Status

Recent Statuses

11 days ago
Current You spoke well, but your plea is fallen flat. You are spared, you may thank your tongue for that.
2 likes
9 mos ago
"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure."
4 likes
12 mos ago
So wait the rise of the wooden man, and till he come the deserts scan: you'll know him by his Eye's command, you'll know him by his bloodied hand!
1 like
1 yr ago
'And lo, Toun lamented, for he had all the symbols in existence, but had not a dictionary to know them.'
1 like
1 yr ago
"It is better to have loafed and lost than never to have loafed at all."
1 like

Bio



An artist's fictional conception of what Kho may look like.

"Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life." - Quote misattributed to Kho by Kho


Damn Kho, you just pump these giant, well-written posts out like it ain't nothin'.


Kho (debuted into the RPing world c.2009 or 2010-Present), also known as Kho-Bro (Kho-Sis by those who claim to be better informed about Kho's 'bits'), Theia, King Hong of Orliand, Khobihatun, Kho the Verbose Bastard (or alternatively, the Glorious Bastard), and Sand Queen is an RPGuildian Roleplayer (RPer) and Game Moderator (GM) who is often regarded as the founder of the small-time, but increasingly successful, deity roleplay Divinus, along with long-time chaos-bringer Rtron, and professional anarcho-(rule) abolitionist Cyclone. Ownership of the rights to the RP was subject to a relatively minor dispute in the Guildian High Court in mid-2015 when the original GM sued Kho for copyright infringement. The case eventually came to a close when Kho and the founder settled outside of court for an undisclosed amount.

Although highly esteemed by members of the Divinus community, Kho is relatively unknown beyond those circles, having failed to establish a successful network of active RPers across the Guild. Kho has expressed hope that Divinus' success will soon establish him/her/it as a GM of some standing among the lower echelons of the 'sewer-dwellers' (a derogative term used to refer to the thousands of GMs attempting to rise in the brutally competitive world of Guildian GMing).

In mid-2017, Kho's Divinus administration officially handed power over to a new one made up of the cyclone of activity and efficiency, BBeast; the black hole of all things just weird man, Antarctic Termite; and the lethal guardian of Divinus' corgis of war, Muttonhawk. The move is said to have created a permanent and irreconcilable rift between Kho and Cyclone, and signs of cosmic oddities have already begun appearing due to the tragic falling apart of such a great partnership. Kho now plans the downfall of Cyclone.

Biography
Early Years:
Very little is known about Kho's early years, though s/he has often suggested that s/he was born in a now insolvent forum, wherefrom s/he immigrated after the administration's breaches of basic human rights caused an inter-world wide webian crisis involving invasions and destruction.

S/He was born to a relatively well-off family, who are suspected to have perished with the destruction of his/her former home. S/He received his/her early education in RPing there, though s/he claims that s/he only learnt of 'true RPing' when s/he arrived in the OldGuild. S/He has expressed sadness at the violent coup which deposed the OldGuild, but is optimistic that never again will such a terrible GuildFall occur.


Roleplaying History
Kho is known to have joined a large number of RPs over time, though imperfect record keeping, destruction of archives and other catastrophes mean that a complete list is forever lost to time. Kho's personal secretary has recently published a list of all RPs Kho is known to have been in.

    In no Particular Order

  • 5-10 RPs whose names are lost due to the World Wide Webian Crisis
  • Raining Seconds - Each character represented one of the twelve Zodiacs in a post-apocalyptic world. They had various powers. Kho is believed to have played Leo, whose powers were shape-shifting. It is suggested, in the broken and fragmented records that remain, that Leo managed to fly into a floating city, move around as an ant, before kidnapping a high-level officer and pretending to be him for a while. The lack of anything else suggests that the RP died shortly thereafter. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Legend of the Dragon Lords - Kho is said to have created an archer-type character. RP appears to have undergone a rebooting process shortly after Kho's joining. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Reboot: Legend of the Dragon Lords - Kho once more took up Felix the Archer, though the RP does not seem to have survived far longer than an opening post by each player. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Whitewall Chronicles - Little is known about the content of this RP or about what happened. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Spell and Steel - Little is known about the content of this RP or about what happened. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Divided: Migah v Wigah - An RP set in an isolated area where two tribes, inspired by those of Native American culture, are engaged in a perpetual feud. The records state that Kho played as Anevay Angeni (meaning: Superior Spirit, aka Old Dream Eyes) who was the leader of the Migah tribe. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Lies, Blood, War! - Little is known about the content of this RP or about what happened in it. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Elba - Little is known about the content of this RP or about what happened in it. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Mastery: The Fate of Aea - Little is known about the content of this RP or about what happened in it. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Bleach: The Lament of Power - Part of a long-running series of Bleach RPs by Yoshua and Ganryuu which Kho claims to have been a part of from the earliest years. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Bleach: Tears of Heaven - Part of a long-running series of Bleach RPs by Yoshua and Ganryuu which Kho claims to have been a part of from the earliest years. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • The Great Nations - A very successful RP which was brought to an early death by Guidlfall. Kho appears to have first come up with 'the Eskandars' in this RP. The name, and the ideas, would stick with him/her in many future RPs. The GM of this RP was non-existent, and it was kept going purely on the will and dedication of the players - a true anarcho-syndicalist utopia. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Divinus Mk.OldGuild - The original Divinus. It came to an end due to GM inactivity.
  • New Dawn of Kanorth - Kho appears to have, for a considerable period of time, dedicated all his time to this RP, playing as one Horath Evren Al'Montsar. Al'Homam bin Nimr al'Wahshey also made his debut in this RP. Needless to say, Kho enjoyed it until it died. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Kingdom of Syrenos - Each player took up the role of a regional lord - either the Southern, Northern, Eastern or Western lord - in the Kingdom of Syrenos. Kho appears to have adapted the Eskandars for this RP. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • Legacy of Jarmoth: Adria - Kho's first moderately successful RP as GM. Kho has withheld all information regarding it. [a pre-Guildfall RP]
  • World in Revolution 1900 - GMed by Dutchbag. Kho played as Afghanistan in this historical RP. Kho's great love and admiration for Afghan history and culture appears to have had its inception with this RP. [a pre and post-Guildfall RP]
  • Able Archer 1983 - An RP based on the tensions caused by Able Archer 83. Did not survive too long however. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • Golden Age of Piracy: Caribbean 1655 - Another RP GMed by Kho. It was relatively successful until Kho had to leave it. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • Fiat Bello - Another fantasy NRP. Yet again, Kho relied on the trusty Eskandars to create an all-new nation: Mardithia. Unfortunately all the hard work never paid off as the RP very quickly disintegrated. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • World in Revolution 1900 - GMed by Chairman Stein. A relatively short-lived attempt to bring back WiR. Again, Kho played as Afghanistan. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • World in Revolution 1900 - 2nd GMed by Dutchbag. A relatively short-lived attempt to bring back WiR to the Guild. Kho played as Afghanistan once more. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • World in Revolution 1861 - GMed by Outcast. A very successful WiR wherein Kho took up the burden of returning to glory the declining Ottoman Empire. Rumour has it that there was some brutal behind-the-scenes plotting and scheming as the RP churned on. In an interview, Kho is quoted to have said, 'I don't blame Outcast for running away.' The RP died shortly after Outcast's departure. He has never been seen on the Guild again. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • Crisis in Constantinople - Each player took up a realistic Ottoman/Turkish figure and played out their interactions in the newly established Turkish Parliament. Kho played Sultanzade Mehmed Sabâhaddin and is said to have enjoyed it despite the RP not surviving beyond a few introductory posts. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • World in Revolution 1861 Mk.II - GMed by Ab. Kho once more took up the mantle of returning to glory the Ottoman Empire. Kho only managed to establish a Union between the OE and Egypt before the RP collapsed. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • Marches of Man: The Black Shields - Horath made a climactic return in this RP, but it swiftly died. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • Naruto: Continuum - In a much-awaited RP by the legendary duo, Yoshua and Ganryuu, Kho returned as Daichi Saduzow - a character some speculate was in fact Kho's very first. Kho has neither confirmed nor denied these speculations. The RP, unfortunately, went under for reasons unknown. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • Morituri te Salutan: Arkreidian Gladiators - In a little-known RP, Kho established the building blocks for the Treeminds, a race of bear-people. The RP died after too many players succumbed to the sands of the arena. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • I, Arabicus: A story of Rome and the rise of Islam - An alternate history RP wherein Kho took up the role of Hudhayfa ibn al-Yaman, a companion of the Islamic Prophet, Muhammad, and one of many people who played a part in the rise of the early Islamic empire. This RP also succumbed to the sands - this time, those of the desert wherein Arabicus disappeared never to reappear. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • Breaking the Chains - An RP based on the current insurgency in Bahrain. Kho and Dutchbag hope to resurrect it as a 1x1 RP in the near future. Kho's message to any semi-adoring fans is, 'stay tuned folks.' [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • Divinus: The Deity Roleplay Mk.I - Resurrecting the old RP (after gaining the original founder' permission), Kho and Rtron ran the new iteration of the deity roleplay rather successfully for a good four months. It was decided that the RP would go on hiatus for a while and be rebooted at a later point. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • Divinus: The Deity Roleplay Mk.II - The reboot came earlier than expected and has been chugging along rather well for seven months at the time of writing. Kho, for the third time, played as the god of Time, Vowzra. In an unexpected turn of events, Vowzra, for the first time in three RPs, died. This appears to have been the first time in the Divinus franchise that an active player has wilfully killed off their deity-character. [a post-Guildfall RP]
  • The King is Dead, Long Live the King - Laxion Hossarusson, played by Kho, is a scholar. He has come to the capital of Emperiat, from the eastern Grand Duchy of Andaluja (based off nothing other than the original Eskanadra and those trusty Eskandars) to act as one of many advisors to the newly-ascended boy-king. It very quickly died, despite all Kho's attempts at resuscitation. [a post-Guildfall RP]


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Arena Stats

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Level 1 Hero
10 Khookies

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The Bard
Level 4 Demigod of Art (Music)
22 Might, 82,531 Worshippers



Old Bark-Skin speared the sky, disappearing into clouds of grey and white long before its pinnacle came into view. Were one to attempt to walk its entire girth, perhaps it would take a day. And though all around trees grew and flourished and there was glorious life, there was yet a taint of death. Not a squirrel, not a fox, not an ant moved through the undisturbed snow - even their footprints were fast disappearing behind. Perhaps up amongst the branches, far from the ground, life remained, but here on the ground there was nothing. Juras extended his senses with unease to confirm this observation; and indeed, there was no life. That dark hill... He would have to investigate it when the time permitted.
'What's at the top?' Zerabil asked, looking up at where Old Bark-Skin disappeared into the heavens.
'Ice and snow, probably.' Juras said, returning his attention to the son of gods.
'Have you ever been there?' The Victor shook his head in the negative. Not too far from where they stood was the Oath of Stilldeath. 'And that?' Zerabil asked, a very sudden melancholy gripping him. The longer he looked at it the heavier the melancholy grew, creeping down his back and up his chest, dripping into the hot pit of his abdomen and suffocating it all with icy mists and gloom. 'It looks so... sad.'
'It is the Oath of the Crippled One. An oath taken by all the gods who sign it, pledging to nevermore slay one another.' Zerabil seemed surprised to hear this. The other gods actually cared enough for each other to sign such a thing?
'Really? That's amazing.' He approached the monument, sniffling slightly as he did so. It was not the cold - the monument itself had an aura that almost forced the beholder to weep.

Here lies the memory of our sister of knowledge Vulamera and our brother of time Vowzra. Here in their tragic deaths, we swear an oath to never seek the death of any sibling of ours signed onto this pact. We do this for the sake of our souls as well as the integrity of our hearts, for death begets death, and grief begets grief. May this place within the gate be a place where no god sets foot to do battle. In sacred remembrance of this, we declare: Fate shall no longer toy bloody games between our bodies into this timeline.




Tears streamed down his face and he could not withhold his sobs. 'Dad...' he moaned, 'm- mum.' His knees shook, but he did not quite fall to the ground. He could not take his eyes from the monument. A step closer... but then an ethereal force gently forced him from the place.
'It is not good to get too close. People have been known to go before it and never leave, been known to die of grief. It is not good to lose oneself before this stone of sorrow.' Zerabil wiped his tears away and nodded.
'Y- yeah. I won't go near it again.' He paused and looked back at it briefly. 'It- it says that only those whose names are on the stone are protected. Does that mean that those not on it aren't protected?' Juras cocked his head.
'Does it really say that? I have never read it. That would be odd indeed.'
'And it curses "Fate", says that Fate toys with them. Is Fate another god?' Juras let out an irritated sound.
'The stone blasphemes. Fate does not play games. It is not just another god. It is a Supreme Being, an Almighty that guards and protects and guides. It protects us from the great unknown, but all it receives in return is ungratefulness and hatred from those who know nothing about it. Fate is to the gods what the gods are to simple mortals, and like simple mortals the gods curse Fate out of ignorance. Fate is not like the Jvanic Entity - a sadistic being that toys with us -, it is not like the Soul Mother - childlike and seeking entertainment -, it does not play games.'
'And you know this how?' Zerabil asked, his tone rather cutting.
'I, of myself, know nothing Master. It is the Celestial Above that knows, and it is the Celestial Above that taught us this. And the Celestial Above has spoken with Fate - it is the very Vicegerent of Fate.' Zerabil seemed uncertain. Of course, he was drawn to believe in the authority his father possessed. But at the same time, there was a lingering doubt - a doubt which could only be soothed by direct knowledge. He would speak with Fate and he would come to know the truth.

Juras turned and walked towards the Gate. Nearby was a rather large humanoid figure formed entirely plant. It reminded Zerabil of his father, except it was more green. It was nestled atop a strange orb of bark which had at some point been shattered from the inside (for it was hollow, much like an egg). 'What's that?' Zerabil asked.
'That is the Guardian Restored. He guards the Gate. In the times before the coming of the Jvanic Entity, he was a Victor not much different from any other - only that he had been blessed with the power to transform, at will, into a silk-spider. His soul was tied to the Gate, and he only permitted entrance to the Worthy. When the Jvanic Entity came, he refused it entry - for he saw that it was Unworthy. It cared little, however, and shattered his form so that his blood dyed the skies crimson for miles around. And yet, despite the utter annihilation of his physical form, his soul's link with the Gate remained unbroken. He waited, and with time he found a resting place on this blessed Orb - made of the bark of the Celestial Above, once host to Life itself, and blessed thereafter by Our Mother of the Words. He latched on to this divine relic, and here he stands restored once more, returned into the physical world to continue his divinely anointed duty.' Zerabil seemed rather impressed by this.
'Does he speak? How does he guard the Gate?'
'He does not speak - but Victors who are telepathically attuned can listen to his innermost thoughts and see into his memories. Beware, however, for they are the stuff that broken minds are made of. And from time to time, he may loose an unearthly groan which reverberates even to the peripheries of the Deepwood. As for how he guards the Gate - I guess only the Unworthy will ever have the misfortune of finding out. Come, let us.' And with that, Juras caused the floating bodies of the gods to pass through, alongside the substance from Xerxes and the blood rain. There had been a final addition to Juras' strange collection, however - a sealed-beak Sculptor. Holding Zerabil's hand as the Sculptor's corpse passed into Chronos, the two then stepped through the Gate together.

New Chronos spread before them as paradise, its music drifted to their waiting ears, its fragrance pervaded the air, and, which was more, there was a sheer wonder, a strange fullness, to every moment that passed by.
'Welcome home, Master.' Juras said softly. Zerabil smiled and lowered his head, as though in shyness.
'It... it's beautiful.'

'Battle Brother Juras! You are returned,' came a voice. Two Victors stood before the Gate.
'Battle Brother Yiftakh!' Juras cried, and the two embraced. The returned Victor turned to the other, 'Battle Sister Seihdhara,' he said as he embraced her.
'Welcome back Battle Brother, you have been away an age. How went your venture on Galbar?'
'There were failures and successes, Battle Sister, but I came to learn much. My venture is far from over, however, this is but a pause before I take to the road again.'
'Truly, Battle Brother Juras, you are indomitable.' It was Yiftakh who spoke. 'And I see that you have brought these with you,' he gestured to the bodies of the gods and to Zerabil.
'Yes. I must speak with Battle Brother Morarom immediately.' Juras said. Yiftakh nodded and moved aside, and Battle Sister Seihdhara walked with Juras and Zerabil as they headed inland.
'And who is this charming young man?' Seihdhara asked, her bandaged and hooded head turning towards Zerabil.
'He is Our Master Zerabil,' Juras responded. Seihdhara was silent for a few moments.
'Our Master Zerabil? How is that...'
'It is a lengthy tale, Battle Sister.'
'I see...' her head turned once more towards the little boy, who was eyeing her curiously. Her hood suddenly fell away and her bandages unravelled to reveal her face beneath. She smiled at Zerabil.
'It is an honour to meet you at last, Master. I am Battle Sister Seihdhara, seventy-eighth of the Hallowed Hundred.' Zerabil made no response. He just looked at her in stunned silence.



'Se- Seihdhara?' His voice came at last, uncertain. 'I...' he frowned and shook his head. I know you, he was about to say. But that was impossible, stupid.
'Master?' Both she and Juras had stopped walking, looking at the frozen Zerabil.
'Uh, what? No. I'm fine. The honour is mine... blessèd Seihdhara.' The boy said, shaking himself from his reverie. 'Why... um. Why d'you take your mask off?'
'Oh, for effect,' she said. There was a brief pause... then her eyes lit up with humour. Zerabil chuckled hesitantly. 'I wished to see Our Master with my own eyes, that is all.' She added as the bandages began to return to place.
'N- no, stay like that. It's- uh, it's nice to be able to see people's eyes. It's weird when you're all covered.' She gave him a knowing sidelong glance as the bandages fell away once more.
'Oh really, is that so? Should Battle Brother Juras unveil too?' Zerabil seemed to consider her words seriously for a few moments before firmly shaking his head.
'Nah, it's alright, he can stay covered.' They maintained an air of seriousness for a few moments more. Then the two burst into chuckles. Juras rolled his eyes inwardly.
'So how did Battle Brother Juras find you?' Seihdhara asked, looking at Zerabil with curiosity, her smile unwavering.
'I was in the Venomweald, trying to get my parents somewhere safe, when Juras appeared out of nowhere. At first I wasn't too sure what to think of everything he was saying, but I went along with him anyway. And you? How'd you end up here?' The moment the words left his lips, he realised it was a stupid question - was it not obvious? This was her home. 'Uh, I mean, obviously this is your home, born here and all that.' He quickly added. She looked at him with a raised eyebrow and shook her head.
'No actually, I wasn't born here. I was killed by the gods long ago. But the Celestial Above restored me and brought me here. Along with the others, I was of the first denizens of Chronos.' Zerabil looked visibly shocked.
'You- you were killed?' There was a certain numb look in his eyes, 'w- why?' She shrugged.
'I guess they thought it was fun.' Zerabil's visage darkened visibly, and he looked down.
'It wasn't just me, obviously. There were some fifty ogres, four hain, six angels, five pronobi and seven humans - including me. And two Lifprasillians. We've grown since then, but together we were the first generation, the first Chronosians. Juras here is a very distant descendant of mine, for instance.' Zerabil's eyes widened.
'WHAT?' he looked from Juras to Seihdhara. 'That means that... y- you're married?' She let out a giggle at his shock.
'We do official rotations every few centuries, everybody's been with everybody.' Zerabil's shock turned into disgust. 'It makes things more interesting - and if you find the one for you, there's no need to rotate at all.' Zerabil's disgust did not wane.
'That's just weird. Urgh.' Seihdhara raised an eyebrow.
'On what basis do you think it's weird?' She asked testingly.
'It's just not normal is all.' He spoke defensively.
'And what is this normal you speak of? Where'd you get it from?' Zerabil frowned and shrugged.
'I dunno, it's just a feeling.' Seihdhara pursed her lips. 'What?' he asked.
'See, there are some who would say that's where your argument falls flat - feelings are no basis for anything. But I'm not so sure. There are some things we can only know subjectively.' Zerabil considered her words thoughtfully.
'Yeah? Like what?' She shrugged.
'Many things. Happiness. Sadness... love. But these are obvious things. Less obvious are things like... what is good? What is evil? Is there a universal standard by which each can be identified? Are our feelings towards such things a reflection of that universal standard? Or are we just kidding ourselves and the truth is that... there is nothing. Nothing at all.' She looked at Zerabil, who was staring at her pensively, his brows furrowed somewhat. 'Scary thought right?'
'Yeah... b- but obviously there's not nothing. There are gods, and there are gods above those gods - like Fate, right? There's a big picture.' Seihdhara smiled and tucked an amber tress behind her ear, then gave him a level stare.
'Have you seen Fate?' Zerabil was taken aback by the question and the intensity of her stare.
'Well, n- no, but Juras said-'
'And you think it's true because Juras said it?' She did not speak unkindly, but the question gave him pause.
'No, obviously not.' He eventually said. 'But alot of what he's said has been true so far, so I've no reason to believe the rest isn't. Obviously if I come to learn that something he said isn't true, I'd change my view. Till then though... it doesn't harm.'
'That's a fair approach I guess. True until proven otherwise. But what happens when you can't prove it?'
'Surely anything and everything can be proven in some way?' He asked hesitantly.
'Well, that depends on how you define proof. What is sufficient proof?'
'Uh... I dunno. If someone says something and they can prove it?'
'And how would they prove it. If I, for instance, said that stars are giant fireflies, and that I had seen them up close - is that proof? Would you believe me?'
'Uh... are they? They're not... are they?' Seihdhara chuckled. 'I mean, I'd have to see a star up close too first - that's how you prove it! By showing me.'
'Hmm, I guess that works for some things - but if I told you that killing is evil, how would I show you?'
'Uh... I dunno, it just is, isn't it? Everyone knows that.'
'Is it? Do the gods who killed me know that?'
'M- maybe they didn't... maybe that's why-'
'But you said killing is evil because everyone knows it is...'
'Well, maybe not everyone. But just because some people don't know or don't think it's evil, doesn't mean it isn't!'
'So, what makes it evil? It's clearly not subject to universal consensus - gods and mortals alike kill wantonly.'
'I can't give you a reason - but I know it's not nice, it's not good. You're hurting people - it's not something you enjoy. People don't enjoy being killed or injured or tortured.'
'So it's a matter of what we enjoy and what we don't, is it? If we enjoy something it's good, and if we don't it's evil?' Zerabil frowned and shook his head.
'Well, no, not exactly - because, apparently, you can enjoy killing others. So it can't be that. It's more that... if we wouldn't want it done to us, it's evil.' Seihdhara cocked her head and frowned.
'But people dislike different things. Something one person dislikes another may enjoy.'
'Well, yes. But that's not true for everything. No one likes being killed, or being robbed, or being cheated. There are certain fundamental things that everyone dislikes or avoids, things which are... well, universally undesirable, I guess.'
'Is death undesirable?'
'Well, no one wants to die... ideally.'
'So death is evil?'
'I guess... no. I don't know. Maybe we shouldn't try to define evil. Maybe evil is just whatever isn't good.' Seihdhara gave him a thoughtful look.
'Go on then, what is good?'
'Things everyone strives towards - like, building a family, becoming stronger, gaining knowledge. These things are good.'
'Why are they good - let us say, for the sake of arguement, that everyone does indeed strive for these things. Why do they?' Zerabil furrowed his eyebrows and bits his lips.
'Well, because...' he looked at the ground as he walked and thought, 'because...' then he looked up suddenly, his eyes alight with some kind of epiphanic realisation, 'because they're useful to us! Anything that's useful to us is good!' Seihdhara nodded slightly.
'That's certainly quite an interesting idea. Still problematic, raises questions still, but it is workable. Utility as the measure of goodness...'
'Uggh, I dunno... tell me what you think. How do we work out what is good and evil?' Seihdhara laughed and shook her head.
'Nop, you think some more and come back to me. You've got some pretty good ideas already - this utility things is definitely interesting. But have a think about it - are there any problems with it? How would you go about solving those problems, if there are any.' Zerabil huffed and smiled, a certain contentment in his eyes.
'Fine, I'll think about it.' He paused for a few moments before looking up at Seihdhara, 'you're pretty fun. I liked that.' Seihdhara seemed surprised at this, but then she smiled also.
'You know what they say - the life of the mind is the only life worth living. Perhaps not the only life worth living, but it is certainly a life worth living. And a life bereft of thought- why, it is no life at all.' Zerabil smiled and nodded eagerly.
'You're right! That's so true...'

They remained in comfortable silence for the remainder of their journey, and Zerabil was somewhat disappointed when they finally stopped - something about walking and seeing, with Seihdhara there by him, was oddly nice. They had been brought to a stone on which sat a massive Victor. His head, unveiled, was that of a bear. The colour of his fur seemed to be shifting constantly, and a strange ink-like stain (whose colour was also shifting) moved slowly all over his head, disappearing beneath his Victor's garb.
'Battle Brother Juras,' the bear spoke as it rose to its feet, 'it is good to see you have returned. I am certain there is much you wish to speak about.' The bear's voice was powerful, calming.
'Yes Battle Brother Morarom. I return with the Celestial Above and Our Mother of the Words,' and here the bodies of the floating gods were placed gently on Morarom's stone. The bear moved off it and looked at the two.
'Yes, I was informed the moment Battle Brother Yiftakh found out... but Battle Brother...' Morarom spoke with a frown, 'the female is...' he looked to Juras questioningly.
'She does not appear to be alive, no.' Morarom's frown deepened, his moving tattoo blackening and his fur taking on a dark red hue. Before he could speak, however, a figure appeared above the stone and landed softly beside him. The bear bowed his head in respect. 'Master.'
'Old Morarom, have no fear. Battle Brother Juras has brought with him our ruin and our salvation also,' and with a gesture of the Bard's hand, the glass containing the strange substance from Xerxes cracked and opened, and the strange stuff floated out. The Bard whispered to it, and it writhed and seemed to grow.

'What is that?' Morarom asked.
'If my visions are true and the Cube's whispers are any clue, then it is the flesh of a god.' The Bard said. Morarom took a step away from the substance, somewhat horrified. It was writhing and expanding, bubbling as the Bard whispered to it.
'Is... is it alive?' It was Zerabil who asked. The Bard looked down at his brother with a small smile.
'In a very distant sort of way, different to you or I.' The godflesh was spread out until it had become thin and shroud-like. The demigod covered the two gods with it - it was so thin as to be more or less transparent. What remained of the substance the Bard caused to fold on itself for future use. 'Now we must wait. Leave them and worry no more. They will rise in time.' And with that the demigod rose up into the sky.

'Brother!' Zerabil shouted, looking up at him. The Bard looked down and smiled.
'We will speak, little Zerabil. In time. All in time.' And he disappeared over the mountains and beyond the red clouds.
'So this is Our Master Zerabil,' Morarom, having descended from the little hillock on which the stone was, approached him with a wide smile, 'I am Battle Brother Morarom Oramomaro, first first of the Hallowed Hundred.' Zerabil frowned in confusion.
'First first? What do you mean?'
'The Hallowed Hundred has three firsts. I am the first first.' Zerabil raised an eyebrow at this.
'What?' He paused as he tried to work it out, 'you mean... there are three who are number one?' Mora nodded with a smile. Zerabil paused again. 'So you mean that... the Hallowed Hundred aren't one hundred?' Mora smiled and nodded again as he spoke.
'No, the Hallowed Hundred are not one hundred. They are one-hundred and thirteen.' Zerabil blinked a few times. He looked at Seihdhara, who smiled awkwardly.
'So if there are one-hundred and thirteen, why are they called the Hallowed Hundred? Shouldn't they be called the Hallowed Hundred and Thirteen?'
'Well, that would be more accurate, yes. But it would sound terrible, don't you think. Far too much of a mouthful.' Zerabil rubbed his forehead and the side of his face at the bear's words. A walking, talking bear spewing nonsense - just more weird things to add to the list.
'I think I really need some rest right now.' He managed.
'Of course!' Mora declared, 'Battle Sister Seihdhara, please see to it that Our Master is well-rested.' She bowed her head respectfully and, taking Zerabil's hand, quickly led him away.
'That is the most stupid thing I've ever heard in my life.' He muttered when they were out of earshot.
'He can still hear you,' she said with a barely veiled smile, 'and you're what, two days old? You'll come across far more stupid things.'
'Not two days old...' he grumbled.

When they were gone, Mora turned to Juras. He looked at the blood contained in the orb of Wi. 'Is that what Our Master the Bard instructed you to collect?' He asked. Juras shook his head.
'Not all of it. It is the blood of the Fiend. I was not able to collect anything from the Execrable Chaos. When I return next, I will not be without it.' Mora nodded slowly and extended his Wi to relieve Juras of carrying the blood. 'But Battle Brother, what do we need this for?' Mora inspected the blood closely for a few moments before responding.
'It will be used to further hone the mental discipline and emotional self-control of Victors. We will administer it in minuscule amounts at first, to only the most disciplined Victors. With time, and as mental and emotional resistance increases, we will raise the dosage. Once you acquire the blood of the Execrable Chaos, the mixture will be complete.' Juras cocked his head.
'But Battle Brother, we only have a limited supply of this blood.' Mora smiled knowingly.
'Our Master the Bard has the solution.' Juras was quiet, head turned towards Mora expectantly, 'suffice to say that we will have a little pool of the vile stuff.' He gestured to the Sculptor's corpse, 'and what is this you have brought with you? It seems to me the corpse of a Jvanic being.'
'Yes, Battle Brother. It is a Jvanic horror. I came across it as I journeyed from Xerxes - I have made a monumental discovery; it appears that these creatures are all connected. It is a vast system of telepathic communication, far more complex and advanced than anything I have seen. At any one moment, any Jvanic horror can be in contact with every other Jvanic horror in existence - no matter how vast the distances that separate them.' Mora seemed visibly stunned by this.
'No matter how far...' he looked at the Sculptor's corpse. Not even Treeminds, with their incredibly deep telepathic bond with all other Treeminds, could maintain the link over long distances. 'And how did you come to know of this link, Battle Brother?' Mora asked.
'I was able to break into the system. Even now if I focus...' he paused and raised his head. 'W-well, that's odd. I don't seem able to listen in. Chronos must be acting to disrupt the link. On Galbar I was able to connect with the system at will.' Mora frowned deeply at this revelation.
'Battle Brother, are you certain that is wise. You are venturing into the domain of the Entity, and no good can come of that.'
'No, Battle Brother. It's not as we had thought. I have... I have been shown visions. I have seen into the mind of Jvan. It-'
'The Jvanic Entity, Battle Brother. Mention it as the Celestial Above did.'
'No, Battle Brother. You misunderstand me. Jvan is not the Entity. They are two separate things.' Mora's frown deepened and his tattoo blackened, and his fur also became dark.
'You may speak, Battle Brother, but see to it that you speak carefully and well. What do you mean?' Juras invited Mora to sit, and the two Victors descended and brought their knees together.

There was much for them to discuss in the shade of their resting gods.





Edit: If I'm the only one allowed to capitalise Fabric, does this make me a... a Fabrikhoter?

...

@Kho Nah, it's flavoursome, but it's not a mechanic currently significant enough to be worth enshrining a kinkless version of in the errata, given how specific it is to Vowzrid entities. So go nuts! Unless the other GMs have a problem or Victors start abusing it in ways they really shouldn't be (teleportation is a major power), it should be fine.


Yeah, I've been very careful to put various restrictions of its use in place - i.e. only Silent Brothers can move through the Fabric (the only Silent Brother canonised till now is Juras, in my head-canon - ever since you mentioned him in that post - Yiftakh also), there appears to be some kind of cooldown period after each usage (Juras walked when he left Vetros for the Resort, walked when he left Xerxes for the Valley of Peace), there's an ever-present danger that one can just end up trapped in there or the Fabric is in a foul mood, one can't take other people with them through the Fabric, and - for non-divines in particular - there is currently a limit to how far one can travel using the Fabric - e.g. Juras can't melt into the Fabric and go to a moon or another planet. This will likely change as the Victors grow and develop, but that's the current state of affairs.
Vowzra and Belvast's interactions are somewhat different as they're divine - it's basically a, 'oh yeah, y'all can teleport too, but we're speshal'*coddles with Fabric*. I have some ideas for some distant future when the Creation(Space) (Portfolio) is incorporated for how the Fabric can be used in very different ways, but we'll cross that bridge when/if we get to it
Uh, I mean, if the Fabric of Existence is problematic for some reason I can edit out references to it in the last post and pretend like it never was
@Kho ...Could it be imagined as the paper on which the Codex is written? Paper is a lot like fabric. Right? Right??

Heartworm swallowing a piece of the fabric of reality is explicitly mentioned in this post, summarywards, where it consumes part of the underlying structure of existence to become more like the background of all that is, thus explaining a point of concealment. That's always been Heartworm's teleportation mechanic: literally carving up reality to make a wound it could move through.

(As an aside, it's also one of my most consistent long-term bits of character development. At first Heartworm had to laboriously chew through reality, but later it could carve holes using a tool. Eventually it could slice portals into existence quickly with its vehicle, and lately it's just been kicking reality so hard it rips like paper. An upcoming post is the first and only one in which Heartworm simply wills a wound in reality to open up. It's also been teleporting more as time goes on. So there's some subtle power progressions for y'all.)

The thing is that 'the fabric of reality' is a really common metaphor for 'the underlying structure of the existent universe' when it comes to describing both physics and metaphysical stuff. I'm sure most of us have used it here at some point, unthinking, to mean exactly that.

Unless the Fabric as you describe is something specifically other than that, then I imagine it's a Vowzrid phenomenon of the general concept. Heartworm might be interacting with a different layer of it somehow. It might simply not be attuned to the sentience, or there might be some mirroring effect in which its own weird AI soul reflects on the Fabric and makes it seem cold and lifeless from its perspective.


I'm not entirely sure - I've said all I've really worked out about the Fabric. There's terminological stuff - like how moving through the Fabric should not technically be referred to as teleporting, and rather than reference to 'portals', it should be 'Whirlpool of Space and Time' (e.g. the Gate is a Whirlpool of Space and Time).

In the end, what Heartworm chews through has been, as you say, developed in a very particular way; that's your territory - you've lain all kinds of protections and whatnot to ensure that anyone who plays around there is at a complete disadvantage. The Fabric isn't that. Chiral Phi, for instance, wouldn't receive all existing data on someone passing through the Fabric (I think it only gets that for things entering the Submaterium? Or was it teleporting generally? I can't quite remember). It is even possible that someone passing through the Fabric can interact with the Gap without triggering Jvan's mindbells (perhaps that's how Vowzra got out of there without detection, it makes sense in retrospect).
The mirroring thing doesn't hold up in my mind - the Punisher, Juras, and Vowzra all interacted with the Fabric, and in all three cases the Fabric was fairly consistent.

Could it be that Jvanic and Vowzrid interaction have been with the same thing bit on different levels? Sure, but to me that's more or less synonymous with them being entirely different things - if the layer Heartworm and Jvan have been interacting with is a passive, malleable, unliving layer, then the layer Vowzra has been interacting with is active, resistant, alive - it recognises different characters and can even develop deeper feelings for some than others. These layers, if we go with that, are completely different and independent of each other.
I have no issue with Heartworm, as it experiments and delves deeper into its passive Fabric of Reality, coming into contact with the conscious Fabric of Existence. I'm sure that would be a very interesting development.

What do others think? Are the Fabric of Existence and Heartworm's chaw one and the same, and the whole conscious universe thing just in Vowzie's wishful projections? Layers of the same thing? Two separate things altogether? Something else?

Edit: And how do other things fit in - the Mechanism of Change for instance, is that the interaction of Zephyrean beings with what Heartworm calls the Fabric of Reality and Vowzra the Fabric of Existence? Is Belvast's teleportation an interaction with something altogether different/ yet another layer/ just another different perception of the same thing?
@Cyclone At least until 3-4 post-Realta - I think
@Kho What does the Fabric think of Heartworm chewing holes through it all day every day? Can entities other than Victors communicate with it, or is it all in their heads? ...what is it, exactly?


So, from Vowzra's CS, where it is first mentioned:
'Vowzra...has the ability to slip into the very fabric of existence. He does not move to another plane, but rather becomes part of the very universe. Simply put, if we take the fabric of existence to be a 'wall' separating one plane from another, Vowzra does not slip through the wall and into the other plane, but becomes part of the wall.'


I think the Fabric is altogether separate from the Submaterium or whatever Heartworm is chewing holes through. It's something that's heavily linked to Vowzra (to date, other than Juras in this latest post, I think he's the only one whose had any meaningful interaction with it, the implication was that whenever he was not in Chronos or inside the universe, he was one with the Fabric). Though it was never explicitly stated, I think this is the stuff Belvast passes through when opening his eye of the portcullis. Belvast appears capable of bypassing the Fabric's consciousness altogether (whether he's aware the Fabric is conscious, I don't know. Guess I'll work that out in future Belvast posts). The fact that Vowzra could find Raka (in which he'd never been) through the Fabric of Existence, and the fact that Belvast could enter Raka with his portals despite having never been, also suggests a connection of some sort.

As for its consciousness, I don't believe it's all in people's heads - the consciousness of the Fabric has been long-established.

As for what it is, beyond the 'wall of the universe' analogy... eh, not sure. In my head, it was always the consciousness of the universe itself, but something related to spacetime, hence the unique relation to Vowzra. I was thinking this as I was writing Juras' interaction with it: people 'melt' into the Fabric - i.e. they lose their physical form and become submerged, one with it; if one is not careful they will merge with it and lose the capacity to leave, their consciousness will be added to the consciousness of the Fabric... so, in many ways, the consciousness is not one, but an unknowable number of consciousness[es] made up of the underlying ['first', 'original'] one and all those that gave in to the siren call afterwards.

Now, perhaps the Fabric is indeed what Heartworm is ripping through, but only Vowzra/Vowzrid beings are capable of hearing it. At the same time, that doesn't entirely make sense to me, as in my headcanon the Fabric would retaliate in some way if attacked (it hit Juras, though not in manner intended to harm, it has held Vowzra before, preventing him from leaving until it released him). The Fabric can feel pain and can attack itself - as suggested in the first IC post where 'the Punisher' causes it scream out in pain.

That's all I have on it. I'll check previous iterations of the RP to see if there was any mention of it that can provide further illuminations.

Edit: Astarte's reaction in Mk.I when Vowzra tore a portal into the Fabric xDD -
"Wow... I didn't know Vowzra had the ability to summon gaping holes whenever he wanted to." Astarte said to herself with a smirk...
We love you Astarte
@Frettzo When are you getting outta there? Or has that plan fallen through?
@Antarctic Termite wait, the link automatically gives every Sculptor's exact location to anyone in on the system? Or is it just Jvan that has that?

Edit: either way, this is somewhat in that past, before Jvan's awakening. It'll be a while before she wakes up and kicks his butt

&

Level 1 Hero
0 Khookies



The white-clad man watched (though it was not with his eyes that he did so) from a distance as the singing djinni descended from the heavens and, in its oddly beautiful tone, conversed with the Rukbans who had called upon it. It was an ancient djinni that had for long aeons cried its pain to the heavens, trapped as it had been in the Heartworm's Jvanic Instrument. Until The One By Immortals Altered had found it and set it free. In the distance, the djinni appeared to begin its ascent back to the heavens... but it stopped suddenly on seeing the white-clad man. Battle Brother Juras raised a white hand and spoke softly. His voice was carried on the winds.

'Hail, friend of the First Formica,' he declared. The djinni descended to the Rukbans once more, and the Victor turned away and walked. At his side, along with his sheathed short-sword, hung a Rukban igilir. It was the will of Our Master the Bard that this musical instrument, developed by - of all people - the wild riders of the Golden Barrens, be carried far and wide. Though Our Master had aforetime tended solely towards the lute (and this was no longer the case), that all music should resonate in every land and place - and that its beauty should be known by every ear and face - was of his utmost desires. Were it not so that Our Master's duties tied him to New Chronos and the Cube, he would have taken it upon himself to journey through Galbar and Arcon to spread sublime - nay, sacred! - sound. And perhaps, one day, he would. But until then, Battle Brother Juras took it upon himself to do what little he could to bring Our Master's voice to all. And while it was true that he was of the Silent Brothers (and some simplistically saw sound and silence as ceaseless foes), silence was itself a sort of sound - listen...

New Chronos knew silence, and it knew sound also - every moment was made complete, was made honoured and resplendent, by the sound of Our Master's music, his voice. And sometimes he willed it be gentle, and sometimes he willed it blaze; and sometimes he willed silence. And for those who listened - and Battle Brother Juras had endeavoured hard to be of those who listened - every sound brought with it spiritual illuminations, deepened understanding, and a shuddering of emotional catharsis. There was in music wisdoms and pearls for those who had ears or hearts; and there was in it emotion also for those who found themselves woefully bereft.

Having delivered Our Master's prophetic words to Shaqmar the Qa'id Adheem, and having done his part in ensuring the great Basheer aided the Azad in their war (for the Rukbans would need the strength that only unity could bring if they were to weather the coming terrors), Battle Brother Juras continued his journey south. He stepped once, then again, and then he melted away into the very Fabric of Existence (welcome home. we missed you. will you be staying long? there's no need hurry... come come, stay a while longer...)

Juras shook his head and spoke clear as he made his resolute transition through the Fabric, repeating the noble words of the Celestial Above. ‘It is for loved ones that I sing my silent song and you sigh, this song of endurance and glory and hope for final victory. From far do I journey, holding between my limbs for you a growing yearning and longing. Do not take for hatred my silence, how can he speak whom love renders deaf, dumb and blind? Yet I, though I love, See clearly, Hear with certainty and can Speak naught but truth, and so greatest is my pain.’ And as he emerged, the Fabric rippled and moaned and complained bitterly before reluctantly releasing his frame. His right hand was last to leave as the Fabric returned to its decreed form, and his head was turned back as though in long farewell. A Silent Brother who could walk the Fabric, as the Celestial Above could, did not merely walk it - they had an emotional link, they know the Fabric, were its friends, its children... its impassioned lovers. And so hearing the Fabric cry out and moan at the shortness of his stay and the quickness of his departure was a wound inflicted against his very heart. But he had his duties to his equally beloved gods, and the Fabric knew that and understood.

He found that he was now walking in sand. In the distance, a city rose up on the banks of the Mahd. Juras made for it - for there he would find the one that he must find and chase the dust jailing their mind: for Fate comes even for the heedless blind.

It was as he walked thus that a sudden vision struck him statue still. He was no stranger to visions - indeed, the Celestial Above and Our Mother of the Cherry guided him in his sleep even as they did in his waking hours - but this was nothing like those visions. There was no gentleness to it, it did not coax the mind and lift it slowly and softly towards one revelation at a time. It was akin to an assault, an awkward shoving of data into his mind. Were it not so that he had spent aeons honing his mind and disciplining it, he would have buckled and lost consciousness under the weight of the pure mass of material exploding into his head. But he held on (though, he would not deny, he was forced to lean on his pole-sword for support - which quickly sank into the sand but steadied him nonetheless).

He did not know how long he stood there weathering the mental onslaught, his mind pulsing with pain - there is no pain, there is no pain, there is no pain - unable to grasp completely what it was that he was being shown. Plant wheat (or barley, or oats, or...), harvest, thresh and winnow, grind into flour, mix with water, salt, and yeast, heat- concentrated anger can be manifested into destructive bursts o- animal hides can be converted into more useful leather by treating it, tanning it, an-
They clawed their way into his mind, grabbing and climbing over one another in a fitful rampage. It would take him a long time to sift through it all and decipher the many meanings to the chaotic jumble. Indeed, the fingers of the Execrable Chaos laced this happening. Of that there could be no doubt.

Shaken, he took one step forward before sinking to the sandy ground. He would not, however, allow himself to slump into a shapeless heap. He descended slowly onto his knees and crossed his legs behind him. His pole-sword remained upright beside him, and he placed his hands upon his thighs. His back straight, he took a deep breath and was still. He would permit himself time to recover. Vetros, and the one he had to find, would still be there tomorrow.

In the heavens, a wrathful lord of djinnkind drove the shrieking, struggling, kicking, carving form of the Heartworm before him in utter humiliation and disgrace. 'May the Coward's eye never know sleep,' muttered the Battle Brother as he finally released his consciousness into the land of visions and dreams.



'Juras!'
'Mu- mum?'
'How many times do I have to tell you? Use your Wi!'
'But it's so much easier with my hands... I can feel if there's a bone or something.'
'You can feel if there's a bone with Wi too. Now stop complaining and eat properly.'
'But it's hard to focus or even taste the food - it gives me a headache,' he complained as he placed the piece of fish down. His mother had insisted he catch it using Wi. (He had not...)
'It's just a matter of time. It will help you hone your mind - now eat properly,' and so saying, she opened her mouth and a piece of fish whizzed in.
'Look mum, I did it!' Juras looked to his little sister as she caused her tomato soup to float unsteadily towards her gaping mouth in a small uncertain blob, her hands aloft. (Wi had nothing to do with hand movements, she was just being a child).
'Good girl Kalimva,' mother smiled broadly, her brown eyes twinkling and her ever-flushed cheeks seeming to redden even more with delight. 'If only Juras could eat half as well as you,' she looked mischievously at the young man who harrumphed in mock irritation and returned to his food. Kalimva laughed, lost focus, and her soup splashed back into her bowl. In her hurried attempts to keep it up, she tipped the bowl and spilled much of it over herself before mother righted it again.
'Don't worry,' Juras chuckled, 'you're still better than me.'



Even for one who had dwelled for untold millennia in Chronos and witnessed its many wonders, Vetros was wondrous to behold. And Juras beheld it not only as a Victor would, he saw it with his physical eyes. He did not wish to attract overdue attention, and a figure who walked with his face covered was certain to attract just that kind of attention. Face bared, but hood still raised and body cloaked, he walked the city's streets and observed its people. They recognised a stranger and looked at him with curiosity, noting his weapons and igilir with a degree of suspicion, but otherwise let him be. He had been halted at the gates he came through and his weapons inspected. 'You have no need to be concerned about these - they are purely for self-defence,' he spoke in polished Vetruvian. The guards looked at him in shock - his speech was that of royalty. But when one was watched over by Our Mother of the Words, it was only right that one see to it that one always has the right words - in the right language and dialect - for every conceivable potentiality. While the language of the gods was all they needed in New Chronos, the people of Galbar (but not, it had to be noted, of Arcon) had as many languages as stars in the heavens. Or perhaps a little less.
'Uh, dey look plen'y concernin', if y'ask me,' one of the guardsmen had muttered, turning the strange short-sword over in his hands. It was like nothing he had ever seen. 'And y'ave plen'y o' soljers to protec' you here.' Juras had looked at the man and pursed his lips.
'Has news not reached you of the blood demon that haunts this city's nights?' Juras asked slowly. The two guards looked at one another and then back at Juras.
'Yeh, bu' the Pries'-King deal' wi'tha',' the first guardsman insisted.
'Do you blame a man his caution? Is it not said, "tie your goat and then place your trust in the Master"? Well, I've tied my goat,' and here Juras gestured to his weapons, 'and I now place my trust in the Priest-King's wards.' Though hesitant, it was eventually Juras' demeanour - rather than anything else - that persuaded them to allow him entry with his weapons. His eyes were not the eyes of a liar, his words did not strike one as insincere, his caution in seeking protection for himself entirely relatable.

The great majority of dwellings were recognisably of adobe, while the city's walls were a mixture of limestone and basalt - this Juras did not see, but sensed. The temples he passed were largely constructed of limestone or sandstone (usually a combination of both), and the Priest-King's palace itself made use of basalt, granite, limestone, sandstone, alabaster, and marble. Strangely enough, it appeared that the Priest-King himself was not present in the city at that exact moment - 'gone to face off against the demon, apparently,' a potter informed him when he inquired.
'I see. And do you know where I can find lodging for the night?' The potter paused in his work and looked at Juras for a few moments.
'You come far, have you?' He asked. Juras nodded.
'Yes, from beyond Rukbany.' The potter raised an eyebrow and looked Juras up and down before shrugging.
'Very well, you're Vetros' guest then. It'll be my honour to host you.' Juras smiled.
'Thank you. The name is Juras, a travelling musician and storyteller.'
'And fearsome warrior, by the looks of it!' The potter laughed, 'and my name's Axalit. Honoured to make your company, Juras.'

Axalit closed up shop early and took Juras home. 'Samiyas! I have a guest with me,' he said loudly as he entered the house, 'how long will you be staying with us?' He quickly turned back to the Victor and asked.
'Oh don't worry too much about that,' Juras smiled, 'I don't wish to impose or abuse your hospitality. I will stay no more than the night.'
'Nonesense!' Axalit declared, 'so long as you are in Vetros, you are my guest. If you sleep under any other roof I will consider myself slighted!' Juras nodded quickly.
'Very well - that's the last thing I'd want to do. I am your guest as long as the Master wills it.' Axalit smiled and they shuffled on into the small abode. Samiyas (who, it transpired, was Axalit's wife) laid food before them and the three of them ate together. They had not been eating for five minutes when the door of the house opened and giggling and shouting streamed in.
'Addaf, Khunu, Nubata!' Axalit called, 'come here and meet our guest.' Two boys - about the same age, twins by the looks of it - and a younger girl walked in shyly. Their giggles and shouts became whispers and they could barely hold Juras' gaze.
'They're shy, that's all,' Samiyas assured Juras. Juras looked to them and smiled.
'Would you like me to play you something?' He hefted his igilir and looked to the three little ones. One of the twins nodded excitedly, but the other two just bit their lips timidly. 'And I can tell you a story while I'm at it.' At this, all three perked up.
'Mummmy Yara tolded us a story today!' Little Nubata declared happily. 'It was about a biiig book and... and. Um. They made the everything! She tolded us, she tolded us that a storyman said it to her,' Juras' eyes narrowed somewhat at the little girl's words, but he smiled and drew his bow across the igilir's strings.
'Well, little Nubata. This one is a very different story. It is the story of an Emperor who thought himself a god, and his battle against the giant beast of darkness whose every footstep was large as an ocean: Khetra.' And he drew his bow back, creating a long, deep, ominous sound.
'What happened, what happened,' Nubata asked, her prior timidness forgotten.

'It came to be one day that the great...' he looked from Axalit to Samiyas then corrected himself, 'that a minor god, the so-called Execrable Chaos, wished to sow chaos and destruction in the land. And so he rose up on his wings of death and darkness (for he had subjugated these gods and forged for himself wings out of their corpses) and sent the seventh moon of the world - for the world once had seven, not six, moons - hurtling towards the ground. But the sublime god, the one who resides within and is an intrinsic part of the world, who is called the Celestial Above, brought failure on his schemes.

'Angered by this, the Execrable Chaos plotted and planned and schemed, and then it created the beast Khetra. It dwarfed the mountains, a being massive and red, its teeth were as big as Brush Beasts-'
'What's a Brush Beast!' Nubata cried, terror and glee showing in her eyes and voice. Juras chuckled.
'A Brush Beast is a big cow. A very, very big cow. Cities are built on its back.' Nubata's eyes widened in amazement, and the twins gasped and looked at one another.
'Now the Execrable Chaos had a son - who was also a daughter-'
'Whaat!?' Nubata shrieked and laughed, 'how! Did he have two...' she looked at her mum, 'um, two peepees?' Juras shook his head and Samiyas looked visibly concerned about the way this story was going.
'No, it had no peepees!' Juras declared.
'What!' Nubata shrieked again, 'then how did he pee!?' Juras leaned forward and placed a hand on his chin.
'That's an interesting question Nubata,' he said, looking deep in thought, 'I guess you'll have to ask it when you see it!' And so saying, he continued his story, 'so this child of the Execrable Chaos - who was called the Little Emperor (though it did not like that name at all) - was angered at what its father was doing. And so, it set off on a long journey - searching for friends and allies to help it put a stop to the beast Khetra and his horde of demons and magickers.'

And the tale continued until the sun had disappeared over the edge of the world and the stars and moons reigned in the sky. The little ones went to bed and Axalit bid his guest good night.
'That was quite a tale - can't say I've ever heard one quite like it. There must be some truly strange things in the lands beyond Rukbany.' Juras looked at his host and nodded.
'There are things stranger far than you can imagine my friend,' he said somewhat sadly. 'Beyond the safety of the Firewind, all has fallen to Y'Vahn.' Axalit seemed stunned by this revelation and could only mutter for a few seconds.
'M- may the Master protect us.' Juras looked at his host and sighed.
'We are a sad sight whose gods are dead,' and with that, he turned over and closed his eyes, 'good night Axalit.'



He hovered over the roundtent. It was a calm night and only the odd guard could be spied here or there. Otherwise, all was silent and still. He landed on the wooden steps leading up to the Qa'id Adheem's roundtent, and turned. Two guards stared him down. He paused and was still, but they made no move and it quickly became apparent that they could not perceive him. He slipped past them and into the tent.

It was red inside. A crimson vapour pervaded the air and brought with it a rustic, metallic smell. He could almost taste it. He approached the source - he could already sense it, but he wished to see it with his eyes.

Two figures lay in the furs, clutching one another. The man had buried his head into the woman's face, a final kiss upon her cold, unfeeling lips. He approached and knelt beside the pair, watching the dead lovers. His fingers traced her arm until it reached where her lover's hand enveloped hers, and he felt the blade which had taken her life and his. The blade itself seemed to sob, silently invisibly. O was no deny.

Shouts arose in the morning when the guards took tentative looks within. A short man, bald, leapt into the tent and shook the lovers apart. He did not realise the gravity of the crime, he never should have disturbed their final unity. He shook the dead man, begging him to wake. Juras heard it as if through water, and the vision seemed to grow in distance by the second.

The open desert spread before him. The sun lit up the sky. A lone man, long of hair and beard with piercing eyes of brown, made his solitary way across the sand. A djinni rose up before him, and the lone figure laughed and seemed to stroke what passed for its chin. In the distance, there was a vast oasis. The vision blacked out suddenly, and a command rang out.

'Find Bulagutai. Send him home.'



'Mummy Yara is soo pretty! And she's really nice, and she always smiles at me and rubs my head - and her stories are the best!' Nubata was saying as she walked with Juras, holding his hand, 'but yours are good too. But hers aren't scary like yours. And she says that when I grow up I can be a priestess too!' Juras listened rather intently as she spoke excitedly, 'she's my favourite person in the whole wide world!'
'She teaches you, does she, this Mummy Yara?' Juras asked.
'It's Mother Yara,' Addaf snickered, 'if you call her Mummy Yara everyone will laugh at you.'
'No they won't!' Nubata shrieked. Juras laughed.
'So, Mummy Yara. All she does is teach?' He looked over at Addaf.
'Well, she does that. But she also writes lots. I've never read anything she's written, but all the older kids always talk about how great her library is. And she's... well, she's the Witch-Priestess. She can do miracles and magic - and everyone is pretty sure that she's related to the Prophet. Once this guy - Uncle Makinatos we call him - went to her and asked her to make his mum young again. And she did it! And this other time this woman went to her and complained about her husband, and Mother Yara turned her husband into a right old frog!' Juras raised an eyebrow at this.
'Not a frog,' Khunu interjected shyly, 'into an old man.'
'Really now? And who has been telling you these stories now?'
'They're not stories! We can even go and visit them - it was Sister Chjekaya's dad what made his mum young again,' Khunu - who was clearly the most reserved - spoke up again, louder this time. 'We still have time before we need to be at the Temple anyway, let's go.' And with that Khunu ran ahead and led them through the city's side streets and into the little alleys between homes until they had arrived at another abode.
'Uncle Makinatos! Uncle Makinatos!' Addaf cried, at their cries a woman - perhaps in her mid to early forties - stepped out of the house.
'What are you three doing here so early in the morning,' she asked, 'and who in the world is this?' She looked the strangely-dressed Juras up and down curiously, 'and I thought I'd seen just about everything.'
'Granma, tell Juras that we're not lying!' Addaf said, 'tell him that it's true what the Witch-Priestess did for you.' The woman looked at the children and let out an exasperated sigh.
'Oh, not this again. I'm not some kind of statue for people to gawk at - you can go and stare at the palace for that,' and so saying the woman turned and went back inside.
'Granma Keteefa is the oldest person in all of Vetros. She is even older than the Priest-King!' Addaf declared proudly, 'but she doesn't like it when people keep coming to stare at her...' he added guiltily.
'No she doesn't and you lot are just about late for class. Mother Yara'll have your ears for that!' An older man - perhaps fifty - stepped out of the house.
'Uncle! Tell Juras th-'
'I won't be telling anybody anything - other than get going. Go on,' Juras laughed and took Nubata's hand and Addaf's shoulder.
'Let's get you three to the Temple shall we. No more detours, straight there.' They waved at Makinatos, who chuckled good-naturedly and waved back.
'Kids,' he muttered.

The Temple of the Bond was somewhat isolated from the rest of the temples in the Temple District, and distinguished by the fact that it straddled the boundary between the District and residential areas. It was by far the most accessible of the temples to the public. Whether that was intentional, Juras could not truly tell. The children chattered excitedly as they made their way through the Temple Arch and the Courtyard - boasting all manner of trees and greenery - became visible. The school building was separate from the main Temple, and Nubata was quick to ask after Mother Yara when she dragged him to her class.
'Siser Aknit, Siser Aknit, where's Mummy Yara? I wanna show her to Yuras,' she said as she tugged at Sister Akanit's dress. The priestess looked at Juras and then back down at Nubata.
'The Witch-Priestess will not be with us today, Nubata. She is resting because the baby in her tummy is getting big now.' Nubata pouted and looked at Juras.
'But- but Juras tells really good stories. And Mummy Yara likes, she likes stories- like yesterday she told us all abo...' and, nodding as she listened to the child, Akanit took her by the hand, smiled at Juras, and walked Nubata into the class. 'Can Yuras stay with us?!' (He could not).

Leaving the school building, Juras allowed himself to wander through the Temple's grounds, inspecting the various flowers and trees (many of them palms, olives spattered here or there, and a number of Vetruvian acacias). Juras approached one of the acacias and inspected it. It was unique to the Mahd, and did exist on banks of the Rukban Mahd, but Vetruvian acacia was the name that stuck - perhaps because Vetruvians considered them somewhat sacred.
'Like the acacias, do you?' The presence that had been slowly getting closer to him at last spoke. Juras turned to find himself facing a giant of a man, the left half of his face scarred and his left iris pale and colourless.
'I have seen acacias aplenty in my time, but this that grows on the Mahd is unlike any elsewhere,' Juras commented, though his eyes did not leave the stranger.
'Yes, the land is holy - so too the tree.'
'And I guess that's why you've chosen to plant it here - only the palms are more numerous.'
'Its holiness was one reason, yes. But it has various properties that make it useful to the Temple. Its pods have medicinal properties when dried and crushed into a powder, and its twigs can be used for cleaning teeth. But its gum,' and here the scarred man reached out and rubbed a cut that had been made into the bark of the tree, 'is the most useful of all - used in medicine, for paint, for dyes, cosmetics, in ink even. Much of this we did not know until the Witch-Priestess revealed it to us, though.' Juras perked up at mention of the Witch-Priestess.
'A fascinating figure, this Witch-Priestess. Much loved by the children of my host. In all my travels I have not crossed quite so awe-inspiring a figure.' The man raised an eyebrow.
'Get around much, do you?' He asked. Juras nodded.
'Yes - I come from lands beyond Rukbany. A travelling musician,' he tapped his igilir, 'and storyteller. And, according to my host, a fearsome warrior to boot.'
'Oh, is that so? Musician, storyteller, and warrior - that in itself sounds like quite the tale,' Juras' eyes narrowed slightly but he chuckled nevertheless.
'I always think it easier to tell grand tales when your tale too is somewhat grand,' he paused and extended a hand, 'pardon me, haven't introduced myself. The name is Juras.' The scarred man took his hand and shook it.
'And I'm Gadar. Pleasure to-' he paused suddenly when their hands met, and for the briefest moment the man seemed to tremble and his white eye flashed black. He stumbled back and Juras quickly righted him.
'You okay there?' He asked. Gadar looked at him and nodded slightly.
'Ye- yeah. Just a sudden dizziness,' Juras released him, but looked carefully at the man's scarred eye.
'Just dizziness? Or was there something else?' Gadar looked at Juras and shrugged.
'To be entirely honest, I don't really know. You told me your name, I reached out, and then I'm stumbling backwards and you're by me. Will ask one of the priestesses if it's a symptom of something later.' Juras paused for a few seconds and seemed uncertain. There was something off about the man - something off about this Mother Yara. Was he sent for one of them?
'If... if you find yourself in a situation where you... where you can no longer remain here,' he suddenly spoke, 'head north along the Mahd until you reach the Venomwoods. I will be there.' Gadar looked at him strangely.
'What?'
'You know, if something happens or something. A person shouldn't go anywhere without a guide in these times.' Gadar did not seem any less puzzled. 'Look, you'll understand in time,' and so saying, he gestured to the rest of the Temple's gardens, 'will you show me around a bit more?' Gadar nodded and turned.
'So where have your travels taken you, Juras of the-lands-beyond-Rukbany,' Gadar asked as they walked.
'Well, my home is in the north. The farthest north. It is a hole in the sky.' Gadar looked at him with something akin to disbelief.
'You come from a hole in the sky? ...how'd you get down from it?' Juras chuckled.
'Well, you could say there's a tunnel between earth and the heaven, and that's how. It is cold in the north - there is no sand, but snow. The winds are not warm like here, but deathly cold. The mouth of the tunnel is beneath a great tree - my people call it Old Bark-Skin, and we consider it holy. The Solitary Mount looms above it all. It was once the greatest of the world's mountains - but Y'Vahn consumed it and left nothing there but a stump. It is terrifying and tragic to behold the sacred mountain brought low,' he paused, and Gadar looked at him with sympathy, 'there is also Lake Grasidar, a lake that never freezes over despite the intense cold. That is a mercy from the divines, for without it life could not flourish as it does there: for despite the cold, there is thick forest as far as the eye can see. It is the Forest-Tree, and it is all connected to Old Bark-Skin. Further south there is the Jungle-Tree, and at its heart is the grand tree Garabil, the Ape-Tree-'
'The Ape-Tree?' Gadar asked, 'it produces apes?' His disbelief was obvious.
'No no, it does not produce apes - that is bizarre. It is called so because of a species of giant apes who inhabit the Jungle-Tree, and who are concentrated especially around Garabil. They are vast humanoid creatures, dextrous and extremely powerful. Their intelligence is nothing before that of humans or Tre- uh, or other thinking creatures, but they are undeniably more intelligent than lower forms of life. And they are aggressively territorial.'
'You sound like you speak from a rather bad experience,' Gadar said. Juras chuckled.



'I'd rather forget about it. But perhaps we can talk of it some other time.' They had arrived at the Temple Arch, and here Juras turned to Gadar and nodded. 'It has been a great pleasure and honour, Gadar. I have reason to believe that we shall see one another again.' Gadar smiled and shrugged.
'Who knows? It has been interesting speaking with you either way - I'm certain the Witch-Priestess would love a session with you, so you can tell her of all you have come across and seen.' Juras looked towards the Temple and it was him who shrugged this time.
'Who knows, perhaps one day I will.' And with that, the Victor raised a hand in farewell and set off.

His duties in Vetros were done, it seemed. He passed by Axalit's shop to bid him farewell and thank him once more for his hospitality. Then, thinking on it some more, he spoke. 'My friend, it is a beautiful day today. It would make me immensely happy if your wife and you and the little ones would accompany me some way as I leave. Not too far, just some way up the Mahd.' The potter looked at Juras with a slight frown and, after a moment's hesitation, nodded.
'If that is the last wish of my guest, then so be it. We will meet you at the northern gate. When are you going?'
'Immediately. I will be waiting there.'

Little Nubata was visibly upset that he was leaving so soon. 'I wanted you to meet Mummy Yara!' she complained loudly, 'and tell her the story. And I wan'ed her to tell you her stories.'
'Don't you worry, I will be back and both you and I will sit with Mummy Yara.'
'Promise?' Nubata asked. Juras was silent, and Axalit quickly interjected.
'Now Nubata, enough of that talk. Uncle Juras will be sure to come back to tell us more stories.' And as they parted ways, he bent down to the little girl - who was already tearing up somewhat - and ruffled her brown hair.
'I have a little present for our little priestess,' he said with a smile, revealing a small string necklace to her. An orange crystal - not too large or heavy - hung on it. 'It is from my homeland, and it will protect you from all evil,' and saying so, he placed it around her neck. Nubata smiled and stared at the small orange crystal, mesmerised.
'It's so pretty,' she said slowly, smiling broadly and eyes distant.
'Never take it off,' Juras told her. She looked at him and nodded vigorously.
'I promise!'
'And when you are a priestess, then I promise I'll return.' He stood up and smiled at the others. Removing his igilir from his side, he gestured for Addaf to come closer. The boy's eyes twinkled in anticipation, looking from Juras to the instrument. 'And this is for you,' he said, handing it to him, 'I have no doubt that you will master it with time - never give up.' Khunu was looking down timidly as Juras approached him. Removing his cloak, Juras placed it on the boy's shoulders. 'You say little, but you hear much little Khunu. You will find this piece of cloth most useful when you least wish to be seen.' They were intentionally cryptic words, but the boy would understand in time. His gifts given, Juras saluted Axalit and Samiyas, and bid them all adieu a final time.

The family watched for a while as the white-clad man grew smaller and smaller still, and then turned around to return home. It was a warm Vetruvian noon, and the city was beautiful in the distance. And then it was all aflame.



The flesh mountain moaned. The astral owl screeched. And the shriek of the clicking creature was loosed - before it, the Fabric of Existence shrunk away in horror, tore itself and wept bitterly at the thing that ripped its being.

Flesh shrank, owl stumbled, and the clicker waxed terrible and harrowing. A freakish, inconceivable tentacle extended slowly, and, even through the lens of the vision, the illogical nature of its presence placed unfathomable pressure upon the mind of the dreamer. And the tentacle, he realised with a sudden cold terror, was not reaching for the owl... b̵u̷t̶ ̵f̶o̷r̴ ̵h̵i̵m̵ . It twisted and turned, then paused, and then it shot with sudden speed right towards him. The tentacle seemed suddenly far (b̛̩ú̢t̺͝ ͎̈́n̫̿ e͇̽ă̙r̢͆,͍̒ ̋͜s̝̀o̠͝ ̘̃n̪̎e̝͠a͎͝ȓ̬ ), and the vision was gone.

'Woe is yours, bearer of scars, whose grief will light the nights with stars.
...but strike bravely strike, it shall suffice.'


(ċ̯͚͗ḻ̪̆̂i̫̺̒͌c̭̥̿̉k͓̟̆͝)

(c̷̢͖͉͚̳̋̾̾̍͜͝͝l̷̛̛͖̘͙̭̥͍͆́̈́͘i̴͈̙̯̯͕̯͑̈́͛̍͝͝c̷̢̡̢͎̭͎̀̇̈́̑̐͝k̴̡̛̛̮͕̼̯̼̎̑̈́̍)

Funny, the way things turn out. Too easy to think it was all meant to be. Isn't that right?



It was akin to a sea. A sea in the middle of the desert. All around the endless sand retreated in fear and awe, and life sprang up and clawed for itself a realm in the no-mans land between the sea of blue and endless sea of sand. No, it was not a sea of brine, but freshwater sweet and pure, quenching thirst and leaving intact the mind. If one were to find oneself afloat one day in the midst of this lake, one would have naught to fear from its waters - they were a hand outstretched, lips that lovingly caressed the ship-wrecked soul, and a mouth that gently whispered: survive!

Battle Brother Juras, his face white once more (bar the Vowzrid Mark which defiantly, if silently, spoke: even in death does the Celestial Above live on), stood and felt it all. The greenery beneath his feet and shrubs and trees, the grains of sand not far behind, and the flowing water not far ahead. And here or there the odd camel or goat or horse, and there or there the odd human or djinni. And there, whispering into the ear of a spryte of air, was the man in the dream. Juras approached and hailed.
'Hail, you of the airy spryte!' The dark-haired shaman turned his head and looked to the one who called, and then slowly got to his feet and made his response.
'And hail to you, masked stranger.'
'You are of the Rukbans, are you not?' Juras asked. The man's demeanour was suddenly wary, and Juras sensed the slightest frown form on his face.
'It is so,' he spoke, 'though how you know I do not know.'
'It matters not how I know, only that I know. And you are of the Azad, are you not?' This caused the shaman to immediately stiffen.
'That word has not fallen on my ears for more than many years. But how is it that you know this - do I know you?'
'It matters not how I know, only that I know. And it matters little if you know me, for I know you.' Juras responded.
'If you know me then surely you know that I am but a travelling seeker of the sublime sciences, a befriender of the Eternal Sky's children. I have done no wrong.'
'Do not fear - I come not bearing the sword, Bulagutai son of Buraq son of Muharaq son of Irqa son of Azad. I come only with news and divine decree. I only ask you bear it with strength and patience.' Bulagutai's jaw hung somewhat slack when the Victor gave him his descent, but he quickly composed himself.
'Say then what you must, knowledgeable stranger. You shall find me, by the will of the Eternal Sky, most patient and resigned to the sanctified government and will of God the glorious.'
'Very well. Come, be seated,' and the two of them descended to the ground. Bulagutai looked to the stranger expectantly. After a few moments of quiet, Juras spoke. 'Your brother, Shaqmar the Qa'id Adheem, has departed this terrestrial plain and even now his spirit breathes the unprofaned and purified fragrance of his beloved. The Azad saw the mountain of war loom tall before them and climbed it bravely and without hesitation or doubt. Yet now, having attained with swiftness the peak of that, they extend their gaze in search of the valley of peace but find that before them hills peep over hills and mounts on mounts arise. Your tribe and people need you, and all of Rukbany will need you if it is to weather the coming bloodletting. Beyond these sands, beyond the Barrens of your homeland, monsters lie in wait. And soon, all too soon, they leap forth and strike.'

Bulagutai sat in shock, attempting to come to terms with this most wretched and loathed news, and this prophecy which bore no good. The youngest of his siblings, the apple of their father's heart, the light of their mother's eyes, the swift sword of the Azad, the unrelenting arm of the Irqa clan, the bane of all the foes of the household of Buraq, the wondrous weaver of words - ones promising woe, and ones washing away worry, and ones that were the very wellsprings of eternal, unconditional, supernal love. Shaqmar, dead?!
The one who, when smiting, smote utterly; and when taking aim, struck true (even if it were small as a pinprick flying in the eye of the sun, for there was no sun before his Sunlit Eyes); and who when riding, struck down the winds in fury and battered the earth till it ground like dust away; whose steed was a god worthy only of a tamer of gods; who was trustworthy in peace, a keeper of promises and pacts; who was untameable in fury, unparalelled in kindness and gentleness; whose heart suffered with the oppressed and raged as one with them against tyranny and vice. In spiritual purity, matchless; in wisdom and shrewdness as a sage; perfect of form, a crusher of gods in the wrestling ring. Shaqmar, dead?!
A sob escaped the shaman's throat, but he purged it. His eyes seemed for a few moments to ripple, but their water dried away suddenly and it was as though they were incapable of producing tears at all. Bulagutai arose and looked to the far horizon, his eyes distant and cold. 'What is your name, bearer of hateful news?'
'Smite not the messenger, son of Buraq. I open before your people a path to survival and, if you seize it, glory.'
'What is your name, bearer of glory unwanted if it mean the death of them that we love.' Juras sighed and rose also.
'I am Battle Brother Juras, twentieth of the Hallowed Hundred.' Bulagutai looked at him for a few moments then moved past him.
'I shall remember you, Juras.'
'It may be that our paths will cross again, Bulagutai Spryte-friend.'
'It may be that we do, white-clad man.'



Oh riders halt and kick the earth
Your furies have been freed,
And wonder this amidst your mirth:
For what did Shaqmar bleed?
For what did Shaqmar die alone
And weep his last and loose a moan
And cause God's tears to breed?

Our patience ends, its cup upturned
Let none of it remain,
Our goodness lies by our foes spurned
Our furies will now rain,
And on the hills and in the vales
And where the lonely north-wind wails
Expect our strikes again!

We mourn a loss which leaves us torn
Which begs our eyes to cry,
It is as though since we were born
We always were close by,
We always were as one fist clenched
We each a finger closed, entrenched
Together till we die.

But you are now in death's domain
And I still walk the earth,
As though in life's short fitful reign
We did not meet on birth,
As though we never met at all
And now as you departed fall
I realise your lost worth.

If only by the stream of time
I could but take a scoop,
And with it pull you from the crime
And all our loss recoup,
Perhaps then all this pain and grief
Will give way to intense relief
And we will right our stoop.

You see I knew long long before
Deep in my flesh, my bone,
That I stood on a sandy shore
And you on one your own,
And I knew then for us would be-
Despite my mediocrity-
A road each walks alone.

I speak, but speak nothing at all
The tongue is fallen flat,
My grief is spoken by the soul
The tongue's is idle chat,
The grieved transcends the art of words
He sends his tears ahead in herds
And is dumb as a mat.

Don't think that I shed empty tears
This is no passing fit,
First are the words then are the spears-
That is how war is writ!
No just war ever took up flame
Which was of note and widespread fame
That did not start with wit.

So know I weep full, truthful tears
As none before have shed,
They stain my beard and break frontiers
For the belovèd dead,
For him for whom high heaven cries
And God most high tears at His eyes
For years, and years, and years.

Malign me not that I now weep
You do me little good,
Malign me not and let me creep
To where he sat and stood,
And leave me there an age or two
And let my rage and anger brew
While you pile on the wood.

We were brothers, you understand?
My clay and his clay one,
His skin my skin, his hand my hand
His eyes my blazing sun,
They only know who are struck dumb-
Who tremble, shake, and silent come
To taste such affection.



The Venomweald was no place for children, no place for those who did know of the hidden dangers and monstrosities that lurked here and fed there and stared down from the branches just overhead. And even for those who did know, knowledge itself was no shield. One could stare a hurricane down, know all that there was to know of it, and it would do little to save one when it tore them up and consumed them along with everything in its path. Knowledge is power, they said. Perhaps it was, against some things. But when one stared death in the face, neither knowledge nor strength nor riches could avail one aught.
The boy did not seem to be much older than six or seven years, and he clearly did not know much about the Venomweald. He carried two grown adults on his shoulders, a man and a woman, and stumbled here and there without subtlety. How he had survived thus far, Juras could only guess. The Victor stood before him, and the boy looked at him warily. The white-clad man had melted into being before him - the how of it, the boy could not quite fathom.

'I see I was too late,' Juras said, noting that Gadar was one of the adults on the boy's shoulders.
'Too late for what?' The boy asked. He spoke the divine tongue.
'Just too late,' Juras muttered, 'what is the man to you?' He gestured towards the unconscious Gadar.
'He is my father,' stated the boy.
'And the woman is your mother?' The boy nodded. He did not seem any the less wary.
'Where are you headed?'
'To safey,' it was an automatic response.
'And where is that?' The boy had no response, frowning and looking down at the ground. After a few moments, Juras continued, 'take them north. To Old Bark-Skin. There is a Gate nestled between its roots, take them where it leads.' The boy looked back up at him and raised an eyebrow in suspicion.
'Who are you?'
'I am Juras. It was my purpose to ensure your father's safety, but it seems that I have failed. Even so, I must do what I can despite my failings. Who is your mother?'
'She is Yara, the Witch-Priestess. She is Belruarc, the goddess.' Juras was stunned for a few moments - but when he thought on all he had been told of her for a few moments, it made sense.
'And your father...' Juras allowed himself a pause, hope building, 'he is not just Gadar, is he?' The boy pursed his lips, unsure if he should say. But at last he decided to speak - he had told him about his mother after all, what difference would it make if he knew of his father too?
'My father is conflicted. He is Gadar, yet he is also a god.' Juras took an involuntary step forward. So that was why...
'Did you... did you see the god?' The boy nodded.
'A god of wood. My mother knew him as Vowzra. He... he killed her.'
'Killed her?' Juras asked, uncertainly.
'He tore her open, my mother. He could have saved her. But he wanted her to die.'
'Wa- wanted her to die?' He had sensed immediately that the woman was dead, sensed even that her torso had been opened wide from neck to nether. An eskandran birth gone terribly wrong, he had thought. But the boy said otherwise. 'I see...' he whispered, more to himself. 'Do you have a name?' He asked the boy.
'My mother named me Zerabil.' As he finished speaking, Juras descended to one knee before him.
'Our Master Zerabil, permit me to take you home.' Zerabil frowned.
'M-master? What do you mean? Do you know my parents?'
'Yes, Master. They are the Celestial Above and Our Mother of the Words. We are their people, and they are our guardian gods. You have siblings two: Our Master the Bard and Our Master Belvast. Allow me to take you home, for Our Master the Bard has long been waiting for you.'
'Siblings? Two? Really?' The boy seemed stunned by this revelation, but immediately there was a degree of happiness. Then his wariness returned. 'So if my parents are your people's gods, why are they here and not with you?'
'That is a lengthy tale, Master. I will be happy to tell you on the journey ahead.' Zerabil frowned, sighed, then nodded.
'Alright then. But if you try anything...' his heterochromatic eyes eyed the Victor warningly. It would have been somewhat amusing were he not the son of gods. It was odd though, he did not have about him the same aura as Our Master the Bard. There was no doubt that there was something divine about him, but it was nothing as intense as Our Master the Bard. Juras thought it strange, but perhaps newborn demigods required some time to mature before their auras took on greater definition and intensity.

Zerabil quickly found the weight of his parents lifted from his shoulders. Looking up, he saw that they were now afloat. 'Did you do that?' He asked in wonder.
'Yes, Master. Without a doubt you too are capable of this.' Zerabil smiled.
'That'd be great. Can you teach me how?'
'If that is Our Master's wish.' Juras said with a respectful nod. The boy came up beside the Victor as they turned and began walking, the embracing bodies of the unconscious Gadar and dead Yara floating slowly after them.
'And that thing you did before - were you invisible? Can you teach me that too?' Zerabil asked.
'I was not invisible, no. That is a form of travel. But if you wish to become invisible, I am sure Our Master the Bard can create a cloak for you. I had one such cloak, but I have given it away.'
'A form of travel? What do you mean?'
'It is like... a gateway. I step into it, and when I step out I am elsewhere. It is a gift from the Celestial Above and Our Master Belvast to those who are Silent Brothers.' Zerabil's eyebrows furrowed.
'You mean I can't learn it?'
'Of course you can, Master. But I am in no position to teach it. It can only be taught by the Celestial Above or by Our Master Belvast. And both have been gone a long time. Though I am certain that the Celestial Above, now returned, will be more than willing to gift it to its child.'
'So, Belvast doesn't live with your people either?' Zerabil asked, disappointed.
'No Master, he does not. I know of only one time that Our Master Belvast set foot inside New Chronos - that is what our homeland is called, though it was still Chronos at that time.' Zerabil looked ahead.
'Why is it that he does not live with you? Why did my parents not dwell with their people?' He asked.
'I do not know why Our Master Belvast does not dwell with us, I can only guess that he has duties he must see to. As for Our Mother of the Words, I admit that I do not know that either - but then again, Our Mother of the Cherry, who is Our Master the Bard's mother, does not dwell with us either. She has her domain of dreams. It was only the Celestial Above who dwelled with us - which is only natural, for it created Chronos and brought us there, granting us safety and bliss, and gifting us with all that was good. Until the Jvanic Entity invaded Chronos and brought destruction and death with it. The Celestial Above sacrificed itself that Chronos may endure. Chronos was wrenched onto Galbar and now occupies the northern skies, though retaining its own internal laws of nature. A protective barrier separates it from the rest of the universe, and the only way to enter into it is through the Gate. Or, if one has the blessing of the Celestial Above and Our Master Belvast, then one can create their own gate and enter.' Zerabil's eyes widened.
'Can you do that right now? Create a gate for all of us. And... who is the Jvanic Entity? Why did it do that to my father?'
'Only those who possess the gift may pass through a gate of their creation, Master,' Juras said apologetically, 'and as for the Jvanic Entity. It is the sworn enemy of the Celestial Above, an unnatural creature that seeks to cast its aberrant pollution across the universe, destroying all. We are as playthings to it, it cares little for us. And what are we, after all, puny created beings that we are? We are not divine, as flies to wanton boys are we to the gods - they kill us for their sport. Not the Celestial Above though. It protects us all and places value on our lives. It has even returned mortals to life in the past who were killed by gods at play; the Celestial Above does not play games, the universe is not for sport, our lives - though we are but humble creations - are not toys in its eyes.' Zerabil was silent after this tirade, his thoughts lingering on the image of his mother's final moments, 'but forgive me Master, I speak overmuch.'
'No no, you don't. Don't apologise. It's alright. What kinds of things has this Jvanic Entity done. What kind of pollution does it spread?'
'It irks me to even speak of it, Master. But I shall recount some of its horrors. Let us recount, for instance, the tale of Basheer. He was a blameless djinni, looking to exist his short while in his kind's vicious world, before expiring or ascending to a lordship of some kind. He had never showcased a hostile predisposition towards Jvanic beings - to all purposes, he was an innocent. The Jvanic Entity trapped him one day and tormented him in the most abominable ways. It had been one thing to torture for play and then mercifully slay, but no; the Jvanic Entity wished for Basheer to suffer in unfathomable pain forevermore. It created a hellish instrument which would amplify his tortured screams and trapped him in it. The Ironheart Mountains echoed for thousands of years with Basheer's agonised cries - and to the Jvanic Entity, that infernal sound was music. Verily, were it not for the coming of the First Formica, you would hear the screams of Basheer even now, even here where we now walk. So far did it carry.' Zerabil was manifestly horrified.
'It... it did that for fun?' He asked, astonished and appalled.
'Aye, and it has done far more. Far worse. It infects the minds of mortals of all species, making them into its mindless worshippers - they eat dirt and faeces, they grow into abominations, and they spread what passes for beauty in the Jvanic Entity's mind. We will surely cross one such being before long, and you will see it with your own eyes. It tortures, it forces itself into the minds of mortals and changes them, it wages - even now - relentless war against djinnkind. A war it began when it tortured faultless Basheer - and it is determined to see the extinction of all djinnis. The cataclysmic effects of such an extinction cannot be understated - though it broke the law and was punished for doing so, the Force of Change wrote djinnkind into the very essence of existence. Their destruction will bring untold disorder, untold horror.' Zerabil's frown had deepened.
'Can it not be reasoned with at all? Surely it must see that what it's doing is... is bad.'
'There is no reasoning with it. It feels nothing for us - it cast the Celestial Above into the Horror in a cold attempt at murder. Who knows, it might have succeeded and now only by the grace of Fate the Celestial Above is restored. No, the Jvanic Entity cannot be reasoned with - it seeks only after entertainment, and if our tormented screams are the price for that then to it that is a small price indeed.' Zerabil sighed and seemed sad.
'This Jvanic Entity, it is a sibling to my parents is it not. That makes it my uncle.'
'Aunt, I believe. And I guess it does, on a level. But as you can see, family means very little to it.'
'That... that simply can't be. There must be more. There must be an explanation. No one does these things just... just for play.' It was Juras who sighed this time.
'You speak thus because yours is a Worthy soul, Master. You cannot fathom that one can be so debauched as to take joy in suffering, spreading corruption, creating imbalance. But the Jvanic Entity is not Worthy, Master. Chronos itself saw its Unworthiness and censured it for that.' The boy huffed unhappily.
'Can't I go talk with it? I'm sure things can be worked out if we just... spoke.' Juras smiled inwardly.
'So much trust in words. It must be Our Mother of the Words' influence. You are free to do so Master - you are a son of gods. All bow to your command.'
'Don't want anyone to bow.' He mumbled.
'Ah, then you want them to stand beside you as equals?'
'I... I don't know what that means, really.' Juras stopped suddenly and turned his head towards the little boy.
'Do you... know what you want?' Zerabil pursed his lips and slowly shook his head.
'This... everything is so new. I... I don't think it's meant to be like this. Everything is weird.'
'Weird how?'
'I feel... I feel like I'm already somebody. Does that make sense? I am already a person - but... I was only born when? Yesterday? The day before? I had nothing to do with who I am. How did that happen? Who made me like... well,' here he felt his face, rubbed his forehead, 'like this, like how I am on the inside and the outside. I should have grown into this not just... appeared. I feel fake. Not real. Son of gods? Murdering auntie-uncle thing? You. It's too much,' he bent his head and kicked at the ground with a foot. 'I want...' he suddenly looked up at the two floating bodies and his eyes watered, 'I want my mum. I want my dad.' He walked towards them and placed his head against his mother's bare shoulder.

Juras was silent at the sudden outpour of emotion and confusion, inwardly kicking himself for not being more careful with his words. Of course he was confused, of course he was scared. He had witnessed his father kill his mother, and was now all alone. 'Master,' Juras stepped towards the boy and placed his arms around him, 'you are the sole arbiter of who you are. You can be who you want to be - you just need to make the choice. One's character, one's morals, one's personality - all can be forged into the shape one wills, can be honed and perfected; just like the body, just like a blade.' Zerabil did not respond, but he seemed to appreciate the embrace. They remained there for some time until Juras sensed a quickly approaching creature just over a hundred metres behind them. He extended his senses towards the creature, attempting to gain an understanding of what it was as it approached at speed. Huge, maybe fifteen feet tall. Four arms. Red colouration. It had a weapon.

'That... Grot?' Juras muttered in confusion. How could that even- but the creature was upon them. Zerabil shouted in fear as Juras drew his blade and clashed with the monster. It struck at speed with a massive axe, crafted surprisingly well from what Juras could sense. It loosed a harrowing warcry and brought the axe crashing down. Juras leapt aside and sensed it sink into the earth. He moved with a sudden burst of speed, leaping into the air and stabbing at the beast's open jaw. It just about managed to lower its head, and the blade sank into the bony crest atop its head. Avoiding the thorn-like protrusions on the crest, Juras held onto his stuck sword and landed on the things head. It shook its head from side to side and attempted to reach for him, but an unseen force seemed to prevent it from moving its arms at all. Freeing his sword, the Victor leapt away and the monster found itself moving again. Before Juras had so much as landed, it was on the move - and it was making for Zerabil. The boy's eyes were wide with fear as it came, and Juras shouted and attempted to stop it. His Wi caught its leg, but it burst free with a savage power and reached for the son of gods.

'No! N-' but he was caught, and the creature turned to flee with its prey. Juras was upon it immediately, slicing halfway through an arm with furious power. Blood bloomed in a burst, dying the air red and dripping down the Victor's veiled face and hood. And then the cut was swiftly closing up and the monster was making good its escape. Juras looked from the floating bodies of the two gods to the fleeing beast and was torn... torn and infuriated. He took a calming breath, banishing his anger- but then he remembered; concentrated anger can be manifested into destructive bursts of energy. He leapt after the creature and - in a strange, controlled fashion that only one with a Victor's mental and emotional discipline could muster - permitted his anger to grow and mixed it with his Wi. It grew at his fingertips into a white fire. It did not feel quite as the vision suggested it should be, but he knew it would do damage. With a shout, he released the blazing Wi towards the creature and watched as it accelerated (helped along with normal Wi) towards the monster's back, dodging trees in its pursuit.

The beast loosed a wail - though Juras was aware that Grot was somehow impervious to pain, so perhaps it was not a wail of pain but frustration, irritation. 'Master! Quickly, flee from it!' Juras cried.
'It- it still has me! It's still alive!' Came Zerabil's response.
'You are powerful, Master. Unleash your power!' Juras could just about still sense the two gods behind him, still afloat and safe. He willed them move towards him as he made for the wailing monster.
'I don't know how,' came Zerabil's response.
'Focus. Breathe. Listen to your heartbeat, feel the well of power there. It is something not of the body - it is not your physical heartbeat. Can you feel it - that hotness, that burning.'
'It's getting back up! Help me! Juras!'
'I'm coming Master,' he leapt forward and the beast was now in sight. Its back was all but healed and it was returning to its feet again. Anger boiled at his fingertips once more, and another ball of Wi ablaze struck the creature in the same place. It released a screech and found itself again incapacitated as its body worked to restore its spine. This time, it let Zerabil go. The boy was quick to get to his feet and run towards Juras. 'Come, quickly, let us leave this place. The Venomweald is not safe, not even for a son of gods.' And with that, they turned and quickly retraced their footsteps, the creature's furious shrieks following them.
'Don't feel much like a son of gods right now,' Zerabil muttered. 'What was that thing?' he asked with a trembling voice.
'I... don't know. It must be a newcomer here, I was never taught of it or shown depictions. It looks very much like Grot, a monstrous creation of the Execrable Chaos. Far smaller than Grot, though. This must be the work of the Execrable Chaos.'
'What is that?' Zerabil asked, 'the Ex- exac- EX-ec-Ra-bul Chaos thing.'
'Uh... an uncle of yours, I guess.' Zerabil looked behind him with disgust.
'So the Jvanic Entity tortures and torments for fun, and uncle Chaos makes monstrosities? Are there no... well, nice gods?'
'There are. Like the Pure One. She's nice, if you will. She even lives in the Nice Mountains.' Zerabil chuckled at this.
'Really, she's that nice?'
'Hehe, nice enough I guess. I mean, she's certainly not predisposed to torture and wanton killing. There's also Our Mother of the Cherry, she is nice, for lack of a better word. So too the Mason, he means well. As for the rest of the gods, the word "nice" is perhaps not a fitting description.'
'Can you tell me about them?' Zerabil asked.
'I have spoken too much already, Master. I do not wish you to see the world as I, a lowly Victor, do. When we reach New Chronos there are those who will show you much and you will be able to know and make judgements on your own.'
'Don't give me judgements. Just tell me about them.' Zerabil insisted. The Victor sighed and nodded.
'Very well, if that is what you want. Though I can't promise that there will be no judgements. There is the Eternal One, master of order. He dwells far away on Arcon, having chosen to abandon Galbar and its gods - he does not see eye to eye with the others. Arcon is inhabited by humans only, and by the Eternal One's terrible guardians. It is home to the Eskandars. They are a people in whom the Celestial Above took great interest. It sent to them the First Formica-'
'What is that? You mentioned it before.' Zerabil interjected.
'The First Formica is the oldest of all created beings. First were plants and trees, and then was the First Among Creation, The One By Immortals Altered, TOBIA. She is an ant,' and here Juras gestured towards the Vowzrid Mark on his bandaged face, 'the ant you see here symbolises it. But also all ants, which were the first species to come into existence; a creation of the Celestial Above. And the First Formica was the very first. It does the will of the Celestial Above. We have not heard from it for long, since the Jvanic Entity struck down the Celestial Above. Who knows, perhaps with its return TOBIA too will return. In any case, the Eternal One who lives on Arcon; he has returned - your parents found themselves here because they escaped the city of Vetros' destruction.'
'He... he returned to destroy it? Why?'
'Nothing against the city itself. The Vetruvians were merely unlucky enough to have been affected by the Jvanic Entity. The Eternal One simply wished to purge its influence. If anything, it was an act of vengeance for the Jvanic Entity's crime against the Celestial Above.' Zerabil's eyes widened.
'The Eternal One was close with my da- with father?' Zerabil asked. Juras shrugged.
'I don't know if the Eternal One can be said to be close with anyone. But perhaps of all the gods, the Eternal One was indeed closest with the Celestial Above.' Zerabil was silent at this, thoughtful. 'There is also the Radiant One, god of the stars. He himself is a star, we are told, but nothing much is known about him really. His duties to the universe mean he can do little else beyond his obligations. He has, however, for a very long time been in New Chronos. Locked away though, untalking. There is the Soul Mother, goddess of magic and souls. She is strange - playful, petty, childlike, but innocent also, pure to an extent. We have her to thank for much magic, but she too treats creation as a toy. As a source of entertainment. It is not malicious though - it is not like the Jvanic Entity. The Soul Mother is mischevious perhaps, but she is no sadist. There is also the Crippled One, who dwells in the middle of the great White Ocean. An angry god, conflicted, tragic even. He seeks perfection and so is ever disappointed. There is Life, though she is closer to an unthinking animal than she is to a sentient divine. Her duty - the creation of life - is all she knows and lives for. There is naught beyond that for her. Death died, Our Master the Bard has not told us how. War is reclusive, though war itself is abundant. The Cloud of the Mind was maddened and, in an act of mercy, was put out of her eternal misery by the Celestial Above. And those are the gods, to my knowledge. There are others who have been dead for long - the Demon for instance. But there's no need to speak of all those.'



"Vowzra's beard, you have a touch for this."
"Try Achozaal's. I hear it's longer. Some say Vestec hides a goatee under his- AGH NO CEELN YOU BASTARD"

aand... cut to black


"Sir," he said, straining, "help me. Please."
"Of course," it spoke as it slipped out the knife and slid it gently across the his throat. Their eyes met, surprised confusion met calm contentment. He slipped with death away.

and there too, to black again. but fade it away slowly this time.


It pushed back against the current. Idly. It saw the surface, the battlefield, the injured war-engine to one side. The surface again. It saw it as one, there was a harmony, it thought.
Other people never noticed this, it thought. Other people look at things and ideas and never really see the world for what it is.

hold that thought there. can we get a kind of shimmer out? no? too cheesy?


Of course I can fix it, it thought, I'm an engineer.

lets have a slow zoom out for this one. get the whole picture from above. keep it in the centre as it shrinks though.


You will go far, Jvan. My eyes are failing, but I can see it. Clear as day and sure as stars.
I know you mean well.
Just not... In the usual way...


lets have the ambience of that - is that the right word? ambience. ambience - slip into the next one. can we do that? a kind of overlap as one fades out and the next fades in. yeah, that's it.


"Jvan?"
"I'm listening."
"What do you wish for?"
"..."
"...If y-"
"I wish for more."
"More?"
"Yes. More like this. Not... this, in particular." It put two hands on its heart. "This. This feeling. I want to see worlds like this. Galaxies. I want to take the cosmos in my arms and make it live. Make it wild, make it strange. Make the colours and the shadows. I want to be like this forever. Exploring. Creating. Just..." It exhaled, gills shuddering "Breathing."

Ceeln smiled. Almost cried. Looked into the sky.
"I don't think I can give you that. No matter how much I want to. But..."
"..?"
"This is the least I could do."
"..!"
"The lensmaker said they were the best money could buy. I don't think he was lying, but..." Laughter. "It's not like I would know, anyway."
Its hands trembled, danced over the goggles, slipped the band over its gills, gazed out with eyes like liquid mosaic.
"..."

Ceeln laughed again. The sibling didn't say a word, but Ceeln grinned. "So I wasn't duped! Excellent. The technology is called Fractal. Within optimal range, there's virtually no limit on the level of detail you can see."
"...I-"
Ceeln ran a spare hand over the other's head. "It's our birthday, little sister. Enjoy it."
"But I don't-"
The elder twin swept a massive tail and was gone into the waters, leaving only laughter.
"-have anything-"
It trailed off, arms wrapped together, and watched its sibling go. (Feeling something? Perhaps it is feeling something.)
"-for you."



It had been a strange vision. Not the first of the kind. Was the Jvanic Entity doing it purposefully?
Was it attempting to contaminate him? He did not detect anything of the sort. Regardless, if these visions were true then they... unveiled much. He would have to let his fellow Victors know; this changed things somewhat.
He had left Our Master Zerabil at the pass through the Ironheart Mountains and told him to go through it and right ahead into the Valley of Peace. 'I shall meet you there. But I must see to something while we are in this region.' And so saying, he had allowed himself to sink into the Fabric of Existence. It embraced him and rained its thousand kisses on his form. It was almost too easy to allow oneself to let go, to remain forever and lose oneself in unending bliss...

He clawed his way out. It grabbed at him angrily and bid him stay - just a moment longer, please. He shook his head, rejected its siren call. Traitor, it seethed. You want me to die, it wept. You hate me, it moaned. It slapped the back of his head - I know what you're doing, you're just using me, idiot. Vowzra treated me better. His apologies were ignored, it huffed and expelled him. He stumbled out and only managed to right himself with Wi. 'Sorry...' he tried. It ignored him. It would be a while before it let him in again. He sighed and looked ahead, putting the matter aside.

Xerxes. And it was raining blood. The crimson liquid clawed at his white-clad form, knawed at the silk and tried to worm its way through to the flesh beneath. It could not (not yet at least), but as a precaution he exuded a defensive aura to keep the blood at bay. He required a sample however, and so moulded some Wi into the shape of a bowl and allowed the rain to gather in. When there was a good amount writhing within, he sealed the orb and allowed it to float behind him. With the Fabric still seething at his perceived treachery, he would have to depart on foot.

His sense allowed him to detect the strange, mutated creatures before they perceived him, and so he avoided them. There were others who were not contaminated, but he avoided them too. Only when he sensed something else entirely - something not quite alive, but radiating a distinctly divine ambience - did he pause to investigate. The building was derelict, though it looked like it might have once been a fairly respectable military barrack of some sort. There were others taking shelter inside - majority uncontaminated - and as he neared the divine aura, he was able to perceive it more wholly; it was held in a glass container, a substance which oozed with dormant divine energies. It was almost as though... but that was impossible. It was not alive, it could not possibly be a god. Perhaps something created by a god and imbued with tremendous divine energies. He stood at the entrance, and those within saw him.

He was still for a few moments as the blood rain ran down the invisible barrier. He stepped in. They did not move, but looked at him with a mixture of suspicion, hostility, and perhaps confusion. He lifted a half-buried glass containing the substance with his Wi and brought it towards himself. They watched it as it floated towards him, silent. It landed softly in a bandaged hand. He turned and disappeared into the rain and darkness, and swiftly departed the ruined city. He would take this substance home, they would be able to study it in more detail there.







He had been observing it for a few days now. It knew he was watching, but it did not appear to be in any way perturbed. In a previous life it may have been a hain - but that was certainly no longer the case. It was bloated now, its shell gone and replaced by sickly grey skin. For eyes it had hollow cracks. It seemed only a poor mockery of life, a sick attempt at it.



"I want to take the cosmos in my arms and make it live. Make it wild, make it strange. Make the colours and the shadows."
How could one who said that go and make... make this. This was not making the cosmos live, it was not making it wild or strange.

It was horror.

And yet, for one reason or another, he hesitated to strike the Jvanic horror down. When he approached, it stood upright and cocked its head in a bird-like fashion and stared at him with one of its cracks. He stood silently before it, his senses investigating its every aspect. Was he missing something? Was there beauty to behold here? He tried - truly, he did - but all that came up was disgust. But perhaps that was the intent. Perhaps the purpose of art was not to inspire awe, wonder, fascination. Perhaps it was art if it inspired anything at all. Fear, disgust, horror. Pain. Could feeling pain be itself an art, causing pain in ever more complicated and fanciful ways. He shivered at the thought - that was not art; it was depravity and wickedness.

whitewalker?

He tensed at the intrusion and wrenched back into the present. Something was invading his mind - or rather, prodding.

too small. antman.

Not prodding. It was more... everywhere. After a few moments of confusion he realised, with a sudden burst of interest, that these were its thoughts. These beings were... telepathic. Did that mean it was contacting others? Perhaps his telepathic attunement was allowing him to break into the thoughts it was sending out somehow. He approached it. It stepped back. Before it could turn and flee, however, he was upon it, forcefully pushing it to the ground with a strength belied by his smaller form. It clawed at him with its unnatural fingers, speared with its beak. He weighed it down with Wi and it was still - though continued its attempts at struggle. Despite its desperation, however, it made no sound. What had once been its beak had been sealed, and it could not say anything (if a Jvanic horror could string together words anyway).

The Victor placed a bandaged hand against what passed for its head and focused his mind on its thoughts. If it was indeed a telepathic being, then there would be a way to break through. There was silence as he listened. He paused and listened. Silence. He finetuned. Listen... Silence. He shifted his focus once more. A distant sound - like listening in through a thick wall. He focused on it. Closer. Closer still. Clearer now, but not enough to make out anything.

(ha... ppp)


The Victor breathed deep and held, like one about to take a dive. He could almost feel his consciousness shift. There was a burst of white noise that made him wince and almost withdraw. And then the sound was suddenly clear.

(help. help. help. help. help)
(what's wrong?)
(help. help. help. help. hel-)
(location. send location)
(he- lp help help)
(~the stars are twinkling tonight / yes, as they twinkle every night / the sun is gone, the moons are bright / but all beauty fades before starlig- too many syllables)
(BEWARE. ALCOHOL IS FLAMMABLE. BEWARE-)
(The mountains grow silent again)
(help. help. help)


Juras allowed himself to listen - he did not know for how long. It was not simply the thoughts of this one Jvanic horror... these were the thoughts of many. It was something akin to the telepathic link between Treeminds - but bigger, more random, open. This was vast. The sheer mass of thoughts was enormous - a large amount had to be filtered out and became background noise that one could focus on and dip in and out of at will.

{he- hello?}


He attempted to project his own thoughts into the stream. He could not be certain that he had been heard.

{Hello?}
(hi)
(help)
(i will build a castle to hold off the tide. it will be of sand)
{Can you hear me? Hello?}
(i saw a butterfly. it flew away)
(ants taste like lemon. mmm)
(i can hear you)
(help help help help)


Juras slowly ran his blade across the Jvanic horror's throat, maintaining his connection all the while.

(help help help HELP HELP! HElp)
(location)
(location?)
(don't eat the red mushroom with white spots)
(~when the white moon rises / await then the return)
(or the yellow mushroom with white spots)
{}


The Victor stood up, listening still. For a few moments he thought he had lost the connection, but after listening some more he heard it again.

{}
(there are giant ants in the ancient woods. beware)
{}
(you sent that before. what is it?)
{}
(what is that?)
(~we saw the hand / piercing the land / is it on snow? / why I don't know)
{}


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