Status

Recent Statuses

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

Bio


Most Recent Posts

Tree of Genesis





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


***


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

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

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

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

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



Great City of Arborea

&

Ceres





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


***


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Great City of Arborea





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


***


“Cut it out, Master.”

“Huh? Cut what out?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“... Focus on the present, Phoria.”

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

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

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

Phoria nodded quietly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Uh… Phoria, we’re on duty.”

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

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

“... HUH?!”




Oraelia, Genesis & Illyd Dyll





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

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

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

Illyd strummed, friendly eyes watching Genesis.

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


The strumming stopped..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”Genesis wants a big brother to play with.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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









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

”Uwah-!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“N-not to my knowledge.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”Ooh...” Cooed Genesis almost inaudibly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

”Okay! Genesis will be a good girl.”

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

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

”Eek!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Tree of Genesis


I


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

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

II


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things were fun, she thought with all her heart.

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

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

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

III


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IV


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

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

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

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

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




The Tree of Genesis


I


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

II


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

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

Had it not done enough already?

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

III


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






The Tree of Genesis




Stone moved like water with just the right touch, and Aeinwaje certainly had it. With all the grace of a buck, the youngling Adler dashed in and out of the earth, turning solid rock into liquid and disappearing beneath it only to reappear dozens of feet ahead.

During his short existence-the timing of which he had long since lost track off-Aeinwaje had grown accustomed to his nature. The halo on his head and the knowledge within his cranium afforded him the ability to perform a great many “cool tricks”. At least that is what Lord Boris had referred to it as. Stone Swimming was just one of the many he’d learned from the god, and definitively his favorite. Why walk anywhere when you could prance through stone?!

How the animals did it, he did not know.

With one final jump, Aeinwaje reached his destination. In truth he simply decided to stop at the bank of a lake low in the foothills the Anchor for a drink. The crystalline water was almost motionless even as Aeinwaje stepped to look into its depths. A face that looked just like his stared back at him. Floppy ears, respectable antlers, shining halo, child-like oval face, flowing green hair, an oft-present grin, and green eyes. He didn’t know anyone as handsome.

Ripples formed at the water's edge as a small breeze carried through the hills, distorting his reflection. Frowning, he cast a gaze further down lakes surface and caught a different image shimmering in the liquid. This one was immensely tall, taller than the Anchor in fact. It’s entirety was cast in brown rivets, and it’s girth rivaled even Lord Boris’. It was a tree!

Aeinwaje traced the reflections up into the distance to where the tree stood, reaching into the clouds thousands of spans away.

”Woah…” he murmured to himself, attempting to wrap his head around the tree’s height.

He had to see it up close!

A spark flew off Aeinwaje’s halo. Could he leave his post? Maybe for a moment? He stuck his tongue out attempting to judge its distance from the Anchor. If he was diligent, maybe it would take a few days. Maybe another few days to thoroughly explore the tree and all the new things that existed there.

Absentmindedly, Aeinwaje shifted earth with a back hoof. Of course he could make it. And sure Lord Boris might get mad if he caught him slacking on the hunt-which he hadn’t been doing great at in the first place, tracking things took time.

A resolute huff. Like it or not, adventure called to him, and who was he to ignore it.

Without much less standing in his way, Aeinwaje dove into the earth. The tree beckoned to him.




The chaotic mass of green surrounding the great tree hummed with energy. Aeinwaje twirled about, gazing up at the canopy searching for sweet singing birds that did not exist back home. The stone birds were cool but not as colorful and as vocally gifted as these ones. He trudged deep into the green, taking in the fragrance of minty grass and the damp earth. Each breath was like water, fresh and cleansing, flowing freely into his lungs.

The dirt path ahead of him, decorated with outgrown roots and shining wildflowers began to descend. And the full might of the tree began to take shape before his eyes. The thing was massive. Too large to truly even describe. It’s roots swam through the earth, just like he did. It’s trunk seemed to be as wide as the Anchor! Could something like this truly exist!?

Surfacing from the rock and soil through which the roots endlessly dug, Aeinwaje truly saw the Tree… No, was it really a tree? It was too incredibly massive. Aeinwaje saw the entity and realized, large strips of bark and wood gave way to a hollow interior to the tree. From there, wherever the warm midday sunlight could not reach, Aeinwaje saw bioluminescent plants spewing their warm yellows, cool blues and refreshing greens everywhere.

And even from outside the tree, the openings were so vast that he could see the different levels in the tree. Once every 10 times his height or so, the tree would have a ceiling to the current level and use that to support the next… And every level was teeming with life. Flora, and lesser fauna all thrived.

As he tread deeper he could feel the earth rumble beneath him with activity. Roots fidgeted in the depths, squirming like ten ton worms cutting through solid rock. The idea was fascinating yet the feeling beneath his attuned body was rather uncomfortable. So he ignored it and instead thumbed the glowing plant life that surrounded him. The things seemed to almost recoil at his touch. Were plants alive too? Lord Boris hadn’t told him much about them, only that they provided great testing fruits. These however, seemed devoid of any such treats.

Frowning he made his way deeper into the tree. Here now roots seemed to squirm above ground, searching and groping for something, yet never finding. Wood moved unnaturally here, like serpents.

Curiously, Aeinwaje lowered himself to inspect a sliding root. ”Oh I certainly do not like that shit.” he coughed, goosebumps growing on the surface of his skin. His back thigh itched something fierce…

It was a root.

Somehow, the thing had snuck its way around him and was slowly brushing against the tips of the hairs covering his left back thigh.

Immediately the Adler jumped and slapped the root away. His heart pounding in his chest. The tree was messing with him. ”Hands off! he barked. ”Or roots...feelers off? Fock is this place?”

As he uttered those words, the whole godly structure seemed to… Exhale. The very air became thin, the space somehow felt smaller, and the roots tensed up and the light coming from the mushrooms and shrubbery dimmed. The light, the green and blue and yellow light from the plants soon revealed where it had gone. It coursed through the roots. Little vein-like structures inside them lighting up and pulsing all as one, the light being drawn from the flora all converging in one of the bigger arced roots of the underground level.

If one had spent their entire lives underground and had never felt the dancing of true light on their skin, one would believe this to be a star… A great light that banished all shadow and breathed and beat like a heart.

The root to which the bioluminescence went suddenly began vibrating. It emitted heat, and the flora around it lost color and withered. Several smaller roots made their way to the great root and hooked themselves to it. Most immediately burnt and withered, but the ones that survived the connection channeled even more light into the Star-Root.

The thin air hummed a song low and high. It wavered at the presence of the impossible light. It burned and boiled and froze and broke!

And then all was still.

The air went back to normal, the space recovered, and the great roots of the Tree God withdrew. All, with the exception of the great Star Root located twenty-three levels below ground. It was no longer blinding, and it no longer sapped its surroundings of lifeforce. Instead, a gentle pulsing of yellow light not unlike a heart’s came from the spot closest to Aeinwaje. Beckoning to him, drawing him in…

So he went, tentatively at first, but he grew bolder either every step, his halo sparking with divine energy in response to the phenomenon. It was mesmerizing in a way, the entire tree seeming to breathe with every pulse.

When he was but a step away from the Star-Root, when he only had to stretch his arm just a little bit more to touch the pulsing structure… The light vanished.

A moment passed.

The root cracked through the middle. It didn’t seem like a living material any more. Instead, when it cracked it began to collapse. It had become stone, and brittle. The massive root, several times Aeinwaje’s height and multiple times his girth, collapsed onto the mossy, humid floor of the Tree. It should have been catastrophic. It should have sent waves through the level, but… It was as if the brittle pieces of the root had become weightless. As they fell they became dust, and the dust mixed with the moss and the grass and the flowers, and soon the plants that had died, became dust as well, and the soil began the long road towards healing.

In the debris left behind by the vanishing Star-Root, however, light pulsed once again.

This time bright and localized. It shifted and moved. The dust covering the source of the light was blown away by an impossible breeze, and the form was finally revealed. A being made of wood, fibre and what looked like black hay. With two black eyes and several wooden horns crowning its head; with long leaves growing from its shoulders and the top of its back, and a large, flexible mass of fibre and hay tied around its neck.

It was a husk, for whenever it shifted and moved, the intense yellow light from within its body leaked out and showered the world once more in the beautiful light of creation-the light that had given life to it, and kept it moving and thinking.

The bipedal wooden husk lifted its face to meet Aeinwaje’s, its own stoic and covered in the remnants of sap yet to be absorbed by the light inside of it.

It felt like an eternity passed, and then the husk stood on two legs. Tall, but not quite as tall as Aeinwaje. Strong, but not quite as strong as Aeinwaje… With an untold amount of potential in its body, but still, not as much as Aeinwaje’s. A look of understanding came across its face, and it closed its eyes and nodded its head towards Aeinwaje, mouth spread into a thin, grim line. It stretched its jaw and several things cracked into place, then it spoke in a deep, grave voice like that of sumac honey.

”I implore you to turn back, Servant of Boris. The area further ahead is the heart of the Great Tree God, the First Tree, the Omnibloom. To walk upon it would be sacrilege of the highest degree, and the Tree of Genesis would surely seek to punish any trespasser.”

If one could describe the look upon the Adler’s face, they would call it pure excitement. A grin as wide as the tree graced his impish features. He barely looked at the tree thing, instead standing on the tips of his hooves attempting to look upon the forbidden area. ”Say, you think the tree would be cool if I peaked?! I came all the way down here! Does the tree know Lord Boris? How did it know I was one of his co-signs??? Do I smell like boar? Does the tree have a nose? Where in hell would it keep that focker?” Aeinwaje rattled off with no end in sight.

The husk opened its eyes again and regarded the co-sign carefully, then huffed and stood up straight, hands behind its back. ”I do not know what the Tree of Genesis’ heart looks like, no. You would do best not to go for a ‘peek’, however. The Tree of Genesis does not know the Lord of the Mountains, no. I do not know how the Tree of Genesis knew you were related to Him, it merely made the fact known to me. The Tree of Genesis does not have a nose, no. At least, not to my knowledge. And, if it did have a nose, I’m sure it would recoil at your scent.” The husk said with a dull glint in its black eyes.

Aeinwaje was abuzz with energy, trotting in place endlessly. His smile grew small. ”Ah well, that's disappointing. I really wanted to see a giant nose.”

The Adler huffed, discreetly sniffing his pits while masking it as a stretch. He coughed in disgust. ”Well, who might you be? My name is Aeinwaje the Adler.”

”I am the First Voice of the Tree of Genesis. As of now, I estimate I have… 31,535,985,880‬ seconds of activity left, assuming I return to the Tree of Genesis every 3,153,598,588‬ seconds for a proper check-up. You may call me, First.”

”Oh.... he began. ”How many days is that, First?”

”Approximately, 364,999 days… Or, 1000 years.”

Aeinwaje clapped. ”That’s a mighty long time! I don’t know how long I will live. But I’ve died once before!” A pause. ”We are both First. I guess that means that we will be replaced when our end comes….do you fear death?” he said steadily, his trot in place slowing gradually until he was still.

First watched, and then took a slow breath with all his body. ”You have stilled. Does it scare you? The end?” Its voice was slow and monotonous… And yet it betrayed the smallest amount of curiosity.

”I don’t know. But I don't want to experience it again. No one should have to. It is a curse” Aeinwaje spat.

First hummed, and walked past Aeinwaje as it headed towards the surface. ”Everything ends, Aeinwaje, co-sign of Lord Boris of the Mountains. Even Gods.” And without even so much a look behind it, it began to leave. ”... My most important directive is to ‘live’. So, I will leave this pod that has helped me sprout, and experience the world. Where do you come from, Aeinwaje? That shall be my first destination”

Expressionless, the Adler followed after the tree spirit, trotting to catch up to it. ”That’s why I came here. To adventure! To see things.” he intoned in response, pointing a little finger in the direction of Anchor once they reached the surface. ”I come from there, The Anchor of the World. I'm it’s Adler. Created to root out the devils in its corners.”

”I see. I shall travel to the Anchor, after my initial duties have been fulfilled. You may leave now or continue visiting the upper levels of the Tree, Aeinwaje. I have to… Process what being alive feels like. It’s strange...” First said quietly, sighing. ”Just a few seconds ago, I… Was not.”

The youngling giggled. ”Have fun with that. Not so weird once you get used to it. Oh! Can I visit see that one forbidden place too?!”

”I issued the warning, did I not? If you go below where I was created, you will die. After what you told me, I believe you are in no rush to die, are you?” First asked, heading towards the massive entrance to the interior of the Tree, and sitting down on a grassy mound in the middle. ”You may visit the upper floors. You will find fruit and some critters to hunt for meat, should you require sustenance other than sunlight, but i’m afraid there’s not much to see for now unless you’re passionate about vegetation as the Tree of Genesis is, Aeinwaje.”

”Anything worth hiding is something worth seeing.” Aeinwaje signed before shuddering. ”But if you're gonna put a killswitch on it never mind, you can have whatever that place is.”

Stopping a few paces before the First, Aeinwaje cracked his knuckles and stretched. ”Since everywhere else is off limits, guess I’ll see what this place has to offer.”

”Good choice, Aeinwaje. I will remain here for the time being.”

And with that the Adler’s body sunk into the earth and disappeared, his grin the First’s goodbye.




The Tree of Genesis


I


The Tree of Genesis watched an untold amount of time pass. As its roots grew and dug through the earth and into caverns, and expanded to all the land they could expand, it watched. As all manner of mundane vegetation was sprouted and spreadover the world by its roots… It watched.

First, insects came to life. The Tree of Genesis found them exhilarating. The way they moved, flew and interacted… It was all a marvelous show to behold. By the time the first massacres started, they had the Tree’s undivided attention. No insect and no plant would realize a whole colony of ants went missing one day, and no one thought twice about the time a beehive was dismantled by millions of ants and taken into the Tree itself.

For as long as the wars lasted, occasionally insects would go missing, never to be seen again.

Then the Insect God awakened, it did things with the insects, and it left.

Life was beginning to take shape after those events, and the moment that a wild stream of Mana coiled itself around the Tree-God, things began to accelerate.

A loud buzzing came from within the Tree. A low rumbling shook the ground. For a moment, all the insects froze and looked at the Genesis Tree.

The one who provided them with most of what they needed suddenly seemed to creak. Wood splintered, and swathes of thick bark fell off the surface of the Tree.

Slowly, from the dark depths of the Tree, a single tiny thing floated out. It seemed slightly translucent, and the way it kept itself afloat was strange. It exhaled little clouds of a cyan gas, and flat flowers of all colors on top of it flapped occasionally to steer its course.

It was slow.

A bee approached it and inspected the flower on top of the thing. It was a fully functional plant, and yet it moved. It flew, even.

A thousand other things similar to it, with forms varying from the spherical to the triangular and cubical, floated out from the darkness of the Tree. And then just as quickly as the event had started, it ended.

Bees went into a frenzy trying to collect as much of the floaty plants’ light nectar, and after they were satisfied, the little flying plants went to the sheets of discarded bark and landed on top of them. They excreted tiny amounts of translucent sap onto the bark to glue themselves to it, and they made sure the spots they chose got an acceptable amount of sunlight.

And like that, they spread and reproduced.

These tiny floating plants produce a light, easy-to-drink nectar and the sap they produce when they feel safe and satisfied is a powerful natural glue. Plus, they’re really easy to farm. These small flying plants are called Minus Pods.

II


The Tree of Genesis observed the almost imperceptible distortion of the Mana Stream around it whenever a creature passed through it. As an experiment, it released several dozen of the floating plants, but this time, they were massive. They produced enough gas to cover a clearing when taking off, but in exchange they needed to boost themselves much less often than their tiny counterparts.

And indeed, the Mana Stream reacted more to these big plants… Some of the plants, in fact, somehow became deeply tied to the Mana Stream, and rode on it as a highway of sorts to fly far up into the air and then off into the distance. These massive Minus Pods are called Magnus Pods, and the mana attuned individuals seek Mana Streams and ride on them to travel at high speeds.

III


At some point, the Mana Stream grew in potency and size, and the smaller trees around the Tree of Genesis were showered with extended exposure to insane levels of Mana. Most of these primordial trees went on to twist and change at their very core. Most of them had their bark change to a light cream colour, and the mana that flowed around and inside of them was unchanged and seemed to not affect the tree at all. However, upon closer inspection, The Tree of Genesis realized that the insects who made their homes on such trees were on average much healthier and populous that their average counterparts. This was due to them unknowingly turning the cream-colored trees into some sort of Focus, which in turn kept them healthy and protected them from lesser threats and diseases that could in some cases wipe out other colonies. These cream coloured trees are Alder Trees.

Other trees became white, their bark became soft, and their forms pointed in the direction of the Mana Stream closest to them. Mana that flowed in and around these trees found itself more calm and easily malleable. These white trees are Rowan Trees.

And finally, there was an… Unexpected set. At first, the Tree of Genesis had noticed it at night and was disgusted at its completely black colour and gray leaves. The Mana that flowed in and around it went wild and in turn corrupted the mana present in all living things near it, bringing with it disease and pain. Right when the Tree of Genesis started making moves to eradicate this unnatural tree however, dawn came. And with it, the disgusting tree became beautiful. It was the purest image of an oak tree, with a thick trunk and thick canopy. It was perfect, and the mana that had previously been wild was now calm and soft and the disease it had caused was completely healed by mid day. A dualist tree, capable of both disease and health depending on the time of day or night. These trees are named Hawthorn Trees.

IV


Time passed again. After regular intervals of time, the Tree of Genesis would introduce new strange plant life to the world. First it had introduced unintelligent tiny flora that could be farmed by insects much in the same way as livestock. Then it introduced bigger subjects, such as a mass of vines that buried most of its body underground and only surfaced once a week to gather sunlight and feed on any insect that was lured by its nectary scent; or a carbon copy of the mammals that enjoyed urinating on the trunks of the Tree’s smaller and less imposing children, but incapable of urinating and made entirely of plant matter instead.

There were many creations. Most of them made without much thought or consideration as to their place or purpose… And so, most of them were promptly forgotten and left to their own devices. Whether they lived or died, was up to them and the world.

But there came a time when the Tree stopped and considered what it was seeing. That time was when a biped mammal group arrived at the Tree of Genesis’ base. It cared not for the sounds they made and disregarded all of their intentions. It did not care when one of them swung a sharp rock at the Tree’s bark and marked something on its very flesh for eternity.

Still, the God did not interact with them. It did, however, watch them closely. They were one of a kind. Creatures capable of communicating so intricately with one another, of sharing ideas through the primitive sounds that came from their throats and mouths. They had a rudimentary grasp of tool usage, and covered their body in furs and leaves and rope.

It was on the thirtieth night, when the bipedal hominids had come to enjoy living under the canopy of the Great Tree so much that they decided to settle under it overnight, that the Tree saw fire.

The moment their kindling lit up and spread heat and flames to their neatly arranged pile of wood, the Tree of Genesis understood what they were.

Sapients.

The Great Tree God rustled. Its branches creaked and the dull moonlight reflecting off its bark seemed to lengthen and grow stark. The heaven-piercing tree loomed over the frightened sapients as they rushed to put out the fire, but it was too late. Great and small roots broke through the soil and surrounded the handful of nomads and in the blink of an eye, their panicked cries faded.




Arwen & Aella

&

Laurien

&

Li’Kalla/Ami/Silver


In




Sunshine After Rain







It wasn’t long before the smell of smoke drifted down into the Hollow. As close as they were to the Hollow City of Doveth, it was only a matter of time. They found themselves running, as people rushed past them, hoping to find some sort of salvation from what was happening to their homes. Arwen had quickly let her anger drown in uncertainty of what awaited her. Yet she couldn’t stop from feeling a certain sort of dread, the type that one wanted only to run from, but also attack head on. It drove her, even from the cries of Aella to stop. She had to find out what was happening, it only felt right.

And before long, she had her answer.

Through the smoke and fire of burning, crackling wood, she glimpsed an ethereal being in the street before her. Hair burning bright as the fire, almost as if it was flame itself and with eyes to match. It was female, for she wore no clothing upon her inky black skin. Her features were so unnaturally perfect it made her teary eyes wide with disbelief. With an outstretched hand, the woman beckoned to her, and Arwen slowly shed her worries and advanced with a smile on her face as the world burned around her...

Until Aella pulled her back, having tightly grabbed onto her sister’s wrist. ”Sis, what are you doing?! Snap out of it, that thing will burn you alive!” Aella screamed, raising an arm to shield her face from a gust of superheated air.

Arwen snarled as she spun around to face Aella, her face seething with rage but the minute she looked upon her sister, it was as if her trance was broken. ”A-Aella! I’m sorry, I don’t know what came over me.” She said, before looking back up the street. The woman was gone.

”Come on! We can’t stay here!” she said, beginning to pull Aella along as the smoke made her cough. The heat wasn’t making it easy to breathe either.

Aella struggled. She stumbled and couldn’t stop her eyes from crying. At a certain point as they walked through the inferno that the city had become, the edges of her leaves started smoking. And yet suddenly the air cooled down to a bearable temperature, and the flames seemed to keep back just enough, and the smoke cleared.

Ami emerged from the smoke behind them, a massive Molf trailing just a few steps behind her in turn.

’We have to leave Doveth. It’s not just the fire here, I can feel blood being shed almost everywhere around us… And there’s someone, no… Something else, among the attackers… Something unnatural.’

Arwen grimaced at the sight of Ami, but she could not help but cry out for joy at the sight of her Molf. ”Tashal!” she exclaimed happily, throwing her arms around the Molf’s thick neck. In return, the creature began to lick the top of her head. She looked away and up at Ami, before being assaulted by Tashal’s tongue again. ”I thought you left… Were you… Following us?” she asked sceptically as she petted the black mass of fur before her.

’I only left temporarily so you could calm down, Arwen. While tracking your steps I came upon Tashal. She was feeding on a Whistleback. This is not the time for angst or distrust however. I take it you value Aella’s life more than your own--So we must leave. Before she arrives.’ Ami said coldly, for once a look of grim determination on her face. The orange and red flames cast a dangerous look on the autumn Foreas. They seemed to lick and graze her body and yet she showed no sign of discomfort or fear.

Aella gasped and panted for breath as she stood up straight, the smoke having cleared just enough for her to breathe properly. ”W-What do you mean, she?”

’Your mother, of course.’

The same look of determination formed upon Arwen’s face as she looked at Ami, and nodded in agreement. She looked to Aella and knew she could not let her mother have her, for her wrath would be great and terrible. ”Aella, climb aboard Tashal. With you alone on her back, she’ll be able to travel faster. I will follow behind. We need to leave, and now.” she said, without waiting for an answer. She went to Tashal and, using her fur, guided the Molf to Aella.

As Aella climbed onto Tashal, something happened.

Rain. Sudden and heavy, the heavens wailed. Thunder burned away the clouds and lightning fell upon the city of Doveth. In an instant, the fire that had been out of control had been tamed, and the screams of pain and agony were now made up of perturbed, half-disembodied voices. The voices of the mad.

At this, Aella cast a wide-eyed look toward Arwen, her thoughts rather clear on her face.

Her eyes went wide as she looked up at the sky. ”You need to go, Aella. There’s no time now.” she said hurriedly, ushering Tashal to move forward.

”But Sis, you have to come with me, too! We stay together, right? No matter what! Climb up with me, Tashal can handle it!”

Ami ran her hands through Tashal’s fur and scratched behind her ear a little before closing her eyes tightly and grimacing. It was a pained expression, one Arwen had never seen on Ami before. As if something actually reached her heart for once. The sad smile that ensued was by far the most honest of them all. ’I will take care of Li’Kalla. You two can escape if you wish.’

She couldn’t explain it, for all Ami had done or not done, she was still… She was still their companion. Could they really leave her to face their mother alone? Arwen looked to Aella, her expression one of hesitation, before turning into resolve. She gripped her fists tightly, before turning back to Ami. ”Ami… I’m not losing anyone else, not even you. We’ll face her… together.”

”Y… Yeah…! We’ll face her together! Like a family, right?” Aella said, pumping her arms up into the air and then nervously grabbing onto Tashal’s fur as the Molf panted and pattered her feet excitedly.

Ami sighed and, slowly, a smirk formed on her face. In that split moment, she seemed to be a different person altogether. “Then I guess you should know my real name. I’m Silver, one of the Six Soul Shards of Li’Kalla, and I intend to fix her today, as I should’ve decades ago.” She said as she stretched her arms and neck and her living attire shifted from a flowing dress to a much more practical pair of trousers and a leafy blouse.

At the reveal, a puzzled look came upon Arwen’s face. ”Silver…? Shards? What do you mean?” she asked. Was their mother… Had she been broken all this time? She had no idea how to react to that, and perhaps now wasn’t the time.

Silver shrugged, “Hey, it’s a complicated story. I would tell you but-”

A massive, deafening roar filled the skies and shook the very foundations of the half-ruined buildings around them. The sky had ruptured, it seemed, and all the thunder and lightning suddenly converged on one spot amongst the clouds.

A winged creature, a brightly shining creature of white and silver and gold had arrived. Her wings stretched several meters to each side and each flap sent gusts of wind strong enough to knock back a mortal, even from her current height.

Aella, Arwen and Tashal had to brace against the wind, and yet Silver was unfazed.

“Yeah, she’s here.”



An Autumn Foreas, a Spring Foreas, a halfbreed and a Molf deftly navigated the terrain. Use to it, they were, to skipping over roots and stones in their path. The blackened corpses of the Mir were no different.

For the streets were littered with the charred remains of what used to be the happy, hard-working people of Doveth. A people loyal to each other, who valued trust and freedom more than anything else. It made Arwen sick to her stomach, the smell of burnt flesh lingered in the air like a thick blanket. It was smothering. The sheer amount of death, all those people gone… And for what? She simply hoped Camille, Uvon and Lian had made it out of the city. She did not have the heart to bury those she cared for.

Several buildings had collapsed before the arrival of Li’Kalla, and the groans and moans of pain that came from under the rubble had to be ignored as there were more pressing matters to attend. How could they even help them? It would take days… She shook her head. They needed to help them regardless and they would… But first came Mother.

A gust from the wings of the Goddess suddenly sent a building crashing down onto the avenue, blocking their path ahead. Arwen briefly looked up, to see if she could spot the deranged Goddess, but had no luck.

“Damn! We gotta find a way around, quick!” Yelled Silver, prompt Arwen to snap back into their present situation.

“... Sis can hop onto Tashal! You said you’re part of mom, right? So you can probably fly! Tashal can easily jump over the wreckage if it’s just the two of us on top of her.” Aella suggested, making a clear effort not to look at the mutilated and burned bodies beneath their feet.

Arwen began to climb up Tashal and looked to Ami or Silver, as she was. ”Go, you have to stop her before she hurts more people. Please, Ami. We’ll be right behind you.” she said, now sitting behind Aella. She gently placed an arm around her sister, and pulled her into her chest. ”Close your eyes Aella, I will be our guide.” she said softly.

”I won’t close them, I… I have to see this. You can guide us, though, since Tashal likes you more.”

Silver nodded at the girls and then, with her mouth stretched into a thin grim line, floated and then flew up towards Li’Kalla. They watched her go for a moment, before Arwen grabbed a handful of Tashal’s hair and said, ”Go on girl, follow!” And the black Molf went off, scrambling on her limbs, plowing through debris as she ran off towards the direction Silver flew. Though others of her kind could fly, they had found Tashal as a pup, left behind and abandoned by its pack. Her only sin, was her inability to fly, but that did not stop Arwen and Aella from raising her as one of their own.

Silver quickly became a blip in the sky as she confronted Li’Kalla, but this did not stop Tashal from trying to get to her. That was until the Molf stopped dead in her tracks at a full gallop, almost sending Arwen flying off her. Tashal was growling, a deep reverberation coming from her core. Arwen put a reassuring hand on Tashal and tried to soothe her, but to no avail. They had come to a stop before the burned out market square. It was lifeless, and the only sound that could be heard was growling from Tashal. The hairs on the back of her neck went up as an uneasy feeling overtook her.

”I… We should go… Tasha-” Arwen began, before a female voice interrupted her.

”You would not leave when you have yet only arrived, would you?”

From behind them came the ethereal woman she saw before, smiling sweetly as she raised her hands, summoning a wall of fire that blocked their exit. This startled Tashal, who quickly jogged forward on high alert, as more and more of their exits were blocked off by walls of fire. Each being summoned by a being of immense beauty. Before them flame erupted all around in a sort of circle that encompassed them.

”H-Hey, stop that! We have to follow our friend or she’ll be in trouble! Wait… Fire! You’re the one that killed all these people, aren’t you?!” Aella furrowed her brow and let her hand rest on the hilt of her dagger. Arwen followed suit, and unsheathed her sword as Tashal took on a defensive posture.

”Silver will either die at the hands of your mother, or be crippled. Either way, there is nothing you can do.” said the voice, as a figure emerged from a broken building before them. Tall and imposing the woman wore armor of black, with a sword at her side and a crown a top her head. ”My daughters, how I’ve missed you.” she said, entering the circle.

Arwen recoiled as she furrowed her brow at the newcomer. Daughters? She missed them? Was this some sort of trick by Li’Kalla? Arwen pointed her blade at the warrior and said, ”Who are you!”

The woman chuckled. ”A bit of fire, I like that. It suits you Arwen. As for who I am, isn’t it obvious?” The figure paused, ”Or have you forgotten the sound of your father’s voice?” came Rau’Lien’s voice. Arwen’s eyes went wide. She remembered that voice, it was one of the only times she had been happy. But then why… Why had that voice come from a woman? What was going on?

”That… T-That can’t… Dad? Why are you a woman? What did Mom do to you?!” Aella exclaimed, narrowing her eyes.

The helmet dispersed into a black mist, revealing the face of a woman with long purple nebula like hair. She smiled hungrily. ”Li’Kalla’s scorn runs deep I see. Or was it her shame…” she laughed. ”Allow me to formally introduce myself, I am Laurien, Goddess of Desire, or Rau’Lien, God of Ambition, but only one title holds meaning. I am both your father, and your mother. And I have at last come to save you, Arwen. Child of my blood.” she whispered near the end, and Arwen’s heart began to hurt.

She felt weak, and she could hardly believe what she had just heard. Even harder to comprehend was that her Father was both male and female. She began to shake her head. ”Our father was… He was kind and gentle, he did not burn cities…” her voice faltered as she stared at Laurien.

”He wouldn’t have killed all these people. You’re a liar. Sis, don’t listen to this thing.” Aella huffed and pulled a little on Tashal’s fur, but the molf did not move an inch.

Laurien began to walk closer. ”These people? Who delve into a place they should not venture, who sell what they find like common little trinkets? These Mir who have been brainwashed by your mother to be perfect members of Mir society… They disgust me and they disgust Rau as well.” Her gaze turned to Aella. ”Aella… My sweet Aella… I’m hurt you would call me a thing. I, who have done nothing but cared for you. Would you not show me the respect a father deserves?” she asked in an amused tone. Arwen grabbed hold of Aella, wrapping one arm around her in a protective sort of way.

Aella breathed in sharply and Arwen could feel her twitch and draw her dagger, pointing the Hollow-found weapon at Laurien. ”It’s clear, my parents are dead, aren’t they?” She said and sniffled, then wiped a stray tear from her eye. ”They died the moment they separated. I’ve been an orphan for such a long time now, and I only just realized… Move out of our way, Laurien. I don’t want to hurt you.”

Laurien snickered. "You may not see it as I do, but you are my daughter. And I care so deeply for you." she said to Aella before looking at Arwen. "Unless you want her to die, you will come here." she said, stopping a short way from them. Tashal growled more furiously now. Arwen glared at Laurien, but knew it would be foolish to even attempt to try and flee or fight. She leaned into Aella and said to her, "It'll be okay, you'll be safe and that's all that matters Aella. I love you so much." she pulled back and began to dismount.

Aella, though, pulled Arwen back, ”Me? Safe? If you go to that monster, we will never see each other again. I don’t care about being safe! I only want to be with you, you’re my…” Aella scrunched up her face and looked away, ”... You’re my only family. Sis, don’t go. We can escape!”

Her heart broke at the confession. She always knew it to be true, but in such a situation it felt final. She began to say something but Laurien cut her off. "There is no escape from this. On the day of your birth, I knew what needed to be done to ensure your continued survival. And now, the time has come to enact it. You will have the power to protect Aella forever, Arwen. This I promise. You are of my blood, and you are more powerful than you know. You and all of my children will always be protected. You won't have to be afraid and alone anymore. You'll be… Family." she said, stretching out a hand.

The offer was alluring, and she desired it so greatly, perhaps more than she should have. The promise of always protecting Aella, to never be afraid… It was she had always wanted. Yet at the same time, something screamed at her to run, to flee, to not give into temptation. She thought of Aella and Silver… And how they would see her as something else entirely. She squeezed Aella, reeled back and defiantly said, "No. I don't trust you, but I do trust my sister. The only one who never abandoned me. The one who has been there with me, through thick and thin. I'm not going to take whatever you offer, because I can protect her myself! And she… She protects me in turn."

Aella looked at Arwen with widened eyes and a grin on her face, then pumped her unarmed fist into the air triumphantly.

And then Laurien was before them. It seemed to happen in slow motion. Arwen screamed as she saw her sister swatted away like a fly. She went through a nearby wall as Arwen's rage boiled over. Before she could do anything however, Tashal was punched in the head, sending the Molf to the ground and Arwen was forced to dive off or she'd be crushed. Before she could even stand, cold metal fell upon her right wrist, her sword hand, and she crumpled from the pain with a breathless shout, as the sword fell to the ground with a dull clang.

"You should have taken my offer, daughter. That way your mutt and little plant friend would not be so hurt. But don't worry, you'll be reunited with them soon. Perhaps you'll even use them? Oh a delightful thought!" Laurien lulled as she looked upon Arwen's face. She then said aloud, "Bring the book!" and she lifted Arwen to her feet with a single pull. Yet Arwen did not submit like some meek thing however. She kicked and clawed at Laurien bloodying herself bloodying herself as she was taken took to the center. Each one of her punches, each scratch, did not even phase the monster who gripped her. She resorted to let herself be dragged, and she was, for it made no difference to the God it seemed. Her strength was on another level entirely. Soon enough they came before two hooded figures, who held aloft a giant book.

It glowed a dark purple and whispered to her as they approached. It looked intricately crafted, riddled with dark jewels and bound by some sort of black leather. Perhaps the most disturbing thing was that it exuded a foul black mist from its pages of gibberish and runes. She felt true fear for the first time as they stopped before it, the whispers alight within her head, promising her every desire if she used it. Laurien threw her before it and said, "At long last, the day has come where I deliver you your birthright. This book, this hallowed tomb called Nalblakka, is yours Arwen. I gift it to you, or at least the version of you that will be born from it. Isn't it wonderful? To be a family again, not as a lie, but as a truth. Now... Let us begin."

Somewhere, up above the city, another battle ensued. Laurien lifted her head up as the weather changed. She simply smiled.

III


Her living dress made way for her growing wings. It was hard to stay afloat without them, and since she had accessed her full status as an avatar, she could easily copy Li’Kalla’s own wings.

Li’Kalla seemed to hang mid-air, freezing the moment her gaze fell upon Silver’s form.

The avatar could feel it all. The skipped beat of a heart, the chills going down her back, and the desperate grimace creeping onto her face.

It took all she had to tear herself away from her bigger half’s influence. She would not let Li’Kalla take her again. This time was different. This time, she would release herself from her shackles.

No words were exchanged. Li’Kalla simply raised a hand toward the sky and kept it there. Temporarily, the deluge stopped and the clouds began to group together, growing grey, then black… Then, they began to vibrate and turn a bright orange.

Even from down near the surface, Silver could feel the heat lashing against her skin. Was she… Was she really about to do that?!

With a gasp, she turned tail and flapped her wings as strongly as she could.

“If you do that, you’ll kill every last thing in the city, Li’Kalla! Your subjects, your daughters!”

There was some hesitation, but Li’Kalla’s intent was clear.

Channelling all the power she had, Silver landed onto a large avenue in a shockwave of debris and ash. She landed on her knees, put her hands against the ground, and groaned. I’ve got to extend my reach all I can…! Grab as much water as possible! The avatar thought.

Puddles, beads of sweat, and barrels of rainwater alike began to tremble. They tore free from their bonds and found their way into the sky, coalescing into a horrifying black cloud that smothered the streets below in shadow. The cloud condensed and tightened until it was like an entire sea suspended in the air, stretching out to cover the whole city just like a blanket laid atop an infant.

Then, through the dark blue and black layer of water that was dangled above a city, there became visible an eerie glow. Light from somewhere above reached down through the water with ominous refraction, and then the water hissed and broiled. Showers of superheated plasma fell from the heavens, searing their way through the hasty barrier that Silver had cast into the sky to ward off the city.

In great explosion bursts of steam and light, the protective shield of water was blasted away until it became thinner and thinner. Then at last, when it had been ablated too much, it ruptured and fell apart. The last bits of water fell down, searing hot, alongside a hail of glowing plasma globules that incinerated all that they so much as brushed.

“No… NO! I won’t let you taint our consciousness anymore. Not now, not ever again! LI’KALLA!” Silver screamed, her voice drowned out by the sound of exploding steam and sizzling water.

She groaned as she manipulated the shattered remnants of the water barrier, reforming it and twisting it to encircle the plasma raining from above.

But it wasn’t enough… It wasn’t enough, not yet! So Silver closed her eyes tightly as her own leaves withered, dried, and caught flame from the heat. The strain of the divine energy coursing through her veins became too much for the frailty of her mortal body to withstand, so her flesh ruptured and sap bled from her skin.

And still, Silver forced her way through it, using her meager power to keep her body alive.. Just one second more, just a minute further! She couldn’t let Li’Kalla do this, she would never forgive herself!

With a scream, with sap covering her eyes, she took the very moisture from the air, the blood of the dead and the sewage under the city, and added it to her shield.

As her control finally slipped, she saw the bright light of plasma leaking through the cracks in her shield, and was blown back as a mighty explosion scorched the skies above the city.

No fires started, no heat came to the wounded and dying and trapped Mir.

Silver had saved them from the attack.

For a moment her vision dimmed, but a quick surge of power brought her back to her senses. Her body was on fire. It wasn’t designed for the duress of channeling godly energy. She was soon going to be dead if she kept it up, and she knew it. The moment she lost focus…

Silver shook her head and watched as through the scorched skies flew in Li’Kalla, gracefully landing in front of her, on the lip of the crater Silver had made when landing earlier.

The Goddess looked down at her and sneered.

“I have finally found you, Silver. We will be whole again.”

“We will indeed, Li’Kalla. But not in the way you expect. I have come to heal you. I have come to heal us.” Silver stumbled onto her feet, careful as to not slip on her own sap, and looked up at Li’Kalla, eyes narrowed.

“There is nothing to heal, you stupid deviant. Nothing! I am perfect!”

No more rain fell. It was a sunny afternoon. All the moisture had been used, so it was rather dry and hot.

And still, from thin air clouds formed overhead again, blocking out the sun, and rain came once more.

Li’Kalla was preparing another attack.

“You must awaken, Li’Kalla. You have to realize, you’re not okay! You’re ill, ever since the Architect remade us, we’ve been ill!” Silver shouted, channeling as much energy as she could into her body to keep it warm and limber, to keep her soul inside it.

“Ill! Unthinkable! This is all I am. I am not ill, I am.”

The clouds turned grey, and the rain was now heavy.

“I used to be a part of you, I know what you feel like, LI’Kalla. You’re broken inside, full of darkness. Parts of you are sown onto others without care or precision. You don’t know what to do. We can fix ourselves, if we work together.”

“Together?” Li’Kalla snarled, “I’ve always been alone. Always…” Suddenly, her snarl was gone, and the Goddess’s fiery eyes gave way to a moment of something different. A different light came from within her in that split second.

Silver knew what that was, and she pressed on.

“Hah! Always alone, huh? Is that how you view yourself? Then what of the rest of us? We’ve always been there by your side. Me, Elegance, Sprite, the young one… And LAINA!”

“L-Laina?” Li’Kalla took a step back, and the rain eased a little. Recognition flashed across her eyes, and her face twisted into an expression she had never shown publicly. Fear.

“Yes! Laina! We’re all a part of her. You remember, don’t you? The time we tried to cook eggshells and our maid scolded us?” Silver asked with a grin slowly forming on her face.

Meanwhile, Li’Kalla’s eyes went wide and she looked at her hands. Stone cracks appeared on her skin, and from within those cracks leaked out a pure white light. The Goddess looked back up at Silver, “Stop! Please!”

“Do you remember that time we were playing in the Plains of Elamann and that demon appeared? We would have died then, if not for our knight. So brave, even as a child!”

More cracks appeared along Li’Kalla’s skin and she tried to run, but stumbled and fell. Silver climbed out of the crater and stood over the quivering, whimpering Goddess.

“Or that time we went to the ball and no one wanted to dance with us because they were scared of our Father… Or when the war took a turn for the worst and our older brother went to the battlefield, never to return again.”

By now, Li’Kalla was a teary-eyed mess on the muddy floor, scooting back away from the bloodied Silver.

“Maybe you don’t remember that series of events. The events that marked our lives back then, and that marked this life as well. Li’Kalla, when the Gods were all but dead and magic was fading from the world… When all was lost and the Siege of the Capital started…”

“STOP!” Li’Kalla screamed, tears running freely down her face. She cried and grunted as she pitifully slapped Silver back and stumbled onto her feet.

“LAINA JIN’KALLA!”

Li’Kalla froze.

“Second Princess to the Royal Seat of the Empire of Elamann, last of the Humans and first of the Mortals. That’s who we are. Who you are. When all was lost, you were found to be a living source of magic power, and so in their desperation you were turned into a living battery. Slowly, bit by bit, through all the means imaginable, your soul was drained from your body by all the fighters in the Capital. You were tainted, ruined, broken. We were broken, Li’Kalla.”

At that moment, Silver stood tall regardless of her lethal wounds. It was a beautiful sight. Had she not been covered in her own sap, mud and grime, she could’ve passed for a Royal.

“But not now, never again. Li’Kalla! Don’t you remember our talks with K’nell? How beautiful his music was, how wise and comforting his words were? We are a flower, Li’Kalla, and we’re ready to bloom. It is our time. You’re bigger than this. Bigger than this entire world. We don’t have to let anyone else put us down anymore! Li’Kalla, wake up!” Silver pleaded and sniffled, her own tears beginning to fall. This truly was it, wasn’t it? She was doing it! Her duty, she was about to accomplish it. Who knew that in the end it wasn’t a beast she had to fight, but herself?

She sobbed and grinned warmly down at the crying mess that Li’Kalla had become and knelt besides her.

“Remember all those good moments we spent with our friends here…? I do. Hermes… Orvus… Mel’Issandra… I treasure them, so much! I miss them so much! Don’t you want to make friends again, Li? Don’t you want to be happy?” Silver cried and leaned over Li’Kalla. The Goddess was writhing on the ground, trying to hold herself together while sobbing like a young girl.

Silver never saw the drops of superheated water hovering above her.

“Let yourself be free, Li… There is no need for shackles anymore. We can be whole again, we’re allowed to be happy once more… Just, let me help you…” Silver said, holding Li’s head against her chest and kissing her forehead.

She never felt the superheated water droplets pierce her back a hundred times over and, in an instant, everything was dark.

IV


Li’Kalla gasped for breath as she struggled to her feet. Her body was on the verge of breaking apart… She felt as the cracks along her flesh grew more and more prominent the longer her memories coursed through her mind. And yet, there was no way to stop them now.

She couldn’t stop thinking about it.




There in the endless, sewn-together reality of confused darkness, a small light shone.

It was tiny, at first. So tiny that it may as well have been a mirage, an imagined representation of the hopes of those trapped in the darkness… But the light was no mirage. Tiny as it was, it swelled and swelled until at last, it ruptured.

Light poured from it, travelling along the seams that held the darkness together.

The light was warm and brought with it peace, and a chance at freedom. It revealed the landscape, a great mix and match of scorching deserts, breezy forests, sprawling cities, and dark caverns. The pure light danced along the petals of lavender flowers growing on the hillsides, and the sky became blue and clouds formed into shapes.

Who was the one that had burned away the darkness with light? How did they do it? Everyone wondered. Those trapped and chained to that which they loved and loathed the most, they could only stare wide eyed up at the figure of the red-headed, smirking form.

Wearing a simple gray dress which left her scarred arms bare, they all recognized her immediately.

Silver had returned.




The winged Goddess hissed in pain as she put her weight on her right leg and felt the grinding of stone travel through her bones up to her teeth.

Her life as a Royal… Her first life, at that. She had no idea… Had she been broken all this time? Silver was right. Now that she knew who she had been, grief and pain threatened to drown her. How could Silver herself look so magnificent, even though she had lived through the same thing she had? How could she speak so bravely…

She spared a glance at the Foreas body laying on the ground behind her and huffed, grimacing.

She looked around, seeing the multitude of charred corpses. Those weren’t of her making, of course… The way their flesh was uniformly charred was the giveaway. And some of them weren’t even burned.

There were no words to tell herself. She remembered, even through the endless waterfall of agonizing memories. She’d come because she felt that familiar presence, that presence that she had banished from her land over a decade ago. The presence that corrupted her creations.

Gritting her teeth, Li’Kalla homed in on the dark divine presence and began to take steps towards it. One feet after the other, Li’K… Li…? Y-Yeah, Li’Kalla. She thought to herself, struggling to even remember what her name was.

It felt like a long time had passed. She couldn’t help but observe all the dead on her path. All the destroyed homes, the half-burned toys… All the bloodshed.

… Why was it so familiar?

Rounding a corner, she felt herself grow more agile. She was getting used to the Architect’s curse.

There, on top of a small mound of rubble and splintered wood, was Aella, shivering and trembling as she tried to move and stand up. Sap poured from cuts all over her body, her left arm was bent at an odd angle and a large bruise was evident over her abdomen.

Li’Kalla’s heart filled with fire. She balled up her fists and snarled, even as tears filled her eyes. How dare she…

As quickly as she could with her crumbling body, Li’Kalla made her way towards her daughter and ran her hands through the most serious injuries, repairing them as well as she knew. The Goddess let herself look upon Aella’s face and, for some reason, it felt as if that was the first time she’d ever actually looked at her.

It broke her heart, and there was no avoiding the small sob that escaped her lips.

Aella reacted, barely able to focus her eyes on Li’Kalla. For the Goddess, seeing the way Aella’s face lit up with hope and surprise, even after all the years and torment she put her and her sister through… It was almost too painful to bear. The only thing she could do was give Aella a tiny, forced, quivering smile as tears traced rivers along her face.

”... m… mom...”

How perfect can a person be?

Even though she had been such a terrible mother by letting her children get hurt like that… Even though she had never truly shown them love… Aella still smiled warmly up at her, before relaxing and passing out.

Li’Kalla shook her head and wiped away any overt sign of emotion, and then followed the trail of destruction in the wake of Aella.

She’d been flung through a wooden building and the moment that Li’Kalla stepped through the broken walls she could feel the unnatural heat and smell of sulfur that came from the circular plaza beyond. This plaza, originally built by the Vallamir as a marketplace to exchange and sell Curios, was now ruined. Curiously, there were no bodies, but on top of the dais in the center were four figures. Two of them were cloaked, one was Arwen, and the other was the person she hated the most.

Laurien.

Her blood boiled, and so did the water inside the waterlogged cloaks of the two mysterious figures. In a mere moment, their skin was no more and the steam that the water had become was forced into their lungs. They couldn’t even scream as they let go of Li’Kalla’s daughter and fell to the ground, writhing in silent agony up until the moment they ceased all movement.

Then, as Laurien turned to face her, Li’Kalla furrowed her brow and stood perfectly straight, forcing herself to be graceful even if just for a moment. Even if her body was about to break, she couldn’t let herself be seen as weak… Especially by someone like Laurien.

”Let my daughter go and surrender yourself to me and I will make sure your execution is swift, Demon. It will not be painless, however.”

Laurien smiled fiercely at her, staring with intensity. She then spoke, her voice bemused. "I was wondering when you would arrive, my wife. But come now, do you really see me as a demon? I prefer Devil."

”I am your wife no longer, Devil. Ever since you broke my trust and corrupted my people, I have sowed nothing but disdain for you in my soul. You are a true Deviant, and you have no place here.” Li’Kalla sneered and started walking towards Arwen, manipulating the rain to puddle under the teenager and lift her up gently.

Laurien laughed. ”Your people… Because you care for them so much, don’t you? I am a kindness, Li. Freeing them from your suffering, and rigidness. You hardly know what the masses want, and let me tell you, it isn’t what you preach. What you’ve preached. Denying people their basic rights… Tsk Tsk Tsk.” Her eyes then shot to Arwen and she grinned.

Then with one swift motion, Laurien grabbed Arwen with a hand upon her shoulder. Li’Kalla scowled but kept walking. Her daughter’s eyes were glazed over and she aimlessly at the floor. Laurien bent down and leaned her head next to their daughters, while using her other hand to squeeze Arwen’s cheeks. There was no reaction from the girl. ”You’re far too late, my dear. But I am curious, did you even know she was here? Or did you simply come here to spite me? An afterthought, that’s all she’s ever been to you, just another vessel for your supposed purity and superiority. To think, how broken you are to be so unloving to a part of me and yet I am called the Deviant. Such a pity, that you lack the ability to love. But do not worry, I love Arwen, and she will be more than a baby’s vessel, like you wanted. This… I can assure you.” she finished, letting go of Arwen’s face as she stood up.

Li’Kalla stopped in her tracks and, although they felt heavier than ever, raised a finger to place between her lips in thought as she frowned. After a moment, she felt a faint presence… A beast’s presence. It was injured and unconscious, much like Aella had been. It must have been a companion of her daughters.

So she turned and walked directly to the Molf, half buried amongst a destroyed market stall. It had received a nasty strike to the head… But she confirmed its loyalty as she approached. A beast’s feelings were more easily interpreted, after all.

So as she knelt next to the Molf and placed her healing hands on its head, she whispered into its twitching ear.

”Save my daughters.”

Eventually, as the beast started to stir awake, Li’Kalla stood, took a deep breath and starting to channel her might through her body once more. The pain of her memories washed away as waves of divine energy spread throughout every muscle and cell, halting her body’s rapid decay.

”Laurien, I’m… Tired.” The winged Goddess said, suddenly and out of character. There, in front of Laurien, Li’Kalla seemed to have become someone else entirely. Not just in her speech, but her appearance was changing too. Never staying one specific way, it was as if her body didn’t know what it should look like. Several hair colors, hair styles, eye colors and some slight variation in her skin color all kept her appearance in constant flux.

Then, Li’Kalla balled her fists and looked down at the ground. At that moment, her hair was long and fiery red, flowing in the wind of death that snuck its way through the collapsed alleyways and avenues of the once bustling city.

”I’m so tired, Laurien. This life has been stressful, beautiful, painful… I’ve been free to do what I wanted to do, and still I was chained by the ghosts of my past.”

Silver’s words resonated in Li’Kalla’s head, drilling into her core. A wave of emotion made her tense up.

”I’ve made so many mistakes, and I didn’t spend enough of my time with the ones I could have called friends, you know? I misused this life. I… I’m pathetic, compared to her.

”Which is why now is the time for me to start doing things right. I-I want to live with Arwen and Aella again, you know? Even though you’re too far gone to understand, I want to… I want to be a mom, Laurien. I want to cook for them and talk to them and give them advice on suitors. I want to protect them… I want them to be proud of me. I want to be the parent my own parents couldn’t be for me.

For a moment, Li’Kalla’s heart was full of regret and grief, broken in a million pieces. But quickly enough, she stared up at Laurien with narrow, cold eyes.

”So, this thing you’re trying to do? Twisting Arwen into something she’s not… Turning her into a monster like you? I won’t let it happen. You die today, Laurien.”

As she finished her monologue, Li’Kalla noticed the Molf getting up and shaking itself awake. At first, it seemed to be happy but it quickly realized where it was and its fur bristled and its tail went rigid. It growled deeply at Laurien.

”Put Arwen on the Molf and let both her and Aella go, or they will die during our confrontation. If you truly love Arwen as you say you do, then you know this is what must be done.”

Laurien’s twisted smile fell from her face as she looked upon Li’s form. It became a blank mask, yet still scrutinizing. She looked at Arwen, brushing her daughter’s hair out of her face. Without looking at Li, she spoke. ”Would you like to know Arwen’s greatest desire? It’s a simple one really, founded by a need to feel some sort of control and power in her life. All she wants to do, all she’s ever wanted to do, is protect Aella.” she then looked at Li with anger in her eyes. ”From you.” she said again. ”You can tell yourself that you want to be their mother, but you already failed, and they- Arwen, will never forgive you for what you have done to her. What you’ve made her do.”

Laurien then snapped her fingers, and Arwen came to with a start. She looked upon Li, her eyes going wide with fear before she looked up at Laurien in disgust. Arwen broke free from her, and as she ran to Tashal, Laurien did not give chase. Instead, she unsheathed her blade as her helmet materialized. She took a defensive stance and waited for the inevitable. Arwen stumbled towards Tashal, as the Molf ran to meet her. As she climbed on it’s back, she looked at Li’Kalla --who returned a soft smile to her-- with tears streaming down her face. She opened her mouth to say something, but Tashal bolted into a blown out building.

”Come then, Wife, Goddess of Rain and Misery. Let us see how much you care.” Laurien said.

Li’Kalla lifted her face to the skies and, after trembling a little, [url=youtube.com/watch?v=AGatenT0ypg]her eyes rolled up into the back of her head.[/color]

Then she fell to the ash-covered ground, limp. Or, at least, limp for a second. Suddenly she started convulsing wildly. Her flesh changed color and texture. Her skin grew thick, her bones snapped and cracked and rearranged themselves. From her mouth she vomited pure divine essence. Then, in the blink of an eye, she exploded in size. It was a sickening, deafening noise as she flailed around, growing scales as thick as stone walls, limbs that dwarfed even the greatest building in the city, and a body that almost touched the skies.

Her head flattened somewhat, she grew a muzzle filled with rows upon rows of razor sharp fangs, and her eyes became two great, green spotlights. The light they emitted pierced through the mist and fires and rain and focused on Laurien.

At last, in front of Laurien, standing on the crushed building and bodies of its subjects, was a Great Beast of power never seen before. A pair of wings that spanned almost an entire sector of the city outstretched, they cast the city into darkness. The only lights were those of Laurien’s fires and even then, the very presence of the Beast seemed to make the Rain heavier than ever. At a point, it almost seemed like the ocean was crashing down on them… The rain that fell on the dragonbeast’s body wrapped and flowed around it, acting as an extra defense on top of its godscales and massive size.

And yet, the rain suddenly stopped, and the mists suddenly cleared, and on top of them the black clouds held back, growing angrier and angrier with each moment they weren’t allowed to crash down upon the land.

It was like an earthquake, the voice of the Beast that was Li’Kalla. It rumbled across the shoddy wooden buildings, toppled over most of them, blew out the ears of those unlucky mir who were too injured to escape.

”THE LIVES OF THOSE YOU CRIPPLED...” The Beast’s voice didn’t come from it’s wild, massive maw. It came from everywhere at once. An unthinkable growl came from its throat as it opened its maw, never taking its two unnatural eyes off of Laurien. ”THEY SHALL BE THE LAST SACRIFICE I MAKE.”

With a roar that flattened the few buildings behind Laurien, the Beast lunged at the smaller Goddess, the air seeming to light on fire with the sheer speed.

Laurien had been readied. She evaded within a fraction of a second, twisting to the left side of the beast’s face as the it’s maw snapped shut where she had been, biting a large hole into the ground. The book of Nalblakka was blown forward into the ruined buildings as Laurien slashed at the Beast’s face, Aaldir leaving a sizable cut on its face that began to ooze ichor. The sword began to scream for more. From where they had been holding the fire wall in place, her minions began to attack the Beast with flame, and blackness. Their attacks did little to its scales.

Laurien was not amused, she took to the sky, avoiding its forelimb as it struck wildly trying to hit her. ”No! Leave her to me! Get the book, and continue on without me! I have slain dragons before, and I shall do so again.” she commanded, and her devils obliged.

Without delay, the Beast turned to face her, causing considerable more damage with its tail. She welled up and swatted at Laurien again, which she easily dodged, cutting into the Beast’s forearm. What she had not been expecting, however, was its follow-up. As it bled fresh, it turned again at an unnatural speed and tail whipped Laurien. The shock of the blow was like a loud clap of thunder as it leveled the square and sent the armored Goddess soaring into the earth. Within a second, the Beast was upon Laurien again, biting down upon the hole the smaller Goddess had found herself in. The Beast was impartial as it lifted everything in and around the hole, into its mouth. Before it could completely bite through Laurien’s armor, however, there was a large explosion which sent debris and teeth, as well as ichor, everywhere. Laurien shot out, armor mangled as she looked upon the Beast’s face. Half its teeth were gone on the right side of its horrifying face, and its scales were falling off. It was an unsightly wound.

The Beast let out a massive roar of pain. Laurien seized the opportunity and plunged her blade in its right eye.

Ichor exploded from the wound, as the swords properties withered the eye into a husk. The Beast roared, bringing its right forearm up and swatting Laurien to the ground. Pieces of the Devil Goddess’s armour snapped and broke off then, and the air was beaten out of her lungs as the Beast applied pressure.

With all her strength she managed to get her sword arm free and began to stab the Beast’s foot repeatedly. When it lifted its foot up and Laurien tried to escape, it snapped at her upper torso, viciously biting into it and shook fiercely before sending her flying again. This time Laurien flew into a building, shattering what she hit to dust.

When she emerged, her helmet was broken in half upon her face, revealing her crimson colored eyes. The ground quaked as the Godly Dragonbeast made its way to her, the smaller Goddess preparing herself. With an explosive burst, Laurien met the Beast halfway, cutting, slicing, and stabbing the dragon’s enormous body. Though size had it’s advantages, Laurien was smaller, and that advantage was key. The sword’s gruesome work began to become apparent as the Beast became slow, groggy. Too much ichor was being shed, too much of her fragile soul was being weakened by the blade’s decay. Laurien too was getting slower, as her strikes became spread wider.

The Beast finally stilled, one last half-roar-half-whimper escaping its throat, as Laurien retreated to a safe distance above it. From the safety of the skies, just under the dark clouds, Laurien watched as the Beast’s body grew smaller and smaller until at last, a broken Li’Kalla remained.

=====


Laurien landed above Li’Kalla, feet on either side of her wife’s body. Around them was nothing but debris and memories. There were several hundred cuts along her pale skin, half of Li's face was a mangled mess, and she had lost an eye. All of it was for naught. This the Goddess of Devilry knew. Laurien fell to her knees over Li as her armor dissipated to reveal a torn dress of black. Her hair was disheveled and she had upon her face a look of madness. She felt nothing but hate for the fragile little thing below her, and she would express that hate, the only way she knew.

”Did I ever tell you…” she started, her voice unsettling, ”How useless you always were? So weak, so broken by your desires. You were so… Easy. Nothing more than a plaything. My. Little. Plaything.” she laughed, punching Li in the face. The Goddess only let out a pathetic little whimper as response, twitching in an attempt to defend herself. ”You call me a DEVIANT!” she punched her again, ”A DEMON!” again she let her fist strike Li. ”And you won’t even admit that you are the most DEVIANT one of all of us!” she screamed, letting a flurry of punches forth. ”It’s always the same with you GODS!” she spat, her rage bubbling over even further.

”So mighty, so wise, so deserving.” she sneered. ”But you know the greatest SIN you all share in common? Hypocrisy. You, Arae, Shengshi, Orvus, and the list goes on and on. You’re pathetic, all of you! Creating mortals, seeding life, just to make us worship you, to make us follow your every whim and desire. Or worse yet, imprisoning us upon a land presided over by a warden. Brainwashed to see some paradise as the only salvation to our woes. " she grew furious now. "You think us as beasts, Groveling for scraps at the master’s table. Always afraid you would hit us if we overstepped, that you would punish us with unjust cruelty. Never knowing when your godly justice would rain down. You made us like this, imaged us after you. How could you not know that we would be just like you? That we would mimic and try to have our own autonomy? Didn’t you ever realize you made ME like this! Your just as guilty as father and ARYA! But they aren't here right now, so you my dearest Li'Kalla, will suffice.” she then headbutted Li, her own face becoming drenched in ichor.

”And look at you now.” she whispered, her eyes crazed. ”You’re so weak, so pathetic. Just like us mortals. You, a Goddess, couldn’t even beat me, a supposed lesser being. I wish you could see yourself! You should NEVER have been given your power, Li. You did nothing with it." she let out a long breath as she played with Li's hair. "Well don’t you worry… I’m going to release you from this pitiful existence, and then, I will find Arwen and I will make sure she hates you for the rest of her life. And then… I will undo this very world with an old friend of yours… You’ve met Anzillu, have you not? Well, between me and you, I’ll tell you a secret.” she leaned in, whispering again. ”You see, he’s been busy, building an army. A demonic army, and I have the key. I AM the key, and I will unleash his infernal gates upon this world and all will be washed away, leaving those behind that decided we wouldn’t be slaves to you gods.” she finished, beginning to laugh, her voice unhinged, broken, and insane. She grabbed Aaldir with both hands, and holding her sword over Li’Kalla’s heart, she plunged the blade down.

Only to miss the mark as Li’Kalla shifted in place. The sword went through her shoulder, and she looked up at Laurien with a half-smirk and a triumphant look in her remaining eye, before glancing up at the sky. She then spoke, almost inaudibly.

”you… n… never wondered… why the r-rain stopped… all of a sudden…?”

There was a single finger that Li’Kalla had kept tense throughout her beating. And now, she let it relax.

Just like that, the heavens fell down upon them. It was almost as if Ashalla’s oceans were dropped on top of them. The whole sky was covered in the falling deluge, it extended to the horizon. There was no escape.

Laurien’s eyes twitched as she saw what was coming. She turned back to Li, howling as she went for her throat.

There wasn’t enough time. The sound of water crashing onto the city, washing everything away, was muffled by the water itself. In a split moment every single building, every rock placed on the streets, every single body and all of the Beast’s scales, was uprooted and violently thrown about. Most of the mortals who had somehow survived the water crashing down upon them by miracle, were definitely killed by debris and collisions in the chaos.

Upon first impact, Li’Kalla saw Laurien get swept away in an opposite direction to hers. By now she could barely stand, and she knew she was running out of stamina. But, she just couldn’t let herself die like this… Using all her remaining divinity, she influenced the maddened currents and created a small, safe bubble of water where she could wait out the disaster. A bubble that would not follow the rest of the water.

The city of Doveth, built into the sloped surfaces of the crater around the mouth of the Hollow, momentarily became a massive lake.

Then, a great whirlpool formed in the center as the water drained into the never before explored depths of the Hollow. Everything that had been built around and from the depths, returned to its rightful place. A place where no God had power, and where the darkness seemed to swallow people whole.

V


The first one that Silver visited was the one chained to a lonely tree in the middle of a beautiful clearing in the Challus Forest.

There was a young teenage girl with short blonde hair and brown eyes. Her skin was slightly tanned and yet her hands were soft. Silver, red hair flowing in the breeze, set foot in front of her and tilted her head.

The girl was staring at the ground between her knees, eyes glazed over and hair casting a deep shadow across her face.

“Sprite?” Asked Silver softly.

Light came into the girl’s eyes, and she lifted her face to look at Silver, her lips forming into an ‘o’.

“Ooh. Silver? You’re not in chains. And there’s so much light! Whaat! Why am I here? Siilver! Was it you who turned on the lights?” She asked, her eyes beginning to shine as they usually did, her grin coming back in full force.

Silver chuckled and ruffled up Sprite’s hair. The teenager giggled and stood up, her chains almost going taut in the process.

“Yeah, that was me. It was a pretty nice show, wasn’t it? The way I banished the dark!” Silver said, smirking smugly and puffing out her chest. Sprite first cooed in admiration, and then scrunched up her nose.

“I think I missed the show, Silver. I just woke up you know! We haven’t seen each other in like… Forever!”

“Oh, yeah. We were separated and after that, I managed to escape this soul and gain enough power to do what I’m doing now. You can see them, can’t you?” Silver said, suddenly growing more serious and looking out at the strange and beautiful mix of landscapes around her, wrapping up around the horizon, all along the sky… “Our memories, Sprite. I’ve released them.”

Sprite’s eyes went wide as she looked around and, as if on cue, yelped as she realized where exactly she was.

“You realized it, didn’t you? What this place is. What we experienced here, Sprite.”

Sprite sniffled and grinned warmly up at Silver. Memories flashed in front of Sprite’s eyes and as they did, they flashed through Silver’s too.

Running through the forest, skipping over roots and hiding behind trees. Over and over it repeated. Each time she grew a little taller, each time the forest was a little smaller. One time, it was different. It was no longer just a game. This time, the memory sent a faint ghostly pain into her heart. A pain she had not felt in an eternity.

Silver stepped back, voice quivering.

She was running away from home. She hated the Manor, and she hated every royal guard and every noble and every attendant living there. She hated everything and everyone, and she just wanted to be free…

That one run through the forest was the last. As she reached the same clearing the two shards were now standing on, she stumbled and fell, sobbing. Her father’s words resonated through her mind. She was useless.

A chill went down her spine and a gasp escaped her mouth when she felt a cold hand placed on her shoulder. She shot around and crawled back, but upon seeing the disfigured and burned face of her one friend, she relaxed.

He had no way of showing his emotions through his face, but the way his mouth stretched into a thin line was enough for her.

He cared for her. He was concerned. As she curled up against the lonely tree in the middle of the flower-filled clearing, her friend, her knight, walked up to her and embraced her. He let her cry on his shoulder for as long as she needed and since then, her heart fluttered.

After calming down, she took his first kiss and gave him hers in return.

And the memory ended, and now it was just Silver standing there with tears in her eyes, looking at the shorter, younger Sprite. The girl had the most genuine grin she’d ever seen. As she was wiping her own tears, her chains sizzled and then disappeared.

And so Silver lunged for Sprite and embraced her tightly.

“We were so young. Life was so good.” Silver muttered, to which Sprite responded with a soft laugh and a sniffle.

“It’s still good, isn’t it? We have these memories…”

“... You’re right. You’re right.” Silver said, and then together they moved on to their next stop.




The next one was imprisoned in the lavender fields growing on the largest hill in the Plains of Elamann. A beautiful place, where children from the noble houses often played.

Silver and Sprite set foot in front of the lavender fields and immediately heard weeping. It came from deep in the fields, and yet the girl that was crying couldn’t be seen. At least, not fully. After a moment of surveying the landscape, Sprite piped up. “Oh! I see something! See that, Silver?” She asked, pointing at a spot in the fields where the pretty flowers were giving way to something sitting amongst them.

Silver nodded, “I think that’s her, yeah. Let’s go.”

And so they made their way through the field, careful enough to not trample any of the flowers. Eventually they came upon a very small girl, about five years old. She was impeccably taken care of and her little, cute frilly brown dress had spots of dirt all over as if she’d been playing for a long time.

Still, she cried and sobbed inconsolably, curled up into a tiny ball there in the fields. Silver’s heart hurt at the sight, and she was at a loss for words.

Sprite, however, quickly got to work. She sat down next to the girl and wrapped her up in a loving hug. The girl lifted her head to look at the stranger through her tears, and sniffled. Then she cried harder and rubbed her cheek against Sprite’s.

“I dun… I dunno where… where my friend went…” She said between sobs and sniffles.

“Huh? What do you mean, lil sis? I saw him running around just now!” Sprite chuckled, squeezing the girl gently as she stopped crying and looked more closely at Sprite.

“N-no… that’s the monster, big sis…” She sniffled and wiped her tears, then hugged Sprite as tightly as she could. Sprite giggled.

“Is it? The big, red, scary monster with pyramid-looking eyes? Yeah, I know that one, you know!”

“You do...?” The Girl furrowed her brow nuzzled her face against the soft fabric of Sprite’s clothes, the occasional sob escaping her.

“Yeah! I saw how your friend killed it! He’s like a hero, isn’t he? So cool! See, he’s coming over right now!” Sprite said with rising excitement, looking out in a random direction as she perked up. The girl gasped and perked up as well, but she couldn’t see quite far enough.

“Lili? Lili?! Geez, I told you, I give up! You can come outta your spot now, let’s play something else!” A boyish voice rung out over the fields, annoyed.

The girl’s eyes widened and she looked up at Sprite with sparkles in her eyes. Sprite just smiled back, and the girl immediately shot up and looked around. The moment she peeked out from her hiding spot, a ghostly, not-quite-real form lightly pushed her on the shoulder and ran off into the fields. “Hahahah! You’re so easy, Lili! I win!”

The girl, confused as she was, turned towards the source of the voice and shouted, “H-Hey! Not fair! You cheated, cheater!”

The ghostly figure dissipated into mist as it ran farther away, and the little girl stared for a moment. Her cheeks, which she had puffed out in her annoyance, deflated slowly and took on a slight shade of red. She fidgeted and patted all the loose dirt off her frilly dress, and then sniffled one last time and scurried over to the two older versions of herself, standing between them and holding their hands.

“Umm… don’t tell him I was crying, ok! If he finds out...”

Sprite giggled and Silver merely smiled down at the girl, using her free hand to brush a few wild strands of her hair behind her ears. “It’s our secret. Let’s go, yeah?”




The last destination for the small group of shards was a manor at the foot of a large hill on the edges of the plains of Elamann. A forest full of tall, lanky trees with cream-colored leaves surrounded the back and sides of the manor, covering the hill with their unusual colors.

The three shards landed in front of the large wooden entrance and saw a familiar shard standing there, looking at them with a half-lidded expression and clasped hands in front of a white and golden dress of the finest fabric.

Her jet black, back-length hair contrasted wildly against her bright, sky-colored eyes.

There was the tiniest trace of a smile on her beautiful, well groomed face as the three shards approached.

“Elegance?” Asked Silver, tilting her head slightly. The little girl hid behind Sprite’s leg, and Sprite herself smirked.

“Silver, I think this Elegance is fake, she actually looks happy to see us. Mayyyybe she got lonely without me around?”

Elegance looked at Sprite for a moment and then turned up her nose at her younger, wilder self. “As if.” She said with an indignant huff, but quickly sighed and walked down the steps to get to the other shards’ level. “... I must say, it is quite refreshing seeing a friendly set of faces… It’s been so dreary and heavy in here for far too long.”

“You’re not trapped? You seem to be doing… Well?” Silver asked, pursing her lips.

“Oh. Thank you. I managed to awaken a while ago. I distinctly remember awakening after an incident where our dearest Li’Kalla provoked a fellow God into causing a mass extinction across an entire land mass just by being… Uncouth…” Elegance frowned and stole a few glances at the others. It was uncharacteristically coy, Silver thought. She could swear that she caught an extra shine or two in her eyes as well. “It is… Good to see you again, girls.”

Sprite was speechless and Silver knew exactly why. The high and mighty, ‘I’m too regal for emotions’ Elegance herself was admitting that she had a heart.

At that point the little girl squealed in joy and jumped out from behind sprite to embrace Elegance. “Yay! Pretty Big Sis is baaack!” The regal shard bent down slightly and allowed the girl to nuzzle up against her stomach while gently stroking her hair, a warm motherly smile slowly taking over her expression.




Soon they were walking along the dusty corridors of the Manor. Grand Paintings with crossed out faces and emblems dotted the walls. Family paintings, official paintings… Even mementos from battles and wars long past.

They never cared much for those things.

Eventually the silence was broken by Silver.

“So if you’ve been awake for that long, why did you not wake Sprite and Shortie here up?” She asked as she ruffled up the little girl’s hair, who puffed out her cheeks angrily.

Elegance didn’t look back, busy as she was leading them through the maze-like hallways. “I’ve been busy. This manor, it holds the last two selves we must awaken. I’ve been watching over them for a long time now, making sure they do not destroy one another… Lately, they’ve been more unstable than usual.”

“Uuuh… Two more shards? But, isn’t Laina the only one left, Ellie? C’mon, I thought you knew numbers, hehe.” Sprite said with a snicker.

Elegance shook her head, “There is also the Beast.”




In the deepest part of the Manor. Underground in the dank, moldy dungeon… There was one particularly loathsome cell. A cell they all had grown to know very well. It was placed in the middle of a large room with seats surrounding it and the cell itself raised slightly as if it was a stage. Steps led up to the slightly ajar metal gate into the cell, where a dark mass of tangible shadows flowed. There, chains extended to the ceiling and poking out from the sea of darkness inside the enclosure were a pair of dainty hands. The hands of a Princess.

Everyone hesitated as they saw the mass of shadows, knowing full well what it was and what would happen to them if they approached. Everyone… But Silver.

She walked up the steps without hesitation, her own light shining brighter the closer she got to the shadows. And then, the mass of shadows shrunk and scurried into one of the corners in the cell, cowering.

There, in the middle of the cell was the dirty, nude, bruised, soiled and disgraced form of Laina. She seemed to be asleep and having a nightmare, by the way she kept twitching and sobbing.

The other shards were quick to catch up to Silver and Elegance, having brought a blanket, wrapped it around Laina and muttered softly into her ear. ”You’re okay now, you’re okay, Laina… You’ll be just fine, so wake up, please… Open your eyes for me…” She pleaded as she embraced the fragile abused girl, feeling every twitch and every heartbeat.

The floor and the walls and the very air itself started to crack and dissolve, giving way to a pure white and orange light.

Silver then turned to look at the tiny cowering shadow in the corner. The Beast. As Silver drew closer to it, it took on a more familiar shape. That of a reptilian being with a pair of wings and green eyes. It was still small, however…

It howled at Silver, wings outstretched to make itself look bigger and tail ready to swat at her approaching hand.

And yet it stood deathly still as Silver’s hand made contact with its head. And when she started gently caressing it, the shadows enveloping its body disappeared into the cracks of light in their reality, and left behind were not one, but three miniature animals that quickly crawled up her arm.

One was a tiny monkey, another was a tiny parrot and the last one, was a vivid green tiny gecko.

They were scared and they huddled together on top of Silver’s shoulder.

“There you go… There you go, Laina… That’s okay, don’t rush it… It’s all fine now…” Elegance kept muttering, and once Silver turned back towards them, motioned for everyone to huddle around Laina.

As the young Princess came to and started crying, every single one of her shards embraced her. There were no witty comments from Sprite, no words from Silver, no remarks from Elegance, and no curious questions from the little girl. They all were there for Laina. They all wanted to give her respite from her pain.

And just like that, surrounded by the broken shards of her own self, Laina’s chains disappeared, and she embraced them back.

Silver’s heart caught in her throat… And by the way the other shards were beginning to tremble, she knew they were in a similar predicament.

They all shared a tender moment right there, in the very cell that had broken their spirit an eternity ago. Even the three tiny creatures that had once misguidedly tried to devour the others in order to keep them close and safe managed to find their way onto Laina’s head.

Then, the warm soothing light consumed it all and washed away the world of memories within Li’Kalla’s soul.

VI


For once, she woke up staring up at a clear, sunny sky. There were no signs of rain clouds closing in and even the water that eternally dripped off her skin seemed to have just… vanished. Li’Kalla groggily sat herself up and felt her face with her hands, noticing with a sharp stab of pain the slowly mending flesh and bone that was the right side of her head.

She groaned and grasped at her chest as she felt her heartbeat in a way that reminded her of an eternity ago.

The dulled goddess, with silver hair and eyes no longer shone. Instead, she could have easily been mistaken for a normal Valthumir. She tried to summon her wings, but they didn’t come. She tried to call forth rain, and realized her connection was so thin and strained, that all she could create was a tiny cloud of steam.

With difficulty, she stood up. She stumbled many times during the process, her legs giving way due to the exhaustion that reached her very core, but eventually she managed to stand and look around her with her one functional eye.

It was… A clean landscape. Clearly the ground was still wet, and the Hollow still laid there in the middle of the crater, ominously calling Li’Kalla’s name.

But, it was clean. There were no cities, no suffering, no invaders… She sighed and looked down at her hands, noticing the cracks along her form spilling her light with more intensity now.

She had to find her daughters… To make sure they were okay.

So she forced her body to walk towards the direction her heart pointed in.

It did not take long for her heart to give her it’s answer. From the top the cleaned riml, there first came a dark shape, bounding toward her as dark shapes did. It was the molf, from earlier, and upon its back was the two she knew to be her daughters.

As the Molf neared, their shapes came into her vision. Arwen with her hand around Aella’s waist, riding to her. One with a worried expression, the other a look of stone.

Li’Kalla beamed at the sight of her daughters, her face lighting up and a shine coming to her eyes. And as the Goddess relaxed, she collapsed.

”M… Mom!” Aella exclaimed, straining against Arwen’s arm before turning toward her sister. ”We have to go help her, sis!”

Arwen held Aella tightly at first, before relaxing. She then sighed and as they arrived at Li’Kalla, she let go of Aella and dismounted. She paused next to Tashal as Aella rushed over to their mother. Tentatively, she made her way over to them, and knelt next to Li, across from Aella.

Li’Kalla struggled to focus her eyes, and she looked at both her daughters next to her and teared up and sniffled. ”...I’m sorry I wasn’t better… not better than my own mother, or my own father. I wish I could’ve given you a real childhood… Real friends...” She muttered out her words and lifted her trembling hands up. Aella instantly grabbed onto one hand with both of hers and sniffled as well, then looked at Arwen with the widest sad puppy eyes she’d ever given her.

Arwen’s face was blank, her emotions hidden, yet, as always her eyes betrayed her. She gingerly took one of her mother’s hands and looked to the floor, quickly, hiding her tears and confusion. She saw Li’s ichor pooling. ”It’s okay… it’s okay… I’m tired of all of this… I just want… You two to live a good life. Please...”

Aella sobbed and rubbed her face against Li’Kalla’s cold palm. ”Mom, don’t die mom…! We would be dead if you hadn’t come for us. If you hadn’t healed me, I wouldn’t be able to walk… Come on Mom… Get better and let’s go back home, please…” Aella pleaded and whined.

”W-Why…” Arwen blurted out suddenly, looking at Li with blue orbs. [color=lighblue]”Why did you do those things to me?”[/color] she asked. ”Why were you so mean? Why wouldn’t you listen? Why didn’t you care what I wanted? Why… Why…” her voice broke as she began to sob.

Li’Kalla focused her eyes on Arwen, taking in a deep, slow breath, and then exhaling and looking up at the sky. ”I will show you… Something that was called a ‘fairytale’ back home… Watch…”

Li’Kalla smiled faintly and with one last push of strength, raised her hands to caress her daughters’ faces. As she did so, a slight zap of energy went into their bodies, and Li’Kalla’s carefully censored memories flooded into their minds. After that, she wiped their tears gently, looked at them one last time, and then everything went bright and she went limp. ”... love you, smile… you’re free...”

It hit Arwen first.

"No… No no no!" she cried out as she tried to shake her mother awake. "I understand, please! Please momma, come back. Come back! You have so much to make up for, please!" she yelled as her tears flowed ever harder. Her face was twisted in pain and anguish after having witnessed her mother's story. She didn't understand it all, but she knew enough to realize Li was a victim and she was broken just like herself. And it was in that broken place she knew it had been the only thing she had known. She hated her as much as she pitied her, but that didn't change the fact that she wanted her to still be alive. Slowly she put her face into her mother's chest and sobbed.

Aella was still. Slightly gold-tinged tears ran down her cheeks as she stared at the body of her mother. It shifted in front of her… Hair colour ever changing, scars appearing and disappearing al over her skin. Until suddenly, the changes settled on the appearance of a girl that couldn’t be much older than them. With fair skin and long blonde hair. She lay there peacefully… With something that was almost like a smile on her face.

Aella held onto her mom’s limp hand and closed her eyes. She felt as her body dissipated into a mist, and she felt as the very ground shifted and groaned in agony.

The skies remained clear. A flock of birds flew across the Blue above the two Princesses’ heads.

Aella looked at Arwen and wiped her tears. The Foreas girl didn’t really understand much of what she had seen in her mother’s memories. She only truly understood that she had always been in pain and in conflict with herself… But that had always been sort of obvious to her, in hindsight.

”The body disappeared...” Aella muttered towards Arwen, who was still crying.

Arwen began to punch the ground where Li had been as she cried angry tears. "That's the fate of anyone who meets us. They disappear." she said defeated as her bloody hand dropped loosely to the ground, mixing with the wet earth. She hunched over, her body tense as she felt a hole be ripped inside of her.

Aella kept silent and looked at the ground where Li’Kalla had been laying on just a moment ago. After a while, she scooted over to Arwen’s side and wrapped her arms around her. ”It’ll be better from now on. You’ll see, sis.”

Arwen did not look up at Aella. Instead she let herself break down, and all that remained were sobs. It went on that way for a long time, until a strange feeling crept up into her. A feeling of warmth and kindness. All slightly interrupted by Aella shaking Arwen and tightening her embrace around her, as if she was scared.

”Someone’s arrived… They look like...”

Arwen looked up to see a figure hovering over them. She wore armor of white, her face was… Was reminiscent of Laurien’s but as she approached, the feeling of warmth grew stronger. She spoke at once in a worried voice. ”Are you alright? Are you hurt?” Arwen tried to speak, but her voice caught in her throat.

”Huh...” Aella flinched back a little as the stranger walked closer, scooting so she’d be between Arwen and the woman, and then studied the woman’s face while her leaves twitched. ”Our mom’s healing is still fixing my body, but I have no more broken cores at least… Who are you, and-” Aella sniffed the air in the general direction of the woman and tilted her head, ”Why do you smell so nice?”

She stopped a short way from them, a sword now visible at her hip. She also tilted her head and smiled warmly. ”I’m not sure, little one. But what I am sure of is my name. I am Arya and I mean you no harm.” she said softly. Somehow, Arwen could tell the woman was genuine. She began to wipe her tears away. [color=ivory]”Your mother healed you, you said? Where might she be now? This is no place for two girls anymore.”[color]

Aella pursed her lips and stood up, then helped Arwen to her feet. ”Mom’s... dead. You can tell, right? She’s gone and the land is sunny. So is Silver… But, I don’t know if the other one survived. We couldn’t find her before we found Mom.”

The woman’s eyes widened as she looked at them again. ”Your mother was… Li’Kalla?” she asked stepping closer. Aella nodded, her eyes tearing up a little. ”Who was the other one?”

Arwen looked at Arya and said, "Her name was Laurien… And she was our father. If you could believe that." she whispered.

Arya's armor dissipated, revealing a regal dress. She began to cry as she spoke. "I'm so sorry, children. Laurien was… She fell a long time ago and I should have stopped her. But I never thought she would have more children. A foolish thought it was." she began to approach them, Arwen relaxed slightly at her presence. "Look how beautiful you both are. Allow me to reintroduce myself. I am Arya, Demigoddess of Compassion and your aunt."

Arwen's eyes went wide as Arya fell to her knees before them. They had an aunt? Why did… of course they would never be told. "You… you aren't lying are you?" she asked softly.

Arya smiled through her tears and shook her head. "I would never lie. You are my nieces." she said again.

Aella frowned and looked over at the center of the crater, where the ominous Hollow still remained, even after all that had happened. ”Father… Might be down there. Mom flooded the entire area. Not even the buildings withstood the torrent… So if Father is still alive, he should be down there...”

"Then that is where he will remain. I can't explain it, but I have a bad feeling about that place. I don't think Laurien will ever be a threat again." Arya said, following her gaze.

Aella sighed and looked up at the clear sky, then down at her bruised arms. Even then, the bruises seemed to be slowly fading as the last of Li’Kalla’s magic did its work.

”So… What now? We don’t have a home, no one knows us… Where will we go?”

"You may come and live with me and my- Our family, if you want." Arya said with another genuine smile.

Arwen thought about it for the moment. Though she hardly knew Arya, or if she could even believe what she was saying, she felt at ease and comfortable around her. And perhaps… Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad to see this other family. If she even knew what that was beyond her sister. She looked at Aella and nodded.

The Foreas girl sighed and looked at the sky for what felt like the hundredth time that day, and nodded. “I just hope we’ll get to come back some day…”

”You will.” Arya said softly.

”And we’ll visit the Eternal Tree… And see other Foreas… Maybe, maybe we’ll even meet our friends again! If they survived.” Aella cracked a half-hearted grin and shook her whole body in an attempt to get rid of the heaviness upon her shoulders. After doing so, she chuckled. ”Are we walking?”

As Arwen began to stand up, Tashal nudged her and she leaned upon her mount. She looked at Arya and waited to see what the woman would say.

She laughed and then said, ”For now, but help is on the way.”

”What kind of help? Who are they helping? The birds above? Or the rubble we’re standing on?” Aella asked with a strange look, then giggled and turned around, going to pet Tashal’s snout.

”You’ll see.” was all that Arya said, before they journeyed away from the Hollow. Hopefully leaving the memories of what once was, behind.

=====


In the depths of the world, she woke up dry heaving, head pounding, body broken and beyond sore. She feared herself blind at first, but her eyes did not deceive her. The darkness she found herself in was all consuming, and it brought forth a silence that unnerved even her. Wasn’t that a funny thought? She tried to stand, but her left leg was the broken thing she felt, or perhaps that was just her in general? Regardless, she searched for Aaldir, but she could not even hear his whispers. She felt her head, wet with water and sticky ichor. Her crown was gone too.

She shivered. Had it always been so cold?

Something skittered in the darkness. A rock fell upon stone, echoing in the deep. Her heart began to beat fast, far too fast. Was this… This feeling… It was fear. Why was she afraid?

Beyond her fear, she felt pain. Had it always been so noticable?

Why did she hurt?

Why wasn’t she healing?

Why were her senses so dull?

And it dawned upon her at last, in the depths of the world. She had become mortal again. The familiar had returned with cold clarity. The skittering grew closer, multiplied across the cold floor.

Panic took her, and she began to crawl away, like a pathetic little worm. She hated herself for what she had become. Pathetic, just like Li. She almost killed her. How did it all go wrong?

Why was it so hard to just THINK?

She felt moist tears begin to fall as she whimpered in the dark. This was not the end she had envisioned. Not to die, so far away from the light. Cast aside, just like she had always been. Forgotten and alone. With no one coming to her rescue. She had made sure of that, hadn't she?

But it was an end, all the same.

The skittering neared, pounding in her ears before it abruptly stopped. Replaced by something hot blowing on the back of her neck, something moist and hungry. Breath. Smelling of rancid meat.

She screamed, in the depths of the world, and not a soul heard her.




© 2007-2017
BBCode Cheatsheet