A lone figure sat hunched over a boulder. Her chest heaved with each sob, and her tears dissolved into the air as soon as they dripped from her chin. She hadn’t chosen this spot out of a twisted desire to break down, no. She had been left there by the one she’d thought of as her saviour. Someone beautiful.
The tiny woman sobbed and shuddered. It was a long time before she fell into silence. She held her knees against her chest, her almost-silver blonde hair obscuring her face and bloodshot silver eyes.
The woman weakly lifted her head to look at the crow through her straight locks. It stared at her through phantasmal eyes sparkling with intelligence. It pecked at the ground briefly, letting out a faint ‘caw’. It looked back up and flew away, leaving the figure in somber solitude once again.
Heliopolis sank and as it did, the dusk came. On the tail of the evening, not only did it drag night along, but also a lone gentleman who now stood in the stretches of the world’s shadows. The black figure stood in front of the crying woman, hands in its pockets. Slowly two pale hands slipped out, and one reached into his jacket, pulling out a silk handkerchief. With a flick of his wrist, K’nell presented it to Laina.
The small projection took the handkerchief, even though it looked like a King's chambers' curtain in her arms. She wiped her face with it and sighed, "H-Hello, K'nell. I'm sorry, I would have tried to prepare myself had I known you were coming… "
“That's quite all right, I'm simply here to help,” K'nell knelt down to her level, and gave her a welcoming smile.
"The others abandoned me when I needed them the most… I don't think I deserve to live. I was too weak to lead them."
“Oh, I don't think so,” A cushion appeared under K'nell and he sat down, arms propped on bent knees, “You see dear, you are quite strong; perhaps more so than myself. The only issue here is that you're measuring your strength with the wrong ruler.”
" Strong? You keep saying that everytime we meet," Her voice shook and her lip quivered, "And yet look at me, broken."
“Your life is precious, and every speckle of yourself is important, no matter the state you may perceive it to be in,” K'nell laced his fingers together, “If not for polite company, I'd almost challenge you to show me otherwise.”
Laina offered K'nell a little, sad smile. "Always nice, K'nell…" and then she shuddered, "P-Polite company?"
“Colloquialism,” K'nell explained, “Don't ponder too much on it, my dear; I'm just happy to have found you. If it's any comfort to you, I have also located two of your others.”
Laina perked up and raised both her eyebrows, her sorrow dissipating in the blink of an eye. "Really?! Which ones? Did you find the red-haired one?"
“I’m afraid I have yet to collect her aid, but on me now I have your Elegance and your Childish charm,” K’nell offered.
Laina's whole body stiffened and she leaned back, "C-Childish?! I'm not childish!" She huffed and crossed her arms indignantly. A few moments later, she relaxed a little and opened her eyes, "... Am I? I really shouldn't be… I'm royalty."
“Ah,” K’nell shook his head politely, “You misunderstand me, my dear. I have simply found a shard of you that encompasses your childhood memories and attributes, an early augmentation to your development into who you have become. The tic before the toc, in a way.”
Laina stared at K'nell until understanding dawned onto her eyes. "Oh," She muttered, before sighing in relief and chuckling, "Oh."
"Where are they? If I remember correctly, they took human forms."
K’nell reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew a tiny pearlescent orb coupled with an icy shard, “They rest in here.”
As if on cue, the tiny orb began to glow and from it, the misty figure of a small girl formed. Translucent much like Laina, with short hair in the same platinum blonde colour and a black blindfold over her eyes.
"Big Sis!" The girl shouted suddenly, beginning to bounce and jump on K'nell's palm. "I thought the monster ate you! You should be soul poo by now!" She snickered, while Laina flushed and stammered.
"H-Hey, watch your language. Royalty can't be speaking like that-"
"I agree." Came a sophisticated voice from the icy shard. In a tame flash of light, the translucent form of a beautifully dressed woman materialised next to the girl, who immediately groaned and sat down cross legged, pouting.
K’nell watched with a certain amusement before shaking his head, “Very good then,” he looked to Laina. “Excuse my directness, but would it be too bold of me to assume that perhaps it would be best if you decided on our collective next step?”
The three fell silent, until Laina spoke. "Uhm, where's my-" The girl glared at Laina and the woman huffed indignantly, "Our body?"
“I had last seen it in your very own sphere, but there is not telling if it had stayed put,” K’nell offered, “Give me while and I shall locate it for you, of course.”
"Oh," Laina put a finger on top of her lips for a moment as she thought, "We should get it back, shouldn't we?"
“Unfortunately, my dear, that choice is yours,” K’nell noted, “Our forms aren’t exactly defining, but I do concede it would perhaps be best to reign in your lost body.”
"In any case," the Elegant woman began, "We'll need every shard in order to stand a chance at recovering the body from the Beast, won't we?"
"... And who knows what'll happen if we mix our strength like that?" Laina continued.
"It'll be cool, like a mind mage battle!" the girl said with a grin.
“Then it’s settled,” K’nell agreed, “We will unite all of the shards before attempting a corporeal recovery.”
"Yay!" The Girl jumped in excitement and hugged K'nell's pinkie finger, before dissipating back into a tiny orb.
"We'll have to be careful," Elegance said, frowning slightly.
"And quick, I can't bear to think what that monster is doing with our body… Ew." Laina scrunched up her nose.
Elegance smiled at Laina, "Fret not, I will make sure we do a thorough grooming after we take back our body." She then looked at K'nell and bowed her head, "Apologies for the topic, Mr. K'nell. Rather important matters I must say." She said with a hint of amusement in her smile.
“Think nothing of it,” K’nell offered a polite smile, “If not lost in my own thoughts, I’m adrift in one of my own daydreams anyhow.”
"You lose yourself in your dreams?" Laina asked, tilting her head.
“A figure of speech, my dear,” K’nell apologized, “You’ll have to excuse me.”
Laina chuckled, "Heh, I know it's a figure of speech, K'nell. I just wondered if there was anything else to it."
“I see,” K’nell folded one arm behind his back, he other still held out and flat as a stage for the other two shards, “In that case, then yes. I have from time to time been known to cloister myself away in the land of dreams.” . Laina pursed her lips and Elegance immediately let out a short laugh. "And you thought all that reading was unnecessary."
Laina eyed K'nell and then Elegance. Her eyes moved between the two a few times before she blushed slightly and leaned toward Elegance, whispering. "Uncle Jin'Kalla made me read dozens of boring dusty books and I never came across the word 'cloister'!"
Elegance covered her mouth with a delicate hand, but the way she tilted her head back, looked down on Laina and her eyes glinted mockingly made Laina shrink slightly.
A few moments passed. "Wow. Just wow. Didn't take you for a bitch." Laina whispered, crossing her arms.
"H-How dare-" Elegance recoiled, but quickly regained her composure and shook her head, "Apologies, Laina. I got carried away. It means to seclude oneself, or take sanctuary."
Laina huffed and turned toward K'nell, her expression slightly frazzled. "C-Cloistering yourself in your dreams, huh? Why would someone like you do that? I mean, what does a God of Dreams dream about?"
K’nell looked between the two before clicking the roof of his mouth, “Ah, yes a valid question. The truth of the matter is a lot more confusing than I’d like, but to put it simply I don’t dream. My sphere exists in… dreams. It itself is a dream in a way, and what I meant by cloistering myself away in the land of dreams was in fact that I prefer a good amount of alone-time in the nexus of all dreams, my Palace, where I can think and study and otherwise do all the things that whereas on Galbar would be much too noisy to do.” He paused, “I do hope that makes a crumb of sense.”
Laina squinted her eyes and tapped her lips as she processed the new information, but eventually she perked up and nodded, “Ah, I understand now. Thank you for explaining, K’nell. So,” Laina looked around and her eyes settled on Elegance, who smiled at her and dissipated back into her shard. Finally she looked at K’nell again, “Shall we get going?”
“But of course,” K’nell nodded and lurched off of his cushion and leaned forward, “I know it goes without saying, but -- do you mind?” His fingers stopped by the shard that sat beside the projection.
“Oh, go ahead.” Laina said before dissipating her projection. K’nell snatched the shard and quickly dropped it into his pocket as he stood up. A crow came down from the sky and landed on his shoulder. He turned away from the scene and step after step, continued his walk.
K’nell finds Laina’s shard and procures it after a short talk. They all (the other shards) decide to collect the remaining two before confronting the beast.
There was a cool breeze moving along the beach, gently caressing the grains of sand and pushing them further in land before the tide could swipe them back to sea. Grey clouds blanketed the sky, the presence of the Heliopolis only being known from the dimmer daytime light that forced its way through the clouds. It was a tranquil day, ushering in a finer feeling within Atmav who was cleansing herself in the salty water of the caked blood that had found a home on her body. However, the blood was hard to remove and almost equally hard to forget where it had come from as her mind slowly went back to remember the reptile and Yimbo.
It seemed that scrubbing away the sins of the past was harder than she would have initially thought, but she no longer cared. Atmav has time and she had her resolve, renewed by the words of Orvus and the gift of his sword which lay stabbed into the sand. She would occasionally glance back at it, thinking of the words of a god who seemed to know what she had been going through and how it renewed her mind from brink of madness. The memory made her smile as she wiped some of the blood off of her body, showing the purity of her whitened skin back into sight as the madness flowed away.
Eventually, Atmav was left standing in the water, gazing out to the horizon as she remembered the rocky island of Vakk’s home. Her mind went to one of focus, promising that no longer would she how to a tyrant god or one who simply sought to make her into nothing more than a shell of her former self. She proudly crossed her arms as the declaration ran clear through her mind before another chilled wind caused her to shiver. Then the sound of a light rain began to take over the sound of crashing waves.
With a sigh, Atmav turned to retreat from the water and go back to her small hole in the side of the hill. While her wings could let her fly back with ease, she felt the desire to walk in order to think on what she should do. Her path took her into a small forest and as she walked, rain dropped off leaves and soaked into the ground, others forming reflective puddles. Atmav crouched next to a puddle in front of her and stared into it, finding that she had missed a spot on her horns.
“I always forget to clean the horns,” she sighed to herself.
As she reached for the puddle, a ripple washed over its surface and the reflection changed to show, instead of Atmav’s, a whole different person. It was a young woman with silver hair and dull grey eyes. A predatory grin stretched her face as Atmav’s hand grazed the surface of the puddle, just coincidentally making contact with the spot where the girl had her hands pressed.
In the blink of an eye, the strange reflection disappeared. This earned a quizzical expression from Atmav as her mouth went to mouth a word of surprise. Atmav learned over the puddle, to try and find the mysterious woman once more. Her arms held her above the puddle as she searched and searched before inevitably looking around her.
“Hello?” She called, allowing a moment to pass before looking back at the puddle.
A moment passed with no response. Until a tiny voice spoke out, sounding as if it came from her left shoulder. “Ooh, I love it out here!”
Atmav let out a frightened shout as her hand brought went to her sword, spinning around to the source of the voice.
The voice merely kept droning on, as if not noticing Atmav’s reaction. It’s sooo boring in that mirror world, ugh! Who’re you? You look kiiinda insane with that blood on your horn. Did’ya kill something?” An equally tiny laughter followed suit, before a mocking gasp rang out, sandwiched between more laughter “Or maybe, someone?”
Soon, Atmav found a small woman sitting on her shoulder, the same appearance as the woman she had seen in the puddle. It was hard to give an expression of such confusion without eyes, but the feeling was there as the much larger woman lowered her sword. A moment passed as Atmav processed the situation.
“I have killed many beings as of late,” Atmav answered, her voice still wracked with confusion as she looked forwards then back to the pixie-sized woman to make sure she wasn’t going mad.
“Well, I will tell no one! My lips are sealed. My mouth is a… Tomb? Like the one you put your victims in!” The little soul giggled. “So, who’re you? Probably made-slash-hired by some villain, eh? No judgement here, Horn.” She asked with a grin.
“Erm,” Atmav shook her head before continuing her walk back to her cave, “My name is Atmav and I was brought back to life by a tyrant-god named Vakk.” Her voice was much more stern than the little soul, more serious and focus. “I am in a bit of a bind because of him,” she admitted before continuing, “Anyways, little one, what would be your name?”
“Ooh, Atmav! What does that mean? It sounds like a weapon! I will impale you on my Atmav! Kind of deal. Anyway, IIIII have nooooo name.” The little soul pouted, “I waaaas part of Li’Kalla, though. Met this big mean bird, Azura. She was so pretty, but ended up giving me wings to break them. Mean! That’s no fun, is it?”
Atmav stopped dead in her tracks, looking at the ground in a deep thought before repeating the name, “Li’Kalla?” She looked back into the sky and extended her wings of starlight, she let out a light chuckle as the facts dawned upon her. “How fitting that two beings broken by Vakk would meet,” she seemed to ignore the last words of the little soul.
“I heard Vakk broke Li’Kalla and turned her into some strange monster?” Atmav asked as she began to walk again, holding her hand up to the little one as a platform.
The little soul jumped onto the outstretched palm and sat down cross legged on it, her eyes lingering on Atmav’s wings, before turning them to the face of the horned woman, her mouth hanging open slightly in the form of a pretty little ‘o’. “Uuuh, it wasn’t reaaaally Vakk, though, was it? Sure, he hurt us and it was so exciting but ugh, it wasn’t Vakk. It was this weeeird shadowy thing that had been lurking among us. When Laina got overwhelmed, the thing chomped her up and swallowed her. We all split up after that and raaaan!”
“Huh,” Atmav said, listening to the little one’s story before they reached her dry cave. She stabbed her blade into the earth before sitting against the wall, looking down at the fragment of Li’Kalla. “I didn’t think I would meet two gods back-to-back so soon,” she commented before continuing with the main topic, “If Vakk targeted you, likely he has some form of fancy for you… sorry. Anyways, do you know how to pull yourself back into one?”
“Fancy?” The little soul put a finger against her chin and furrowed her brow in thought. After a long moment, she shrugged, “No, no, he isn’t fancy at all.”
“That’s not what I meant. I guess… had feelings for you?”
The little soul stared at Atmav with her cute little ‘o’ expression for the longest while, and then she giggled. “How to pull me and the others back into one, huh! Easy, just get us in one place and convince us to become one again! We’ll need the Body of Li’Kalla, though! Can’t just fuse with tons of girls in any body, you know.” She paused, “Don’t know why you want to get rid of me, though! Hurting a fragile girl’s feelings, Attie!”
“I never said I wanted to get rid of you,” Atmav pointed out, “I was just thinking, is all.” She let out a long sigh before curling into a ball, still looking at the little one. “What do you suppose I do? I don’t exactly have much to do at this point of time.”
“Ummm, well, wanna kiss?”
Atmav’s eyeless face stared at the woman for a moment before she mustered up a noise at all, even then the noise was a simple, “Uggggghhhhh.” There was another long silence, broken only when the little soul cracked a grin and began laughing.
“You dummy! Even if you wanted one, you’re not getting any from me! I’m too small, see?” As if to prove her point, she jumped up to her feet and stood upright, grinning. Indeed, she was merely a few inches tall. It was at that moment when Atmav let out a sigh of what sounded like relief.
“Sorry. I have not met a jester before. Where I came from, a realm outside this one, we were all separated into different groups. I was a guard and that was all I ever knew,” Atmav explained, rubbing the back of her neck in a mild embarrassment.
“Heh,” The girl looked away and rubbed her neck in imitation, “I can teach you how to do aaall of that stuff, if you want. So that you know what to do when you find a man you wan-” She cut herself off with a laugh, “Sorryy, it’s kinda embarrassing I guess! But it’s fun, I swear! We just have to find a test subject, cause I’m no good with my size!”
“I-“ Atmav started, before looking away from the little one, “I am not looking for a relationship right now, besides I don’t even know any men that would be, erm… compatible.” She fell silent once more as she let out a light huff of disappointment as her old memories flooded back to her once more. “I suppose that is something that has never changed. No man really cares to have bloodthirsty savage as their wife.”
The little soul gave Atmav a coy look as she lifted a finger up to her own lower lip, “Heeey Attie, I happen to knooow a few men who’d be aaall for that stuff. They’re all deaad though. Very dead. Like, eons dead. Possibly burned. Most likely eaten!” She smirked, “Just like you’d eat up a bowl of rice. Tasty!”
“White stuff, clumps together. You eat it with two thin sticks. Generally it is a side to something else, like meat. Wanna eat some rice, Attie?”
“I guess I could try some if you know where to find the stuff,” Atmav said, lowering the lady to the ground.
“I have no idea where to find rice! We could get uummm… Laina! Li’Kalla, to make us some!” As she was lowered to the ground, the little soul hugged Atmav’s thumb tightly and refused to let go, “Heeey, you’re just gonna drop me on the floor and fly away huuh? See, I knew it! I’m too small for you, you don’t want a small friend! Boo!”
Atmav gave a small sigh of defeat, explaining, “I don’t want to hold you all night.” She eventually gave in and raised the little one back up to her shoulder.
The girl looked at Atmav’s form up and down slowly, then stared into her eyes and raised an eyebrow. “If you wore clothing, I could slip into a pocket! You’re very naked now though. Guess it’s very warm for those with real bodies huh?” She smirked.
“I am comfortable as I am,” Atmav said before slowly sliding down the wall and sprawling along the ground. She looked at the ceiling of the cave and thought of the words that the little one had said, wondering if she could ever find someone she might be compatible with. “You are going to need a name,” she commented, absentmindedly.
“Oh, like a pet?” The little soul asked excitedly, crawling up onto Atmav’s face. “I can be a pet! That’d be fun! Woof, meow!”
“I guess…” Atmav said, ignoring the fact that there was a small woman on her face, “You seem to be a small, overly happy thing. Reminds me of a sprite. I think that’s a good name, Sprite… do you think that works?”
“Sprite, Sprite… I dunno, it sounds like a man’s name, right? Kinda manly, like a I’m Ser Sprite, and I’ve come to save and marry you, Princess! Or… Maybe not? Huh,” The girl hummed in thought to herself as she settle on Atmav’s forehead, laying down on the curved surface.
The larger woman could not help but give out a light chuckle, quickly silencing herself after a few small moments. “I did not think of it that way,” Atmav said.
“Hehe,” The girl laughed as well, “Well, wouldn’t you enjoy it if a knight appeared out of nowhere to save you from a foul beast, and he thought you were soooo beautiful he couldn’t help but ask for your hand in marriage the first time he saw you? And then you go and get married and have lots of fun and conquer so many new, heh, lands.”
Atmav could not help but allow herself a sigh of satisfaction of the thought, “I guess I would like that. There aren’t many people capable of keeping up with me, though. And I am too aggressive and too strong. No man, alive that is, wants a woman able to rip him in half.”
The girl mockingly huffed in indignation, “Well, I will save you, then! I will bash my way into the castle through the stone walls, and find the big tentacle thing and bite his tentacles off, then put him in a chokehold and slam him into the ground! Then I will go up to your chambers at the top of the castle, kick down the door and say, ’Warrior Princess Atmav, I’ve come to free you! I am now you pet ‘Sprite’, so please treat me very harshly!’ And then I will go and fight anyone who wants to take you from me! No exceptions!”
“But you are too small, Sprite, remember? How can you save me if you can’t even take on a leaf,” Atmav asked jokingly, letting out a small laugh.
Sprite pouted and rolled over to lie face down, “Wooow, we’re joking around now, Attie? See, I may normally be destroyed by a gang of leaves, buuut bolstered with the power of my owner, Horn, I will be able to take on anything! Maybe even a lapdog, if you give me a sharp enough thorn to fight with!”
Atmav laughed a little more, “I suppose you are rubbing off on me, Sprite. But, if you were to try and protect me, it would probably be against things much bigger than me. I don’t know, but I don’t think you could take on something that could crush several others.”
“Ummm… Okay! I see how it is, as my owner you want to protect me! Well, I have to do my part too, you know! I can cheer on you while you fight! I just have to duplicate myself and dance in a group for you and say, ‘I FOUND A MAN THAT WILL MARRY YOU IF YOU WIN THIS FIGHT, ATTIE!’ in the pivotal point of the fight! Bet’cha that’ll spur you on, Horn!”
“Maybe, just maybe. I don’t know, Sprite, I still don’t know if I really want to look for anyone,” Atmav admitted with another laugh.
Sprite delivered a tiny kiss to Atmav’s forehead, “That’s okay. Not all in life is related to marriage and kissing. There’s hugs, too!” She grinned.
“I might just break someone’s back if I hugged hard enough,” Atmav joked.
“Oooh, Attie, you can break my back anytime you like! Don’t tempt me like that!” Sprite giggled.
“But if I broke your back then I wouldn’t get to laugh as much,” Atmav laughed before letting out a tempered sigh. “I suppose that I can watch over you until we can put you back together, Sprite. But, I’ll let the other gods come to me. I want to hold onto someone as funny as you for as long as possible.”
“Aaw,” Sprite smiled and kissed Atmav’s forehead several times in an incredibly short time, “You know how to compliment a girl, you big savage, bloodthirsty barbarian. What’s next, you’ll turn out to be super gentle and mushy?”
“No. No, I am anything but gentle and mushy. I am a fighter after all, it was what I was bred and trained to do,” Atmav said, stretching her arms forward, “The rain is making me tired.”
“Ooh, you tell me about it! Just imagine what being in Li’Kalla’s body is like. The girl’s wet all the time, and never in the good way. Ugh. If I ever go back into that body, I have to find a way to stop it from being wet…”
“Yeah, sounds like a problem,” Atmav said, nonchalantly. She rolled onto her side, causing Sprite to scramble onto the side of her head, “I’m going to nap while the rain goes on. Maybe I can go hunt for some food for us.”
“Ah! Wait a second,” Sprite muttered as she crawled her way to Atmav’s neck where it was warm and soft. She curled up there. “Okay, ready, I can’t sleep or eat but I will keep watch over you and keep you safe, Attie. Have nice dreams, yes?”
“Alright, thanks Sprite. Wake me up if something more than leaves come up,” Atmav laughed before driving off into a sound sleep.
Atmav is washing the blood off of her body on a cloudy and windy day, she is still filled with the new confidence that Orvus gave her. However, as rain begins to roll in, Atmav turns to head back to the little cave that she is calling her shelter.
As she travels along the path, Atmav comes across a puddle and decided to look into it, noticing she missed a spot. However, as a ripple goes through the puddle, Atmav sees a strange woman before it disappears. Then she is spiked when a voice speak to her.
It turns out that she had found a fragment of Li’Kalla, a small woman standing only a few inches tall on her shoulder. Little Li says that Atmav looks scary like a murderer or something before the two introduce themselves. The two talk as Atmav gets back to her little cave.
Atmav asks Little Li what she wants to do and Little Li suggest they kiss. This flusters Atmav, brings a laugh from Little Li. Atmav is not used to being around jokesters on account of being a warrior meant for slaughter and carnage. But Little Li says that she would teach Atmav all she needed to know.
This leads on the subject of Atmav’s love life, which Atmav denies she wants one before naming Little Li, Sprite. Sprite doesn’t like the name at first, thinking it’s too manly before coming around to it. The conversation continues and Sprite mentions how Atmav would like a man who could rescue her from a monster and offer to marry her. Atmav agreed that she would like that.
Atmav then points out that there is nobody she knows who could do such a feat and Sprite promises to protect her. This gets a laugh out of Atmav, opening her up to further conversation. After Atmav says that she doesn’t want to give up Sprite on account of the entertainment, Sprite gives Atmav a many little kisses on the head.
Atmav gets tired by the rain and turns in, Sprite says she’ll keep watch.
The mist had thickened once more. The roars and flight and fights never kept it away for long, and it had been a rather long time since the last visit.
The So’E had once more fallen into a lull. One that the Beast couldn’t stand. It had tasted everything there was to taste and smelled everything there was to smell.
With the exception of one thing.
It now stood half submerged in the boiling lake, licking and slurping up fresh, smooth water. Water that came from the river that fed the lake, the river that came from the thickest parts of the mist.
After a while, it was sated. Or so it thought, as soon after having its fill, it threw the water right back up. Apparently, it had drunk too much.
So instead it stretched its wings and followed the river, walking against the current. Eventually it could see nothing but mist, and the only reason it knew where it was going was because it could feel the water flow around its toes. After a time, the fog grew thick as porridge, as if attempting to keep it out, but simple fog was no match for it.
Eventually the mists gave way and thinned out more and more as the beast followed the river. And what it saw was very tasty.
As the mists broke apart, the beast was greeted by a seemingly endless open landscape, its ground constantly shifting as rivers diverged, converged, flooded and dried up. Even as the beast entered, the river it waded in suddenly grew shallow until it was no more, rich, fertile mud rising to greet its vile claws. From the mud sprouted fresh flowers and bushes at an unnatural rate, and before the beast could even smell their fragrances, the water consumed them again.
It growled and snarled at the water that crushed the fresh foliage. It stomped and bit at the flow, but no matter what it did, it kept on going. It didn’t care that it had trampled so much beauty in order to continue forward.
A long time passed, and eventually the Beast had grown weary of battling the waters with its claws and maw, and instead it found that putting big walls of mud in the way of the rivers was a more effective way of hurting them. And so it did, creating numerous dams of clay and fertile mud across the strange land. The mud walls fell down at first, the immense power of the water outmatching the feeble structures of silt and earth; however, little by little, the mud walls began to divert or outright stop certain rivers, leaving a lake on one side and muddy pits on the other. So many rivers and flows were blocked, and so much new foliage appeared. The beast gave a satisfied huff as it sniffed a particularly large flower before eating it.
Meanwhile, on Kalgrun...
Kalmere River was drifting along lazily, pregnant with fresh life at the blessing of Kalmar. The fish skipped and hopped about happily, and the beavers clapped their tails happily on top of their dams. An otter floated by the dam, seemingly gnawing on an insect as a group of ducklings swam hastily after their mother.
However, little by little, the inhabitants of the river began to realise that something was terribly wrong.
Already halted by the beaver dam, the river further downstream began to rapidly dry up as the water seemingly stopped flowing upstream. The beaver dam luckily held on to a small puddle, though it was crowded short of bursting with all the fish and amphibians that had made it in time. The beavers grieved, however, for their home was useless now - the water barrier could no longer keep predators at bay. Soon, the wolves and bears would flock to the promise of beached fish and helpless animals. Panicked, the mammals scattered in search of new streams - the fish, however, doomed to remain in the puddle until they eventually choking on waters poisoned with filth and disease, had nowhere to go.
Meanwhile, back in Fengshui Fuyou...
As the mud walls dried, the water diverged and turned to different streams. Whereas the land behind the wall eventually dried and cracked, the land at the flanks of the barrier overflowed many times more than normal, bringing cataclysmic currents into reality…
Meanwhile, on Istais...
The beauty of Lihe, the product of Shengshi’s adoration for his avatar, was unparalleled by every other body of water on Galbar: It was comparable to the gentle stroke of a blue-tipped paint brush across a green canvas of grass, flanked on either side by snaking patterns of darker grass and colourful flowers. The river was brimming with colourful life worthy of competing with the visual impeccability of the river itself. There were carps and trouts in every colour of the rainbow; there were frogs as small as a fingernail and toads as large as a head; the reeds were no reeds at all, but sprouted flowers in a multitude of colours in the spring and summer, and perhaps most fortunate of all: Many beasts and creatures of the island routinely made treks to the river to sample its nutritious waters and plentiful bounty.
Here, too, cataclysm was imminent.
It started with a rumble that turned several heads among those that grazed along the riverbanks. Those peacefully cooling off in the shallows felt the water rise at speeds and consistencies that could not simply be waved off as waves. The bears slapping their paws at the water surface in search of juicy carps immediately found themselves frozen in fear. The fish dove to the bottom; the frogs joined in; those without gills set off in a panicked sprint away from the waters.
Then they saw it: Crashing down the length of the river came an all-consuming flood that uprooted trees, drowned landwalkers and ground fish to a bloody paste. Those that evaded the flood soon found themselves trudging through deep and treacherous flood plains. Some managed to escape to the new edges of the river - others were trapped in mud and subsequently drowned. The flood became a horrid brown as it mixed together blood, soil and vegetation. Upon reaching the sea, the flood polluted the delta with corpses of those too slow to escape it. Orphaned fawns and cubs trudged through the wetlands calling for their parents, only to find themselves ensnared and doomed. The skies blackened with gulls and crows hungry for carrion - the edges of the forests began to flock with predators seeking easy meals; many of them also fell into the wetland’s trap. As bioluminescent fluids leaked into the water, the horrid brown filled with the ghastly colours of dead spirits.
Meanwhile, back in Fengshui Fuyou...
Having moved a distance away from the dam by now, the beast’s eyes were glued to this odd formation in the water. As the beast closed in, it observed one ribbons of water swoop upwards along the each bank of the river. The two ribbons quickly grabbed to one another and intertwined in a braided pattern that curved into an arc far above the beast. Then, as the tips of the ribbons touched the water surface on the opposite bank of its origin, dew began to trickle down from the top of the arc.
There, through the crystalline dew, the beast saw an unfamiliar world.
Without a moment’s hesitation, the beast took the chance and jumped into the new world, finally escaping from the violent flows of water of the strange land.
Having returned to the So’E after its unsuccesful foray into the Infinite Maze, the Beast now follows the river that feeds the boiling lake in the So’E and ends up in the Fengshui Fuyou. It sees very pretty flowers and grass being drowned by a shallow river and gets angry at the water. Tries to claw and bite at it but ends up building a mud dam in the end. The dam causes the river Kalmere to dry up completely and the river Lihe to overflow immensely. Both are insane natural disasters.
Then the beast finds and accidentally activates the gateway to Galbar (due to having a dragon head) and jumps through the gateway, glad to escape from the violent flows of the Fengshui Fuyou.
It walked away from the ruined, wet land. Trees had been devoured, blood and flesh had been licked up, even several pieces of brick and broken furniture had been eaten. There was nothing new to do, and so in search of sustenance, it walked.
Wherever it went, it kept its wings outstretched. Whether it was in elation of having been healed or a pervasive sense of dread, there was no way to know. At least not with the way its face never showed expression, with the way its eyes were always wide open and its face was always unflinching.
It felt like a long time, to the Beast, walking through the mist. It probably was a long time, as by the time the mist became thick enough, it began taking bites out of it due to boredom. Eventually, the mist became so hard that even it had a hard time eating it, so it stopped.
Walking randomly was frustrating, as the mist blocked its path suddenly. It wasn’t until it found a gap in the solid mists that it could move forward.
The gap was rather narrow, at least for a being of its size, and it had to furl up its wings in order to get through, and even then it felt like its side were being squished. More than once, when an irregularity in the mist walls prodded its side, it snarled and bit at the solid walls, teeth breaking. It didn’t bother it, as new teeth grew out almost immediately to replace the broken ones.
After some time, the pressure of the walls disappeared, and it felt like it had found itself into a large space. Of course, it all looked the same. A thick mist, blocking view of everything a few inches past its nose. And yet it could smell something other than humidity, dirt and moss. It was foreign.
So the Beast approached the center of the open space and found far below it a decently sized set of weird, too smooth shapes. They were red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple, and each one was a different shape and size, and next to them was some kind of tray. It was yellow, too, and had holes in it.
Its spotlight-like eyes travelled numerous times between the tray and the shapes. One of its wings twitched nervously. It lowered its tall head and licked one of the shapes, then gently bit into it and ate it. It tasted foul, so it didn’t eat any more. Instead, it tried now to move the shapes onto the yellow tray. First it moved a round shape and tried to put it into a square shape. It growled at it once it clearly showed it wouldn’t fit.
It spent what felt like millenia in that room after that. It had eventually gone through the deathly shapes puzzle, every single shape finding its corresponding spot… But one. Next to the tray was a semi-liquid yellow mass. It had no shape, and it was impossible to move with its mouth.
It was the one it ate. It had regurgitated it in hopes that it’d fit. It didn’t.
The Beast stared at the yellow tray, and roared.
The poor tray and shapes were blown away into the mists to never be seen again.
After it finished, it stomped on the ground a few times and walked backwards for a long time.
Monster Li gets bored of the So’E and walks away into the mists, finds herself in the Infinite Maze and gets stuck in the first puzzle, a SHAPES GAME AGED 1+. She gets frustrated and goes back.
Time went on as Orvus sat and watched his plants grow. A heavy weight burdened him, Arryn’s questions still wracked his mind. He had not told the truth, even to himself. But it didn’t really matter anymore, Arryn was gone. He was alone again, in solitude. So the days turned to night, over and over again, and the plants grew along with it. Slow and with determination, an admirable quality.
In this time, not many disturbed him, save for a strange bird. One who spoke of a fight between his siblings, Li’Kalla and Vakk. A pang of sadness hit him, but quickly dissipated. Whether to believe the story was questionable and Orvus practically dismissed it. He had other concerns to worry about, but still...
The bird flew away shortly after, once again leaving Orvus to his thoughts.
At least, until a raincloud passed overhead, pouring rain down onto the land. The plants relished in the liquid, but their relief soon gave way to fear and threat of death as the rain poured and poured.
Orvus was indifferent to the rain at first, it helped serve a purpose, but as it continued, so too did his mood shift. First from sadness, to anger and when it stopped, to grief. He had lost a row of plants to the torrent of rain, the others were in need of repair, but that was when he found something else entirely.
A particularly large depression in the landscape had filled up with rainwater. It was only a few inches deep when the rain suddenly stopped, the cloud turning from dark gray to white, and then dispersing.
A ripple originating from the center of the shallow rainwater puddle stretched, carefully and deliberately, over the entire surface, and wherever the ripple passed, the reflection of the water changed. It no longer reflected the sky above Orvus, with its lonely passing clouds and pale blue coloring. No. In fact, all reflection was gone, and one could see straight to the bottom without a problem. The water was almost invisible.
He floated over to the strange puddle, and gazed upon it.
As he peered over the edge, so did a hazy, shadowed figure. It was clearly a woman, but her silhouette was hard to make out and her face was distorted beyond clarity.
Without a suggestion, she pressed her palms aggressively against the surface of the water, looking like a distorted shadow trying to reach out to another person on the other side of a glass panel.
Orvus looked upon the strange sight impassively. His head cocked to the side as he watched the shadow figure try and try to reach up. What trickery was it? He drew closer, orientating his body to be parallel with the pool.
”Can you hear me?” he asked it inquisitively.
It was barely perceptible, how the shadow woman cocked her head to the side, as if emulating Orvus. The closer he got to her, the more of her features he could make out. First were her hands. With cuts and scratches and scars along the palm. It was the same along her arms. She was dressed in trousers and a gambeson, her feet bare and sporting the same scars and injuries as the rest of her body. Her face, however, was smooth and clear. Her impassive yet determined eyes were silver and she kept them trained on Orvus for what seemed to be a long while.
It was then that she broke the gaze and looked down at her hands. As if to make a point, she slammed her palms against the surface of the water again.
There was something about the way she looked, something familiar, but Orvus could not place it. What he did know, was that whatever he saw before him, was pitiful and he pitied her. However, he fell upon that look within her eyes. It was one of persistence, and resolve. The want, that need for a purpose and finally, resolution. Orvus knew what she wanted then.
To be free. But from what?
Slowly, he reached out his right arm, and with but one finger, he touched the pool.
The ripple expanded throughout the surface and the strange phenomenon disappeared. The woman was nowhere to be seen. A lone crystal fell from the skies at that moment, right onto Orvus’ head. It bounced off and fell into the shallow depths of the pool. It was a dark brown in color, but light reflected beautifully off it.
Orvus recoiled immediately as the woman disappeared, leaving him perplexed by what had occurred. Then something hit his head, and fell into the water. He saw it after a moment of searching, a small crystal, not unlike the one from the Lustrous Garden, but colored brown. He thought it odd, and recognized that it most likely had something to do with what he had just witnessed.
Orvus reached out and grabbed the small crystal, feeling its ridges and smooth faces. Inside of it, Orvus could feel a damaged soul. It was very slightly frayed, and most of the damage came from what looked to have been a violent fragmentation event. This was merely a fragment of a complete soul.
As he contemplated the crystal, a heavy, dark mist was emitted from the crystal, congealed around the crystallised soul fragment and eventually reforming into the shape of a pocket-sized woman. Dressed in combat trousers and a gambeson, with scars along her body but a beautiful face with striking silver eyes and blood red hair. Her intense and still somehow impassive eyes looked up at Orvus, and she spoke in a soft voice heavily tinted with caution. It was Li’Kalla’s voice, but with different mannerisms.
“... Orvus, was it? We met you before.”
”We, little soul?” he asked softly, seemingly unphased by the small women in his hands.
“We, me, it’s a strange situation. We used to be… We. And then something happened, and I became I. Laina, poor girl, couldn’t take the abuse. I tried to help her. Now she’s been eaten and probably digested by the Beast.” The little soul said, tsking her mouth and rolling her eyes to nobody in particular, “You wouldn’t happen to know how to mend souls, Orvus?”
”Laina?” he pondered aloud. The name was familiar, so was the little soul’s voice. Where had he heard it before? Then the Magpie’s words came to him, and without a shadow of a doubt Orvus understood what the little soul was apart of.
”You are apart of Li’Kalla.” he stated. ”That means something happened to her. That means Vakk…” his eyes seemed to grow angry for a split second before returning to his impassive stare.
”I am sorry, little soul, but I lack the power to mend anything right now. We would require the other pieces anyways, and I know not where they might be. But tell me, what can you remember of this beast? Does Vakk ring any bells?” he inquired.
“That’s unfortunate,” The little soul sighed and sat on her crystal, using her core as a seat. “I know Vakk. The others spoke bad things of him. Apparently he was scary… Then again, they said you were scary, and here you are helping us. I’m sorry if I seem vague. Laina never really channeled me through and so I never got to see or experience much. She was always meek and submissive after… After, well, things.”
”I see.” Orvus said quietly, almost a whisper. It seemed Li’Kalla was gone, a tragic fate, for a sad soul. He then asked, without really thinking, ”What do you wish now?”
“Help me find the others and help us recover our body. We need to get rid of the Beast. I remember a name, Katharsos, God of Death, from the Beginning. I’m the only one of us who paid attention. He should be able to somehow kill the part of us that’s the Beast, for good. Or, you could take the Beast soul for yourself and do whatever you want with it, as long as it never finds its way back to our body.” The little woman pressed a finger against her chin in thought and hummed for a moment, her eyes never leaving Orvus’ impassive ones. “Could you?”
”No.” he said flatly. ”Look around, little soul, I must fix my plants from the rain damage and insure they survive until they are mature. I am… sorry. I can’t leave this place, not yet.” he paused, his eyes growing sad, ”I… Will help… But only after this is done.”
The little soul looked around, her gaze focusing on some of the dead crops.
“I understand priorities. It is a shame, though. I’d like to request you take me to Katharsos. I can repay the favor when our body is safe once more.”
Orvus let out a sigh, before saying, ”Katharsos is far, far away little one. The trip would be long, and I would not be able to see this place grow.” he paused and looked around. With downcast eyes he looked back at her and said, ”Let me… Let me fix what I can… Then I will take you.” he said.
The little soul looked at Orvus and shook her head. “I can see this bothers you. Take me instead to K’nell. That should be easier, and quicker. Plants don’t grow in the span of a few hours, so you won’t miss much of anything.”
Orvus seemed to recoil at the mention of the name, his eyes suddenly growing fierce. ”It bothers me not.” he said with a hint of anger, ’I shall fix this place, and we shall leave to Katharsos.” he then floated over to his stump, with the small woman in hand. He placed her on the wood then said, ”Stay.” before beginning to float towards his small plot of land. The crystal, of course, couldn’t move and stayed on the spot, the small apparition of the little soul disappearing as he got further away from her.
Orvus quickly got to work, frustrated at these new turn of events. He had almost forgotten about K’nell, or had forced himself to forget about that name. Either way, he did not want to speak to him, nor even see him. Orvus knew what would happen, he would lose himself to anger for what the God of Sleep had caused him to feel. That also meant K’nell was somehow involved in this ordeal. He let out an angry sigh as he worked the dirt around a plant, only for the plant to wither and die before him.
He stopped working, and gingerly touched the now ash like leaves, and bowed his head in shame. What was he doing? He blinked, and looked around at the life around him. Life. Then he looked back down to see the plant turn to dust in his fingers. He couldn’t do this… Not like this. He knelt down for a long time, then stood up. Leaving his failure behind, Orvus walked over to the shard and looked at it with a great sadness in his eyes.
”What is your name?” he asked.
The image of the woman materialised quickly once Orvus came back to her, and she cocked her head curiously. “My name…?” She blinked, looked away and closed her eyes as she took in a deep breath. “I don’t have a name. I’m not a real person, I think, so I don’t deserve one. I’m just a part of a bigger whole. A part that ran away when she should’ve stayed…”
After a moment, she sighed and looked back at Orvus, her eyes softening a little. “Orvus, you’re sad. Is it because you can only help life find its end, but not its beginning? I saw you turn that plant to ash.”
He knelt down before the little woman, and his eyes seemed to peer into what little soul she had. He was silent, then said, ”I shall call you Silver.” he paused, taking in the subtle, fleeting sparkle in the little soul's silver eyes, before saying, “I once made the mistake of not naming someone. She was a person, just like you are. You are real, just like she is. Do not blame yourself for running, sometimes it is the best course of action one can take.”
Orvus let out a sigh before looking down at the floor, ”No, little Silver. I have started plenty of life, profane as it might be. My problem, is that I don’t know what I want to be. What I want to do. I am conflicted by a choice, creation or destruction.” he paused then snapped his head back up to look at Silver, and idea coming to mind.
When next he spoke, his voice no longer sounded quite as forlorn, ”You are conflicted as well and you don’t even know it. You think because you are not real, that you don’t deserve to live. That you must be reunited to become whole. I disagree. You may be a part of something else, but you are still you, Silver. And all life, deserves to make its own choices. I learned that… from her.” he paused. ”So tell me, do you really wish to be reunited, to be locked away again? To be unable to experience the world and all it holds? To not have an opinion when it matters most? If this is what you wish, simply say so, and I will take you to Katharsos. Or, if you desire to live your own life, and have the ability to make your own decisions, your own choices, and experience the world through curious eyes- so say it and it shall happen.” Orvus finished, looking at the little soul before him expectantly.
Her lips were closed tightly, spread into a thin line as her face took on a more severe expression. She looked at the palms of her hands and, after a long while, she looked up at Orvus. “I-I… I don't know. I don't know what I want…” She muttered, but soon she straightened her back and shook her head, “Yet I know what I must do. I've been with them… Us… for my entire life. And yes, they can be annoying and stubborn and outright dangerous, but they're me, aren't they? I'm them… And I can't fathom what it would feel like if one of them gave up on me.”
”I see, your aspiration is noble. But little Silver, I fear it is the unknown that truly binds you to inaction. The ‘what if’ of being on your own, without them. But I understand. Familiarity is what we all crave, in the end. This life is like a puzzle, and all we can do is try and put the pieces together, even if those pieces are missing.” Orvus then slowly stood up and outstretched his hand, beckoning Silver to join him. He then said, ”If this is the choice your soul desires, then I shall take you to Katharsos.”
Silver looked at him, her eyes widening almost imperceptibly and a small twitch manifesting in the index finger of her left hand. She crossed her arms, and spoke, in a much softer manned than before, “I-I'm not sure, I don't know… All I've ever been is… You know, them. Me. How could I become something so… Different?”
”Different?” It was then that Orvus realized something, as he paused, lowering his hand slightly. It took him a moment to register what was going on. Then he knew exactly what to say, ”On the path to be becoming what we are truly meant to be, we become different, yes. We change and grow. I will not lie to you, but at the same time little Silver… we can stay the same. For better or for worse, that is… life… I suppose.” Orvus finished softly, reflecting on those words.
The little soul looked at her feet, neatly placed beside each other, and sighed. She hung her head low for a long moment, and eventually she wiped some nonexistent sweat off her forehead and looked at Orvus, “Then, I want to stay with you. For a while.”
”Then it shall be so.” Orvus stated, ”But first… a gift.” With his lowered hand, Orvus waved it over Silver.
”Souls are an interesting phenomena. So much is unknown, but so much is known already. To make whole is difficult. To fray the soul takes time. To give a fragment a life, now that is but a thought.” He said, taking a step back. And is if on cue, Silver began to grow, eliciting a gasp. The once small soul, took upon the form of a grown woman, now sitting upon the stump before Orvus. She slowly and carefully looked at herself. She touched her arms, legs, face, and finally she looked at Orvus with a nervous grin on her face.
“I have never felt things so vividly before. What’s this? Is this how she felt all the time…? Can I touch you?”
The god said nothing for a moment, his impassive stare bearing down upon her new form. Then Orvus blinked and said, ”You may.” and outheld his hand.
Silver looked at his hand, her brow furrowing. Her gaze alternated between his palm and his impassive stare, and she reached for his hand with both of hers.
His skin was cold, unnaturally so and the texture was unlike anything that could be described. So too, could Orvus feel Silver. This was surprising to him, and he blinked again, his expression going wide with curiosity. It seemed that he could physically feel her, but how? Her soul was not frayed… but at the same time… it was not complete, now was it? It was a very strange occurrence, and one that he could not fathom.
With his other hand, he slowly reached out and began to feel her skin. She did the same, bringing his hand to her face and feeling it’s strange texture against her cheek, smelling it and, in a sudden movement, licking it to get a taste.
If the god thought it strange what she did, he made no move to stop, or pull away. The only thing Orvus did was cock his head and look at Silver with a soft expression. ”You are now you, Silver. I… hope this new form is to your liking.” he said, now wrapping his fingers within her scarlet hair.
The new woman smiled and nodded, “I feel… Good. Really good! And now we don’t have to leave your plants, do we? Teach me how to care for them.”
”I… I can do that.” Orvus whispered, his eyes expressing a very small smile.
Orvus contemplates over the conversation he had with Arryn as he watches his crops.
Next thing it starts to rain, like really bad. Once it stops, his crops are in a bad state, but something else catches his attention. A shallow pool has formed, he floats over to it and finds someone looking back at him. It’s a vague figure, but as Orvus floats closer to the surface, he catches a glimpse of a woman wearing strange clothing, covered in scars, and with bright Silver eyes.
He touches the pool, and suddenly the image is gone and he gets hit on the head with a brown crystalline fragment. Curious, he picks it up and a little person forms. They begin to talk, and Orvus sorta figures out what happened to Li’Kalla.
The little soul wants to find the other fragments and asks Orvus take take her to Katharsos, but he says he can’t leave his plants. She then asks him to take her to K’nell but on this Orvus says he will take her to Katharsos, but first tries to fix the damage at the farm.
He ends up killing a plant accidently, and becomes discouraged. He then asks the woman what her names is, but she doesn’t have one, so feeling guilty about Arya and how he didn’t name her, Orvus names her Silver.
They talk again, and Orvus asks her if she wants to become a person because she was denied that in Li’Kalla. After much hesitation, Silver agrees and asks to stay with Orvus for awhile. He grants her request and makes her into her own person. They then touch each other, and Orvus can surprisingly feel her.
Silver then asks Orvus if he would teach her how to farm. He says yes.
Started With: 0MP & 1FP
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K’nell stood in silence, his eyes staring at the clouds forming in an otherwise bright blue sky. The ground underneath him betrayed the notion that it should be sunny, the soil being sun soaked and aromatic, and yet here he was staring at clouds. What had caught his interest was not that there were clouds, but that the clouds had not rolled in as clouds often do, for he would have seen it, but instead on their own accord decided to exist, very figuratively raining on his parade.
He slid his hands in the pockets of his jacket and craned his neck upwards, his lips forming a thin line of focus. Gentle wind began to stir around him, moving various leaf litter into tiny tornadoes only big enough to give an ant anxiety, but not much else. Sucking in a breath, he turned over the aroma of rain, and sure enough, his eyes spotted the little droplets falling from the great sky above.
Following a particular droplet as it fell from the heavens, he watched it slip down and eventually pluck the ground, leaving a tiny ’tat’ sound that perhaps only a god could ever hear. In moments, an army of droplets followed, and in time, a gentle rain began to pour. The drops shied away from the god, leaving the ground around him a certain kind of dry as he watched the spectacle.
Puddles formed gradually in little impressions in the ground, and between clumps of grass. Just as the ground finished its drink enough to saturate the ground, the clouds had sprinkled their last, leaving the god in thought under an again blue sky.
K’nell let out a puff of breath and with gentle, meaningful strides, he began his walk once more. His stroll only coming to a sudden stop as he approached a puddle, the tiny body of water in his path. He peered down, and the reflective surface shimmered, causing him to raise a brow in silence. The puddle rippled slightly, and below it a young girl knocked desperately against the surface. Her eyes were covered in a black blindfold, and her face was twisted into utter terror. The puddle made no sound, but she could be seen panting and looking over her shoulder at something unseen, causing K’nell to freeze in anxious contemplation.
She knocked and knocked as hard as her small, frail body could against the surface, and eventually one of the knocks sent a strong enough ripple through the puddle that the reflection was broken. When the water stilled once more, it was a mere puddle, and no sign of the girl inside the reflection remained.
Kneeling down, K’nell dipped a finger into the cold rainwater, his eyes narrowing. Thoughts swept through his mind, as well as images. The essence that lingered on the puddle was that of Li’Kalla, that much he knew, but that was all he knew. He stood up and straightened his posture. Slowly he oriented himself in a new direction, and once again he continued his journey, his gentle strides replaced with long godly steps, that caused the world to brush on by.
A great ring of stark marble floated before K’nell, the God’s own boots firm on the air itself. His fingers wriggled by his side as he stared through the shimming gateway to So’E, it’s reflective pool like surface staring back at him. The clouds of the island all around him were ripe with anger, donning a black cloak and a rumbling demeanor. Sharp stabs of anger seemed to emanate all around him, stabbing at his own emotions and filling him with discomfort. Darting his eyes all around one final time, he pursed his lips, and stepped through.
A heavy pressure closed in on him as he emerged into the So’E. Blistering steam covered every single inch of the Sphere, with a violently boiling lake eternally on the verge of fully evaporating, were the dominant features of the location. A mist so thick that made the air seem so solid it would have blinded any mortal (should they survive the heat), and a rather peculiar smell was mixed in with that of the steam, the mist and that of impending rain.
The smell of blood. The purest, densest blood to exist. It was Ichor, and not of a single source either, but of two. Shortly past the boiling lake was a shore, and a few paces into the shore, every single inch of ground was covered in a gruesome substance or lost body part. Sometimes it was scales as large as a human head. Other times it was broken fangs as long as a human arm. But mostly, it was ichor.
Perturbed by the entire scene, K’nell couldn’t land on a single emotion, his gut twisting. The sight and smell caused him to pull a white handkerchief from his pocket and hold it to his nose, his boots hovering just above the mess as he walked. He grunted into his handkerchief a moment as he cleared his throat of the opaque steam, “Li’Kalla?” His traditionally grainy voice was louder than usual, laced with concern but below that of a shout.
In the distance, a rustling of leaves and the breaking of wood echoed, and a low growl seemed to fill the Sphere, coming from everywhere and nowhere.
Large, heavy steps shook the earth, and they approached. K’nell froze in his steps and narrowed his eyes, his vision cutting through the obscurity. The entity, monstrous in size and intent. A large beast with light blue scales intertwined with vines, burst forth with two wide open eyes like green suns that pierced through the mist and glared straight at K’nell. It had two wings, one extended fully in what he could feel was predatory excitement, and the other dangled uselessly, dripping ichor from various places where bone protruded from skin in unnatural angles. It’s maw opened slightly, a mix of saliva and ichor flowing for it onto the wet ground.
“Oh Li’Kalla,” K’nell all but muttered, his voice calm but his eyes wide in absolute shock. The Monster stopped, its eyes never leaving K’nell. It shifted its weight and the large muscles in its legs tensed up, dislodging a few damaged scales. K’nell stared back, his heart slowly beating faster, filling the otherwise deafening silence.
The lunge was like thunder. Trees fell, earth shattered, mist parted. The beast that had once been far away now held it maw wide open merely a pace away from K’nell, its tongue flicking out wildly. Saliva splattered K’nell, his heel suddenly turning, the beast just missing him as he juked to the side. His heart was in his throat as the fractions of a second dragged by, his hands came up defensively and then there was a bright flash.
So’E was painted in divine light, a great buzz of energy deafening the scene. Gradually the light faded, the buzzing subsiding, and as it decreased, the lullaby of a sad violin cried out. K’nell stood next to the beast, a violin of dark phantasmal flames tucked under his chin, his hand working the ethereal bow across it’s strings. The beast was frozen in place, its sunlike eyes staring at K’nell. After a moment, it growled and released a mighty roar at the God, a roar which, despite all its defiance, died midway through, when the monster’s eyelids became too heavy for it, and it fell to the ground in a resounding thud. The song pierced the sphere, only accompanied by the rumbling snore of the dragon.
K’nells right sleeve was pulled back, revealing a silver spiral starting at his elbow and snaking around and around his forearm before clamping around his wrist. His arm pressed back and forth as he played, his eyes glued on the sleeping form.
A minute passed as K’nell finished his song. As soon as his fingers let go of his instrument and bow, the forms dissipated, their particles leaching into the silver band. The God of sleep pulled his cuff back into its proper place and walked up to the unconscious dragon. His face was wrinkled in concern, the adrenaline of the sudden attack still coursing through his veins. Taking a few steps into the air, K’nell made his way to the beast’s forehead, carefully placing his finger on a scale.
K’nell stood in a void of white. There was no color, no emotion, except that of a storm cloud above him.
On the horizon there was lightning, and from that lightning, which was cut off midway by the white, flawless ground, a young, frail-looking child emerged. She ran and ran, desperately trying to reach the man. She gasped and panted and stumbled and fell, numerous times. Her knees were scraped, her elbows were curedely bandaged. She was wearing a ragged pair of ill-fitting men’s trousers and bandages across her chest. Her eyes were covered in a black blindfold, but her expression of terror was unmistakable.
Mere moments after her desperate arrival, another, larger lightning shattered the skies, and a large, menacing beast crawled through. Its two sunlike eyes on a long snout filled with razor sharp teeth were focused on the girl. Its two leathery wings were spread wide in excitement. It crawled leisurely after the slow, fatigued girl, as if savouring her futile attempts at escape.
“Hold,” K’nell commanded, the scene slowly coming to a halt. He tapped his chin twice and walked forward in contemplation. After a few more steps he stood between the girl and the beast. He looked back at the beast, and then forward at the girl.
With a snap of his fingers weavers appeared out of thin air, floating around the God of Dreams. K’nell looked at them and pointed at the beast before walking up to the girl. Despite his confident strides, he could feel it all slipping. Sucking in a breath he slipped in front of the girl, He rubbed his chin with one hand, flicking his wrist with the other, and suddenly grass appeared under them, and a great stone wall building behind the girl, as if to block the dragon from view.
Looking upward, K’nell poked a finger, and a high midday sun appeared. Scowling he quickly erased it, poking a bit lower, bringing up a cooler evening sun. Shaking his head and muttering something about being good enough, he quietly waved his hand, and a summertime breeze began.
“You there.” He suddenly said, the image of the girl popping back to life, blindfold gone.
The girl gasped and fell, tumbling around for a few paces before settling and propping herself up on her knees and elbows. She coughed uglily, as if a motor engine had housed itself deep in her lungs, and she quickly got on her feet and turned to look behind.
She stopped in confusion as she saw a gentleman standing there. She panted, and after a while she calmed down. But then her silver white eyes widened and she felt around on her face. “Ah!” She shrieked, covering her eyes with both hands. She shook like a leaf, but eventually found the strength to speak, albeit frailly. “I-I’m supposed to… K-Keep my eyes hidden…!”
“Why?” K’nell asked, slowly taking a second Handkerchief from his pocket and handing it to the girl.
The girl bit her lower lip as she covered her eyes with a forearm and used the other hand to grab the handkerchief. She turned around and inspected it, and after confirming it to be of sufficient length, she wrapped it around her head and over her eyes. “I-If they see my eyes, they’ll know who I am…” She sighed as she tied a simple knot behind her head, brushing aside her short, blonde hair.
“Who?” K’nell gently sat down next to the girl.
“W-Who?!” The girl shouted in surprise, her mouth hanging open in disbelief as she turned toward the gentleman. “The bad men, of course! They’re scary, they want to hurt me. But I managed to escape, so now I just have to stay hidden, right? Just go by unnoticed… People don’t noti-” She coughed again, and her palm was coated in a small about of blood. “Sorry… They don’t notice broken ones, like blinded and deafened ones… Only the ones with strong souls, as the priest says.”
K’nell cocked his head, a low grainy hum emitting from him as he thought, “The scaly beast with the sunshine eyes of green, tell me about it,” He quickly added, “If you please.”
At the mention of the beast, the girl jumped and looked around, “W-Where did it go?! I had forgotten about it…! We have to run, it’ll eat us!”
“Not here it can’t,” K’nell patted the ground, “Here is the land of learning and questions, so you see, by all my own inquiries.”
She took a while to calm down once more, “... Oh.” She muttered simply, and she shyly sat down next to the man, making sure to scoot a little bit farther away than she’d initially sat. “The beast, it wants to eat us. It’s always crawled around... But it was never this big or scary, you know! I think it ate that one, you know, the one with the watery skin? That’s when we all went like BAM! And AH! OOH! RUN, RUN!, and we all ran.”
“It’s funny you mention it, in the cruelest way,” K’nell folded his hands in his lap, “A dear friend of mine recently was eaten by the very same beast, and here I am in all my ignorance trying to -- well recover her.”
The girl turned to look at the man, and after a while her lips quivered and tiny wet spots appeared on the fabric over her eyes. She averted her gaze and shrugged, “I-I’m sorry, Mister… I didn’t mean to be cruel. Please don’t be mad at me. I just…” She sighed and fell silent. K’nell waved a hand.
“No, dear lady, I completely understand your own predicament and in no way hold it against your character,” K’nell’s grainy voice was quick to dismiss any notion of anger, “What I suppose I should have said was; could you help me recover my friend, by telling me all you know?”
“What? R-Recover? But… You said the beast ate your friend?”
“If you mind a tangent,” K’nell poked his chin, “but fancy us philosophers for a second, and suppose that perhaps my friend has become the beast. In a sense eaten, but not quite as you’d expect. In this case -- if this is what it is -- then I would like to recover my friend from the beast.”
“Uuu…” The girl hummed softly, “I… I think I understand! Okay! I’ll tell you what I know. But, I don’t know that much about the beast itself. I always kind of… Avoided it. It’s always been scary. Just thinking about its eyes makes me shiver.” As if to prove her point, a shiver went down her spine and she got goosebumps along her arms.
“Whatever you have is invaluable,” K’nell assured.
“Well, it’s big now. It roars really loudly! Its breath kind of smells like… Ash? I know what it smells like because it almost caught me once. That was scary! I don’t like the beast, why did it have to chase after me…?” She went silent for a moment, before continuing, “For a good time now, the watery one was in charge. Barely. When we got into this new place, we found something weird, you know. It was like one of us, but… Ah! I don’t know, maybe it wasn’t really? It was too bright to make out, so- Or maybe- Bleh!” She stuck her tongue out and scrunched her nose up.
“Okay, so, we got into this new place, this new thing appeared and got into the watery one. that’s when she became the one in charge. She kept us all together, and the beast in check. Something happened though. I can remember some parts… Screaming for help, slimy cold tendrils-” She shuddered, “At one point I couldn’t sense anymore, and shortly after that the beast grew and became big and ate the watery one. I guess it ate the new thing we got when we got here, too.”
She bit her lip, “This new thing--I don’t know how to explain it. I’m sorry. I know a big eye brought it to us.”
K’nell hummed in thought for a while, his voice swirling around the pair as it used to do before returning to his mouth, “You’ve been more helpful than you realize. Tell me -- if you can -- where are the others?”
“Um, I don’t really know. Most ran into the steam that leaves our home, so they should be aaall over the world by now! I, uh, ran into the mist of our home. I panicked and didn’t think it through…” She sniffled and wiped her nose, “But! The only others were the elegant one, the mean one and the fun one.”
“Four and the watery one,” K’nell counted, “That’s five. One is you, one is in the beast, and three are scattered about the world. Now, with this we have a few options before us. Would taking you from here worsen or aid the situation until all five could convene at once.” K’nell paused in thought for a moment, “Or shall I go to the beast directly.”
K’nell suddenly stood up, “Is there any weight you’d like to add to my thoughts?”
The girl looked at K’nell, mouth hanging open slightly, “P-Please don’t leave me here with it! I don’t know how much more I can run…!” “Not a problem, dear,” K’nell held out a palm to the girl, “Walk with me.”
The girl hesitated for a moment, but in the end wrapped her hand around K’nell’s and let him lead head. K’nell stood still, and with a sudden cheshire smile, the entire dream flashed a draining white.
Standing by the sleeping beast, K’nell received his hand from its forehead, a small opalesque orb, much like the one in his palace now in his grasp. He quickly dropped it into his pocket and patted the fabric with care. Steeling his resolve he looked forward at the beast, grimacing slightly as he floated downwards to face it’s gaping maw. His eyes flickered and he observed its soul. Scanning with his silvery eyes he craned his neck this way and that before finally they fell on an unusual sight: a shard.
He poked his chin twice, “Better not risk it,” He said to himself. His eyes looked downward, his first handkerchief laying crumpled on the ground. Quickly snatching it and shoving it into his pocket he turned from the sleeping dragon, but not before laying a blue flower on its snout.
“I’ll be back, Li’Kalla,” his grainy voice swirled after him.
K’nell is in his leisurely walk, when suddenly it rains. Puddles form, and through the reflection in one of these puddles, he sees a young blindfolded girl knocking on the surface of the water from the other side desperately. After a while a ripple in the water makes her disappear.
Some time later her finds himself going through the gateway into the So’E, where he quickly notices everything is rather inhospitable, and the lots of ichor and scales covering every surface.
He find the Monster lurking in the Sphere and it immediately attacks him, lunging. K’nell however dodges in the nick of time and uses the Armlet of Sleep to put it to force it to sleep, but not before it lets out a deafening roar in defiance.
When it’s fully asleep, K’nell does his dream stuff. He sees the same blindfolded girl from before running from the beast. He does some more dream stuff, ends up finding out she’s a part of Li’Kalla’s soul, one of her personalities. Says there are others. The Elegant One, The Mean One, The Fun One, and The Watery One. As well as The Beast.
K’nell dream orbs the hecker out of her and put her in his pocket once awake. He inspects the sleeping beast and sees an unstable shard of its soul inside it, which he notes as important.
He kinda embarks on a fetch quest to find the Elegant, mean and fun ones. as well as find someone specialized in souls to consult about the unstable shard inside the Beast’s soul.
“Oh Li’Kalla,” K’nell all but muttered, his voice calm but his eyes wide in absolute shock. The Monster stopped, its eyes never leaving K’nell. It shifted its weight and the large muscles in its legs tensed up, dislodging a few damaged scales.
“She’s got a gun!”
Suddenly the police opened fire, tear gas flying
“STOP RESISTING! STOP RESISTING!” They screamed at the top of their lungs, beating the unconscious dragon with their batons.
K’nell 5 mp(boosted) to make the The Armlet of Sleep. This artifact allows K’nell to summon instruments from the palace of dreams and use their sound to put all in its radius to sleep. The music transcends mundane hearing and instead directly influences the mind of intelligent creatures, or the body of the unthinking. Because of its immense power, it has the capacity to put even gods to sleep.
There was so much going on in the world! Flying whales, ice sculptures coming to life, burned lands… It was tiring, Li’Kalla realized. She loved it! But still. Her wings proved to be a great addition to her body, in that now she wasn’t confined to her small part of Galbar and could now explore and see with her own eyes the things that the Pantheon had created.
That lizard was very cute, and the ice sculpture, Mel, was lovely!
Li’Kalla landed gracefully in front of her Manor and skipped right into it, the front doors opening for her and closing when she’d entered.
It was clean, just as she’d left it. With the exception of a trail of puddles of water going right to the kitchen, of course.
A groan escaped her lips and she slouched a little.
”Of all things, why did my body have to be so wet? I can’t even stop it.” Indeed, she’d tried to stop the dripping rainwater, just like she’d grown her wings, but it had no effect.
She ignored the trail of puddles and went a different direction. She was going to have to check on Rick’Ard eventually, but for now she had more important things to do. Namely, putting away the cute little ice sculpture Mel had given her safely in her bedroom . So, she found herself going upstairs and travelling through a few long hallways with extremely high ceilings. And then she reached the end of the last hallway, and an unassuming door was there.
She opened it and went into her chambers.
The scent of her childhood wafted over her, and instantly she grinned and jumped onto the large bed in the middle of the gargantuan room while levitating the sculpture over to the nearest dresser. She willed the door closed and laid there for a long time, writhing against the silky smooth sheets and taking in whiff after whiff of her favorite pillow. It still smelled like her big sister’s hair. She kissed the pillow, imagining it was her sister’s cheek, and then she nuzzled into it, imagining it was her strong, brave, caring big sister embracing her.
”... This is pathetic.” She heard herself say, and tears suddenly welled up in her eyes, ”... No, it’s not. I miss her so much...”
Suddenly, the light that shown into her room dimmed. There was an eerie presence that came with the silence that followed and it was chilling. A few moments had passed before there was a knock on the downstairs and then there was sound of something moving against the wood outside the house. Soon, a tendril appeared on one of the windows, sliding across the glass before a familiar voice shook the house, and the goddess, to its core.
”Li’Kalla. Come open the door for your dear brother…”
It was Vakk. Except, rather than his usual voice, it gave a more excited inflection and there was a certain warmth that came from it.
Li'Kalla shuddered and suddenly, a deathly chill went down her spine. The music box! She thought, noticing in that instant how quiet the whole Manor was. How peaceful the indoors were. It should be playing right now, as she never touched it after Vakk forced her to keep it on.
Maybe Hermes had-
“I have to hide…” She told herself, jumping off her bed with her arm wrapped tightly around the pillow that smelled of her sister, and rushed to the walk in closet. Soon, she had hidden behind boxes of old clothes and footwear.
She did her best to conceal her essence as well, but she has no idea how to do it, and it only ended up making her more nervous, not knowing whether she was truly hidden. All she could hear was her heartbeat thumping against her eardrums. The knocking continued, it became increasingly louder and impatient. Soon there was nothing but silence except for her heart beating rapidly in her chest.
Then, a crash came with what sounded like a door being forced open. A sound of glass shattering was also heard.
”Li’Kalla. I know you are here,” the voice stated.
Sliding movement over the wood, a sign that he drew nearer and nearer. The door to the bedroom could barely be heard opening, ever so gently. Shadows of the god’s tendrils could be seen underneath the door and slowly did the door begin to open. Like a wave, the tendrils flooded in across the walls, feeling their way around the closet. It was a terrifying sight, however, they quickly retracted as if they had been distracted by something. For a moment, she could breathe safely.
Slowly, she tore her sight away from the slithering tentacles and curled up against the dusty wall. Looking down, she noticed a small pool of water had begun to form around her, and she nearly gasped. Covering her mouth in the nick of time, her eyes narrowed to pinpricks as she saw a tentacle slide just a hair's width apart from the pool.
For a tense moment, it seemed as if the tendril would slide away and leave Li’Kalla’s presence. However, ever so lightly did it touch the pool of water causing it stop.
”Hello, Li’Kalla,” Vakk said before the tendril lunged forwards to wrap around Li’Kalla’s leg.
She screamed. It was a horrible, blood-curdling scream. That of a person about to be murdered. And she didn't stop.
He began to drag her out of the closet almost immediately, moving exceptionally fast clumsily, causing Li’kalla to hit the walls and other objects as she slid against the wood of the flood. Other tendrils rushed forwards to grab different parts of her body; one for each limb and one around her waist before she was finally dragged across some dirt and lifted into the air.
She kept screaming. Wild screams. Until they took on a more legible nature. She shook her body, resisting, “SIS, AZURA! CHOPSTICK, PLEASEEE!”
”It is okay, dear sister. I did not mean to frighten you,” Vakk said as his mouth curled into a smile. A tendril went across her cheek before he held it to her mouth, shushing her. ”I have come for the box, I require it for a task.”
Li'Kalla closed her eyes tightly as small rivers of tears formed along her cheeks, she pulled away slightly from the disgusting tentacle and gasped, “B-BOX? W-What box! I-I don't have anything-” She clenched her jaw tightly and kept resisting against her bonds, looking more and more desperate with each passing moment.
The smile Vakk had collapsed almost instantly. ”What do you mean?”
She froze and looked at Vakk, her eyes widening. “I d-don't know where it is- It might be in the m-Manor, but… I DON'T KNOW!”
”It might be in the manor?! What did you do with it?”
“I… Lost track of it-” Li'Kalla gagged a little as she choked on her own tongue in nervousness, “I-I made a friend, okay! And I think she um, took the box as… A souvenir…”
Vakk was silent only for a moment before he snapped his jaws, his tendrils moved around and for a moment it looked as if he may strangle her. He let out a grunt of anger before the tendrils moved away.
”Where is it?” he asked in a completely neutral tone.
Li'Kalla fell with a surprised grunt to the ground, and jumped up to her feet in the blink of an eye. She avoided looking at Vakk, instead looking at her own feet as she cautiously took a few steps back. Her wings twitched. If only she could get far enough from Vakk, she might be able to fly and escape.
“Uuhm, I g-guess…” She fell silent for a moment, and then pointed in a random direction, “T-That way, Brother.”
His head momentarily looked in that direction before he instantly snapped back to look at Li’Kalla, who was a few steps further away. ”Have I ever told you that never lie to a liar? They will know what is a lie and what isn’t,” he said, towering over her and letting out a growl.
”WHERE. IS. THE. BOX?!” he roared his tendrils raising themselves in an aggressive posture.
Li'Kalla shrunk before Vakk. In an instant, she turned and ran. She ran as fast as her legs could run, and then she took flight, kicking up a mountain of dirt in the process. Yes! I'm fast, I can escape! She thought, and then her heart sank. Her wings tensed up. Her left one shook beyond control, and her right one furled itself tightly against her back.
She fell, and as quickly as she took off, she crashed back into the ground with a small scream.
She coughed, and as the cloud of dust and dirt settled, she whimpered and screamed again. She barely managed to get onto her knees. “SIIIIS, SIS, SIS! HELP ME SIS AZURA, PLEASEE, SOMEONEE! MY WINGS, MY WINGS DON'T WORK…” She would have kept screaming for help, had she not degenerated into a pathetic mess of ‘help me’s’ and ‘he's going to hurt me's’.
Vakk’s laugh could be heard in the back of her head before a tendril wrapped around her leg and dragged her into the air, holding her upside down. It was a short-lived laugh as Vakk took a singular tendril and grasped one of her wings, before he asked, ”Did Azura give you these wings? I will admit I liked your look better when you did not have them.” Vakk let out a sigh of disappointment.
The girl merely nodded as she bawled, eyes shut tightly as her tears and rainwater drip off her head. How could this be happening, she thought, everything was going so well… If only Big Sis was here…
”Tell me, do you think she cares for you? Do you think that anyone other than I truly cares for you?”
Li'Kalla forced herself to speak, even amidst the desperate crying, “S-She does… Big Sis… She l-loves me… She'll save me…!”
”No, she will not. Nobody cares for you Li’Kalla, for you are a weak and pathetic goddess unworthy of her title. I have raised continents, I control Death itself. I have the power to protect you. They only seek to use you, Li’Kalla. I can already feel the winds speaking to me, they are telling me to do terrible things to you. I cannot resist those words unless you tell me where the box is Li’Kalla, otherwise Azura is telling me to take away your wings.”
The grip around her wing tightened slightly, whispers began to come as a light breeze brushed the both of them.
“N-no… Big Sis, she wouldn't-” Would she? “No… No…!” Li'Kalla sniffed and pulled her wing, she flapped it, she did everything she could to free it. At the same time she tried to kick the tentacle holding her upside down. “They're my friends…!”
Vakk shook his head as if he were resisting something, ”No, Azura! She is but a young girl! No! Please!” The grip slowly tightened and tightened, pain spread the wing and began to become so unbearable before there was inevitable snap of bones, each one shattering under the tightened grip of Vakk.
Li'Kalla screamed until she couldn't anymore, her wing going numb, as if she didn't have it anymore.
”No more, Azura! I never wanted to hurt Li’Kalla like this! Li’Kalla please, tell me where the box is! Azura is in control and that is all she seeks!”
At some point, Li'Kalla's voice grew weak, and she found no strength to keep asking for help. She knew that no help would come. If Big Sis- Or Azura, herself was… Forcing Vakk, then-
Silent tears escaped her eyes, gentle pained moans leaving her lips every few moments.
“T… This is a dream, isn't it?” She opened her eyes and looked vacantly at Vakk, panting gently for breath. It was a strange expression. She felt… Numb.
“These bad things don't happen, do they…?”
“K'nell's just got a bad sense of humour, right? That's right, I'm currently sleeping on my comfy bed, squeezing my favorite pillow… Soon, I'll wake up, and I'll play with Rick'Ard. I'll fly with my biig, fluffy wings and cuddle up to Azura for another nap… Hahah…” She sighed happily, a cute, placid smile seeping onto her face.
“I'll explore the world with Hermes… Once I wake up… And I'll be happy, and make looots of friends and eat loooots of delicious snacks made by Chopstick Eyes…”
”I am afraid this is not a dream, my dear sister,” Vakk said, before his tendril went to crush the other wing. His movements were jerky, as if he was still resisting something in the process, and he was actively trying to keep tendril away from her.
”Please… end your suffering and my own. I cannot bear to hurt you any longer.”
There was no response. Li'Kalla dangled, one wing broken beyond repair and the other weakly trying to stay furled. It gave way almost immediately to Vakk's assault, with Li chuckling to some passing thought.
Vakk let out a curious noise before he lifted her head with a tendril, keeping her eyes locked on him as he put two tendrils on either side of her head. ”It seems I will need to force these memories to surface,” he said before Li’Kalla felt a painful jolt run through her mind. With this jolt, her memories began to run back through her mind. Azura… Hermes… K’nell…. Choppy… Vakk…
These memories kept going through her mind, flashing in a repetitive fashion, almost as if they were being sorted through.
The box. It was all that connected some of them. Vakk’s presence filled her mind, his words became crystal.
”Hermes… So she must have truly taken it. However, I must warn you. An agent of K’nell is an agent of manipulation. They were all using you… except Choppy perhaps.”
“Nngh…” Li'Kalla groaned, weakly shaking her head as her face turned to vacant discomfort. Nothing felt real anymore, she was seeing all these memories again… Did they even happen?
And then her thoughts turned to older, hidden events. Things she'd tried her hardest to hide. “No… Get out… Please…” She gasped out as she grabbed the two tendrils and pushed them away only to met with a tendril wrapping around her neck and lifting her up.
”So, it seems that many gods have an interest in you. All of those feeling you had experienced… were fake. All lied of a diluted mind that sought refuge from a tormented life.”
He brought her close to his massive mouth. ”There is still time to rectify this mistake. Become what you are running from. Embrace your inner demons and destroy those who seek to use you.”
Could it be true? Everyone used her? Azura lied to her… She gave her wings only to force Vakk to take them from her. What a sick person would do that? Right, the big bird was no person. No person would do that. Only animals, beasts that deserve to be erased-
But… The nap, the hugs, the love! Li'Kalla's eyes filled with tears once again, as images of her big sister's back, walking away from her as men and Holy beast took her dignity, flashed before her eyes.
“N-no one cares… About me…” She sobbed.
A cough, then another. Li'Kalla opened her eyes and stared at Vakk, eyes narrowing dangerously. “No one…” She whispered, a sudden spark of strength lighting up deep inside her. She lifted her arms, exhausted from struggling earlier, and wrapped her fingers around the tendril choking her. Her fingers twisted and cracked, and she felt a warm liquid coat them. It flowed, and smelled satisfying. “Not even you.” Her voice was deep and rough, sounding more like a growl than speech.
“Do not touch me-” She demanded. Her teeth warped by the second, sharpening. Her tongue elongated, her eyes emitted a bright green glow. ”DO. NOT. TOUCH ME.”
The tendrils weakened their grip. Li'Kalla did not let go of them, however. In the blink of an eye she bit into one of them as hard as her jaw would allow. Ichor shot out and mixed with Li'Kalla's below, on the wet dirt. He let out a roar of pain soon followed by anger.
She growled and screamed, her body shifting before Vakk. She grew. She grew to double the size of the disgusting Azura. Her skin grew scales, and those scales were intertwined with vines. It was all a light blue in color. One of her wings was broken and useless, dangling from her back. The other was furled tightly.
She dropped to four limbs, and her face elongated, filling with rows of razor sharp teeth that kept biting at Vakk.
What once were pathetic, jarring growls, now became things of terror that could bring down even the mightiest wall, and make even the strongest Hero cower in fear.
But worse of all was her stare. With eyes open wide no matter what she was doing. The heavy mist that collected around her form was illuminated in the eerie green glow that emanated from her eyes, and a heavy rain started to fall as soon as she growled and roared.
Vakk amidst the pain, anger, and blood only responded with a roar, proceeding to retract the bitten tendril only to fight back with a flurry of blows. Despite her tremendous increase in size, Vakk was still much larger and the slam of his tendrils into her body made the earth of the So’E shake and sent scales flying. Some moved to restrain the new beast, grasping her claws and trying to muzzle her mouth, but her snapping jaws made it impossible to get close to her head.
”You fool! I would not tell you the truth if I did not care for you!”
He attempted to pull her to the ground, and she landed with extreme force.
”You will sit and listen, welp!”
A single, great roar shook the So'E, a part of Li'Kalla's Manor crumbling under the duress. She pulled mightily against the restraints around her claws and ankles and huffed and snarled. Then she bit at one of them and didn't let go, her long tongue savouring the ichor and eagerly drinking it and trying to bite the appendage off. Her one functioning wing and new tail swatter away several tendrils.
Vakk let out another pained roar before he began to speak, ”I am not your enemy, Li’Kalla! Listen to me!” However, there was no answer only the same biting and wrestling between the two before Vakk growled and severed the tendril she kept her teeth on. He snapped his jaws as he pulled himself into the air, ”If you will not listen then perhaps I can offer you advice. Vengeance is a tool, harness it and use it to kill your demons.”
With that he sped away as quick as he could to leave the new monster he had created, however, a small bit of his laughter could be heard as he grew further and further away.
Moments later, the only sounds that echoed through the ruined So'E were wet biting, chewing, gritting of teeth. The Monster's eyes tinted everything a bright green, and a lone mud clump rolled innocently towards the nearest being, having escaped from the crumbling Manor.
Rick'Ard felt confused. As he got close to the humongous, yet familiar creature, he felt a surge of purpose fill him, and a small eye popped onto his tiny body.
The mist was thick. Strange liquids covered every surface visible, and a green light tinted the mist in an eerie glow. He could make out the shadowy form of a head far above him. It turned to look at Rick'Ard, its eyes like two green sun's, and drew closer. And closer. Rick'Ard was overjoyed. He'd found a new friend!
His new friend scooped him up with her tongue and put him in its mouth. Maybe it was this new friend's way of giving kisses, he thought.
He was only a clump of mud, so he never even realized that he was being eaten.
Li’Kalla returns to the So’E after traveling to Istais and meeting Mel’Issandra, the Ice Woman. There, she goes to her bedroom to put away the ice sculpture given to her by Mel’Issandra and decides to lay on her bed for a while and sniff the pillow that smells of her actual big sister.
Moments pass and she hears Vakk arrive. She hides, realizing she doesnt hear the Box of Orchestration anymore and thinking Hermes must’ve taken it.
Vakk barges into the Manor with his tendrils and looks for Li’Kalla. He finds her after a while and drags her out screaming.
Outside, he restrains her mid air and interrogates her about the Box and its whereabouts. After a while he grows agitated and she lies to escape Vakk, taking flight. Her wings, however, cramp up and she crashes.
Vakk then restrains her with his tendrils once more and starts to talk shit about basically everyone and everything. He talks so much shit Li’Kalla starts to believe it and has a mental breakdown. She dissociates.
While believing nothing of what’s happening is real and in a hazy state of mind, Vakk continues to interrogate her which ends up in him breaking her right wing beyond use. Ichor flows from her injuries and pools on the ground.
He goes to break the other wing but sees her unresponsive and instead chooses to probe her vulnerable mind, finding the truth of the situation, about Hermes taking the Box.
He tries to make Li submit to him but she gets angry and transforms into a beast. A beast over forty meters tall and one hundred long, with light blue scales intertwined with vines
A short fight ensues that ends with Li’Kalla receiving various bruises and with Vakk losing one tendril, which is devoured by the Monster that Li’Kalla has become.
After a while, Rick’Ard comes out of the ruined Manor in the So’E and approaches the familiar-feeling huge beast. He develops an eye to look at his new friend and doesn’t even realize what is being done to him when he’s put into the maw of the beast, thinking that it must have been a new way to receive kisses.
Vakk -1 MP to Acquire the ‘Memory Reading’ ability.
2 MP & 5 FP remaining.
Li'Kalla 13 MP - 8 FP
Used 2 MP to gain a legendary beast form. That of a 40 meter tall dragon with razor sharp teeth, blue scales intertwined with vines and eyes that glow an intense green light. Used 2 MP to add the ability to shapeshift into the legendary beast form quickly.
An unnaturally Long Rain. From the puddles and ponds the rainwater formed to the east, creatures made of mud emerged. Gasping for air, crawling along the wet ground. Some died before living, becoming part of the land once again, but those that escaped the ponds of their birth, gradually found themselves strengthened, changed. Soon, the mud twisted and distorted into different shapes and forms. Some dug below ground, others walked the land, but the majority sat in large groups and became tall, sprawling spires of clay. They grew as tall as the talles hill, and as numerous as the rains would allow.
Soon, the Clayfang Valleys became. Large, living mountain-like spires of clay and mud gave way to grassy valleys.
Meanwhile, in the northern parts of the Island, the rain was especially strong towards the shore and, over time and extreme force, eroded a large canyon into the land, one that quickly filled with the water from the Ocean and connected to several underground cave networks. From the depths of the water, amorphous creatures made of sand and salt their home in the canyon. The Saltdepths became. A hundred-meter deep canyon filled with ocean water to the brim, with still developing species brewing in the depths.
The Long Rain never touched the west of the Island, leaving the Lotus ponds untouched.
To the south, however, a small group of the mud-creatures gathered around the lonesome Manor, and several more went into the boiling Lake to become one with the Rain.
The Long Rain gave life to the land, and after what felt like eons, it stopped.
The Long Rain starts autonomously in Li’s Island, draining her power to give life to the land. It creates mud, sand and salt protocreatures that over time will evolve into proper shapes and forms of their own. It also erodes away a large canyon on the northern part of the island, which fills with ocean water and connects with several of the underground networks of caves.
9 FP - 8 MP
- 4 FP used to create a large ecosystem consisting of mud, sand and salt protocreatures which will evolve on their own naturally. - 4 FP used to focus Rain on the northern part of the Island and create a large canyon which fills with ocean water naturally.
Two kids played on the Plains of Elamann, the land where the Great Hero of Old fought back against the growing infestation. The land where Humanity had met its salvation. It was a sprawling land, with tall grass swaying in the gentle winds and sparse trees reaching for the sky and with flowers and small critters dotting the landscape. Beyond a hill, there was a field of lavender flowers, and in that field, Two kids played.
One was a pale girl, not older than five cycles and the other was a boy, perhaps ten cycles of age. The boy chased the girl through the field, popping up from bushes and rocks and scaring her while she laughed and tried to outrun him for once.
The boy sported bruises all along his body. He had a black eye, ruffled hair and dirtied and somewhat ragged clothing, but he looked healthy otherwise. The girl was clearly pampered, she was pale, was dressed in a simple yet extremely ornate and expensive silk dress and most of all, sported the silver-white eyes of Royalty. Her platinum blonde hair swayed in the wind as she ran and spun and jumped around, giggling and laughing.
They’d do this every day, when her Guardian would disappear at midday. They’d meet up and play and laugh. It was a simple thing, but to the children, it meant the world.
The girl stumbled and fell, and when she looked up she saw something looming over her.
Her heart stopped, her eyes widened, and a gasp died in her throat before coming to life.
The beauty of the lavender field turned into a blood red stain of terror.
“LAINA!” A voice screamed, and yet she never tore her eyes away from the large entity. Slimy, foul, with a dozen irregularly polygonal eyes and two beaks under its legs. She turned and crawled away, but the thing grabbed her ankle.
The grip of the thing came loose, and when she turned to look, the boy was there, holding the chipped wooden practice sword he always carried in a grip worthy of the Royal Knights that followed her Father.
She curled up and merely stared at the scene from a few meters back, the only thing between her and the beast being the brave boy.
He half turned his face and smirked uncertainly at her. She could see the tears welling up in his eyes.
“Laina, I’ll protect you.” The boy said under his breath.
The ground shook, the thing lunged forward, time slowed down.
Laina saw it all. The boy’s energy level exploding. She didn’t know it at the time, but she saw his soul expand to its full potential, and in a show of pure willpower, his wooden sword was engulfed in the very flame of life, a white fire. He moved as fast as the wind. In a practiced movement, he sidestepped and tackled the thing. There was a sickening crack.
The boy grabbed his sword and with all his strength, stabbed into the torso of the thing. A white flame erupted into an explosion, and everything went black.
When the girl came to, the first thing she heard were the screams and the panicking voices. She was being carried away by a maid, and over the maid’s shoulder, she could see knights surrounding the thing, and a mage bent over the writhing, screaming boy. His face was a horrendously beautiful mix of black, white and red.
‘The Squire with the Mangled Face’, they’d call him. Ugly, horrendous, disgusting to look at. Everyone said those things. His own mentor treated him like a curse cast upon him. And yet, the one known as Laina, had requested him as her new Guardian. They’d spend all waking moment together, and when the time would come for her daily walk through nature, Laina would forego all formality and hold the Squire’s hand and lose herself in the moment. Everytime she looked up at his mangled face, the mess of shoddily reconstructed flesh that had left him without eyes, nose or a mouth she saw not the ugliness, but the brave soul of the boy who had once risked everything to protect her.
She saw his true beauty.
They had grown now. Soon he’d be leaving for the Faraway, to fight against great evils and protect everyone in the realm. She was proud of him, fighting through adversity and discrimination, becoming a Knight. She was proud… And yet, before a single tear could escape her eyes, the Squire stopped her and held her face in his rough, calloused and mistreated hands.
He was gentle. As he pressed his malformed face against hers, she returned his affection with a kiss and a gentle sob.
He couldn’t speak, and yet his actions said more than the words of everyone else. He wiped her tears carefully with his hands, knowing by memory the landscape of her beautiful, delicate face.
His face twisted, and his neck made a strange, bulging movement. Laina knew what this meant, he was as torn as she was. They embraced each other. An innocent, loving embrace the likes of which they could only share with each other. The daughter of a Great Lord and the squire with the mangled face were in love.
“H-Hurry, they’re going to catch up to us!”
“They’re right behind us!”
It had been an average day. She’d woken up, gotten ready with the help of her handmaiden, and did her usual duties, which included talking to people and walking around the palace. It had been a few years since her beloved Guardian had left for the war, and it had been months since she’d received any letters from him. She’d been worried for his safety.
Now, she was scheduled to be married to a man she had never even seen, in hopes that the marriage would strengthen the realm’s position against the ‘Infestation’, whatever that was.
Her Guardian was probably dead, a part of her mind told her over and over, but her heart refused to believe it -- How could a man that managed to fend off a great evil as a mere boy die a meaningless death, without anyone there to hold him, or without leaving anything in the world?
He was alive, Laina told herself every time. Alive, and he’d come back for her.
And yet fate was cruel, and it enjoyed causing pain and suffering. She would be married, she would be taken far away from home, and then she’d never see her true love again.
Her handmaiden, who’d been walking two steps behind her, noticed her shaky demeanor quickly and preemptively wiped her tears with the soft cloth she carried in her hands. It smelled of lavenders.
“Thank you, Rik’Mai.”
The girl curtsied and quickly fell back behind Laina.
The sun was setting when the time to visit her Father came. Her handmaiden had gone off to help the other servants with one task or another, and she was all alone.
As she passed through the door to her Father’s study, she couldn’t help but shiver under the leers of the two Royal Knights posted to either side of it. What was that about, she thought to herself, I’ve never felt that before…
Inside the study was the man she called Father. His stern, inexpressive face stared directly at her. He suddenly seemed twenty years older than earlier that day at Court.
“Yes, Father?” She asked, bowing her head and closing her eyes.
She never saw the two Knights enter the study.
“Daughter, look at me,” Laina lifted her head and looked at her Father, but her eyes instinctively avoided eye contact, “I… I’m sorry.” Laina saw her Father’s armor crack at that moment. He sighed and for a split moment, he looked like a broken man. And then he nodded to the Knights, who were now behind Laina.
They seized her arms, she gasped and looked at them in surprise, eyes wide.
“Daughter, I-” Her Father stopped, took in a deep breath, and shook his head. “There’s no use in explaining. Take her.”
And so they did. They lifted her up like she weighed nothing and began dragging her out of the study. She screamed and screamed, “Father! Father! No, don’t let them take me!” Her Father did nothing, merely returning to reading the book in his hands. When they were out of the study, the door closed behind them and one of the Guards’ hands slipped, and so did another. Laina yelped.
“D-Don’t touch me, you filthy animals!” She shouted, kicking the air. To her credit, she never really stopped struggling, up until she was thrown into a cell and the door was locked. thankfully, they never went past the slipping hands, but by the end, Laina was in tears. Sobbing pitifully in her shame as she slowly fixed her fancy dress.
It had been hours since the cell was locked. She’d tried to sleep through the night, but she found no rest. Instead, in the middle of the night she heard a commotion outside of the tower she was being held in. One of her barred windows overlooked the courtyard, where a single figure was illuminated by torchlight, surrounded by at least half a dozen Royal Guards, and those were the ones Laina could see.
“LAINA! GIVE HER BACK, YOU MONSTERS!” Shouted a vaguely familiar voice. It was grainy, and it found its way directly to Laina’s ears.
Instantly, a blush came to her cheeks, and her heart leapt. It was her love! He’d come back for her!
Swords clashed, several cries were heard followed quickly by the sound of flesh being cut and falling to the ground.
“Y-You’ll destroy us all-”
A sword pierced the last remaining guard’s throat. Soon after, several guards assembled in front of the door to her cell, and Laina peeked out through the small barred slit.
“What’s going to happen to me?” She asked the guards.
“Did nobody gag her?”
“Dammit, now we’ll have to hear some meat’s cries when we kill the traitor!”
Traitor? Meat? Laina sank back and went to the far wall. Just earlier they referred to as Princess, and her love was a Hero…
“LAINA!” The voice shook every soul, every brick in the tower. through the slit in her door she saw several flashes of light and after a few moments, blood seeped from below the door into her cell.
There was the clanging of keys, and then the door unlocked. Her love stood on the other side, covered from head to toe in blood. He sheathed his sword, and Laina ran toward him and embraced him tightly, crying.
“T-They locked me in a cell, they touched me-”
“Those bastards!” The Hero’s body lit as hot as a flame in his anger, and Laina recoiled with a wince. “Ow! H-How-”
“Ah, I’m sorry, my love, I’ll explain later. For now, let’s get out of here. Let’s leave all of this behind! It’s our chance to live the life we always desired, Laina!” He said and stretched his arm towards her, holding his palm open with a hopeful expression on his face.
Of course, there was nothing to hesitate about! She’d just saved her! She took his hand, and together they ran to the nearest stable and took a horse.
“H-Hurry, they’re going to catch up to us!”
“They’re right behind us!”
Several mounted knights chased them through the city’s main avenue, trampling any peasant unlucky enough to be in their path. Several arrows whizzed past them. One knight caught up to them, but before he could do anything, Laina’s love sliced his sword into the neck of the knight’s horse, killing it instantly and causing the mounted knight to crash into the ground at a breakneck speed. He was quickly trampled to death by the wall of cavalry behind.
“Ack!” Her love winced and grunted as an arrow found its way into his shoulder, right between the pauldron and the back plates.
“Fe’Riq!” Laina cried.
“Don’t fret, Laina!” He narrowly guided the horse to dodge a stall in the middle of the avenue, and dug his hands into his breastplate, pulling out a piece of parchment. “I’ll protect you!” She could barely see the smirk on his face, but it gave her an indescribable joy.
With a pained groan, he lifted the parchment and with both his hands, ripped it.
As he ripped, a portal opened in front of them, and they went through it and emerged onto a clearing in a forest Laina couldn’t recognize. Behind them, the portal closed, and Fe’Riq slowed the horse to a stop.
Carefully, he got off first and then gently helped Laina dismount, grimacing as he used his injured arm.
“Fe’Riq, your arm…” Laina said, worried. She furrowed her brow and checked the wound. “I-I can’t tend to it with our armor in the way…”
“Help me get it off, Laina.”
“But, I don’t know how.”
“I’ll guide you.”
And so, several minutes later, Fe’Riq was unarmoured and shirtless. The arrow had been extracted cleanly, to Laina’s luck, and she only needed to clean the wound. Fortunately, the sounds of a creek nearby alerted them to the presence of water, which they used to its full extent to clean Fe’Riq’s wound.
After that was done, Laina sat on her knees in front of Fe’Riq, who sat cross-legged. He seemed sad.
“Fe’Riq, my love…” She muttered, taking in his face. It was different, she knew. She knew he now had eyes, eyebrows, a nose, a mouth… But she couldn’t see them, they were hazy. It didn’t bother her.
He tilted his head at her. “We’re together now, aren’t we? Aren’t we?”
“Yes, yes we are. My Hero.” She said softly, cupping his head in her hands and kissing his new lips. They tasted of blood, but she didn’t care. He returned the kiss, but eventually pulled away.
“Let me wash you. You must be uncomfortable in that soiled gown.”
“... Y-Yes, please.”
It was quiet, it was warm, and most of all, it was intimate as the two undressed each other and knelt in the creek, hands roaming over each other’s bodies. Soon, they were face to face, with Laina feigning that she was washing Fe’Riq’s chest. Of course, by now they were both clean.
Eventually she dropped the act and just rested her head against his chest and embraced him, hearing his heartbeat. He returned the embrace and, after a while, lifted her chin up with a finger to look into her eyes, and kissed her deeply and passionately.
There, in the creek in the middle of an unknown forest, they became whole.
Li’Kalla tossed and turned on Azura’s back, her blush more intense than usual as she muttered and moaned out an unintelligible name.
Li’Kalla dreams of a past that never happened, at least in its entirety. Her personal fantasy. Basically, she gets it on with her lifelong crush.
”Ah… The wind is so nice today...” Muttered a certain, angelblue-haired Goddess. She sighed happily as she dipped her toes into the boiling lake, sitting herself on the edge of a small and shoddily constructed dock. In the past, doing such a thing would’ve been dangerous and outright stupid, but with the body of an immortal, boiling water could do no harm to her, and in fact felt rather nice and cleansing!
”Usually it’s way too cloudy and misty to see anything, but today the wind has been so lively… Really,” The woman tilted her head back and looked up at the sky, to see the plume of steam being blown away from the island by the constant breeze, ”I wish I was the one in charge of Wind… That would be so much more fun.”
As if called, the conductor of winds arrived through the steam only moments later, her radiant if somewhat unkempt feathers lighting it up and producing rainbows of colour as she slowly spiraled down through it. Upon spotting Li’Kalla the great bird called down ”Hello there! I hope I’m not intruding” before landing gently a short distance away along the shore of the boiling lake.
Li’Kalla stared in surprise at the huge macaw, her eyes wide, ”Oh. My. Lord.” She spoke breathlessly and as she did so, she retracted her legs from the water and stood up on the creaky dock. Slowly, she approached the Great Bird, her expression gradually changing from shock to curiosity and then to adoration.
With big, sparkly eyes she came up to the bird and froze a few feet away from it, fidgeting in place and clasping her hands together, with her eyes never leaving the form of whom she instinctively knew to be Azura, her fellow Goddess.
”Your feathers are- Your beak… Your wings!” Li’Kalla began bouncing on the spot, holding her hands against her chest, ”Oh lord, oh lady, oh nooo, you’re soo pretty!” The Rain Goddess said in a pitch so high birds would be jealous of her. In her excitement, she didn’t notice tears of pure joy beginning to travel down her delicate face.
”Oh my” Azure responded a touch flustered, before ruffling her feathers and puffing up her chest a touch with pride. ”Thank you for saying so little Li’Kalla, your too kind. Honestly though I’m a bit of a mess at the moment, so do you mind if I take a quick dip in your pool to clean off?” The goddess bobbed her head to the side in the direction of the boiling lake
”O-Oh, of course! Feel free to use my Lake.” Li’Kalla nodded and got out of Azura’s way, ”If you’re h-hungry, um, I could prepare some f-food for you, or perhaps just… Just bring you some water. I’d offer fruit, b-but...” She trailed off, looking at her feet bashfully.
”Thank you kindly” Azura bobbed her head before heading into the pool. Cold gentle breeze followed her in, blowing upon the lake as if it were bird’s nest soup to temporarily lower the temp just a touch from scolding to delightfully tosty. Azura gave a pleasant sigh as she settled into the boiling bird bath ”No no it’s quite alright. this is more than enough Li’Kalla, I assure you. I appreciate your generosity, but I’d rather not eat you out of house and home. Besides I haven't eaten since... well I can’t remember, but the point is I’d rather not make a habit of something I don’t need to do. Frankly if I ate now I don’t think I could ever stop.” the bird laughed to herself at this before setting to work cleaning her messy plumage, shaking her body too and fro gently in the water to get it all though her feathers, though fortunately this was not violent enough splash Li’Kalla. Meanwhile Li’Kalla sat on her knees on the sandy shore and tried to relax as she watched the Bird Goddess bathe.
All throughout her bath Azura the giant parrot ground her beak contently.
”... P-Please don’t take offense to this, Miss Azura, I used to have a masc- Um, companion a long time ago. He was a beautiful gold and orange feathered bird. He was the only company I had while-” She cut herself off and after a moment, she sighed. ”He would do that thing with his beak whenever he felt relaxed after taking flight around my chambers. I take it you’ve had an eventful time so far, Miss Azura?”
”None taken.” Azura insisted even as her content sounds where cut off by her last question to be replaced by a cocked head and a thoughtful hum for a few moments. ”I have been very busy, that is true. Not all of it has been the good kind of busy but… I’d rather not ruin the present pleasant atmosphere with that when there are so many other beautiful things to speak of.”
Azura dunked her head beneath the water briefly before continuing, ”Have you traveled far from your lovely home Li’Kalla? I’ve been all over, from the sun too the stars...” She paused there for a moment, clicking her beak impulsively in before shaking her head and continuing ” and all across Galbar. Some of our peers are have been very creative indeed in their work.”
Li’Kalla looked down at her hands and shrugged lamely, ”I haven’t really… Visited anywhere, yet. I don’t feel safe walking on water, so I suppose I’ve been hoping someone with a boat comes by.” Li’Kalla then showed Azura a well-practiced smile, ”I’ve only met a few of our fellows. K’nell, Parvus, Chopstick Eyes, V-” She shivered and immediately changed the subject. Azura seemed to consider pressing her to continue, beak opening to speak, only to think otherwise and closing it once more to let her continue.
”Miss Azura, I do have a question. How does it feel? Flying… I remember looking out of my window and seeing the flocks of birds fly by the Palace. They always look so free, so… Alive.”
”Oh it is liberating” Azura responded passionately ”to soar the sky, feel the wind on your feathers, to be unchained from hard earth and stone.” The great bird stood as she spoke of this, shaking off her wings as she stepped out of the boiling lake looking rejuvenated, radiant and reinvigorated. ”It is something all should experience. Sadly I don’t have the strength to gift you that but” she insisted before gasping and humming to herself excited ”I could take you flying! oh oh, or better yet, if you have power to spare, I could teach you how to fly Li’Kalla! Then you would be free to explore to your heart’s content!”
Li’Kalla’s eyes lit up and she straightened her back and balled up a fist and pumped another into the air, ”Yay! I’m going to learn how to fly! Thank you, Miss Azura!” Li’Kalla grinned and looked up at the Great Bird’s face. ”B-But, I don’t have beautiful wings like yours...”
”oh. well no, but you could grow them. Somewhere. I… sort of remember creatures like you with wings on their backs? Its hazy though. I think I don’t want to remember them? Regardless, it’s a place they could go. or you could turn into a bird yourself? I think that is a thing we can do. or turn your arms into wings or… let’s just say the sky’s the limit hehe” Azura rambled excitedly ”oh. but before you chose what is your favorite color?”
”Oh lord! My favorite color!” Li’Kalla sprang to her feet and pursed her lips for a moment, ”I think, I think white! No, wait, blue! Or maybe… Yellow? How to choose? They’re all so pretty, Miss Azura!” She giggled. ”Although… My skin is ghostly white these days you see, maybe that should be my favorite color now?” She shrugged.
”Well I have no need to be frugal with these so” Azura reached round and carefully plucked a blue, yellow and white feather from each of her wings, resulting in six in total that she leaned down and presented to Li’Kalla. Each one was about the length of her arm. ”Here” she said through the beak full of feathers ”You can use these as a starting point for your own wings.”
Li’Kalla gasped and gently took the six enormous feathers in her arms, hugging them against her body, ”Aw, thank you Miss Azura!” She said excitedly, ”I think I’ll go with white!” She declared and the feathers to float mid air while she sat back down on her knees, closing her eyes as she slipped her dress off her shoulders and let it pool around her hips.
Li’Kalla took in a few deep breaths to calm herself and finally, stopped breathing altogether. Her entire focus lay on the task at hand. There was no room for error, no room for distracting thoughts or feelings. Right now, it was her and her goal.
A wave of energy went down her body, then another, and then she felt nothing and heard nothing.
When she opened her eyes, the entirety of her field of vision was blocked by what seemed to be an enormous face. Black, with vines and tendrils of unknown material crawling along its skin -- or maybe those were its skin; With a snarling maw filled with rows upon rows of rapier-like teeth; bright golden eyes that bore into Li’Kalla’s skull and breath that smelled of rot.
Li’Kalla stared wide-eyed at the monstrosity in front of her, she watched as it opened its maw and a single, black tongue slithered its way toward her, she gave shallow breaths as the tongue trailed her body roughly, tasting her.
There was a low sound, something she’d never heard before and couldn’t describe. It came from the monster. Li’Kalla didn’t dare close her eyes, but she didn’t dare move either. When the tongue reached up to her face, she began shaking. That’s when the monstrous entity lunged forward and ate her.
Thousand of thorns tore away at her flesh. She tried to scream, to call for help, but her voice had abandoned her. The sharp feeling as her bones broke and pierced skin, as parts of her were ripped apart by th-
She opened her eyes.
She was hyperventilating, her eyes wide and teary, her body sore and tired. And yet she felt something was… Off, different. From her back two large, beautiful wings had emerged. hey were a very pale gray in color, much like her skin, but the feathers had yellow highlights.
Li’Kalla tested her new wings, and moved them erratically. One of them she couldn’t get to stop shaking and the other was furled tightly against her body.
”Did I… D-Did I do it… Miss Azura?” Li’Kalla asked between pants without looking up at the Great Bird.
”You did wonderfully me dear” Azura insisted, concern clear in her tone. ”But now you just need to breathe Li’Kalla. It's ok.” Azura Shure her, ”You’re Ok. I promise.” Li’Kalla could see out of her peripheral vision the great bird moving closer cautiously, so she took the time to breathe. In and out, slowly, until she managed to calm down enough.
”... My left wing w-won’t stop shaking up and down...” Li’Kalla said softly, as she looked up at her new friend’s face and reached out to place her hands on her beak.
Azura move a little closer, sofly pressing her feathered head agasint Li’Kalla’s cheek ”You have limbs so learning how to control them might take a little time I think? It’ll fix itself if you focus on calming it. Even if it doesn’t then we’ll find a way to fix it.” Azura assured her
At those words, Li’Kalla closed her eyes once more and rested her head against Azura’s. After a moment, her wing stopped shaking and she even managed to move it so it’d brush against Azura. She did the same with her other wing and gave a small chuckle.
”I took inspiration from your wings, Miss Azura. I hope that’s okay. Your feathers feel really nice. So, what’s next?” As she spoke, her left wing shook a little bit and her right one twitched, but Li’Kalla got them back in control in the blink of an eye.
”I’m honored that you did.” Azura said before carefully pulling herself up and away from her. ”Now? Now fledgling we learn how to use those wings of yours. I suggest doing a bit of stretching to limber up while I make you somewhere to practice”
”Okay!” Li’Kalla grinned and stood up, wings outstretched excitedly. ”Thank you, Sis- Um, Miss Azura!” She said before turning and walking away from the shore of the lake. She’d go near the Manor’s courtyard to stretch, as it was much grassier and cooler there.
”Sis huh?” Azura could be heard murmuring to herself before following, whistling happily as she went. While Li’Kalla got used to the extra weight she was carrying and the accompanying center of gravity shift Azura began to craft a little practice equipment. Humming softly to herself she formed a pair of small milky white Luft stone platforms out of the air itself, each about the size of a dining table. Once she was done she aproched the frolicing Li’Kalla asking ”How are you feeling now little sister?”
”Oh!” Li’Kalla looked up in surprise at Azura, but quickly smiled bashfully at her. She had been stretching her wings and her body in every way she knew how, not wanting to be underprepared for the undoubtedly difficult training she was going to undergo. Li’Kalla jumped up to her feet and pumped a fist into the air triumphantly. ”I’m super ready, Big Sis!” She said and flapped her wings causing her to gasp and sending herself off balance and falling on her bum. ”Ow- That was amazing!”
”Glad to see you are feeling better little sister” Azura said cheerfully as she floated the two little platforms over to them both, the gravity defying stone needing only a little guidance from gusts of wind to move it around. She plopped the two boards in front of her ”hop onto one of these and we’ll get started” she instructed, and so Li’Kalla did a small flap of her wings and hopped onto one of the boards. Once upon it, the smaller Goddess couldn’t help but keep her wings outstretched.
”And up we go” Azura said as the boards began to float up in the air until Li’Kalla found herself face to face with Azura once again, only now the big bird was standing tall as can be. The air was completely still around her, meaning there was no risk of her being blown off her now rather lofty perch.
Li’Kalla peeked over the edge of her board, down at the ground far below, and then looked at Azura. ”Okay, Sis, ready to follow your orders!” She said, giggling.
”I give guidance not orders” Azura insisted, ”But to start off with, all you need to do is jump between these two.” the other board, which was only an easily hopable distance away, bobbed up and down a little when she spoke of it.
Li’Kalla answered with a nod of her head. She focused for a few moments, jumping up and down on the board and flapping her wings in preparation. Then, in an instant, she jumped off the board and onto the other. She barely flapped her wings a couple times, but that gave her the edge needed to reach the platform. Once she landed, she stumbled but managed to maintain her balance. ”Yay!”
”Good job Li’Kalla!” Azura praised as she moved the boards just a little further apart. ”Now. Do it again.” and so she did. Over and over again with each jump just a little further and a little harder. Most she cleared, but when she fell Azura’s winds where there to soften her landing and her words were there to wipe away the embarrassment of failing, encouraging her to step back up and try again. What began as fluttering leaps slowly but surely became short glides and then finally actual flights from board to board. Eventually when she was pretty sure she was getting the hang of it Azura stopped her from taking another leap back saying ”You’ve done so well little sister, I think you’re ready for the real lesson. Do you trust me Li’Kalla? Do you trust yourself?”
Li’Kalla was smiling even as she panted lightly, she looked at Azura’s face and tilted her head curiously, drops of rainwater splashing down onto the board. ”I trust you, Sis, and I trust my new wings!” Li’Kalla flashed a grin and flapped her wings excitedly, ”I love this practice, let’s go to the next level, Sis.”
Azura whistled happily in response to her enthusiasm and then said ”Then here we go!” before a gust of wind grabbed her, causing her to squeak in surprise and launching her skywards while the bird flew beside her. Up and out of the steam and clouds surrounding hed domain they soared till they were high in the sky. Far below them was her mirrored home and the island it rested upon. To the west was Kalgrun, its vast tracts of barren stone slowly being filled with greenery as the Gemstone Gardeners gathered seeds from across the world to plant in its varied climates. To the north where a series of tall mountains, the tallest of which poked into the Blue. To the east was the great sea between her island and the spinning twins of Swahhitteh and Tendlepog and in that sea something strange was floating. what she at first thought was a floating island of some kind like the ones seen in the Blue sky above dived down towards the ocean, its vast mouth opening to scoop up an immense haul of tiny sea life before breaching back out of the water again, a massive jet of sea water shooting out of its top. Seemingly noticing the pair, the great whale slowly turned and began a rapid ascension towards them. The flying sea creature, about the size of a small island, ended up circling them, about a hundred meters or so away, where its song echoing through the blue skies to greet them both.
As she finished taking in her surroundings Li’Kalla came to notice that the updraft that had lifted her skywards was slowing gradually. When it finally stopped the great bird who had soared up beside her told her to ”Fly Li’Kalla fly!” because now it was indeed either fly of fall.
For a second, Li’Kalla’s face held a most relaxed smile, she took in her surroundings with glee, savouring every moment the gust of divine wind kept her afloat… And then she stopped mid-air, and at that moment she felt Galbar’s pull hit her.
”Wait wh-! AAAAAHHH!!”
She fell, heading for the ground. Every passing second hastened her fall. She tried to flap her wings, but found her left wings twitched and her right one too tense to move. Her heart leapt to her throat, her head felt light and her legs were cramping up as she flailed.
”SISTEEEEEER!” She screamed at the top of her lungs, forcing her wings to move. She tried to flap them but they were uncoordinated and just sent Li’Kalla barreling, falling even faster. She got dizzy and gagged.
Azura appeared beside her, also falling though doing it with a lot more grace than Li’Kalla. her wings where clamped tightly by her side and she was falling backwards, yet seemed to be entirely at ease with the situation. ”Well now sister, this is the exact opposite of what I asked you to do” she teased, being far to calm for their current plumat. ”Trust your wings LiKalla, trust yourself. This is no different from what we where doing with the boards, we’re just a little higher up this time is all.” she said, even as their height continued to diminished rapidly. The fall’s acceleration had stopped however, with the pair having somehow reached the same terminal velocity.
Li’Kalla had lost her voice. Everytime she tried to speak, a scream came out. So instead she let her screams out and tried flapping her wings as wildly as she could, in hopes that she’d somehow stabilize herself. It didn’t work.
In her panic, she outstretched her wings and locked them in place.
Her fall turned into a glide in the blink of an eye. An extremely dangerously fast glide, however, one that was headed straight down. She grunted as she adjusted her wings’ angles and corrected her trajectory, and then flapped her wings to slow to a stop.
She panted heavily and occasionally gagged. She kept her mouth covered and kept her narrowed eyes trained at the ground just a few meters below her.
”... Y… You are… Evil, S-Sis...” A weak groan followed her soft words.
”I had everything in tallon I assure you” insisted the great bird that had shadowed her every move as she fell. Azura flapped round to fly next to her and then said ”I’ll admit it was perhaps a touch, ah, extreme. but it worked! You’re flying dear sister!”
Li’Kalla stared in disbelief at Azura, ”V-Very amusing, Sis- Wait.” She froze and dropped a meter, ”Eek!” She flapped her wings with renewed vigor. She was flying, she realized, she was flying! All those years longing to fly, to be free, back home. All those nights she’d let Ka’Li fly free around her chambers so that she could watch him. She was free, now! There was nothing to keep her grounded, no room that could imprison her! Why, she could jump out of the window if she wanted to, and her wings would carry her up and away. Her eyes sparkled and she became slightly teary. Her heart leapt as she took in Azura’s presence, and she suddenly shot towards her and embraced her Big Sister’s neck. Or, well, embraced as much as she could, which wasn’t much at all.
Tears of joy flowed freely and she nuzzled her Sister’s feathers and took in her scent, ”Oh, Sis! Sis, Sis! I’m flying! I’m flying right now! I love you Sis, so sooo much! Oh Lords, I’m flyiiiing!”
Azura laughed happily in response to her joyous embrace ”Yes, yes you are!” she said while performing a few slow merry spins while Li’Kalla clung to her. While she did so Li’kalla felt a warm breeze pressing her against the birds chest as the armless goddess returned the hug as best she could. ”The skies are yours to roam dear sister. So... Where would you like to go first?”
Li’Kalla felt her body relax, her adrenaline rush was disappearing, and the remaining energy in her body was quickly dispersing. Soon, her arms, legs and wings felt like gelatin and her breath came in a slow ryhthm. ”Weell-” She yawned and used what little energy she had to climb her way onto Azura’s back, especifically the spot between her two great wings. ”T-There’s a place with ponds near here, there’s these flowers called Lotus blooms, they’re really beautiful. I-I think we could go there and, and relax. I don’t think I can move much more...” She said.
”mmm, you have been working very hard after all, so a rest does seem wise” Azura agreed before they began a slow and careful flight towards the pond Li’Kalla had pointed Azura towards. Above them the eclipse whale poked his way through the clouds, having caught up with the falling pair. It sang merrily and softly at seeing they were ok.
It was a comfortable position to be in. Curled up on the back of her big sister, caressed by the soft, warm multicolored feathers, with a constant, gentle breeze keeping her body cool and constantly blowing away all of the cursed rainwater that kept materialising on her body. Li’Kalla let out a sigh as she stretched her new wings and wrapped them around herself and Azura’s back. Eventually she felt herself drifting off, and no sound escaped Li’Kalla but that of gentle breathing.
I love my Big Sis, she thought, she’s so warm...
Li’kalla and Azura meet on the rain goddesses island. the bird takes a bath in the boiling lake and the two talk which leads them to talking about flying Azura decides to teach Li’Kalla how to fly. Li’Kalla grows wings to facilitate this, but her limbs are a touch shaky. Azura then comforts and calms her. then they do some flight training by having her jump, gluide and fly between two raised platforms. Azura launches them both skywards for the last lesson, where they see that the wind goddess had fetched her massive flying whale friend before passing by Li’Kalla‘s island. they fall back down until Li’Kalla manages to get the hang of flying just in the nick of time. the two celebrate her new fond wings, the pair having grown close throughout the time spent together Li’kalla is tired. Azura start to take her tired student towards the pond of lotus blooms but Li’Kalla falls asleep before they get there.
Li’Kalla 9 FP - 9 MP Used 1 MP to grow a pair of wings, each one as long as Li’Kalla is tall. The feathers are the same color as Li’Kalla’s skin (very pale grey) and the wings are extra fluffy and warm. 9 FP - 8 MP Remaining