Recent Statuses

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


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


You are on the right path, but I would expand just a bit more on the government? It sounds more like a loose collection of tribes then a nation? Also be sure to have a characters tab, a tab for named characters who will likely appear or are named in your NS.

Half right, it's not a nation for sure -- but a smattering of collectives, communes and commonwealths that come in the form of familial farms, intrafamilial hamlets/villages, and mayoral towns and cities. They are all linked by a common culture and geographical region; that's the humans. The Goblins similarly have no single nation but are separated in tribes that share a common culture, religion and region.
@slagar Update!

{This is not in sheet format}
Looks interesting.

@Oraculum thoughts?

The clearing in the jungle was now neatly paved with stone. A proud Orb stood atop the stone foundation, a large hole that lead right to the jungle bedrock beside it. It had taken a while, being limited to percussive and abrasive methods of removing the blocks of stone, but it had been done. Orb looked over to where they kept their pile of stuff and grinned, happy to have the wind play on their bare face while they worked. Building was one of the few things that kept their bad thoughts at bay.

“Shrub!” They called out, “I think the foundation is completed, what do you think?”

Shrub had been laying down on the newly made stone tiles, soaking up the warmth reflected by the material and bathing in the sun that fell incessantly onto their forms. She turned her head lazily toward Orb’s direction and stretched a hand towards her friend, squeezing at the air before letting her arm drift back down.

Orb smiled, “I think so too,” She filled in before looking out, “Do you think we should have the sides be smooth slopes or jagged steps?”

’Owb.’ Mouthed Shrub in response, suddenly jumping up to her feet and running over to Orb’s side to pet her friend’s head.

Orb scrunched under the barrage of petting and grinned, “I need to teach you more words.”

’Owb I Owb you Owb Owb… Ow… O…. Or-b. Rr. Rrrrrr.’ Shrub pouted and hugged Orb.

Orb squirmed as Shrub grazed two bumps on Orb’s ribs and then returned the hug for a brief second before pulling away, “Stone.” Orb said slowly, picking up a rock and handing it to Shrub, who immediately brought it up to her face and gave it a kiss. Following that, Shrub put her free hand on top of Orb’s mouth and nodded.

“Stone,” Orb said into Shrub’s hand, “S-T-O-N-E.”


“Yes!” Orb said into her hand.


“No, just stone!” Orb tried to correct.

Shrub threw the stone over her shoulder and pressed her finger gently against Orb’s forehead. ’Orb Shrub I No You Stone Yestone No, just stone. Just Stone. Just Stone. Ooooowbbbbbuuuu.’

After a while of staring at Orb, Shrub picked up the baby griffin from the makeshift nest they’d made it, and held it up to Orb. ’Stone.

“Infant,” Orb corrected, holding up a finger. They squatted to pick up a rock and popped back to their feet, presenting it, “Stone.”

’Infant.’ Shrub frowned and pointed at Orb, ’Orb,’ Then at herself, ’Shrub,’ And finally at the baby griffin, whose feathers had begun to grow sizable, ’Infant. Infant…. Are? Stone.’

“No, no, Infants are premature models of an adult form,” Orb corrected with a rasp.

Orb then noticed something in the corner of their vision. At some point in the conversation, an unusual bird had landed on the edge of the stone paving - one they had never seen before. Perhaps two feet in height, with brown and red feathers, and a beak that was an unusual shade of yellow. It observed them silently.

Shrub turned her head sharply and sniffed the air, then looked in the direction of the strange bird, who smelled like a more refined and soft version of a Griffin, and her leaves began quivering.

Suddenly the plant wrapped her arms around one of Orb's and looked up into her friend's eyes with wide, starry ones of her own. 'Owb Orb!!'

Orb followed Shrubs cues and patted her -- rather stiffly -- on the head, "It's a bird." Orb said matter-of-factly, "Likely a local species designed to hunt larger prey items."

No, a voice echoed in their minds. I’m unique.

Shrub's leaves stood on end. She looked like a very lush cactus. In her mind's eye, she merely saw images representing the bird's message. And she saw a very weird leaf she'd never seen before. She wanted to lick it but she was also afraid it would be poisonous. So she erred on the side of naivety and crouched down, beginning to crawl slowly towards the bird, so as to not scare its gentle heart.

Orb seemed confused for a brief moment, only to be snapped out of their awe by their companions sudden crawl. They quickly caught up to Shrub and knelt by them -- ultimately scooching to keep up with the plant. They took Shrub's hand and put it over their mouth "What are you doing?"

’What are you doing?’ Shrub replied, then licked Orb’s cheek summoning an eye roll, ’Orb.’

Orb let Shrub's hand go and stood back up. Dusting their cloak off and turning their face away from the bird, they spoke out loud, "What is your designation?" Orb rasped, moving away from the scene and towards their discarded pack.

[color=brown]Arryn, Avatar of Kalmar, the God of the Hunt, Arryn replied. He looked to Shrub. You smell of Li’Kalla, he said within both of their minds, and then turned to Orb. You smell of Orvus, K’nell, and… the bird paused. Something in his eyes seemed to darken. Narzhak. Explain yourselves.

"It isn't polite to discuss another being's odors," Orb replied as they rummaged through their pack before extracting their pale blank mask. Securing it over their face and slipping their hood back over their feathers, they turned back to Arryn, "We are here to build." A certain anxiety seemed to worm out of the back of Orb's mind as they reapproached Shrub and stepped directly in front of her, "That's all."

Shrub looked up at Orb her leaves freezing and coming back down to rest against her head. She quickly stood up and looked back, seeing the blurry figure of the waddling baby griffin a few steps back. Curiously, she pointed at the baby and then at Arryn with an adoring grin on her face.

Why do you have a griffin? Arryn asked her.

A bunch of seemingly endless blurry images, scents and sensations flooded into Shrub’s brain, depicting her journey from the Endless Tree to Kalgrun through involuntary Griffin air traffic, and how she borrowed a newly hatched griffin from a nest because it was clinging to her and she liked feeling its tiny heartbeat whenever she hugged it. Outwardly, Shrub tilted her head and stole a few glances at Orb’s hood-covered head.

And you, Arryn asked Orb, Why are you here?

“To build,” Orb answered, “That really is it.” Their voice was as sad as it was stern, immediately making Shrub hold their hand and look up at their masked face in concern, having felt the strange vibrations coming from the tone of Orb’s voice. “We aren’t looking for help or trouble.”

Yet you come bearing the scent of two gods that have caused trouble for my master and his creations in the past, Arryn countered.

“I apologize,” Orb held their head up to look at the bird through their mask, “But I do not originate from either of those gods, nor do I possess any tasks to be processed in their directive. I am Orb, this is Shrub, we are here to build, and that is all there is to it. If our presence in this location is not preferred, we can relocate...”

You do not originate from them, but you have encountered them - whether you know it or not, Arryn insisted. His gaze shifted over to where Orb’s supplies were piled. He swiftly flew over, landing on the metallic cage. I was mistaken, the bird suddenly realized. Narzhak’s scent comes not from you, but from this. Where did you get it?

“Same as I encountered you,” Orb insisted back before looking over at the cage and freezing momentarily, “That-- that is a very bad object.” Twisting anxiety leaked out of their heart, “Given to us- me before... it is a very bad object.” Orb stuttered, “It is best just to leave it alone.”

It is best that you tell me what it does, Arryn pressed. I can see inside your mind if necessary, so there is no point in hiding the truth.

“It requires the consumption of a species member to work,” Orb tapped their fingers together, stomach twisting as their mind replayed horrible images from the beach, “What it does after that has never been tested, and... won’t ever be.” They looked away, heart dropping as they found Shrub’s face, “Can we discuss a new topic?”

Disgusting, Arryn commented. How did you get it?

“I really don’t wish to converse on the matter,” Orb felt a heat form behind their eyes, a wobble in their chin.

Suddenly, Orb felt a presence invade their mind, and images begin to flash before their eyes: within a few seconds they relived the events of that day - Narzhak’s messengers, the ‘sacrifice’, the ‘gift’, Tiben’s death. Then the presence left, and it was over.

Orb’s face was a shade of red, silent tears dripping off from behind the mask as they stood violated. Shrub looked helplessly at Orb and felt her own eyes tear up. In the end she wasn’t able to do anything but hug her friend close. Instead of squirming away like they usually did, Orb just seemed to stand there and accepted the hug, silent as ever.

Arryn did not - or pretended not to - notice their discomfort. It is admirable that you and your friend turned down Narzhak’s offer. It is also admirable that you persisted despite his death. It seems I misjudged you. Then he paused, and after a moment, spoke again. I will offer you my aid.

“I...” Orb began, squeezing the raspy words through a tear, “You all... just take what you want from me whenever you want it.” Orb fell to the ground, landing on their behind, “Here... there... everywhere.” Orb pulled their legs up to their chest, turning their whole body into a lump of cloak.

Shrub fell along with Orb and twisted and turned her body so there was as much contact as possible against Orb. She tried to get Orb to lay down on the floor and cuddle up to her while waving dismissively at Arryn.

“I just want to build,” Orb said almost silently, “I didn’t want help, I didn’t want trouble, I said that this time...”

I was trying to make sure something like what happened to you would not happen here, Arryn explained. You are not the first of Narzhak’s victims. Now that I know what the threat is, I can remove it. I will take the artifact away, and I will trouble you no more.

“Destroy it,” Orb said without looking up at the bird.

I will try, the bird nodded, But a lot of power was used to make it. If I can’t destroy it, then I will ensure it won’t be used.

“Observe the material it is constructed out of and unbind it,” Orb instructed simply, their raspy voice on old, cold tears now -- a methodical tone returning to their words, “That’s what I was intending to do.”

Divine constructs are not so easily unmade, Arryn explained.

“You’re conversing with a divine construct,” Orb countered softly, “They can be dismantled.”

Anything can be dismantled. That does not mean it will be easy, or that it is within my power. Some things are harder to destroy than others. The power used to make you is nothing compared to what was used to craft this. But as I said, I will try.

“I understand relativity,” Orb finally looked up at the bird, “I also understand that I will in fact destroy it if it remains in my custody, can you not offer me the same guarantee?”

I cannot, but neither can you, so don’t lie to me, Arryn stated firmly. [color=brown][i]Even if you have all the time in the world, and even if there is a way for you to destroy it on your own, you may lose it, or you may die. Any fool can bash your head in with a rock and take it from you, or Narzhak himself might try to reclaim it.”[/color]

“And what about you?” Orb asked with a hollow voice, “Are you going to just take it from me?”

This is about more than just you. If you lose it, then what you seek to prevent may happen anyway, and other creatures will suffer for it. I will take it, but I will give you something in return. And unlike Narzhak, it will not demand a terrible price.

Orb went silent and looked at Shrub for a moment, they seemed at a loss for words. Their hand sneaked behind their mask to wipe their face in silence. Shrub frowned and turned her head slightly to give Arryn a sideways glance, then rolled her eyes and waved her hand again, dismissing the bird before turning back to comforting Orb. The cloaked figure shifted, allowing the comforting while facing away from Arryn, heart pounding in their chest.

You do not realize it, Arryn continued, But both of you are in danger.

“I know,” Orb rasped quietly, “I am very scared.”

The Griffin you took, Arryn looked to Shrub, has a mother. By now that mother will have returned to the nest to find the hatchling gone, and is likely searching for it as we speak. It will kill you, and it will take the hatchling back… but the hatchling has already accepted you as its mother. Do you understand the problem?

“Are you going to hurt us?” Orb looked at Arryn, nearly blurting the words.

Why would I do that? Arryn asked. No, I won’t. But I can help you, if you want. In exchange for taking this item from you, I can give you a blessing which will make it harder for the predators of this land to track you. It will not guarantee your safety, but it will prevent the mother griffin from finding you, and you will be less likely to encounter danger.

Shrub huffed silently and nuzzled her face into Orb’s cloak. “You should know why; you tore into my mind,” Orb answered.

I saw only what I needed to see, and I looked no further, Arryn countered. The rest of your secrets are still yours. Now I am offering you my protection, and this will come at no cost beyond what I have already asked.

Orb looked at shrub as if asking for her opinion. Shrub looked up at Orb’s mask and pursed her lips, then gave a half-hearted shrug and a nod.

“Agreeable,” Orb surrendered.

Arryn outstretched his wings, and a light breeze briefly passed over them, but there was no significant change. It is done, the bird declared. I will leave now. But first, I will give you some more information, he pointed a wing north. If you head in that direction, you will eventually find a species of mortals which have similar intelligence to yourself. If you learn to communicate with them, you may be able to find a place there. If you would rather live in isolation, you can remain here, or pick a different direction. And with those words, Arryn wrapped his talons along the much larger Goregrasp, and took flight, leaving the two behind.

Orb stayed in silence for a while longer. Eventually their glove hand reached up to their hood, ripping it off their head. Taking their mask on the other hand, they tossed it -- the solid frame smashing and skidding across the stone. Their face was downcast and filled with a mix of sadness, anger and nauseous relief. Shrub barely gave Orb a second before her hands found their way to Orb's face and she began to feel around, very efficiently beginning to replicate her friend's expression, then trying to sculpt Orb's face into a smile, getting a tiny grin.


Her voice was like a grind and a screech all rolled up into one. Urangtai winced, the metallic voice bouncing around his head and rattling his brain. He clenched his fist, “What!?” He snapped.

Zhong Meiyun, a slim woman was dark Xiaolian hair and a silver speckled nose, looked surprised at the sudden outburst. The two were standing in the street, a half eaten square of sweetgrass powdered flatbread in Urangtai’s hand and a basket of hot seconds and thirds in Li Meiyun’s. The woman cautioned a glance over Urangtai’s clearly irritated face, “I was just wondering if you liked my sweetbread?” She gave a weak smile.

“Oh,” Urangtai tried to concentrate through her scraping voice. In truth, he had always enjoyed Meiyun’s food as well as her soft voice -- this was all new to him and in truth, the sweetbread was awful. It tasted rotten and smelt none too good either. Urangtai seemed to teetar for a moment, “Well...”

Meiyun cocked her head and Urangtai cleared his throat, “You’ve made better.”

The woman’s eyes squinted and she huffed a breath, slapping the half eaten bread from Urangtai’s hands, “I don’t know what is with you today, but if you’re trying to hurt my--”

Urangtai seemed to flinch deeply under the assault of her ringing voice, a pained expression forming across his face, “Could you please stop talking?”


A wide eyed and furious Meiyun held her hand up, a red mark forming on Urangtai’s cheek. Her jaw was hanging in shock and hurt, she looked as if she was about to say something but instead clenched her jaw closed. She expelled a hot breath through her nose and stomped off, not granting Urangtai another glance. A single word hissed from under her breath as she turned the corner out of sight.


A lead ball fell in Urangtai’s stomach. Today had been a strange day, and now with an angry Meiyun added to it, he was ready to call it the worst day of his life. First he woke up with a twist in his stomach, as if his body was warning him about today -- then he was nearly sacked after snapping at his boss, a strong woman married to none other than Batbayaar. For some reason her voice just irritated him beyond belief today, a trait he was surprised to find repeating itself with every woman he had met that day -- even Meiyun’s.

He swore under his breath, he had never seen Meiyun so angry, and the worst bit was he couldn’t help but still feel irritated at her voice. He knew he didn’t have the place or the right, but there it was -- her screech just seemed to linger in his skull, same with all the others. A throb formed in the front of his head, a headache. It was as if he spent the whole night drinking, and it was getting under his skin.

His whole day was awry now. There was no walking Meiyun back to her place from the palace as he did every Li’s day, no helping Doctor Zhou by delivering her the herbs that grew alongside the fields, no helping set up and daydreaming about the smithies, nothing. He held his head, he was just glad his father wasn’t here -- he must look like a lazy slob. With dark ringed eyes, Urangtai decided it was probably for the best if he just went home to go to bed.

He shoved his hands into his pockets and slouched as he walked down the empty streets. There weren't many people out right now, there wasn’t many people in general with the city being many times larger than the population that filled it. Urangtai didn’t always mind, sometimes the quiet was nice, it let him think.

Pinching the bridge of his nose and sighed, he really messed up today. He groaned loudly, his eyes shut and his knuckles white as he pinched his nose as he thought through his mistakes of the day, “Snap!”

“What ails you?” A kind voice like silk suddenly asked. Urangtai froze and slowly let go of his face. Opening his eyes he was met with the red striped face of a stranger. The stranger was a man maybe ten years older than him, with an attractive smile and kind eyes.

“I’m sorry?” Urangtai stood up straight.

“You were just swearing,” The man let out a friendly chortle, “I just assumed...”

“I didn’t think anyone was around,” Urangtai defended.

“Me either,” The stranger leaned against the wall of an empty building, and squinted, “You... you’re Li’s grandson, right?”

“I am... who are you?”

“Huang,” The stranger grinned, “You grandfather taught me the morin khuur.”


“Yeah!” Huang stood up straight, “Where ya heading? I’ll walk with you.”

“Oh!” Urangtai barely got the word out before he found himself walking alongside Huang, the man looking up at the sky, in search of birds. Urangtai cleared his throat, “I was just heading home?”

“Home?” Huang looked back down at the young man, “So early? Did you hear about the little get together in the palace courtyard today, why don’t you come? You look like you could use it.”

“Oh... no that’s okay,” Urangtai shook his head, “I have to work the fields tomorrow, plus I’m already nursing this headache.”

“Headache, huh?” Huang clicked his tongue, “Well you know the best cure for a drinking headache is a little more drink.” He winked and gave Urangtai a playful tap on the shoulder.

“Well, no, it’s not from drinking.”

“Ah,” Huang made an embarrassed face for a split second, “I just assumed again, I’m not prone to headaches myself.”

“Neither am I, usually,” Urangtai head his head and Huang pinched their own chin.

“Well, what’s it like?” Huang suggested, “Did you hit your head?”

“No, nothing like that-- I just woke up with it-- well no I didn’t really wake up with it, it started at work when my boss started talking to me.”

“Ah, was he chewing you out?”

“She, and no not really. Just every word she said seemed to cause my head to reel.”

“She, huh,” Huang bit his finger.

“Yeah, she,” Urangtai turned to Huang, “Why?”

“Well,” Huang tilted his head back and forth, reluctant, “Just an old tale comes to mind is all.”


“Yeah but it’s just a tale,” Huang defended, “What you should really focus on is drinking water, I hear that helps with headaches, maybe some meat.” Huang bit his finger, “Ever drink milk from the teet of a Tree-Eater?”

“Ew, no.” Urangtai made a disgusted face, “You’re a strange man.”

“Maybe, but it works,” Huang wagged a finger, “Not that we have any around here.”

“True,” Urangtai stuffed his hands back in his pocket and silence fell upon the group again. Huang made an uncomfortable face and started to turn to a different direction as the road split.

“Well I gotta make that get together,” Huang started, “Feel better.”

“Wait,” Urangtai stopped and turned to Huang, “What was the tale, anyways?”

Huang hummed and raised his brow, “Oh, something about... now stay with me on this one, but they say that when the heart has made up its mind, everyone but the one who captured your heart just seems to be in the way. Sometimes I wonder if that’s why married men seem so irritated.” Huang shrugged as he backpedaled, “Doesn’t make much sense though, but then again what does.”

“What does,” Urangtai gave a single silent chuckle before shaking his head, “See you.”

With that he was all alone again, his head still throbbing as he walked. Hoping the fresh air would help, Urangtai decided to go a really roundabout way, only reaching his part of the city, perhaps an hour and a half later than expected. The roads in this part of the City of Dreams were wider, with more people hustling about -- it being so close to the palace. The new noise didn’t help much and before long Urangtai found himself holding his head with his eyes closed once more.


Urangtai’s eyes shot open, something warm and soft bouncing off of him. There on the ground in front of him was Song, the woman having fallen on her behind. Urangtai felt both a tinge of guilt for knocking her over as well as a thread of annoyance at bumping into her of all people.

Momentarily, Song’s face betrayed similar annoyance up until the point where she looked up and recognised her assailant. She giggled and smiled from ear to ear. “Oh, hey, boo!”

Urangtai froze, something was different. It was as if a great stake was removed from his skull, if but momentarily. Song’s voice came in crystal and clear, subsequently dispelling his throbbing pain if but for a second. He blinked, eyes narrowing around Song, too frozen to even think about helping her up, “W-what did you say?”

Song cocked her head on the side and furrowed her brow at the reaction, her smile weakening a little. “I, uh, I said ‘hey, boo’, heh-heh. Is… Is that weird? I’m sorry, I’m on the ground and everything and--”

There it was again, her voice parting the seas of pain that crashed upon his mind. He felt it was almost dramatic, but the results were worth exploring. Urangtai’s head seemed to lift off his shoulders, slightly more free from the weight of the day’s headache, “Sorry, I guess I wasn’t feeling very well.” He held out his hand.

Song’s heart skipped a beat and she slowly stretched out her hand to take it. Her face flushed a light pink, and as she was hoisted to her feet again, she shuffled them awkwardly. “W-well… If you’re sick, you should rest, y’know. Wou-... Would you like me to make you some soup?”

“N-” Urangtai stopped as he stared at Song’s anticipating face, her eyes seemed more concerned than wild (as they usually looked) and her voice was a cool ointment. He felt he was going to regret this but, “Yeah, sure... if you don’t mind.”

“Yeah… Yeah, no, I understand. Kinda weird for me to--” Song froze and then visibly recoiled in surprise. “Did you just say yes?”

“Only if you meant it,” Urangtai took a step back, his headache slowly ringing back in his head as he did. Song’s eyes darted around.

“U-uhm-- Of course, I did! It’s just you’ve--” She shuffled her feet and and poked her fingers together sheepishly. “You’ve never said yes before…”

“Oh,” Urangtai looked down, her voice pushing his headache away once more, “Never, huh? Really?” He felt a little bad, as if a snake of guilt was worming its way into his stomach.

Song quickly grabbed his hand and shook her head. “No-no-no! I didn’t mean it like that! It’s okay, really. You said yes, so all is forgiven.”

Urangtai felt a certain relief, maybe in more ways than one, “Well, if you don’t mind then?” He didn’t realize he was still holding her hand as he tugged towards his house. He opened the door and the two stepped inside, hands still linked together sweetly. Song’s face was still that hot shade of pink and in a quivering, uncharacteristically timid voice, she said, “You, uhm… How about you just lay down and, uhm… And I’ll just get cooking, hmm?”

Urangtai nodded, ushering himself to his bedroom, his hand almost reluctantly leaving Song’s.

Song gulped. Her heart was threatening to skip out of her chest and flutter to Heliopolis. Even as she reached for some dry scallions from a cabinet and some garlic. She prepared a cupful of oats and some water. She then lit a fire in the hearth and hung a clay pot over it. She filled the pot with water and sat staring awkwardly into the flames. Thoughts clogged her mind like thick sap. This -had- to be Yullian’s work. Something like this had never happened before and-- and what was she supposed to do? She had always asked - over and over and over again - and never once had he actually said hello.

Who could blame her for not actually planning for the next step?

Song timidly cut some garlic with a clay knife and shyly hummed to herself. “S-so… You, uhm… You come here often?”

"I- I live here," Urangtai's voice came from the room. There was rustling as if he was moving around.

“Oh! Heh! Right!” Song’s mouth flattened as she stared longingly at the knife in her hand. Snap her imagination. Another time passed. She asked, “Do yooouu liiiiike, uh, lots of garlic or not as much?”

Urangtai appeared in the doorway, the bags under his eyes seeming to have partially faded away. He pulled a chair out for himself and sat down, mere feet from Song, “I like it,” He answered.

Song pressed her lips together, the drumming in her heart rolling along uncontrollably. “S-so… Should I add, uh, a lot?”

Urangtai seemed to snap from a thought, “Oh, yes. Please.” he stammered, “Do you like garlic?”

“YEAH! I-I mean, uhm… Yeah, I suppose.” Another silence filled only by the dunk-dunk-dunk of the clay knife hitting the tabletop. “Urang, have you… N-no, never mind.”

The man flickered his eyes in confusion, “Have I what?”

“Nuh-nothing! It’s nothing, really. It’s stupid and dumb and stupid and oh God, I said stupid twice, and ugh! I cut the garlic too big, sorry, sorry, sorry!” She tried to aim her knife to properly part the already microscopic specks of garlic.

“Oh oh!” Urangtai’s eyes widened with worry, a hand reaching out to steady Song’s shoulder as she hastily chopped near her fingers, “You’ll cut yourself.”

“I--!” Song’s finger dodged the sharp blade as Urangtai’s hand clasped her shoulder. She blinked and turned around, staring into Urangtai’s eyes. Her lower lip quivered and her breathing flew in and out her mouth like bees around their hive. “H-how’re you feeling?”

Urangtai went to tell Song that he was actually feeling a little better, but as he did, Song’s eyes were pulled from him to right behind him. The wall of the kitchen seemed to shake for a moment, two black eyes appearing on it. With a wink the eyes disappeared back into the kitchen wall --

“Woah!” Urangtai was suddenly cut off as he lost his footing, the floor slipping out underneath him. He landed into Song, knocking them both to the floor. Remembering the knife, Urangtai squeezed Song close as he rolled them out of the way just in time for the blade to clatter against the floor tiles. Urangtai’s heart was pounding against Song, “I’m so sorry,” he was wide eyed, “I guess I just lost my footing.”

Song stared wide-eyed back at him. Part of her seemed to squirm lose, but the other slowly began to wrap a pair of arms around his back, locking the two together. Her cheeks were at this point practically glowing like two small stars and she swallowed. “It’s… It’s okay. It happens.”

Urangtai went to stand up, only to notice the tug of Song’s arms that gripped him, he gave her a nervous smile, “Um, Song --” Her voice seemed to keep him lingering despite his clear move to leave her grasp.

Song immediately let him go and looked away. “SORRY! Sorry, sorry, sorry - it was just the heat of the moment, andIjustreallywantedtototototo--” The girl looked over at the now boiling pot. “OH, look! The water’s boiling!” She rocketed to her feet, grabbed the minced garlic, oats and uncut scallions, sprinted to the hearth and dropped them into the boiling water. She stirred around chanting sheepish ‘dum-dee-dums’ and tried not to look at Urangtai.

“Oh-oh,” Urangtai sat up, face flushed as he thought on something, “Do you believe in myths and little tales?” He suddenly asked.

“Huh?! Oh, uh-- sure! Which? I mean, uhm, depends on which.”

Before he could answer, there was a sudden knock on the door. Urangtai scrambled to his feet and walked by Song to get it. A few steps more and he was pulling to door aside.

Standing in the doorway was Meiyun, a slant tucked in her cheek and her hands folded in front of her, “Hey Urangtai, I just wanted to apologize for slapp- oh!” She leaned to the side and peaked in, “Hello, Song!” She looked back at Urangtai, “I didn’t know you had a guest, I’m sorry to intrude.”

“No it’s--” Urangtai held his head and blinked, “It’s fine. Really.”

Song shot Meiyun a venomous glare and faked the best smile she could, looking a little like a grinning tigress. “Heeeeeeeeeey, Meiyun! Wow, so nice of you to drop by. Look, reeeeeeeaaaally sorry to say this, but we were juuust in the middle of something. Could you come by a little later, maybe?”

“Oh,” Meiyun looked surprised, “If that’s what Urangtai wants...?”

The man was now holding his head in both hands, gritting his teeth. The woman in front of him twisted from side to side uncomfortably, “Urangtai?”

“Yup, hm?” He looked up and blinked, his eyes wide.

Meiyun let her brow fall, “Maybe I’ll come back l-later, then?” Her voice was more confused than anything else.

“N-no,” Urangtai managed and shook his head, Meiyun mimicking the head shake in confusion, “I wanted to, uh...”

“Be alone with Song,” Song finished mercilessly and grabbed the door handle. “Have a nice evening, Meiyun!” Then she slammed the door shut.

Urangtai seemed to jump at this and turned to Song, his headache slowly fading once again as Song’s voice tickled his ear, “What are you doing!?”

“Wuh-uh-- I was just… We were busy and, y’know, I didn’t want her to interrupt.”

“Ugh,” Urangtai held his head, “I need to sit down...” The man lumbered over to the kitchen table and plopped defeated into the chair, head throbbing. A tendril of particles broke from the wall and out of sight, slithering alongside the floor and up Song’s back. The little hair of particles flicked at her ear.

“Tell him you just didn’t want him to exert himself, tell him you saw his pain coming back, tell him to relax... Let him soak in your voice... also,” The tendril flicked to the other ear, “Bring me a bowl after, that smells amazing.” The tendril slithered back down and snapped back into the wall.

Song swallowed. “It’s just… I didn’t want you to exert yourself… I saw your pain coming back, and, well… I just want you to relax, okay? You’re such a handsome, hardworking man, and you just need to take a day off on occasion, don’t you?” She found a bowl and scooped into it some of the shabby porridge.

Urangtai seemed to melt in his chair, the bags fading from his face as she spoke into his ear. He soon found himself nodding along and then eating her porridge. He didn’t say much, clearly exhausted until finally, “Thank you.”

Song gasped and had to look away as hot, wet tears moistened her eyes. “Y’know… You make me so happy.”

“Your voice...” Urangtai managed, closing his eyes as he leaned back in his chair, “I never noticed how nice it was.”

Song gasped again and giggled. “R-really? Then…” She put her head on his shoulder. “Would you like me to sing for you, too?”

There was a soft bump against her head as Urangtai succumbed to sleep, a gentle snore rumbling from him -- the day proving to have been too much.

Song giggled and went over to the cupboard. She took the biggest bowl she could find and filled it with porridge.

Yullian would get the biggest tribute for this!

A Night Under Moksha

Amid chittering quolls, snapfruit saplings and young patches of sweetgrass, Yisu sat hunched in her new birthday dress. It was plain and blue, but her mother had sewn it just for her and that made it special enough in Yisu’s eyes to match even Lord Wenbo’s Shengshese outfits. Yisu’s eyes were closed, and her knees were pulled up to her chest as she sat nearly in a nap. The day was exciting but long, and with the sky turning dark and Moksha peeking out between the clouds, Yisu’s young mind could barely keep her awake much longer.

She stirred and patted her messy alabaster hair, “Rice cake?” Her eyes opened and she knitted her brows, “Rice Caaake?” She shifted onto her feet and spun around, tiny red circles under her tired eyes, “Rice Cake??”

She stuck out her bottom lip in an exaggerated pout. She shoved little fists into balls and stomped towards her parents’. The walk was short, with her father having taken the closest house to the Tendlepogan-esque fields.

Yisu pushd the door in, the orange glow of a soft fire hitting her. The foyer was really the living room, with a cozy set of chairs and footrests, plus her own mother sitting by the fire with a spool of wool. Seeing her daughter stumble in with hands rubbing her eyes, she let out a sigh, “Yisu, I was just about to call you in -- it is far past your bedtime, missy.”

“Mom, have you seen Rice Cake?” Yisu pouted, ignoring her mother’s warning.

“No dear,” Yisu’s mom put the wool down, “I’m sure he is fine, now off to bed.”

“But mom-”

“Do you need your father to tell you too?” Yisu’s mom rested a hand on her hip. Yisu pouted, but her mother didn’t seem to back down.

“Okay...” Yisu shuffled into the house, finding the long hall that separated the various rooms. Yisu’s mother called out to her from the living room, her voice a harsh whisper.

“And don’t wake up your brothers!”

Yisu stuck her tongue out in her mother’s direction and made a face. Puffing up a little, Yisu quietly strolled down the hallway, her eyes falling on the closed door that separates her from her own bed. Her eyes trickled to the right a little more, the door to the cellar was ajar. She pursed her lips and silently shuffled over to the basement door.

Peeking through the crack of the opened door, she shivered -- it was dark down there. Something moved, her heart slammed against its cage and she jumped back with a loud yelp.

“Yisu!” Her mother whispered harshly, a couple of thuds indicating that she was now on her way.

“Mom it wasn’t me, there is something in the basement,” Yisu pointed at the door pleadingly as her mother came angrily down the hall.

“You always think there is something in the basement, Yisu,” Her mother ushered her away from the door.

“But mom, I really think I saw a monster this time.”

“Yisu, you’re being silly.” The mother pursed her lips.

“Mom,” Yisu whimpered and her mother sighed.

“Would it make you feel better if we put a new pebble on the house guardian’s shrine?”

Before Yisu could nod, the basement door suddenly snapped open, forcing a loud shrill scream from Yisu and a surprised yell from her mother. All at once, a pillar of cloudlings flooded out of the basement, popping wildly as they crackled their way to every open window, door and crack in the building. They smelt of the wine that Yisu’s father kept in the cellar, especially one specifically saturated cloudling painted a dark maroon. It bumbled through the air drunkenly as the other cloudlings had already cleared the house. It landed on Yisu’s nose and she giggled.

“Mom, it was just Rice Cake.”

Yisu’s mom stood with wide eyes, “Just?”

A deep rumble vibrated in the back of Batbayaar’s throat. He sat atop the roof of the academy, legs folded and his fists open in his lap. His chin was tilted up, Moksha washing over his face. By his right knee was a clay tablet with three gentle lines of poetry adorning it, and by his left knee was a minimalist hand-sized painting of his older brother and his father.

He tucked his thumbs flat against his palms as he held them open, the light of Moksha seeming to pool between his fingers. As he meditated, thoughts of his father kept invading his mind -- the large man riding on an albino tree-eater, a victorious grin twisting the blue stripe that dominated the left half of his face.

Batbayaar lifted his left hand, tracing his own stripe. A watery tear caused his finger to stop its journey. He wiped it away from his cheek and opened his eyes. His pupils dilated, having opened to the sight of the swirling nebula that now served as the final memory of his life before Chengweng. Thoughts fell to his wife, who was likely putting their daughter to bed as he thought, his eight sons were likely already asleep having worked the fields of heritage. He sucked in a shaking breath, it wasn’t easy being the only one of your family to decide to stay. He also couldn’t let the remaining dreamers forget the ways of the elder clans, and as the youngest of his father’s -- it was his duty to keep the traditions.

He could still see his mother crying, a sight he had only seen once before. His gut twisted. He was the mountain, he was the stone, but even then he could feel the tug of erosion in his heart. He clapped his hands back together and closed his eyes, refocusing on Moksha.

He could feel the anger and the frustration that kept him silent during the day swirl as easily as the nebula. He could feel his distaste and his concerns, his hesitant acceptance of Ming’s leadership, and his own queries over his Elder Wenbo’s ability in light of her appointment.


Batbayaar’s eyes shot open, “Cake?”


Suddenly a flood of cloudlings passed over him, nearly causing him to tip over as they blasted by. A surprised laugh chuckled from his throat, the first since he had left his home. Finding his feet, he watched the stream of cloudlings swirl onwards. Tucking a newfound smile in his cheek, he sent after them.

Nergui let out an exhausted groan and stumbled through one of the academy’s many exits. Planted along the cobblestone walkway of the academy gardens was a myriad of different flowers, with two meter tall obelisks standing at every corner. All of it slowly swirled to a black stone platform in the center, a white and black obelisk standing side by side. As she passed through the door proper, she plucked a pebble from her pocket and dropped it into a ceramic bowl by a miniature black obelisk.

Her gait was more of a sleepy stumble than one of an uptight scholar as she made her way down the swirling path. Finding the center, she kicked off her leather boots and slipped on quoll fur slippers before stepping on the black platform. She fell to her knees and walked on them all the way to the twin obelisk shrine. She dipped her head three times before the empty bowl that sat in front of the shrine, then dipped her head twice - leaving her forehead against the cold stone on the second dip.

“K’nell, My God -- keeper of my family, receive me and my prayer,” She kept her eyes closed as she sat back on her ankles, hands set on each knee. Sucking in a breath, she opened her eyes -- Moksha swirling between the obelisks.

“I’m scared,” She admitted, “I feel alone.” A tear fell down her cheek, “I miss my grandfather, and I pray he isn’t mad at me. Tell him that I had to, tell him I didn’t know I’d be the only one to go.” She held a fist to her chest, “Forgive my candidness, my God.” She sucked in a breath, “Recieve my mind, so I may see them again when my day comes.”

Nergui sat in silence, her eyes fluttering all around the arms of Moksha before she finally let out an exhale she didn’t know she was holding, “I don’t want to be alone. I thank you for Master Zhong Wang, and the others -- I do... but I can’t help but feel...” She flicked a finger across her Temujinite nose, “Alone.”

“I pray, God K’nell, that you take away my loneliness, take it away, take it far away -- I don’t want it, my God,” She whimpered, “It weighs upon my mind-”

Suddenly a loud crackling wave washed over Nergui, the white flood of cloudlings wisping through the air. Dancing on popping sounds and tiny raindrops, the cloudlings soaked through Nergui’s clothes before continuing their nighttime journey.

Nergui sat drenched with wide eyes, “T-Thank you, God!” Was all she managed through a surprised chuckle, her tears dry. Jumping to her feet, she quickly ran after the cloudings.


Ming groaned loudly, landing backfirst into her bed. The bushels of grass pushed against her spine, releasing the day’s work and causing her to ache. She whimpered silently, letting her body drain of its exhaustion. She turned her head as she laid starfish, eyes peeking out of the open window and at the starry sky above. She shot out an exhale from her nostrils as she saw Moksha swirling away.

“I’m supposed to meditate on you, huh?” Ming said quietly, “Expose my weakness and my secrets I bet, too.”

Without turning her body to the window she closed her eyes, “Well I’m afraid you won’t find any here... I’m the great General of Chengweng.” She shot another sgh from her nostrils and her nose pulsed with a little pain. She flinched, “The greatest, beaten down by a nose bleed.”

She huffed silently, Moksha swirling the same as ever, “I just want a little respect.” She surrendered, “I’m trying my best-- I can say that because I am. I know, I KNOW, I could do better, I know.” She bit her lip, “And I’m trying to get there, I really am.”

Moksha didn’t reply,

“Well it isn’t my fault that Batbayaar wasn’t chosen,” Ming gulped dryly, “Maybe he should’ve...” She cast her eyes away from the nebula, “But he didn’t, I did, because I asked -- and I’m trying my best. He can... he can just get over it!”

She looked back at Moksha, “I know he is bigger and stronger, and knows more about this than I do, but this is a new world. This isn’t the plains anymore. A new world needs new leaders... Who cares what he thinks.” Anger tinged her voice and she clicked her tongue. A long silence fell between the two before she gurgled out of frustration, “I do.”

She raised a hand to her forehead and groaned, “I do, I care what they all think. I know how they see me, I’m not blind.”

Moksha was silent.

“Well fine!” Ming almost shouted, “You tell me what to do then!”

As if answering her, flickering shadows blinked across Moksha and Ming’s eyes widened with shock. A chorus of popping filled the night air, forcing Ming to sit up, her fingers holding her nose gently.

“What the...”

Zhong Wang stood in the open plaza that intersected the residential and market quarters. Here the night wind was strongest, and the view of the night sky was the best -- in his opinion at least. His eyes carefully studied Moksha above, to think that’s where they all will go someday.

He sucked in an impressed breath, and to think that here he is until then. He put his hands on his hips, he went from a lowly student of his father to being the master of all academic research for the dreamers in a single day. He could feel the pressure on his shoulders as strongly as the butterflies in his stomach, though.

Something about the responsibility caused his gut to clench up, forced hunger from his mind and dried his eyes endlessly on the infinite writings of Shengshi and his own. Even now he wasn’t sure if he was hungry, full, stressed, or even relaxed. He pinched the bridge of his nose, if he didn’t have Nergui, he wouldn’t know how well he would be faring in his position. Sure he had the knowledge, but the ability to actually do is a lot harder to keen than the ability to know.

His gut clenched as his mind skimmed over all the things that could go wrong, and what sorts of disasters he would be responsible for should he ever hiccup in his position. Some days he could barely look at the other dreamers, their faces no longer holding the friendly visages of family but rather the scared looks of people his actions would directly affect.

“Oh Lord,” he moaned, eyes rising to Moksha, “You know my pain.”

He sighed, “It’s just... been so long since I’ve...” He stifled on his words, “To relax just seems forbidden.”

Zhong Wang’s eyes rested on Moksha and he closed his eyes in an attempt. His body swayed slightly in the night wind as he focused, trying to picture the great swirling mass in his minds eye. He strained and then slowly relaxed his shoulders -- and as his muscles went limp, he swore he heard something. Two gentle violin’s playing against each other, hidden behind the sound of the night wind. A small smile formed on Wang’s lips as the music played in his mind. It reminded him of a story his father used to tell him in jest.

A long time ago now, Chagatai had gone to Zhongcheng and Wenbo in a fit of frustration: he needed to write a song for his teenage crush, Altansarnai. His brother’s agreed to aid him, and spent all night constructing the perfect song for him to use to woo his beloved -- only to find out on the day he went to sing it to Altansarnai, that she too had gone to Zhongcheng and Wenbo for a song to sing to him. In Zhongcheng’s clever way and Wenbo’s wisdom, the brothers wrote each of them half of the same song -- turning their meeting into an entwined duet of their truest feelings.

Zhong Wang smiled, picturing the scene between the fiery couple, their words fresh in his mind as if he were there. He gently sang out Chagatai’s opening lines.

“Blue hair so as the sky,
Blue hair so as my soul.”

”Blue stripe so as river’s low,
Blue stripe so as heart’s sigh.”

Nergui’s voice surprised Wang and he turned to the woman, a gentle smile on her face, and a rush of cloudlings crackling behind her. Zhong Wang’s brow furrowed and his eyes widened in surprise, “Cloudlings!?”

The apprentice went to speak, but was cut off by Batbayaar’s deep voice, calling out as Chagatai once did:

“Blue hair take my love,
Blue hair take my heart.”

”Blue stripe never part,
Blue stripe my dove.”

Nergui’s singing voice nearly tripped as Ming’s and Yisu’s joined hers. She turned to see Batbayaar’s family standing next to the general, all wearing surprised smiles. Batbayaar walked over, arms wide as he pulled his wife into an embrace, his voice joining Zhong Wang’s.

“Blue hair you’re my night,
Blue hair you’re my day.”

”Blue stripe always stay,
Blue stripe never flight.”

“Blue hair never go,
Blue hair as above.”

”Blue stripe my love,
Hello from Wen-bo.”

The impromptu group broke into laughter as the line finalized. Zhong Wang could feel his stress falling from his shoulders as the cloudlings crackled along, and Nergui gave him a friendly grin. The woman felt her worries wash from her as easily as the dye was running from her soaked clothing.

Batbayaar laughed loudly as he held his family tight, his sons punching each other playfully, his little girl clinging to his leg. Seeing Ming standing idly between his family and the other Scholars, he reached out with a hand. His knuckle bumped her shoulder and she turned to him. His smile was gone, and she gulped. Her flicked his nose twice and gave her an approving nod, causing a smile to form on the general’s face.

“Thank you, Lord K’nell.”

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.


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.


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.


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.

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