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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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@Dark Cloud That was the idea at one point in time but it was never really Free Section material, in the end.

What is the price of victory?

Dark clouds hung low in the sky, moving like a vast angry ocean of dark. The very air was still, like a stifling blanket that absorbed all. The wind had fled long ago, unable to depart without leaving even a breeze. Thus it was always quiet across that bleak landscape where nothing grew and nothing dwelt. They had made sure of that, in the end. Now none of them could recall the taste of the sun, the pitter patter of rain, a running brook, the taste of dew, not even the snow. It was all gone, not that any that remained cared. For such hearts only blackened could endure now in the Anathema Heights.

There was however, a lonely spot where one could glimpse the old and be powerless to change it. Oh, they had tried, even she, but all failed and it had grown upon her heart like a thorn. She journeyed there away from the lifeless land to see what once had been, time and time again. Day after day, like a call she had no choice but to answer. There upon the battlefield of old it haunted her- Last monument of what had been. Protected by an invisible shield, staving off the corruption. The battle once won, never ending.

The grass was green before her in that small clearing. Not a dry green tinged with yellow but deep and rich, as if after a good rain. The earth was still brown and black, not the cracked gray and lifeless dust etched all around it. Even the light within was radiant, colorful, filtered of the choking air that surrounded. There also lay flowers within, of ivory petals held high by sturdy stocks. Now and again she felt as if she could smell them, a sweet scent of growth but no others were able. And in the center of it all was the one who’s body had never decayed since the day she had first fallen there. For it was not just a monument but also a tomb.

The demon with her pale skin and her cracked carapace, arms at her sides where they had fallen, whilst her legs were covered in a blanket of flowers. A mane of thick white hair sprawled out from her head and mingled with the grass. Such hair had once been flaming red, now no longer. Her features were so that it looked as if she was merely sleeping and at any moment she might wake up and do battle once more, with the mighty sword sheathed within the earth beside her.

That sword… The very reason she was left undisturbed. Purity was its name, wielded only by her and one other. The blade shined silver in the light, waiting for someone to come along and pick it up. She had long known, no one ever would. Yet Purity still stood, proud and untouched, just like everything within. The sword that had almost struck her down.

Long had she wished it had.

Maeve sighed where she knelt. Coming to that place only made the memories more vivid but long had she known how much she needed it. A sickness never healed, only worsening as time passed.

Her shaky voice at last burst forth, for rare was it she spoke at all there, “Not a day passes I do not wish I had died upon the field of battle. Struck down by your hand. Not cheated by what had happened well out of our control. You would have won, I wish you had won. It would have been better that way. My Tingalina…” Speaking her name aloud made the Fae shudder with great longing. “She would never have taken up the sword against me. She would not have died that day with you. But you just… The will was gone, blown away like your mother.” She had learned the truth of that day only by chance and it was really only a hunch. It had been enough to placate her thoughts. Such a warrior the demon had been, she should not have fallen like that without outside cause.

Her thoughts, never far from it, focused on her love, “Tingalina… Would have hurt a long while if I had died. But you would have helped ease my passing, wouldn’t you? For we call you demon but even I know an angel when I look upon one. Even fallen as you are now. Such is war and its cruelty.”

Maeve stood, thoughts turning back to her own demise. “If only it had been so.” Her emotions ran thick in the air. “But I slew her. I struck down my love and for what? I have no one at my side and there hasn’t been a day I go without thinking of her smile… Her touch… Her laugh!” She cried, slamming her fist into the invisible wall. “Our gods abandoned us! We are alone in a wasteland of our making! And you angel, dearest Newygnog, you get to rest forevermore! No one now lives to remember you save me and even then I never knew you. Not really and I cannot die to deliver you this final death. The death of memory. Try as I have, this is my curse. A punishment for my sins.” Her voice fell silent. She looked down at her hands and began to weep.

Maeve’s thoughts turned to the question that had long since haunted her. She knew in her black heart, only the dead found lasting peace when Fae turned against Fae. When their dust settled and their screams heard no more. Even after crushing defeats and the great victorious battle. Those who remained as living memory of the war were now forced to watch the world change without them, on either side. Forever tarnished, few as they were. Now unable or unwilling to move on, they suffered. She suffered.

That was the price of victory.

Peaceful Ends

A warm breeze, gentle on her skin, blew across the land and through her hair. It carried the scent of dew after morning rain. Delightful, as it was refreshing, to her senses. From her vantage point on the balcony she could see the sun cresting over distant green hills, breaking apart the clouds to bathe the land in an explosion of purples, oranges and yellows. A colorful sunrise heralding their newest dawn. It was still as beautiful as the first day she saw it and Arya could not help but smirk at such memories. She ran a finger through her hair, twirling it about as she looked on.

Below her, across the trees and sunkissed streams, the city districts of Valmara were beginning to wake. The first of the baker's chimney's wafted with smoke and Arya wondered what kind of breads and pastries would be sold today over in the Grass District? Bells rang out at the growing shipyards of the Ocean District. More and more boats were being built as trade expanded but all could only mimic the great boats of her past. Soon the Temple of Ashalla would begin their morning prayer, for such a city was of her patronage and all benefited from keeping her content. Soon the sunlight hit the tops of the trees, turning them golden as light crept higher, illuminating the world.

Gardeners, with their dazzling eyes, flew past her in great flocks. They found a home in Kalgrun, after being lost for so long and were welcomed by many. In the stables, hidden beneath the forest below, Penelope's descendants would be hopping at the chance to stretch their legs. Luciya and Ellena would be on their way for lessons and the rest were safe with Karamir. She smiled as she clutched the small bell around her neck, it was going to be a beautiful day. But before it came into fruition, she had one other task to handle.

She twirled about her balcony and went back inside to her desk. It was not far from the vista of Kalgrun, she preferred a view, after all. The royal chambers otherwise were simple but comforting. Nothing like the lavish sort that Lord's and Lady's craved. Spacious and homey, as all rooms should be. Arya sat down, folding her sun dress so she didn't wrinkle it when she sat. Before her, scrawled out many pages, jumbled with thoughts. Some were discarded and others were torn across their silver inlays. Of dancing jackalopes and their knights. Two, almost blank, cream colored pages stared back up at her amidst the chaos of her desk.

She let out a little sigh, not because the lighting wasn't ideal (that didn't really matter to her), but rather because writing was difficult. It was no fantastical fable or poem she struggled with but the account of her life. She had stopped at a point of consternation the day before but she had to push through now. Not for herself but for the future. So Arya picked up her black quill with a little purse of her lips and put the tip to paper. There was no need for ink, it was only thought that stopped her from starting outright. Then, after careful consideration, she got to work.

...I was not sad when my sister died. Much to my shame, I felt only relief. I wanted to help her for so many years despite all she had done. Looking back at our time on Tendlepog, I was so oblivious to the deeper issues on hand. I was just happy and in that happiness, I was blind. How could I not have seen the poison seeping into her soul? Was it always there or did her love for Silver truly break her heart when she passed? As I write this, I often imagine myself in her place. Created to find another, with little agency of her own. Of course she would latch herself to the one good thing she found but, it became her identity and drove her down a path of madness in the end.

We found her black book, the Nalblakka, and we hid it in a place no mortal will ever tread. Her followers were imprisoned or destroyed and of those imprisoned, we are making little progress in returning themselves to who they once were. Most would rather die a devil, then live as anything else. If there are any other cult members left, they will fall to ruin and her influence on this world will at last fade. Like her body, there is no sign of Aaldir or her crown. Now lost in the Hollow forever.

I can not say that all she left behind was so bad. Her first born, Andromeda, now lives here with me and our family. Phoset, her only son, now flies the world with my brother Doron. Last I heard, they were headed back to the north to visit the Jotnar. Egwyn and Engil, their wives, have also accompanied them. Laurien’s other daughters, Aella and Arwen, now live down on the coast and frequently make trips back to their home of Be’r-Jaz. Ashalla’s claim to the throne did not seem to bother them, in fact, I think they were happy enough to just be left to their own devices. I make it a point to visit her children frequently and over the years, they opened up about their trauma’s. I learned from my mistake with Song and the Dreamers. It takes time to heal and I was there for them when I couldn't be there for her.

Laurien’s story is a tale of caution. Of madness and lust. It cannot be forgotten only to be repeated years to come. I think I will write another book detailing her life but for now, these pages will belong to me and my story.

Now, after Laurien died I found Arwen and Aella and brought them home. It wasn't long after that we had our first born, K-

A soft cry broke Arya's attention.

She put down her quill and stood. She had made good progress but the time for writing was over for now. With a large smile she walked over to the crib that sat along her side of the bed. Made of dark wood and white cloth draped with silver and golden threads, cushioned by the downe fur of jackalopes, there lay a very delicate creature.

A baby of not yet one winter. She closely resembled her father, even now. But Vallalites, the mixing of mir and nebulite blood, were special. She picked up the small girl who fussed and cried. As soon as she was in her hands however, swaddled in warmth, the baby smiled.

"Oh Mei," her mother breathed, "Did you want to be held?" she smiled and her daughter began to coo, as baby's do.

She clutched the infant close to her chest and twirled a finger in her brown hair as Mei clutched the strap of her dress. Even now her hair was growing long and lustrous, with the faintest glow of divinity. She had a white streak of hair forming over her right eye, coupled with dazzling white freckles across her tan cheeks and a nose that reminded her much of her own. She still resembled her father but there were hints of her mother too. Her child's most striking feature was her eyes, black irises sat within a sea of milky white. Many had taken alarm at this, saying she was deformed or would have bad temperament but Arya scoffed. Mei was a very happy baby. Beautiful she would be, in her own right. The youngest of their house and perhaps the last for a time. The opinions of others gave her no concern.

She patted Mei to sleep, humming a lullaby and as much as her baby struggled to keep awake, she was powerless against the comfort Arya exuded. She was about to set her back into her crib when the flap of wings brought her attention to the balcony.

There sat a bird she had known her entire life, a noble and majestic creature with intelligent eyes that saw many things others could not.

She smiled, "Arryn." she gushed quietly and floated over to where he perched. She held out an arm and the hawk jumped to her. He looked at the sleeping baby and then to Arya. He could no longer speak as he once did, but communication came with the sharing of their thoughts.

He told her of his morning, of how his nest was warm and his mate was hungry. So he strove to hunt and as he did he came across the jackalope stables, where small game was aplenty. He came close to snatching up a rodent but stopped when he heard a familiar cry. He flew up and saw, across the riding yard, Arya's daughters with Ellowyn, instructors and guards. The girls cried around a fallen jackalope and so he flew here to tell her.

Arya's smile faltered and the only thing on her mind became them and their comfort. "Thank you, Arryn. Let us depart at once." The hawk flew off her arm and out into the open sky. With her free wrist she motioned for a white blanket and it flew towards her, suspended in the air. Quickly, but ever so gently, did she place Mei within and wrap it around the baby before tying it to her chest. Mei rested her face just over Arya's heart and then they were off. Flying came as naturally to her as breathing once had.

Their destination was not far but even so, the journey was a good one despite what awaited her. The jackalope stables sat in between the city proper and the divine palace, with much room for their furry friends to stretch their legs. It was what she insisted, as no one should be denied access to such beautiful companions. She hoped Penelope and Split would be proud.

Arya began to descend where the trees gave way to the stable grounds. A large building of chestnut and oak, roofed with all the care in the world, sat at the forefront of three large clearings. She could easily spot the large crowd gathered in one of those fields, the northernmost, as other jackalopes frolicked about. She continued on, passing a hovering guard. A sentinel of the royal protection, donned in the alabaster armor of her house, modeled after the armor Wraenon shielded his wielder in. A long cloak of pure white flowed freely in the breeze, hands ever on spears of liquid gold. Impassive and impartial, the protectors of her children came in three today. Each facing outward, ever searching for threats. She passed by with a little nod and soon came to a stop, feet touching the luscious grass. The Jackalope trainers bowed before her, each with sad expressions upon their thin faces. Such were the Mir and their kind.

Ellowyn, her niece, rushed over and produced a quick curtsy. She wore working gear today, the attire of jackalope riders. Leather tunic, with black pantaloons, embellished with royal flair in her own attire. She was a nebulite at the moment, her amber nebula of hair tied up in a long ponytail. Cool blue skin dazzled with twinkling stars but her eyes were the same as all the others- heavy with grief.

“Queen Arya, no one really knew. W-Well we knew Jasseby was old but no one expected…” She glanced over to the large jackalope, silver streaked, laying motionless in the grass. Luciya and Ellena’s sobs were soft but panged her heart. Arya put a reassuring touch upon Ellowyn’s shoulder as she unclasped Mei and floated her towards the nebulite woman. ”No one can predict what might happen on any given day. Take the others and wait for us at the stables please.” Ellowyn nodded and gently held the sleeping Mei. She tilted her head down and began to walk off but Arya grabbed her wrist. She looked up at her and Arya smiled with warmth. ”Do not blame yourself or any others. It was his time to go.” Ellowyn nodded slowly and stood a little straighter before she gestured to all the others to follow.

Arya then walked over to her daughters. Her twins of ten winters were identical with features most resembling herself. White hair that shined with brilliance, small and petite faces with the palest of skin. Pointy ears were their Vallalite birthright. They turned to her as she approached, large and light pink eyes brimmed with fresh tears. Luciya came to her first, wearing her riding outfit. A short blue dress with white pants and black shoes. Her hair was long and left down.

“Oh momma!” She cried out, gripping onto her for dear life. Arya returned her embrace, holding her daughter and stroking the top of her head. Luciya was the more emotional of the two and, as she thought, Ellena began to rub her eyes, face growing fierce. As if she was annoyed at herself for crying. She wore the complete opposite of her twin, a dark coat over an unbuttoned shirt with black trousers and, of course, no shoes. Her hair was curled and she crossed her arms at the sight of Luciya receiving a hug. Arya did not speak but simply outstretched an arm to her. Ellena looked at it, lips quivering as her eyes began to water. It did not take long for her to cave and she was likewise, gripping onto her mother and sobbing.

Arya cooed, gently rocking back and forth while rubbing their backs. They were like that for a very long time, until they quieted their sobs and relaxed their breathing. With a shaky voice, Luciya spoke, peeling herself away from her mother’s chest to look up at her. “W-Why mom? I-I-I tried to h-heal him.” Her voice broke, followed by a mournful sigh, “B-But it d-didn’t work.”

Ellena remained silent but gripped tighter to Arya's dress and did not look up. She thought about what she should say. This was the first time they had dealt with the death of a loved companion. She often found that it hurt so much worse when it was an animal. She vividly remembered how crushed Arwen and Aella were when Tashal passed. How it broke little Aella's heart. She knew such pain when Penelope finally moved on. Their pets were no different than family and had to be treated as such, to an extent. What her own girls needed right now, was assurance and love.

She smiled softly at Luci and said, "Sometimes there is no reason why loved ones pass but most often it's just their time. Jasseby was an old jackalope and he lived such a good life, cared for by his two best girls. He was so loved and he knew it. He passed on, knowing his friends were beside him, caring for him even then." she hugged them tighter and placed kisses on their foreheads. Luci seemed to relax, face full of thought but it was Ellena, in a quiet muffled voice who spoke next.

"What if you died, mother?" Elle looked up at her with dread on that small face. It broke Arya's heart. Before she could respond, Ellena continued. "What if father died? What if Kassandra?" Her voice became louder and Luci clung back to Arya, burying her face away from her twin. "What if Zalphar and Devdan? Baby Mei?" She practically shouted, angry tears forming in her eyes. "What would we do without you? What would we do?" She burst out into harrowing sobs, balling her fists tight. "What if we're not strong enough to save you! To save anyone!"

"Oh Elle, shh shh." Arya cooed, pulling her in tighter and for once, the girl didn't resist. Ellena was a rebel by nature, always going against what was deemed by others to be normal. She had an identical twin but they certainly did not have identical personalities. Beneath all her bravado and pretend indifference, she still had the same heart of her sister. Kind and sweet, hidden by her small smirks and glares.

"There are no easy answers to such questions." she began, leaning her cheek on top of her small head. Sobs both wracked the girls again but they were listening. "Death is a natural part of life, even to a God or Goddess. As powerful as we are.” Arya shut her eyes, a few of her own tears running down her cheeks. ”One day, I will die and so will your father. You will be older than… More intune with yourselves and far stronger than you already are. You will have your own sons and daughters and they will have their own children and you will look upon them with so much pride, the same that I feel for you right now.” She smiled. ”If that's what you wish for, of course. But the point is, Ellena… Luciya, do not worry about that day, for it is a far off one and you still have much to learn. I am not going anywhere. Nor is your father, or your siblings. Not now, not tomorrow but one day so far off, you’ll think back on this day and you will understand that death is not always tragedy.”

She leaned back and set them both to look at her, with an arm on each shoulder. Luciya grabbed Ellena’s hand with her own, intertwining her fingers with her twin. Elle glanced at her but made no move against it. Arya then moved the loose hairs away from their faces as she continued. ”It is okay to feel so sad, like there may never be another happy day again but you must remember this; Jasseby was happiest when you two were smiling and playing with him. He would not want you to be so sad forever. He would want you to continue smiling and playing with the others he left behind. Small jackalopes need as much care as any others and his own children need much the same. Cherish such memories girls, relive them, for that is how those passed on, endure. Within us. It's our duty to remember.” Arya leaned in to hug them.

While they had been sharing their moment, the other Jackalopes in the field had meandered over to where Jasseby lay. All shapes and sizes, furs and shades, looked upon their friend and father. In that silence, they mourned. Arya could hear their minds but she did not have the heart to tell of what they said when she rose to look upon the sight. Elle and Luci turned to follow their mother’s gaze and all shared in the moment of bittersweet grief. Eventually each jackalope sniffed the body and rubbed Jasseby's fur with their noses, before hopping away.

A tiny silverbell jackalope, about the size of a large pot, hopped over to the girls and nuzzled Elle for attention. That seemed to reassure them, for she and her sister returned that need for attention with scratches and pats. Arya watched in silence before Luci turned to her and asked, “Mother? Where does he go? Can he not return?”

Arya smiled at her daughter. “Sometimes things do return to us in one shape or another but know that Jasseby has gone to a place where he can frolic in meadows forevermore. His soul will live on, free.” Arya tilted her head up, looking towards the sky, where the moon of Veradax sat still visible before the sun shooed it away until the dark returned. It was a pale white orb, as whole as it had once meant to be.

Arya next stood and walked past them, over to Jasseby. As Luci and Elle watched, she ran her hand along his silken fur, before arriving at his head. There she bent down and kissed his forehead. Then she beckoned her daughters to her side and they came not a moment later. ”Place your hands upon him.” She whispered. Ellena placed her small hand next to Arya’s, then Luciya followed, on the opposite side. Next, Arya shut her eyes and said, ”Go now. In peace.” A wave of warmth washed over the area, panicking her twins who gasped in surprise but they did not let go. Jasseby’s body slowly turned into white petals, which then blew all around them and in their hair, before scattering in the wind like a gentle lullaby.

When that was done, Arya took her daughter’s hands, who despite being sad, were feeling better. How she knew was just one of the perks of being divine. In a singsong voice she said, ”Now come, let us return to the others. Your father returns today and we must prepare!”

The girls gasped, looking at one another, both saying at the same time, "Kassandra!"

And so they went, with a little hop in their step despite the grief, despite the pain. Everything would be alright, in time. The past would live on in them, despite it all, the good and the bad. Arya could not help but smile wide at the pure notes of her twins giggling as the silverbell jackalope hopped around them, seeking more pats.

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.

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