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1 yr ago
Current a completely public status bar might not be the best place to talk about your mood imbalances, just saying.
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Having actual free time feels so weird
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4 yrs ago
How did I escape Iraq? Iran.
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Hello! I am quite interested, but I would like to ask if you'd be up to allowing a humanoid plant species like the Sylvari or the Floran?
Genesis

&




I


It was like a thick blanket had been lifted from her mind.

To her, it didn’t feel long at all. In fact, it was about as long as a single blink. And yet when she opened her eyes again she felt different, and she knew how long it had truly been.

Sometime through her reverie, Genesis had half-awoken and realized she was on a gigantic soft bed, covered by a thick blanket. Now, the bed didn’t feel as big and the blanket wasn’t as heavy.

Still, she realized she had yet to fully awaken. Even though she had just opened her eyes, she felt them beginning to close once more, her eyelids as heavy as mountains.

To combat this, Genesis threw the blanket off of her form and forced herself up. Once she was sitting at the edge of her bed, she stretched and yawned. She rubbed her eyes and loosened her jaw and neck, then took in a deep breath and looked at the large windows letting copious amounts of light into the room.

Her leaves twitched as she blinked slowly and with half-lidded eyes.

She yawned again, a tiny high pitched whimper escaping her throat as small tears formed at the corners of her eyes due to the intensity of the yawn.

It felt like she sat there for months, but it was probably just half a minute. When ready, she floated off the bed and turned to look at it, seeing several leaves and vines strewn about, no doubt her old dress, which meant she was now essentially naked. Genesis groaned at this realization and floated over to her dresser. Not because she had spare clothing in the drawers (they were empty), but because she wanted to look at herself in the mirror.

What she saw staring back at her made her tilt her head and raise her eyebrows. She had grown, apparently. Quite a bit. She wasn’t quite at the point where her mom was, but if the reflection was correct, then she was a quite a bit shorter and uh, slightly less developed. Also, she was cute. She smiled faintly at her reflection and rubbed her hands through her leaves in a way to get them to stop twitching excitedly. She kinda resembled Exodus… But green and yellow, and with far more leaves growing from her head and upper back.

Another yawn, and she shrugged and floated out of her bedroom, completely disheveled and still half-asleep. As she was floating down the stairs and into the living room, she called out in a familiar but more mature voice. ”Mama!”

There was no response, so Genesis took it as a sign that Oraelia was probably out and about. Maybe she was with Auntie Gibbou… Genesis pursed her lips, rubbed her eyes again, and scratched her right leg and butt.

”Ah… Sleeping for so long makes Genesis itchy, doesn’t it...” She told herself, then floated past the modestly furnished living room and out of the front door. Thankfully there had been enough light spilling into her room that she didn’t have trouble adjusting to the brightness outside. Instead, she relished it and immediately felt reinvigorated. Still, she was incredibly dehydrated…

So she let her bare feet touch the ground and she walked to the nearby river, following the sounds of flowing water. ”Ma-ma, Ma-ma~” Genesis muttered in a sing-song tone as she came upon the river and got down on her knees to drink directly from it with her eyes closed gently.

She was there for a while, every gulp giving her more and more energy, until she had her fill. It was then that she heard some skittering coming from a tree behind her, and she turned sharply to see a squirrel sitting on a low hanging tree branch, nibbling on a herb and staring directly at her. Genesis stared back.

Then she huffed and suddenly pointed a finger at the squirrel, ”You there! Fluffy furry squirrel! Come here and let Genesis kiss you!” She demanded, opening her hand and offering her palm to the squirrel as she jumped to her feet and drew closer.

The squirrel tensed up its tail and stopped its nibbling. It was almost like a statue, and when Genesis had come close enough to almost touch it, it pooped and scurried up the tree, leaving Genesis staring at thin air and a dirty tree branch. She now knew why the squirrel was nibbling on that specific herb.

“Bleh.” She stuck her tongue out and scrunched up her nose in disgust, then walked off back towards the cottage she shared with her mom. Only, when she had arrived and was about to enter the house again, she caught something odd at the corner of her eye. Underneath the lone tree cresting the hill up a ways from the cottage, sat a yellow figure in the shade.

She remembered Oraelia and herself would often go to that spot to watch the prairie beyond, long ago. It couldn’t possibly be Oraelia though, as the figure was too dim… And Oraelia had always been incredibly bright whenever Genesis saw her before.

After a moment’s worth of hesitation, Genesis turned from the door and made her way to the figure, running up the hill. What if it truly was Oraelia? What if something horrible had happened to her mom while she was asleep so comfily on her bed? Her heart started to beat faster and faster, up until she came to be in front of the figure.

”... Mama?”

Indeed it was Oraelia, who sat looking blankly off into the distance. She was only barely glowing, revealing more of her features then ever before. She wore a white dress, hair unkept and her face was haggard. As soon as Genesis spoke, Oraelia seemed to snap out of her haze and she looked up at Genesis, flinching. Slowly her face morphed into one of surprise as she brought her hands in front of her mouth. She eyed Genesis up and down, before tears began to well up in her eyes.

”G-Genesis?” she asked, her voice full of emotion.

It didn’t take long at all for Genesis to beam at Oraelia and then jump on top of her, hugging her and kissing her all over her face and neck. ”Mama! You’re here after all! Genesis slept for so long, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I won’t do it again, I promise! I missed you so much, Mama.” She said rapidly, laughing with happy tears in her eyes before quieting down and nuzzling her face against Oraelia’s neck and taking a few quick whiffs, not realizing her leaves were all twitching against Oraelia’s face.

Oraelia sobbed uncontrollably as Genesis fawned over her. Her mother wrapped her up in a fierce hug as her tears fell down onto the top of Genesis’ head. Her sobbing eventually changed to that of happy crying, as her color and warmth returned a bit. ”It’s okay.” Oraelia replied shakely, ”It’s okay my love. M-My daughter.” she breathed the word, gulping down air as she began to cry again. ”I-I-I missed you too.” she nuzzled the top of Genesis’ head.

After taking one last whiff of Oraelia’s scent, Genesis let out a happy cooing noise and propped herself up on her arms to look at Oraelia’s face. ”Mama. How are you? I want to know what you’ve done while I slept. I want to listen to Mama’s voice.” She said softly, wiping her eyes and rolling off of Oraelia in order to cuddle up to her side and get back to nuzzling up against her neck with her eyes closed.

”I… I’m better now, Genesis.” Oraelia said, as she put an arm around Genesis, stroking her head with her other hand. She then cleared her voice and sighed. ”I’ve done... “ she paused for a moment. ”I’ve done many things.” she suddenly cooed. ”I met Gibbou and we talked about many things and then Aunt Evandra came and I ate delicious berries and then I… And then I…” she began to breath quicker. ”That’s about it.” she finished quickly.

Genesis giggled and cooed happily under Oraelia’s affection, ”Your breathing got quicker when you talked about Aunt Evandra… Who is she? Is she like Gibbou to you, Mama…?” There was a short silence, ”... And, why were you so sad when I found you?”

”O-Oh, aunt Evandra is my younger sister. So yes, she is like Gibbou. I was there when she came to be. Did you know she came from the sun? My sun?” Oraelia spoke, more silence followed before she spoke again. ”I was sad… Because I… Missed you so much. But don’t worry! I’m happy now because you awoke! And you’re so much older now. How strange is that?” her voice was still shaky, as if she was forcing herself to talk in a strong voice.

”I’m bigger now, aren’t I? Like, I saw myself in the mirror and thought I looked a lot more like big sis Exodus!” Genesis said, then sighed happily and ran her hands along Oraelia’s figure, eventually reaching the hand atop her head and feeling the strange, definitely foreign marks on it. ”Huh?” She muttered and took a hold of the hand in between hers and brought it into her field of view, where she inspected what were obviously claw marks. ”Huh… M-Mama? Did someone hurt you? Are you really okay? You know Genesis knows how you sound when you’re actually happy. I can tell you’re hiding something.”

Oraelia stilled, her face going blank. She looked down at the claw marks and how Genesis gingerly looked over them. She leaned back against the tree and spoke again, her voice losing its forced happiness, replaced instead by a profound sadness. ”I-I’m not okay, Genesis.” she began to break down, ”I wanted to make a race of protectors, beings who would love life and be compassionate towards it. So I went to… I went to Neiya and she… She helped me but at a terrible cost Genesis. She twisted them but I saved some as they should be…” she wiped away her tears and sniffled. ”She is Love but she’s consumed by all the negative aspects of it. Instead of joy, she sees sorrow, instead of generosity, she sees envy and on and on. She-She showed me what she felt and it lingers still… I want to help her… I do… But I don’t even know if I can help myself. This pain… It hurts.” she clutched her heart with her free hand and looked to Genesis. ”But don’t get me wrong my daughter,” she smiled weakly, ”I’m glad you’re here. Right here, by my side and look at how you’ve grown. So beautiful, with a kind heart.” She reached out to place her hand on Genesis’ cheek, rubbing her thumb softly upon it.

Genesis blushed and smiled up at Oraelia, ”W-Well, I don’t think anyone can help someone who doesn’t want help in the first place. But you can talk to me, Mama. I will listen, if there’s anything that makes you sad… But really, Neiya being that way is so lame...” Genesis sighed and rested her head on Oraelia’s shoulder. ”But your hand is okay, right Mama? Does it hurt?”

She wrapped Genesis in another hug. "I love you, so, so much." she whispered, resting her head on top of Genesis'. "My hand has healed but the scars… They'll stay for a time."

”Mmm...” Genesis sighed and after a while pulled away and wrapped her arms around herself. ”Well, I think your hands look cool with the scars, like a warrior queen. Now, where um, where do you think I can find leaves long enough and vines to make myself a new dress? Being naked is kinda… Yeah.” She blushed and looked away, at the landscape.

"Oh you poor thing!" Oraelia said sympathetically. "Here!" she snapped her fingers materialized in the grass several dresses of varying color and plant material. "There you go. I've recently found clothing to be quite… Comforting and cute. Hopefully you can find one, or several you like." Oraelia said enthusiastically, glowing a bit brighter as she waited to see what Genesis would pick.

And truly, the selection was rather varied. At least a dozen different dresses suddenly materialized on the ground in front of the pair and Genesis’s eyes widened at the sight. It took her a good while to decide as she went over every single set at least five times before settling on the final one. It was a dress much like the one she had originally been wearing when she was younger, as green as her own leaves, with tinges of yellow as accents here and there, but this one was considerably more well-fitted. As she tried it on she marveled at how well the ensemble complimented her figure and how comfortable it felt. Her favorite part must have been however, the skirt. It was long and parted in the middle, with a single long, wide leaf covering everything important. It was breezy, and allowed her legs quite a bit of sunlight. The way the leaves were intertwined with one another and the skillful usage of weaved fibers also made sure the dress wouldn’t fall apart suddenly and even if a section got damaged, it’d be relatively easy to repair.

She loved it. She did a few twirls which almost made the skirt go too high and then settled down, continuing to inspect the sleeves along her arms and the integrity of the dress around her chest. It left most of her midriff exposed as well as her shoulders and back.

Upon being satisfied, she grinned and turned to Oraelia, striking a cute pose. ”What do you think, Mama? In a few minutes once I finish fusing with the dress, I will be able to sustain it for a long time. Thank you soo much!” She said, twitching and gasping a little every few seconds.

Oraelia clasped her hands as she looked over Genesis. "Oh how gorgeous! It fits you so well and compliments your shade of green! You're so welcome sweetheart." her hands went up to cover her mouth as her eyes began to water again. "You've grown so much." she said misty eyed.

Genesis stuck her tongue out playfully at Oraelia and sat down next to her, ”I have, haven’t I? But don’t be sad! When Genesis first saw herself in the mirror, she wasn’t sure if the reflection was right... How did I grow, anyway? Did you plant me in the fields while I slept, Mama? Like a tree or a potato?” She asked, grabbing Oraelia’s hand with both of hers.

Oraelia giggled at that before giving her a smile. She shook her head and said, "No silly, last I looked at you, you were still small. You must have had a growth spurt!"

”Oh, that’s cool actually. Maybe I will grow more next time I go to sleep…” Genesis said, then after a moment sighed, ”I don’t wanna grow more than you though... Do you think I could become as bright as you one day, Mama? I think I’d like to make everyone feel warm and relaxed whenever I’m around, like you do.”

Oraelia squeezed her hands gently. ”It doesn’t matter if you grow more then me, Genesis. You’ll always be my daughter. And hey, you’re already bright. You don’t have to glow like I do to make people feel warm and relaxed. You do that just fine already.” she said warmly.

”You’re just saying that! But, to be fair, my eyes do glow in the dark. Like, like two golden halos. I also have some glowy markings along my body that light up at night… So, maybe I’m not too far behind. You know Mama, when Genesis looked in the mirror this morning, she thought she looked really cute. I think it is because of all the light you’ve been giving me. Thank yoouu.” Genesis said and hugged Oraelia again, then pulled away and jumped up to her feet and offered Oraelia a hand. ”Come on, stand up! What will we do today? Will we play? Cook? Go on a walk? We could even visit someone! I wonder what they’ll say when they see I’ve grown!”

Oraelia took her hand, then grabbed her by the shoulders and looked her over again. Eventually she grinned and said, ”We can do whatever you want. Anything at all.”



Dawn at Mount Auron.


I


The early light of day danced across his skin, leaving a faint tickle wherever they went. The scent of morning, and the feeling of morning dew clinging stubbornly to his leaves. The peculiar not-too-chilly breeze that always graced them early in the day, carrying the scent of all the spring flowers and the waking cries of birds, insects and mammals alike.

Entranced, the autumnal Sylphi stared at the lonely sapling, the lonely pod in the middle of the clearing. Some melting snow was on top of it and a single squirrel was chewing at the lips of the watermelon-sized pod, trying to get at whatever was inside.

The autumnal Sylphi took in a long breath, feeling a pang of oh-so-familiar pain at his heart. A pain that only he knew. To him, what he did was the only real choice available. Anyone who knew what he had known all throughout his life would have done the same with pride in their hearts.

So when he started to drag his feet and moved towards the lonely pod, and when the worn down wooden practice sword he held slipped from his grasp and fell down onto the snowy grass, he did so without hesitation.

For he knew exactly whose child was inside that pod, and he knew that they would not come back to witness the child’s awakening.

His throat made a shameful noise as his eyes watered. He grunted and sniffled his tears back, finally coming to a stop right in front of the pod and extending a shaky hand to brush the snow off it and caress the tough shell.

Pods were resilient things, but this one had been alone, unattended and forgotten for so long that it had started to wither before anyone could even come to awaken it. It even resembled the autumnal Sylph’s red colors, even though it had the shape of a pod meant to awaken during summer.

After a while, the autumnal Sylph rested his calloused hands, immobile, right at the commissures of the tightly sealed lips on the pod, going from top to bottom… And in a quiet, almost inaudible volume, whispered.

“Wake up, little root… My little brother.”

And so the pod stirred, and something inside kicked and came to life, and eventually the tightly sealed lips hissed and came apart. A thick steam came out from inside, and thick liquid spilled out, onto the snowy ground and onto the autumnal Sylph’s chest as he rushed to catch the weak form of a newborn Sylph before it fell to the ground.

It was a boy, and the boy was a deep brown in color. He looked sickly and near death, and despite that the boy looked up at the autumnal Sylph with a shine in his half-lidded eyes like he had never seen before… Such adoration, and such love. It stirred the young autumnal Sylph’s heart, and through teary eyes he beamed down at his new brother, carefully running his hands through his brother’s wet leaves and kissing his forehead.

“Good morning, Yper. How was your Dream?”

II


The world was an ugly place. And yet, it was the only place they had… Death lay waiting around every corner, lurking in the shadows of the unknown and waiting for a fool to walk by in order to take them and drag them into the darkness.

The Sun, while beautiful and life-giving, could also cause fires and burn skin. It was unfeeling, much like the clouds, and the dirt and the stones. The Great Tree, too.

And yet… It was all so beautiful. Even though they could die at any moment, even though everything they loved hung by a single thread over the abyss that was the unknown… It was a beautiful world.

There was nothing Lych wanted more than to protect the beauty of the world, to drive back what would threaten those he loved and cherished, and to feel like he was a positive influence in such an unfeeling world. He had always believed that there had to be a reason to why they were created, a reason behind the chaos of the world, and from a very young age he had realized that in order to fulfill his true purpose, he would become an Explorer like his parents had been.

He had no close support growing up, having been left behind as a seedling in Auron’s Plot almost two decades ago by his parents, two famous Explorers who had to plant him in the settlement’s communal garden in order to keep him safe while they went on their final expedition to the far north. To everyone’s dismay, the two Explorers never came back and when the time came for Lych’s awakening, years had already passed.

And so Lych grew up parentless, being cared for by a different person almost every other week. The stories he was told of his parents always brought him respite, however. Hearing about the lives of Lis and Osmon, about the things they achieved and the people they helped, it made him feel like one day he could be as amazing as them. He had to have inherited something from them after all, right?

It was never that simple, however. Just because your parents were great doesn’t mean you were destined to be so as well. He lacked a Trait and he was deemed so incompetent at Mana that any kind of training would be wasted on him… According to the elders at Auron’s Plot, at least. But he knew, deep down, that he could become the best Explorer if they just gave him the chance. He knew!

But if they wouldn’t help him, there was not much he could do. Since the age of 10 he had taken to practicing on his own and with the goblins, having made friends with them after gathering materials for them a number of times--They even made a wooden sword for him. Obviously practicing in the combat style of goblins, who were much smaller and more agile than he was wasn’t easy. They relied on acrobatics and using the environment to their advantage. But, as much as he learned with them he eventually got too tall and too slow to keep up with them in their same style, which led to Lych training on his own for years. Over and over again he would spend entire days striking at a particularly large tree a few minutes’ walk south of Auron’s Plot. Hoping that, one day, he could show what he was capable of to an Explorer, and they’d agree to being his mentor.

Not because he wanted to… but because he HAD to. If not that, if not an Explorer, what else was he meant to do in his life? Was he destined to be a simple helper in a frontier outpost? Was he destined to help load the Magnus Pods of real Explorers with supplies for the rest of his life? To never find out what happened to his parents? To never be important enough to be remembered…?

It was one dawn in early spring that Lych grew tired of striking at the same tree and walked further away from the settlement in the hope of finding something more interesting to train with. He was growing older, now in his late teens, and he felt his time slipping through his fingers. He only had four and a half decades left…

That was the day he found the one thing he would cherish the most. In a clearing, he found the lonely, almost withered pod containing the boy he’d adopt as his little brother.

Another boy, abandoned to the whims of the world by an Explorer couple who would be swallowed by the Northern Unknown.

Lych knew he had to adopt the boy, to make him feel loved, to give him the blessing of a family--So he wouldn’t live a life quite like his. So he would never feel the hands of fate slowly tightening around his throat… So he would be free to chase whatever dream he would grow to have.

That was how Lych and Yper became brothers for life, despite not sharing the same parents. And that was how Lych eventually found someone to care for, someone to lay down his wooden sword for. Since the day he met Yper, he would work twice as hard in order to ensure Auron’s Plot could be the best settlement possible, to nurture Yper’s future.

III


One night he had been on his way back home, walking through the woods surrounding Auron’s Plot, down a barely-there dirt path… And yet, something felt off. The tiny leaves on the back of Lych’s neck prickled up, and he felt the tendons in his hands contracting at random intervals.

‘What’s happening?’ He thought, ‘Why… What am I sensing?’

It had been an unusual day at Auron’s Plot, that day. Never before had Lych seen such a large group of Explorers pass through the settlement in one day… Apparently, something big was going on at the mouth of Buddlei Pass. Big enough to require several groups of explorers, all armed to the teeth and with somber faces on exhibition.

Something big… Buddlei Pass…

As he walked, Lych could feel the tension in the air grow thicker. He could almost taste it and touch it. And while deep in his thoughts, he failed to notice the silence… Silence like he had never heard before, a silence that he was breaking with every step and every crunch of autumnal leaves beneath his bare feet.

Racking his brain for information, he started to remember bits and pieces of things he had overheard throughout his life. Buddlei Pass was the only relatively safe land passage through the Anchor’s range, which made it popular with those few Explorers who didn’t have Pods, as well as daring merchants who spent their lives trading with the people of the North.

Something big, happening at Buddlei Pass… Could very well be an event that blocks passage, and considering how well armed and powerful the Servants that had passed by Auron’s Mount today had seemed, it wasn’t a simple landslide or avalanche at the higher altitudes. But what problem could possibly necessitate so many high tiered Explorers? Why were they wearing such grim expressions?

At last, Lych came to a stop, sighing as he looked down at his hands, cramping up and relaxing several times every minute, involuntarily. He took in a deep breath, closing his eyes and let his mind wander back to that which always gave him strength, Yper’s bright future. His second chance…

As he opened his eyes again, he noticed something.

He remembered a detail that he had grown so used to over the years that it slipped his mind when it was missing.

The particular area of the Eternal Forest around Auron’s Plot, which was located on a small hill southwest of the World Anchor, was home to a flower which only showed its beauty at night. Throughout the day it would be tightly closed into a green bud, hidden amongst the grass leaves and within bushes and under rocks but at night it would bloom... And it would emit an otherworldly blue glow and spread its equally glowing pollen all over the area. It was a truly beautiful event that took place every night of the year. Some people believed the pollen to actually be spirits of the forest, or even the souls of those who had passed but still desired to watch over their loved ones.

Tonight, those beautiful flowers, the Celestial Fortunes, were hidden away. Lych felt his heart skip a beat. He looked around, letting his eyes scan over everything around him… Several trees, grass, bushes, more mundane flowers, a large boulder-

A large boulder?

There were no large boulders in the path to his forest shack. Had he gotten lost while in thought? No, that was impossible. He knew the path and the surrounding area like the palm of his hand, and yet…

He tentatively took a few steps closer to the boulder, noticing the moss and mud on top of it, the soil stuck in odd places and the rather… Exotic, patterns across its surface. It certainly didn’t look like the surface of any rock he’d ever seen before.

The colourful clouds obstructing the night sky suddenly parted and gave way to the full moon… And for a split second, before the clouds covered the light again, Lych saw the moonlight reflect off of two beady things hidden in the shadows of the boulder.

He felt his breath escape his body. He lost strength in his legs and fell backwards as he took a step back and stumbled on a root.

“Oof!” He grunted, then went back to staring at the ‘boulder’. Only… It was no boulder, and the beady things that had caught the moonlight, were eyes. “W… W-Wh…”

No words came out. Instead, the boulder began to creak and pop. Dirt exploded from it in small clouds and the moss and grass on its back shook and dropped insects of all kinds everywhere.

Then, it stood up, shaking the earth.

Lych couldn’t breath. He stared at the thing, tears welling up in his bright straw-colored eyes.

At the sight of the thing, a bit of information popped into his head.

’Remember those stories about Trolls I promised you, lil tree? It sucks, but I really don’t have time to tell them… I know, sorry! But I will give you this advice instead...’ Lych began to crawl away as fast as he could until his back hit against a tree trunk. His hand fell right on top of a hidden Celestial Fortune, and his petrified stare quickly fell onto the crushed flower. ’... If you ever notice the Celestial Fortunes that bloom at night are suddenly gone, then it means that they sensed a thirst for blood. It could be a wolf with rabies… Or it could be something much, much worse, like...’

“... A… A Troll!” Lych muttered breathlessly. The thing was easily six times his height, and in its massive misshapen hand it held an actual boulder, as if it was just a pebble. Lych snapped to attention once the troll stretched its arm towards him.

By instinct he rolled to the side and stood, then began running. He panted, feeling like his chest was about to burst.

He had nothing to defend himself with… This was the one day he had decided to take a break off of training, so his practice sword was at home! Not that the wooden thing would do anything to the troll, but…

The earth shook again, and again. The thing was FOLLOWING him!

Every time the shaking got more intense, nearer… Or maybe that was just in his head, as soon the earth shook no more. He slowed to a stop and turned around, only to see those two black eyes staring at him from above the canopies of the trees, swinging its arm to throw the boulder it had been holding at him.

It was a split second, but he saw his entire life flash before his eyes the moment he saw the massive boulder take flight directly at him.

No… He was going to survive this, and he would make sure Yper was safe.

With unnatural speed, Lych jumped out of the way, falling into a roll as the ground where he had just been standing exploded into dirt and shards of stone. Several of the shards found their way into Lych’s side. Still, he survived and would have to thank the goblins for teaching him their tricks.

And just like that, the massive monster started to slowly chase after Lych. One predatory step after another, completely disjointed from reality.

This time the troll grabbed a tree and ripped it out of the soil. Lych knew what it meant to do with it, so he just turned and began running again.

Even though Sylphi didn’t see well in the darkness, he managed to make do with his own bioluminescence which grew brighter with every passing second.

Jumping over obstacles and swiftly dodging low hanging branches, Lych eventually broke out into the clearing where his shack was. In the middle was his small home, with his small little brother grinning and waving at him while sitting on the porch.

At that moment, a deep grunt echoed through the forest and the air almost lit on fire as the troll threw a tree at the shack.

“GET DOWN, YPER!” Lych screamed at the top of his lungs.

The tree crashed into the front of the shack, demolishing the structure. Lych did not stop running and came up to Yper, who was now in shock with a large splinter stuck into his right arm.

Lych grabbed him and turned around, seeing the troll come into the clearing as well.

“That thing doesn’t give up-” Just then, the troll charged at them. Lych almost choked on his words and Yper screamed.

In a flash of movement, Lych ran towards the Troll and dodged its grasping hands and slipped past between its legs, leaving the massive monster to crash into the heap of debris that was Lych’s shack.

Lych didn’t look back, instead running as fast as he could towards Auron’s Plot with his little brother in his arms.

A great, terrifying roar almost seemed to scare away the clouds.

Eventually, Lych had been running for so long that he didn’t hear the troll anymore, and in front of him was Auron’s Plot, as well as its beautiful protective palisade.

As soon as he came through the gates, Lych set down his brother, who was bleeding profusely from the wound in his arm, and collapsed, his own wounds finally taking their toll.

It caused quite the stir, and the two Guardians of Auron’s Plot immediately came to their aid, but even they panicked slightly when Yper calmed down enough to tell them of the ‘weaaal big scawy monster’ that attacked them.

That night, several Explorers found their reveries disturbed by a pair of panicked Guardians and a hasty search for the ‘monster’ was conducted. Of course, they found the debris left behind by the encounter but no monster whatsoever.

That night, the first steps towards the Doom of Auron’s Plot and its inhabitants were taken.




Tree of Genesis





The forests they explored,
in the corn fields they played,
Ilex was the older,
and Nymphea was the younger.


***


Those who identified as parts and splinters of the Arborean culture had spread all over the ancient continent of Toraan. As expected, most of them chose the more temperate climates, with warm temperatures, sunny days and lots of vegetation surrounding them... It was what they knew. But some were more daring or perhaps irreparably reckless and travelled further, reaching the areas where even the roots of the Great Tree struggled to survive in. The deserts and heights of Toraan and the toxic swamps.

How they survived no one really knows. It is a fact however, that whatever it is that allowed them to settle their chosen homes also changed the Sylphi that settled with them and made it so their bodies could keep up with their spirits.

Those in the desert, in the dry and hot climate that could light one's leaves on fire if one wasn't careful, the Sylphi became the color of the sand itself and shed their leaves in favour of long sprawling branches on top of their head. They had fuller, more solid figures and a tougher bark protecting their skin, making them perfect for the roles of Guardians.

Those in the heights of Toraan found themselves growing shorter and lighter over the centuries, to the point that if one were to see one in a human settlement, one would think they were barely into their teens in spite of potentially being older than most of the humans in such a settlement. Being smaller however never seemed to impact their strength, and so they could jump much farther and have much more stamina than their bigger, more averagely sized peers.

And finally, those crazed few that instead chose to declare toxic swamplands as their home, would find their bodies taking on sickly, pale colours and their leaves adopting sharp, spiky forms. Their bodies would regularly discharge toxins into the earth below their feet and in doing so, would slowly poison any soil they stepped on, turning it into something resembling their homeland. These toxic Sylphi who mean no harm also eventually found themselves to be more susceptible to illness and injury, but their Traits in turn became more magnificent than their more mundane counterparts. Not that they show them very often, being rather secular and distrustful of their more cheerful siblings.



Great City of Arborea

&

Ceres





Two good friends they were,
two brothers they became,
among flowers, happy, safe.


***


It was a sunny day today, Ceres noted, as seemed to be usual around these parts. It was far different from the weather south of the Zodiac Stones on that particular part of Toraan, to the far southwest after passing one of the two thin strips of land connecting the peninsula to the main continent. But as much as it was impressive, it was also somewhat expected, as the surreal image of a tree that pierced the skies dominated the landscape. Massive primordial roots sprung from it, sometimes breaking ground and created massive natural arcs, and from those arcs grew strange flora, only seen in that particular land, and from those arcs hung all kinds of things. The most common were long, vivid green vines which little primates used to climb up onto the top of the arcs; but there were also structures built all around the roots, both above and below them. Small settlements, it seemed, but from so far away Ceres couldn’t care enough to actually pay attention to the detail of those settlements’ inhabitants.

Saying the land was thriving and full of life was an understatement. As soon as Ceres jumped down from her vantage point above a root, she began to take in her surroundings with much more care.

Every single centimeter of land seemed to have some sort of living being on it. Most of those living beings happened to be plantlife of some kind, and by Sirius there were lots of kinds.

Even without paying too much attention to single details, she could still catch a fair few glimpses of the sheer depth and complexity of the almost exclusively plant-based ecosystem. At one point she looked above her to see a bundle of fluffy leaves and twigs looking back at her, before flapping its ‘wings’ and flying off into the thick canopies above. Some time later, she saw what at first looked like a squirrel but turned out to be an awfully agile misshapen mass of bark being dragged by a set of thin green tendrils into the innards of a tree through a small opening on its side.

Ceres wasn’t in a hurry, not really, so she spent her time walking aimlessly through the lands, with the only vague goal inside her mind being finding out if the massive Tree whose canopy dominating the skies was indeed real or not.

And so time passed, day turned to night and night to day several times as she traversed the tricky terrain, circumventing great sinkholes or massive ravines likely caused by the great roots all over the land. She was easily able to avoid such things by hovering around them, but a part of her wanted to travel the land as if she was mortal.

Then she stumbled upon a lamb. It was a small, fragile thing, standing almost frozen, suspended in a ray of sunlight in between three tree trunks. It quickly snapped its head around to stare at Ceres, unflinching even as its legs seemed to shake slightly from… Fear? Exhaustion? It was impossible to know. Regardless, Ceres drew close to it, close enough to extend her hand towards it.

The tiny creature attempted to bite her earthen armor, “No, tiny creature. You can not eat that.”, to which it just bleated. It felt as though it was trying to pull her somewhere. She could easily toss it aside, but decided to humor the lamb.

Finding a new burst of energy, the lamb rushed off with Ceres floating behind it. Leading her to a small, injured and softly crying plant-girl. She rested her feet back on the ground, she placed her weapon on her back, the stone of her armor reaching around and holding it in place. She stepped forward, reaching her hand towards the little young thing. “Who are you?” The girl gasped and shied away, covering her face with her arms and revealing her scraped knees in the process, leaking a golden liquid.

“D-Don’t eat me!” She said in a quivering, small voice.

“I don’t intend to eat you.” she said, tiny lights reminiscent of stars began to hover in the air, illuminating the immediate area.

The girl sniffled and looked up at Ceres, her cream-colored eyes shining like two halos in the dark. “... I’m lost… I followed Whiteseed into the forest but then I fell and… And...” Her lower lip quivered and she looked at her knees, not daring to touch the injuries. The lamb named Whiteseed however, went up and started licking the scrapes, letting out a few quiet bleats in between each lick and eliciting a soft hiss from the girl.

Each of the specks of light began to emit a subtle, comforting warmth, “It will be okay. Where do you live?”

“Um… Ar… Arborea. I live in the big tree. Umm… Why don’t you have a face, are you from beyond the sea??” The girl asked, her gaze following one of the closest specks of light.

“I crossed the sea to reach here.” she said, re-reaching her hand out, “Why don’t we walk back over there?”

The girl slowly went to grab Ceres’ hand but hesitated at the last moment. “But my knees… I fell and now they hurt and they are bleeding…”

“And now you need to stand up and walk over to someone who can tend to that. You have the strength to do so.”

The girl scrunched up her nose, grabbed onto Ceres’ hand and forced herself up onto her feet, grunting and whimpering as she limped. Whiteseed immediately ran up to the girl’s side and stomped on the ground happily.

The two and the little lamb walked through the forest, with the little girl occasionally losing her footing only for Ceres to catch her weight and gently correct her steps. This continued until the thick forest gave way to a bright -and utterly massive- clearing. Placing atop a hill growing from the middle of the great clearing was the beginning of the Great Tree, with its wide canopy so far up that its shadow impacted the crops planted surrounding the Tree’s base no more than a passing cloud would.

There were three paved roads, made of quarried stone. Every single one lead back into the seemingly endless forest around them, disappearing into the thick foliage in different directions, and around the roads were several hundred acres of farmland with a few dozen homes dotted across the landscape here and there, and many times that number of barns. It was midday, so even from afar one could clearly see the figures of the hundreds of humans tending to the fields, as well as the ones filing in and out of the barns, carrying different supplies or wielding different tools.

It was a thriving city, made more apparent by the occasional terror-bird pulled cart full of trade goods heading out of or into the city. And a city it was even if only vertically, for the openings that led into or out of the Great Tree were abuzz with activity during that time of the day, with temporary stalls set up and people mingling and enjoying their lives in the light. Clearly artificial structures were built on top of platforms peeking out of the Inner Tree, with some of the platforms even being nearly completely bare as they were used by the city’s inhabitants as landing pads for their strange flying mounts. They would climb on top of them and secure their grip, and then the pod would fly up and then shoot out in one of three directions, all aligned with the paved roads along the ground.

Suddenly, Ceres was snapped out of her reverie by a tug on her left hand, only to turn around and see the young girl grinning and pointing at a small cluster of structures no more than a couple kilometers away, hopping happily on the spot and seemingly having forgotten all about her scraped knees, even though they were still bleeding a little.

“T-That’s my home! With daddy and mommy! Daddy gave me my dress last year cause I asked him for human clothes, he said potatoes used to wear it before me, so it’s a very nice dress!! Come, come!!” She said quickly, then took off running and skipping with Whiteseed in tow towards the tiny village with no more than a handful of structures.

Ceres, of course, followed. Though she was careful in doing so, eventually she had come up to the village and saw the Girl pulling on the leafy dress of an older looking plant woman, with a pale brown skin color and striking grey eyes, as well as dark green leaves. The woman was holding a basket full of wool, which she quickly set down once she saw the state of her daughter. Gasping, she knelt down and patted her down and checked her all over for more injuries, before looking her in the eye and hugging her tightly.

“Hedera! I knew I shouldn’t have let you go into the Forest on your own, it’s too dangerous in there… Look, you scraped your knees… And you’ve been crying!” Hedera’s mother said breathlessly as she caressed her daughter’s head, up until Hedera pulled away and huffed.

“I… I wasn’t crying ok! I just um… Yeah! I just did like the humans and peed from my eyes!” Hedera said proudly, putting her hands on her hips. Meanwhile, her mother had taken in a deep breath and couldn’t help but chuckle in relief.

“Oh, you little berry! Humans don’t pee from their eyes, who told you that?”

“Huh?! They don’t?!! Jackie lied to me!!!” Hedera said with a pout, while her mom laughed some more and brushed her fingers behind Hedera’s ears, making the girl shiver and yelp. “M-Mom!”

“So? You walked all the way here by yourself with those two big injuries? Aw, my little cube of marrow, you’re so brave!! Who’s a brave girl, who’s a brave girl?” Hedera’s mom asked as she went to scratch much more directly behind Hedera’s ears, making the girl drop to her knees and do a weird mix between unbridled laughter and panting. “You are, you are!!! Yes, you are…!” After a while though, she stopped. Some other villagers walked past as if nothing out of the usual was happening. Well, nothing except for the large, armoured foreigner. But even then they didn’t seem scared, just curious.

“Uuuuuh…” Hedera panted for a few moments and when she had recovered, she turned and pointed at Ceres, who was standing cautiously a few meters away. “Nuh-uh, the nice shiny black lady from across the sea showed me the way after I got lost. Uh, I mean, I didn’t get los-” Hedera stopped talking when her mom patted her head and stood up, walking briskly over to Ceres and nodding her head in thanks and respect.

“Thank you for helping my little girl come back home. I mean it. I’m Hamame, and my girl is Hedera. My partner runs a weavery in the Inner Tree for the humans, so the humans kindly give us some materials to keep going… I don’t know what I’d do without Hedera. Really, thank you. Could I ask what you name is, though? I’d like to remember…” All through her mother’s little speech, Hedera had been staring up at her with her mouth slightly ajar in surprise and by the end she had managed to grab a hold of her mom’s hand.

“It is Ceres.” she said. Before turning around, and starting to walk away.

“W… Wait!” Hamame shouted, springing forth to hold Ceres’ hand, “Would you, uh, like to join us for a meal? You’re not Sylphi right? So you must eat a few times a day. Please, let me thank you for what you did today.”

Ceres stopped, “I do not eat. If you wish to repay me, then pass the favour to someone else less fortunate than yourself.”

“... I see.” Hamame said dejectedly, tightening her hold on Hedera’s hand and sighing, “You’re an Explorer, aren’t you? Even though you’re not from around Arborea...”

“Not an explorer, but perhaps something akin.” she said.

Hamame chuckled and turned toward Hedera and asked, “Hedy, do you remember what the kind Explorer we met ten days ago told us?”

Hedera gasped and grinned, “YOU DO NOT NEED A BADGE NOR RENOWN TO BE A TRUE EXPLORER!” She practically shouted, eliciting snickering and laughter from a few human villagers passing by, to which Hedera replied with a massive smile.

“Well, there you have it Ceres. If even the Explorers say it is so, then you might as well be one. You will be welcome into my home any time, you just need to ask the Guardians at the entrances to the Inner Tree for Hamame and Itoper’s Weavery and they will give you proper directions.” With that, Hamame let Ceres’ hand go and nodded again. “I'll get out of your leaves now, then. We have to get back to the Weavery… Both to bring the wool and get little Hedy’s wounds treated. Bright day, Ceres!” She said and went to pick up her basket of wool, then walked off with Hedera in tow, who waved one last time at Ceres and pet Whiteseed, who was following the girl closely.

The wool shifted slightly as a metal disc materialized inside of it, an intricate design was on one side as to measure the position of the celestial bodies, while on the other was inscribed a message, ‘For Hedera, May The Stars Guide Your Way.’




Great City of Arborea





On a sunny day,
on a breezy plains,
two children met.


***


“Cut it out, Master.”

“Huh? Cut what out?”

“You know what! That dopey half-lidded face. You put it on every single dawn. You know we’re meant to look tough!”

Cura brought a green hand up to his face, feeling every contour before stretching the muscles in his face and adopting a neutral expression. He was every bit the average Sylph, with vivid green skin and shoulders and head covered in leaves. Somehow though, every time he wiped the dopey expressions off his face, one could feel the dignity and presence of a True Guardian oozing from him.

“Jeez…” Sighed Phoria, closing her eyes and relaxing her shoulders a bit too much.

“Hah! Now who’s slacking?” Cura quickly pointed out, prodding Phoria’s calf with the bottom of his vine-decorated bronze spear. She inhaled sharply and stood straight up again, but made sure to give Cura a sideways look.

“Eeh… That’s a scary look you just gave me, Phoria.” Cura said with a slight shudder, then faced up front towards the vast fields, observing the humans file out of the Inner Tree in order to start their work days. It was a normal day, he thought. He took in a deep breath of the morning air, and tried to hide his pleasure at feeling the first rays of sunlight reach him. All of that was for Phoria’s sake though, since there was no rule that stated a Guardian had to be stoic at all times. Oh, the things a mentor had to do for his student…

There was usually a lot of silence during their watches, Cura realized. Mostly, again, because of Phoria’s disposition… Ah, he did enjoy a few chats while working… Maybe after a few more weeks, Phoria would open up and relax some more… At least, Cura hoped so.

His reverie was broken when he caught sight of a familiar face skipping past him.

“Trying to hide beneath all those clothes, Tilla? Off to visit more faraway lands, are you?” He called after the figure, who swiftly turned around and waved at Cura, grinning widely. Her pale green face was obscured by her hood, but it was still perfectly visible to Cura’s seasoned eyes.

“Uh, yeah! What else would I be doing, Curaaa?! I’ve had to go on so many more expeditions since you dropped out of our group!” She said with a chuckle at the end that Cura returned, still waving even as she turned back around and kept going on her way, her big backpack shuffling around and threatening to burst with every skip. Tilla was one of those Sylphi that looked delicate, but by the Sun, was she incredibly strong for her size and build…

Out of the corner of his eye, Cura noticed the look that Phoria was giving him. It lasted for long enough that he sighed and turned towards her, wearing the ‘What now?’ face he had grown so used to nowadays.

“U-Uh! So, that r-reminds me,” Phoria stuttered, looking away almost immediately and blushing. Her long dark green leaves twitched and rustled wildly until she finally snuck her gaze up to meet his once more. “So! You never talk about them, you know… Your old group? You talk about anything you can lay your golden eyes on, but not your group-”

“Golden eyes? Why so specific, do you like them, Phoria?”

“Eep!” Phoria yelped and covered her face with her free hand while she struggled to find what to do with the hand that was gripping her spear. “N-No! I mean… It’s not like I’ve t-taken the time to figure out their colour, staring at you when y-you aren’t looking, I just… Ugh! Y… You’re so... Wait, don’t change the subject!”

Cura watched Phoria with a smirk for a moment, before sighing and returning to his Guarding position, all proper.

“... Focus on the present, Phoria.”

“Focus on the present, Phoria.” Phoria said at the same time as Cura, assuming her Guardian position as well with a disappointed sigh.

Some time passed again, and the sun was now clearly over the horizon and shining down upon them.

“... You really want to know, don’t you?”

Phoria nodded quietly.

“Huh. Did you choose me as your mentor only because of my past?

“Well… In part! But it’s only because I really admired you! I would hear stories about the things you pulled off everytime I visited the Lake of Tears. Like that one time you outran the trolls of Vandengard! Or when you jumped from Pod to Pod during the great migration as you chased Galanthus!” With every single recounted feat, Phoria found herself raising her voice and looking up at Cura with stars in her eyes.

The taller Sylphi sighed for what felt like the hundredth time that day and ran his hands through his leaves. “Listen Phoria, the stories are told by bards who weren’t there, you know? Loonies who have given their sanity to the waves in the sky. You can’t trust them.”

“But you did do those things, didn’t you Master? You’re famous!”

Cura pursed his lips and looked down at his right leg, feeling it twitch ever so slightly under his mostly decorative bone armour, then he looked at Phoria, dead serious, and said, “I did. But the stories aren’t like the real thing. You know my Trait, right?”

“Obviously! Lightning Legs, the ability to channel unstable mana through your legs and turn it into explosive movements almost faster than the eye can follow!” Phoria said, hopping close to Cure in her excitement and forgetting about her post.

“Heh… To think my student would be a fan… But you’re right, with the only mistake being that it wasn’t just unstable mana, it was also harmful mana. The reason I made my Explorer debut so late was because I had to study for far longer than my peers in order to properly counteract the damage my Trait did to my legs every time I used it.”

“But it worked out in the end, didn’t it? You were one of the best, Master.” Phoria asked, her excitement waning as it was replaced by worry.

“I was, wasn’t I? But I eventually overused my Trait in a quest that involved the whole group and ended up permanently damaging my right leg. Even now it twitches involuntarily. Sometimes it tickles or hurts… But anyway, the end result is that I couldn’t control the Mana that flowed into my right leg as well as I used to… So eventually I left the group after I caused the others problems over the following few quests due to my bad leg...” Cura said, trailing off.

“Well, um, at least you can pass your dreams onto your children now, huh? Like a human would, hahaha… Ha…?” Phoria laughed with uncertainty.

“Heh. Being an Explorer doesn’t leave much time for romance, Phoria.” Came Cura’s quiet response as his free hand trailed down to his right leg.

“... I’m sorry, Master, I just… I was just-”

“Curious, right? It’s okay, anyone would be. It doesn’t really bother me, not having a partner.”

Phoria huffed and slid up close to him, leaving her spear leaning against the wall as she gently held his hand between both of hers, looking up at him with a newfound fire in her eyes.

“I-I wasn’t talking about that! But, um, I thought all this time that you for sure had a partner, Master…” She muttered, her blush returning little by little as she began fluttering her eyes up at him.

“Uh… Phoria, we’re on duty.”

“So if it does bother you, um… M-Maybe you and I, we… We could be, you know… Maybe you’d like it if uh… If I was your partner...?” Phoria asked, suddenly pressing herself against Cura and giving him ‘The Eyes’.

“Huh…?” Cura stared at Phoria, trying his hardest to find the one hint that revealed this as an elaborate joke. He tried even as she reached behind him and began to slip her hand under his leather trousers.

“... HUH?!”




Oraelia, Genesis & Illyd Dyll





Genesis had been minding her own business, trying her best to recreate the moon makeup that Gibbou has shown her to no avail. Eventually, as her levels of frustration were reaching their maximum and she found herself merely playing around with the soil, she heard something new. A melody… Simple and calm, which made her think of Oraelia. Now, Oraelia herself was right next to Genesis, but the melody itself was new and mysterious!

Indeed, there was only one thing to do when something new and mysterious happened… And that was to check it out. There was no reason to be scared anymore, really, as Genesis was sure Oraelia would go with her… But she seemed to be busy thinking of something, and Genesis suddenly felt ashamed and embarrassed for wanting to interrupt her, so the plant girl just stood up and walked towards the source of the melody, a god swinging from a Hammock between two oddly lonely trees. Upon getting close enough, Genesis sat on her knees on the ground and closed her eyes in order to listen better.

”A lonely little lass walks up across the grass.”

Illyd strummed, friendly eyes watching Genesis.

”But what does she see?
A friendly face from recent past.”


The strumming stopped..

”What’s a good rhyme for ‘past’?” Illyd Dyll was hanging over the lip of his hammock now, his voice genuine and lost.

”Past!” Piped in Genesis with a little hop where she sat. ”Song man, are you the one that distracted Cadien the Giraffe? Genesis escaped because of Song man.”

“Cadien the Giraffe!” Illyd Dyll laughed to himself. ”I guess I did, then, didn’t I?”

”Mh.” Genesis opened her golden colored eyes and squinted at Illyd Dyll, ”Can Song man tell what a rhyme is?”

"It's when one word sounds like another," Illyd answered simply. Counting off his fingers he added, "Like branch and... Well more like orange and... Um... Oh! Like apple and grapple or tree and free."

Genesis frowned and mouthed the words. ”Tree… Free… Ah! Bee, pee!” She said excitedly, before stopping and tilting her head, ”What is a grapple?”

"It's like when you mix a grape with an apple," Illyd Dyll explained. He waved a hand and a tiny purple apple appeared between his fingers. He extended it to Genesis, "See?" She stuck her tongue out and scrunched up her nose in disgust.

”Eeew. Song man knows he’s talking of like… Fruit?! Trees make babies with fruit. Genesis knows this because the trees told her.” She said proudly.

”Oh I’m sorry,” Illyd Dyll flicked the grapple away and folded his fingers together. ”But ye know, a fruit is already-” He stared down at the innocent face and gulped. ”Well ye gotta understand that a fruit is the offspring of the tree.”

As if it was possible, Genesis’ face twisted even more in confusion, ”Um… But… Genesis is not a fruit? But Genesis doesn’t know if she’s a tree… Song man, what is Genesis? Can Genesis make fruits?” She asked genuinely distraught.

A light flashed in Illyd’s eyes, ”Of course ye can make fruit!” He nearly hopped out of his hammock -- but his foot got caught on the way out causing him to toppled onto his face with a thud. Without hesitation he picked himself up and floods of various seeds began to pour from his hands, in reaction to which Genesis jumped up to her feet with a small gasp, ”We jus’ gotta pick what kind of fruit you want to make!”

She looked at the seeds for a long time and then at the smiling Illyd Dyll for an equally long time, then back at the seeds… And then back at Illyd Dyll… And then she stared for way too long with a neutral face.

”Genesis wants a big brother to play with.”

“Oh I got jus’ the fruit for that!” Illyd Dyll said with a buzzing excitement. He tossed the wave of seeds behind him and held up a single black bullet looking one. With a flick of his finger, he sent it snapping into the ground. Within moments the ground let out a groan and then a crackle -- then a leathery green vine burst out and curled between the two gods. The vine pulsed and at the very end it began to form a bulb. The sound of rushing water forced this bulb to grow and grow until -- plop!

A mighty watermelon the size of Genesis slammed onto the ground between the two gods, the striped pattern of the fruit shaped into that of a smiling face. Illyd Dyll patted the top of the monstrous fruit. ”Nothin’ better than a watermelon to play with,” he said past a proud grin.

Genesis knelt in front of the watermelon and gently felt its surface with her hands, smiling back at the smiley face on the large fruit. After a minute or so she beamed up at Illyd Dyll, ”THANK YOU! Song man made a big brother for Genesis! He made a big brother for Genesis!!” She repeated, grabbing the watermelon with quite a bit of effort and running over to the nearby Oraelia at which point she called her attention with a grunt and a bit of happy quick breathing.

The Sun Goddess looked down at Genesis, raising an eyebrow. ”Where did you…? Wait- How long was I… Did you run off Genesis?” she asked, crouching down. ”And why do you have a melon?”

Genesis let out a high pitched happy squeak and nodded vigorously, ”You see, you see, the song man was making music! So Genesis wanted to go there with Oralia Sun but you were thinking, so Genesis felt bad and went alone… Then, you see! He taught Genesis what a rhyme is, like Bee and Pee. And then he said some yucky things about fruits and seed...” Genesis stuck out her tongue like she did before, ”But! After that, Genesis asked for a big brother! So the song man gave Genesis his seed and made a brother for her. Her brother is very happy, see??” She explained, showing Oraelia the smiley face on the watermelon.

The sun seemed to pale as she looked at Genesis then her ‘brother’. ”G-Genesis…?” she said, falling to her knees as she used her hands to fuss over the plant girl, who giggled over the sudden attention. ”D-Did he… He didn’t touch you, did he? You don’t hurt? Where did brother come from?” she asked, worry in her voice.

Seeing Oraelia act like that, Genesis suddenly felt weird again, and piped down. ”H-he… Planted the seed then her brother grew. Genesis thinks he did it because she asked him if she could have fruit like the trees. Song man is nice, he planted his seed for Genesis… Sorry. Genesis won’t be a bad girl, please don’t hate her.” She pleaded quietly.

Oraelia stroked Genesis’ face gently, a relaxed sigh escaping her mouth. ”Oh honey, you’re not a bad girl.” she said, pulling her into a hug. ”And I could never hate you. Ever. I just was worried. You can talk to me, even interrupt me. It’s better than not telling me where you’re going, love.” she pulled back, smiling softly as her glow returned. ”Now… How about you show me song man? I’d like to meet him.”

Genesis slowly returned the smile, then beamed and nodded again, running the short distance over to Illyd Dyll by his hammock.

”Song man, Genesis brings Oralia. Genesis loves her, can you give her a brother too? Pleaseee!” When Oraelia caught up, Genesis turned to her and nodded toward Illyd Dyll, ”He is Song man! He makes music.”

Illyd Dyll peeked out of his hammock, his strumming hitting a sour note when his eyes fell on the newcomer. He flashed a crescent smile, “Hey! How are ye?”

”I am… Doing well. Thank you for asking, Song man.” Oraelia said, visibly relaxing with a smile. ”Name’s Oraelia, pleasure to meet you.”

"My name is Illyd Dyll," The god answered as he climbed out of his hammock to stand straight. "But if callin' me Songman is easier for ye, I won't fuss."

”Illyd Dyll.” she said his name aloud. ”I like that name. It’s a pleasant one.” she said. ”I’ve come to understand that you’ve given Genesis here a brother? That was very kind of you. You have my thanks, Illyd.” Genesis beamed once more.

"It's not a problem, ma'am," Illyd Dyll beamed as well. A sudden thought pecked at the god and he quickly added, "Oh! Has anyone told either of ye about the avatars?"

She gave a half nod. ”Is that what we’re calling them?” she said with a laugh. ”My sister, Gibbou, told me something like it. A piece of our power or soul right?” she asked.

"Yeah!" Illyd smiled wide, "Good, I was jus' makin' sure ye knew. I already sent myself down to Galbar to see it. I'm pretty excited, already I can see why Cadien likes the place so much." His smile faltered only a little, "Though I do wish I coulda seen it personally."

She tilted her head. ”You were never there? I’m sorry to hear that… It was- Is, a beautiful place.” she said with a sympathetic smile.

"I have no doubt about it," Illyd nodded, "And it is only going to get more beautiful. What with fields of wheat, crooked apple groves, and harvest feasts. It's going to be great."

”Oh? What might your power be?” she asked him, shifting her feet.

"My power?" Illyd Dyll seemed surprised, "Same as everyones' I believe. I create! Watch!"

He made a tiny hand motion and three tiny purple grapples appeared between the fingers of one of his hands, "Want a grapple?"

She giggled and took the grapple, examining it. ”No, you misunderstand. I mean, what do you control? Like, I’m the Goddess of the Sun. You’re the God of…?” she said, taking a bite.

Illyd copied the giggle with a laugh of his own, "That depends on who ye ask. Personally, I think of myself as the God of Agriculture." He pondered a moment, "Yep. Agriculture."

She chewed with a smile on her face. ”Delicious and wonderful! I’m so happy my sun can let you thrive on Galbar. To think… Agriculture. I suppose you have a lot of plans for Galbar? With your avatar? Helping mortals grow food and what not?” she said, taking another bite.

"I haven't quite figured anything out yet," Illyd Dyll looked almost embarrassed, "Ye see I only recently even figured out about all this myself. But yeah, that all sounds lovely to me. Sharin' the harvest. Makin' crops."

"It does sound lovely, doesn't it?" she mused. "I once passed through a verdant land, full of juicy fruits and delicious vegetables. Now I know why it was there, for mortals of course. I know not who made it, but you should have your avatar take a look. See what it's become."

Genesis looked up at the mention of the word ‘lovely’ and left her brother behind, covered in the mud she had been putting around his face. She skipped over to Oraelia and pulled on her hand, ”Oralia,” she said, then when Oraelia bent down closer to her, Genesis whispered in her ear, ”Genesis wants to go home and try to make the thing to go to ‘Gabar’.”

Oraelia blinked and gave Genesis a small nod before standing up again. "It seems you've inspired Genesis here with a spark of creation, Illyd. I do suppose we should go try to make these 'avatars' and figure out how the world fares." she said shuffling. She then flashed him a warm smile. "It was nice to meet you and if ever you require my assistance with anything, don't hesitate to ask Illyd."

"Likewise!" Illyd nodded, a small smile forming on his face as he leaned back against the tree, "I'll see ye two around, then?

”Absolutely!” Oraelia waved as she began to walk to her portal with Genesis in tow.









Oraelia barely had time to take in her surroundings before her name was shouted again. Her eyes immediately found her sister, who was already halfway towards her. "Gibbou!" she exclaimed as a smile crept up on her lips, turning into a very large grin. She outstretched her arms, letting go of Genesis' hand, as Gibbou tackled her with a hug.

”Uwah-!”

“IMISSHDYOOOSHOMACH!” Gibbou wailed into Oraelia’s bosom as she rubbed her face against her skin to the extent that the friction could have started wildfires, her arms wrapping around her back like pincers. She tooted her relief upon seeing her in the form of a long, guttural “huuuuuuuu-hu-hu!”

Oraelia rubbed her sister's back and head as she let her cry. She really missed her, huh? "Oh Gibbou, there there. I missed you too. I always do when we're away from one another." she cooed softly. She went down to her knees with Gibbou, holding her sister close. Why did she seem so… Relieved to see her? It hadn't been that long since they last saw each other. Right?

“Uh--...” Gibbou sniffed. “Uh-huh? Yeah, m-me, too.” She then stayed the way she was, holding on as though she expected some terrible force to rip Oraelia away again any second.

”U-Um,” A tiny voice came up from next to Gibbou and Oraelia, it was Genesis, twiddling her thumbs as she shyly looked at Gibbou, ”you, um, like the Sun too?” She asked in time for Moonie, the misshapen ball of clay, to begin floating around Gibbou and prodding her every one in a while.

Oraelia looked over to see Genesis and then said, "Oh yes! Gibbou, say hello to Genesis. She found me when I woke up. I told her I'd protect her from the 'bad men'." she said, squeezing Gibbou again. She then looked around to survey the area, seeing several gods she had never met before. Most of them taking the form of men.

”Yeah! Bad men want to eat Genesis. It was veeery scary. Moonie likes Gibbou also, so Genesis thinks Moonie wants to become Gibbou’s friend.” Genesis explained, drawing closer to the sisters and sitting down on her knees next to them.

Gibbou turned to face the child and blinked. “Oh, hi, Genesis,” she mumbled through the sniffs and snot and extended a moist, tear-soaked hand towards her. “I’m Gibbou - your friend Moonie has an awesome name. Say, ‘re you related to the, uh, the big tree, by chance? Met him… Her… It some, uh, millennia back. Nice guy, not as wooden of a personality as I expected.” Oraelia furrowed her brow at her sister's mentioning of 'millennia'. Did Gibbou meet the Tree early on in Galbar's development?

”Big tree! Genesis doesn’t know. Maybe Tree-jack, but...” Genesis sniffled, ”Tree-Jack died.... while Genesis ran from the bad men. Gibbou, how can Genesis tell if something is a tree or not?”

“Oh, uh…” Deep in thought, Gibbou loosened her grip around her sister and shuffled her knees a pace closer to Genesis. In the palm over her hand, she conjured forth a tree-like shape made up moondust and held it for Genesis to see. “Here, a tree usually looks like this! Only, y’know, taller… And green… And also brown… Y’know what, the shape is probably what we should focus on.”

”Ooooaah!” Genesis perked up and tried to grab the little tree, but pouted after her hands just went through the magically held together dust. ”That looks like the big wood things where Genesis plays! Big trees, everywhere! Much bigger than genesis, and more leaves and very strong. Genesis tried to push them but they didn’t move until they wanted to move on their own! Genesis likes Gibbou, she reminds of Gibbi. She used to be Moonie’s makeup person before she did a bad job and the others drowned her.”

“They drowned poor Gibbi?!” Gibbou exclaimed, horrified. “But she only messed up the make-up! I mean, if I had gotten drowned for messing up, I’d be gone already! Why would they do that? How bad did she mess up?” Oraelia looked at Gibbou, her face perplexed. Why would she say something like that about herself?

Genesis pouted and nodded vigorously, ”Yep! They pushed Gibbi into the water and she sank. Gibbi only drew a lot of animals and people on Moonie’s face, but they were angry because that made Moonie lose the...” Genesis trailed off as she looked down at her hands and began counting. After she had counted all 10 fingers, she tilted her head and began counting again…. And again… And again. ”Three ten and fifth beauty page-ant... You see, you see, everyone is jealous of Moonie because she’s so pretty, so when Gibbi made her not pretty, they… were very angry. It was scary. Does Gibbou know how to do makeup? Genesis knows how to do mud makeup.” Oraelia's heart began to beat faster. That was a lot of pageants. Many more than Genesis had said before. But she was just a child? Who knew if she was being truthful?

“Uh…” Gibbou droned curtly and reduced the moondust in her hand to a pile again, adding to it some water and mixing it around with the fingers on her opposite hand. It had a glow to it, almost like the lines all over Gibbou’s face and neck. She formed a playful grin on her lips. “Weeell… I might not make as good earth mud make-up as you, buuut…” In a lightning-like motion, she placed a dollop of the moondust slush on the tip of Genesis’ nose. “... I can make moon mud make-up!”

Genesis gasped and looked at Gibbou with starry eyes, hopping as close as she could to the Moon Goddess while looking up at her with a massive grin, ”Yay! Yay!!” She repeated, tapping her small hands on Gibbou’s knees excitedly. Gibbou giggled and began clapping along, spilling moon mud all over the three of them on accident. This only made her laugh more, though, snorts sneaking their way in between the bursts.

Oraelia jumped slightly, lost in her thoughts. She ignored the mud and tried to laugh along but it sounded forced. She then looked at Gibbou and asked, "G-Gibbou… When did you meet the tree again?"

The moon goddess’ laughter died down a little as she refocused on her sister’s question, tapping her chin thoughtfully. “I’d say, uh… Shoot, what would it be? Two thousand years ago, give or take a week? My memory from back then is preeeetty fuzzy.”

Oraelia's light visibly paled. She remained still for several moments, trying to process what she just heard. "Two thousand… Years?" she said shaking. "No… I wasn't… I couldn't… Have been asleep for that… Long." she said, gripping her head. "It took me… And it made me… Oh no. OH NO! No no no." Oraelia began to cry.

”Hey, S-Sun don’t cry, pleaseeee. Genesis is sorry, she won’t be bad. Don’t cry...” The little plant girl muttered and began sniffling, fresh tears mixing with the moon makeup on her face.

“H-hey, Orey! Orey!” Gibbou shuffled back over and pulled her sister into a protective embrace, resting her head upon hers. “I’m so sorry, I completely forgot to ask how you’d been - I didn’t even realise gods experienced the millennia differently. Tell me, sis, what did it make you? What did it do to you?”

I-It took me from L-Lucia and it f-forced me to s-sleep. It's been minutes G-Gibbou." she cried, holding Gibbou tightly. Gibbou sniffed and nodded.

“I’m so sorry that happened to you, sis… I’ve, uh, heard that sleeping for two thousand years can leave a terrible mark. B-but hey, if, if we’re lucky, Lucia might still be okay! She’s your daughter, right? Something like age shouldn’t keep her down… Right?”

Oraelia looked over to Genesis and outstretched her hand which Genesis immediately held onto. She gave a reassuring squeeze to the small plant. "Don't cry, you did nothing wrong sweetheart. Sun is just having a bad moment." she sniffled looking to Gibbou. "You… You think so? She'll have been so alone… And scared and angry…" she broke down again.

“She, uh… She might’ve had Inky with her! No, wait, that’s not his name, uh… Meghan? No, Meghzaal! Yeah, she might’ve had him with her! According to Cadien, mortals could apparently reach us through thoughts or something, so she might’ve had a conversation partner in him?” She shrugged while still holding her protectively.

”What is a mortal?” Came Genesis’ sudden question in her quivering voice.

“Mortals are, well, mortals,” Gibbou explained as though it was a truth of the universe. She wrinkled her nose as she looked for a better definition. “They are similar to us in shape and form… Or not at all, from what I’ve stumbled upon, actually. I guess it depends and--...” A pause as she reassumed her positioning to cradle Oraelia even better. “They’re things made by the gods that think and know about us - they don’t have divine powers and they cannot live forever, though.” She planted a kiss on Oraelia’s scalp. “But Lucia’s different, you hear? She’s alive.”

"Mortals are precious things, Genesis. With their own lives and feelings and thoughts. They're beautiful and for two thousand years… I failed them." she said softly. "I hope you're right, Gibbou, I do. Now how do I get back to Galbar? I have to go find her." Oraelia said, trying to stand.

Gibbou released her, but remained vigilant as she chose her next words: “Well… Here’s the thing…”

Oraelia paused and looked Gibbou, realization dawning upon her. She began to shake her head. "No. No no no. Why? Why-" she said, covering her mouth. Gibbou rose to soothe her some more.

“Cadien says it’s the Lifeblood keeping us out. We don’t know why yet, but… Well, I’ve been trying for two thousand years to get back down there. It hasn’t worked once.” Seeing her sister’s mood worsen, she added, “B-but don’t lose hope yet! We might have a solution!” She looked down at Genesis. “This one might be nice for you, too, to hear about.”

”Okay.” Genesis responded, turning a little to look at Gibbou.

Oraelia perked up slightly. "Any good news would help." she mourned.

“Soooo, a while ago--...” She stopped herself mid-sentence, a film of sweat forming on her skin. She cleared her throat. “... I, uhm… -Made- a mortal to keep me company throughout those two thousand years, and, as you do, gifted him part of my soul to keep him immortal and give him divine powers. Sure, he bailed on me…” Gibbou paused as though admitting that stung more than she had expected. “... B-but he could actually teleport back to Galbar without issue. Now, Cadien thinks - always Cadien, I know - he thinks that we could use this idea to make a whole new group of mortals--... No, wait… God-like mortals, I guess, to represent us on Galbar! Smart, right?”

Oraelia listened intently, her face blank as she did. She noted her sister's pause before wiping away her tears and frowning. "You were so lonely weren't you… Oh I'm so sorry Gibbou. I should have fought it…" she muttered. "That doesn't sound so hard to do. A being with a sliver of our souls. Has anyone else attempted to make one?" she asked.

“N-not to my knowledge.”

"Well… Shouldn't be too hard right? Was it difficult Gibbou?" she inquired.

“Nah, I didn’t do much else other than imagining the mortal to have some divine power. Poof! He got them.”

”Like how Genesis made the second Sun and the sky and the land?” Genesis asked as she looked at Oraelia, then began chewing on her index finger absentmindedly.

Oraelia gave a small smile as she looked at a Genesis. "Exactly like that sweetie." Oraelia then gave Gibbou a big hug and said, "I'm proud of you. You've saved my sanity again, sis."

Gibbou smiled, though something was dissonant about it. She squeezed her sister back without issue, however, and said, “No problem, Orey! That’s what I’m here for!” There was a pause. “So, are we all feeling better?”

Oraelia narrowed her eyes slightly, as if to say something but she shrugged it off. Instead she sighed before giving a shrug. "About as good as I can be with all of this. Two thousand years… It's a very long time." she said sadly.

”Gibbou and Sun are making weird faces, like,” Genesis said and made a weird smile and then a strange frown, then topped it off with a genuinely worried look.

“We are?” asked Gibbou with a twisted frown.

”Uh-huh.” Genesis nodded, her face still proudly caked in moon dust.

"It's just stress, Genesis honey. I'm sorry, I just need to calm down and relax." Oraelia said.

“Y-yeah! That’s it. Say, Genesis, how about we let Orey relax for a bit while we work on our make-up skills, hmm?”

The girl pursed her lips and seemed to have trouble deciding whether to look at Oraelia or Gibbou, her gaze shifting between the two several times before she settled on Gibbou and once more scooted up to her, trying to squeeze herself into the tight space between the sisters. ”Genesis wants to be pretty like Gibbou and Sun.” She said quietly.

“O-oh, y-you do?” Gibbou blushed and brushed some of her nightblue hair behind her ear. “I’m not… I’m not -that- pretty, really. Oraelia’s what you should strive to look like!” She offered the two of them each a grin.

Oraelia leaned her head on Gibbou's shoulder and gave another sigh. "Some things haven't changed, I see. I wish you would stop comparing yourself to me, Gib. You're as equally beautiful now as the day I first saw you, love."

“Heh, no, naaw… You’re just saying that,” she replied with an almost sharp, finalising tone to punctuate the subject. Oraelia pulled away and looked at her sister. She opened her mouth to say something but instead closed it.

Genesis’s gaze once more shifted between the two sisters as they took turns speaking, then piped in herself. ”What is love? Genesis thought about this word before but it’s weird. I thought about two of my friends hugging and then the others tore them apart so they cried very much. Genesis tried to tell them that they could make more friends but they just cried and said the other was the only one and that they were in love. Why? It confused Genesis.”

"There are many kinds of love, Genesis. It's like this warm fuzzy feeling in your heart, the kind when you look at someone and would do anything for them. Or the type of love where you have to love yourself for who you are. Not who you aren't." she said, looking at Gibbou with soft eyes.

”Ooh...” Cooed Genesis almost inaudibly.

“Yeah,” Gibbou added sheepishly, “something like that.”

Then, something sparkled in Genesis’s eyes, and she perked up and stared at Gibbou, loose fists over her mouth. Gibbou stared back, curious at first, then somewhat defensively as time passed. ”Love! Like ‘Cadian’ and Gibbou! They talk a lot so they are very good friends! Gibboou, do friends hug like Genesis and Sun? What is a kiss? Why does Genesis think of friends wanting to lay in bed with other friends? Genesis wants to know!”

“WH-WH-WH-WHERE DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THAT?!” Gibbou exclaimed with cheeks red like underripe plums. “I-I-I-I do -NOT- love Cadien! Not at all! Nope! Nada! And you’re not old enough to know what kissing is yet, young lady!”

”B-But-” Genesis started, then turned to look at Oraelia pleadingly. ”Sun, w-why is Gibbou so red? Did Genesis say something bad? Why can’t Genesis know about kissing? Genesis wants Gibbou to love her more than she loves Cadian.” She said with a quivering lip.

Oraelia suppressed a laugh before saying, "Genesis. It's not polite to assume that Gibbou loves Cadien. And it's not fair to think that Gibbou doesn't love you less or more then anyone else. And kissing is… Well… It's something you do to show you like, or love a person. Here." Oraelia bent down and placed a quick kiss on Genesis' right cheek, eliciting a little squeal of happiness from the little plant.. "You see? I love you. Now you can't just go up to anyone and kiss them on the cheek alright? You have to get to know them first and make sure they aren't bad."

”Okay! Okay!” Repeated Genesis as she began practicing her technique immediately, kissing the air numerous times before glancing at Gibbou sheepishly. ”Uuum, Genesis is sorry for… ass-u-ming. S-She just wanted Gibbou to play with her every day. Genesis loves Gibbou and Sun.”

“Oh, aren’t you just the cutest, little--...” Gibbou picked her up and sat her on her lap, running her fingers through her leafy hair as the girl giggled. “It’s fine, it’s fine. I suppose it could come off like that, that I like Cadien in that way - but I don’t, okay? And don’t tell him I do, please - that would cause confusion.”

”Okay! Genesis will be a good girl.”

"It warms my heart to see the both of you like this." Oraelia said, smiling genuinely. "It makes me know things will be okay."

“Did someone mention my name?” a familiar baritone voice asked, as Cadien landed nearby.

”Eek!”

“Hello, sorry to interrupt!” the God said as he stepped closer to the group. “Just had a quick delivery to make.”

“C-Cadien!” Gibbou squealed and hid her face behind her hands. “Oh, y-you’re not interrupting. We were just, uh… Talking.”

“Ah, good!” The god smiled, before turning to look at Genesis, who was still some distance away. “You there, little one. Apologies for the earlier misunderstanding. Now, I do believe you dropped this…” Kneeling, the god reached into his pouch, pulled out the newly mended form of Tree-Shaquiloneal, and held it out to her.

Genesis pressed herself against Gibbou, the Moon Goddess essentially feeling every panicked heartbeat and twitch the little girl suffered through as Cadien drew closer. As soon as he showed the figurine to Genesis however, she froze and slowly, very slowly looked straight up at Gibbou’s face, then back at the figurine. ”B-But, Genesis thought Tree-Jack was dead… How…? Is the bad giraffe man a death spirit? Did he steal Tree-Jack’s soul and put it into a robot body?! The giraffe man wanted to eat Genesis and when she escaped, he ate Tree-Jack’s old body instead??” She asked, starting to hyperventilate her eyes became watery and extra reflective as she lifted her gaze to meet Cadien’s, about to cry.

Gibbou protectively embraced Genesis and looked her in the eyes as calmly as she could. “Woah, woah, woah, c’mere, Genny - now, tell big sister Gibbou who this giraffe man is, okay, so we’ll make sure he can never, ever eat you up, hmm?” She eyed Cadien somewhat suspiciously in the meanwhile.

”I-It’s him, he’s the giraffe man! Very tall, jumps around and leans close to Genesis so he can eat her leaves! Scary, scaryy...” She repeated, then fell silent and her gaze settled on Tree-Shaquiloneal.

Cadien shook his head. More confused than nervous, he went on: “I only wanted to make sure you were alright… child... and then you ran away. You dropped… uh, ‘Tree-Jack’, so I figured I would put it back together and return it to you. I never intended to eat you.”

The girl made a little worried sound and looked into Cadien’s confused eyes, ”Y… You promise?” She asked quietly, growing a little more relaxed as she looked at Tree-Shaquiloneal again and hesitantly reached out to him, her hands hovering just a few inches from the figurine for the longest time.

Realizing she was waiting for some sort of confirmation, Cadien nodded. “I promise,” he said, somewhat awkwardly. Genesis huffed in acknowledgement and pressed her lips together, stretching them into a thin nervous line. Finally, in a flash of movement, she grabbed Tree-Jack and held him close to her chest.

”Um...” She began, wiped her teary eyes, sniffled and gave Cadien a small smile. ”T… Thank you, Giraffe Man. Not bad anymore… Tree-jack is safe too… He’s very very strong you see! But even he can break when very very scared… Genesis is sorry, um… For calling Giraffe Man bad.”

Cadien shrugged. “It was a confusing time, I’m sure. Think nothing of it. Though, in the future… do try to avoid throwing dirt at people.” He rose to his feet, then nodded to Gibbou and Oraelia. “Well, I think that should be all. Mm’kay, bye!” and with those words he leapt off into the distance.

After a few seconds, Genesis turned to the sisters and spoke. ”Can Giraffes jump like Bunnies?”



The Tree of Genesis


I


That one fateful day, the Winds of Fate passed through the land and whisked the Great Tree’s soul away.

Everyone felt it. The Voices connected to it felt the agonizing pull and saw with their own eyes how Galbar slipped from the grasp of the Tree of Genesis. The Humans, Goblins and Sylphi were all struck with the heavy weight of responsibility… Responsibility for themselves, and their homes, and the safety of their descendants. It, who had created their home and kept them safe for the last year, no longer was there and for the first time in creation, there was no imperceptible rumbling underneath the earth and soil. Its roots moved and dug and grew no longer, and its presence felt no difference to that of the nearby greater Alders, or the ancient Lonethorn on top of the hill to the north. Of course, the great husk remained. Like an automaton, the Husk of the Great Tree stood proud upon the land. But it was divine no longer, and time and disease would take its toll on the body of the once Great God of Arborea…

II


It did not understand. Where was it? What was it? Who was it?

It felt like it had just woken up from a long dream, where it… He? She? Where she… That’s right. Where she had been all grown up and beautiful and made nice things from dirt and light.

But it was just a dream. And as dreams went, this specific one faded away with time.

In the end, asking herself questions was no good as she did not know where to even begin answering, and so for the longest time she did what came naturally.

There, in the green grassland she had woken up in, she started to play.

She did and made all sorts of fun things. It was a nice place, she figured, as whenever she needed something, she would find it right away! In the beginning, she had fun caressing the blades of grass and chewing on them. Then, she tried to dig into the earth but gave up after a while. While sleeping in the shallow hole she’d made, she heard the flow of water and woke up to find a small creek next to her little nest. It made her heart skip a beat as she saw the mud and moss and clay. Obviously, she played for a good while with all of those things, mixing them together, sometimes eating them or just bathing in them.

That is how she found out how much she loved the feeling of dipping her feet in extra wet mud while she molded wet clay with her hands. More than once, she made little figurines that made her giggle, so she gave them names. The first one was Tree-Shaquiloneal(shortened to Tree-Jack), who was a figurine just big enough for her to grab onto with her small hands. It looked like the really tall wooden things that had grown all over the grassland while she played. The second one was Moonie, who looked like a ball but was in fact very beautiful even though others wanted to put her down. She knew everyone else was just jealous of Moonie! Why wouldn’t they be? She had after all won the beauty pageant 73 times already!

There were, of course, many others. But they tended to have ‘accidents’, mostly in the form of drowning and being swept away with currents while their maker cried and panicked.

Things were fun, she thought with all her heart.

Until the air got all weird and broke, that is. It happened out of nowhere. One minute everything was okay while she walked around while talking to Tree-Jack and Moonie, and the next she was on the ground with teary eyes and a scraped knee, looking out hopelessly at the tear in space, leading to a grey, scary and empty place… And to her two best friends on the ground in that grey, scary place.

She sniffled and gulped back a little sob, pushing herself off the floor and slowly inching closer to the portal. One step at a time, lest she stumbled again and ended up crying in front of Tree-Jack. He really hated seeing her cry! Mostly because he was too nice and would feel bad too…

She whimpered. Really, she had to save them both from that grey place! A place with so little warm light! She was sure they were about to cry as well. How could she call herself their friend, if she wasn’t willing to do a scary thing for their sake? So she frowned, pushed her lips together as hard as she could, balled up her small fists, and then hopped through the portal.

III


She landed safely on the other side, and so she quickly got a hold of her friends and hugged them close to her chest, then turned around and hopped back through the portal--Only to bash herself face first against a freshly-grown Tree-Jack lookalike. It blocked the entrance! How was she meant to get back? It wasn’t fair! She teared up and sniffled, her lip quivering and tiny sounds escaping her throat. And now she was going to cry and Tree-Jack would cry as well and Moonie would be annoyed at the two of them!

She looked around for another exit but instead began crying when she saw some really tall strange man in the same grey place as her, then immediately hid behind the portal that brought her there in the first place, trying to stifle her sobbing.

Cadien glanced over at the second god to arrive after himself - one he had not met before - and his face brightened. Once more he leapt forward, doing a flip through the air, and he landed only a few feet away, kicking up a large cloud of dust and making the very ground rumble under his weight. In a split moment, the girl went completely silent. “Hello!” he said brightly to where she hid behind the portal, seemingly unaware of her distress, “my name is Cadien.”

It took a while, but eventually the little plant girl started bawling and immediately ran away, holding tightly onto her friends as she did so. Staying in the same place as the tall man was scary, so she had to risk going through a different exit than the one she had used to arrive!

She headed straight for the first one that she saw that looked kind of like her own home. This one had very tall golden plants instead of grass, though. She definitely had to risk it however, for Moonie and Tree-Jack’s safety! And so she jumped into the thick fields of wheat, easily disappearing into the tall plants.

Back outside the portal, Cadien frowned, unsure of what he had done wrong. He couldn’t help but notice that she had gone through a different portal than the one she had remained from. So, out of concern and curiosity, he followed her through at a calm walking pace. He stepped through and saw the wheat rustling in the distance; he didn’t even need his divine senses to know that was where she had run.

“Is everything alright?” he called after her. “There’s no need to run!” He ventured deeper into the wheat field, following her path.

There was some rustling from the wheat field, but even now the bawling had quietened down to a mere whimpering. After a moment, a handful of dirt hit Cadien’s right leg, ”D-d-d-d… Don’t eat Genesis!!!” Came a tiny, high voice.

“Oh!” Cadien remarked in shock as the dirt struck his ankle, some of it sticking to his skin. He stared at it in befuddlement. “Oh… oh no, he uttered, all friendliness gone. “What makes you think you can just go and do that?” The mildly enraged god knelt and brushed the dirt off his shin.

The shriek of a sour note stopping brought attention to the fact that a gentle tune had been playing up until this point. The short silence following it was broken by a calm yet curious, “Hello?”

A second hello sounded closer, and a third even closer -- until a young man with a crooked banjo was standing a few heads over the wheat, a quizzical look stuck on his face -- eyes caught on Cadien.

“Hm?” Cadien looked up, having just brushed off the last of the dirt. He rose to his feet, the child’s offense temporarily forgotten. “Oh, hello!” he said. “This is your place, I assume?”

“I never thought about it,” Illyd Dyll replied truthfully, “But I suppose its both of ours now. I’m Illyd Dyll-”

At the moment Cadien fully shifted his attention to the other stranger, Genesis practically shot out of the field and back into the grey scary place, leaving the two scary strangers behind.

“Mmm, that one is rather dim-witted, I think,” she heard Cadien remark as she exited the realm, while Illyd Dyll let out a lone and confused note from his banjo.

IV


Obviously, Genesis couldn’t stay in the grey place either! What if the scary men came back for her? She was way past the threshold of risk, so now she had to commit! With her friends still in her arms, she ran to the next portal. A bright one, full of warm tasty light!

Of course she stumbled on a step and fell down face first on the dusty floor with a grunt.

It wasn’t pain that made her go silent, but the very peculiar feeling of clay breaking under her… Quietly, with prickly leaves and a chill going down her back and a sinking feeling in her stomach she rolled over and sat up, and looked at the mutilated corpse of one of her (clay) best friends.

A breath caught in her throat, and her heart started beating fast. She began to hyperventilate, and could form no words for a long time, until… ”TREE-SHAQUILONEAL IS DEAD!!! WAAAAAAAAH!”

And then she ran away into the bright portal, arms tightly wrapped around Moonie.




The Tree of Genesis


I


It was an early morning in the Garden of Dreams. The warm light from the sun danced across leaves and bathed the land in its soft glow. Insects were already abuzz with activity while diurnal animals started to wake up, and a light breeze weaved its way through the dense, lush forest.

With the advent of light, the more exotic of the species of flora in the land woke up in a flurry of activity, with Minus and Magnus orbs, as well as all kinds of flying flora taking to the skies in order to soak up the sunlight and attract prey with their scents.

That calm morning, a morning like any other, things changed forever.

For weeks now the Tree of Genesis had been hard at work. It had been so consumed by its project that it had stopped communicating to the Voice, who sat cross legged in the middle of the entrance to the Inner Tree.

He took in deep, long breaths as he felt the gentle sunlight revitalize him. With his eyes closed, he was free to wander the memories he had accumulated in his short life. He re-lived moments over and over, reflecting and learning from his mistakes.

That is, until a set of many hundreds of footsteps suddenly breached the peaceful silence of the morning.

There were some gasps and some muttering as the footsteps came to a stop quite a distance away from the Voice, who opened his black eyes to see a human tribe standing there, at least five hundred meters away. He couldn’t see their eyes and yet somehow, he knew what they were feeling.

His usually calm heart started to race, he trembled and shivered, and his jaw would not stay still, making his lower teeth strike the upper over and over again.

It was something he had felt before in two occasions, but never to that extreme, and never mixed with so many other feelings. Fear.

The Voice stood and began to walk closer to the humans. It saw how the men pulled the women and children behind themselves and gripped their crude stone cudgels and knives.

It worked both ways, however. While the Voice was feeling their emotions, they were feeling the Voice’s. So, no matter how much he approached, they could not force themselves to truly draw their weapons. They didn’t want to do so, as the calmness radiating from the Voice settled their hearts and minds. And when they had grown calm, so did the Voice.

”Humans,” The Voice spoke and scanned the crowd with his eyes, the glow coming from inside him growing intense as he came upon several small, brown-green things covered in cloaks, ”who do you bring with you? No one whose identity is unknown shall be allowed into the Great Tree.”

The tribe was confused. Of course it was, they did not expect this walking tree to be able to speak. But there were a few sharper people in the crowd, thankfully. A man wearing the furs of a Leon, conveniently covering most of an ugly scar running along his side, stepped forward while motioning to the women to bring the little brown-green things to the Voice.

The woman only brought two of them to the man, and he put his rough hands on their backs, pushing them forward and allowing the voice to inspect them as their hoods came off.

One had green skin, the other brown. Clearly a male and a female, but they seemed… Young. They had similar features to humans, but the way they were exaggerated and sometimes slightly misshapen gave them away as an entirely different race.

“They are Goblins.” Said the man in a relatively high-pitched tone.

”I see. Have everyone take their hoods off.”

Everyone in the tribe did as requested, showing their faces to the Voice. Well, everyone but one boy who had to be slapped over the head by his mother.

After the Voice had memorized each of their faces, it turned around and walked back to its spot on the entrance to the Inner Tree, then spread his arms in a welcoming manner and nodded his head in approval.

”Welcome to the Garden of Dreams, Humans and Goblins. Whether you are visiting or planning to stay, you should make yourselves at home. The Tree of Genesis provides and it will ensure your safety as long as you make your home inside of it. Now, settle your hearts and walk towards the future!” He proclaimed, and let his arms fall back to his sides as the tribe began to move once more. They would make their home in the lower levels of the Tree of Genesis. He knew this to be the case. He was not expecting, however, for one of the women to speak to him as the rest of the tribe made its way into the God.

“W-Who are you? What is this place?” She asked, keeping a tight grip on her children’s hands.

The Voice let a small smile slip. ”I am the First Voice of the Tree of Genesis, the Omnibloom, the Great Tree. I am its representative, and speaking to me is akin to speaking to the Great Tree itself. Be honoured, for the Tree of Genesis has given you permission to live within it. How many of your fellow humans can say they have made their homes inside a living God?”

The woman’s eyes sparkled, but she did not smile. Instead, she frowned sadly. “You’re a… God…?”

”I am merely its Voice. A weak servant to the Tree of Genesis… I will one day expire, much like all of you.”

“Oh… First Voice, have you or the Tree seen my husband…? Or his friends… It was many moons ago, they left our camp in the direction of the Tree. They were supposed to return quickly, but they never came back…” She fought back tears with a sniffle. Her children, who were extremely young, didn’t quite seem to understand the situation. Of course, the Voice himself had never met a human in his life. He merely held knowledge of them thanks to the Tree of Genesis.

”I apologize, you and your tribe are the first humans I’ve seen.”

“Ah… Yeah, okay…” She muttered, pulling her children closer to her and then catching up to the rest of her tribe. The Voice looked at her for a while, and then furrowed his brow as he felt a dull headache begin to form.

II


The Tree of Genesis was quiet. As the rays of warm light were replaced by the soft cool reflections of the moon and day turned to night, the world became quiet. Few creatures chose the night as their preferred time for activity, but there was always one. One that was eternally active, working, plowing through problems and providing solutions to issues that had yet to exist in the Garden of Dreams.

Deep within the Tree of Genesis, in the lowest, most visceral level, there was a small chamber with a single wooden table in the center. Sitting on the table was a small form, wearing a hood made of writhing vines. The figure felt conflicted. All the things it did, it had done in order to prepare for what was about to happen. So… Why? Why did it feel so… Distraught, and alone? It would be breathing life into a people so beautiful and pure… A people designed to make the world a nice place to live in, and still it felt like it needed to do more.

Had it not done enough already?

With a shake of its obscured head, it laid down on the table and, with a tiny sniffle, closed its eyes.

III


That night, while all the newly arrived humans and goblins rested, the Tree of Genesis acted. In the twenty-second level, roots came to life. They lined the walls, created subdivisions in the level, and lined the walls of those subdivisions with more roots. All in all, there were ten thousand roots, and through each one was cursing a dim stream of light, and they all radiated heat enough to take the whole massive chamber into a comfortable temperature.

All over the ceiling, numerous kinds of intensely bioluminescent mushrooms started to grow, spilling their bright purple lights down onto the whole level and giving the ceiling the appearance of an alien night sky. Beautiful, unrecognizable, and mysterious.

In the center of the level, roots carved a hole large enough and then filled it with desalinated water straight from the ocean.

Interestingly, very few of the roots lining the walls actually had a clear view of the central lake. Only twenty of them had that privilege… And it was those twenty that shone the brightest and the most beautifully, for they would be the firstborn of the Great Tree. It was the Tree itself that poured most of its energy into their creation and their nurturing. It gave its all so these firstborn would be perfect and healthy in every way, and soon the first of the roots became thin and translucent and slowly ts form into that of a pod. That pod started to leak a clear golden liquid, and then it spilled open.

The twenty-second underground level of the Tree of Genesis had a convenient slant, and all the liquids immediately flowed down towards the central lake, mixing with the pristine water in the middle.

And then, from out of the pod dropped a single shape. A being, a new life.

He, was all the Tree wanted. Bones made from ultra dense wood cores, flesh and organs made of all kinds of plant fibers… A completely functional body, capable of living perfectly fine without solid sustenance, but perfectly capable of supplementing its ideal diet of sunlight and water with more mundane food sources.

His skin was a spring green pigment, his eyes were slanted, with huge honey-coloured irises, a black pupil and what little could be seen of its sclera, was black. Instead of the abundant, hard-to-wash hair that humans all had, he had strong, beautiful leaves and flowers sprouting from the top of his head and the top of his shoulders and Instead of nails or claws he had soft bark covering his fingers and toes.

He truly was what the Tree of Genesis wanted. As soon as the new life stumbled onto his feet, groaning and taking in his first breaths, its creator let go of its deep connection to its mind, giving it a deep sense of loneliness and sadness.

Even though he knew nothing of the world, even though he didn’t know where he was or what he was supposed to do, he still knew he had lost something important to him. He slipped and fell onto his knees, sobbing. He didn’t know what was happening, and it scared him. He rubbed and rubbed at his eyes, trying to get the tears to stop, but they wouldn’t let up. he tried to get his breathing under control, but the sobbing seemed to be there to stay.

It felt like his heart was broken in half, but he stood and stumbled his way to the lake, illuminated by the strange purple lights. There, he saw his reflection. For the first time, he saw himself, and then he saw the sea of lights coming from the ceiling, and he turned to stare at them in awe. In a split moment, his sadness had vanished and it had been replaced by a sense of childlike wonder. His heart, still broken, was already healing and it beat strongly and steadily.

As he stretched his left hand up towards his night sky, nineteen other pods opened, and nineteen different cries were as one.

That chilly, breezy spring night, the first of the Sylphi were born.




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