at him, hand still lifted straight upward at the cloud above her head. Truly, these mortals would do just fine. She noted with some disappointment however, when the Valla smiled back, that he had pronounced canines.

”Child, come closer.” She commanded, and the Valla obeyed. Once he was in front of her, bowing his head down slightly in sudden shame, Li’Kalla looked him up and down in appreciation and placed her free hand on top of his head. ”Fate is cruel, child. For if you had been blessed with even one Streak of Divinity, I wouldn’t have done this to you.”

The Valla remained silent for a moment, and then hesitantly looked up at his Goddess, his brown eyes twinkling with an innocent curiosity and admiration that quickly turned to fear once he saw his Goddess’s dark expression. “W-What do you mea-”

BOOM

The very earth exploded as mighty lighting came down from the gray skies. A bird passing overhead was burnt to a crisp, leaves were disintegrated and trees were blown back. A wave of electricity spread throughout the Hunter’s eye, washing over every single Vallamir and calling forth those worthy enough to receive the message. And, in the center of the ruined land that had once been a lush clearing, the only things left were a Goddess with a hand stretched toward the gray skies, and the charred remains of what could have easily been sentient or beast.

Li’Kalla looked down at such remains, unfazed by the tremendous force she had just withstood.

’Follow the rain, heed the call of thunder.’ Li’Kalla relaxed and nodded somberly, and the burnt earth beneath her feet twisted and moved to cover and bury the remains of the First Sacrifice. ”You had a resillient enough brain to withstand emitting such a large-scale message. Unfortunately, your frail body wasn’t built to survive such enormous amounts of energy. Your Sacrifice has served me well, Child.”

And so, Li’Kalla took in a deep whiff of the electrified air, smiled and started walking. Her destination? The ugly, disgusting island she’d stumbled upon earlier. She would conquer those lands and shape them into something worth living in, as an eternal symbol of her power and foresight.




It had been a difficult journey. One thousands of kilometers long, with heavy rain falling on everyone like metal pellets, and while being hunted by predators of all shapes and sizes.

Quite a few of Li’Kalla’s herd were lost to the wilderness, but those that remained had proven their superior strength and will. Even if those survivors had no Streaks of Divinity, they had earned their place in the new world Li’Kalla would create for them.

Eventually the herd reached the eastern coast of Kalgrun, and Li’Kalla materialized a Bridge for them to cross the channel separating Kalgrun and their new home. The Million Steps, a stretch of solid mist and rainwater, was translucent and yielded slightly to the weight of the mortals, feet sinking into the pliable surface. Still, it was completely safe to tread on, and the vast herd of Vallamir walked on.

For many days and nights, weeks on end, they travelled. Their sustenance consisted of no more than rain-water and birds and fish that Li’Kalla offered to them, and so they survived. And at long last, the first Vallamir to step onto the Island was a white-haired gray-eyed male. His eyes lit up brightly upon touching the earth of his new home, and he turned with a grin on his face to his Goddess, who responded in kind with a warm, motherly smile. She walked past the male and turned around to face her herd, her heart racing.

”My Faithful, let it be known that henceforth all of you with Streaks of Divinity shall be known as Valthumir,” Li’Kalla explained, furrowing her brow and projecting her voice through the air all the way to the Valthumir and Vallamir at the back of the herd, ”Guardians of Purity, my Chosen Faithful whose duty it is to ensure the beauty, efficiency and superiority of this new civilization.”

All the Valthumir responded positively. They cried, laughed, cheered, screamed in excitement and some merely smiled and nodded. Li’Kalla extended her free hand toward the herd and motioned for them to settle down, and so they all, Valthumir and Vallamir, quieted down and sat down on the ground and The Million Steps.

”And those of you with no Divinity in your bodies, the Vallamir,” Li’Kalla turned her gaze onto those inferior specimens, with colored hair and eyes and wilder traits to their bodies, ”Know that Faith and Diligence will never lead you astray. You will be productive members of this civilization and no matter your position, your support will allow the Valthumir to carry out their tasks of Purification and Beautification. Hold your heads high as you Faithfully serve the Valthumir.”

Li’Kalla watched the mixed reactions. It was to be expected, no one wanted to hear the truth, especially being a new arrival into the world. But still, some seemed content.

”In time, you shall see the blessing of having a clear path to follow, Children. It is a blessing your Valthumir brothers and sisters are not fortunate enough to have.”

At those words, the tension in the air dissolved and the Vallamir seemed to sigh in relief.

The Goddess of Rain smiled at her herd one last time, ”Before we begin builing the greatest Civilization this world will ever see, there is a law you must know and follow, no matter what happens. Procreate only with those within your own group, and all Valthumir and Vallamir must procreate.” Li’Kalla’s expression hardened for a moment, and the herd grew quiet. Soon, however, she exhaled a deep breath she’d never taken and smiled gracefully, ”It is time, go forth into your new lands. Explore, settle, procreate within your groups, and advance into the future. Never for one moment stagnate, and always protect your family, neighbours and servants.”

There was a silence. It only lasted for a split moment, and then everyone jumped up and the herd erupted into cheering and joyful laughter and they ran off in groups into the wilderness. Some north, some south, but most east.

Li’Kalla looked up at the raincloud she’d dragged all the way from the Hunter’s Eye and chuckled, willing it to disperse slowly and safely and then letting her arm fall back down to her side. It really was a drag, having to keep her arm stretched above her head for weeks at a time.

Hours later, When she turned her gaze back to the surface, a few of her herd remained. No more than a hundred, and mostly comprised of Vallamir with a handful of valthumir mixed in. One of them was the one male who was the first to walk on the Island.

Li’Kalla stared at him intently, and he returned the gaze. “Goddess Li’Kalla, thank you.”

Li’Kalla tilted her head to the side slightly, looking at him with a glint in her eye, ”What for, Child?”

“For creating us, and giving us purpose. We will not let you down. I, Van’Kalla, shall make sure of it.”

The other mortals nearby stopped talking and stared at the male as if he was mad. The air seemed to stay still. A tension so heavy that the self-proclaimed Van’Kalla and his brethren were forced to take a knee, sweating and gasping for air, materialized in the area.

The Goddess kept staring at the mortal, examining his perfectly white hair, efficiently shaped body, shining silver eyes… Slowly, a grin broke out on her face, and soon she laughed and the tension in the air disappeared, ”Hahah! You are brave, Child. Adopting part of my name without my permission would normally be a grave offense to me.” In the blink of an eye, all mirth left her face and she nodded at Van’Kalla, ”You shall become the first of many leaders, Van’Kalla. Carry yourself with honor and pride, and do not besmirch my name. Your first task is to take all that remains of the Herd and follow me.”

“Yes, Rain-Mother, at once.” Van’Kalla nodded and immediately turned to his new subjects, shouting at them and getting them ready to follow.

”We will have to work on that title.” Muttered Li’Kalla.

Soon they were walking once more, with Li’Kalla up front followed closely by Van’Kalla, who in turn had 6 Valthumir close behind him. And of course, the 93 remaining Vallamir walked further back, as they felt they hadn’t earned the right to walk so close to the glow and warmth of their Goddess.

Where they arrived a few days later was a large, boiling lake, with a prominent mansion standing proud on top of a hill. Li'Kalla winced upon seeing everything in such a pristine state.

“Rain-Mother?”

Li’Kalla tensed up and sighed, ”Let’s see… Immaculate One, Cardinal Purity, True Queen-Mother… Any of those is acceptable, Child.”

“As you wish, Queen-Mother. So, what do you wish for us to do?”

”We will settle here, next to this boiling Lake. In time, you will build a great Temple for me to reside in. For now, however, you shall build your dwellings and live, and I shall turn this Manor into my palace.”

Van’Kalla bowed in respect and turned to leave.

”Face me.” Li’Kalla snapped, and Van’Kalla froze and turned around with some hesitation, ”We shall work on your etiquette, if you are to call yourself a leader. Bow, verbally confirm you’ve understood and then wait for my dismissal. Do it now.”

Van’Kalla opened his mouth as if to protest, but the way Li’Kalla tilted her head back and the manner in which her expression darkened must have made him think twice. He took a knee, lowering his head and closing his eyes. “Understood, Queen-Mother.” He nodded slightly in his submissive position, and Li’Kalla let out a small huff.

“You may go, begin your work at once.”

In a flurry of movement, the Valthumir stood straight and went straight to his group, most of whom were now exploring and entranced by the boiling lake.

Once no one was watching her anymore, Li’Kalla rubbed her temples and sighed, ’I definitely need help teaching proper etiquette to these mortals.’




Li’Kalla

Goddess of Rain
MP 19 FP 8

&



A short time before the creation of the Mir.





Shortly after leaving the Hunter’s Eye, Li’Kalla realized how slow she was travelling. Walking just wouldn’t do. So, in an instant, she grew long, pure white feathered wings and took to the skies.

It didn’t take long to reach her destination after that, with the added plus of not having to lay her eyes on that dreadful island.

Still, even with godly speed on her side, such a journey had its fair share of dull moments, so every now and then she’d stop to inspect a creature that came into sight. Lizards, both small and large; mammals, the rare seal-like savage tribe venturing into new lands…

Eventually she arrived at her destination, the Eye of Desolation, and what she found… Wasn’t what she had expected.

Thousands upon thousands of mortals lived there, mortals whose souls were so pristine that the only possible answer to their existence was that they’d been recently created.

Had someone felt the same way as her? That the world was boring and empty without widespread mortal civilization? And if her scarce memories were correct, these new people had very similar physical appearances to that of Orvus. It must have been him who created them.

She slowed her flight speed to just below the speed of sound, to avoid deafening the mortals with the noise, and flew down to the location ingrained in her memories. A thriving farm. She touched down in the middle of a field of freshly sown green sprouts and waited, watching the shocked figures of the nebulous mortals hesitantly approach.

There was caution in their eyes, as well as awe and wonder. They whispered to each other like children, with several names being dropped; Arya, Laurien, Orvus, Aster, Ion, Vera and many more. Not one dared to approach any closer then the start of the field but a large crowd began to gather around it. Many mixed faces watched Li’Kalla and even more surprisingly, faces that resembled her own. Humans.

It was then that a figure different then the rest came through a parting crowd. She was about the same height as all the others, but glowing white in comparison. Her eyes were pitch black, so too were her arms and she wielded a sword that reflected her appearance. She held a soft expression upon her face, one of surprise and wonder. She stopped at the edge of the field and then gave a slight bow before speaking, her voice soothing and sweet. ”Hello, welcome to Nebulan. Who might you be? Are you lost?”

Li’Kalla pursed her lips, barely holding back a scoff. This lower being who, while not entirely mortal, was still far below her status, dared assume she was inefficient enough to lose her way? Outwardly, Li’Kalla smiled serenely. ”My apologies, I am the Goddess of Rain. Tell me, are you creations of the God of Desolation? I intend to meet him, and his daughter as well.”

The glowing girl tilted her head slightly, her eyes opening up to look at Li’Kalla in a new light. ”Wonderful!” she exclaimed, before turning around to face a few of the mortals. ”Quick! Go fetch Orvus and Laurien and bring them here!” and at her words a majority of the mortals broke away and ran off into several directions. The girl then turned back to Li’Kalla and bowed even deeper, the rest of the mortals following suit. ”Your Holiness, I am Arya, daughter of Orvus. These mortals are the Nebulites, children of both Orvus and Ohannakeloi.” before rising.

Li’Kalla watched as Arya and the remaining mortals bowed again, and she nodded her head in acknowledgement, then while Arya spoke, the Goddess approached her. It was an unnatural gait, one so graceful that at times it didn’t even seem like she was moving at all, and yet she still approached.

Once face to face with the white Firstborn of the Nebulites, Li’Kalla gently placed her hand under her chin and lifted her up to face her. The Goddess in that moment seemed taller than when she’d arrived. Once Arya stood upright, the Goddess gently caressed her smooth, pure face with her hands. The rainwater coating the Goddess’ skin was cool and refreshing, and it left no trace of water on Arya’s skin. If at all the girl felt uncomfortable she did not show it through her smile.

”You’re pure. An exemplar specimen. Tell me, have you found a mate yet?” Li’Kalla whispered softly, her gray eyes shining brightly all of a sudden.

Arya’s cheeks suddenly flushed a light pink and she avoided eye contact with Li’Kalla. ”I-I… Um… No, your Holiness.” she said, sounding embarrassed.

Li’Kalla smiled, and then chuckled and embraced Arya, now whispering into her ear, ”Find a worthy mate, you are too valuable to procreate with just anyone.” And just as easily, she let go and looked around. ”So Desolation has more than one daughter? Is it just you two, or are there more?”

Arya blinked after being embraced and nodded her head slightly before rubbing her arm and saying, ”Well, there’s Ava and Lily too.” she said, ”There quite a bit young now though.”

”I see,” Li’Kalla nodded, ”How young? How were they created?”

”I’m not sure your Holiness. Seven or eight?” she said, blinking again. ”How? Well, naturally I suppose. It’s all a bit complicated, you see, they’re actually from a dreamworld, brought to Galbar. I’m sure father could tell you more about it though.”

”Of course, forget I asked,” Li’Kalla looked up at the sky, then back down at Arya, ”One more thing, do you know what a Nebula is?”

”Why it’s a-” She began before another voice cut her off.

”Li’Kalla!” it said, before a tall man could be seen walking through the crowd towards them. There was a large smile on his bearded face, and walking next to him was another figure. A woman of mahogany hair and striking beauty. Like before, the crowd parted and Orvus made his way to Li’Kalla, stopping before her. Their eye contact was level.

”Sister… Where have you been?” was all Orvus managed to say.

Li’Kalla pursed her lips and, for a moment, her spell of gracefulness seemed to crack. It was only for a split second, but it was evident to all the divines present.

Her composure regained, she smiled back and shrugged, ”I woke up covered in blood in front of the Architect. I don’t remember much before that… But I remember this place, and you and Laurien lived here. Say, you look… Different. More hair and skin than before.” She let her words hang in the air for a moment before turning towards the woman next to Orvus, ”Who may you be?”

The woman looked unsure of herself when addressed but said, ”I am Rowan, your grace. Wife of Orvus.” she finished with a small curtsy. Li’Kalla stared at her for a moment before nodding in response.

”Where do you come from, Wife of Orvus? You must be your nation’s most beautiful specimen.”

There was surprise in Rowan’s eyes and she straightened her posture. ”Oh you flatter me with your kind words, your grace. By far, you would be the countries most beautiful specimen.”

Li’Kalla smirked.

Orvus gave the two an interesting look, his eyes pausing on his wife briefly before turning back to Li’Kalla. ”You have no memory of what happened to the shards or the beast? How strange…” he mused thoughtfully, ”As for my appearance well… I could say the same to you. You look, better.” he said, choosing his words carefully.

”Thank you,” Li’Kalla said curtly, ”And no, no memories about those things. No interest in remembering, either. Tell me, Orvus, did you and Rowan engage in intercourse to create Ava and Lily? How did it feel? Can you des-” Li’Kalla stopped and cleared her throat. ”My apologies, it is the first time I’ve met a God with real offspring.”

There was silence all around them, Nebulites waiting with baited breath to see what would happen. Orvus frowned at the remark, Rowan furrowed her brow at Li’Kalla and Arya stared wide-eyed at all of them. Orvus then cleared his throat, breaking the silence and said, ”All of you, leave.” before turning to Rowan. ”Could you take Arya and go find Laurien for me? Tell her to find us at the grave.” Rowan opened her mouth as if to say something but closed it and looked to Arya. She then held out her arm, and Arya took it as they followed after the Nebulites.

”Come. We have much to discuss, away from prying eyes and open ears.” he said, walking past her.

”Are you saying there are other deities watching us?” Li’Kalla asked, looking around before hurrying to walk beside Orvus.

”There’s only one I know for sure, but mortals are as equally noisy.” Orvus said, as he led her across fields and onto a path leading into the forest. ”I think it is safe to assume that since we’ve last seen each other, we’ve both changed, considerably.” he said as they walked underneath trees.

”Yes, that would be safe to assume. Again, I apologize for what I said back there. I can see now that procreation is taboo in your creations.” Li’Kalla said.

He gave her a side glance before saying, ”Taboo? Hardly, I blessed my people with the ability to go without food for long periods of time if needed. This is at the cost of their Libido, hence no baby bumps, though there are a few. Food is being grown here as we speak, and when it comes time to harvest, well… Let’s just say there will be a boom. I may have… Overdone that feature a bit. They can have intercourse with most other sapient species as it is and produce a viable offspring. But tell me something, since when did you become so fascinated with such things?” he said, rounding a corner.

”I see. And well, I’ve always been interested, haven’t I? It’s only natural to seek knowledge about what works and what doesn’t, so you can ensure your civilization grows stronger with each generation.”

”Silver never made any mention of this.” Orvus said, before breaking from the path and following a trail into a small clearing, blooming with flowers. At the center of the clearing, there sat a gravestone, with the inscription. ‘Silver. Here lies a friend.’

Li’Kalla’s heart skipped a beat. Time seemed to stand still, and pain shot up through her body. Immediately she looked down at her arms and noticed the statue-like cracks in her skin. They throbbed with pain, as if letting her know that digging too deep here would only bring pain.

As if nothing ever happened, time resumed its course and the pain was gone.

”... I don’t know who that is.”

”I looked for you. Over the entire world, every nook and cranny, every peak. I looked into your Sphere and do you know what I found? Nothing.” he said looking at her, ”And yet here you are, another God who’s lost their memories but I refuse to believe that this name means nothing to you, because it meant everything to me.” his voice ringed with a sad note.

Li’Kalla remained silent for a long moment, but finally turned away from Orvus and the grave, ”I remember some things. And you know what? I hate it. I was pathetic, like a child. I refuse to believe that was me. It couldn’t have been. And then it all gets strange. I see so many faces and I hear so many voices. If I try to remember, it...” She winced and held her head together with both hands, ”... It feels as if my head will split apart.”

A hand fell on her shoulder and Orvus said, ”You were anything but pathetic. You and your fragments were simply lost, wanting to be whole. We were so close to that but you’re here anyways. But... I should have went with you, I should have helped to reunite you together but I didn’t and for that, I am sorry.”

Li’Kalla sighed and moved a few steps away from Orvus. She crossed her arms with her back turned toward the God, and spoke, ”Why are you speaking to me as if you know who I am? As if we’ve known each other for a long time, when in truth I only met you just now? ‘Yet another God that’s lost her memory’, huh? That’s what you think I am? A lost child that needs to be guided back home?”

”Listen to yourself! You’re sounding childish as we speak, and you won’t even look at me.” At this remark, Li’Kalla tensed up and then turned to look at Orvus once more, Orvus grumbled as his hand fell to his side. ”But you are right, I don’t know this Li’Kalla, but I did know Silver. She was a mortal shard of a Goddess and she told me everything about her past, and I saw it with my own eyes. There’s a reason you came here, of all places, isn’t there?”

”... I expected to find ruins, indoors spaces covered in centimetres of dust. Perhaps, I thought, I could reform this place into a home. Perhaps, this one nice memory I have is worth treasuring.” She uncrossed her arms and clasped her hands, ”I didn’t find ruins. I found a newborn civilization, as well as a God yearning to be one of them. How lonely, I must say.”

There was a flare of light behind her, and suddenly Orvus floated down in front of her, his godly form expressed into anger. His voice and tone, shifting to match it. ”The only lonely thing I see here, is you, Li’Kalla.”

Li’Kalla smirked, ”Hah! Struck a chord I see, perhaps there was too much truth in those words for you to tolerate. Don’t worry, Orvus, you look much better this way. Pretending to be mortals doesn’t suit us Gods.”

”It’s a pity, really.” Orvus said, ”That the Li’Kalla I knew is dead. Perhaps it’s best in the end. I have a feeling she would only be ashamed of you. Silver most of all, for unlike you, she could tolerate pain.”

Li’Kalla perked up and blushed, ”H-Hey, I can tolerate pain, it’s just-” She sighed and fixed her gaze on the grave. ”... None of it matters anymore, I suppose. You may hate me if you want to, should it help you overcome your grief. ”

His eyes seemed to frown. ”It’s not my grief I’m worried about.” was all he said before footsteps could be heard in the distance. It did not take long to see who it was. Laurien came bounding down the path and into the clearing, stopping as she came face to face with Li’Kalla. Her breathing was quick as she eyed the Goddess up and down. She said nothing however, but she did not move her gaze either.

Li’Kalla chuckled and smirked once she saw Laurien. Her heart raced, and yet she couldn’t help but feel disgusted by herself. ”Even in this form, you seem to be taller than me, Laurien.”

”You’re… You’re alive? The fragments... It-it worked?” Laurien said hopefully, looking to Orvus who remained impassive, before looking back at Li’Kalla.

”I don’t know. Here I am walking around, so I suppose? I don’t remember much, other than your name, appearance, and a few other things.”

Laurien began to walk closer. ”Oh it’s so good to… To finally see you… Or meet you. I was so worried when… Do you… Do you remember what you made me promise?” she blurted.

Li’Kalla stood still, ”What?”
Laurien tilted her head as she walked closer still. ”You don’t remember?”

Li’Kalla looked away, ”What did Silver make you promise?”

Laurien was before her now, ”That I would return, her knight in shining armor.” Laurien whispered, tentatively reaching out at Li’Kalla’s face. ”Don’t you remember, Chickadee?

The Goddess stiffened and leaned away, biting her lip. ”I-I’m not supposed to… Two women can’t, you know, do this...”

A hurt expression crossed Laurien’s face as her hand paused in the air. ”W-What are you saying?”

”I’m saying that, uhm, I can’t be seen engaging in r-romantic endeavors with a member of the same sex. I-It’s unnatural, and it serves no purpose. No matter how I-” Li’Kalla hiccuped and she covered her mouth, ”N-No matter how I feel about it.”

Laurien furrowed her brow. ”That doesn’t make any sense. Who’s going to care? You’re a god, you can do anything! Please… I… I…” her voice broke.

Li’Kalla hiccuped again and took a step back, ”Listen- I can’t… I just can’t! I-I… I’d like to but I can’t… Without the possibility of procreation, there is no point to romance and sex… Therefore, two women can’t be...” Li’Kalla blinked rapidly and shook her head, ”I’m sorry.”

Laurien stared at her, shattered. With tears in her eyes she desperately looked for something that was no longer there in Li'Kalla's eyes and after a minute, she blinked and her face hardened. Angry tears fell down her cheeks as she balled her fists. There was a tense moment in the clearing, anticipation in the air. But as suddenly as it came, the tension was broken as Laurien turned on her heel and ran away.

Orvus tried to stop her to no avail. "Laurien!" he called after her, but she did care to respond. Orvus then looked back at Li'Kalla angrily, "Wonderful. Just wonderful."

The Goddess merely sighed and rubbed the back of her neck, ”I believe I am finished here. I will take my leave.” With that, Li’Kalla stretched her long beautiful wings and shot off into the sky with a powerful flap.

Orvus watched her leave, until she was but a distant blip in the sky. He turned to the grave, a tear falling down his cheek.





Li’Kalla Lithókóllēs

Goddess of Rain
MP 19 FP 8

and some architect dude





It-

She.

She was dead. Definitely. One hundred percent dead.

She had died six times over. Six times! Or had she? She couldn’t have, as the splitting pain she felt inside her skull showed her otherwise.

She saw black, she felt nothing but chills, cold sweat and that terrible brainpain.

Then feeling came back slowly, and her throat was burning and every single organ inside her body felt on fire and as if they had just been shredded and sewn back together.

On her hands and knees she was, until her arms buckled and she had to support herself on her elbows, and she felt her forearms come into contact with a warm liquid.

She could smell now, and it wasn’t pleasant. A gag escaped her mouth, but nothing came up from her stomach. It smelled acrid, corrosive, and like something had died and had been a feast for bacteria for at least a week. Maybe herself? No.

Her sight came back, and with it she finally recognized what she was on top of.

A lukewarm puddle of bodily fluids of all kinds. Sticky and non-sticky alike, vital and non-vital. There was lots of blood, of course, as well as what seemed to be vomit and… water.

She racked her brain for information. Nothing came up, of course, so she nodded her head with a small “Hm,” and pushed her torso up so she’d be sitting on her ankles.

Weak as she was, she could manage that. She couldn’t see much around her, as it was dark, and yet she could still see everything.

A large statue of a cyclops sat down in a humongous throne (it was a rather lame excuse for a throne, she thought, very plain-looking), its one eye seeming to stare directly at her, traces of pure, unadulterated Divine energy dancing across its fingertips.

“Ah… Hey, what’s me?” She asked the statue, and after a second of silence, a subtle flow of rainwater washed away the filth coating her body, “... That’s better. Also, what is me? What am I?”

The unnaturally large pupil of the statue audibly contracted a hand's width. A voice filled every space in the empty air with two slow words.

"Li'Kalla Lithókóllēs."

The message sprung together memories only halfway through its dictum. Too much was new and unknown.

"There is no novelty in your flesh excepting its arrangement."

With that, the great eye relaxed.

Li’Kalla looked at her body and furrowed her brow, noticing tiny, minuscule cracks filled in with cement going along its form. Each of the cracks throbbed with foreign energy and they felt more like bindings than anything else. ”Li’Kalla… Hey, I can’t really be that pathetic girl. I’m not the kind of girl who’d enjoy being stepped on. As the god of gods or whatever, give me my real memories now, alright? It’s not the time for jokes,” She sighed and shook her head, stealing a glance at the puddle beneath and around her, her nose scrunching up in disgust, ”I just threw up tons of blood, and probably did some nastier things as well that you’re very kindly not mentioning, so… No jokes.” She frowned and looked away, crossing her arms.

The statue remained still as a sarcophagus. The feeling of the eye tracing every single hint of movement down to the twitching of Li'Kalla's fingers did not line up.

"You do not require them," the room-filling voice stated. "Create new memories, if you are compelled to have them. Your purpose is unfulfilled."

Li’Kalla didn’t like this. She huffed and sneaked glances at the vast empty hallway. Why did he have to show off so much? Having your voice come from everywhere at once was so unnecessary!

”And what’s that, if I may ask? I can’t fulfill a purpose I don’t know about, God-dad.”

It was almost more surprising to hear the grinding of stone off to Li'Kalla's left. A disturbance put little shuddering waves in the water around its source. A pale shape refracted by the water broke the surface, parting sheets of water off its flat upper-side. A familiar crystal platform slowed to a stop near enough for Li'Kalla to step upon.

"To use the power you are bestowed."

”Ah, makes sense.” Li’Kalla relaxed and stood up, then quietly floated onto the crystal platform. She stood there for a moment before turning to the mess she’d made while getting remade and stretching her hand towards it. It was all gathered in a sphere in the air and, with a snap of her fingers, disappeared. ”There you go! Did you like that? Now you don’t need to hire a servant. Now, take me to Orvus and Silver’s farm.”

The statue sat facing Li'Kalla without having moved. The voice of the Architect said nothing. The crystal, slowly ascending, found the ceiling of the dark chamber parting as it had long ago. Li'Kalla found herself out in the space between spheres. The barrier loomed behind her, and the distant sphere of Galbar shone with the reflected light of Heliopolis.

’I guess some of those memories might be true. They might be mine…’ The new goddess Li’Kalla thought, sitting down with her legs dangling off the edge of the crystal. ’... I can’t believe I would let myself get bedded by a woman though. She was nice but, I mean, ugh. What’s the point of that?’

The crystal slowed to a stop, though not to give time to admire the view.

Her navel itched and when she went to scratch it, she felt a gritty powder fall between her fingers. Looking down showed the tiny fissures in her arms, legs, and torso growing and crackling like broken stone. An immediate loss of feeling took over her body. Paralysed, she could only watch wide-eyed as the gaps grew wider and wider.

The scrape and movement travelled up her bones. Her leg fell free from her upper thigh and floated gently away into the space before her. Two fingers gently took their own path in another direction. The arm she saw broke into three more pieces between clouds of dust like a weightless shattered vase in just the same moment that her vision began to bank clockwise. She was unable to stop her movement with half her chest and head floating away from the rest of her body. One more stony noise rang in her ears for just an instant before a dark shape came across her vision. Turning to face her was a quarter of her own head, a shock of her hair flagging and her own terrified eye staring back at her.

Then the pieces stopped. As if time took itself in reverse, her body clicked back together, down to the last grain of dust. The fissures shrank and sealed to their near-perfect flush texture in a matter of seconds.

"A gift of one memory from before. Take care with your words in case more of them are answered."

The voice ended with Li'Kalla being able to move once more, gasping for breath she didn’t actually need, with eyes as wide as they’d open and pupils like pinpricks.

The crystal continued on its way down to the blue marble in the distance.

”... That’s one stone-cold memory. Yeah, I don’t think I want to find out anything else for now.”




FP: 06 MP: 02

& Laina, Elegance and Girl.





A lone figure sat hunched over a boulder. Her chest heaved with each sob, and her tears dissolved into the air as soon as they dripped from her chin. She hadn’t chosen this spot out of a twisted desire to break down, no. She had been left there by the one she’d thought of as her saviour. Someone beautiful.

The tiny woman sobbed and shuddered. It was a long time before she fell into silence. She held her knees against her chest, her almost-silver blonde hair obscuring her face and bloodshot silver eyes.

“Caw,”

The woman weakly lifted her head to look at the crow through her straight locks. It stared at her through phantasmal eyes sparkling with intelligence. It pecked at the ground briefly, letting out a faint ‘caw’. It looked back up and flew away, leaving the figure in somber solitude once again.

Heliopolis sank and as it did, the dusk came. On the tail of the evening, not only did it drag night along, but also a lone gentleman who now stood in the stretches of the world’s shadows. The black figure stood in front of the crying woman, hands in its pockets. Slowly two pale hands slipped out, and one reached into his jacket, pulling out a silk handkerchief. With a flick of his wrist, K’nell presented it to Laina.

The small projection took the handkerchief, even though it looked like a King's chambers' curtain in her arms. She wiped her face with it and sighed, "H-Hello, K'nell. I'm sorry, I would have tried to prepare myself had I known you were coming… "

“That's quite all right, I'm simply here to help,” K'nell knelt down to her level, and gave her a welcoming smile.

"The others abandoned me when I needed them the most… I don't think I deserve to live. I was too weak to lead them."

“Oh, I don't think so,” A cushion appeared under K'nell and he sat down, arms propped on bent knees, “You see dear, you are quite strong; perhaps more so than myself. The only issue here is that you're measuring your strength with the wrong ruler.”

" Strong? You keep saying that everytime we meet," Her voice shook and her lip quivered, "And yet look at me, broken."

“Your life is precious, and every speckle of yourself is important, no matter the state you may perceive it to be in,” K'nell laced his fingers together, “If not for polite company, I'd almost challenge you to show me otherwise.”

Laina offered K'nell a little, sad smile. "Always nice, K'nell…" and then she shuddered, "P-Polite company?"

“Colloquialism,” K'nell explained, “Don't ponder too much on it, my dear; I'm just happy to have found you. If it's any comfort to you, I have also located two of your others.”

Laina perked up and raised both her eyebrows, her sorrow dissipating in the blink of an eye. "Really?! Which ones? Did you find the red-haired one?"

“I’m afraid I have yet to collect her aid, but on me now I have your Elegance and your Childish charm,” K’nell offered.

Laina's whole body stiffened and she leaned back, "C-Childish?! I'm not childish!" She huffed and crossed her arms indignantly. A few moments later, she relaxed a little and opened her eyes, "... Am I? I really shouldn't be… I'm royalty."

“Ah,” K’nell shook his head politely, “You misunderstand me, my dear. I have simply found a shard of you that encompasses your childhood memories and attributes, an early augmentation to your development into who you have become. The tic before the toc, in a way.”

Laina stared at K'nell until understanding dawned onto her eyes. "Oh," She muttered, before sighing in relief and chuckling, "Oh."

"Where are they? If I remember correctly, they took human forms."

K’nell reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a tiny pearlescent orb coupled with an icy shard, “They rest in here.”

As if on cue, the tiny orb began to glow and from it, the misty figure of a small girl formed. Translucent much like Laina, with short hair in the same platinum blonde colour and a black blindfold over her eyes.

"Big Sis!" The girl shouted suddenly, beginning to bounce and jump on K'nell's palm. "I thought the monster ate you! You should be soul poo by now!" She snickered, while Laina flushed and stammered.

"H-Hey, watch your language. Royalty can't be speaking like that-"

"I agree." Came a sophisticated voice from the icy shard. In a tame flash of light, the translucent form of a beautifully dressed woman materialised next to the girl, who immediately groaned and sat down cross legged, pouting.

K’nell watched with a certain amusement before shaking his head, “Very good then,” he looked to Laina. “Excuse my directness, but would it be too bold of me to assume that perhaps it would be best if you decided on our collective next step?”

The three fell silent, until Laina spoke. "Uhm, where's my-" The girl glared at Laina and the woman huffed indignantly, "Our body?"

“I had last seen it in your very own sphere, but there is not telling if it had stayed put,” K’nell offered, “Give me while and I shall locate it for you, of course.”

"Oh," Laina put a finger on top of her lips for a moment as she thought, "We should get it back, shouldn't we?"

“Unfortunately, my dear, that choice is yours,” K’nell noted, “Our forms aren’t exactly defining, but I do concede it would perhaps be best to reign in your lost body.”

"In any case," the Elegant woman began, "We'll need every shard in order to stand a chance at recovering the body from the Beast, won't we?"

"... And who knows what'll happen if we mix our strength like that?" Laina continued.

"It'll be cool, like a mind mage battle!" the girl said with a grin.

“Then it’s settled,” K’nell agreed, “We will unite all of the shards before attempting a corporeal recovery.”

"Yay!" The Girl jumped in excitement and hugged K'nell's pinkie finger, before dissipating back into a tiny orb.

"We'll have to be careful," Elegance said, frowning slightly.

"And quick, I can't bear to think what that monster is doing with our body… Ew." Laina scrunched up her nose.

Elegance smiled at Laina, "Fret not, I will make sure we do a thorough grooming after we take back our body." She then looked at K'nell and bowed her head, "Apologies for the topic, Mr. K'nell. Rather important matters I must say." She said with a hint of amusement in her smile.

“Think nothing of it,” K’nell offered a polite smile, “If not lost in my own thoughts, I’m adrift in one of my own daydreams anyhow.”

"You lose yourself in your dreams?" Laina asked, tilting her head.

“A figure of speech, my dear,” K’nell apologized, “You’ll have to excuse me.”

Laina chuckled, "Heh, I know it's a figure of speech, K'nell. I just wondered if there was anything else to it."

“I see,” K’nell folded one arm behind his back, he other still held out and flat as a stage for the other two shards, “In that case, then yes. I have from time to time been known to cloister myself away in the land of dreams.”
.
Laina pursed her lips and Elegance immediately let out a short laugh. "And you thought all that reading was unnecessary."

Laina eyed K'nell and then Elegance. Her eyes moved between the two a few times before she blushed slightly and leaned toward Elegance, whispering. "Uncle Jin'Kalla made me read dozens of boring dusty books and I never came across the word 'cloister'!"

Elegance covered her mouth with a delicate hand, but the way she tilted her head back, looked down on Laina and her eyes glinted mockingly made Laina shrink slightly.

A few moments passed. "Wow. Just wow. Didn't take you for a bitch." Laina whispered, crossing her arms.

"H-How dare-" Elegance recoiled, but quickly regained her composure and shook her head, "Apologies, Laina. I got carried away. It means to seclude oneself, or take sanctuary."

Laina huffed and turned toward K'nell, her expression slightly frazzled. "C-Cloistering yourself in your dreams, huh? Why would someone like you do that? I mean, what does a God of Dreams dream about?"

K’nell looked between the two before clicking the roof of his mouth, “Ah, yes a valid question. The truth of the matter is a lot more confusing than I’d like, but to put it simply I don’t dream. My sphere exists in… dreams. It itself is a dream in a way, and what I meant by cloistering myself away in the land of dreams was in fact that I prefer a good amount of alone-time in the nexus of all dreams, my Palace, where I can think and study and otherwise do all the things that whereas on Galbar would be much too noisy to do.” He paused, “I do hope that makes a crumb of sense.”

Laina squinted her eyes and tapped her lips as she processed the new information, but eventually she perked up and nodded, “Ah, I understand now. Thank you for explaining, K’nell. So,” Laina looked around and her eyes settled on Elegance, who smiled at her and dissipated back into her shard. Finally she looked at K’nell again, “Shall we get going?”

“But of course,” K’nell nodded and lurched off of his cushion and leaned forward, “I know it goes without saying, but -- do you mind?” His fingers stopped by the shard that sat beside the projection.

“Oh, go ahead.” Laina said before dissipating her projection. K’nell snatched the shard and quickly dropped it into his pocket as he stood up. A crow came down from the sky and landed on his shoulder. He turned away from the scene and step after step, continued his walk.


The Last Li’Kallan Fragment





There was a cool breeze moving along the beach, gently caressing the grains of sand and pushing them further in land before the tide could swipe them back to sea. Grey clouds blanketed the sky, the presence of the Heliopolis only being known from the dimmer daytime light that forced its way through the clouds. It was a tranquil day, ushering in a finer feeling within Atmav who was cleansing herself in the salty water of the caked blood that had found a home on her body. However, the blood was hard to remove and almost equally hard to forget where it had come from as her mind slowly went back to remember the reptile and Yimbo.

It seemed that scrubbing away the sins of the past was harder than she would have initially thought, but she no longer cared. Atmav has time and she had her resolve, renewed by the words of Orvus and the gift of his sword which lay stabbed into the sand. She would occasionally glance back at it, thinking of the words of a god who seemed to know what she had been going through and how it renewed her mind from brink of madness. The memory made her smile as she wiped some of the blood off of her body, showing the purity of her whitened skin back into sight as the madness flowed away.

Eventually, Atmav was left standing in the water, gazing out to the horizon as she remembered the rocky island of Vakk’s home. Her mind went to one of focus, promising that no longer would she how to a tyrant god or one who simply sought to make her into nothing more than a shell of her former self. She proudly crossed her arms as the declaration ran clear through her mind before another chilled wind caused her to shiver. Then the sound of a light rain began to take over the sound of crashing waves.

With a sigh, Atmav turned to retreat from the water and go back to her small hole in the side of the hill. While her wings could let her fly back with ease, she felt the desire to walk in order to think on what she should do. Her path took her into a small forest and as she walked, rain dropped off leaves and soaked into the ground, others forming reflective puddles. Atmav crouched next to a puddle in front of her and stared into it, finding that she had missed a spot on her horns.

“I always forget to clean the horns,” she sighed to herself.

As she reached for the puddle, a ripple washed over its surface and the reflection changed to show, instead of Atmav’s, a whole different person. It was a young woman with silver hair and dull grey eyes. A predatory grin stretched her face as Atmav’s hand grazed the surface of the puddle, just coincidentally making contact with the spot where the girl had her hands pressed.

In the blink of an eye, the strange reflection disappeared. This earned a quizzical expression from Atmav as her mouth went to mouth a word of surprise. Atmav learned over the puddle, to try and find the mysterious woman once more. Her arms held her above the puddle as she searched and searched before inevitably looking around her.

“Hello?” She called, allowing a moment to pass before looking back at the puddle.

A moment passed with no response. Until a tiny voice spoke out, sounding as if it came from her left shoulder. “Ooh, I love it out here!”

Atmav let out a frightened shout as her hand brought went to her sword, spinning around to the source of the voice.

The voice merely kept droning on, as if not noticing Atmav’s reaction. It’s sooo boring in that mirror world, ugh! Who’re you? You look kiiinda insane with that blood on your horn. Did’ya kill something?” An equally tiny laughter followed suit, before a mocking gasp rang out, sandwiched between more laughter “Or maybe, someone?”

Soon, Atmav found a small woman sitting on her shoulder, the same appearance as the woman she had seen in the puddle. It was hard to give an expression of such confusion without eyes, but the feeling was there as the much larger woman lowered her sword. A moment passed as Atmav processed the situation.

“I have killed many beings as of late,” Atmav answered, her voice still wracked with confusion as she looked forwards then back to the pixie-sized woman to make sure she wasn’t going mad.

“Well, I will tell no one! My lips are sealed. My mouth is a… Tomb? Like the one you put your victims in!” The little soul giggled. “So, who’re you? Probably made-slash-hired by some villain, eh? No judgement here, Horn.” She asked with a grin.

“Erm,” Atmav shook her head before continuing her walk back to her cave, “My name is Atmav and I was brought back to life by a tyrant-god named Vakk.” Her voice was much more stern than the little soul, more serious and focus. “I am in a bit of a bind because of him,” she admitted before continuing, “Anyways, little one, what would be your name?”

“Ooh, Atmav! What does that mean? It sounds like a weapon! I will impale you on my Atmav! Kind of deal. Anyway, IIIII have nooooo name.” The little soul pouted, “I waaaas part of Li’Kalla, though. Met this big mean bird, Azura. She was so pretty, but ended up giving me wings to break them. Mean! That’s no fun, is it?”

Atmav stopped dead in her tracks, looking at the ground in a deep thought before repeating the name, “Li’Kalla?” She looked back into the sky and extended her wings of starlight, she let out a light chuckle as the facts dawned upon her. “How fitting that two beings broken by Vakk would meet,” she seemed to ignore the last words of the little soul.

“I heard Vakk broke Li’Kalla and turned her into some strange monster?” Atmav asked as she began to walk again, holding her hand up to the little one as a platform.

The little soul jumped onto the outstretched palm and sat down cross legged on it, her eyes lingering on Atmav’s wings, before turning them to the face of the horned woman, her mouth hanging open slightly in the form of a pretty little ‘o’. “Uuuh, it wasn’t reaaaally Vakk, though, was it? Sure, he hurt us and it was so exciting but ugh, it wasn’t Vakk. It was this weeeird shadowy thing that had been lurking among us. When Laina got overwhelmed, the thing chomped her up and swallowed her. We all split up after that and raaaan!”

“Huh,” Atmav said, listening to the little one’s story before they reached her dry cave. She stabbed her blade into the earth before sitting against the wall, looking down at the fragment of Li’Kalla. “I didn’t think I would meet two gods back-to-back so soon,” she commented before continuing with the main topic, “If Vakk targeted you, likely he has some form of fancy for you… sorry. Anyways, do you know how to pull yourself back into one?”

“Fancy?” The little soul put a finger against her chin and furrowed her brow in thought. After a long moment, she shrugged, “No, no, he isn’t fancy at all.”

“That’s not what I meant. I guess… had feelings for you?”

The little soul stared at Atmav with her cute little ‘o’ expression for the longest while, and then she giggled. “How to pull me and the others back into one, huh! Easy, just get us in one place and convince us to become one again! We’ll need the Body of Li’Kalla, though! Can’t just fuse with tons of girls in any body, you know.” She paused, “Don’t know why you want to get rid of me, though! Hurting a fragile girl’s feelings, Attie!”

“I never said I wanted to get rid of you,” Atmav pointed out, “I was just thinking, is all.” She let out a long sigh before curling into a ball, still looking at the little one. “What do you suppose I do? I don’t exactly have much to do at this point of time.”

“Ummm, well, wanna kiss?”

Atmav’s eyeless face stared at the woman for a moment before she mustered up a noise at all, even then the noise was a simple, “Uggggghhhhh.” There was another long silence, broken only when the little soul cracked a grin and began laughing.

“You dummy! Even if you wanted one, you’re not getting any from me! I’m too small, see?” As if to prove her point, she jumped up to her feet and stood upright, grinning. Indeed, she was merely a few inches tall. It was at that moment when Atmav let out a sigh of what sounded like relief.

“Sorry. I have not met a jester before. Where I came from, a realm outside this one, we were all separated into different groups. I was a guard and that was all I ever knew,” Atmav explained, rubbing the back of her neck in a mild embarrassment.

“Heh,” The girl looked away and rubbed her neck in imitation, “I can teach you how to do aaall of that stuff, if you want. So that you know what to do when you find a man you wan-” She cut herself off with a laugh, “Sorryy, it’s kinda embarrassing I guess! But it’s fun, I swear! We just have to find a test subject, cause I’m no good with my size!”

“I-“ Atmav started, before looking away from the little one, “I am not looking for a relationship right now, besides I don’t even know any men that would be, erm… compatible.” She fell silent once more as she let out a light huff of disappointment as her old memories flooded back to her once more. “I suppose that is something that has never changed. No man really cares to have bloodthirsty savage as their wife.”

The little soul gave Atmav a coy look as she lifted a finger up to her own lower lip, “Heeey Attie, I happen to knooow a few men who’d be aaall for that stuff. They’re all deaad though. Very dead. Like, eons dead. Possibly burned. Most likely eaten!” She smirked, “Just like you’d eat up a bowl of rice. Tasty!”

“What’s rice?”

“White stuff, clumps together. You eat it with two thin sticks. Generally it is a side to something else, like meat. Wanna eat some rice, Attie?”

“I guess I could try some if you know where to find the stuff,” Atmav said, lowering the lady to the ground.

“I have no idea where to find rice! We could get uummm… Laina! Li’Kalla, to make us some!” As she was lowered to the ground, the little soul hugged Atmav’s thumb tightly and refused to let go, “Heeey, you’re just gonna drop me on the floor and fly away huuh? See, I knew it! I’m too small for you, you don’t want a small friend! Boo!”

Atmav gave a small sigh of defeat, explaining, “I don’t want to hold you all night.” She eventually gave in and raised the little one back up to her shoulder.

The girl looked at Atmav’s form up and down slowly, then stared into her eyes and raised an eyebrow. “If you wore clothing, I could slip into a pocket! You’re very naked now though. Guess it’s very warm for those with real bodies huh?” She smirked.

“I am comfortable as I am,” Atmav said before slowly sliding down the wall and sprawling along the ground. She looked at the ceiling of the cave and thought of the words that the little one had said, wondering if she could ever find someone she might be compatible with. “You are going to need a name,” she commented, absentmindedly.

“Oh, like a pet?” The little soul asked excitedly, crawling up onto Atmav’s face. “I can be a pet! That’d be fun! Woof, meow!”

“I guess…” Atmav said, ignoring the fact that there was a small woman on her face, “You seem to be a small, overly happy thing. Reminds me of a sprite. I think that’s a good name, Sprite… do you think that works?”

“Sprite, Sprite… I dunno, it sounds like a man’s name, right? Kinda manly, like a I’m Ser Sprite, and I’ve come to save and marry you, Princess! Or… Maybe not? Huh,” The girl hummed in thought to herself as she settle on Atmav’s forehead, laying down on the curved surface.

The larger woman could not help but give out a light chuckle, quickly silencing herself after a few small moments. “I did not think of it that way,” Atmav said.

“Hehe,” The girl laughed as well, “Well, wouldn’t you enjoy it if a knight appeared out of nowhere to save you from a foul beast, and he thought you were soooo beautiful he couldn’t help but ask for your hand in marriage the first time he saw you? And then you go and get married and have lots of fun and conquer so many new, heh, lands.”

Atmav could not help but allow herself a sigh of satisfaction of the thought, “I guess I would like that. There aren’t many people capable of keeping up with me, though. And I am too aggressive and too strong. No man, alive that is, wants a woman able to rip him in half.”

The girl mockingly huffed in indignation, “Well, I will save you, then! I will bash my way into the castle through the stone walls, and find the big tentacle thing and bite his tentacles off, then put him in a chokehold and slam him into the ground! Then I will go up to your chambers at the top of the castle, kick down the door and say, ’Warrior Princess Atmav, I’ve come to free you! I am now you pet ‘Sprite’, so please treat me very harshly!’ And then I will go and fight anyone who wants to take you from me! No exceptions!”

“But you are too small, Sprite, remember? How can you save me if you can’t even take on a leaf,” Atmav asked jokingly, letting out a small laugh.

Sprite pouted and rolled over to lie face down, “Wooow, we’re joking around now, Attie? See, I may normally be destroyed by a gang of leaves, buuut bolstered with the power of my owner, Horn, I will be able to take on anything! Maybe even a lapdog, if you give me a sharp enough thorn to fight with!”

Atmav laughed a little more, “I suppose you are rubbing off on me, Sprite. But, if you were to try and protect me, it would probably be against things much bigger than me. I don’t know, but I don’t think you could take on something that could crush several others.”

“Ummm… Okay! I see how it is, as my owner you want to protect me! Well, I have to do my part too, you know! I can cheer on you while you fight! I just have to duplicate myself and dance in a group for you and say, ‘I FOUND A MAN THAT WILL MARRY YOU IF YOU WIN THIS FIGHT, ATTIE!’ in the pivotal point of the fight! Bet’cha that’ll spur you on, Horn!”

“Maybe, just maybe. I don’t know, Sprite, I still don’t know if I really want to look for anyone,” Atmav admitted with another laugh.

Sprite delivered a tiny kiss to Atmav’s forehead, “That’s okay. Not all in life is related to marriage and kissing. There’s hugs, too!” She grinned.

“I might just break someone’s back if I hugged hard enough,” Atmav joked.

“Oooh, Attie, you can break my back anytime you like! Don’t tempt me like that!” Sprite giggled.

“But if I broke your back then I wouldn’t get to laugh as much,” Atmav laughed before letting out a tempered sigh. “I suppose that I can watch over you until we can put you back together, Sprite. But, I’ll let the other gods come to me. I want to hold onto someone as funny as you for as long as possible.”

“Aaw,” Sprite smiled and kissed Atmav’s forehead several times in an incredibly short time, “You know how to compliment a girl, you big savage, bloodthirsty barbarian. What’s next, you’ll turn out to be super gentle and mushy?”

“No. No, I am anything but gentle and mushy. I am a fighter after all, it was what I was bred and trained to do,” Atmav said, stretching her arms forward, “The rain is making me tired.”

“Ooh, you tell me about it! Just imagine what being in Li’Kalla’s body is like. The girl’s wet all the time, and never in the good way. Ugh. If I ever go back into that body, I have to find a way to stop it from being wet…”

“Yeah, sounds like a problem,” Atmav said, nonchalantly. She rolled onto her side, causing Sprite to scramble onto the side of her head, “I’m going to nap while the rain goes on. Maybe I can go hunt for some food for us.”

“Ah! Wait a second,” Sprite muttered as she crawled her way to Atmav’s neck where it was warm and soft. She curled up there. “Okay, ready, I can’t sleep or eat but I will keep watch over you and keep you safe, Attie. Have nice dreams, yes?”

“Alright, thanks Sprite. Wake me up if something more than leaves come up,” Atmav laughed before driving off into a sound sleep.

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