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5 yrs ago
Current Going to a festival fellas! So for the coming week I won't be able to post.
5 yrs ago
When you marathon Rick & Morty S2 and expected laughs but the ending just slaps you in the face...
5 yrs ago
School's in full "consume all his time"-mode so no posts for just a lil longer. Sorry folks! I promise I'll make up for it in the weekend!
6 yrs ago
Going to take a small break on most of my RPs for maybe a week or so.
6 yrs ago
Not near an actual keyboard until 21/06

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“Miss Krogh.” The older doorman of the apartment complex at which Hel arrived greeted her with a small, almost grandfatherly smile. Hel returned it, though made sure to keep her distance a little. The night air felt chilly, but it wouldn’t be nearly as chilly as a handshake from her. That was not something she wanted to invite. “He is home.” The man continued before he opened the door for her.

“Thank you Oswald.” She said with a smile as she stepped inside. Expensive buildings had a way to make it feel warm without letting you feel a real transition from the outside. Unlike most, Fenrir did not have a front door you could knock on. That was a shame. There was something about knocking that used to make visits feel so much more personal. Though Hel really didn’t want to buzz her brother’s intercom and spoil the surprise like that. “Oswald, dear. Could you help me with something?”
~

Hel could barely feel the elevator slow down. It was such a smooth ride. The first time she visited she thought the thing was broken. Then she stepped outside and saw the view. A ding heralded someone’s arrival in Fenrir’s home. The goddess’ heels announced who it was.

---------------

"Suck on that J!" Fen smirked, nudging his sibling playfully in the side as King Boo raced across the finishing line, placing him firmly in first place. This was ignoring the fact that she had completely obliterated him in the previous two races and that, he suspected, was with her going easy on him. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll get you next time!” Jorm chuckled, a grin easily finding its way onto her face at his antics. Tossing the controller onto the opposite side of the large corner sofa, the wolf god was leaning to wrap his lithe fingers around a bottle of beer when the doorbell abruptly rang.

"Precisely on time as always." He winked at Jörmungandr before hopping up, taking a swig of beer as he strolled towards the wooden apartment door. It was a surprisingly lengthy walk, space being one of the things that had been a must when he'd been searching for somewhere to live. It just happened that spacious apartments also tended to be luxury ones. Pulling the door open, he immediately embraced the goddess with an enthusiastic hug. Though she was icy cold to the touch, he tended to run on the hot side, so it sort of balanced out...even if he did have to suppress a mild shiver. "Hel! Come in! Beer? Mario Kart?" He offered as he walked ahead of her, already heading to the fridge to look for more refreshments.

“Heya sis! Come take a load off!” she called out from her comfy spot, the controller having been switched out for a bottle though it was quickly discarded all the same in favor of hopping over the back of the couch and wrapping her sister into a constrictive hug. She knew that Hel wouldn’t hug her back but was determined to show that some touching wasn’t the end of the world. It was the hope that someday, she would stop being so afraid and go a little more on the wild side, take a risk. Jorm let go after a few seconds, practically leading Hel to the kitchen by keeping an arm around her shoulder as they walked. “Tell us how the shitfest went while we wait on the stew to finish! No one gave you too much trouble right?”

The goddess was – as always – surprised by the sudden embrace. She didn’t return it. Though in her heart it pained her. She just hoped, every time, that her brother would understand her own strange beliefs. Not that she truly had ever explained them to her siblings. They all had their strange quirks, a result of the injustice done to them. “Water.” She quickly followed up on her brother’s summing up. Helheim was not a place of beer or mead. There was no celebration there. Its denizens subsisted on fresh spring water alone. It wouldn’t make for a party, but then again they weren’t worthy of Valhalla or Fólkvangr. So fresh water would do.

She smiled at her older sister’s invitation to ‘take a load off’. Jormungandr always told her to relax. Not that the goddess of the graceless dead ever could. For millennia she was duty bound. No amount of time on earth could ever change that. None the less the invitation – given every time she and her older sister met – was well appreciated. It showed that despite how Hel was, her siblings still cared. After all, the goddess was well aware that the not returning of physical affections made her a hard person to like, let alone love.

Just like with Fenrir, Hel did not return Jorm’s hug. Though she did give her sister the biggest smile she could give. Not that it was very big, really. A colleague once told her that her smiles had something melancholic behind them. As if they had some deep sadness behind them. She never really gave it much thought.

Then her sister mentioned the luncheon. Her demeanor shifted ever so slightly. Few would recognize it, but her siblings would. Something made her deeply unhappy. “Macaria and Zagreus suffered the true death.” Hel said. She remained just inside of her brother’s apartment, near the front door. “They fell from the skylight but were dead before they hit the ground and
 did not rise again. They are gone. Seemingly forever.” She said. The goddess of the dead did not move. She wasn’t sure how well her siblings knew either of the dead deities, but in times of grief it was best to give the information straight, correct and without too much emotion. So those who heard the information could freely feel their own emotions. Sadly, that meant that Hel had to hide and suppress her own feelings. Luckily enough she was very well practiced in doing so.

Unlike her sister, always one to control her emotions and suppress them, Jormungandr was the very opposite. She was an open book, everything written on her sleeve and her words sometimes punctuated with harsh truth so when she heard of the two immortal deaths, it froze her in place. She felt cold seep into her veins that had nothing to do with Hel’s temperature and everything to do with the rush of fear and concern. If someone or
something had killed immortals then none of them were safe. The two that she loved, that were in arms reach
could be taken from her again but this time no reunion to be had or looked forward to. The others that she cherished that were not present could be in danger. ”H-How could this have happened?! This shouldn’t be possible.”, she wheezed, horror and panic etched into every word as she began to shake as she held herself. She didn’t know the two lost but their names were definitely locked into her brain now. She couldn’t imagine what their family was feeling. Family. ”Where is father?! Hati?! Everyone? W-We need to call them. Are they safe?” Jorm might dislike the Aesir, some on the border of hate but they were still her pantheon.

Fenrir passed Hel a glass of water before leaning against the marble countertop, silently observing his two sisters as the news was broken. Sharp blue eyes, always intense even when he didn't mean to be, watched for the subtle or not so subtle (in Jorms case) changes in their body language.

"Dead Greeks. Well that's going to be a shitstorm..." The wolf eventually piped up, a small sigh escaping his lips. If it had been any other pantheon maybe there could have been a semblance of moderation in their reaction. But with the Greeks, he was sure that would not be the case. "Any god or goddess who thinks they're still invulnerable is mad. Even assholes like Odin barely have any influence now, beyond the small worlds we've created around ourselves." Fen wasn't trying to be cynical but his fall from...no it definitely hadn't been grace. His fall from one hellscape to another had left him under no illusions about how weak they all now were.

Moving over to Jorm, he clapped a hand on her shoulder, squeezing it gently. "But anyway, two dead deities does not a Ragnorak make." He shrugged nonchalantly, trying to hide his own uncertainties. If this was Ragnorak, it was better than the prophecies had stated. He for example, was by no means capable of consuming the entire world.

"So...how exactly did they die?" He asked as he turned back to Hel, shaking off thoughts of eating Odin before raising a questioning eyebrow. Fen didn't want to care, in fact he wanted to remain firmly planted in the shadows, but he couldn't help but feed that small well of curiosity that rose up inside of him.

Something inside of Hel – a more human side perhaps – wanted to rush over and hug her panicking sister. It hurt the goddess to see Jorm like that but there was nothing she could really do and a hug would only make things worse probably. So she kept her distance. As always. “Father is still safe when he left the luncheon. Though I couldn’t figure out where he would be going.” She omitted the fact that she had gone up the roof herself a bit later instead. And that she had visited the morgue instead of following Loki. Still, if there was ever a divine who could weasel his way out of a dangerous situation it would be her father. “Hati is working with Athena.” She continued to explain. “So he is safe as well.” Hel didn’t care for the rest of the Norse. Only the blood Loki counted for her.

As always Fenrir came out exceedingly cynical. Hel expected it. There was no point in engaging it. Not really. Then he asked his question. “They were cut down.” Hel said matter-of-factly. “After that they fell through the skylight of the club down to the floor. Everyone expected them to rise up again but.. well. That did not happen. Cuts could be seen. Though nothing that shouldn’t heal.” Her eyes darted over her two siblings. The point was easily made. “There is a weapon out there that can kill gods.” Just for a second, a moment, Hel’s heart quickened. Just the thought that such a weapon really existed made her excited. Yet she couldn’t show that. Not even to her siblings.

“That does leave the matter of the Ambrosia.” Hel quickly changed subject to what she thought to be more important in the moment. “Hera was smart enough to give everyone in attendance for the luncheon their apple. Persephone might be a bit preoccupied with giving them out now.” She removed the top of the whiskey tube and pulled out the Fruit of the Tree of Life. “I kept it for you.” She gently put it towards Fenrir. Then she turned towards Jormungandr. “You should probably ask Hebe for yours. Things are heating up, so don’t wait too long. Okay?”

Jorm nodded to her brother, feeling more stable with his hand on her shoulder. It was a physical reminder that she was not alone and they were in this together. ”As long as you are sure they are safe.”, Jorm replied, grateful that the people she cared about most were most likely out of harm's way. She didn’t like the explanation any better than when her sister had simply said other immortals had perished. A weapon? An actual killer of immortals? How was this even possible? She was fearful for who would be next or if it was someone close to them all out to get other immortals. The change in conversation was much needed and openly accepted, happy to just put that mess and fear behind until more answers became clear. ”I think the Greeks are probably gonna have their hands full for a while and a year added to my age isn’t gonna kill me. I’ll hit her up whenever I see her next if I remember to do so. I know she sometimes goes to Acropolis parties and I’ll be dead before I get caught going into Odin’s building or whatever.”

Fenrir took the apple in his hand, tossing it idly in the air before catching it once more. Was this a chain of sorts? He could never truly leave, never truly be away from the Aesir with their immortality threatened so easily. "You sure?" He glanced at Jorm, "I'd happily go give cyclops a visit." Fen grinned wolfishly, pointed canines bared as if in threat before they sunk into the apples soft flesh.

"But anyway, this talk of dead gods is boring me." He spoke up once he had finished his snack. It was boring him, that was true. And he had not failed to miss the almost imperceptible and brief change in Hel’s presence as she'd spoken of the weapon. She had no reason to kill any Greeks, though he was certain the keeper of Helheim would use it on Odin if she got a chance. Wrapping his arms around the shoulders of both his sisters, he pulled them closer. "I want to hear all about what my lovely sisters have been up to. I want tales of draugr Hel and the tallest building you have jumped off recently Jormungandr."

Hel managed to quickly free herself from Fenrir’s second embrace. She enjoyed them a lot, but it was better to not get used to them. It did worry her that Jorm seemed so nonchalant about aging a year. Well, she was planning to see Hebe anyway. Hopefully, the charitable goddess would give her two apples. If not well, Hel was the youngest. A year would do less to her than to Jorm she reckoned.

But then it happened. She turned her head towards the glass windows. There were whispers coming through. Only the goddess of the graceless dead could hear them. She stepped towards the window. The whispers became hoarse voices. Their words and meaning were just under the surface. A flat hand reached out towards the cold glass.

Hel’s eyes went wide in shock and surprise. ”I have to go.” She said. Her voice was shaking. She rushed over towards the hallway. “Jorm, get your apple!” She shouted at her sister before leaving.

”Wait!
And she is gone
..what just happened?”, she asked, looking at Fen utterly confused before sighing and shaking her head. It seems family time would have to wait, well, at least with all of them anyway. ”Oh nevermind, I’m pulling off the stew. Don’t know about you but I’m starvin’.”

Clarion Call

𝐋𝐚𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧: Hephaestus’ Workshop
𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬: None


Ares had genuinely looked forward to being guided through Seattle. The guide herself wasn’t particularly cheap either. Everything was supposed to be normal and in control. As he was driving through the streets with his own car he thought back to that plan. He’d slowly introduce Tlaz and Isabel to each other. Both women had a temperament. At first they’d clash, of course. After a while though they’d start to grow on each other. Before she’d know it, Isa would have the family she always wanted. After that she’d probably need a few visits from Anubis before Ares breaks the big secret.

Instead, he was zipping through the streets of this city in an effort to save Pothos. The plan didn’t need to be dropped entirely but it most certainly would need to change a little. That and someone was going to get nailed to a cross with rusty nails for even thinking they could go after one of his children.

After driving for what felt like hours he finally arrived to where his GPS told him Heph’s workshop should be. It wasn’t called that of course. Still, when Ares pulled up to the place, he was slightly surprised. It didn’t look at all like something a god would want to be at. It was in a dilapidated part of town, surrounded by hollow husks of factories. Broken glass and shattered windows were abundant. Nobody cared, clearly. As most of the broken windows weren’t even closed with something like cardboard. The concrete underneath Ares as he stepped out of his car was cracked and broken in places. Why would Hephaestus ever want his workshop here?

Unless there was a more sinister purpose. “What did you get yourself involved in brother?” He said to himself again as he approached the warehouse door. It opened without issue. The inside looked almost as abandoned, almost. But several years of war taught Ares to recognize the tracks of a hidden base. Often times the clues were right there: a somewhat clean, dry floor. Hephaestus was here for sure.

Ares heard a sudden hissing noise. He turned around. Two darts flew straight for him. Suddenly all his muscles tensed up as hundred volts of electricity coursed through him. His own nerves fought the overwhelming force of the electricity. He grabbed the wires with one hand. Then with the other, then he let the jolting shocks do the rest as his tensed-up muscles ripped the cords apart. “A taser? Really Hephaestus?” Ares shouted out. That wasn’t going to stop him.

But it did make him pull his pistol and made him regret not wearing his bulletproof vest. Those were things to worry about later. He kept going through the corridor. He tried to evade a few more tiles that looked a bit too loose. Then accidentally pushed against something to the wall. Again something hissed. Ares ducked. Scalding steam shot from a valve to the side. A second too late and Ares would’ve been seriously burned.

Two steps further and he heard the clanging of metal coming down. Ares never looked up. He rolled out of the way. Just in time. A metal cage fell down where he was just minutes ago. The god of war turned to inspect it. A small, knowing grin formed on his lips. He recognized the shape of the cage.

Eventually, he reached the end of the winding corridor though. It led to a locked door with no intercom. A fool might think the lock was something simple. Not to Ares. He saw the lines and connections. Hephaestus was always fond of his complex creations. Ares could crack it though.

The god of war had different ideas though. He went back outside to his car and popped the trunk. There was a reason why he took his own car. He rummaged through a few things. For a moment he pulled out a big sledgehammer. No, too slow. Crowbar? Not strong enough. Wireless electric saw? Decent, but he had something different. Eventually, he grabbed a small pot filled with grey dust in it. “I don’t have time for your games Hephaestus.” He said to himself as he made his way through the trapped corridor. He taped the pot to the door and lit the fuse.

Exactly thirty-five seconds later the fuse lit the thermite. 4.000°F heated metal burned through the lock like a blowtorch through butter. With a heavy thud the core of the puzzle lock fell down, drenched in molten slag. Ares waited patiently until the reaction ran its course. In the end the metal door had a decently sized hole burned through it. But when Ares tried the knob it opened up. Revealing a staircase leading down.

Hephaestus was nostalgic if nothing else. His workshop’s layout had some clear callbacks to the one he had back when he was a god. For Ares that was a good thing. He knew where to look and what to ignore. His notes were haphazardly strewn around but the God of the Forge always had a logic to his chaos. Ares was quick to piece the notes together. “Elysium steel.” Ares said as he picked up and puzzled together some of the notes. He didn’t know what it meant but it couldn’t be good. The god of war’s heart then dropped.

Tacked on a corkboard, almost hidden in plain sight, were two things that did not look like they belonged there. Ares took the first one.



“What have you gotten yourself into brother.” Ares said as he looked over the card. This reeked of a cult. He turned the card over.



A shiver went down to Ares’ spine. Until now he had hoped and wished Hephaestus was another victim. Perhaps his curiosity had gotten the better of him. Not anymore. He was invited to a cult. Humans could’ve figured out that the divine are real. Gears started to twist in Ares’ mind. They could hurt his children, they may already have. They could also hurt Tlaz and that was a thought Ares could not bear.

With a brisk, anxious pace he made his way back to his car. Once inside he pushed the pedal to the metal and started calling.

~

Ares called people across the globe from his car. Baghdad, Seoul, Brussels, New York, and Washington were all called. The call never lasted longer than half a minute. Within the intelligence community, it would not make ripples. It would make waves. Within a minute of being called, a highly trained and dangerous killer booked a charter flight to Seattle leaving within three hours. Bullets were bought along the way. Armories were emptied. Something was afoot. It was as if the Epilektoi were preparing for a war. It would worry many that almost all were clearly converging towards one place. Two operatives did not take a plane. Instead they got into a car and started driving to a particular address in Washington.


𝖗 𝖊 𝖈 𝖔 𝖓
𝖗 𝖊 𝖈 𝖔 𝖓

𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧. jade jaguar
𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬. Isabel | Tlazōlteōtl
𝐊𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐚𝐧𝐬. Ares | Hathor | Phobos | Others

~Later that evening~

Isabel was tapping the corner of her phone on the inside handle of the car door. It was a rapid, nervous kind of tapping, to the rhythm of the fast-paced music that was blaring in her ears. Streetlights passed over her face again and again. She was looking outside but wasn’t really seeing anything. Her mind was too preoccupied. Too many questions were bouncing in her mind.

“Meeting a fellow?” Asked the driver. He was an old man, probably a grandfather who tried to get by. Perhaps a birthday was approaching. Isabel could guess that much from the friendly smile in the back view mirror.

She ignored the question and the smile.

“That’ll be it love.” Was the next thing he said, as the car pulled over. Isabel just got out without saying another word. Gods she hated small talk. It just wasted time and her time was not one to be wasted. She took the pods out and a wall of noise hit her.

Hundreds of people were moving around the downtown street to and from the bars that were spread around. Others were just standing outside, smoking a cigarette or just cooling off in the fresh night air before going inside again. If she was going out to have some fun she would’ve played some games here and now. Tonight she had come with a purpose though.

Like a proud lioness she stepped forward through the nightlife street, passing more than one couple kissing in the shadows away from the street lights. The way she walked – the cheer confidence it showed off – combined with her needle-like heels drew more than enough attention. Her dress, an almost scandalously short piece, did the rest. In a few minutes she made her way towards the infamous Jade Jaguar. Before she went in she checked her phone again. So far the PI had been worth his money. The problem was that he caused her to ask far more questions than she got answers for. In the last twenty-seven years she knew her father he never once spoke of a woman he loved.

But now, when she looked at the picture she got just a few hours ago, she saw him so close to another that it made her sick. It didn’t help that her father asked her to come to Seattle in a week for a dinner. And then she was supposed to ask for a certain Lalli at the Jade Jaguar. Isabel was smart enough to make the connections.

If this woman - whoever she pretended to be - thought she could worm herself into the Markov's she didn’t know Isabel yet. If she worked at the Jaguar, she’d have some skeletons in her closet.

Isa took her phone back, took a deep breath, and put up the mask she had worn so many times. With a bright smile that could fool anyone except her father, she walked up to the bouncer. He curtly asked for her ID. She faked taking it as a compliment as she handed a fake one over. Tonight she’d be Sabrina Carver. The ID was quite convincing though. That, combined with a sweet smile and the fact that she’d drawn in half a dozen puppies behind her, meant that the bouncer let her through easily enough.

It was only the first day of the Festival, well probably the last of them too, and already Tlazōlteōtl was feeling the draining effects they were known for. It was a spectacle to say the least and the Aztec was on her toes. Should she be there in the open of the Jaguar? No, probably not, but it was a business and it still needed to be run.

If there was someone out there attacking the Gods she felt that she was at least safer being surrounded by mortals, giving the culprit less of an opportunity to strike. Her thoughts on it anyways. Besides, Hathor would be in soon and Phobos was due to arrive not long after - if he wasn’t caught up taking care of the remaining daughter of Hades; she felt safe knowing that they would be there soon. For now, she had a presence that was needed and so, with a heavy sigh and a pinch to her cheeks, she strutted out from the employee’s back room and walked the floor, making a beeline to the bar.

Rubbing her temples at the bar she waited for the next set of drinks to be placed on the serving tray so she could hand it off to one of the waiting girls, thinking back to her meeting with Ares in the gardens. She wanted to speak with him more today, but the deaths of gods put a halt to that. He was whisked away into the fray of those wanting to be of service and help in this mystery, she couldn’t blame him for that. Tlaz did however blame him for not leaving her information to get a hold of him at a later time. Or even offer to console her, protect her.

The feeling of being perpetually second place in his life was quickly becoming evident to her and she didn’t know how to feel about it. It wasn’t something she’s been used to, never had to deal with this before Ares. A strange sensation to say the least and it did nothing to quench this amalgamation of feelings swirling within her. Of rage and anger but also of confusion, and even
 depression?

No, no. The Filth Goddess of Sin does not get depressed. Neither is she placed on the bench only to be someone’s backup plan. With a new resolve, and now a tray full of drinks that she passed on, topaz eyes filled with fire, scanned the room for mortals to schmooze and drain their wallets dry. Maybe find someone to make the war god jealous in the process.

For a precious second, Isabel and Tlaz’s eyes met. Isabel recognized the woman immediately. The picture didn’t do her justice. She was beyond beautiful. There was a raw sensuality about her that Isabel easily recognized. That aura came from absolute confidence. She looked away, grabbed a shot lightning-fast from a passing tray, downed it, and moved through the thorn of people like she was water. She learned to do that from her father. Right now she could understand why he was attracted to this woman. Surely she had her claws deep in him already. Did she grab him for his wealth? Maybe she’s one of those succubi that likes to toy with men before discarding them?

It didn’t matter. Not really. Whoever or whatever she was, Isabel vowed to chase her away. With a woman looking that prideful it wouldn’t even be hard. Though first, she moved towards the bathroom. The make-up she had on right now was far too appropriate for a club like the Jade Jaguar. She needed something different. After fifteen minutes she wandered out with far more innocent-looking make-up than when she wandered in. Her usually cocky smile was gone and replaced with a far more genuine one. She didn’t stride like a goddess over the floor now and instead almost meekly made her way towards the bar.

“Hi, sorry. Could I have a water please?” She asked this ‘Lali’, though she made sure she could barely be heard over the loud music.

Tlazōlteōtl was caught off guard by the woman beside her. There was something off with her, that much the goddess knew. There was no way a woman as meek looking as herself would willingly waltz into the Jaguar without knowing what kind of den it truly was. Even if she had, the bouncers at the front would have checked her over and she had trained them well enough to know better than to let those too
 innocent in through the doors.

So, to see this woman beside her putting on a charade struck out to the Aztec, especially after the events today with the other pantheons and fresh deaths lingering over her head. Straightening her posture she smiled widely at the dark haired beauty, ordering a simple glass of water for her and held it hostage as she leaned on the bar top, eyes cautiously watching her company’s every move.

“An interesting choice,” it was left ambiguous though the owner gestured to the club around them without breaking eye contact, though the statement itself was geared towards a number of things. Her outfit, the location, the “innocent” act. Her. Whoever she was, Tlazōlteōtl planned on finding out and dealing with the consequences that followed. “Tell me, wha’s a pretty little thing like yourself is doing in a place like this?”

Isabel kept her act up. She smiled a little in embarrassment. “It’s that obvious I don’t belong here? I’m sorry, this will be a long story really. And an awkward one.” She took a seat on one of the barstools first. “My
 dad is seeing this woman. Her name is Lalli and apparently, she comes here often. So a friend of mine managed to get me in but-“ She looked behind her at the whole dancing floor. “How the hell am I going to find anyone called Lalli in this?” She turned back around to look at the bartender. She still had that innocent look on her face. “I just wanted to meet her you know.” She then quickly added, acting a little dejected by her apparent failure.

Was she sizing her up, a goddess? Maybe it was paranoia finally sinking in. Maybe it was just her being a little too annoyed at someone waltzing into her club looking for her with an air of mystery about her. Perhaps even a combination of both and then some, but there was something about the atmosphere surrounding the two of them in that moment that raised the hairs on the back of her neck.

Clearly she was intent on location “Lalli” and that’s exactly who she was going to give her. Sliding the glass of water across the top towards her she sighed heavily, “Hm, well, you just happened to find her. What are the odds,” her voice low and teeming with an unspoken threat to it. Though she doubted it would work.Someone like her, willing to walk into the fire like she did and play with it, there wasn’t anything she could do to scare her away. Not like this at least.

“Dating your father?” Tlaz brought it back to the supposed statement, a hand to her chin, feigning in thought, “I have dated many men, but currently there isn’t anyone I’m seeing. Perhaps it was in the past?”

Isabel let her face light up in apparent happiness when she ‘found’ Lali. She picked up on the threat easily. If this Lali before her wasn’t such a vile person then Isabel would’ve admired her skill of spitting threats that only a certain people would pick up on. Instead she pretended to never having picked it up to begin with.

“No, no. It’s something very recent
 at least I think. His name is Alexander.” Isabel said before taking a sip from her glass. She didn’t show it, but the fact that she so off-handedly talked about dating so many men felt vile to Isabel. These were the women that toyed with men. She wouldn’t let her own father become a victim of someone like this. For now she waited to see if Lali knew the name. Of course her dad had many names. Hell, even her own name could be that of a specter he had conjured up decades ago.

At the mention of his name those feelings of rage and confusion flared up within her though she hid it well. The one that decided to settle within her bones was that of embarrassment. Eyeing the woman before her, up and down, she surmised that she was within the range of thirty years and beautiful. Stunningly so. This stranger, this woman shared so many similar features with the one in question. Looking at her, knowing Ares was her father - and that it was not her child - her heart broke upon and she doubted she hid that well enough.

“Ah, yes,” she cleared her throat, “Alexander
” What was she to say to this? ’Your father is an immortal being with whom I have had a torrent love affair with but he ditched me years ago in Madrid?’ Oh, yes, that would go over swimmingly. Who is to say that she isn’t involved somehow in what’s going on in the immortal world currently? But Tlazōlteōtl couldn’t be bothered to think that way - the deaths of the others were so far from her mind at this moment. All she could see, hear, think about was what went wrong between them that his daughter would be here, seeking her out.

Instead she just stood there, swaying a little in her spot before coming back to the present and ordering herself a strong drink, “Ar- Alex and I
 we’ve known each other for an extremely long time. There was something there, once. Long ago, thank you,” Tlaz took a sip of the agave based cocktail before continuing, “Hadn’t seen him in years until today. What’s got you digging around your father’s love life?” Her eyes slowly trailed back towards the face of her lover’s daughter. The thought alone sent shivers down her spine in a way that normally signaled danger. Was this why he left her? He had a family with someone else? Did he leave her to have that family without her?

Isabel was trained to see the little things in people. An anxious motion with their hands or a slight trip in their speech was often enough for her. Right now this Lali was giving her way more. For once she almost betrayed one of Alexander’s aliases. Something that started with an ‘Ar’. It made Isabel angry though. She could never figure out another alias of her father yet this woman almost casually gave one up. Still, in that same breath she gave Isabel so much more to work with. Her mind went racing to pick the right words. She was tactically sipping her water to buy her some time.

“I wanted to meet the woman he talks so much about lately.” Isabel said as she put the glass down and looked up at Lali. “From the way he describes you, I thought you’d be glowing like an angel!” She threw in a small giggle in there for good measure. In truth it was just another vocational ploy. So many women love knowing they’re talking about in a good way. It works even better when there is love involved. “Clearly none of what he said was a lie.”

It was like being doused in a vat of ice water when she spoke. Lies upon lies she uttered. Not unlike her father in the slightest, for that Tlazōlteōtl scoffed. Without missing a beat she threw back the remnants of her glass and turned towards the young woman. “It is hard to believe he would speak of me so highly,” it was the goddess’ turn to stall for the right words, the ones to throw this child off of her past relations to Ares. “The last time we spoke with one another it was anything but sweet nothings,” not a complete lie, but one nonetheless.

The strip club owner couldn’t place her finger on what it was that this girl was seeking to gain from her. Maybe it was just information. Maybe it was something more. Regardless, Tlaz didn’t appreciate being interrogated. “Tell me, conetl, what is it you want? Why come all this way, to my place of business, hm? It wasn’t just to meet me,” leaning forward into the woman’s space she purred these words, eyeing her frame, examining her for the threat she posed, or didn’t. Tlazōlteōtl wasn’t quite sure yet.

The vibe was changing quickly. Isabel picked up on it quickly. She said too much. Damn it! Her instinct told her to drop the act. She wanted. Gods she wanted to put this woman in her place so badly. She didn’t though. It was hard – Isabel couldn’t even take a deep breath to calm herself – but she preserved and kept up her projected innocence. She didn’t have much more time though.

“It-I just
” She took a deep breath as she feigned being upset by some horrible memory. “When mom got sick my dad didn’t leave her. He stayed with her through those years. And then, when she died, he just
 he collapsed. He didn’t get out of bed and barely ate. And when he did get out of bed it was to visit her grave. He did that for months.” The art of showing sadness as a lie was to truly remember something sad. So as she told the tale about how she and her dad were part of a happy family for so many years she kept on thinking about all those times she had to wave her dad goodbye at the airport, back when she was young and didn’t know for sure if he’d come back.

“It felt like he had this
 hole in his heart and nothing and nobody could fill it but.. well. Here you are.” She gave a small, sniffling laugh as she motioned towards Lalli. “I really hope you can fill that hole in him.” The implications of the story were clear though. You are not his first choice. You are a replacement. You. Are. Second.

He didn't leave her... stayed with her through those years...

The words echoed inside her head for a few moments before dying out. It was clear that she was second best to someone else. Someone else who had caught his attention and claimed his heart for their own. And through this, a child was conceived. One she so desperately craved and wished for with him. A vacant chill raced across her skin, the kind that sit for too long with no chance of leaving. Like cold water drops sitting on one's skin and then being doused with icy air. A sickening feeling rose in her throat and she felt the unmistakable presence of tears in the corners of her eyes. Thankfully she was able to blink them away before they had a chance to fall. She wouldn't cry out of sorrow anymore over Ares. She had done that already. Instead, the bile rising in her throat signaled something a lot more sinister.

Her love would never be enough it seemed. It was never enough. But what of her wrath. He left her, no warning, no note, no contact. Not even to tell her himself that there was nothing there for him anymore. She would have understood. Been heartbroken, but she would have understood. Now, here was his daughter, making sure Tlazōlteōtl knew she was second best. Runner up. An afterthought.

Topaz eyes raked over the woman in front of her and though her tears may have been real, it was disingenuous to the words she spoke. Tlazōlteōtl knew sin and all the forms it wrapped itself in. Lying was no different. But her motives were lost on her and the goddess realized she didn't care anymore. She wanted her gone from her sight. It was only Ares she wanted to see at the moment and she had some very choice words for him. "Sorry for your loss," she recited the words as if reading from a Hallmark card, she could be just as callous. A forced smile upon full lips, one that didn't accurately represent the look in her eyes, "But as for your father and I... there will be a lot more holes in him when I am through with him."




A few minutes later Isabel was hailing down a taxi outside the Jade Jaguar. Her job there was done. Whatever storm that would follow would douse any spark her father and this Lali had. Quite self-satisfied she took her place in the back of a cab and ordered it to drive her to her hotel.

There was one more thing to do though.

To: Mr. Wolff
Your information was splendid. Thank you ;)
The sun was setting but the Dawnblades weren’t yet done with their new recruitment drive. Like all legions, they went from node to node within the Verdant Realms every so often to draw new recruits into their ranks. Such an event was never a dull affair.

Lit torches lined a circle drawn in the fertile earth just outside of the city. People from city and the surrounding villages came to see the spectacle. Though few could fully understand what was happening without explanation. They held their breaths as eight legionnaires stepped into the circle. Each was holding a quarter staff. They were dressed in lightly padded cloth. Every hit would hurt.

“The legions fight as one!” Another legionnaire shouted so the whole crowd could hear him. He too reached the circle, but remained outside of it. Two more legionnaires dressed in full, iron armor met at the circle as well, but stayed out of it. “To do so we must know each other. Predict each other. We shall show you the blessing of Anak’thas that facilitates such union.”

Drummers that sat beside the circle began to dictate a slow rhythm. The eight legionnaires in the middle of the circle split off into pairs and began to spar at the rhythm of the drums. Every strike was meant, that much was clear to everyone. As the crowd watched, the two armored legionnaires circled around the duelists like a pair of hungry wolves. Their eyes darted from strike to strike. After half a minute the rhythm of the fight was well established, and the duels began to look more like choreographed dances.

The announcer gave a nod to one of the drummers. He changed the rhythm, making it go faster. The drummers beside him followed suit. The tempo was quickened. Some duelists were taken off guard. One swung. Another countered. Silver light shone.

“Out!” The announcer declared. One of the duelists was down on the ground. His legs swept by his opponent. Who looked less than pleased.

“Why is she mad?” A young boy asked the announcing legionnaire.

“Cause she lost as well.” The announcer said.

“Mellica showed weakness.” Another of the armored legionnaires declared dryly. He kept circling the duelists. A legionnaire holding the quarter staff, about to strike her fellow duelist, instead threw her quarterstaff to the ground and fell to her knees. She was defeated. Not by her opponent but by herself.

Two pairs of duelists continued. The announcer gave another nod to the drummer. The tempo slowed down. So did the duels. Counters appeared. Like water the duels began to flow like water again. Until suddenly and deceptively the rhythm was upped again.

“Out!” Another duelist had struck the chest of their opponent. One more pair remained.

They strikes had slowed down. The duel was going on for some time now. Both of the fighters were getting tired. Neither gave up though. The circling legionnaires had their eyes on them as if they were hungry dogs. Ready to call out a moment of weakness. It didn’t happen.

The crowd was looking with anticipation. One of the duelist, Imeria, was from a nearby village. Her people were holding their breath. They couldn’t see the fire in her eyes though. Her opponent, a big man, was striking fiercely. Every strike was shown in his mind though. She could read every move. Just like he could read every move of hers. The people in the crowd couldn’t understand this. It could be explained a thousand times over and they still wouldn’t comprehend the mental depth this duel required. It wasn’t a contest of skill or strength. Not at its core. It was like the games the elders played back in Imeria’s village. Each had a turn, each moved a piece with their turn. The winner was the one who could block off the other until he couldn’t move anymore. She had tried to play it as a little girl and was defeated every single time.

She wasn’t a little girl anymore though. She was Imeria, Legionaire of the Dawnblades and the best duelist of her cohort. And she was about to prove it again.

The duel wasn’t just a game of wits and knowledge though. Her own body slowed down as well, alongside that of Irritus, the brute before her. Her moves became a bit sloppy at times. Though Irritus couldn’t move fast enough to capitalize. She almost had him. Almost.

Then she saw it. The big swing, in his mind. He lifted his arms and in and instant she moved. Silverly light shone from one of the tips of the quarterstaff and Imeria struck.

Irritus was blown down backwards and fell on the ground. The wind was knocked against him and the crowd, especially those from her hometown, burst out in cheers. Imeria didn’t hear any of it though. The glory, the praise, it meant nothing to her anymore. Not since she joined the legion. As she looked over the faces of her village, she had to admit to herself that she barely recognized them anymore.




Dawn Rising


The sun was rising

Rebecca was inside a tent. She was bound to a pole and gagged. The fighting in the distance had died down some time ago. Though the rustle and business outside never stopped. With the sun coming up now she could see the silhouette of her guards through the cloth of the tent. Sometimes someone joined them. All of them were silent, though Rebecca could recognize the mannerism of people talking. Then whoever had joined her guards left. Again someone joined her guards and stood there in silent conversation. This time the new one stepped inside the tent.

He was an older man, though cleanly shaven. There were still splatters of blood on his bronze armor. Wrinkled eyes took a moment to observe Rebecca, before he grabbed the stool that stood in the corner of the tent and placed it in front of her. He just looked at her then, for almost five minutes.

Then he pulled her gag down and asked: “Why do you fight for Benea?”

“That’s a loaded question, now isn’t it?” Rebecca all but coughed in response, her mouth dry from the gag.

“We’ve spilled blood.” The old man said. “So there is space now for loaded questions.”

“Why are you asking?” Rebecca pushed. “What are you hoping to hear?”

“The reason why you fight.” Old man was unphased by Rebecca. Another legionnaire stepped into the tent holding a pitcher and a wooden cup. Without taking his eyes off of Rebecca the old man took the cup and the pitcher and poured himself a cup of water. The soldier that brought it in left without saying a word;

“Generally to kill things,” Rebecca answered. “You understand how a sword works, don’t you? You broke the quarantine, violently, and are subject to the pointy end.”

“Do you know why the quarantine was raised?”

“To prevent Anak’thas and his followers from leaving Node 14’s region,” Rebecca recited. “It’s no secret that Anak’thas’ doctrines and influences are leading the Crucible to its doom. The containment is important for the continued existence of mortality. What about you, why do you like licking boots? Wait..” A pause. “I don’t suppose Anak’thas has any boots, does he?”

The old man released a grunt. “I fight for what is back home and for what you’re sitting on. Are you thirsty?”

“I’m not sitting, I’m standing, tied to a pole,” Rebecca said. “If you want to know what I am, it’s a little more angry than just thirsty.”

“Very well.” The Anak’thasian legionnaire got up and left the tent. Though he left the cup and the pitcher on the stool in front of Rebecca.


From the walls, the defenders of Coldshanks could see the perfect, square formations of the Dawnblades moving to their positions. They stayed out of range for archers though, as the legion as a whole was getting ready. The large, looming tent remained unmoving at the besieger’s camp. The siege weaponry made, galleys and battering rams were moved to the front as well. By nine in the morning, with the sun already high in the east, everyone was ready.

For a minute, nothing happened. The legions stood nearly completely still. Only the most perceptive Paladins could see the hints of movements. Certain flags were raised. Small kids, runners no doubt, made their way between the captains. Things were moving. Small groups at every formation of the Dawnblades moved a way to make a circle.

A moment later rocks half the size of a man were hurled through the air. They streaked through the skies like falling stars, coated in golden glory. Behind the formations the mages – called the Auxis Arcanii – of the Dawnblades were chanting their invocations to ritualistically hurl the stones. At the same time the battering ram moved forward towards the gate. The remaining formations remained still and almost unnaturally silent and motionless.

The falling stars were answered in kind. The legionnaires could first hear only a whistle on the wind. A moment later and a blast of fiery energy ripped through one of the formations. Another bolt came crashing down and ripped the ground assunder. The men and women holding the battering ram hurried forward. Left and right of them bolts crashed down with arcane, explosive energies. A galley exploded in lightning, killing everyone inside of it. The smell of burned flesh and smoke began to rise from the field in front of the fortress.

The legions maintained their iron discipline. They marched forward in answer of the ballistae. The first ram crew were getting close. A fateless ballistae bolt shattered the earth in front of them. Ram and legionnaires alike were swallowed by the ground. Another crew mounted another ram and moved forward. The Auxis Arcanii were retaliating for each hit. Falling stones crashed down upon the walls of the defenders. A few lucky shots had hit some of the ballistae. One particularly lucky one had set of a great explosion atop the walls. Still, it would appear that neither side was winning.

Until the roar of a titanic horn could be heard coming from the Dawnblades’ camp. The tent began to collapse in on itself. From the cloth and canvas a figure rose up. One that was so big that it dwarfed anything nearby it.

The golem, a creation the size of two houses, marched forward. The Auxis Arcanii knew what to do. Golden-coated stones were hurled at the ballistae of one particular section of the walls. The barrage did its job. Another ballistae lit up like a lightning bolt charging upwards towards the skies. All the while the golem got in closer. At its feet were smaller, nimbler constructs.


The gate groaned under another slam of the battering ram on the other side. Beams had been set up against it to buy the defenders some time. Most of them had already been broken. Another bang, another groan. Wood cracked. The sound of hurling rocks were muffled down here almost.

The gates flung open as wood splinters and dust blasted over the defenders on the other side. The dust cleared and the Dawnblades’ shieldwall came marching through. Up top, someone yelled and steaming buckets of boiled water came pouring down from the ramparts, catching the first through with scalding burns and screams. After that, blue caped paladins closed in to contain the breach.

Hale was one of them as he stood in an irregular line. When compared to the reforming shield wall of the dawnbringers, it almost seemed like a lazy excuse for a formation — but if someone who knew the Artack elite was watching, they would know such an accusation would be dead wrong.

Captain Hale stared forward at the enemy as the dusty and steam was settling. The scalded soldiers were either dead or rolling on the ground in pain, but their comrades stood steady as stones, each hiding behind overlapping shields and a bushel of spears. In contrast, Hale stood apart from his fellow Artack, their kite shields covering their individual fronts and their longswords held off to the side. Like predators the Artack elites stared on, waiting.

Above on the gatehouse, Amarcus was running through the plumes of smoke and dust from the exterior attack, a bag of crystals in his arms. The stones underfoot shook violently as the enemy barrage continued and at any moment he felt like he was either going to go flying off into bits and pieces or fall forward and throw up his breakfast from all the adrenaline. Sweat was beading on his face as he looked over his shoulder and down to the atrium courtyard where Hale stood. He knew they were waiting on him — then a copper glint caught his eye — the trigger.

Not wasting any time, the kid tossed the bag of crystals under the strange copper rod that had been struck into the stone and uncovered the sheen of the xaviorian rocks. Using twisting wire he attached the volatile structures to the copper — a blink starting in the iridescent surface of the crystals. He gulped.

Adrenaline found his legs as the blinking increased and before he knew it, he was sprinting back the way he came, his face red and a cold fear on his back. A loud crack sounded and then his hearing went numb as an explosion erupted behind him, knocking him forward in its blast.,

Back down in the courtyard, Hale and the other elites held their shields high as the gatehouse drowned in a ball of flame and blew into a dust of debris and rubble. All at once the stones and bricks of the construct came crumbling down on top of the invaders, cutting the head of their formation off from the exterior forces with a sickening crunch. In the confusion, Hale roared over the sound of stone and through the cloud of dust.

“Frost cobra!”

The surviving front line of the shield wall buckled back and held tight and orderly, but the elites started waving their swords in such a way to catch the sun over and over as they undilated forward and backwards, ever creeping forward at an odd progression. Eventually Hale picked a target and as a blur he struck forward. An Anak’thasian spear came thundering forward to intercept, but Hale was too fast with the kiss of chamomile and put his sword between him and the spear, his shield to his left between him and another. In one swift motion he pushed both spears back, two Artackian elites behind him pushing outward as well.

Hale’s blade found flesh and tugged as it bit into the neck of the first soldier, his wingmen using the opening to take down the peripheral soldiers and their wingmen doing the same, the swords working better in close quarters than the spears. This continued until the cobra strike was complete and the elite forces collapsed the wounded line and turned the encounter into an all out brawl of sweat and blood.

The intense fighting pushed backwards onto the hill of debris and Hale yelled out.“Secure the hill, break their lines on uneven ground!”

Even under the heat of battle, Hale could feel a cold pessimism in his chest asking him if they would really be able to hold out long enough.

The rhythmic clang of a marching front line could be heard from the other side of the debris. Then something else. At first it was just soft thumping. Then it became louder, and louder. The first few of the paladins rushing the debris were suddenly flung into the air with inhuman force. The Construct Knights scaled the debris with ease. Line across their frame glowed with silvery light. “Auxis Equis!” One of the knights bellowed, it was the first war shout ushered at the gates by the Anak’thasians. “Break them!”

Hale could feel a snarl form on his face as his heart pounded poison through his veins. The wind picked up the dust of the fight and ringed him in with one of the knights. Staring, Captain Hale soaked in the strange construct of clay, metal and fiber, his feet defaulting to the general stance of the paladins. Slowly he started to circle the construct, his sword waving up and down in the sun.

He turned his ankle and pushed off his back foot, lunging forward in a blink. He connected. A bit of clay-looking armor chipped away. A bronze glint caught his eye. Hale jumped away. Just in time. A large weapon came crashing down. It cracked the stone where Hale was standing. The knight didn’t relent. He pushed forward, swinging again at the paladin. Meanwhile, behind them, the first shields of the Legion could be seen coming over the debris, Hale cursed under his breath.

A spear with a squirrel skill tied to it came blasting downward and into Hale’s vision. The streak of violence slammed into the knight in front of him and blasted out the back in a gorey mess. Karlene’s voice came bellowing behind Hale.

“I thought you were from the Artack?” She quipped, already rushing past the stunned Captain. Without stopping she ripped her spear free and continued onward into the fray. Hale sucked in a breath and cracked a grin before rushing behind her.

The battle of the debris was a heated one. Hale and the paladin line were first met by the knight troopers which proved a major obstacle. Luckily their bulky size in irregular terrain meant that the smaller paladins could use fast hitting pack tactics, which at the very least slowed their advance — the luckier groups managing to down one of the constructs, while the unlucky groups were splattered across the rubble.

Past that the legionnaire lines were pushing forward, their order impeccable and eerily quiet. The jagged landscape of the collapsed gatehouse broke any idea of a shield wall but even still, the unity of the enemy was unmatched. Hale watched Karelene and the regulars slam into their forces with a ferocity. Even still, Hale could see past their ranks and at the ocean of soldiers still marching forward. They were stalled here, but only for as long as the paladins could keep fighting against a superior number.

He knit his brow as he stood on his vantage point, the enemy showed no sign of fatigue despite the blood on either side — they were almost soulless in their advance, inhuman. Time played in Hale’s head as his mind churned out predictions until finally he swore and rushed into the fray.

Ducking under spears, rising with his blade, cutting a gut, and sidestepping a khopesh, Hale found Karelene. Her brow was lined with sweat and her teeth grit as she fought an enemy. Hale rushed to her side and held up his shield.

“We should sally port,” He hissed as a spear barely missed his shoulder. An enemy slammed their shield against his and he pushed back.

Karlene didn’t respond right away, a streak of crimson flowing down her arm. Hale shoved with his shoulder and knocked his enemy backwards. “General Karlene, we should sally port!”

“I know!” She finally hissed before falling silent. A violent second passed, any thought interrupted by the shaking ground and a plume of stone from the fall wall. A gigantic fist had plowed through the fortifications with a magical whirr, their giant had made it to the walls, opening a second breach.

Karlene swore. “Call it! I’ll hold here.”

“I’ll hold, you do the call,” Hale barked back.

“Call it!” Karlene growled, she looked at Hale briefly, her eyes wide with adrenaline and fury. “I. Will. Hold!”

Hale gave a final shove with his shield, pounding it against the chest of an enemy and disengaging the soldier before leaping backwards. His vision caught sight of the scene in its entirety. Knights slamming into elites, paladins cutting at an endless sea of enemies, a cloud of choking debris and the smell of blood. The second breach was already swelling with the enemy, his troops unable to contain them as they spilled into the courtyard. He could feel a chill in his chest as he backpedaled before turning into a run.

“Sally port!” He roared until his throat choked. “Sally port!”

He ran down from the hill of debris, any unengaged paladins and runners following his command. “Sally port! Sally port!”

Hale ran past the new breach. “Sally port!”

His legs pumped and his breath was heavy. “Sally port!”

All at once the man stopped, the cold in his chest freezing his body and his eyes widening. He stared ahead at a pile of stone that was blasted from the wall. A pool of dark blood lapped at one of the boulders, the dazed eyes of Amarcus looking up at him — his legs hidden under the stones. The boy opened his mouth, almost smiling at Hale.

The Captain felt horror in his belly, the smile stuck in his vision. “Amarcus.”

No sound came from the boy’s mouth. A spear came shooting out at Hale, stabbing the dazed paladin in the back. The bronze tip bent against the steel cuirass and glanced off, giving Hale a shove forward. He turned with a wide arc and the head of an Anak’thasian legionnaire lobbed free from its body. Hale spun back to Amarcus, dropped his sword and threw his arms under the boy’s body. With a heave, he started to wrench the runner from the stones — the soundless mouth of Amarcus starting to scream in absolute pain.

“Keep screaming.” Hale’s head was rocked back from the blast of sound. “Keep screaming, damn it.”

Screams turned to loud whimpers, energy fading. “Scream, you little shit, scream!” Hale barked into the boy’s ear. Bone grinding on stone sent sickly vibrations up the Captain’s arm as he pulled the boy free.

A sharp pain burned through Hale’s back. He knew he had been stabbed. His elbow shot backwards and shattered the shaft of a spear, the other half still protruding from him. In his peripheral vision he could see Fafnir coming to his aid. The sound of cutting flesh came from behind the captain and in a moment Fafnir was next to Hale helping him pull Amarcus free.

Bubbling came from the boy’s mouth as the two captains finally yanked his limp body free. Hale cradled the boy close to his chest, blood smearing his armor. Amarcus’ shattered legs dangled loosely against him.

“Sally port,” Fafnir said through a puff of exhaustion. Hale nodded and held Amarcus tight.

Coldshanks had fallen.




“The pulses are continuous.” One of the Artificer-Priests reported to Anak’thas. The two of them were standing on a balcony overlooking the central hall that had been build around the mysterious node. Below Artificer-Priests were scurrying around. Some were handling brass instruments or silvery orbs. Others were interacting with a glyph-matrix in an attempt to glean more information from the reality controlling stone.

A pendulum was going back and forth behind Anak’thas. It mimicked the constant rhythm of the observed pulses.

“Start preparations for the next test.” Anak’thas announced. A few bells were run left and right. The Artificers working around the nodes quickly hurried away. Holy incense was burned to further enhance the god’s already formidable power.

Anak’thas wove his incantation slowly and carefully. It started as a simple, golden needle that floated between his two hands. Though soon golden strands began to join it, creating a construct of light that started to resemble a spear. Glyphs began to spin themselves around the spear in an effort to further strengthen the attack. For over fifteen minutes the god of the Verdant Realms wove something made of pure destruction. The priests watched on with equal part fear and awe.

And then he unleashed it. The sound of roaring fire erupted through the hall. Blinding light, as if the sun had become a weapon, shot forth from Anak’thas down towards the node. In his heart, he both wished it would work and begged whatever force greater than him that it wouldn’t.

He was secretly elated when the invocation burned itself out. The millions of prayers sang to him over the course of a year by thousands of people had burned in an instant. The Lantern-God was certain that such an invocation could even kill a god.

Yet the node remained untouched. The Artificer-Priests spared no time. They rushed across the bridges build over the vast expanse around the node towards the platform that was built around it. The stone was still, somehow, cool to the touch.

Anak’thas turned around and walked away from the balcony. He needed more results.

“Excavations are going better than expected.” The Artificer-Priest said as he hurriedly followed Anak’thas back into the office of the director of the Gnopolis. “We’ve delved about fifty-three meters around the node.” He continued.

“Nothing changed?” Anak’thas, clearly frustrated, asked.

“Well
something did. The stone has become
 warmer to the touch.” The priest reported. “Not extremely but still sensibly warmer.”

“It’s something.” Said Anak’thas. “Anything else? A shard? A tiny creature?”

“We’ve found nothing, my Lord.” Said the Priest.

“How are you faring with the pulses?” The god asked.

“We’ve been trying to synchronize them with anything and everything in the world but.. so far the best we could achieve is having it be used as an accurate measurement of time. But that’s because-“

“It’s so consistent, yes. Anything else? The vibrations of some natural born crystal? Perhaps the waves of air a voice makes?” Anak’thas was grasping at straws and he knew it. Yet he was thirsty for the apparent knowledge his nemesis held. Benea knew more about the nodes than she led on. Far more. Which only begged the question: why was she withholding it?

“We’ll continue looking, my lord.” The priest said, bowed, and then took his leave. Clearly, he wasn’t happy with the lack of progress either. It would vex the man for the coming days and night, Anak’thas knew. He didn’t know his name but he knew he was a man of integrity, wisdom, and knowledge. But he would die someday, and another would come in to take his place. Another who would have to exemplify those same values.



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