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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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Blood & Desire

Old Stories

She had submerged herself in the Sea of Shadows once again, seeking those that she had seen in her strange visions - So Desire surfed swiftly upon Sunset Orange, blinded by the omnipresent blackness surrounding her, but she already ascertained where she must go, and she was no longer afraid. With the shimmering Sacred Strings outstretched connecting her to the cosmos, she reached out to grasp reality above her and easily emerged from where she sailed upon the Rivers of Mystery that had become more and more familiar to her now, arriving at a near approximation of where she wished to arrive: A Lake of Blood and within its crimson depths, in a subterranean palace shrouded in mists, was the Key.

Her shimmer-board glided gently across the sanguine surface, its base softly caressing the crimson liquid as it beckoned whatever awaited far below. Desire gracefully seated herself as Sunset Orange meandered onwards, and she contemplated how to communicate again as her immortal mind still sought to steady and soothe itself after enduring all of the recent stress imposed upon it by trials and initiation. She sighed to herself, staring at her red reflection in the rippling blood with her ruby-emerald eyes, before she spoke then and allowed her voice to reach afar. “Hello! I’m Desire, and I’ve come to speak with you, sister.”

There was no response. Not a whisper. Not even a breeze. The streets were silent. The windows dark. The doorways unwelcoming. The air was stifled, clammy and altogether suffocating. Red roses and white bells stood unopened in the dying of the light, their sweet perfumes hidden by the rich iron of blood that suffused the place entirely.

There was no glory here, no grand decree of entrance. No pomp and circumstance for the divine or any such guest. Just silence and fear, as if something was poised to shatter in an instant. To break upon such a fragile world. To beat it into sounds but naught came. Not even as a trickle of dark liquid came running down the cobbled path that led to the dark palace. It ran thick, turning into a steady stream. The black liquid began to overshoot its bounds and from the stream came offshoots that swept across every facet of path, on and off. Like veins of a beating heart, spreading something that should not have been in that red and white place.

Yet all streams led back to one.

“Hmm…” Desire mused, merely humming to herself before she hastily arose to stand atop her shimmer-board, and then began her dire descent further into the depths and across the muted forsaken realm, slowly sailing upon the ebon streams towards her dour destination as the allure of the mystery ahead compelled her so. As she proceeded onward, she crossed her arms afore her chest and huffed angrily, as it seemed there would be naught else until eventually she finally passed through the gloom-ridden gates and into the interior of the palace.

It was there the liquid was at its fullest. It rolled across steps like a mass of moving ink, blighting the light and devouring it as the palace depths led only into dark. Was it only, perhaps, by chance then that she could hear something. When all else, light, silence, and perception had become as one in that gloom. A sad whimper, the likes of which a pup might make when it sought kin and comfort. Yet it never abated, never paused for breath as a pup might when it was truly lost.

Her gliding board, ever so silent, came to the place the whimpering was loudest as it was quietest. She had passed two statues, defaced and brutalized by something, sat in the liquid for who knows how long. It was there in that center of that pillared room, where the light had faded to a dark crimson, reflected upon a surface of ebony- hunched a creature turned away from Desire. It was large, coated in dark, matted fur. It seemed to be covering its face, slender back rising and falling as it whimpered.

“Show yourself to me.” Desire declared tacitly tenderly in tone to the one that hid herself, as she prepared herself for the fight to come. She held in one hand and wrapped around the wrist; the Sacred Strings which were woven together into an intricate length and latticework of silvery lines, entangled and energized with ethereal strength. In another hand, she held onto the Jade Knife with a reverse-grip poised to strike like the fangs of a serpent - its curved veridian blade sharpened and virginal. Her current stance on Sunset Orange was steady, as she must stay and be balanced for battle - appearing agile and adaptable with knees bent, first foot forward, second foot far back, and a tightening blessed breath that she held infinitely inside her belly.

At the sound of her voice, the creature perked up. Pointed ears, once pressed down, erected as its arms lowered. It was not a whimper that ushered forth but a low, rumbling growl as it turned its head to look at Desire. Or, at least, it looked in her direction. A long, wolfish snout bared sharp teeth, like a cruel smile. Obscuring its eyes was a crimson ribbon, stained with black. It began to fully turn to her, rising to stand upon two feet. It was lithe, small in frame, holding no discernible distinctions of gender. Its fur dripped with blood and Desire could see that its arms held fresh cuts, still dripping with what she now knew could only be blood.

Its heckles began to stand on end as the growling became louder. Its legs twisted and bent, becoming more canid than man and it bent over, glistening claws submerging in its own lifeforce. It snapped at her, face facing in her direction but pointed down, then with an explosion of strength, it came at her, jaws wide.

It was a tale as old as time, the story of the beauty and the beast as they came together once again in the next iteration of the eternal cycle to repeat their triumphs and tragedies endlessly…

Emotionally enraged by the sight of the macabre monster, Desire shrieked in retaliation as she sailed towards her enemy with furious haste and swiftly shapeshifted right before reaching her opponent. Ethereal wings suddenly emerged from her back, an emerald eye upon each and every feather, and she sprouted a long luminous tail of thunderous light behind her that burned bright and scorching hot akin to the sun. She let go of her forged weapons; instead her frenzied fingers became talons and piercing thorns appeared all along her appendages, as the hands of an articulate artist or civilized crafter faded, changing into the crimson claws of a cruel creature. Her ruby-emerald eyes reflected the fierce and feral defiance of the wild and free, as she unleashed her primal savagery in a cacophony of chaotic strikes. She had become a bestial beauty incarnate, incited and seeking to clash and crash.

The wolf met her charge, teeth and claw biting flesh and rending skin as their flurry of blows came together in climatic fashion. Blood sprayed forth with each rasp as neither avoided, nay, welcomed the other with destructive consequence. The fiendish creature sank its teeth into Desire's neck, as it hugged her in a terrible hold, clawing at her wings as the bite strengthened.

The seven-limbed living saint let out a shriek; a soul-shattering song of excruciating sorrow since the shape of her sacred self continued to be ravaged and ruined, butchered by the blood-starved baleful beast she battled - so soon spasms and shrill screams which reverberated with cacophonous suffering surfaced from within her, fervently splashing against their utterly scarred surroundings, vehemently slashing apart the realm with sin-ridden savagery and violence… and then there was the whispering presence of unseen serpents, slowly slithering and hissing as a horrid sickness spread throughout the background of her spiritual being, breaking her from within with insidious subtle strikes while she still fought mindlessly.

Her brilliant-blade of a burning tail reached from behind to batter away at the foul foe that feasted upon her flesh, and her thorn covered talons cut and thrashed against the fiendish claws that caged her throat. Desire had just barely torn herself apart from her assailant, achieving a brief advantage as she lashed out with her luminous limbs of revengeful radiance through their endlessly extending reach. However, her retributive assault already was weakening as her bestial body became more broken while she bled and bled, until she was verily stained across all aspects of her visage with her own viscera. She would never be capable of winning this contest, so it seemed, and yet still she struggled desperately towards victory without regard for the immense amount of harm she sustained along the way.

The wolf demon, caught and pierced by radiance in the chest, arms, legs and abdomen- bled with renewed vigor. It’s breath was haggard now, teeth dripping with her own blood. A great tongue licked at the fresh blood upon those teeth, never wavering even as it trembled. Its growl was guttural now, smile growing sharp. It bounced forward towards Desire, clawed hand outstretched for a blow but its step sank into the blood at its feet, vanishing. All grew quiet in a flash, the liquid slowly returning to glass in that dim light. There was no movement, no ripples to indicate where her foe had gone but this was certain- It had not left.

Desire flailed frantically, attempting to ascertain where the enemy would emerge from as her ruby-emerald eyes peered all around her hastily. She looked for a long time in a held moment stretched to its limitations, but she could not see into the ebony sea at all. When her sight failed, direction was lost, and all of her attacks had become aimless as a result. When direction is lost, purpose may be forgotten, and Desire became more and more bestial as a result. When purpose was forgotten, emotions ruled alone, and so she stumbled and slipped, like a rose plucked prematurely and deprived of its thorns - its protection. When emotion rules alone, annihilation… annihilation. Out of control, with a rush of anger, Desire delved into the unknown, kneeling down before she sank her head beneath the surface of the blood-stained floor.

It was there all sense of stability left her and the blood, like vicious hands, began to drag her down into depths unknown. The floor had given way, if there had ever been a floor, to a blood filled abyss. It choked sight, slowed the body, flooded the soul. But it did do one thing in excess over all others- it turned anger into rage and that rage could be funneled into wrath. Something heavy hit her, sharp claws raking her from behind. Next it bit into her leg and then it plowed into her arm. It crushed, clawed, bit- all in an attempt to destroy her.

It is commonly known that those that were drowning could cause those that try to rescue them to die as well… Desire was drowning in her despair, plunging into the demonic throes of mindless panic: Pain. Pain. Pain. The dark depths of desired destruction seemed an endless abyss of torment to her, and all she could do was welcome the torture… accept the agony and smile at her demise. Split and sundered, Desire watched while she was broken apart by Blood & Beauty, and she felt a semblance of content. Though her arm and leg were lost, she allowed herself to become immersed in all of the sensations surrounding her, and she inhaled the scent of her opponent.

It seemed as though the blind were leading the blind before her, and Desire did not know why she was stricken with severe laughter all of a sudden. She failed to see a solution to this fight, and wondered whether she would ever see her siblings again… whether she would be able to reunite with her family after all of this. Something spoke to her then - a voice reaching out towards her with a hand outstretched, but perhaps this was simply a hallucination induced by too much stimulation…

“AHH!!!” She screamed to herself, voice echoing with agony and abandonment, shaking with anguish, as the grief of a goddess swelled from within her. Dragged to the deprived depths of doom, descending further and further until she had reached her lowest point - that was when she was open to the greatest change. The mantle of the monster did not belong upon her, the Hanged One, thus she cast aside her hatred and savagery, then donned the prior presence she possessed before with the hands of an artisan, an architect, a crafter… she was a source of sacred sustenance, after all. A celestial seed containing the infinite energies of creation.

She suddenly called upon her cosmic powers, mustering as much Might as she still held onto so that she could hang onto herself and the one whomst heart bled with black ichor. Her arm and leg returned to her, restored by the Bracers of Belonging, and with her Sacred Strings, she began the arduous step of retrieving herself and her sister from the sea in which they found themselves adrift. “I will save you, just hang onto me!!!” She shouted fervently again and again through telepathy directed towards the other deity, struggling to pull both of themselves upwards.

If there was any sign her words were heard, nevertheless understood, it became apparent that the blood had begun to warm, then boil and it wasn’t stopping. The heat was rising and only then did the wolf make herself apparent. She collided with Desire, wrapping two hands around her throat as she roared in the face of her savior. Her maw went to wrap itself around the Goddesses’ head as she squeezed her throat.

The boiling blood could not harm her, nor did it darken her desire to save her sister. With the hand of Hanged One holding onto her, Desire guided the Sacred Strings, weaving a myriad of strands to reinforce the structure of her shape, and to continue the ascent while clinging onto the wounded wolf. Her heart was strengthened by sympathy, and she found herself becoming better at engaging her once-enemy; her movements were swift and sudden, pushing and avoiding the savage strikes of the prowler - its prey dancing in the face of darkness and death, for it had survived the Sea of Shadows, and came back with newfound purpose.

Shimmering silvery serpents emerged from the healthy skin of the Hanged One, and entwined their slender forms around the two deities, trapping them together so that they would share their sorrow and suffering. Desire softly slapped away the demented demon that threatened her, perceiving the truth of their familial connection through the spiritual chains she forged and from her dualistic perspective. Thus their bodies were bound beside each other, and they were held face to face while they were raised higher and higher.

Then the Jade Knife descended upon the both of them, its viridian blade piercing their bodies again and again, but instead of being a weapon forged for bloodshed, it was a remedial relic used to heal those that had been hurt. The divine dagger restored what was lost, returning the vigor spent in all of the previous blows during this battle, and Desire shifted closer to her trapped sister and chanted. “Come back to me, my beautiful wife - I love you so!”

As the wolf grew stronger, so did the anger in its blood and the wrath in its heart. It whipped into a frenzy, uncontrollable as it caught and ripped out the Jade Knife before holding it tight. With her other hand she intertwined the The Serpentine Chains and bit into them in a vain attempt to break their grasp. As this failed, the infectious bite of the Wolf Demon corrupted the chains. Added to such sensations as love and sorrow came only pain and wrath, darkening the scales of the serpents. The she-wolf howled at last, chain still in her mouth, as it morphed into a harrowing scream and quite suddenly she tore herself free from Desire and the chains embrace.

In a blink, Desire, her chains and the dagger fell upon a solid floor. The blood was gone and laying near was the pale body of a Goddess, turned away from her and clad in nothing but fresh crimson.

“We have to hold onto the memories of the ones we love, my beloved.” The Hanged One murmured, stepping closer - heart beating with blessed blood that yearned to be with Wyn. After the ritual, rigorously retrieved from the Sea of Shadows was a soothing scene, a vision of an old man and an ancient world, and a promise that was made more stronger than any artifact or monument. The divine doll upon the strings of fate that was named Desire now spoke softly as she kneeled beside a broken soul whom she sought to bring back to what was sacred… “I’ve returned to you, my missing heart. Please… Let us speak to each other once more. Let us feel love finally. Ask yourself again - what is it you desire?”

“Uwné…” she murmured, stirring. “Uwné…?” her voice rose and she pushed her torso up from the stone to turn around. “Uwné!” She breathed with excitement, a large smile growing on her face. The ribbon, once having clung tight, now fell silently to reveal her pale eyes that did not see. It was then she paused, looking first at Desire, then past her. She gasped all at once and crawled backwards, shaking her head frantically. “You aren’t h-him. You’re not h-him. You aren’t. He’s gone. I b-betrayed… This isn’t r-real.” Her voice broke, crimson tears falling from her eyes, staining her perfect face. “This is my p-punishment. I’m sorry. I’m so s-sorry.” She cried, grabbing her head.

“Don’t be afraid…” Desire crooned in an angelic voice as she continued to come closer, until she had suddenly kneeled beside the crying goddess of blood and was cradling her with compassion, speaking solace into Wyn’s ears while she caressed her cheeks in a sweet embrace, internally lamenting the fact that she lacked even a clean bathhouse to provide her partner. “I’ve returned, Wyn, because we are divine beings. We can overcome death, and defeat the devil that has trapped us - there’s no need for punishment so please forgive yourself. We can be happy… I will make it so. You know I would do anything for you, my darling. I’m praying now that you believe me, like I believe in you.”

Wyn trembled at the touch, turning her head away from Desire, not wishing her face to be touched yet she made no move to leave. She continued to cry in a pitiful way, unable to cease, unable to get a hold of herself. “S-Stop this,” She pleaded at last, “My Husband… I-I believe y-you are not him. H-He did not love me when I broke his heart. When I-I tried to destroy everything he had built. T-That was the day resentment blossomed. The l-last thing I saw was his face, it was not out of love I looked but out of vanity. When h-he made no move to help me… I screamed and cursed and joined oblivion. The last thing he ever saw was the real me. Not the one he wanted, the one I pretended to be, but the monster.” It was then, with her truth released that she did get a hold of herself, at least somewhat. This time it was Wyn who put her hand upon Desire’s face, feeling its features. She did not look at the Goddess. “Oh…,” She breathed, “I am sorry Uwné, you deserved far better. Now please, If I am allowed to desire anything, I wish to hear you as were, not as someone you never have been.” She spoke to Desire.

In the realm of otherworldly blood, even a deity could bleed as though they were a mortal, and Desire winced with the agony of a broken heart that had yet to be healed. The desperate words of Wyn hurt her far worse than any vicious wound upon her body, but she could only endure the excruciating experience of listening as she lacked any other form of shield or protection to ward away that which she did not wish to hear. “I am Wyn, alone and afraid, blinded by regret. I fear the future, and lament the past - trapped in time to be tortured for eternity. I am ashamed of my love, and I flee from it.”

Then from beneath both Desire and Wyn emerged Sunset Orange, its oblong shape slightly lifting the two together from the floor and levitating in place smoothly afterwards. All of the artifacts that belonged to Desire returned to her; the Jade Knife vanishing amidst a wave of sparkling light, and the Serpentine Chains splitting apart as some snakes slithered back into the skin of the Hanged One, while others arranged themselves into a specific shape and became a sturdy staff with ophidian designs. “I have many, many, names - though you can call me Prometheus once again, if you wish. I have come to do what I must now, and so I ask; will you aid me, please?”

Wyn, still wincing from her words, dipped her head. “Perhaps you are right.” She said, disentangling from Desire and touching down onto the stone, where she almost fell. “I am many things and I do have regrets but they are mine and mine alone. Delusional is a word I will not use to describe myself but one I can give you aptly. I know not what you need nor if it has any bounds within the realm of possibility. Yet, I shall ask anyway, for it is only right to know. So what is it?”

“Three tasks… I would ask you to do...” Desire murmured, as her mind seemed to shift and see something afar, a myriad of visions shared from submerging herself in the sea of shadows all scattering across her sight. The shifting symbols upon her decorated shimmer-board began to dance along its length and leap onto the divine body of its rider, suffusing her with the sacred scent of sorcery as she spoke and cast a spell:

“The first task is the easiest, as I would ask you to divest as much of your Might wholeheartedly into an artifact of beauty - a Black Mirror. The second task is more difficult, but it must be done… I ask that you travel to the fair realm of the Warrior, and form an alliance with her as she would not speak with me as I am now. This must be done, or our doom will find us. Lastly, the third and most challenging task; I ask that you begin to believe in yourself once more, as you have forsaken your divinity, and now you must remember who you are.”

Wyn slowly gathered herself, resting her hands around her waist and dipping her head so that her nose pointed to the ground. “Divinity forsaken… Now wouldn’t that be something.” She mumbled with a bitter note. “You speak of doom as the necessity for these tasks, yet you dance around it. What doom will find us? Why should I do these tasks for you? If this warrior is Celestine then I must inform you that I am not on good terms with her. Unless you mean someone else?” She asked, “Honestly, the more I think about these things, the more vague they become.”

Desire sailed upon Sunset Orange as though she were simply sauntering around, circling the goddess of the crimson essence with an amused glance at her demure appearance, a friendly fondness mingling with playful pleasure glittering in the two-toned gemstones that were her ruby-emerald eyes. Audible reverence resonated within her heart, singing happily in the presence of the one whom possessed the other half, so close now. “I do dance… Does this displease you?” She asked, and a mischievous echo was heard in her melodious voice as she hovered next to Wyn with the shadow of a smile upon her lips.

“Our doom; the silenced song, the dance of death and despair! To be separated from the sacred source of infinite energy and creation… to be trapped in eternal solitude, all alone forever… I ask you to do these tasks so that we may transcend the boundaries beyond conventional tradition and stagnating schools of thought, hehe… No, I ask you to do these tasks so that we can be together again! Hmm… I do not know this Celestine you speak of, I have simply seen a towering beauty wielding a sword and shield, adorned in armor, and standing afore a doorway that we should go through to restore what was lost… Though I would be willing to seek another potential path, if an alternative should be more enticing.”

"You wish to be together with me?" Wyn asked with a sound akin to disbelief. Abruptly she shook her head and her hands balled into fists. Her face scrunched up and it looked as if she was about to regress to anger but the Goddess took a deep breath. "You make no sense whatsoever." She huffed, then crossed her arms. "What is it you really want from me? Your vibrant blood speaks of things I know well. Violence. Love. Beauty. Abuse. You speak in riddles yet the truth is made bare…" Her eyes widened, "Oh. The real you seeks the unattainable. An insanity, but it happened before… You were there." Her words faded away.

“I prefer the word, outsanity, hehe.” Desire whispered with soothed yearning, as a small stream of tears emerged from her exotic-enigmatic eyes, slowly caressing her cheeks before falling to blend with the realm of blood. Her hand hesitantly reached outwards to touch Wyn again, and in an almost meek motion much was conveyed - she sought sacred consent from the one whom she loved. Seen so clearly in her reflective heterochromia coming closer; the deep and desperate devotion towards the truth that was hidden, to the connection she had lost long ago. It was the want to be whole again… something so many had forgotten in the endless time of bloodshed and betrayal, ever-repeating brutality dominating beauty instead of having balance.

Wyn fumbled for words. "This is… I don't… You aren't…" A raspy sigh escaped her lips and without seeing Desire, she leaned forward and rested her forehead upon hers. "My engagement ring, what was it made of?"

Desire hummed to herself, having summoned the scene prior and already aware of the adamantite used in the shaping of the ring, so intricately sculpted with six simulacrums of the goddess of beauty, shifting and merging with each other as they upheld the perfect jewel - a piece of beauty only born because of their sacred connection. Desire began to describe the resplendent ring, and its gleaming gemstone which shone with supernatural purity, and she slowly concluded her speech with the moment she had the utmost pleasure thought to be unattainable when she placed the ring upon the finger of the one she loved, and she laughed.
Another raspy breath escaped Wyn. “And what… Was the reward given before I bid you farewell for three centuries?” She whispered.

Desire closed her eyes, embracing the memory that had eluded erasure when even the whole world was wasted away and swallowed by the Sea of Shadows. She remembered and refused to forget, hanging onto that vision regardless of the suffering she endured throughout an enforced sentence of eternal solitude. The thoughts of that tender touch between two lips had kept her alive with ardent tenacity, and now she was finally free to be with whom held her heart. Her hands reached behind the Eternal Beauty, and she brought her beloved close to her before kissing her gently.

Wyn returned the kiss with tenderness. She leaned away, breath heavy now, “Delusional.” She said, before returning her lips to Desire. It started, like a dam being broken, a soft start before the roar. Wyn was no different and quickly the two slid to the floor in certain bliss.

Aelos Subordination

It was those days of which the world was young and growing that time sputtered or else flew upon lines invisible. So much wrought, so much destroyed, so much forgotten and memorialized. The beating of hearts moved ever on, through death and life. Through purchase and degradation. This was how the many toiled in the world ruled by the mysterious divine. Did they listen? Did they care? Was it the whims and mercies they showed that designed them sufficiency?

None truly knew.

Ema awoke with a groan and then frantic anxiety. She exploded forth, wrestling free of her blackened tomb. Doing so ushered forth a cloud of ash and dust so thick she could not see and before she knew it, she was falling again- Out onto singed grass and dying embers. It took her a moment to collect herself before she rose and looked around. Her clothes had burned away in the fire, leaving herself wholly unclad to the world. She was caked in soot and ash, with several charcoal stains smudged onto her metallic chassis. Grumbling about the soot and trying to rub it to no avail, she turned to the burnt out house and forge.

It was all gone, down to the very foundations. Nothing could be salvaged and this thought struck Ema with cold clarity. Bitterness and resentment welled up inside of her, such new feelings she did not know how to truly deal with. It sent her into a whir of thought and motionless. She stood as still as a mountain and did not move, even as the sun set giving way to primal dark. The smoldering embers glowed like small stars as the Aelos wracked with uncountable guilt and anger at the loss of the Maker’s home, passed out, as her body gave out from sheer tiredness.

She awoke to a strange sensation. The night was giving way to dawn as Ema felt herself being dragged. With a shocked fright she sat up to see the strangest sight she had ever seen. A creature with two mighty legs, a large bulbous face with only a long strand of hair running down the middle.

Voices broke her concentration and she was made keenly aware, as the upper half of a person, somehow attached to the lower face, looked back at her, holding a rope in its hand- That that had not been it actual face and she was looking at some amalgamation between beast and the pointed ears.

“It wakes.” He said in a low voice. “I was getting tired of pulling it.” He followed up with a relieved sigh.

In front of him came two more, trotting to a halt around her. One was a woman and the other a man, both armed with bows and spears. Their hair was braided, adorned with some feathers. The woman was especially strange, for her hair was shaved on both sides, leaving a long blonde strip down the middle. She held a scar on her face that ran from her cheek down to her chin, with fiercer eyes to boot. The man was otherwise plain, despite the fact they walked on four legs and were impossibly tall.

“You always tire.” The woman sneered before poking Ema with the butt of her spear. “Up. I won’t say it again.” Her voice seemed to growl with authority and Ema at once stood. Shame coiled up inside of her, the mere thought of being commanded so easily! This person was no Maker!

“Impressive!” The other man exclaimed. “We’ll get a good deal for this one. Not everyday you find something quite like this. Say…” He looked her all over then lingered on her eyes, “What even are you? Can you speak?”

The woman snorted and cantered off saying, “It doesn’t matter, she’s shiny and they like shiny. Now let's get moving! We have others to meet and the morning is cool.”

The man with the rope, which she now realized was tied around her arms, bounding them together, began to walk and Ema had no choice but to follow. The other man, who she could only really define by his simple face, brown braided hair, sun kissed skin and inquisitive eyes- kept staring.

Try as she might to find her own voice, it did not wish to say anything. The other man rolled his eyes and muttered, “Damn slaves, talk too much and then not at all.” Before he trotted off to catch up with the woman. Her rope was tugged and the pace they went doubled.

Ema wondered what she had gotten herself into now.

The world was always dark to her. Even with her sight, even as all the blood in the world flowed enough to glimpse the grandeur of it all. It was dark, not because it was of night, pitch black and abyssal but more so it was because Wyn considered herself broken. What she saw was just an abstract definition. A gloomy shape, an outline. The details were always lost upon her. A part of her knew this no longer mattered but try as she might, the Goddess could never shake the fact she had once been able to define the most minute detail and witness beauty so small, none would ever believe it existed at all. Thus, as she ventured aimlessly in her Mire, she lost herself in thought so completely, she failed to see what lay before her.

It was the feet first motion of a sudden fall, where one loses their footing, except she kept falling and falling. She brushed against walls, her body breaking the rocks, coating herself in slick blood and rocky dust. She could have stopped, she could have righted her course but Wyn’s mood would not allow it. Even a God could be prone to the madness of inaction. To the folly of the soul.

So she fell.

It was long before she at least fell upon solid ground again, rolling until she stopped with such force against a rock, it cracked in the deafening silence of oblivion. She knew not where she was nor what she was doing anymore. She had created Ema out of guilt and sincerely hoped she would make the world a better place. Not like herself, who could not control herself with any earnesty. She tried to help, she tried to fix things but all she was powerless to herself. To the indignation of her mind.

Wyn sat up, resting her back against a cold rock. She wrapped her arms around herself and shivered, dipping her head as her eyes glanced around, hoping to find some small flicker of red. It came in the form of discarded puddles, streams of blood that flowed somewhere off into the deep dark of rock and freezing depths. Perhaps it was best to stay in that dark place. But try as she might to convince herself it would be easy to become lost forever in the depths of the world, she was a Goddess and her other moods knew this just as she. They knew her entirely and she would not be happy with herself when it came to the coins. She sighed, a tear falling from her eye, soaking in the ribbon around her eyes. Such was her fate.

In fact… With a quick crack of her neck, Wyn sat up with a more regal posture.

“Oh Maroon.” She whispered. “So weak, so pathetic.” She scoffed, standing up. “Where you see such depression, mired by your self-stricken nature. I see only opportunity. This world is mine. I was denied the last but this time, nothing will stop me. Not you. Not them. Nothing.” She ran her hand through her hair and pursed her lips. “I shall forgive me for giving away those slaves. A minor setback but one easily rectified.”
“This shall be my realm.” She said, giving it much thought. “And here all these machinations of mine shall be wrought.”

With a flick of her wrist, the earth rumbled as if its very foundations were being upheaved. Rock crumpled, cracked and shattered as the world rumbled and shook. Such was the anger, the terrible wrath of earth molested, that it vibrated throughout that vast underground world. All the while, like an anchor, Wyn was unmoving. Around her the rock gave way to the black depths of places not even she dared tread and all the while the ceiling caved in, raining minerals and stalactites like rain.

When at last the earth settled and the rock no longer quivered, there was a dreadful silence. It lasted for a few moments, before the sound akin to a raging river flared into being. Falling from the sky in four spots, came waterfalls of blood that drenched her kingdom, wetting it all in an ocean of red. It filled cracks, ravines and crevices. It soaked into anything else, it crept across all surfaces and when it at last reached its peaks, contained only by stone, it spilled off into the unknowable places of that earthen womb.

Set in the middle of the room, surrounded by the red mists of ever flowing currents, sat a citadel of stark ivory. She knew this not because she could see it but because she had envisioned it as such and only by her design was it seen fit for her. With high, spiraling towers, walls unbreachable by any mortal, and a gate that came sanguine at her touch, her palace mimicked the very same one she had once built to express her presence in the old world. The rich irony was that her palace had sat atop the peak of the world and now it sat underneath it all. What did it matter to one who could not see?

She strode through the empty streets, cobbled with white bricks and lined with bushes of white roses. Empty gardens sat behind small walls, devoid of any life or color save white. But as the haze settled and the mist set in, small droplets of crimson sat to every surface, giving the place a very macabre feeling. She was oblivious to this statement, as she passed empty doors and dark windows on her ascent to the throne. She passed lavious statues, detailing her strife in the old world. One stood out beyond all others- Wyn stood above a dragon, wearing nothing, foot pressed into the neck of the beast. She was the Drakhorey slayer, after all.

The throne room was adorned with more embellishments, statues of figures long since dead, and pillars with etchings and designs so foreign, only she knew what they meant. She came to a stop at the throne, looking above it, at the mural of three figures. Maroon weeping to the left, Ebony with a sword to the right, and Ivory, herself with a rose in the middle. There were no details beyond her silhouette in the blood of her choice, flowing and shimmering with divine grandeur.

Wyn caressed the smooth stone of the throne, pleasant shivers creeping down her spine. She sat at once, the gray stone becoming white.

Not one to waste anymore time, she willed before herself a large but shallow basin. It floated with a sound like crystals shimmering in the wind. Empty as it was, Wyn cut herself herself and her ivory ichor flowed in the bowl. When she was satisfied with the depth and the liquid has settled, she willed forth an image.

At first it was hazy, like always she could only see the vaguest outline of a red being, holding a loft an object that hummed with power. A bow.

Wielded by an elf.

A New beginning

“...Ema. My Unseen Rose…”

It was that voice that compelled her to rise, not with slow trepidation but with determined might. She sat up with the ease her body lent her and took in her immediate surroundings. Though her body acted with haste, her mind flowed like a trickle. Questions assaulted her that came with answers in tow. Who was she? She was Ema. What was she? The Aelos, Ema. Who created her? The maker. What was her purpose? It was… There the answers seemed to stop.

She knew who she was. She knew what she was. She knew who created her. But she did not seem to know her purpose. Unless, her purpose needed further prodding? She turned and placed her feet upon the floor, wherein she wiggled them. The tap tap tap of metal on dry dirt was an odd sound. More of a low thumping. She moved her arms forward but as she did, Ema realized her hands were not as empty as she had believed. In one she carried a red shaft with a blunt object upon its head. It was a hammer.

She hefted it before her, gripping it tight, feeling it with her hand. Had her Maker left it for her? Her eyes peered upon her other hand, gripping a pouch of some weight to it. She placed the hammer down, carefully, before undoing the string that bound the pouch closed. She looked over the open bag to see something strange. With her hand she brought out one of the objects. Round, flat, with heavy weight. She flicked it and soft reverberation went up her fingers, which startled Ema and she almost dropped the circle. She was sure it was made of some sort of metal and upon a closer look she realized it had embossed upon it a strange shape. It looked like a little Aelos but who would make one so small? The Maker? No, that was silly. Furthermore, why would the maker give it horns? What was the purpose?

Perplexed by this newest development, Ema dropped the circle back into the sack and picked up a handful. More of the horned Aelos peered back up at her. Joined by strange shapes that weren’t shapes and creatures that had too many eyes. It was all very strange, so she placed them back into the bag and tied it shut.

Ema scanned the area. It was a workshop of sorts, plain and dusty that sat outside under the dim shadow of a roof. Outside yonder she could see white clouds hovering in a blue sky that stretched on forever. A field of flowers amid tall grass surrounded the place and the chorus of insects indicated that this was their domain. Other than that, it was seemingly abandoned, she stood for the first time and thus took her first steps. Wobbly feet almost made for a quick fall but she managed to steady herself upon the table and took it slow after. Ema used the table for a bit, getting a feeling for it. When she felt confident enough, she let go and walked about the forge. A large furnace sat empty, tools were hung from racks, firewood was stacked nearby, whilst water sat ready in a wooden tub. She knew these things instinctively, almost as if she could reach out and they’d be an extension of herself. The patterns, the ideas, the knowledge- It was all there. She could make more Aelos. All she needed was material and time.

Yet, try as Ema might, she hadn’t a clue on how to create anything else. Or if it was even possible. She looked over the tools and knew them to be that, tools, but what she did not know was how to recreate them. How to cast, how to hammer, how to forge. Was it as simple as looking at a hammer and fashioning a blunt head? How did one come up with such designs? How did she know how to use them but not make them?

This jostled the Aelos and long did she think upon her next move. She had a duty to create more Aelos, so that they in turn, could create more Aelos. So that the Maker would be pleased. Is that what she wanted? To please the Maker? To create more of her kind? Her brain told her to think upon it with cold reasoning but… Elsewhere, somewhere perhaps inside her chest, a small voice urged her to do as she wanted.

After some time with her thoughts running amok, she came to the conclusion that she should make more Aelos but only after making sure the immediate land was safe enough for them. Who would she be if they came under immediate threat? That wouldn't do anyone good in the slightest and she knew it would ease her itch to explore.

So, grabbing her meager things, Ema sat out from under the roof after much hesitation, she was welcomed by the sight of a world she had only seen from the shadows. It was brighter then she had anticipated, so she squinted as her eyes adjusted. Upon this newest inspection she could see distant trees and the smell of salt in the air. Strange things indeed. Furthermore, as she looked around her, she came to realize the workshop forge was attached to another building. One with a few windows and a door.

Her curiosity could not be contained as she went over to it and pushed the wooden door open with a creak. Inside it was dim again but her eyes spotted a bed for resting, a table like the one she awoken on, some stools and a chair and some more tools. Pots sat in a corner, whilst the smell of age wafted over her. Such a strange place. Had the Maker built it? Had the Maker used it? Did she have a right to enter such a place?

Ema nodded her head to no one and left the house, pulling shut the door on her way out. Perhaps in time she would have further use of it.

A strange whistling sound, followed by a THWAK right next to her head, alarmed Ema and she glanced upon something embedded in the house. She hadn’t a clue what it was, some narrow shaft with feathers at the end. It seemed to have penetrated the wood but with what? She had her answer as something struck her, glancing off her cheek and sticking into the wood. She pulled it out to see a sharpened stone, almost a triangle in shape, at the tip. But why had it struck her?

She looked out into the thick bramble of forest that sat close by. Another projectile whizzed past but it did not hit her. Figures began to emerge from the shadows of the trees and out of the corner of her eye she saw someone coming fast at her. She wasn’t able to dodge as they swung something hard into her stomach. Pain doubled her over, it was the strangest sensation, and hard to focus on anything else. She was then hit repeatedly in the back.

“That’s enough Hine!” Someone shouted, feet scuffled about her as another feeling set in; Fear.

“We need it alive!” The same voice barked.

“It killed my Erik! An eye for an eye Jokab, that’s rights!” a woman, Hine, snarled.

“You’ll have your rights but not know.” he retorted, “Jinsip, Yule, Ikihn- Search this place, find anything useful. Macab, Duro- Get this thing on its feet.” There was a flutter of movement and Ema felt herself being raised. She didn’t know them, no matter who they were, searching through the Maker’s creation.

She was lifted upright, head still drooping. Something warm grabbed her chin and lifted her head up. She was just as shocked to see them as they were shocked to see her.

‘That’s not the same one.” Hine, a woman with pointy ears hissed. “Where’s the other! Where!” She snarled, pushing forward with a long sharp stone. A man with pointed features, as well as pointed ears, punched her in the gut and shoved her back, knocking the wind out of her.

“Stay your anger, Hine.” Jokab snarled. “What are you?” he next asked Ema, “Where is the other one?”

Ema looked between them all, even to the two that held her. All had pointy ears and sharp features. Golden, brown, silver hair, wearing an assortment of furs, carrying many stone and wooden tools. Jokab had more of those pointed shafts and some sort of wooden object, strung with hair that he put over his arm and chest.

“It doesn’t speak, it’s stupid. Let us kill it and be done with it!” The woman rose, clutching her stomach. One look from Jokab was enough to silence her and she dipped her head to the ground.

“Speak.” he said, brandishing a long stone knife and holding it up to her throat. “Speak!” he shouted at her.

“I am Aelos.” Her voice came forth with startling clarity and with strength she did not really feel. “And I am alone. You should not be here. This place is the Maker’s!” she said with conviction.

Jokab furrowed his brow. “Aelos? Alone? You’re lying!” He pressed the stone dagger into her neck, oblivious that it did little to her. “Where is the one who killed Erik in cold blood?”
“I woke alone.” Ema reiterated then added, “I am sorry for your loss.”

Jokab frowned in anger and released the dagger. “Search it.”

She did not struggle against the searching hands, for the thought of more pain was almost unbearable. Eventually, after this violation was complete, Jokab both held the bag with the circles and her hammer. He and the Hine looked both over, starting first with the hammer. Both seemed amazed by it and a startling quarrel came over them, as both claimed it as theirs by right until Jokab won with a quick backhand to Hine’s face.

Ema winced at the violence, she did not care for it in the slightest. In fact, she felt another emotion added upon her fear and pain- Sadness. Why did this happen? Why was it happening? She was the only Aelos, so why did they think another had murdered one of their own? Why? What wasn’t she seeing?

“Jokab!” A new voice called out, bringing forth full arms of the Maker’s tools. Followed by the other two. They carried almost everything in the forge. Bits of metal, tools for working it, coal and scraps. “Look at all this!”

“Good, we’ll take it all back! Now search this!” he pointed at the door next to Ema. She was growing with a sense of agitation. They couldn’t take any of that! It was the Maker’s! How would she build more Aelos? She couldn’t disappoint the Maker! With a quick movement, she broke free with her left arm and elbowed her captor. He cursed as she used her free arm to punch the other man in the face. He dropped instantly but that was when Jokab pounced, slashing her with his knife. There was a scraping sound and Ema barely felt anything before leaping back into the building. She hit the wall and the blow knocked her off balance, so she fell. By that point, the other three, not yet in the house, dropped their stolen goods and leapt on her. She kicked briefly before they howled with pain.

Then pain struck her across the face, as sparks flew. Jokab stood over her, wielding her hammer. He had managed to strike a blow and pain swelled and rang out all across her body. Now thoroughly pinned down by the others, Jokab turned to Hine and snarled, “Burn it. Burn it all!” The woman, who had been peering into the bag with the embossed circles, looked up with a mischievous glee. She put the pouch into her furs and took out a small pot of some sort and one of the other men brought out some sticks. The two hurried into the house as Ema struggled against captivity, receiving another blow to her stomach as they rushed out, trailed by a cloud of smoke.

“Nothin’ of use in there.” The man grumbled as Hine stared into the glowering room.

“It’s all dry, quick blaze. We best be going before those horse-elf scum show up.” She said with a spit. “Curse them and their goddess.” She began to walk off, evidently no longer caring about her lust for death.

“What do we do with it?” One of them asked Jokab.

“Knife’s too dull to slice it’s throat and it would take to long to hammer it to death, the damn thing. Can’t bring it with us either, would cause too much trouble.” he stroked his chin.

“Seems like a waste to leave it, might come after us.” The man, who she had struck in the face, said. He rubbed his cheek, hate burning in his eyes as he looked at her with contempt.

“Throw her in the building. Fire burns everything, doesn’t it?” Jokab stated and their faces curled with sinister smiles.

“You cannot…” She groaned, being lifted by her arms. “You cannot!” she shouted but it was useless. They crowded over her, and someone grabbed her feet. She began to kick and the man cursed before Jokab smashed the hammer into her stomach again. This time she felt something dent and she gasped with pain.

“We can and we will. Don’t know what you or your friend was but we don’t want your kind around here anymore. Can’t be having you interfering with our survival, now can we?” Jokab sneered as they entered the building. Smoke billowed now as the fire crept up the walls. The men recoiled at the heat and quickly threw her in, where she landed in a heap. Her head spun to the door and she quickly scampered up as they shut it.

As she pounded on the door, she could hear them yelling and cursing before something heavy was brought to keep the door shut. Everytime she banged on it, the pain in her stomach could be felt. The roaring of the fire began to drone everything else out but she couldn’t stop. She had to get out!

She began to bang her fists into the door but when that wouldn’t give, she began to bang them into the wall. Ema learned quickly that her metal was far more durable and stronger than wood would ever be as she punched her fist clean through the boards. She began to try again but as soon as her fist struck the boards, the wall and ceiling began to cave and the world grew dark as something hard fell upon her.

The rain drenched the Goddess, sending an all too familiar shiver down her spine. For one who could have so easily banished the rain and the chill that wracked her, Wyn was incapable in that moment to really act with the divine part of her body. At least with such simple tasks. A part of her wanted to scoff, another part only wanted laughter but right now, as she clutched the small body of a baby in her arms- She could only mingle her tears with the rain. Her weeping lost in the thunder and the wind. The world was dark already and she had never made it any lighter.

If anything, she was one of the reasons it kept losing its precious light. Bit by bit, body by body, soul by soul. She was the monster in the night, the terror that struck hearts, the poison that brought disdain. She could not control herself. She could not…

She shielded the babies’ face from the rain by clutching it tight to her chest. Was this what motherhood was supposed to feel like, she wondered? Had she failed her own offspring, so long ago? When she could see but was even more blind.

She had caused this, she had lost control. She hadn’t been in control. She remembered the babies’ crying. Could remember how she could smell and taste metal but could not see. She could not see that life had taken root even without blood. It had been an anomaly. One she had hated, one she had feared…

So she destroyed it.

But in the process, she had regained herself and only then, only then did the horror of herself become apparent once more. Only then had she thought to care for the little one. A girl of no winters, of no laughs nor smiles. Who smelled still fresh with life as newborns do. She had been crushed in the short fight. Choked of life before it had ever truly begun.

They had been so close to salvation. Earthwall did not linger far, a city where the baby would have grown up healthy and safe. Where her companion might have made a name for himself. Where he could have forged his own path. What would the baby have become? A servant? A baker? A merchant? Would she have fallen in love with an elfen boy and had a family that she could find happiness with? Would she have grown distant, wanting to see the world? Too restless to be locked away forever? Would Navari have taught her the ways of war? Would Celestine have noticed her? Wyn caressed one of her small ears, noticing how soft it was.

It was at that moment that Wyn knew a simple truth; she hated herself. She did, more than anything else in the cosmos. There was no other who would cause her such pain but herself. Such was the fate she had been given. But why then, did she still feel compelled to hope. Had it been Myrtu’s words that drove her to action? Had it been her own attempt to right a wrong. Even as she searched for the broken construct, even as she muddied herself upon that path. Lysander whistled in protest but she paid him no mind. She had to fix this. Not for herself but to give back life to one who had had it stolen. This was what she would do.

Her hand at last gripped something metallic and cold, discarded by her wrath, now tended to with a gentle hand. She felt it all over, from narrow ridges to low peaks. Modeled after an elf, made of bronze. Had it memories? Had it want? Her fingers found within the head a jewel, hard but cracked and within it she found the truth. Wyn divined from it all that she could, what it was, how it could be, what propelled it, its function and purpose. Memories of his maker and a name, Exordium. He had fought off elven vagabonds and had taken the child, the only survivor. With a breath, she knew what needed to be down and took within her hand the diamond of consciousness.

Wyn came to learn that there remained a workshop nearby. Exordium’s place of birth. She could replicate such a process. She could let such life walk again and be free to choose whatever they desired. Not remain a memory, only to be lost forevermore in the rain. With a flick of her wrist, she buried what remained of the construct and mounted Lysander, placing a memory within his mind. Then they were off.

It was a strange thing to be blind and working with metal. She was no craftsman, even when she could see… Not like her husband had been. Regardless, she was a God and her senses allowed her a great deal of purpose and thought. She did not need to work with tools when she could see so clearly the final product in her mind. Just being in that place was enough to leave a mark or an impression upon her soul. Memories she had never appreciated came flooding back. A roaring inferno. The clank of a hammer. The smell of salt and charcoal. A warm smile.

She felt ashamed knowing how she had used him so but if there was anything she could do to make up for it, it was this. First she crafted a hammer. A simple instrument for both overarching work and the finer details. The pommel of it had a small spike, that she used to draw blood, for there could be no finer work made unless a sacrifice was freely given. Next she conjured metal to form, great sheets of bronze and plates of steel. She would build it to last, while etching reliefs and other artistic flairs. The smallest subtleties did not escape her, for she worked as if she was being watched by the greatest craftsman she had ever known and it was in that work how lost she became with all time and thought.

A torso came to being, nimble and formed like that of a young woman. Whether this was necessary, perhaps the Goddess did not know. Next she formed sturdy legs and strong arms. Legs for running, walking, jumping… Fighting. Arms for working, for dexterity, for crafting and for gripping. She layered them with steel, hoping to form an even greater natural shield. Next she fashioned the head in immaculate detail. A skeleton formed the base and then weaved and hammered into place a face with steel skin. She gave it basic features, a facial expression that would denote a neutral expression. One that wouldn’t be seen as indifference but thoughtful.
It was the eyes she spent the longest upon, for she knew that they were the window to the self- the soul. When that was done Wyn could tell, just be feeling, that it looked as if the girl was sleeping. Wyn smirked.

Next she braided long strands of the finest steel into strips of hair and layered them upon her head so thick that it looked as if they were the real thing. Wyn only knew this when she swept her hands through it to feel the fine, cool strands against her fingers. When this was done Wyn moved over to another table in the workshop and held her hand over the small elven babe, who she had covered with a cloth. A blue light poured forth and from her hand there came a brilliant diamond as all that the baby was transformed. Within it was the infant consciousness of the born but dead. The Goddess held it to her lips and upon doing so, kissed it, placing forth knowledge and echoes of memory from those that had preceded it. Inscriptions poured forth upon the diamond and Wyn walked over to the construct.

Wyn made things ready for her awakening. She would gift the hammer to the girl, even without blood to sacrifice, it could still be used. Next she blessed her with the ability to create diamonds from her hands. All she needed to do was find something to press hard enough. Their original maker had not made it easier for them to procreate. After that was done, Wyn etched into her wrist the mark of a single rose. She pricked her thumb and etched her blood into it so that the rose would never lose its color.

Wyn knew it was not in hers or the girls interest to stay. She would only disappoint this one and herself if she lost control of herself. They would not understand that blood did not need to be the only thing in the world that could allow life to function. That reminded her…The Goddess went outside to Lysander and stole forth the bag of coins that held her purchases from Ashevelen. They would be better suited for the girl, not used as servants and slaves by Ivory, or prey by Ebony. They would hate her for this but she already hated herself, so what was the point? She placed the coin bag in the girl’s hand and then conjured up a hard leather garb with a long cloak of black and red that fit her snug.

Finally she phased the diamond into the girl’s head. As a blue light began to awaken within, Wyn whispered, “You may never know me. But in your heart you will search. For you are free to do anything and be anyone. I pray if you do find me, you never think terribly of me.” Wyn confessed despite it all. She let out a soft sigh as the blue light began to intensify. “Remember, do not hate yourself, ever. For doing so will only bring you great grief, my Ema. My Unseen Rose.”

As the light stirred forth and the girl became animated with movement, Wyn could not help but have a smile upon her lips. She hoped her husband would be proud.

Wings beat like a hurricane. Claws rent earth with every step. Teeth sundered flesh and dripped with rank. A torrent of fire and brimstone spewed forth, bathing her in blazing hatred. A roar of true defiance, like thunder.

But hers was the hunter's howl. The promise of true slaughter. Her old enemy, born anew.


Wings snapped. Claws broke. Teeth shattered.

She peeled the scales, she broke the spikes, she mauled and slaughtered and defaced and defiled until naught remained but gore and corpses.

For it was Drakhorey.

The hated spawn.

Wyn stood and overlooked the blood stained land. It was not the Mire she walked through but it had been a hatching ground for that flying scourge she loathed so. She glowered at the memories. Bloody diamonds, defacements, challenges…Love. No. She laughed. That had only been lust for life.

Something cracked underfoot. Warmth flooded her senses and she became aware that it had not been a drak’s blood but an egg. Even now, she could see them growing and beating with blood in their small fragile hearts. Fragility in such a state, curled up and asleep as they grew unmolested by the world. What did they dream?

She hated them but that hate could serve a useful purpose. She picked up an egg and studied it, divining what little she could. She held it close to her mouth and licked the shell. The taste of eggshell was unsavory. Coarse, riddled with pockets and dirt. So warm though. She flung it on the ground and watched as the small thing, now a hatchling, struggled before it passed. So feeble were their young that Wyn could hardly believe just how dangerous they would become. Even as the wind whipped through her hair and the smell of brimstone permeated her senses, Wyn’s laugh cut through all.

She would make them strong. She would make them infallible. She would make them worthy.

Thus the Goddess cut herself with a long fingernail, spewing forth the vivacious liquid of her divine blood. It was as ebony coals, black as night upon her pale skin. She drippled it upon unhatched eggs to instant effects. It seeped in, permeating the membrane, corrupting the fluids and the yokes, seething itself into their veins. There came a vicious ripping and tearing sound as they exploded in growth whilst her blood worked deep. Eggs hatched with vigor, spewing forth beasts of charcoal scales and jagged spikes. They grew further, wings shriveling and falling off, claws expanding, tails flooding with spikes. Teeth became a dark red, whilst their eyes became small and diminutive. Malice took root in their hearts, a lust for only instinct and misery.

They would have turned upon her in an instant but Wyn was already gone. Her work had been completed. She had fixed any future drakhorey problem by creating a natural rival. Creature’s fit only for the fun they might bring them. Why fly when you could climb? Why run when you would be hunted? Why exist when your cousins would supplant you?

She snickered.

For the Drak Beast would see her work continued for all time.


With a realm built and an afterlife completed, Ashevelen’s life suddenly became very busy. Every Umbra that died would appear before her and ask to trade, same as they did in life. Only this time, it was a final trade. While this worked initially, the Shadow Bazaar’s stocks going up, it wasn’t enough to fill the whole bazaar and not exotic enough either. ‘Thus, it was once again time for Ashevelen to travel. This time in a new direction. In her previous travels she hadn't checked a few places as they were simply not in the way nor unique enough to warrant her attention but now, without any other place to go, even those places needed to be checked up.

With a shadowy rope tied to her mortal form, she started walking north-west. Admiring the view, whistling a tune and of course, keeping an eye out for special places. Where something exotic could be sold in her bazaar. Trading for information with some elves, she was told about a great monster that destroyed a village or more, close to Earthwall, an elven city that Ashevelen never visited either. Blood, gore and teeth kept being repeated by every traveler that she met. Curiosity piqued, Ashevelen sped up her pace towards the places where she was told the villages were destroyed. Only to find…nothing.

Such villages had been destroyed, after all. So she kept walking, lost in thought about the nature of the beast, its value, if it could reproduce and so on until her feet touched something liquid. Blood. Thinking this was the place that the villagers spoke about, she let out a strong pulse of divine energy. A flare for anyone in the vicinity to see. Just in case she was intruding on the domain of a divine, instead of a mere beast.

Nothing happened. The world remained much the same as it had been before. The swamp of blood before her went on as it always had with or without the intrusion of others. The giant mosquitoes buzzed about, the bubbly mire felt both cold and warm to the touch while every grove of trees, which lay like patchwork across the land, felt as if they watched her every step. It felt as if there were faint whispers all around but to a God's perception, even the wind played tricks in the grasses that lined the bog. The air was palpable and the dim hazy and it went on forever.

The bloody swamp amazed Ashevelen, now awakened from her day-dreaming. Giant mosquitoes, blood instead of water.

Amazing! Never have I ever seen such wonders! ” shouted Ashe to no one in particular.

With a sudden burst of speed, Ashevelen started to pick the plants growing in the swamp, throwing them behind her in the bag and occasionally would open up a shadow portal to catch mosquitoes and transport them into the Shadow Bazaar.

She stopped for a second upon hearing the voice of a mortal and laid her eyes upon… something that looked like a horse but not really and then the actual mortal. Yet another elf.

Upon closer inspection it appeared to be an elf maiden, stroking the side of some… Monstrous horse. Her voice carried a certain weight to it but she was no god. "...there. Don't you see this spot above all others would work? I mean honestly, why do I bother with you. You are lucky you are a gift, Lysander."

The horse stomped its bladed hoof and snorted, yet it sounded more like a high pitched hiss.

"Well of course you don't like me right now. You'd prefer Maroon but I am not Maroon. You should be lucky I'm not-" the horse cut her off with a low trill as it bent down and opened its mouth to snatch something out of the blood pool before them. Next he lifted his head back up with a flourish and crunched something with sickening sounds. The elf maiden huffed. "Must you interrupt me with such depravity?"

Having listened to the elf's conversation with the horse, Ashevelen decided it was better to approach before they left. Maybe they would reveal the location of a settlement or just where the divine that created this place was.

Hello! Apologies for disturbing you, it seems like I’m lost. May you direct me to the closest settlement? ” said Ashe, raising her voice, while her form changed to meet what the mortal would consider the most peaceful and non-threatening.

The elf maiden paused and glanced back at the Goddess. “Not many would dare tread here.” the elf spun around fully, clasping her hands together, “If there are any settlements or civilizations to find, I am unaware.” She spoke aloud with clarity, almost melodic in a way with an aura of refinement not yet seen in the world yet. “So, apologies, I cannot.”

I have no idea where I am, truth to be told. If there are no settlements, where do you live? ” quickly answered Ashevelen. A red ribbon obscured her eyes and it became evident it didn’t matter what form she took. As both horse, who now looked at her too, and rider, were apparently blind. Either that or it was a ruse. Deciding to test it out while conversing with the elf, Ashevelen subtly tested her by enhancing the lingering shadows that were just at the edge of the elf’s sight. Slowly moving them or otherwise making them appear and disappear.

"Here or there." She said absent-minded, a slight smirk forming on her lips. Seemingly unaware of the shadow manipulations, though the horse seemed agitated. "The world is young. There is only one grand settlement so far and it isn't here, in this bloodmire. In fact only the truly foolish wander here. That or divinity flows through their veins. So which are you, my lady?"

The horse saw the shadows, the elven woman didn't or she didn't care about it. Truly pelicular and only one grand settlement? Seems like whoever this person was, didn't know about the existence of all the others but if she's the monster that destroyed the villages…better not let her know about the others.

" I could ask you the same thing. You're here. So, are you divine or as foolish as I am? " countered Ashe.

The elf smiled, revealing pearly whites. With one hand she reached behind her head and a second later the cloth over her eyes fluttered free, to reveal what had been obscured; A Goddess. She grew slightly taller, tall enough to tie the ribbon around one of the horse's spikes. She then looked at Ashevelen with her pale, unseeing eyes and said, "I've been both in my lifetime. One more than the other." She smirked. "I am Ivory, what shall I call you?"

Ashevelen chuckled and shook her head. She should've seen this coming. With so many predators that seek blood, an elf wouldn't live around the area for too long.

Removing her own disguise, Ashevelen grew in size to meet the other divine in height. Shadows swirled around her and coins could be seen within them, a tiny tornado forming circling her body.

" Well met, Ivory. I am Ashevelen, the lady of trade and shadows. You’ve chosen a very interesting place to make your home and your horse? A beautiful creation, is he one of Myrtu’s creations? "

Ivory nodded. "Lysander was a gift, yes. By the grace of Myrtu, Ashevelen." She placed a hand upon Lysander, dipping her head slightly. "This place, home it might be, is rather boorish. We haven't seen many visitors till now. Pray tell then, what brings you here, lady of trade and shadows?" She asked.

Ashevelen approached the horse and pulled an apple out from the shadow of her robe and offered it to him. “ There you go, beautiful. ” said Ashevelen to Lysander with a smile before turning once more to Ivory.

I’ve recently created a realm where all are invited to trade, barter etc but currently the bazaar is rather empty. My servants bring me stuff constantly but it isn’t enough. So, to answer your question, I don’t exactly know what I’m doing here. Looking to acquire rare things, that’s for sure, but what are those things…I can’t tell.

Lysander sniffed the apple but made no move to bite it. In fact he turned and walked away from the two with a high pitched snort. Ivory looked in his direction and then back to Ashe. "A curious breed. Pay him no mind, he's been changed to the point that such sweets no longer derive any desire." She folded her hands across her midsection. "You poor thing. What is a goddess of trade to do without anything to trade?" She smirked. "Sounds like you've come to the right place, darling. Many a thing exists here that you might find… Valuable, but…" Her fingertips came together. "It would be poor of me to give such things freely, surely a goddess of Trade, wishes to trade?" She asked with feigned innocence.

But see, that’s where you got me wrong. I’ve got things to trade, mundane things. I’m looking for special things. Animals, plants, people…” replied Ashe just after throwing the apple that she offered to Lysander behind her.

Her eyes flashed briefly at the mention of trade and Ashe grinned.

I am not asking for freely given things, am I? One is a gift of goodwill which I already took in the form of your mosquitos, one is to purchase something else. I could potentially take every animal and insect you’ve got in here without any issue but where would be the fun in that? ” replied Ashe with a wink.

Let’s see, Ivory of Blood. What can you offer me?

Ivory laughed but her smile faded as a more neutral expression crossed her face. "To take is what we God's do, isn't? But tell me, is it customary to take from someone's home without giving anything in return?" She questioned. "If my goodwill has already been given, where might yours be? And if you wish to purchase my goods, what might can you offer in return, Ashevelen of the Shadows?"

It isn’t but it is at the same time. Depends on whom you ask. I’ve seen many types of divines, each with their own ways. I for one never take stuff just because I can, I buy them but such is my nature. ” replied Ashe with her usual smile. “ That’s where you’re wrong. But I haven’t taken without permission, did I? Just as I stepped in the swamp I let out divine energy for you to feel. If you didn’t, then I was led to believe this place either was devoid of a divine or that the divine, you, doesn’t care about the presence of another. But, either way, say I’m a good divine. Here, take these. ” explained Ashe just before taking out the Coin and dropping a few kilograms of coins on solid land, before realising that the divine might actually be blind and then these would be useless to her. Putting a hand through a shadow, Ashevelen rummaged a bit inside before pulling out a Tarsk and cutting it in two. Blood spilled from it all over the coins.

Everything around is bloody and the villagers told stories about creatures that hunted blood. If I'm correct, blood is your aspect, these should be more than enough. It’s customary for the one that sells to show off their merchandise before the buyer shows his. So?

Ivory looked down at the coins, her expression never changing. She then looked back at Ashevelen with a blank stare. "The sap of the Wyntree has unique healing properties, to a mortal at least. The Ivory mosquitoes could make suitable warbeasts or couriers. Lysander's species, the Sanguis Equis, devout steeds with a knack for blood. Rare as they are, a few could be procured for breeding purposes and sold to those who wish to fly. There are also the Mireborn, who have begun to covet their sacred groves. They would, likewise, trade you for the sap. Though they would only have one great need; unspoiled elves but I'm sure you could find a way to keep a few. These are my goods, as you say." She gestured with an outstretched hand, "Yours?"

I’ve taken your mosquitos and I think I’ve already got a buyer for them, so, I thank you. The Sanguis Equis, they sound interesting, I might take two of those. Surely someone would wish to buy them. Mireborn? Interesting, what are they exactly? Your own creations? The sap, interesting thing. Might be used in the alcohol the elves make. Blood isn’t an issue, I have created enough creations that can offer it. ” said Ashevelen in an unending triade of words, not stopping to make a break or leave ideas to settle.

As soon as she stopped talking, Ashevelen tapped her foot on the ground and a portal appeared from her shadow. “ There’s a portal behind me, follow me sister and I’ll show you.

"You seem to be mistaken with one thing." Ivory said as she followed Ashevelen. "I may be bound by blood but it is not a thing that carries much value to me. Outright, anyway." She chided.

Yet your creations crave it. You don’t care about them? Either way, what is it that you wish for? ” replied Ashevelen.

As they stepped through the portal, they entered Ashevelen’s own tower. One with vision might have noticed the pelts of a number of animals from everywhere in the world, coins littered the ground making a click-clack sound after each step the divines would take. Thousands of mundane weapons, each of different sizes or shapes, were on display for all to see and right in the middle of the circular room…a square with a market-stall. Reaching it, Ashevelen took a seat and conjured one for Ivory to seat upon as well, gently pointing out where it was.

There. Now that we are here, I can show you my goods and you may tell me what you desire. Mortals? Animals? Weapons? Coins? Name it and I’m sure I’ll find something.

Ivory looked rather bored about it all but took a seat regardless. "What do I wish for? It's a question that haunts me always." She rapped her fingers on her thigh. "Describe me some of your finest wares and I may indulge thee, if you'd be so kind."

" You're a hard customer, sister. I applaud you. But, fine. I will show you some of my own creations. " replied Ashe with a grin as she moved her hand and a Umbra, Tarsk and a Satyr appeared next to her.

She then started to explain what the mortals are, their best abilities, plenty of room for them to develop naturally different ones and so on. Making sure only the best features were displayed and talked about. Afterwards Ashevelen started talking about their potential of upgrades with a bit of divine aid, their ferocity, intelligence, cloning ability etc.

There came a subtle sign of annoyance when Ashevelen began to describe the Umbra but the look quickly faded. "I suppose the Satyrs might make good workers and the Tarsk, guard beasts but I cannot think of a role for these Umbra. Beings made of shadow. Are they well suited for battle? Is this impulse to trade so grafted into them that it might not be removed?" She inquired.

The Satyrs and the Tarsk are very loyal to their owner and those hooves of theirs are stronger than normal legs. The Tarsks can be used for a number of things, working the land, eviscerate intruders or simply as pets. As I said, I’ve made them extremely loyal to their master. ” replied Ashevelen before addressing the Umbra question.

Battle? Of course they are. I haven’t left them without any kind of defence. They can become intangible and pass through any kind of surfaces that aren’t magically protected against this type of ability. They can choose which part of them becomes intangible or if all of their body does. There is no impulse to trade, it is just what I’ve taught them and that’s what they’re doing. If you would buy them, I will give you blank Umbras for a small fee or you may take already taught Umbras and you can teach them whatever you may want. Trades can mean anything, for example, one may see it as a good trade to take the blood of someone in exchange of happiness or life. ”.

Ivory remained silent, as if mulling it over. "Blank would suffice. For all of them." She said at last. "Let’s say, five hundred Tarsk. One thousand Umbra. Two thousand Satyr. In return you may collect one hundred Sanguis Equis, one thousand Ivory Mosquitoes and you may further collect two thousand, medium sized, vials of Wyntree sap and more if you desire any trade with the Mireborn."

Surely five Tarsks for one horse, special as they are, isn’t a fair trade. I would say five hundred Tarsk for three hundred Sanguis Equis would be more than fair. You’re also comparing my Umbra with those mosquitoes which I already got a few, enough for them to multiply naturally with some risk and I did say with a small fee. I might’ve been more inclined to accept that if you’d take already taught ones but blank? That’s a no from me but as a counter offer, for one thousand Umbra, you’ll offer me eight hundred Mireborn. All in stasis for me to play-with as I wish. ” countered Ashe before addressing the last point.

I agree with the vials of Wyntree sap for the two thousand Satyrs. A fair trade, all in all.

At this, a slow smile formed on the lips of the pale Goddess. "You have a lovely realm, Ashevelen." She stood. "I thank you for inviting me but it's time I depart. Feel free to trade with the Mireborn but do not take from my Mire further and freely." She dipped her head in a curtsy.

Ashevelen raised a finger in the air and a shadow wall appeared in front of Ivory. “ You are a hard negotiator, Ivory. Let’s change the deal then. Five hundred Tarsk for one hundred and fifty Sanguis Equis, seven hundred Umbra for one hundred and fifty Mireborn and the Satyrs remain the same. This is more than fair, I’m basically losing here. ” replied Ashe as she stood up.

Ivory rose and looked down upon Ashe, her eyes lifeless as always but her brow slightly furrowed. "What is loss to one's who can create life so freely? If you insist upon a trade then let it be in wealth that does not tarnish with age but remains as it is in time memorial." She placed her right palm downwards and from it came a pale light. Nimble fingers grasped a white hilt with a rose as a pommel. A crossed guard etched with vines gave way to a long thin blade of a milky metal, glowing with soft reverberations. It was otherworldly beautiful and with her other hand Ivory grasped it and showed it to Ashevelen. "What say you, Goddess of Trade?"

Ashevelen approached Ivory and took the sword in one hand, swung it gently to test its balance and then started studying it in great detail. While not a craftsman herself, Ashevelen was the embodiment of trade which meant she could easily determine the worth of something.

It is a beautiful weapon. Masterfully created too. I’ll take this, twenty two Mireborns and two Sanguis Equis of male and female sex, in good health. In exchange, I shall offer you what you’ve asked for initially and give you premium prices for the next millennia in the Shadow Bazaar. ” said Ashe as she gave the weapon back to Ivory.

Ivory was silent once more for what seemed like an age. At last her lips parted and she uttered, “Acceptable terms.” She let go of the sword and it held itself in the air before it floated over to Ashevelen. “My White Rose, do give it a good home.”

Ashevelen took the sword and looked at it once more, nodding her head with a smile on her face. “ I will provide half of the goods I owe you now and the other half when I receive my part. Hope that’s acceptable. ” replied Ashe as a number of coins appeared on the table.

On the table that you just sat on, there are a number of coins. As soon as they’re out of this realm, they’ll turn into your purchases. Do you require help getting them out or…

Straight faced, Ivory approached the table, cut open her arm with a slash of a finger and dripped a white blood all over them. Next she gathered them up in a fist. "I think I have it under control." She said in a cool tone. "You'll have your goods in the same spot we first met. I do hope this trade was fruitful for you and I expect those prices to be more than fair." And with that said, Ivory turned and somehow guided herself to a portal wherein next she was gone. Leaving Ashevelen alone.

Goodbye, Ivory. ” said Ashevelen to no one in particular as she stepped into a portal herself, going to the place where she met the divine and true enough, her goods were there as promised.

She left a very frightened Umbra to wait for the next sign of the Bloody-Divine to provide the rest of the goods.

Wyn seethed. The more she thought about the trade, the more she grew infuriated with it. Had she been a fool? Had she let herself be tricked? The sword itself was a divinely gift, one that the backwood Trade Goddess could not even begin to comprehend. It was worth Kingdoms! Not these stupid, valueless creatures.

The Goddess of Blood looked upon her new captives. They would be little more than slaves to her. Fodder for war and industry. They would need to breed and multiply. But as they were now… It sickened her. Truly. If she had not been so angry, the depths of such disgust would be made apparent. It only fueled the rage she felt and that hate would only bubble over into one thing…


She thought quickly and reverted back her clueless purchases into the very coins that Ashevelen had given her. A temporary solution whilst she… She was hit by a wave of pain as her legs began to break and reform. She whistled and Lysander came to her side. He knelt low enough that the Goddess, even in the throws of her change, was able to secure the coins around his neck in a pouch she conjured. A weak, pulsing hand managed to grab the ribbon and tie it about her eyes with a flick of her wrist. She did not need for any to know... For any to see.

Lysander, having enough intuition to know when to leave his master, flapped away, abandoning Wyn to her dark impulses.

Mud & Hooves

A howling beast tore into one of the herd!
Swiftly the horses fled, sprinting across the grasslands, until those lands grew red and the grasses tall. Adrenaline pumped and hooves tore the ground into distance. Yet here there was no safety to be found. From the skies more predators dove, skewering one who was not as swift before sucking dry another who had grown tired.
They continued to run until all was red, all dripped with blood, as along the Mire they went. How far? How much longer did they need to run to ensure they could rest? Frothing and foaming at the mouth they continued to sprint, even as the red grew thick- bloodied mud caking their hides and hooves- and even still as the weight of it began to grow. Another horse collapsed, unable to compensate for being off balance, so caked in mud and blood.

With strength and speed the last few ran onward, for these horses were not fearful of crossing rivers if it meant surviving another day, and the depth of the redness gave them no pause.
Forward, forward, and further still, for every river had its end, and there must be land on the other side- this red was heavy and the murk beneath it was thick and treacherous- one of the shorter horses disappeared beneath it. Another whinnied and tried to turn back, growing far too tired to continue, before its heart simply gave out from the force of the strain.
“…. Free. Forward. Must run. Go. Not die. Must be free. Need. Need…” yearned the horse at the front of the last three. It tossed its head and neck, ears pinned back, as the blood grew deeper still. Fighting against the end, fighting forward still, the horses called out for freedom, in the way that only a trapped animal could.
One gave in to the despair of such a hopeless sprint forward- such a hopeless striving and yearning- what was the point? To survive and be hunted once more? Halting, the horse inhaled only blood, and was claimed by the Mire.

Two left, they continued fighting forward, despite how deep into the Bloodmire they’d gone- despite how hopeless they should have been- these simple minded horses were even more simple than most, yet that was the root of their bravery, their yearning.
Together, the two’s only thoughts were of the freedom of the winds- to survive another day- to run again across the grasslands. Their need combined, such yearning coalesced, and there as their lungs burned with fear and strain, they formed a singular prayer with pure willpower and feelings alone, which neither could comprehend.
And that prayer was answered.
Myrtu appeared.
Levitating above the two horses, with their wings outstretched and sparkling, as sheets of ice shed from their body with every motion, the Unicorn Divinity thrust their horn toward the sky and, by their will, the two horses began to levitate from the Bloodmire’s depths.

As the first emerged from the blood Myrtu heaved a deep sigh, as wound around the horse’s body, was the scaly length of a finned serpent. This creature of the Bloodmire had found a meal, indeed. With some fascination, Myrtu observed that the serpent's head was fully buried within the horse’s side, despite the creature still living and thrashing about, as if it weren’t in pain. Gently, Myrtu lowered them back into the mire, for nature had already begun its course. They lifted the final horse high above the Bloodmire.

A pulse of divine light radiated from this horse, the last of its herd, as Myrtu cleared away the residual blood and muck from its body, revealing the fur as black as night.. The Horse and Myrtu locked eyes as they levitated midair.

A beat of silence passed as Myrtu took in the horse’s only will: to be free and run.

So in an instant, the two were transported to the shore of the Bloodmire, where the grass met the land, and the horse was placed upon its hooves once more.

Immediately it collapsed.

Myrtu stared down at it with yet another deep sigh.

Something else could be seen out in the ocean of grass, if one just so happened to look. A flicker of movement, a pale figure coming in with the wind, obscured by the shoulder length grass(at least for a horse). It was no creature that walked upon hooves or galloped with four legs but an elf. One caked with dry blood, a stark contrast to the white she radiated. For it was a female, that much was certain as she drew close, head fixed upon the ground as a maroon ribbon trailing in the wind towards Myrtu, placed over her eyes. Like twin birds, unable to escape the ground or she who they were wrapped too.

She came ever nearer, unknowing or uncaring. Oblivious or perhaps ignorant. The wind gusted and the horse gave a weak neigh as the sickening sweet smell of metallic rust washed over them. Far stronger than the Mire. But the woman paid no heed and was nearly upon them.

For a quiet moment, Myrtu gazed at the woman, noting the features and the smell- that pungent and rusty aroma. Shaking their mane about, Myrtu decided to speak then, a single word to let the blindfolded woman know she was not alone. In their voice without sound, which came not from their mouth but from their mind, Myrtu projected the word forward so that it could be heard aloud, “Greetings.” Immediately, Myrtu wondered what Divines looked like to those who were blind- could they be felt by some other means? Already distracted, their eyes swirled with colors the blindfolded woman could not see, as they mulled the question over.

Nearby, the horse lay on its side listlessly, heaving breaths of exhaustion so heavily it was a wonder that it still clung to life.

She visibly jumped, coming to a pause and looked at them, not just in their direction, before looking away, to the other horse. The wind died down to reveal the last prominent feature upon her stained face; pointed ears. An elf maiden she was.

"H-Hello?" She asked, trembling, holding herself. "W-Who's there?"

A hesitant pause lingered as Myrtu considered how to answer that question. Rather deliberately, Myrtu had not told their name to those people they'd created. Sure, those mortals had likely asked the Umbra within their groups for the names of Gods, but there was a hope that Myrtu's name would fade from mortal memory in time. What they didn't need was a renewal of such memory by giving the name out carelessly.

So to this elf maiden, pale and caked in blood, whose eyes were blind to the world, Myrtu told her, "Two horses." It wasn't entirely a lie but it was definitely an understatement. Of Myrtu, there would never be an accusation of cleverness.

They immediately changed the subject, "Art thou aware that this is a place most sanguine?"

She lifted up her arms and outstretched them, gaze distant. "I am a-aware. Two horses, you said. S-Say, are you one of my kin? Perhaps a h-horseman? You carry the voice of s-someone tall." Her arms drooped back to her sides.

Tall might have been an understatement as well, as Myrtu was easily towering over even what a Centaur would stand at. Another moment of hesitation before they asked, "Seeking assistance?" Myrtu turned their gaze toward the exhausted horse, which began to shift its weight back and forth, in a weary struggle to right its position. Quietly, Myrtu moved to help it, telling the elf, "Surely thou hast not strayed so far from thy people, so as to become lost in such a place?"

She shook her head. "I have no people." She was beginning to shake less and her speech no longer stuttered. "Not many come here. It's quiet and safe. Why have you come here? I hear one breathing with such exhaustion, it pains me. Is everything alright?" She said, clasping her chest as she took a step forward.

Myrtu let out a gentle breath, "Alone? Here?" Then in answer, they responded honestly, "The situation is dire. Mine companion doth fight for their life- yet, tis in not giving up nor surrendering to hopelessness, that allows it to continue to do so." As they spoke, the Horse, using Myrtu as a wall to push against, fought to climb to its hooves again.

"This is a place most unsuited for them," Myrtu continued, "And doubtlessly shall its death, by the creatures which call this place home, be forthcoming." Their words ended on a rather thoughtful note.

She looked past Myrtu and at the ominous haze of the red swamp beyond. "It's true. Many predators call the mire home, who thrive upon the essence of others to sate their appetites. But it's good," a dazzling smile came from her lips. "Hope. It keeps us alive in uncertain times. When we regret our decisions of late. We must strive forward, even now, as your companion demonstrates." A thoughtful look came over her and she shifted slightly as if in deep thought.

Quietly, Myrtu again levitated the horse into the air, if only to alleviate its strain slightly. "To survive in such a place as this… hope is necessary but not enough," Myrtu shook their mane about then, as they told the elf, "Tell me, how is it that thy steps alone, tread the ground here? How is it that alone, you survive? Would it not be advantageous to have another by thy side? Or better to fly?"

Hoofless creatures, as slow and weak as they were, should at least have creatures with hooves that they could call friend and companion both- this was an undeniable fact that Myrtu knew as truth. And so it was that Myrtu began to contemplate what a creature of hooves required to survive here- to thrive here. As they stared at the horse, whose disposition bordered on content as it levitated by their will, Myrtu's eyes swirled rapidly with innumerable colors, as potentials and possibilities flooded in, and the ideas became innumerable.

"I have learned to see without seeing." She said, standing a bit straighter. "I survive alone because it is necessary. I… Can be difficult for others." She rubbed her arm and then continued, "They would come to see me for what I truly am and this part of me cannot bear the thought. So no. Another by my side, even if they could fly, even if they could take me someplace far, far away… Would not be better." Her voice grew solemn.

"How do you know?" Myrtu tilted their head side to side as the concept settled in.

"If ever you were to trust a stranger's words wholeheartedly, met by chance in such a place as this, now would be the time, dear Two horses." Her voice carried the tone of regret muddied with sadness.

Such a sorrowful voice and unspoken regret caused Myrtu to bow their head slightly. Their next question came heavy with meaning, heavy in the concept of the words themselves. Gently, Myrtu asked of her, "But.. Have ye hope?"

She was silent for a time, pondering their heavy words with a blank look. After a time, she nodded as a wistful smile blessed her lips. "Of course. It keeps one going."

"Then…" spoke Myrtu, their glow intensifying, "I would ask that hope be extended now, as the hand which grants clemency to the hopeless- unto thyself, give such hope."

Violently, Myrtu thrust their horn forward, into the side of the floating horse. Without a sound of pain, the horse's form shifted in an instant-

What would it take to survive?

Fur shed from the horse’s hide. Sizzling, the old skin sloughed off, as a new and thicker hide grew in- black and with a metallic sheen- a hide naturally armored to withstand the multitude of rending bites and piercing claws of the Bloodmire's various creatures. Sharpened spines of raw and pure iron- condensed from the overwhelming amounts of iron present in the blood- sprouted as dual horns that were as curved and sharpened daggers, from atop the horse's snout and forehead.

From its strong back sprouted wings, wide and leathery, so that it may fly swiftly, silently, and with great agility through the skies, with maneuverability unmatched by lesser winged creatures. Its hooves fell off as new hooves grew in behind them, with divinely blessed speed. They were replaced by hooves grown of the same iron as its horns. These hooves, sharpened and spiked, with a forward facing vertical curved blade, would serve well in ripping apart enemies from a skyward ambush.

Though this transformation rendered the beast blind, the horse's skull and head reshaped in its configuration slightly, as such blindness was deliberate. Myrtu wanted a creature that would understand its companion and a companion that would understand it just the same- and there was a need to honor the elf maiden, for her inspiration in the creation of the new horse, as well. Its skull grew bony crests, peaks, spikes and horns, as hollow organs to grant it a sharper perception of sound, from a multitude of pitches, angles, and ranges. Even as the horse let out a whinny, the sound of its vocalizations came out as shrill clicks and cries- for now it saw a world without eyes- a world of ultrasound and echo.

The opening of the horse's mouth, as it went to let out its shrill cries, revealed the most important change Myrtu deemed it necessary to have.

From nose to jaw the horse's mouth opened fully along its length, far more so than a typical horse's would, as it revealed sharpened metal teeth and large forward fangs. These were the tools suited for tearing flesh and drinking the blood of its kill. Its larger front teeth would serve it well too, in keeping a hold on prey as it took it skyward from an ambush. These ideas would come easily to this creature, as the horse's intelligence became blessed, and shifted to that of a pack hunting and social creature, smart enough to use both tactics and empathy.

With its renewed strength, the horse landed upon its metal hooves as Myrtu released it. An evaluating look was cast over the creature as Myrtu told the elf maiden, "Loyalty and companionship, in all its myriad forms, be not withheld from anyone no matter how monstrous they think themselves or indeed may be. For us all, there will always, in the infinite cosmos and unrelenting variables, be another which finds resonance with our hopes. We need only meet them."

The maiden tilted her head as she blushed pink from embarrassment or shame. Yet she looked at the new horse as if she was looking into its very soul. "Your words are kind…" She whispered, "I shall think upon them when I remember this moment." She said with steady genuineness. "You are no mere mortal, are you?" This time she looked straight at Myrtu.

Nervously Myrtu replied, "No, however mine form is truly that of a horse! I did not wish to deceive, yet I have scarcely met mortals and did not wish to cause fright." Apologetically, they snorted before saying, "Let this companion be mine begging for forgiveness and a gift, both."

She seemed taken aback. "T-There's nothing to forgive!" She sputtered before stumbling her words. "I-I couldn't… I would just… I-I…" She paused to collect herself with a cough, straightening the ribbon around her eyes(even if it was perfectly straight already). "I do not deserve your kindness but it would be rude of me to not accept such a gift. Twice now I have been shown such open generosity and twice I have felt unworthy of it but I will… Try my best to take care of him… or her." She added sheepishly.

Myrtu's ears pinned back with their own small anxiousness at such a reaction. They turned about on their hooves, if only to disperse some of that worry physically, before saying, "Yours is the freedom to do as you please- accept or reject, it is within thy rights to do so. Besides-" they placed their gaze upon the horse "-I believe the latter task shall be done with ease, for this horse shall take care of itself. To you it shall offer companionship and a means of navigation!"

And for her sake, Myrtu lapsed into a highly detailed and enthusiastic description of the New Horse. Though they did acknowledge inwardly how the elf maiden turned her blind eyes toward them, how she looked up just right toward their head, Myrtu spared no details anyway- even including the creatures POTENTIAL and FREEDOM with lots of emphasis.

"...and it shall be a companionship built upon mutual understanding, trust, and most importantly, hope!" Once again Myrtu glowed, "And from this one shall the others take similar form." The Sparkle Horse God tapped the New Horse with their horn and a soft shift occurred in reality.

She could probably feel the presence of more of these horses, scattered about the Bloodmire, in numbers so as to not immediately upset the balance of the ecosystem. There was still much to be determined in it, after all.

Ever so slowly had she crept forth to the new but familiar being. Eventually the elf maiden outstretched a hand towards the beast. It clicked and brought itself forward so she might rest her hand upon it and feel it for herself. The Horse seemed unbothered by her touch, perhaps even leaned into it. "Then I shall name him Lysander, Lord of his kind and Duke of the Mire." Next the horse knelt down with its front legs and quite effortlessly did the elf climb onto his back. They rose as one, maiden with horse, her pale hands finding purchase with his black mane. She turned to Myrtu and smiled. "A fine steed he will make. Thank you, dear Two horses."

For a moment, Myrtu wanted to correct her on the name, but thought better of it.

Lysander turned his blind eyes to Myrtu and clicked, as if telling the God to stop being weird about it.

Myrtu snorted a reply that equated to 'No you,' that caused Lysander a moment of confusion.

And as if an entirely nonverbal conversation hadn't happened, Myrtu replied triumphantly, "And may you know the freedom of companionship- for be it in the sky or the ground, the winds shell be ever swift ‘neath the hooves and wings of stalwart Lysander." Then gently he told her, "And may hope never evade thy grasp. He can serve as inspiration. For ever had he, even upon the edge of death, ceaselessly believe in hope itself."

She stroked Lysander's neck and once more looked sheepishly at Myrtu. "I shall." She sighed and went for the ribbon around her eyes. "I must confess, I have not been so forthcoming. You have trusted me blindly, Two horses and now, I shall trust you." She untied the ribbon, letting it flutter in the breeze. It revealed pale eyes and broke the spell that concealed her presence. The blood that caked her melted away to reveal a true and pristine Goddess, most noble upon her new steed. "I am Wyn, Goddess of Blood and I reveal myself to you in the hopes that one day, if we are to meet again and the wits about me are lost or crazed, you would not think less of me. It's a selfish request, having just met." She shied away, looking from his gaze to beyond. As divinely as she tried to sound, her nervousness was apparent.

Trembling at the power which emanated from the revealed presence, Myrtu turned about once more, to release the hints of energy they built up in an instant response. Always, theirs was the way of making ready to run- not away from but with- those beings of power in a friendly manner of camaraderie. So far they'd found no one yet that seemed willing to do so, and thus had they the need to disperse such energy, through either dance or some other form of motion. Their spike in power and presence was a means of greeting a fellow divine and she could likely feel the friendliness which radiated from Myrtu then.

"Ah- and I thought thee but a mortal- another of those which I wish not for my name to be known so well," Myrtu lifted their horn proudly, as they gazed into Wyn's pale eyes, "As a new friend then, do I share my name of Myrtu. Be ye lost, crazed, or in another way, I shall think only of thee as Wyn."

Clearly Myrtu was a rather trusting sort, but they further clarified by saying, "We divines have our forms and moods, our shifting ways and means of being. To think less of thee for being thyself? Foolishness on my part. Better to yet accept the whole and all that it is!” There was genuineness and honesty in the weight with which they spoke and they spoke from the heart, “Truly, it shall ever be the case, that there are things about my very nature, which others may come to despise, which shall grant them cause to think me crazed, as well."

“Myrtu…” She said his name, letting it roll off her tongue. She gave a soft smile to them. “This may be so to many but to some, if I had not been who I am now, they would hate me forever more. It is not my intent to scorn or cause suffering. I only wish to be at peace… To right wrongs.” She let out a soft sigh, her smile breaking. “You are a noble and true sort, Myrtu. I shall cherish this meeting and if ever you have need of me, pray you find me with a soft smile on my lips and warmth in my heart.” She tied the ribbon around her head and set it across her eyes, the divinity of her presence faded away. “I should be going. Please, take no offense. I don’t trust myself in long conversations. Something to work on.” She muttered.

"And all is well, for I do so long to run and see this land from the surface- mayhaps a few of these new creatures shall join me in a sprint," replies Myrtu with the sound of a chuckle, "Farewell, Wyn. May Lysander serve you well." With that, the sound of Myrtu's hooves picked up, as they sprinted directly into the Bloodmire itself.

Wyn likewise followed, slow and steady was her pace.

She was running. She was fleeing. Her legs bent. Her bones cracked. She screamed. She groaned. She cried. Fingers became claws. Teeth became swords.

She howled at the moon she could not see.

She was on them before long. The heavy taste of iron permeated her mouth. Her breath was hot and stagnant. Her saliva dripped red. She knew only violence.

She was violence.

None were spared. Not as they slept. Not as they ran. Not as they fought. Not as they prayed. She was the predator.

The world was her prey.

A heavy breath escaped her lips as she clutched at the fabric around her chest. Euphoric sensations, like lightning strikes, shot up and down her spine, traveling to her fingertips and toes. It was a rush of excitement she had never felt before and she never wanted it to end. The goddess smashed her fist into the rock she had been leaning on, leaving a sizable crack as debris flew everywhere. Bloody scratches, fingertips, painted the dark surface of her vision. The sanguine liquid ran and dripped down the wall, seeping into crevices where it became nothing. She wanted more. She needed more! She couldn’t let such a feeling slip away, like falling into cracks…

So she took a step forward, bathing her foot in pooling elf blood. But Wyn didn’t care. Not as she walked through those deerskin huts coated in maroon, who reeked of mortal flesh. Whose encampment on the plains had been shielded by a natural rock outcrop, the clever fools (She only had come to realize this once they had been painted). Nor as she passed the strewn bodies, ripped to pieces, bit in half, clawed to shreds, torn asunder and bleeding, bleeding, bleeding…! A whimsical laugh escaped her lips as she twirled in the slick grass, worn down by feet as if it were a lake of sanguine, hugging herself as she hummed and hummed away all the troubles of the past.

A small whimper snapped her out of it, as if something had gone terribly amiss in her perfect little world. In one fluid motion of unnatural movement, Wyn had found the source and now crouched before it. A tent had collapsed in the stampede of scared elves and a survivor lay underneath. She could feel his heartbeat, hear his very breath and the pumping of his heart! Her vision burned with his red silhouette. She grabbed his ankle as he tried to escape her terrible presence. It was a young elf man who took to screaming and yelling, kicking and fighting but Wyn’s grasp was iron and her blood-stained flesh, steel. Oh but how she liked it when they fought back! It provided so much entertainment! So much sport… The thrill of the hunt, as un-thrilling as this one was.

Once he was free of the tent, Wyn threw him into the stones with such force, she could hear bones break. Then she pounced upon him as he rolled clear, pinning his arms and legs outwards. As dazed as he was, the fight was gone and Wyn began to pout. His heart still raced, his fear was still palpable and… Ah, his blood quickened as adrenaline coursed. The bodies last ditch effort for survival. She could not see his tears but she could smell the salt in the air and with a quick lick, she could taste it and the rich iron of blood. It was invigorating. So much so that all pretense faded upon her features. A wolfish grin crossed her lips. She was going to let him go, to have a running chance but Wyn had changed her mind.

“Do not be afraid.” She snickered, rubbing her cheek upon his, before licking his face. “I only want a taste.” She whispered, hovering ever closer to his throat, mouth salivating. “Just a nibble…” She lied, extending her mouth open to reveal sharpened daggers. His fledgling scream was silenced the moment her teeth touched his throat.

But death did not claim him. For a new sound caught her ear and she dropped the elf man where he lay and a groan escaped his lips. Wyn stood and spun to see, way off, a mounted band of warriors headed her way. They held the same stature as the Navari and her elf companions upon their mounted steads. She clasped her hands, how delightful!

Before she could go out to greet them, the elf man began to scream. It was the sort one screamed when they were in terrible pain. A pain so profound not even unconsciousness could save them. She looked again to see his blood boiling, a dark black was spreading from his throat, infecting his veins, pumping into his heart. It was not a blackness that eluded her but one she felt oh so intimate with. His body contorted and she could hear bones breaking. He at once grew taller, chest widening as the sound of deerskin clothes ripping apart tore across the air. He clawed at himself, drawing blood as the blackness consumed him. Most Intriguing of all was his head; it elongated at the nose, becoming a snout like some terrible bloody wolf. She could hear sharp teeth snapping and tongue panting. He towered over Wyn now, rising as his pointed ears lowered. A deep growl escaped his throat as his body crouched.

It delighted Wyn, even when the elf-turned-wolfman attacked her. Even when he clawed and bit and struck her, the sensations only gave her great comfort. Even when he attempted to savage her as she had savaged his village, Wyn could not help but giggle like a child. The sheer thought of herself causing so much joy, it was almost unbearable and she squirmed.

"Do not be afraid." She cooed as her head was smashed into a rock over and over by a thick paw of fur. "You are of mine own blood now. Imperfect forever more!" She cackled. The rock had crumbled away, now she was driven into the ground with each powerful fist. He growled and snapped and snarled but he could not kill his progenitor.

Then his attention went elsewhere with a whistling shot that struck him in the back. An arrow had found its mark and then he was lanced by two riders. The likes of which had the body of man but also of horse. They were no separate entities but just one. Memories of the night filtered back in, hadn’t she attacked those two? Somewhere out where the dew of grass had soaked her? Had they come for revenge?

More arrived, thundering hooves and towering builds. More arrows were loosed and more cuts were made as the wolfman went on the defensive. The horsemen meanwhile whooped, screamed and yelled, trampling on her unintentionally. Perhaps they thought her dead? Well that wouldn’t do…

She bounded up as the wolfman finally caught a lance, and pulled the rider towards him. He clawed the man and then bit him as Wyn danced between hooves and stone lances. She broke the front legs of one of the horsemen and tore out his throat with a swipe of her hand. The bitten horsemen, so Wyn saw, began to scream as his blood turned black. So it was infectious and could jump species? That delighted her to no end, as she threw a discarded lance into the head of a horseman.

It was so wondrous in fact she retrieved a fallen bow, a thing woven together with wood and rawhide and drew back. What she unleashed upon them was nothing short of terror. The bow shot forth a piercing arrow with such force, it ripped holes into the horsemen’s flesh. Seeing this the last of the horsemen fled, routed by her. Wyn, no longer needing the bow and forgetting about her infected creations (which were now fighting each other) ran off after the fleeing horsemen.

She lived for the thrill, after all.

The two wolfmen, one of two legs and the other of four battled and traded blows, neither gaining any ground over the other, so evenly matched as they were. Eventually the two went separate ways, either growing bored or perhaps it was something else entirely. Now left behind in that deserted village, was the bow that Wyn had used to slay several of the horsemen. It lay where it had dropped, changed from the power channeled through it. The wood had become black and sleek, while the string had become a vibrant red, now stronger and hardier. Even stranger, intentional even, was the fallen blood began to trickle towards it…

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