Due to the incredible tenacity and pure metal of the real title, we instead present to you...
The Beefiest Roleplay that the Guild has Ever...
If you’re here it is because you’ve had it with the flood of grimdarkness, the scourge of deep thinking and the frilly so-called-edge of the newest spawn of fantasy. Instead you want the beef and pure brawn of the classic fantasies often screamed about in the ballads of power metal; you wan’t the barbarians, you want the brutality, you want the corded muscle straining in your faceness of the epics of the late 20th century -- and you want them in a loin cloth and holding an axe. Korgoth, He-Man, Golden Axe, Conan, and so many others had that hard ripping funk -- the real beef, and we are bringing it back with this simple roleplay.
You’re a champion of the Mountain King, a stone cold elder of throbbing mass and wise hard hitting words. Your loyalty to the King is what netted you this most sacred of missions -- to retrieve the vial of the Rainbow Warrior from his eternal crypt so that you may save the Mountain King himself as he lays on his stone cold bed of throbbing headaches, dying of a mysterious illness.
This macguffin won’t be so easy -- if it were, why send a beefy champion such as yourself? NO! You will have to cross the crawling deserts, cut through scrawny wizards, climb the tallest peaks, find your way through the kingdom in the clouds, find the land of light, and best the grave protections of the Rainbow Warrior’s crypt -- and then do it all again on your way back. Are you up to the challenge?
The Premise: You are all citizens of a recently liberated country. This liberation was done at the hands of your own rebel forces along with the drastic help of a rather faraway empire. The empire had decided to give the budding nation the right to rule themselves locally so long as they answer the calls and concerns of a local Imperial governor who sits watch over your newly formed council. OH RIGHT, so each of you are actually not only citizens but members of this council. The first meeting will define what position you actually have on the council, be it a minister of defense for your military prowess during the liberation, or a minister of treasuries, or perhaps a Bishop? The point is you are in charge of governing this new government alongside your fellows (be they nemesis or allies) and as problems arise, you will meet in council to deal with them... but nothing is stopping you from scandals, backroom deals, and general politics between hearings. There is nothing stopping you all from pasting your agenda across this government’s visage... be it puppet kings, removing the Imperial presence, building a theocracy, or maybe a dictatorship? The choice is yours... though it won’t be easy and not everyone will agree on all fronts.
The choices of the council as well as the actions of the ministers will affect the entire region relative to the drastic nature of the action. Every choice will have a consequence.
An example scandel: Buying off a regiment of soldiers from an enemy nation to foil the solution proposed by your biggest opponent, ruining their credibility. I bet you guys could get more creative than myself so I’ll stop there. There will be plenty of third parties to work with: assassins, companies, charities, thieves, stocks!
How It Will Work: Each post will start mentioning what day it is from the start of the RP. Day 1, Day 2, and so on. We will do this to keep track of when the next hearing will be. Say it is Day 5 and we are meeting on Day 12, that’s a week to get people to support you... or remove any obstacles. You can post as much as you’d like on the current day and subsequent days but you can’t post on a hearing day until I start that day. Hearing day posts will be a little stricter to keep the flow going, something like -- I open the hearing with the Imperial Governor (so long as they are still relevant) and name the speakers in the order they will speak. You are allowed a single post in the order of you being named. After this initial run -- feel free to collab, play by post, and do whatever be it arguing, debating, countering until I call for a final vote, which you can simply send me a line or two in a pm and I’ll add it in my final call post to save time... unless you have something special planned but we can talk about that as it comes. (if this system sucks balls we can change it)
The vote will go into effect right after the hearing and the next day will begin, free form once more. As time goes on, I’ll update on the effects of the actions and surrounding countryside -- but you are free to go visit areas of interest on your own.
As for further mechanics... we can discuss this -- ideally this will be character driven but if we feel like we need hard numbers in things like treasury, or personal purchasing power, then we can look into it.
Setting! Up to debate, but I’m thinking mundane (no magic), 17th century-esque. The Empire will be across a body of water, historical enemies and allies nearby.
Anyways, let’s try and make this work, so send thoughts and concerns. I’m flexible to change! (Also will take ideas for worldbuilding + things to add.)
A grey wind buffeted Persius as he walked alone. The skies above were closed with pregnant clouds, and their offspring kept the grassy fields on either side of the road foggy and screened. The dirt of the road squelched under Persius’ boots, his mighty height and weight aiding in squeezing out droplets of last night's rain and soaking into his saturated boots. He could feel sores forming on the bottom of his feet, a creaking ache in his knees. The heft of his bronze hauberk and mighty sword (much too big for most) adding only to the downward pull of each labored step.
Hanging on his belt and getting caught in the wind were four scalps tied by the hair. Their edges were crisp with dried skin, any gore long knocked clean -- and as crude as they were, they served a noble purpose, at least in the service of Persius. The slap of the brutal trophies against his thighs, the reanimation of them in the wind; all things related to them gave no comfort to Persius or vindication for taking them, save for one... that noble purpose. He grunted at the recent memory of why he took them, a decision made right after the death of his horse and loss of most of his supplies -- the start of his foot sores and knee creaks. After that run in with the previous owners of the scalps, he had decided that they could serve as a ward or warning to any potential and future would-be troublemakers -- and so far there had been none. Was it justified, did it work? Persius couldn’t say, but he did call forth five prayers every time the scalps slapped his leg -- one for each bandit and one for his own soul.
The wear was not isolated on his limbs and soul, however, as with each step he loosened a pocket of hunger in his stomach -- knocking free angry bubbles and gurgles from his gut. Each snarl from his belly traveled up his spine hot and angry, giving him a strange itch in his muscles and pressuring a headache into the fore of his brain. His meaty left hand fell gingerly to his stomach, as if inspecting a wound. A deep frown formed on his bearded face -- his bronze skin wrinkling. A sixth prayer for each stomach gurgle; the walls of Ketrefa were in the distance -- along with his vindication from the journey and from hunger.
At the gates of the famed city, his fluttering white cloak marked with the golden scallop shell of his order caught more attention than the scalps on his belt. A bored captain scowled at him from behind two poor looking men armed with spears. The shuffle of everyone else not picked from the inflow of people into the city drowned out most of the unpleasant whispers, but not the captains -- he made sure Persius heard his distaste.
“Do you want to damn the city?” The captain all but shouted, his voice bouncing between the stone pillars and impressive arches that held the walls of Ketrefa’s gatehouse together. The thickness of the defenses meant that where Persius was standing was cooled by perpetual shade, the soil freezing his soaked feet -- the only thing that kept him warm was his mutual hatred of the captain and subsequent prayer for humility. Persius swallowed his pride and hung his head.
“Please sir, I require entry.” Persius’ own voice was dusty and deep. It was the voice of a man who could likely pluck the captain from his spot and pop his head open with only a thumb and index finger. The captain, however, held his scowl.
“Your kind are no good. You can’t come in here.”
“Let’s dispose of the ‘sir,' ' The captain narrowed his eyes, a wicked smile forming, “Let’s not pretend that we are even close to being on the same hierarchy. “You’re a beast, I’m a man.”
Persius kept his gaze down, and his prayers humming in his head -- quelling a rising flame. The captain’s smile grew, “Say beast? You want in, right?” Silence. “Wear your cloak inside out.”
The giant knight looked at the captain quizzical for a moment, bringing his fingers to loosen the toggle of his cloak, “If that is what-”
“And give me your sword.”
Persius froze, “But sir-”
“What did I say!?”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t give you my weapon,” Persius let his fingers fall from his toggle, one brushing the belt that strapped his mighty blade to his back (for ease of travel).
“And I can’t let you in.”
That fire was rising again. Persius shook his head, “I’ll reverse my cloak, duck my head, not speak a word -- I just need to get in.”
“Not good enough.” The captain quickly spat, “I can’t let a beast run around with a weapon such as that.” Each word seemed to drip with poison, and each word set off a gong in Persius’ starving, exhausted, tired chest. His prayers began to slip into unintelligible fuzz. He gaped wordlessly, letting out little puffs of air as he tried to find reason.
The captain sucked in a mocking breath, “What’s the matter beast-”
KA-RACK! Persius’ right came swinging down like a hammer, knocking the captain so cleanly off his feet, his body froze rigid before he even hit the ground -- eyes rolled in the back of his head. The other two guards jumped at the strike, a hot breath steaming from Persius’ nostrils. “Entry.” The other two guards were as frozen as their unconscious and possibly deceased captain, allowing Persius to pay them with a hard stare, a flip of his cloak and a quick prayer as he marched inwards to the streets of the city.
Winding streets and dizzying alleyways fell under his feet as crowds of people stepped aside and parted to give way. The initial unease from the gate spread like a plague through the anxious and busy citizens of the city. Worried glances cast at his weapons, at the strange cloak, at the very foreign essence within him that somehow marked him as an outsider to these people milling about behind their walls. Ever so often he caught the glare of a patrol, relentless spears-for-hire who trailed after him almost as if expecting him to make trouble for himself. Those same patrols were shaking down market stalls, integrating with the populace, or just lazing on street corners. All the while, Persius bore witness to street brawls, screaming, and general disarray on his journey through the giant city. Ketrefa had little left of honor, though it seemed such had not yet caught up with its citizens.
Such became even clearer when he took a turn along the street and found himself walking through thinner and thinner crowds. The bustle and life clung to his back, fading into the background with each step, and Persius found himself inside the eye of the storm - a lull in the anthill that was Ketrefa.
It wasn’t so much the chill in the air as much as the chill in the people that made Persius pull his cloak tighter around him. His nose was wrinkled at the smell of the inner city, and his thoughts were wondering if any of his brothers and sisters of the faith could really be found in such a place. Slowly his eyes drifted over the dirty and ragged people he passed -- neglected children, drunken oafs, whoring women. He felt a pin of sadness, topped with a desire of justice for these people, but all he could really do for them was hope.
People would look, turn, and leave; save for one set of eyes -- for a while at least. Behind a rotting barral a skinny looking man wearing a soiled yellow scarf was staring hard at Persius, enough to make the massive man stop and turn to stare back. The pair held their gaze for a while before the man with the scarf slowly turned away and slipped into an alleyway. Persius let out a huff of air from his nostrils, dismissing the man, and continued on his walk.
Finally the winding back alleys and rotting roads led to a forgotten square of sorts. It wasn’t clear if it was made purposely or if a by-product of poorly planned buildings and misused market stands, but Persius found himself in it. There wasn’t much hawking, the general feel of the square being as wallowing as the rest of this forsaken district. A few more steps brought him before what must once have been a majestic shrine - a centrepiece of the square as forgotten as the rest. With stonework and copper embellishments wrapped in delicate spirals to honor the Goddess of Flame, it must have been a sight to behold in its heyday. Now it was covered with dried paint, dye, and refuse. Someone had gone to great lengths to deface as much of this ancient monument as they could, with arcane symbols of swirls in dizzying patterns, crude pictograms of horns and debauchery, and random defilement of paint and dirt covering most - if not all - of this once proud shrine to one of the highlands five main deities. Persius shot out a breath from his nostrils, be it mixed with disgust or amusement.
The longer Persius had to take in his surroundings, the more he noticed this defacement in the rest of the squalid square. On walls, above doors, wherever they might fit many of the symbols present on the shrine reappeared. The harder he looked, the more he found - old and new alike. A clatter of wood and metal brought his attention further down the forlorn district; a small line of ragged peasants stood lined up at a sturdier market stall in the midst of the largest street. The stall - complete with a regal awning of red and gold, looked freshly out of place in a derelict area like this. Each of the peasant’s approached in an orderly manner, receiving a bowl from a dark-haired woman in finery befitting her stall, and bowing their head deeply. From afar, it looked almost like a religious procession.
Persius remembered his own stomach at the sight -- the burn of an empty gut swirling back. Swallowing what pride he had crumbs of, he bowed his head deeply and found the end of the line. Immediately a fuzz entered his head and he wasn’t too sure what he was expecting -- to find food, or to find direction to food that wouldn’t be taken away from another hungry mouth... perhaps the latter -- only he was just as broke as those around him. He let his thoughts swim unconcluded as he walked with the procession. The line proved longer than it had looked from afar - or perhaps that was simply his stomach talking - and it moved at a slow pace, many of the people ahead being afforded a great deal of time to speak before receiving their gift and moving out of the line for another to take their place.
Finally, when only one remained ahead of him, the scent of stew broke it’s way through muck and filth to tempt his nostrils with a promise of release from hunger. The commoner ahead of Persius greeted the woman humbly, but by name - Mira - and they spoke in a calm and graceful tone about the man’s family, a possible chance for work, and future prospects of the city and the district. Even from the half-conversation Persius caught, it was clear there was some kinship at play. Eventually, the peasant bowed even further, and the woman spoke a last time. The man repeated the phrase, “Praise the Goddess, and her eternal love,” and shifted out of the line to file away between debris and an entryway to living spaces some ten paces away, leaving space to be filled between Persius and the woman. At last, he had his chance at food, or at least, direction. “Approach, please.” the dark-haired woman said with a soft tone of voice.
Persius shuffled forward, the sudden slap of a scalp prompting him to pull his cloak over his belt in an attempt to appear less violent. He kept his head bowed and his vision low, clearing his dust coated throat with a “Greetings, Sister.”
There was a charged pause of silence; not a long one, but enough for Persius to know her eyes roamed over him and his apparel without needing to look up. “Please, call me Mira, friend,” the woman returned to break the silence, with no discernible contempt in her voice. “We are all equals before the Goddess.” Her feet fidgeted and shifted under her dress, lilting her pose on the small box she stood on. “Have I seen you here before? I thought I knew everyone, by now.”
“No. No, you see I am a traveler from Yalin.” He lifted his face to meet hers, “and I don’t want to deprive those behind me of a meal, but I am afraid I am as ragged. If you would know where I could find another meal elsewhere, or perhaps where I may find any brothers or sisters of the Golden Light.” He held out empty palms in gesture with his story.
He found her watching him with big, brown eyes and a graceful smile befitting her station as a sanctuary of the filth that had been the rest of Ketrefa. She lifted her own hand demurely to gesture down the line. “You may not be from here, traveler, but you are no less entitled to a full stomach and a happy life than any other. The Goddess sees and cares for all, and expects only a true heart in return.” Mira smiled at him with a comely expression, then twisted to gesture behind her stall, where three large cauldrons and a fair few modestly dressed - but nevertheless clean - men and women toiled to prepare more food. “The Golden Light I do not know,” she finally professed as she looked back to Persius, though remained as warm and welcoming as before. “Though I do not doubt my husband or cousin would. They are far more knowledgeable than I. But first,” Mira turned, and one of the others raised a bowl from the side in offering. The woman grasped the bowl gently, and simply turned to offer it to Persius. “Eat. Praise the Goddess, friend, and her eternal love.”
“An act of charity is not forgotten, Sist- Mira,” Persius bowed his head again and put his fingers around the bowl, “A prayer for this food and for your Goddess, may an emissary she be.” He looked back up and hesitated a moment, as if asking a question -- a slow pull of the bowl towards himself. Mira simply smiled and relinquished the bowl to him without contest or comment, the stone in Persius’ stomach fading into relief. It took him the rest of his will to not devour the bowl like the starved animal he felt he was right then and there -- opting instead to bow out of line, a sly finger dipped in the mush to give himself a taste.
Only when his back was finally to the others did he bite the tip of his glove and rip it off -- using his palm to shovel the gruel into his mouth. Hopes that his shoulders veiled his actions faded into hindsight as his primal hunger took over his mind, blank and starving. It wasn’t until his teeth accidentally bit deep into the wooden edge of the bowl did he realize he had finished. A sizable burp expanded his cheeks. “Praise be, so says.” He exhaled. As the procession continued behind him in relative peace still, it appeared the only witness had been the particularly crude mural of a horned woman on the wall of the domicile in front of him. Persius gave the mural a nod, turning to return the defiled bowl.
Mira seemed deep in an affectionate discussion with an older woman at the head of the line, though after a few moments of scrutiny he located a table with an assortment of poorly stacked bowls - the telltale mark of a place to return your kitchenware. There wasn’t much to do but skim along the side of the stall to place his own among the others. About to perform this minor gratitude, a hand slammed down on his shoulder with enough power to halt any warrior in their tracks. Persius was no exception, a cringe stiffening his back and he jumped to attention. His eyes widened as they darted back and forth in search of the source, a vision of the massacre of Yalin filming over his sight. The shock and vision faded and he was met with the gaze of a young man, handsome in that way that suggested he had never seen combat and had servants looking after him, a dark pool of blood was pouring out of his mouth -- Persius blinked -- the blood was gone. The man smiled at him with the same oblivious and welcoming heat that Mira had. “Didn’t mean to scare you, there!” he offered with a confident and friendly breath. “Are you new here, friend?”
Sucking in a shaky breath and finding his footing, Persius nodded. Grit returned to his voice and he faced the man squarely, “I am in search of the brothers and sisters of the Golden Light who reside in the city, do you know of them?”
The man continued to smile as his gaze wandered down over Persius, the same sort of pause he had experienced before. He drew his hand away from his shoulder, only to clap his arm twice and squeeze it before chuckling. “Ah, the Golden Light! I have heard of them, yes,” He proffered with a flippant tone. “Are you kindred of theirs? You have a rugged look to you, friend.”
Persius couldn’t help a smile, his eyes slightly wet. What energy he had lost seemed to seep back into his cold limbs, “Where are they?” He didn’t mean to brush away the questions, so he shook his head. “I’m sorry, but where are they?”
The man grew sadder in his smile, his eyes gliding down over Persius again. At last he retracted his hand. “Alas, this I cannot say without first looking into it. Our wondrous city is quite the sprawl, my friend.” Almost if he expected to be able to interrupt, he paused for a few moments before continuing. “But worry not, yes? My wife may be the generous one, but I am not without mercy myself. Eh?” He lashed out with a gentle tap of Persius' shoulder again, brimming with confidence.
Persius winced, “I understand.” He rubbed a hand over where the man had touched him and took a step back, “I must find a place to await news, then. I fear my time in this city is already on borrowed time.”
“Ah, no!” He called out. “You misunderstand me, friend. Hah! The perils of miscommunication, I fear. I am saying I will help you! I am an Akellos noble, there is nothing we cannot find out with some jostling and favours, yes? So I can offer you a trade, perhaps.”
“Trade?” Persius cocked his head, “What sort?”
The man grinned back at him with a knowing, but friendly, smile. “Well. Quite a simple trade, as a matter of fact. You are a rugged man, that much is clear. We are but humble servants of the Goddess. Not all places in Ketrefa are as calm as these. Help us, and we help you. Simple, no?”
“I’m not sure if causing trouble in a city where I am hardly wanted would do either of us much good,” Persius countered, but the man was already shaking his head.
“Please! It is not trouble, it is for the safety of me and mine. We shall feed, house, and,” he tugged ever so slightly on his smile, “...bathe you, and I will personally find your kin for you. In return, you help kind servants of the Goddess give some love back to the city and her hopefuls. We must always pay what we receive forward, do you not agree, my friend?” The man leant over towards the table, adjusting the precarious yet small tower of bowls.
Silence stood between the two for an uncomfortable amount of time before a grunt came from Persius. The mighty man reached behind him and untangled his scabbard from his back. With a metallic thud he let the sharpened bar of metal that was his blade drive into the ground, marking a boundary between the two. Looking over the weapon, Persius held out the scalps in one hand, the other on the pommel of the sword, "Let me say now that all the blood I spill, all the bones I will break; all the fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters I will slaughter will be laid at your feet. If you want this on your hands, so be it, but know that you and your Goddess will hold the consequences. I do not take joy in giving a curse in exchange for a blessing like the one you had shown me, but that is what you are asking. If this is what you truly desire in return." Persius shook the scalps, asking the man to take them from him, "Then I will do it in innocence."
The man was visibly taken aback by the scalps, but still put on the best smile he could muster. With a pause of his own, he eventually extended his hand to take the offered ‘gift’ and accept his verbal curse. “Let us hope that it does not come to that, yes?” He offered with another attempt at a winning smile. “When we are done here, tell Yesua back there-” he twisted on the spot to point at a black-haired man in modest clothes, stirring a cauldron. “That Kalet sent you to help with tomorrow’s service. He will offer you whatever you need. After work you come back to me at our home, and hopefully I shall have good news for you.”
"Where do you live?" Persius was wiping his hands against his cloak, eyes on Yesua. He can't say he liked the sound of any of this, but he also can't say he has liked much as of late anyways. Yesua seemed to cut out of sturdier stock than most of these preened and well-dressed cooks, giving the impression of a man as much out of place as Persius himself was among the ragged masses. Still, he seemed content to be working the cauldron, smiling jovially at his comrades.
In front of Persius, the young man chuckled and reached forward to give his arm a gentle and brief touch -- the brush making Persius’ skin twitch even well hidden under his armor. “Do not worry yourself, yes? Yesua will show you all you need to know. If you get lost, my friend, you can simply ask for House Akellos. Our fame in Ketrefa stretches many generations back, you cannot lose track of us!” He smiled warmly, giving an ample nod in the same motion as he retracted his hand.
“Very well,” Persius took a step out of reach, “Goodness within you, Kalet... I think I’ll speak to Yesua right away.”
Kalet simply nodded. With a final smile, he stepped aside and returned to the bowls, allowing Persius the freedom that came with not having eyes on his every move. Openly at least; he certainly still felt like they were all keenly aware of his presence -- but in their defense... as small as it may be... he himself was having trouble remembering what it was like before paranoia took over his mind.
“Yesua?” He felt his voice leave him before he was even aware he was speaking. He felt slightly foolish addressing the man so directly, especially upon realizing he still had his weapon out. Slowly he tucked it behind him, “Kalet had sent me your way.”
The man gave a gruff grunt as he released his ladle, which was quickly snapped up by his comrade at the cauldron, and looked up at Persius. In another life, he could’ve been out there, fighting battles of his own. Yesua nodded slowly and brushed a hand through his thick but groomed beard. “Excellent, excellent. I’m glad he’s taking the Narrowtown issue seriously. You got a name?”
“Persius of Yalin.” ‘
“Well, Persius of Yalin,” the man grunted out as a growing warmth spread on his features. Eventually, he too smiled like the others had, welcoming and without judgement. “Grab a few bowls and let’s finish this service. After that, I’ll show you to our quarters.”
The promise of lodgings turned out to be true; a modest bedroom in a family house a fair distance away from the district he’d first met all of them. Everything was laid out within an hour of his arrival. Fresh clothes - almost identical to what Yesua and the other workers had worn - more food, a small tub to climb into and get clean. Yesua had made himself scarce after sending him to his room, giving Persius only basic directions about when and where to meet up in the morning. There had been no real room for questions, and by the time Persius was situated in his new room, the bearded man was gone for the evening.
Persius was not left alone for long, however. Yesua’s presence was rapidly replaced by a comely young woman, with soft features that seemed to dust with a blush simply by looking in Persius' general direction. Still, she smiled with the same warmth that Kalet and Mira had, and when she swept across the small room to direct Persius towards the tub, she touched his arm with the same exploratory squeeze that Kalet had. Again a cringe chilled over his skin, the great man wincing. This time, however, he gently removed her hand off his mailed arm and offered her a simple nod for explanation.
The woman respected his boundaries only in the most technical sense, insistently remaining in the room to help him bathe. Eventually, when words were finally the last solution, she spoke a simple utterance. "Allow me to show you the love of the Goddess."
Persius stared at her for a long time, his hands tangled in the straps of his armor. With a loud clang, his hauberk and cloak fell to the ground, an inconspicious pouch tied to his belt. His muddied once white shirt came next, then his bries. Finally the man stood bare, his body mottled with grotesque blue lesions and black bruises from recent slaughters. He cleared his throat and gave a slow nod, "Fine..." Taking a few steps forward he thrusted his laundry into her arms, "But be careful with them, I'm afraid they are more torn than myself from the journey." She accepted his laundry with a considerable amount of confusion. Confusion turned to indignance, even frustration, and for just a moment the facade of a pleasant and shy attendant fell away. The woman caught herself in the act, and offered Persius a warm smile and a nod soon after, leaving the room with his clothes. The door slammed shut, and for the first time in a long time, a giddy smile was plastered on Persius' face.
No one came to bother him again that night, finally allowing the traveler some rest. He found himself scrubbing quickly in the bath, so fast the water didn't have time to turn mild - all for his grand plan that he had been cooking up since he first saw the room.
Hopping out and tightening a towel around himself, he immediately leapt into the bed -- asleep before his head hit the pillow.
Narrowtown was a descriptive name in every possible way. Doubtfully an actual district of the city, it seemed to be a winding set of alleyways crisscrossing the back ways of a few larger districts in a dizzying pattern. Glassless windows opened straight out onto the street as much as doors and arches, and in many places the opposite sides of the alley stretched so close to each other that any well-built man would struggle to press through; likewise, it wasn’t hard to imagine people climbing into each other's buildings from open windows that were a mere arm’s length apart. This cramped space apparently did not dissuade people from living here, nor did it have any fewer citizens lounging and hawking wares than any other set of streets Persius had experienced in Ketrefa. It was a maddening experience - a veritable sea of unwashed masses squirming and fighting amongst each other in a stink Persius only noticed because of the cleanliness that had been forced on him the night before.
Led by Yesua, a small expedition of hopefuls from the day before had set up camp along the broadest of these alleyways, a single cauldron and enough bowls to feed but a considerable minority of the populace, even with the inclusion of bread. It’d naturally be all but impossible to build the stall from yesterday here, but the alternative still seemed like folly at best. Persius had been given the task of lugging ingredients, which proved no tougher than an honest day’s training in Yalin. Finally rid of the last weight in the throes of preparation, Yesua finally deigned to speak to him. “Alright, Persius of Yalin. Any of them try to get what ain’t theirs, or hurt any of us, we’re relying on you.”
Persius sniffed, regretting it instantly but replying with a resigned sigh. He had hoped they would have forgotten his violent abilities and let him simply ladle soup for a day. Tucking a cheek he nodded, "If that's what you want, then by all means."
That seemed to be all they needed. A few moments of preparation followed as the cooking began, and a nearby resident dragged out planks and barrels to set up a makeshift table for Yesua and a second man to stand behind. They gestured for Persius to take up a position at the tableside, and it seemed two of the men who came along busied themselves entirely by taking up guard posts of their own at the back of the procession.
Soon enough, the scent of dirt and filth in the alley was being pushed aside by the promising aroma of warm food. It was enough to stir the nearby crowd into slow action, a few who had been eyeing the stand ducking into their homes before reappearing to weave through the crowd. Others climbed straight out of windows as word began to spread, and within half-an-hour of cooking beginning in earnest, Narrowtown had become an anthill of activity. These commoners, however, did not have the grace or respect of their peers from yesterday. The attempt to form a line was haphazard at best, and those foolish enough to follow the leader were quickly swallowed by the crowd of interested citizens. Within minutes, men and women alike were pressing up against the table, and against Persius -- sending a strange heat to his belly and a coldness to his head. It only took another few moments before the first man tried to squeeze past him on the side, only dissuaded when Persius failed to budge, a twitch forming in his eye. Clamoring voices overpowered each other, all urging Yesua and the other man to heed them first. The sounds seemed to saturate in Persius’ ears, the thud of the wooden bowls turning to clangs of metal -- the shouts for food... just plain screams.
It swiftly became apparent that today's service was nothing like the one Persius had personally experienced. Not only was there disorganized chaos among the populace, but the process had its own rules. A ragged man in the masses raised his hand into the sky, showcasing some sort of basic medallion in the shape of a heart with six horns around it. Yesua pointed at him, and he forced his way forward, assisted by the few in the crowd who wanted some semblance of order. Reaching the front, he received a portion of bread and made himself scarce just as quickly. This pattern repeated again a while later, another person battling their way through the crowd to show off the same insignia and receive their share of bread, all the while an increasingly indignant mass of people argued and begged for Yesua's attention, rattled the table by pushing each other, and tugged at Persius’ cloak, causing Persius’ heartbeat to rapidly increase seemingly against his will. Another few moments and a third person came out of the woodwork with a medallion and received their bread.
Then the pattern changed. A woman in dark rags elbowed her way to the front of the table, forced to fight for her right at the front. A shining piece of metal clattered onto the wooden planks - a polished and embellished symbol of the Sun Mother. Yesua gripped the piece, investigated it briefly and then nodded to the other man. The woman received a bowl of stew, and a heart medallion, before she vanished back into the crowd. The symbol of Oraelia vanished into a sack by Yesua's side. After another few bread rations being passed out to commoners appearing in the crowd with medallions, another artifact clattered onto the table. A well-tended scepter, unmistakably embellished with insignias honoring Tekret. That too vanished into the sack in exchange for a bowl of stew and a medallion, confirming the pattern that was to be today's service of food. Kindness and love seemed considerably more absent here, to the point that it barely even resembled what Mira had offered the hopeful on the day before.
The whole scene seemed to blur to Persius, his fingers tightening around the grip of his weapon -- his weapon, he couldn’t remember when he had drawn it. The shoving, the screaming, the clash of metal. Persius’ chest began to heave with deep laboured breaths. His eyes darted between the faces of the crowd -- their features melting into strange shadows. He felt like their empty faces were staring at him, how and why, he didn’t know but they were looking right at him -- they all were. The knight’s fingers went numb, his right arm shaking. At that moment a man bumped into him and a sharp blanket of needles and pins washed over Persius. His heart thumped heavy against his ribcage and he threw out a massive arm -- slamming the intruder backwards. “Back!” Persius’ barked with a shaking rage. Hot air was huffing out of his nostrils -- people starting to give him space as he leveled his weapon between himself and the crowd. They all looked familiar; a sweat ringed Persius’ head, they all looked like the enemy.
From his side he heard the distant gurgle of Yesua’s voice, as if Persius’ was underwater, “Yeah, stay calm, you dogs! There’s food for everyone who does the work of the Goddess!” It was a hollow reaffirmation of his own rage, but other than that, Persius was alone in a sea of madness. The world seemed to spin, Persius dropping instinctually into a low guard, when something caught his eye.
It glimmered briefly in the sun, just enough to pull Persius a little ways back to shore. It was a brass scallop shell being held up by a hungry man. Persius’ brow knitted, the blood flowed back into his fingers and with adrenaline and purpose, he began a powerful walk into the crowd. His body knocked away the hungry initially, then it was their own fear. His eyes were narrow on the pendant -- pointing a gloved hand, “Where did you get that!” He shouted, more people leaping out of his way. “Where did you get that?”
The man in question was shaking, eyes wide as the monster of a man came stomping towards him. A hand from one of the cultists came out to stop Persius, maybe even offer a reassuring squeeze but the knight batted it away with a heavy hand. Finally the hungry man was in front of Persius, knees bent and hands raised. Between the two was the pendant. Persius plucked it from the man, “Where did you get this?” He growled.
“I found it-”
Persius’ arm slammed into the man like a metal bar, smashing him into the soup table -- bowls spilling and clattering everywhere as the whole ensemble tipped from the weight. Persius kept the man pinned. “Where...?” The voice was low and gravely, but all the man could muster up was a hoarse cough. Adding more weight into Persius’ pinning arm, the hungry man’s back began to creak and pop. “Where!?”
“Persius,” a distant voice cut in, the growl of Yesua at his most frustrated thus far. “Persius! Not on the table! Someone get this lout in line, already.” Around him, much of the panicked crowd had begun to press back, but they were swiftly replaced by the cooks and lookouts that Yesua counted among his compatriots. Hands reached out for Persius from all sides.
Spinning to meet the hands, Persius’ felt his head swirl. He could hear the screams. He gritted his teeth, putting his weapon between him and the cooks. A stiff tension rose as both parties processed. Some people in the crowd were crying, the man on the table was coughing madly -- and Persius’ own heartbeat wracked in his head.
“Stand down dogs of Neiya,” The voice wasn’t Persius’. The crowd gasped, Persius dizzily spinning again to find the owner of the voice. Behind the cooks, threading through the crowd, even appearing behind the table -- men and women in yellow scarfs. They greatly outnumbered the cooks -- the crowd showcasing obedience to them. At the head of the group was a ratty looking man, who the burgers and beggars both looked at with a sense of respect and fear.
The ratty man spoke again, a lopsided smile on his face, “This isn’t your turf.” He parted his long yellow beige coat to showcase a shiny blade, but it was the brass scallop shell hanging under his neck that caught Persius’ eyes. With a nod from the gang leader, three other scarf wearing members began to push stubborn stew stirrers away from the table and to inspect the pots -- one pilfering the sack of tokens.
“Where did you-” Persius pointed at the ratty gang leader.
“So says, Brotha.”
The words filled Persius with a cathartic glow -- steeling his expression and refocusing on the cultists with a new burn. The leader tilted his head, eyes flashing over the tense cultists as if surprised to still be seeing them, "Lovewhores, you deaf? I said beat it.. As in leave, before I send you back to the Holy Cunt myself."
Outnumbered and outmatched, the cooks and helpers didn’t appear all that enthused to do anything but remain, guarded and unsure. Yesua, initially overwhelmed by the chaos unfolding all around him, turned towards the table - his gaze immediately fixating on the sack now firmly out of his reach. When the situation finally seemed to entirely dawn on him, his face twisted into one of almost manic anger. “You have committed a grave mistake today,” he pressed out between gritted teeth, fist balling up despite the odds. One of the cooks touched at his shoulder, and it seemed to be enough to at least bring some sense into him. Yesua glowered at both the leader of the scarved reinforcements, and at Persius, before he finally began to walk away, inspiring the other cultists to finally move. Like that, the food procession was officially over with, and the cooks began to scatter in different directions through Narrowtown.
"I commit a grave mistake everyday," The Leader turned to Persius' the smile of a predator still on his lips.
"Best way to learn grave lessons," Persius found his breath, the comfort of Brotherhood leaking in. "I cannot thank you enough... I've spent a terrible forty eight hours looking for you all."
"Please," The leader kept his confident smile, one a lot more genuine than any Persius had seen in a few days. The leader gestured for Persius to follow, "I'm sure you have a lot to tell me."
"That is no exaggeration, Brother." Persius clutched at a small pouch hidden on his belt. The leader cocked his head.
"Call me Justinian."
Persius, one of the surviving men from Yalin, travels north and reaches Ketrefa to continue the search for other members of his order. The Walled City is not quite so welcoming as he had hoped, however, and the guards do their best to deprive him of all honor and protection. After some aggressive negotiations, Persius finally enters Ketrefa to continue his journey. The experience is a dizzying and unpleasant experience of crowds and labyrinthine architecture.
Persius eventually finds himself in the Court of Flames after an encounter with a yellow-scarfed beggar, which has been thoroughly defaced with arcane symbols, refuse and images of the horned goddess, throwing the already decrepit district further into defilement. There he comes about a food service conducted by the Cult of the Horned Goddess - Mira and Kalet are still doling out food as a religious service to the hungry commoners. Persius swallows his pride and stands in line for a chance at food, and after a short interaction with Mira, is given the chance to eat something after his long journey. While he tries to return the bowl, Kalet scouts him out for work, and digs into his story and reason for being in Ketrefa. Persius fights with his inner demons. He hires Persius for another food service the next day in return for helping him find the Order of the Golden Light.
The Cult of the Horned Goddess offers him lodging and a bath, and do their best to make his stay more pleasant than he desires, and Persius manages to find some peace despite their best attempts.
The following day, Persius follows a group of cultists led by a man named Yesua into Narrowtown; a set of alleys and back streets rather than a district of it’s own, famed for being so narrow in places that people can climb across buildings through their windows. He stands guard while the Cult perform another version of their food service - in Narrowtown, people only receive food if they either have a cult medallion, or if they have religious artifacts to trade for one. Persius struggles to keep his memories of the slaughter of Yalin at bay in the massive crowd, and it eventually culminates in chaos as Persius spots a familiar artifact amongst those being pawned off.
The Cult try to get him under control, but out of the crowd and nooks and crannies of Narrowtown a whole band of yellow-scarfed individuals leap to his defense. They scare off Yesua and his cultist friends, with threats from both sides. Persius realizes that the band are actually part of his faith, and he is reunited with his allies, the leader of whom is named Justinian.
Gibbou’s face twisted into a knot as she shuffled another step forward. She had made it a total of three paces from her portal, clutching her stomach as though it was about to fall out. Baggy eyes and hair like an overgrown jungle made up only a small share of the whole wagon wreck that was the moon goddess recovering from her past days of celebration. A hardened mess of unspeakable things trailed from her lips down her chin, covering her moonlight markings, and formed a sickly beige spot on the left leg of her pants. She had only managed to put on a single bat slipper, and her usual overshirt had been switched out with a ragged midnight tank top that somehow managed to smell nicer than its wearer. A burp choked her for a moment and she hesitated in her shuffle.
“... Oh, nuh… Orey, hehlp…” She leaned into a nearby bush and did terrible things to it. She straightened back up and wiped her mouth with a slimey backhand. “Mush find Orey…” She kept shuffling forward.
A figure popped up from behind the bush, limply holding... soiled shears and wearing a disgusted grimace, “Uh...” Illyd Dyll forced a flawed smile, “Hello?”
Gibbou’s tired eyes did their best to widen and she staggered back, though it was hard to tell if it was different from her previous stagger. “Oh, sssshhoot, I’m so… Nuh, my hea-... I’m ssso, so sorry… Here, lemme…” She tried to fish a handkerchief out of her breast pocket, only to realise she was wearing the wrong top.
“Um,” Illyd Dyll wiggled his fingers and the shears disappeared only to be replaced with a wooden cup filled with a beige looking liquid. He repainted his smile and held out the cup, “For ye belly.”
Gibbou narrowed her eyes at the cup. “That’s not more firewater, right?”
“It’s a blend of ginger roots and citrus fruits.” He paused, “But only a little of each, made without fire!” His exclamation was a little loud at the end, making him wince in empathy.
She closed her eyes and nodded slowly, accepting the cup and sipping its contents gingerly. It warmed her mouth and throat with a gentle burn, and the acidity immediately waged war against the sickly sweet aftertaste of carrots in her mouth. She nodded with gratitude at her saviour. “Hey, thanks… That feels so much better.” She took another sip. “Sorry about the, uh… The thingies, shears. I sorta just… Came up.” Blinking away sheepishly, she followed up with: “Say, uh, have we met? I’m Gibbou from the moon. Who’re you?”
Illyd Dyll smiled, “I’m Illyd Dyll, from the...” He looked clouded for a moment, “Well either way, ye should follow up with a nice starch diet -- can I interest ye in a potato?” He held up a potato. Gibbou took it, inspected it and bit into it with a juicy snap. She chewed wearing a hard frown.
“Is it supposed to be this… Hard?”
“Normally I boil it first,” Illyd nodded, “Makes it like a nice pillow.” He paused, “Ye got a pot?”
“Oh.” She eyed the potato with a mixture of embarrassment and betrayal. “Yeah, hang on…” With a snap and a poof, a pot appeared out of thin air and smashed against the stoney floor of the Antiquity. Gibbou covered her ears and mumbled, “ow” over and over again. She got over her agony and snapped some firewood into existence, too. As that, too, clattered against the ground, she snarled. “Damn gravity…” She looked up, turned back and followed the three steps she had taken away from her portal with narrow eyes. “... Hey, Illyd? You mind if we head back to my place? I’m missing my beanbags and the, the, y’know, empty vacuum of space.” She started dragging herself backwards like a zombie.
“I’m a big fan’o beans myself,” Illyd happily accompanied, pulling a harp out of nowhere but then slowly thinking better of it. The two of them subsequently headed through the portal, passing through time and reality until the gentle background noise of other gods’ conversations in the Antiquity disappeared into memory, being replaced by a deafening silence. They were inside a glass dome, the eternal stretch of space filling the view above. Darkness was everywhere, and even divine vision had issues making out the shapes of things, much less their colour. Gibbou snaked her way over to a messy pile of pillows and beanbags and crawled inside like some animal entering its nest. The pot and firewood magically arranged themselves somewhere else. The pot filled with water and a pocket of oxygen appeared between the wood and the pot so fire could be made. A snap lit the wood, and the first light that had graced the dark side of the moon in a long time proceeded to cook the pair some potatoes. “Make yourself at home…” came a drowsy drone from inside the pillow fort.
“Oh, thank ye,” Illyd leaned back into a hammock that had materialized behind him. He slowly fell into its embrace -- swinging gently over the ground and held up by two happy looking apple trees -- sized perfectly for the indoors. He nestled until he was cozy, letting out a soft question, “So how are ye, Gibbou?”
“... Regretful. How about you, Illyd?”
“I’m not always too sure, these days,” Illyd answered honestly, “But what’s life without a little mystery, yeah?” He let his hammock swing, fiddling with something in his fingers.
A blue, dark-blue-haired head popped out from between the pillows, the fire casting black shadows across it that contrasted heavily with its white tattoos and moonwhite eyes. “You… You wanna talk about?” She paused. “I, I mean, I know we just met, but… I, at least, feel like it helps to talk to someone whenever you’re feeling down. It’s helped me now a few times.”
Illyd looked over from his hammock, the earthen brown eyes just peeking over the lip, “Ye know, I couldn’t agree more.” Another pause, “Ye mind if I play a little somethin’ first? Soft and smooth, don’t ye worry. For my nerves.”
There was a shuffle of pillows as the moon goddess shrugged. “Go ahead - soft and smooth’s all good.”
“Stop me if ye heard this one before,” Illyd leaned back in his hammock. There was a long silence ended by the smack of lips and then a long pull from a sorrowful flute. The notes were soft and caring, yet quiet and long. The cry of the flute swirled over the hammock, slowly filling the dome with its passive sob. A fluttering of happy notes began to freckle it, goading a memory from Gibbou.
Two thousand years had filled her head with an eternity of memories, but few came to her easier than this one, and a sting of nostalgia and dissonance clouded her head. “... I, I have… Where did… Where did you heard this?” She slowly pushed herself up to a seated position, pillows and bean bags rolling off the pile and out onto the floor.
The flute stopped and Illyd peaked back over, “In a way, I kinda wrote it. Ye like it?”
Gibbou frowned. “How could you have-... I mean, I like it - I really do, but…” She drew a stiff breath. “I heard it for the first time a long time ago. Did you teach it to him back then?”
“Nah,” Illyd seemed bashful, “Ye were... that is to say... well ye see... ye were the first one to hear it... from me.” He sat up, “Ye know I am sorry for not introducin’ myself earlier.”
She stood up and approached him slowly, all semblance of her earlier ailment seemingly gone. A quivering breath filled her lungs and she asked, “... Who are you, really?”
Illyd Dyll tucked his cheek in and nodded, “I’m Illyd Dyll -- but ye first knew me as one third of a greater being. Ye locked me up behind a gate.” He held out a hand, “But! But! That was all necessary ‘nd I have no bad feelin’s towards ye, in fact if it wasn’t for ye I wouldn’t be around.” He paused, “Listen, ye out of all people in this here crazy world deserve the full story ‘nd when you bumped into me in the bushes, I figured the sooner the better. Now I understan’ if ye don’t want to hear it, but if ye do -- I’m more than happy to explain everythin’.”
Gibbou staggered back and dropped back down in her pillow pile, staring a thousand yards ahead. “... Wow… That makes… What, two gods that claim I’m their reason for being, huh.” She rubbed her face with roughed-up palms.
“Now, hol’ on,” Illyd shook his head, “I existed, you have no responsibility to claim for that. Ye simply... er. Well Gibbou to be frank you sorta cut me up into a lot of pieces, but I arranged for that before ye even met me -- so that’s my own fault, see? Maybe if I start from the beginnin’ this will make more sense...” The god bit his finger in thought.
Gibbou nodded slowly. “... Yeah… Yeah, do that if you, if you would…” With that, she conjured for herself a mug of something hot and shuffled herself around among her pillows until she was comfortable again.
Illyd spun in his hammock so he was facing the goddess, “Right, so... erm. Ye know it’s kinda funny... ye think about this moment for so long that ye never actually get around to figurin’ out how to start it.” He perked up, “Right, okay. So ye know about the lifeblood, yeah? Well there I was inside it as an entity with real blurry lines -- jus’ a personality really, and a love for the flute, but I wasn’t exactly alone.” He concentrated, “I was in part, just a speck in a larger pool that began to form over the Sacred Groves. I decided to make little people to perhaps learn a better way to cope with a growing freckle of misery I had but in reality my form in the lifeblood simply started to reflect all their negative emotions! It was horrible. So ye see, I figured I would jus’ keep moving along as I do and made them as comfortable and happy as possible -- I really loved em, see and selfishly my love for ‘em bounced back and they showered me with all these lovely good emotions.” The god took in a breath, “But ye know I figured this can’t last forever, the anger and sadness and misery was still there attempting to take over. I knew, er figured, that in time this great rage would infact be me, and in the case of the power I wielded, I couldn’t let that rage hold such reign -- so I devised a prophecy, nudged fate just enough to make sure that someone such as yerself would find me... and ye did!”
The god took a breath, “Now I knew that this new stimulation comin’ from you would in the end introduce my lil Thumblings to perhaps negativity that they could not handle and it really broke my heart. To this day I cannot remember if I was in fact a good person doing a bad thing or a bad person trying to do a good thing -- I still can’t tell which one I am.” He furrowed his brow and gulped, “But I did it, I allowed this introduction knowing that it would save myself and hopefully prevent a being of pure anger to reign with the power gifted by the lifeblood... except my nudge against fate wasn’t exactly spot on and well... I trapped myself instead and let loose this being of anger.” He sucked in a breath, “My brother, Joab-Balaam.” He tapped his chest, “A piece of him still beats in my heart, even. But, I managed to nudge fate one more time and made a second prophecy -- even forcing Joab-Balaam to make a girl to try and warn you and little Adrian! It didn’t work out exactly as planned, but ye remember poor Basil?”
Gibbou coughed up some tea. “The prophet, you mean?”
“Yeah!” Illyd Dyll snapped his fingers in confirmation, “She was s’pose to tell ye all that it was gonna be okay and not to feel so bad but I think it got jumbled somewhere... either way she did manage to keep the night elves, your children, away from Joab... just as planned.” Illyd nodded, “I was uh... trapped for about 1536 years after that. Then my lil nudge fell into place -- Did ye ever meet the night elf named Oyticon? Nuh, I don’t think many did -- ‘specially with Joab-Balaam trying to kill him. Either way he fulfilled the prophecy and reopened the gate -- became a Saint to the Thumblings and friends, as well as the very nudge I needed to escape and switch places with Joab. I s’pose most of Joab-Balaam died after that, just like the thousands Joab themself had killed -- save for a freckle that lingers inside of me of course.” Illyd’s face turned sour, “So there ye have it, the full story up until this point -- er barring a short summary of what I’ve been doing up until now from then, which is to say not too much.” He forced a smile and held up a tiny berry, “Houlin berry?”
Gibbou accepted it and popped it into her mouth, closing her eyes in pleasure. “Oh, how I’ve missed this flavour…” She swallowed. “So, you were part Joab… Then you split up… And now you’re a… Wait, did you ever say what you do? Also, what’s a saint?”
“Right, so this one isn’t of my design,” Illyd explained with his hands, “But I s’pose my interactions with the Thumblin’s at such an early primordial state of the world had long reachin’ repercussions that I only recently learned about... namely the worship of the mixture of Joab-Balaam, myself, and the lifeblood known as the Golden Light. It was my state when we first met, see?” He twisted his lips in thought, “But now it’s a bit more complicated, but so is the religion it seems. They honor faithful representatives of their religion by lookin’ back at those representatives teachin’s and attempt to...” He paused, “What’s the word? Emulatin’? Well either way, they call these representatives their Saints.” He sat back, “From what I gather, this uh... religion has four major Saints and countless tiny ones.” He held out four fingers, and counted off each, “Bartholomew, the first Thumblin’ I made... known as their elder.” He folded the finger down, “Adrian, ye know him. Basil, ye know her. ‘Nd finally Oyticon.” He nodded with a proud grin, “Lookin’ like my researchin’ is payin’ off, eh?”
“... Adrian…” Gibbou’s stare glowed blankly. It took her a moment to recover. “... Anyway, thanks for answering that question. It sounded stupid in my head to ask… But again, what is it that you do now? I remember the Golden Light being something, something goodness and peace and all that, but… Are you some sort of… Of peace god now, or?”
Illyd Dyll seemed to relax as the topic slowly started to shift away from the past, “Ye see, I made ‘em houllin berries, ‘nd now I make-” He raised his hands and the dome filled with tall shooting sugar canes mixed in a sea of wheat and poppy flowers. A smile formed on his face, “The harvest!” He nodded, “Oh ‘nd this.” He snapped his fingers and the tiniest bolt of lightning zipped into the palm of his other hand.
“Ooo.” Gibbou snapped off a sugar cane and gave it a chew. Its sickly sweet, yet oddly wooden flavour got stuck between her teeth, and she seemed to taste it long after she’d swallowed. “But wait, I though Orey handled plant growth and all that! Or Genesis, maybe.”
“Maybe!” Illyd nodded, “But I do it too!”
“Huh…” An idea seemed to punch Gibbou in the jaw. “Hey! How would you like to become a druidic god?!”
“Sure! I do like having friends,” Illyd smiled warmly, “What’s uh... what’s is it, exactly?”
“Oh! Uh… Hang on, how did I explain it back then, uh… Uhmmmm…” She gave her messy hair a thorough scratch as though she was trying to claw it open. Eventually, she snapped her fingers in realisation. “Right! So it’s this magical system that I invented aeons ago that basically lets mortals use a teeny, tiny bit of your power in exchange for their servitude, prayers, loyalty, whatevs. You technically don’t have to do anything other than bless this artifact I made called Hir, which should be riiiiiiight… No wait…” She conjured forth a globe mapped with Galbar’s lands and seas using moon dust. “Here! No? No, there it disappeared again, uh… Here! Okay, okay, okay, I think it’ll stay there for a while - the people there usually take their time anointing new--... Oh! No, must’ve been accidental. See, it teleports all over the place wherever people pray for help. It’s…” She hung her head. “... It’s not always very convenient.”
“Oh,” Illyd Dyll nodded and studied the map with a polite intensity that the explanation didn’t deserve, “I think I can find it if I do a lil lookin’.” Looking up from the globe he held out a sincere hand to Gibbou, “Listen, I’m glad ye figure I’m a friend enough to help in ye projects. I was a lil worried that ye wouldn’t have been much too happy hearin’ all the nudges and shadows left in the past. So this all means a lot to me, ‘nd I should also be a thankin’ ye for all ye did on my behalf, as well.”
Gibbou blinked. “No, I’m…” She smiled timidly. “... I’m happy the light Adrian and his people loved so much is still around. Here I was still thinking - even a little bit - that I was responsible for the light dying in their grove. Heh… Even though Adrian kept insisting we’d both screwed up.” Her smile broadened. “So no sweat, Illy! Happy to have you here!”
“Ah no,” Illyd held up his palms, “All them years ye thinkin’ and feelin’ such pains in my place is fit for more than simple apology and forgive, I says. This simply won’t do ma’am, I insist I make you at least a pie before you consider us square.”
“I have no idea what that is, but it sounds delicious.”
“Awh miss ye don’t know what ye are missin’!” Illyd hopped out of his hammock. He wiggled his fingers and the wheat began to crumble into flour, the cane began to shake off its sugar, and the poppies sprinkled their seeds. “Hup!” Illyd tossed a sudden smattering of apples into the mix and with a couple zaps of lightning... a sizzling pie landed before Gibbou. She gave it a few sniffs and sighed.
“This smells better than my sister… I think, I mean, I-... I don’t-... I’m just gonna eat.” She cut herself a slice with a knife appearing and disappearing in and out of reality and gave it a bite. “O-hoooo, my siiiss-haaa… What did you put in this?! This is the most amazing thing I’ve-!” She took another bite and hummed triumphantly.
Illyd knitted his brow in concern but hid it behind a smile, “Not ye sister.”
Gibbou stopped chewing and then let out a snickering “pfft!” that made her spit pie crumbs all over the floor. “Oh, horry, ih ‘ust…” She swallowed. “Don’t make jokes like that when I’m mid bite!” She spent another thirty seconds or so calming her giggle.
“At leas’ someone gets it!” Illyd slapped his leg and sat down in a mixture of victory and a huff, “Ye the first person to actually ‘preciate one of my jokes. Usually I get a ‘hmm’ or some weird reference to some inside joke I was not a part of.”
“Oh, that sucks!” She stuffed the last piece of pie into her mouth like a snake swallowing its prey whole. “Yoo’h a’h a-... ‘Ang om.” Swallow. “You’re a funny guy! Then again, some of the other gods are suuuuuuper weird. Like, wow, not even getting -close- to you again!”
Illyd jabbed a finger into his own chest, a hurt look under his smile, “...m...me?”
Gibbou gasped. [colour=lightblue]“Oh no, not you! I didn’t mean it like--!” Her eyes narrow in suspicion. “Waait… Oh, you’re bluffing again! ‘Course I didn’t mean you!” She punched his shoulder in a friendly manner. “No, you’re, you’re really nice. Like, I can’t think of the last time someone made me a pie… Mostly because it’s never happened before, but still. People usually just… Come over and tell me that the stuff I’m doing’s either wrong or could be better. Nobody except my sister and, well, you just sits down to have a peaceful chat like this.”
Illyd beamed at the compliment, “Yeah well... ye know.” He cleared his throat, “Oh wait I think I have a sayin’ for this... er... how’s it go?” He looked at Gibbou for help, as if she would know before he finally snapped, “I... er... can’t remember but it was something along the lines of being like-minded, being sympathetic, loving one another,” he was counting fingers now, “Er... be compassionate and be humble. Either way, I guess what I’m tryin’ to say is there isn’t much use for ol’ judgement when ye plan on reservin’ yer time for carin’.”
“Couldna said it better myself!” she cheered in response. She plopped herself back down in her beanbags and patted her belly. “Oh sister, that was sooooo goooood. Man, the druids’re gonna love you if you bring them -this- kind of stuff!”
Illyd beamed, his smile summoning curling vines throughout the dome. Little reddish purple grapes began to sprout, “To our new beginning then!”
A hungover Gibbou runs into Illyd. She invites him to the moon where they chat. Illyd uses a flute to provoke a memory Gibbou had long buried -- he then goes on to explain his relation to Joab-Balaam and the Golden Light. He explains who he really is, what a saint is, and how he is sorry for all the anguish Gibbou had gone through.
They bury the hatchet with a pie and become good friends. Illyd agrees to become a Druid god too.
In short, Illyd explained that he was a part of the golden light and conspired against Joab-Balaam, causing Joab’s birth as well as Joab’s demise. All that is left of Joab exists inside Illyd’s heart. All my secrets about Illyd Dyll and his backstory notes are present in this collab. Hints leading up to this post can be found in the first Golden Light post where freckles are described, The creation of the Thumbings and why, The creation of Houlin berries, Illyd finding a flute in antiquity, Illyd singing a song about the moon and prophecies in antiquity, Diana’s banter and so on. The only things left to uncover are the more micro details about the Order of the Golden Light which is relatively easy... here:
The Order of the Golden Light is a group of human and thumbling warriors who have dedicated their lives to the protection of the Sacred Grove as well as the worshippers of the Golden Light. They take vows against lust, family, and otherwise severe connections to a life outside the order (sell property, give up possessions etc).
The worship of the Golden Light is centered around the teachings of the Saints in the past (the five major saints are listed in this post by Illyd). The also recognize the existence of more traditional gods and either group the god as an emissary or adversary, An emissary is a god who has shown themselves to be beneficial to the way of the Golden Light and its followers -- often equated to a messenger of the Golden Light (which in this religions mythos, all gods were birthed from... which is technically not too wrong considering the Lifeblood relations.) An adversary is the opposite, with Joab-Balaam being one of the first adversaries who actively deterred the religion up until the god’s demise.
Let’s see... what else... I’m so tired...
Oh I guess the religion itself technically predates certain gods and mortal races, being born from the Thumblings of the Sacred Grove shortly after Gibbou's interaction... hence its unique attitude towards the world.
Illyd Dyll sat under a storm cloud. His valley of wheat was subject to whipping winds and thunderous booms as he meditated. His eyes were closed and his jaw worked rhythmically over a straw of grass. Diana was nowhere to be scene -- a dark mansion of tatted shingles and broken steps off on the farside of the usually idyllic scene.
Blasts of lightning touchdowned in his fields, striking the dirt into violent plooms. The clouds were his, just as the soil was his. In his heart he knew there was a balance to be found here in the war between the ground and the sky -- the war that tickled his thoughts late at night, and pulled at his spirit, concerning his heart. There was so much to process and yet so little at the same time.
He hadn’t the intention to become a patron of the sky fires now raining down in cracks of electricity, but he had -- as if it had been foretold and thrusted upon him without his opinion. He felt his gentle hands loosen as such a violent new tool was thrust into them. Even as a god, was there choice -- or was it determined? If it were his choice, he doubts he would have ever made even the first storm, but he did.
What good could come from such power? Another pillar of destructive light blasted his fields and he grimaced though it was his own will. What good could come from such uncaged rage that dwells in the sky, what good- other than as a way to clear the path.
That was it. His smile turned back upwards -- though small. Left unchecked certain aspects of nature were destined to grow just as he and all other divine and mortal things were to, such aspects of forests, thickets, and weeds. A deer may clear the lower reaches of a forest, or a herd of beasts may clear a savannah into pastures, but what tool was there when this was not enough? What to do when the world would grow so much as to choke itself?
Another blast hit the ground. Perhaps it was the sky’s duty to clear the ground when they lose each other to the density of growth. Illyd could see it now, a single strike from his rainclouds, a single tool that could open up the earth, cull the weeds, leave a new slate for agriculture to flourish or even give new trees a chance where they had none.
Such violence was not without a justification, but did all violence have justification? Perhaps not, but this one did, as it was a key factor in creating new life -- by giving it a turn from that which had theirs spent.
Illyd Dyll becomes the God of Lightning and ponders why, and what use it would be. He finds in the end that lightning is a violent tool but a tool nonetheless that can be used to clear the way for new life. An example of this is when a lightning strike causes a fire and clears the land for fresh forests or agriculture to grow.
The hamlet of Greensprings was less than half a day's travel from Acadia, but to the exhausted Hal of the Order of Golden Light, it was respite -- and home; or it was. As he rode his mottled horse through the dusty dirt road and sparse hovels, he couldn’t help but feel the stares of the residents. His dirty white cape and the deep golden scallop shell that was sewed into it absorbed most of the glares. In his gut he felt the swimming of guilt, guilt for the life he left behind, the people he disappointed -- guilt for surviving Yalin when he should have fallen, but most of all guilt for breaking his will and coming home.
Shrugging his shoulders high enough that his cloak brushed away his peripherals, he kept his focus on the road ahead -- his brother’s home was just up the bend...
“Mmh,” Veronica protested.
Henry looked down at his wife, her head nestled into his lap. Above him was the canopy of an ancient willow, and above that was the azure sky of a day off. The grass that carpeted around the pair was soft and a deep green, simply tempting Henry’s right hand to continuously thread through it, the same as his left was going through Veronica’s hair as she napped. He shifted again, and she let out another mumble of protest -- eyes firmly shut.
Sucking in a shallow breath, the man accepted his fate and let his head fall back against the trunk of the willow. Letting his eyes closed he fell into a daydream. He thought of times when his children were still that... children -- before his hair started to speckle with grey, and of his brothers. He felt a sorrow echo in his chest, thoughts of his younger brothers always made him feel hollow. A soft hand threaded its fingers into his, Veronica’s voice entering his ears.
“Are you thinking about your brothers again?”
Henry opened his eyes, finding hers staring up at him. He gave her a sad grin and let out an exhale, “Can’t blame an eldest for doing so.”
Veronica tucked a cheek and patted his chest, “You’re all grown men, Hal and Renny can take care of themselves.”
“I know,” Henry squeezed her hand and closed his eyes again. This time he let the breeze take his mind far away - far away to the simple idea of bliss. He thought of his fields, his animals. He thought of an imaginary journey across the oceans to visit paradise after paradise, only to come home to his original paradise. He thought of... his stomach grumbled... he thought of food. His nostrils hungrily flared, he could smell his cravings. The buttery tang of salmon, the crisp of well toasted bread, the allure of those herbal spices Veronica is always growing by the window.... The musky scent of a horse?
Cracking his eyes open, he immediately met the gaze of his younger brother. The two froze in awe for what seemed like forever, smiles hurting they were forced so wide -- eyes watery but then Henry’s eyes whisked behind his mounted brother and a question floated between them
The wooden chair Hal found himself on was as cold as the hollow in his chest. His rump was sore from the ride over, making the seat that more uncomfortable. His stomach was turning and across the table sat his brother Henry and his bride Veronica. Both had their heads in their hands and eyes on the table. A small speckle of tears stained Henry’s cheeks. Hal’s nephews and nieces accumulated by the entryway into the kitchen -- their faces as blank as Hal’s sorrowful heart.
His own face was twisted with sadness and guilt. He had dreaded bringing this news to his family. He closed his hands together and bowed his head. “I should be dead, as well.”
“Thank the light you aren’t,” Veronica intercepted quickly.
“No,” Henry said, the word as disembodied as his cracking voice, “Neither of you should be dead.” He slammed his fists against the table, causing Hal to jump, “I should have been there.”
Veronica put her hand on Henry’s shoulder, his son coming to put his hand on the other. Henry shrugged them off and sucked in a deep breath, “I have failed you as your elder brother.”
“There was nothing you could have done even if you were there,” Hal protested, his defense of his older brother smothering his own feelings. The room fell into another silence as everyone processed. A few more moments went by and then Henry cleared his throat.
“What now? Are you coming home?”
“You know I can’t,” Hal craned his neck, the guilt rising again, “I have a task that I need to see through.”
“I need to, I can’t let what happened at Yalin be in vain,” Hal protested.
Henry gave him a hard stare, “Then what?”
“Acadia. I need to find the pious of the city and bring them to the grail.”
“I’m coming with you, then.”
Hal felt a mix of emotions he couldn’t quite sort at the suggestion, but his first reaction was to stand up. The chair skidded out from under him, “You can’t!”
Henry’s own chair fell behind him as he stood as well, “And why not?”
“You have a family!” Hal’s guilt was pushed back by a righteous anger.
“You are my family,” Henry retorted, “Damn your vows.” His words stabbed right through Hal.
“Henry!” Veronica raised her brows and Hal gave him a long empty gaze. The woman sighed and reluctantly stood up as well.
“I feel as if our emotions may be riding the fore of our minds rather than our Golden given rationality,” She debated, “Perhaps we should recall the advice of Saint Bartholomew?”
“When running blind, walk and see,” The two brother’s recited, eyes stuck on each other.
“So perhaps we should make our decisions in the morning?” Veronica tilted her head, suggesting heavily. Silence buzzed and she gave them each a look, “Henry, Hal?”
“In the morning then,” Henry broke his gaze. Hal nodded in silence, that ever present guilt resurfacing.
“But Hal.” Henry stole his attention. The two shared a looked, a glimmer of happiness finding Hal’s crusted heart.
“I’m glad you’re alright.”
We follow Hal on his trip to Acadia. He has opted to make a pitstop in his old hometown where his brother lives. He tells his brother of the events at Yalin including the death of their youngest brother, Renny. They then decide to wait until the morning to figure out their next move.
I'm not really a bird.
Here is the rest of the poem in my signature:
Where did I play,
A land of twisted branches,
A kingdom of clay,
A swamp of memories,
A never-ending day,
Where did I run,
Across the dawn,
Through the sun,
Across the sky,
Through laughs and fun,
Where did I walk,
Pristine grass green,
White cliffs of chalk,
Pools of sky so blue,
Orchard stones that talk,
Where did I sit,
By the gates of silver,
Near endless pit,
By forever horizon,
You may remember it.
<div style="white-space:pre-wrap;">I'm not really a bird.<br><br>Here is the rest of the poem in my signature:<br><br>Where did I play,<br>A land of twisted branches,<br>A kingdom of clay,<br>A swamp of memories,<br>A never-ending day,<br><br>Where did I run,<br>Across the dawn,<br>Through the sun,<br>Across the sky,<br>Through laughs and fun,<br><br>Where did I walk,<br>Pristine grass green,<br>White cliffs of chalk,<br>Pools of sky so blue,<br>Orchard stones that talk,<br><br>Where did I sit,<br>By the gates of silver,<br>Near endless pit,<br>By forever horizon,<br>You may remember it.</div>