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Love, what is it?

Love is to give yourself up to another person so completely

For hope that they will do the same,

But sometimes what you thought was love

Was nothing more than a lie,

And you are left wondering what you did wrong

When it was your lover that destroyed you,

That broke you,

That left you,

Yet you still blame yourself

Because you don’t know what to do but cry,

And cry you do

Until you will yourself to change or be changed,

Good people are never the same

For they never want to be hurt again,

So the process continues

And love is lost.

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Another Reunion





He stood before the door as the light of Heliopolis rose to touch his back. A shaking hand rested upon the door knob as anxiety welled up in his heart. Orvus was afraid. He did not know what his family thought of his disappearance, or how they would react to returning after ten long years. It felt like a lifeage and he was tired, so very tired. Perhaps that was what it felt like to be mortal. A perpetual tiredness, mixed with regret and sadness. He unwittingly caused the entire world harm, which it was probably still going through and Kalmar lay dying or dead… And it was all his fault. He had failed them all, every single o-

The door began to open, and he recoiled his hand. Then standing before him was a starry nebulite woman of purple and pink swirls. Her long hair, the same colors, glowed faintly. She wore simple clothing. Her eyes went wide as she recoiled, before bringing her hands up to cover her mouth and nose. Tears began to well up in her eyes as she whispered, “D-Daddy…?”

Something broke inside, as a flood of tears began to fall down his pale face. He began to nod his head.

”L-Lily…” he breathed desperately. She then embraced him and Orvus returned the hug, clinging to his daughter as they both cried. She had somehow grown taller than him, but only by a small amount, and yet this did not stop him from seeing her as his little girl. With happy tears, she pulled away and grabbed the sides of his face. “Where have you been?” she asked.

”The Moon…” he said, the memories of that place haunting him still. Abraxas cruel laughter mocked him, before he blinked again and smiled. ”When did you get so tall?”

She laughed at that, before hugging him again. “Oh dad… I missed you.” she whispered into his chest. Orvus hugged her tighter, before another voice could be heard, one that had pulled him through the torture.

”Lily? Who are you talkin-” Rowan said, standing at the far end of the hallway, now frozen. Slowly as she registered what she was seeing, the woman with mahogany hair began to cry as she rushed to Orvus. Lily was quick to leave him, before Rowan almost tackled him to the ground. It took the last of his strength to stand up, but he did and he clung onto her for life as they slipped to the floor.

She hugged him tightly for a long time, neither of them wanting the moment to end. But Rowan eventually pulled back as her cheeks were wet. ”Never again.” she shook her head. ”Never again am I letting you out of my sight.”

”I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Orvus cried, falling forward into her lap. ”I’ll never leave again, I promise.” He felt a hand gently caress his hair as he cried.
“M-Mom?” came a child’s voice. Orvus brought his head up and looked past Rowan to see a golden figure. A boy, with black eyes and he knew he looked upon his son. He felt a greater sadness well up inside of him, at the fact that the boy had never known his father. But that would change.

”Doron.” Rowan said, also looking at him. ”I’d like you to meet your father.”

The boy blinked, an uncertain look came upon his face as he looked between his two parents. “My… Father?” he said after a moment.

”H-Hello, Doron. My son.” he said with a bit of pride in his voice. Doron took a step backwards, before turning around and running inside.

”Doron!” Rowan called after him, but it was too late, the boy was gone. She turned to Lily, who was already making her way inside. “I’m already on it, mom.”

”Thank you, dear.” she said, before turning back to Orvus, who stared at the empty door frame. He felt many emotions, none of them good, but chief among them was his failure of being the boy’s father.

Rowan pulled him back into a hug and said, ”It’s okay my love. He’ll come around, I know it. He needs his father as much as you need him.”

He clutched her shoulder and said, ”I hope so. I do. I’m such a failure Rowan. I should have seen what she was going to do, I should have helped her. I should have known. It’s all my fault.” he broke down again.

Rowan rocked him and said, ”No, it is not your fault. It is Laurien’s fault. She did this to you. To us. She didn’t have to, Orvus. She didn’t have to hurt you. That was her fault, not yours. But you’re here now, you came back to us.” she said, crying happy tears.

The rational part of his mind wanted to believe her, but something held him back… Guilt. ”O-Okay.” he lied to her. ”O-Okay.”

“DAD!” Came another voice, one similar to Lily’s. Orvus looked up and back to see Ava running at them on the path. Following close behind was Arya and another male, holding something in his hands. Ava quickly bounded up the steps and just like Rowan, attacked Orvus before he could react with a fierce hug. He returned it with a hard squeeze. “Where have you been, daddy?” she cried.

He said nothing but pat her on her back, finding the right words to be difficult anymore. Ava finally pulled away to look at him and smiled warmly, “I have someone that would like to meet you.” she said getting up and going over to the male, who stood with Arya on the porch now. She gave him a quick kiss on her cheek, before taking the bundle in his arms with care. Ava then went back over to them and bent down, revealing a tiny face with large white eyes staring back up at him.

“Meet Ellowyn, my daughter.” Ava cooed.

The baby smiled up at him, and suddenly he felt much better. ”She’s… She’s beautiful.” he breathed.

And somehow, surrounded by his loved ones, Orvus knew everything was going to be okay.


The girls.




Arya


&

Karamir





Karamir paced back and forth restlessly.

His soul, his memory, his personality… all had been restored. What had been lost, good or bad, he could remember almost as if it had happened yesterday. His behavior and thoughts throughout the past day felt almost like that of a completely different person, yet they had been his.

He thought back to his earlier interactions with Arya, and grimaced. He had been cold, hostile, and downright ungrateful. It was as if his head had been full of fog. He had been capable of neither empathy nor gratitude. He had seen her almost as an object. One that was only worth his time so long as she had something to offer him. Even when she had been injured, his concern had been more because he needed her father to restore his soul than because of any actual care for her wellbeing.

Was this how Laurien had viewed him? When she smiled, when she showed interest in his stories, when she offered him drink, when she answered his questions… had it all been a pretense? Had she only seen him as an object, to be used or destroyed depending on what was most convenient? And in the end she decided he was more useful to her dead than alive?

The thought made him shudder. To live a life like that, only seeing others as expendable…

And Arya… he owed her a lot. She had looked after him when he was injured. She had stayed with him when the rest of her people fled to a safer location. She had let him sleep on her bed, and where had she slept during that time - if at all? She had tried to help him, even after he snapped at her and was bitter toward her. He couldn’t help but feel guilty.

Shortly after he returned to the house, Karamir had noticed a piece of clothing discarded on a table. It was a dress, torn and bloodstained. It didn’t take a genius to deduce that it was what she used to cover his wounds until Shengshi arrived.

He had taken it. He had drawn upon raw mana, and did his best to mend the shreds back together again. Then he had called forth his skill in water mana, and with great effort had managed to wash out the bloodstains. That done, he had folded it, and left it on a table beside her bed. It was not the most efficient way to use his powers right now… but it helped him pass the time, and it helped ease his own mind somewhat.

After that he had patrolled the interior of her house. Every now and then he would hear a noise or seem some movement outside, and go to investigate, fearing that Vrog or some pigguts had decided to pursue them here. So far, there was nothing.

He sat down on a nearby chair and looked down at her, then cringed as he recalled his earlier words to her. He had told her he wanted to become a god… an objective he long since believed he was abandoned. She had thought it foolhardy, and rightly so. Now, what did she think of him because of it?

He’d have to explain himself when she woke up. Maybe she would understand. But how? Discussing his past before he left the Palace always made him feel uncomfortable. He took a deep breath. Maybe… if he practiced talking about it before she woke up… it would be easier to tell her when she was finally awake.

“Kalmar made me as an experiment…” he said aloud, his own voice sounding jarring in the otherwise silent house. “He had seen mortals like you, and Hermes, and wanted to know what it was like to make one of his own. His training was harsh, but I endured, hoping it meant something… only to be sent away and told to seek out my own purpose,” he shook his head. “I met a woman named Atalantia, but all she did was mock me. Then I met Phystene, but she couldn’t put my concerns to rest. I felt abandoned. I was alone. I didn’t know what to do.”

He breathed deep. “That is what first made me want to become a god. Anger, and bitterness. It was unlikely to succeed. Even at the time, I knew that. That didn’t matter. I needed something to keep going. I couldn’t have children, there weren’t any others of my kind, I was alone… it was all I could think of. I thought if I could get enough power, I would matter. I would have a place in the world… I’d be able to do what I want…”

It was like sprinting downhill: now that he had started, he couldn’t stop. “I wandered Kalgrun for years. Then I found a drained river, and while I was exploring it, it refilled itself. I was washed into the sea, and Diana saved me…”

He looked away from Arya now, staring at the wall. He had never talked about this before. Not in detail, at least. “I was on a raft with her for… I don’t know how long. She made it as uncomfortable and as miserable as possible. I itched, I sweated. She wouldn’t offer food or drink until I was on the brink of passing out. My sleep was plagued by constant nightmares. She once nearly drowned me just because I annoyed her, and only saved me when I began to panic. It was… it was horrible.” He felt a tear roll down his cheek.

“Then… we reached Dragon’s Foot. I could have left her, but… I stayed. I can’t explain it. Some part of me wanted her to like me, believed she cared. Another part was scared. If I left her I’d be alone again, this time in an unfamiliar land. So… I stayed. For years, and decades. I continued to endure all the pain, all the torment… there were times when I wanted to die. When I almost…” he shuddered, as tears began to flow more freely. “I held on only because I thought dying would make me a failure. I made myself numb to the world. I told myself I was used to it. It was the only way I could deal with it…”

It was odd, talking like this to someone who wasn’t even awake to hear him, about such painful memories too. Yet with each word it felt like some unseen burden was lifted off his shoulders.

“Eventually she brought me to Tendlepog. When we left, I saw her drop the orb. I didn’t say anything. I thought it was an accident, and I was relieved to see it gone. But… it seems now she had meant to drop it, and we saw where that led. Part of what just happened could be my fault…” he shook his head.

“We arrived at the Palace. K’nell was welcoming… at first. But soon it was made clear that I had only been allowed there because of Diana. He refused to answer my questions or help me get what I wanted - which was no longer godhood, but just knowledge. I could either stay with her, or go back out into the world… alone. I… I wasn’t sure what to do…”

Karamir wiped tears from his eyes. “And then I met you…”

”I… I had found a library in the Palace. It showed me some of what was out there. Good and bad. That was… that was part of why I was uncertain. But meeting you? You were proof. You helped me make up my mind. You helped me recover…”

”I’m glad.” Arya’s voice said weakly.

Karamir nearly jumped at the sound, and then, wordlessly, turned his head back to face her. Black tears streamed down her face as she sat up in bed. She looked tired, painfully so, but even through that pain, she still smiled softly.

”If you had stayed… I would never have gotten to see you in person.” she said softly.

”I’m… sorry for the way I acted toward you,” Karamir said, recovering from the shock. ”Are you alright?”

”It’s okay, Karamir.” she said, ”I’ll be fine… But… How did we get here? How did you recover? What happened to Vrog and those… things?”

”Vrog hit you, and you were knocked out,” Karamir said, his gaze shifting to the bruise on her head. ”I was about to get us both away from there, but then Abanoc and someone named Mnemosyne intervened. The fight stopped, but Vrog only agreed to leave after Abanoc told him which god K’nell was closest to - which was apparently Shengshi. He took the creatures with him, but I... think some might still be on the island,” he said, rising to his feet and stepping toward the window. ”As for Abanoc, we came back here. He repaired my soul, Mnemosyne restored my memories, and then they left.” He looked away from the window, and back to her. ”Oh, and the asteroids stopped falling some time ago.”

Arya’s face was blank by the time Karamir had stopped talking. She seemed to sink back into her pillows and sighed. ”He cursed me.” she said absentmindedly. ”I feel fine now… Besides a headache but… I really struggled when I fought him. Everything was so heavy and I felt so slow, and sick. How can I… How can I protect people if I can’t fight?” she said beginning to cry. ”How is any of this fair?”

Karamir crossed the distance between them and sat down on the bed next to her. Tentatively, he reached out to put an arm around her. ”I don’t know if anything is meant to be fair,” he said sadly. ”Things were so much simpler when we were at the Palace, weren’t they?”

Arya laid her head upon his chest. ”It’s gone.” she said simply.

”What’s gone?” Karamir asked, suddenly concerned again.

”The Palace. K’nell. Diana. Hermes. Xiaoli. Tendlepog. Most of the Dreamers. They’re all gone.” she said forlornly. ”They left the world… K’nell took them all to Paradise.”

”Paradise?”

”A place of infinite possibilities, a place of peace away from the eyes of the other Gods. An alternative to the Pyres that no one save a few know, Shengshi being one of them. I take it that’s why Vrog was so interested in K’nell… He wanted to know where he went but he’ll never get there. He can’t.” she sighed.

”So that’s why the Dreamers kicked me out…” Karamir whispered, and then froze. ”Wait. What do you mean… an alternative to the Pyres?”

”Those that go to Heaven… Their mind remains there… Or something. I don’t know okay. He told me so long ago and I just don’t like thinking about it anymore. I can’t tell them about anything happening here. Why would they care? Why bother them with events they can never help with? They’re so happy…” she whispered.

”And nobody save a few know?” Karamir asked, still dwelling on that revelation. ”There’s an alternative to the Pyres, and it’s being kept secret?”

”Please… You can’t tell anyone, Karamir. Not yet. I can… I can teach you how to… Go there, if you want?” she said, her voice small.

”Not yet? When will other people be allowed to know?”

”I don’t know.”

Karamir looked at the ground, and took a slow, shuddering breath. In the time since K’nell had created this… alternative… and sent all his people there, how many people died? How many souls were burned in Katharsos’s pyres, or left to collect dust in Azura’s vault? Now there was an alternative, and it was being hoarded.

He was tempted to bring that up. Yet, Arya was distraught enough as is. She had likely considered that fact already, and if she hadn’t, then bringing it up would only make her feel worse. He ran a hand through her hair. ”You don’t need to tell me,” he decided. ”I won’t go. Not until there comes a day when everyone in Galbar has access to it.”

”But what if… What if that day never comes?” she asked.

Karamir shrugged. ”Maybe Azura will have found a solution of her own by then. Or maybe my soul will be burned in the Pyres. I can’t know for sure. I don’t even think K’nell would want me in this Paradise of his - he had the Dreamers kick me out of Tendlepog not too long after I left the Palace. But don’t worry about me. Whatever awaits me after death, I’m not afraid.”

”O-Okay… The Dreamers… I miss them. Why haven’t they come to say hello?” she said sleepily.

”I don’t know, Arya,” Karamir said. ”So… are you telling me that you had to keep this a secret for years… while leading and protecting this people… all on your own?”

”You have to do such things… When you become a leader.” she said, yawning.

”I should have taken your offer…” Karamir said. ”Maybe I could have helped you.”

There came no answer though, only the sound of steady breathing. She had fallen asleep. Gently, and reluctantly, Karamir laid her back down on the bed before rising to his feet. He was tired himself, but someone had to stay awake.

There were still monsters in the woods.




Arya woke up, a soft white glow illuminated the room. She rubbed her eyes and found the source, an orb of white floated at the end of her bed, as if watching her. She sat up, scooting her legs closer to her chest. The orb floated a little bit closer and though she had no idea what it was, she was strangely unafraid. Calm, even. A powerful feeling overcame her, a sense of pure longing and happiness washed into her as the light touched her skin. She outstretched her hand, a finger pointed as her eyes went wide. The orb floated closer, as her heart beat faster in anticipation. And as her finger touched the orb, she felt a spark of warmth, then the orb enveloped her like a gentle blanket. She felt warm, and so cozy, and then it faded into her skin.

Almost immediately, the cozy warmth became hot, unbearably hot. She began to sweat, and ripped the covers off her, as her head exploded in pain. She fell to the floor, clutching her head as her vision blurred. It felt as if her body was going to burst into flame. She screamed in pain, before a wave of nausea washed over her. She quickly got up on her hands and knees, before vomiting black blood.

In a flash, Karamir had flown up the stairs, and there was a thump as he slammed into the wall. He fell to his feet and nearly lost his footing, but managed to recover his balance, and then he saw her. ”Arya!” he yelled, running forward and dropping to his knees beside her. He placed a hand on her back, feeling the intense heat that radiated through her clothes. ”No, no, dammit. What do I do?” he asked nobody in particular, his voice edged with desperation.

Karamir’s cool touch was oddly comforting, and she focused on it, allowing herself to breath for once. Through her ragged breathing she said, ”You did nothing… I did something.” she said, throwing up more blood.

”How do I help you?” he asked, his voice no less urgent.

”C-cold… W-water.” she said weakly.

Karamir’s cloak then wrapped around her, and he pulled her close as they floated off the ground. He winced slightly, as he realized just how hot her skin had become, but the frostguard ring protected him from the worst of it. He went carefully first, maneuvering cautiously down the stairs, past her furniture - one unfortunate chair had already been knocked over on his way up - and out the door.

Then, as soon as they were outside, he accelerated. Their surroundings became a blur, then all of a sudden they were standing waist-deep in a stream of water. Karamir slid a ring of cold metal onto her finger, and then his cloak released her. Keeping a hand on her for steadiness, he then lowered her deeper into the water.

The ring soothed her, as well as the water, but the burning did not stop. ”L-Let go…” she said between breathes.

Karamir hesitated, and then released his grip on her.

Arya became submerged in the water, yet shallow as it was, she felt like she was sinking endlessly. The water began to bubble around her, and the water grew hot. Without the ring to protect him, Karamir had no choice but to step away as it began to burn his skin, and he began to regret letting go of her. ”Arya!” he called out.

‘Arya!’

It was a simple name, for a simple girl. But she was no longer the same Arya she had once been, so long ago coming into the world. She had grown up, and become who she was always supposed to be. A friend. A daughter. A sister. A companion. A sailor. A hero.

But there was so much more that she could attain. That she wanted to do and in that moment, the burning stopped. And with a powerful explosion of light, she erupted from the water and landed on the shore, breathing heavily. There was no more pain, no more aching, she no longer felt so angry and the sword’s influence… It was gone.

Karamir recoiled from the splash, his cloak wrapping around him to shield him from the boiling water. ”Arya!” he shouted again, and began wading toward her. ”Are you alright!?

She turned to him with a large smile and waded into the water as well. If it all it burned her, she couldn’t even tell. For she almost immediately hugged Karamir tightly. ”I’m fine! So, so fine. I feel wonderful actually.” she said giddily.

For a moment Karamir hugged her back, but then he pulled himself away, and looked at her oddly. ”What happened to you?” he asked in a worried voice.

”I don’t know.” she said thoughtfully. ”I woke up to see a white orb hovering above my bed. It’s presence filled me with… What I’m feeling now, actually. Huh. But then I touched it and it faded into my skin after enveloping me. My entire body started to burn and I threw up… Ew. But now… Now I feel fine.” she said happily.

”Are you sure?” he asked pressing a hand against her forehead. ”You lost a lot of blood.”

”Yeah, that was a little concerning, wasn’t it?” she said with a laugh.

”I thought you were dying…” he whispered with a shake of his head, before pulling her back in for a hug.

She returned his hug and then pulled back and said, ”I thought you were dying too. Look at us now.”

Karamir smiled. ”It seems Kalmar was right about one thing. Suffering has a way of making us stronger. Hey, I’d like to show you something…”

”Oh?” she said.

Karamir let go of her and glanced down at the water. ”Remember what I told you about mana?” he asked her, and then cupped a hand under the surface, before pulling it out. Instead of simply pouring out of his hand, the water formed into a round ball, which he now held before Arya. ”I… I wasn’t just talking madness. It exists. Do you still want to learn it?”

Her eyes seemed to sparkle at the sight and she let out an excited squeal. ”I never thought you were mad!” she said playfully, before poking the ball. ”I’d love to learn though!”

Karamir’s smile widened, and then he flicked the ball into her face.

The girl’s face went blank as she was splashed, and for a tense moment it looked like she was going to get angry, but then her lips turned into a smirk and she laughed, before shoving Karamir in what was meant to be a jest, but he was instead launched backward in an almost violent manner. He went under with a large splash, and did not come back up.

Arya at once recoiled and then rushed over to where he went under. And in that moment, something grabbed her legs, tripping her, and she too ended up underwater. Karamir resurfaced a moment later, with a smirk on his face, and waited for Arya to do the same. Yet, for some reason, she did not surface and with a keen eye, he could see her white glow swimming into a deeper section of the creek with ease.

Curious, he decided to wade in deeper to follow her.

Not a moment later, her head bobbed up out of the water in the middle of the deeper section. She had a concerned look on her face. ”This is going to sound weird but… I don’t need to breathe under the water. It’s like… It’s like I don’t need air. Even now… I want to breathe but it doesn’t feel necessary… And when I shoved you… I’m not that strong.”

Karamir froze, and a thoughtful look appeared on his face. ”Maybe it was the orb…” he suggested. ”It must have done something to you. Where do you think it came from?”

”I’m not… I’m not sure, but I feel so… I feel so happy and strange. Like… Like I’m floating on a cloud.” she said, looking at her hands.

”Well, it’s good to see you happy again,” he said, remembering what she had been like at the Palace, ”But… just be careful. We don’t know how else it might have affected you.”

She tilted her head at him and gave him a warm smile, but her smile faded and turned into a small look of surprise. ”You… You care so much for me. I-I can tell. How can I tell?” she said blinking.

Karamir responded with an equally surprised look, his cheeks reddening slightly. ”W-well, you have always been kind to me, and I have been trying to repay you for it…”

”You… You say that like you’re only doing it because you have to… Do you really think that you have to repay me, Karamir?” she said, putting a hand over her mouth. Her eyes then went wider. ”But I know you’re doing it because you want to. It’s genuine...” she said, misty eyed.

Her words made him wince. ”I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that. I… I’d still try to help you even if you hadn’t helped me, or at least I believe that I would. It’s just that…” he sighed. ”I’m no good at talking about this stuff, am I? I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Her hand dropped from her mouth as she blinked away white tears. She noticed the color change as it fell onto the ground, where it then shattered into small pieces. She stared at that for a moment before looking back at Karamir. "I don't blame you… This is a strange night, for the both of us. Come on, let's go back to the house." she said, pulling her leg out of the water and then beginning to walk on the surface.

Karamir stared in astonishment. ”Wait… how are…”

Arya turned to him with a confused look, ”Huh?” she said, before looking at herself. It was then she saw her feet were above the water, and it was the strangest feeling that there was. She looked back up at Karamir and said, ”D-Do you know who else can walk on water?”

”Kalmar, Fenris - that’s a creature Kalmar made - and D-Diana,” Karamir said, his voice growing shaky as his mind slowly reached a conclusion. But no… that couldn’t be possible, could it? ”Arya… when you say you know why I’m doing things… do you mean… can you actually sense my feelings?”

Arya felt herself pale, even though she was stark as white, and slowly nodded her head at Karamir. ”O-Orvus can walk on water… So can K’nell… Shengshi… Arae… The entire pantheon.” she said gulping, looking at her hands again.

”You’re stronger, you don’t need to breathe, you can sense other people’s feelings, you can walk on water…” Karamir stepped the water, turned to face her, then sank to his knees and closed his eyes.

Arya. Can you hear me?

She jumped at his voice. Then said, ”W-Why didn’t your mouth just move?”

His eyes opened. ”Because… I didn’t say anything.” Karamir took a deep breath as he stood back up. ”It was a prayer.”

”B-But only Gods can hear…” and it dawned upon her. The orb, her sudden condition, expelling her fluids, not needing to breath under water, her strength, her walking on water and her ability to hear his prayer- She had become divine. ”That’s not… That’s not possible… I can’t be a God.” she said

”There might be some other explanation…” Karamir suggested. ”But I can’t think of anything else. Maybe another god could confirm it?”

”C-Come on, let’s go back to the house.” she said, avoiding his question.

Karamir only nodded, and offered her his hand.

She took it, finding a small comfort in the gesture, as her thoughts ran amok in her head.






Laurien


&


Li’Kalla

Goddess of Rain
MP 9 FP 16





Laurien picked a room with a long view of the outside world. That night she had a restless sleep, her thoughts a jumbled mess of anxiety and worry and longing. Yet when she did finally fall asleep, she had a nightmare. In it she ran across the breaking ground, threatening to consume her as she was chased by a warped version of Arae. Her hand was outstretched at a figure in the far distance, with two smaller figures on either side. She knew she wanted them, she knew she needed them, but no matter how much she ran, she could never reach them. She felt as if her form kept shifting between the three, to be what they wanted to see. Silver saw her as her lover, while her children saw her as their mother and yet she was just Laurien.

She was angry at that fact and grew with a fury the likes of which she had never felt before. She tried to fly but couldn't. She tried to shout but her voice would only speak gibberish and in different languages and tones. Her anger turned to a burning sensation and she felt so hot. She needed Silver to soothe her. She needed her children to calm her.

But it was never meant to be, and at last the ground broke apart in front of her and the last thing she saw was Arae looking down at her with a devilish smile before a black orb consumed her entirely. The sensation was not a pleasant one and it felt as if she was swallowed up by it entirely as she grew hor. Almost as if she could burst into flames in the darkness where she could not see. Perhaps then it would have given her light.

She awoke with a start, breathing heavily as she lay in her sweat. The sun was just rising to caress the world in its gentle warmth but Laurien did not care about that. Instead she barely had time to sit up as she threw up her white blood all over the bed and herself. She was instantly horrified as she made her way into the wooden floor. She lay on the ground for a long time as her head pounded with such intensity, she felt as if it was going to explode.

And then as quickly as it came, it was over and she felt relief from the pain. In fact, there was no more pain. She felt oddly fine, even great. Perhaps it was the curse taking effect, did she need to leave so soon? With a sigh, she got up and made her way to the dresser, but paused to look at the bed. Hopefully Li'Kalla wouldn't mind. Before she could sit down at the dresser, she stared open eyed at the figure who looked back at her in the mirror.

It was Silver, wearing clothes far too big for her.

"Silver?" She said, but it was not her own voice that spoke. She heard Silver's and from her own mouth. She looked down at her skin and she saw the scars and faded cuts. Her chest grew warm as she gazed upon silver in the flesh again but it wasn't right and she began to panic. She felt her skin, ace and hair, trying to distinguish herself from Silver but it was no use. She had physically become her and perhaps the strangest thing of all, was that she wanted it.

But at the same time, she wasn't Silver. She was Laurien. Why did she look like Silver? What was going on?

"Li'Kalla!" She shouted, unable to move, her vision frozen in place in the mirror. The goddess would know what was going. So Laurien dod the only thing she could. She shut her eyes tightly and tried to wrestle her thoughts into place, thinking of the curse and how it might have played a part in this.

Yet it didn't work. The more she thought, the more she panicked and her breathing became quicker. When she opened her eyes again, Polyastera looked back at her, soliciting a small spark. It was the original Polly, not the monster she had become and Laurien let out a surprised gasp in Polly's voice. She shut her eyes again and tried to think of herself and once again opened them to another old face, Cassiopeia.

The flame headed nebulite blinked at her before she shut her eyes. A sudden jolt of pain in her stomach sent her crumpling to her hands and knees as she vomited more white blood. The hands holding her up, were her own.

The ornate door to her bedroom slammed against the wall with the handle bending beyond repair at the force of the impact. From behind the doors entered Li'Kalla in a hurried walk, furrowing her eyebrows at the sight of Laurien on her hands and knees on the floor, before shifting her gaze to the blood coated bed.

"Laurien?"

”S-Something’s wrong.” Laurien gasped. ”I… I… Can change… Forms?”

”Huh,” Li’Kalla tilted her head and went over to Laurien. The Goddess knelt down beside Laurien and caressed and patted her back, before taking a sniff of the air. ”I have one question, have you always smelled this Divine, Laurien?”

”Divin-?” Laurien began before her she did something strange. She saw an opening in Li’Kalla’s mind, a small gate and she went inside. She saw what Li'Kalla wanted most in a partner and her desire to be loved wholly by him. Her eyes went wide as she realized what she was seeing, and she quickly flung herself away from Li, leaving the Goddess sitting there alone with a hurt expression, hand outstretched for a moment before letting it fall onto her lap. The second she stopped caressing her, the connection was broken, but Laurien had learned enough. Another mystery, but what was not a mystery was the sudden desire she had for the Goddess before her.

”I...I’m sorry. Your touch is so… So nice and I know you don’t want… I’m just so hot and confused right now... Divine? What do you mean?” she asked softly.

Li’Kalla looked down at her lap and, after a moment, looked back up and brushed some hair out of her face, a slight blush on her otherwise pale face. ”You’re no longer a mortal or a Hero. You, are a step above that. Your soul irradiates the same intensity as that of my Son, Ya’Shuur.” Li’Kalla paused to observe Laurien’s reaction, who’s eyes went wide in disbelief, then continued, ”You’re a demigod.”

”W-What do you mean a demigod? I can’t be… How could I…? It’s not possible.” she said absentmindedly. ”But it is…” she said again, looking at Li’Kalla with intensity.

Li’Kalla frowned and looked away, her flawless white hair conveniently covering her face. She straightened her posture to perfection whether consciously or not and cleared her throat, ”Y-You just looked into my mind. I must ask, what did you see?”

She began to scoot closer, her heart beating faster. ”I didn't mean too, I swear it. But I saw… I saw what you wanted most Li’Kalla.” Laurien whispered. "I… I can't control this burning urge any longer… I'm sorry." she said shakily in a mix of excitement and sadness and she began to change again.

Li’Kalla glanced at Laurien through a gap in the wall that her hair made and her eyes widened and cheeks blushed. Her mouth fell agape and tears welled up in her eyes, threatening to burst free at any moment as she sniffled back a sob. In that moment her posture broke down and she scooted up to Laurien and laid her hands on his new body.

Taller than her by a few inches, strong, muscular and agile looking, with a noticeably well-developed bone structure and ideal muscle insertions. He looked like his female self which Li’Kalla loved so much but couldn’t actually love, but in a male body.

She let out a breath of steamy mist and the room became warm and comfortable as Li’Kalla carefully placed her hands on the new Laurien’s chest while looking up into his eyes. ”M-My knight...”

“Yes… I'm here.” he said, his voice pleasant to her ears. He then leaned in and gave her a small kiss on her lips, before looking back at her. “I’ve wanted to do that for such a long time.” he smiled. "From the first moment I saw you… Because you're so perfect." Laurien said, letting himself channel his new divinity. It was a rush of power and excitement and his earlier fears and anxieties washed away. There was something about the whole thing, that just felt right. At long last, he was wanted and no matter the form, it felt good.

“P-perfect?” Li’Kalla’s voice cracked a little as she gingerly wrapped her arms around the male in front of her, ”You truly think so?” Li’Kalla’s voice was soft and small as she rubbed the side of her head against the male Nebulite’s chest, over his heart.

"Yes. Absolutely." He said, caressing her back. "You've always been and always will be."

Li’Kalla took a deep breath, kissed Laurien’s neck and gave it a sniff, and exhaled. Then she stood up and flapped her wings, blowing a gust of air on Laurien’s face, and all manner of bashfulness and elation left her, replaced by a pleased smile after she wiped away her tears, ”Ah, that felt great. This is enough for me, though. As a new demigod, I cannot simply mate with you right here, it must be an official affair with ceremonies and purification rituals in place. For now, let’s go test your new abilities. Aside from the one that shows me what I want to see and smell and touch, of course.”

The man blinked and frowned but said nothing as his form changed back into Laurien herself. ”I made it physical. I think I can change into anyone I desire too… But seeing your own mind… It allowed me to become exactly what you wanted.” she mused, then frowned. ”I can’t see what your desires are now though… I wonder why…” she said aloud before rubbing the back of her head. ”I… Um… I’m sorry about the mess.” she said sheepishly, looking around the room at all the blood.

Li’Kalla waved her hand dismissively and began walking out of the room. ”Do not think about it too much. It is natural you’d excrete copious amounts of mortal fluids after becoming a divine. There’s no reason to be ashamed.” Li’Kalla gave her wings a small flap again and she looked over her shoulder to confirm Laurien was following. ”We’ll be taking a bath now, as we cannot train and experiment with blood all over ourselves, can we? My faithful have crafted an exquisite fragrance for us. Do you like the scent of lavender?”

”Lavender?” Laurien said out loud. The smell unfamiliar, but at the same time sounding pleasant. ”I've never smelled it before, I’m afraid.”

”Oh, it’s lovely. It’s been my favorite scent for as long as I can remember. After all, I grew up next to-” Li’Kalla suddenly fell silent, but continued walking as if she’d said nothing, though the way she kept her wings stiffly half unfurled was anything but relaxed.

”Almost there,” She said after they went down the staircase and past the recreation room, and at the final, unassuming door, Li’Kalla stopped and turned toward Laurien. ”I’ve designed this room like a hot springs, like the ones you’d see in the western coast of Be’r-Jaz. It is much safer and cleaner, and the water has deep cleansing and relaxing properties, so please feel free to use it whenever. And do invite me, there is nothing quite like a chat in the mixed baths.” Li’Kalla said with a genuinely warm smile as she opened the door and gestured Laurien inside.

As soon as the door opened, a faint scent of sulfur reached Laurien’s nostrils, and then a luxurious mix of floral and natural scents made themselves apparent. Merely breathing in the air felt as if she was in a sanctuary, a sacred land that one could truly rest on.

As for the room itself, it looked like an open air hot spring, with the sky visible even though she knew for a fact there were rooms on the second floor just above them. The ground was soft, and a ring of boulders circled most of the large, clear hot spring. The water itself seemed to reflect water unnaturally, and emitted a soft white glow.

Li’Kalla smiled reassuringly at Laurien and nudged her inside, before walking in herself and closing the door.

”Well?”

”It’s beautiful.” Laurien said, taking in the fragrances. ”And the smell… It’s so lovely.” Without saying anything else, she took off her blood stained nightgown and set it to the side. She then hesitantly dipped a toe in the water. It felt… It felt nice. Not too hot, not too cold. She then began to submerge herself within it.

Li’Kalla watched Laurien intently, studying every inch of her body, before undressing herself and submerging in the water, where she continued to stare at her. After a few moments, she sighed.

”How are you?”

Laurien smiled sweetly at Li’Kalla. ”I’m doing good, I think. You are very kind, and I am very grateful for your help.” she said genuinely, relaxing in the pool.

The winged Goddess pursed her lips, ”You’re extremely mentally resilient, Laurien. Most mothers would be broken for months or years after being forced to leave their children behind in a world this dangerous. How do you manage?”

Color seemed to drain from her face as she remembered her children. She had… She had forgotten about them. She squirmed where she sat and then said, ”I… Um… Arae won’t hurt them. I know that. They’re probably as safe as they ever will be. And one day… I’ll get them back.” she said softly.

Li’Kalla smiled, ”You’re adorable, I love it when parents show their love for their offspring. It’s so refreshing.”

Laurien gave her a soft smile and then looked around. ”So, when do the servants come in?” she asked.

Li’Kalla tilted her head, ”Servants?” She asked as she scooted across the edge of the hot spring onto a small wooden table on which a clay pot lied. Li’Kalla dipped her finger into the pot and it came out coated in a green-ish paste which she then dipped into the hot spring. Immediately, the light scent of lavender filled the room. ”Servants and slaves are best used for important matters, not for pampering nobility. We can do this ourselves, can’t we?”

”Interesting ideology.” Laurien said. ”But we aren’t nobility, we are divinity. I know… Other gods have bathhouses with servants who will clean you. They love doing it, but I can respect your stance.” she said, beginning to scrub her arms.

”I can see why mortals would enjoy laying their hands on divines, however the fact that we are superior means we cannot become lax. I will clean my own body if I’m able to. I will tend to my needs if I’m able to, and then I will tend to my faithful’s. Taking time away from a mortal’s limited lifespan just to clean my body would be cruel, and also stain my body and threaten my purity.”

Laurien nodded. ”Very noble of you.” she sid, submerging her head under the water. After a moment she came back up, hair dripping wet. ”So… What exactly am I able to do now?”

Li’Kalla submerged as well and came back up completely soaked, then started messing around with her left-wing’s feathers. ”You can walk on water.”

”Oh? That could come in handy. What else?” she asked excitedly.

”You can also walk on air, with enough focus and time. Not to mention extreme levels of physical strength, speed, agility, an unlimited lifespan and a body that’s always in its prime (not including permanent injuries). And most likely some reality altering capabilities.” Li’Kalla shuddered a little and gasped as she touched the base of her primary feathers.

Laurien rose an eyebrow after nodding. ”Everything okay? Do you need help?” she asked softly.

Li’Kalla looked at Laurien and chuckled, ”Having someone else groom my wings would make it faster indeed. Do be careful around the roots of my feathers, though. They’re quite sensitive. And the base of my wings, too.” With that, Li’Kalla moved over to Laurien and sat down with her back facing the demi-goddess, and fully extended her wings, keeping her back straight.

As Laurien began to groom her wings, she said, ”You know, your wings are very pretty. Another perk of divinity huh?” she mused.

”Thank you. I like my wings a lot. If my memory is correct, the inspiration for them was Azura. You could have feathery wings as well if you wanted to, I could groom yours in return.”

”Maybe one day.” Laurien giggled. She took her time grooming the Goddess, taking great care not to be too rough. When she reached the base of her wings, she went slower, not to cause Li any unwanted pain. After a while, though, the Goddess let out a soft moan and stretched her wings as far as they’d go and scooted closer to Laurien.

”T-That feels really good.”

The demigoddess smirked from behind Li and did nothing but continue her grooming at the base. ”It’s the small things in life that give us the most pleasure.” she whispered in her ear after a while.

Li’Kalla gasped and shuddered, pressing herself up against Laurien and squirming. And then, an extra pair of hands began caressing Laurien’s back and shoulders. Soft, green hands followed by the rustling of leaves.

Laurien’s head shot up and she let go out Li’Kalla as she stood up and turned to see who had touched her. ”Wha-?” she said looking at the odd creature. It was a humanoid plant, with puffy round leaves for hair, a pair of black orbs for eyes, and soft features vaguely resembling Li’Kalla’s. Her lips were curled in a warm smile and her eyes were half-lidded. The plant female retracted her hands and crawled up to Laurien, taking a sniff of the demigoddess.

At this point, Li’Kalla, who was panting for breath, furled her wings and swam to the opposite side of the hot spring once more. ”L-Laurien,” She said, a blush present on her face and slightly disheveled hair from having rubbed the back of her head against Laurien, ”Meet Laven. She’s a foreas, a new sentient species. Unfortunately she cannot speak or hear and her sight is awful, but she’s got a good heart and likes physical contact with warm bodies.”

Laurien looked upon Laven with giddy joy as she realized how easily it was to read the desires of a mortal. The foreas had such simple wants, to be cuddled, to have her head patted, and to be outside under the sun. All, so easy to accomplish. Laurien touched the creature and was astounded at just how soft she was. She sat down at the edge of the spring and grabbed the plant’s hand, guiding it to sit down in her lap, which Laven happily did. There, Laurien began to pet the creature as she looked over it’s entire body.

”It wants nothing more then to have affection… Where on Galbar did it come from?” Laurien said, rubbing her cheek on to of the plant’s head, who simply hugged Laurien and pressed her face against the demigoddess’ chest, her leaves rustling excitedly. ”It’s so easy to just… Make her obsessed with it.” Laurien gushed, her voice dripping with wanton desire. Laven looked up at Laurien’s face needily, almost whimpering before turning and straddling Laurien’s lap. She grabbed Laurien’s hands and tried to put them on her soft, delicate body and head. Laurien did as what she wanted, enamored by the small being.

Laven seemed to shudder and twitch more and more with every caress, eventually twisting and turning her head until Laurien’s hand was on her face, then she bit gently on one of her fingers and teared up.

At that point, Li’Kalla cleared her throat. ”Do go easy on her, Laurien. I don’t think she can handle much more. ”

Laurien blinked and looked to Li’Kalla before looking at Laven, seeing the poor thing in such a state, it sent shivers down her spine. She then relaxed Laven’s desire to be loved, and she calmed down and fell asleep. Laurien then rubbed the creature’s head and looked to Li’Kalla again. ”Yes… Sorry about that.”

Li’Kalla shook her head, ”Do not worry about it, you were merely testing your capabilities. As for your earlier question, they come from the Eternal Tree to the west of here, near the natural hot springs.”

”I’ll have to go visit there sometime… These Foreas have potential.” she said, kissing Laven’s head.

”They sure do, as it was me who created them.” Li’Kalla said nonchalantly, scrubbing her body.

Laurien raised an eyebrow in surprise. ”If Laven is anything to go by, all they want is to be loved. How simple a need is that…” she said thoughtfully.

Li’Kalla blushed and perked up, ”D-Don’t go getting any ideas! N-Not all my creations reflect a part of me, okay?!” Li’Kalla huffed and crossed her arms.

Laurien smirked playfully. ”Who said anything about them reflecting a part of you?” she teased.

Li’kalla opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out, and then she closed it and huffed again, turning to look somewhere else. ”I-I suppose we’re sufficiently clean now. Shall we move on?”

”Where to next?” she asked, standing up while also cradling Laven in her arms.

”The balcony. It’s a sunny day, which doesn’t come often, so we will sundry. Leave your clothes here, I will wash them for us later.” Li’Kalla said before stepping out of the hot spring and walking out of the door.

”Okay, that sounds lovely.” Laurien said, snuggling her cheek against Laven’s, the plant’s eyes fluttering open as soon as Laurien began following after Li’Kalla. Slowly, Laven began exploring Laurien’s body, her hands touching every surface they could reach.

The trio walked through a semi-hidden side door and went up a small staircase leading straight into the large balcony on the second floor. Li’Kalla immediately went to a sunbathing chair and laid down on it, stretching herself with a small moan of relief.

”In order to lay down on the chairs like I am you will likely need to alter their shape, Laurien. Manipulate the object’s composition and configuration with your inherent divine abilities.”

Laurien stared at the chair, pouring her thoughts into it and slowly she was able to see it for what it was, raw information. She then began to expand the chair, with a heavy grunt as she willed it to expand to fit her. It got a few feet taller, before she let out a frustrated sigh. But, Laurien then shifted her body, making it slightly smaller, and then sat down upon the chair, letting Laven lay on top of her. ”Will that get easier?” she asked.

”Maybe. Divines as creatures are vastly different from one another. Some may not even be able to achieve the level of creativity required for finer reality manipulation, but may be stronger in the usage of their range of other abilities. Personally, I’m not a combatant. I’m quite sure I’m physically the weakest among the Gods, but I can do things like this and recreate electricity within my own home.”

Laurien stroked Laven’s head as she listened, the foreas girl curling up into a ball on top of her. ”I see. Well, guess I’ll just have to find out what else I can do, in time.” she mused.

”Of course. I could probably make us both dry right now, but I find doing things like a mortal would to be more satisfying, don’t you think? Breathing, eating, sleeping...”

”I was mortal yesterday… It all feels so surreal. But yes, it is nice.” she lulled.

Silence fell upon them, but it was a comfortable silence, in which one could relax and watch the world move leisurely. And so they watched the Heliopolis slowly move through the skies and out of the corner of Laurien’s eyes, a small snake of fire could be seen, slithering towards her…




Absolution





The dark clouds above the Maelstrom loomed ominously in the air as Kalmar approached the churning water. He had sprinted across the ocean on foot and had now reached his destination. All the while, meteors had continued to fall, and all he could do was hope that those he was leaving behind could hold out until the crisis was stopped.

He had expected opposition, but so far there was none. There was nothing stopping him from simply flying up into the black clouds that would take him to Veradax, and that felt odd. Surely a gateway with a set location should have some sort of defense?

He stood upon the edge of the whirlpool, and stared up at the clouds for only a few moments, until a meteor struck the water nearby and sent up a colossal torrent of foam and spray. Every moment he wasted was another moment in which Galbar was assailed by meteors, and so he had to act. He flew upward, intent on passing through the gateway.



The moon loomed overhead as he ventured up, but slowly he began to realize that he was not alone after all. Tiny white motes flooded down through the gateway in droves of thousands. Outwardly, they looked harmless as could be, but his divine senses saw through this disguise and showed their true colors. They were capable of decaying souls.

Kalmar shook his head in disgust. Orvus had once claimed he wished to decay every soul in existence, and at the time it had seemed mad, but now? If these weren’t stopped, then such an outcome was entirely possible. He increased his speed. Ever careful to avoid the motes, he sped into the place where all things forgotten go, with a hollow sense of foreboding. The Gateway shot him out above the plains of grey dust, littered with remnants of fledgling societies. Broken stone, torn tents, and the hum of stellar decay fell before him.

In the far distance, a beam of light shot up into the air, and upon closer inspection- It was the motes. Where he would find answers, but closer, was a dimly lit fire, settled amidst ruins.

Smoothly, he pulled his bow from his shoulder and slid an arrow from his quiver, nocking it in place on the bow’s string. The arrow was well-made, fletched with the feathers of a Gardener and tipped with coldforged ice. Taking care to be aware of his surroundings, he advanced toward the fire.

It did not take him long to reach the ruins. It looked vaguely familiar, Azuran in design. Nestled in a small courtyard was the fire, just a piece of burning wood. More alarming were the figures who surrounded it. Perched above in the nooks and crannies of fallen pillars, were what was once gardeners. Now they had hollow, white eyes, their plumage was black and dotted with stars and they stared at him emptily. Surrounding the fire itself, were malnourished forms of the same color, but stood upon two feet. They turned to look at Kalmar as well, their faces and eyes, empty and black, arms outstretched to the flame, as if they were trying to feel something. Their ears… They were pointed.

He stopped, and he winced. Then anger filled his stomach, and he breathed deep. With a calmness he did not feel, he raised the bow, drew the string back, and released.

The arrow pierced straight through the chest of a gardener, but then Kalmar waved a finger and it changed course to the next one, then the next. They did not fight back, or try to flee and they never stopped staring. Once all the Gardeners had dropped, the arrow then moved on to the humanoid figures, striking them down one by one, before coming to a stop in the chest of the last. There was hardly any recognition for what it had witnessed.

“I’m sorry,” the Hunter whispered, nocking another arrow. Then he took flight and carried on. It was time to find the source. As he flew towards the beam, he noticed dotting across the land, many more figures, but there was no time to waste now and he sped on. Eventually, the beam was only noticeable by the faint white glow touching the sky, as a valley of mountains overtook the view. Conveniently, a passage between the mountains became clear as he approached. He could either fly over, or go through it.

Kalmar opted for the former, levitated himself higher, and continued on. He passed over the top of the peak after several moments, the beam becoming visible once more, but it’s source, still a mystery. He pressed on, the quietness a stark reminder of the nature of Spheres. The beam drew closer, and he could see the extent of the motes that were flooding into Galbar, they seemed to be legion, and at last, he found the source. Dipping down into the valley, he could see a black tree crackling with energy, impaled upon it… Was Orvus.

It was a gruesome fate. One that Kalmar would not even wish upon his worst enemy, which Orvus had once been. And now it was clear that Orvus was not behind this, for why would anyone, even he, subject themselves to such a thing? Kalmar couldn’t help but feel a shred of sympathy for the god he once wanted dead.

He set himself on the rocky ground, and walked forward. Orvus did not move. Nothing appeared to challenge him. He couldn’t help but feel like this was a trap, yet he could see the power being drawn from Orvus, and so he was the key to stopping this crisis. He came to a stop before the tree, and reached for Orvus’s legs, intending to pull the god loose.

Before he could touch Orvus, the god’s eyes shot open and he looked down upon the hunter. “You…” he began weakly. “Should… Run…” before he turned his attention behind Kalmar. Almost at the same time, there was the sound of something large landing behind him.

Kalmar nodded slowly. Then, with divine speed, he wheeled around and loosed an arrow.

The arrow distentagrated before a dark mass of smoke. Staring at him were only scarlet eyes, and then the laughter started. Hollow and empty, and fleeting like the wind. “Welcome to Veradax, Kalmar. You once made Orvus a promise. Have you come to complete it?” it said.

Kalmar said nothing. He cast his bow aside, and then, in his now empty hand, a blade of coldforged ice appeared, as he gave the Avatar a grim stare.

“No answer… Very well.” the Avatar said, as two blades of Orvium appeared in both of it’s hands. “I will get you to scream yet.” it said, before in an unbelievable burst of speed, was before Kalmar, bringing the blades down.

With unnatural speed of his own, Kalmar sidestepped the attack, allowing the twin swords to slam into the barren earth beside him. Before Abraxas could bring the weapons back up, Kalmar then stepped onto the Avatar’s wrist and launched himself upward at Abraxas’s face.

The avatar’s aura exploded around him, and from his face, came a beam of red energy right towards Kalmar. The God of the Hunt had no choice but to abandon his attack, darting to the left as he changed course mid-lunge. But the red beam still grazed his shoulder, and pain ripped through him. Still, he did not relent, and instead went for another attack, lunging toward the Avatar’s side.

It’s aura did not relent as it twisted to face him, but for some reason, the avatar did not go for a block, instead allowing Kalmar to stab him with the blade, as he laughed. In an instant, his aura constricted itself, before exploding outwards again.

Kalmar was flung backward. He willed himself to come to a stop, and then looked at the coldforged blade, which was now nothing more than a hilt with a broken blade. The rest of the sword remained embedded in Abraxas’s chest. He dropped the now useless weapon, pulled a fistful of coldforged arrows from his quiver, and then while veering to the side he began flinging them in a torrent, as if they were darts.

Several hit the avatar, and he stopped laughing, before he fired another beam of energy, destroying the rest as he targeted Kalmar again.

Kalmar dodged the blow, and then once again surged forward, the Knife of Friendship materializing in his hand as he attempted to plunge it into Abraxas’s chest.

The Avatar poised itself to attack the god, but at the last second, dropped both it’s blades and embraced Kalmar as he was stabbed, in a death grip. Despite the blade’s small size, Abraxas would still feel a painful sting, for it had been made to cut gods, and it drank at the Avatar’s ichor hungrily. Then it vanished, and there was another burst of pain next to the first wound. Kalmar was teleporting the knife from hand to hand and thrusting it into the god with blinding speed. Soon, there were dozens of wounds. All the while the Avatar’s aura attacked him, biting into divine flesh with ease.

The Avatar finally grunted and let go of the god, then flung itself backwards. It brought a hand to it’s chest, and looked upon it’s shadowy ichor that bled from the wounds. It then looked upon Kalmar intently.

Kalmar dropped to the ground, his breathing ragged, but he rose back up to his feet. “What do you think you’ll gain from any of this?” he asked in a low growl.

“Absolution.” the Avatar said, before leaning over placing a hand upon the ground. It looked at Kalmar, and then erupted from the lunar surface towards him like a comet.

Another Coldforged blade appeared in Kalmar’s hand, and the God of the Hunt leapt into the air above Abraxas’s head, swinging the sword in the Avatar’s path as it passed.

On a dime the avatar shot up to collide with the god, his speed blindingly fast. And collide he did, but not without another sword being rammed into his chest. Then, the Knife of Friendship reappeared in Kalmar’s hand, and the flurry of jabs began anew. But this time the avatar was prepared as it reeled from the new wound, it grabbed both of Kalmar’s arms and then swung him into the ground, his beam of energy whipping after Kalmar.

But before the beam could fire, Kalmar focused his Might, and his legs swung up to give the Avatar a mighty kick, with a force that was extraordinary even for a god. The shockwave of the blow kicked up dust and debris, as Abraxas was sent up and into the horizon.

With a groan, Kalmar rose to his feet and spat a glob of red ichor onto Veradax’s floor. He shifted his gaze to the tree where Orvus was impaled, and despite his aching bones began to run toward it. He pulled himself up the branches, then there was a flash of steel as the Knife appeared in his hand, and he began sawing through the branches which confined Orvus to the tree.

“Kalmar…” Orvus said weakly. “Thank… You…”

Kalmar said nothing, and with grim determination continued to saw, until at last the branch was cut and Orvus was falling to the ground.

The god fell, but the ground seemed to rise to meet him, and then brought him back down to the soil. He then reached for the tree, but was unable to reach it himself. “Kalmar… The… Tree…” he wheezed.

“How do I stop it?” Kalmar asked, landing next to him.

“Drag… Me…” he said weakly. And at those words, Kalmar reached under Orvus’s shoulders and pulled him closer to the tree. The god then placed his hand upon the bark, and it’s hum began to die down, until the last mote left the tree. It then stood eerily silent and Orvus began to heal slightly.

“It’s… Done…” he said exhausted.

“There’s still Abraxas to deal with,” Kalmar said. “Can you fight?”

“No. Not yet. Just be pre-” his words were cut off by a loud explosion. He pointed to see a large asteroid colliding with mountain overhead. Chunks of large rock began to fall in the clearing, threatening to crush them both. One such rock nearly landed on them both, but Kalmar caught it, groaning as the weight brought him to one knee. Only when the rest of the rocks had stopped falling did he throw it away.

And then the Avatar was on him, sending a punch at his jaw that seemed to cut the very air itself. Kalmar’s head snapped back, and teeth skittered across the ground. “Go!” he spat toward Orvus, as he rose to his feet and the Knife once again reappeared.

Orvus rose to his feet, holding his chest as his wounds began to heal up. The god stood defiantly, but did not run as Abraxas lashed out with his aura at Kalmar directly.

Kalmar retreated, leaping back just out of the aura’s range. The bow which he had previously cast aside lay nearby, and it flew to his hand. “Who… are you?” he coughed as he nocked an arrow.

“The end.” it spat, before whipping an arm around to send Orvus flying as it faced Kalmar again. Kalmar loosed the arrow, and just as quickly had another nocked, as he began to release his remaining projectiles at a rapid speed.

The first arrow turned to ash before the aura of the avatar, but the second and third hit in the upper chest and this time, it did not shrug off the attacks. It tumbled once, then twice, before using that momentum to rocket itself at Kalmar, a fist raised high to strike him.

It was then that Kalmar took notice of an item lying between them, and he rushed forward to meet the attack, only to drop low and slide at the last possible point. Time almost seemed to slow, as his hand closed around one of the orvium blades that Abraxas had discarded, and then thrust it upward to shear through the passing Avatar.

There was a terrible silence, before the thing roared in agony as it’s body slid across the lunar surface. It lay still for a moment, before trying to move itself, but there was only an attempt made in vain. Orvus finally sat up from where had been discarded and looked on at his avatar with a sense of relief.

Kalmar, however, did not believe the threat was over. Shouldering his bow, and reversing his grip on the sword, he leapt toward the Avatar, intent on plunging the blade through the back of Abraxas’s skull.

In the middle of his jump, the avatar did something unexpected. It twisted its head around to see Kalmar, a dark vigil upon it’s smokey face, and in that moment, the sword he had been holding, exploded. Orvus began to yell.

Kalmar had no choice but to close his eyes, as his face and arm were assailed by jagged shards of black metal, which cut at his flesh. Only one eye had been blinded, but by the time he opened the other one he was nearly upon the Avatar... and he had no weapon.

By that time, the avatar had risen again, and grabbed Kalmar by the throat, slamming him into the ground, over and over again. Deep craters were left in the ground, but each time there was less of a blow. Kalmar attempted to call the Knife back to his right hand, only to realize he no longer had one.

Something dark and fast whipped into view, slamming into the avatar. It dropped Kalmar to balance itself, as it turned to face Orvus. But the avatar simply laughed. “Please!” it grumbled as it threw a punch at Orvus, only for the god to catch it. But then Abraxas brought his other hand up, slamming into Orvus’ underside and the God flew a ways with such force, he left a trail of broken rock as he came to a halt.

The avatar then turned to face Kalmar again, and he went to pick him up. A familiar glint of metal appeared in Kalmar’s remaining hand, and the Hunter lashed out at the approaching arm.

He found his mark, right in the palm of the avatar. The thing recoiled and growled, then began a barrage of stomps and punches down into the crater that Kalmar was in. He did his best to fend them off, cutting and blocking, but he only had so many hands. Then one stomp pinned his wrist. Kalmar attempted to kick the Avatar off of him once more, but could no longer muster the energy. With a yell of frustration, he attempted to sink his remaining teeth into the Avatar’s ankle.

His teeth found their mark, and so to did the avatar’s aura, which began to flow into Kalmar. Kalmar continued to resist, biting harder, attempting to pull his hand free, and even resorting to punching with his bleeding stump. He was not sure how long it went on, but as time passed and the pain increased, his efforts became weaker and weaker.

The avatar finally shook him free and with a grunt, pinned his arms to his chest as he picked him up and squeezed. He then climbed out of the crater and made his way to the Mar Tree. “I will admit… You put up a fight… But in the end… I am inevitable,” the avatar breathed. ”And now… You… Will… Die.”

It came to a stop, and then wrenched it’s arm back, before plunging Kalmar forward upon a branch of the Mar Tree. A scream was torn from Kalmar’s lips as the black branch burst through his chest. Even then, Kalmar did not give up, grabbing the branch and attempting to pull himself free, inch by agonizing inch.

The avatar then drew in close, headbutting Kalmar before grabbing his throat. “Your ichor… Is mine,” it said, before the avatar opened his mouth, and began to pull Kalmar’s divinity into himself.



The sight of the world before Arae after exiting the Dragon’s Crown left her in a shocked silence. Meteors raining from the sky, and strange white motes that seemed to harbor a dangerous element within them. More importantly, though, was that Arae could sense Orvus’ divine energy within them. Arae’s worst suspicions were starting to become reality. That new entity that had come from him, Abraxas, was most likely the cause. If that was the case, then he had to be stopped. Arae shot towards the direction of the Maelstrom, intending to go there and put a stop to it. With any luck, the other gods would not sit back and let Galbar be destroyed either.

When Arae reached the Maelstrom, she found it odd that it seemed strangely calm. She had vague memories of it being fiercer than this when she had gone through it last time, and hoped that it wasn’t a bad sign. But then the storm spoke, and the reason for its calm became clear.

“Arae.”

Two orbs of lightning and a face of cloud appeared before the draconic goddess, a calm in the storm surrounding her as she flew deeper. There were also no motes within the calm. “Do you also seek Orvus to cease this desolation?”

Arae recognized this divine energy, at least by what her senses were telling her. “Ashalla! Glad to see I’m not the only one here,” Arae exclaimed with pleased surprise. “But it’s not Orvus that’s doing this, at least not directly. There’s a being called Abraxas that’s using Orvus’ power. I couldn’t find much else about this being, but he’s definitely intent on causing chaos in Galbar. Kalmar’s inside fighting him now; we should aid him as soon as we can.

“Kalmar?” There was a pause. “Yes, I can taste his trail. If Kalmar is fighting this… Abraxas, then we had better make haste.”

The wind carried Arae faster. The clouds of the storm grew darker until they were almost pitch black, with flashes of scarlet occasionally illuminating the clouds. They soon reached the centre of the storm, Veradax looming overhead in the eye of the storm. They flew upwards, and suddenly they were no longer gazing up at Veradax, but up at Galbar. Around the two goddesses stretched out an endless plain of grey dust.

From the Gateway behind Arae poured out dark clouds. A storm of titanic proportions poured into Galbar, weighed down heavily by water. The storm spoke, “A being using Orvus’ power - likely an Avatar. This makes sense. Abraxas would share Orvus’ essence, which would explain why I could not sense any other divine trails where Orvus had been wounded.”

Arae grimaced. Short of another god, an Avatar was about the worst thing a god could face. This would not be easy, but hopefully with three divine beings, they would defeat Abraxas. “This way,” Arae said, following Kalmar’s familial trail. From this direction also flowed a stream of corruptive motes.

As the goddesses flew, Arae could spot below the remains of the fallen Vallamir. From the looks of their wounds, it seemed like Kalmar was their slayer. It pained Arae to see them in such a state, but could tell it had to be done. In any case, there was no time for grief right now. She returned her focus on the task ahead and continued onwards.

The billowing storm which was Ashalla trailed behind Arae, squalls flitting about her form. There was a rumble, then Ashalla asked, “Are you aware that Orvus had been grievously wounded some time ago?”

...Yes,” Arae said dejectedly. “I did.” She did not know what to say after that, and any excuse would sound hollow.

“Do you think Abraxas inflicted the wounds?” Ashalla asked.

Arae glanced at Ashalla, then back in front of her before answering, “No. The one who did that was Laurien, Orvus’ daughter. Her attack was most likely what caused Abraxas to be born.

There was a peal of thunder and the great cloud trembled. “A mortal wounded Orvus?!” roared Ashalla’s voice like nature’s wrath.

I visited Laurien not too long ago, and found a blade at her side, likely forged with Orvus’ power,” Arae explained. “I guessed it to be the weapon that wounded him, and cursed it appropriately. Laurien has been given her punishment, and all I can hope for her now is that she finds peace of mind and forgiveness at the end of her journey.

“She still lives? I would have destroyed her for such blasphemy.” There was a huff. “No matter. Laurien has been punished for her hubris. Neither she nor another mortal shall underestimate the gods, if your punishment was adequate.”

Arae was about to say something when a scream pierced the air. Arae’s eyes widened, fearing the worst: that Kalmar had fallen. “The time for discussion is over,” Arae said, trying to fly even faster. It wasn’t long before they reached the Mar Tree, and what they found only confirmed what she had suspected. Impaled on an orvium branch was Kalmar, mutilated and bleeding. His head was slumped, he did not seem to be awake, and his weakened aura was the only indication that he was even still alive. In front of Kalmar stood an imposing figure of writhing black shadows and crackling scarlet energy, Kalmar’s ichor being sucked into his maw.

No… NO!” Arae exclaimed, her mind consumed by rage as she flew just above Kalmar and Abraxas before dropping down towards them. She opened her mouth and unleashed a stream of fire, directed right at Abraxas.

In a flash, the avatar flew backwards and away from the flame. As he did so, his wounds began to close and another laugh ripped through the air. "Have you come to die as well?"

A searing white flash engulfed the scene as a bolt of lightning arced from the great storm which was Ashalla to Abraxas with an explosive CRACK. “Cease, Abraxas,” commanded the thunder.

Abraxas was flung backwards and grumbled something unintelligible before pulling himself to his feet with a snarl. "I was wondering if you would show up, Ashalla," and then with a pull of his arms, a great storm of scarlet lightning came to confront her.

Ashalla billowed forwards and reached out with a limb of cloud. The desolate lightning arced to her form, but when she seized the storm it twisted and contorted under her will. Then another bolt of bright white lightning struck down at Abraxas, followed by the scarlet electricity of Abraxas’ storm following the new path to earth.

The avatar was struck and howled with pain before being flung out of the way and into the side of the mountain walls. Stone and dust rose from the crater. Before it could settle, a beam of red energy struck forth and into the storm that was Ashalla. The beam penetrated deep into her clouds, and while it surely did some harm Ashalla did not express it. Out from the clouds, above the beam, flew a large chunk of ice, hurtling in an arc at Abraxas.

With a resounding crack the ice hit, and shattered against the rock wall, its target missed as the Avatar used his speed to dive forward. Then he slammed a fist into the ground and all across the valley floor, small spikes of orvium rose from the ground, then were cast into the storm cloud, where each one exploded. The explosions thundered through the cloud. Rapidly the cloud contracted inwards, retreating from the spikes, and condensed into an enormous globe of water directly above Abraxas. Lightning arced down at the Avatar as Ashalla fell.

The lightning hit its mark and the Avatar lit up as he was electrocuted, but he did not fall to his knees. The base of Ashalla froze into a broad icy spike moments before crashing down on Abraxas with her titanic weight. The Avatar was crushed within a blink of an eye. No sound came forth from under Ashalla, but the aura of Desolation exploded forth. Ice was disintegrated around Abraxas, but more spikes of ice shot out within the new void aiming to run the Avatar through. It became a battle of wills, as both pushed themselves harder to avoid the damage the other would cause.

While Ashalla battled the avatar Abraxas, Arae had turned her attention to Kalmar. She had pulled away from the fight, her rage dissipated after getting Abraxas away from Kalmar, and was now looking over him with concern. “Kalmar?” Arae asked as she pulled him off of the Mar Tree, laying him down on the ground. “Kalmar, speak to me. Are you alright?” She summoned a few flames of the hearth, having them circle Kalmar in an attempt to accelerate his healing. Strong squalls threatened to blow them out, so Arae coiled her body around Kalmar to keep them protected.

Kalmar only offered vague, unintelligible mutterings in response. The bleeding stopped, and most of his wounds were sealed. His body, however, remained limp. His arm was still a stump, and his right eye was still blinded. He had lost too much ichor, and his soul was badly damaged. All the hearth flames could do was stop him from declining further.

Arae’s healing was too weak, and she knew that. Kalmar would not recover from such a meager attempt, not from this level of damage. Her mind raced furiously as she tried to figure out what to do. She wasn’t sure how long Ashalla could keep Abraxas at bay, and she doubted she herself would fare any better. They would need the aid of another of their siblings.

An idea sprang to mind. Orvus! If he was still around, then surely he would aid them. After a cursory look around, Arae managed to spot his familial trail, which led to the sight of his body partially buried in a pile of rocks. He didn’t appear to be moving either, which meant he would need aid as well. Arae looked back at Kalmar, then at the hearth flames that were stabilizing his condition. Arae concentrated, condensing them together and molding a stone pit to place the resulting ball of fire into. Hopefully, it would be enough of a defense from the winds.

Arae uncoiled herself and launched herself towards Orvus, flying over to him as quick as she could. Once she had landed, Arae gave him a quick look over and determined that he was not too injured. At the very least, it wasn’t at the critical condition Kalmar was in. Arae swept away the rocks and lifted Orvus up, placing him on her back. Then she proceeded to fly him back to the campfire and placed him nearby, where he could more easily recover. “Orvus, we need you. Please wake up,” Arae gently urged Orvus as she patted his face a few times, hoping he could hear her. The winds continued to buffet their location, but Arae continued to endure. The flames flickered under the winds as well, but continued to burn.

The god’s eyes slowly opened, and Orvus looked about in a daze, his eyes settling upon Abraxas and Ashalla fighting, and then to Arae and finally to Kalmar. A pained look fell across his eyes as he tried to stand, but only managed to sit up. “Kalmar... “ he said before looking at Arae, “I’m sorry… This is all my fault.”

...Just recover for now. We can talk about that later.” Arae said, conflicted. Now that Arae could get a proper examination of Abraxas in relative safety, she could see things about him that were hidden from Spekatha. Abraxas was a malevolent being. He cared naught for the variety of life that filled Galbar, and seemed more interested in causing… well, desolation, the very trait that Orvus rejected from himself. Arae could not say that it wasn’t Orvus’ fault because she wasn’t sure if that was true. “You need to get your strength back so we can subdue Abraxas.

Orvus shook his head. “There will be no subduing this hate, Arae. I have lived long enough to see my evil come full circle and I say… No more. An avatar is but an extension of the god who made it, willingly or not… Remove the god… And what is left? For Kalmar’s sake… For Galbar’s sake… Godhood… Does not suit me.” he said, standing to his feet. “I know what I have to do…” he said.

Orvus…” Arae said, wanting to dissuade him from his choice, but knowing that his mind was made up and that there was nothing she could do. Reluctantly, she allowed him to pass.

As Orvus approached the two battling divinities, he struggled in the wind of the battle. Abraxas had finally managed to pull himself free from Ashalla, and in a blink he was skyborn, with an Orvium blade in his hand. His eyes glowed like scarlet coals as he watched Ashalla. From behind him came many objects in the far distance. Abraxas then flew at Ashalla, as fast as he could go, over and over again, cutting and slicing her watery form, as shallow as those cuts were. Ashalla shot a lightning bolt at Abraxas, but he outraced the lightning leaders. As Abraxas approached another time, clouds suddenly billowed out from her and shrouded her form. The clouds provided no resistance to Abraxas’ charge, but then suddenly out of the cloud loomed a solid wall of ice directly in Abraxas’ path.

He stabbed the wall with the sword, then used his momentum to push off and as he did, looked back and sent from his maw a beam of energy. It did not not hit the wall, but the sword, which then promptly exploded in a great inferno of destruction. The ice shattered, and was promptly absorbed back into the storm.

Unbeknownst to the two fighting, Orvus was sent flying back a ways by the explosion and realized he could not get any closer. He sank to his knees, and outstretched his hands on either of his sides.

The storm cloud which was Ashalla had expanded considerably around Abraxas, and the Avatar found himself flying through a flurry of sharp and heavy shards of ice. As the avatar was assaulted by the ice, it screamed in pain.

It was then that the meteors arrived, pelting Ashalla as they came down in fiery explosions. Most were tinged with orvium. Ashalla looked up at the incoming projectiles, then rapidly contracted and froze into a hard dome of ice flush with the ground. The explosions around her washed over her and debris scattered off her.

In those moments when Ashalla had receded, the legion of squalls which had formed from the energies of their battle closed in on Abraxas. The squalls swarmed the avatar, before he quickly exploded into a smoky ball of destruction. Those who were about him were snuffed out of existence, and then the avatar mutated some of the squalls, who then began to attack their brethren while the largest of asteroids hurtled towards Ashalla.

Ashalla knew her current defence would not hold up to a direct strike. In an instant she melted and flooded across the lunar surface like torrential rapids, evading the asteroids as they slammed into Veradax, and drawing closer to Abraxas. There was a flash of white in what could have been watery eyes, and a bolt of lightning arced between the squall-storms, Abraxas and the ground. The Avatar flew up instantly, then opened his maw to attack Ashalla, a beam of scarlet searing her form.

Meanwhile, between the squabbling of storms, Orvus sighed. A tear, like so long ago, fell upon the lunar surface and in that moment he thrust both his hands into his healing wound, and pulled it open. There was a scream from Abraxas, who then went ballistic and charged towards Orvus. Yet Ashalla would not let the Avatar. Ashalla reared up in front of Abaraxas, an imposing wall of dark clouds and floating hunks of ice. Abraxas tried to force his way through Ashalla to get to Orvus, but lightning crackled at Abraxas nearly continuously and a mighty pseudopod lashed out at Abraxas to engulf him. The Avatar roared defiantly as he was overcome, water pouring into the pseudopod faster than Abraxas’ aura could destroy it. Then Orvus expelled from his body a mass of black and white swirls that shot off instantly into the void. The God, now mortal, fell upon his back and looked up into the sky as Veradax began to calm.

Within her pseudopod, Ashalla felt Abraxas’ desolate aura falter. The Avatar thrashed futilely against her divine strength. Two orbs of lightning in the storm stared down at Abraxas, and a voice like thunder decreed “Cease.”

The pseudopod froze around Abraxas and crystallised into multiple spikes which skewered Abraxas from all angles with a sickening squelch, spraying out dark ichor. The frozen end of the pseudopod dropped to the ground and shattered, leaving the mutilated corpse to lie in the dust.

The ice and water dissipated into the cloud, which was noticeably smaller and lighter than it had been when she arrived on Veradax. Ashalla billowed over to where Orvus lay. Rain fell about Orvus, and the rain asked, “You sacrificed your divinity. Why?”

He looked up at Ashalla as his blood flowed again. Weakly he murmured, "Ashalla… I am tired of this… I don't… I don't think you… Will ever truly understand… And that's okay..."

Ashalla huffed. Then a pseudopod reached down from the cloud, wrapped around Orvus and picked him up gently. Ice froze around Orvus’ wounds, slowing the flow of blood - not ichor. She carried Orvus over to Arae’s fire and laid him down beside it.

"Home… Please…" he said softly.

Arae walked over to Orvus, returning to her human form and placing his head on her lap. “Orvus… you fool,” Arae said, concerned more than ever about his well-being. Arae wasn’t sure how long the ice on his body would hold back the blood, but she couldn’t imagine it would enough to heal him.

Arae concentrated, dipping into her reserve pool of energy. She held her hands just above Orvus’ chest, pouring energy into it. The ice began to melt, and the resulting water was pushed out as the wound began to fill itself and close up. Soon, the wound was gone, leaving behind a scar. “There,” Arae sighed. “You’ll be fine now, Orvus, though I still recommend you rest up and recover properly. I only healed your wound, not your blood loss.

A look of relief washed over Orvus as he sat up. "Thank you, Arae." he sighed, then looked to Kalmar. "What of him? Will he make it?"

I don’t know,” Arae sadly shook her head. “It is one thing to heal your wounds and stop the bleeding, but Kalmar’s injuries are something else entirely. They’re beyond my capability to heal. I don’t know if he can recover from this, if it’s even possible at all.

"No…" he said sadly. "This is all my fault. If I had just seen that she was in distress…" his voice faltered and went silent.

"We need to get to the Eye." he finally said.

The Eye?” Arae blinked. “What will we find there?

"My family… They should still be there, right?" he asked, looking to Arae.

I suppose we shall find out,” Arae said, transforming back into her dragon form. “Get on, and put Kalmar on my back as well. We have a long journey ahead of us.

A pseudopod reached down from the cloud which was Ashalla and wrapped around Kalmar. A thick layer of ice froze around Kalmar, chilling Kalmar’s body. Ashalla picked up the frozen Kalmar and put him on Arae’s back. “That will preserve him for your journey.”

Orvus climbed up on Arae’s back, near the front and to where he could steady the Kalmar’s body. Orvus then looked to Ashalla. “Thank you, for everything.” he said forlornly.

“You are welcome, Orvus,” said a voice like a river.

As Arae took off, flying back towards the Gateway, Ashalla cast her gaze upwards to look upon the blue and green orb which was Galbar. Occasional lines of fire streaked through its atmosphere, and the desperate prayers of terrified mortals rose up to the gods. Although Abraxas was dead, his plans for desolation were not over.




Something else was on its way to Galbar as well. The divine power that was Orvus was in a battle. The white swirls wanted nothing more than to be whole with its other half, but the dark swirls only wanted one thing, and that was freedom. So they struggled, and fought in the depths of space until they tumbled into the great Blue. It was there, at the top of the world, they split into two orbs. One of white, the other of dark. They looked at each other one last time, before going their separate ways.

The end… Was only the beginning.




Tears and Rain





She knelt in front of a puddle, staring down at her reflection. The person who gazed back up at her, was someone only vaguely familiar. She felt broken and lost and afraid. Leaving her children behind… Was like leaving a piece of her soul behind. They grounded her, they made her feel loved and she loved them so much… But for their own safety, she had to leave them. She had to. It was the only way, even if it felt wrong.

She felt so tired. Even more so than ever before. She had flown for a day, crossing into the shrubland of the deserts edge, watching as the world around her came crashing down. She realized, after the meteors didn’t stop, that Abraxas was the culprit. Who else would it have been? No… He was trying to destroy the world. Yet she couldn’t find it in her to care about that. All she could do was run… Just like Arae had wanted.

Arae. The family goddess, who tore families apart. It was ironic.

But Arae was only one god who she was mad at. It all came back to Li’Kalla.

Li’Kalla had opened the oldest wound she had, and because of that, she sought validation for everything after. It was not, she realized, her fault. But the Goddesses. Yet she still… She still wanted to be loved by her. She didn’t know why.

And as she wandered through the shrubland, the sun beating down upon her, she thought of Li only and Silver.

Hours passed. At noon, when the heliopolis was at its strongest, a lonely, pure white cloud passed overhead and shielded Laurien from the blinding, burning light. There, from a crack in the cloud, a figure erupted. Steam trailed behind it beautifully, turning into drops of water that reflected small rainbow halos each. The figure approached, flapping its great white wings gracefully.

Laurien froze.

As the figure landed a few meters in front of Laurien, there was no mistaking her. The beautiful Goddess Li’Kalla was there, looking at her with icy gray eyes.

Slowly her expression went from anger to sadness as Laurien fell to her knees before the Goddess, exhausted as she was. She looked up at her with tears beginning to flow. ”W-Why are you here…? I-I didn’t pray…” she said in a shaky voice.

Li’Kalla looked at the cloudy sky above them, then back down at Laurien and sighed, closing her eyes. With her eyes still closed, the Goddess walked up to Laurien, knelt down in front of her and embraced her in a gentle hug. After a short moment, she patted the back of Laurien’s head and guided her face onto her shoulder. “There, there.”

The sudden display of affection was something Laurien did not think would ever be possible, but she did not push the Goddess away, nor make any attempt to fight. She simply let herself be held as she cried. Eventually she asked, ”A-Are you going to p-punish me too?”

”Why would I, Laurien?” Li’Kalla asked softly.

”Because I stabbed Orvus.” she whispered.

”Ah,” Li’Kalla leaned back and broke the embrace, ”Did he not kill your lover after sending you away from her?”

”Yes.” she said softly, wiping away her tears. ”Arae came… After ten years… And she cursed me and I had to leave my… My children.”

Li’Kalla raised her eyebrows and tilted her head, ”Children, huh? I thought you were- Nevermind,” The Goddess sighed again, ”One would expect a Goddess of Families to try to keep families together. And to think I invited her to a sleepover... Oh well, would you like for us to go pick up your children?”

”You… You would do that?” she said, her eyes misty again.

”Of course, offspring are the most important thing in our lives. It is what gives us strength to move on. A mother should never have to unwillingly leave her children behind.”

”Where would you take them?” she asked.

”Them? I will be taking you and your children to the settlement my Faithful have been developing for the past ten years. You will find sanctuary there from the conceited, inefficient Gods of this world, and enjoy the chance to truly find who you are without a Divine telling you what to do at every turn.” Li’Kalla puffed out her chest a little in pure pride for her own words.

”But my curse… I have to keep running. That’s what Arae demanded. I can never stay in one place for too long, else tragedy will strike. It’s why I left them behind…” she said sadly.

At this, Li’Kalla cracked a smirk. ”If the Goddess of Families is as efficient at placing curses as she is at protecting families, then finding a workaround should be no problem.”

Relief washed over Laurien’s face as she began to cry again. ”Thank you Li’Kalla… Thank you.”

Li’Kalla looked at Laurien for a while, then nodded and stood up, offering the woman a hand.

She took it graciously, dusting herself off after standing. She then stood a little straighter and composed herself before saying, ”I know the way.” she said, beginning to float up.

And soon they were soaring through the skies. The trip was mostly silent, so determined Laurien was to get to her children before some other Nebulite did. She hated herself for leaving them, when a solution had appeared so readily. She put them through so much in a span of weeks, how would they ever forgive her?

The flight to the city was shorter, with how fast she flew. There was no stopping and in a matter of a half a day, they reached the outskirts. It was much the same as she had left it, but rather empty. There was barely anyone outside, and she soon realized why. Motes of white hovered over the city. She flew closer to one and inspected it, and instantly knew just how dangerous the thing was.

She panicked and at once shouted. ”No no no!” before flying towards the upper city. Li’Kalla followed in silence, deftly avoiding any mote.

Laurien arrived at her home, just to see looters leaving through her doors. At the sight of her, they ran off into an alleyway, but Laurien did not care. She ran through the doors and screamed, ”ANDROMEDA! PHOSET!” only to be met with silence. She ran up the stairs, yelling for them as she went, but was met with only quiet. She arrived on her balcony to see the guards bodies gone… and it was there she broke down again.

”Arae must have taken them. Come on,” Li’Kalla said, ”We will draw up a plan to get them back, but first we have to go to your new home.”

As if in a daze, Laurien stood up and made her way to the door, following behind Li. Her heart was a mess… But if Arae had taken them… Then they would at least be safe, she hoped. ”Where will we go…?” she said dejectedly.

”As I said,” Li’Kalla cleared her throat and grabbed Laurien’s wrist, pulling her away from the empty building and taking flight. ”Your new home. Though, there are some conditions and rules you must follow to stay there for a prolonged time.”

She let herself be pulled. Eventually, as the city became small Laurien asked, "What are those?"

”There is no need to discuss them now. We will do so when you’re settled and recovered.”

And just like that, the city disappeared beyond the horizon and before they knew it, they found themselves over the vast oceans. Laurien said nothing during this time, far too lost in thought as she was and the newest loss hitting her hard. She had been so close, but it wasn't good enough. She looked at Li'Kalla from time to time, wondering what the Goddess was thinking, wondering why she was helping her. It didn't make sense… Or perhaps it did in a way. Perhaps...

Eventually the pair saw land on the horizon, and in that land over a large plume of steam they circled, then swooped down and landed gracefully on a balcony on a large Manor on top of a hill. There was a lot of fog that day, and it was only thanks to Li’Kalla’s godly senses that they found their way so precisely.

It wasn’t raining.

Li’Kalla shook her wings and furled them against her back, then walked inside, followed by Laurien. As they walked through dimly lit hallways, the Goddess spoke for the first time in hours.

”This is my home. You will choose a room to stay in. All the doors are locked, so the first door you try to open will unlock and become your room. Beware, this applies to recreation rooms so unless you enjoy sleeping on a billiard table you’d better stick to opening a door on the second floor, which is where we are right now.”

After the long flight, Laurien's mood had barely improved and she had no idea what a recreation room or a billiards table was, but nodded and said, "Second floor, got it."

”This Manor is like my own body, in a way, and I consider any and all uninvited entrances a violation of my trust. Therefore, do try to keep guests to a minimum, and give me notice when you intend to bring someone here. Otherwise, make yourself at home as my first true guest since I’ve recovered my body. You can find sustenance in the kitchen, as I’ve recently seen to it that the chiller be stocked with local flavours and ingredients. If you require complex meals, report to me and I shall get our best cook here. Do try to be self-sufficient, however...” Li’Kalla kept talking and laying down rules and guidance about her home as she led Laurien down a set of ornate stairs and into the main hall. A modest door to the side had light spilling out from underneath it. ”That’s the kitchen. Are you feeling hunger right now, Laurien?”

Though she barely had an appetite, her stomach grumbled slightly. "I could eat." she put simply.

Li’Kalla nodded and the door opened of its own accord, revealing a kitchen filled with strange, sleek appliances. The Goddess led Laurien to a stool on a counter and then moved over to the kitchen. She opened the fridge and pulled out two eggs and washed them in her sink before setting them to the side. She then went to the hob, pulled a pan and salt and pepper from a cabinet next to it and placed the pan on the hob. With a turn of one of the four knobs on the hob, fire was created under the pan. Li’Kalla couldn’t hide her smile and the little bouncing of her heels, and then when the pan had heated enough, she cracked the eggs and poured them into the pan.

They sizzled immediately, and she quickly added salt and pepper, then covered the pan with a lid.

A minute or two later, she opened the lid and the scent of fresh fried egg flooded the room. Satisfied with her handiwork, she turned off the flame and moved the eggs from the pan to a plate she’d prepared for Laurien, grimacing a little as a small piece of the eggs stuck to the pan.

She then took the plate, along with a fork, to Laurien and set it down in front of her, then sat down herself opposite to Laurien on the counter, glaring at her intently.

Laurien looked down at the food before and began to eat peckishly. After she chewed and swallowed she gave Li a small smile and said, "This is very good. Um… What is… All of this?" she asked looking around at all the oddities before taking another bite of the eggs.

”My home. Bits and pieces I remember that I’ve chosen to recreate here. I remember watching a maid cook two fried eggs for me as breakfast one day. I took the eggs out of the chiller, washed them in the sink, and cooked them on a pan on the hob. I added salt and pepper and then moved them to a plate. I am quite proud of my culinary achievement. I’m glad you find the eggs satisfactory. Do not burn your tongue, Laurien.”

She nodded with a mouthful, blinking at Li. Did the Goddess… Did she only know how to cook eggs? She mulled it over before swallowing. ”You should be very proud, they are very good and hit the spot.” she said again with a smile, which after having raised her eyebrows, Li’Kalla returned as she leaned forward over the counter, resting her arms on the surface.

”Thank you, Laurien. I also know how to cook some vegetables, like boiled carrots. What about you?”

She twirled her fork on the now empty plate and said, ”I learned some things, here and there when I stayed with the Dreamers. But nothing like what you have here.”

”I suppose these are all leftover pieces of technology from where I come from. I cannot remember the name anymore, but there were knights, I was royalty, and I wanted to be married to a strong, beautiful person. Well, since I’m here now I suppose that never happened.”

”Silver spoke of knights once…” Laurien said quietly, before looking at Li. ”I… I’m sorry. I don’t know what I’d do without you, and your hospitality, but I have to ask… Is she really gone?”

Li’Kalla furrowed her brow and sighed, ”Who knows? I don’t think so, at least. It depends on your definition of ‘gone’, I imagine.”

Laurien sat up straighter, her gaze more intent upon the Goddess. There was desperation in her voice now, ”Could you… Could you bring her back? She’s a part of you, isn’t she?”

”I’m afraid I haven’t-” Li’Kalla pursed her lips, then continued, ”I suppose she is.”

”Please.” Laurien said, getting up from her seat and going over to Li, she got on her knees. ”Please. I d-don’t have my kids… I-I don’t have a home… Silver could… I just wanted to say goodbye. Just… Just let me say goodbye. Please.” she said her voice breaking as she began to cry again.

Li’Kalla’s face twisted and she teared up. Turning away, she said, ”I-I thought we could...” She fell silent for a moment, and then turned to glare at Laurien with icy eyes, ”... Have it your way.” Li’Kalla’s skin seemed to crumble away and the cracks in her skin widened. From those cracks a bright light suddenly started seeping out, and Li’Kalla’s eyes rolled into the back of her head and the ends of her hair turned a reddish hue. Li’Kalla’s body shivered as it changed form, turning from the beautiful, refined, delicate Li’Kalla to the somewhat athletic body of Silver along with her rough hands and scarred arms.

It was then that the bright white gaze settled on Laurien, and tears began to well up in her eyes.

”S-Silver…?” Laurien cried, planting her head in the woman’s stomach as she wrapped her arms around her. ”I’m s-sorry. I’m so sorry. I should n-never have l-left.” she mumbled into her dress.

“Laurien…? What happened? Where am I? It’s been so long, I’ve missed you so much...” Silver asked, tears falling freely from her eyes as she gently and slowly caressed her fingers through Laurien’s hair.

She looked up at Silver. ”I’ve missed you too. So, so much.” she cried softly. ”I never got to say goodbye, chickadee. You… You died, remember? But now, now you live on again, in Li’Kalla! You got put back together… but…” her voice broke.

“Oh, right, I died, huh? I guess I hurt you by hitching a ride with the grim reaper’s carriage. It all seems so far away and still… I guess we made it? We took back the body and drove out the beast? Laurie…” Silver gasped, the white pupil-less eyes widening as she looked down and saw Laurien’s face nuzzle up against her stomach, “Laurie…! Laurie! You’re back! You’re back!” Silver repeated breathily, “I did it, you know! I stayed up late every night waiting for you to come home, no matter how hard the day was. Sometimes I thought you’d abandoned me, you know, maybe I wasn’t a good enough lover or you’d just forgotten about the lonely girl you met at your father’s farm, but here you are! You came back!”

Her face was a wash of emotion, a deep hurt broke across her face as she realized the sheer amount of sadness she cause Silver. ”N-No… I’d never abandon you. I was… I was just kept away and then Orvus told me… He killed you and I… I never forgot about you. I even… I even tried to avenge you. But you’re here now… And I can finally see you again.”

Silver’s tears dripped off her chin and nose onto Laurien. The red-haired girl sniffled and shook her head, “You make me feel so loved, Laurie… Reacting like this to not having seen me for just around one year. I-I thought for sure I was going to be the one bawling all over you.” She said with a shaky chuckle as she hugged Laurien’s head close.

”S-Silver… I-It’s been decades.” Laurien said. There was a stunned note in her voice, as she was surprised that Silver had no idea. To her… It probably felt like waking up for the first time, in a long time. She squeezed her a bit harder.

“Has it? Huh... “ Silver fell silent, absent-mindedly holding Laurien tighter.

Laurien pulled her head away to look up at her again. ”So many things have happened… I-I don’t even know where to begin…”

Silver’s skin took on a grey hue, and after Laurien pulled away, she wrapped her arms around herself, shivering as the cracks in her skin widened and at point, made it seem like her limbs would fall off. She doubled over, gagging and coughing, the white eyes growing dim and brightening randomly. Her form twisted and tried to change, and the veins beneath her crumbling skin seemed ready to burst with god blood.

“Uuggh…” She grunted lowly. In a split moment, she shifted on her seat and the stool tumbled and she fell to the ground where she began convulsing.

Laurien stumbled to her, placing her hands on her back in comfort. ”Silver! Silver! Listen to me.” she said quickly. ”I love you, so so much. Okay? I want you to know that. I-I…” her voice broke.

And just like that, Silver was still. She exhaled, and closed her eyes.

A blinding, suffocating light flashed in the room, and when the pure white light subsided, the body in front of Laurien was returning to its original form, that of the pure Goddess Li’Kalla.

”Li’Kalla! A-Are you alright?” Laurien asked.

Li’Kalla’s eyes shot open and she immediately took in a large breath and started gasping for air, her nails digging into the wooden floor and her wings spazzing out. That is, until she saw Laurien. At that point, she froze and composed herself. The cracks in her skin went back to normal, and she relaxed and stood up.

”Huh, did you manage to say goodbye?” Li’kalla said, picking up the stool and sitting on it again as if nothing had happened. But the almost imperceivable twitching of her right leg was hard to miss.

Laurien bowed her head before the Goddess. ”I… Did. At least… I tried too. T-Thank you for doing that your grace. It meant a lot to me.”

Li’Kalla shook her head, ”I will not do this again, it takes a great mental toll to awaken slumbering shards like Silver. I only did this because...” Li’Kalla’s eyes glazed over for a moment, before she perked up and raised an eyebrow, ”Yes, I only did this because you appreciated my cooking. It is natural that I would return the compliment with a selfless action, isn’t it?”

”Yes, it was very kind.” Laurien said, looking up at her. ”I-I think I’ll go pick out a room, with your permission of course.”

”Yes, go ahead. Remember the rules, Laurie...n.”

The girl blinked and a small smile fell on her lips, before she nodded and said, ”Thank you, Li’Kalla.” before taking her leave from the Goddess, who remained sitting alone in the kitchen. After a few minutes of lonely reflection, Li’Kalla walked to the window and looked at the bright falling star trailing across the sky. It was too close and luminous to be a part of Veradax, and the Goddess watched it closely. Eventually, she huffed and walked away deeper into her Manor.





Consquences





”Quickly Phoset, grab your things. Andromeda! Hurry darling.” Laurien said, rummaging through what was left of her belongings. The ones that hadn’t been burned, looted, or destroyed anyway. After the brief encounter with Karamir, and his escape, Laurien realized it was time to leave. If he survived… Even if he didn’t survive, someone would come looking for her. The man had been right about one thing, Abanoc would know, and he would spill her secrets.

Her children scampered about, getting their meager items and throwing them into sacks. They could only take so much after all, she just hoped it would be enough. She had her own sack of items, from a few gold pieces to clothing and food. There was no time for anything else, she hadn’t even notified the slaves about the bodies yet. Her paranoia had finally caught up to her.

“Mommmmmmy!” Andromeda whined, “Why are we leaving? I thought everything was safe?”

She turned to see both her daughter and son waiting in the doorway, their eyes large and innocent. ”Mommy… Mommy made a few mistakes, okay? And we have to go someplace far away, so we don’t get in trouble.” she said, shooing them downstairs.

“But I don’t want to leave.” Phoset complained.

”Pho, we don’t have a choice. I’m sorry. I know you like it here, but I promise, we’ll find somewhere new and great and we can start over.” she said, entering the garden.

“But what about Omni and Polly?” Andromeda asked. “Shouldn’t we get them too?”

”They’ll be okay. Do you remember Aster? Mommy’s friend? He’ll watch over them.” she lied. Aster lay dead on the balcony. She had no idea what the nobles would do to those children after they figured out she was gone. Nor did she care, they had to go. They passed the Pygmy and Dari girl, who cowered in a corner. Laurien gave them a side glance before saying, ”Go home, don’t ever come back.” Before leaving them to their own business. They walked to the front door and out onto the street.

Laurien bent down in front of them and said, ”Now… We are going to fly, okay? Can you both do that? If you get tired, tell me.” They both nodded silently, soft smiles on their lips. They loved flying. Laurien then stood up, and looked up into the sky. With sword on her back and her possessions in hand, she began to float off the ground. Phoset and Andromeda, began following.

A loud roar sounded off in the distance. From the horizon appeared a figure that was flying towards them extraordinarily quickly, and it was evident that despite the distance, it would close in on them soon. Laurien... The name rang in their heads menacingly, calling to them in a feminine voice. A few moments later, the creature caught up to them and began to slow down, circling them in the air. Its wings flapped occasionally to keep it aloft, its sky blue scales glittering in the sunlight, and perhaps would have been quite beautiful to watch were they not aware that they were in deep trouble. The serpentine dragon kept one eye on them at all times, particularly on Laurien. You have much to answer for, Laurien,” the voice rang again.

Andromeda and Phoset clung to Laurien’s legs as they watched the dragon circle them. They looked behind her with wide eyes and shaky bodies. Laurien did not go for her sword, her heart sinking in her chest as she realized who was before her. ”Holiness Arae… Please… Just let me explain…” she gulped, suddenly feeling very small.

The attempted murder of your father Orvus, the abandonment of your sister Arya, another attempted murder on Karamir… these are but a few of your crimes. What, praytell, is there to explain? Arae asked her.

”I… I…” she stammered, her heart beating through her chest. ”Please… He took Silver from me… He killed her and didn’t even let me say goodbye… He-he made me an errand girl for years to find someone who he could have found himself if he had just gotten over himself.” she said, beginning to cry.

“Mommy…?” Phoset said, grabbing her hand.

Your blame on Orvus for the death of Silver is unfair to him. Arae remarked. If I know him correctly, I’m sure he would’ve at least explained himself to you had you given him time. But you didn’t. In your grief, you tried to kill him.

”Unfair…? Was it unfair that she came back in the form of a person who wouldn’t even look at me? Who said we could never be together? Did you know that? Did you know that Li’Kalla lives again and that Silver is dead? How fair is that? How can you preach to me about what isn’t unfair when you did nothing when he attacked Phystene! Your sister! Or did you forget about that because I’m mortal and our crimes are more heavily weighed by you gods.” she said angrily. Phoset and Andromeda began to cry softly.

I did not go to Phystene when she needed aid, but that was because she already had it from other siblings. Orvus, though, was not so fortunate. When Orvus was still confused about his role in this world, and the rest of my siblings saw him as the enemy of Galbar, I was one of the few who met with him to help him. To keep him from causing harm to our siblings like that again, and guide him to a better path for himself. While he may have rejected me, the seeds were sown, and he found his path, Arae explained.

As for Li’Kalla and Silver... Arae went silent for a time, thinking about what to say as she received information from her Sphere. Finally, when she was sure of her info, Arae continued, Silver was a fragment of Li’Kalla, and made the choice herself to reunite with her other fragments and return to being Li’Kalla. Orvus may blame himself for letting Silver go, but he is not responsible for her fate.

And as for me… I will not deny that I have been a fool in the past, Arae admitted. I have made mistakes before, and will continue to make mistakes in the future. But those mistakes are ones I have faced and made my peace with. You, on the other hand… you chose to run. You ran away after nearly killing Orvus, and now you’re running away again. If this is the path you wish to take… then run. Forever.

Arae’s eye began to burst into flame. At the same time, a searing heat suddenly emitted from Laurien’s sword, and dissipated just as quickly. I assume that is the blade you used to wound Orvus. In that case, it is a cursed blade, and will be made as such. As long as you wield that blade, you shall always be on the run. Tragedy will strike if you aren’t.

Laurien began to laugh wildly. ”This is too surreal. You’re such a hypocrite.” Her demeanor then suddenly changed to anger. ”All of you gods are!” she screamed, her hands balling into fists. ”Of course you’d help him! But where was my help? Where were you? Another mistake huh? Now, to ease your guilty conscience, you curse me and my children. You’ll never understand! How could you even begin… No! No no no! This isn’t fair!” she growled again, her face contorted into rage. ”Go on then. Leave us to our fate, like all of you do.” she said as he children cried.

This pains me as much as it does you, Arae said glumly. Still, I will at least tell you this. This curse is yours alone to bear. It will not affect your children, as they are innocent from your crimes. If you wish to leave them, I will swear on my word as a Goddess that no harm will befall them.

Arae then began to turn and leave. While doing so, she left some parting words for Laurien, If you wish to break your curse, find peace within yourself. And go see Orvus when you do. Soon, she was but a mere speck in the distance, flying out of sight over the horizon as quickly as she came.

”Monster…” Laurien whispered as she watched the goddess leave. She suddenly deflated and floated back to the paved ground. It had all caught up to her… And now… She had to make the hardest decision of her life. She turned around to see Andromeda and Phoset, the two crying. Laurien gave them a small smile and wiped away their tears.

She voice was shaky as she spoke. ”Listen… Mommy… I have to go away.” she said crying. Their faces suddenly shattered and both gripped onto her.

“No no no! Mommy please, don’t go!” Phoset cried out, his small voice quivering.

“We’ll go with you! Please let us go with you!” Andromeda said.
Laurien shook her head. ”No babies… You could get hurt… I could get hurt and who would protect you? Running forever is no life. You’ll be safe here, I promise. Andromeda you need to be strong, for your brother. Phoset, listen to your sister, be good to each other. I’ll be back one day, I promise and we’ll be happy, okay?” she said softly beginning to stand up.

Phoset would not let go of her leg as he cried out for her to stay, prompting Andromeda to pull him off. Laurien looked down at them, her soft facade beginning to break. ”I love you. The both of you, so, so much. Okay?” before turning around and flying away. It was then, and only then, that she broke down completely as her heart shattered. And for once… The only person she could blame was herself.

Phoset and Andromeda cried out her name, but it was too late. She was not coming back. The two children were alone, like two sheep in a city of wolves. But at least they had a god protecting them… Right?

Up above, the first Meteor streaked across the sky.





Doron





Doron squirmed in the hug, desperately trying to escape his Mother’s grasp. “Mooooom! Lemme go already!”

”Let me just hold you one more minute.” came Rowan’s stern voice. He wiggled some more in her arms and then went limp as he let himself get kissed by his mother. He groaned and his mom finally let him go. Doron then bolted to the door, Rowan’s voice calling out, ”Be home for supper!” as the door closed behind him.

He ran down the steps with a grin on his face, and then headed towards the Vallamir houses. There was little time to waste after all! Engil would be waiting for him by now. And she’d give him grief for being late. With that in mind, he sped up.

He made it to their meeting spot, a lone tree overlooking the Mir houses. He did not see Engil anywhere, however. And he realized he beat her for once! Now it was his turn to scare her for once. He went over to the tree and hid behind it, peering out and down the dirt road to see if she was coming.

Leaves rustled and wood creaked behind him, and Doron turned to find himself face to face with an upside-down terrifying wooden face!

“Boo!”

Doron’s eyes went wide as he screamed and fell backwards.

“Hehehehe!” Laughed the monstrous being, until it lifted one of its hanging arms up to its face and lifted the… Mask, out of the way. A smirking, self-satisfied face was behind the wooden mask, baring her sharp fangs to the world and without the mask’s band to keep it in place, her shoulder-length jet black hair now hung limply. It was Engil, “That was a good one! Sis carved this yesterday and I knew I had to use it on you!” She said with a last giggle before hoisting herself up onto the low branch she’d been hiding on and looking down at Doron like a cat looking at its prey.

He felt his face grow hot, and he scowled at Engil. “Engil! Y-You didn’t scare me! I was just surprised is all. So stop laughing!” he said, getting up and dusting off his shorts.

“Pfft, sure,” Engil said with a roll of her eyes, “C’mon, you gotta admit I got you at least a little bit! Last time you screamed like that we had massive bugs chasing us. I swear I thought you were a girl for a moment and you had been lying to us the whole time!”

“I’m not a girl! Those bugs were just really big! I don’t like big bugs!” Doron protested, crossing his arms. “You’re one to talk anyways! You can’t even cross a stream without making a big fuss and that one time you fell in, you screamed like a baby!”

“H-hey!” Engil perked up and blushed, “The water was just really c-cold, okay! I-I wasn’t scared or anything, I’m not a baby, you baby!” Engil looked away and pouted, but after a while she chuckled. “So what you wanna do today Doron?”

Doron stared at the ground and kicked a stone before saying, “I dunno… Explore I guess?”

“All done! I found this awesome looking cave yesterday while you were helping with the farming. It’s got these shiny rocks inside so you can see where you’re going. Wanna go?”

He looked up with a giddy grin and shook his head up and down really fast. “Yeah! Where did you find it?” he asked excitedly.

Engil smirked again and swiftly jumped down from her perch, letting out a little gasp upon impact, “Near the place we got jumped by the insects. Egwyn wanted some insect shells for one of her thingies and I thought I’d find em there.”

Doron’s face instantly went blank and he gulped. “H-How near?” he said, standing up straighter.

Engil touched her chin and looked up in thought, “Ummm, bout a minute away walking? Scared?”

“N-No! I just… Just wanted to know! Come on, lead the way!” He said with anxiety in his voice.

“Okay, no walking though!” Engil said and took off running into the trees, showing off her agility and speed like she usually did.

Doron groaned as he took off after her. Engil was much faster than him, and she always won in a race. If only he could fly! “Hey wait up!” he called after her.

Of course, her way of waiting for him was just slowing down enough to remain at the edge of his senses so he could follow. “You’re taller than me, use your long legs to run faster you dork!” Her voice echoed through the forest.

"I'm not that much taller Engil!" Doron complained as he ran after her.

A few moments later, after a few twists and turns were taken, Doron broke out into a tiny clearing and saw Engil bouncing on the spot in front of the entrance to a deep, dark cave. She held her usual smirk as she turned to face Doron, “Okay! This is the cave. I thiiink it may be the home of the insects, y’know.” Engil said, her face suddenly turning serious and somber, “We might find huge ones, maybe the size of Old Man Rim. No scaredy geckos allowed.”

Doron cautiously approached, staring at the cave entrance before gulping. "Old Man Rim?" He said nervously. He looked up at Engil, his eyes wide. But there was something in her smirk that made his blood boil. She always thought of him as scared a baby, but it was time to show her who the real scaredy cat was! The boy stood up a little straighter, puffing out his chest and said sternly, "I'm not scared, lead the way."

“Good, now get glowy and lead the way! Last time I stumbled and scraped my elbow.” Engil said pridefully, “We should see some glowy mush-rooms in a bit.” And with that, she stepped aside and motioned toward the dark cave.

Doron hesitated slightly, before leading the way. Inside his soft glowing body illuminated the cave slightly, but did not go so far. It took a minute for his eyes to adjust and he looked behind to see if Engil was there and she was, jumping over a small depression in the ground and looking up to Doron with a chuckle. “Handy, I would like to glow too.”

“Yeah… It’s okay.” Doron muttered, looking forward. He thought he heard something skitter deeper in and his heart began to beat faster. “S-So how far in?”

“Just about… Now!” As soon as the word left her mouth, Doron’s soft glow illuminated a split in the cave, and deeper into that split there was a blue, neon glow in the rough shape of a cone. “There! See it? It’s one of the mushrooms!” Engil asked, excited.

Doron looked at it, then to Engil and smirked. He then traveled down the Split to get a closer look at it. “Why does it glow?” he asked, staring at it intently.

It was a weird thing. Its colors were nothing at all like a normal mushroom, and the neon patterns on it seemed to shift slightly. Engil pursed her lips and took a sniff of it, “I dunno, it smells like soil though. There were more last time I came around, too.”

“I wonder where the others are.” he mused, reaching out to touch it.

ZAP!

There was a bright light like that of a tiny lighting strike that lit up the room. “Ow!” Doron shouted, pulling away his hand as he shook it back and forth.

“What was that?! That was cool!” Engil asked with starry eyes, then immediately touched the mushroom as well.

ZAP!

“Oow!!” She immediately flinched away and looked at her hand.

“It shocked us!” Doron gasped. “That’s so cool.”

“But-” Engil made a confused face and inspected her palm closely, “My hand’s not red or anything. It doesn’t even hurt anymore? Yours?”

Doron looked at his hand, but found nothing to indicate he was shocked. “I don’t see anything. Doesn’t hurt either. That’s so weird.” he said, looking back at the mushroom. Tentatively, he reached out for the mushroom again, but instead of touching the cap, he went for the stalk, and to his surprise, it didn’t shock him. He pulled it out of the wall and then a wicked idea crossed his mind. He touched the cap to Engil.

ZAP!

A loud shriek and an illuminated cavernous room later, Engil was nursing her right shoulder and pouting at Doron, who was laughing hysterically. “Okay, my turn now, dork.”

Doron calmed down and looked at Engil as a childish grin crossed his face. “If you want it, then come get it.”

Slowly, Engil’s pout turned into her smirk, in looking predatory in the dimly lit room, her fangs and wild eyes glinting in the dark. “I will! HYAH!” She gasped as she suddenly jumped at Doron, but yelped and retreated after Doron held out the shroom again, touching her. The boy laughed again and said, “You’ll have to try better than that Engil!”

Engil frowned and stared at him, but then looked at the ceiling above Doron and nearly gagged, “.. L-Look up, Doron. I think your friends are preparing to cuddle you.”

“Ha! You can’t fool me so easily Engil! You’re trying to get me to lower my guard. It ain’t going to happen!” he boisted proudly.

Engil’s gaze was focused on the ceiling, and her eyes widened as a sound akin to… Skittering, started echoing throughout the cavern, coming from right above the two kids. “T-They’re waking up. It’s so many of them… Doron, I think I know what happened to the other mushrooms…”

Doron’s eyes went wide as he followed Engil’s gaze. Above them, climbing across the ceiling were several large bugs. Doron opened his mouth to scream, but nothing came out. He was petrified, he couldn’t move, and the bugs were coming down the wall, skittering as they did with their multiple legs and clanking pincers.

“R-...” Engil took a step back, and then she smirked nervously, sweat falling profusely along her face, “Run…” Her voice was shaky.

And she ran, grabbing Doron’s wrist to drag him with her.

As if pulled out of a trance, Doron finally screamed as he ran alongside Engil. Through the cave they went, the skittering growing closer and closer until the light of the cave entrance shined through. Doron dared not look back. So close he was, that he tripped and fell, the mushroom landing in front of him. ‘Engil!” he shouted pleadingly, as the clanking got closer.

The girl slowed to a stop almost instantly and turned to help her friend, grabbing his hand and the mushroom.

ZAAAAAP!

She whimpered and bit her lip hard, tearing up but keeping a hold of the fungus. She pulled Doron to his feet and at that point screamed as a shadow skittered up against her feet, “EW, EW! COME OON!” She yelled and pulled on Doron’s wrist once more, almost out of the cave.

And the two flew out of the cave entrance, but they did not stop there and kept running as the skittering became but a distant, bad memory. Eventually they made it to a small clearing, underneath the shade of a jungle tree, Doron collapsed on his back, panting and shaking. Through his quick breaths he managed to say, “T-Thank… Y-You.”

Engil kept silent and dropped the mushroom she’d been holding in her left hand. It was dim and had stopped zapping her long ago. She took a long look at her hand and let out a small laugh, “I-It’s red now.”

Doron sat up and looked at her hand. Indeed it was red and he felt really bad. “D-Does it hurt?”

She teared up and sniffled, then smirked and wiped at her eyes, “N-No, I’m okay. I-I guess we both scream like girls when seeing icky insects. I actually am a girl though, hehe.”

Doron groaned, rolling his eyes. The boy then stood up and went over to Engil and looked over her hand some more. “You’re a bad liar, Engi.” he grabbed her good hand with his own, and pulled her without waiting. “When I… When I got attacked by fire once, Mom told me that water can soothe the pain, or something. Come on.”

After a few moments of Doron leading Engil through the foliage, she began sniffling quietly out of his sight. “I-I think I hate insects now.”

“You and me both. Those were too big, way too big. They give me the shivers.” Doron said, looking away from Engil as she sniffled. Eventually they made it to a small stream, the trickling water sounding nice as Doron went to his knees next to it. He let go of Engil and put his hands in and then looked up at her and said, “This feels great. I know… I know you don’t like water but, it will help Engi.”

Engil looked away from Doron and sat on her knees next to the stream, slowly dipping her burned hand in the current while keeping her other firmly on dry ground. A while later, she sighed in relief. “It helps a little.”

There was silence between the two for a long time as they rested by the stream. Finally Doron said, "I'm… Sorry for shocking you."

Engil chuckled, “It’s ok, I was gonna do the same anyway. Hey, we should grab the mushroom and zap those big idiots back in town. You know, the ones that took the thing to catch fishes that Egwyn made last week?”

“Yeah! That’ll teach ‘em to steal things. Does it still shock?” Doron asked.

“Uuum, I think we might need to give it some time to recharge.”

“O-Oh yeah… Maybe we should take it Egwyn? She might know more about it.” Doron asked, looking at Engil.

“Yeah! Egwyn’s a genius, she’ll know how to make its zaps strong enough!” Engil puffed out her chest and nodded, pulling out her hand out of the water and jumping up to her feet, “Let’s go!”

“Okay!” Doron said excitedly, as he scampered to his feet. The two then ran through the jungle, mushroom in hand, as they went back to Mir town.

Reaper Woes





Ten Years Before the Timeskip

The rocks that covered the cave entrance, turned to dust as easily as a thought. Abraxas loomed over the bones of reaperspawn. It seemed in their attempt to remove the rocks, they created another cave-in that blocked their entrance entirely. Pitiful.

The Avatar flew down the entrance, coming face to face with old, wasted sacs, and the dead. Eventually he reached the Mother’s chamber, to find the beasts hibernating. There were thousands left still, sleeping like a pack of wolves. With a clap of his hand, Ansara began to wake. Her bulk lifted off from the floor, sending reaperspawn falling. She raised her head and bowed when she saw Abraxas.

The avatar wasted no time in chastising the beast. ”You have been sleeping for a long time. Years upon years of wasted potential. But I have come to free you. Ansara, you have ten years to create the largest army of Reaperspawn this continent shall ever know. When the stars begin to fall, unleash them upon this world. But be wary, to the west is a civilization of mortals, led by a demigod. Do not go there, until the time is right. Failure… Is not an option.” he said, zapping her with lightning.

The Queen faltered and growled, but Abraxas was gone and she had work to do.




Days after the Battle with Ohannamauoi

He found Azadine sulking in anger within her chamber. The Reaper mother was tending to her wounds, and bitter about the battle. Abraxas did not care about this however, he had other things to command of her.

He appeared before the Mother, the Reaperspawn growing restless as they saw a potential target. The Mother did not bow her head this time but watched with a hateful stare. ”You have impressed me with your spawn, Azadine. Soon, you will unleash the entirety of your armies and head out. I care not for the crab or his ilk, push past them and destroy everything. I shall bless your spawn with powers. When the stars fall, that is when you will attack.” Like before, Abraxas zapped Azadine, sending the Mother into a rage, but when she looked for the culprit, he was gone.

Around her, the spawn began to channel scarlet lightning around their bodies.

It was almost time.

Heaven’s Rise





Ten Years Before the Timeskip

He found the Ihokhurs squabbling in the filth of slaves. Their crude monuments were a testament to little imagination. This would not do. When he landed, the ground coursed with scarlet lightning, hitting every single thing that wasn’t an Ihokhur. All of the Selka slaves and Ihokhetlani died in a heap of ash. This caused outrage, and the one known as Kalani broke from his chair and came down to face Abraxas with a roar like a mountain.

The Avatar’s hollow laugh rang out as the giant fell upon him. He dodged the pitiful attack, and with one swipe, Abraxas sent him tumbling to the ground.

”Kalani, you have wasted your time building crude things. For what?” the Avatar asked in a cruel tone.

”Because I can! I can do anything I want!” the Desolate form roared, beginning to stand up.

Abraxas pushed him over again and the ground shook, ”No more of this foolery or I will kill you.”

Kalani tilted his head to the side, and growled but said nothing more. Abraxas then looked around to see a handful of Ihokhurs staring. ”I, Abraxas, the Avatar of Orvus, have a task for you. No more slavery, no more monument building, only the creation of an army. In ten years, I want hundreds of you and more of your kind.” he said, pointing at Kalani.

”That’s not possible! We lack the materials.” Kalani said, as the other Ihokhurs nodded in agreement.

Abraxas flared his form and growled deeply. ”I am an avatar! I shall give you everything you need, and all I ask in return, is progress.”

”Even if you can get us our materials… Why are we building an army for you.” Kalani sneered.

Abraxas lashed out and struck Kalani, embedding him into the ground. His aura began to bite away at the orvium as he loomed over them. ”You will do as told, or you will all die. In ten years, when the stars begin to fall, you will march south and destroy everything in your path. Everything. That is your purpose.”

And just like that Abraxas lifted off into the night, leaving the Ihokhurs and Kalani alone. It did not take long however, to see their materials arriving. Huge chunks of lunar fall hit nearby with ear shattering impacts. They left sizeable craters, catching the nearby vegetation on fire. The chunks were far larger than any they had seen before and with little else to do, the dark stonemen began their terrible work.

They were making good headway when Abraxas returned a week later, carrying with him a giant ball of Orvium. Laurien had forbid him from harming anyone upon the Eye, but she said nothing about going there. On a dark night, unknown to any that lived there, he retrieved the Orvium, and now, he gave it to the Ihokhurs. More Desolate forms would come, and when the time was right, everything would die.

Endgame





The Emptiness of Veradax was hauntingly beautiful. It was one of the only things that Abraxas found even somewhat desirable. And it was left to decay and rot. Many things littered its surface now. Old run down shacks, animals, plants, even people- All had taken the form of starry ones. They were as empty as the sphere. And now was the time to spread his Sphere across the face of creation itself. It was always the plan, and there was no time to waste, for sooner or later, he knew someone would come. Laurien was a fool if she actually thought he could keep her involvement a secret, in fact, she was the reason everything to come was possible.

He landed before the Mar Tree, with the comatose Orvus still dripping ichor. Power. He drew close to the tree and gripped Orvus’ face within his hands. ”Everything is complete. I will do what you could not and usher in a new age upon Galbar. One of destruction.” his hollow laugh rang out. ”And you, Orvus, shall be the catalyst. The beauty you turned your back on, shall consume you and at last, I will take the nothingness for myself.”

The avatar pulled away from the tree and grabbed two long branches. He then activated the tree, it’s glorious humming awakening to bring harm to the world. This time however, the Mar tree would not take an age to work. This time, it had a divine spark.

Scarlet lightning began to arc from the tree to Orvus, jostling the god awake. He looked around groggily before his eyes fell upon Abraxas and narrowed. He tried to pull himself free but it was no use. He began to speak but it was too late, the lightning erupted all over, sending the humming into a deep reverberation. A god screamed and an avatar laughed.

The Mar Tree began to grow it’s fruit tenfold, and then send them off into the sky, over and over again. The white motes would fill the skies unlike never before and at long last, when the time was right, the Mar Plague was unleashed upon Galbar through the Gateway.

Abraxas then left Orvus in his agony and went to the side of the moon that was broken. There he entered into the debris field and his perversion took root. Great swathes of lunar chunks began to drift away from its orbit and began on a path towards Galbar. Thousands of chunks, most would burn in the atmosphere, but the sheer amount meant many would impact the land, and even the largest ones began to move, slowly but surely. The Planet would be cleansed of all life, in sheer and utter agony. It would not go quietly into the night.




Down upon Galbar, at the gateway itself, the Gatelord flew off. The sheer flow of motes would make any attacker think twice about venturing to Veradax, and those motes went in every direction. The Gatelord had grown restless under Orvus’ control, but now, now it was free and Abraxas willed it to destroy. It flew towards Kalgrun.

The Reaper Mothers unleashed their swarms upon their lands. Like army ants, the Reaperspawn attacked everything and everyone they came across. Shooting lightning from their domes. They would leave a vast swath of destruction. Half of Ansara’s brood shot off towards the Xishan Plains, towards the city of the White Ape. Azadine left with her considerable armies, once more, this time however, the crab would not slow them down.

At the sight of falling stars, Kalani and the Ihokhurs began to move out, not quite at over a hundred ihokhurs, but the tall forms were dangerous as ever. Each one sporting great crude weapons, trees with rock spikes or boulders. The Desolate forms were fewer then the Ihokhurs, but far deadlier in comparison. They all broke from each other, in large groups, heading off towards the coast, down near the Selka lands.

The Age of Desolation, had begun.








She broke through the clouds with a giddy laugh, diving in a free fall towards the blue of the ocean. Her body was like an arrow, shot from the bow of the sky, and traveling at such a fast speed. She delighted in it, for truly, it was freedom. She loved flying, from her earliest days. As she thought of Arryn, Arya pushed her arms forward, and used the momentum to shoot off towards the island of green. She flew close to the water, dipping her finger into it. She was home, her only home now, it seemed.

After spending a few days with Split, she had said her goodbyes to her friend. It was difficult, but the fact that she had even found her again, was absolutely incredible. Yet, at the same time, it opened up a yearning for her to travel again, perhaps find Penelope, see Wenbo, Shengshi, Kalmar, maybe even Arae and reconcile with Arryn. And the more she thought about it, the more she knew that was what she needed to do. First, she’d rest at home for a time, and then travel the world, and right old wrongs. Just like what Hermes and Xiaoli would have wanted. She had still not entered the heavenscape… It wasn’t because she couldn’t, but more so, she hadn’t tried. Not yet, anyways. There would be a time, of that she was sure.

As she flew over the tall, jungle trees, she wondered if she should tell her family about the Moksha. Perhaps that would be a discussion for a different day. Soon enough she flew over the Marble Star, it’s beauty unlike anything she had seen in the waking world. She was happy it existed. As soon as she crossed over the tip, she came into view of the large settlement of Nebulan. It’s growth, only yet begun, but still making headway. Yet, the place was more noticeably empty.

And as she attracted attention, most Nebulites she saw looked downcast, even sad. Though many perked up at her arrival. A small crowd gathered around her as she landed before her father’s house.

“Arya you’ve returned!” Said a rosy colored Nebulite. Arya flashed her a smile.

“Thank the gods.” said another and Arya rose an eyebrow.

“Where did Or-” Arya began to frown.

“Arya! Mom! It’s Arya!” Shouted the unmistakable voice of Lily, interrupting the Nebulite. Arya quickly spun around to see Lily running from the front porch before the girl flew into her arms. With a puff, her armor dissipated, replaced by a simple worn dress and a large smile. What she was not expecting was such a tight squeeze, but Arya returned it in kind as a concerned look spread across her face. What was going on?

Ava and Rowan then came out the front door, Ava bounded down the steps in her human form as Arya went to her knees. Ava hugged her tightly as well, and Arya gave each of them a kiss on the top of their heads.

“I’m glad you came back.” Ava whispered, as she nuzzled into her neck. “I am too.” Lily said, with equal longing in her voice. Arya pulled them in tighter, a feeling of warmth blossoming in her chest as she looked up at Rowan, with her hands folded across her dress. Silent tears fell down her pale cheeks.

”W-What happened?” Arya asked in a shaky voice.




Days turned into weeks, and weeks to months, as time marched on in the Eye. Eventually months turned to years, and growth was abound. After the initial shock of learning that Orvus and Laurien were gone, leaving Arya with a people to watch over, her grand plans for seeing the world were over. Her duty was to the Nebulites, and Vallamir who now called the Eye home. Not long after she arrived home, the Dragonborn couple left one night, and they did not return. Where they went, Arya and the others, simply did not know. Orb was gone too, another mystery never to be solved. Soon enough, the only questions she found herself asking was why Orvus had abandoned her- No, them, again.

She could hardly believe it at first. She was adamant he would return and all would be well, but after the first year and the birth of her brother, her heart soured. Wherever Orvus had gone, it seemed he was not coming back. She wanted to believe that something vitally important had come up, but it became harder as the years went by. Then there was her sister. Laurien had left with Shenghsi, without even saying goodbye to her. Often she wondered what had driven her sister to such a course of action. Was it something Orvus did? Had she grown so cold to her, that she simply couldn’t be around anymore? She could only guess, in the end.

She told herself frequently that all she had to do was pray. Pray for help, and she almost did, on several occasions, but in the end, she never did. Why? She didn’t really know. Perhaps she had a sour taste in her mouth, after learning what befell Tiben and how he was murdered by ‘Winged Demons’ from some foul god. She knew not the culprit, nor did she want to find out. Or perhaps she simply didn’t want to bother them. Or perhaps… Perhaps she knew not why they never tried to contact her. Was she so little in their eyes, that they simply didn’t have the time? She called herself a fool, but there was something ironic about the whole thing.

The one God who she would have asked, the one who did have the time, (mostly), was in Paradise with her mothers. A place, she seldom visited. For all of its wonders, for all of its promises and endless potential, her life was rooted more deeply every passing day, upon the soil of Galbar. She never told them about what was truly going on in her life, and when she did, it was always half truths. She did not want to be a bother, after all. If she herself had lived in Paradise, she wouldn’t want anyone to ruin that, especially those she couldn’t help in person. That would break her.

But none of this ever deterred Arya, nor greatly brought her spirits down. She realized the situation was unfortunate, that it was even at times depressing, but she had her family there. She had Rowan, Ava, Elowyn, Lily, and Doron. Plus Myra and the Vallamir, and the entire host of Nebulites at her back. They were her people, and they needed her as much as she needed them. Life was abundant and she took upon herself the roles she had cultivated over her lifetime. She taught the Nebulites and Vallamir how to write and read Shengese, which they then modified to their own standard. Language was eventually shared between the Vallamir and Nebulites, and the two species flourished by the others side.

Arya also taught them how to dance, which many took a liking too. On many nights, many would gather around a great bonfire and sing and dance in merriment. It became tradition to dance under the Moksha, when Veradax hung low in the sky and the Garden bloomed with the brightest light. So to did Arya teach them to fight and protect themselves. After the incident with Tiben, she knew it was the only course of action, especially without a God to protect them. She could only be in one place at once, which is why she also founded an order to maintain the peace. They named themselves, Knights of the Black Tear, after Arya herself and all she gave to the people. It was poetic in a way. Lily and Ava were the ones who came up with it, and it the others agreed. The Knights were equipped with the sharpest spears and knives, and pieces of reptile hide to act as a layer of protection. Arya even fashioned wooden swords for practice, in hopes that one day she could give them weapons akin to Wreanon, but that seemed… A ways off.

Lastly, Arya taught clay working, after the Dreamers. The jungle was rich with clay deposits, and many took to it as a pastime and eventual job. And as the tenth year dawned upon them, the Eye was in a state of blissful peace under Arya’s watch. She took on the role of leader, and punished those accordingly. Everything was usually minor, like stealing food, or disputes between neighbors. Then there was the accidents, and unfortunate deaths. They were uncommon but did occur several times every year. What broke her heart most, was the wails of a new mother whose baby would never fly. She could never grow use to it, else a part of her would die, she knew. It reminded her of what the Moksha was able to do, but how did you teach a baby? Or even a toddler?

She felt guilty that she had the answer for the afterlife, and she could hardly give it away to those that needed it most. Slowly she became disillusioned with the Pyres, and it was not long after that she told Rowan, Ava and Lily how to enter Heaven, and swore them to secrecy. They did not understand why K’nell had done what he had done, but they did not object, even if they were immortal. Next on the list was Doron and eventually, Elowyn. The two children had rekindled Arya’s childlike joy. Elowyn was the daughter of Ava and her partner, Ciellion. She was just a baby, not even two months old. Her skin was a light purple, with darker swirls. Her eyes, when open, were starry white like most others and being so young, her hair was only just beginning to grow. It was too soon to see what color it would be. Then there was Doron, the rambunctious ten year old who had a knack for getting into trouble. He was short for his age, at least a head shorter than the other children of his age. His skin was golden brown, glowing ever so slightly. Sat atop his head was curls of golden hair. Strangest of all, his eyes were black, same as Arya. His appearance, much like her own, was an oddity or rarity, among the island Nebulites and there was nothing wrong with that.

Life was what it was in the Eye, after all.




There was a crack of wood on wood, followed by heavy breathing and a growl. The smell of sweat hung in the humid air as the sun beat down in the clearing. The clearing was behind Orb’s old home, which had been expanded upon and added too. Much of the original architecture remained, as well as the engravings, which were the basis of other rock carving projects that had erupted across the Marble Star with eager vigor. The home had been turned into the order’s base of operations and where members could go and train, sleep and attend meetings.

The clearing itself was rather just a stretch of cleared forest, and modified with targets, and grass dummies. There was a cache of wooden swords to the side, as well as long sticks and throwing spears. A back balcony had been constructed in the house, very carefully, and took about a year to complete. It wasn’t terribly big, but had a good vantage point for the clearing. Arya stood up there now, hands folded across her chest. She wore simple cloth garments that covered her more sensitive parts, and her hair was held into a bun. She looked down upon Lily and Myra, who were fixated opponents. Lily, in her Nebulite form, had grown up to be taller than even Arya. Both the twins had actually. She wore the same attire as Arya, and had her hair in a loose ponytail.

”Both of you still need to work on your footwork!” Arya exclaimed, ”You have the hitting part down, now all you need to do is the dancing part. Again.” There came a grumble from Lily as she took her place opposite of Myra.

”Did you say something Lily?” Arya said, unamused.

“No, not at all!” the girl said, with a deadpan stare on Myra.

Myra stood with a sparring sword in one hand, and the other behind her back - a technique that she had come up with, and insisted on using with any one-handed weapon. She cast a sardonic look at Arya, before turning back to Lily and pointing her weapon toward her.

Lily grimaced slightly, before twirling her own sword, then using the momentum to jab forward at Myra. With a flick of her wrist, Myra parried the taller woman’s weapon aside, stepped forward, and reversed the course of her own weapon to swing at the now vulnerable opponent. The Nebulite girl snapped her arm back and up over Myra’s head, allowing the wooden blade to catch her opponent’s with a crack. Lily then sidestepped Myra to the right and brought her own blade back down to strike at her.

Myra sidestepped the downward strike, and as the wooden blade passed she launched into a lunge at Lily’s stomach. The blow hit, knocking the wind out of Lily as she fell to her knees. Quickly she pushed herself up and got back to her feet with a scowl of frustration.

Myra turned to Arya. “I think you said something about my footwork?”

Arya rolled her eyes and said, "It's not about making yourself look better Myra. It's about growing and learning together. You'll learn that one day." Her gaze turned to Lily, who had begun to pace as she stared daggers into Myra's skull.

Myra frowned. “I lose, and I am criticized for not fighting well enough. I win, and I am accused of trying to show off. There’s just no pleasing anyone, is there?”

"No one is criticizing you, specifically Myra and you aren't being accused, it's simply the truth. Instead of making sure Lily was uninjured you turned to me and mocked my previous assertion of the two of you. Surely, in your wisdom, you can see the problem there." Arya said coolly.

Myra frowned. “I waited until she got back up,” she pointed out, before turning back to Lily. “And you weren’t injured, were you?”

"Not anymore." Lily gritted through her teeth.

“It’s just a fight,” Myra said, her frown deepening. “It’s not personal.”

"Of course. Nothing personal." Lily feigned a smile.

“I think the problem,” Myra went on, “was that you over-committed yourself, and let me get too close. You are taller than me, and your arms are longer, so you have more reach. You could fight in a way that keeps me at a distance, and then maybe I won’t be able to attack you,” she suggested in a neutral tone.

"Gee, thanks for the tip Myra." Lily said in a sarcastic tone before looking up to Arya, "I'm done for the day." Before dropping her sword and flying off. Arya frowned as she watched Lily go, she could tell the girl was angry at herself for losing again, but Myra did have a point.

"That's all for the day then." Arya said looking at Myra.

Myra stepped forward and knelt to retrieve the discarded sword, carefully brushing off the dirt and grass. “That’s it?” she asked, sounding disappointed. “There’s nobody else I can train with?”

"Well… Everyone else is out on their patrols as you know. I guess… If you really want to train more…" Arya said, floating down to the ground. "It's been sometime since I trained, how about it?" she asked Myra.

“I don’t see why not,” Myra said with a shrug, before holding out Lily’s sword.

Arya took it and stepped back as she twirled it within her hand. She faced Myra before bowing, then taking a defensive stance, sword twirling, her posture relaxed and the expression on her face blank.

Myra, meanwhile, resumed the same stance she had taken before: one hand behind her back, one foot ahead of the other, and her sword held forward. She waited for Arya to make the first move.

With a frightening burst of speed Arya was upon Myra, feigning her first attack, a slash at her upper arm, before jabbing at her stomach instead. Myra recognized the feint a split-second too late, the wooden blade striking her stomach before she could block it in time.

The blue-haired girl doubled over, gasping for breath… A look of concern erupted across Arya's face as she went to make sure Myra was okay but Myra then swung her blade out at Arya’s knees. The blue-haired Vallamir rose to her feet, offhand clutching her stomach while a defiant expression remained on her face.

Arya was hit and grunted, but did not fall over. She stepped back and smirked at Myra. "Clever, knowing that I'd check to see if you were okay. But now it won't work twice." Arya said, resuming the same position she had earlier.

Still gasping slightly, Myra began to circle to the right, bringing her weapon to shoulder level and pointing it forward.

Arya did the same, but opposite of Myra. She eyed her opponent, waiting for her to attack. The air became palpable with anticipation, but still, Myra did not move. It would have to be Arya. The nebulite woman began to dance, letting the fluidity of the movement to bring herself closer to Myra. Her blade began to spin quickly within her hand as she made her approach.

Myra, however, did not allow Arya to close, instead choosing to backpedal away.

In another burst of speed, Arya was upon Myra, slashing her sword at Myra's right side. Myra blocked it just in time, then stepped forward and attempted to swing her weapon across Arya’s stomach. In a flash, Arya parried the swing and with the hilt of her sword, went to slam it into Myra's stomach.

Again, Myra went down, coughing and gasping. But then she dug the blade of her sword into the ground and used it to push herself back up, breathing heavily.

Arya looked over at the girl again, a flash of disappointment came over her, coupled with excitement. Then a wave of guilt hit her hard and concern was painted across her face as she felt disgusted with herself for feeling that way. Shakely she said, "I think that's enough for today, Myra."

At those words, Myra’s legs gave way. She slumped to her knees, gasping more loudly and panting more heavily. It seemed as though she had been hurt more than she let on. “You… think…” she choked as she coughed onto the ground.

Arya threw her sword to the ground and rushed over to Myra, catching her before she fell and hurt herself even more. All previous thoughts abandoned her as she focused on the girl. She cradled the girl, a strong sense of guilt and anger at herself came in droves. "Oh I'm so sorry Myra, I didn't think I hit you that hard. I-I… Just breath Myra. Breath."

“St-sta…” she tried to speak between breaths, but couldn’t, and so she knelt there gasping as Arya held her. Minutes passed. The pain began to fade, and her breath was correcting itself, so she tried again. “Stop… throwing... swords,” she breathed. “People worked… hard… to make… them.”

Arya rolled her eyes before laughing. "Oh Myra. Your life is far more valuable than a sword. We can make more of those, but not you."

“You say that, but the others…” she coughed. “They’ve been busy… lots of children… won’t be long before they replace us…” Myra, for her part, didn’t have any children at all, and over the years seemed to have completely avoided coupling with Nebulites or even the other Vallamir. Many had tried to woo her, of course, but after so many years of refusal that vast majority had given up.

Arya ran her hand through Myra's hair, getting rid of the dry grass that had found a home and said, "Your uniqueness can't be replaced Myra. Not by others, not by replacements. Is… Is that why you haven't had children? Are you afraid you will be replaced?"

She shook her head. “No… that’s not it…”

"Mhmm. Then what is, dearie?" Arya cooed softly.

“Well…” she thought about her words carefully. “When we first got here, the Nebulites kept trying to get us to come to the tree. There was something about the way they acted… they expected it, some even seemed to feel entitled to it. The others went, but I didn’t. Then, months later, children began to be born, and the ones who made them had to raise them, but I thought… if I had children, shouldn’t it be with someone that I trust? But I didn’t have a bond with any of the Nebulites, and the other Vallamir had already paired up with each other. There was nobody left for me, nobody I felt attached to…” she took a deep breath, “or at least nobody who felt the same way.”

Arya embraced Myra gently at the end of her confession. She felt sorry for the poor Mir and strangely, she felt the same way. "You're not the only one who feels that way. The Nebulites… They had a predisposition for that lifestyle, I fear Laurien corrupted that further and Orvus did nothing to stop it. But I also know that someone is out there for you. He or she might not be here but one day you will find them or they will find you and it will just click." she said with a smile.

“Has something like that happened for you?” Myra asked, looking up at her. “Did you meet anyone during your travels?”

It took a moment for Arya to respond. There was someone who she thought once but… She hadn't seen him or heard of him in a very long time. Another unintentional side effect of the Palace leaving. "I… There was someone once, or perhaps there could have been. I don't know." she said.

“What happened?”

"I woke up." she said, smiling softly. "Now… Enough of me, how are you feeling?"

“I don’t feel like I’m dying, at least…” Myra muttered. She pulled herself free from Arya, and rose to her feet, offering a hand to help her up. “There is something else I’ve been meaning to tell you…”

Arya took her hand and rose, then placed her hands on her hips. "Oh?" she said.

“Two days ago, Kalmar finally answered my prayers.”

"I see… And what did you Pray for, Myra?" she asked, surprised.

“Answers,” she said. “He told me how the Vallamir were created, and why. He was surprised to know that some of us ended up here. Apparently we were supposed to land on a place called Kalgrun,” she explained, and then hesitated. “He offered to take us there, but most of us would rather stay, and the rest can’t decide.”

"And you?" Arya asked with a wry smile.

“I don’t know,” Myra shook her head. “I haven’t even seen Kalgrun, but if there’s more of my kind there…” her voice trailed off. “He said he would send his avatar here soon, to take any who want to leave. I suppose I have until then to decide.”

"Arryn? Coming here? Oh my oh my." Arya said giddily. She then collected herself and put a hand on Myra's shoulder, "Do what you think is best, dear. I will support you either way. Avatars travel fast, so it should be any day now, if not hour." she said.

Myra’s eyebrows rose at Arya’s reaction, but she chose not to comment on it. “What can you tell me about Kalmar?” she asked instead.

”Kalmar is the God of the Hunt, creator of Kalgrun and the second person to find me upon Galbar. He raised me for a time. He’s a good god… But at times he can be… Difficult. Thought I might be wrong, I haven’t seen him in years.” she said.

“And what about his avatar?”

”Arryn, the Falcon of the Hunt. He was… My first friend. He was strong, and unafraid to protect those that he cared for, regardless of the outcome it might have had on his own person. I haven’t seen him in… A very long time.” Arya said, her voice full of sadness.

“What happened?” She found herself asking for the second time.

”It’s a long story, Myra. One that I am ashamed of. If Arryn does come… I’ll tell you after.” she gave a sad smile.

“Alright… I’ll let you know if he arrives,” Myra nodded. “I think I’ll head home now.”

”You did good today.” Arya said, scratching the back of her head, ”Sorry about hitting you hard Myra.”

With a nod, Myra turned and walked away.

Arya watched Myra leave, before looking down at her hands. They shook slightly. It was not because Arryn was coming, no, she only felt nervous when she thought about that. This was something else. A familiar presence came upon her and she turned around to see Wreanun floating silently behind her.

His deep voice rang out with clarity. “You couldn’t control your swing, could you?”

”No… I-I felt joy…” she whispered.

“It is what we feared, Arya. I am corrupting you.”









A Foundation





It was rather incredible, the way that a ship the size of Jiangzhou seemed to cross the world in the blink of an eye. A moment ago, the Nebulites onboard swore they still could’ve felt the moist air of the Eye, the lush jungles oozing forth an almost choking humidity. However, that had all changed, and now a dry, dustier air parched their throats unlike anything they had ever felt. Below them stretched first an endless sea of green bordering the actual sea, followed then by thinly grassed plains speckled with spots of trees; bordering that again was a beach greater than any ever seen by a Nebulite before.

And the ship was sailing towards a thickening blue thread that curved its way through the land before ending in the bay. Pallason, Philia and Titanon sat staring over the side of the railing down at the lands flanking the great river. Pallason furrowed his brow.

“Is -this- the land he’s giving us? What, some strip in the middle of endless waves of sand?”

“Hush, Palla!” Philia cautioned. “Don’t be rude out loud. He can probably hear us.”

“Yeah, but-... Look at it! The land beyond the river is dead - dead!”

Titanon shook his head. “Look, there’s probably more to it than this. For all we know, the big beach could have, I don’t know… Lots of tasty game?”

Pallason pursed his lips disapprovingly. “Doubt it. Face it - a life of luxury in a dry, scorching, barren place like this? Polly might believe it, but I’m not falling for it.”

“It’s a bit too late to pull out now, Pallason,” came another voice. The three turned to face a particularly tall and muscular Nebulite male, his arms crossed across his broad chest and his face in a dark frown. “You sounded loyal to our queen just yesterday - what happened?”

Pallason knew this man well. He was Hectore, one of Polyastera’s favourite partners, and a fantastically skilled hunter and brawler. In comparison, Pallason was a bright twig with few talents beyond a beautiful voice and the knowledge to use it.

“... Well, Hectore, you see as well as I do that the land beneath us is barren. His Lordship’s gift to us is obviously lesser than what we thought when we bargained.”

Hectore leaned over the side to look. “Judging a whole land from the skies tells you nothing about the life that walks it; the plants that live in it.” He patted Pallason’s curly hair with fake affection. “You may want to peruse a little closer before you start accusing our Lord of not making good on his promises.” He then turned and went off. Pallason sat glaring down the hunter’s back.

“What an ass,” he muttered. Philia laid a supportive hand on his shoulder and pecked him on the cheek.

“Palla - would you like some more wine?” Titanon gave Philia a nod and rose up, walking towards a nearby refreshment table. Pallason nodded slowly.

“Yes, please…”




In the king-size bed, Polyastera laid sipping on a cup of wine. She was dressed in thin, translucent robes that outlined her thin, slender frame perfectly. The goal of life couldn’t really be expressed more closely than the stay aboard this ship, she thought to herself. She would replicate these standards in her new queendom - that, she swore. She pursed her lips. She would need all the help she could get in its establishment. She had her followers, certainly, but there were only so many she could control - especially alone.

Having Hectore on her side did help things along, but how much longer could she keep him entranced with her love and charm? No, her most valuable piece was her prize ‘concubine’, as the bath house servant had so eloquently put it.

“Laurien?” Polyastera called sweetly.

”Mhmm?” came Laurien’s reply. From across the room, Laurien came around a corner. She wore a silky robe that left the middle of her body open. Her hair was a mess of curls, but there was a smile on her face. ”Yes?”

“Do you love me?” Polyastera asked pleadingly and beckoned her over.

Laurien smirked and walked over to the bed, where she sat down. She faced Poly and said, ”Of course I love you. Where’s this coming from?”

Polyastera sighed. "Ever since we got rid of those luddites who didn't want to come along, I've been thinking. Thinking about those whom I consider to be truly loyal to me - those who love me." She gave Laurien a smile. "You are among those, yes?"

Laurien gently took Polly’s hand within her own and scooted closer to her. ”I’m here, aren’t I? And that isn’t going to change, darling.” Laurien affirmed.

Polyastera smiled affectionately and planted a soft kiss on Laurien’s lips. “I love you so much, my dearest Laurien. You make my life worth living.”

Laurien smiled widely and giggled as she fluttered her eyes. ”Oh stop it you.” she said, giving Poly another kiss.

“I’m looking so much forward to building our empire together. Everything will be perfect - we will have food, wine, music and make lots and lots and lots of love.” She exhaled joyously. “We will be absolutely free to do whatever we want.”

Laurien nodded in agreement, ”It will be delicious, Polly and so much fun!” she said enthusiastically. The woman sighed and then frowned as she caressed Poly’s cheek. ”Though, make no mistake, my dear. To live like that… It won’t come without cost.” she moved her hand down to Polly’s stomach. ”Then there’s our ten year deadline for a temple to his Lordship. It won’t be without challenge, and hardship, but once we do that… Then the real fun can start.” Laurien said softly, but with a warm smile.

“Yes, yes, all that will be dealt with.” She cupped her hand over Laurien’s. “How do you think we best should motivate our populace into completing these projects?”

”Hmm, this is tricky. For one, we’ve shown them a lifestyle many are already addicted to. It might be hard to wean them off. I’ll have to think about it. For now, let us see where his Lordship places us, and we can work from there.” Laurien said thoughtfully.

“Yeah - yeah, let’s,” Polyastera agreed.

”Good. I am glad.” Laurien purred. ”Now come on, let’s go see where were headed.” she said, rising from the bed, and holding out her hand to Polly. The smaller Nebulite took the hand in her own and graciously rose to her feet. Together, the two ascended onto the deck.

However, it was not a beautiful sight that met them - in fact, it was quite a sorry sight. An argument had broken out on deck, one where Hectore and Pallason stood face to face with bloodthirsty scowls aimed at one another.

“What’re you going to do? Complain to His Lordship?” Hectore challenged the smaller man.

“I just might,” Pallason snapped back before his eyes fell on Polyastera and Laurien. “Polly, come look at this.” Breaking away from the tall hunter, Pallason guided the two of them over to the side of the ship and pointed at the relatively narrow strips of fertile green flanked on both sides by endless dunes of sand. “Look at what we’re getting! This isn’t at all what we bargained for!”

Polyastera, however, wasn’t listening. Her eyes glistened with wonder as she eyed the colourful reefs below, the dense woods ahead and the mysterious sands beyond. A gust of dry wind washed over the Nebulites. Bird song and animal calls echoed through the bay. It was musical, entrancing. Despite the environment, life here thrived. She cast a look at Pallason and sneered.

“Palla, do us all a favour and be quiet, would you?”

The young man stood scoffed and tried to formulate a sentence, but crumbled before the smug frown of Polyastera. He looked away, groaned and stomped over to a corner to sulk. Titanon and Philia soon went to his side. Meanwhile, the snake appeared on the platform far above and gave the deck a slight frown.

“A messenger brought to my attention that there is some discontent regarding my selection of land. Is this true?”

The Nebulites jerked to life and turned to face the veranda surrounding the great spire of the palace. Polyastera and Laurien were at the front, and Polyastera spoke, “Absolutely not, Your Lordship. What you have given us is outstandingly magnificent - the beautiful desert, the wonderful flow, the majestic beasts and trees. It’s perfect!”

The snake hummed and looked to Laurien. “How about you, my dear? Does this land satisfy?”

Laurien glanced overboard again and nodded in satisfaction. ”It’s very beautiful, your Lordship. You have picked a good spot.” she flashed a smile up at him.

The snake nodded back. “I thought so. Gratitude is a virtue, young mortals - exercise it.” He looked to the sky and pointed at Heliopolis. “When Heliopolis glares down at the sands in this very manner ten years from now, I will return - if my temple stands, your continued stay on this continent shall be blessed with prosperity and riches; if it has yet to be completed, then I shall reveal unto you the price of making promises one cannot keep.”

A bridge of water formed to the shore and the Nebulites were herded up and sent to the bridge by a crew of slightly impatient servants. “Best of luck in these new lands,” the snake said. “You will certainly need it to create your paradise.” As soon as the Nebulites had made it across, the bridge fell apart and the ship sailed off on a skyborne river.

The Nebulites stood there on the shore in silence. Looks were exchanged in increasingly sheepish manners, until one finally asked, “Now what?”

Polyastera looked at Laurien. “I suppose we shall start constructing our city of luxury, then.”

Laurien had her arms folded behind her back, a small scowl was on her face as she watched the Jiangzhou become a speck on the distant horizon. She turned to Polly and blinked, there was no smile upon her face this time. ”Indeed, my love. I… I’m going to survey the area first and make sure there aren’t any hidden threats. In the meantime, set up a camp and get a stock of what supplies we have. I’ll be back shortly.” she outheld her hand and up into the sky, Aaldir finding it within a blink. Black armor erupted from her body and without another word, she took off.




She flew over the river, taking in the sights along the banks and the life that flourished within. Then she flew up, higher and higher to see the stretches of lifelessness, cut open by the waters of life. It was beautiful, that she did not lie about, but such a spot… It was not ideal in the slightest. They had nothing to start with, no lay of the land, and nothing looked familiar. How did his Lordship expect them to build a temple in his honor? How did he expect them to do anything?

She sighed, letting herself float back to the ground. Perhaps if her people had not been so rambunctious, his Lordship would have left them with something, but that was not the case. Perhaps this was punishment for what she did… A form of karma.

And her train of thought brought her back to Abraxas, and the final wish. If she was going to live like she wanted, it was the only way. The Nebulites would suffer without help, even if that help wanted to kill them. Then again, they didn’t have to know… Now did they?

”Abraxas…” she whispered, ”I pray to you.”

And the Avatar answered. Around her the land seemed to grow quiet as his hollow voice entered her mind. ”What do you want, little hero?”

She gulped, she hated that voice. ”I have thought of my final wish and request your presence upon the Dragon’s Foot. I stand in a delta near the mountain of fire.”

There was an eerie silence, before the avatar spoke. ”Very well.” and as quickly as the presence came, it was gone.

Without knowing when he would show up, Laurien shrugged and walked around. The land wasn’t going to explore itself, after all. And so she did for most of the day, learning from her new home as she went. She found that the life around the waters was complex and contained. Hardly anything large lived far enough away from the waters and she took note of that. Water was life, after all. She also became aware of the animals that called this place home, and which ones to avoid.

As the sun went down, the land became empty, a herald of the presence that came. Like an angry cloud, Abraxas came streaking across the horizon, honing in on her position. He landed with a loud THWUMP, sending sand everywhere. Methodical footsteps approached, the hollow one had come again, ushering silence into the world. Laurien stood her ground, defiant in the face of the monster she had born.

”What is your final wish, girl.” Abraxas voice washed over her, sending shivers down her spine.

”This is to be my, and my peoples, home. I require a city and the means to protect it, with ample space to grow.” Laurien said with an air of authority, holding her head high.

The avatar began to laugh, and the very air laughed with him. ”You think yourself so mighty, so high upon the totem pole. How easily it would be to wipe you from existence, and the rest of them that were brought here. How easy indeed.” the avatar grumbled. ”A wish… is a wish and then, we are done. Know this, exile of the Eye. To call upon me again, will bring doom, for that is my wish. Now, where do you want this city.”
Laurien cleared her throat. The threat had been noted. ”This spot will do. It has everything we need, from water, to animal life, to rock.”

”Spare me the details. I do not care.” the avatar rumbled, before turning around. There was a raised highland before him, a flatland of dirt and sparse shrubs. Abraxas raised his hand, and the ground rumbled, sending Laurien into the air to avoid it. She flew up to see what the demon was doing, and to her surprise, she was amazed by what she saw.

The land had sprouted buildings of sand and stone, of multiple stories and in the fading light, she could make them out to be a light brown, with some gray. In common the buildings had a particular shape, appears as cuboids in a trapezium shape with only marginally smaller tops than bottoms. The small city, or town, was spaced and had a plethora of different constructions, but from her distance, she did not know what they did. An enormous block with several stories overlooked a majority of the other buildings, but several more came close to its stature. She was excited to go and explore but before she could, she was reminded that she was not alone.

”It is done. There is your home, with your walls… But this is not the only gift I set within. You and your people will remember what was done here by my benevolence. Sat below this city, there lies a forge. A monument of my power, and the means of your protection. To gain from it weapons and armor, requires sacrifice. Are you willing to pay that sacrifice? It matters not to me, for in the end, all must destroy to create.” the Avatar laughed, before slipping off into the sky without a trace.

Laurien was left perplexed, but Abraxas and his cryptic words would have to wait. Now was the time to find Polly, and bring her people home.




“... Look, I’m just saying, we don’t even know where to start! How will we even -get- stone to build without any tools?”

“You’re really not going to give this up, are you?”

Pallason punted a pebble into the delta, scaring some tall birds into flight. Titanon and Philia stood behind him and exchanged worried glances.

“Look, Palla--”

“No! No, I am -not- going to just wave this off like the rest of those sex-crazed, delusional apes! Can’t you guys see? Polly got the short end and we’re taking the hit for it.”

Titanon ventured over and placed a hand on the frustrated young man’s shoulder. “Look, Palla, we’re here now. Flying home will take… I don’t know how many years. We’re halfway across the world. Let’s… Let’s just make the most of it, hmm?” The muscular man pulled the smaller one into a warm embrace. Pallason resisted for an instant, but then sighed.

“You always do this, you big, dumb-...”

“Come on. Get all that frustration out.”

“... Asshat…” Pallason looked up with a wry smile and Titanon planted a kiss on his lips. They held it for a while before slowly pulling apart, Pallason’s cheeks gently flushed. “Thanks… I needed that.”

“You certainly did. I could taste the frustration in you,” Titanon teased. Philia stood giggling on the side. Pallason joined her with a sweet chuckle.

“Yeah, it’s, it’s, uh, been a, a while.”

Philia stopped giggling and raised a brow. “What, you mean you got nothing on the ship? That’s a load of--”

“No, no, I did - just not in the emotional sense. Having you two around really helps, you know - makes this whole situation bearable.”

“How about Polly?” Titanon asked curiously and sat down on a nearby rock. Pallason rolled his eyes.

“Polly’s… You know…”

“We know?” Philia asked expectantly and sat down in Titanon’s lap, curving her arm around his neck and laying her head on his shoulder.

“Well, she’s--... Not -that- nice.”

“She’s our friend, Palla,” Titanon protested with a frown.

“She doesn’t care about us, though!”

Just as Pallason finished that sentence, tremours ran through the ground, great quakes that sent the birds screaming for the sky and riled up hordes of rhinoceros hippos, the terror of the great spike on their muzzles multiplied by the size of their long-fanged gapes. The three Nebulites took to the sky to avoid the rampaging animals stampeding out of the river. In the river itself, fish and dolphins made for the delta and the sea. In the delta itself, it seemed as though some of the plants dove for cover; mollusks and crustaceans dug themselves into the sand.

“W-what’s happening?!” Philia cried in confusion. From a distance away, the rest of the Nebulites came flying over, led by Polyastera.

“Polly!” Titanon shouted, “what’s going on?!”

“I don’t know! I can’t find Laurien anywhere either! Have any of you seen her?!”

All three shook their heads. Polyastera’s panicked eyes flickered around as she scanned the ground. She turned to the others and commanded, “We must find her! Split up and search every nook and cranny of this land! I dare not even think about what could’ve happened to her!”

The Nebulites did as they were told and Polyastera turned to the others in hyperventilation. “What-what-what if she has gotten flattened by a rockslide?! Or, or killed by a monster! Titan, what will we do?!”

The muscled giant did the only thing he knew tended to mend situations like this and floated over to hug her, but Polyastera pushed him away. “Don’t just stand there! Help me look for her!”

The three simultaneously recoiled and subsequently flew off. Polyastera remained floating in place, holding herself in a fruitless effort to calm herself down. Laurien couldn’t be gone - not yet. How would she consolidate her power--no, how would she feel loved in the evenings? No one could replace Laurien!

Hectore soared into her view and stopped a small distance away. “Polly?” he asked carefully. The woman looked up and wiped the frightened tears running down her cheeks.

“Did you find her?”

Hectore nodded slowly. “Yes… And we found something else, too.”

Polyastera frowned. “What did you find?”




They’d be coming soon. It had not been long before she found Hectore and told him to bring the others. He was a good man, Laurien knew. Now, she walked upon the paved roads in the town, eyeing what the so-called avatar of destruction had made. The buildings were large enough, and tall enough, to accommodate several families of Nebulites. The houses themselves were barren and modest, with many windows and ventilation holes, most likely to deal with the heat. The layouts were basic, with only a couple of rooms but some of the houses had more, and as the stories went up, that the view was lovely and perfect for people who could fly. There were other buildings she had no idea what purpose they might serve, but she knew they did not look like homes. Then there was the open spaces here and there, most likely room for expansion.

Most of the nicer buildings were made of a substance that looked like sand, but was much harder. It was cool to the touch, and the patterns were beautiful. Those buildings had the most rooms, the best views and even a courtyard with room to grow things. Most of the other buildings were made of stone, and she realized that they came second to the… sandstone… ones. The rock ones had a few more rooms, a smaller courtyard and did not reach as high as the sandstone ones. Lastly, there were buildings made of, what she could only think of as, mud bricks. Those buildings were shorter and only had a couple rooms each story, with no courtyard to speak off. They were smoothed and the color of tan, and Laurien realized that this was most likely the building block of life around here, as the brick buildings outnumbered both the sandstone and the rock ones. She flew up into the sky, to get a general overview.

It was tiered, she realized. The farther she had walked in, the buildings went from brick, to rock, to sandstone but before she could go any further, she flew back to the gates to await Polly and the other Nebulites.

It did not take time for them to arrive, and all of them froze for a minute, merely ogling their town that had appeared before them as out of thin air. Then, a deafening cheer broke out. Polyastera screamed her joy and flew into Laurien’s arms with giddy laughter.

“Oh, praises be, Laurien! How did this happen?! Did His Lordship take pity on us?!”

Laurien spun her around and laughed. Then she said, ”It was not his Lordship, no. I had… I asked a favor from another god. They did not want to be named, for I will complete a task for them when the time comes, one of secrecy. But the Holiness did say if anyone asked, that we built this town with our own hands. They aren’t a big fan of his Lordship I think… But look, all we have to do now is build the temple and we can begin immediately.” Laurien said, giving half truths. The lies just kept flowing.

Polyastera seemed not to truly care and shouted a loud, “Fantastic! Let’s get to work immediately!” She turned to the Nebulites. “Hectore, you will take your best hunters and start filling out larders with meat and whatever else you can find along the rivers. Make certain to look for farmable crops. Titanon, take every good mason you know and start surveying the land for good stone. The rest of you, get to know the city and its wonders.” She grinned from ear to ear. “Let us set forth on the journey to luxury.”

The Nebulites cheered and got to work. Polyastera turned to Laurien with a wry smile and shook her head. “I cannot believe this… You are too good for us, my love.”

Laurien shrugged, she hadn’t wanted to live in the desert for the next few years. They had to start somewhere. ”I’m not going to let us fail, Polly. Now, this city, and your empire… They need a name.” Laurien smirked.

“Oh, the empire name is simple,” Polyastera smirked. “Let it be known as Asteria e, I say. What do you think?”

”A wonderful name, darling.” Laurien agreed, hugging her tightly.

Polyastera squeezed back and hummed comfortably. “... I have an even better name for this city, though - something that really captures its beauty.”

”Oh, and what’s that?” Laurien cooed.

“Laurienna.”

”Oh my. That’s… Beautiful… I would be honored. I am honored. Oh you!” Laurien said happily, kissing Polly over and over on her cheeks.

Polyastera stopped her kissing with a hand and gave her a ravenous stare. “Hey… My lips are here.”

Laurien obliged with a giggle, and instead attacked Polly’s lips, with a deep kiss.











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