Status

Recent Statuses

2 mos ago
Well shit, I'm bored as fuck.
3 yrs ago
I am Spartacus!
1 like
4 yrs ago
"Stay awhile and listen!"
2 likes
4 yrs ago
God bless.
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4 yrs ago
ARISTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Bio

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.

Most Recent Posts




After being introduced to Yullian over a terrible supper, Song found it hard to go about her day regularly, too eager for the promises Yullian spoke to her. Eventually giving up on a regular day, she retreated back to her ‘humble’ room in the palace, content with simply waiting for nightfall and avoiding anyone who may jeopardize her giddy mood.

A simple favour in exchange for the love of her life? How could she say no?! It was almost too good to be true!

A seed of doubt planted itself in the fields of her heart - was it too good to be true? Was she about to say yes to a favour that would impact her life for the worse? Would she have to act out pranks in the divine’s name?

The seed sprouted a painful thorn, but the heart retaliated viciously. No! No matter what she would have to do, as long as Yullian held up their end of the bargain, it would be worth it in the end! Accelerated thumps in her chest brutalised what remained of the doubt.

“Urangtai,” she whispered quietly to herself and giggled.

“Hello there, miss,” A silky woman’s voice all but whispered, the alabaster head of a handsome middle-aged woman poking into her room, “Do you have a minute?”

Song snapped out of her trance and spun around with a quiet ‘eep!’ “O-oh! Sorry, uh-- Sure!” She went over to the door, eyes looking down in light embarrassment.

Crinkles formed in the corner of the woman’s eyes as she smiled and stepped into the room. Without saying anything,she quietly closed the door behind them and pressed an ear to it for a moment, “I think we are as alone as can be...” her voice sang the last few syllables.

Putting their fists on their sides and standing upright, the woman cleared her throat, “Right-o then, lassie. We have a man to woo, don’t we?”

Song blinked. “Wuh-what did you say?”

“Don’t play silly,” The woman sneered, “We agreed that we would make your lovely lover fall head over heels for your very voice, image, what have you in return for a little diddy of a thing later on, remember?”

“Wait, did you hear tha--” Song stopped herself. “Your Holiness, is that you?!”

Yullian winked and adjusted her dress, “The one and only. You’ll find that a god such as myself isn’t bound by the restrictions of physicality, how better for you to have yourself in my favor, eh?”

“Not bound by-... I mean, yes! I’m really happy, I mean, honoured to be in your favour. No, wait, honoured that you find me worthy! Snap, I sound like great-uncle Wenbo…” Song scratched her scalp in frustration.

“I’ve seen the old codger and I have to say you’re much more fun,” Yullian offered idly before tapping her chin, “That gives me an idea for later.” She shook her head, “But for now, I’ve put plenty of thought into my favorite mortal’s plight and I think I have come up with a several step plan to snag your smoocher.”

All confusion and agitation evaporated like water on lava and Song’s face was inches from Yullian’s in seconds, grinning so broadly one would think her lower jaw would fall off. “Tell me!”

“Look at you,” Yullian poked Song’s nose, “Adorable... like a kitten.” Taking a step back Yullian folded her arms, “Well the first step is rather simple, and you’re going to help me do it -- shouldn’t be more than a fraction of a minute.” Closing her eyes with almost a smug aura, “I’m going to unlock my true godly potential and peer into the minds of mortals -- with yours to start...” She trailed, “Is that okay?”

“Peer into--”

Yullian waved a hand and laughed, “It doesn’t really matter, I’ve already done it.” They kept their eyes closed and made a few exaggerated ‘oh’ and ‘oo’ faces, “My, he is a handsome one isn’t he?”

Song shook her head and covered her temples, her face rouging like a ripening mango. “You-you didn’t see everything about him, right?! RIGHT?!”

“Oh, of course not,” Yullian softly reassured, “I’m not the type to peek.”

Song swallowed. “Y-you mean it, right?”

“So here is what I’m thinking for our first step,” Yullian put a friendly hand on Song’s shoulder, “Do you like to bake?”

There came a hum. “Yeeeeaaah, yeah, I suppose.”

“Good, good,” Yullian nodded, “Because you know what they say -- the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Yullian leaned in, “I just made that up right now, pretty good, huh?”

“Is it really? Wait, so does that mean that when Urangtai eats other women’s cooking--” Her black eyes might as well have been sickly green from the envy they scowled out into the air. “Tell me more.”

“After he tries my very special baking I made in your place, I don’t think he will be eating any other woman’s cooking,” Yullian tapped her chin and waved a hand. Suddenly a platter of silver completely smothered in steaming cookies appeared in her hand, “The first step is simple -- just give him these cookies. Make sure he eats all of them, now, at all costs -- understand?”

Song eyed the plate. “That’s a lot of cookies. What will I do if he doesn’t want all of them? Can I help him?”

“I don’t see why not, a little sharing helps a relationship bloom after all,” Yullin tapped their chin, “But no more than four for you, got it?” Yullian’s face softened and they hooked an arm around Song, “Listen, Song, Wen Song, the one and only -- You love Urangtai, yes?”

“With all my being,” Song confirmed.

“I know, I can feel it on you, I really can,” Yullian nodded, “Don’t you think...” Yullian stopped and bit their lip, “Well what I mean to say is, don’t you think it is about time he shows you juuuuust a little in return? Surely eating a rather tasty plate of cookies is the least he can do, no?”

Song tapped her chin. “... You do make a very good point.” She took the plate in her hands.

“Perfect,” Yullian grinned, “Now remember, only four for you -- the rest for your lover to be. Oh! And save one for me, I am a sucker for taking the last cookie.” Yullian rolled her eyes, “Well off you go!”

Song nodded eagerly and spun around, charging at the door like she held a grudge against it.

“Oh one last thing,” Yullian suddenly piped up, “Keep in mind this is but one step in our little foray, keep the faith.” Yullian winked. It was uncertain whether Song truly had heard them, for she was already out of the door by the time their sentence had gotten to “little”.




Moksha was clear in the night sky and Urangtai has just pushed his final steps of his journey. His entire body ached from a long day in the fields, his mind aching even more with desire to be working at the smithy instead (a task rather hard without ore). He longed to try his hand at metal, he truly did. He put one hand on the face of his door, his youthful frame slouched with exhaustion, “What a day.” He yawned and pushed the door in.

Stumbling into the cold house he had claimed amid the residential quarters of the city, he fumbled past the tinder he kept on his table -- sure he wouldn’t need it if he just went straight to bed after his wash.

With a groan followed ever step, he made his way to the small room where he kept a clean wash basin and plunged his head into it. His alabaster hair blossomed around in the water, only to slap against him as he pulled himself out for a breath of air.

“Snap.”

He craned his neck and tugged his shirt off. Slapping a palm onto his wash rag and dipping it into the cold water, he lifted an arm and went to scrub his rather odorous underarm when he suddenly heard the squeak of his door.

“Hm?” He hummed loudly, “Who’s there?”

“Uraaaaang!” came a melodious call, followed by the nutty smell of baked goods.

Urangtai flinched, what was she doing here... at this hour!? He scrunched his nose, “Song! It’s a little late, don't you think? I was just washing up for bed.” He paused, “Wait how did you know this was my house?”

“Late? No-no-no! Never too late for a midnight snack!” she offered happily as she walked into the wash-room and nearly shoved the plate into his hands. “Here! I made these for you!”

Urangtai flinched as the hot plate was shoved into his bare chest. He made a face, his wash rag slopping onto the floor with a wet slap.

“Song...” Urangtai looked over the smiling woman, “I’m not very-” He hesitated, her eyes boring straight into him, her smile faltering only slightly as he spoke, “What I mean to say is, I’m not very hun-” He lifted the plate, “That’s a lot of cookies.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll help you eat them,” Song giggled helpfully and picked one up to feed him. “Open up and say ‘aah’.”

“I just- ppbt” He scrunched his head back on his neck, “Can I get dressed first?”

“Why? It’s just a snack,” she smiled back and allowed herself to ogle him for a moment.

Urangtai rolled his eyes, “Come on,” He sucked in a sigh and walked out of the wash-room and into the large dining room that sat silent. It was spacious and rather empty, save for a small kitchen area and a thick wooden table with four chairs. He pulled one out for Song and placed the cookies on the surface of the table.

“Stay here,” He looked at her intensely, hoping his words would sink, “I’m going to get a fresh shirt.”

Song looked a bit disappointed, but nodded with a quiet, “okay”.

Urangtai slipped into his dark bedroom, closing the door behind him. He slapped a hand to his forehead and looked forward dumbly. In the room, lit only by the starlight outside, he longingly looked at his messy bed -- his body creaking and protesting. He puckered his lips, how he longed to feel his pillow. He took a step forward, eager to touch the fluff of the fibers.

“Uraaaaaaaang?”

He closed his eyes and begrudgingly snatched a shirt from an idle chair, why was he putting up with this. He pulled his shirt on and walked back out into the dining room.

Song seemed to beam like heliopolis when he came back. Judging from the crumbs on the tabletop, she had already had a cookie. She made an innocent face and giggle. “Sorry, I had one. They’re just so tasty - and for you!”

“I... bet,” Urangtai sat down carefully across the table from her. He pinched one of the cookies into his fingers and lifted it lazily -- Song’s eyes following his every move. He took a crumbling bite, the cookie having a snap to it as well as a warm and chewy texture. He made a face, “These are really good.”

“Because I made them with my special handsome Urangtai in mind,” Song winked. “Have some more!”

Urangtai shrugged and had two more, “So...” He started awkwardly, munching on a third, “Just felt like making night-time baked goods, huh?”

Song blinked, then nodded eagerly. “W-well, of course! Y’know, found some leftover flour, some nuts, some water. You know I really like to bake - it’s weird that I don’t do this more often, really.”

“No!” Urangtai said a bit too fast, “I mean, if you do it too much, it won’t be special any more, right.” He put a half eaten fifth cookie back on the platter and folded his hands, “but... uh... thank you.”

Song’s eyes went sparkly. “You think this is special?” Her cheeks flushed. “You make me so happy, Urang.”

“Oh,” Urangtai sunk in his seat, “But like as happy as your family and friends make you, yeah?”

Song cocked her head to the side and frowned. “N-no, Urang - a little happier than that. Way happier, actually.”

“Well,” Urangtai gulped, “Thank you for the cookies, really, but I think I’m feeling full.”

“Oh, come ooooon. Have another! Here, I’ll take another one to help you out.” Song reached for her second cookie. Urangtai made a helpless face and held up his hands.

“I don’t know, Song, it’s late and my stomach really is full -- I worked all day,” He shook his head, “They are good though, don’t think they aren’t. Best I’ve ever had, really.”

Song’s face flashed frustration momentarily and recovered into a slightly uncanny grin. “W-well, are you sure? They’ll be stale tomorrow.”

“Maybe one more,” Urangtai tucked a slant into his cheek, “But really, I’m not that hungry.” He snatched another cookie and nibbled at it slowly.

“Oh, since when did ‘being hungry’ give you a reason not to eat cookies?” Song defended with a forced laugh.

“Haaa.” Urangtai’s eyes betrayed a certain fright as he finished his cookie and stood up.

In a desperate move, Song leapt to her feet, grabbed as many cookies as she could hold in her hands and thrust her hands towards Urangtai, holding them still before his frozen stature. “Please! Just a few more! There aren’t even that many left!”

“Song,” Urangtai’s eyes widened even more, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but are you feeling alright?”

“Amazing, how about you?” she replied as if she wasn’t currently holding cookies against his throat like a myriad of knives.

Urangtai took a step back and held up two palms, “I’m... tired, I think.”

“Eating helps you fall asleep, I’ve heard,” Song replied and took a step closer.

“Why... why are you so insistent I eat all these cookies?” Urangtai felt a thud as his back hit the wall.

“Because you will-- I mean, I made them for you and spent a really long time doing so!” Song sucked in a breath. “Now eat.”

“I- I don’t want to eat,” Urangtai’s eyes were so wide he was almost cross eyed.
Song pulled away as if stabbed. “W-why do you hate my cookies so much? Is it because -I- made them? Do you hate me? You hate me, don’t you?” Tears began to well up in her eyes.

“No! No that’s not it,” Urangtai waved his hands.

“Oh, are you denying it now? I’ve seen the way you look at--” She choked on her tears. “-- other women. I bet you would eat Meiyun’s cookies for hours!”

“That doesn’t even make sen- what?” Urangtai grasped for words, “Song, we aren’t even...” He looked at her tear stained face and gulped, “Fine, what if I have a few more?”

The tears dried up like they had been seared with a blow torch and Song’s sobs gave way to relieved giggles as she neatly plated the cookies in her hands and offered the plate back to Urangtai. “That makes me so happy to hear!”

“Okay but after, you have to leave,” Urangtai tried on a stern voice, “Okay?” He picked up a cookie.

Song hung her head. “... Only if you eat every single one,” she pouted, then blinked. “Oh, wait, every single one but, uh, one!”

Urangtai was already two cookies in, “Whash?” He said through the crumbs as he stuffed another one into his mouth, leaving two on the plate.

Song stared into his frightened eyes and sighed. “Oh, you are so adorable when you eat…”

Urangti’s brow fell as he swallowed, his hand reaching for the final two, eager to get this over with. Song suddenly remembered what she had just said and slapped the cookie out of his left hand. “NOT THAT ONE!”

“Ow!” Urangtai said, nearly choking on his final cookie, “What was that for?”

Song blinked. “Uh! Uhm! That-... Thaaaat one’s foooor… Mom! Yeah! That one’s for mom. Gotta save one for mom, am I right? Mom’s always happy to get a cookie, and wouldn’t wanna disappoint mom!”

“I guess,” Urangtai wiped his sleeve over his mouth, “Cookie’s are all done, then, yeah? No more surprises?”

“Surprises? Oh, sure! Yeah, no more of those! I promise!” Song replied eagerly, though squinting eyes kept scanning Urangtai searchingly.

Urangtai wore a confused face, “Um, shall I walk you out, then?”

Song slowly pulled away, wearing a wholly disappointed expression. “... Yeah, I guess.” She tucked the clay plate under her arm and followed Urangtai to the door. There, she turned to him in the doorway and made a shy smile. “I had a lot of fun tonight.”

“T-thank you?” Urangtai seemed at a loss of what he was witnessing.

Song giggled sweetly. “Let’s see each other again some time.” Then, she remained standing in the doorway, simply staring at Urangtai’s face with the same searching expression and half the smile.

“M-maybe,” Urangtai leaned back, “I’m going to be busy lately though, how about I let you know?”

“You definitely will, though, right?”

“You’ll know!” Urangtai forced a smile and backed into his house.

“Will you tell me yourself?” Song pleaded and began to step back towards the door.

“Oh, of course,” Urangtai quickly agreed, nodding, “Goodnight?”

You promise?”

“Uh, yeah,” Urangtai put a hand on the door and slowly started to close it, “See you later, then.”

“Alright, make good on your promise now!” she managed to say just before the door was slammed shut and locked. Urangtai’s eyes widened in post-shock and he slowly walked into his dimly lit house, wishing he had a roaring fire and maybe a shield or two. His heart was pounding and his stomach was queasy.

“What did she put in those cookies,” He twisted slightly, “I think I ate way too many.”









“Orb wake up!” Tiben shouted.

The dark haired Nebulite stood over the sleeping form of Orb, their cloak bundled around them like a cocoon, revealing for the first time how lithe Orb’s figure really was. This didn’t even register in Tiben’s mind, his face a wash with anxiety and fury, a bloody animal tied behind him. He frowned at the sleeping figure and raised his foot, jostling Orb with a shaking kick.

“HUH?” Orb rocketed awake, eyes twinkling behind their mask, vision darting too and fro.

“They left without us!” Tiben shouted.

“Context!” Orb hissed back, holding their still waking head.

“Shengshi, the others, Polyastera” Tiben paused, “Laurien.” The last name was said with a grain of disappointment.

Orb sat up and leaned back on their hands, “No... They couldn’t.”

“Oh they can, and they did,” Tiben threw his hands up and started pacing, “The bastards left a number of us behind.” He punched a nearby tree, a loud crack and a spattering of white blood smudging over his knuckles. Orb flinched, they had seen Tiben angry plenty of times, and each time was never any less scary. He was a nice man with a thoughtful mind and a caring heart -- but that temper.

Quietly rising to their feet, Orb shuffled, “What about the others, our supporters?”

“Some left,” Tiben breathed through his nostrils and rubbed his bleeding hand, “Some stayed, waiting for me to return from the woods. I knew I shouldn’t have left.”

“We needed food-”

“I know we needed food,” Tiben snapped and rubbed his temples, “But this is not good.”

“Well, can we catch up?” Orb suggested. Tiben just gave them a silent look and Orb shrugged, “What if we leave too.”

“What do you mean?”

“We take our supporters, your son, and we go-”

“My son isn’t coming,” Tiben interrupted angrily, his voice seeping with venom, “The depraved bitch stole him onto the ship.”

“Well okay,” Orb tried to remain calm, “Just our supporters then, we leave the islands for good. Find a new land, build great structures, live how we want to live, away from all the politics.”

“Maybe,” Tiben surrendered, “But how in the world do you propose we do that?”

Orb pinched the bottom of their mask, “I can think of something... just give me some time.”

Tiben sucked in a large breath, his fury slowly subsiding, “I’ll gather the others, just be ready by tonight-- can you do that?”

“Seven times over,” Orb rasped proudly, inciting a weak grin from Tiben.

“Well at least our cause didn’t lose you.”




The loyal nebulites crowded around the shore of the island. Orb’s old paddleboat served as the centerpiece, with the cloaked figure standing atop it next to Tiben. The ring of followers were a wash of murmurs and worried whispers. The sky was purple above, just dimming enough for the green swirls of Moksha to appear next to the stars.

Orb seemed transfixed on the new sight, a hidden smile plastered behind their mask. But on the breezy sands of the beach, they were alone in their admiration, with the others sick with worry. As the whispers turned to hushed voices and rambles, Tiben finally raised a hand.

“We are all that’s left of our group,” He announced, eyes falling on the one hundredor so Nebulites. Slanting into his cheek he sighed, “We missed our opportunity, and I only hope those who didn’t are still nursing the ideas that we held dear in the face of Polyastera’s claim to rule.” He held out a fist, “She is unjust, she is self serving, she is cruel. The Nebulites were born with the intelligence to spot these flaws but clearly a select few of us were dropped a few times to lose the sense to go against the holder of these flaws, but not you all. You stayed true to your birth, your wisdom, and to the greater good.”

There were some sharp agreements, and a few curses thrown out at the mention of Polyastera. Tiben sucked in a breath, “Our way of life can never go back to how it was at the very start, you all know this, which is why you are here. Polyastera has left, but she will return and bring whatever machinations she had been blessed back with her and even if she doesn’t, she has set a precedent that will echo through time. We have no choice but to abandon this land and strive to build a better civilization elsewhere, one that can stand up to whatever her and her bastard sucklings manage to curse this world with, and one that can someday return in full and claim the life that is now lost to us. She has no right, and should she ever rear her ugly head to push her false rule, we will be ready to cut it down.”

There were some confused mutterings but also some baritone cheers and Tiben held up a hand, “But we are not without guidance in this new quest.” He waved a hand to Orb, “The Queen of flies was too blinded by their own greed to notice a great friend and ally standing under our tree. This is Orb, first and last of their kind, the thinker of the Eye. They have agreed to help us build our new life.”

Orb waved a hand, eyes twinkling, “I’m very excited.” Their rasp was swelled with a joy that not many others shared in the moment, but they nodded and thanked them with genuine appreciation.

“And where are we building this new life?” A voice called out.

“The continent to the north,” Orb answered quickly, “It is the closest.”

“How will we get there?”

Orb shuffled slightly, “I have configured two possible solutions to that problem. First we could spend the time and resources to build the appropriate amount of vessels to transport us there.” Orb tapped their mask, “Secondly, we could try and contact a god in a similar fashion to how the others contacted Shengshi. If there is a god of the hunt, a god of these isles, and a god of rivers, there is likely to be a god that shares our ideology or at least can provide the appropriate source of aid to our cause.”

“Which ideologies shall we project?” Another voice called out.

“Freedom, to choose our destiny,” Tiben answered, “Strength, to power through any trouble to come, and might, to ensure that no one can ever take what we build from us.”

He looked up to the sky, his eyes almost lost as they fell on Moksha, “So I pray on behalf of my people, for a God of might, a God who knows conflict -- a God to see our civilization rise among the dregs of whatever the Bastard Queen plagues this world with -- and should we need it, a God who will give us the vigor to take back our lost people and keep us safe from vipers who would see themselves above all others.”

There was silence. Then, a low, droning hum rose over the gathering's heads. At first, it did not seem to come from any one spot, but as it grew in intensity, it became clear that it spread from Tiben's person. It resounded stronger and stronger, filling the air with stifling vibrations that lightly shook the nebulite's body. A breath of torrid heat rolled over the shore, followed by the smell of blood and metal. And, all of a sudden, a voice like the rumble of an earthquake pierced the tremors.

”Pray and you will receive. Light a pyre of death, and my heralds will come to you. They bear what you wish on grey wings. This is my word.”

The voice fell still, and the tremors in the air were gone. Minutes passed in silence, the group in a heart thumping stupor. The first to break was Orb who roughly jabbed a finger into Tiben’s rib, forcing him out of his awe-stricken trance. “We need flammable material and a heating source.”

“Right...” Tiben blinked, “Gather driftwood,” He commanded to the others before looking at Orb, “Can you get us fire?”

Orb nodded with vigor, “Easily.”




A large bonfire was light on the beach, the tendrils of range flame licking to the night sky above and illuminating the brooding masses. A certain level of solidarity seemed to bind the nebulites in a communal anger, as if the words of their new patron carried just a hint of tinder for the raging fire in Tiben’s heart, spreading it among the loyal. Orb didn’t feel it, but they could definitely tell the others did. Insults were whispered about the nebulites who had left them behind, threats were made, vows cast into the fire.

“They won’t get away with this,” A bulky nebulite swore to Tiben and the fire, “If their hubris doesn’t cut their throats...”

Tiben put a hand on the man’s shoulder, as if stealing the rest of his sentence and surrendering it to silence, “Should we meet them again, there will be a clash -- but we will be ready..” Was all he said, his voice an eerie calm.

The night around them was silent. For a long time, the rustling of the waves and whispered howls of the wind were the only sounds to answer their voices from the darkness. The distant lights in the sky come and went behind the drift of thin clouds.

One of them was moving.

Large dark shapes swept over the Garden and Moksha overhead. The crack of leathery wings swooped down from above, arced over the nebulites' heads and landed on the sand far from the fire in a series of soft thuds. The unnatural light had followed it, growing to an orb of pale spectral luminescence. It bobbed some feet above the ground like a ghost, and the dim contours of grotesque shapes emerged as hints in its halo.

"Pyre of death," an innebulite voice drawled from the shadows, a hoarse, primal mockery of speech, "we searched, we smelled. The pyre."

"Long lost in darkness," another rejoindered, just as broken and monstrous, "We could not find. We smelled the anger, but there is no death."

"You did not listen," a third gnashed, "The pyre of death. This fire is bare. You did not give sacrifice!"

"Sacrifice," an entire chorus moaned, "Sacrifice! Sacrifice! Give sacrifice!"

The crowd stood in silent horror, with even Tiben at a loss for words -- gasping like a fish. Orb, however, seemed to be analyzing silently, their twinkling eyes darting at every nebulite and then into the darkness.

“Parameters,” Orb finally piped up, all eyes falling on the cloaked figure, “The initial instructions were unclear, what parameters do you require for sacrifice?”

"Something that lives must die," the darkness growled, "In the pyre, that is the way."

Orb slowly nodded, “Parameter accepted.”

Tiben narrowed his eyes and was about to object when suddenly Orb picked up a big ocean smoothed rock. Orb had no trouble lifting it, the weight pushing their feet into the wet sand below. Everyone looked at Orb with a certain confusion, only slowly understanding when Orb let the rock fall back down.

The stone made a loud thud, forcing frightened squirts of water to jet out of previously unseen holes. With a happy rasp, Orb dove at the first one and shoved their hand through the sand. With a yank, they tugged out a mollusk and casually tossed it into the fire. It took a second, but the roar of the fire was soon overtaken by a slow sizzle and the pop of the shell. A few stomachs rumbled at the smell.

Orb turned away from the fire, facing the endless night once more, “Parameter completed.”

"Small!" the voices howled, "Poor meat, poor life!" Yet they fell quiet, and one spoke. "But you have given. We can see you."

The ghostly light bobbed and advanced, and with it a pack of living shapes crept into the fire's light. They were horrid things unlike any the nebulites had seen before, crawling on six legs or pulling themselves ahead with enormous clawed batlike wings. Flickers from the pyre danced over coarse hides covered in swollen malformations, over blunt heads with too many eyes, and glinted off iron plates and spikes lodged into living skin.

Amid them walked a robed figure, the only one standing upright. Its hands were metal and wood, and its head a blank lantern.

"You called, we were sent and we came," one of the creatures rasped from an unseen mouth, "What is your wish?"

“We wish to leave,” Tiben finally found his voice, the commanding nature of its grain falling back into place, “To be placed on the continent north from here.”

The creatures exchanged looks, then one of them, still largely hidden in the shadows, handed a sack made of skin to those at the fore. A six-armed beast took it and pulled out something that looked like a metallic model of a ribcage, with recurve iron bars ending in inward-turned spikes.

"It is granted," the being said, and tossed the object to the ground at Tiben's feet, "Any who wears this in the skin and eats the flesh of kindred will have the blood of divinity. Spill it in the water. The iron fish will come and take you where you lead."

It fell silent, and one of the winged monsters took up the word. "You have the wish of strength. You can speak one of dominion. We listen."

Tiben hefted the iron ribcage up, his arms flexing under the weight.

“Can you elaborate on the instructions?” A confused Orb rasped.

The six-limbed creature rose on its hindmost pair of legs. "Take it around your body. Let its teeth dig into you. Eat the meat of those that are like you. Your blood will be divine." As it spoke, it mimicked placing the contraption around its chest and pushing the spikes into its body. When it was finished, it snapped the mouth on the underside of its head and fell back on all sixes.

"We listen," the winged one repeated.

Tiben closed his eyes, his nose scrunching up with what could have been disgust, he cocked his head, “You wish for me to eat one of the few people we have remaining?” The iron mess dropped with a thud onto the beach as Tiben opened his eyes, “Was there at some point in this interaction where you figured me to be a mookish buffoon? I haven’t been entrusted to this exodus because of my habit to consume my fellow at the first beast to suggest it.” He pointed a finger, “I prayed to a God of might, not to a God of sinister jokes.”

The horrid cortege rumbled. Some of the creatures rose on their crooked legs, spreading and flapping their wings, whipping up clouds of sand. The rest crept back into the darkness along with the tall lantern-headed wight.

"Weak," they clamoured, "You cannot grasp might! You do not earn it!" "You did not listen! You gave poor sacrifice!" "You fear the strength of blood!" "You cannot take what must be done!"

"You prayed in vain! You called us for nothing!" The winged monsters crouched, splaying out ahead, "You pay!"

In a flurry of leathery beats, they were on Tiben, claws and teeth falling and closing. A blink later, they were rising into the night, blotting out Moksha until they were gone. Further away, the lone light of the lantern drifted up behind them. The crowd burst into horrified screams and wails, with Orb completely frozen in fear.

A fraction of a second ticked by in complete horror before Orb found their adrenaline and rushed to Tiben’s mangled body. He was a sputter of wet, gasping breaths and leaking blood. Orb peered down at him through their mask, eyes frozen on the rage that burned behind Tiben’s mutilated face.

“C-” He coughed, “Cowards...” His eyes widened and then closed, his chest falling. Orb hesitated a moment, but then placed a shaking hand on the side of his face, black gore rolling through their fingers. Gliding the hand down, they placed it over Tiben’s heart, a weak pulse pushing back against their hand.

“This is my fault,” Orb whimpered a rasp.

“No...” The negative was a soft whisper, barely pushing through Tiben’s shredded lips. Orb seemed to shake, the crowd around them still in a state of panic, with most having run off in fear. Slowly a twinkling drop found its way out of Orb’s mask, landing on the body below.

“I can fix you,” Orb shook, “I’ll make you better.”

Tiben didn’t respond, his hand weakly falling on top of Orb’s, fingers limp. Orb shivered, slipping their hand free and placing it over a gushing wound. Tiben’s closest friends lingered by the kneeling Orb, doing their best to stem the other wounds with palm leaves and even sand -- but Orb just sat there frozen, their hand covering a deep gash, Tiben’s heartbeat pulsing through their fingers.

An hour ticked by before Tiben’s heart finally stopped, two hours ticked by before Orb was finally moved by another nebulite, a gentle shake forcing them off of Tiben’s lifeless body. Orb refused in silence at first, but was eventually coerced to stand up, their cloak drenched in blood, their only friend a shredded mess.

Orb’s knees weakened and tears dropped out from under the mask. A hand comforted their shoulder, a voice simply telling Orb that ‘Tiben did the right thing,’ and that ‘His efforts will be remembered.’ Orb shook the hand off without a word and slowly began to wander off, stopping for an instant, the iron cage slumped in the sand before them. With a heave, Orb picked it up and continued their walk forward.




Days went by without talking. Orb would slowly forget what their own voice sounded like throughout each day, curing it with random mutterings and monologues. The iron cage was always by their side while they worked in solitude. The other nebulites seemed to have forgotten them quickly, the shock of Tiben’s death enough to scatter the once praised plan. The exodus was as dead as Tiben, but even still, Orb didn’t want to stay, they couldn’t.

It didn’t feel right anymore, it never did, but now it really didn’t. Their godly benefactor had abandoned the settlement to Laurien, who then abandoned the settlement themselves. Tiben was their one and only friend, the only one who showed care or interest in their well being, and now he was cold and dead -- because of Orb’s own plan.

They looked down at the iron cage, divine demands of cannibalism wasn’t a factor that Orb had considered, and it cost their friend their life. A seed of hate curled and fought a nauseous depression in their stomach, watered by guilt. Sometimes Orb would find themselves crying without warning, even as they worked.

Their new project was simple enough. They had collected their paddle raft and began modifying it for longterm oceanic travel. They widened the base, formed a hull of sorts, and increased the paddle leverage and deepened the rudder. They managed to fit enough rations and water to survive the straight cross to Kalgrun and even managed to calculate the additional weight of the iron cage.

Keeping the cage almost felt like an ironic justice. To activate it you needed to eat the meat of another one of yourself, but Orb was the one and only -- the cage was useless to them. Orb sucked in a shaking breath, all this thinking poking tears back into their eyes.




More days flew by, and by the start of the third week, Orb was ready. The sea was calm, like the surface of their heart. Orb just hoped it wasn’t as stormy on the inside. With little fanfare, and no one to see them off, Orb set out for Kalgrun.





Selka

Micro-Post for fun


Fear froze over Urlango’s body. The thick sharkskin that protected him seemed thinner than ever, and his mighty stone spear felt like a twin. His kin stood to his left and his right be he couldn’t help but feel as if he was alone in an ocean of sharks. Him and his kin stood in a field, all in a line with their various weapons ready.

Across the field a group much smaller than their own stepped forward in unison, each footfall sounding like a pounding drum, or was that just Urlango’s heart? A good few of them bore scars made by beasts Urlango had never seen, their bark and reptile hide armor glistening with ornaments that made him pale. Dinosaur teeth, firebird feathers, the canines of great bears -- these Selka of the west knew no fear. They marched with their K’nightly brothers, all of them holding impressive ivory clubs marked with tales of their deeds. None of them wore any fear, anxiety, or hesitation -- but the eyes of flawless hunters, the eyes that the legendary figure Panganeem wore as he witnessed the grave of his daughter.

Urlango gulped, maybe they should have heeded the warnings of Yupilgo. Before doubt could settle deeper in his mind, his clan father yelled out a battlecry and rushed forward with a stone axe. His brothers charged forward, Urlango in step. He felt the vibration of the unified charge, and his spirits were almost lifted, but then the K’night’s made their move.

Not a sound passed through their lips when their line split in two, several in the back suddenly hucking javelins. The spears vanguarded their charge, a sickly squelch as they slammed into his kin. Blood sprayed, one of the javelins popping through his older cousin’s skull. The staining scarlet entered his eyes and he was temporarily blinded.

As his vision returned, he saw something that could only be described as monsterous grace. A single K’night had worked his way into the center of the clan’s formation. His face was calm and in a perfect line as he moved, his club batting away spears and axes, a free hand countering with a sharp slice of obsidian.

An axe arced towards the K’night’s face, but he quickly ducked under it, rising again with a thrust of his club. The ivory pounded against the bottom of his attacker’s jaw, forcing teeth through tongue. An elbow quickly followed, slamming into their throat and as it swelled, the club came back around and pushed the aggressors snout in with a crunch.

A spear lunged, but the K’night stepped aside and grabbed its shaft (dropping their knife). A club came at their back, and the K’night suddenly yanked the spear in the way, impaling the clubber through the gut and then pushing the spear back, knocking the spear man off their feet. A hunting blade came for their hamstring, and in one swoop, the K’night snapped the head of the captured spear off the shaft and drove it into the skull of the attacker, using the momentum of the swing to follow up with his club, nailing the stone tip in place, the victim convulsing to the ground in a spray of drool and blood.

Urlango dropped their own spear, his knee’s shaking as the K’night’s fellows broke into the center to aid him. The cold glare of the K’nights fell on him, and he decided it was time to go.

Without checking to see who else may still be alive, Urlango turned tail and began to sprint towards the tree line, a million thoughts racing through his head. Yupilgo and the K’nights had warned his clan that it was to stop their abuse of the fisherman along the coast or face retaliation. A verbal treaty had been agreed upon between his father and the Hyummin council, nearly absolving them of their crimes save for the steep victim’s tax levied. But his father wouldn’t have it, his father continued to harass, ravage and kill the other clan’s in the territory -- and the day they sold a single Selka to slavery, they all knew the Hyummin would be back.

Bobbo sees all from his mantle in the great blue, though, and his words found his father’s ear first. Kirron had whispered their crimes to the K’night’s of Tyuppa, the very group who had saved them from the first Hyummin retaliation and mediated the treaty between the two parties, and this time they were there to ensure that no more crimes were to be committed against their fellow Selka at all costs.

Urlango gulped, and they did.



Ming


THWACK

A spray of blood splattered from the punch. Ming’s head snapped back, toppling the woman over and onto the ground with a limp thud. Her eyes watered as her hand quickly rose to cup her bleeding nose. She squirmed in pain, “Snap! Snap! Snap!”

“Get up!” Batbayaar held his fighting stance, feet and shoulders square and fists raise defensively.

“Snappin’ I think you broke it,” Ming swore, rolling to her side, her eyes closing in pain as she accidentally put the pressure on one of her bruised ribs. She was dressed in baggy shorts and a close fitting vest, same as Batbayaar. Her monochrome skin was blushed blue and black all over, with irritated scrapes on every joint. The unforgiving hardness of the tiled barracks courtyard showed no mercy every time she had collapsed to it.

“Hm?” Batbayaar lowered his fists and looked down at the bleeding woman, his mountain of a frame towering over her. The scholar rubbed his chin, “That’s enough training for today, then. Go get yourself fixed up.”

“That’s it?” Ming limped back up to her feet, “You break a woman’s nose and that’s all you have to say?” She held her nose, blood trickling from between her fingers.

“I broke a general’s nose,” Batbayaar corrected, “And I’ll do it again if you don’t learn to be more defensive. The Hermian martial arts is not about mindless assault, you should know this.” He folded his anvil-like hands over his lap, “Am I to be dismissed, General?”

“For the day,” Ming looked away from the man, shame in her glance.

“Then are we to spar again soon?” Batbayaar arched a brow.

“I’ll send word to the Academy,” Ming waved her free hand, dried blood caked on her palm. Batbayaar dipped his head silently, backing up until he was at a reasonable distance and then turning to walk out on the tiled road out of the courtyard.

A speckle of blood dripped to the tiles below and Ming sighed. With a certain walk between a disappointed gait and a limp, Ming meandered over to the largest building in the military quarter, the main barracks. The tall stone building was wider than it was deep and thankfully for Ming, it was the location of the only ‘hospital’ in the city. Of course the couple of dedicated medicine men and women that worked there were more attuned to setting bones and delivering babies, but ever since Ming had started the training program with her prospective soldiers, they had quickly adjusted to learning how to fix new, more unusual ailments.

Using her back, Ming pushed through the massive doors that barricaded the building from the training courtyard. With a loud slam, the doors closed behind her, cutting her hearing off from the grunts and warcries of the training soldiers and bringing a ring to her ears. The interior was cold, it was always cold. She’d wrap an arm around her if she could, but as it stood, she was stuck walking through the halls shivering madly while she held her bleeding nose -- not exactly the image of a grand general or promised warrior.

She hated that, and she had a feeling a few of her soldiers hated it too. Sure, someone could have challenged her to the generalship, and it was likely Batbayaar himself would have, if he wasn’t already chosen as a scholar for the Hermian Academy, but no one did. She was shorter, young, compact. She had a boyish figure, if not a toned one, but an unmatchingly large ambition and pool of confidence -- two things she thought would aid her in her new job, but as it stood (again) -- she found herself still lacking.

“Why did Wenbo even agree to this,” She wondered to herself, a question she had asked to herself every night since she was hired. It wasn’t ungrateful, she was very glad to have the position, but it still struck her as odd that it went through so easily.

She turned a corner, the hallway opening up into a large room that was a flood of sunlight, large shuttered windows painting the room in it. Empty beds lined the walls and a single woman stood by a cauldron, moving a paste along the inside of it with a large stick.

“Zhou,” Ming called out, the woman stopping and turning around.

“General Ming!” She tipped their head briefly before letting go of the turning stick and hurrying over, snatching a wad of cloth on the way. She pulled Ming’s hand away, the small general not resisting the aggressive treatment. Zhou furrowed their brow and frowned, dabbing the cloth under Ming’s nose, the general’s porcelain face covered in wadding blood.

“What in K’nell’s good name happened?” Zhou fussed as she held the strip of cloth tight under Ming’s nostrils.

“I was sparring with Batbayaar.”

“Batbayaar?” Zhour slanted her brow, “General if I may?”

“Speak freely,” Ming tilted her head, Zhou’s hand grabbing her jaw as she moved her patients face around, observing the wound.

“Don’t you think it would be wise to choose a... well a smaller opponent?”

Ming made a face that was quickly erased by Zhou’s prodding, “I will accept nothing but perfection, it is important that I know what I’m doing.”

“Hard to do much with a broken nose,” Zhou frowned and let go, putting Ming’s fingers over the gauzing cloth. Ming gulped as Zhou reached for two wooden pipes, each half a finger in diameter. “I have to realign, Batbayaar did a good one on you.”

“Should I sit?” Ming nasaled.

“I recommend it.”

Ming plopped down onto one of the beds, the sudden release from her legs causing a numbing buzz in her joints. Her back curved as she slouched, exhaustion leaking from her bones. Her strange reprise didn’t last long. Zhou put a firm hand on her shoulder and sat her up right.

“Now,” Zhou squinted, leaning in close, tongue bit in concentration, “Just.” She pulled the blood soaked cloth away, “Don’t move.” She slowly inserted one of the rods into Ming’s left nostril, “Slow breaths through your mouth... easy.” Ming’s heart began to pound in her chest, eyes scanning Zhou’s narrowing eyes for any sign of mercy.

“General Ming,” Zhou’s hand fell from the rod and rubbed against the jagged edge of the general’s nose.

“Speak freely.” Ming gulped.

“Do you see the splotches painted on the wall across from you?”

Ming tore her eyes away from the procedure, finding the charcoal drawn dots that covered the wall in all different sizes.

“How many do you think there are?”

“Well- SNAP! AH!”

A rough hand held Ming’s face still as she swore, Zhou wearing a scowl, but the left side of Ming’s nose pushed back into place correctly. Zhou wiped the blood that drizzled out from the nostril, holding a cloth to her nose after removing the rod. Tears welled in Ming’s eyes, not from much other than nasal irritation.

“Your other nostril,” Zhou started, causing a thump of anxiety in Ming’s chest. The doctor hummed as she turned Ming’s face away from her, “It looks like it will heal just fine. Expect some swelling and try not to touch it.”

Ming let out a slow relieved breath. For some reason, a doctor’s visit and bag of pain was harder to swallow for her than the much larger and much more numerous pouches of hurt delivered in a sparring session.

Zhou stepped away, leaving Ming to hold her bandage in place, “So what are your plans, General?” Zhou idled as she returned to her pot of paste.

“Training, get more recruits,” Ming shrugged, “But it is difficult, there are so many dreamers.”

“I can see how that would be an issue,” Zhou agreed, not looking from her paste.

“I do have an idea, an edict if you will I want to pass by Lord Wenbo.” Ming removed the cloth and looked at the saturation of red before putting it back on.

“Oh yeah?” Zhou looked over.

“I’m thinking I could create a temporary force,” Ming nodded slowly, cautious of her nose, “A rotation of citizens depending on the day of the week to supplement our full time soldiers. That way we are not overworking our dedicated and aren’t shorthanded when we need a little extra. It should keep our populace in shape, as well.”

Zhou let out a single snort of a laugh and Ming narrowed her eyes, “Something wrong?”

“I’m sorry, General,” She turned and bowed her head low, “I was just thinking what I would look like as a soldier.”

Ming hummed, drowning out Zhou’s plea to disregard her comment, “You raise a point, Zhou.”

“Oh?” Zhou looked up from her bow.

“We can’t possibly pull specialized citizens from their tasks for this,” Ming folded one arm over her chest, supporting her other elbow, “I’ll draft what jobs I feel we can pull from before I present it to Lord Wenbo.”

“General Ming?”

“Speak freely.”

“If it keeps you from Batbayaar’s fists for a few weeks, I would support it even if I didn’t think it was a clever idea.”

Ming smiled for the first time that day, “Thank you, Zhou.”

“General,” Zhou tilted her head.


Yullian Header Pending


The sky cracked in half, a scarlet edge tearing it in two, an endless void on either side. The sound of music ripped through the battlefield -- the metallic shouts of the Warden and the intensity of the onslaught drowning out.

Clack.

Clack.

A dark gentleman dragging a mighty club stepped over the fallen soldiers, a disturbed eversmile twisted with rage on his face. Spiteful eyes of a giant stared down at the gentleman, a curse on their breath as they collapse under the weight of sleep. There was a brief pause, a small silence -- and then the club was hefted over the gentleman’s shoulder, the smile wrought into a deep frown. With gritted teeth, the club swung down and connected with the fallen beast, echoing a tremendous blast.

Gore showered all around as the gentleman tossed the club aside -- his companions staring at him in guilt and fright.


...

Yullian sat on a rock, the waves of the beach blasting all around her. In the form of a dreamer woman, she sat with her fingers pressed to her temples. The memories were vivid enough without the reinforcement of what knowledge Abanoc passed on. With a deep inhale, Yullian played the scene over in her head again, and again, and again.

“Such power,” She muttered as she watched the echoes clash with the nightmares in her mind’s eye. She forwarded her memory, a small shake of her head as Vakk was clubbed by K’nell, a small smile on her face. Pulling the memory back, and further back, she watched Vakk explode from their gateway to Savandam -- their sphere.

Yullian tapped her fingers off the rock as they thought. Abanoc had called her lacking after her creation, the seemings of a god but not a true one. She was lacking ‘power’ and ‘power’ meant fun, so therefore more power would mean more fun. What did the Gods of her memories have that she didn’t have? She rubbed her chin, thinking of the mustache of Kalmar, the wings of Li’Kalla, the many forms of Ashalla, the army of K’nell, the sphere of Vakk. There were many things, she figured.

“A person with as many ideas as me deserves more than the mediocre living as ‘half of a God’” Yullian said to a crawling crab, “How can I expect to have endless fun if I don’t have endless power? Better yet.” She stood up proud, fists on her hips, “How can I expect to keep Galbar interesting if from time to time I have to butt heads with the stiffer of the Gods. You know yours truly is clever -- insanely even, but...” She blinked at the crab, as if waiting for a reply.

She crossed her arms, “Then it is settled, I accept the task. I will keep Galbar interesting, and I will claim godhood to ensure it stays that way.”

The crab scurried under the sand and Yullian pouted, “Well we don’t have to get to work right away!” She called after it, “We can have some fun first!”

She rolled her eyes are the empty response, “Blast it all.” She stomped the sand right where the crab would likely be heading, forcing the crab to escape the sand in the opposite direction. A small smile formed on Yullian’s lips and she scooped the crab up in her hands, “You’re coming with me to claim Savandam, I need a little entertainment.” The crab waved its pinchers and she laughed at it, “I’ll think of something.”




“Kirron seems like an alright fellow,” Yullian said out loud to the terrified crab she was carrying as she walked across the tumbling ocean, shimmering blue in every direction. “Sure, a bit beefy in the head -- but he knows how to have the simple kinds of fun. It’s rustic!”

The crab didn’t dare (nor could it) disagree with its captor.

“Now Azura,” Yullian hummed, “Can’t say much about her uptightness, but those feathers are pretty. Maybe I should do feathers. Li’Kalla did feathers and it seemed to suit her just fine.” Slowly a cascade of feathers sprouted all over Yullian. They were white and flecked with blue but just as quickly as they appeared, Yullian dismissed them.

“A burden, really,” Yullian nodded, “At least for aesthetic purposes.” Tucking the crab under one arm, Yullian rubbed an itch off the tip of their nose, “Hey crab, who am I?”

With a wide grin, Yullian summoned a tiny flash of light in her hand, “Let there be light!” Yullian tossed the tiny sparkle away, and mimicked a disinterested face, “Alright, see ya.”

The crab’s eyes followed the sparkle and Yullian chuckled to themselves, “An impressions sort of crustacean are ya? Well try this one on for size.”

Yullian suddenly broke into a torrent of messy tears, “Why are you guys always fighting? You’re ruining my fucking garden. Can’t we all just get along?” Yullian wiped the tears from under one of her eyes as she started to laugh, “Pretty good, huh?”

The crab didn’t respond and Yullian frowned, “I’m giving you an exclusive show, the most you could do is clap-- or well, snap?”

There was a slight “click” as Yullian forced the crab’s pincers closed with a wide grin, “Close enough... but you’re on thin ice.”.




Yullian turned the dead crab over a few times, the poor creature having succumbed to starvation. The demigod bit their pygmy finger in thought, the angular face of an ape-man having replaced their former dreamer disguise.

“Well isn’t that just the way,” Yullian said in a gruff voice, “Next time I’ll try to move a little faster.”

He looked up at the encroaching coast of Dragon’s Foot, “We were so close too!”






Abanoc


Weeks had passed since Abanoc and Mnemosyne started working towards restoring lost memories. Abanoc had been focusing more on it than on his task of monitoring Galbar and had to read the Archives every once in a while.

But it was not all fruitless effort. The two had made quick progress and could theoretically reconstruct corrupt memories like in Eurysthenes’ case. It was all done based on the memory of that day the two gods met, but Abanoc’s memory of what he saw was crystal clear and second only to the real thing.

“Master, I feel like we can reach our goal soon.”

“Unlikely. We have only just started to attain results.”

“But we already deciphered the way to do so. If we focus just a bit more we can dispel this corruption before we know it.”

“Do not exert yourself, Mnemosyne. Though what we work with is a reproduction of reality, it still bears the same dangers as the original. I expected this to be a long project, we have no need for haste.”

“And keep your siblings waiting? Don’t you want to heal their memories as soon as possible?”

“Yes, but not the cost of your health. Just as we work to dispel the fabricated the corruption, so could it harm yours or even my memory if we are careless.”

“I understand, but I insist that we accelerate our pace. We don’t need to be careless on our work, but neither do we need to be as slow as we are.”

Abanoc closed his eyes in thought. Indeed, they didn’t need to go at a snail’s pace, but Abanoc was hesitant since he was dealing with a still unknown force. “So be it.” He opened his eyes to look where the muse’s eyes would be. “Do not take unnecessary risks.”

Abanoc held his hands near the sides of her head. Joined in thought, the two saw the same blackness that had taken over Eurysthenes’ mind. With their shared efforts the edges of a corrupt memory had started to flicker, but wasn’t clear yet. Mnemosyne approached the blackness and pushed her hand through the partially restored memories and into the corrupt.

This was the method they had devised to break through the corruption. Mnemosyne would lay her hand upon or into the blackness and try to decipher what it once was then remake it. It wasn’t perfected yet, as seen by the flickering edges, but it was progress nonetheless.

This time, however, Mnemosyne pushed her whole forearm in it. She gasped from the strain, but didn’t back away from it.

“Mnemosyne, do not go too far in. You cannot handle this much yet.”

“I’ll be...fine. I just need to get used to it.” She kept her forearm inside the corrupt memories while adjusting to it. It was a few hours until she could maintain her concentration and work on rebuilding them. “I’ll now begin my work.” The muse announced.

It was almost unnoticeable due to how slow it was, but the blackness receded. It would be another set of hours until Mnemosyne’s hand became visible. She had just made more progress in a day than in the past weeks of work. It had also been exhausting for the muse do so much so quickly and was breathing hard from the strain.

“Good results. But we cannot maintain this pace forever. Otherwise you will break down.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t think your sibling’s memory would be so difficult to interpret.” She said amid ragged breaths. Despite her state, however, she didn’t pull her arm out of the flickering memories.

“He is an enigma even for me. It is to be expected that his memories would be just as chaotic. Now, disconnect yourself from them. You have done more than enough for today.”

“I… Huh? What’s this?” The flickering memories began to stabilize and reveal their contents in clarity. They flooded into both the muse and Abanoc’s mind. The chaos of Eurysthenes’ mind was theirs just for a moment, but Mnemosyne couldn’t stand it in her exhausted state.

Sensing this, Abanoc tried to pull Mnemosyne’s consciousness back to the Observatory. Groaning as if in intense pain, her mask split open, revealing a mirror where the rest of her face would be. It shined in a bright light, blinding even Abanoc.

When his sight recovered Mnemosyne was passed out in his arms and her mask was back in place. But something else was now present in the Observatory. An amalgamation of what seemed to be particles of clay was piled up next to them. It moved on its own at random intervals and amounts and eventually began to raise off the ground and took a vaguely columnar shape.

“What is this…?” Abanoc looked at the entity in bewilderment.

The particles whipped wildly around the column until suddenly Abanoc was staring at a copy of himself, save for a glowing divine essence that only Abanoc’s deific eyes could discern. His copy stretched a crooked smile, tapping his chin with wonder in his newborn eyes. He slowly squinted, eyes too new and sensitive. The copy suddenly jerked, and with a heaving cough the particles blasted into a cloud of nothingness once more, only to be snapped back by an unseen force -- except now a copy of Mnemosyne stood in his place. With a slightly more delicate cough, she cleared her throat, “How,” The voice was an uncanny copy of Mnemosyne’s, “Well, this is an interesting turn of events, wouldn’t you say, Abanoc?””

Abanoc stared in silence at the shapeshifter, analysing its traits. “Capable of imitating the body’s frame, complexity and voice. Composed of Eurysthenes’ memories and mine and Mnemosyne’s powers. And...the influence of a third god…” He could sense that much, but not discern to which god that influence belonged to. “What are you?”

The copy looked around for a bit, as if analyzing the situation itself, “I...” It’s face changed to a new one, one of confused blinks and a widening smile of delight, “I am a god.” The rest of the body followed suit, taking the form of a rather plain and featureless humanoid.

“Composed from many sources and not as powerful as a true one, but a god you would seem to be.” Abanoc walked up the steps to lay Mnemosyne on his throne then walked back to ground level. “What is your name and power that you represent?”

“I like the sound of Yullian,” The godling suggested, changing to mimic the look of Abanoc once more, “Yes, Yullian will do just fine.” A copy of Abanoc’s voice assured. He held out a hand, “I am the patron of...” he held his palm open, “Organization, enlightenment, order.”

Abanoc felt something was amiss about the reply, but couldn’t tell for sure due to Yullian’s own divine essence. Not only that, he also felt annoyed for having his form and voice copied in such a way. “Pardon me if I mistrust your words. But regardless of that, What order do you intend to bring to Galbar?”

Yullian held up a finger, as if asking for silence. A strained expression overtook his face and he scowled, “Forget about Galbar for one moment -- something in this very area is out of order.” He wagged a finger, “When was the last time you organized?”

Abanoc narrowed his eyes in anticipation. “Not too long ago.”

“Show me--” Yullian cut themselves off, staring back at Abanoc’s squinted glare, “Oh!” The demigod slapped his own cheek, “I’m so sorry, you’re probably not very comfortable with me looking like... well you, huh?”

“I expect anyone to have a similar reaction to them being copied.”

“Of course,” Yullian rubbed their face, a shade of embarrassment plastered across their visage, “Please, what would you feel more comfortable looking at? Can’t very well get this place organized with this in the way.”

Abanoc sighed. “You have a base form, even if it is featureless. Assume it.”

“Anything for you,” Yullian grinned before suddenly erupting into a mess of particles. The slosh of divine pieces formed a neat pile on the floor, a mouth forming in the corner, “So how about you show me your previous organizations, I would very much love to get right to work!”

“Everything here is already where they should be. You altering anything is quite frankly unnecessary.”

“Oh...” The voice was sad, “I see.” The mess of particles began to slowly slug up the stairs with an almost miserable aura. With a final slap, the pile of Yullian flopped by the great mirror of the observatory. It huffed for a moment before a small tendril of particles suddenly whipped out, ever so slightly changing the position of the magical mirror.

“Ah-HA!” Yullian called out down the steps with renewed vigor, “I seem to have located what was out of order!”

Abanoc looked at the mirror and found that its trajectory had been altered. And as if that wasn’t enough the new reflection was now the underside of his own clothing! That could be enough to embarrass even one as calm as Abanoc, or it would if his divine body reflected human anatomy. “You! Not only do you waste my time, but you also interfere with my task of monitoring Galbar!” He showed the strongest display of emotion yet, a rage that wasn’t fit for his demeanor.

With a motion of his hands the mirror returned to its original place and pulled Yullian back to the ground level. “I tire of you. Begone from my domain, or I shall remove you myself.”

“Certainly,” The pile quickly responded, flopping off the edge of the observatory, only to fall back down upon it, landing on Abanoc’s head in a sloppy ‘poof’.

“Tsk!” He grabbed hold of Yullian, keeping his form together with his power, and tossed him through the entrance.

Taking a deep breath to calm down, Abanoc straightened himself up. “I must restrain Mnemosyne next time she attempts to be so greedy.” He walked towards his Archive and revised its contents. As it was directly connected to the information displayed on the mirror the brief moment of shame that had just occurred was recorded.

“As annoying as that was, it still pains me somewhat to undo this…” He said with a sigh as he erased that piece of information from the Archive.




The pile of particles whizzed for a brief moment before splattering all over the altar of the stone book.

The blue of Galbar’s sky peered down and the gentle lapping of waves could be heard in the distance. A gull called and swooped down, pecking at the fine grains, but each peck saw the clump force itself back to the pile. Finally the particles exploded into a mist only to slap back together in the shape of an elven man -- taking the image from the handy bundle of knowledge he was born with.

Yullian put his hands on his hips, “Well that wasn’t very fun at all--” He looked over at the now anxious gull, “--Well the mirror part was, of course.” He chuckled, “But to be just thrown out like that. Oh well, not like there was much to do up there anyways.” He paused, the gull simply staring at him.

“You’re rather boring, did you know that?”

The gull didn’t respond.

“Speak.”

The gull was silent.

Yullian rubbed his chin and flicked a finger at the bird, a jump of purple lightning suddenly zapping it, its eyes dilating, “Bings and bangs and bungs, why don’t you go scream at the top of your lungs?”

The gull went to call out, but the horrified screams of a woman erupted from its maw instead, startling both the bird and the surrounding wildlife. Yullian broke into a tearful laughter, “Go..” He said through a laugh, “Go on.. shoo.. go scream some more, that was great.”

The gull took off, eyes wide with horror as it continued its orchestra of blood curdling screams, instilling shocks of varied emotions among the unwary. Yullian saluted the midday heliopolis from his eyes as he watched it fly off, a gentle grin on his lips.

“It’s about time I find something really fun to do.”







@BBeast @Muttonhawk Beware the wrath of the Slime.
The Final Hunter


Yupilgo’s tent was filled with trinkets of the past. An iron spear laid across a wicker chest of old Grottu clothes, and the tools of Ippino were strung from the rafters. The smell of the hunt wafted off of a dimpled stone that laid in a subtle fire, a gentle boil overtaking its contents. Outside the tent, the drills of the Hyummin soldiers could be heard, their wicker, bark and leather shields pounding against their spears, javelins and axes. Yupilgo had recently given his final blessing to a conflict, the K’nights of Tyuppa hoisting him into battle upon his bed, only for the impending battle between the structured Hyummin forces (armed even with the beast of Ippino) and a rogue clan of ne'er do wells to fall flat upon his raspy words -- a K’night shouting them for him.

The scene had sapped whatever energy he had left, but saved a few selka lives -- just as his old partner Panganeem would have wanted. Now he laid in the same bed he was carried in, but beside his gentle fire, body frail. His skin was pulled tight across his bones, his blubber limp and his whiskers long. His blind eyes were milky white now, his eye covered discarded in his final years as some romantic attempt to allow them to feel the light of heliopolis despite his handicap, so they may at least enjoy their final moments as he has been.

His chest creaked and he let out a hoarse cough, the force moving his blood into his legs and tingling the soles of his wrinkled feet. Any feeling in his toes had been long gone, and as the blood receded, so too did his feet and calves fall numb. He clapped his old lips shut and licked them moist. With one blind hand he reached off from his bed without moving, in search for a tiny stone cup of water.

"Here." came a gentle voice, the stone cup entering his hands.

A shaky “oh!” came from the elderly selka. He accepted the cup and carefully brought it to his head, tipping it to his lips. With a loud slurp, he took in enough water to cause a dribble down the corner of his mouth. With a shaking hand, he brought the cup back to the bedside table. Clearing his throat, he finally spoke, “I’m sorry young lady, I didn’t see you come in.” He let out a weak chuckle.

"Not many did." she said warmly. A cloth then dabbed the corner of his mouth dry.

“What-” He coughed a little, but a small smile was forming on his old mug regardless, “What can old Yupilgo do for such a nice young selka?” He grunted his throat clear again, “I’m afraid I’m a little too weak for a story.”

"That's quite alright, my dear Yupilgo. Now is the time for rest, for a new journey awaits you. One beyond imagination, or so I'm told." she said, gently taking his arm and placing his hand upon the top of her own.

Yupilgo’s fingers grazed her skin, feeling the bump of her mark. Slowly his milky eyes widened, “You... you bear the mark of my savior.”

"Yes, he gave it to me long go." she said quietly. "I am no Selka, Yupilgo, but I am a friend. My name is Arya, Ward of K'nell."

Yupilgo’s webbed fingers wrapped around Arya’s hand, “Tell me, Ward of K’nell... what does my God have to say?”

Arya squeezed his hand gently. "He says that you are welcome to join him in Heaven, a place of infinite possibilities and freedom from the Pyres. I have come to show you the way there, as his last wish unto me, if it is what you desire."

There was a pregnant pause, “Show me,” Yupilgo finally urged. Arya sucked in a breath and leaned forward, her words washing into his ear. She told him about the way of Moksha, and K’nell’s promises. She spoke to him about K’nell’s heaven, and what it was. Finally, she told Yupilgo to wait for the night, and to find it in the sky -- and that K’nell had assured her that even in his ailment, he would find it.

By the time she was done, a wet stream of tears was trickling down Yupilgo’s face. He croaked a breath and spoke softly, “I wept like this... on the bedrock of a stream, amidst the cries of a young babe. In my tears, K’nell found me, and it was through his visions I found my own. It seems once again he has found me broken and blind.” Yupilgo smiled, “Ward Arya, could this old man ask a favor of your youth?”

"Of course, Yupilgo, of course. Anything." she said, her voice heavy with emotion.

“Stay with me today, and when the night comes -- bring me outside so I may witness our savior,” Yupilgo gulped out the words, “I want to see.”

”I can do that.” Arya said. ”And when the night comes, you will see.”




The chill of the night air wrapped itself around Arya. Despite the bumps the cold air breathed on her, she found her limbs more than capable of pushing Yupilgo’s emaciated frame and his bed out of the tent. The man was wrapped in several blankets, his body hardly producing much heat. His lips trembled blue, but a smile was worn -- he was excited and Arya could hear it in his shuddering breaths.

The two managed to push their way unnoticed through the tents and yurts of the growing Hyummin city. What guards spotted them were easily waved off by the elder K’night, and before the pair knew it, they were by the shores of the ocean. The gentle sounds of the waves of Delphina grew yupilgo’s smile and as if smiling back, the setting Heliiopolis was but a crescent on the purple horizon.

With bated breath the two waited as Helioipolis sunk into the ocean, the purple sky turning to a dark blue and then to an oppressive black. Just as the night sky seemed to settle as an empty beast of darkness, a gentle green nebula began to shimmer past the grey clouds. It seemed to swirl in place, a subtle reminder of who put it there. Yupilgo’s head seemed to jerk towards it, his eyes still milky white and as blind as ever.

A relieved look formed on his face, “The sky is warm tonight,” He said past the cold breeze, “Like a smile.”

”Exactly like a smile.” Arya said, staring at the nebula.

A gentle trickle of tears began to fall onto Yupilgo’s cheeks, “I wish Panganeem could have seen this, or Juttyu... or Ippino (Delphina take care of him).” He shuddered a sight, his eyes closing.

”It’s always those of us who remain that endure, Yupilgo. We remember what others do not, even if the memories are of wanting. But do not despair, for they will never leave us, in the end.” Arya said as she cried silent tears.

Yupilgo’s hand gripped Arya’s “They were the greatest men to ever walk this soil... I only hope some young pup out there proves me wrong about that.” He smiled up at Arya, his eyes swollen with tears. He sighed and closed his eyes, letting his hand fall from Arya’s.

Arya crouched down and kissed the selka on his brow. ”They will, one day.” she said standing back up. A small smile formed on the selka’s lips, his breathing slowing and then suddenly, his chest stopped. ”Be at peace, Yupilgo.” she said, crying. ”The Dreamers will love your stories.”

Arya then sat upon the sand, and held her knees close to her chest. She listened to the waves, before letting out a soft sigh.






Rise of the Sleepers -- The Final Chapter


"And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Revelations 21:4


This post may have information that could be confusing or hard to understand if you haven’t been following this arc. I apologize.





Xiaoli sat on a rotten, moss covered stool. Hermes sat beside her on her own, balanced on uneven legs. Both held their heads low, eyes staring down at a paled wooden table. Their breathing was steady, eyes scanning without leaving their spots. The sound of the forest echoed all around them, from birds to bugs -- buzzing and chirping. Tangled roots burst in and out of the soil around them, almost actively even in their stationary positions. Gnarled trees complimented the entire scene and blocked the ominous night sky above.

A great shadow was covering the pair, a beast of bones and marrow rising behind them. Teeth clattered and old joints creaked. The shadow shifted, as if the great monster was holding something aloft. Two arms raised over Xiaoli, and tension filled the air, and then all at once, the great arms fell--

SLAM!

A metal saucer hit the table, a cute little teacup chattering atop it. A gentle steam escaped the reddish looking brew and the Skeleton quickly placed one in front of Hermes as well.

“S-s-so,” The being contemplated, “You’re telling us-s-s that you are from Tendlepog and are here to s-s-solve a great s-s-sleeping mys-s-stery?” Bones creaked as the being sat upright in its own stool, the orb of light fluttering on one side of it, and the ghostly version standing blanky to the other.

“Y-yes,” Xiaoli mumbled in a quivering voice and took her teacup.

“Yes that’s right,” Hermes sipped her tea, it was tangy. She pursed her lips, and a little tart. The liquid swished in her mouth a little before she swallowed.

“And you jus-s-st experienced a land of great emotion?” The ghastly figure questioned, faceless.

“Well, it got quite emotional, I suppose,” Xiaoli conceded and had a reluctant sip of her tea.

“You s-s-suppose?” The glowing orb pulsed.

“Erm,” Hermes knitted her brows, “Off topic... but.”

“Go ahead,” The skeleton beckoned.

“Who were you three again? I almost don’t even remember how we got to-- well sitting here.” Hermes looked at Xiaoli, as if confirming this to be true.

“They never did introduce themselves, I think. We hugged and then suddenly, well, they were there. Truly, pardon us if you already did introduce yourselves.” To lighten the mood again, or perhaps just to feel a tad less sheepish, Xiaoli took another reluctant sip of tea.

“It was-s-s a nice hug,” The spirit complimented.

“Oh,” The Skeleton didn’t wear any emotion on its boney face, “I am Sk-Sk-Skeleton. This is S-S-Soul,” He gestured at the ghastly mimic of the skeleton, “And this is Sp-Sp-Spirit.” He nudged at the ball of light.

Hermes narrowed her eyes, a bemused smirk hiding behind the lip of her cup, “I coulda swore that spirits were just another word for souls.”

“It has a slight connotation of motivation and purpose, I believe,” Xiaoli added helpfully.

“Either way it’s-- what’s that saying you use from time to time, love?” Hermes made a thoughtful face, “On the nose?”

“Yeah, just a bit.”

The Skeleton held up a boney finger, “Is-s-sn’t your name ‘Xiaoli’?”

Xiaoli blinked. “And may I ask how you know that, master Skeleton?”

“You live long enough, you pick up a few things-s-s,” The Skeleton answered.

“I don’t think that saying can be used here,” Hermes scrunched her nose, taking a bubbling sip.

“What is a long life here in Limbo like, anyway? I reckon it must be quite eventful.” Xiaoli took in the surroundings. “I like the, uhm, natural setting. Quite harmonious.”

“I s-s-suppose it is-s-s quite s-s-similar to the land you’re from,” The soul answered, “A little different for each pers-s-son.”

Hermes blinked, “That was very thoughtful,” She complimented. The Spirit seemed to flutter at the words. Hermes smiled and looked at Xiaoli, clearly amused now. She pressed on, Poppler having taken over her cup,“Where did you come from?”

“Hmm,” The spirit hummed.

“The s-s-same place you and Xiaoli did,” The Spirit answered, “In a way.”

“So you are Tendlepoggan, then?” Xiaoli suggested. “Did Father K’nell make you?”

“Maybe!” The Skeleton offered, “But what I meant was-s-s that we both come from s-s-similar if not the s-s-same circums-s-stance.”

“What do you mean,” Hermes looked down at the brew-stained cloudling and then back at her hosts.

“Cons-s-sider a web,” The soul answered.

“Everyone has-s-s an epicenter, a s-s-start,” The Spirit continued.

“You come from one of thes-s-se branches-s-s, and it would make s-s-sense I came from a branch as-s-s well,” The Skeleton finished the thought, “Let’s-s-s see, the pos-s-sabilities-s-s are endless when you cons-s-sider that this web is no mere two dimens-s-sional craft, with the creator of Galbar funneling in so many cons-s-scious-s-ses-s-s from s-s-so many different-”

“Places-s-s,” The soul finished.

Xiaoli pursed her lips pensively. “So, if I am understanding this correctly, you came to be in this world as the result of some creation in a different universe from before the First Day and the closing of the portal? Or that you came as a result of it?”

The three looked at each other for a moment (or their best imitation of such a thing) before unifying with a, “Yes-s-s, before.”

“How is that pos-s-sible?” Hermes bit her tongue, realizing she accidentally mimicked their speech pattern. Poppler crackled into the tea, as if laughing.

“You’re a dreamer, you s-s-should know the lack of limitations-s-s when it comes to what is-s-s and what is-s-sn’t pos-s-sible -- es-s-specialy in regards-s-s to lands-s-s like thes-s-se.”

“It certain -is- possible,” Xiaoli agreed. “Many different spirits made their way into this world on the First Day. My question is, how on Galbar did you end up in here and not in the Pyres along with everybody else?” She put her empty tea cup on the pale, matte wooden table with a look of relief.

The Skeleton pointed a finger and Xiaoli could of have sworn she saw a smile -- somehow. The skeleton chattered on, “Is-s-sn’t that the ques-s-stion. Now, what if I added that I never have left the land you call Limbo, not before nor after your firs-s-st day.”

Xiaoli recoiled a little much in the same way she would’ve if someone told her a poor joke and she felt a need to scoff. “I would not believe you. Limbo only came to be after Father K’nell created it, so you must’ve snuck in somehow.”

“Cons-s-sider this-s-s,” The soul reasoned, “The creator of Galbar had invited many different kindreds-s-s from many different lands-s-s: do all thes-s-se lands-s-s follow the same laws-s-s as Galbar? Are the requirements-s-s for creation and life the s-s-same in all the lands-s-s tapped?”

“And cons-s-sider this-s-s,” The Spirit added with a pulse, “What if Limbo was-s-s never created by K’nell, but s-s-simply made available to Galbar.”

“And then cons-s-sider this-s-s,” The Skeleton also added, “How could s-s-such a creation live in a land where it is-s-s very s-s-seemingly breaking its-s-s natural laws-s-s?”

Hermes bit the edge of her empty cup, the cloudling tickling her nose as she thought hard. It took her a hard pause before she stopped gnawing on her cup and cleared her throat, “What if it isn’t?”

Xiaoli looked a little stunned at the possibilities of what the three forms suggested, so when she turned to Hermes, she looked a tad more anxious than usual. “Huh? What if what isn’t what?”

“What if it isn’t breaking the rules,” Hermes nodded slowly, “You all came in with K’nell - but like ‘IN’ K’nell... his consciousness powers you all... he is...”

The skeleton craned its head forward, “Go on.”

“He is... it.” Hermes finalized, “He did tell me, once, a very long time ago how his palace came to be -- and I never understood it.” She looked at Xiaoli, “The palace is K’nell’s dream.”

“In a way,” The Spirit added.

“Then why am I here?” Hermes asked, “What is the purpose of the Sleepers, and of you, and of all this?”

“If you are K’nell’s consciousness and the Palace is His dream… Have we been sent here to wake him up?” Xiaoli suggested.

“No,” The Skeleton suggested, “But we are waiting, jus-s-st it’s-s-s for you.”

“What?” Hermes squinted, “Explain, please.” Xiaoli could hear agitation in Hermes confusion, as mellow as it was.

“You need to let go, then you need to wake up,” Spirit answered, “S-s-so when you are all ready, you can ans-s-swer your final ques-s-stion.”

“Always with the snapping riddles,” Xiaoli muttered just loud enough for Hermes to hear. “So what, exactly, is my wife holding on to that she needs to let go of?”

“You s-s-saw,” The Soul answered, “Anger, s-s-sadness.”

“As-s-s a dreamer, she extends-s-s past were the normal mortal dreams-s-s and thinks-s-s.” The Spirit continued.

“S-s-she as a res-s-sult leaves-s-s thes-s-se powerful emotions-s-s behind, where they build and build until s-s-she can no longer escape them in the waking world. S-s-she must confront what s-s-she had unknowingly created here, to prevent this s-s-same event from happening in all dreamers-s-s.” The Skeleton finished, “It is-s-s the first s-s-step to paradis-s-se.”

“Abs-s-solution.”

Hermes frowned and leaned back in her chair, growing increasingly silent. Not even Poppler stirred as the Dreamer thought, “How can I confront these things?”

“Walk into the woods-s-s... find the night s-s-sky,” The Soul answered, “Confront it.”

“Ooooh no - she is not looking at any night sky anytime soon,” Xiaoli protested. “She froze up completely the last time she did, I mean… She didn’t--… How is this supposed to solve her issue?” Xiaoli seemed as though she knew the answer to her own question from the number of sighs and stops in her sentences.

“Xiaoli,” Hermes put a hand on her wife’s arm, “I think it is about time we confront these things, like they said. I’m not--” She put on a resolved face, “I’m not afraid.”

“B-but…” Xiaoli whimpered. “I am…” She took Hermes’ hand in her own and squeezed. “Can you promise me you’ll be alright?”

“Of course,” Hermes pressed a kiss to Xiaoli’s forehead, “I’ll have you.”

Xiaoli blushed a little like she used to and nodded slowly. “... Remember that you promised, then.” She turned to the three forms. “What do I do in the meanwhile? Can I go with her?”

“You can... but firs-s-st,” The soul started.

“A s-s-story,” The Spirit continued.

“Let this-s-s fable aid you in your coming days-s-s, in your confus-s-sions-s-s and may it aid all who hear its-s-s eas-s-sy words-s-s.” The Skeleton started again.

Hermes cocked her head, “Let’s hear it then.”

“There were three,” The Skeleton held up three fingers, “Blind men.”

“They had s-s-stumbled through the fields-s-s of Tendlepog,” The Spirit continued, “Until all at once, they had found a tree-eating beas-s-st.”

“The firs-s-st grabbed its-s-s tail and declared. ‘I have found rope.’” The Soul said, “The s-s-second pricked his-s-s finger on the tooth of the beas-s-st and declared, ‘fool! We have found a knife.’”

“The final man crawled on his-s-s knees-s-s and gripped the beas-s-st’s-s-s leg and yelled out, ‘Morons-s-s! This-s-s is but a tree!’”

“Know it is-s-s easy,” The Skeleton concluded, “To declare the incons-s-stancies-s-s of another, and harder to admit your own ignorance of the larger picture. Pers-s-spective is key, do not find frus-s-stration -- find contemplation.”

Hermes pinched her chin, her cloudling friend wisking into her hair as she thought to herself. “I can see the wisdom of your story,” She smiled, “Will it be as useful as you say?”

The Skeleton nodded and Hermes turned to Xiaoli, “Then, are you ready?”

“I should be asking you that,” Xiaoli giggled rhetorically. “Just… Yeah, come back to me, alright? I’ll be right beside you for when you do.”

Hermes grabbed hand as she stood up, tucking it close to her, “I know.” She gave a cheshire grin of her own, anticipation and anxiety hiding behind her eyes.




The forest parted for the trio as they walked, Poppler hiding in Hermes’ hair, zapping with what could have been its own apprehension of the entire ordeal. Hermes didn’t realize she was holding a breath, and let a shallow exhale escape. The forest was hazy, and as much as she hated the haze, she didn’t want it to fade. It’s sheen kept the distance unclear, and with that ignorance there was a certain comfort. The great viel hid the sky beyond the trees, but it was fading fast, each step bringing Hermes closer to confrontation. The end of her quest was near, she figured, but at the same time she could help but hope that it also wasn’t the end of her, or her children. The warnings of the three strangers floated with her, knowing that she had to do this, to ensure peace for her babies.

With a crunch, the two stepped over a final branch, the trees suddenly all behind them as they stepped out into an endless field of dull orange grass, almost like Tendlepog in the autumn. Hermes couldn’t help it, and in seconds her eyes snapped up. The great open night sky glared back down at her.

It was empty, it was always empty. It wore a dark swirling shade of purple and black, but held no starts, no moons, nothing. Hermes could feel her chest constrict, it was meaningless. A blank canvas whose artist was long dead. It had no reason or rhyme, it was oppressively blank. It seemed to scream in her ears, wailing at its uselessness, its unending death.

The symbolism was not lost on Hermes as her eyes began to water, “Kuranell,” She called out, “Kuranell!”

A great wind buffeted the pair, forcing even the avatar’s eyes to close against the airy onslaught. As the great torrent passed, and eyes peeled back open -- a tall looming figure stood in the distance. It was easily three times as tall as them, with long dark robes entangled with feathers and stringed pebbles. On it’s hooded head, two great white antlers pressed out like a crown of sorts, and a blank mask was worn over whatever face this being had to offer.

“I want to fix this, I want to save my children from this curse,” Hermes forced a sputtering demand. Spindly fingers fell from the long billowing robes and pressed against each other in contemplation. As they separated, a platter formed between them, a completely metallic spear cast in a hue of green and wrapped in a copper skin laid on it.

“Then cast your brush, and paint the sky.” The being answered.

Hermes gave Xiaoli a resolute look before walking up to the towering figure. She went to reach for the spear, but found her hand slipping through it. She furrowed her brow and tried again and again.

“What is this?” She scowled.

“Your hands,” The being answered calmly, almost like a nighttime whisper, “They are full.”

Hermes looked down at her empty palms, an itch at the back of her mind. She turned away from the being, and there stood the figure from the land of anger. Its hands were bound, it’s eyes furious. Next to it stood another feathery silhouette of Hermes, hands chained as well, with a look of sorrow, and then another and another. An army of Hermeses stood before her, each wearing one of her thoughts, one of her insecurities, her worries.

“There has to be a better way,” One of the Hermes said suddenly, looking at Xiaoli, “We can’t send our children to the pyres... we just can’t.”

Xiaoli gave her a frown. “I know it’s hard to let go, Hermes, but… All life must go through that cycle. There’s no other sensible option.”

“But what if there was?” The real Hermes suddenly defended her other, “What if there was, Xiaoli? What if this wasn’t the way it should be --”

“Would you stay with me, with us, if there was?” Another Hermes asked, clearly sobbing.

“Xiaoli would never leave me,” Another Hermes scolded, “She is my wife, my wife.”

“But she is also Shengshi,” Another one said coldly.

Xiaoli pointed accusingly at the last one. “But I’m Hermes’ wife first, so you can shut your tongue!”

The Hermes seemed to suddenly poof into a fading mist. The real Hermes took in a deep, startled breath, “Xiaoli would never leave me, no matter what.” She looked over to her wife.

Xiaoli gave her a loving smile with tearing eyes. “Of course I wouldn’t, Hermes - not for anything in this world or any other. I’m yours, for all eternity.”

“If not for Xiaoli, what am I really?” A tiny voice piped up, and a youthful looking Hermes looked on quizzically at the real one, she wore her original clothes at the time of creation, a spear punched through a hole in the back of her shirt.

“I’m Hermes,” The real Hermes answered easily, and the other Hermes seemed to poof away, “Wife or no wife, I am who I am -- and I will always be that way.”

More questions flew at Hermes, who seemed to have an answer for most, forcing the other to poof away. Slowly, one by one, the army began to whittle away as Hermes resolved her insecurities, her anger, her sorrows all left behind in the realm of dreams, until three remained.

“Why are you alive?” A tear stained Hermes asked, putting the real Hermes on edge all of a sudden. A long pause ensued, and a memory passed through her head. She was running away from Xiaoli, tears on her face and a hole in her heart. She crumbled on the flat rock of the fields, a mess of sobs and choking cries. A figure came rushing to her, K’nell. He had taken on her image and turned himself into a dreamer -- without hesitation, the stoic man broke all character and fell to his knees, wrapping her in a compassionate embrace. She remembers digging her face into his chest, letting her tears fall as he comforted him.

“Because I am loved,” Hermes answered, a tear dripping off the tip of her nose. The figure poofed and two remained.

“What do you want?” The second asked, a rash of frustration on her face. Hermes looked down at her sandals as she pondered the question. She remembered the first time she opened her eyes, seeing the cheshire face of K’nell. She remembers finding Li’Kalla and exploring Galbar, she remembers that empty feeling that haunted her while she did -- until she found Xiaoli. Slowly the chill came back though, and she remembers lashing out at Xiaoli, apologizing and bottling it away. She was an explorer, an adventurer and finder of secrets but in all that she was missing something and she would continue to miss it so long as her life was dictated by the myriad of gods and opinions of the world. She bit her lip.

“Freedom, eternity -- liberation, an exit from the cycle” She finally said and the other Hermes poofed.

“And how, what will you do now?” The final Hermes asked. Hermes didn’t even pay it any mind, walking up to the towering figure holding the spear. Without turning back to her feathery form she said simply:

“I will paint the skies and break the cycle.”

The final sleeper dissipated as Hermes scooped the spear from its platter. Kuranell looked down at her, and she could feel a familiar smile behind the mask. Hermes held the spear in one hand and turned to Xiaoli. Slowly the world began to shimmer around them.

“Come here,” Hermes calmly called out to Xiaoli as Limbo shook and shimmered, the world starting to blur.

Xiaoli stared uncertainly at the world around them. “Hermes, what’s happening? The aura of this world feels… Unstable, very much so.”

“Come here” Hermes held out a hand, shaking her head slowly, “We are leaving.”

“Leaving? Oh, finally!” Xiaoli said with a relieved groan and ran towards Hermes, taking her hand in her own. “Are you feeling alright? Those shades asked some… Odd questions.”

“It’s all off my chest,” Hermes said as she pulled Xiaoli close. The world suddenly grew darker and darker, shimmering into nothingness. Hermes’ heart raced a little but a certain new calm cooled her mind and emotions.

With a bang, light returned. The trio stood on the platform of Limbo, a blank night sky above. Without missing a beat, Hermes broke away from Xiaoli, took a running step, shoulders back and one hand out for aim and suddenly threw her spear.

It shot from her like a comet, glowing a gentle green as it rocketed into the sky. The higher it went, the more light it seemed to shed as it rode into the emptiness above. It soared and soared until suddenly it pierced something unseen. A great rip spread across the night sky, leaving behind a cosmic cloud of swirling green dust. A clap of light pulsed from it briefly, as if stamping it forever into the night sky of Galbar.

Hermes stared up at it, a wide cheshire grin on her face, “There it is, Xiaoli.” She didn’t peel her eyes from the ruptured sky.

Xiaoli recoiled a step and stared in awe. It took a moment for her to truly recover to the point where she relaxed her body and simply took in the sight. “Where… Where does it lead?”

“Peace,” K’nell suddenly said, taking a step from behind them so as to stare at the sight with them, “No more sleepers shall accumulate, no betrayed emotions swelling in the dreamscape, not so long as a dreamer looks up at this moksha, this exit, and meditates upon the liberation of themselves and their mind. No, I wager they would find their peace -- but that is only the beginning.”

“The beginning?” Hermes said, turning to look at her God. The God turned his head and smiled wide.

“I will explain, to all of you, come.” With little more the God stepped into the forest.




Wenbo snapped awake and catapulted himself up until he sat and gasped for air. He occasionally experienced exciting dreams, he confessed, so this was not necessarily uncommon for him to do. However, as he rubbed his face and pondered the decision to lie back down, all five of his family members did exactly the same, sat up in a rush and panted like they had just run a mile. Wenbo looked around in complete surprise, then Ren shouted, “We have to get to the mansion!”

Wenbo was about to say something, but already his family had rushed out of bed and were getting dressed. The old man frowned a little, but quickly shuffled to his feet and reached for his robes.

Before long, all six of them were moving as fast as they could in the direction of the mansion. It was pitch black outside - or, well, it should have been. Instead, the land seemed to light up with an eerie glow, brought on by a sight in the sky that stopped all of their advances momentarily. The colossal rift in the heavens had their eyes entranced for minutes, quelling all attempts to verbally describe the beauty of what they were beholding. At least ten minutes passed before Ai broke out of the trance and let her eyes fixate on the path again.

“You guys, come on! We need to hurry up!”

The others quickly broke out as well, but would occasionally stop again along the way just to marvel at the phenomenal pattern in the sky. Wenbo, in particular, stopped on multiple occasions, mouthing to himself the words, “... And I shall tear open the sky…”

Along the way, he grabbed Ai’s shoulder and slowed down a little. She turned, confused at first, but quickly read his expression and nodded.

“We are out of time,” Wenbo said somberly. Ai put a hand over his and smiled with equal melancholy.

“You did your best in the time you had, my love… We won’t be many, but… Hey, we’ll be some, at least.”

“... Some,” Wenbo agreed.

Luckily, the Wens didn’t live far away from the mansion - merely an hour long stroll, which in their excited tempo took only half that time.

As they approached, they noticed the entire host of the Dreamers accumulating. A confused Chagatai gave his twin a concerned look before looking onward at the two obelisks that stood guard over the mansion, Hermes and Xiaoli standing in between, with K’nell behind them, and easily standing over them.

Upon spying the other twin, K’nell suddenly flashed his eyes towards the man, “Wenbo, step forward.”

Wenbo swallowed, looked to his wife for encouragement and received it in the form of a loving smile. The old dreamer took a deep breath and moved through the crowd as it parted before him. He stopped before his mothers and bowed deeply.

“Mom, Mother.”

Xiaoli smiled and took the opportunity to walk over and embrace her son, who had grown to be much taller than her, even in his old age. “... My boy… My handsome, little boy.” Hermes wrapped her arms around both of them, whispering something akin to “Baby Wen-Wen.”

As the parents receded from their son, K’nell’s voice swirled above all others, “I have cast my music across this land, so that only those invited here my hear my words -- for these words are for you.”

He looked at Wenbo, “I say to you now the final warning, do not leave until I rip open the sky, or you and all who leave will be forever lost. You will know when it is done, as it will be obvious and will usher back your two mothers." He looked up at the sky and then at Hermes and Xiaoli, “Is this warning fulfilled, Wenbo?”

Wenbo looked up and nodded. “It is, Your Holiness.”

“Then I say to you my second warning once more: To leave my kingdom, there is a chance that you nor your descendants may ever be able to return. The world is mysterious, and my garden shall only grow more hidden and safe, until my final promise is met." K’nell folded his hands, “But then I say to you, my second promise: no matter the deed, should you or any descendent of any who leave find their way back to the soil of Tendlepog despite the perils of my second warning, they shall be welcomed back as a once lost son or daughter.” K’nell looked at Wenbo intently, is voice loud enough for all the woken to hear, “I shall bestow upon you the key to these words.” He smiled, “Firstly, I say that there is a chance that you nor your descendants may ever be able to return for a reason out of my control -- that is personal choice. Should you or your descendants either forget my words here today, or refuse them, then I cannot collect you should you wish to come back -- so listen closely to how you may force me to fulfill my second promise.”

“As you sleep, you the Dreamers accumulate vast emotion that swells in the dreaming world, threatening to overtake you waking conscious -- your mothers have vanquished this ailment on this day, so that you may live free from such a burden. But they did not only do that, but they have laid the first brick on the road to heaven for you.” K’nell looked up to the sky, “Know this mark as the gate of Moksha, and think upon as you see fit to do so. Meditate upon it, dream into it, for it will catch you on the way to my palace and it will relieve you of the Sleepers curses and burns on your way in and out. In doing so it shall remember you, as I do, so that even when you have left this world for the pyres, you will exist in my Kingdom... but how does that get you back?” K’nell looked back down at Wenbo and then the Dreamers.

He gave a cheshire grin. “My kingdom is leaving, it is exiting the cycle of pain and unliving to exist as an infinite heaven. It shall find its place in a new world inside my dreamscape, a world of infinite possibility and space, but one without destruction and obliteration, one without a meaningless life and an endless cycle of death and undeath. All who remain here shall join me there as I bring heaven to Tendlepog and Tendlepog to heaven, and to all who leave...” He looked deep into Wenbo’s eyes, “Meditate upon Moksha, remember my name and pray to me -- so that on the final day of your final breath, even if the pyres claim your souls -- they will never claim you, but I will. You will be home, no matter your deeds, and I will grant you eternal life with a new soul that cannot be taken from you, so that you may frolic in infinity to do all you wish.”

Wenbo seemed at the break of tears. He collapsed to his knees and put his forehead to the ground. As he did, Ai, Cai, Ren, Naran and Qi all stepped forward and joined him. About five more from the Wen family stepped forth. A couple from Zhongcheng and Laia’s family stepped forth, as well; as did six from Bayarmaa and Li’s family. Temüjin’s family offered no one, in the end, and from Chagatai and Altansarnai came no one either.

Wenbo whimpered a little as he said, “Thank you, greatest God… Thank you.”

The others in the crowd also whispered words of gratitude between sobs and sniffs.

“The land sleeps,” K’nell said, “Talk among yourselves, and keep my words as I leave you to discuss. I will see you all in my eternal kingdom.”

With little else, the god turned and began to walk into the forest, a viola appearing under his chin as he played his sleepy music, ensuring the privacy of the Dreamers from any would be eavesdroppers.

Hermes was the first to speak, pushing her words quickly at Xiaoli, a beaming smile on her face as if she asked an unvoiced question she already knew the answer to. She bounced her eyebrows twice, “Well!?”

Xiaoli blinked. “W-well, what?”

Hermes rolled her eyes, “We did it, Xiaoli.” She grabbed her hand, “We found the other way -- or well K’nell did, but you get it.”

Xiaoli furrowed her brows and pursed her lips. “W-well, it’s… Unconventional to say the least. To pull the entire continent out of Galbar and serve as a second alternative to the Pyres… Won’t overpopulation be an issue?”

“In an infinite land?” Hermes cocked a playful brow, jittery with an excitement that contrasted Xiaoli’s caution.

“Oh, infinite size-wise, too?” Xiaoli mumbled. “I’m sorry, this whole… Seemingly insane alterations of the natural laws is all a little… Stunning.”

“Remember what the skeleton said about the laws?” Hermes squeezed Xiaoli’s hand, her smile fading, “This is the change we needed, love. K’nell cares about us, he likely spent eons upon eons thinking this over and planning it. Don’t you want an inexhaustible land where we are free from the cycle of the pyres without sacrificing who we are? A place where we can become whatever we wish?” She grinned, attempting to force one out of Xiaoli, “Think of the adventures.”

“Yeah… Yeah, I like the sound of that very much,” she said, a little absent-mindly, perhaps.

“Xiaoli...” Hermes put her arms over her wife’s neck, “I think it is your turn to let go,” She smiled, “The sooner you do, the sooner we can collectively disgust all our descendents at the same time with an overly-emotional hug. You know I’ve been wanting to do that since Ren was born.”

Xiaoli giggled quietly to herself. “His Lordship will be heartbroken… Sure, we haven’t seen each other in a long time, but we still chat at least once a week. Can I even reach him from the other side?”

Hermes sighed, although it wasn’t an upset one, she placed her head on Xiaoli’s shoulder, “Two things, love.” She said into her ear, “First, a going away party -- second, we can ask.”

“A going away party?” She eyed Wenbo and his family, who were all in the middle of discussing the reasons for leaving again. “Yeah… A party is at least warranted, given the circumstances. Laia, Ansong! Come help me in the kitchens, please - we’re making a feast to celebrate!”

“Wait, Xiaoli!” Hermes tugged her wife back to her. Xiaoli veered.

“What, what?”

Hermes squeezed her close, “I didn’t get my hug.”

Xiaoli blinked and smiled so broadly that Hermes could feel her cheek contort. She squeezed back with all the glee and joy she could, nearly picking Hermes up in the process. “Oh, Hermes, you’ll get hugs for all eternity now!”

“And we are going to explore so much, we are really going to test out this ‘infinite’ clause,” Hermes pecked a kiss onto Xiaoli’s cheek, “Now how about I go pray to Shengshi while you break out the good plates.” She winked.

“Sounds great! Just, uhm… Remember to be polite, please?” Meanwhile, Ansong and Laia had brought along their children into the kitchens already. “Please?”

“Of course, love,” Hermes shook her head with an amused grin, “You’d think after all these years, you could trust me with a few simple thingymabobs and words.”

With a cheshire grin that exposed more excitement and cheerfulness than thoughtfulness, Hermes all but bounced away, her sandals suddenly flapping as she quickly rushed to the far side of the estate and out of earshot.




The Shengshese shrine was a beautifully carven stone altar, draped on top with red, materialised silk. In the stone, there was written the poem “Three Forks of the River” from the Classic of Wisdom in calligraphic script. On top of the silk drape laid bowls of now-admittedly old fruit, gold ornaments and a small jade figurine of Shengshi himself.

Hermes walked up to it and cleared her throat. Shaking her arms out and doing maybe an excessive wiggle of one of her legs, she plopped into a messy kowtow. She nudged herself into a better position and inhaled deeply.

“His Lordship Shengshi, Master of the rivers, King of all that is... fruits, hear my prayer.” She hesitated, thinking it sounded a touch too demanding, “...If you feel like it.” She smiled to herself, a job well done.

The aura around the altar quickly thickened, and the air began to smell of cooked fish, steamed rice and tangy wine -- Hermes stomach loudly gurgled, and she stifled a childish giggle. An invisible pair of reptilian eyes fell upon Hermes and there came an ‘oh!’.

“Why, hello there, young Hermes! I must say, of all the people and creatures on this world I had thought would contact me directly, you are not very high on the list. Is, uhm… Is everything alright between you and Xiaoli?”

“Well now that you bring it up,” Hermes took the cue to break her kowtow, sitting up and folding her legs, “She’s been doing this thing lately, where she kicks at me in her sleep. Do you do that? Is it a thing you guys just do, like a tick? Mind you, she’s been dreaming for years now. One night I tried to wrestle her away but she took it as--” Hermes cleared her throat, “Well.”

There came another hum, slightly uncomfortable in nature. “I am not quite certain how I feel about discussing my avatar’s--... My own-... Uhm… Anyway, I believe I am actually incapable of kicking, so that is something she does on her own.”

“Oh right,” Hermes scrunched her nose, unsure if she should continue. She shook her head, “I really prayed to you because I have big news, and Xiaoli is busy preparing a feast in honor of the news so I told her that I would contact you instead -- it’s been long enough, I’d say.” Hermes put her fists on her hips, “You know, Xiaoli was quite upset when you missed her birthday. It took me a very long time to convince her to subscribe to the idea of having one. She wouldn’t tell you that she was upset about it, even though I told her you should know.”

“... Why in the world would she not tell me that? Or rather, why did she get upset with me for not knowing?”

Hermes squinted, eyes flickering as she mumbled to herself, “Could be she was just trying to get out of it... damn!” She made a fist, “Anything to avoid the days when I cook dinner.”

Taking in a deep breath, Hermes calmed herself down, the jitters still clearly assaulting her, “Okay, I’m sorry, we got way off topic. I’m suppose to be inviting you down to Tendlepog for a huge going away party and to talk about some things.”

“A going away party? All the way over on Tendlepog? Wait, who is going away? Is it for Wenbo and his family, perhaps? Because I will be there quite shortly, as soon as I have toured the eastern shore of Atokhekwoi.”

“Well, yes for them,” Hermes had recently learned about that and wasn’t too sure how she felt about it just yet, “But also, well.” She pursed her lips, “K’nell has some things he has to tell you.” She craned her neck uncomfortably, “I’m sure of it -- but but! Don’t worry, everything is fine.”

There was a silence. “Your tone, diction and body language all indicate that whatever it is, it is either very serious, very important, or very well acted. Nevertheless, I am turning my ship as we speak. I will see you on Tendlepog post-haste.”

“Well wait,” Hermes spoke up, “Shengshi, um.” She lost her trail of thought, too nervous to spill the news when he was this far away and without K’nell to back her up. She sighed, “Poppler missed you, see you soon.”

”Crackle?”

There came a sigh. “I am certain he has.” Then the aura disappeared.




A good part of the day went by, with Xiaoli and her children working hard on preparing for the massive feasts, fit for double the amount of Dreamers in existence. While this was bustling about, K’nell had returned, his viola still playing as to keep away any would be trespassers on the event -- his army of nightmares ever present and the Warden almost enjoying himself as he emboldened his own patrols. Luckily, the viola could play itself while K’nell interacted with his creations, going so far as to approach Wenbo once more and hand him a particularly silver amulet bearing the mark of K’nell.

The chain danged from Wenbo’s hand, the pendant laying in his palm. K’nell’s grainy voiced explained simply, “This amulet will always be on a dreamer’s neck, so long as there are dreamers on Galbar. It will find one if it isn’t presented one, and once attached it will repeat the words I have spoken to you, the instructions of the Moksha, whenever prompted -- or if my words are ever forgotten by some horrible circumstance, it will remind whatever dreamer it finds -- so that all may not be lost on Galbar. It will also protect whoever bears it, as it is infused with my great power -- and will put even Gods to sleep should they wish harm upon whoever holds my word, this amulet. This is but a safety mechanism for you and your descendants, but the true defense against falling astray will be heeding my words outright, and ensuring that they are not buried by the ages to come. Know that eternity and higher knowing awaits you on your return, as do I.”

“And I.” Chagatai bowed deeply towards K’nell, hiding a teary face. Keeping it hidden, he quickly embraced his wide eye’d brother, large arms constricting the man. Wenbo blinked, but broke out of the awe-caused trance quickly enough to return the hug, albeit not as mightily as the one he received.

“... The twins won’t ever die,” he vowed.

“No, no they won’t,” Chagatai held Wenbo out and looked him over, “But the wait will be terrible.”

K’nell smirked, as if amused at the notion of the wait -- when in his eyes he had waited eons for this moment. He put a hand on Wenbo, “Good luck.” With a warm cheshire grin, K’nell then slinked away from them, long gentlemanly strides bringing him to face the southern horizon -- a shift in the wind collecting in his ear.

He folded his elbows square behind his back, and Hermes stepped beside him, squinting to find what he was looking at. The two stood in silence for a while before K’nell suddenly spoke, “Why are you alive?” His eyes flicked down to Hermes, a small grin on his face.

Hermes scrunched her nose teasingly, “Because I’m loved.”

A sharp exhale left K’nell’s nose and he looked back up at the horizon, “More than you know.”

Slowly a striking glimmer hit the horizon, like the dust of a diamond in the wind. A grain of gold glittering in the skylight became a nugget, then a bar, then a castle on top of a ship’s hull. It dwarfed even the upgraded mansion in terms of size, and had to carefully maneuver itself to not obliterate the vegetable gardens and the forest. Eventually, it found a compromised solution some distance away from the mansion, and roughly twenty minutes later, the snake ducked under the top of the mansion gates and opened his arms in joyous salutations.

“To have friends come from far and near; to see them all surround you here; it dulls the painful, sore and tart; and brings the best of love to heart,” the snake thundered to the beat of a thousand marching footsteps outside the walls, followed by a multitude of loud thuds.

Xiaoli giggled at the poem, walked over to her creator, bowed as she looked past him towards the gate, which really didn’t tell her much about what was going on outside. “My Lord, it is this servant’s deepest joy to express its welcomes to you; a quick question, if you wouldn’t mind… What did you bring?”

“Some refreshments,” the snake said politely.

“Reeeaaally?” Hermes formed a sly grin, a thirsty cloudling buzzing around her.

“If this servant can ask,” Altansarnai stood next to her mother, the two nearly identical -- especially with a thirsty cloudling named Dumpling buzzing around her as well, “What sort of refreshments?”

The snake eyed the two dreamers with the sort of look one gives twins when trying to remember who’s who. He decided it didn’t matter much and crossed his muscular arms across his broad chest. “The only one suitable for a feast. Bring it in.”

The Dreamers stared in awe at a sudden conveyor belt of sand-skinned creatures quite similar to themselves in dress and form, though radically different in other respects. They came in groups of six, each carrying a sealed pot that sloshed and splashed loudly in spite of its seal. These were stacked along the wall until there were enough to essentially make a second wall. The snake smirked at the cloudlings.

“Let us see if they can drink -this- up. Dreamers, worthy people, come - come and taste the nectar of the gods!”

Poppler crackled heavily, little dew drops forming on it’s fluffy exterior. Dumpling seemed to pop in kind, the two zipping as quickly as they could towards the wall, Hermes walking politely behind and giving Xiaoli a sheepish shrug.

“I can’t really refuse such a drink,” She defended against nothing.

The snake smiled, dug his hand into the ground and scooped up some dirt. The dirt became clay cups in his hands, two of which he handed to Xiaoli and Hermes. “Take as much as you want - Xiaoli, I trust that you can provide cups for the rest?”

The avatar smiled and rolled her eyes. “Naturally. What am I, mortal?”

The two exchanged a smug laughter. A sudden playful smack hit Xiaoli’s arm and Hermes gave her a funny glare before accepting her cup, “You two, I swear.” She flickered between them, leaving to go get herself a drink.

K’nell raised a brow and stepped in her place, looking directly at the snake god, “It is good that you came.”

“Ah, my dearest brother K’nell,” the snake said and shook his hand with a respectful smile. “I was hoping to find you right this moment, actually. It is all well and admirable for you to host a farewell celebration, but Hermes was awfully vague as to whom we are saying farewell to. Would you mind filling me in?”

“I wouldn’t at all,” K’nell smiled and slipped out a silver tin, to which he discreetly presented it to Shengshi, “Shall we take a walk?”

“Oh, why, I would love to.” He snapped his head around to look Xiaoli in the eyes just as she downed a cup of wine. She nearly coughed it back up. “Drink responsibly.”

The avatar, still coughing violently, nodded as best she could. The snake, now satisfied that a responsible adult had been left in his place, accepted the silver tin, extracted a cigarillo and followed K’nell out of the mansion.

“You know,” K’nell said without moving his lips, the cigarillo bouncing in his mouth as he went to light it. With a sudden spark of fire and an opaque puff of smoke, K’nell continued as they walked into the forest, “I don’t think we’ve walked since -- well since we granted Hermes her fertility.” He held out his hand, a lick of flame floating above his finger, the orange licks snapping at the end of Shengshi’s smoke. The snake hummed pensively.

“We had a short stroll right after the death of Vakk, I believe - though there was a much heavier air that day.”

“Ah true,” K’nell nodded, “You know, my Warden still regails the nightmares about that day, as if they weren’t there -- I dare say it was his favorite day. Bloodthirsty, but I have to admit he is efficient and loves his job. Loyal as can be.”

K’nell scrunched his brows down, “Ah but you are here for something else, something much more important.” He plucked his cigarillo from his mouth, “Do you remember our talk about Paradise?”

“How could I forget? Your lessons are quite easy to commit to memory.” The snake winked at the dream god.

K’nell exhaled sharply from his nose, inciting a short ‘Ha!’ before shaking his head. Still smiling, he continued, “Well, Shengshi, I have done it. I have secured heaven.” He then went into detail about his plans, what he had told the dreamers, and how he was soon to depart Galbar with his creations, but right as Shengshi’s brow began to fall, he said something new:

“This new realm will be cut off from the other gods, of course, to ensure the safety of heaven and freedom of its denizens -- all but two,” He sucked in a breath, “Myself, as I will be committing myself to its upkeep and the like -- and you. You are half of the Dreamers, I will never deny that, and you have not only made yourself a friend and family to them, but you made them -- you made Xiaoli a promise, one I will not allow my actions to break.” K’nell looked up at Moksha, the great nebula glistening in the sky.

The snake eyed the rift in the heavens and sat himself down on a nearby rock, taking in a long drag from the cigarillo. “So… You actually did it. You actually broke the cycle?”

“It would seem,” K’nell answered through a cloud of smoke, “And without taking from it, mind you. The Architect will have his, and I will have mine -- I’d invite you along completely, but I have a feeling you have things you need to stay for?”

The snake chuckled to himself. “An overwhelming offer, if I am to be honest. The thought of governing and maintaining a paradise alongside you, my dear, dear friend, is tempting beyond words… However, as you say, my mission here remains incomplete. Still, if the doors of heaven are open to a silly old fool like me, then I will gladly visit from time to time.”

“I figured as much and I don’t envy you,” K’nell winked, “But yes! You must visit, in fact, or I’m afraid Xiaoli-- well. Remember what I said about the mind first finding paradise?” He smiled wide, “Here is how you may visit -- as I’m afraid the dreamscape will be a level removed from Galbar without the gateways, so bear with me: I will be too busy to allow in most people, or even entertain dreams often, but every weaver knows that there is one subconscious that may come to the palace and be granted its autonomy immediately, and allowed into the heavens that abound there. So dream on, my friend, and every dream will be of heaven -- your other family awaiting you.” K’nell finished his cigarillo and flicked the butt into the air, the whole thing disappearing into a spray of blue sparkles before hitting the ground.

“Beautifully poetic, my dear friend,” the snake snickered and flicked his own cigarillo in the same manner. “I certainly hope I still may conjure food and drink for this family of mine even in my deepest dreams.”

“In a turn of phrase often yelled at me by a young mortal I once created: why not?” K’nell’s cheshire grin was unyielding, “Just do me one favor, and look after the Wen family -- I know they will be returning upon their deaths should they choose it, but I think I would prefer their lives on Galbar to be much more than their deaths.”

Shengshi nodded deeply and pounded his chest with a knit fist. “You have my word. The Wen clan will be under my protection, and I believe I have devised a solution to young Wenbo’s wanderlust.” The snake tapped his temple with a pair of fingers.

“I’m sure his parents will appreciate this, go on?” K’nell folded his hands in anticipation.

“I have dabbled quite a bit in city building of late, and Wenbo and Ai’s request for comfortable travel gave me some ideas. It will be well-defended, self-sufficient and, as demanded, quite comfortable. The details, however, I will explain to you in a dream.”

“Ah, I had no idea you took a few steps towards becoming the God of Suspense,” K’nell formed an amused grin, “Very well... shall we brave the drunk mortals? I fear for Xiaoli.”

“She has handled drunk gods. She can easily herd a number of tipsy mortals.”

“It’s not the herd that concerns me,” K’nell raised his brow and turned towards the estate.




A gratuitous amount of cloudlings had seemed to have either descended on the scene or simply popped up from one of the existing ones. Dreamers everywhere were laughing and mingling: a few wrestling matches had broken out, with Bataar as the current champion. In one corner, Zhongcheng was having his own wrestling match, drunkenly kissing all over his wife's face, much to their children’s chagrin. Urangtai had been discussing the trip with Wenbo, only leaving when Song came looking for him. By the spot where Hermes’ workbench used to be, the two mothers of this all sat on a mess of cushions.

Hermes was grinning madly, her high cheekbones causing her eyes to squint with delight as she stared at her wife with a drunken stupor. Lucky for Xiaoli, she had drank past her more annoying style of drunkenness, the kind where she considers herself immortal as well as the greatest at everything and has now slipped into her silent admiration stage. Finally she droned, “Xiaoooliiiiiiiii...?”

While it usually took a lethal amount of wine to even push a god into the tipsy stage, Xiaoli had sipped on the mood of the festivities as well as the wine. She flashed her wife a playful, inebriated grin. “What is it, dear?”

Hermes splayed out and laid in her wife’s lap, “Aresh you happy, loff?” She did a half yawn, half hiccup.

“The happiest, my deares-- hic! Oh my, pardon - I was saying that I am the happiest wossname, woman on this planet as of, of this moment. No wait, I have been for a long time, but… Oh, listen to me wamble, ramble.” She giggled perhaps a little too enthusiastically.

Hermes laughed along, “You shound rearry drunk, loff.” She closed her eyes, “Will you be fhish ha-happy in heaven, loff?”

“Oh, you shilly lil’ Hermy-wormy - I’m happy ashlong as I have yooo.” She emptied another cup into her mouth. “H-hey! Zhongy! Be wossname, civil, you brat!” She then broke into a wild cackle.

Hermes went to speak, but instead let out a long rebellious burp and then broke into a tearful laugh. As if it was a battlecry, several of her children and grandkids let out some of their own, Chagatai topping them with a baritone roar that earned him a nod of respect from his wife. Hermes fell into a fit of giggles, rolling off of Xiaoli and onto the tiles of the courtyard.

“Xiaoli!” Hermes called out. She groggily punched the air a few times, “Let’sh fight, let’sh do it.”

Xiaoli frowned at the very suggestion. “But, but why? I love you! I don’t wanna wossname, smack you.”

“Awh, I loff you too, sandy cheeksh,” Hermes sat up, “But I was jush saying for fun.” She thumbed behind her, “Look at our kidsh.”

Behind Hermes, Bataar had one of Li’s son’s in a perfect headlock, the once cocky younger cousin’s face a beat red. Bataar was roaring with laughter, a few of the unwed Dreamers swooning near him while his wife shot terrible glares at them. Bayarmaa was telling somewhat slurred stories about her late teens, causing a few of the youngsters listening to go on a quest in search of either cold baths or more wine. Ai sat combing the messed up hair of the violently reluctant Cai, but luckily for the grandmother, her granddaughter was much too wasted to actually be able to break out. Wenbo tried to convince Batu, Erden and Nugai to join him and look for dreamshrooms, but was nigh immediately shut down by a stern, scolding Ansong slapping him with a rolled up towel.

“That’s it!” Li suddenly announced, a morin khuur in his hands, his first born, Li Enzan, holding his own. The two, now with the attention of the least drunk dreamers, began to strike the strings with the bow, releasing a droningly beautiful song. Chagatai clapped his mighty hands twice, “Bayarma! Sing!”

He stood up and cupped his hands, “Bayarma!” Soon Bataar dropped Li’s other son and stood up straight, cupping his own hands.

“Sing! Sing! Sing!” Quickly the Dreamers started chanting at the woman to sing, with even Hermes walking up to her daughter and putting a hand on her shoulder.

“Your sho lovely, my baby, why don’t you sing?” Hermes gave a slanted smirk, “I’ll join in, come on.”

Bayarmaa sighed, rolled her eyes playfully and patted her nearest, now mentally scarred grandchild on the head. She rose up, cleared her throat and sang as loudly as she could. Considering her balance and the colour in her face, she sang beautifully, with good tonal control and management of intensity.

Temüjin clapped his hands with a mighty cackle, then decided to join in with some deep, reverberating, two-toned throat singing. His children and grandchildren called out in support and began to clap a rhythm which quickly spread outwards. Chagatai threw a mighty arm around Temüjin, joining in with his own quickly vibrating vocals. A shy Urangtai hooked onto Chagatai but quickly found his courage as he blasted a well trained voice, and soon a chain was formed of the men, while some of the women sang back -- the Li clan playing their instruments with furious skill. Wenbo chipped in with his flute, joined by Ren, Tian and De.

Hermes closed her eyes and began to sing along, what lyrics there were among the throat singing telling of the time Zhongcheng was chased by at least twenty chameleon squirrels, and of the time Chagatai wrestled a tree -- and this one time Wenbo managed to trick all of the other nine original children into doing his chores for half a week so he could set up a special date -- including his own date.

Laughter spread at certain parts and Hermes put an arm around her wife’s waist, urging her to join in with her divine vocals. Xiaoli scoffed amiably and began to sing with such wild enthusiasm that it felt uncanny coming from her. She jumped into Hermes’ arms and swung her arms around her neck. Hermes grinned so widely and so stupidly, her face threatened to melt into two.

A blast of another morin khuur entered the soundscape as K’nell came walking in, his advanced skill allowing him to move while he played, a gentle twinkle in his eyes. The Dreamers cheered as their god brought forth unique and new cords and sounds, adding to the party. Soon the song broke into various activities, some dancing, some singing, others going back to wrestling -- and others still just chatting or holding each other.

K’nell smiled a cheshire grin, Shengshi coming to slither next to him. Hermes looked up from her hug with Xiaoli and began to drunkenly struggle, “Look Xiaoliiii! It’s Sh-Shengshii.” Xiaoli immediately lost all colour in her face and turned to the snake with a look of terror, but the snake merely smiled back.

“Having fun?” he said with a chuckle.

Xiaoli swallowed. The snake approached with a slight frown. “Are you afraid?”

“It’s just,” Xiaoli started, “I’ve not been wossname, inebree… Inebriatuh… Inebriated in, in, in front of His Lordship before.”

“And jush why not, why not can’t she?” Hermes defended Xiaoli unprompted, “Hif Lordship invented it.” She grinned at Shengshi, clearly plastered, “Thank you.”

“Woah, woah, I never said she could not,” the snake protested. “In fact, here is my answer to your fear.” The snake slithered over to a pot, took it by one of the head-sized handles on the side and tilted it to his mouth like it was a fifty litre tankard. While he spilled a good deal over himself, he managed to drink almost all of it in the matter of seconds. He wiped his mouth afterwards and extended his arms outwards like a champion. “Drink, I say! Drink and enjoy life!” He let out a burp. “Also, that was quite uncivilised of me - I apologise.”

Xiaoli couldn’t decide between cackling and thinking back to suppressed traumas of the last time His Lordship consumed wine at such a pace. She decided to cackle instead, exploding into a wild laughter. “Okay, okay, okay - gimme another cup!”

The snake handed her a top-full cup. He then snapped his fingers and some servants brought in dutifully through the door a broad guzheng. The snake slithered over to it and flexed the muscles in his face in the way one does to verify that alcohol is affecting you. He listened to the music intently, then began to pluck on complementary strings, backing up the beautiful Dreamer orchestra with energetic strings.

“Oh dash it all,” K’nell’s cheshire smile creeped past his nose and he took out a cigarillo from his silver tin. With one long pull, the end of the cigarillo turned a bright amber, slowly traveling up the whole length until only crumbling ash remained. With a grainy laugh that seemed to swirl away from the god, he exhaled. A flood of thick purple smoke poured from his nostrils and mouth, engulfing the area in a haze, pupil’s slowly dilating. Jittering feelings of happiness followed, as did amused laughs. Headaches from the alcohol seemed to fade, and the party quickly turned into one wild festival.

“Shengshi,” Hermes gripped the god’s arm tightly, forgetting her manners.

The snake turned a groggy face to Hermes. “Yesh, uh-... Person, wossname, Hermes.”

“Oh, sho thatsh where she gets it,” Hermes narrowed her eyes briefly before squeezing Shenghi’s arm again, “Thank you for making Xiaoli. I really l- hic. I really l- hic. I really like her, you know.”

The snake tugged at the wrong string and cursed in some eldritch tongue before smiling happily at Hermes. “Oh, wash the leastaicouldoo. She really likes youtoo, y’know. Like, I know -all- about, about that.”

In a moment of rarity, Hermes blushed, “Yeah, I know, she told me she likes me.” Hermes cackled, “Well, wait.” She nearly went cross-eyed as she attempted a serious face, “Whash you mean you know aaaaaaallll about it.”

The snake raised an eyebrow. “Well, she’s me, right? And I’m, uh…” He blinked. “Her. Sho, like, I feel what, uh, she feels.”

“Sho you felt last week,” Hermes grinned madly, laughing to herself before gently slapping Shengshi’s arm, “Well shtop it. She’s- She’s my wife.”

The snake’s mouth flattened out. “I meant in her wossname, heart - not her, uh… How do you two--”

“Shhh!” Hermes narrowed her eyes, “Lesh just keep it at you feel her heart. Snappin’ we asking questionsh what the hell is up with her ankles, your Lordship?” The dreamer sat up and threw her hands in the air, “Whash happened with that!?”

“A-ankles?” the snake responded. “What ‘bout ‘em?”

“Where the- how the,” Hermes pointed at Shengshi’s tail, “You ain’t got no legsh. And and, Xiaoli doeshn’t have any bonesh!” Hermes lifted her leg to show off the bump of her ankle, “I have one, itsh a joint, but Xiaoli.” She shook her head, “But you shtill gave her the bump, how did you know?”

“... Huh…” the snake hummed and eyed Xiaoli’s feet narrowly as he tugged at his beard with a little too much concentration. “... Why did I do that?”

A loud crack sounded from the Dreamer host as Temüjin and Chagatai had begun dancing on a table and subsequently ended the table’s wooden life. As cackles and clapping spread outwards, Xiaoli pouted a little. “My table…”

“Oh shush, you can make another in a second,” Shengshi scolded playfully and struck a crescending series of notes.

“I got you, loff!” Hermes stood up too fast, falling forward and planting her face right into the ground. She pointed a finger outward, “Chaggie! No!” She rolled to her side and wiggled her nose, thankfully intact, “You too, Temujin!”

Chagatai bowed his head out of respect, but a smile was on his face, “My fault, mom, my fault.”

“It alwash is,” Hermes shook her head.

Suddenly Bataar came out of nowhere, tackling his father to the ground, “A-ha! Got you now, old man!” The taunt summoned a loud laugh from Chagatai as the two began to roll around in an attempt to get the upper hand.

“Wen-Wen!” Hermes called out, as Poppler took her place by Shengshi, “Help your mother up.”

Wenbo, sensing the urgency, immediately tripped over one of his passed out daughters and slammed into the ground. Ren, Tian and De all scrambled to help him back up, and for once in his life, Wenbo now had two blue-ringed eyes. He rubbed his sore face as he staggered over to Hermes, kept in balance by a helpful pair of his soberer daughters and granddaughters.

“Be right there, mom,” the old dreamer mumbled partially through the nose. One of his daughters, Wen Feng, dutifully dabbed her sleeve on the side of his mouth with a sigh before returning to her duty of keeping her father upright. In the end, it was the two girls that helped Hermes to her feet again while Wenbo sat on a nearby pillow with his head hanging over his lap.

Hermes thanked her granddaughters each with a big drunk hug before stumbling over to sit with her son. She gently took his chin and examined his new wound. She pouted and pecked a motherly kiss on his forehead, right above the bruise. “My little baby.”

Wenbo barely responded, and sort of just fell against Hermes in a limp manner. Hermes cradled her son and hummed softly, thinking to herself -- this is why. She’s alive because she is loved, and because she loves. She smiled down at her adult son and smiled wide, and now they will never be lost -- not the fires, not to the other gods, not swallowed by Galbar, they are saved.

A tear formed in her eye and she looked up to see K’nell smiling at her, to which she returned one, “I’m going to miss him.” She all but mouthed. K’nell gave a tiny shake of his head, his voice appearing beside Hermes’ ear.

“Only for so long, my child. Only for so long.”

Happy tears began to fall down her face and drip off her angled chin. She sobbed gently as she stroked her son’s hair, the inebriation turning her into a slight mess of tears, “I love everyone so much.”

Xiaoli balanced over as best she could and sat down next to Hermes. She softly caressed Hermes’ cheek, then Wenbo’s, their son’s wrinkling face almost not seen by Hermes, her motherly eyes simply seeing the bright young face of her second born.

“I’ll… I’ll miss him too,” Xiaoli whimpered and sniffed. A fourth figure joined the small crowd, Ai. She gave her husband a weak, wry smile and then put her head on Xiaoli’s shoulder, Xiaoli laying her head against hers again. A meaty hand fell over Ai’s shoulder, another on Hermes’ as Chagatai’s face appeared between his mother and sister’s heads. He rested his chin on their shoulders.

“Room for one more?” He looked down at his twin, his own striped face almost identical.

“... And another?” came another voice from above, and Bayarmaa’s soft, beaming face came into view over Xiaoli’s shoulder.

“Fbbt..” Zhongcheng gurgled as he crawled up to the group and placed his face into the cushions between the others, one hand reaching out to grab his mother’s hand, “It’ll--” A drunk yawn, “--It’ll be okay.” Laia shuffled over and sat down next to her husband, clapping him affectionately on his balding head and flashing her mothers a smile.

“Whrs yee…” Wenbo grumbled into Hermes’ arm and instinctively she shushed him, rocking his drunken head slowly.

“So thish’sh whurrth-... Wossname, party went?!” Temüjin shouted before crashing into a pillow as well, a giggling Li following suit. Ansong stuffed a few slices of fruit in her mouth, flushed them down with a wine cup, nearly choked and then finally made her way over.

Blue hair draped over Chagatai’s face and he let out a ‘pfft!” A smiling Altansarnai hovering over, “What a scene.” She said, with bright Hermian eyes. Poppler and Dumpling floating above her.

“Indeed,” K’nell agreed, a certain emotion in his voice, “A scene worth saving.” He smiled.

The snake plucked some final notes on his guzheng and giggled. “Life unveils great goods: honour, glory, wealth ‘n joy; none beats family.”

“None,” Hermes agreed with a wide sobering smile, “And this is the greatest family... I’m so happy to be apart of it. And none of it would have been possible if you two didn’t aid me in my quest -- if you didn’t believe in me. I-” She choked on sentimentality, “I have been alive since the dawn of creation, the world was so empty... but this -- its --” She started to cry silently, still emotional from the alcohol, “It’s as full as anything.” She said without much poetry, “In all history, this is it, right here. This is everything I have ever wanted.”

“And it forever will be, and more,” K’nell comforted, the party starting to quiet as various members began to pass out or stumble home with less drunk individuals, “I promise.”

The snake swung an arm around K’nell’s shoulders and chuckled a satisfied bass. “I offer anyone whose road home to too long a stay aboard my ship. There are rooms there for each and every one, and breakfast in the morning included.”

Ai looked down at Wenbo again and sighed. “We might take you up on that, Your Lordship.”

The snake winked at her and smiled at K’nell. “Well, then - should we call it a night?”

“Mm,” K’nell looked about as he held a hum, “I’d say that’s a good idea -- we have a big day in the morning.” He pursed his lips at the sounds of several groaning Dreamers who had partied far to hard, “Or afternoon.” He winked at the snake.

The snake followed his gaze and smirked, though there was a sober sadness to the smile, as well. He sighed gently and nodded. “Yes… That we do.”




As the party dissipated and the land grew quiet, a gentle breeze roamed in the Dreamer’s stead. Standing on the flat rock of the plains, the very spot where K’nell had begun his journey, the god stared into the distance. In silence he watched the tall sweet grass sway with the wind. Closing his eyes and inhaled and slowly exhaled.

“Yes?” He suddenly asked. The Warden sat atop his horse, head bowed in respect -- having appeared seemingly out of thin air.

“My Lord, I wished to simply express my gratitude.” The Warden’s voice echoed with a hint of sadness, “For life, and for this task that is now ending.”

“Ah yes,” K’nell opened his eyes and looked over at his Warden, “Think nothing of it, my dear Warden -- your performance was exemplary. Truly I could not have created a better being to do the job you had before you -- and now to see how well you perform on your next task.”

“My Lord?” What could have been anticipating glee scratched into the Warden’s voice.

“You have served me well, Warden, I feel it would be... uncouth of me to not offer you two positions of promotion,” K’nell folded his elbows square behind his back. The Warden bowed his helmeted head in respect and K’nell continued, “Heaven will have little need of this army of terror -- but I am willing to offer you a position in it as its protector of course. On the other hand, I offer you a task dangerously similar, but with a clause.”

“You have captured my attention, my Lord.” The Warden raised his head back up.

“Shall I give you position and rank in heaven and call it done, or shall I do the very same but add the clause that you may be summoned back to Galbar by a tool of power wielded by the Clan of Wen -- to protect them should they ever be in dire need.” K’nell smiled softly, the wicked thoughts of the Warden growing wildly inside his helmet.

“I think I would very much prefer the latter, my Lord,” The Warden bowed his head, “Grant me this position, and I swear when called that no foe of the Clan of Wen will stand to harm your creations and their children.”

“Exercise the same caution you exercised here when called, and I will say it is done.”

“My Lord.” The Warden bowed his head, sword hand clenching and unclenching.




Golden rays revealed specks of dust in the air as Wenbo opened his groggy eyes. His blurred vision failed to lock onto anything at first, and it took several blinks to truly chase away the exhaustion clogging up his vision. His head pounded like a drum, and it took a lot of focus for him to realise that the mahogany roof was awfully nicer than the mouldy thatch he was used to seeing.

“Are you awake, my love?” came a sweet voice and as Wenbo turned to its source, his heartbeat increased to the point where it threatened to kill him. There, by a golden door, stood his wife dressed in a white silk shirt and a long, blue silk skirt which was tied right above her bosom. Over the white shirt she wore a translucent coat of sky blue linen. Her alabaster hair was tied in a large bun with an ocean blue ribbon and her face was rouged and adorned with smokey eyeshadow.

“What do you think?” she asked sweetly.

Wenbo had to pick his jaw back up from the floor. For a moment, every ache and pound thundering through his old skull vanished completely and the old dreamer rose slowly out of bed, ogling his wife like a tree-eater looks at trunks. Ai giggled sweetly and hid her smile behind a twenty-one-folded fan.

“Easy there, Thinker - we’ve got a breakfast to get to.”

She elegantly rose, the folds in her dress dropping like dow to the floor without even making a sound. She winked playfully at her husband as she opened the door. “Don’t be late now,” she whispered as she left. The door closed and Wenbo stood on the floor of the beautifully decorated room a bit like a rock in a gold mine. In a fit of speed he charged at the wardrobe and pulled it open. The mountains and waterfalls of different clothes and dresses inside baffled the man. There was no way he could decide - especially not now that the pounding was back. Oh, gods, it just got worse and worse… Now it was audible, even.

“Master Wenbo?” came a voice from outside the door.

Wenbo turned around and blinked. It hadn’t been his head after all, huh. “Oh, uh… C-come in.”

The door swung open extravagantly and ushered in ten servants who all lined up in two rows and kowtowed before Wenbo, causing him to flinch into a defensive position. “Good morning, master Wenbo - this servant is named Fu Shan, and these are its assistants. They have come to aid in your preparation to eat with His Lordship.”

Wenbo swallowed. “I-I don’t think--”

“Please have a seat in this chair,” Fu Shan insisted as a chair was seemingly pulled out of nowhere and tackled Wenbo’s calves, forcing him to take a seat. A mirror popped up in front of the dreamer and he recoiled at the gruesomely rugged face staring back at him before recognising its owner with some shame and disappointment. Three pairs of hands made quick work of it, though, using soap, knives and oils to wash, shave and moisturise his face into a ten year younger version of itself. Wenbo furrowed his brow at the person in the mirror, struggling to recognise it.

The servants clipped and polished his nails on both his hands and feet, switched his undergarments before Wenbo could notice, and styled his black hair into a skinny bun crowned with a red hat with golden horns. Wenbo sat gaping at the stranger in the mirror as the servants dressed him in crimson silk robes patterned with gold and lavender, draped over blue and purple undergarments, armed with powerful shoulder plates adorned with yet more gold. His sleeves were far too long to be practical, and the shoes put on his feet could have served as weights in Bataar’s training pit.

But by the gods, did he look good.

“Is the master satisfied?” Fu Shan asked politely.

Wenbo ran a hand along his clean-shaven chin and nodded slowly. “You are indescribably skilled,” he whispered.

Fu Shan and the others smiled courteously. “The master is most kind. The master may proceed to the deck. Li Yun will take you there.”

“O-oh, thank you,” Wenbo managed before he was nearly pulled along by a very eager robed servant. As they went into the hallway overlooking the feast hall down below, Wenbo noticed the servant had an incredible tempo, and struggled to keep up in the cumbersome dress. The servant turned on numberous occasions to help Wenbo along, smiling wordlessly all along.

“... Is this how mother feels?” Wenbo thought out loud as they neared the top of the palace stairs leading to the gatehouse, the old dreamer already feeling clammy with sweat. Upon reaching the palace gates, Li Yun pushed them open as if they were made of paper and bowed.

“Please, enjoy Your breakfast, Master Wenbo.”

Wenbo bowed back a little clumsily and stood for a moment dreading the stinging heliopolislight. He swallowed and broke into the dawn, wincing at the morning rays.

“Wen-Wen! Over here!” Wenbo’s eyes focused on a colossal, circular table at the centre of the deck, around which, somehow, every Dreamer and two gods managed to sit seemingly comfortably. He rubbed his eyes at the scene and slowly made his way over, receiving whoops and whaaas at his clothing.

“Oh, sheesh, you look like a darn flower,” Temüjin taunted with a cackle. He, himself, wore a silk vest reinforced with brown wool over a patterned shirt of, indeed, more silk. On his head was a thick, short fur hat which, considering the late autumn, seemed to suit him fine.

Ai stood up with additional blush on her face as she eyed her husband up and down. “You, uhm…” She swallowed. “You fit that robe quite well, dear.”

Wenbo snickered and gave her a peck on the cheek before turning to the table. “My apologies, everyone - I was delayed.”

“The wine flu will do that to anyone,” the snake said supportively from the other side of the table, though his voice was as audible as if he had been standing right next to them. “Now come - eat with us.”

Wenbo nodded graciously as sat down between Ai and his twin.

Altansarnai leaned over Chagatai to talk to Wenbo, forcing the man away from his plate. She held a soft whisper, unusual unless she was nursing a hangover, "Wen, you look like me back when Mama Xiaoli had us do that silly play. Just don't go sneaking off after to makeout with Chaggie in the woods, that's my move."

Chagatai sighed, slowly peeling his wife back to her seat and defensively pulling his plate closer, grumbling -- he was not a morning person.

Opposite of them sat Hermes, her usual alabaster hair a sunny chestnut, complimenting her deep red and gold patterned dress. If not for the hungover scowl she wore as she picked at a mess of eggs, she was the misplaced picture of elegance -- with the no worse for wear Xiaoli sitting beside her happily. The river girl poured another glass of blueberry juice for her wife and passed it along.

“Here you go, sweetgrass - drink up.”

Hermes lethargically tipped the glass to her lips, smudging a mineral paint that Xiaoli no doubt worked hard on applying to her lips that morning -- in spite of her natural ability to change colors. With an airy gulp, Hermes nodded, “Thanks, love.” Her voice was quiet and grainy. The morning had never been any of the dreamers’ strong suits, and especially not the original Dreamer’s and especially not after such a night.

Next to Shengshi sat K’nell, quiet and content. His plate was meticulously laid out, with his hand on a warm cup of tea. His attention was suddenly pulled by Bataar, who bowed his head deeply.

“My God, I have a question.”

K’nell perked his brow, “What would that be, Bataar?”

“Well I was just thinking about heaven, and,” He looked up as if trying to find the correct wording, “What about the other creations beyond Tendlepog and the Dreamers, will they learn the secret of Moksha?”

K’nell pursed his lips, “It is my desire that one day, all of creation will be free to make the choice between the cycle of the pyres and the freedom of Moksha... however, I will not force the knowledge upon any creation not my own (save for two individuals who have the right to know) -- for the ire of the other gods can be great when they are confused or impeded upon. No, I believe I have already attracted too much attention as it is.” His eyes went upwards to the sky, where, hidden by the light of day, his nebula swirled waiting for night to come, “So let us say that I hope others may someday feel the love of it all, perhaps the very same day the others understand the meaning of Moksha -- the same as you all do, now.”

Bataar bowed his head in understanding and the God of Sleep turned to Shengshi, “Perhaps it would also be best to give the other gods time to understand before you let them know exactly what happened on this day -- should they ask. Heaven will be very disconnected, yes, and very well protected (increasingly so even) but I would hate to risk it on the temper of the others. As noninvasive as this all is, the other deities are an unpredictable and volatile bunch, I fear.”

"Would you like me to twist the truth of Moksha's purpose a little while they accustom themselves to its existence?" the snake proposed as he nipped on his glass of juice.

“Unfortunately I fear every lie must be remembered, no,” K’nell pinched his chin, “Morals aside, I don’t think that is the safest option... but I trust it to you -- silence is just as well, should anyone even approach you about it, which is a chance on its own.”

"I reckon most would be accustomed to me changing away from certain subjects, anyway," the snake mused. "Your secret is safe, brother, or so have me skinned and sent to the pyres."

“A good way to end the topic,” K’nell gave a one ‘ha’ laugh, before revisiting his tea with a tip of his cup.

The idle chatter rose and fell at various places around the table like ocean waves. Only Wenbo remained largely silent, silent enough for his wife to notice. She squeezed his arm lightly and asked, “Hey, are you alright?”

Then Wenbo gave her a wry smile and rose to his feet, the red and golden folds of the robe about his legs falling to the floor with a hollow thud. He gave a nearby servant a nod, and the servant nodded back and ran inside. Soon, from the palace tower, a massive gong rang out like rumbling thunder. The present dreamers either jumped or ducked for cover, and the snake raised an eyebrow at Wenbo.

“How did you know about that?” Shengshi asked curiously.

Wenbo lowered his hands from above his head. “I-I didn’t! I was only nodding a greeting at a passerby servant!” He then cleared his throat. “W-well, no matter - your attention was what I was ultimately seeking, anyway. I was, hoping that I would be allowed to say some words to you all - my gods, my family, my friends.” He fingered the spiral-symboled amulet about his neck momentarily and smiled. “... It’s… It’s a joy, really, to be a Dreamer. Throughout our whole lives, we have wanted for nothing; we have been given everything. Our creator has loved us since we were born, and our parents have raised us to be proper and righteous and smart and--... Well, there are no words in any language known to me nor any but the gods that can accurately describe the gratitude we feel towards you.”

Xiaoli wiped away a heartfelt tear. Color (Or lack there of) returned to Hermes’ face as she listened, putting a hand flat on Xiaoli’s back and sniffling with a certain pride. K’nell clapped his hands three times.

“I fear then, I have terrible news,” He smiled wide, “But I have not quite exhausted my gifts just yet.”

Wenbo and Ai exchanged looks. “M-my God, we cannot possibly--...” Wenbo insisted.

“Please,” K’nell insisted, “To a god, these are but motes of dust. To a god who cares, this is my joy.” He snapped his fingers and the sky rumbled loudly. He made a small face and snapped his fingers louder and the sky crashed with a sudden flash of lightning. A third snap and a stray bolt landed in K’nells hand -- momentarily blinding the table. As vision returned, the god was standing, a sword as black as night safely tucked in a matching scabbard hung from his hand.

“The world is a dangerous place, with many rivals and many criss-crossing plans. I may be leaving to tend to your futures, but I will not completely forsake you in your present,” K’nell explained, “The Warden now waits, should you the dreamers who remain ever find yourselves violently threatened, simply rip this blade from its scabbard -- and my wrath of yore will see you back to calm waters. I pray you never have the need to touch it after this day.”

K’nell walked over and presented the long blade to Wenbo, the metallic scabbard tight around it. The crowd was quiet, as K’nell locked eyes with Wenbo, “Do you accept my first gift of the morning?”

Wenbo fell to his knees and inclined his head as he raised his quivering hands. “O great God - it would be my most profound honour to accept.”

The cold metal chilled his palms as K’nell placed it gently into Wenbo’s grasp, “Next, I shall finish a task that Chagatai had started -- seeing as I feel his efforts should not go in vain.”

The sleepy Chagatai blinked a few times, “My what?”

Before he could answer K’nell snapped his fingers again and a great flash seemed to halo around the heads of the congregation. With a crack they dissipated, but not before leaving the knowledge of husbandry and domestication in the minds of the dreamers. Before anyone could react, K’nell snapped his fingers twice more, and the halos returned with a fierce brightness. As they faded this time, the secrets of hewing and working stone was revealed alongside a coveted secret of mortality -- the ability to extract and form metals from the earth.

Hermes stood up, “If I may.” K’nell turned to her and nodded. The Original Dreamer looked out over her still reeling children and pursed her lips, “I have a few gifts of my own to give my baby Wen and his clan.”

Wenbo looked between K’nell and Hermes with a look like he could faint at any moment. “M-mom, a-are you certain?” He busied himself with tying the sword to his waistband, his fretful fingers failing to fasten it fixedly. In the end, he shoved it underneath the waistband in a panicked hurry to look presentable before standing to face his mother.

Hermes nodded and looked to Xiaoli, “My book?” She gave a baggy eye’d smile to her wife and held out her hands. Xiaoli shifted for a moment and quickly procured Abanoc’s book of wisdom. Hermes clasped it gently and whispered a thank you. She turned back to Wenbo, “First, my book. If it wasn’t for this book, well I don’t think you’d be alive.” She gave a half smirk, “Don’t try to read it more than once a day, and drink plenty of water before.”

Wenbo slowly closed his fingers around the aged, yet divinely immortal leather. With one palm, he stroked a fine layer of dust off its cover and swallowed. “This… With this, we can learn anything, right? That’s what you always told us.” He grinned with juvenile enthusiasm. “Anything we want!” He nigh tossed the book to Ai, who not only managed not to catch it within the millisecond she had to react, but only took it straight to the chest and expelled a choked ‘oof’. Wenbo, however, busied himself with embracing Hermes with all the childlike joy and filial love he could muster.

Hermes squeezed her son with motherly enthusiasm before pushing him back, almost a little roughly, “Okay! Okay! I’m not done.” A cheshire smile was on her face as she popped under the table for a moment and began to rummage. Slowly she stood back up with a fine looking wooden spear, a bone head as sharp as can be on the end.

“Word of the wise, don’t ever drop this in the water,” Hermes grinned, “It is the spear of fishing.” Her words were almost mouthed by the onlookers, everyone well aware of it. She shrugged a little, “And now it is yours.”

“I’ve always thought the name was a bit--...” He took the spear and cleared his throat. “Thank you so much, mom. It, along with everything we have been given yesterday and today shall maintain and solidify our people’s position as… Well, as those who dare to dream of an eternity in Heaven, and as those who strive to make life in this flawed world similar to it.”

Hermes smiled and dropped a shoulder, hefting something else from under the table. With a might grunt she pulled out the Narzhakian club and hefted it over her shoulder, “And this--- well this I’m keeping.” She snickered mischievously, inciting a collective laugh. She looked around shocked, “What? It’s fun.” She winked.

“It’s probably for the best that you keep it, anyway,” Xiaoli teased. “Our poor son is running out of hands.”

Wenbo did indeed stand quite sheepish-looking with a spear in one hand, a book, which Ai had thrown back at him, under the other and a sword on his hip - all of which contrasted considerably with the fiery flamboyant robe about his person. He pressed his lips together and bowed as best he could to Shengshi.

“Your Lordship - is there a possibility that some of these can be stored here for the time b--woah! Okay.” A group of servants switfly came over, took the book and the spear, tied the sword scabbard properly to his waistband and brushed some dust off his robe - all in the span of an eyeblink. Wenbo hummed in a manner that chose the fence between surprise and habit. “Are they always that efficient?”

Crackle.” An indifferent Cloudling noted.

“They are,” the snake assured. “Now, sensing the mood, I suppose I should make due on my promises to those that remain - although I imagine your numbers have dwindled ever since the great Moksha was announced.”

Wenbo eyed the various faces of his family - a few looked away, but most looked back with smiles of varying enthusiasm. The snake followed his glances with reptilian orbs. “I propose that those that go with Wenbo line up along his flanks. Let the clan of Wen, as well as any others who choose a mortal life on Galbar, come forth - let your blood run as rich and prosperous as the great Nanhe.”

Wenbo found himself frowning, yet donned soon an earnest expression as he took a step away from his chair to allow for better room. He collected his hands behind his back, then thought better of it and instead opened them in front of him.

“Whoever so wishes to found with me a Dreamer nation upon this mortal soil, come to me.”

Ai was the first to rise. She walked slowly over to her husband and stepped into his arms, embracing him lovingly, a gesture which he returned wholeheartedly.

As they broke, their youngest son rose - De. He slowly made his way over alongside his wife and twin daughters. As one, they embraced the clan father, and he embraced them back. Next came a lone Urangtai, an eager bounce in his step. He, too, was embraced like the others.

Then came Wenbo’s eldest daughter, Bei, taking her family along with her. Her husband took a longer while to say farewell to his parents Bayarmaa and Li, but eventually came up to embrace Wenbo as well.

Seven of Wenbo’s children ended up rising to join their father and mother. Among them was the parents of Song, and as soon as they had been embraced, the lovesick young girl nigh attacked poor Urangtai and clung to his arm like a leech.

And as the final daughter had come to him, Wenbo and Ai looked to their final child - the oldest son, Ren, his wife Naran and their two children, Cai and Qi. Wenbo and Ai beckoned them over, but the snake shook his head.

“Wen Ren, Wen Naran, Wen Cai, Wen Qi - you are granted, in this instance, a free choice to enter Heaven through Moksha or remain with your family in this world of mortality. Is this a life you wish for?”

It was then that Ren, unable to meet his parents’ gaze, shook his head shamefully. Naran laid a supportive hand on his shoulder, but could not muster the strength to look at the remainers herself. Cai sat wordless and looked at the ground and Qi sat kicking in his seat, blissfully ignorant of the affairs happening around him. Wenbo and Ai looked devastated, but the snake nodded somberly.

“So be it. Are there any others who wish to remain mortal until death reunites you with your loved ones?”

“Someone has to keep the words of the great master in this life,” Zhong Wang suddenly piped up and stepped forward, perhaps a little puffed up, “I accept the task.” With his declaration, four other dreamers of various families stepped behind him.

Zhongcheng sniffed and flicked a proud tear from the corner of his eye. Laia patted him supportively. Also Zhong Wang was accepted with an embrace from both Wenbo and Ai. The snake clapped his hands.

“Then it has been settled. Sons and daughters of the Clan of Wen, the last Dreamers of Galbar - I, Shengshi, Lord of the Thousand Streams and Herald of the Harvest, bestow onto you my blessing.”

The air oozed with the nutty scent of grain; as the wind breezed through the canopy of the surrounding forest, the sound of ripe snapfruits jingled in the air; a distant drum of a rumbling river completed the backdrop to the bark brown light trembling between the snake’s hands. He rose from his seat and slithered around the circular table towards Ai and Wenbo.

“Hold out your hands, first of the Wen Clan, and receive the blessings of your bloodline.”

Ai and Wenbo did as they were told and the snake placed equal amounts of light into each of their cupped hands. Upon closer inspection, the light radiated out from small amounts of soil that swiftly absorbed itself into the Dreamers’ skin. Ai and Wenbo inspected their hands thoroughly and gave no sign that they had actually felt anything. The snake spoke, “... As long as a field is sown and worked by Dreamer hands, it shall always bloom with its greatest bounty.”

The snake conjured a new light, this one golden like the rays of Heliopolis. He deposited it in their hands as before. This was molten gold, and with their new knowledge of metalcraft, it felt instinctive of them both to drop it immediately. Yet, as before, it dug itself into their skin without leaving so much as a mark. Ai marveled at her unburnt hands and the snake spoke, “... As long as Galbar is walked by Dreamer feet, wealth and prosperity will uncover itself before them.”

The snake conjured a third light, one of lavender purple, transparent brightness, apple-flesh yellow, deep red, and constantly shifting. He poured the light into the Dreamers’ hands and the scent of wine permeated across the deck. Wenbo felt a sneaking gag and did his best to suppress it. The snake spoke, “... To keep your cups and your guests’ cups from emptying, I bestow upon you the knowledge to brew whatever fruit or grain you find into wine.”

He then slithered back a step and tapped his temple with a wink. “Then your final gift will be waiting for you at the Dragon’s Foot. I think it will suit your requirements for safe, comfortable travel quite nicely.”

Wenbo drew a breath through the nose, took a step back as well, and lowered himself into a kowtow. His family, as well as the new additions to his clan, all followed suit with varying levels of neatness and skill.

“From the bottom of this servant’s heart, Your Lordship - thank You.”

The snake raised his hand for them to rise. “Like my dearest brother said: ‘To a god, these are but motes of dust. To a god who cares, this is my joy.’ Rise, Clan of Wen - rise, people of K’nell, people of Shengshi.”

All the dreamers around the table, plus Xiaoli and K’nell (who had never sat), all rose up. The snake raised his hands into the air. “Let this grand occasion forever be remembered by the mortal and the immortal. To those that remain, I will always be with you; and to those that leave, you are in the best hands ever shapen.” He gave K’nell a respectful smile.

K'nell gave a nod, "With that, I believe our ceremony has concluded." He smiled, "May I suggest finishing your breakfast before the final parting -- wouldn't want to be wasting food, now would we?"

Hermes nudged Xiaoli, "That is how we met," she winked.

Xiaoli blushed a warm pink and giggled. "Want me to find you some mango peels?" she tested.

“Only the finest,” Hermes pressed, “with a side of scraps.”

Xiaoli smirked smugly and gave her a wink. "Alright, everyone. Make certain to leave as little food as possible. I may be the best cook in our family, but not even I can match His Lordship's chefs, so make certain you eat your fill of this banquet now."

"Ain't gotta tell me twice!" Temüjin declared and dove for a plate of beef stir-fried in fermented beans. As if rallied by Temüjin’s battlecry, the other dreamers quickly made themselves busy with their food. Small chatter arose as the plates began to stack up, and before long the breakfast feast turned into a mellow chat room with happy goodbyes and wistful stories. Much to K’nell’s delight -- it wasn’t a very sad occasion. It would seem, in their mortal wisdom, that the dreamers definitely knew how to part ways.

“It’s no coincidence,” Hermes suddenly said, as if knowing what her God was smiling about. She leaned in, pulling Xiaoli along with her (and away from a particularly meaty bite of food), “One of my first rules of the house was to never leave sad or angry. I think it stuck, isn’t that right, love?”

“Yeah, and I cannot tell you how happy I am that it did,” she answered and sighed with relief. Meanwhile, Wenbo and Ai toasted Chagatai and Altansarnai with gusto; Urangtai hid behind a wall of girls wishing Song a most prosperous wedding and farewell, much to her annoyance; Zhong Wang embraced his parents and once more made promises to further the philosophy of his clan.

A long moment passed before Ai and Wenbo finally were visited by Ren, Naran, Cai and Qi. The parents eyed their children and grandchildren in silence, receiving the same treatment in return. Eventually, Wenbo and Ai opened their arms and donned somber smiles.

“... You have no idea how much we will miss you, son,” Wenbo nearly whimpered. Ai sniffed and gave an agreeing nod. The oldest son’s eyes shone in the morning light and he had to look away as he blinked.

“I, uhm… Pardon me,” he cleared his throat, “We will truly miss you, too, mom, dad.” Then they embraced. Ai eyed Naran, who stood silently on the side, and beckoned her over. She drew a quivering breath and joined as quickly as she could. Qi, seeing that the grown-ups were hugging, ran over to copy them. In the end, even Cai succumbed to her emotions and embraced her grandparents.

“We will see you all in Heaven, our children,” Ai reassured. “Make certain the floors are swept when we get there.”

The hug broke apart slowly and Ren wiped his eyes. “Don’t worry, mom, I’ll-... I’ll get it done.”

“Please, come to us soon, mother, father,” Naran pleaded.

“We will - I reckon time will pass for you awfully fast in an infinite world,” Wenbo pointed out. “To you, it will be like we never went our separate ways.”

“Let’s hope so, at least,” Ren agreed.

A distance away, the snake approached K’nell and patted him on the shoulder. “Well, I suppose this will be the last time I see you in the material world.” He held out an open hand. “Thank you, K’nell - thank you for being my closest friend and brother for all this time.”

K’nell shook the other God’s hand with one hand and held up a cup of tea, “There aren’t many I would call my friend, and fewer still if you count the deities of Galbar, but I can say without a doubt that you are such. I hope that one day you too shed the cocoon of Galbar, but until then -- I’ll be seeing you in a better place.”

Shengshi nodded with a grin, and the two shared a mutual shake before turning to their subjects. With nothing left to go over, the two decided it was time to announce the departure. There wasn’t much fuss with bellies so full and hearts so saturated with comfort and compassion, and soon everyone began to shuffle to their appropriate places.

The Dreamers begun their descent down from Jiangzhou on stairs of water. Final farewells were exchanged, and once everyone that chose to remain had made it off, the gong in the tower sounded once more with a mighty, thunderlike bang. The water beneath the ship stirred to life and it slowly began to rise off the ground. Aboard the deck, the Wen Clan stood waving their hands joyously at the Dreamers below, who returned the gesture. A final nod was exchanged between the snake and the dream god before the ship once more became but a golden speck on the horizon.

K’nell cracked a cheshire grin and turned to his first, Hermes. He cocked his head, “My dear, have the remaining go to the platform of Limbo, I will be there shortly.”

“Shortly?” Hermes asked.

“I have one last person to talk to,” K’nell smirked, “Your first daughter.”

Hermes nodded, biting a finger, “Will she be able to visit?”

“Of course.”

The words seemed to drop a weight off of Hermes and she nodded with a melancholic smile, “Good... I don’t think I could stand to wait otherwise, not with my baby Wen and darling Ai already gone.” A small speck of sadness creeped into Hermes’ voice and K’nell put a hand on her shoulder.

“You will all be reunited soon enough, don’t you worry.”

Hermes looked back up at K’nell with a side cheeked smile, “I know... Thank you... I’ll go gather everyone.”

K’nell nodded and turned towards the coast.




The waves of the ocean crashed on the sheer cliffs of Tendlepog. The sulfuric smell of grinding stone mixed with the salty sea air. Closing his eyes, K’nell’s divine ears could hear Shengshi’s massive ship creak in the air over the mountains far inland -- already prepared to leave. Without looking, he pulled something from his pocket -- a tickling wisp of light. Keeping his eyes closed, he let the delicate wisp spiral from his hand and to the crashing ocean below. A slanted smile tucked into his cheek and he let his fingers close over an empty palm. Sucking in a hearty breath, K’nell set his mind back on track and upon opening his eyes, he smiled -- a speck was on the horizon.

And that speck was a figure of white, with Wreanon by her side. As soon as her eyes fell upon Tendlepog a toothy smile crept on her face and her heart beat faster. Home had never looked so good, and she simply couldn't wait to tell everyone what had transpired when she was away. About the Eye, Rowan and her family, her people the Nebulites and what she was teaching them and how Rowan was with child! Which is why she traveled alone. It would be good to see her mothers again and talk to them about such things. But before her was a figure upon the cliffs of the ‘Pog and so Arya drifted closer and closer till she made put who she saw. And that figure was none other then K'nell.

“My dear,” His grainy voice called out to her, almost beckoning her to stand by his side. And land by him she did, giving him a hug before pulling away.

"I didn't expect to find you here K'nell. It's good to see you!" she said happily.

K’nell folded his arms behind his back and smiled, “On my own land?” His smile grew at the corners.

She giggled, "Well I meant here. It was almost like you were waiting for me." she said slower before taking on a concerned look. "Did something happen? Is Hermes and Xiaoli okay?" she asked quickly.

"Mm," K'nell hummed, "If I'm to be honest, Hermes is nursing a headache, but otherwise everyone is unscathed." He leaned in with a smile, "The Dreamers put together quite the celebration last night, you see."

Arya sighed in relief and visibly relaxed. "It seems I'm a day too late! But it's good to hear that they are okay."

"Indeed!" K'nell took an appraising step back, "And you seem healthy, yourself?"

"Yes! Never been better actually. I'm sure you know all about why." she said chuckling. "I must ask, if everyone is okay then why have you waited for me too arrive K'nell? Is this about the dream I shared with Karamir? You did say you wanted to talk." she scrunched her nose in thought.

"Precisely," K'nell held a finger up, "By chance did you see the night sky last night? I will not judge you for having slept through it."

She shook her head. "I flew through a storm yesterday and landed too tired to think." she said.

“Ah, then perhaps you will see it tonight,” K’nell pinched his chin, “No matter, but yes, the words I spoke in that dream have a ring of truth to them. The world is changing, in fact it is just about to!” He paused, “But for the better, fortunately.” K’nell swallowed hard, ready to make his pitch for the third time since he had the sky torn. Slowly he walked Arya through the situation, her demeanor and body language becoming blank as she listened, from the promises, to the process of heaven, to Shengshi -- and finally to her: “So you see,” He said, “All that I had created shall be whisked away to this eternal paradise, and those of mine who remain shall enter my land upon death via their pact with Moksha, the nebula of the night sky. As my ward, it was imperative that you not only know this, but know of a particular task I require of you -- but first...”

K’nell looked into Arya’s eyes, his gaze flickering as if searching for something, “As my family, I have two gifts to present to you -- should you accept them. Firstly, know that I can do to your subconscious what I did with Shengshi’s and allow you to visit the Heaven in the dreamscape... so you mustn’t wait for death to see your home and mothers, and second, I can offer you the secret of Moksha as I did to the dreamers, so that you may choose to join heaven upon your own death.” K’nell pursed his lips, but cut Arya off before she could even open her mouth, “Before you speak upon this, know that I have taken the stance not to force this knowledge of an alternative to the pyres upon anything not of me -- save for you and one other. The other gods may take affront to this breaking of the cycle despite the fact that it does not take away from Galbar, so I must ask that you too follow my caution and do not force the secret of Moksha on others. With my blessing, you may provide the choice to those you love, but do so safely. I await the day all of Galbar can taste heaven, truly I do, but as it stands I ask nothing short of tentative caution and empathetic respect on the subject.”

Silently little black tears fell down her face, as she stared blankly into K'nell's eyes. Her thoughts were a jumbled mess of questions and whys and she had no idea where to start. She felt a pit in her stomach and even though she knew she could see them all still, it wouldn't be the same until she was… dead. Was it all just a dream within a dream? It felt wrong to just… leave Galbar and everyone behind while they burned. She had never realized that an alternative could exist, or had she hoped that death would never claim her?

"I...I…" she began, stammering. "I d-don't know what to say."

K’nell made a slant with his mouth and held out his arms. With what could have been an awkward step, the god moved forward and put his arms around the original Nebulite. With a ginger hug, he nodded slowly, “That’s okay, my dear.”

For once, Arya did not hug him back, but neither did she push him away. She let him hold her for awhile, before saying, ”Why now? Why now after all this time? Why did you wait for them to come and live, before deciding to take them away?” her voice came shakely.

K’nell reposed himself and squinted, “Creating a heaven is no easy task, it takes time.” He flicked a finger off his chin, “The dreamers are a beautiful people who taught a bitter god what to ‘come and live’ truly means. I heard their prayers, and I have fulfilled my promises to them, and to their mother -- whose words have tickled my ear since the dawn of creation. I am not sure if any of this answers what your seeking, but that is that.”

Arya gave a slight frown. Why were God’s so difficult to get straight answers from? ”This Heaven is safe, yes? But you have to die to get there? Then tell me, those that are inside, can they grow? Can they dream there? What do you even mean by infinite possibilities?”

K’nell knitted his brows over a slight smile, “Picture a paradise -- no catches though, no ‘well what about this’ or ‘but then this!’” He leaned forward slightly, “Picture it truly. Whatever it may be to you: it could be a land of feasts and battle. A world ripe with challenge, I don’t know. I will say it like this: whatever paradise you imagine comes from a single idea, perfection. They will live there. So to answer your question, if that is what paradise is, then yes.” K’nell scrunched his nose, “I love them, Arya.”

His heartfelt answer gave her pause. She had never heard K’nell utter such a word but she knew in her own heart that it was genuine. ”I love them too. From the moment I met Hermes and saw those boys for the first time. Ever since my first dream… When I met the Dreamer who gave me answers for questions… They and you, were never meant for Galbar were they?”

“I think we were,” K’nell put a hand on her shoulder, “But in the way the wind is required to blow the pollen of a flower, rather than to be the soil under it. We were here, I was here but this wasn’t our destination.” He paused, “Nor is it yours should you eventually choose Heaven. There will always be a home for you at the next step, and if you couldn’t calculate it from my ever-twisting words and--” he laughed to himself, “Well what must seem like inconsistencies,” He smirked, “I’m proud of you, and you bear a place in my heart right with the others.”

She sniffed back tears and cried softly, ”Thank you, K’nell. You were… You are and always will be, one of my fathers.” she trying to wipe the flow from her face. ”What of the Palace and your sphere?”

In the middle of telling Arya that they would see each other again, he suddenly stopped, “Ah a detail that must have slipped my explanation earlier,” He shook his head, “My palace and sphere, the dreamscape, is combining with my Galbarian creations to make this heaven. Of course there is more to it, but that’s the short of it. Sleep and dreams will grace Galbar indifferent to the change, and my promises to you about the warm drinks before bed will stand in my kingdom.”

”I see.” she said, before sighing. ”What happens when you tell me these gifts, and another god decides to go snooping in my thoughts? You know I would… Only tell those I loved, but there’s always the possibility of others finding out.”

“Hermes thought of things like that,” K’nell looked past Arya, “This heaven to her is the liberation of her children not only from the cycle of pain, but from the more invasive gods.” K’nell pondered a moment, “You bring up a valid point though, and while I cannot offer much comfort on it, perhaps a small persuasion?” K’nell tapped Arya’s spiral, and it glowed for a moment, “Let us hope whoever attempts to breach your mind falls asleep first, yeah?” He smiled in conspiracy.

She shut her eyes and smiled as she nodded, before opening them up. ”That gives me comfort. Oh! If I ever wanted too… Let's say by some… happenstance that I have children, would I be able to teach them how to enter the heavenscape? So they could meet their grandmothers?” she said, curling her feet and looking to the ground.

“Of course,” K’nell smirked incredulously at the question, “You have my blessing to give the secret to all you love. Who knows, maybe eventually it will no longer be a secret that needs to be guarded.”

”Okay… Then I’m ready to learn.” she said looking up.

“When you see the Moksha next,” K’nell started, “It is as simple as meditating upon it. Let your mind wander, explore your subconscious -- question things if you desire. Dream into it, even. Allow your thoughts to be taken by the Moksha, and I will find them on the other side. Do this, make that choice, and heaven will be open to you, Arya. When your mind has come to a rest in the Moksha and is ready for paradise, you will pass through that final door and there you will be: home.”

Arya nodded, a thoughtful look crossing her face. ”Is… Is that all there is to it?”

“Should I add some extra hoops?” K’nell winked with a lighthearted chuckle, “Preparing the mind for Paradise, even after death is no simple task-- but beyond that, it is that easy.”

She giggled, but quickly became somber as she spoke next. ”So then, what happens when one would die here?”

K’nell stared up blankly and reiterated softly, “--Meditate upon Moksha, remember my name and pray to me -- so that on the final day of your final breath, even if the pyres claim your souls -- they will never claim you, but I will.” He slanted a smile, “I will happen.”

She nodded again, then asked a question that had been nagging at her. ”Who… Who is staying upon Galbar?”

“Of the Dreamers?” K’nell blinked, “The Clan of Wen and a few others. I have granted them many boons for their journey through life, and they have not only the secrets of Moksha to guide them home again, but the homage of Shengshi.”

”I should have known it would be Wenbo.” she said with a laugh, ”The others… Hermes and Xiaoli… This is what they really want?”

“Do not underestimate my words when I tell you that Hermes fought for this, she has been fighting for this for a long time,” K’nell answered, “If anything, you should know I value the right of choice. With the creation of Moksha, I offer no penalty for not going to heaven.”

”I just… Wanted to make sure… Maybe I was blind all those years. Maybe I should have talked to her more about what she wanted. I had no idea what she was fighting for, in the end. Perhaps it was better that I did not know. As long as they are happy…” she whispered to herself.

“She is extremely,” K’nell paused, “And I mean extremely excited about the possibility of new adventures in the coming years -- and do not worry about finality, you will speak to her again.”

”I know… But I mean no offense when I say… It won’t be the same without her here, without any of you here. I am happy that you are going to this place, I am, I just wish it wasn’t so soon. I know they’ll have forever together… and eventually I will too… I’m sorry, words are just… Hard right now.” she said choking up again.

“And that’s okay,” K’nell offered, “It is a lot to take in, but I am glad that you understand the joy of it all..” He paused, “There is still that final task I have for you as my ward, if you would care to hear it?”

”Of course. What would it be?” she asked, looking at him with wider eyes.

K’nell’s comforting smile seemed to straighten out, “Arya, there is a man in this world, a man who is on his deathbed. He has held my name close to his heart for a long time, in secret, even. It is one of my final wishes while still standing on Galbar that he too receives his right and is told the secret of Moksha.”

”And where… Where is this man?” she asked nodding.

“He is on the lands of Ohannakeloi,” K’nell nodded, “I can feed his location directly to your memory -- know him as one of the final Hunter’s of the Selka tribe known as the Grottu. His name is revered in his local region, and he is called Yupilgo.”

”A Selka!” she said excitedly. ”I have never met one. Oh… But, what if I can’t speak their language?” she rubbed her chin in thought.

“He knows yours,” K’nell answered, “He has walked with me for quite some time.”

”Well that’s good. Okay, I will do this for you, you have my word as a ward of K’nell. Do you know how long I have to get to him?” she asked.

“I would go as soon as you are able, he is not well,” K’nell said solemnly, “I would reach out to him in a dream, but I fear that he would never wake up after such a dream and furthermore, a man such as he deserves to be told in person.”

”I understand. I should get going…” she said sadly. ”I know I’ll see them all soon enough but can you tell them… Can you tell them I love them?” she asked, her voice small, almost childlike.

“I can,” K’nell’s smile returned, “And they will be expecting their daughter’s visit as soon as possible.” He flicked his chin with a finger, “Shall I say: see you soon?”

Arya began to back up slowly, new tears falling down her cheeks as she nodded. ”Of course, K’nell. See you soon.”

“Then it is sealed,” K’nell winked, “Oh! And simply show Yupilgo your hand, he will know you are my ward... but.” K’nell hesitated, “When I say show, I mean to say let him touch your hand as he is blind, but he will feel the slight raise of your mark, I’m sure of it.”

”I’ll remember that.” she said, lifting up into the air. ”Goodbye… K’nell.” her voice came, full of sadness. Memories of her first time seeing him came back to her in that moment, before they were replaced as he was, now. With a final, teary eyed nod, Arya flew off, leaving Tendlepog to it’s fate.




The glade that surrounded the platform of Limbo was packed with Dreamers. Alabaster painted the area while everyone waited with a mumble of conversations. Poppler seemed to have found particular interest in one of the weavers that floated lazily around the platform, and Hermes sat with her arms over Xiaoli’s shoulders, clasped hands over her collar, whispering small things.

The wait was short, but the anticipation was on the rise and by time K’nell stepped up on the platform of Limbo, the growing anxiety turned into a hushed silence. Determined eyes stared at K’nell and the god stared back, but with a comforting grin.

He exhaled slowly, “Heaven awaits.”

There was the beginnings of a small cheer and K’nell bowed his head. As it quickly died down, K’nell reached his hands out towards the ends of the platform. With a loud boom, a rope of energy erupted from each end, the god’s hands clasping the lightning like blasts of power tightly. The sky began to swirl above and the weavers pulsed madly. An ethereal orchestra could be heard bleeding through reality, and then with one final crack of light -- everything changed...

Pink bled through the eyelids of the dreamers, each too afraid to open their eyes. The taste of the sun fell on their shoulders, and at last K’nell’s voice came to them, calm and happy.

“Welcome home, my children.”

Hermes sucked in a breath and slowly let her eyes flutter open. The grove had changed slightly. While the trees were still gnarled and old, the great platform of Limbo was gone. She spun around, letting go of Xiaoli. The breeze tasted slightly different, it tasted free. She sucked it in through her nostrils and out of her mouth, it was crystal. A warm smile grew on her lips and she looked up to the sky her eyes nearly falling into the open blue and the vast orchard of clouds. Heliopolis was replaced with a different blast of light -- it looked almost the same, but she knew it was different -- it was warmer. She grinned and turned to K’nell.

“What other surprises are there?” She asked while mumbles of awe began to rise among the others.

K’nell bounced an eyebrow and shrugged, “Endless lands to explore, things to meet, things to do, things to eat... to drink... to--”

“Walk with me,” Hermes’ cheshire smile stretched across her face as she held out a hand, “Walk me home.”

K’nell tipped his head like a gentleman and caught her hand on his elbow. The other dreamers looked over at the two and crowded behind them. K’nell held out his other elbow to Xiaoli, “Care to join us?”

The river girl stared distantly at the horizon into which the ship had sailed. She drew some silent breaths and nodded slowly at K’nell, a small pebbled smile forming on her face and accepting his elbow with her own. “I would love to.”

Hermes beamed and blinked her love at Xiaoli as the trio began their walk through the forest. Laughter and giggles erupted behind them as the dreamers followed, each holding their loved ones. Forward was the future, and forward was eternity--

”Zzt!”

-- A startled Poppler quickly caught up to the others and with a burst of energy, swiftly whisked himself into Hermes hair, leaving a small damp spot on her messy alabaster head.

The End.





Everything below this point is crawling with spoilers, peruse at your own risk.




















And glory be thy name...




Tiben and Orb sat alone in the jungle. Being not far from the fertility tree, Tiben had ushered Orb to one of his secret little hideaways -- a small clearing fitted with a lean-to and a couple of logs to sit on. Eager to improve the meager area, Orb quickly added a large flat stone they had found to the center to act as a table -- impressing Tiben with their (while not superhuman) unusual strength.

Birds cackled above the pair as they talked freely in their little clearing, Orb clearly enjoying themselves immensely. With a soft rock, Orb was scratching small diagrams into the flatstone, eagerly explaining each mark. With his hands propping his chin up, Tiben listened intently, his eyes following each movement.

“And then you see, well, leading a civilization is just like any other problem -- there is no one solution and not every solution works with different contexts.” Orb explained as they finished the diagram hierarchical autocracy that Polyastera seemed to be proposing.

“What do you mean, exactly?” Tiben looked up from the diagram and at Orb. The mask went silent for a moment, a tiny twinkle behind the peepholes.

“I mean,” Orb rasped happily, “Look at your species and culture, you have different needs and requirements to flourish than say, my species!” They paused, “Well if they existed.”

Tiben hesitated, “Does that bother you at all?”

“Hm?” Orb looked up from their next diagram, one that looked rather less authoritarian than Polyastera’s.

“That you’re the only one, of you,” Tiben explained.

“No,” Orb answered with a reassuring nod, “I think one fills this world’s requirements”

Tiben let out a laugh, “You’re a strange one aren’t you?”

Orb’s fingers tightened around their drawing stone and Tiben shifted, “I didn’t -- I didn’t mean it in a bad way.”

“Oh?” Orb rasped, their shoulders falling.

“You’re unique, it is good, this world needs more out of the box thinkers,” Tiben encouraged.

“Is that why you want to become a leader?” Orb suggested, a small dance on their shoulders as they continued their drawing.

Tiben stared for a while before his face turned serious, “To be honest, no. I don’t even want to be a leader.” Orb looked up at him, their shoulder dance stopping. Tiben ran a hand through his hair, “I was in the heat of it and I just snapped.I just don’t want someone like Polyastera to be the leader of these people. I’m not the only one who thinks that way, I mean look at her, she is very openly selfish and clearly only in this for self gain -- it is just no one has the courage to really speak up because of her fanatics. If she leads, there might be- no... there will be a lot of suffering down the line.”

“So you are doing this for selfless reasons?” Orb’s eyes twinkled as they stared at Tiben. Tiben slanted a smile into his cheek and slowly shook his head.

“I wish I was that honest, Orb.” He sighed, “But really, I do have some things to gain. I- Well I really do want to be known for something, to actually do something that leaves a mark. I don’t want to be a screw up, anymore.”

“Screw up?” Orb placed their rock down neatly and sat up, “What is wrong?”

Tiben let in a long inhale, “Orb, I have a son-- I have had a son.” He looked away from the mask, but Orb shifted slightly to stay in his sight. “It was with a woman I ended up hating and sure enough she ended up hating me as well. I just wasn’t for her, but the seed was already planted. I’m sure she feeds him plenty of reasons to hate me, as well.”

“But you said-”

“Yeah I know, during my little rant, I know. I was in the heat of it... I don’t know, Orb. I guess some piece of me thinks that if I did this, and set everything right, that it would magically fix my relationship with my boy as well -- or at least do something,” Tiben tossed a pebble at a tree, “Rather than continuing to just waste away.”

Orb fell silent for a while and stared at their cloaked lap. After a small bout of fidgeting Orb looked back up at Tiben, “I know a story.”

“Oh?” Tiben turned to look at orb.

“From my visions,” Orb nodded, voice full of care, “It’s about two brothers. They found themselves in a terrible place of violence and hate... and so they dared to change it. Everyone hated them for it, of course... except... well.” Orb tapped two index fingers together, “Do you know who didn’t hate them for it?”

Tiben shook his head and Orb gave a hidden grin, “Their children.”

With a slanted smile, Tiben let out a soft chuckle to himself, “Thank you, I think I needed to hear that.”

“You should talk to your offspring,” Orb insisted with a hidden smile. Tiben nodded.

“I will, after this.” He smiled.

“Good!” Orb said enthusiastically before picking up their drawing rock again. The sound of scratching rocks filled the tiny clearing as the two sat in silence. Tiben watching intently, with something clearly on his mind.

“Hey, Orb?”

“Hello.” Orb said without looking up from their drawing.

“Since you were born...” Tiben started, “How many people actually talked with you?”

“Plenty, we are doing it right now, even,” Orb insisted.

“No, I mean... talked with you, as in not at you, not to you, but with you. Like-- yeah, like this.”

Orb looked up, their enthusiasm draining from their voice, a tired rasp replacing it, “Not too many.”

“A shame,” Tiben shook his head, “Because I’ve only known you for so long and I can already tell that you have a lot going on behind that mask.”

“Too much, sometimes!” Orb’s eyes twinkled at Tiben and he could feel their smile, “I’m really glad that you haven’t tried to condescend to me, yet.”

“I don’t think I could,” Tiben looked down at Orb’s drawing, “Not while knowing you have all of this tucked away. I mean, you even learned our language in a matter of days!”

“It was like putting together a puzzle,” Orb happily chuckled, “I enjoyed the process.”

“Well, I’m just glad that we’re friends, then, especially at a time like this,” Tiben said idly.

“Friends?” Orb stared at him for a second too long, a curling smile hidden under their mask.

“Yeah,” Tiben nodded, “Why not.”

Orb goofily laughed to themselves a few times, not really saying anything. After a second more, they cleared their throat, “Maybe when this is all over and the next sequence has begun, everyone can be friends... even Polyastera.”

“I don’t think that will happen,” Tiben conceded, “No, I have a feeling this might get violent if dragged on too long. I’m hoping Lord Shengshi might hear my reasons before Polyastera tries anything stupid.”

“Stupid, like what?” Orb asked with a tinge of worry in their rasp.

“Well, there is a reason I called Polyastera’s group a bunch of fanatics. Sometimes I wonder how much danger I just put myself into,” Tiben shook his hands, noticing Orb’s growing silence, “But we don’t have to talk about this -- no let’s change it to something a little more light.”

“What’s your son’s designation?” Orb asked suddenly.

Tiben flinched, “Not exactly light... truth is I don’t know.” He quickly defended himself, “I didn’t get to see him born and well my ex-lover kept him away from me for so long after, that by time I had the courage to confront her, I didn’t have the courage to confront my child whose name I didn’t even know. How am I supposed to just-- walk right in after that?”

Orb shrugged, “I apologize.”

“No, it’s fine... I’ll.” Tiben gulped, “After this, I swear to Orvus, I will see him.”

Orb nodded, “That’s good.”

Tiben sucked in a breath, “So tell me about the mysterious Orb, then?”

“I like to make things,” Orb said simply, “I find nebulites increasingly complicated, and I enjoy fruit (for my body).”

“That’s a start,” Tiben laughed, before suddenly asking, “So what exactly is behind your mask?

“Oh! Uh!” Orb stuttered, caught off guard by the question, “It’s just a face- just my face.”

Tiben held up his hands, “I’m sorry for asking, it’s just that not every day do I talk to a masked stranger.”

Orb’s voice seemed to drop, “I thought we were friends?”

“We are,” Tiben slapped his forehead, “I’m sorry, forget I mentioned it.”

“I can’t,” Orb said after some straining. Tiben shook his head.

“Want to continue with the diagrams?”

“Yes!” Orb broke into their happy shoulder dance, “This one is modeled after a smaller civilization...”


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