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Hunger & the Rose

Rosalind the Feverfoot was fairly convinced that she had lost her boat. She stood on the surf-addled shore where her strange journey had carried her, shivering slightly - though whether it was due to the cold or due to the fever was not clear even to her - and gazed across the seas where Mamang had disappeared. She could not see any sign of Yudaiel’s gift. Though that would have filled her with sadness before, she received it now with a certain acceptance - or rather, hope. Or rather, even, certainty. Acceptance, hope, and certainty that her boat would find its way back to her, and she a way back to it. It was sad to go boatless and completely oarless into the world, sadder still to go without hope of ever finding them - and Rosalind (oh happy days!) was glad to not be of that luckless sort.

She turned away from the screeching sea gales and drum of marching waves and saw that the coast gave way rather swiftly to forest. Stumbling forth on her ever-quaking feet, she advanced into the darkness of the woods. It was with no small amount of trepidation that she did so - for who does not fear the darkness and the unknown? - but she was pleasantly surprised by the immediate warmth that washed over her as she passed the line of thick trees - giant trees, trees unlike anything she knew trees to be. It was like somebody had spread a quilt over the entire world to keep the wind and cold and sound of crashing waves at bay.

The forest was not quiet though. There was an incessant background hum that sent small spasms down her form and caused her feet to convulse and almost burst into fevered motion. She did not let it though, and - somewhat fearfully now, for she did not wish to see so much that she would lose her feet - she looked around and listened to the forest. Birds chirruped and little creatures skittered here and there - stealthily, invisibly, perceptively . She heard the birds but did not see them, heard the little skitterers but did not spot them. Those things that wished to hide hid well.

But there were plenty without fear. The giant antlered deer stared at her without fear as she passed by. The moose paid her no heed, and she kept her distance from that thing of terrible size. Martens and minks darted here and there, the hooting of watchful owls, the flapping of ravens. At one point she spied the oddest thing - a white raven. It stood on a branch observing her with blue-eyed intent, and the goddess shivered and moved away. She saw all kinds of cats also, great and small - the little wildcat, the bobcat, the lynx, the jaguar perched high in the trees. Boars grunted at her or stood glaring, a wolverine passed before her - paused and glanced nonchalantly - then disappeared beyond the girth of a tree. Rabbits went hopping and hares leaping, squirrels darted - or, in some cases, flew - and the stout badger, scowling, went sniffing and bumbling by. All watched her - if they watched at all - with curiosity, but otherwise kept their distance. The bear, of enormous size, watched her as she came to a small stream, and a few wolves, reclined on the other bank, perked up as she came to a standstill by the pristine waters.

Her lips were parched and skin - especially where the Exile had bitten her - irritated, and she instinctively knelt down and dipped her hands into the flowing water of the stream. It was nothing like seawater. Even now she could remember the sting of the salt on her eyes when she had fallen in. She cupped the pure water into her hands and brought it to her lips, to her face, to her hair. And then, with a shy glance around, she loosened her skirt and removed her blouse and, with a yelp at the cold, waded into the waters in nothing but the bangles her father had gifted to her. She washed her hair, freed it of salt, cleansed the wound on her neck and, closing her eyes, allowed water unadulterated by salt to flow over her.

When she was satisfied and the cold was beginning to get into her bones, she re-emerged and sat by the bank, allowing her body and hair to dry before she dressed. Lazily, then, she picked at the flowers that grew on the riverbank - blue and red and yellow flowers, sweet-smelling and odourless - and her hands weaved them, as though by instinct, into a necklace of flowers and a crown of flowers, and flowery bracelets and anklets. She sighed, smiled, remembered the whale and wished he could experience this. Remembered Voligan and wondered where and what he was doing now. Thought of Alethesius and Ao-Yurin and how they had perished so soon after their coming into the world, thought it sad how such powerful things could disappear just like that while she - who had created nothing, nothing so beautiful as water, nothing so sturdy as determination - had survived. She thought also of Yudaiel, her kind sister, thought of how swiftly that all-seeing Eye had forgiven her failings and given her the means by which to arrive safely here on Galbar to be cured. Thought also of Iqelis, who had told her not to cry out for help - and he was right, of course. It was no good to be helpless. But that was the plight of the weak, and surely - as the laektears had done when the Exile was upon her - it was the duty of the strong to help? She thought of Ruina’s words about Iqelis, remembered the words of Yudaiel in the mind of Mamang. Recalled the red goddess and her funerary dance for the slaughtered thousands. Remembered, also, the voice of the Apostate - and shivered. For she knew his voice; it was the voice of the mountains.

As she brought another flower to her nose, she thought at last of the Monarch and, now that she had learned love from Mamang, realised that it was not only fear that she felt towards that great being. Sure, his punishment had come swift when she erred, but so too had his aid when she needed it. She placed a finger on one of the seemingly infinite bracelets he had gifted her and, in that moment (a bit late, perhaps,) she was grateful. Had that not been a father’s love? She threw herself back and lay to the jangling of bangles on a pillow of velvet hair, and she watched the grey skies and breathed. The world, it seemed to her, despite all the awful things she had witnessed - yes, despite the death of gods, despite fate striking down the strong, despite the Exile’s deceit, despite the green death that polluted the ocean, despite all that - was intrinsically beautiful and good. Her father was good, her siblings - Yudaiel, Voligan, that red dancing goddess… even Iqelis, in his way - were good, even that voice in the mountains that had driven her into the sea, it too had been good. Mamang too, the sea - so beautiful that ocean, so vast and breathtaking - the laektears; all those were good. The whale mother, the rorquals dancing in the north, in the east, in the south, the dolphins, the fishes; all those things were good. Even the Exile - in his way - was good, despite the bite, despite the treachery, despite the murder. She exhaled slowly. The world was good, and in so good a world what need had she - really - for fear? She may lose an ear, true, she may even lose her life - but was that really all that bad? It was not bad at all when placed beside what good she had thus far known.

The crack of branches broke the calm stillness about the goddess, and the wolves and bears and beasts all around fled in abrupt panic. As the smell of death washed over the stream, the reason for their panic became quickly clear. There, emerging from the trees, was a hunched figure, clad in a tattered pale cloak that neither hid their white chitin underneath nor their four clawed arms. It did seem to hide their face, though, in pitch blackness - except for a wide toothy smile that seemed to have been plastered on.

The being took a few staggered steps over to the stream, letting themselves almost fall down next to it, and slowly cupped their hands to guzzle down long draughts of its water, almost as if they had not drunk anything in unknown aeons. But as they bent down for another, they spotted the goddess laid upon the ground of the other bank, and froze. The smile did not vanish in the slightest, but it was clear they were entirely unsure on how to react, and so merely stared at Rosa - or, at least, somewhat stared, for their eyes could not be seen.

As the creature continued to stare and the eerie silence washed over the place, the goddess lying by the stream seemed to feel that something was amiss and so opened her eyes and sat up, her hair rising like a waterfall that had forgotten gravity. Rosalind’s gaze drifted sideways and settled on the grinning creature huddled on the other bank. For a few moments her face was blank - with surprise, perhaps - but then an inkling of the essential fear that so coloured her being crept into her eyes and she slowly, carefully, without taking her eyes off the creature, shuddered to her feet. Gulping and taking one glance towards the trees before returning to the creature, she gave a trembling smile and spoke. “H-” she swallowed, “hello. I am Rosalind.” She paused hesitantly, and some spark of courage seemed to shiver in her eyes. “What’s your name?”

The figure tilted their head some, as if trying to fully figure out who they were looking at. Silence washed over them once more as they continued to stare at Rosalind, before they finally spoke, their voice strange and echoing, almost as if it overlapped with itself. “We, are Yesaris. You are, Kin, are you not?” They remained where they were, not once having taken their eyeless gaze off her, hands still ready to drink once more from the stream. It was almost as if their entire body had stopped working.

Rosalind frowned and cocked her head to make out the words that even now echoed on the wind - echoed even though the lips of Yesaris had stopped moving. At last though, understanding bloomed on her face and a stronger smile returned to it as she nodded. “I- I think so. Yesaris. It’s good to meet you. I- I hope we can be friends.” She walked along the riverside until she stood right across from him. “Your voice is not like anything I have ever heard, Yesaris. It echoes so sadly - and it’s like there are so many other voices in there. It’s very beautiful, but really quite sorrowful. But then, I look at you and you are smiling. Why do you look so happy but sound so sad?”

Yesaris pondered that for a moment, their head looking down upon the stream, trying to figure out the answer themselves. Their head snapped abruptly back up towards Rosa, and in that same, sad, vast voice, they replied. “We, do not quite know Kin Rosalind, you are, in truth, the first to describe our voice like that, and many would not describe our smile as… happy.” Their gaze towards her seemingly began to lose focus, and Yesaris began to quickly shoot looks beyond Rosa, as if searching for something. The goddess glanced behind her, found nothing, and looked back at Yesaris.

“It is a little bit of a strange smile, but there are stranger things in the world so it’s not bad to be a little strange I think. Though you’re right, maybe it’s not a happy smile,” she mused, “but if you’re not smiling because you’re happy, why are you smiling?” She asked, then glanced behind her again as Yesaris continued to look beyond her. “What are you looking at? I- is there something there?”

“No, no, at least, not currently,” they chuckled, their laugh buzzing, almost like a swarm of bugs. “We apologize, we are, hungry, but, as for our smile,” they reached one of their hands up to touch their sharp and jagged smile before continuing, “we have merely, always, been smiling, we suppose it is one of warning, many seem to think it is… unsettling. We suppose they are right.”

The goddess’ own smile fell at this. “Oh. Well, I was a little scared when I saw it first. But then I thought that it was bad of me to think that, that maybe you only meant well by it.” She paused and her eyes of twilight, bereft now of fear or courage, took him in. “So you want to be unsettling? You want others to be afraid? Why?”

Yesaris rose from their kneeling position, though they were still noticeably shorter than Rosa. “Well, it's simple. Fear… it… messes with one’s mind. Those who are afraid are… easier… to deal with. At least, for us that is.”

The goddess watched the other god with a slight frown. “That’s a strange way to think. How can you deal with somebody who is terrified of you? Surely you wouldn’t be able to - they’d, I don’t know, run away or scream or faint.”

Yesaris chuckled - buzzing and echoing as if it were everywhere. “Yes yes, they do that - though we can still catch them if they run, or wait for them to wake. But those who are afraid tend to be more willing to… make deals. Their rationale erodes, and we… can swoop in.”

Biting her lip at the disturbing image, Rosalind scratched her cheek and was silent for a brief moment. “That… doesn’t sound…” she paused and looked at the dwarfish grinning thing, and its teeth seemed to glisten in a way they had not done before. “You… enjoy doing this?”

“One could say we do. We have to admit… seeing fear can be… tantalizing,” their words brought a sudden, but ever so faint, scowl to Rosalind’s face, and the wind seemed to pick up and the running water flinch at the unprecedented motion on the dancer’s face. One of Yesaris’ arms gripped where their stomach could be expected to be as they once more scanned the area, before snapping back to Rosa. “Our apologies, but, you wouldn’t happen to have any, food on you?”

“Food?” Rosalind repeated, looking around as though it would miraculously materialise. “Uh, I don’t. I don’t have anything, no. I’m sorry. Maybe- oh! I can maybe try and catch a fish for you.” She leaned over and looked into the stream, and her curtain of black hair fell as she did so. “I’m sure we can catch something - you’re a god! And,” she chuckled at how crazy it sounded, “I’m one too!”

“Yes yes we are. It is a… simple process.” They drew their gaze down to the stream alongside Rosa, and merely watched the stream intently, though they continued to speak. “Tell us Kin Rosa, what god are you? We all have our, purpose, what is yours?”

Rosalind paused in her search for a fish and her brows furrowed as she thought. “Oh. Purpose?” She bit her lip and scratched her cheek. “I… well. I’m not sure. I mean, I know I need to- well, find a cure.” She glanced down at her feet. “I… have a sickness- a fever, more like, in my feet. So I guess my purpose is to heal it. Or, well, not my purpose, but it’s something I need to do to be able to… live properly, I guess, and not be a danger to everyone.” She glanced down at her trembling feet with a small sigh, then turned her gaze back on the grinning Yesaris. “What about you, Yesari- uh, Aris? Yesa?” She grimaced awkwardly at her failure to grant a nickname as naturally as he had her. “Uh, yeah. What god are you? What’s your purpose?”

“We eat; we consume; we are… a parasite. That is our purpose.” They kept their focus down upon the stream, watching intently with the air of a predator, almost, eager to get something to eat. “Though one has to wonder if our father did truly mean to create us. We are not the most conductive god to the life of our world,” They snapped their head up to Rosalind, the grin still there. “And it sounds like you’re not either.”

The goddess flinched away slightly, but then couldn’t help but chortle slightly. “That was actually funny - a bit scary, but funny too.” She giggled, flashing him a full-toothed smile, before releasing a long breath and staring back into the water. “But you’ve got a point. I mean, I don’t doubt that pap- uh, father- meant to create us. I think it’s more…” she looked up again and set her lips in a slight contemplative pout, “maybe I just need to realise it, you know? Like, there are some of us - like Yudaiel the Eye or Voligan the Earthheart - who just knew their purpose right away, but I didn’t. If pa- father wanted me to know it then I would’ve - but since he didn’t tell me, I’ll have to find out for myself. Maybe that’s my purpose - to find out my purpose. And when I find it, I’m sure I’ll be able to be conducive to life too. I don’t doubt that you’re conducive to life - you probably just haven’t seen it yet. You should probably try to find out.”

“Possibly possibly, though… we have to admit… we have far more… pressing matters.” The grinning god stared into the stream, seemingly growing frustrated with the lack of fish appearing within. They slunk down, nearly flat upon the bank of the stream, waiting, silent. Rosalind flashed him an amused grin and chuckled.

“Well aren’t you antsy.” She laughed as she hiked her skirt up and waded into the freezing water. She stared into it for a few seconds, focusing, and then darted suddenly. Her hair burst all around her and fell into her eyes, and her crown of flowers descended into the waters and was carried off with the flow, so that her hands came up empty. She shook the wild black strands away and quickly bunched them up in a wild bun and tied it tightly in place with a lock. With that, she looked down into the clear cold waters and was still, but for her feet shivering on the stream bed. Her breath came slow, her exhalations billowing like dancing clouds before dissipating. She watched the dance of the flow, was swept up in that dance, became that dance; and in that dance - that is, in her - moved the fish. Her hands dipped into the water - there was no splash; her hands were the flow - and her fingers danced with the fish, were the dance of the fish, so that she did not catch the fish but rather caught herself.

The goddess stood in the shallow stream, hugging the great salmon to her chest with a broad smile on her face. She waddled over to Yesaris and beamed down at him. “Look Yes- uh, Ris?- I caught one for you.” She fell to her knees by him and held the massive salmon out. Everything in these lands was massive.

Yesaris snatched the large fish from her hands, inadvertently tearing her flowery bracelets, and grasped it in their twisted claws. With a sudden crunch, before the startled Rosalind’s eyes, they clamped down upon the fish’s flesh, sinking their teeth into it. Blood poured forth and down their face as they pulled away, tearing the chunk of fish away from its body - and they barely even chewed, merely swallowing it whole. They went back in, again and again, not even stopping due to the bones, they crushed and swallowed them too, letting the blood pour across their face and arms. All until there was nothing left of the fish; all had been consumed. They paused for a moment, breathing heavily, before turning to Rosa. “We… thank you, Kin Rosa.” They continued to stare, now seemingly focused on Rosa herself.

Though clearly disconcerted by the display, Rosalind managed to smile faintly and nod in response. “My goodness, you really were hungry.” She muttered, clutching the edge of her skirt and bringing it up to wipe the blood off Yesaris’ face and mouth. “You’re one messy eater!”

Yesaris stared at Rosa’s hand and skirt as they drew close to their face. Their mouth began to open as a chattering sound emanated from within, and suddenly snapped at her. Their bite missed her hand by mere inches and the goddess flinched away. Yesaris fell back, hunched over once more, the chattering getting louder and louder as their gaze remained entirely on her, their smile widening.

Furrowing her brows, the hand she had nearly lost to Yesaris’ maw resting on her chest, Rosalind stared at the grinning god. “Uh, R- Ris? Are you okay?” She rose to her feet cautiously. “Do… you want another fish?”

“No…no…we think…we want something… different.” The flesh hungry god rose to their feet as well, taking a few steps towards Rosa, their clawed hands twitching as if filled with a sudden urge. The chattering only kept growing as the god seemed to lose their original cohesiveness. Clearly perturbed, the goddess slowly backed away.

“Something different? Like what? Uh- R-Ris you’re scaring me a little now. I-If you’re joking then- it’s not funny anymore.”

“Oh we don’t joke,” they took another step, and another. “We would run if we were you…it’s far, far more fun that way.” Their smile only grew more and more, becoming more unnatural. The goddess looked at him for a second and then, to her own surprise, frowned and stepped towards him with purpose.

“Look here, I’m not falling for this - I’m not going to do this getting scared stuff you seem to like. So you’re going to stop. Stop this right now.” She did not sound very convincing, but she backed her words up with a half-hearted slap - which seemed to hurt her far more than it did Yesaris.

The god did not reply, but instead lunged towards Rosa, their jagged grin clamping down upon her hand, crunching through bone and flesh alike once more. With a wrench, they pulled back, taking the hand with them, before swallowing it down their gullet in one gulp. And their grin only grew at the taste, and their hands reached out, clawing for more.

Rosalind did not scream, but quick hot tears exploded almost immediately from her eyes, and her eyes fell on those of Yesaris for the briefest seconds before she brought the bleeding stump to her chest, turned on her trembling feet, tripped over the hem of her skirt, and fell head-first into the freezing waters of the shallow stream. She came up with a gasp, her hair coming undone and sticking to her face and neck. She managed to stand and half-wade and half-stumble across the rivulet, heedless to the flow of red-gold ichor that seemed to change the very nature of the waters. Still sobbing, she dragged herself out on the other side, weighed down by her velvet skirt. She grabbed it with her remaining hand, spared a backward glance at the advancing Yesaris - swimming, it seemed to her, in a river of red-gold blood - then hurtled into the warmth and perceived safety of the trees.

The chattering of Yesaris followed close behind, rushing towards the bleeding goddess who had enticed them so. Running upon all six of their limbs in order to keep up pace with her, they purposefully refrained from bounding any faster than her, merely running at a pace to keep track of her, following the red-gold drink that their mind was entirely focused upon. They wanted this to play out; the fearful ones tasted better after all. And they kept the chattering loud and present, echoing through the woods and trees, surrounding Rosa as she fled away from that which wanted to feast upon her.

As she ran she left a clear trail of blood and tears and wetness, of sobs and gasps, a clear scent of fear and pain - and, most poignantly, betrayal. In that state of delirious fear and trembling the world seemed to move against her, the earth below and the sky above and the filling of air and wind between - and winds, Rosalind knew, never do blow as boats desire. There she was, who was the dance of all things, flagging and falling as the eruption of pain and fear caused her to forget that she was the motion dancing on the winds that even now beat her back, she the trembling dance of the earth that thrummed even now against her, she the great open dance on the sky that even now closed its gates to her. Forgetting all this, she felt - oh greatest betrayal, oh most treasonous knife of all! - her very spirit fail her so that, with a final exhausted sob and an expiration of pearly tears, she fell to her knees and planted her face in the earth, holding her bleeding stump to her chest and sobbing gently into musty soil. She could run no more and was tired, and her thoughts turned away from the horror descending on her to wonder, instead, if she would be able to rest when this was done.

The beast was quick to catch up, panting as they rose upon their legs. Slowly staggering towards the wounded goddess who lay upon the ground, their smile oh so incredibly wide, wider by far than it had ever been. Soon they were practically on top of Rosa, staring down at her before gripping her bleeding arm and forcing it out from under her huddled form, away from the warm safety of her chest and, hunching themselves down, let the ichor that ran from it fall on their parched tongue.
“R-Ris- no, please-” she turned to them and pleaded weakly, but Yesaris ignored her weak pleas - delighted in them, perhaps. Shuddering from the drink, they opened their gash of a mouth and clamped down once more, this time biting into her forearm, tearing a chunk of flesh away from it, which they too gulped down in a single swallow. One of their arms crept up to Rosa’s face, their hand clasping her mouth shut before taking another bite from her arm.

The goddess convulsed beneath him and cried out into his hand, tears flooding and wetting her hair and the ground beneath her, and her remaining arm snapped up, instinctively, to weakly grab the arm that muffled her. She struggled, but she was weak and defeated; there was fear and pain in her eyes, but also surrender and a desperation - a pleading - for it to be done.

As Yesaris bit into her with slow relish, delighting in the unprecedented taste - god! The flesh and ichor of god! - something moved in him. It was not the stirring of conscience by any means, but a rather more physical movement. It moved in his ichor, in the darting of his heart, spread through his form until, gently, kindly even, it settled on his mind. Yesaris saw nothing, only savoured the ready, fear-seasoned flesh and bone - but the Eye within the goddess he feasted upon had opened, and it saw Yesaris. Or rather, felt Yesaris. Felt the agony that ate on him even as he consumed all things, felt the pangs of insatiable hunger that addled his mind and sight with a near madness - such needs, had Yesaris, such terrible needs as would shatter the hardest heart of stone; what, then, of Rosalind’s kindly heart? Had she been created thus she too would have fed on all things - willing or unwilling, with or without relish; and truth be told, she had much rather relish in her needs than give way to the misery of guilt and self-hate and revulsion.

Beneath Yesaris, the goddess shifted her gaze and brought her good hand to the feeding parasite’s face. Gently - without resistance, without reprimand, but with coaxing tenderness - she drew him to her, brought his mouth to her shoulder, and whispered. “Here, Ris, eat from here.”

Yesaris paused. This… was… different.

They quite honestly did not know how to continue. Their feasts did not offer themselves to them; they screamed, they flailed, and in the end they gave in. The hungering god would have thought more about this, but the taste of the divine remained upon their mind and it forced the oddity out of their head. They wanted more of it, they wanted… no, they didn’t want it, they needed it. Anything to keep the hunger away. With another lunge they clamped down upon Rosa’s shoulder, tearing away the flesh and gulping it down, hoping to feed their desperate hunger and keep the pain that racked through every last inch of their chitin and flesh at bay. It was a wonder the parasite did not choke upon their food.

As he bit into flesh and bone, the goddess shuddered and convulsed once more, but her face was in all ways serene - it did not twist in pain, though her brows furrowed ever so slightly as though in deep focus. She spoke in a low, gentle tone. “Does it still hurt? Are you satiated?” She drew him to her other shoulder, where the wound caused by the Exile’s bite on her neck had opened up again. “There’s more if it still hurts.”

Yesaris stopped for a moment, hunched over the chewed form of the dancer. “It… always hurts.”. Then they jerked back, away from Rosa, hunching over towards the grass that surrounded them, retching and heaving. With a violent vomiting sound, the golden bangles Yesaris had incidentally consumed erupted from their mouth, falling upon the ground with a thud. All except one, one that seemed to form itself upon one of Yesaris’ wrists. “What… what is this?” they asked, turning their head towards Rosa’s bloodied form. Her blank eyes shifted to the single red-gold bracelet on Yesaris’ arm, and after a moment of stillness there was motion.

It began in Rosalind’s eye - a single tear formed. It was not like any of those that had formed up before - not a tear of self-woe, not one of fear, not one of frustration, not a laektear. It was a tear of sympathy - pity - perhaps the first tear shed in empathy by divine eyes. The tear did not fall down, but rather fell up, and it tottered in the air, trembled, and burst so that its movement pervaded the space around the two gods. And while the moments before that eruption had known nothing of movement, now they were a stranger to stillness. The goddess lurched up, and Yesaris found her in his many arms. Her blood danced about his chitinous form like a second skin, and his mouth passed now along her waiting neck and now across her shoulder.

But as they whirled in that strange grove - and it had not been a grove before, but was now becoming - the hungering god forgot his hunger, lost track of pain, and beheld only the sister who had given herself entirely, freely, unstintingly to him. He did not ask why, but danced why; she did not say why, but they spun why and weaved why and whirled why. And if tears could form in them, tears would have fallen from hunger’s two wide eyes. The dance did not merely speak, it moved something within Yesaris - his heart panged, his eyes wettened, his feet swirled. And Rosalind the Feverfoot hung on his arm, her smile sad, her eyes sad - not for her, he realised, he knew, but… for him.

The Parasite, for once in their existence, was confused. These feelings that came from the dance were… strange… foreign… different. This surge of thoughts beyond their mind caused them to chuck the broken goddess from their arms, down upon the grove’s haggard grounds. Clutching their head they began to scream - not their sickened chattering, but a true scream, demanding (through pure noise) for the thoughts to go away, for their heart to calm itself and, perhaps, for the pain to finally go away. They stumbled backwards, crashing against a tree before slowly sinking down. “What, have you done to us?” they nearly screamed out towards the goddess.

The crumpled goddess shifted her head and her empty gaze, with that even wet stream flowing from her eyes, beheld him. “You- hurt so much, Ris,” she managed, “why?” The gentle flow became a cascade and she sobbed, her face twisting and snot mixing on the ground with tears. “Why’s that there?”

“It has always been there… that… piercing hunger… we… must feed it.” They didn’t even raise their head to look towards Rosa, clutching it still as the emotions smoldered deep within them. “What did you do to us, what are these thoughts.”

“I- I don’t know,” came Rosalind’s response, “I didn’t do it.” She paused and looked sorrowfully at him. “If it still hurts then…” her gaze drifted to her mauled form, though her head did not move, “I don’t mind. If it will ease your pain then… then it’s okay. You can have your fill.”

Yesaris shook their head “Your flesh would not fill us. Its taste is beyond what we’ve had before, but… it would not be enough. We need far more.” They staggered up, using the tree to stabilize themselves and finally bringing their gaze towards Rosa, yet remained silent. The silence remained and grew between them until the goddess shifted, grunted, and picked her broken and bleeding form up. Her feet trembled and tapped wildly so that she looked like a broken string-doll as she moved slowly towards Yesaris.

When she reached him, she extended her one good hand and cupped what passed for his cheek. “If I’m not enough, then I’m sorry Ris. I- I’m not strong - I don’t know how to help. This,” she glanced down at her form, then returned to his eyes, “this is all I have to give.” She caressed his brow like a mother would her child’s, or a sister her sibling’s. “I hope… I hope you find what you’re searching for - and the end of all pain.” She smiled then, faintly, through her own pain. “And when you do, come back and show me.” She took a step away. “So go. Go. If I won’t do, then go sate your hunger on something better.”

Confusion still wracked the mind of the Parasite, but even they had to admit that the dancer’s words were… comforting in a way. They wiped away the blood caked on their mouth with their cloak, gazing at the kin they had taken chunks out of only mere minutes ago. “Very well kin Rosa, if we find a solution, we will show you. That… is our promise.” With a snap, their head turned towards the skies and the forest, intently listening to something beyond. “We suppose it is time to take our leave then. This is farewell, Kin Rosa.”

The goddess’ gaze shifted with that of her sibling, and she looked towards the skies and listened intently too for a few seconds. She ran her hand through her hair, and when she brought it back there was one long, dark lock there. She approached Yesaris, took his braceleted hand and - somehow, despite her one hand - managed to weave the long lock around the bracelet and fasten it with a small knot. “Just a… so you don’t forget. You promised, right?” She sighed and released him. “Goodbye Ris, for now. Maybe when we next meet we’ll both be better.”

“We can only hope, Kin Rosa. Goodbye.” And the Lord Parasite took their leave, heading deep into the forest.

The goddess watched him go, and once she was alone she shivered and limped across the newly-formed grove. Leaning on a tree, she slid down against it. She sat there, blank eyes of pure twilight watching the darkening skies and pure ichor pooling around and slaking the thirst of the soil. She closed her eyes and was quiet and still - but for her frantic, frenzied, feverish feet.

Unnatural Selection

To visit old feeding grounds was a cathartic thing, especially for such a god as Yesaris. And there was nothing more cathartic than the realm of the hivelands, the site of their crash upon the Galbar. And their favored spawn had certainly done them proud. The fungal hive had spread rapidly ever since its first creation, its roots and mycelium stretching beyond their crater home. Trees dominated by the wide brims of fungal sporocarps, beasts made twisted mockeries of their forms, sporocarps pushing through their skin and bones, and great fungal cores organized it all, it was truly beautiful. But, there were still problems.

First, there was that annoying desert of salt, its heat cooked their spawn alive, there was nothing to eat or consume and even if every last inch of it was poisoned, and if you didn’t watch your step, it would explode! It was a barrier the hive could not pass, yet, it was one they would need to find a way to break or go around, as the grounds of uncorrupted lands were dwindling rapidly, and the only other options to go beyond was the ocean, which their favored spawn were not equipped enough to traverse.

Then, there were those beings of stone and dirt, it was clear to Yesaris the mark of their kin of the earth, and they had chosen to take note of that, as these grand beasts of stone were pains in their plans. Fighting back the infections from their spawn, destroying Hive Cores and causing havoc whenever the hive tried to expand. This was a serious problem, and if these beings became powerful enough, they might even threaten the hive itself, this, this would not do.

As they stared upon the first hive core, its massive bulb suspended above a small lake deep in the crater, its fungal form pulsing with life. They tried to figure out a solution. The hive needed more power, they were trapped in their confines and faced with extinction, but more power would surely mean the attention of their kin, and there was little doubt in the Lord Parasite’s mind that if the hive was a great threat, the kin would not be hesitant to strike it down. They needed something more, subtle, and not as overt.

Their gaze was drawn towards one of the beast forms as it drank from the putrid, algae filled, lake. It’s feline body was covered by the sporocarps that broke through its skin, dried blood caked upon its fur. Yesaris began to ponder this, perhaps, was there a way to twist the natural world to their advantage? They were a parasite after all, it was only in their nature to do such things. Yes, yes, this would do, perhaps they could just, speed up some natural processes. Perfect.

Yesaris grasped at their mouth once more, emanating a retching sound as their chest heaved. Slowly, a pale yellow sludge began to fall from their mouth into their waiting hands, soon, there was more than enough for their plans, and they yanked their mouth closed once more. Digging through the dirt that laid beneath them, they soon found what they were looking for, the large and extensive mycelium network that ran through the entire region, keeping the Fungal Hive connected. Grasping it in between their claw hands, they smeared the sludge along its length, allowing the substance to fuse along the network, its pale yellow stain soon coming to pulse alongside the white glow of the fungus.

The effects were quick to take effect, the beast form just nearby began to convulse and twist, bones snapped, elongating, only to be forced to fuse back into place, what remained of its flesh strained and cracked in efforts to keep up with the growth, a sickly blood pouring forth, drenching its rotten matted fur in its dark red colouration. Soon, the beast was larger than before, its maw filled with teeth and a jaw that could crunch stone when needed, its body able to take more blows.

The Lord Parasite couldn’t help but widen their smile at the presentation, exactly what they had wanted. They had, in short, twisted the natural process of mutation into something far more, beneficial. The hive did not reproduce, so it would have to be sped up some, happening to any being connected to the greater network and thought, its effects were still random though, merely influenced by what the hive was dealing with, and not all would be beneficial to the hive. But, this would certainly do, it was something more to aid it.

Content, Yesaris arose, as much as they enjoyed being around their favored spawn, things needed to be done. There were still lands that had yet to see their beautiful creations to their full power. And that, needed to change.

The White Skulls

A Bandit’s Life for Me!

Keshi’s life was, in truth, not the best. She was not high up in the pecking order, especially by Bjork standards. Her scent was the lowest of the low, pretty much ensuring her life would be nothing more but labouring in the cold to build dams constantly. But she could do more, she could fight! She could hunt! But no, because of her scent, there was nothing more she was allowed to do. It didn’t help that her clan had submitted to those damn Voganids, so that just dropped her further and further down. It was a pitiful life.

That was, until the white-streaked Bjork arrived.

They suddenly arrived in the village one day, they looked old, a long white streak going from their face all along their back, and they carried with them a gnarled and rotten staff of wood. It was as clear as the rivers that they were not from around any of these parts, as their scent was nothing like anyone had ever smelled before. Keshi could even swear that sometimes, it smelled like they were shrouded in a scent of death. That wasn’t even the weirdest bit, the visitor was always smiling, regardless of what was going on, and no one was quite sure why they had come to the village, they would only claim they were passing by, but, to be so clearly far away from their home, it put everyone on edge, and everyone generally tried to avoid them.

Keshi tried not to think of it that often, it was something new in her drab life yes, but, in truth it was not what she had desired. She wanted liberation, not some creepy old Bjork. What she didn’t know at the time was that that very same Bjork, would be her ticket to a new life.

She was sat upon a log that fateful midday, next to her was her friends and clan mates: Orik, a large Bjork who Keshi had known since they were little kits. There was Lugan and Borof, two brothers known for their speed in their work. And finally Iga, a bjork with far more smarts than strength, sadly though she, like the rest, was not high enough on the ladder to use it.

They all were upset with their lot in life, that was for sure, Keshi and Orik both wished to become hunters and warriors for their people, Iga wished to use her mind to learn the tales of their people and pass them down, and the twins meanwhile just wanted a better life, not being at the bottom of the rung. But, their scent refused to let them do anything akin to their dreams and desires. And as they sat and chatted, gnawing upon the leaves of the trees they had just cut down, they expressed this openly, not too openly though, just with each other, when anyone else was present, they were all careful to keep their mouths shut.

That, was when she smelled it, a sudden burst of that scent that had become all too familiar to the people of the clan. She spun around, only to be face to face with the white-streaked beaver, their smile plastered upon their face, almost unnaturally. With a yelp she fell out of her seat, the others quickly noticing the newcomer as well, Orik bent down to help her back up, though her focus was entirely upon the white-streak.

“What do you want?” she spat at them

“My apologies, I didn’t mean to startle you, I forget my own silence at times,” The Stranger chuckled, “But I overheard your conversation of dissatisfaction. And if you would indulge a lone Bjork I must ask, why do you not do something to change that dissatisfaction?”

Keshi looked at the others with a confused face, before turning back to the white-streak “How, would we do anything? Our scent has made it so we can’t do anything, even if we tried to achieve our goals we would just be forced back because of it.” It was an argument they had had many of times, there was no changing it.

Yet, the white-streak merely stared at them, smile still upon their face, and calmly replied “You can not change your scent, yes, but do not let that shackle you to your lot, you have the strength, you can break free.”

“Are you implying we break from the ways of our people?” Piped up Iga, who alongside the others had been watching the exchange intently.

“That is exactly what I am implying, the ways do not work for you, perhaps it’d be time to break them and take what you deserve.” They gestured towards themselves, “Afterall, that is what I did.”

“You, took from your clan?” they all wanted to ask it, Keshi was just the first to blurt it out, a sense of confusion in her voice.

“Yes I did, I left shortly afterwards, but I have lived, a far more fulfilling life ever since.” They tilted their head some, smiling wider at the group “But, a mere suggestion I suppose, it is not fit for everyone.”

Keshi looked at the others once more, their eyes locking for brief moments, each one of them wanted to ask more and more. They were always dissatisfied, but to just abandon the clan? That seemed, almost too much. She turned back around to ask the stranger one more question, yet, they were already gone, vanished into the wind, as if they were never there to begin with.

They spent the rest of their meal sitting in silence. Each one of them contemplated what the stranger had said, even as the smell of death still lingered.

Keshi had thought about it long into the night, sitting by the riverbank, upstream of the central dam. She looked out into the ever dwindling forest and swamp, whittling away a piece of wood in her hands in a sharpened point, just to give her something to do. The stranger had not said much, but what they had had really stuck with her, would it really be possible to just rebel like that? What would the other members of the clan think? Surely it was not that simple, there was no way they would just let her and the others just leave like that, though they certainly wouldn't let them stay if they did push back against the system.

Soft footfalls sounded behind her, she didn’t need to look back to recognize Orik sitting down next to her, his wide and beefy frame was easy enough to recognize. For a while, they just sat in silence, the sound of the swamp and forest playing in the far distance, as the silence of the night crept closer and closer.

“What are you planning to do?” He suddenly asked, breaking the tense silence.

“I'm not sure, to just, take what we want, to break tradition, it’s, almost tempting in a way.”

“That I can agree with, it would certainly aid our lot, our scent keeps us down, yet our strength could put us back up.”

“But, we’d become outcasts, would we really be willing to accept that?” She stared at the sharpened wood in her hand, a sense of uncertainty gnawing at her.

“I guess that entirely depends,” Orik looked towards the den, before continuing “Y’know, the guard of the food store is off in the woods today, it’d be easy to do a little test.”

“A quick in and out, nothing more.” She said, pocketing her sharpened wood.

“Aye, I can agree to that.”

And so, they got up and walked towards the den, heeding the words of that white-streaked stranger, to see if they could take what they were owed.

Orik was right, the guard was nowhere to be found. The stores were wide open, heaps of food laid out before the two novice thieves. Unfortunately for both of them, they hadn’t really expected this to work, so neither was prepared. They had nothing to carry any food with, and quite honestly they didn't know what to take, surely someone would notice, right?

Regardless, Orik began to grab small amounts from each section, not enough for someone to notice but certainly enough to be a nice feast when all put together. Keshi joined in, a sense of eagerness developing in her, damn the consequences! This is what it meant to live, to finally have what was owed to her.

"And what do you think you two are doing?"

The two would be thieves spun around. Standing just in the open doorway was another Bjork, a higher Bjork to be exact, and to be even more exact it was Otto, a clanmate. In one hand he had a solid looking piece of wood, and the look on his face told the two of them that there was no doubt he was willing to use it. Keshi merely stood there, a silent look of shock upon her face, luckily Orik spoke up, saving them from the silence.

"We were, asked to deliver some food."

“This late at night?” Otto’s eyebrow rose, clearly he was not buying it.

“Ya, one of the den mothers asked us to grab some.”

“And which one would this be? I’m sure she could confirm your story.”

“Well, I don’t quite remember her name, but I do know where she is.” Keshi was beginning to realize Orik was not the best at lying, and found her left hand drawing towards the sharpened wood in her pouch.

“Uh-huh, sure, and why don’t we stop by the Matriarch’s den while we’re at it.” He gestured his staff out towards the door “Come along you two.”

This, this wasn’t good, being brought before the Matriarch? This wouldn’t result in exile, this’d be full on punishment, maybe even death if she wasn’t in a good mood? Orik was scrambling for a solution out of this, but Keshi knew what she had to do. For a brief moment, she smelled a rotten scent upon the wind, and lunged.

The wood found purchase in Otto’s body, sinking deep within, the Bjork fell to the ground, clutching the now bleeding wound, gasping for breath. Keshi didn’t wait for him to properly react, she grabbed Orik’s arm.

“Get the twins, I’ll get Iga, we’re leaving.” She ordered him

The two thieves rushed out of the door, droves of food in their hands, as the wounded Otto yelled at them to stop, and then, when they didn’t, promptly yelled for the guards. They split up, rushing in different directions. Stopping by their friend’s dens, and practically ripping them from their matts, the now five criminals rushed about as the den began to awaken to the commotion, grabbing whatever they could before meeting back up at the exit.

“Where the hell are we gonna go now!” Yelled Lugan, already they could hear the footfalls of guards coming up behind them

“To the forest,” Keshi replied, “We’ll lose them there.”

And with that, they ran. Deep into the darkness past the village that had been rudely awakened, away from the guards brandishing spears they would use to cut them down. Into the forest they went, its darkness, and stench, bringing a comforting wrapping to the fugitives.

They huffed, and they puffed as their lungs threatened to erupt from their bodies. The group sat in a circle upon the dirt of the woods. They had lost the guards some time ago, but they kept running, just to make sure. Now, they were directionless, only a few items they could grab, and barely enough food to make it past a week. What where they to do now?

The crunching of leaves alerted them to a newcomer, they reached for the branches they had grabbed to defend themselves, yet, calmed when the smell hit them. The stench of death. The white-streaked stranger stood before them, their form masked by the darkness, yet they could all swear their smile was visible as a full moon.

“You’ve done well our kin,” They spoke, staying just out of reach. “You’ve taken what was owed to you, we couldn’t be prouder.”

“But what are we to do now?” Keshi asked, looking at her despondent friends.

“Simple, become like we are, Parasites, Bandits.”


”Yes, Bandits, steal what you need from the weak, use your strengths to take from those who do not deserve it as much as you, thieves of all, yes yes.” They all could swear the stranger’s form was warping and twisting, but they figured it was just the tiredness.

“Bandits...yes, we need to take what we’re owed, but first, let's rest.” She said that as much to the stranger as to her friends.

They nodded in agreement, and one by one, they fell asleep, the tiredness of the night taking them in. As the stranger sat, smiling just behind them.

When they woke, they were no longer labourers, they were Bandits, thieves, the very first in all of the Galbar. They would refine themselves in the coming months, learning how to better steal from the clans around them, and someday, attracting others to their banner. But for now, they were five, and in honour of that stranger who had guided them, they took a name, and dyed parts of their fur that same stark white. They were now, the White Skulls.

The Cold Hunger

In contrast to the lands far behind them, Yesaris found these new lands very, very cold. Which, in truth was fitting, as they believed this was as far north as they could go, well, at least go and there to be some sort of food waiting for them. There was some worth to these lands, a land worthy to host some of their spawn, but, they felt something strange here.

The sensation was odd, it was something they had not felt before. Everywhere else, their children fed uninterrupted, some hiccups here and there, but nothing like this. Here, there was a hole, a gap, somewhere, or something that was refusing the feast. This, this could not be allowed to stand. Yesaris was determined to find the source, and so they crept along the cold swept lands of the north, eager to find this gap that had forbidden them their sustenance.

To their surprise, it was not an arduous search. They had confirmed it was something, something they were, not at all quite sure of. They were such ethereal beings, ones that only floated and twisted about in the cold air, crafting such intricate dances alongside the frozen wind that swept from the far north, creations of this land and such natural parts of it.

Yesaris hated it.

What was this! These were not creatures of flesh and blood! There were no places for their spawn to infest, no systems for worms or microbes to make their homes, not even a single drop of blood to consume. They were spirits through and through, and spirits were not any kind of feast to Yesaris. There was no way they could feed upon them. This, in truth, confused and angered Yesaris, so they sat amidst the trees, pondering this development. Before now they had not at all encountered something that just could not become any sort of host, how would they even go about that! Their mind twisted through any sort of ideas, what could be done? Was there anything that could be done??

Yesaris sat there and thought for a good while, this was proving to be a conundrum they had not anticipated. They could just let these beings go, but that would be no fun, and what would that tell anything else that may decide to avoid their spawn? No, these creatures had to be taught a lesson, a sign that nothing could avoid the maw of the Devourer.

And so, it hit them, why try to parasite upon such creatures, when merely, they could be turned into the parasites? Now that, was an idea, one that might just work. Of course, this was another impasse, spirits were not the best parasites. Perhaps they could feed upon one’s mind? No, too obvious, and not as showy and punishing as they wanted it to be. As Yesaris stared upon the floating group of spirits, they danced along the winds, but one did a peculiar thing. It came across a pile of rocks, nearly frozen with the chill breeze that came from the north. Then, it seemed to, possess them, using them as a shell for their form, if only for a brief moment before they moved on, seemingly discontent with them.

If Yesaris’ smile would widen, it surely would at that moment. Finally, an idea they liked. It would be simple, a curse to place upon these spirits, grant them just a portion of their own ceaseless hunger. Now as spirits, surely they would be utterly unable to sate this alone, and so, they could possess corpses, wherever they may be found, and from there, they could feast upon the flesh of those mortals. Of course, if they couldn’t find a corpse, they would starve, and the more they ate, the more they hungered, this was a punishment after all.

They would need some resistance though, sure this was a punishment for them, but they were also a reminder to fear the Devourer, these spirits were clearly of the cold, and Yesaris was sure fire was already quite the force against them. So why not make it so these cursed forms could only be killed by fire while within their host? That way they could keep going even if those pesky mortals killed it. As for the creation of others, this was simple enough, they would just make nests from their kills and implant some essence into it, Yesaris was not one for semantics here, the easier it was, the more could be infected.

Now, all that needed to be done was to corrupt these spirits, and what better first subjects then the ones in front of them! Yesaris grabbed at their mouth, forcing it wide open with a creak, from within erupted a putrid cloud of green gas that rapidly moved to encompass the spirits as they danced around. It seeped into their skin before they could even react, worming its way through their forms, it snaked around in long strands, wrapping itself everywhere it could reach, seeping its corruption deep within. The spirits writhed as it took hold, many fell to the ground, clearly unable to comprehend just what had occurred, and why they felt this searing pain within them, a desire for something they had never experienced before then. Yesaris could not help but laugh.

They had been humming before, chords that ran wholly apart to Yesaris' own beat but now those hums turned sour, discordant- hungry.

As their gaze looked over the writhing spirits, their focus fell upon one specific one, the one who had for a brief time, possessed the rocks. It’s ethereal body was shaking violently as the green veins pulsed within it, but it seemed to hold some semblance of will left within it, it was fighting back. It clearly had a greater will within it than the others, and well, Yesaris found that appealing. Not enough to end its suffering mind you of course not, this one would be perfect for other reasons.

With a twisting of flesh, bone, and exoskeleton, Yesaris transformed once more, away from their insectoid form, and this time into the form of a great white bat, almost dog sized with fierce red eyes in its sockets. They outstretched their wings, and took their place upon a branch just above the rock spirit, there, they would speak, their hissing, buzzing, voice breaking the silence of it’s suffering.

”Oh us, quite the will this spirit holds, yes yes.” They gazed down, though, entirely unsure if these creatures spoke at all.

The spirit did not reply, merely rolling about in the frozen dirt further, seemingly fading in and out of possession with the land and not. almost like a creature being shocked to death. Yesaris sighed, well this would be less fun than they wanted, no matter, they could speak by themselves.

”Such fight, such determination, such a perfect spawn for us,” they chuckled once more ”It would be such a waste to let this go, just another beast, so, we shall reward you.”

They outstretched their wings, and once more opened their mouth impossibly wide, this time, a pure white gas erupted from within, swirling around the spirit. The gas quickly forced itself within the being once more, fusing alongside the green to further twist and worm itself around, but this one would do something far different. This spirit would be elevated, given a much higher calling, one to serve the Hive and Flesh in all of their needs. In short, they were the first champion of Yesaris.

”Rise great spawn,” Yesaris creaked, slowly dropping themselves onto the floor in front of them, ”Look into the eyes of your creator, and tell us, how do you feel?” They hoped this would give the spirit some form of speech, monologuing was far less fun at this moment.

It did more than that. The blue mist that it had been before, muddled by green poison now blessed with white, grew larger and dim. Like a blackness that snuffed out anything that came into view of it in ceaseless hunger. The mist contorted, if mist could do such a thing, and became crazed. Screams were its first words, deep, disjointed and numerous. Two blackened arms burst forth and grabbed at what Yesaris could only imagine was its forming head. Large jagged spikes of black ethereal burst forth and it became as if a beast in appearance, crosses of the creatures it had perhaps seen before? Or something else entirely but when the screaming stopped, the creature let out a low growl, animalistic in nature.

It looked at the God with an unnatural snap of its neck, a position that if it had been of flesh, would have killed itself. Instead, green eyes akin to flame looked forth upon its creator and it spoke but one reply in a voice as twisted as its appearance.


Yesaris laughed at this, not a laugh at their pain, but a laugh of joy, of celebration. ”Good, good! You are very hungry yes yes. And we can help that, can help sate that pain, you would like that no?” Their bat head titled some, their ever present smile growing even upon their animalistic form.

The creature twitched erratically.


”Very well, we will tell you a simple way to fix this, and tell your new kin this as well. Find a corpse, any one will do. And then, feast upon the flesh of that species, alive flesh might we add. That, that will sate you.” They outstretched their wings, flying upwards and landing back upon the branch of a tree. ”With that, you will be great spawn for our hunger, and you will be a special spawn, yes yes.”

If the creature knew the depth of what it had been told it gave no mention at first, then unprovoked, it slammed itself into the tree that Yesaris roasted in. Or at least it tried, for it flew through the tree and hovered on the other side. It had no legs, only a mass of black mist that wafted. It looked up at the god with the same burning hunger that they felt.

"Flesh." It demanded, in a voice no less deranged and guttural then the few words it had uttered before. Like a snake, it began to coil around the tree, climbing higher.

”Now now,” Yesaris began, looking down at the writhing mass ”You must find a suitable host first, we’re sure there’s some kind of corpses around here.” They turned their head about, looking throughout the frozen lands that surrounded them. Perhaps they should go find some hosts, but again, this was to be a punishment after all.

So, they merely rose higher into the tree, looking down upon the creatures they had created, waiting to see if they would actually listen to their orders. They didn’t want to linger here long, there was still more to be done elsewhere, but these creatures, especially this great spawn, were proving difficult.

It slithered further, taking no heed of the orders. "Pain…" It moaned in a small voice, interwoven with whines before thrashing it's ethereal body against the air. Shaking so violently as if it was in death throes. The others began to circle the tree, like sickly mists that hung about in the air. Taking the shapes of animals but twisted. Some had deformities, others had extra appendages and all them circled like vultures beneath the tree.

The champion righted itself and tried to attack the others but it seemed it was less than fruitful. Like everything else, they simply passed between each other, making terrible, vicious noises as they did.

Yesaris sat upon the tree, looking first down upon their spawn, and then, back to the lands that surrounded them. Surely there must be something out there. They smelled the air around them, searching for something to give them a sign. Ah, there it was, the scent of death, it was there, now this could be of help.

They extended their large, white, wings, and began to waft the scent of the dead down to their spawn. It wasn’t much at first, but more and more it came, that sickly sweet smell that drew both god and creation, fueling that ever present hunger within them. Soon enough it was ever present, its scent swirling along the tree in tandem with the spirits that threw themselves upon it. Yesaris was sure this would give them the idea, and they could finally begin their work as their spawn.

A change came upon them, slow and certain. As the smell wafted between them, mingling with the putrid mists. One by one they lifted their heads, taking deep breaths of the smell. They grew quiet at first, woefully so but then, the champion amidst them growled deep. Then sprang forth in a flurry as the rest rushed after him like wolves on prey.

The god of Parasites couldn’t help but chuckle at this sight as they took flight after them. Now this is what they had wanted them to do, glad to see all that it took was just the scent of death to drive them into a frenzy. They kept just behind the writhing beasts, watching them from the sky as they shot forward towards that delicious scent.

It did not take them long to find the source, in a small clearing amongst the thick trees and brush, there were the carcasses of two large deers, antlers interlocked, it was clear they had died because of this, their antlers were locked in such a way that it was clear they couldn’t release themselves from the other’s grasp. But, there was something else as well, a group of cave lions, large ones, were feasting upon the two carcasses, clearly eager to have their fille upon the beasts.

Oh this, this could be lots of fun. Yesaris merely took their place within a tree, making sure they were clear of the mess that was about to be made. Though with a clear view of it, just so they could get enjoyment out of seeing their spawn in action.

The champion was the first to arrive, skittering across the ground and stone with fluid ease. The lions spooked at his arrival and appearance but quickly took back their senses, fighting for the closest carcass with deep growls but it was too late for the closest corpse. The champion hovered above it for a few moments, then flew inside. The deer corpse itself was almost bones but there was just enough meat on the ribs and shoulders that it would still work. An otherworldly glow began to seep through the cracks, where flesh and hide had given way to ferocious appetite. It became more animated with each passing second, body heaving to undeath. Green eyes snapped to focus and the champion rose, as did its host, but not as it had been. For the champion had been a large spirit and it needed to grow…

The snapping of bones startled the lions, who were still pawing at the other deer. Arms and legs broke in half, replaced in the middle with a black substance that oozed and dripped something foul. Hide and fur stripped and stretched as flesh dangled and dropped, forming a sort of strange stomach from where there had once been emptiness. It’s spine snapped in no less than three places as it began to stand upright, breaking the other head of the deer off as it climbed higher. The champion's own antlers grew longer like some macabre deity of horror. Then finally, it unclenched its jaws and from the terrible maw of the creature, it let out a shriek, half deer, half…
The champion ripped free the other deer head and took one long look from it before ripping what little flesh remained from it free. Devouring it as if it hadn’t even swallowed.

By that time, the other children had arrived. One was lucky enough to be first and possessed the corpse of the other deer. Its head was ripped free from the champion’s grasp and reattached by a green mist that seeped from its wounds and flesh. The lions jumped it and began to tear into the hind as it too began to transform. The champion bellowed and went to attack the one who had stolen its food but stopped as if something unseen barred it from claiming what it wanted. Instead, its attention fell upon lions.

It was a grisly sight and one that allowed for no further nourishment, for as soon as the hungry spirits had ripped to shreds a lion, it became possessed by a free spawn. It went on like that until the last lion fled, chased by its reanimated kin, now warped by a hunger none could know save Yesaris. The champion did something odd next, it looked upon its hands, as if awareness was taking hold but quickly scampered off into the trees in an unnatural gape.

Yesaris cared not to follow, the spirits had found their hosts, and their great spawn would surely become something worthy of their creator. For now, the lord parasite could feel their own hunger satiated, it was little, and they knew it would vanish in no time, but it was something. They were content in their actions, those pitiful creatures thought they could’ve escaped their grasp, now hopefully this would prove to be a message for others, nothing could escape their maw for long.

Regardless, their work was done, now, they had to leave for other matters. Already they could taste the scent of something else upon the horizon. A new thought was forming into their mind, they just needed to find something, no, someone desperate enough. They outstretched their wings, and took flight once more, heading off into the distance, letting their spawn perform their savage hunt, they would do just fine.

A Bite To Eat

Yesaris was still hungry.

Salt was gross they had decided, and the desert full of them was certainly not able to satiate them at all. Though what annoyed them far more was the very existence of that desert. It was so poisonous, dry, and explosive that there was little chance for the fungal mind to ever expand beyond its reach, meaning Yesaris could not so easily sate their hunger.

And yet, there was something more, as they passed the desert into a great field of grass, Yesaris came to realize the full extent of the world the others had created, though Yesaris had little idea of who these others were, sure they heard booming voices once in a while, but these were more annoyances than anything. Seeding this world with their precious children one region at a time would surely be more an annoyance than anything, so they clearly needed to speed up the process.

They opened their mouth, stretching it impossibly wide, and expelled a thick cloud of white dust. The cloud quickly dispersed throughout the lands, settling itself into the nooks and crannies of the environments of the world. And from its depth emerged those bountiful children of Yesaris, Parasites. Countless pests formed, blood sucking ticks, mosquitoes, leeches, and even bats, plants such as mistletoe that twisted and wrapped upon their kin, worms that infected the intestinal tracts, flies and wasps that implanted their young into the flesh of others, even the parasites of the sea emerged, eager to spread their infection to every reach.

Throughout all of Galbar, the parasitic spawn took to their tasks. Integrating into their environments and biomes as neatly as they could. That white dust meanwhile slowly swept away, leaving no trace of their presence, merely leaving the Parasites that had spawn from it. Yesaris, for their part, merely sat and watched as their spawn expanded everywhere, slowly, they could feel their stomach satiated, even if only just a little bit. At least now there was more of their spawn to feed them, and that, they were content with.

Yesaris trudged themselves further through the plains, they were quite vast, sure, they could just rapidly move across them, but they had to admit taking a stroll was far nicer. And was better for spotting areas where they could grow their spawn.

And, as if by a small bit of luck, they spotted a perfect opportunity.

A ways away, Yesaris could see a group of things, they were tall, bronze-ish skinned beings, with horns upon their heads and strange markings at various points. Yesaris could recognize sapients when they saw them, but they had yet to truly witness them. They krept within the brush, their focus trained exclusively upon the band in front of them, seemingly led by their kin that sat upon great steeds. It was a strange sight for the devourer, but their mind quickly turned to another matter in regards to these sapients, how to feast upon them.

Sure, some of their spawn would certainly feast upon them, but it wouldn’t be enough, Yesaris could not just leave it to that, they needed to feast. And so, something else needed to be done. They slipped themselves back through the brush, further from the possible eyes of the band of mortals, to a more secluded portion of the plains.

There, Yesaris began to formulate a plan. These were sapients after all, creatures far more intricate than that of a normal beast. They would require something far more special, something far more fitting for a glorious feast. To do this though Yesaris would need a base, something to transform into another of their glorious spawn. And so they uttered a silent call, a great waft of scent that called forth some of their children to come forth, and serve their creator once more.

First came the vampire bats, strong and eager, their teeth were sharp and a great hunger sat within them, one that showed when they fed on mass upon the life of the world. Yet, they feared the light, hunting only at night, and huddled within a lone tree that sat just next to the Lord Parasite.
Next came the mosquitoes, plentiful and vast, they were often impossible to find or take down, their soft buzzing being the only sign of their presence. Mosquitoes though were too greedy, it was clear to Yesaris they wished to be their main spawn, and they showed this by gathering just in front of them, showing their devotion.
Third were the Leeches, those strange beasts of cartilage, they were strange and often sneaky, almost startling their creator. But unlike the strength of the Bats the Leeches were rather weak, relying upon stealth and surprise to feed, taking their place a bit farther away from the rest.
Finally, came the ticks, the smallest of those summoned, they latched onto their hosts, feeding for quite some time, but despite this they were still eager to serve, willing to work past their problems in the service of the Devourer. They placed themselves upon the trunk of the lone tree, forming together to be better seen by their creator.

Thus, the spawn had been summoned, and Yesaris could go about their plan.
”Our sweet, sweet children, you have so perfectly come to our call. And for that, you get to serve us in a great capacity,” they began, their eternal smile going in between each of the swarms that were laid out before them. ”We shall gift upon you greater forms, forms that you shall use to feast upon the bounty that are sapients. This shall not go without hardships, you will each have your abilities, but will each have your downsides, we expect you to serve us even with these. Are we understood?”

The gathered spawn nodded and buzzed and squirmed in agreement. Yesaris merely nodded, and raised their hands. A great surge of energy erupted from them, swirling around the four groups, transforming them into something far greater than their previous forms. Collectively, they would become the Vertans, great monstrous beings, that feed upon the blood and life force of mortalkind, utilizing their various ways to feast directly from the mortal themselves. They would have two forms: one akin to their old form and horrific and monstrous, and a mortal form that they could use to infiltrate and deceive the mortals of the world in order to feast, but in order to maintain this form they had to transform to their monster form to feast upon mortals, failure to do so would result in the mortal form deteriorating more and more.

Each subspecies of the Vertans would have their own unique abilities, yet their own drawbacks as well.
The Bats were strong, with massive forms that could fly through the use of wings attached to their arms, but they could not hunt during the day, as their skin would blister and become covered in rashes, forcing them to hunt at night.
The Mosquitoes would be able to keep their mortal forms for a longer period of time, fitting their nature to vanish from sight, in order to maintain this, and to punish their greed, they would have to feed upon far larger quantities.
The Leeches were sneaky, able to use their cartilage monster forms to squeeze and maneuver far better than their kin, yet they were not as strong as the others, and could easily be killed were they not careful.
Lastly, the Ticks were the smallest(still), and were granted the ability to put those they feed upon to sleep with natural narcotics, but they would have to attach themselves to their victim and feed for a longer period of time.

Yesaris was quite proud of this, the Vertans would be perfect for the parasitism of the sapient races, another feast to fill their hunger and allow them to bask in the wondrous food of life. For now though, they had to let them loose.
”Go forth our children,” they spoke once more ”Feast upon the life of mortals, scatter yourselves across the world, let us create a bountiful feast!”
They stretched out their hands, allowing their new spawn to scatter to the winds and lands with the assistance of their power, many would have to feast upon those steed-riders for some time. But they knew they would find themselves new hosts eventually, there was no doubt in their mind about that.

With a content sigh, Yesaris set out once more, hoping to finally find themselves out of these plains and onto newer pastures. As they walked, in the distance they heard a great crash, and witnessed rock and dirt fly into the sky, as some sort of great cataclysm sounded in a land a good distance away from the plains. Yesaris for their part merely stared at the crashing of mountains back into the earth, and thought ’Well, thats certainly interesting.” before their stomach reminded them once more of their gnawing hunger, and so they left, heading north, seeking something new to their diet.

Birth Of The Swarm

Hunger, Ceaseless, Unending, Hunger. That is all they could feel, it washed over them like a tidal wave. It scattered their mind in its fury. They were hungry, oh so hungry, they needed to feast, to consume, to devour. It tried to snap and claw towards something, anything that could sate this pain, but it found nothing. No inkling of sustenance for their deep, endless hunger. The pain only grew and grew, as its desire for something, anything to eat, grew in tide.

A shard floated through the void, scattered from the Monarch of All, lost and silent. It pulsed a soft red, the divinity within struggling and clawing to release. Then it sensed something, far below it, upon that planet teeming with life, no, teeming with food. The shard began to descend, slow at first, but picking up more and more speed, the once soft red began to grow in intensity until it was a harsh blood red. As it sped up, cracks began to form along it, the entity trapped inside clawing for a way out, to reach that sweet scent that consumed its mind.

The shard reached incredible speeds, finishing its rapid descent by smashing into the earth, an explosion erupted from where it smashed into, stone, dirt, and plants were scattered into the sky and beyond. A massive crater was left of the impact, stretching more than a hundred miles wide, within its center sat a new being. Its form akin to that of a white, chitin covered centipede, with countless skittering legs that sank themselves into the now scattered soil, its stinger-tipped tail swished about, kicking up dirt and stone behind it. At the other end its torso flexed its six new arms, and finally, its head split open, looking like a flower, if it was filled with teeth and led to a hungry gullet, as the new beast roared in announcement of its own creation. Beneath the segmented chitin sickly green flesh could be seen, and from there emerged countless pests, each one more disease ridden and hungry than the last.

Yesaris, god of Parasites, had emerged. And they were very hungry.

They knew what they had to do, to consume, to feed, to infect all that laid before them. This land would not do for a feast though, their own creation had stripped it bare, and the lands around the crater were nothing but plants, fine food sure, but nothing worthy of the Great Devourer. They summoned that divinity within them, and set to work.

First, they went to fix the crater, wasteland would serve no purpose, for nothing could grow or eat there, and as such, nothing could become hosts for their feast. They forced plants to emerge from the soil keeping in line with the plants beyond, mighty evergreen and deciduous trees that towered within the center, casting shade upon the grasses and bushes that sat beneath them, meanwhile the outskirts were host to various shrubs, their roots digging deep into the sides of the crater in order for them to stay in place. They smoothed out the edges of the crater as well, to ensure there would be no true hazard to walk in between.

With the crater reseeded with life, the plants were set, but they could not be the only hosts, there had to be more, animals of flesh and blood, not to mention the creation of the parasites themselves, those precious things, serving their creator to feed them. And so they set to work once more, crafting forth beasts to live within the great forests of the far south, large great cats and smaller ocelot like cousins, crafty foxes that hunted the underbrush for the hares and maras, burrowing armadillos and skunks, and large deer and guanaco to fit as large ungulates. To fill the skies they created owls, sparrows, woodpeckers, parakeets, and even flightless lesser rhea, and as hunters they crafted falcons, caracara, kestrels, and the scavenging condors. For insects there was no limit, beetles, butterflies, bees, waps, and dragonflies, all sorts of crawlies and buzzers.

Finally, this was a good land to feast on, first they created mundane parasites, bot flies, fleas, lice, mosquitoes, parasitoid wasps that used other insects to grow their children. They created leeches, parasitic worms that infected intestines, protozoa and even parasitic plants, all sorts of mundane parasitic life. These creatures rapidly spread through the region, setting upon their hosts and slowly but surely feasting upon their bounties. It was filling, Yesaris could feel their hunger settling, yet it wasn’t enough, they needed more, more parasites, more infection, they needed to consume.

They returned to the vast crater, and within they crafted a new creation, a fungus, a parasitic fungus, one that could spread and infect all that it touched. But this wouldn’t just be any ordinary fungus, it would be connected, a greater mind dispersed through the various forms and parts, a hivemind, and the more it grew, the smarter it would become. But it needed its start, it would be no fun to just create it throughout the region, no, that would deny the very idea of the creeping infection, so they would limit it to the crater, and let it spread as it pleased.

First, they started with a core. The first stage of its great infection, a massive fungal growth, sat within the very center of the crater, exactly where they fell. These growths pulsated a reddish-white, and were filled with the mind that would grow from the fungus’ expansion, it would serve as the first of many, the overseers to the infection. From this Hive Core spread the mycelium network, and erupted spores for the expansion of the parasite. From these came the next form of the hive, that which infected the plants, the networks connected to root systems and inner structures, siphoning off portions of the energy created by their photosynthesis, this energy was used to both feed the hive core and to craft great sporocarps that emerged from trees, just underneath bushes, and towered over the grasses which too were not safe. These sporocarps oozed a thick, purplish honey, which would come of importance later, and would also burst when full of spores, spreading the infection even further, and replacing any lost Producer Forms that had fallen to age or other means.

Some of these spores would find themselves inhaled by the animals of the region, adhering to nasal cavities deep within the nostrils, where the other form would emerge, that of the Beast. This form was more slow-acting, taking time to spread its mycelium network through the wall of the cavity, into the central nervous system of the brain itself. Here, the network would begin to work its way within, slowly taking control of the functions of the brain and make its way throughout the entire nervous system, in effect replacing it with its own mycelium network, giving it full control of whatever it had made its host.

The host would still need to be fed though, and so they would feed upon either the other plants and animals, or make their way to the great Producer Forms and feast upon the purple honey that could help sustain them, at least enough for the host to continue to serve its role. Eventually, sporocarps would break through the surface of the skin, emerging and twisting the form of the host, this would serve as another means to spread the infection, and a far more efficient one, as the hosts could travel, allowing it to spread further and further. Though not too far, as if it left the reach of the Hive Core, it would grow disarrayed and practically mindless, and so more would need to be created by the hive itself.

With the crater becoming consumed by the infection, that of the Parasitus Mentis, Yesaris felt as if their job was done, already they could feel that hunger being saited more and more, but it was not enough. More needed to be done, more corners needed to be infected, and it would take too long for their hive to work its way through it all. They needed to continue their work elsewhere, but not in this form, no it was, too obvious.

And so they twisted themselves, contorting their limbs and parts into a new shape, one more bipedal and incredibly thin and rather short, with jagged digitigrade insectoid legs and four clawed insectoid arms, all covered in that same white chitin and having that same sickly green flesh beneath while their smaller scorpion tail still swished behind them. They cloaked themselves in a rotten, tattered, hood of their own creation, obscuring their face in eternal shadow, only an ever smiling row of teeth showing.

Content in their new shape, Yesaris set off, leaving behind their parasitic hive and forests, knowing it would not disappoint, ever growing and infecting until, hopefully, it consumed much of the world in its grasp. Ah, a hungry god could only hope.

Tales of The Shattered Courts

Fire, horrific burning fire, lightning, the cracking of earth, the cries of the damned and worthless. That is all they could remember, at least, those who could even remember to begin with. They lived within a hellish metal corpse now anyway, so it mattered little what had happened. Many are more concerned with survival, some continuing long forgotten orders and decrees, others acting upon mere base inscists, some from the city itself, others from beyond. It made no matter, they were within the Shattered Courts now. And there was no escape.

De Fundamentis Sanctus

The bells rang through the broken grounds, shattered windows and collapsed walls allowed its cry to sound unfettered throughout the groves and halls. Golden spires and walls, lined with the art of tales long abandoned and forgotten, icons to a religion brought to its violent end, yet the tolling of bells told another story. Its call summoning the beasts the lie within to wake, another day in their endless mission. Slowly they awoke, their bones creaking under the strain of the sets of rusted metal and worn cloth that was permanently bound and fused to their tattered skin. Decrepit hands grasped old rusted weapons forged in times long forgotten by that which held them. Beneath their broken helmets, coarse throats uttered hymns that had been seared into their rotten minds, praises and pleas to gods that were long dead and forgotten, only remembered in the thoughts of these broken beasts, no longer able to be called mortals.

They began their marches and patrols, they took their positions amongst the shattered grounds and churches, once beautiful spires brought low by the great cataclysm yet would still be defended, holy grounds desecrated yet still the centers of the worship of decrebid things. Some organized into long columns, marching through the streets that staggered and jutted, led by blinded monks whose voices called out for mercy to things that could no longer listen, their rotting skin tearing at the crack of the barbed whips they carried and slashed upon their own bodies. Those that walked behind these crying priests held their heads down in supplication, begging for forgiveness for transgressions and crimes that are nothing more than faded memories, images covered in the hazy mist of minds that can no longer keep up, if they faltered at any moment, they would be punished, the barbed whips and weapons of their companions turned against them.

Within once hallowed halls priests adorned in great tattered and bloodied garbs would gather and meet, their great symbols of office now even greater tattered relics of their holy cause. They spoke in loud whispers of sacrosanct orders and decrees, their ancient skin creaking at every slow, painstaking, movement as they argued over doctrinal differences that emerged in ages not even they could remember. Yet, they did not falter in their mission, afterall, this was the work of the gods, there could be no schism, no division, they needed to continue these orders, as no others would come in. Though none within these once mighty cathedrals and holy sites realized that this was because those who gave the orders were dead, their corpses littering the halls they stood in.

They would defend this holy land, this city claimed by the divine right of the gods, their beautiful treasures trapped within grand vaults guarded by warriors of endless faith and devotion. Yet, what wonders truly lie within these sacred halls? What artifacts of ags long forgotten are buried under the watch of these holy warriors? Relics of power and divinity far beyond any comprehension of those both within and beyond the walls of the fallen city. What tales would emerge, this land of divinity, trapped in eternal supplication for sins and crimes long abandoned, De Fundamentis Sanctus, the eternal light.

De Charash Delka

Thousands of creatures packed into the massive halls of the grand palace, legs of flesh, metal, and chitin pounding away as they skittered as quickly as they could, the Throne had called them, they must heed it. The walls pulsated with fleshly-fungal growths that snaked alongside the cramped mass of creatures, as they rampaged through the halls. Some ran upon two legs, some four, others six, or eight, or far more or far less, these creatures rarely looked the same, their forms being a horrendous fusion of flesh, fungi, metal, and chitin all fused and stitched together, some looked liked twisted mockeries of humans, others were formless masses of flesh and guts held together by metal plates that shot themselves along with sickening tendrils, the majority looked akin to large insect like creatures, their chitin transitioning to metallic spike like legs with fleshy-fungal growths emerging from in between the plates. Yet, as all these different creatures and beasts bounded throughout the halls, they worked in perfect unity, not one faltering, none tripping over one another, for they all shared one mind, guided by the first amongst them all, their custodian, the Throne.

The Throne sat amongst the great hall of the fallen palace, vast networks of that fungal flesh material covered the walls and floors, they spiraled up pillars and made homes amongst the rafters, covering once beautiful marble and stone that had already long become faded and worthless by the time their infestation had come. The ground had become cracked, shattered, tiles and carpets tossed aside like they were nothing more than some worthless speck, growths of that heinous flesh emerged through the ground wherever they could, reaching high above in some mockery of prayer. At the end of the hall, sat the Throne itself, a pulsating mass of the flesh with tendrils and strands emerging from it, connecting to the vast network that surrounded it, pulses shooting out from its horrific form to travel through the vast consciousness it presided over. It was no ruler, no, it was not the creator, merely another part of the great hive that had chosen here as its home, crafted to serve as the first among equals, the brain of the massive body.

They had come here, settled here, to survive, they needed a home, and these ancient halls, abandoned and empty, with crumbling towers and rotten grounds, were perfect for them. The palace was vast, and could serve as their new home within this strange and terrifying land. And so, they took root, from a collection of minor pods to the massive hive that they now were. In truth, they had no care for what this place once was, the vast wealth stored within were foreign and alien to them, of no use to the practicality of the hive, it could not be eaten, it could not be made into bedding, or used to create more of their hive, and so, it was worthless. Yet, they barely touched them, and so, these relics, artifacts, icons of ages long past, scattered throughout the halls of their home.

To think, such beacons of power and glory, a lens to the history of a place no longer recognized, is merely tossed aside. One then has to wonder, what could they find in there? What wealth? Prestige? Fame? All hidden away within these halls so corrupted and tortured, so fragently desecrated. Now home to this endless horde of beast of flesh and metal, to break through, would truly be the work of a hero, that who broke through this land of putrid infection. De Charash Delka, the vast palace.

De Merakashi Ishra

The groaning of steel stacked high within the air, of rusted machines no longer serving a purpose, being pushed in the wind, threatening to topple over at any second. Once a bustling center of industry and commerce, now laid to ruin from time and destruction, nothing more than a hallowed graveyard of machines and buildings, bleached white skeletons littering everywhere, some laid upon the floor, others propped up within the machines they once operated, their final acts to continue their work. Yet, amongst the wreckage, one thing stood out amongst the rest, large pools of oil-like substance, coloured a swirl of blues, purples, reds, oranges, and greens, like that of an oil-slick. These pools bubbled and boiled within the confines of their metal home, seemingly nothing more than the spillage of a former heart of industry, yet it was what came out of them that was far more important. From within the pits they would emerge, large beasts of that same multi-coloured oil emerged, their limbs snapping from the pools into shifting, malleable, forms topped with featureless mounds for faces, elongated arms ending with club like tips from which sticky tendrils would emerge, and legs that squelched and smooshed down as they walked.

These creatures stirred and rumbled, trudging through the vast graveyard that they called home. Their mission was a simple one, to search the machines of days long past, to rip from them the relics and pieces of the old ages, to write down the ancient symbols of those that came before, to meticulously research and to uncover the grand history of the shattered city, no matter the cost. They would tear apart the rusted and rotted machines with ease, graverobbers in every sense of the word, desecrating the glory they so sought to research and to the large structures of iron and steel they would bring their works, the items they had found, parts, symbols, tools of trade, anything that could be collected they gathered within their hovels and dens, proudly displaying them like trophies of their research.

Such dedication, such bountiful joy in the discovery of what the past was, what came before them within the shattered towers and crumbling streets, things they would never ever be able to meet. Yet, these creatures, so simplistic in their creation, emerging from these pools of such inert material, why did they have such dedication? Such drive to catalogue and research? Going to such great lengths to secure their obsessions, even fending off the other beasts and creatures of the shattered city with such ferocity and fervor. One has to wonder, was their creation a fluke? Or was it something far, far more?

And to say nothing of their great relics! These literal troves of knowledge that could bring such a lens to the past, the wealth the academia would have with these troves secured! But of course, those who hold these troves and vaults are quite fiercely protective of them, already having gone to great lengths to secure what relics they could find, one would not even think the reaction these things would have upon those who would dare to steal from them. Such vast knowledge, all locked away within this land, another district amongst these Shattered Courts, De Merakashi Ishra, the graveyard of the ancients.

De Yushi Lesra

They had not been here forever, when compared to the other ancient and immeasurable districts within the city, they were the youngest. Flooded by the sudden re-arrival of water, pouring throughout the area, covering the streets and walkways, collapsing houses and buildings and sweeping them into large concentrations of debris that floated throughout the area. High above them stood the towers of metal and steel, still standing proudly even as moss and rust clambered and climbed upon their beams and rods. Beneath these great towers, hiding underneath the clouds of scrap and debris, just below the polluted water of the district, lurked forms of metal, long jagged tails swishing behind them as four finned legs tipped with horrific claws propelled them through the brackish waves, their crocodile like jaws snapping at fish, as six piercing red eyes scanned the darkness they lived within with a hellish hunger.

High above them, climbing the great towers, stood other metallic creatures, their forms rusted and scrap like, with elongated arms of fused metals, ending with incredibly long rusted claws that grasped and tore into the rods they ascended upon, their legs being bent almost backwards in a way, serving as further aids to their climb, their faces containing only a single large burning bright red eye. Upon catching sight of something, be it a tiny bird or a shiny relic, they would snatch at it, giving chase with utter ferocity, tearing apart anything made of flesh and taking anything made of metal away, fusing any useful parts to their horrific stitched together bodies, and tossing any useless scraps down below, for the creatures of the depths to fight over.

Yet, they would not climb to the highest points of the towers, for those were the domains of large beasts, their forms even more rusted than the others, creaking at every slow movement. They were large beings, sitting upon troves of countless objects stolen from the towers they sat upon, either taken from the climbers below them, or stolen directly when they claimed the towers for their own. With their wide bodies, long, beefy, arms and legs tipped with claws, and rusted and broken wings they could cover their troves for countless years, and there they would stay content, their long heads and two savage red eyes keeping an eternal watch. It's not like they would be going anywhere, their forms had long lost much of their grace, now they were slow beasts, still formidable in their own right, but ones that could barely move beyond their hordes.

Treasures high, and treasures low, truly many options within these lands, wonders to be found by climbing the great towers that shoot out towards the sky, truly the clear option, fending off the guardians of troves and wealth. But what of the other option? To sink below the waves and lake and find what was lost to the water a relatively short time ago, in the grand scheme of things. To think of what those brave few could uncover? Such lost relics that many would overlook, truly, it’d be a tale worth of true glory, the treasure of De Yushi Lesra, the flooded trove.

De Asmentis Lora

Silence, pure, utter, silence. A pale mist consumed the outskirts of the once great city, houses that had long collapse covered so that one could barely see them right up to running into them. In truth, there was little here to have fallen, nothing like the grand spires and structures that sat in the distance, instead merely nothing more than buildings meant to house people in life and in death. It is a drap land, corpses are littered everywhere, from those who once lived amongst this grand city, to those who have found their way here, for this place serves as the first point to many. A great wall of mist and terror, leading to the wealth and wonders holed up the city beyond.

The land here was unlike the others, there were no great guardians, beasts fighting for survival, savage creatures, nothing. Instead, there was merely the silence, that silence that smothered the roads and halls, no matter where one went it would follow, seemingly consuming any sound not made by outsiders. And there was that mist, that horrific thing, a pale yellowish-brown, it crept wherever it could, clouding visions, choking pathways, and confusing directions, it was seemingly alive, working against whoever would dare enter the passageway. Yet, if one dared to do this, it would be likely that they would hear things, the snapping of bones, crunching of flesh, cracking of wood and stone, quick noises that would sound off like cannons in the silence that so corrupted the area. And if one took good looks deep within the mist, they would be forgiven if they thought they saw shapes amongst it, dark and tall, nothing more than a mass of form deep within their clouded view that would quickly vanish behind corners or objects. One does have to wonder, what truly made all these corpses? As many of them are fresh.

To pass by this place, this horrific, accursed land, is to be given entry to a land of pure riches and glory. A grand journey that would almost certainly deliver onto them relics and artifacts long thought lost, a chance to learn the history of what came before. But, if one could dare to explore this land of terror, to explore deeper into the mists and pathways, to brave the silence and what lays beyond, what would they be able to find? What items long overlooked were there? Remnants of those who lived beyond the city’s glory and wealth. All locked away behind that tortuous mist and silence of De Asmentis Lora, terror’s gate.

Five Districts, five vaults of treasure. Only some of the many creatures and horrors found within the Shattered Courts, that land of eternal torment, a grand beacon to all of what terror the end brought to all. A place for names to be forged, and for the unworthy to die, for wealth to be made, and lost, for history to be discovered and made. To know what terror lies within those hollow halls and streets is to also know what true power looks like. All hidden away within the Shattered Courts, the eternal mausoleum.

Alzria, Goddess of Nightmares


I’Iro - Goddess of Dreams

With the winter project finished, the cold in the south tamed and gifted to Arira, I’Iro had dedicated her time to travel back towards Mons Divinus, taking many detours along the way to further her understanding of the mortals that inhabited this world. As she finally approached the colossal mountain she noticed a biome she had not seen when she first left. A fungi based forest was a curious sight, she wondered if this was related to the micellean network that connected the world yet the design of this location felt different in philosophy.

The goddess would surely have been spotted already had she been flying her dragon, the turquoise trail of light impossible to miss in the night sky, but for the sake of better mortal interactions she had been on foot, exploring the land in a slow pace. This allowed her to outright, accidentally, stumble upon a mortal settlement, or at least the origins of one. She observed the creatures there with stark curiosity, non-humans, they were unlike anything she had met through her travels.

Not exactly knowing how to approach mortals still, she merely stood there, observing them in the outskirts of the settlement, just waiting for something to notice her and initiate contact. For a moment, the mortals didn’t notice, the skeleton looking things more focused on constructing buildings of stone and fungal covered wood. Eventually though one of them, their head like that of a boar’s skull, noticed, quickly alerting the others to the strange person near the outskirts. They stared for a good while, equally as unsure as how to react to newcomer, before finally, the boar headed one stepped forward, speaking.

“Who goes there?” They asked, their voice nearly monotone and gruff in its nature.

What a scene that was, the goddess and the mortals' eyes had met and yet they had just stared for a long time. Ah. Greetings. I am I’Iro. The Goddess of Dreams. Please do not mind me for I was just observing your species to satiate my curiosity. I have no intent to interfere with your daily life. Yet. I must notice that I have never seen other creatures like your kind before. If it is not bothersome could you please identify yourself?

The skeletal mortal looked back towards their compatriots, before returning their gaze back towards the goddess. “We are Azrath,” they replied “It is no surprise that you haven’t met us before, we are not native to these lands and are relative newcomers.”

The mechanical goddess placed a finger in her chin, taking in the words. Newcomers? I heard whispers of such a species. One that came from beyond a portal. Though… the descriptions were a bit off. definitely not fluffy in the slightest, she wondered if the person who described them was blind. Well. Be welcome to these lands. It is very interesting to have newcomers. she stopped herself from asking them direct questions about their mind. It would not do well to the first impression, as she had learned with some of her mortal interactions.

Please tell me. Do your species sleep? When you do. Do you have dreams? this she felt was a more natural approach, it was expected that a goddess of dreams would be curious about such things.

The Azrath gave her a strange look before quickly remembering she was a goddess of dreams, “Well, we do sleep yes, and we do dream, though i'm not sure our definition of dream is the same of yours, ours are more akin to a song, we experience visions of symbols of our language and the tunes of our people, sometimes we experience visions of places from our old lands, but those are rare.”

“And should be reported to the King” added another Azrath, their head looking like that tiger.

“That too”

Well, wasn’t that interesting? Humans in contrast tended to have most of their usual dreams be heavily based on spatial memory, it was such a prevailing theme in their minds that it wasn’t uncommon for them to simplify abstract concepts like time into location based words. Meanwhile this species’ mind seemed to be more focused on fully conceptual things like dreams and song, she would need to peek into a few of their dreams later to fully understand this.

Thank you. It is good for me to better understand how dreams work in different species. Do not worry about the definition of dreams. Though you mentioned an ancient home. Have any of you seen such a place or is it just a shared memory of your species? while she was interested in that aspect, she was also winning some time to better analyse the species architecture and how they occupied the space given to them, to see if it differentiated in some way due to the nature of their dreams.

The species's buildings seemed normal at first sight, but as she looked at them, she began to notice carvings and symbols within the stones and wood, seemingly akin to a decorative artwork. Sadly it seemed they were not far in the building to get anymore, though it certainly seemed like the stone was rougher than usual for a building.

“Well,” The Boar Azrath began “For some of our older members they have seen these homes, but for some of us,” They looked back towards another of their members, another boar headed one, who avoided their gaze “They see places they could’ve never seen, so, I’d guess it’d be a shared memory then.”

It seemed like she would not be able to make enough research this early on, but, there were already many hints for her to speculate on the species. She could see hints of minds that did not visualize in height, width and depth, but in word, tone and melody, how that interacted with these supposed shared memories was not clear however. Collective imagination leading to a rare spatial based dreams was a grounded, acceptable assumption, without needing any extraordinary aspect to explain such dreams, but it would be foolish to deny other possibilities such as their language, therefore code, based memory somehow better interacting with genetic memory, or that somehow the tunes of these people could be translated into spatial-visual memory not merely by association but outright singing the geometry and shape of a location.

Well. That is one possibility. I cannot say I am not intrigued about how such dreams could come to be. Though I cannot give my opinion on them as your recent arrival makes information scarce. Speaking of that. Was this fungi forest brought by your people? I do not seem to recall it in this region before.

"Not from us no, I believe Alzria created it as it was here when we met her." They paused for a brief moment, before realizing the goddess had no idea who they were talking about "Alzria is the one who took us in, helped us settle down, she is another goddess, so, one of your kind."

I’Iro gently tilted her head. Ah. Is that so? I have not met an entity of that name yet. But it's good that she helped your kind. Not all gods are this cordial to mortals.

The Azrath chuckled "She tends to keep to her sanctuary so I am not surprised you have not heard of her,” They looked towards the mountains “In exchange though, she asked that we help serve as guardians of this land, which we are not opposed to.”

A sanctuary in the mountain? she too looked towards the mountain with building curiosity. I wonder if I should pay her a visit. It would be rude to have interacted with her land without a proper introduction. Would it not?

“Aye, I'm sure she’d like to know you’re around here, she can get very protective of her children.” They raised their hand, pointing towards the tallest mountain in the area “You’ll find the sanctuary up there, if you can fly it'll be easy, but if you can’t well, you’ll have to take the steps, you’ll come across some more of our kin there who can help you out with that.”

The goddess nodded. I cannot fly myself. I tend to simply ride my servant-dragon Nalmepror. However. I think the idea of walking by foot and meeting more of your kind is preferable. she explained with a simple half-smile to try to make herself more casual.

After a short hike, for a god that is, I’Iro found herself reaching the highest points of the mountain, the fungal forest had changed completely as she climbed, adapting to the drier and cold of the location while remaining recognizable. She finally found the shape of the entrance to some sort of cave, though by now the presence of divinity alone was enough to guide her.

The entrance also was easily noticeable even amongst the growing mist amongst the area, a grand metal door that easily surpassed her size, a near black in its colouration. All across it were inscribed the silver images and depictions of countless beasts and monsters, many unrecognizable to the goddess, each image seemed to interact with the others, making a grand scene of monsters. Right in front of her were two large door knockers, each one looking like a monster’s head, with a circled snake within their mouth.

I’Iro blinked a few moments, the scene was surprising to say the least but the act of knocking on the door was what really impressed her. Still, she moved forward and used the metallic snake against the equally metallic door, a loud bell-like sound being made from this peculiar combination.

For a moment, all that she could hear within were the distant sounds of creatures within. But eventually, the sound of metal creaking upon metal erupted from the door, and a smaller door within the massive one, just next to the knockers, opened up. From within a figure popped out, covered in a tattered black and purple robe, with purple skin covered in scars and blisters, chitin and fungi covered arms, bloody cloth upon their legs and eyes, a large bladed tail, and a pair of twisted wings. The divine presence was clear enough to her, this was clearly the goddess she was searching for.

”Well hello there!” the other goddess spoke in an ill fitting jovial tone. ”Who might you be?”

I’Iro was a contrasting sight to that goddess, a tall, neatly dressed human, even dirt did not seem to cling to her boots. Yet she wasn’t judgemental either, as she was far too data focused to get bothered by the state of her clothes or blisters. Greetings. I was traveling back to Mons Divinus and by accident discovered this location. I am I’Iro. Goddess of Dreams.

The other goddess smiled, her mouth full of wicked teeth "Oh! welcome to Varati then!" she gave a bow in greeting "I am Alzria, the goddess of Nightmares, welcome to my sanctuary!"

Oh. Greetings. she nodded politely, if not awkwardly. Uhm. Nightmares? That is curious to say the least. I had never met a god whose domain is so close to my own. she stepped forward looking at the area that had opened up, though now she was too focused on theory crafting within her own head.

Inside she could see a dark passage leading deeper into the mountain, a bit beyond she could see the glow of a pale blue light. Alzria gestured towards the door "Would you like a look inside? I am very curious to learn more about the other side of sleep so It'd be a nice time to talk."

I’Iro nodded politely and started to move ahead into the lair. The curiosity is mutual. it felt like this talk was really inevitable no matter what, to not know each other would just breed trouble and potential for misunderstandings, she was sure all gods could reach an amicable agreement nevertheless. She followed Alzira deeper into the sanctuary without worry, the whole realm of fear was somewhat alien to the goddess of dreams, it was a deeply mortal and organic behaviour after all.

The cave path led deep into the mountains, eventually depositing the two into a massive cavern, within sat a large lake, and various other tunnels led deeper into the caverns. High above the cavern stretched upward, with various perches and ledges for what seemed to be nests. All around, there were monsters and beasts of a variety of flavours, a vast amount of slimes by the lake, Griffins and fliers sitting by their nests, some creatures sat in spots, others milled about. Alongside them there were several Azrath, seemingly caring for the beasts of the sanctuary.

"So!" Alzria spoke, clapping her hands together then gesturing out towards the sanctuary "Welcome to the sanctuary! home of my children and me, and some of my Azrath helpers. Since you're my guest, I guess you can ask some questions first." She smiled once more, eager to talk.

I’Iro nodded slowly as she took a position and turned to Alzria. The most essential question in this is simple. Please define nightmares. As it is clear to me that word has a meaning to you that is notably different to my own.

Alzria thought for a moment, giving a small humm ”Well, Nightmares are, a, manifestation of the fears of mortals, all that terror locked away in their minds given a form. They are, in a way, alive, feeding off of the mind of the mortal, rarely do they do much beyond give a scare, but sometimes there are mortals who, either of their own free volition or not, give in to fear, that can cause more, serious, mental problems and they can even manifest themselves in the waking world.” She licked her lips, seemingly starring off for a moment, before snapping back to attention ”Apologies, I tend not to be able to help myself at the thought, mortals being brought low by nightmares and their own fear is a tasty treat to me.”

The mechanical goddess nodded along what was being said, slowly raising an eyebrow at the reply. I see… The first things you have said are similar to my definition with perhaps an added level of romanticism. However clearly there are some elements to fear that act in a way unlike anything I work with when it comes to dreams. All the gods I had met so far were neutral or positive towards the mortal species so it is a bit surprising to meet one who has more… utilitarian views. this was all said without strong facial expressions, just I’Iro’s typical distant tone.

A chuckle came from Alzria in response ”I suppose you could call it that, it stems from the nature of nightmares in some regards I suppose, we feed on mortals, simple as that, don’t get me wrong, I hold no desire to destroy or kill them.” She gestured towards the Azrath within the sanctuary to further her own point, ”In fact, their growth means even more for me and my nightmares to consume, so, you would be right, I do suppose I hold some, utilitarian views. Anyway, I am curious about Dreams some, I don’t know much about them and would love some enlightenment about them.”

Oh. Dreams are not that different from the way you described nightmares at first. I’Iro rose a hand and a playback of Alzria’s voice played ”Well, Nightmares are, a, manifestation of the fears of mortals, all that terror locked away in their minds given a form. the goddess rested her hand and continued. See. Here you describe emotions and thoughts locked away within the mind that are manifested during sleep. Dreams are not that different to the point that before meeting you I considered what mortals described as nightmares to just be indistinguishable from dreams. They are the free flow of thoughts typically hidden away by distractions and busyness of life. The mind working at its full potential. One thing that distinguishes us… perhaps… is that I do not see an end product of Dreams the same way your value the production of Fear from Nightmares. My concern is to analyse and understand dreams and the mind and to an extant help mortals control their own minds.

I’Iro adjusted her turquoise hair with one hand, breaking eye contact for a moment. That last part is perhaps a bit anathema to your desires. As among the things that come with a better self-control is the ability to contain and suppress fears. That said. I hope this does not breed animosity between us. That would be a wasteful endeavour.

”Well I surely wouldn’t want to fight someone like yourself.” The nightmare goddess gave a big toothy smile, if it weren’t for the cloth covering her eyes, she would’ve surely winked. ”But they do sound similar in some regards, I suppose that comes from our shared space amongst the sleep of mortals, and don’t worry, I won’t feel any animosity for your work, we each have our jobs, no faulting someone for doing it.”

I’Iro nodded at the reasonable words of Alzria. Ah. That is good to hear. I am not fond of conflict at all. And indeed. Perhaps one viewpoint could even be that our conflicting works help to keep each side trying their hardest. Nevertheless. I thank you for your hospitality.

”Of course! My sanctuary is open to all, of course as long as you play nice and don’t care about all the monsters,” The sounds of monsters reminded the pair of the vast amount of creatures that sat and laid a short distance away from them. ”I do look forward to working with, or well, against you in the future, anything else you’d like to ask?”

The robotic goddess rubbed her chin for a long moment, her eyes focusing on the many creatures around them. With some struggle she nodded, asking a question that had been on her mind for a good while May I pet the griffon?

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