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A tree, quickly felled and crafted through capable hands, could still have many uses outside of mere hut construction and tool use. In fact, wood had many places in armed ranks, as was being introduced to the Aspasia. Shields were being crafted by the strongest men who would make the core of Atmav’s fight force as they took a stone and refined the wood to into an oval.

She had her men organized in rows as they took the hides and pelts of animals to cover the wood, she inspected them as she walked up and down each row. She stopped in front of one of her men, he was young, but strong, and eager to serve his God-Queen. Atmav bent to study his shield, taking it into her hands before snapping it in two with little effort, displeasure coming to her face as she looked down upon the boy. Her hands dropped the two pieces on either side of him.

“Too weak in the center,” she growled, before looking to the rest of her men, an eyeless gaze going over them all before focusing on the one in front of her. “Make another! This time, do it properly!” She ordered with a bark.

The boy rushed to his feet and went to retrieve additional lumber, leaving Atmav to continue her inspection among them. She had seven days to make them into a competent fighting force, determined to make them far more effective than what Milos could possibly bring to bear. Atmav was silent as her focus took hold, no weakness could be forgiven, if they were fighting in the forest, then these shields would have to stop a rain of branch and splinter when they fought.

She stopped.

Another failure.

Again did the Selka get to his feet and rush to retrieve the lumber needed.

Seven days. Seven days to form a proper war band. Time was not on her side, a long peace had made her blind to the possibility of war. Atmav knew that it was her fault for not being prepared, knowing that complacency was a slow and an ever silent killer. Even then she would have to help train the warriors of the Iwai, more time killed and thrown into the metaphorical grave.

One row of passable shields.

“Third line!” Atmav ordered. The entire line rushed to the feet, gathering their shield in hand along with their short spears, topped with the metal that Kirron had given them. She walked back down the third row, inspecting their posture. Nearly perfect, a few of the throwing spears were held a bit awkwardly but proper use would come with practice.

“My God-Empress!” A voice from her left said, determination evident as her head turned to see a Selka who was small and skinny. She recognized this boy as one who, previously, had preferred to make art and decorate the hides for females. He was kneeling with a hastily made shield and a spear with a blunt rock. “I wish to go on this war band! To serve you, my queen!” He explained.

A smile crawled upon Atmav’s face, not one of pleasure, but one of sadism as she reached for a shield from the Selka to her right. She held the shield out to the artist.

“Then do not let Brottnee push you to the sea,” Atmav said, her cruel smile widening as the tall and broad Selka looked down up the artist.

The male seemed to have a confident look, reaching for the shield, only for his smile to disappear as he realized the true height of Brottnee, standing a full ear taller than himself and almost twice as broad. The artist raised the shield as Brottnee stomped over from the front line, setting down the spear he would use to guard the true javelin throwers behind him. The artist was already shaking.

When Brottnee ran forward, Atmav was surprised to find that the artist stood his ground to the likes of the one of the largest men in the tribe. The two shields slammed into each other before the artist, despite trying to hold his ground, was knocked clean onto his back.

“And like that the men behind you are dead,” Atmav stated, stepping over to the two, feeling all the eyes of the near hundred men looking at the artist and her. She stood over him, a look of shame upon his face as he looked away.

“Only the strongest may serve under me, and only the strongest are allowed to win honor by my side,” she said, her voice growing loud enough for the entire force to hear her. Her eyeless gaze burned into the artist. “Go! You have no place among my ranks as you are now!” She ordered, turning away as the weakling got to his feet to drag himself away.

Atmav watched him until he was out of sight before returning to her inspections.




As the night drew near, and those of the Aspasia began to rest, Atmav could not help but listen to the night. The silence that came here was one she did not enjoy, even as she walked back to her longhouse, it was almost unsettling and she swore she noticed something massive in the distance moving along the water. For a moment, she thought it could have been Yimbo, but she knew that it did not move anywhere near as graceful as the silent leap she thought she saw.

She turned into her longhouse before looking back at the open water, the form gone.

Perhaps it was stress coming to her. Perhaps the nervousness of actually marrying someone was making her mind see things. She could not tell.

”Well, isn’t this a lovely little place?” voices from behind asked.

She turned, her greatsword raising to meet the white form of someone sitting on her throne, its fingertips meeting each other as a tooth-filled grin sat unnaturally upon its face. Atmav knew who it was, perhaps not the form, but the entity itself.

“Vakk…” her voice was low as she hissed the name, the red glow of her blade coming as she readied herself to go to blows with her nemesis.

”Atmav, why the hatred? You knew I would be coming eventually, and you know that you are powerless against me, even with that little toy that Orvus gave you,” Vakk said, amused at Atmav’s continued willingness to fight it. It let out a low chuckle as hot air blew upon Atmav’s back. When she turned, she saw the massive head of a beast poking through the door, a low growl coming through it as it seemed to sniff her.

”You are in no position to fight me, Atmav. But I have not come to fight, I have come to talk,” Vakk stated, leaning its head into the palm of its hand.

“I do not want to talk with you, and I never want to see you again,” Atmav growled as she took a step towards Vakk before she felt something wrap around her leg. Looking down, she saw a purple tendril wrapped around her and another moved to grab her main hand before she found herself twisted upside down.

”We made a deal, Atmav. Your freedom, for a simple favor. Now, I wish to use that favor,” Vakk said, moving a light chuckle coming to it as Atmav attempted to swing her greatsword only for a tendril to disarm her.

“What makes you think I want to talk, demon?” Atmav hissed, struggling and squirming against Vakk’s ever tightening grip.

”You have no choice, Atmav,” it remarked, still amused at her unwillingness to cooperate. Its own eyeless gaze studying her for a moment, silence between the two other than the grunts of Atmav attempting to free herself, and the deep breaths of the beast behind her.

”I did not peg you for the type to marry someone so weak,” Vakk started, only stopping to chuckle for a brief moment, ”What ever happened to marrying the finest breed? That is what your kind is meant to do, does it not? My you truly have fallen from grace.”

“What do you want, demon? I know you did not come to merely mock me,” Atmav growled as Vakk chuckled to itself.

As Vakk ceased its laughter, it stood from the throne that it hardly fit it before taking a singular step towards Atmav, ”I require the children of your people. My own children need them to grow.”

“No! These children have families and lives to live Vakk, they are not meant to pawns in your games,” Atmav barked, another wave of defiance coming over her as she continued to struggle. “Why would they even need our children? Are they not capable themselves?” Atmav questioned through grit teeth.

”No, they cannot,” Vakk said, a sorrow coming over its voices, ”Such experiences of life are beyond their capabilities,” it explained.

Atmav grew confused before she began to piece it together, “What did you do, Vakk?”

”I gave them new life. A new life that cannot be taken, a new life that was once taken from my children that I could not bear witness! I made life from death!” Vakk snapped, stepping towards Atmav. Its teeth gnashing together as the tendrils flipped Atmav rightside up.

“You made abominations! You know you cannot go against nature, Vakk!”

Vakk slammed Atmav into the floor of the longhouse, the floor shattering into splinters, ”Their lives were taken from them! I could not stand idly by knowing that they had died so soon!”

“You are more a fool than I remember! You turned your back on all the morals you once had! What would your father think?!”

Those words rung deep within Vakk as he threw Atmav to her throne, her form causing it to crumble before her back went into the wall of the longhouse. Without so much of a blink, Vakk was upon her and planted its foot into her chest, sending her through the wall and into the sands outside of her home. Vakk took a singular step outside of the longhouse, looking down upon Atmav, who was already getting to her feet.

The warrior raised her fists as she readied herself to fight.“I can do this all day,” she spat.

Vakk scoffed, ”I struck you not out of anger, Atmav. I struck you out of your adocity to speak against a god in such a manner.”

“You are not my god,” Atmav informed it, her wings spread to becoming with the night sky above them.

Vakk was silent for a moment, as the great beast that had come with it jumped onto the sands below Atmav, its voices speaking without a hint of emotion, ”If you do not wish to honor our deal, Atmav, then I am afraid that I will have to punish you. I will give you one chance, one chance to undo this wrong. You will die to Kalani in the coming battle.”

Atmav only gave Vakk a smug smile, “I do not intend to die anytime soon, Vakk.”

”Then I am afraid that I will have to show your people my view of life, and I will have them accept it more eagerly than how eager you are to cling onto what miserable life you have in store for your future,” Vakk said, it’s voices seeming to give an inflection of sadistic pleasure of such a thought.

“What?! No, leave them out of this, Vakk! Your troubles are with me, not them!”

”You have made your choice,” Vakk said, before nodding, seemingly to the beast.

A massive club seemed to launch Atmav into the air, a silent scream of pain coming to her as her breath was hit out of her. A hand caught her throat as she landed in Vakk’s vice grip.

”You have lost your position as royal guard of the Eternal Talk. As such, you have lost your horns and have forfeit your right to anyone under your command,” Vakk said, tendrils moving to grasp Atmav’s horns.

“Wha- N-no! You c-can’t!” Atmav stammered struggling in Vakk’s grip and punching his face only for it to do nothing as Vakk’s face grew into a sadistic smile. She could feel the tendrils slowly pulling the horns, she could feel the skin underneath them ripping away ever so slowly. She was powerless to stop him and yet she loosed maddened sobs as she struggled more and more, eventually the sobs turning to screams that pierced the moonlight. The pain grew and grew before something gave way, blood poured onto her face as her hands went to cover her face.

Vakk released her as she fell into the sand and left her with seven cruel words.

”I look forward to your death, Atmav.”

Atmav sobbed into the sand, the blood pouring from her head before she felt hands grasp her arms and in a mournful confusion, she lashed out and punched the source and sending it back. Then words reached her.

“My queen! My queen!”

The words of her subjects began to flood into her as they poured in from all around, each one trying to counsel their hurt and dishonoured queen. But all she could do was sob in pain and she moved her hands to where her horns had once been. Then she felt it crawling down her face, not droplets of blood, but pools of tears trailing down her cheeks and carving a path through the blood.

And as she wiped the blood and tears from her face, she saw the faces of her people gather around her.

Her eyes opened to meet their gazes.



The Confederacy





The God-Empress stood upon a hill, the very same hill that she had stood upon when she joined the confederation against the expansion of the Hyummin. Now, however, that coalition was not needed against Selka, but to halt the advance of the forces of Desolation, to stop the threat of the Ihokhur from reaching their borders and laying waste to what she had built. She awaited for the other chieftains to arrive, her bodyguards on her left and right, now holding spears headed with the metal that Kirron himself had gifted them.

Atmav’s head turned to the ocean, recalling the first few attempts she had when it came to swimming under the guidance of her own people. The results were less than pleasing as she had nearly drowned two others in a shallow part of the beach trying to figure out how a breaststroke worked until she realized that she could just stand. It was, perhaps, her most embarrassing day of being alive.

The first to arrive was Milos, of the Ubbo Tribe, and with him came Hoshu, noticeably older and more frail, and four bowmen. They came to a stop before her, and Milos nodded, while Hoshu looked to her with barely disguised wariness.

Shortly afterward, two more tribes arrived. The Pakele Tribe, and the Meola Tribe. Their stories were well-known.

The Pakele had once been located further westward, but when the Grottu began their conquest they had no choice but to flee eastward. The Hyummin may have bested the Grottu in the end, but the Pakele refused to return, for that would mean joining the Hyummin and thus being forced to work alongside their treacherous neighbours.

The Meola Tribe had been founded shortly after the Grottu’s conquest, composed of those who had survived the Grottu’s massacres. They had banded together, the suffering they had endured at the Grottu’s hands serving as a shared link between them. They were a stoic, angry lot. They had never forgiven the Grottu’s actions, and had passed that onto their children, and their children’s children.

Others began to filter in afterward. The Wihu, the Iwai, the Koala, the Helu, the Kumula, the Ailona, and the Kalapa. The hill had become crowded, the great chieftans of the coalition, their bodyguards, and their advisors gathered in a great circle. As was tradition, Milos, who was appointed Speaker, stepped forward.

It was the custom the fledgling Confederacy had adopted early on. In order to prevent meetings from devolving into incoherent arguments and shouting matches, they needed one to direct the discussion. None could speak without the Speaker’s permission, which was given only when the Speaker called on one to speak, and could be requested by raising one’s staff into the air.

In order to prevent the Speaker from holding absolute power over the discussion, the Speaker could be re-elected at any time during the meeting: all one had to do was vocally call for a vote of no confidence. If the majority agreed, a new Speaker would be swiftly elected. If they disagreed, the one who called the vote could not call another.

“We have been called here today to discuss a new threat. One that comes not from our fellow Selka, but from afar,” Milos declared. Many in the circle nodded. Others seemed astonished, as though this was the first time they were hearing it. “If the stories are true, then giant creatures four times our height and made out of solid rock have come to ravage our lands,” he declared, before turning to the only non-Selka among their number.

“Chieftan Atmav,” he said. “Your tribe is the closest to where these rumours come from. Is there any truth to them?” he asked.

“Yes, one attacked one of our patrols and slew most of the men. I managed to fight it off, but not without injury. They come from the northwest and chances are that the Hyummin have either been avoided, already have had to fight them, or have made a deal with them,” Atmav said, her head turning to the other Selka to allow the information to absorb before she continued, “Kirron calls them Ihokhurs and it seems that there are many more coming.”

She stepped forward as she stretched out her wings of the night sky to their fullest extent as she spoke with power, “We must rally and crush these being before any more reach our lands and threaten our people. Kirron demands it for he has given us the tools to wage war against these beasts!”

A number of chieftans nodded at her words, and one even cheered. Others seemed hesitant. One, the female leader of the Meola Tribe, raised her staff high into the air with a defiant expression.

“Chieftan Lihuppa,” Milos said slowly. “What do you have to say to this?”

“Doesn’t any of this sound familiar to you?” She asked, eyes sweeping across the circle. “Hoshaf of the Grottu Tribe made the exact same claim! How can we be certain she is telling the truth?”

The approving nods stopped, as the chieftans began to exchange uncertain glances. “How can we be certain, Chieftan Atmav?” Milos asked.

“What reason would I have to lie? Why would I bother summoning this council if I were not certain of the threat? I fought one of them and it stuck me but once and shattered my ribs and caused me to begin coughing up my own blood, not before it threw a boulder at me. It was only by Kirron’s kindness that I was healed,” she growled, a hand subconsciously going to where she had been struck by the beast.

“What reason would I have to speak with Kirron? Why would I set aside my grudges with Yimbo, if it were not to defend what has been built?” Atmav questioned, her eyeless gaze turning to Lihuppa.

Lihuppa seemed taken aback, more by her gaze and the force of her words than the words themselves. The Pakele Tribe Chieftan seized the opportunity to raise his own staff into the air.

“Chieftan… Carlo,” Milos said, taking a moment to remember the chieftan’s unusual name. “You may speak.”

“These tools that you speak of,” Carlo said, studying her bodyguards. “You will share them with all of us? Equally?”

“Kirron gave my people the metal and even then there are too little to supply all of you. My idea is that my warband will lead the fight against the Ihokur while the rest of you aid against any other forces they have at their disposal. After all, they descend from the Hooflands far north, they may have other monsters following,” Atmav said, her wings folding back, “This metal is only useful against stone, it is no different from your spears if you were to attack another.”

Carlos squinted, clearly unsatisfied with her answer. He was about to speak, but Lihuppa cut in. “How can we be certain you truly spoke to Kirron?” she asked. “Even if you believe it’s him, how do we know some other god didn’t trick you?”

“Chieftan Lihuppa,” Milos rebuked in a sharp tone. “Remember the rules.” He then looked back to Atmav. “But it is a valid question, Chieftan Atmav.”

“Yimbo was with him. Besides, in my experience, gods do not generally lie about who they are. Even Vakk does not lie about who he is,” Atmav stated, forgetting that the Selka knew not who the Lord of Speech was. She looked towards the sky before she continued, “None of them have lied like that thus far.”

That gave everyone pause, for they had never known gods to lie either. But mortals did. And the question still remained, even if most were polite enough not to ask: was Atmav telling the truth?

The Chieftan of the Kalapa Tribe, a young and vigorous woman, suddenly rose her staff into the air, and at Milos’s nod, stepped forward. “Is she telling the truth? Maybe, maybe not,” the woman began. “But not too long ago, the sky fell. And now, a horde of rock monsters is coming our way. I don’t see anyone else offering a plan!” she challenged. “Kirron. Kalmar. Ashalla. Three gods watch over us. Do you think all three of them would desert us in a time like this? I don’t.”

A number of heads nodded. Some were grudging, while others carried smiles. Atmav might be lying, but she was the first and so far the only one to present a plan, as well as the only one who had any experience with what they were about to face. They had to trust her, and they had to trust that their gods had not forsaken them.

Yet some were not convinced. An old Selka by the name of Kahiko, who was even older than Hoshu, was the next to request permission to speak. His guards had needed to carry him up the hill, and even now his staff shook visibly as he raised it into the air, but despite his frail state there was a certain strength in his eye.

Milos did not hesitate to grant him permission. Yet Kahiko’s words were not for the circle. He closed his eyes, cast his gaze downward, and spoke in a low voice just barely loud enough for the rest to hear.

“Father Kirron…” he prayed. “If this Atmav speaks true… if her intentions are true… please, give us a sign.”

A few moments passed in silence, the chieftains looking around for anything that may prove to be a sign of any note. Yet, there was nothing other than the gentle sea breeze. Gradually, the chieftains began to shift their gazes to the only non-selka present many now showing a face of skepticism at a now frowning Atmav. Her eyeless gaze looked all around before murmurs began to rise and before Milos could silence them, shouting developed and argument took hold over the council over this unresolved issue.

Atmav could feel her own anger growing, constantly having been seen with skepticism and walls of conflict despite being honest and as diplomatic as she could possibly be. She looked to Milos a clear look of displeasure upon her face, whether it be by his lack of control or the doubt that she seemed to face. Silently, she raised her greatsword so that she may get permission to speak her peace despite the raging arguments that consumed the council.

Milos shouted for quiet, and when the noise died down he nodded wearily.

“I know that you all do not trust me for I am not a Selka,” Atmav spoke, her voice clear in holding back an anger that yearned to unleash itself, “But I will not stand idly by and allow this council to do nothing when a threat greater than the Hyummin marches on the horizon!” Her hands moved to stab the orvium blade into the hillside as she stepped forward her emotion overtaking her face as she bared her fangs at each and every one of the chieftains.

“If all of you are too cowardly and too blind to march to war when our very nations depend upon it, why was this coalition founded? Why would I bother joining something which promises a mutual protection?! Why?!” She looked towards Chieftan Lihuppa, “The Grottu sought expansion and domination! All of these years I have been content with what I have held! If I had wanted to I could have marched against the Hyummin myself and ended them! If I wanted to, I could have slaughtered every Selka I had come across! Yet I have not!

Her rant stopped just enough for her to breath, to find a calm in anger that had surfaced. “Despite the skepticism, despite the mistrust, I have been patient! I have asked for nothing other than protection upon joining this coalition, and now, all I want is trust so that we may stop those who wish to end us!” When her rant was over, she took a deep breath before returning to where her bodyguards stood, both of them having an expression of displeasure equal to their queen.

The accusations of cowardice, in tandem with what would be perceived as threats, only resulted in even more shouting - the majority of which was now directed at her. What support she had been heavily withered by her own outburst.

Once more Milos shouted, but his voice alone was not enough, so he pulled a conch from his belt and blew it. The high pitched noise cut through the bickering and brought all to attention.

“We all agree there is a threat, we all agree it needs to be dealt with, and we have no intention of leaving one of our members without protection,” Milos said, directing a sharp, angry look at Atmav. “That is not where our disagreement lies.”

Chieftan Carlo brought his staff up once again. When given permission to speak, he did so. “Milos speaks the truth. I have no intention of waiting for this threat to come to us, and it won’t go away on its own. We must fight. But how? We need a plan, and we need a leader. Atmav has put herself forward, but why should it be her? I say we vote!”

“Then let us vote!” Atmav said, “But I am the one who knows how to fight these things and out of everyone here, I have the most military experience.” She crossed her arms and shifted her weight to one leg.

A number of Selka blinked at that, having no idea what a ‘military’ actually was. Milos nodded. “We will follow the rules we agreed on so long ago. With two nominations from fellow chieftans, a chieftan may put themself forward. Once the nominations are done, each one will make their case. Then, we vote. Whoever has the most votes will be named war leader. Is that clear?”

Every chieftan nodded.

“Good,” Milos said, seriously. “Let the nominations begin.”

Lihuppa was the first to raise her staff. “I nominate Carlo,” she said, to which Carlo nodded approvingly.

“I nominate Atmav,” called out the Chieftan of the Kalapa Tribe, her own staff raised.

“I nominate Milos,” declared the old and weary voice of Kahiko.

“I nominate you,” another voice declared, but Kahiko tiredly shook his head. “I’m too old,” the old man said.

“I nominate Milos. He reformed the old Pact. It should be him.”

“I nominate Carlo. He was the one who called this vote. Let him say his piece!”

Then they fell into a tense silence. The nominations had finished, and it seemed as if there were only two candidates. Milos opened his mouth to speak, but then a final voice interjected.

“I nominate Atmav,” declared the recently made Chieftan of the Iwai Tribe. A shrewd man, by the name of Kahalu. “She was the one who told us of this threat, wasn’t she?”

For the first time at the council, a smile formed across Atmav’s face at being nominated, she nodded approvingly at the chieftains of the Iwai Tribe and Kalapa Tribe.

“Any other nominations?” Milos asked. None motioned to speak. “Good. Now… it was agreed that the Speaker should oversee the vote. But if I am one of the options, it would be wrong for me to fulfill that role. Kahiko, if you accept it, I will turn that job over to you for now.”

“Very well,” Kahiko sighed. “Who will go first?”

“I will!” Carlo declared without hesitation. “If you vote for me, I will see that these new weapons are shared equally with each tribe. Then, I will take the fight to these invaders. We will fight them on the beaches! We will fight them in the sea! We will fight them in the forest!” His guards beat their chests triumphantly as he spoke. “We will not stop until every last enemy is destroyed!”

The two chieftans who voted for him shouted their approval, as did one other, and a number of guards began to cheer, but for the most part reaction was lukewarm. He had spoken well, and with passion, but had given little indication of an actual plan.

“Who will speak next?” Kahiko asked, once the reaction had died down.

“I shall,” Atmav stated, looking over to Carlo for a brief moment before focusing on the chieftain as a whole. “If I am voted to lead this, the first that I must do is train each warrior the proper path of war. Discipline, formation, strength! This is the backbone for an effective fighting force, for if we charge blindly at the Ihokhur, they will slaughter us and they will route those who live. As for my plan to fight against them is to fight them upon what open ground we can find, to limit them from ripping trees out of the ground and using them against us.”

She paused for a moment to make sure the others were following along. “We will go on the offensive where we can and take them by surprise. From there we can crush them swiftly and decisively and those who flee will be hunted so they may not pose any threat to us!”

Her guards silently beat the end of their spears into the ground while looking forward, unmoving with only the muffled sound of wood forcing the dirt into the ground.

Although the reaction to her plan was less vocal, more seemed to be in favour of it than Carlo’s. Those who nominated her nodded their approval, along with a few others, and even their guards had listened attentively to her every word.

“Milos,” Kahiko said, turning to the third and final choice. “What do you have to say?”

For several long seconds, Milos was quiet, stroking his whiskers in thought. Some began to whisper that he was stumped. That perhaps, for once, the great hunter was caught without a plan.

Then, he spoke. “You say that fighting them on open ground will prevent them from using the trees against us,” he said to Atmav. “I disagree. If they are as big and as strong as we have heard, what stops them from pulling trees out of forests and carrying them onto open ground?” He shook his head disapprovingly. “No, I don’t think we can meet them on open ground. At least in the forests, other trees might get in their way. We will be able to hide or outrun them. So we will fight them there. And if we lose, we will escape into the sea, regroup down the coast, and try a new plan, until we succeed.”

“I will also pray to Arryn for aid. He has always been a friend to my tribe, and many of you have met him as well. I don’t see why he would abandon us now,” Milos declared.

His speech received a similar reaction to Atmav’s, though it seemed slightly more were in favour. Perhaps they genuinely believed Milos’s plan was better, or maybe it was simply due to his greater popularity.

“If there is nothing else, we will begin the voting,” Kahiko declared. He gestured to Lihuppa, the Selka standing to his left. “Begin.”

“Carlo.” She said.

“Milos,” said the Chieftan to her left, and on it went.

“Carlo.”

“Atmav.”

“Milos.”

“Atmav.”

“Milos.”

“Atmav.”

A tie, between Atmav and Milos. And the nominees were not allowed to vote… Kahiko let out another tired sigh. “As Acting-Speaker, it falls to me to break the tie. I choose… Milos.”

Atmav’s head snapped towards the old man, nonexistent eyes blinking in shock and disbelief that someone vastly her younger and more inexperienced had been chosen over her. Even the guards behind her blinked in surprise as they saw their queen as the only clear choice. Her eyeless gaze went to Milos and grit her teeth, but not acting on her immediate anger. There were many things that she felt like doing, screaming, fighting, killing, but she knew better and she knew the puppet’s work of molding her into a proper queen would be dismantled.

“I thank you for your support,” Milos said with a nod, and then spoke up in his usual authoritative voice. “Go back to your homes,” he commanded. “Gather as many able-bodied fighters and as much food as you can spare. We will gather at the Aspasia Tribe’s village.” He looked toward the west, a steely gaze in his eye. “And then, we prepare for war.”




As she walked further and further away from the hill, Atmav still found herself in confusion and shock over Milos being chosen over her. She was certain that he knew not how to command a proper army, how to keep the men from routing, how to keep an effective formation other than a mere guerilla mob. Though, she understood that the politics at play and that, when compared to Milos, she was vastly unpopular and she knew that those who had doubted her did not see her in a position of power.

Her hand tightened around the hilt of her blade, remembering why she had despised getting involved in the politics of her old world and it seemed that being a leader was forever marked with politics. She knew that Milos perhaps had a point in fighting in the forest, after all it would limit their movement a good deal, but they could still tip trees upon their forces and if they ever broke their weapon, the Ihokhur would need not to look far for another.

“Milos knows not what he is doing,” she growled.

“He certainly does not, my queen,” Brottnee commented keeping his spear close to him, “After all, Kirron visited us and not them. We were chosen to fight and to lead.”

“Unfortunately, he is liked more by the other chieftains,” she said, “We will find a way to get control in time.”

“Queen Atmav?” A familiar voice spoke up from behind.

That was odd. No one, other than her own bodyguards, had ever called her by that name. Not here. It had always been ‘Chieftain’ Atmav: Milos had insisted on that during their first meeting, and until now it had not changed.

Atmav turned to see who had spoken to her, her guards turning with confusion on their faces over another calling their leader by her proper title.

It was Kahalu, Chieftan of the Iwai Tribe, and of all the tribes in the alliance, his was the closest to her borders. He had risen to his position less than a year ago, and had spent much of the years before that in travel. On either side of him were two guards. “Do you have a moment to talk? In private?” He asked, his gaze shifting to her own men.

Atmav nodded, motioning for her guard to continue on the path back to their home as she stepped toward Kahalu. Kahalu gestured for his guards to do the same. She kept her hand positioned on her hilt before she asked, “What do you wish to talk about, Chieftain Kahalu.” Her voice was formal as she looked down upon the male, her form still looking over him as she did over most of the other Selka. Though she did note that he was tall even by their standards.

“You spoke well at the meeting,” Kahalu said with a nod. “You seem very experienced on these matters.”

“That much is true. It is too bad popularity is more of a motivator over martial experience,” Atmav stated, a frown moving across her face as she spoke.

“I might know a way to fix that,” Kahalu said. “But first, can I ask where you earned this experience? I travelled far. From what I know, these rock creatures have never been seen before, and there has never been a war of the same size as what happened to the Grottu and the Hyummin. You did not always live on this land, did you?”

“No, I come from beyond this realm. The same as the gods, but I was not so lucky to be bestowed with such divine power,” Atmav’s head turned to the sky, “I have fought in many wars, I have bested many, and I have acted as a general in many campaigns.” After a moment of recollection, she looked back down to Kahalu before cocking her head to the side, knowing that he did not wish to hear of vague recollections of a time long since passed.

“Why do you ask?” She questioned.

“Everything I’ve heard about Milos suggests he’s a good leader, but we never faced a threat like this before,” Kahalu explained. “You seemed more sure of yourself, and your words made more sense. I’m wondering if they made the wrong choice.”

“I am certain that they did, but if that is the choice the confederacy wishes to make, then who am I to oppose them? Other than the one with the tools to actually kill them, that is,” Atmav said, lifting her sword towards a tree, “According to Kirron, some of their hide is made out of the same that makes this blade.”

The blade emitted a red stream that lit the tree of fire, making Kahalu one of the only Selka outside of the Aspasia to see its magical capabilities.

“It certainly does not give us great odds,” she said.

“No, it doesn’t,” Kahalu shook his head. “But… there is still hope. Milos may be the War Leader, but we are still the first leaders in our people’s eyes. He has to listen to us, if he wants us to stay in this alliance. Because if we leave, he will have no power. You will still have your say.”

Atmav nodded in agreement, “Yes, this is true. Yet, what if those who support him? Even if we leave he will have the backing of enough chieftains anyways.”

“There are others who supported you,” Kahalu pointed out, “and more may come around as well. Besides, I’m not saying that we should leave, just that he has to listen to us, and his power can be questioned.”

Atmav nodded her head once more, “I see.” She allowed a moment to pass to think over the words. “Then it shall be done,” she smiled, “I will not allow him to lead us into slaughter, you have my word.”

Kahalu smiled back. “Good. And don’t take this setback too hard. There will be other meetings, other votes, maybe even other wars - if Carlo and Lihuppa are to be believed, at least.”

Atmav turned away from Kahalu before speaking once more, “War with the Hyummin is inevitable, it is only a matter of when.” After she took one step away from Kahalu, her head turned to the side, “Perhaps I can teach you how to form a true military one of these days, you seem… competent enough to lead one.”

“Is there anything else you wished to speak of?” She asked.

“There is,” Kahalu nodded. “You mentioned your… popularity. I have some advice that might help with that.”

Kahalu has earned Atmav’s attention once more as her body turned back to him. “And what advice would that be?”

“The reason the other chieftains do not trust you is because they do not see you as one of them,” Kahulu told her, his smile fading. “I don’t have an issue with that, but they do. Have you considered adopting some of our… customs?”

“Your customs?” Atmav asked, looking up to try and think of any customs that she could recall. Then it dawned upon her, in all her time ruling as Queen over the Selka, she had never once given a thought to what customs they might have had. By now, she had imposed her own rule over them and displaced any that they might have had. “I never thought of Selka customs before,” she admitted.

That seemed to genuinely take him by surprise. “But… you’ve been ruling your tribe since most I know were born,” he said, then took a moment to compose himself. “Well, that might be why they don’t trust you. Maybe I can be of more help, then. In my travels, I noticed that every tribe has different customs, but there are always some similarities. Maybe I could teach you?”

“That would be much appreciated,” Atmav nodded, a slight smile coming to her face.

“Good, I can tell you about it on the walk back,” Kahalu nodded approvingly. “One more question… are you married?”

The question made Atmav visibly recoil from the suddenness of the question, if she had eyes they would have widened greatly. For a moment she stood there in stunned silence before mustering up the mind to speak, “Ugh- n-no.” Another moment of silence before she spoke again, “And why do you ask?”

“I mentioned learning some of our customs? Taking a Selka as a husband might improve your reputation. There are other benefits, too. Some chieftains will marry an important their own tribe, in order to make the tribe more loyal. Others may marry into the families of chieftains from other tribes, in order to form closer bonds… alliances, and partnerships. Or so I’ve seen, at least. I’ve yet to get married myself.”

Atmav grew silent once more before she would speak, “The problem is that I will only ever marry someone who is my equal in combat. Someone that exemplifies strength, martial prowess, and endurance. I could very much marry off a member of the tribe, but, I don’t believe that is right. Erm- I- ugh,” words failed her for a moment, before she looked away.

A thoughtful expression crossed Kahalu’s face. “My mother once told me to marry someone who was skilled in something I was not. Then, I would never have any weaknesses. I may not be as good at combat as you, and although I’m still a good fighter, wouldn’t my knowledge, my intellect, my support, and my tribe all be more useful?”

“Y-you are rather persistent ,” Atmav said, still not looking at Kahalu before letting out a sigh followed by a chuckle. She shook her head before finally looking Kahalu, “You make a compelling case, Kahalu. Very well, then.”

Kahalu’s eyebrows rose, and then he gave her a smile a great deal wider than any he had given thus far. “I’m happy to hear it. In all my travels, I have never met someone as strong or as beautiful as you.”

Atmav shook her head and laughed once more, turning away from Kahalu as she did not know what to do or even say in response to him. “You are a crafty one, Kahalu. Come now, we are wasting time,” she said as she began to step away.

“Yes, our guards might be worried,” he said, falling into step beside her.




There she sat on her throne, the left side of her body bruised with her ribs being cracked and threatening to break and collapse. Atmav had endured much pain, namely remembering how her wings had nearly been torn off so many years ago before she had broken it off in her fight against Yimbo. However, that pain was something she could not have recovered from, this injury was nothing compared to that but her pain tolerance had fallen over the years of idleness. Now, every breath hurt, each intake and exhale making her life miserable. At least in the safety of her home, no Selka could see her weakness.

Atmav was in no fighting shape and knowing that made her angry, knowing that more of those rock men could descend upon them and she would be nearly powerless to stop them. If Orvus had seen her now, she would have been ashamed of herself and she knew that he would look down upon her for being weak. Instead, she cast a silent prayer to Kirron, someone she figured either did not exist or did not care enough to see to her plea. It was that reason alone that she sat there with her mind repeating itself with each breath.

”Kirron give me the strength to beat back these invaders” her mind said to itself, not truly caring if the creator of the Selka did anything or not. The God-Queen let out a cough into her hand, blood showing itself and letting her know that, despite her durability, the being had succeeded in breaking something that should not have been broken.

“Damn it all,” she cursed, writhing in her pain as she tried to find some comfort in her seat.

Dull flicks of rain pat upon the roof, growing gradually into a downpour that filled the longhouse with white noise. It was a favour insofar as distracting Atmav from the sound of her strained breathing.

But a guttural, beastial roar held her breath for her. Somewhere out by the beach, judging by the sound. It was not a sound that any hulk of animate dark stone could make. But it was a sound that pinched at Atmav's memory.

“Damn it all,” she cursed again, wanting nothing more than to allow herself time to heal so that she may defend her people properly. However, the roar, though tugging at some semblance of memory, continued to elude her as the pain clouded her mind, especially now that Atmav was moving again. She dragged her sword behind her as she walked to the entrance of her longhouse, paining gripping her all the way through.

In the end, she made it to the entrance and looked out onto the beach, her head swiveling to see through the misting showers and clouds at what dared to intrude within her domain. Selka had wandered out of their own homes and were peering down the beach as well. At the waterline, looming with its round head tall and daring, was the unmistakable silhouette of Atmav's old adversary, Yimbo the monstrous seal guardian.

But it was different. A large but comparatively small shape slid off the side of Yimbo's neck and splashed its feet into the water beside the great beast. It turned to face Atmav, revealing a broad, muscular male frame and a battered tree trunk carried over one shoulder. Atmav could feel his eyes on her, even through the blue haze of the rain.

“Who are you and why do you dare bring that thing back to my sight,” she called, having to pause several times to allow herself the ease of breath and a momentary relief from pain. Atmav’s vision looked between Yimbo and the figure, her feet stepping onto the sand as she dragged her sword down the sand dune. The heavy water droplets battered her face from the sky. She was but a few precious lengths away, bringing her sword in front of her to attempt a fighting stance, though her sword was barely lifted off the ground and her breath was already quickened.

“If you have come to challenge me, I have beaten Yimbo before and I will be able to again,” she growled, looking towards the one with the tree trunk slung over his shoulder.

The figure took steps to heave his legs through the knee-deep water until he reached the beach. He stood impressively taller than Atmav, but it was the silence under the falling rain that lent to the sense of impending dread.

He neared. The weight of the sword grew harder to endure in Atmav's hands. Through the pouring rain, the huge figure's vivid red skin, white hair and beard, and hide clothing stood out in her vision. The large bleached skull of a tusked dead beast clung to his shoulder like a warning.

His small, sunken eyes bored into her. "Try hurting me first," he uttered. "If you're so sure."

Atmav fearlessly gazed back at the giant, though eyeless, her resolve was there for the moment as she shakily began to raise her orvium blade. However, she was quicker to drop her blade as she doubled over, coughing up blood onto the sand, the iron taste becoming all too familiar to her. It was clear that she would not be able to act upon her words of defiance, though her head shifted upwards her fangs bared and stained with her ichor.

“I will- defend my people,” she growled, her voice weak as she began to catch what breath she could.

Thunder, distant, rolled across the sky behind her. The red man lifted one eyebrow, peering left and right.

The focus of his attention was revealed by the shuffling of selka feet over the wet sand up either side of Atmav. They were looking up at the giant defiantly with spears and clubs in their hands.

"Hmph," he sounded with a smile on his lips. "It looks like they would rather defend you."

“I am- I am their guardian, their queen,” Atmav coughed, looking to the Selka before speaking to them, “Get back! This is my fight.” Her eyeless gaze shifted to Yimbo as she spoke, slowly getting to her feet, wiping away the blood from her lips before she noticed that none of the Selka had moved.

It seemed they were ready to fight for their injured queen, despite her attitude of wanting to fight alone. While she would have been elated to know such a fact, her view of their bravery was misplaced, finding them out of their league against the likes of the giant and Yimbo. Then, that smile on his face. It had to be smug amusement at a feeble attempt to challenge him.

“What are you smiling for?” Atmav questioned, continuing her exasperated breathing.

The giant lowered himself to a squat to look closely at Atmav, draping one arm over his knee and keeping his club shouldered. Triangular, shark-like teeth shone from within his mouth while he spoke. "I'm smiling because I am proud of your tribe." His eyes wandered, wide and bright at each of the standing selka. "They don't even know who I am and they would die for you."

Atmav took a moment to process those words, her body relaxing as she looked at the giant with an agape mouth. She looked back to her equally confused Selka. Wondering why he would be proud of them or even why they should know who this giant actually was. Her mind slowly connected each separate piece before she uttered a single name, “K-Kirron?”

He grinned. "The one and only."

One by one, spears, clubs, and knives fell flat upon the ground from the hands of the selka tribe. They all stood in awe. Some began silently weeping. Some fell to their knees, overwhelmed.

Kirron, the god of blood, extended a hand. Hesitantly, the hand was accepted. Hers dwarfed in comparison to his own as Atmav pulled herself up as best she could, finding his arm giving only as much resistance as a solid rock. Even without all the facial features of his creations, she was in just as much awe.

“Did you hear my prayer?” Atmav asked, hesitantly placing one foot back.

He stood to full height. Water ran off his shoulders in rivulets. "Might'a missed one or two out of the several hundred you sent my way, but I got the sentiment," he said. "You weren't the only one here praying, either. Let alone the only one wanting help against some walking rocks." He put a fist on his hip. "There was some worse business I had to deal with before coming, but it's good to see you all held out in time."

The rain slowed to a drizzle. Through the humidity, Yimbo looked on with its massive belly and chin flat on the sand.

Atmav remained focused on Kirron, almost unable to find words for a moment before another bout of coughing brought her mind back into reality. Blood slowly moved out of the corner of her mouth before she had gotten herself under control.

“I suppose that does not matter right now. We have just encountered those things, only one, and I would have died to overconfidence if it were not for my blade,” she explained to Kirron, taking a hand to wipe away the blood from her face. Atmav chose to remain focused on the Ihokhur and the one who controlled them, ‘Kalani’, rather than allowing awe of meeting a fourth god to get in her way. Her head turned to Yimbo for a split moment, noting how it did not seem remain on guard despite its enemy right in front of it.

“Why are you here, though?” Atmav asked, returning her gaze to Kirron.

"I'm here to help you save yourselves and the tribes around you," Kirron plainly explained. "Those rock men are Ihokhurs. They were made by the same fellow that made that sword of yours. They're in these lands to kill. Used to enslave, but now they just destroy."

“Of course…” Atmav sighed before continuing, questioning. “And how are you going to help us save ourselves?”

Kirron brought his eyes over Atmav's head towards the village. Without a word, he walked past her with broad paces that left large divots in the sand. "Got any food? I'm feeling peckish."

Atmav could only watch, almost flabbergasted at the thought of feasting at such a crucial time where plans needed to be made and stratagem formed. She looked to some of her Selka and motioned for them to gather whatever food they had available before she picked up her sword and slowly began to drag herself after the giant. Being far slower moving than him due to her injuries and shortness of breath.

The blood god only slowed to a stop at the main door to Atmav's longhouse. There, he carefully placed his tree trunk club horizontal on the ground -- though it still made a resounding thud -- and eased himself inside the building.

“We should have some food,” Atmav huffed as she watched Kirron get into a building clearly not designed for someone of his stature. She followed him in after he had entered, looking back to see the Selka in a mad dash to gather what food they had lying around, clearly not wanting to displease the god in any sort of fashion. However, she did note the children running up to the mythical Yimbo in awe.

Yimbo regarded the children gently. It puffed out a jet of air from its nose, causing one selka child to stumble back. They all giggled.

It brought a slight smile to Atmav’s face.

"Yimbo told me about you," Kirron said. He sat on the floor cross-legged by the central hearth with his hands on his knees. He was at least at no risk of knocking things over while seated. "How about you tell me your side of the story?"

Atmav’s head dipped at the mention of the story, turning her head to Kirron before dragging herself to that throne of hers in silence. Her head did not meet Kirron as she sat there for a few moments, attempting to get comfortable despite the pain she felt. A small sigh escaped her lips before she spoke, her mind going back over sixty years, “To know the story of how I defeated Yimbo, I must first go back to my wretched creation in this land, to when Vakk brought me back to further his own sadistic goals. That pain… it was far worse than what I feel now.”

She drew in a breath, “Then he let me go under the stipulation that I would aid him when the time comes. I flew into a storm before I awoke in this land, I had met the Selka. At that point they did not even know what a spear was or even a hut, for that matter. I remember fighting one of those reptiles from the north, I killed it, but it caused damage to my original pair of wings.” A hand slowly went to her shoulder at the mention of those wings.

“When the Selka tried to help me, I rejected their aid and stomped off. That was when I met the tribe known as the Grottu, all I remember was anger, and when they spoke of gods all I could remember was my creation. All of the pain and torment built until I snapped. Yimbo had come to protect the Selka from my rage, and in that regard, he failed. During our battle I had lifted him and threw him upon the Selka,” Atmav leaned forwards as she spoke, her elbows digging into her thighs as she concentrated less and less on her pain. Her head finally went to directly gaze upon Kirron. He was looking right at her. “After that is unimportant. All that you need to know is that I beat Yimbo and killed many Selka in the process.”

Kirron did not shift an inch. He wore a neutral smile, contemplating. "Sounds like you regret it."

Atmav contemplated those words for a moment before speaking once more, “There were women and children who died. I never meant to kill them.”

"so what's going to be different this time, if you get the strength to fight off the Ihokhurs?"

“If, miraculously, that I get over this injury and lead the fight against the Ihokhurs, then I will fight for my people. These Selka, they-“ she paused to cough again before slowly controlling herself, “They are like the family I never had in my old life before coming to this world.”

Kirron turned his head, lifting an eyebrow in the direction of the doorway, where a handful of selka carried reed platters of fresh fish, edible kelp, fruits, and vegetables, as well as dried goat meat. They looked down from Kirron's gaze, anxious.

"S-some food for you, gods," the bravest one stuttered.

“Thank you,” Atmav chimed as they set down their platters of food, watching them leave the two to their conversation Her head turned back to Kirron before asking, “Would you like me to leave you while you eat?”

Kirron froze a second before he closed his shark-like teeth around a sizable snapper he held by the tail. His open grin faded into an affronted frown. He pointed the fish at Atmav. "Would you like me to leave while your tribe dies?" He pushed the nearest platter further towards Atmav. "Eat."

The noise of Kirron biting the whole head clean off the fish in his hand did not do favours to the appetite, though he did not sound like he was offering a choice.

"So," he said through his chewing. "If you had a past life, that confirms it. Your blood has a different smell to Vakk..." he gestured to the droplets spattered on her body from her coughing. "You're from before, like me and the other gods are."

Atmav paused as she wrapped her fangs around a piece of goat meat, pulling the food out so that she may speak unimpeded, “Vakk and I were dragged through a portal during a battle, I died before Vakk revived me with his new godly powers.” She took a moment to tear into the goat meat before she let out a sigh. “My battle-sisters are left home while I must endure here, without the pleasure of being gifted the power that Vakk was,” she continued before leaning back in her throne.

Kirron's chewing slowed. "Hm. How much do you remember?"

“Between my time of being dead? Nothing. Before and after my resurrection, everything since the Vakk’s rebellion against the Endless Talk,” Atmav said simply, picking a fruit off her platter. “My strength is the same. My training has been retained,” she cocked her head before biting into the fruit.

Kirron exhaled through his nose. "We will have to talk more about that some time," he said. "I do not remember much about where I came from. What I was. Only images and...stuff. I know it wasn't here. And it wasn't where you come from, either."

After a pause, Kirron blinked his eyes back to Atmav. "But I'm boring you. Here is important now." He planted a finger to the floor. "Here is where family is. You've learnt to be responsible with your anger around your family -- I could tell as much meeting you out there. You will be responsible with your power to repel the Ihokhurs..." He noisily licked his bottom row of teeth. "But what power do you need? Hm?" He leant back and tossed the other half of the snapper up into his mouth.

“The power to rip stone in two,” Atmav joked, before going into another bout of coughing.

"That all, huh?" Kirron smiled. "As good a choice as any. Nothing with a brain will mess with you too much if you can kill them." He snatched up a tuber and bit off a chunk. "Eat up." Two flecks of yellow food flew out of his mouth from the last word. "When you're done, I'll give you a way to put 'em into halves."

Atmav looked at Kirron, going to say something before she began to wolf down the rest of her platter with an appetite to match the god’s own.



The pair made quick work of the remaining food. By the time they were done and stepping out of the longhouse, Atmav realised she had stopped coughing and had a sort of energised shiver in her body.

Kirron stepped out first, planted his fists on his hips and sniffed in a deep breath. "Aaaah," he audibly sighed through a smile, looking down at what met them. The entire population of the village stared up at him like a grey sea of faces and eyes. There was a chill in the air from the still-drizzling rain, but not a single one looked uncomfortable.

“I must say, I do feel much better,” Atmav said, looking up to the god and giving him a warmer smile than she would normally give to someone. Her head swiveled as she gazed upon the form of Yimbo, almost absentmindedly speaking, “Almost as if I could go for another brawl.”

Yimbo, standing on its belly just beyond the crowd, lowered its head and let out an aggressive growl deep enough to resemble stones falling into a deep pit.

Kirron was unfazed. Although, he lifted an eyebrow at Atmav. "You owe Yimbo an apology, you know."

“Apologize to that monster? It did try to kill me, I won. I do not feel I must apologize to it,” Atmav said, crossing her arms as her gaze remained fixated on the giant monstrosity of a seal before she stepped forwards. Her feet crunched in the sand as she approached, arms still crossed.

“It’s fat, slow, reckless,” her list grew ever larger as she listed off the many weaknesses, or just what she believed of the seal. The crowd of Selka stared at her and parted as she drew near, a path being formed to the mighty Yimbo, who stared down upon Atmav with aggression in its eyes. As Atmav reached the seal, she stopped and stared at it, the two locked in a silent battle of wills. Yimbo's breath blew hot and slow out of its nostrils.

However, it was Atmav who brought the battle to wane as she reached out to touch the seal’s skin. Yimbo's breathing stopped. “Yet, determined to protect the very people I had wrongfully abused in the past.” She gave a slight smile to the seal, “For your dedication and bravery, I am sorry.”

Yimbo's eyes slowly closed. Rivulets of tear-like mucus seeped from the corners of its eyes. It let out a slow breath.

Then Atmav felt the jab of a large thumb just above her hip. She jumped in surprise, turning her head with an angered look as she rubbed where the blood god had jabbed her.

Kirron chuckled and spun on his heel. "You, you, you, you, and...you. Come here."

Five selka randomly selected from the crowd looked about themselves in surprise. One of them pointed to themselves questioningly.

Kirron beckoned again. "Yes, all five of you! Come 'ere, what are your names?"

"Shuu."
"Uh, Phiam."
"...Brottnee."
"Alium!"
"Er, Kevik."

After a second lowering his brow at the name 'Brottnee', Kirron continued. "Good, good. You all can swim?"

Phiam stifled a laugh. "Uh, we're selka...um...Mister Kirron."

Kirron grinned. "Come with us, then. You'll need to help us carry some things out of the reef over there." He jerked his head out to sea. Without missing a beat, he turned to walk down into the choppy waves. "Yimbo! Watch the rest while we're out!"

Yimbo curled its head around to watch Atmav. Its eyes were softer now.

“Wait, you want me to go along?” Atmav questioned as she stepped towards the ocean, looking down at herself, then to the Selka, and back to Kirron. “I am no Selka, nor a being like you. Swimming is not exactly my strongest area,” she said in a more annoyed voice than she intended.

Kirron stopped about waist deep in the water and slowly stepped around, head tilted and his lip curled up in confusion. It took him exactly two seconds to process Atmav's words before he broke eye contact and raised his brow. His mouth twisted before he addressed the biggest selka coming with them. "Brottnee, right?" He confirmed.

Brottnee, the thin and tall selka a few paces towards the beach from him, nodded absently.

The blood god pointed at Atmav. "Go make sure she keeps her head above the water," he said, before jabbing a big red finger at Brottnee directly. "After this, you and your friends will teach her to swim. Understand?"

Brottnee nodded vigorously.

Atmav could only sigh in response, stepping forwards and entering the water at last and wading in it until she was waist deep. Brottnee was in front of her, still shorter than the likes of Atmav, but tall enough to still support her through the waves. She cursed under her breath as she flattened her wings against her body as much as she could.

“Let’s get this over with,” she growled.

The reef only took a few minutes to reach. They might have reached it sooner had they not waited for Atmav as she uselessly kicked herself forward while Brottnee's pulled her burdensome mass along with Atmav's hands on his shoulders.

From the surface, the only hint of anything new was the dark shapes of stones and kelp below them, but every selka there had come out here to dive for shellfish in their lifetimes.

Kirron floated with his head above the water and turned to the group. "There's a cache of treasure in this reef. Came flying down from the sky, it did. Follow me; we'll be digging it up."

With that, Kirron dunked his head under the water. His two huge boot-covered feet fluked up out of the water behind him before following his body under the surface. The selka did not hesitate to follow suit, except for Brottnee. He looked over his shoulder at Atmav.

"Hold your breath," he said, before ducking forward under the water with Atmav still attached.

When Atmav’s head became submerged, it became easier for her to track movements, at least those powerful enough to cause noise in the water. Her head swiveled all around as she took a mental note of each of the Selka’s positions in the water. She kept her senses aware for anything else that may be following them in the water, not noticing the slow moving fish but only snapping her head towards the sudden movement of an eel to drag prey into its hole. The sensation was most unusual for her.

The water quickly started to press against her ears as they followed deeper. Kirron only lead them several metres down, just over a coral-coated rocky outcrop. At the base of the outcrop was a conspicuous divot apparently blasted out of the side of the stone. It was half-filled with sand, but Kirron took one of his huge hands and curled his fingers into the surface. He pulled up something which, when the murky sand cleared from it, appeared to be a number of lustrous, flat, half-ovoid shapes etched with some vein-like pattern. They were each about the size of a selka hand, though Kirron could fit quite a number just in his palm.

Kirron beckoned over one of the selka divers, Kevik, and pushed a number of the lustrous shapes into their hands. Each other diver got similar handfuls, even Brottnee.

Once the divers were laden enough to need to hold the shapes to their chests with their arms, Kirron pointed upward and kicked off the sea floor. His body shot up fast enough to leave an unseen vertical force in his wake.

As the Selka swam up, Atmav took one of the half-ovoids from Brottnee, bringing it close to her face as she seemed to recognise it. It was metal, she could clearly see that, but such a fact only confused her more. Why had Kirron brought them out here for a bunch of metal?

When the Selka surfaced, Atmav’s mouth opened to bring in a large breath of fresh air, exhaling and inhaling equally large breaths. It was relaxing to finally be able to breathe, even if the air was salty.

"Bring 'em all in! I'll show you how to use them."

After they swam to the shore again and piled the metal pieces in the sand, the onlookers grew curious and stared at the sparkling shapes. One of the divers tasted a piece and found it only tasted of the seawater that clung to it in drops.

Kirron lifted a palm. "We'll need a big stone. Wait here, I'll get us one."

The blood god turned around and ran. His legs tensed after five broad strides and with a rush of air and sand, he jumped towards the cliffs further inland.

Atmav could only look on in confusion before she took on the metal objects to inspect. She looked to the Selka before she would explain what she knew of it to her people, only taking a moment to try and understand Kirron’s methodology. “My people, this is metal. Stronger than the stone we use in our tools and very much capable of slaying some quicker than a stone spear when molded into a proper weapon,” she explained, allowing the people to take in the knowledge.

“I know not what metal it is exactly nor do I know what Kirron intends to use it for, but we shall see,” Atmav spoke, stepping back to look at the pile that they had accumulated.

One of the onlookers who still held one of the shapes in her fingers flicked as one end of it, producing the same jingling sound the rest made when piled up. "With Kirron comes strength," she said, giving Atmav a hopeful smile. "Maybe these will make us stronger?"

Another selka curled his head around towards the cliffs. "How long do you think he will be away?"

Yimbo made a rumbling sound and pointed their snout to the sky. The little shadowy dot growing from that direction answered the selka's question. It grew towards them in the shape of a large brown boulder with a red god underneath.

The tribe made yelps and stumbled away to make room for the incoming projectile, but it fell short, impacting the sand with a chest-thumping thud and sliding with enough sand plowing out to each side to look like a pair of breaking waves of yellow powder.

The boulder slid to a stop just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the pile of metal pieces. Kirron triumphantly stood up from the stone's base. It dwarfed his breadth and barely surpassed his height.

"Atmav, bring one of those treasures over here!" Kirron demanded, grinning.

Very silently, yet confused, Atmav obeyed the order of the god, picking up exactly one piece of the metal before she stepped to Kirron. She held the metal out to him and eyelessly gazed at him with what would be confusion if she had brows to furrow.

“What are you planning, Kirron?” She asked as he took the metal.

"I'm planning for you to use these." Kirron held the metal up between his thumb and forefinger, speaking as much to all the selka around him as he did to Atmav, in a low and reverent voice. "All spilt blood comes to Horizon Grotto, my home where the setting sun reflects red into the sky. All blood has within traces of this -- blessed iron. And some of this blessed iron found its way here, to the trove we all just dug up." His voice turned clear and direct again. "Hold still, Atmav."

Kirron held the flattened edge of the metal against Atmav's upper arm. It was not sharp enough to cut, even if any significant force was applied. The only extra force Kirron gave was to tap the top of it lightly with the index finger of his other hand, which in itself felt like a young selka's hardest punch.

Atmav merely watched as he did so, confused and doubtful as to how this would do anything to stop the Ihokhur from ravaging her land.

Kirron straightened and held the iron out to Atmav again. "Now go hit the blade of the iron against the boulder with just as much force. No more, no less."

She took the iron from Kirron, looking at him before she stepped towards the boulder and mimicking what Kirron had done. Atmav took the iron, holding the blade against the rock before delivering her own tap.

Clack!

A shiver swiftly rattled up Atmav's bones and made the roots of her teeth vibrate. The little noise was not only louder than expected, it went through everything as if its source was everywhere.

There was no apparent effect for exactly enough time that everyone wondered what the point was. Then, aligned with the blade, a black line opened on the boulder with a gentle scrape. The onlooking selka gasped. Along the line, the boulder rolled apart under the force of its own weight into two rough yet neatly separated halves.

The selka all voiced their astonishment in a wave of blended talk.

"It's even more effective underwater," Kirron added.

Atmav pulled back from the boulder, taking a moment to properly see the extent of damage. A wicked smile came across her face as she looked back to Kirron, allowing her fangs to be shown before she let out a laugh. It seemed that the Queen was beyond pleased with the outcome of these pieces of metal, showing her satisfaction to the god through that same maddened laugh.

“How may I thank you for this fine gift,” Atmav asked, her toothy grin still in place as she stepped towards Kirron. She stopped an arms length away from the giant.

Kirron's mouth closed to a line. He pointed to Atmav's chest. "Learn to swim and get food with your tribe. Get better, not weaker. That's all I want."

“And so it shall be done,” Atmav said, her smile still wide as she turned back to her people. Her head momentarily looked turned to Yimbo. “Tonight, we feast!” She called out to the tribe, her voice powerful.



Bukradul

Turn 4




“We cannot hunt the beast! Think of how it might be able to guard us! Our mothers and children will not need to worry about some unknown threat breaching our walls,” Frelt pleaded, kneeling in front of his chieftain, who was sharpening the head of a spear. He looked up to meet Guthug’s gaze, merely looking down upon the orc with a judging look before he threw the spear into the ground in front of Frelt.

“And think if it were to turn upon us! We may have Akrosh’s blessing for the time being, but we cannot push our luck. You know the views of the ancestors on arrogance,” Guthug grunted as he stood, stepping forward before he was only a breath away from the kneeling orc. Guthug could see the desire of taming of the beast, but he knew that if Frelt was successful then it would give Frelt a position of power to challenge him as chieftain over the people. Politics ran through the heirless chieftain before he motioned for Frelt to rise.

Guthug wrapped his hand around the back of Frelt’s neck and brought his ear next to his mouth before he would speak, “I give you ten days and ten nights to tame the beast. After that, we will hunt it. If you tame it during our hunt, you may yet still keep it alive. In that time, I will raise hunters to track it with me.” The chieftain knew of Frelt’s desire for a proper challenge, as such, Guthug would gift it to the ambitious man with such a time constraint. While he hoped that Frelt would fail in his endeavour, he knew the desire for a challenge for he had chosen the the rarest animal to track for his rite.

Frelt stepped back at the words, looking Guthug in the eye once more but this time with a wicked smile upon his face before he turned to leave. “You may only pick three people to aid you in this task…” Guthug started before sour words came out of his mouth, “May Akrosh guide your path.”

When Frelt left the grace of Guthug, he could only feel the desire of the challenge growing within him and he looked down upon his wrist to see the bite marks of an old companion that he had earned. He remembered the once great cougar that had become his closest companion. He remembered how they would hunt. He remembered when it had died in their exodus, how it had given its life so that the clan may live. Frelt owed his old friend such an honor, he knew that his old friend would approve of such a challenge.

As Frelt walked away, intending to do this task on his own, he soon found himself flanked by Gureth who intended to walk in his shadow. He hoped that his silence was enough to send her away as he stepped through the rocky fields that the others had resigned themselves to pick through for useless baubles. Eventually, he turned his head to her, she stopped as he did.

“What do you want?” He asked.

“I want to help you,” Gureth said.

“And what makes you think I want help?” Frelt asked, crossing his arms as she tentatively played with her fingers.

“I know that you like these challenges, b-but we both saw the size of that thing. It will kill you if you do not have help,” she said, her voice slowly becoming more confident as she spoke to the one that had held her infatuation.

He knew fully well what she truly desired, his previous suitors had desired the same, but for what it was worth, he knew that she was right. With a sigh, Frelt hung his head before turning away from Gureth, motioning for her to follow. She was one of the only others that knew of this creature and she knew of its tracks.

Gureth almost squealed at his acceptance of her being able to accompany him, but she knew that she had to be careful not to mess things up too quickly! She knew that she could not get in his way, lest she face the full denial of any confession to him, a denial that many had faced before her. She would be as crafty as a fox, as silent as a snake, a helpful as… an otter.

Frelt on the other hand, continued his march before turning to speak to her once more, “Just remember, if this creature is to wound me so that I may not be able to run, leave me to my fate! I will die with honor.”

Gureth could only look at him before she would speak, a full lie, “As you wish.”


@Lo Pellegrino

I'm sorry but I won't be able to join, I thought I would have the time to do this but it seems that I won't. Again, I am sorry, and I wish this RP the greatest of luck.
@Lo Pellegrino

Oh no, the Gunslinger doesn't care for Legion, though he dislikes it as much as the next person. Sorry if I worded that strangely, I'm saying that he had to travel through the territory hunting down a singular person (or posse) to what would be Brotherhood lands before inevitably being recruited, the aim for that is to show this man's determination and will for vengeance.
@Lo Pellegrino

Sorry for the late response! My idea for a character is sort of a Gunslinger that has come from further Midwest (or just west as I almost wanted to place him around the NCR) who traveled all the way through Caesar’s legion for revenge but was ultimately picked up by the BoS after being found by a patrol, nearly dead and irradiated to a recoverable hell. The only reason he joined is because he feels the need to pay off a debt to them for saving his hide.
I have an interest if you'll have me aboard!
Barayi Yara

Somewhere on Li's Island




“Shush!”

“This was my hiding spot!”

“I said be quiet, Tak’Takk!”

“B-but, I was here first!”

The two children glared at each other before they heard the running of feet and the whipping of shrubs, bringing a silence to their bickering. Tak’Takk, a boy just of ten years, peeked his head out to glare between the leaves of the shrubs that he and his sister were hiding in. His head was a full red, but his eyes were as gray as could be, making him the only Valthumir in his family. Meanwhile, his sister, his senior by perhaps a few minutes, clasped his shoulders as she too tried to gaze out of the shrubs.

They saw nothing.

Their game of hide and seek had grown tense, as another child had grown closer and closer only for the sounds of running and shrubs breaking to come to a sudden halt. They again tried to see where their friend had gone, this time seeing his feet and a knee against the ground as he inspected the shallow tracks had. The two knew then and there that they had been found, and as they saw their friend stand up and take a single step towards their shrub, a shadowed mass blurred past and suddenly their friend was gone.

The keen eyes of the kids had barely been able to register what had happened.

“What was that?” the sister had whispered.

“I don’t know, Tek,” the boy answered, leaning closer to see what had happened before deciding to move back, “I think it’s a trick.”

“He doesn’t play tricks, Tak,” the sister hissed in a silence, shoving him to the side ever so slightly.

“What do you mean? He played a trick on me the other day!” Tak’Takk argued, pushing back and digging his fingers into the ground before a noise to their left caught their attention. It must have been their friend, so the two pressed themselves closer to the ground, nearly pushing the other out of the hiding spot. Eventually, the steps got softer and softer as the sounds originated farther and farther before, making the children giggle in the cleverness to hide from their friend.

Tak’Takk poked his head out of the shrub, laughing as silently as he could. He would eventually crawl out of his hiding space before confusion wracked his face as he looked where his friend had been. The boy did not see any footprints of his friend, in fact, he could barely see tracks to what had moved past their hiding spot in general. He leaned down to see further, only to see barely noticeable indentation of what looked like bird feet, though he was no hunter, he could only guess that some large bird had come by. Tak’Takk’s first thought was perhaps a hawk, but it must have been one large hawk to have been making a track like this.

“Tek! Look at this bird track! “ he urged his sister, almost jumping up and down in excitement at discovering something so big. His excitement grew into impatience as he went to drag his sister out of the bush, his sister who slapped his hand in annoyance.

She looked at the track and immediately her look of annoyance morphed into excitement. “Wow!” she exclaimed as she looked even closer, “How big do you think that bird is?!”

“Like this~ big!” Tak’Takk said, holding his hands out to show a possible wingspan of the bird before his sister stood up.

“Nu uh! It’s this big!” Tek laughed making her arms stretch out even more, attempting to make a bird bigger than her brother.

Before the two could start another competition they heard the voice of their father in the nearby , “Tak’takk! Tek!” The two could only glare at each other before racing each other through the trees only to meet their father at the treeline. He stood over them, arms crossed, with his red hair tied back into a ponytail.

“Tak’takk, weren’t you supposed to help your mother earlier? Tek, are you not meant to help gather firewood for the evening?” the father asked, the two children only looking down knowing how they had gotten distracted by their game.

“W-we were playing San’Kek,” Tak’Takk explained timidly, only hearing the father sigh before going down onto his knee. He felt his father’s touch on his shoulder, his father raising Tak’Takk’s chin so that he may look his son in his eyes.

“I know the allure of play, Tak’Takk, but we all must work to keep our people alive, you know this,” he said, shoving aside emotion to make sure the child knew the priorities of the people came before play. Tak’Takk could only silently nod as his father stood back up, raising his spear as he stepped past the children. “Go on, go do your duties,” the father said before walking off.

The two children looked at each other before running back to the people so that the people may thrive.




Hours had passed, day twisting into the sick night as a full moon echoed over the land and bathed the land in a dark light. The people were quick to settle into their huts in order to escape the terrors that lived during the night, eager to to hunt for their next meal. However, one family was less than eager to settle in and it was the father that went to the family of Tak’Takk, at their door with worry and spear in hand.

The boy could hear the talk from his bed, picking up the worried voice, “San’Kek has yet to come home! We don’t know what to do.”

“”Do you know where he might be?” Tak’Takk’s father asked in a hushed tone in an attempt to not worry his children, or wake them up for that matter.

“He disappeared during the day, but-,” the other paused for a moment as he collected himself, “Other families are having their children going missing, all of them from today.”

Tak’Takk could hear the gasp from his father, then some shuffling about before his father spoke again, “We will not lose anymore children, come we need to search for them.” Their voices faded into the distance, Takk’Takk could hear his mother shuffling about as she checked both of her children, laying a hand on each. The worry should have left the child, but there was no calm knowing that his friends had been going missing. Had he and his sister been lucky? Perhaps they were just playing a big trick that he was not invited into.

Whatever was the case, Tak’Takk knew not what to make of the situation and he would have focused far more on the well being of his friends had he not heard something outside the walls of his hut. At first he thought it was his father, but then he heard the sound of claws scraping against wood, and a light giggle of a girl. His head shot up as he looked out, seeing his mother exit the hut to investigate the sound before quickly returning to go for a club.

“Mother, what’s going on?” Tak’Takk asked worriedly, his sister waking up from her sleep Isaiah a more than confused look on her face.

The mother stepped towards her children and went to speak, “Be quiet, there is-“

Something jumped on her back, knocking her forward and as she went to scream, her sound became gargling and gasping for air. Tak’Takk could not believe that sight in front of him, for what he saw was far from natural. He saw, standing over his mother’s corpse, the frame of a bird, lacking feathers and flesh and even anything that belonged on the inside of the body. Blood travelled down its hand, it’s talons, as it dropped whatever had come out of his mother’s throat. The boy was too terrified to scream as its glowing green eyes focused on the boy.

“Wrath will be so happy with me!~” It said in a sing song voice as it stepped towards the frightened children, reaching out to them.”Come my children~ We must leave this place,” she said, grabbing Tek’s hand, causing the child to scream in true terror. The skeleton recoiled in surprise for a moment before putting her bloody hand to the child’s mouth before a swift movement caused the girl to fall unconscious.
“Welp. Guess that could’ve gone better,” she said with a laugh before its green eyes looked to see the boy who was terrified beyond reasonable belief. He pressed his back against the wall as the skeleton took a step towards the child before leaping forwards.




“These things are smart,” a voice whispered, watching a line of Vallamir move in front of them, its glowing eyes watched them take note of the strange tracks from where the first child had been abducted. They were a distance away, hidden in the branches of a tree as it looked over to the other Aroiox. “They might find where we put them,” it growled, before the other put out an affirming hand. While unable to show expression, Wrath knew what Vigilance meant, knowing that they had a duty to their people.

“We just need Ecstasy and Terror to get back with the last two. Loathing and Grief will be able to keep the children hidden, all we have to do is make sure they stay confused,” Vigilance stated, keeping his eyes firmly placed upon the living things that grew nearer and nearer. Then a shrill scream pierced the air, bringing the attention of the two undead back to the village, as well as the attention of the search party. “Ecstasy has been found,” he commented.

“Then let’s get to it,” Wrath growled before swiftly moving from the tree branches, shortly followed by Vigilance as the two began to create inhuman screeches as they moved after the trackers. The skeletons were surprisingly adept at moving between the tree limbs, their taloned feet grasping each limb as they ran and swung. Their movements were quick and decided, their undead minds keeping them from second guessing themselves as they quickly caught up with the trackers, still moving as fast as they could.

Their screeches were directly overhead the people before Wrath’s head snapped up as a spear got caught between his ribs, causing him to lose his pace and fall to the ground. A long fall was followed by a snap as well as the continued inhuman screeches of Wrath. He ripped the spearhead free of his chest, unable to feel the pain as he attempted to get to his feet, only to crumble back onto the ground. He saw that a few of the trackers split from the group to double back. Wrath growled to himself before spotting the lower half of his left leg, grasping it and holding it to where it had severed before the green magic that his god had taught him to use, forcing the bone to reattach, albeit sloppily.

Then the living were upon him, only stopped at the sight of the magic and then as terrored confusion made its claim across their faces as they saw what abomination was in front of them. Wrath’s wings spread as he let out a snarling noise at the people, clearly keeping their distance despite having clubs and spears which would make short work of the hollowed bones of the Aroiox.

The Undead and the Living have met for the first time, one more clearly frightened and cautious while the other was fearless and determined.

Vigilance was motionless above them, slowly moving his body to be able to pounce when the need arose. Being sure to not make a sound lest he wind up in a situation like Wrath had managed to in his overeagerness for the plan. However, he heard the sound of shouting from the group that had continued back to the village, then more shouting, it grew closer.

This was not a part of the plan.

Everyone turned their heads in the direction of the noise, to see another two undead bird running through a field with two unconscious children, followed by the less than pleased populace of the village. One of the birds were screaming with terror.

Wrath and the group of trackers looked to each other, back to the two running undead and back to each other. Wrath looked to Vigilance, the group followed the gaze and saw Vigilance, the initial terror had grown to confusion. Vigilance looked at Wrath, the group looked at Wrath and everyone looked back to the mass of people running through the field.

After a moment of contemplation, the small group began to quickly begin running through the woods as well, Vigilance pouncing off his perch and rolling along the ground before springing into a run alongside Wrath.

“Was this a part of your idea?!” Wrath roared.

“Not in the slightest!” Vigilance responded, looking back at the group chasing them and pushing Wrath’s head down as another spear soared to him, only missing with Vigilance’s intervention.

The two groups eventually merged into one as both parties sprinted through the tree line, the living unable to throw spears out of fear of hitting the children. At least, that is what Vigilance thought as he looked back at them, seeing that soon enough, the limitations of blood and flesh were taking their toll on the Vallamir. They grew tired, even in their determination to get their children back, it slowed them to a point where rather than gaining on the undead, they were falling farther and farther behind.

As the Undead continued their sprint, Vigilance turned his head toward Ecstasy, “What happened to my plan?”

“Didn’t like it. Thought it would be funny to have them chase us,” Ecstasy laughed before continuing, “And it very much was, my friend.”

“I hated it,” Wrath commented.

“You hate everything,”Ecstasy countered.

“You single handedly undermined this entire operation,” Vigilance said, looking back at the now tired people, only the trackers who were smart enough to conserve their energy in a prolonged chase were able to somewhat keep up. However, the Undead now had time, at least enough to retreat back to their home. “Weeks of scouting and planning were ruined,” he continued as they ran.

“But it was funny!”

“It was stupid!”

“Shut up, Wrath!”

Vigilance sighed before looking over at Terror, who had at least stopped screaming. She was carrying the boy, the boy who seemed to be stirring.They had little time before resistance began, resistance that they could not afford, but at the very least, they were close to the place where they had been hiding. A small outcrop in the side of a hill, the previous occupant had acquiesced to their request of using as their camp.

As they neared, Terror felt the boy struggle and push against the undead’s head, causing the Aroiox to become frightened and drop the precious cargo against the ground. Almost immediately, the boy began running in the opposite direction. Wrath went to turn to give chase, but quickly saw the trackers still on their heel, their forms coming through the mist.

“Leave the boy! We don’t have anymore time thanks to Ecstasy!” Vigilance shouted, earning a grunt from Wrath before he too turned tail.

When the hunters managed to retrieve the boy and enter the outcropping, all they found was the corpse of a movle, it’s skeleton protruding from its body and contorted into something almost unrecognizable. However, it was clear that wherever the Undead had gone, the children were also with them, though Tak’Takk remained.


Bukradul

Turn 3




Akrosh had truly blessed these people, the white stag being a boon that their choice to settle into this land, albeit harsh, was the right move for these orcs. Guthug knew this, and for the blessing of Akrosh and his mighty stag behind him, he would be eternally grateful even into his death. The thing that made him happier was his people jubilant over his success, now being able to tame animals of their own knowing that their gods were watching them. Even as he settled some stones at the base of what was to develop into his home, he would see people place their balled fist over their hearts as a sign of faith.

However, as he set stone after stone into place, the thought of those bearmen and how they had given them an idol and the symbols of various animals that Akrosh had trained. Guthug paused in his building as he took the pouch off of his waist, opening it to examine the crudely made idol only for the vivid memory of that event to play within his mind. When he felt a ginger hand touch his shoulder, he almost jumped as he believed that one of the bearmen had come towards him, but when he looked to see who it was, he saw that it was his wife.

Technically, however, she was not his wife, but they were betrothed, only unable to marry in this new land for there was no ground that had been consecrated for such an occasion.

“Yutol…” Guthug said softly, a smile coming across his face as his hand went to touch hers.

Yutol, a large and imposing figure compared to most other females of tribe, let out a laugh at Guthug’s jump as she sat next to him. As she moved her body closer to his, she could not help but spy the pouch that had been gifted to him. “What is that?” she asked, inquisitive.

“A pouch gifted to me by bearmen I met on my trial. They gave it to me after I mentioned Akrosh,” Guthug stated, holding the contents of the pouch up for Yutol to see.

“That was nice of them,” Yutol said simply as she looked at the items before she looked back at Guthug, “Perhaps you should seek them out to give them a gift for such a successful trial.” She twirled a finger around the dreads of his hair before leaning her head upon his shoulder.

“A fine idea, but we have nothing that would make a good gift just yet,” Guthug said, his eyes moving to the ground as he shut his hand around the gift. He knew he would have to look for something, knowing that the kindness that had been bestowed onto him must be reciprocated lest there be a breach in the kindness that the stag stood for. Guthug knew that he would have to search the nearby lands for anything that may make for a fine gift.

“What of our wedding, Guthug?” Yotul asked.

“We must wait, the shamans have yet to consecrate any ground.”

“And when will they?”

“When they have attuned to the land,” Guthug answered with a huff.

Yotul let out a sigh, clearly displeased with such an answer but unmoving from her position next to Guthug. The two had not been able to marry in their past land due to the circumstances of war and the divide in faith, but now they found themselves hampered by the will of the shamans while all they could do is be patient or go against what was sacred once more. Nobody wanted to experience a second conflict after being forced to flee.

“I will talk to them once I have finished our home, if they have not by then. For the time being, I only ask for patience,” Guthug said as he moved to stand.

Yotul looked at him with an indifferent expression before speaking, “If that is how you feel.”

As Guthug walked off, he looked to the unfinished wall, seeing many people working to erect it so that those wolves would not be so bold in their attempt to steal what food they had. He approached some who were taking a break from the tedious building and motioned for them to follow. They obeyed their chief without question.

“We will roam our territory for things that would make for fine gifts,” Guthug said simply as the group grew, men eagerly wanting to serve their chief even if it were for a simple task. By the time they left the camp, they had grown to fifty men, all ready to dig or craft with what they find in their new lands.





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