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3 yrs ago
Current Going to a festival fellas! So for the coming week I won't be able to post.
4 yrs ago
When you marathon Rick & Morty S2 and expected laughs but the ending just slaps you in the face...
4 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!
4 yrs ago
Going to take a small break on most of my RPs for maybe a week or so.
4 yrs ago
Not near an actual keyboard until 21/06


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People moved around Auriëlle. She never knew they did it. She just walked normally. Unable to see what was happening around her. For weeks she had trained the pulses. Exhausting herself over and over. Enough so she got used to it. Or perhaps the magic she used got used to her. It didn’t matter. With every pulse, it became easier. Soon they began to flow into each other. Giving her moments of sight before she felt like dropping face-first into the ground. Last week though, it stopped affecting her. She could see again.

And she saw fear. Students of the Omniversity kept moving out of her way. Probably because she moved several of them before if they didn’t do so voluntarily. Her strength had returned.

“I want to go back.” She declared as she entered the plaza of Duxus. Who sat exactly where he always sat. Awaiting his next departure. Which would be that night. “You can fly. Take me back.” The sound of stone grinding of stone filled the plaza. Several students in the colonnade turned to look at her and Duxus. There was a strange energy in the mid-afternoon breeze now. Something combative. She never knew how much she missed it.

“I…cannot.” Said Duxus. His large shape had moved slightly. Looking straight down at her. There was no emotion in his voice. Though Auriëlle liked to imagine that he was somehow sounding sad that he couldn’t.

“You can.” She said, resolute, as she started to march forward. Underneath her stone began to break through the tiled floor. Rising up Auriëlle like a staircase being made under her foot. Heading straight for Duxus’ mouth. She had seen it tens of times. How people walked in and out of him. It was easy. And when she was inside, he just had to fly up.

Yet when she rose up to his mouth it was sealed like a tomb. She put her palm against it. “Let me in Duxus.” There was a storm hidden behind her words. She was done with this place. She would escape. Now.

“I… cannot.” Duxus repeated and he took a step backward. So his crystalline eyes could gaze down up Auriëlle again. “My master… demands you… to stay.”

The sorceress’ expression grew dark. “Take. Me. With. You.” She said, slowly. The storm now more apparent in her words. The wind kicked up around her. The students couldn’t understand her probably. But they could see her stance. It was growing hostile. The stone she stood upon began to crumble away. Delivering her back on the same level as the titles.

“I… cannot.” Still, she imagined the sadness in his voice that could not be there.

“Why!?” Auriëlle screamed. Only now did she realize just how massive Duxus was. “I will hurt you if you don’t.” She said as she raised her right arm. Lightning arced over her arm. She didn’t see it but she felt it. The power coursing through her arm. She had forgotten how power felt. How intoxicating it was. How it felt so safe. “I will do it!” She shouted again, though her voice grew shaky. Students all around her began to move away. Even though they didn’t understand her words, her body language was saying more than enough.

“I… cannot… little one. My master… prohibits it. You are… not allowed… to leave… the island… yet.” Duxus spoke in his usual slow, baritone voice. There wasn’t a hint of fear in it. Did he even know fear?

Auriëlle clenched her teeth. The arcs over her arm grew more violent and less controlled. It would slip soon. Like fire used to slip as well. In the past, she didn’t care for that. Control – she thought – was an illusion. Especially with powers like these. She just unleashed everything. But now, making her threats, she knew she couldn’t let it slip. Not with Duxus. “Please.” She pleaded now. “Please take me with you. I cannot stand it here! Please don’t make me hurt you. Please. Please!” Tears were rolling off her cheeks as her voice grew hoarse.

“I… cannot.”

Her arm began to shake. The power kept building up. She couldn’t stop it. “Please don’t make me hurt you. Please I just want to get off this godforsaken rock! This isn’t home, it’s a prison!”

“I… cannot.”

“Please!” A last desperate plea, but she lost control. The reigns slipped from her. Lightning like she had never used shot forward. A terrible crack of thunder carried across the gardens. For a second the bright flash of the lightning dimmed all other light. AurIëlle dropped to her own knees. Her arm was fine, yet she gripped it as if it was broken. She pulsed, again and again. Duxus’ shape was, as always, half-shrouded in smoke disguising a faint glimmer beneath. Nothing happened. No sound, nothing.

“I… cannot… little one. I… wish… I could… help you… but… I cannot.” A slow voice said.

Auriëlle just sobbed as she held her own arm. “I’m sorry.” She stammered. Apologizing for more than just the lightning. Ashamed for the first time in years, she got up and ran away. Her heart grew weak and small. Blind she found her way towards the first garden she had arrived in. The day after her arrival something or somethings had fixed it all. Even the soft moss growing on the stone.

Luckily there was nobody. As she walked passed the stones began to roll around her. Shaking off the thin layer of earth upon which the moss grew. They rolled and moved and dragged across the immaculately kept grass until they fully surrounded and hid Auriëlle, where she fell on her knees and let out a wail. “I can’t take it anymore!” She shouted towards the skies. The blindness, the loneliness. It tore her apart. There was nothing on the island. Nothing that could help her. She didn’t even know why she was here! Inside she was collapsing as she fell over and curled up. It had been so long since she last felt so much pain.

At some point, she woke up. The air was cold enough to get goosebumps from it. When she sat up, she felt the ashes of the grass she destroyed caked on her cheek and side of her body. Stones were still all around her. Hiding her still. Yet the second she thought that they moved by some invisible force. Revealing a familiar shape looming over her.

“You tried to hurt your friend.” The soft, fatherly voice said. It didn’t sound stern, or angry. Just reassuring and a little bit disappointed. “You’re lucky Duxus is such a passive creature. There are other beings like him that would’ve torn you limp by limp for threatening them as you did.”

“Why are you keeping me here?” Auriëlle said. Her strength sapped away again. She winced at her own returned weakness. Was it so easy to get her down again? To break her again?

“By master’s orders, my dear. Please. Come inside.” The headmaster said as he walked up to her, crouched down, and put a hand on her shoulder. Around them, rocks began to roll away again. “It’s awfully cold outside. You wouldn’t want to catch a cold.”

Auriëlle shrugged off the hand. “Maybe I do.” She sneered. “Maybe it will kill me. Maybe I’ll be done with this place.” She pulled up her knees to her chest and wrapped her arms around them. Staring straight ahead.

The headmaster just let out a deep, disappointed sigh. “Fourteen weeks you’ve been here already.” He said, sound sterner now. A tone she hadn’t heard before. “Not once did you ask why you’re here?”

“’Cause making me blind wasn’t bad enough. That bitch of a goddess had to lock me up somewhere else as well.” Auriëlle said.

But the headmaster shook his head. “Foolish child.” The sudden hard words surprised Auriëlle who looked at the creature who she thought had endless patience. It even made her look up. “For a hundred days already you’ve been here. Surrounded by power and you’ve been blind to it. Preferring to sulk in your own disability. And when you’ve finally overcome that, you think you should leave. Do you want to know why you are here?”

Auriëlle wanted to hurt him for the way he talked to her. A hundred days ago, if anyone had talked to her that way she would’ve torn them to shreds just for the audacity. Yet she looked upon the headmaster and knew she couldn’t win. Not even with her eyesight back. So she just stared at him. Wearing her anger as a mask.

“You are here to learn about your power. Your true power.”

The stone around them shattered with a single grip. “I am powerful.” Said an by anger consumed Auriëlle. “I am the most powerful sorceress there. Nothing can beat me!”

“You are a child flailing in the mud!” The headmaster shouted. She saw his hand move for a split second. The broken rocks raised up from the ground in an orbit around them. Every piece of gravel and stone floated around. Fire ignited between the stone. First, like a circle that soon turned to form a snake eating its own tail. It coiled around the headmaster and Auriëlle. “You barely comprehend the power that you wield but you are more than foolish, stubborn, arrogant, and blind.” At his command, the stone and fire collapsed to the ground around them. Auriëlle tried to pull up some stones from the ground around her, to protect her from the wave of fire raging straight towards her. Yet the moment the rocks appeared they were torn away from her grip. The heat of the fire was on her skin as she ducked down. Only the fire stopped inches away from her and pulled back again. Like sea waves they began to ebb and flow around her. Until the headmaster closed his fist and a thousand butterflies rose up as bits and pieces of the flames.

“Are you willing to ascend, daughter of magic?” The headmaster then said. His voice was calm and fatherly again. His hand was outstretched. Auriëlle turned to him with equal awe and fear in her eyes. It took a moment, more than a moment, but finally she took his hand and pulled herself upright.

“In ten years our children will be waging this very same war again.” One of Darragh’s Fakir said. They were all sitting around a fire, at the middle of their camp which itself was placed away the Celeviaks. At the edge of the forest. Where they all felt closest to home. Dusk was failing. Most were eating in silent. Until one spoke up to say what they all felt.

“Then they will have to fight it again.” Darragh said. His grim gaze forcing the Fakir to sit down and be quiet again. Deep down though, he knew the man was right. If he ever managed to free Ciara, she would fight this war again. And if whoever ruled then made a stupid decision like they had now, their children would fight that very same war again.

“Then why aren’t we ending it now!?” Shouted another who stood up. “The embers are still burning. We all feel it! We wait until the Celeviaks are gone and fan them again. Burn Ha-Leothe to the ground with everyone in it.” The mans eyes had gotten brighter somehow. They were the eyes of someone who killed and would do it again. All around him there were quiet murmurs of agreement.

“Sit down.” Darragh said softly. It was perhaps that softness that forced the man to do so. “We are not going to break our promise. Jjonveyo decided the people of Ha-Leothe will live and so we shall let them. So sit. Down.” The words left a bitter taste in the mouth. He didn’t believe in them, but he was forced to say them none the less. Yet even now he felt the soft, warm touches of the fire upon him. His heart yearned to turn them into blazes again. He could never give in to those sensations but still, he would’ve done things differently. Kill one in ten of the survivors. Show that those who rise up get slaughtered.

“He must’ve grown soft to get his apprentice back.” Whispered one of the Fakir. But just a little too loud. Darragh heard it. Eyes like a hawk spotting its prey turned to stare at him and the man instantly knew he was heard. For a second they were a soundless battle of the wills. One the man seemingly did not intend to lose. “Have you grown soft to get back Ciara?” He shouted. The Fakir’s murmur and talking quieted down as all of them looked at the two. Wind rustled the trees.

Darragh rose up. Tossing the bowl of food away as he walked over the Fakir. Who rose up as well. Eyes locked. Predator stared down predator. “We shouldn’t fight each other.” Darragh finally said.

“Then we should do what we came here to do!” The Fakri shouted back in his face. “I didn’t understand why you forced us all to come here. To fight for this petty warlord. We are Cenél, not Celeviak! I thought you had sold us out!” Some people around him nodded. “But now I see things differently. I understand, you hear me? I understand.”

“What do you think you understand?” Darragh asked, his voice still hard as stone.

“Your wrath! Look at those curs.” The Fakir pointed up at the hill of Ha-Leothe. “They were preparing for war. They want us dead! Just like you said. There can never be peace between the old tribes and the Dûnans.” Again, many murmured in agreement. “But now that we have a chance to end it once and for all, you refuse it. Why? Would you betray all of us for your leash? No, that’s not you. But you would do it for your adoptive daughter.”

“Careful now.” Darragh said, his voice gaining an edge. “You don’t get to bring my family into this. Ciara is my apprentice. Not my daughter. As much as I love her, I love my people more. Remember that it is me who brought you here. You’ve tasted Dûnan blood. Be sated with it and now be seated, son.” There was a strength emanating from Darragh now. As if the dark gods of winter were looming over his shoulder. The man’s bravery slipped away as he did what was told of him. Then Darragh turned around to face the others. “We are not going to burn Ha-Leothe. We are not going to break our promise. We are not here for the easy choices. We are here to finish this war. If you don’t like what we are doing here you will take your stag and return. You can still be of service to our people by guiding them. But if you stay and you break the promise, I swear to you I will break your hands.” None rose up to defy him. None even rose up to leave. Right now they might look like demoralized, frightened dogs but they were hounds who sniffed their first drop of blood. In time they would be clamoring for more. Darragh could only hope Jjonveyo would be wise enough to give it to them.

That night, Darragh walked away from the camp. Sleep was not for him anymore. He kept having nightmares about Ciara. Tortured, in pain. He should be praying, but it felt as if the gods stopped listening some time ago. Perhaps since he first voted to spare the Dûnans. Still, he made his way towards the camp away from the Celeviaks and Cenél. Where no more than thirty men and women lived. Half of them asleep. Others kept guard. Their hair and skin were different than Darragh’s pale complexion. Foreigners, all of them. Though foreigners with the sense to keep their distance. Yet as Darragh walked in he couldn’t help but note the eyes. They all had the same, intense, purposeful eyes that Keyleigh had. Eyes that had seen perhaps too much.

“Men always come when their daughters die.” Said Keyleigh. She was sitting by the fire. In her hand she held wet clay shaping it into a tablet. Her back was turned to Darragh. “Women come because of both their sons and daughters, but men like you only fall when their daughter is gone.”

“What do you mean?” Darragh said. As he stepped closer. Some of the strangers gave him so passing glances but mostly let him be.

“You’re starting to doubt your gods. Men only do that when their daughters die, because they’re not supposed to die, do they? A son perishes in battle is a natural thing. Accepted from the second they pick up a sword. A daughter… that cuts deeper. Especially to fathers.” Keyleigh explained as she kept working the clay. Making sure it was a s square as possible as it laid upon the piece of bark.

But the Fakir still didn’t understand. Truth be told, he didn’t know why he came. Keyleigh seemed to always have the answers to questions but now he wasn’t so sure of her wisdom. “My daughter’s been dead for years.”

“Your first one, yes. But only now is the sting of your surrogate daughter hurting you. Don’t lie to yourself, Darragh. You miss Ciara. You miss having her around. You miss the light of her smile.” Keyleigh said as she took a stylus in the shame Darragh had never seen before and started drawing lines in the clay.

“How do you know how she looked?” His mind bid him to walk away. She was a witch. Had to be. Yet his heart told him to step closer. To listen to her. She had the answers.

“Because people told me.” Keyleigh turned to face him. She cast him the same smile but hers didn’t light up at all. Instead it seemingly sucked out the light. Making everything look even more grim. “Everyone told me of Ciara and her golden smile. Sun-touched, some even dared to say. It is a shame she will die. But that is not why you’ve come. So sit and tell me why you’re really here.”

Darragh did as bit, thought didn’t like the way she asked him to. As if she was his master. Few people could talk to him this way, but he allowed it for now. “I’ve come to talk about your magic.” He said as he looked at her. “What you did with fire, you mimicked our rituals. Spoke our words. Who taught you?”

“In your rituals? Nobody.” Keyleigh said, playful like a kitten but she never took her eyes off the clay she was engraving. Deeper lines were woven together with smaller ones.

“Then who taught you magic?” Darragh grew more insistent. “It is dangerous what you’re doing. Uncontrolled. Whoever taught you is wrong. You must control your powers. Especially fire.”

“Do I?” Keyleigh put a finger her lip. An innocent gesture. Then a wicked grin grew on her lips. “I was taught magic by a woman who didn’t care about control. Oh you should’ve seen her Darragh. How she danced with flames and lightning. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen. She wasn’t afraid of her own power. Like you are.”

Darragh felt himself grow angry. “I am not afraid of my own power.” He stated, trying to bite back the anger. He needed her, after all. Even if he wasn’t sure for what. He still needed her. “Magic is a gift of the gods. We should respect it. Fear it, in the case of fire. It’s a miracle the fire hadn’t spread. Do you believe the same folly Jjonveyo believes? That a mere trench protected everything around it?”

Keyleigh let out a sharp laugh. “The gods? Didn’t they smite me down now? The gods don’t rule your magic, Darragh. You’ll learn that soon enough. As for the fire, I know exactly why the fires didn’t cross the trench and it was no miracle. Yes, Darragh, I know it was you who kept it contained. You and your closed people.”

“Wait, how do you know? I made sure to hide it. To keep my magic at the mere fringes of the magical control of others.” Darragh asked. Both impressed and a little frightened.

“I felt it. You can hide your magic from you kin perhaps, but not from me. You know this modesty if yours, it can be a way of vanity as well.” But then Keyleigh was interrupted by someone who whispered something in her ear. She just nodded when he was done and put down the bark carrying the clay square beside the fire. “As much as I enjoy your late night talks, Darragh, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave. We have matters to attend to.”

For the first time now, he saw her grow serious. Suddenly around him there was a bustle of activity. Several embers of fires were raked open. The white and black ashes were scooped up and placed in bowls and mixed with water. One of which was handed to Keyleigh. “What are you doing?” He asked.

“Preparing. You shouldn’t be here.” She started to sound worried even now. “You must move. Go. These are things my people must do.” She kept ushering him away. Towards the edge of the camp.

Darragh managed to look back and saw several people pick up long, dark, hooded cloaks.They stepped to one of four people holding the cups with ash-paste. Which rubbed it on their brows in the form of an arch. Only when he saw the knives and axes did he start walking away from the firelight. Into the darkness that was spread between camps. Keyleighs people kept moving and running around. Until suddenly the whole camp was abandoned.

Auriëlle was tossing pebbles off the cliffside into the water below. Trying to hear the soft plunges over the violent waves clashing upon the rock. The plaza stretching behind her was empty. She knew the center of it bared a symbol of a giant lobster, which itself had lines carved over itself. Rays flowed from it and the edges of the plaza showed coasts the great beast was to visit.

Another pebble fell from the edge down. A pulse travelled across the mana. Faint and utterly unnoticeable. The pings and touches flowed back to the sorceress. For a moment she saw the world. Less in some ways. Without color. Things that lived and breath were near-shapeless masses. Walking clouds. Those who could cast magic had a dim light to them. It was as Duxus had described, months ago. At the same time she saw more than what others would. She saw the other side of the hedge. What was beyond a wall.

Sadly the pulse was just that, a pulse. A moment of reality. Before it faded again. Her mind became adept at holding onto everything that was sensed but it wasn’t sight. Not really. Another pebble fell from over the cliff. This time, her pulse caught it mid-air. Reality dictated that the pebble would fall down. Yet from the momentary grasp of the world the stone could be going up or down.

She sensed something else as well. A cloud with light shining from it approaching her from behind.

“He will be gone for a few more days still.” The voice, the Headmaster, said. “Perhaps you could find other ways to fill your days, rather than waiting for him here.”

“I like the waiting.” Auriëlle said. She had nothing else to do really. The rest of the people here couldn’t understand her. And they in turn spoke utter gibberish. Duxus and the Headmaster were the only ones who understood her, and she got to liking Duxus vastly more.

“Of course.” The headmaster said before he walked away again. It wasn’t the first time he suggested she did something else. In truth she had no idea what he meant. He was talking about magic but she couldn’t do spells. Nothing ever worked for her. Besides, with the power she commanded through cheer sorcery, why would she ever need spells?

As usual her mind began to wander around again. She tried to remember Ha-Dûna but it felt faded. There were the megaliths but half of them had no real shape in her mind. She had forgotten them, even though she didn’t want to. Especially now. Words had been fleeing as well, but the feelings lingered. Hopelessness. Doubt. Confusion. The goddess asking whether or not she really wanted to follow the path she took. That one question lingered the strongest.

Would she have it any other way? A god took from her any chance for a normal life and back then she had lamented that fact. Back then she was scared. She would’ve rather huddled up in some hut far away from everywhere. Eat from the land she tended. Or hide in the deep shadows of a city. Working in some forgotten corner as a scribe. Carn had made things bearable and even fun back then. Carn… she missed him. And every time she thought of him her heart ached. Was he dead? Was he at peace now?

“it is decided then.” Said the elder Fakir. A title he none could doubt about. His long hairs were gray and even white. His well-tended beard ran down from his gaunt, wrinkled face. One could mistake him for being tired, but Darragh knew the old man still had more life in him than one would think.

Many of the Fakir around grunted. Perhaps not all in agreement but certaintly all in acceptance. Even grim-faced Darragh had resigned himself to the fact that the Cenél could no longer stand alone. The irony was perhaps that the now growing infamous tithe requests of the Čeleviak Tsardom would be paid by the food and tools given by the Dûnans.

Darragh’s eyes wandered over the shape-sung trees standing around the grave. With his back towards the dark, deep cave. They were in the shape of the Cenél gods and goddesses. Each painted with the colors of their seasons. Bright green was painted upon the shape of a young woman, holding a babe in her arms, Seva. Vibrant yellow was painted on the twin gods of summer: Orrai, god warmth and the fullness of life and his brother Malgog, god of war and martial prowess. Finally orange was painted on the trees of Mnim and Hunim. Only winter wasn’t visible. Those gods resided in the cold, dark cave. Where icy blue was painted not on living trees but on cold, uncaring rock.

The Fakir were moving out of the grove. Heading towards their people to deliver the news. Soon enough a messenger would be send towards the Tsardom. A request for aid, in return to swearing fealty to the Tsar. It still laid wrong with Darragh, but he knew they had no other choice now. Not when the Dûnans were clamoring for war again. They had been too trusting. Blinded by the perceived kindness of Boudicca. Had all been an act? She, Hilda, the peace they wanted to maintain? How long had she prepared this farce?

“Will you remain again?” Asked another Fakir. She was younger. Between the age of Darragh and Ciara.

Darragh nodded. “There is nothing else I can do but pray now.”

“Trust the gods brother.” She said, putting her hand on his shoulder and squeezing it for a second. Before she walked away again.

Moments later Darragh stood alone amid the circle of statue-trees. There weren’t even birds daring to break the silence.

“I should burn every single one of you.” Darragh said out loud to the gods and their trees. “She loved all of you. Every season of every year since she was a little girl sat here on her knees, praying to you!” He pointed down to where he had seen her so many times. Even in the dark nights of winter, when she shivered because of the snow that she was kneeling in she kept praying. Giving her thanks to the gods that had now abandoned her.

“And for what? You left her.” He began pacing past the trees. “Our people are suffering. We lost so many before. Now you bring this abomination to our woods and we are blamed for it as well. What would you have me do? Should I have purged them three decades ago? Should I have voted? Break the tie? Let the drums of war roar? I chose peace that day.” He stopped in front of Malgog’s tree. The god of war stood strong and stern. A tree-shaped bush crouched at his feet. “As you taught us. Never squander lives. Never beg for vengeance. Strive always for peace first. You taught me that. And when I chose peace the first time, you took my daughter for it. And when I chose peace again, you took my apprentice.” And then he spat at the tree.

“Gods rarely take insults like those well.” Said a new voice. A young voice. Darragh turned to face it. At the edge of the grove stood a woman. She was young. Barely thirty, probably younger. Holding a gnarled branch. The Fakir would’ve dismissed her entirely if not for her eyes. Her deep, dark, piercing eyes. Eyes that he had seen so many times before, but in men and women.

“Who are you?” He asked with careful curiosity. Keeping the moss-covered stones marking the center of the grove in between them.

The woman didn’t appear to approach him either. She just smiled. “I’ve worn many names. These days I go by the name of Keylaigh.” She said, then her eyes turned towards Malgog. “He, above all, is a dangerous sort. Toxic and vile. Have you ever heard of the tale of the two brothers?”

Darragh frowned. As a Fakir he had heard all the tales there were. Some that had been forgotten for years by others now. Yet the story of the two brothers did not ring familiar.

“In a faraway land Malgog had two favored sons. Removed from each other at a young age. One searched for the other for years. Until Malgog gave him a sign where to find him. In a grand city. Larger than even the Dûnans could build. A place protected by a mountain. In there he would find his younger brother. Only if he would attack it though. And attack he did. The eldest gathered his armies. The might of the land rose with him against the city. When the gate finally fell, he found his younger brother. Armed with a hammer standing in the front line. Ready to defend his city.”

“You lie.” Darragh said, though his tone notably absent of poison. “There is no such tale. I would’ve known.”

“There are many things you don’t know. You don’t yet know that these gods don’t care. The ones that do you’ve kept hidden.” The woman said with a taunting smile.

Darragh looked behind him. Into the dark cave. He could faintly see the outlines of the stone crudely carved into the shape of Irra. Goddess of the Night and moon. Watcher against dark magic. Though Darragh knew the names that he would find past her. Sovas and Ynea. Death and Winter. “What do you know about the gods?”

A smirk grew on the woman’s face. “Many things.” She said. A white owl came flying down from the canopy and perched itself upon her gnarled staff. It looked at Darragh with two icy-blue eyes. They looked different than from any other animal he knew. For a second silence reigned once more. Before the owl looked like it was satisfied and flew up again towards the branches where it vanished. “Think on what you want, Darragh of the Cenél and then think of what you are willing to give up to get it.” With those words said the woman turned and walked away again. Leaving Darragh alone in the grove he still wished to burn. Yet now the shape-trees of the gods felt hollow. Their eyes closed. Where he first felt their presence around, he now felt truly and thoroughly alone.

Rock and stone. Evergreen trees. The Winds coalesced into a single point. Creating a form that was vaguely humanoid, but translucent and brimming with power. A mimic of the other, more mortal looking avatars. The confines were already putting a strain upon the Avatar and its divine controller. But it stepped forward. Into a cave from which it had seen the bright glow of something divine so great in power, it could no longer be overlooked. Nature gave way to mortal carvings. Creating a long hallway inside. Flanked by braziers on both sides. The divine senses of the avatar saw the events depicted on the stone walls. Painted on them as murals. Legends. Wars. Stuff of destiny from when the gods were gone. Yet he still lit the fires. Bright, yellow light banished the darkness and announced the coming of something to whoever would live in a place like this.

No creature cried out. The avatar pressed on. Floating through the venerable hall until it came upon a room with a throne. The throne sat atop a dais. Qael stopped the winds for a second before it. The throne alone would be a great enough gift for his daughter. It wouldn’t be enough though. Not for her. No throne in all of Galbar would be enough for her. But it would’ve been a good, solid foundation. But he wasn’t here for the stone chair. He pressed on. The heavy stone behind the throne’s dais was already moved. Revealing the stairs down which the Winds descended.

Down there things were both more and less impressive. Barracks and a kitchen. Ancient weapons and armor laid waiting. How long until banditry would come and loot the place clean? Qael was surprised they hadn’t already. The cobwebbed shields were all painted the same: a gate enveloped in light. The symbol of a dying faith.

One thing did catch his attention. A statue, covered with dust and spiderwebs. Not of a man, or troll, or rare thumblings. But unmistakingly of a night elf. Up in Qael’s own realm, he cocked his head. “How curious.” He said out loud, as the etheric fingers of the winds traced over the elven features. How did they know? One of his siblings had to have shown them. Why he could not say. The figure didn’t point up towards the throne room though. Or towards some other place. It pointed at a large, sealed doorway off the side.

With a mere thought, magic began to move the stone. The very air inside was older than anything else within the cave here. The revealed room was different from the barracks and kitchens. It was made from solid stone. Inside were two tombs. Damp and parts of them covered by moss. The winds floated inside. Undeterred. The first coffin, the largest one, showed a night elf again. Death or sleeping, Qael couldn’t be sure. Maybe both? The other coffin was that of a thumbling. Tiny. But no less intricately carved. The old runic script revealed their names to Qael’Naath in an instant: Saint Oyticon and Saint Bartholomew. “You are a long way from home.” The god whispered back in his own realm as the wind’s ethereal hand traveled over the top of the tomb.

He would’ve smashed it open. To see if the corpse it held really was that of a night elf. But something else caught his attention. Not death, but life. Beyond the coffins was a pedestal, holding the object he was looking for: the grail. And sitting beside it was a thumbling. Still breathing.

The ghostly figure of the winds moved forward. Passing through the houllin berry bush casting the room in a soft glow. “A worthy gift.” It said out loud in the tomb as it approached the grail. “And you must be something of a protector then, are you not?” it asked the thumbling.

Old blind eyes opened, a million wrinkles forming around the toothless mouth of the thumbling. A coughing laugh sounded, “I’m more of a janitor these days, too stubborn to stop clinging to the past.”

Qael in his realm was surprised to find the little thing to be blind. The ethereal shape stopped approaching the grail and instead watched the thumbling. Was this what mortals called empathy? Or was it curiosity? The god of magic couldn’t tell. “And what past might that be?”

“The Thumblings have always been small,” The old thumbling started, “So big things like gods, heroes and kings often never notice us -- a curse you may be thinking but nay! In these cracks and crevices you find untouched glens and groves where we can play and sing and dance just like we did at the start of time itself, untouched by the injustice and cruel chance of the world and its benefactors.” The thumbling shifted, “So you see, those who noticed this wanted to join in on the song -- and so our way of life spread to the larger folk, but the OTHER larger folk who thought of different dances weren’t too found of this one so old, and eventually this way of life was whittled back down to the groves and cracks and glens -- BUT!” Standing up the thumbling cast a big smile, “When the way of the Golden Light was still cast on the others, we had ourselves feasts, and love, and summers, and happiness -- treasured memories too fond to let go.” He wiggled his nose and leaned against the cup, “The world is a cruel one, where random chance can end what few sparks light the darkness of this existence.”

“You’re kin are very insightful to realize these truths.” Qael said as the winds began to shift. Losing grip on the singular, humanoid form. It slowly began to dissolve into a cloud-like shape again. “Us, the gods, have done too little to nurture places where one can sing and dance.” Not even Qael has done that, he realized. Not really. Though he hoped Soleras would be a place that could feast without real fear about whether or not they could eat the next week then. His divine senses peered back at the grail. “You understand that I wish to take this gift of… presumingly your Light?”

“You won’t take it,” The thumbling predicted, “You will receive it.” With little hands he pushed the Grail slightly, unable to lift it in his frailty and size. “It brought abundance to the memories of old, but back then it too lived in a crack between the sights of the larger folk -- I cannot say if I am gifting a blessing or a curse, but I hope it is as much of a blessing to you as it was to me.”

For a second the cloud moved backward. Seemingly away from the thumbling and the grail. A manifestation of Qael’s own surprise. That a mortal would give such a power so freely. But then the cloud moved forward again. Magic lifted the grail up. Taking it within the cloud and filling it with a handful of houllin berries Qael knew would bring prosperity to the future empire. “You are a generous creature. Tell me, what is your name?”

“Tim. I’m a thumbling,” Tim answered simply. “What’s yours?”

“My name matters not. It should not be known by mortals.” Qael said, meaning every word. “Tim the thumbling. been a loyal custodian for this grail and you know its lore and history better than I ever will. I cannot imagine you would want to live out your last few days in some damp cave. So I offer you this: you can join the grail at its new place. At the right hand of my daughter. In a realm she is making where one can dance and sing and feast as your ancestors have. What say you?”

“It’s a mighty fine offer, and I thank you for it,” Tim said sincerely. “But I am a tired soul, and with the grail in new hands and a new future on the wake of the world, it would be time for an old relic like me to get some sleep, same as the Saints.”

“Very well then.” The grail vanished in a flash of chromatic light. Moved from the tomb miles down north in an instant. There it appeared upon the ground of Kal’s hamlet for the other extension of Qael’Naath to find it.

“Goodbye, Tim the thumbling.” The cloud said. “May my brother of death offer you a tranquil time beyond life.” With those words spoken, the cloud rushed out. As if it was carried by a storm’s wind.

“Farewell,” Tim said, laying on his back. He scooted against the pedestal until he was comfortable, and then closed his blind eyes - a big toothless smile frozen on his face.

“Study the eyes.” Darragh said from the benches. Dressed in his heavy cloak. Ciara sat next to him. Leaning forward to focus on the fight. “Eyes of wolves. Already studying the weight of every step.” True warriors. Darragh had no love to spare for Ha-Dûna, but he would not take away the skill of their warriors. Especially not the likes of Boudicca. Blessed by the gods, more than once. People behind him squirmed through. Shouting and waving their cups of mead. The pungent smell was offensive to the old Cenél.

Ciara had an owl’s eyes. Sometimes Darragh thought she saw more than most should. They were trained on Boudicca and the Leoness. The young girl had been shielded from the war only a spare few years ago. Violence like this attracted her still. “Boudicca will win.”

Darragh found that too swift a decision. Duels like these could be influenced by hidden powers. It was why he kept muttering his spells with a natural piece of quartz in his hand. The swirling power of the world that the Cenél beckoned in their rituals was oddly calm. There was no mage here to influence the duel. For now, at least.

Then the drums started. All around the Cenél, people became quiet. Even the drunkards were pulled down and in their intoxicated mind they found the discipline to shut their mouth. Darragh’s heart felt like it stopped. Despite the silence, there was a tension in the benches. “Be careful.” He whispered. To himself, to Ciara, to Boudicca. The ritual of the Kaer started and Darragh began to quietly pray to his own gods. His eyes trained upon the druid. Weighting every sentence and remembering every god praised.

The drums thundered.

“She’s winning.” A smiling Ciara said as she leaned even further. The fight continued. One side giving into mortal exhaustion. The Leoness was weakening but still fierce. She did not give in easily. Yet Darragh's attention was drawn away. The Quartz piece in his hand. For a second he thought he saw a faint glimmer from it. A hint, a touch.

“Something moved.” He whispered. His eyes started looking around. Suddenly he was far too aware of the mounting pressure. More than that of mortals. Something moved through the aether. A terrible sense of foreboding started overwhelming the Fakir. He grabbed Ciara by the shoulder, who looked backwards. Annoyed that her master had to disturb her in a moment like this. But his wild eyes tipped her off. One glance was enough for his own ominous feeling to spread.

Her attention was drawn back towards the arena though. Boudicca stood with a spear at Hilda’s throat. They exchanged words. Ciara thought she heard the word ‘yield’. But something shifted again. The Leoness’ stance didn’t drop in submission.

“Something’s wrong.” Darragh said. His eyes still scanning the cheering and shouting crowds around. Their chants started to shift. Frowns formed. Then his attention was drawn as well. Towards the Leoness. Spouting her truths. Blood drained from Ciara’s face as she heard the words and looked back at him. Darragh looked stoic. He felt vindicated, yet at the same time knew what just happened. New seeds of war came budding up. He hoped the sanndatr would kill those thoughts quickly.

She watered them with blood instead. He pursed his lips. This was bad. Very bad. He and Ciara would have to flee Ha-Dûna tonight. Shrouded in darkness. His worst fear was becoming a reality. He grabbed his apprentice by the arm and started dragging her towards the exit. Pushing people aside. Ciara let herself be pulled, but her eyes were still on the duel below.

And then he stopped. Begging it not to be true. Ciara, concerned, turned to face him. He held up the quartz piece. It was glowing. Both of their eyes turned towards the duel. Boudicca had just pierced Hilda a second time. The crowd was quiet. Darragh was amongst the first to see the blackening of the wound though. He pulled Ciara close. “Run. Run back to the Cenél. Tell them what happened here.”

“What about you!” The girl shouted, already being pushed onwards by her master. Her heart started beating faster. She had smelled the scent of danger. It was putrid. Vomit and blood and angry spit. Her blood turned hot in her veins as the world seemed to slow. Her senses dulled a little. Except for her hearing, which started to pick up random words and shouts.

“I will be right behind you. Just go! Go!” They were nearing the exit. He released Ciara who dutifully pushed on. The quartz crystal was completely bright now as horrid tumours formed on Hilda’s arm. Darragh stood stunned as he witnessed the transformation. Seconds later, its rampage started.

Hundreds of Dûnans started pushing and tearing at each other to get out first. Darragh cast off his heavy cloak as he marched forward. For his age he was still strong. Like all Cenél had to be. He managed to push aside and fight his way through towards an exit. Ciara was nowhere to be seen. “Gods protect her.” He muttered before he made his own way towards the gates amongst the mob of shouts and fear.

People fled to their houses or other places of safety. Men who could armed themselves with spears to fight the demon should it come for their homes. Darragh kept running. Pushing on.Wielding the panic in his heart. Only when he saw the gate did he realize he had left everything. The bark carvings he was working on. The gnarled staff his own Fakir master had given him decades ago. Not for a second did he think about going back. But the gate was already closing. Keeping everyone in to control the chaos.

“Let me through!” Darragh demanded as he stopped to simply walk towards them. Making himself look as big and imposing as possible.

“Get back to your house! You’re safest there.” The guard said. Raising their spears. It was clear from their faces that they didn’t want to hurt anyone. But they would if they had to.

So would Darragh. “I’m really sorry about this. Spredhadh beram a-march.” From the haft of the spear bramble sprouted. Wrapping itself around the man’s hand and lacerating the skin. He dropped in pain. Another stepped aside. But one who was closing the gate turned and pulled his axe from his belt and started to walk towards Darragh.

“No more magic.” He said. He looked veteran. Did he fight in the first wars? Probably. “Nobody died. You can still appeal to the sanndatr, mage.” He didn’t spit the word as Darragh had thought he would. The man held no malice towards the sacred rites.

Which made the next spell so much harder to cast. “I’m really sorry son.” Darragh said as he pulled up the sleeve around his left arm. Revealing burned scared flesh in the form of endless coiling swirls. Darragh reached out with his hand and closed his fist. The burned skin on Darragh’s arm sizzled for a second and the Fakir grimaced.

In an instant the guard’s clothes caught fire. He screamed. Few things were worse than the scream of a burning man. But Darragh had to survive. He pushed aside the burning man, who started rolling over the ground as his fellow guards ran over and tried to extinguish the fire. The Fakir managed to flee through the gates and into the Highlands. Where he kept running. Running until his legs couldn’t carry him anymore. Until he dropped down to his knees and then to the ground. It was already dusk.

Ha-Dûna had to be miles behind him as he laid down, exhausted in the grace. He didn’t want to sleep. Sleep here would kill him. Wolves or Dûnans. But his body couldn’t go anymore. In the distance he swore he heard something approaching. It sounded like hooves. Was it the end? Would he die like this? Maybe he had to. Maybe it was his time. If so he would gladly accept it. His eyes closed. “Sovas take me gently. Ynea hold me close.” He whispered as a final prayer when the hooves were dangerously close.

But they stopped, and he then heard the sound of footsteps approaching. “Already praying to the Winter Gods?” A teasing voice said.

Darragh looked up at the extended arm, and then further up. Into the eyes of another of his kin.

“You have a lot to explain Fakir. But we should get you out of here first.”

Darragh nodded and pulled himself upwards with the extended aid. “Did you find Ciara as well?”

The riders looked at each other and shrugged. “You’re the only Cenél that came from Ha-Dûna.”

Finally, after hours upon hours of brutal beatdowns of ruffians and several calming spells Ha-Dûna once again return to peace - but there was no peace to be found. The people flocked around their sanndatr on a stone, mad as they were with complaints and accusations. At least fifteen people had been killed and tens more were wounded and being tended to by the druids. Boudicca’s voice couldn’t carry over the crowd, and it took several minutes for her and her staff to quiet them down.

“Please! Be calm, my people - we are safe now; the monster is gone!”

“This is what she gets! This is the cost of blasphemy!” There sounded roars of agreement and violent prayers to the gods. Boudicca frowned and tried to quiet them down again.

“Remember, ev- QUIET! Remember, everyone! The Gospel of Sorrow says that--”

“She sinned and the gods saw fit to make her an example! This is what happens when we stray from the path!” yelled a cloaked druid in the crowd. Boudicca grit her teeth and was about to retort when there came a runner, red-faced with exhaustion and frustration and screaming his lungs out:


“What?! What is it?!”

“BETRAYAL!” shouted the runner and shoved his way through the crowd. “IT WAS NOT THE GODS! It was Darragh, the Demonspawn of Cenél!”

The crowd turned to him in disbelief; Boudicca, too, was shocked. “What?! What do you mean, ‘it was Darragh’?!”

“When, when the monster appeared, he stormed out of the arena and ran to the gate - there, he killed one of our guards and maimed the other before making his escape!”

“It makes sense!” declared one of the druids. “Darragh hated our people - such was no secret - and the evil Cenél have always practiced the cursed arts!”

“But to do such evil onto one’s hosts… Have they no decency?!”

“The witch that came with him must have helped!”

Boudicca didn’t try to calm the growing rage among the masses anymore. She felt something, something pumping deep within her body and growing larger by the second. She had known this feeling many, many times before, but it had been even more years since last time she had. Now, it returned with a vengeance, and she felt her hand squeeze the hilt of her sword.


She quieted the crowd again, her darkened eyes giving her a frightful authority that could pacify leons. Looked towards the east and grit her teeth openly, the area sporting a terrifying silence. Then, she licked her front teeth and glared at the masses. “... Is that how they treat their hosts in Cenél lands…?” She stepped down from the stone and the people parted like a valley before her. Slowly, she walked towards the east, stopping a few paces away. “... Unforgivable. We took them in as though they were our brother and sister. We sent their people supplies, tools and weapons in hopes that our bond would heal again. Is this the price of naïvité?” She flexed her fingers so her leather gloves groaned. “I see now how blind I have been…” The others closed in around her, listening in quiet admiration. “If you still trust me after I let such a blatant traitor in among us, then I swear an oath to you here and now.” She drew her sword and hefted it to the sky, lifting her opposite hand up. As she spoke, she scored her palm open, blood flowing down her arm and dripping into the grass. “I swear to you, my people, that the Cenél will not know peace from my wrath from this day. They have so callously stabbed us in the back, so we will show them -true- dignity and gut them from the front!”

The Dûnans roared their agreement and Boudicca raised her sword higher. “We will burn their petty villages to the ground; their weak will be servants in our temples where they can learn the -only- faith, and the blood of their strong will bring fertility to our crops for years to come! They will be reduced to nothing, their memory lost on the wind along with their blasphemous ways!”

“BOUDICCA, BOUDICCA, BOUDICCA!” chanted the people. Then came another yell, this one also different enough to catch the sanndatr’s attention. It was a woman dragging another by the hair.

“Sanndatr! We found this one trying to escape!” The crowd grew rabid with murderous intent. It was Ciara, black-eyed and beaten. Boudicca offered her not a shred of pity; she sheathed her sword and snarled.

“Lock her in the Temple of Truth. She will disclose everything she knows about her people, or meet eternal suffering in the afterlife.” With that, she turned to the city again. The time had come once again to prepare for war.

Old Friends, Old Feelings
The Ball
Hel & Skadi

“You can go.” Hel stood over a corpse lying on the cold steel of the autopsy table. Bright, luminescent lights beamed down over it. The cadaver looked oddly peaceful, even with a bullet hole in between his eyes. The mortuarium in of itself was an oddly bright and open place. While the rooms where they performed their autopsies had those cold, sterile white tiles the antechamber before it was made of a more pleasant wood and windows. Though with the massive bulbs hanging over the steel slab, it felt like day. While in fact, it had just passed 7 a.m.

A girl looked up from behind a nearby cold, steel desk as she wrote something. “Are you sure, Mrs- I mean miss Krogh.” Jessie, the girl, brushed aside her long auburn hair as she spoke. It looked a little endearing. “I can stay. I don’t really like parties.” That was a lie, and Hel knew it. The girl had far too many wild party stories to not like parties. Though she didn’t really know why she would die. For the past few weeks now, she had joined Hel as an intern while she studied anatomy as a major.

“It’s okay.” Hel said as she walked up to the girl and took the clipboard she was holding on the desk. Her eyes scanned through the form. It was filled in perfectly. Her eyes turned to look at an anticipating Jessie. “Yeah, you’ve done more than enough for me today. Go and enjoy yourself. It’s a Friday evening, after all.” Hel said as she was about to turn around and walk back towards the corpse. The cause of death was simple enough, even if you forwent Occam’s Razor. All she had to do was draw blood and get it to the lab.

“Thank you!” The girl squealed as she suddenly rounded the desk and hugged Hel tightly. Surprising the older goddess of death. As a reaction, she almost hugged the girl back but then pulled back. Not wanting to subject her to any freezing embrace. Instead, she just lightly put her own head against the girls. A moment later, Jessie released her and ran towards the changing rooms to throw off the PP&E. Leaving Hel alone in the mortuarium.

The goddess just continued with her work. Drawing blood and other needed tissue samples for the lab. From the corner of her mind, she heard Jessie shout: “See you next week!” From Jessie. She just smiled and raised a bloody hand to wave at her as she left. Maybe she should remove the bullet as well. So she didn’t need to do it on Monday. With that done, she realized the labs probably closed already. For a second, she looked at the samples of blood sitting on her desk. It was getting late, but she could do them. She could tend to the graves later tonight. They wouldn’t run away.

The bloodwork didn’t take so long. Though Hel found herself stare out the window from time to time as she waited for a centrifuge or some other machine to finish its cycle. The sun was already down, casting the whole world in a familiar sensing shroud. Maybe she could take a little stroll through the city. Walk along the water. Hear the siren call of the waves. Maybe later, after she tended to the graves.

The fates had other plans when Skadi’s message made Hel’s ancient flip phone buzz. She frowned as she read the message. She loved Skadi dearly, but the Jötunn had a strange habit of bothering the goddess of death at times with things she preferred not to be bothered by. The message didn’t even attempt to hide away the lie. For a moment she just wanted to put down the phone and ignore it. But then guilt started gnawing at her. She couldn’t see her own family for obvious reasons, but she had no such reason not to see Skadi, and it had been ages since she last saw her Norse friend. It was unfair of Hel to ignore her now even if she felt apprehension about the party in every fiber of her body.

I’ll be there in an hour. She texted back as she got into her Mercedes. And as promised, an hour later a very friendly Uber delivered her to the party’s main entrance. Which was flanked on both sides by scores of photographers that were as utterly disinterested in her as she was in them. The goddess walked across the red carpet as if it was laid out specifically for her and showed her invitation to those at the door. Who graciously let her pass. Inside though she garnered more attention. Despite the fact that Hel felt like she was dressed for a fight. Chainmail was replaced by a black dress, the kohl around her eyes was replaced by impeccable eyeliner and her hair that normally was braided in the fashion of a shieldmaiden now hung loose down her shoulders. Skadi was easy enough to find.

Hel approached her, making sure she walked into her view before ever being near. She flashed the Jôtunn a small smile. “You know that Draugr are a real danger, right?” she said, only half-joking.

An innocent smile tugged the corners of Skadi’s lips up as she gave a diligent nod. Yes, of course, the Draugr were plagues upon this earth, but- “Being so dutiful and neglecting your friends and yourself is also dangerous, Hel.” Skadi met her friend the rest of the way and threw a friendly arm around her shoulders in a quick side hug. Showing her affections came easily to the Goddess, but she was aware Hel didn’t always have an easy time accepting said affections, so she kept it brief.

“Well, you look gorgeous. Is slaying ghost-monsters in designer brands a requirement for the seance?” The question was utterly playful, and Skadi made quick work of snagging champagne from a passing tray for the two of them to enjoy, “Here it’s expensive, so it’s good.” Skadi passed the flute to her friends before leading them closer to the outskirts of the busybodies networking and schmoozing, “I needed someone reliable to be here when all of this goes to shit. Can’t bring all the gods to one place without madness quickly following- if the last four conclaves have been any indication.”

The goddess of the dead turned a little red at the mention of her dress. “Well…It’s just… I don’t think they would’ve let me in wearing leather armor.” She knew Skadi was joking… probably. The Jötunn goddess was one of the few of the Norse pantheon that she could talk to freely. While she didn’t do it often enough, she did believe she knew her well enough to know when she was joking. Or so she hoped. Hel let herself be guided away from the main mass of people. Something she was grateful for. Then she got a glass of champagne thrust in her hands. “Oh I… I really shouldn’t.” And with a quick hand she managed to place the still full glass on a pass waiter carrying away empty glasses.

She was, however, not as gullible as Skadi might make her out to be. “I’m very happy to see you again.” She said, even though she hadn’t returned the hug. Skadi understood that about Hel a long time ago, luckily. “But…why did we have to meet here?” She then asked. The huntress knew full well that a party like this, with so many people, was not something for Hel. The living were so… alive. The dead were easier to care for. Easier to be around. Simpler. Calmer. Right now, despite the classical music play she felt a pressure in the room. Bearing down on her, expending her energy with every step taken and word said. She finally stopped Skadi and turned to face her, still with a bright smile on her face. “And before you try to lie-“ She raised her hand to keep the energetic huntress quiet for a bit longer. “I know you too well to have you pretend like you wouldn’t love the madness that will come soon enough. And when the time comes, it’s not like you really need me.”

Skadi’s eyes briefly trailed to a certain oblivious honey blonde haired man, eyes narrowing slightly with annoyance before returning to Hel. The history between them all was complicated, but especially between Hel and Baldr, well- Hel and everyone. Skiing along snow-capped mountains and rocketing downhill away from the loneliness that always chased after her was a choice she made as a goddess and something she was thankful to be rid of when she was “born” into this new life. Watching Hel continue her ways of isolation hurt Skadi in a way she couldn’t find the words to rationalize, and so she tried to pull Hel out of it little by little. Her meddling’s current goal was to melt the ice around the goddess’s heart, but her supporting crew provided more burden than they did aid.

Skadi couldn’t reveal her plan to Hel, not now at least, “I would never pretend not to be amused by the dealings of men. They’re interesting creatures, but sometimes I crave a more dependable and enjoyable company. Plus, nothing beats the company of the keeper of the dead who likes to pretend to hate you.” Skadi replied easily and bumped her hip into Hel’s as she nodded her head towards Thanatos and Baldr, “Added bonus is you make Than squirm like no one else can, and he’s already annoying me tonight. Don’t you have a little school girl crush on him or something? Or is it the “beloved by all” that reminds you of the heart in your chest?”

Hel playfully rolled her eyes at the hip bump to make her turn to look at Thanatos. She didn’t understand the problem. He brought clean deaths! Every death he caused went peacefully on its way. None of them ever became draugr. Even recently an elderly woman told her she’s grateful for his final blessing. It took the pain away. She was looking at him as the small smile formed. She’d have to tell him that, he would probably love to hear it.

Then her eyes fell upon Baldr. Skadi’s teasing words suddenly sounded distant. For a second Hel became dangerously aware of her own beating heart, and how it was beating just a little bit more forceful now. He was talking with Thanatos. The sight gave her a pang of yearning. Of wanting to be in the place of Thanatos, with all of Baldr’s attention on her again. Like in the old days down in Helheim. But that same memory conjured up the pleas of Freya and the other Aesir for him to return. “I had to let go.” She whispered. Even then she knew she had to let him go.

She turned away again when she realized her face was growing hot. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” She quickly rebutted Skadi with a smile, but her idle fingers were fidgeting. She needed something to do. Work to distract her. “Baldr and I are just friends.” A friend to meet up with. But only alone. Never surrounded by other people. She wasn’t good with other people. “Yeah, just friends.” If she repeated it often enough, would she finally start feeling like it?

“Oh? Is that so?” Skadi held back her smirk as she leaned closer to Hel, studying her expression for a moment before quickly pulling herself away. The faintest tinting of pink of Hel’s cheeks filled Skadi with a feeling of victory, “Well then, what are you waiting for, go say hi to your friends! I’ll catch up after I track down a glass of Sauvignon!”

Skadi pushed her palm against her friend’s back in an encouraging way before she was twirling off after her next whim.

The goddess of death didn’t entirely register what just happened. One moment she was talking with Skadi, then the goddess of the hunt shoved her towards Thanatos and Baldr. Hel turned around again, and moved to hide behind one of the columns. Trying to find her rather insistent friend. “You know I can’t talk to him with people around.” She said even though Skadi was nowhere around. No, no she couldn’t talk to him now. After all, it would be rude. Yes, rude! Rude because Thanatos and him were probably having a riveting conversation. Who was she to interrupt that? No, no she would say ‘hi’ later. When there were less people around. Or maybe tomorrow, over breakfast. Her eyes darted around, trying to find some familiar faces to hide amongst. She spotted no-one but she couldn’t stay here, in the almost-open where she could be found. Swallowing her own unease she stepped off into the same crowd forming around the bar after Skadi. Knowing there was no way to find the huntress.

“How about Zenith?” Kal asked, sitting on his rock. Soleira was just taking a break in the shade of the trees near him.

She perked up and turned to look at him. “What about it?”

“Your way of magic.” Kal said. “You say you control the wind so far.” Soleira nodded. “And the way you perform it… it’s gentle. Calming. A simple question. But maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it’s more like… a view of life. The idea that you shouldn’t force anything. You flow with whatever happens and so achieve more magical power. Not because you take it but because you ask for it.”

Soleira just smiled. “People seem to like talking about deeper things with me lately.” She quipped. Which brought a smile on Kal’s face as well. But then she got a little bit more serious. “I like it. Zenith. Height, right?” She looked up at the multi-colored sky. “Maybe it would give me control over more as well.” She wished she could manipulate light someday. Fracture it like water would and cast a rainbow of colors upon the land. “But maybe it should be about more than just magic. You said my viewpoint on life gives me the ability to control magic. What if Zenith isn’t just about using that viewpoint. What if Zenith is about attaining that viewpoint as well.”

The old man leaned back against the stone as to make himself comfortable before motioning at her: “Please then, teach us.”

The Oraeliari was surprised for a second, and then tried to gather her thoughts to make some eloquent teachings. Like Kiim’Jaav’Guul had done. It didn’t really work. So she just decided to talk truly. “It starts with that.” She said, pointing at the earth.

Kal raised an eyebrow. “Farming?”

“No. Well… yes. Tending a field. By hand. It gives you time, you know. Lets you reflect upon things. It’s good exercise as well. Which is important if you want to think clearly.” Something she realized some years ago. “And you do it together. With everyone around you. There will be too much food coming from the field you work but that’s also part of the thinking. It’s selflessness. Everything made in excess goes to other people.”

The old man rubbed his chin. “And this is your idea for the viewpoint?” He asked, without any judgement.

“Well, it’s the start.” Soleira said, visibly looking happier for finally having pulled those ideas together. “So… what’s yours called?”

Kal had already been looking out towards the horizon. Pondering upon Zenith. How he might help it. Improve it a little. Make it a genuine path for mortals to walk upon. The question took him by surprise as well. “My way? Oh you mean…” The arrogance. The confidence. Demanding the world to change for you. Be unyielding and unmoving. “I… never thought about it. I’ve always just called it sorcery. Thinking it as the only way to use it.” That was no longer true, and he realized sorcery simply wouldn’t cut it anymore. In regards of the ideas of Zenith it was polar opposite though. “Nadir.” He finally said. “I think I’ll call it Nadir.”

Again the two carried their discussions long into the night. This time though, Soleira woke up in her own bed. For days on Soleira would first help with the ards and oxen before sitting in the shade and talking at length about how she saw the world and how it related to magic. It didn’t take long before people gathered around them. With sticks the two of them began to explain each their viewpoints as they drew into the dirt. Quickly realizing that they weren’t in opposition but complimentary to each other. Where before the concepts were thought separate, they were then taught in relation to each other. Sadly, that started to draw ire.

It was on a cloudy day when the two were talking as much to each other as they were with the people around them when two people approached the group. “Telinar Timor has summoned your presence.” The two said. Kal, confused, looked at Soleira. Who looked a bit pale. “They’re… mages. They use magic. Normally they stick around in their villages and such. I didn’t think they’d ever come to Soleras.” Kal cocked an eyebrow at that, but decided to play along for now. The two of them followed the two men towards the edge of the quickly growing village. There they met a small gathering of people. Each looking rather richly dressed for the area. With visible gold jewelry. Soleira, been given the title of Queen, didn’t even have anything silver on her. Save for the golden pendant of course.

“Greetings friends, greetings.” A man wearing a mask said. On his back he carried a strange construct of feathers. Seemingly meant to mimic folded wings. Compared to Soleira’s real wings they looked utterly ridiculous. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Telinar Timor. I understand that you are a stranger to these lands.” He said, pointing his staff at Kal. Who chuckled but nodded. “Well then. Allow me to explain. A Telinar, as I am, asks the gods for help and pay the price required. So we may shape the world.”

“So you’re a druid? You drank from the horn?” Kal asked.

“The horn? Oh you must mean that wretched thing that cuts you off from the gods their anima. Oh heavens no. We would never stoop so low. Though it is interesting that you know of it. Anyway, no we mostly work the anima as the gods see fit for us. But enough about me. Some goodhearted people have told me a few things about the two of you. Claiming you have found a new way to manipulate the anima. Tell me, is it true?”

Soleira stepped forth. “It is.” She said, undeterred by the rather condescending tone of the man. “Zenith and Nadir. Strength and compassion. Demand and ask. And it works.”

“Hmm, I’m sure it does.” The Telinar said. “You may not grasp it yet, but what you are using is probably demonic and dangerous. Use it too much and you will summon a demon, which will devour you whole.”

“I…” Soleira looked shocked at the man. Summon a demon? She heard stories but.. she never felt as if her own magic was in any way so evil. “I didn’t know.”

“Ah, there are many things you don’t know my child.” The man said.

Kal could almost feel the vile smile burning through his mask. But then noticed something. His eyes. Not one color but a hundred, fractured like glass shattered in his eyes. His squinted. “He’s lying.” Kal said as he stepped forward.

The Telinar looked at him. “I will allow that, stranger. But I am not. Both of you are playing with dangerous powers you’d best avoid.”

“Another lie.” Kal said, as he now stood right in front of the masked man. Though he was quite a bit smaller considering the mortal body’s age. “The magic we practice is the same magic you use. In fact, it has nothing to do with the gods. You’re not asking anything of them. You’re using anima, and I would be insulted if you pretend you had any connection to any god.”

For a second the two men waged a silent war of wills. They stared each other down. Seeing who would relent first. Neither did. Finally Timor spoke up: “Very well, stranger. I will prove to you my power. A duel of magic. Do you accept.”

“I do.”

Five minutes later they stood opposite of each other. Twenty meters stood between them. A brazier was burning in front of the Telinar. Soleira stood on the sidelines, clutching the amulet the Three had given her not so long ago. Afraid of what was about to happen. Why did people always have to fight!?

With a silent signal the battle commenced. Except Kal did nothing. He just stood there, grinning.

Timor spared no time to pull out the image of a bear with a half-moon carved on it’s belly and crushed it in his hands, letting the crumbled pieces fall into the brazier. For a second a pale white light flickered around him. Then he conjured out a clay tablet showing three arrows, each copper-tipped. He flicked a knife across a fingertip and coated it with blood, before throwing into the smoldering brazier as well. Strangely enough, the tablet ignited instantly. Bright blue flames consumed it whole. Leaving nothing but ash. From three points in the ground around Kal giant stone triangles emerged and roared straight towards Kal. Slamming around him. Apparently the Telinar wanted to be sure. Because he also conjured up a red gem and tossed it in the brazier. It burned in much the same way as the tablet. Fire burst from between the stone. Engulfing everything that had been within.

“Kal!” Soleira screamed.

For a second the Telinar had a satisfied grin on his face. Until the brazier before him flickered and went out.

“Not bad.”

Everyone could hear coming from the rock formation where Kal stood just a moment ago. Part of it began to move and crumble. Revealing an utterly untouched Kal walking out of the makeshift stone tomb. The stone inside was entirely blackened but not even his hair was singed. “If you were on the right side of history I could make you impress me. As it stands though, you and your people seem to be suffering under some delusions of grandeur. I suppose I will have to make an example out of you.” He drew his stone knife from his belt and slowly started walking towards a desperate Telinar. Who threw carved objects of bone, clay and wood into the extinguished brazier. With every step he became visibly more desperate, but nothing ignited in blue flames.

Eventually he snatched off the very small, golden pendant from his neck and raised it up. “Gods give me strength in exchange for this gold!” He shouted out. For a second everyone stood completely still. Waiting for something to happen.

“Let’s end this charade.” Qael raised a single hand and roots of trees burst from the ground. Wrapping themselves around the man’s arms and spreading them out. The grabbed him by the throat and pushed him down to his knees. He was pleading. Qael, up in his own realm watching through the mortal’s eyes, began to see why Auriëlle loved this so much. Kal back on Galbar raised his knife to strike down at the man.

As it came down, it bounced off a suddenly appearing light-blue translucent shield. His eyes grew wide as he looked at Soleira. She had been crying. Tears still streamed down her face but there was only determination in her eyes. “Don’t kill him, Kal. Please.”

“He stands against our creation. Against what we made.” Kal said.

“I know.” Soleira said as she stepped closer. “But I can’t let you kill him.”

Kal and Qael, neither fully understood the turmoil that was raging inside them now. “I’m doing this for Zenith and Nadir. I’m doing this for you.” The Telinar deserved to die. But at the same time he never wanted to go against his own daughter. Even now he could see the sadness in her eyes.

“And I’m doing this for us.” Soleira said, still determined. “If you kill him now, Zenith and Nadir will forever be tainted. Made on a base of blood. I can’t let that happen. Please, please put the knife down.” Kal realized she wasn’t telling or ordering him, as she should as queen, but she was pleading with him.

His heart shrunk in his chest. He looked at the stone knife in his hand. After a second he dropped it. The sharp point fell down into the earth. He started walking away from the scene. With a single tap of his staff the roots coiled off of the Telinar. Who fell over onto the ground. Though when he stood beside Soleira he stopped: “Remember, he tried to kill me and you didn’t stop him then. You will have to act faster, Soleira.” And then he walked away.

Yamat’s realm looked exactly as Qael’Naath had expected. It was a vast wasteland of jagged rocks and black soot. A dark, pulsing sun offered a rather dreadful light. Left and right the god of magic had noticed the ruins and he wondered which one were of Teperia, and which ones history had claimed. The place reminded him of his daughter’s island back home. Behind the god dust and ash gently blew up. Giving Qael a trail. The god realized the nature of the realm instinctively. Mortals here willing to meet with the god of tragedy would have to sit still for hours before they could even hope to meet him. The god of magic had no such time. “Yamat!” He shouted out, using some degree of divinity to carry the message through whatever barriers might be. “I have come requesting a favor.”

The wind softened and the dust slowly began to settle, the god of magic was left standing there for a few moments of quiet. Before finally another voice spoke out.

”Ah come now Qael, you’re no fun,” Two black arms shot out from the dust nearby, bringing forth four black tendrils, and finally the twisted antlered head and thin and gangly body of the god of tragedy. They crawled up from the soot, dusted themselves off, and gazed upon their sibling. ”What is it you need?”

A thin smile appeared upon Qael’s face, even though it was hidden under tentacles and the shadow of a hood. So far Yamat hadn’t brought tragedy to magic… yet. It was probably an inevitability but for now, the god of magic had no quarrels with his brother. However, the smile vanished quickly nonetheless. Only two of his six eyes were flickering with chromatic colors. Kal, the mortal, was left sitting on a rock in a meditative pose but with no consciousness to speak of. All the attention he could spare was focused here and now. “I’ve come asking you for a favor.” He repeated, softer this time around. “I need a plague.” There was no reason to walk circles around it. But the god of magic gained no satisfaction or pleasure from asking such a thing. His time as a human was beginning to affect him in a way he did not anticipate. It made him understand how to think like a mortal. It made him realize to the fullest extend what he was asking. “I need a plague in the Luminant.”

Yamat couldn’t help but laugh, snapping one of their fingers, suddenly the two were shifted over, a massive twisted wooden canopy covering a table and two chairs. The god of tragedy walked towards it, their gaze still upon the god of magic. ”A plague? In the Luminant? My my Qael I think I have to retract my earlier statement, you’re a lot more fun than before.” They slowly sat within one of the chairs, gesturing towards the other with one of their tendrils, a cup and saucer forming in their hands. ”But, why would you go and ask me for that? Surely you have a good reason?”

Qael took the other chair Yamat motioned towards. His question was a good one. Why didn’t he want to do it on his own? Did he want to distance himself? Pretend like it wasn’t him who caused the illness? Then to whom? Towards Oraelia who would doubtlessly despise the plague and whoever made it? Or would he never be able to look his own daughter in the eyes again, knowing what suffering he would’ve brought? Too many questions, none with answers. “Because none would know how to craft a plague better than the god of tragedy. Am I wrong?” Qael rebutted, with a slight challenge in his tone. “It stands to reason that I would be counting on your discretion. Oraelia still loves the land and the Oraeliari that inhabit it. And while she herself might be as dangerous as a flower, her latest avatar is quite different.”

”I see,” They responded, taking a quick sip of whatever liquid was inside their cup, it seemingly vanishing upon reaching the mask that covered their face. ”I can understand that need, it would not be, the first time I’ve messed with the works of the sun and I can handle her wrath, whatever it is, now of course, I ask another question.” Yamat paused for another moment, taking another sip before continuing. ”Why do you need a plague? And in the Luminant no less?”

Well, it would’ve come up anyway. He leaned in. “I need it because it will become the foundation of my daughter’s empire. And that is why I also need you to give her a way to heal people from that plague.” With those words said he leaned back again and waited for a second. Letting the words hang in the air. “With her healing powers over the plague, people would be forced to flock to her banner. She’d garner power in no time, even for a mortal. That is what I want.” For her, for Soleira. He wanted a white-golden throne in a great palace of an empire whose roads stretched at least all over that colorful realm. She would feed the hungry, give purpose to the forlorn and uplift mortal kind as it should’ve been. And he would give her all of that.

Yamat laughed, a great cackle erupted through the wastes of their realm, sending soot and dirt flying into the great roaring winds. ”Qael my dear,” the director spoke in between breaths of laughter ”You seem to misunderstand, usually, when I create something like a plague, there is rarely if ever a treatment.” They finally composed themselves, allowing their tendrils to wipe away the black sludge that had emerged from their one eye. ”Besides, what's in it for me? I have little care for this daughter of yours or her great empire, there has to be something in it for me.”

The god of magic was just sitting back in his chair. Letting the laughter like a storm wind wash over him. Unaffected really. Getting a plague from Yamat would be easy enough and he knew that. Getting him to give a cure as well, that was the challenge. However, he did not come entirely empty handed. “Tell me, how many lives were lost atop the impenetrable walls of Ketrefa when Auriëlle blew it up? Did you feel it? The exact moment when their sense of superior safety turned into dread when the solid, mountainous stone broke under their feet? Did you feast on their tears? I reckon you did. As much as you feasted upon every defiled altar she sundered. What’s in it for you, you ask? Her. My other daughter’s faithful, eternal service. With my support.”

The god of tragedy mused for a brief moment, swirling around their cup and starting at the sickly green liquid inside. Finally they leaned forward to Qael and spoke ”Why I must admit, the service of your other daughter would be more than useful…’ They let the moment hang within the air, the edge of the great halo behind their head turning a strange red. ”If she were of any worth right now, and not blinded and useless, stuck within your university.” Their single eye gazed upon the god of magic, before they finally slunk back into their chair, taking another sip from their cup. ”You must try better than that my dear, not only will I inviting the wrath of the sun and possibly my closest ally, but creating a treatment does do away with quite a bit of the fun.”

“How insulting of you, my brother, that you think so lowly of my daughter.” Qael said teasingly, hiding the fear Yamat was causing in his gut well enough. “Tell me, do you really think a mortal as tenacious as her will just sit around and accept her fate now? Do you think it was an accident that I placed the greatest sorceress in the world in a treasure trove of magical knowledge? She reached the peak of power she could attain on Toraan some time ago. Now she has to grow beyond that point and the Omniversity is the only place on Galbar where she can achieve that. But sure as prophecy, she will return to Galbar. More powerful than any mortal that has ever existed.”

The god of magic leaned in as well, conjuring a goblet of his own in his hand which he slowly swirled around. “But I understand that to you that is all just speculation.” Qael said. “Yet the fact that you haven’t outright refused means you’ve got at least a price in mind. So, what is it going to take?”

Yamat had to chuckle at that ”Now you’re getting it dear brother, while I’m sure dear Auri will return one day, and I do look forward to it, but, it's going to take more than that.” The god snapped their fingers, causing a map to unfurl upon the table, intricate painted figures were placed at various places around Galbar. Each of their tendrils picked up and put back down many figures, a black reshut wielding a sword, a golden Iskrill wielding a spear, a pale beast with a massive scythe, a reshut and goblin carrying a sack, until finally coming upon a lone figure, many coloured, a human wearing a large floppy hat. ”I’m sure you’re familiar with a certain one of my children?” the tragic director asked, their tendril offering the figure to their sibling.

Qael’s eyes went over the many figures, noting their locations. It would always be useful to know where Yamat’s agents were. There was no doubt in his mind that sooner rather than later trouble would arise in those locations. But when the tendrilled god picked up perhaps the most boring figurine and asked Qael about him, the god of magic just shook his head. “Can’t say that I have.” He admitted rather casually, after which he took a sip of his own golden cup. Which was filled with an amber liquid. “Not all who show a talent for the Arts go noticed by me brother. But do tell me about him. Perhaps he is interesting.”

”This, my brother, is Axin, one of my more, recent, children. He is indeed a user of your magic, though he has some, added effects, courtesy of myself.” They let the tendril slowly deposit the figure back down in its place, near the northern reaches of the garden. ”He is to be, a researcher, while he is still a wanderer right now, once he settles down, I’m sure he will begin testing a great deal of magical experiments and the like, something of which I’m sure you’d be interested in?”

It was no surprise to Qael that Yamat had made some changes to how someone would cast magic. In truth he wondered what took so long. Sure, he hadn’t heard of this Axin but then again, he hadn’t noticed Auriëlle until Oraelia mentioned her. “You have my curiosity brother.” Qael said. “So what do you want me to give him?” He tried to sound as neutral as possible, but deep down was wondering what a child of Yamat could achieve when it came to magic.

”The exact nature of the gift I will leave up to you, but something to aid his more magical endeavors would be nice, I'm sure as the god of magic you will cook something up.” Yamat set their cup down, turning their gaze down upon the map, focusing on the Luminant, and the various angel figures placed around. ”So, in exchange of a plague, the loyalty of your other daughter, and, in exchange of the cure, you aid one of my own endeavors, that seem like a fair trade to you?”

For a second the god of magic just remained quiet. Pondering upon what gift would be appropriate for the mad mage. Well, something that would drive his research for sure. Something to make him obsessed. But not something that would just freely give its secrets. Something that made him work. It should offer a mere glimpse, again and again. Letting the mad one figure out how to use the knowledge gleaned. “A fair trade indeed.” Qael said as he extended his hand to shake whatever Yamat would grace him with.

Yamat extended their own hand, taking Qael’s in theirs, giving it a curt shake. ”It is a deal then.” The god of tragedy then turned back to the map upon their table. They held out one of their hands, allowing dust and soot to settle upon it, with the wave of another of their hands and the glow of the runes upon their skin, the dust took a sickly green colour, almost as if itself had become corrupted by some heinous plague. Their hand then hovered above the Luminant, the single eye of the god of decay looking at their sibling ”Have any preference where it begins? Or shall I just let it all loose?”

“Closest here.” Qael said as he outstretched his hand. Without touching the sickly looking soot a thin, pale light flickered alive near Soleras. It would be close enough so it would be easily killed in its tracks by a doubtlessly overzealous Soleira. But still close enough that she could manage to heal those as it grew. “A plague to make infirm. To sap the strength from all. Rendering them weak and exhausted.” The healing waters would doubtlessly be able to sooth the illness. For a time. Knowing Yamat’s skill though, Qael was sure it would come back. Again and again. Only Soleira’s gift would be sufficient to permanently heal the sick. A faint, melancholic smile formed under his hood. Millions would suffer. Thousands, despite the fact that the plague wouldn’t be lethal, wouldn’t survive because of it. People he learned the name of would suffer. He took no joy in that but it had to be done. For the sake of unifying the Luminant. For the sake of his daughter.

”Very well,” They tipped their hand ever so slightly, letting loose a portion of the soot over the desired spot, the green corruption seeped into the map, slowly establishing itself on the spot. The map itself seem to grow corrupted on the area, turning a horrid pale green akin to the soot that now covered it. ”There we go, give it a while to begin, though Im sure your daughter will realize it before you do.” They pulled their hand back, stopping for a brief moment to allow some more soot to fall from their hand, landing upon a city in the north of the highlands. Yamat then let the rest of the soot fall away into the dust of their realm. ”Now all there’s left is this cure for your daughter, correct?”

The city was not unknown to Qael. He recognized it as a place he visited about three decades ago. Mere minutes to a god. It was the birthplace of Auriëlle. Interesting. The god of magic had no real vested interest in Acadia yet. The Grand Designs did not yet call upon him to aid that area. He turned to face Yamat again. “Yes. Now just the blessing for Soleira. As I will bless Axin.” He said, and the two eyes controlling the Winds flashed for a second. On Galbar, high up in the sky a book was materializing in the sky. Carried by erratic colors towards the World Anchor.

”Yes indeed, have no worry my brother.” They waved their free hand over the area Qael had specified, the runes on their skin glowing for a brief moment. Far below the gods, within the great coloured realm of the luminant, the one known as Soleira felt a strange, almost sickly, feeling wash over her, it lasted mere seconds, almost as if it had been a fluke of the mind. But it held something far greater. ”There you go, your daughter will be the only one to be able to cure that sickness now, though without her help, it will pass, as all plagues do, but, she has the ability. My part of the bargain is done,” They rested their hand back down upon the table, using their other one to take another sip from their cup. ”Do you have anything more you require dear sibling?”

“No… No I think this is plenty.” Qael felt sick suddenly. Sick of having called such a horrible thing upon the people of his daughter. What he had done was necessary. His mind kept telling him that. It was the truth after all. The greater truth. Everyone in the Luminant would be better off in the long term. Yet there were people he knew the name of. Those who came from other villages to trade with Soleras. He took a quick sip of his own drink. Letting it wash down whatever guilt he felt boiling up in his chest. Then he rose up. “Thank you brother. But I must go now. There are… matters to attend to.” And he turned around, heading towards where his divine senses told him the portal back to Antiquity was.

”Of course my dear brother, I hope my services have been, fitting, for your plans.” A cackle rose suddenly from their voice, carried by the dust and wind throughout the wasteland of their realm, it bounced around and invaded every space. Meanwhile a great storm of soot and dust covered the canopy once more, rendering it gone from view. The dust and soot in front of Qael soon formed a path, leading him back towards the portal, away from the wasteland and the horrid cackling.

It was early in the morning when Auriëlle walked around the Omniversity again. It had to be. The air felt colder on her skin now. Give it an hour or so and it would warm up though. She also knew because there was no noise. Nobody was talking or walking through the halls. Overloading the few senses she still had to navigate around the world. In here she didn’t need the stick to move here. She knew the paths like the back of her head now. Her body moved on its own. Carrying her wherever she wanted to be. However, the further she got from her own bed the further she got from her known world. There were still places in the Omniversity itself she didn’t know like the back of her head.

Right now though, she had mastered the nearest outside gardens and the few plazas there as well. She was making her way towards one of the benches where she could sit and… do nothing really. In the last months, she hadn’t done a thing. She just thought about everything that happened. Would she have done things differently? No. No, not her. Then her mind carried her to Carn. She missed him still. Somehow every day a little bit more. Was he dead? Or was he dead like her? Would she ever hear his voice again? She thought about praying but really, what god would answer her now?

Especially after the revelation. When Oraelia, goddess of light, said she was marked forever as an enemy of light she thought it was just because of all the people she killed. Now it turned out that there was more. For months she had been under the blessing of the god of death himself. She truly was the anthesis of life then. Yet looking back on those months… they were amongst the best of her life. The months before the siege and the months before her reunion were filled with the one thing she loved so much. The feeling she got from razing Teperia was unlike anything. With every raid upon a Ketrefian sided village, she smiled more. If Oraelia had already marked her as an enemy, why not embrace it then?

“Morning… little one.” Auriëlle stopped jumping from unexpected voices. That became to tiresome. But not her body still did, out of pure reaction from the large, bellowing but hollow voice. “You… are awake… early. The sun… is yet… to rise.”

The sun wasn’t up yet? Well, that would explain why everything felt colder. “That’s good to know.” She said as she turned to look up to where the sound came from. She was standing in one of the large plazas. There had been statues here of something but she never figured out what.

“You… do not see… its absence?” The - what Auriëlle guessed to be titanic - creature said.

“I’m blind.” Auriëlle returned as she waved her hand in front of her face. “I can’t even see you. The Sun Goddess took my sight.”

She heard his shape move like stone grinding against stone. It didn’t speak. Instead, let out a soft rumble. “Of course.” It said slowly. “Mortalkind… see with… the goddess’ gift. I had… forgotten. My condolences… for losing… your sight.” Despite everything about it, it sounded gentle.

“Everyone sees with eyes.” Auriëlle noted dryly as she sat down. Might as well, if she was going to talk to a massive thing she couldn’t even sense. “Or with light. But she took that from me. Light will never let me see again. My eyes are fine it’s just… I got cursed.”

“I have… not heard… of her anger.” The titanic creature said. “My master… spoke with… kindness… and compassion… about her.”

Auriëlle scoffed. “You mean she’s so weak she won’t even act until after I slaughtered her followers. And then she just blinds me.” The sorceress wanted to pretend as if everything was okay. As if blindness wasn’t much worse than being dead. You couldn’t feel being dead. It was the end. The finish. One sharp bit of pain and you were gone. She didn’t believe in an afterlife. Blindness though, she had to live with that her entire life now, and it made her weak. So weak. In truth, the goddess had cursed her perfectly.

For a second it was quiet. Auriëlle didn’t mind. But a slight shift signaled the serenity was about to be broken again: “Sight… of light. I ask you… sorceress… how does… the world look… with… light?”

She cocked an eyebrow. “What do you mean? Look around yourself. You’re going to see more than me.”

“Perhaps.” It said. “But not… how you… saw the world. My master… did not gift me… with sight… of light. My… supposed eyes… see the world… differently. Please… indulge… this one’s… curiosity.”

Well, it wasn’t as if she had anything better to do. It would be a welcome distraction from the usual thoughts on a day. “Everything is- was colorful. The plants were green. Treebark's brown. Flowers red and purple and yellow. Things swayed in the wind. Gems glittered in the light. Glittering is like… light sort of broke with them. With the right crystal, you could turn sunlight into rainbow colors.”

The titan grumbled softly. As if he was ruminating on the words. “Tell me… does the world… look solid? Or is it.. diffused?”

“That’s… It’s solid. Everything is solid.” She grabbed her own arm as she held it in front of her. “See this? If I saw, I would know exactly where my arm is. No blurred lines with light sight.”


“You talk as if that’s special. How do you see the world then?” Auriëlle asked.

She heard his body shift again. “I see… the world… differently. Right now… I see you… sweat wafting… off you. Your figure… blurred. I was… told that… mortals… have faces… I have… never seen… faces. Lines… shift. To me… you look… like a cloud… hiding a sun. And your sun… as hidden… as it is… is still… very bright.”

“Sounds… aetheric.” Auriëlle said. Now she was definitely curious. For the first time in months, she felt that siren song. That call to do something. A goal to achieve. Sight through something else than magic. “How did you come to see like this? And what are you actually seeing? Like I know I saw through light, so what do you use?”

“Yes… Aetheric. An accurate… word. I was.. born…like this.” The creature said. “Made… actually. I believe… I see… through… mana. That... which drives… your magic.”

For a second she was disappointed that it wasn’t a skill. But it could be. Nothing said that it couldn’t be. She started focusing and tried to think about seeing the thing before her. Not with light. She had tried and given up three weeks ago on that. Instead, she thought about something else. Like a visible wind flowing over him. Something that would touch his form and return it to her. It didn’t work. Not at the first. The creature kept still and quiet though. Seemingly content to let her try, or it had grown tired of their conversation.

She tried again. This time she heard the rustling of trees. No, too much. She didn’t want wind. She wanted something akin to wind. She wanted the mana in the air to flow, not the air itself. Again. Trees rustled. Again. She heard the wind softly whistling in her ear. Again.

“Maybe… mortals… are not… meant to see… the world… like this.” The figure interjected.

“I don’t care about ‘meant to’. I was meant to lead a crusade against monsters from birth.” Auriëlle said. She tried again. A frustrated gust nearly knocked her over. “Then I was meant to waste away in some cellar writing things down.” She tried again. Wind whistled again. “I was supposed to help people extort people.” She said and tried again. There was no wind now. Her mind focused. “Then I was meant to stay with the man I love.” Did she have to say ‘loved’ now? Wind remained quiet. “I was meant to do many things and I did all the things I wasn’t meant to do. A mortal was never meant to sunder the walls of Ketrefa. I was never meant to work for some thugs in some backwater shithole. Maybe I’m not meant to see the world the way you do. But that won’t stop me from doing it anyway.”

And yet, it didn’t come. The wind remained quiet. In the afternoon there wasn’t so much as a breeze around them. Auriëlle didn’t move though. Skipping lunch, she tried again and again and again. The titanic creature was apparently content to just sitting there and letting her do it. The two of them rare exchanged words now. Until the creature, Duxus, finally spoke up again.

“The sun… is low. You are… weakened… You should… eat… and sleep. Tomorrow is… another day.” The hollow, bellowing sound had become familiar now.

For a second she wanted to sneer, but it- no he, was right. Her stomach grumbled and her mind didn’t want to think about things anymore. She was sure she was close though. So sure that she could see again. “I’m coming back tomorrow.” She said as she got up again, supported by her stick. “You better be here tomorrow. So I can see you. And I will see you, Duxus. That’s my promise. I’m going to see you.”

“I… will be here… for four… more nights. Then… I must go… but I will... return.” Duxus said.

Four nights? Which meant four more days of time. She would find a way to see the way he did in four more days. She was sure of it. Really, how hard could it be to see through magic for someone like her?

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