Recent Statuses

4 yrs ago
Current a completely public status bar might not be the best place to talk about your mood imbalances, just saying.
5 yrs ago
Having actual free time feels so weird
7 yrs ago
How did I escape Iraq? Iran.


Most Recent Posts

Meet the Smith

Lorelei and Astarte spilled out of the Shadow Realms and into a stinky pile of hay. They laid in it for a while, catching their breaths with their limbs intertwined, until a particularly curious gorse (a goat-like mountain horse that looked and acted exactly like a big goat would) came up to them and started nibbling on Astarte’s ponytail.

She shuddered as a big glob of gorse spit landed on the back of her neck and swatted the creature away. “I hate gorses!” She complained as she untangled herself from Lorelei and jumped out of the pile of hay.

“Y-You’re crazy...” Lorelei rolled her eyes at her friend after emerging from the hay. “At least we didn’t waste any time in the Bazaar. I-I had a bad feeling the entire time we were there.”

The lavender-haired ex-goddess stretched her arms over her head so deep that a small squeak escaped her. “All part of the plan, mortal sis!”

“S-Sure. By the way, where’re your boots?”

“Traded them for a prayer dedicated to me! It was a steal!” Astarte explained with a pump of her arm and a grin. Lorelei couldn’t bring herself to tell the woman anything and instead just headed for the barn’s exit.


“Two hundred Havens. Take it or leave it, cat.”

Lorelei pursed her lips. She felt her ears twitch and flatten against her head. This barbarian wanted to rip her off! Did she really think red skin and muscles were enough to intimidate her into accepting a bad deal? It’s like the smith had no idea of how difficult Havens were to obtain outside of the Thousand Kingdoms at all! The catgirl took in a deep breath before she said anything she could regret and noticed a particular glint coming off a few items on a half-hidden shelf in a corner of the room.

“W-What about…” Lorelei grunted as she grabbed her heavy bag and started to look through it, eventually pulling out a large, brand-new glass bottle and setting it on the stone table across which sat the Smith. “... this?” The Red Oni chimera’s stern visage cracked at the sight and a slight smirk graced her face.

“Hmph. Penumbr-Ale. The X-tronk kind… Not bad, cat. Not bad.” The Smith mused. She set down both elbows on the stone table and rested her head on both her fists, the poor piece of furniture nearly cracking under the solid weight of the giant.

“S-So?” Lorelei asked, hopeful.

The Oni furrowed her brow and rubbed her temples with her hands. After a while, she grunted and leaned back against her ‘throne’, which was actually just a big chair, and shrugged. “The bottle and 50 Havens. That’s the lowest I can go.”

Lorelei put her pouch on the table and emptied its contents for the Smith to see. There were at least a dozen different currencies in her possession, and the amounts were all rather meagre with the exception for a collection of small vials filled with black pellets.

“So… You got 2 Havens. And the Bottle. And a disgusting amount of Shades.” The Smith scratched the side of her nose and sighed. She carefully grabbed one of the vials of pellets and put it away safely in between her breasts. “Yea, forget the Havens. I can do more with Shades anyway. You really are broke though, aren’t you? I don’t understand how someone like you has all these ancient artefacts…”

“O-Oh. I’m not really from around here, I c-came from another place.”

The Oni narrowed her eyes. “... Yeah, I figured. I’ve been seein’ more and more of your kind around lately. None with real, non-magical cat ears obviously, but a couple of metal golems and such. They were pervs, so I kicked them out of the castle.”

“Metal… Golems?” Lorelei’s heart skipped a few beats and all colour drained from her face.

“Weirded out aren’t you? Honestly, same. First thing they did was stare at my body and beam some weird lights at me. I didn’t even entertain any of their requests before kicking them out. ”

Lorelei felt her breakfast coming back up quickly and had to run towards the restroom.

As the sounds of the catgirl retching echoed through the whole smithy, the Oni fixed her gaze on Astarte, who was buddy staring at her own reflecting in a shiny plated helmet.

“Hey you, the weird one.”

“Wha-” Astarte gasped and floated in place slightly. “Excuse you! Behold my Divine power, mortal!” With that, Astarte hurled an arc of magical lightning at the Oni. It fizzled out before reaching the Smith, who let out a chuckle.

“It has been beheld. Your friend preggers or something?”

Astarte crossed her arms. “Rude. And no. Her stomach just hates robots… Stop looking at me like that!” Astarte blushed and looked away. Meanwhile the Oni did not even try to hide the look of pity that she was giving Astarte.



And so, life went on. After their fateful meeting with the Wyn the Goddess, Lorelei and Astarte, sisters by fate, continued with their aimless adventure followed closely by their latest friend Shadobig the Iwak and shadowed very loosely by Julles the Wielder of the Bloodbow.

They left the vicinity of Heavenfall after their search for Big Smoke turned up nothing and moved on to the Stormbreaker Mountains.

“He has to be hiding in my shadow! He has to be!” Astarte repeated over and over at random points throughout an entire month, poking and biting at her own shadow, trying to scare Big into coming out, even though she knew deep down that he wasn’t there.

They delved into caves (not too deeply, only for a lack of proper lighting and definitely not for a lack of desire), they climbed mountains and hills, they visited the local Kingdoms, and even met a few other [adventurers].

All was good, until they came across the biggest obstacle of all – A bridge connecting the largest mountain in the range to the peak of the second largest mountain had collapsed, grinding their progress to a halt.

At that point, after being told it would probably take years to rebuild the bridge and that the alternate route involved going all the way around the mountain range (which would probably take them months at this point), they decided to do one thing that Lorelei had been hesitant about… They’d have to go into the Bazaar.


It had been a very exciting development for Astarte. To be able to jump into a magic shadow portal and come out the other side into a magic bazaar selling magic things and with a lively atmosphere on top of that?! Paradise!

Or so she had thought.

At that moment, Astarte was floating an inch off a bar stool, finishing up a pint of the sector’s traditional beer, Coronashe. She liked the slight taste of powdered chocolate and soot in the background of the drink’s almost overpowering fizziness and the buzz she felt in her head after having drunk most of the mug (which was almost as tall as her forearm) was an experience that she’d never had before.

Few meters behind her was Lorelei, haggling with a stall owner as if her life depended on it. Apparently, a single one of the cat girl’s many screwdrivers was worth at least ten of the vendors’ assorted tools. Something something, blah blah, Astarte didn’t really care! She’d been travelling with Lorelei for so long that she was sure she’d reached the max level at the very important skill of [selective hearing].

“I’m tellin’ you! This d-driver’s Prime-branded. It’ll outlast every single one of us!”

Really? Astarte thought and took another sip of her Coronashe.

“And I’m saying I dun care ‘bout none of that. Primes, Brands, screwdrivers, none of those matta when no one even knows what a screw be! Ye’r crazy, cat lady.”

Nice response, Astarte thought as she scavenged for the last few drops of beer at the bottom of her mug with her soggy paper straw.


Astarte ran, panting, behind Lorelei. They ducked into a dangerously-tight alleyway and climbed onto a sheet metal roof, only to climb even higher onto a neighbouring shop’s roof.

Her socks were soaked, her hair dishevelled, and her head dizzy. She had no idea what was happening. One second, she was enjoying a Coronashe and the next, the two women were being chased throughout the entire sector while shoeless and soaked. The ex-goddess licked a fresh scratch on her wrist and caught her breath.

“How many times have I told you that you gotta pay for s-stuff here, dumbass?!” Lorelei practically screamed at her, to which Astarte huffed indignantly.

“But I did pay for everything! With my presence!”

Lorelei stared at Astarte for a while, eyebrow and ears twitching, before grabbing her by the wrist and jumping into a nearby shadow. They came out the other side and crashed right into a stack of hay in a stable. It was cold, dry, and they had a dozen winged horses looking straight at them, stone faced.

“Wait… You’re not implying my presence isn’t a big payment, tip included?! I’m a Goddess, you know! Acknowledged by the likes of Gwyn, Rock Cat, and Vestec. Hmph!”

“Yeah? S-Show them your Goddess ID card next time then.” Lorelei slapped Astarte’s head and stood up in one fluid motion, then pushed past the horses and out of the stables.

“... Ow.” Astarte rubbed the sore spot and quickly chased after the catgirl, hoping to find a pair of new boots along the way. “… Aren’t we missing something?” Astarte wondered to herself as she stepped out of the stinky stables, but quickly shrugged and forgot all about that nagging feeling.

Le Gang meets Le Blood


When Lorelei awoke, she was greeted by a barely-clothed, dark-skinned elfkin. The elf, who introduced himself as Julles (in a strange, kinda creepy way), quickly filled Lorelei in on what he’d done to keep both her and Astarte alive over the last few days, which reminded her of the fact that she’d lost an eye. The catgirl had no time to grieve for lost orbs though, so instead she quickly dressed herself and used some strips of fabric of her torn jacket to fashion herself an eyepatch. Soon enough, Astarte woke up too.

The self-proclaimed goddess was a bigger mess than usual. She had a large scar over her entire right shoulder and her joint popped every time she moved it, but she was fine otherwise. Well, at least, she wasn’t in any pain. Julles explained that the antivenom that Astarte was given was much stronger than the one Lorelei had been given, and so she was likely to still be pretty high.

And when you mix an insane high with a dummy like Astarte, things happen. Like forgetting how to put on trousers and developing a sudden phobia of hair brushes.

So yeah, Astarte was a mess.


An hour later, the pair (as well as their new beast-of-burden, Shadobig the Iwak, eater of Spiders) found themselves guided through a set of rickety (but incredibly long and sun-drenched) treehouse bridges, past many treehouses in different stages of disrepair ranging from residences to workshops and even suspended gardens… Until they reached the biggest of the treehouses, one that looked a little bit like the main tree back in Sanctuary, with the central structure grown out of the tree rather than built.

It was there, upon entering the threshold, that something happened that none of them were prepared for. A murky substance had spread out across the wooden floor and it seemed to absorb the light filtering in from outside. Julles, with an exclaimed whimper, about knelt over in some form of reverence before it became apparent just what that substance was- Blood.

Like a stream of mist it began to flow into the elves bow, one he always had on him, one he even talked too at times in hushed whispers. Though they hadn't been around him for long, it was apparent he really was crazy.

The room grew eerily quiet, Shadobig fidgeting in either nervousness or restlessness, before all at once a giant crimson hand shot out from the floor, grabbed all of them with a sickly warm touch and swallowed them into the depths before any word or action could be uttered or taken.


There were no sensations at first, an absence of all sight, smell, taste and hearing before it all came rushing back as they were deposited upon a floor of marble with a pale light all around. The sickly smell of iron permeated the air. Lorelei looked up with her one good eye to see someone even more sight less than she. The unassuming woman was unnaturally pale, almost milky white, with hair to match. It fell in straight lines past her shoulders and a crimson ribbon was covering her eyes. Below that was an impassive face, perhaps one of scrutiny. Her ears were pointed, was she an elf? That was Lorelei’s first question, but she quickly came to realise that the woman was more than likely no elf, but instead divine to some extent in nature.

Julles immediately placated himself by bowing on his knees. Lorelei did the same.

"It seems I have a bycatch." She spoke with an equally impassive voice, a hint of arrogance to boot. She looked over both Lorelei and Astarte, pinpointing their exact place. "You are different, aren't you?" She asked herself, rising from her throne and walking before them. "An older blood flows through you." She said to Lore. "And you, ancient and intoxicated." She said to Astarte. "Was it fate that brought you to me or something else entire?" She came to a stop before them. "Your names?" She asked, looking past them now.


“Astarte!” Shouted Astarte with a massive grin, floating slightly above the floor, “Finally! Finally, someone can tell I’m an ancient, super-powerful, amazingly-beautiful Goddess. Told you so, Lore! Told you so, Julles! I’m not crazy!” Astarte laughed and pumped her fist up into the air victoriously.

“A-and I’m Lorelei. [Feline Tinkerer] of the team.” Lorelei explained politely with her head down.

With unnatural motion, the woman came before Astarte. “You are of ancient blood, yes, but you lack the defining traits of a Goddess. Mainly…” her voice wavered as she lifted a hand, as if to touch her but she quickly let it fall back to her side. “It would be improper so soon.” She seemed to say to herself before drifting back over to Lorelei. “I have not seen your kind before, either of your kind. Are you perhaps not from here?” She asked.

Lorelei nodded, flicked her ears and tail and stood up. “I’m an Astalonian. I-I think I escaped my old world by mistake. I know things no one else knows, but I-I can’t remember them very well. I haven’t been able to repair all my t-tools because of that.”

Astarte tried to make conversation with Julles in the background as Lorelei spoke with the stranger, but kept getting ignored so hard she eventually laid face down on the floor.

The woman tilted her head. “Interesting.” She commented, folding her hands. “Few there are who can remember a different time before this one. Very few. Consider yourselves lucky or cursed. Either way, you’re here now and I doubt there’s any way home.” She said with bitterness in her voice.

“L-Last place got blown up by not-demons and homuran ambition. Also by P-Prime cannons and Recusant fire. There’s nowhere to go back to for me. And Astarte d-doesn’t even remember what kind of Goddess she even was, so…” Lorelei sighed. “Why are you wearing that blindfold, anyway? Spiders pop your eyes t-too?”

The woman gave a coy smile. “Not exactly. If I attempted to explain it, you would probably end up like that one.” She pointed to Astarte. “Was it a spider that stole your eye?” She asked, seemingly with concern. Strangest of all, behind them, the white throne of ivory slowly took on the dark shade of crimson, until not a trace of the white remained. The woman seemed to relax a little, her posture slouching.

Lorelei might have been missing an eye, but she noticed the change in the environment and stole a quick glance at the exit.

“They came out of nowhere like, ZOOM! And WHAM and SLASH! Before I knew it my shoulder was split open. Their venom is crazy you know, it feels even worse than the pain you get from peeing your pants while doing Wind Stance katas! Trust me, I would know. Not that I peed my pants or anything, resulting in Hills making fun of me for a whole month… Yeah, that wouldn’t happen.” Astarte chimed in from the floor.

“I fought them off l-long enough for Shadobig to save us, and then Julles came to our aid as the venom k-knocked us out.” Lorelei explained, lightly caressing her eyepatch. “I-I dont wanna waste any more of your time, Lady…?”

“My name is Wyn.” The woman said, the aura of arrogance and impartiality gone from her voice, replaced with a reserved quietness. “I am sorry to hear of your harrowing battle. But it’s quite alright, I did bring you here, after all. So no time is being wasted. Oh…” She furrowed her brows, as if in thought. Then she looked between them before landing on Julles, where her face lit up. “Ah, of course. That bow… That’s why I brought you. It would be better if I took it for safekeeping. It’s dangerous.”

At that, Julles tensed up, his grip on the bow tightening as beads of sweat immediately began to form all over his body. Without lifting his head, he spoke. “Crimson Arc wishes to travel, Lady Wyn. She does not desire to be kept in a box, or a shelf, or a display.” Lorelei and Astarte both raised an eyebrow at the fact the dark elf had given a name (and gender) to his bow.

Wyn also raised an eyebrow at this statement. “It went by another name once.” She muttered, “Is it th- her desire, or your own?” she asked, lips pursed.

“She gives me guidance when the gods do not. I merely take her where she wishes to go. Her desires are my desires… She is the only reason I saved the two foreigners. Please leave her with me Lady Wyn, I will guard her with my life.”

Wyn was silent for a time, as if contemplating his words. “You’ve given her your own blood, haven’t you?” she asked at last. “She craves it above anything else. The life force that all hold dear. Did you… Did you feed her their blood as well?”

Julles merely nodded in response. Huge freak alert, Lorelei thought with a small twitch in her eyebrows.

“The intent may have been noble but she is only an addiction.” Wyn rubbed her brow. “I think it would be best if I leave this matter to the two of you. Lorelei and Astarte.” She vaguely looked between the two. “He has used the bow upon himself and the both of you. I can only surmise the reason you are alive is because the venom was sucked from your veins. That said, it is a dangerous tool. So, shall he keep it to safeguard it, or shall it be given over to me?”

“Easy! He keeps it. He saved our lives with it, plus I don't even remember feeling like anything was being sucked out of me so it’s all good!” Astarte said with a giggle.

“You were unconscious for it all…” Lorelei muttered. “Anyway, any t-tool worth using is dangerous to some extent. Like j-jackhammers.”

“So be it. You may keep her, Julles. Upon this condition; Never take life without cause, no matter what she whispers. Do you understand?”

“She has never guided me astray. I understand.” Julles nodded solemnly.

‘Good. Then this business is concluded.” Wyn smiled. “Now let’s fix you up properly.” She said, walking over to Astarte. She bent over to look down at the girl, then touched her forehead. “Your blood shall be replenished and any lingering toxins will dissipate. Plus you look dreadful, do not take offence but it is simply the truth.” Her voice became playful as cuts, blemishes, marks and any other disturbances disappeared from Astarte’s skin. Even her hair seemed to grow lush and vibrant. When this was done, she walked towards Lorelei. “Would you like the use of your eye back?”

“Y-Yes please.” Lorelei said and pursed her lips.

Wyn touched her forehead, the changes that took place in Astarte recurring upon the cat girl. As her skin healed, her fur took on the same lush tones as Astarte’s. It was an instant beautification the likes of which they had not known. Even still, there came a slight pressure in her forehead and then a sudden pop- her eye had regrown. “There. One should not be blind, even partially blind, if it can’t be helped.” Her hand touched Lorelei’s face before it dropped back down at her side. “Is there anything else I might be able to do for you?”

Lorelei kept her eyes closed as she took off her eyepatch and stuffed it into one of her belt pouches. “Y-You’re a Goddess, right Lady Wyn? Could Gods bring my people b-back if I garner enough favour?”

“I am but you must keep it a secret, for your own safety.” She muttered, “To bring back a people would be a heavy task, Lorelei. Even for a God. If any could do it outright… It would be she who called us here. I have never met her, nor do I know where she exists upon this plane. Perhaps…” Her voice dropped off and she turned back to the crimson throne. She raised her arm and a shallow dish lifted from the floor and hovered over to them.

“This is an artifact that allows one to see what they desire most in the given moment. Maybe if you think of your people it can show you something? Or it may not. You should know there is a price to pay. A drop of blood, if you are willing.” The Goddess said in a hushed voice.

Lorelei pursed her (strangely smooth-feeling for once) lips and pricked a finger with one of her claws, letting the drop of blood fall into the bowl. It shimmered for a moment, before settling on a foggy reflection – One that looked like what she recognized as a photograph, one that actually used to exist, where she was little and a large cloaked man held her. Many people with blurred faces stood to either side of them in many different poses. Lorelei rubbed her eyes and looked away.

“It d-didn’t show me my people…”

“Then it was not your people you desire most.” Wyn’s sad voice came. “I am sorry.”

The catgirl sighed. She had no idea who the people in the reflection were, but they must have been important. If only she could remember them… “Thank you f-for all the help and the gifts, Goddess. I’ll take b-better care of my eyes and Astarte from now on. We really g-gotta keep moving, though- There’s a famous s-smith in the Lonesome Masters’ Hold that I n-need to meet, and we’re already running late…”

“So yeah! We’re shooting on outta here! I wonder if Hills will be there? She’ll be so jealous of how I look now!” Astarte laughed evilly as she floated towards the exit. Lorelei nodded her head at Wyn and followed Astarte.

“I’m afraid you would not truly be able to leave this place that way.” Wyn said sheepishly. “We are deep underground, far beneath the light of the sun.” She rubbed her hands together awkwardly. “But… There is another way, you might enjoy. Have you ever heard of the Shadow Bazaar?”

“Huh?” Lorelei’s ears perked up.

“Big Smoke mentioned it a couple times!” Astarte perked up as well, both girls were interested. “I thought it was just an Umbra word for toilets, though. You’re telling me it’s an actual place?! A not-stinky place?!”

Wyn nodded. “To enter, you only need shadow…” She whispered, producing from her hand a small pouch that she outstretched to Lorelei. “And something to trade.”

Mortie gang



Big Smoke ran through the rainforest, ducking and weaving through the wild vegetation. Behind him, ancient kapoks exploded into splinters or were thrown far away, because chasing him was a whole school of gigantic flying fishes. Who would’ve known that they would find his trail of smoke that appealing? That they would have wanted to eat him up so much that they were willing to come crashing down onto the earth just for a chance to catch him?

The shadow panted. He was not used to walking, much less running, and so his newly materialised muscles struggled to keep up with what he knew his body was capable of.

Finally, he ran into a particularly dense part of the rainforest, so dense that the canopies did not allow the flying fish to track him from above. Instead, they had to wiggle their way into the forest and look for him the old-fashioned way, and fish were definitely not good at tracking others that way… Or so he hoped.

He ran into a shallow cavern and threw himself onto the ground against the cold muddy walls, sitting to try and regain some of his stamina.

The last few days had been horrible for him. Ever since he’d gotten separated from his friends, nothing had gone right. He’d lost his possessions and parts of his body, he’d been tracked and hunted not just by beasts but by non-shadows. He didn’t have much left in him. He was far away from home, lost in a strange land and completely alone.

Memories flashed across his mind. Even though he was in danger, even though he could hear the slithering and clumsy tracking of the Iwaks above ground.

He remembered his first smile, when Astarte had given him his name and gender. He remembered the first tears he shared, when Lorelei had come to him crying in the middle of the night.

Faces he’d never made. Words he’d never used. He truly was glad to have chosen to follow the cat and the spirit, to have disregarded his purpose as a servant of trade. It was the only and best decision the shadow has ever made in his short life. To think that only a couple years could be so meaningful to a shadow…

He exhaled. The earthen flow within his body dissipated. His form became diffuse and weak once more. And then he saw the pair of glinting, wide set eyes in the darkness at the depths of the shallow cave. The nesting Iwak lunged at him, mouth gaping, and engulfed him.


“I can’t wait to find him! He always runs off in the worst direction, y’know!” Astarte explained with a giggle and a hop.

“He went v-very far this time…” Lorelei sighed, her tail swishing behind her and her ears laying flat against her head. She kept walking, however. It would be easy to locate Big Smoke, considering Astarte’s strange ability to track residue… And apparently, following the path of destruction through the rainforest was the correct way to go. Lately, she seemed to only ever chase trouble rather than evade it, Lorelei thought.

Astarte smacked her lips after licking a particularly pulverized tree, spit out a few pieces of bark, and nodded in satisfaction. “Yep! Big’s that-a way!” She grinned, pointing at the densest part of the rainforest, only visible from so far away due to the lack of canopies or tree trunks in the way.

Lorelei nodded in response, walking a bit faster but not without noticing the schools of Iwaks circling the rainforest above, nor without noticing the several sets of eyes watching her and Astarte’s moves from the shadows of the rainforest. Hungry, hostile eyes. “G-Gotcha. Keep an eye out, Astie. We’re being w-watched.” The [Feline Tinkerer] said as she pulled out her collapsible quarterstaff and pretended to use it as a walking stick.


It happened in the blink of an eye.

One moment, Astarte was leading the way through the thick rainforest. The next, half a tree trunk exploded into bits and the self-proclaimed goddess was tackled into the thorny overgrowth.

Screams rang out. A massive shadow stabbed into the overgrowth with two of its many legs. Lorelei’s eyes widened, and she sprung into action. She blasted forward toward the monster and swung her quarterstaff, hitting one of the monster’s legs so hard that it cracked. “[Sweep]!” She shouted. The skill activated and carried her strike through, fully breaking the leg.

The monster had eight legs, though. While it screeched in pain, it lashed out with three of its other legs. Lorelei barely dodged the wild barrage until she had to deflect one of the legs that would’ve gone through Astarte’s prone body. The catgirl overextended to defend her friend.

The monster pressed its advantage and lunged forward and before she knew it, Lorelei’s side hit the ground and the full weight of the monster trapped her legs.

The spider-thing stabbed down with two legs. Lorelei deflected the strikes and ignored the searing pain on the left side of her face.

As the monster prepared another barrage, Lorelei took in a sharp breath and struck upward with an open palm. “Lion’s Palm!” The Monster was launched off of her with yet another sickening crack.

Lorelei’s stance wobbled as she jumped up to her feet. She felt a warm liquid drip profusely from the left side of her face. Her vision blurred.

When the spider monster started to charge, an even bigger shadow crashed through the rainforest and swallowed the monster whole. Several cracks echoed through the damp darkness as the spider traveled down the gigantic fish’s throat. One tense moment later, the fish turned and looked at Lorelei with big glowing pink eyes. She couldn’t make its features out too well, due to an aura of shadow around it, but she could at least tell that it wasn’t hostile and not only because it was an Iwak.

Immediately, the catgirl stumbled over to where Astarte was writhing and sobbing on the ground, holding back a gasp as she saw the massive gash across her friend’s shoulder and the black coloration and horrible swelling that the wound had.

Lorelei dropped to her knees and fussed over the wound, not sure where to start. They didn’t even have any antivenom on them! A cold sweat broke out throughout her body. Was she poisoned as well? She touched the side of her face and her hand came back completely coated in blood. She also couldn’t see out of her left eye. What was she supposed to do? What could she even do?

Lorelei felt like throwing up while Astarte whined and cried there on the floor. She had training, so why…! Wait, she had training? Besides Lektoria’s? Before it all?

“I-I’m… scared…” Astarte muttered, barely audibly.

Lorelei’s heart skipped a beat. “Focus on water, Astie! P-Please! Just like earth makes us stronger, water will cleanse you. It has to!”

Astarte gagged. “B… Big… Vestec…” And then she passed out.

“No! Wake up, d-dumbass!” Lorelei sniffled.

Two more spider-monsters appeared from the tops of the trees, and yet Lorelei couldn’t even find the strength to stand up.

A bowstring sung, and the sound of flowing water filled the air. Two crimson projectiles found their targets, whose veins exploded in a shower of boiling hot gore.

Lorelei fell to the ground next to Astarte, her eyes only seeing the dark skin of her savior’s legs as he ran up to the group and started to look through his pouches. Then, she passed out as well.

Pointy-eared Dreams


He awoke with a start. His heart beat in his chest, his stomach rumbled angrily, and his head felt like it was being pounded by the waterfalls behind Allara’s hut.

“Who… Am I?” He asked the air breathlessly.

The taste of warm iron. The gentle breeze caused by a butterfly’s flight. The weightlessness of clouds and the sense of finally arriving where one was meant to be…

Julles groaned, holding his temples as if doing so was any help in attempting to avoid his head splitting apart. He shakily got off his bed (made out of dead grass and full of dead insects) and out of his hut, taking in a deep breath of the fresh, non-smoke filled air of the wide outdoors.

A desire to run free, to seek new things and to meet and talk to new people washed over him. It was unlike him. It made him a little bit sick to his stomach.

Julles hobbled over to the creek that passed by his hut and drank some of the crystalline spring water.

The grinding feeling of earth forcing its way into his veins, tying him to the world’s roots. The desire to uphold tradition and punish anyone who broke it… Plus the impulse to break those traditions and see them and the world bathed in beautiful flames, all swirled inside his heart, which felt heavy with the shadows of the forest and as murky as an abyss.

And yet… It all came back to the flames. It was always the flames.

Julles closed his eyes tightly and scratched his face so hard he drew blood. That blood dripped freely into the creek, dissolving, flowing… Up?

He had to raise an eyebrow at that and follow its trajectory, taking his sight off of his reflection in the water. Blood had never flowed upstream, had it? Yet this time it did, and it flowed for a good few feet until it went down and into the muddy and rocky bed of the creek. A pulse of warmth emanated from that spot, and Julles had to do a double take as he saw an old skeleton, almost completely hidden from view by the overgrown grass and mud that had come to cover most of its bones. Its arm, broken, reached towards the creek and right at the bloodsucking spot, which continued to draw in every single one of the drops of his blood that fell into the water.

He felt cold sweat run down his spine. His jaw and arms shook as if he was freezing, despite it being midsummer. As he knelt into the crystalline water and dug into the ground with his bare hands, he felt a sharp pain in his left hand and winced. It was bleeding, but it wasn’t a normal injury – Instead, the blood flowed too fast and too precisely. Again, it went down into the muddy depths, but this time the ground shook a little, then a bit more, until something shot out from the mud and into his hand. A bow, too beautiful and too solid to have been made by elf hands. It was a pure, unadulterated black with streaks of liquid red flowing along its length. Its drawstring was red and warm, and in the back of his head, Julles could hear its heartbeat, synced to his.

He looked between the bow that had just forced itself into his grasp and the skeleton. Whoever had owned the thing before died while reaching, desperately, for it. Julles nodded his head at his now-predecessor, and rushed back to his hut.

Darkwood Adventurers!

It had been months, but, at last, the seekers of the pie were ready. They’d been gifted the mighty power of leveling which Jeon Du Termas claimed was the very same that had once let him slip free of all realities and into the void beyond which had been the pathway to his divine power (the god had left out the indeterminate amount of time he had spent starving to death) and been dubbed the Forest Furies. Then they’d trained hard and gone on practice missions during which they’d lost two of their number ( to injuries) and gained one more.

As such when they approached the place which they had been told the secrets of pie could be found, Pebble (level 15 [traveling tosser]), Fern (level 16 [adventurer]) and Stag (level 11 [spearelf explorer] and level 4 [hunter]) were joined by Lorelei (level 3 [beastkin adventurer]), whom they’d met by chance at the weekly dance party last night.

The four of them were crouched in the underbrush, and looking out at the wide patch of dead earth that lay beneath the towering tree within which their prize was said to lie, who’s branches blocked out the sky high high above them. There was only one question.

“Wait. So. How do we get up there?” Stag asked from the back of the group

Lorelei smirked and showed one of her clawed hands. “Easy! I climb up and drop a rope for the r-rest of you guys.” Without waiting for the others, Lorelei rushed forth out of the bush and gracefully climbed the tree. One, two, five, ten meters up to the first branch, where she deftly grabbed one of the tools she kept on her toolbelt at all times - a hammer - and used it to nail a big metal stake into the tree through a hoop at the end of her rope. She uncoiled the rope, which she’d kept tied around her waist, and let it drop down all the way to the ground. After testing if it was secure, she sat on the branch and waved at the rest of the adventurers, her tail swinging gracefully behind her.

“Is that… stable?” Stag asked only for fern to brush past him saying “Probably, lets go!” followed by Pebble, who was going to get that pie or die trying.

The monsters who were going to try and make sure Pebble ended up taking the die option took that moment to introduce themselves to the group. A rotting corpse of a hammerhead shark with glowing red eyes proceeded to poke its head down out of the foliage of the big tree to see what the banging noise had been about. Upon seeing the cat it made a guttural hiss -which she responded to in kind with one of her own as she crouched down low- and lunged at her, while a small swarm of other undead tonnikala started to rain down out of the branches with vicious intent.

“Look out!” Stag called out in warning, while Pebble was already trying to help, calling out “[two birds!]” before tossing a stone with remarkable strength that proceeded to thwack into a skeletal piranha and then defect off at a right angle to smack another one with perfect precision, causing both to drop from the sky.

More were coming however, but Lorelei didn't have the time to worry about that. She dodged the undead shark’s charge by throwing herself back-first onto the branch and in a smooth fast movement, Lorelei’s clawed hands swiped at the shark numerous times, severing some fins, popping an eye and disemboweling it. The shark’s rotting maggot-filled guts spilled all over the catgirl, and the shark continued to crash head-first against the tree trunk with a sickening crunch.

The flimsy undead construct practically pulped itself against the thick as a clearing tree trunk and the remain’s dropped down, lifeless, towards where the rest of the [adventurers] were dealing with the rest of the trouble.

“Oh no no no what do we do?!” Stag stammered, backing up as a stinky ol salmon came swimming at him, only for Fern to dart ahead of him and skewer it with her weapon

“It’s just like spear fishing!” she told him, before gagging at the smell of her kill. That was all the opportunity another tuna thought it needed to go after her, causing a panicked Stag to call out “ah, look out, [quick stab]!” as he rushed forwards and then his spear moved in a flash to skewer the tune before it could strike Fern.

“Wow. Hey, not bad. I should get in danger more often if it's gonna get you to get over your nerves” She taunted him, before flicking the sammon off of her pointed stick and charging another, leaving the worried Stag to go chasing after her.

While the elves dealt with the droppers down below the slowest of the past it’s sell by date seafood introduced itself to Lorelei as two coconut crabs crawled down the tree trunk, their big old meaty claws twice the size of her clawed hands beared.

“Wao!” Lorelei hissed and deftly jumped back along the tree branch, giving herself a little bit more time to delve her hands into her tool belt pockets. Coming up empty, she instead dropped her whole back onto the branch and pulled out a long collapsible quarterstaff from it. As the crabs caught up with her, she gagged and spoke, “[Sweep]” And in one fluid motion, swept both crabs off the branch and sent them reeling into the depths of the forest. “N-Nasty things-” She whispered before dropping to her knees and leaning over the branch to throw up due to the scent.

“EW. Hey watch it where you chuck up up there!” came a shout from Fern who had narrowly avoided being spewed on while the rain of vomit was the last straw for stag, who upchucked against the tree. While they were dealing with that nastiness, Pebble was toughing out with a scrunched up nose as she used a big rock to smash the last of the rotten fish’s brains out.

“Well. This has been the worst” she complained, as she discarded the stinky rock and grabbed a rope and started to climb, leaving Stag and Fern to follow once the latter had patted the former on the back sympathetically.

“Sorry about this. Most of the ‘training’ we’ve been sent on has just been dangerous not. Well. gross. Never seen anything like this before, and I hope we never do again” Pebble apologized to their newest member once she caught up with her, though Lorelei was too busy retching to reply.

“Yeah what was this?” Fern asked as she got up into the branches

“Maybe it's the g-g-g-ghosts. They've found a way to come back and haunt us for eating them!” Stag suggested worriedly.

“G-Ghosts or not, they’re disgusting… I will have to wash my clothes l-like 20 times once we’re done here…” Lorelei said in between gags, then sat up and wiped her mouth. “S-So the reward should be at the top, right… There can’t be many more c-corpses left…”

“We can only hope,” Pebble agreed, before grasping a branch and beginning to climb. They got about two meters before suddenly bursting out into a clearing, the thick covering leaves smothering the light having suddenly thinned out, being replaced by a looser knitting of spaced out strong branches. These would have been harder to climb between, if there hadn’t been the strangest thing.

A village, grown out of the tree itself. Branches twirled and twisted and wrapped around each and grew in unnatural ways other to form walkways, streets and stairs connecting stylish homes with leafy roofs. All this spireld up and up the tree, forming a lovely looking community that even had denizens. At least that was how it looked at first, but the humanoid figures they had spotted were not elfish in proportion, squatter and wider as they were, and, as the keen eyes of the elves could see, they were not made of flesh but rotting wood.

They stumbled through the tree village, patrolling its walkways on the look out for intruders.

Those intruders ducked back into the foliage as one of the red eyed monsters started to turn their way. It paused, groaned, when it found nothing to see, and then kept walking along the branch road they had popped up next too.

“Ok. not over” Pebble noted, while Stag asked the obvious question:

“What are those t-t-things?” to which Fern’s only answer was “Whatever they are, they can't smell worse than the tonnikala”

“Smell or no smell, I don’t think we c-can take on so many of them… There must be dozens…” Lorelei furrowed her brow, and after a while nudged Fern with her elbow, “Time to sneak. I’ll go first.” The catgirl nodded, her tail accidentally slapping Stag across the face as she snuck out of the bush and across the branchy street to hide behind a hut. The others followed after her, and just like that they began to make progress.

By being patient and using as much cover as possible and thanks to Lorelei’s superior hearing, they had soon made it over half the way to the top.

It was when they used a tight and particularly humid alley as a hiding spot that things went wrong, as what they had at first thought was a regular mound of plant-y rubbish was actually a tree-zombie covered by rubbish. As the group of adventurers leaned against each other with Lorelei peeking out of the alley to decide when it was safe to move on, the tree-zombie-hobo awoke and sat up with a groan, its glowing red eyes looking straight at Pebble, who was standing behind everyone else.

“Huh, what was that noise?” the [thrower] said, turning, only for her eye’s to go wide as she beheld the lumbering monster coming at her, arm’s ending in splintered claws outstretched. She bit off a scream and stumbled backwards, only to bump into Stag’s back and for them both to go sprawling.

“I got you” Fern whisper shouted as she nimbly stepped over her companion’s forms and drove the spear deep deep into the rotten chest of the zombie, a victorious sneer on her lips, only for that smile to be wiped away as the organless undead was barely slowed and kept trying to push forwards, impaling itself further on the spear to get to her.

“What the- ah!” Fern cried out in pain as it slashed at her, thorny claws nipping at her belly before she could pull fully away, leaving a pair of bloody streaks on her torso. The adventurer cursed, and delivered a knee to the thing’s own stomach, but as there wasn’t one under there all it did was crack the wood more, and did nothing to stop it from grabbing her by the arms. The thing held tight onto Fern’s arms and growled at the elf, baring its gaping hole of a maw.

Before it could try anything however, Lorelei jumped over the two elves still sprawled on the floor, hissing. The thing hesitated, and that short moment was long enough for the catgirl to close the distance and break one of the thing’s arms in two with a lethally quick ax kick.

The thing screeched and recoiled and let go of Fern, only for Lorelei to press forward. She lacked the weight to tackle the thing to the ground, so instead she baited it out and used its first strike’s momentum against it. By taking a hold of its arm and sweeping her legs against its rooty limbs, she brought the monster down, a crack echoing down the alley as Lorelei stomped on the thing’s shoulder, disabling its other arm.

As the tree-zombie whined and groaned, flapping about on the floor, Lorelei panted. A moment later, she wiped bits of wood and sap off her clothes and went back to the edge of the alley, checking to see if any other entity had heard their little encounter.

The numerous sets of red eyes already looking right at her when she peaked out made it safe to say that they had. The zombies were coming. At least they were slow.

Back in the alleyway Fern was hissing with pain as she used a combination of some gummy wax and a relatively clean leaf to primitively bandage her wound shut, her [field aid] skill doing most of the work of actually getting it to stick. Stag meanwhile had pinned the un armed zombie to the floor with his own spear and was nervously looking on as Pebble inspected it

“It's just wood. Not like the kin who have guts. Just rotting wood all the way though” she noted, as the cat girl returned with the bad news.

“Bad news guys, we g-gotta run. The whole town heard us!” She explained quickly, her eyes wide as a pair of (adorable) saucers and ears flat against her head. “They’re pretty slow, so we s-should be able to outrun them all the way to the top.” She didn’t sound too confident, but came up to Fern and patted her on the shoulder. “Y-You okay? Can you run?”

“Yeah. I think I can-” Fern began to reply before Stag wrapped an arm under her shoulders for support. “Oh. Ok yeah definitely good to go now” Fern correct herself, giving Stag a smile before Pebble started to shoo them forwards.

“Get a move on you two, I’ll stick to the back. Slow them down even more” she then said, tossing a stone up and catching it “So let’s go!”

And go they did, racing upwards on their long elfish legs and nimble cat feet, with Pebble dancing at the back and giving the front runners of the growing horde a pin point rock shot in the knee for their exceptionalism whenever her skills came off cool down.

Ahead, at the top of the tree, sat of all things a tower, the upper most oranges all joining together to make a mighty spire that looked out across all of the forest. The winding road they were on led up to two mighty gates, which were, oddly, open slightly ajar rather than sealed shut to keep intruders out. Not that the elves noticed discrepancy, the lot of them having only just learned what a door was during their sneaking, and the why’s where less important than what it let them do, which was squeeze in through the gates and then slam them shut behind them, sealing them in the tower that became swiftly besieged by the undead hordes.

As the lumbering dead moaned and clawed at the door the [adventurers] took in the room at the bottom of the tower, which was fairly specious, and featured mainly an reception desk (ot that they knew what was) varios chairs to sit in while waiting to be served and, behind all of this, a shallow spiral staircase leading up the wall.

Behind the desk bathed in light shining in through amber windows, sat a much more put together wooden undead, clad in a cloak of dead leaves, the hood of which framed a considerably more detailed head stylised like a skull. It was casually flicking through the pages of a book that matched the description of what the [adventurers] where here for, but its red eyes flicked up upon hearing them enter and cleared its throat

“Greetings heroes, and welcome” it said with a polite customer service voice, before slamming its hands on the table and standing up and concluding with “TO YOUR DOOM! Nyeh he heh!” in a cackling voice.

“What.. Who?” Stag stammered, before being cut off by the undead’s introduction:

“I am Jim, the legendary, the magnificent, the stupendous, and mortal kind’s eternal foe!” he declared, arms spread wide and grand as himself proclaimed titles

There was a pause and then Pebble said “Well I’ve never heard of you?”

“Till today, Nyehehehe. My legend starts here, and it will spread far and wide. If you survive to tel lthe tale that is! Now, prepare yourself for my most devious plot yet!” he said, before grabbing a gnarled wooden staff sitting by the desk, thrusting it forwards and shouting “furniture attack!”

At his word’s the dead wood making up all the rows of chairs around the sprung to life and began kidna awkwardly stumbling towards them on stiff legs while the litch sprinted up the stairs, pie making instruction based brize tucked under one arm, cackling wildly as he went.

Lorelei kicked over one of the attacking chairs and watched it wiggle about until it stopped moving, tail swishing curiously behind her. “T-This is kinda cool!” She mused, casually knocking over another chair that had approached her, then another, watching each one until they stopped moving.

It was a stare from Stag that broke her out of her reverie. “Oh! Um… Right, l-lets catch this wooden prime!” She shouted with renewed vigour and deftly ran past all the wiggling chairs and up the stairs after Jim. Vines dropped from the ceiling and wooden roots emerged from the walls and floor to try and trip her up, but Lorelei’s catlike agility made it seem like she was effortlessly dodging every single trap. As she neared the top of the stairs and saw Jim run off into a long hallway, she shouted. “Hey, gimme that recipe book or I’ll turn you into c-charcoal! Come on guys, keep up!”

I’d like to see you try nyeh heh heh!” Jim jeered, before shouting “zombie ambush!” as the doors on either side of the hallway were flung open and a mini horde of lumbering dead shambled out to give the [adventurers] a bad time. Lorelei could do nothing but jump back with a yelp as she narrowly avoided being grabbed by the zombie horde. “W-What the heck kinda skill is that? Cheater!” She hissed and stretched her arm towards the horde, “[Zombie Retreat]! [Zombie Kill]! [Cat Luck]! Ugh!” When none of the things she shouted actually did anything, she huffed and stepped back even further .

“You can’t just make up skills,” Pebble informed her, before shouting “[enhanced improvised toss]” and throwing an undead chair at an incoming zombie, both it and the chair exploding into splinters.

“Yeah well then where the heck did that thing learn to do all this stuff!” Fern complained as she and Stag arrived, their [traversal: forest] having proved to have a second use of avoiding tripping over an re-animated forest of root and vine as well.

“M-maybe focus on getting him to stop?” Stag countered, while using his spear to flip an aggressive bit of furniture off of the staircase and sending it smashing down to the floor.

“Right. Arms, legs and heads, let’s go!” Pebble tried to regain order, before hefting another of her diminishing supply of stones and aiming for headshots with them. Fern scowled, speared another zombie and cursed as she ran into the same kind of problem she had already had: Pointed sticks were not good against the lumbering dead. So she ditched it, yelled “[improvised weapon]” and then ripped a door off its wooden hinges and started using it lengthwise as a battering ram.

“What!” Lorelei didn’t know what was happening anymore, and just decided to go along with it and followed Fern closely, kicking away any tree zombie that strayed too close from the group’s flanks. “[Cat Kick]! [Cat Kick]! [Cat Kick]! [Cat Kick]!” She yelled many times, even though she didn’t have any skill with the words “cat” or “kick” in it.

Eventually, they had pushed through the thickest part of the horde and found themselves at the foot of yet another staircase, though this one was a spiral kind and went straight up, with windows (more like holes) looking out towards the forest. It wasn’t like the group could stop to admire the view though, with the undefeated horde hot on their tails. “A-All of this to learn about pies!” Lorelei screamed as she began running up the staircase, lungs starting to burn.

“My life is on the line here. Maybe. Just keep running!” Pebble ordered as she raced ahead while Stag helped an increasingly winded Fern climb up the staircase until, at last, they reached the top of the tower for a dramatic final showdown.

They emerged under a blood red sky and once again found Jim opposite the stairs, only this time stood atop a set of battlements with only a bearskin rug between them and him. As they arrived he swept his staff towards them and cackled “nyeh he he, you may have bested my hordes, but are you ready for my final and greatest minion!” he declared before thrusting the staf up dramatically and crying out “rise my creation!”

And rise it did, the ‘rug’ pulling itself off of the ground to reveal itself to be the, rather beaten up, remains of a mossbear, hulking brutes of the forest, big as a grizzly and twice as tough.

“Lets see how you deal with-” Jim began, only to be drowned out by a triple cry of “[forest-kin slayer]” followed by twin shouts of “[rock hard throw],” “[piercing javelin]” from two of elves as they unleashed all of their long cooldown priority target skills at once on the rotting form of a beast they’d had to deal with before down in the darkwoods.

Stag’s last (and only) spear lanced out, stabbing right through the mossbear’s eye, Pebble’s small stone hit with the force of big rock and caved in its other eye, and finally Fern just ran at the blind thing, jumped and brought the door she still was caring down in an overhead smash with a cry of “[expend weapon]”, the door dealing a spectacular blow that brought down the moss bear before it literally disintegrated into ash.

“This…” Jim trailed off as his final gambit failed spectacularly.

“Ahh,how the turns table! N-Next time, get yourself a few elf friends. Maybe then you’ll stand a chance!” Lorelei grinned and cracked her knuckles as she approached Jim “Any l-last words, machine?”

“Last… words? Last words! ” the lich cried back as he as scrambling up onto the battlements to and right up to the edge, before turning with a leer and holding up the book and began to threaten them with “not one step closer or I’ll-” only to receive a rock to the chest that sent his pitching towards the edge and his arms pinwheeling for balance. At that exact moment, Lorelei shot forward and snatched the book off of Jim’s flailing arms and watched as the villain fell off the tower.

“Heh. Neat.” She muttered as she stowed the book under her arm and walked back to the group, only for a cackling to rise back up from below the tower and the litch reappeared, seeingly flying.

“Foooooool!” Jim cackled, before taunting “remember this day, heroes, as the day you alost stopped the legend of Jim! nyehehehehehehehe!” and then rising up further, revealing himself to be standing on the backs of two flying sea turtles that swift bor him away front the tower while he laughed at them from on high.

He also ducked the rock tossed at him this time.

“What a weirdo” Fern commented, before sitting down, the exertion and wounds catching up to her, Stag sitting down next to her and adding “well at least it's over”

“Thanks to you, Lorelei. You really saved my skin there” Pebble said , her eyes locked onto to the book the catgirl had under her arm

“That eager for a p-pie, huh?” Lorelei sighed and handed the book to the elves, “Well, it was fun tagging along with you guys, and I got to prove that short people are as cool as any e-elf.” She declared and nodded to herself with a satisfied grin.

“Yes!” Pebble practically snatched it from the offered hand and then raised it up triumphantly and delcard “pie!” which was greeted with a shower of confetti bursting out of the now open pages in celebration of a quest complete. Then there was a little pause before Pebble noted “wait… how do I use this too make pie?”

She frowned and brought the book down and after turning it over a few times and poking it figured out how they worked and started leafing through it. “it’s… pictures. And little squiggly things” she said, describing her interpretation of the contents.

“Guess we’ll have to figure it out” Fern said “later. Sit down and rest Pebble. We still need to get back down and past all the ‘zombies’ and stuff”

Stag moaned at the prospect, till Fern punched him lightly on the shoulder “ah come on, don’t be like that. Least it’ll be easier”

“Mmm, short rest, and then we get back at it” Pebble agreed, first sitting, and then laying, down as Jeon’s system made up for his delayed gratification of the pie book with some instantaneous rewards for surviving his treehouse of dread puzzle:

An absolut bevy of level up notifications.

And after that, well, zombies never stood a chance.

Wonderful Acquaintances

Before arriving at the Mesa


Mawazo the prophet and Mahara the prophetess did not know what they were to each other. Amongst the many things they had not been told, that had swiftly become the most acutely inescapable. Were they the children of the Anath and wonder - and so siblings? Or were they the creations of those two mighty beings, and so a divinely ordained couple? Were they to be platonic companions- in fact, were they to be companions at all? Were they to separate and, separately, see to their prophetic duties? And if they were companions or siblings or a couple, were they equals or were they leader and led, commander and commanded, master and slave? Prophet and prophetess though they were, and granted seeing most discerning at that, the thick fog of the ineffable will and intent of the gods was impenetrable to them. “And it’s probably for the best!” Mahara declared one day as Wonderlust, shrunken to a fifth of his normal size, trudged through the muddy forest. Mawazo glanced at her bemusedly. They had both been quiet for days and he could not fathom what she could be referring to. She ignored him and continued gazing out into the dark forest. It had escaped neither of them that they were being watched by odd creatures stalking in the shadows. They did not seem harmful, though they also did not appear desirous of being detected. And so the prophet and prophetess, independently and without communicating to one another, decided to go on as though they had no perceived them.

They eventually found themselves by a boggy lake, from which trees grew, and decided to stop there for a while and let Wonderlust roll about in the water and muck as he seemed to so love doing. The two pale humans, eyes as dark as night and lips as crimson blood and whose hair was as black silk, sat on their wagon in stoic silence. Now and again Mawazo scratched his long, curly beard of ebony, but beyond that they neither looked at each other nor spoke. It was neither an uncomfortable silence nor a particularly joyous companionship. It simply was.

It was at the edge of Mawazo’s vision that a pair of orbs of light appeared in the total darkness of the forest. Golden and perfectly round, they stared at him intently before tilting towards Mahara and then coming back to him. A voice came from underneath those orbs, youthful but with the telltale rasp of someone who’d done their fair share of shouting in the past.

“Jeez, w-will you two do something already? It’s like I’m tailing Primes…” The orbs flickered a few times, until from out of the darkness walked out a young humanoid. She had a healthily bronzed skin tone, along with most importantly a pair of cat-like ears and a tail. She moved gracefully and silently, so much so that had Mawazo not been looking at her directly, he probably wouldn’t believe that she was moving at all. “Anyway, who are you two? Humans? T-Too white to be- Not machines either. I’m Core-Lorelei, by the way, am I right to assume you two are related to divinity in some way?”

The two gazed at her for a few moments, then Mahara spoke. “I am Mahara. I do not know if I am related to the gods. They never told me. It is a pleasure to meet you, Core-Lorelei.” After a pause, Mawazo spoke up. “I am Mawazo. I also do not know what relation to the gods I have, for they never spoke of that. It is a pleasure to meet you, Core-Lorelei.” They were both rather monotone. Wonderlust leapt from, covered in mud, and circled around Lorelei excitedly, who immediately grinned and patted the big softy’s side. Whatever life Mawazo and Mahara lacked, the strange flying-running lizard seemed to have amply. “I have not seen your like before, Core-Lorelei. Are you, perhaps, related to the gods?” Mawazo asked.

“I’m not, funnily enough! T-The cat ears are a rare s-sight in this forest.” Lorelei wiggled them for emphasis. “You’d do well to know that people who look very unique are most likely closely related to the gods. You two, f-for example, are chalk white with jet black hair, which never h-happens in normal humans. Plus you have a massive Atson-Nin for a pet, and a wagon that should never have been able to r-reach this deep into the woods. Therefore, you two were definitely made or mutated by the Gods!” Lorelei declared, placing her hands on her hips and puffing her chest out. Her teeth would’ve glinted had there been any significant light source around. “I-I gotta say though, I’m glad to finally meet some normal people. One of my companions is a bit, uh, off I guess.”

The prophet and prophetess looked at one another for the first time in… well, a long time, and seemed to notice the features Lorelei spoke of for the first time. “Unique?” Mahara asked quizzically, looking away from him and to Lorelei once more.
“Atson-Nin?” Mawazo asked, likewise looking away from his strange twin and returning to Lorelei.
“There are others… with you… like you?” Mahara added stoically.
“It is no secret: we were made by the gods. It is true.” Mawazo intoned. He looked sorrowful, but nothing in his voice suggested that it was the case. It seemed to just be his face.
“The Anath and wonder.” Mahara agreed.

Lorelei pursed her lips. “T-Those names mean nothing to me, I’m not from around here. Don’t be sad, though, being made by the gods is usually a good thing. You’ll probably never get kidney stones, for once!” Lorelei chuckled and walked closer to the twins, nodding at Mawazo. “An Atson-Nin is what the small version of your beast of burden is called.” She then looked at Mahara. “And nah! I-I don’t remember much, but I know I’m the only one of my kind left. It feels f-familiar, to be honest.” She shrugged.

“So what’re you two doing here? Do you like being s-stalked by shadows and cats?” The catgirl asked, her tail swishing almost hypnotically behind her as she put her arm on Mawazo’s shoulder and leaned her weight against him.

Mahara stared at what Lorelei was doing with inexplicable shock. “What are you…” she began, then her words seemed to evaporate on her lips and she simply gazed at her slack-jawed, while the catwoman smirked back rather smugly. Mawazo looked from Mahara to the catwoman’s arm on his shoulder. He had only ever been touched by the god. He had not enjoyed it very much. This was different though - not as invasive.

Ignoring - or perhaps failing to have noticed - Mahara’s shock, he responded. “We’re just wandering. We’re meant to teach… or warn… or, um… something. I think if we keep moving we’ll eventually work it out.” He sighed and looked at his feet.

“Waow, you guys are c-clueless for real.” Lorelei sighed. “Maha, gimme your hand.” She requested while offering her own hand to the pale woman and stepping back slightly from Mawazo, before offering her remaining hand to him as well. “You too, Mawa.”

The two humans looked aghast and brought their hands to their chests almost simultaneously. “Give you-” Mahara began.
“My hand?” Mawazo finished.
“That’s terrible!” Mahara cried, tears welling up in her eyes. “They weren’t made to be given.”

“H-Hey! Now wait just a- Gosh!” Lorelei groaned and just placed a hand on the twins’ shoulders. “Feel that? That’s warmth. R-Real warmth, not the kind that burns. Forget about all that crazy god quest stuff for a second and focus on what’s right next to you. From your reactions I c-can tell you two have never touched anyone else before. You should start now, physical contact is one of the best things in the world. And after that, just travel and see things and enjoy the w-world, one step at a time. Like adventurers! ”

The two blinked for a few moments, and then sat there quietly, focusing on the feeling of Lorelei’s hand on their shoulders. Even through the thick fabric of their clothing, they could feel the incredible warmth and life. Slowly, Mawazo raised his own hand and placed it curiously atop that of the catwoman. The movement immediately drew Mahara out of her reverie and - for no reason she understood - she frowned. “Hey!” She spoke sharply, causing the man’s hand to flinch away from Lorelei’s. He glanced guiltily at his cold twin, then coughed.
“Adventurers?” He asked Lorelei, desperately ignoring the daggers in Mahara’s eyes.

Lorelei desperately tried to hide her laughter. “Uh, y-yeah!” She nodded, “You know, go on trips and do things that make your heart beat faster and harder in your chest, meet new people, fall in love, get mugged and scammed… The works! Say uh, are you two going to travel to any place that has a lot of shiny rocks anytime soon?”

The two were quiet for one long minute, clearly ruminating too deeply on the catwoman’s words. “Do things…” Mawazo mumbled under his breath, staring at his feet again.
“To make your heart beat faster and harder…” Mahara continued.
“Meet… new people.” Mawazo added.
“Get mugged and scammed.” Mahara said. Mawazo stiffened and looked at her.
“No, she said something else before that.” He advised gently. Mahara raised an eyebrow.
“No she didn’t.” The woman assured him calmly.
“I am sure of it, there was one thing before that.” Mawazo insisted with the faintest smile.
“You must have misheard.” Mahara responded, a larger smile breaking out across her face. It gave Mawazo pause, and he stared at her for a few surprised seconds. “Mawazo?” Mahara asked, after he had been staring for an oddly long time.
“Oh, uh. Yes. I… I guess I must have. How odd.” He looked away, his eyes returning to his feet. Mahara turned back to Lorelei.
“I don’t think we had any plans, really. But I do remember flying over just such a place before landing here.” She gave the wagon a once-over, then glanced back at the catwoman. “We can take you there if you like.”

Lorelei removed her hands from the twins’ shoulders to allow herself to fist pump the air victoriously. “Yes! Transport obtained! T-Thank you guys, I’ll go get my friends and meet you back here in a couple hours, sounds good?” She asked hopefully.

Mahara nodded simply, and Mawazo followed suit after a few seconds. And with that the energetic catwoman was off into the foliage and quiet returned all about them. The prophet and prophetess sat staring at where she had disappeared for about an hour, and then Wonderlust came up onto the wagon, now cat-sized, and distracted them from that. He did not stay long, however, for he was soon off into the bog. Mawazo sat back and sighed. Mahara glanced at him. “Uh-” she began, but then stopped. His eyes flickered toward her.
“Hmm,” he grunted. She almost winced at the sound, and promptly reddened.
“Uh, yeah. Ahem.” She cleared her throat and fiddled with her fingers. He scratched his beard and repositioned himself for comfort. And perhaps accidentally grew closer to her. She patted her dress down, stood slightly to get a wrinkle out, then sat back down. Perhaps, by no conscious intention at all, shifting closer to him. They sat straight and rigid and tense, by one another. If he focused he could almost feel her warmth through the air. Or maybe that was just his imagination. No no, he was sure it was her warmth. He leaned back. It was nice.

Mesa Monks


Lorelei yawned and stretched as she watched the gypsy wagon ride away and waved a last farewell at her newest friends, Mawazo and Mahara. They were innocent and pure and naive, sure, but Lorelei found those traits to be refreshing when presented in the way that the two snowflakes had done. She smacked her lips a couple times, ruffled her short hair a little and moved her ears around a little before turning towards Astarte, who was already busying herself by poking a small round cactus nestled in between two of the reddest sandstone boulders she’d ever seen.

The cat girl sighed but couldn’t help the smile that came to her face. Ghosts of memories tried to resurface, like a particular scent or a strange prickly sensation across her ankles. After a while, the ‘goddess’ poking the cactus turned sharply towards Lorelei with a quizzical look in her eyes.

“Lore, why is this fruit so prickly? How am I supposed to eat it?”

“That’s not a fruit, it’s a cactus. You don’t eat it, not that I know of. It’s too small to hold any s-significant amount of water, too, so don’t even try any funny business.”

“Aw.” Astarte groaned, but for the first time ever actually listened and stepped back from the threatening little grenade.

“So… A-According to those two, there should be some ‘shiny stuff’ somewhere on this mesa. Let’s start looking, Ace. The sooner we find metal and someone that’s got the t-tools to work it, the quicker we can make ourselves some nifty equipment, like those forks I m-mentioned.” Lorelei explained, knowing full well that Astarte had probably forgotten by now what the whole point of leaving the darkwoods was.

“Ooh, yeah! The forks! By the way, can any of you feel that?” Astarte sniffed the air and dropped down into a prone position, ear against the sandy soil.

Lorelei watched the scene play out with one of her eyebrows slowly raising against her will, and eventually brought her barely-held-together-with-string messenger bag up to her face. “She’s d-doing it again, Smoke…” Lorelei whispered into the bag. A bit of smoke leaked out.

“Master Astarte can feel currents and track down residue, Lorelei. This shadow trusts its Master.”

Finally, she licked the soil, chewed on it and swallowed it. “Mmm! Yes, this is top-quality mesa dirt, and also yes! I’m sure we’re pretty close to a place of power, Lore. Wanna check it out?”

Lorelei psed her lips and crossed her arms, letting her bag fall to her side once more. “Aren’t places of p-power like, super dangerous though?”

“WHAT! Where did you get that from? You silly kitty!” Astarte giggled and scooted up to Lorelei’s side and pulled her by the wrist, walking in a seemingly random direction.

“H-Hey! I don’t think there’s anything down that way- Traveling without a set direction is bad news, too, we shouldn’t do it!” Lorelei desperately tried to reason with her, but Astarte wasn’t having it. In the end, the cat girl resigned herself to listening to the wannabe goddess for once and followed her.

For days on end.

The mesa was a weird place, clearly originally a sub-tropical lush-ish land which had risen high above the clouds into broken apart plateaus usually covered by a thin fog. The local flora and fauna had obviously struggled to adapt, something Lorelei realized thanks to the underwhelming biodiversity in the area. The few living beings that survived what must have been a divine cataclysm in the past had spread out unpunished, giving the unusual combo of visuals such as tall pine trees surrounded by cactus bushes.

The location had already been inhabited by sapients. Small bridges, often way too flimsy to be above endless ravines, connected different plateaus when the mesa broke apart, other times, they would have to rely on Lorelei making ropes or finding a rock outcrop or redwood tree that had fallen across the fissures. The closer they got to the center, the rarer these struggles became.

Finally, they dove into an area where the mist was very thick, to the point the two had to hold hands or risk losing each other. Their main guidance became only Astarte’s intuition, at some point, it felt like the mist enveloped them and almost seemed to try to lead them astray, until, at the last minute, it seemed to give up and slide away. Not long after that, they got up a hill and saw in the distance a tall layered stone tower with a whole complex of buildings around them. The echoes of a murmuring crowd and the smell of barbecued carp filled the air. A smell that immediately made Lorelei’s mouth water and stomach rumble. Astarte laughed at her for it.

- 2 -

Lektor perched on a stone pillar, as she typically liked to do, and observed the students as they fought each other hopelessly, the endurance of the human body was kinda pathetic, but she was sure she could train it over time. Her focus was suddenly broken as she noticed something walking past the main gate, where typically people would only leave.

It wasn’t just a single something either, but three. One of them had a body that lacked earth but was abundant in wind and water. The other had a body identical to that of the humans she’d grown so accustomed to but held a fire that threatened to spill out and burn itself out. And the last one had a body that looked like one of the chimeras’- With the one difference being that her feline ears and tail were not made of spirit, but of flesh and blood. Her fire burned brightly, and deep within her there was the glint of something she had not seen before, something smooth and tempered.

“We’re here! Place of power reached, I know it took a bit long, but what do you think Lore, Big?” The one with the brightest flame asked of the others, seemingly oblivious to everything.

“This shadow enjoys its Master’s joy.” Came an echo-y, disembodied voice from within the bag carried by the tempered one, who spoke next, rather incredulously. “You really haven’t n-noticed the God sitting on a pillar by the tower’s entrance? We’re soo gonna be ash-ified.”

Lektor observed the three stooges at her gate and continued to be extremely confused over it all. ”By the Core, who are you people?” she jumped down and made the whole of the place shake, her students immediately turning to look at the strangers with equally confused glances. The cat-eared stranger smirked nervously while the human grinned with stars in her eyes.

”A Chimera, a human and one of the shadow stalker things. But… my temple was supposed to turn all of you away.” she tilted her head, now towering over the newly arrived. ”Oh. I see what is happening here. You are…” for some reason strange words came to her mind and she almost lost her train of thought, almost. ”Foreigners. Not of this world. So you break the ward of my temple. It is set to ward off all those who leave it or who are born elsewhere on this planet. You… are neither of those. Well, at least not the two with legs. The shadow would likely be expelled if not the bag.”

She raised her golden gloves and grabbed Lorelei by the head, tapping her with a serious look, scanning her body using vibrations, a serious look that turned into a smile. Towards Astarte she would just rub her chin, before she started eyeing downard. All of the sudden, the goddess poked the “human” at her midsection and then seized the arm, squeezing at them. “Gods, are you a woman or are you a slime? I have never met someone so flabby.”

The human huffed. “Rude! I’m a Goddess just like you, you… You… Yoou… Pervy catbird?”


“Sorry about Astarte’s language, Goddess, she was dropped as a child and has been flabby in both body and brain since then.” Lorelei said and knelt with her head down.

“What! You never bowed for me before!”

“Huh! I wouldn’t guess the one with a punkish fashion sense would be the polite one. Do you want to join me for the cocoa ceremony?” she proposed before staring at Astarte with a far more imposing stance, letting the full gravity of her role as the earth goddess weight down on the faux-goddess, who shrank a little with an actually scared look on her face. “And you. Slime girl. Here is a uniform. You will do five laps around the temple then complement it with a brick lifting session. The material is improper, but I will carve a woman out of you.”

Astarte, or ‘Slime girl’ now, quickly nodded and took the uniform. “Y-yes ma’am! Where should I change into the u-uniform?”

”There is a changing room by the bathhouse. Or find a room for yourself, there is plenty of empty spots after I kicked out a whole wave of brats out of this hall.” Lektor’s voice had even changed and she had to put great will in not having the sides of her mouth turn upward in a smug smirk.”Now get moving, if I needed another statue standing around I would carve it myself.”

She then clapped her golden gloves together and turned to the punkish cat, who sported the biggest smirk she’d ever seen as Astarte ran off to presumably find a room. ”Now, where were we? Right. Hot cocoa time with my new feline pal.”

- 3 -

After Lektoria responded to Lorelei’s request for metal to fix her gadgets with a request of her own, the cat-girl decided to stay in the Temple for a while and learn their ways. It was good to have a set place to rest her head every night, and the incredible quantity of new faces to meet and new voices to remember made it so her stay in the Temple was always stimulating.

Before she realized, the next few months had passed by in the blink of an eye. Every day had been busy as Lorelei delved head-first into the Temple activities and training. She quickly became popular due to her proficiency at the Martial Arts, Acrobatics, and most subjects involving her hand crafting skills, but above all else she was also very highly sought after by the many cliques because of how open and welcoming she was.

Her time off was spent either helping others with things they struggled on or hanging out and laughing alongside whoever sat next to her during the many designated break times throughout the temple days.

The trio had been kept so busy (yes, even Big Smoke, who no one was actually sure if he would benefit from physical training) that they had not been able to see each other past a few distant glances and nods here and there. It was only as their 11th week at the Temple came to a close that they were finally allowed to reunite in the form of a competition.

It was a simple 100m run, pitting twelve different runners from different cliques against each other in a free-for-all. Lektoria clapped her hands and everyone sprang into a run. It was all over in less than 10 seconds, with the first, second and third place being taken by Hills of Bountiful Harvest, Gold Fanged Cat and Slime Girl respectively.

Lorelei herself got fourth place and Big Smoke smashed his previous record by placing 6th, mostly by hitching rides within the other runners’ shadows.

It was a surprise to everyone to see Slime Girl (Astarte) become such a fast runner and Lorelei and Big Smoke wasted no time walking up to Lektoria to request a feast for their friend.

It was Lorelei who spoke first, “Goddess, she’s earned it hasn’t she? She’s not flabby at all anymore!”

“This shadow agrees. Its Master has exceeded its expectations. When its Master first came into the world she could barely walk.” Big Smoke spoke, looking perhaps a bit more solid and denser than he did weeks ago.

Lektor had spent the whole time with the group poking all over Astarte, before letting out a prideful single tear. ”Ah! My little slime baby has grown so much! Look at her. You could grind a knife on these muscles.” she pulled the ex-goddess into a tight hug, and while that would be fatal to most, Astarte barely felt it aside from the fear that was clear on her face.

”And yes, she is more solid and denser, which is why tomorrow she is invited to a special class along with the other two winners and a previous winner of the brick breaking competition.” Lektor announced proudly. ”Oh, and of course, a feast will be served today, we even brought over some special snacks from the Shadow Woods, Master Shadow Hopper.” she looked at Big Smoke with a certain smirk, using the name the students had been calling the very popular Umbra.

“This shadow is eager to feel the taste of Home. It is grateful to you, Goddess of Earth.” Big Smoke bowed as low as he could, which was pretty low considering he didn’t have a lower half to worry about. “To think this shadow would be able to taste Chungusite Skewers once more…”

“They are a delicacy for real. Say, Goddess, could we be allowed to dress as we wish for this feast? I love the uniform but I feel like I’d lose something important if I had to wear it any longer.” Lorelei asked, patting her uniform for emphasis.

The goddess tilted her head from side to side. ”Very well. I guess you are not exactly equal to my students, and only a few hate you for being different, and half of those few were humiliated in that whole ‘arc’ with those smug twins from the Slide-Down-The-Snowy-Peak clique. Just make sure your clothing is properly washed for the time, when you arrived your smell was quite terrible.”

The goddess then sighed. ”To continue on my harsh honesty, Big Smoke, I am sorry. But I did make a certain promise to one of the students who won. Please forgive me for my betrayal.”

Just before she had announced that a new arrival had made it in, it was Hills of Bountiful Harvest, who stood at the door with her typical ‘aura’ of smugness. No, not only her, but most of her clique, The Phantom Wings. An all-female clique that had a certain fame for causing trouble.

“Neat that you will get your special feast later, but my feast, like my position, comes first” she announced, giving the group a little clap before leaning forward. “And we wanted a special guest to pamper about! And none other than Master Shadow Hopper will do for me~” she rose her hand and made a signal.

The Phantom Winger students marched forward, an army of the prettiest chimeras about, most carrying big two handed fans. Lektor had discovered these time of focused air blasts were some of the few direct ways to keep the Umbra away, and she had given that knowledge to a troublesome group. They started to fan poor Big Smoke about, slowly forcing him towards a scary group of giggling cute girls. To his credit though, Big Smoke seemed to embrace the treatment and happily engaged the Phantom Wingers as they blew him all the way into the darkest recesses of the Temple.

“I had been wondering for a while whether the Umbra had any kind of reproductive instinct, y’know! Since he never tried to pull anything on me!” Slime Girl quipped, having freed herself from Lektoria’s grip sometime throughout the commotion. “Maybe we’ll see shadow bunnies hopping around soon? Shadow Hills, huh…”

“Are we completely sure he’s not just playing along thinking they’ll just make him play a game of DOS with them?” Lorelei sighed.

”Maybe they will just play pranks on him or try to puff smoke ribbons into his head, maybe… terrible things will happen tonight. There are certain abysses it's best not to peek too far into. Whatever drives Miss Hills is one such a thing. We can only pray for Mister Big Smoke.”

The goddess shook her head in true resignation. ”Nevertheless. Let’s set up the details of the feast, and let me also give Miss Slime the location of the special training. Miss Lore, there will also be a reward, if smaller, to you. I have set aside a room with a forge and a supply of a variety of metals. I do not understand most of what you speak but will that be enough for your purposes?”

Lorelei snapped up to grin at Lektoria, wiggling her ears happily. “Y-Yes! Definitely! Thank you so m-much, Lektoria!” She shouted and jumped up to give the Goddess a hug.

- 4 -

The special training room was a field of perfectly cut grass above the main tower of the building, no walls would stop one from falling down but there was a winged goddess overlooking it all.

By the time Astarte arrived both Hills and a tiger man she would identify as the Golden Fanged Cat were already there, standing up and still, hands raised, in a tree-like stance perhaps.

”Ah, Miss Slime. It is good to see you.” Lektor swooped in. ”I hope your group had fun last night? I was unfortunately too busy to participate in the feast.”

“Oh y-yeah, for sure. Big Smoke was covered in some kind of goop when we got him back. What even was that, Hills? It tasted weird.” Slime Girl shuddered, “So what are we doing today?” She asked even as she assumed the same stance as the other two.

Hills for once did not answer, she seemed to be deeply focused. And when Astarte took that position, she could see why. This whole location, by accident or design, had a massive amount of earth mana flowing through it, the presence of the goddess only increasing it. It would resonate with Astarte as well, perhaps not for the same reason it resonated with the two earthling chimeras by her side, but it was still something she could tap into with the right technique, in fact, upon closer inspection, she already had. The perceived density she had gained under Lektor’s training was in part due to some of this Earth element infusing itself to her.

”One of the greatest weaknesses of our body is its systematic elements, water and air. Most fatigue, most injuries, are not born from a failure of flesh or bones, but of damaged blood vessels, lungs and other key organs.” the goddess explained, giving all three many memories of bruises and injuries. ”The stone too cracks, but at a much lesser rate. What I will teach you three today is a technique that allows you to imbue some excess earth energy into the water and air elements of your body. I like to call it the “Mud and Dust” technique, but it perhaps doesn’t give the right image.” she added with a chuckle.

While all three kept their eyes closed, Lektor called forth someone. ”Miss Spring Blossom, please come here.” everyone had a certain will to peek, but the very gravity of the earth's energy seemed to keep their eyes closed, still, they could feel the flow of the earth mane through the newly arrived student’s body.

“Hello Miss Lektoria. I am ready to showcase to our friends this technique.” she had a gentle, soft voice, giving a true ladylike aura. With a bow to the teacher, Blossom took a similar stance to them, but quickly shifted her arms, as if clawing and hoarding the mana.

”Miss Blossom’s willingness to test her limits with me is how I discovered the path to this.” Lektoria started, as the student started to technique, the Earth mana now flowing along the streams of water mana in the blood vessels and organs, as well as filling her lungs. ”It will strengthen all aspects of your body. Strikes against you will not cause even a minor bruise lest they are strong enough to crack bones, your brain won’t be jostled about when you move, a strike to the chest won’t take the wind off your lungs. And even your arms will feel more solid, acts such as dual wielding weapons or striking with full force with your fists will become much easier.”

Blossom finished her spell, a controlled, angular flow of united water-earth and wind-earth now all over her body. The other students started to follow the steps, meanwhile, Lektoria gave a few warnings. ”It will however fatigue you a lot, avoid running while this technique is active. And uh… Drink a lot of water after finishing it. As Miss Blossom discovered, use of it seems to increase the chance of kidney stones, a pain you would all benefit from not knowing.”

As Astarte finalized her spell, she could feel her body become much stronger and resilient than before. It felt like she’d recovered a tiny fraction of what she used to be a long time ago, but of course she wasn’t able to maintain the spell for long as soon as her memories got in the way. Once she safely dispelled the energies that she’d invited into her body, she dropped to a sitting position on the grassy roof while panting.

“Wow… That’s good magic. Better than anything I ever created, anyway.”

Lektor rose up an eyebrow. ”I would not say it crosses into the path of magic just yet. You are not really generating or even converting energies. But I will not overthink a simple term like this.”

A loud THUMP startled Astarte, but not the other two who were still trying to perfect the spell, showing lesser skill than Slime Girl had. The source of the loud noise was Blossom dropping a few wooden pillars at the center of the field, probably training dummies. This was the first time the two saw each other, Spring Blossom had pink-ish hair and a gentle face, plus the body of a 2.2 meters tall amazoness clearly influenced by her bovine spirit, as seen in her horns.

“Oh, she already woke up? That was fast. Here, have some water.” the gentle giant smiled and handed Astarte a bowl of fresh water she had been carrying on her head, as well as a smaller one to serve as a cup, both of which Astarte took. She’d had enough of pain for a whole lifetime already, so she took Lektoria’s warning about kidney stones very seriously. She drank several cups of water and nodded thankfully at Spring Blossom, then looked at Lektoria for a moment before speaking.

“So, I have a confession to make…” Astarte began, gulping, “I’m not actually a Goddess anymore! I lost my powers, and I’ve been looking for a way to get them back…“

“Oh. Is that soo?” Lektor purred, but then undid her entire playful mood noticing how serious Astarte was about. ”Right. Hmm. Homura would be a shot at this, but if she didn’t give you direct divinity, she may have some opposition to the concept, plus, she is beyond this planet from what she told me, and I am a bit of an earthbound goddess so I would not know how to meet her.”

Then something clicked. ”But ah! Perhaps the Goat boy will know. Ahem, I mean Jeon. He is the god of adventures and quests, if you told him your tale, he would surely be enthralled beyond belief.”

“I have never met these brothers and sisters you just name-dropped. The Homura one sounds like a big shot though. Then again, this John guy…” Astarte furrowed her brow in thought. After two seconds, she shrugged “Whatever! At least I have two names to chase. Thanks, uh… Sis?” Astarte said awkwardly. “Goddess. Lekt-”

“Haycha!” Slime Girl was saved from this moment by the bunny chimera, having woken up and deciding she wanted to test herself against the wooden pillar, carving it with fifteen kicks before she stood back and just went “Wow!” with a smirk, patting her legs as she did not feel a hint of pain or wear down.

Lektor sighed. ”You can go back to CatBird if other terms are complicated to you.” she confessed to Astarte. ”But Miss Astarte, I am sure your Umbra companion, Mr. Smoke, is from the area where Jeon is active, that is why I expected you to have a hint of that. Ironic no? That you seem to have arrived so close to the person who can help you, and then moved a third of a continent away from that.” notably, this was the first time Lektor had bothered not saying the other name. Astarte nearly teared up at that.

”But, I am glad you are here. You, Smoke and Lorelei. It has been fun. But if you must continue traveling, I will also not impede it.”

“Yeah… Lorelei’s on a bit of a quest to remember her past and fix her stuff. Right now, she’s probably busy in the forge you built for her. She’ll probably spend a whole week there, at least. Then we’ll have to go seek the help of a more esoteric deity for those memory bits. I bet she’ll be surprised that I remember what comes next in our journey.” Astarte smiled and stood up. “Is there anything else to the lesson? I need to go for my morning run, I can’t slip up or I’ll look like Hills before I know it.” Astarte smirked.

“Oi, you brat.” Hills pouted at that. “You wish you’d get this flowing form of mine~” she added with a wink.

”No flirting during class please.” the rock cat goddess added with an obviously forced sigh. ”Hmm~ Well, there will be new things we can try, I can built some stone walls to see if you can run through using these powers~” there was a mischievous grin. ”But overall, you did it to an excellent level~ Bet your strong hands will also be super useful for Lorelei with her metal thingamajigs. The way the kitty has to put all her strength to mold those things is cute but also worrisome, one of these days she will fall into her forge and make herself into a marketable iron keychain.”

“She’s too quick on her feet to fall at all, but I’ll ask her to make us matching keychains! Not that I have any keys.” Astarte giggled. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, Hills isn’t the only gym bunny around.” With that, Astarte took her leave.

New Starts


Astarte sat on a pile of moss in the corner of Big Smoke’s rudimentary treehouse, watching every single one of Lorelei’s actions like a hawk. That was because the young cat-girl was about to finish making the artefact she’d been crafting for the better part of last night.

As Lorelei strung up one last bundle of leaves onto the rough framework of an umbrella, she sighed out in joy and relief. A quick shake and patdown of the umbrella had it pass the most basic of integrity tests which gave Lorelei the confidence to clap her hands twice, prompting a dark smoky liquid to drip into the treehouse through the leaf-covered ceiling to pool at the centre of the room and then take the familiar spiky form of Big Smoke. It (he?) looked at Lorelei with his two small, glowing, unblinking pink eyes.

“There w-we go, Smoke! Now you don’t have to fear the sun!” Lorelei grinned, and tossed the umbrella over to the Umbra, who caught it and started to inspect it.

“You spent the entire night tying leaves to wooden sticks. How come you’re grinning when it was so boring just to watch you do it?” Astarte asked as she rested her head against the wall.

“Maybe you’d understand if you tried making stuff y-yourself instead of sticking all the things I make in your mouth, Astarte.” Lorelei chuckled and stuffed the extra bits of string and wood leftover from her latest project into one of her pouches.

“You’re so rude! I’m a Goddess, remember?!”

“Smoke, remind me who it was that punched a hornet nest?”

“Master Astarte.” Came Big Smoke’s echo-y reply.

“Hey, I only did that because-!”

“Who was the one t-that was about to stick her arm into a crocodile’s open maw?”

“Master Astarte.”

“But it looked so funny!”

“And who was it that chucked my b-booster bracelets into a bottomless ravine as I was about to finish repairing them?”

“Master Astarte.”

“Aww, come on~” Astarte whined and pouted, pulling herself into a little ball in the corner. Lorelei saw this and shared a look with Big Smoke, smirking.

“She’s doing it again Smoke, she thinks w-we’re gonna fall for it!” Lorelei snickered, stood up, and gave a quick stretch with what almost sounded like a meow at the end. Astarte stood up as well and huffed.

“Whatever! You guys are mean, I’ll curse you when I get my powers back. Bye-bye, see you never!” She declared and jumped out of the tree house. Almost immediately afterwards, a crash and the sound of snapping ropes echoed through the darkwoods, topped off by a high-pitched feminine scream and even more of that all-too-familiar whining and sniffling.

Both Big Smoke and Lorelei peeked out of the treehouse to see Astarte strung upside down, dangling from a tree branch with a thick rope tied around her ankles. She sniffled as she made eye contact with them and saw them trying their hardest to contain their laughter.


Isekai Adventures


“... die on me…”

“… old man!“

“Striker’s eve…”

“... point taken…”


And then darkness.

Next thing she knew was a tingling feeling on her scalp, followed by her opening her eyes to see a blur of activity and then nothing. She recognized herself as Lorelei, and she knew she was an Astalonian, but she couldn’t remember much more.

It was pretty dark, and there were tall trees all around. Lorelei found herself laying down in a small crater on the ground, most of her clothes tattered beyond use or repair and all her equipment non-functional.

First things first, she sat up and wiped her face ocean of mud and moss and then discarded all her damaged stuff. All of it but a piece of machinery she recognized as a botboard, which she slung over her shoulders and secured with a strap.

Once she stood up, she noticed the two pairs of eyes looking at her from within a bush and waved towards them. For some reason, she wasn’t scared.

Out of the bush floated a young woman wearing a tattered white dress and long matted lavender hair. She had bruises and scrapes all over, but still sported a massive grin on her face as she approached, her feet never touching the ground as she did so.

“You’re alive! And you have cat ears and a cat tail!” The woman said breathily, lunging forward and trying to grab Lorelei’s ears. It was an unrefined move which Lorelei effortlessly dodged. The woman crashed into another bush shortly after that.

At that point, another creature floated out of the bush, this one large and spiky and pretty intimidating. Its eyes however were a beautiful shade of glowing pink, and the way it floated as if it was smoke calmed her somewhat. Its voice was also as smooth as its movement.

“This shadow apologises about its master’s behaviour. This shadow believes you must be hungry.” The shadow-creature said with a slight bow of its smokey head, “Apple?” It offered an apple to Lorelei.

“Knife!” Lorelei muttered to herself, rummaging through the many pouches in her tool belt, to ultimately sigh in defeat as she came up empty handed and decided to just grab the apple and bite into it. It was juicy and sweet, unlike what she thought an apple was supposed to taste like. “Waow! This is too good, man! What’s your name, dude?”

“This shadow has been named-”

“Big Smoke! That’s his name. Fitting, right?” The floating woman interjected, just now freeing herself from the thorny bush she’d flown face first into. She had thorns stuck in random places.

“Whew. I mean, sure. And yours?” Lorelei tries to ignore the thorns.

At that point, the woman feigned offence and crossed her arms. “How mean! You must know who I am!”

Lorelei stared at her, blankly. After a few seconds, the woman looked at her nervously. “Wha- Seriously? Lavender hair? White Dress? Extremely intelligent? Doesn’t ring a bell?”

“Nah, not really.”

“What!” The woman rubbed her temples. “Astarte! ASTARTE!” She groaned. “Goddess of Magic and… Stuff. What’s wrong with mortals nowadays? Sure I jumped into a rift out of boredom, but come on, I should be famous no matter what world I’m in, everyone loves Magic!”

Lorelei tapped her chin and hummed, her tail swishing cautiously behind her. “Meh. I’m more into machines than magic, to be honest.”

“Big Smoke is sorry to interrupt. Night approaches and we must reach shelter for blood, bone and flesh. Small distance travelling that way.” The shadow pointed in a random direction.

“Let’s go then.” Lorelei agreed and started to follow the shadow-man. “By the way you’re clearly not a human like this crazy lady nor an Astalonian like me. What are you?”

“I’m NOT crazy nor a HUMAN! Ugh! I’ll teach you!” Astarte tries to cast some sort of magic spell at Lorelei, only for a sad and tiny spark to flop out of her hand and fizzle out mid air. She was ignored.

“Big Smoke is an Umbra.”

“Ah.” Lorelei nodded. “That doesn’t explain much.”

“Big Smoke knows.”

Lorelei blinked and sighed.

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