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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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Orvus arrived back on Veradax shortly after his chance meeting with Li’Kalla. Now he floated above the Mar Tree, which by that point had greatly covered the valley in floating motes. They bounced about, waiting for something to happen. His thoughts were dark, clouded with choices and decisions that needed to be made. Kalmar, as much as he hated to admit it, was right. Orvus was justifying his continued existence by wanting to destroy everything, just so he could prolong the inevitable. He had said it himself best, he was a selfish being who didn’t want to die.

He didn’t want to die. He wanted to fade away in the nothingness. Was it the same? Perhaps, but he was faced with a great dilemma, when would he ever see it again? Most likely never, but there was a chance it could happen. Would he jump at the occasion? Or would he stay his hand, and hesitate? Only time would tell, but his deliberation on that topic eased his mind little.

Then there was still the topic of his purpose. His siblings hated him already, their threats were apparent. Kalmar’s most of all. His brother would kill him if he kept on his current course, but what was his current course? Endless destruction until there was nothing left? Making that promise to Phystene felt so very long ago, almost like a distant memory. So much had changed since then, so much about himself had changed. Did he feel regret for what happened? An inkling perhaps... He had been so sure of himself, but now he was but hesitation.

The Mar tree was primed and ready to stream into Galbar, but Orvus did nothing now but stare. Was it really what he wanted? Why was it so hard to think and make a decision?

Why was it so difficult!

Orvus fell to the surface of the moon, and began to beat it the rock with his fist. His eyes expressed anger, a profound sense of rage. He just wanted it to end! What was holding him back! And as Orvus crushed the rock further, he saw a life that never should have been his. Memories of a dream, his dream. That was what he wanted. To feel, to be happy. To know what compassion felt like and yet, the one person he knew could help him, he had cast out. Because he was afraid of what he wanted. Because unlike the finality of death, of fading away to nothingness, it was unpredictable. Life was unpredictable.

That was his fear and to overcome it, would be to change everything about himself. For better or for worse.

And Orvus knew, that he couldn’t do it. Not yet.

He was too broken. Too afraid.

It was easier to be hated. But perhaps… perhaps he could try?

He flew up, leaving the giant crater he pummeled below him. Now over the Mar Valley, he snapped his fingers and all at once, the motes began to circle above the tree, as the gateway on Veradax came overhead, it’s scarlet lightning the only source of light. And without further hesitation, the motes began to fly upwards, to Galbar.

A pang of regret washed over him briefly, before dissipating as he moved his hand out before him. If his siblings were so set on him having a new purpose, and to maintain some sort of ‘balance’ then they would see this as necessary. Still, his gateway needed some sort of protection. Guardians, perhaps?

And so Orvus moved his hand up to the clouds, and from it he pulled down a piece of lightning. It seemed to scream in defiance at being taken from its home, but Orvus did not care. With a flick of his wrist, the lightning changed, elongating, twisting and breaking into many long appendages. A large torso appeared, then a head with six scarlet coals. It’s mouth opened, revealing rows and rows of sharp teeth and then the creature screamed, erupting from its maw came a torrent of red energy.

It broke free from Orvus and gazed down to look up it’s god.

”You are called the Gate Lord. Do your duty.” Orvus commanded, and so it was done.

The massive creature took off, flying into the storm where it disappeared.

But Orvus was unsatisfied. Something else ached to be created, to be given its own purpose. He flew down to the Mar tree, and broke off two branches. With these branches he flew up and once again floated before the Gate.

He let go up both branches, but willed them to stay afloat. As he worked upon the branches, they grew larger, longer and twisted into a crown of spikes. A blackened body came forth, one at a time from either branch, twisting down into a tail. From the torso came four arms with terrible claws, and two legs. Both took feminine forms, as scales overtook their bodies. Four scarlet coals opened upon their faces, and then eight eyes looked down upon Orvus.

”You are Reapers, and you shall have many Spawn.” he looked to the right one, ”Azadine is your name,” Orvus said before looking over at the other one, ”Ansara is yours. Now go, Galbar awaits.” And the two creatures floated off towards the gateway, as silently as they had come into the world.

Orvus was weary now, and tired. With things set in motion upon Veradax, he looked to Galbar once more and flew off to meet it.




A short while later, he arrived in a place that felt familiar. A small island chain in the middle of the vast ocean, it was there he could feel the Orvium buried beneath the waves, but this was not what Orvus came for. He looked over each island, and even saw a strange cold one, but this did not interest him.

He landed upon an island close to it, one that was fresh with land and fertile. Though he could not feel any of it, Orvus broke a stick from a tree, found a rock and then a vine. As he worked upon the materials, he came to a small clearing and there. He didn’t know what compelled him to do so, but perhaps he could start to feel something by… by growing something.

And so he struck the ground with his makeshift hoe.




Back at the gateway, Azadine and Ansara land in the Maelstrom’s waters. They briefly lock eyes, before swimming off in different directions. Azadine swims off towards Atokhekwoi, while Ansara swims in the direction of Pāṟa. All around them and throughout the storm, the motes begin to fly off in every direction, leaving the Gate Lord to fly around the Maelstrom’s eye.









&

Split-Tooth





There was blue above her, green below her, and dim shapes on the horizon in every direction. Arya knew not how long she flew, but fly she did in no particular direction. It was only when land was but a distant memory that she finally calmed down enough to just stop, and think. And there she was, floating in the endless sky reflecting on what she had just done. Her anger had at last grown cold, fizzling out into other emotions. Now she was afraid, scared, angry, and alone but most importantly, she felt regret and shame. Shame for how she had acted, and regret for what she had done as she left the Jiangzhou behind. She shouldn’t have lashed out as she had did, but it had happened regardless. Why had her father come to see her, but not speak with her? Why had he given her a ring and these… powers? So had so many questions and now no one to answer them for her.

The small girl choked back tears. For some reason, even when she felt like they would all but dry up, they continued to flow. Each tear falling down, down and down. Never to be see again.

She had never felt so angry before, at being lied to, for not being told the truth. Why had her anger consumed her so? For simply wanting to see her father? Why was she like this? It was highly unsightly to lose control so easily and she hated herself for the destruction she had caused. Thus, she was scared of herself, and afraid of what she was capable of. If she had been able to do that much damage to a ship… there was no telling what she could do to a living being and she grew sick just thinking about it.

She had already hurt so many. Arryn, Kalmar, Shengshi and the countless water servants that got caught up in the blast. The small girl looked down at her trembling hands, and she blamed herself for everything. It was her fault, all of it. She had made Arryn leave. She had disappointed Kalmar. She had said such terrible things to Shengshi, she had infuriated him and then blown up apart of his boat and for what? Because her lord had lied to her for the right reasons? Because she missed her father? Because… because she wanted to see him? That was no excuse to act like… a child. Not anymore. Her hands balled into fists as she looked up. Her tears stopped flowing and her eyes grew with determination.

”I have to be better than this. I… I have to apologize.” she spun around, ”I have to go back!” she said aloud for no one to hear. Only then did it dawn upon her, she had no idea what direction she had come from. She looked below, realizing the land was no familiar to her, and more importantly, the Nanhe was gone.

And then a voice from the heavens made her jump in the air, and she almost fell. The voice, belonging to someone named Choppy, echoed all around her from seemingly nowhere. It was an odd speech, and one Arya didn’t fully comprehend. She had no idea what a delivery hotline was, nor what a business entailed. When the voice finished, it left Arya with far more questions than answers. What was coffee? Security staff? A hotel? But the girl would have to think about it later, for right now, she had to fly.

And so fly she did.




Night faded to day, and back again more times than not. Arya was no closer now to the Jiangzhou then she had been. She stopped several times to rest, but the weight to press on was overpowering.

As night grew dark once again, the light from Heliopolis fading, Arya looked up to see the dim glow from Veradax, and the soft brightness from the Lustrous Garden. It was only then did Arya realize just how lost she truly was. She had no idea where here was, or where she had been going. Only the outline of a vast abyss was below her, and in the distance, a small dot of red. Whatever that was, she did not want to find out. As the night dragged on, Arya began to feel despair. She had been a fool for leaving, she should have stayed, at least then she would be somewhere safe and warm.

Her thoughts dragged on as she dwelled upon her failures, and her mood turned from despair to sorrow once more but on she flew. She had too.

When dawn at last broke, bathing her in an early morning glow, she was reinvigorated little. The light gave her vision to what was below- a vast sea of yellow, intersected with vast crude objects of iron. It was an abysmal place, and one Arya knew she did not belong in. She began to turn around, woefully off course.

It was only then did she see the storm brewing. A vast cloud mimicking the landscape below. Her eyes went wide, and Arya knew she had to fly faster then she had ever gone before, less the storm swallow her whole.

The sun, once warm and kind, bore down upon her with impunity as she flew. She felt her glowing skin burn from it’s radiance, and unbeknownst to her, her skin began to turn a shade of pink. The inky black skin upon her arms and legs, felt as if they were on fire but she couldn’t stop.

She turned around, only to see the storm was gaining. This prompted her to panic, and in doing so, something clicked inside of Arya. A different power, something strange. She felt herself burst with speed unlike anything she had felt before, and as the storm’s shadow began to cover her, the small girl outraced it and began to distance herself.

She began to giggle, then laugh as she felt blissful relief from the fact she wasn’t going to die. Her smile and laughter quickly faded however, for in the distance, there was but blackness.




If there was a downside to the surface being pleasantly cold, it was that how cold exactly would change in a blink. It wasn’t bad, Split-Tooth thought, but the swings from cold to colder and back were getting tiresome. It did not help matters that the sky changed too, clear, then dark, then clear again. The first time it happened it left her so lost she didn’t feel like sleeping for several more days. Maybe the Pit really was the only good place, she considered.

No, of course it wasn’t. She’d only think that because of habit. Her mind had shaken off the hand lazily lying over it, but there were more things left she had the Fell One to thank for. Not knowing things was another chain she needed to be rid of. At first she’d thought it would be easier than snapping the iron fingers in her head, but it was more complicated than it sounded. Finding out about something wasn’t anywhere as hard as fighting a hand she couldn’t see. It was just that there were many more things to find out about than hands to fight. Learning about them all would take a long time yet.

And all she’d seen so far had just been more rocks and sky.

The sky alone was more than enough to keep her busy. So far, it had looked as if it could be either clear or dark, with one large fire or many small ones. But now and then, she’d seen clouds big enough to make a clear sky dark, and something like an eye that made light when it wasn’t day. Useless things, but they made the world feel more lively. It wouldn’t have been as hard to guard a hatchery up here, if it wasn’t so cold.

She wanted to check herself again, but stopped. There was nothing wrong with guarding hatcheries. The Fell One might’ve made the kostral that way, but he was smart enough to make them good. The wrong part was only having lichens to eat while you did it, as if the ones who made clubs instead mattered more.

There came another large cloud, larger than any she’d seen. The surface had storms too, then. It was far enough not to choke her, which was just as well. She didn’t like how it gleamed, as one of the fire-clouds below. Being white didn’t make much of a difference that she cared to find out. Or having spots- Wait, storms didn’t have spots.

Split-Tooth leapt over a jutting rock with three arms, clambering up with the other free ones. Her shoulder had stopped stinging a while ago, and it felt good to stretch every limb again.

She strained her front eyes, still surprised by how far she could see. No, that spot wasn’t part of the storm. Something was flying ahead of it.




Before Arya was a land that looked very familiar to her. Blackened, dark and foreboding. A wasteland, different then Veradax, but a wasteland nonetheless. Most intriguing to her were the stones that seemed to float in one place. And at the center of the wasteland, a massive black hole, like a scar in the earth, seemed to expand forever before her. It was frightening to say the least, and Arya did not want to know what monstrosity- no, what god had created it. She dared not to fly over it, for fear of being swallowed and as such, she began to her descent. She needed to rest and recuperate to journey back over the desert.

She came down on a crag jutting out over a small barrenless spot. From Kalmar’s teachings, she knew this place would provide an excellent lookout incase she wasn’t alone. And it was there the girl sat down, nestled in the shade of a rocky overhead. She let out a satisfying sigh. The cold rock mixed with the shade felt wonderful on her burned skin.

Either the crag’s position was lacking, or that which approached was unusually skilled, but the large moving shadow did not become clearly visible until it was close. An acrid smell of something bestial wafted over her as the blot came into sight, stepping carefully on four limbs.

Over the scorched ground, now in plain sight, stood a bizarrely hideous creature, gazing at Arya with dark inexpressive eyes. Its powerful grey-skinned body seemed at ease, though the oversized gleaming axe held in its foremost two hands belied its wariness. Its unseen teeth gritted together rhythmically with an audible rasping.

The beast curiously turned its head to one side, snapped its jaws and moved a step towards her.

Arya’s black eyes went wide as she saw the thing. It had too many limbs and carried, what she could only assume, was a weapon. As soon as it took a step toward her, Arya stood up quickly, her back to the wall. If she tried to fly, the thing would probably attack her. She was cornered.

She looked at it, and spoke, her voice shaky, ”S-Stay back!” she tried to yell, but her words conveyed anything but. She could feel her hands tightening into balls, and the thought of what she did back on the boat haunted her.

Once again she shouted, ”S-Stay back! I-I don’t want to hurt you!”

The creature stopped, absently stirring its mouth with chewing motions. Then it spoke in a voice surprisingly articulate for coming from such an ill-shaped thing, though snarling and grinding.

“Sure you don’t? That’s a new one.” If its speech could be said to carry anything, it was a weary disbelief. Nevertheless, after some hesitation, it slightly lowered its axe. Its next words might have been an order as much as a question in their tonelessness. “What are you?”

Arya sighed in relief as the thing lowered it’s axe slightly, but she still remained on edge. She hadn't been sure the thing was capable of speech, but now she knew it was, she could talk to it. It spoke strangely, but that didn’t bother her in the slightest.

Quietly she started, ”W-What?,” and then she spoke louder. ”My name is Arya, who are you?” she said, emphasizing name.

The being raised one of its middle hands and prodded something inside its mouth with a clawed finger.

“I’m some-” it seemed to break into hesitation for a moment, then continued, “-one with a split tooth. They just call me that. Split-Tooth.” It blinked with one of the eyes that faced forward. “What makes you an Arya?”

Arya blinked at the question and began to speak, but stopped with little more than an, “I-”. She didn’t really know how to answer Split-Tooth’s question. She just was who she was. Kalmar had named her, so too did Shengshi, but telling the creature her second name would probably just confuse it even more.

There was a long pause before she said, ”I just am who I am. Arya is just a name. Names can change, but who we are,” she pointed at herself, ”Who we really are, is inside of us. So, to answer your question, I make me an Arya.” she said, a bit of pride leaking into her voice.

A low growl from somewhere inside Split-Tooth’s chest followed her words. Both of its eyes briefly narrowed, and its jaws clenched together with a scraping rattle.

“What’s inside can change too, you know. Most of time, it better do.” The creature swiftly rolled its forearms in their sockets, gathering itself again. “Some way of giving names that is. Where I come from, everyone’s called like something you can see. That’s how you know who’s what. Only ones who name things something else is gods.”

As if catching itself on something, Split-Tooth suddenly stretched its back, suddenly seeming to grow taller and broader. Its hands tightened, barely perceptibly, on the axe’s haft. “You’re no god, are you?”

Split-Tooth’s perception of names was strangely enlightening and it also made Arya not really ever want to visit it’s home. At the mention of Gods, and Split-Tooths sudden growth, Arya seemed to shrink against the rock. She hadn’t realized just how tall the thing actually was and it seemed to be… to be upset?

”I’m no God, Split-Tooth.” she said quickly, ”Not in the slightest!”

At her reassurance, the creature deflated, sinking back to all fours in what, even in such a monstrous frame, was clearly relief. This time, its weapon stayed low.

“Good thing.” It nodded, or at least moved its head in some sort of acquiescence. “Maybe not for you, I’m sure they have it good. For everyone.”

With a single motion, it flung its axe over its shoulder. As its arm rose to follow it, it bared a spot on the being’s shoulder, scarred with a large, dull-red mark of a closed gauntlet in a circle.

“But if you know what a god is, you’ll know that yourself too.”

Arya hesitated, her eyes intrigued at the large scar. It wasn’t familiar to her, but to Split-Tooth, it seemed to mean a great amount. She had to be careful what she next said, else she draw the thing’s ire.

”Not all of them are so needlessly cruel, Split-Tooth. Whoever did that to you is not a god, but a monster.” she spoke softly, thinking of the Gods she had met. Kalmar, Shengshi, even Arae- all of them had been kind to her. But her father? He was… cruel.

”Who did that to you?” she asked, her voice full of concern.

“This?” The creature glanced at the brand with one of its lateral eyes and chortled. “This thing helped, if you’ll believe. I was worse off without it. The one who did it didn’t mean it that way, of course.”

Now seemingly fully at ease, Split-Tooth crouched on her lower arms, crossing her forward ones. The axe was leaned against her back.

“It was one called” it struggled with the word, its mouth involuntarily stiffening. After a few attempts, it finally spat it out, “Narzhak. Great One, he calls himself. Me, I won’t give him more than Fell.” It churned again, as if having made an extremely witty joke. “I know he’s met others who are like him. They don’t all show it, but it’s inside, like you say. We’ve either heard of different gods, and there’d need to be a lot of them…” It scratched its jaw under the notorious tooth. “Or you haven’t been looking close enough.”

”Narzhak…” she said to herself. The God of War, is what she had learned. Then this realm, this ‘world scar’ must be from his doing. And Split-Tooth, must be some sort of, servant, or worse, a slave. It sounded like it had no love for Narzhak however, so it’s loyalties were questionable and for good reason, she thought, looking at the brand again.

By this point, Arya stood a bit taller, and more in a relaxed position. She was still weary of the creature, but she didn’t believe it was going to hurt her.

”I’m sorry he did that to you, even if it helped. No one should be forced to do anything, or have anything forced upon them. Some gods know that, but some do not.” she said sadly. She looked at the being in front of her with a gleam in her eye and spoke, ”Split-Tooth, there are many Gods and Goddesses in this world. I know of most, and I’ve even met a few of them. Not all are like Narzhak, but you are right, some are and they hide so many things and think so many things and are so many things. My father is one such god. His name is Orvus, and he is… difficult, and cruel. He cast me out from up there.” she finished, walking over to be out from under the rock and then pointing up at the moon.

“Being cast out isn’t all bad, either. Think of it as let out,” Split-Tooth mused, one eye glancing upwards. “I couldn’t wait to get out of the warrens when I hatched. Never got far before now. Maybe you’re right about them, though. If there’s really that many. It would be a good thing for a change.”

The eye turned back down. The creature shifted its head to one side, now curiously examining Arya with full three of its gazes. “Even then, you’ve got to be sure before you believe one. A few days ago I still thought Narzhak’d given us everything good we have.” It scratched the other side of its neck. “He really did, but it was much less than he’d have us know. If you know a god, it just means you need to be even more careful. They can do things you won’t believe until you feel them, and you won’t even notice.”

Split-Tooth’s head snapped back into a straight position with an abrupt crunch. “What are you doing out here, anyway?”

Arya thought upon Split-Tooth’s words and began to nod in agreement. If Veradax was anything like this place, she probably would go crazy. At the same time, she still wanted to see it for herself, so she could at least know. There was also the fact she had believed Shengshi without even questioning it when he told her how she had gotten her powers. Perhaps she did need to be cautious. A reserved caution.

At the sound of the question, Arya looked back up at Split and said, ”I… I made a mistake. I got angry when I shouldn’t have… I hurt those I call friends. All because I overreacted. I may have blown a hole in a boat,” she squinted, realizing that Split wouldn’t actually know what a boat is, ”A big thing that can float on water and is made of wood, a light substance. Anyways, I was a wreck, so I left. I need to go back though, so I can ask for forgiveness. I realized that what I did wasn’t the best thing to do. How about you? Why are you here?” she asked.

“I’m looking for coffee,” Split replied simply. It made some empty chewing motions, then added, “Somebody said there are sentries on watch somewhere that need coffee, so I thought I’d give a hand.”

Some more chewing. “I don’t know what you’d call a friend, but if you made holes in their things, they must be enemies now. I wouldn’t go back so fast. They’re counting on that. Make yourself ready first, they’ll be sure to have an ambush. If there’s too many of them, don’t go back at all, it’s safer.” A dim eye glistened with bitter amusement. “I’m one to speak. But I have this,” It bent a side-arm backwards and tapped the massive blade near its back. “You look young and haven’t got anything. Hatchlings don’t go on lurker hunts.”

It fell silent for some instants, still besides a sparse blinking across its four eyes. Then, it glanced up. “Do you at least know what coffee is?”

The small girl found it amusing that the creature was trying to find coffee. Arya didn’t even know what it was, it sounded dangerous, but Split could probably take it. She also felt stupid for not explaining what a friend was.

At Split’s mention of enemies, Arya’s heart began to beat faster. Would Shengshi and Kalmar become her enemies? Would they hate her for what she had done? But she quickly found that the notion was ridiculous, and hoped that they would only be slightly angry with her. However, once again, there was a certain truth to Split’s words. She couldn’t go back, not yet. She had to let things cool down, but she would, and when she did Arya would apologize so profusely, unlike anyone had ever apologized before. Her eyes squinted again at the mention of her being young and a ‘hatchling’ but arguing was probably pointless.

She followed Split’s gaze and looked up as well.

”I don’t know what coffee is, but I think I might know a way to find out. If you… If you want me to help?” she asked hesitantly.

Though its head remained upturned in an indeterminate direction, two of the creature’s eyes looked back at her.

“Six eyes are better than four, aren’t they?”

The girl’s eyes seemed to smile at being accepted.

With the same lightness, odd for something so bulky, Split leaned down on its front arms towards her.

“And it’s sure they’re better than two. You’ll get yourself killed if you don’t have someone to look out for you.” Its mouth spluttered something indistinct, sounds vaguely similar to a scornful ”need to go back” practically inaudible in it. “Looks like I’m not done watching the hatchery yet.” In one fluid motion, it was up on five arms, the last one holding the axe over its back. “Things don’t find themselves on their own. Let’s go.”

She started to sigh, ”I’m not-” she let a deep breath, ”Alright!” she said enthusiastically. And as she floated after Split, a question that had been nagging Arya finally burst out.

”So, are you a boy, or a girl?”

“Me?” Split did not so much as turn to look. “I’m “her”. You’d call it…” A finger pensively ran along the axe’s blade. “A mother.”

Arya wasn’t that surprised, it seemed to fit Split-Tooth being a mother.

”I see, so you’re a girl, Split-Tooth.” she said out loud, flipping upside down and looking up at the sky another thought coming to mind, ”Hmm. We should probably work on your name though.”









&

Li’Kalla


Goddess of Rain
8 FP - 13 MP





Orvus silently floated across the vast ocean of Ashalla, going not in any particular direction. He had far too much on his mind to actually think about a destination. Arya was chief among those thoughts, and always his choice he had to make, one day.

Eventually, Orvus spotted an island in the distance, teeming with life. Vibrant and green, above all else he felt the presence of a God. Li’Kalla to be precise, the Goddess of Rain. He had not met her, in fact, he only knew her by name. He wondered what she looked like, but other then that, he continued on his way. There was no point in finding another sibling, especially one who probably regarded life just like the others.

He passed over the island, seeing nothing of great interest besides, well, a lot of water. Eventually Orvus began to pass over spires of somesort. Very crude looking things, made of mud and what he thought was clay. Upon closer inspection, he even creatures in abundance. Little mounds of dirt and clay and mud that seemed to… roll about.

”HEY, LI’KALLA!”


”Ah!” A small yelp came from the other side of a large spire, carrying with it a splattering noise and a gasp, ”Oh, sorry Rick’Ard! I-I didn’t mean to hurt you, it’s just Chopstick Eyes...” The soft voice trailed off, muttering apologies and excuses to a being whose presence was so diminutive, it might as well be invisible.

The voice that broke his silence was obnoxiously loud, and seemed to shout around the entire world. When it finished, Orvus still had no idea what this ‘chopstick eyes’ was besides his minut understanding from the Architect. But before he could even think about that, another voice, one much closer broke not far from him.

Thus, whether he wanted to or not, Orvus would investigate, finding the blue Goddess mucking around with the same creatures he had seen before. He floated up behind her, and watched with impassive eyes. She was… playing?

She giggled as a small clump of slightly dry mud made its way down the side of the nearest spire, rolling towards her excruciatingly slowly. After a moment, she tensed up.

It was sudden. In a explosion of movement, she turned around and crawled back several meters! She hid behind the clump -- which was actually too small to even cover her foot -- and screamed. “AAAAH! I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING, HE CAME WITH ME, I DIDN’T TAKE HIM FROM HIS LITTLE CLUMP FAMIL-”

She froze, looking at the hazy, shadowy figure floating before her. Tall as the most elite of knights, with the same look in his eyes… Even though this entity’s were different in appearance, there was the same suffocating aura. She tried to speak, but she couldn’t open her mouth. She just stared back at him.

Moments passed, and she sat on her ankles and slowly, carefully draped an arm, shakily, over her chest and averted her eyes.

“... O-Orvus, correct?”

Orvus watched the peculiar sight unfold before him, his sister was a strange one, and her outburst was unwarranted. Regardless, she was obviously afraid of him. The way her face froze in fear, and how she averted her gaze, and covered herself. It was odd, but a small part of it felt strangely good.

”Correct.” he stated flatly.

”...” Li’Kalla’s lip quivered, and her right wing started to twitch. ”Um, this i-is Rick’Ard. He’s a m-mud clump I found n-near my m-” She spoke, her voice gradually rising in tone until she just squeaked and closed her eyes tightly.

Orvus cocked his head to the side as she began to speak. She wasn’t just afraid of him, she was terrified and Orvus knew that feeling all too well. Did he inspire so much fear, or was it something else entirely? Regardless, it began to pain him to see her in such a state, to see her just like he had been and so Orvus fell to the ground, his feet silently hitting earth. He crouched before her, in a less threatening posture, and looked to this ‘Rick’Ard’ she spoke of. It was a creature of mud, carrying the smallest of souls inside of it. Disappointing but not surprising. He looked back to Li’Kalla and realized that she was… naive, almost innocently so.

After a moment, Orvus’ eyes seemed to frown slightly, and when he spoke, his voice was soft, ”Li’Kalla. I’m not going to hurt you. So tell me, where did you find this, ‘Rick’Ard’?”

Li’Kalla hesitatingly opened her left eye first, and upon seeing nothing suspicious, she relaxed a little. However, she never took her arm off her body. ‘That’s what they always say,’ She thought, ‘Not going to hurt me…’

She took in a deep breath and gave a little flap of her wings. ”I-I found him near my home, the Manor, M-Mister Orvus. They all came about during this reaaaally long, tiresome rain… I saw Rick’Ard, he rolled toward me and I-I gave him his name and took him with me on a small flight.” She shrank a little, and sighed ”I-I think he’s only with me because he likes the water on my skin, though.”

”I see.” he seemed to whisper. Li’Kalla was like a child...and another chord seemed to strike inside of him, reminding Orvus of Arya. ”Water has many uses. If anything, you are giving that creature life, and in return, he is making you… happy.” he said unsure of himself. Quickly he asked, ”Do you enjoy flying?”

Li'Kalla perked up and nodded, “Oh, yes! I-I'm fairly new to it, but Sis Azura taught me. Have you met her? She's really nice.” Li'Kalla said with a faint smile.

Orvus briefly remembered that he had crashed through The Blue once, killing several creatures as he went. But said, ”Hmm. No, I have not met Azura, but I’ll take your word for it.” Orvus paused, ”Your wings are… good? To fly, I mean.” he asked again.

The Goddess grinned at the mention of her wings and flapped them proudly, “Yes! They're super good and warm and dry. After Azura taught me how to fly, I can get around the Island very quickly. You could probably grow wings too, Mister Orvus. I can give you some feathers to get started with like Azura did with me and you can use them as a starting point!”

Orvus thought for a moment, but realized wings weren’t really his style. ”I am honored that you think me worthy of some of your feathers, but I cannot take them. Wings may suit you and Azura, but I think another way might work for me.” he said softly.

“Like what?” Li'Kalla asked equally softly, tilting her head curiously.

”Hmm. Long have I pondered this. Floating about is so… slow my dear. At least for me. I desire to travel quickly, through even spheres. Here, watch.” Orvus said, slowly standing up. And he looked up to the stars, beginning to float, but quickly stopped and looked down to Li’Kalla.

”I have a gift for you.” he said, and like before, he willed into existence a small ring made of Orvium and it too was dotted with bright stars that seemed to shimmer. He floated it over to Li’Kalla. ”Wear it, or do not, I do not mind either way. It does nothing, at least not for one such as you, but, it does look… pretty, does it not?”

Li'Kalla breathed an evident sigh of relief upon seeing the ring, a sudden tension having taken hold of her upon mention of a gift. Her eyes lit up when she laid them on the beautiful ring, and she thankfully took it in her hands, inspecting it for a moment with her fingers before sliding it onto her left hand's index finger. “I-It's beautiful, thank you! How did you fit stars insid-” Li'Kalla stopped and chuckled, “Huh, that's a dumb question, isn't it Mr. Orvus?”

Orvus’s eyes seemed to smile before they quickly became stone once again. He said, ”No, not a dumb question. Just a curious one. It was nice meeting you Li’Kalla. Perhaps we shall see each other again… one day. Now, goodbye.” Orvus said, before looking back up at the stars.

He then willed himself to fly as fast as he could, then faster and faster and in the blink of an eye he exited the Atmosphere and was well on his way to his own sphere. To Li’Kalla, she would have seen Orvus for a brief moment before he cast himself into the stars like a comet, leaving behind a very loud WHUMP, as the sound barrier was broken.

Once her wince at the loud sound subsided, she looked up at the spot in the sky Orvus had disappeared in, and pursed her lips.

“He felt… Different, didn't he, Rick'Ard? Like he wasn't complete. Well, at least he can fly now.” She muttered to the mud clump as she scooped it up in her hands and flapped her wings powerfully, beginning the flight back to her Manor.






&


FP: 0 MP: 04


&





A chill suddenly shook Arya’s body as she laid. Her eyes were forced open by the shiver of her body, only to realize she was laying on a thick slab of ice in a dome of snow. All around her was white; even the fire in the center of the otherwise barren room. Despite it’s dancing flames, no heat seemed to illuminate from it, much to her disappointment. Across the room was a clear exit, a copper coat rack standing guard with a thick fur jacket.

Hesitantly she stood up, confused as to what was going on and where she was. She shivered; it was cold and that jacket looked so cozy. She walked over to the rack, slowly and reached out, touching the thick fur like a child might pet an animal. She put on the jacket, it would keep her from shivering. Then she looked at the exit and walked through. Wherever she was, there was no answers here. Just disappointment.

The blast of the sun off of the white landscape of snow temporarily blinded her. There was a yelp while her eyes adjusted and a helpful hand reached far up and turned down the brightness of the sun, “I’m so very sorry!” a voice as shivering as the tundra apologized.

If it all she was surprised by watch she saw, it wasn’t noticeable. What was noticeable, was that her eyes smiled as she said, ”Oh! That’s so much better, thank you...uh...do you have a name?” she inquired the bundle of coats.

“Of course,” The bundle replied, “I am Idnes, the God of Icebergs. Surely, you have heard of me?”

”Hmmm, no, I’m terribly sorry, my Lord.” she said politely while giving a small bow.

The Bundle puffed up, “It’s alright! Please, call me Poobah.”

Idnes paused, “Grand Poobah.”

Arya nodded, ”Grand Poobah it is!” came her excited voice, ”Say, do you know where I am?” she asked.

“I have a whiff of an idea,” Idnes replied, almost regally, “I would guess you were accidentally dropped off in my sphere on your way to a dream. It happens from time to time, you see.”

”A dream? A sphere?” she asked aloud. ”What are those?”

A gloved hand rubbed under where a chin might be, “Perhaps the other Gods thought it fit to keep this information from the… not Gods.” He sighed, “But, then again, they ignore me so. Perhaps I shall ignore their desires, I am a God too, after all.”

“You see, each God, as it were, has a home. Being the splendiferous beings we are, we call our homes our ‘spheres’, even if they are not spherical. As for a dream, I don’t know the answer to that. Most people seem to know what a dream is without ever being taught, you may be the first to ask.”

“But, but!” Idnes came to his own defense, “You cannot fault me, even in my divine Godhood, to not know how to answer such a question! If you could imagine, you must, most lives come from a birth of some or somewhat and then continue in a line or some such, and at no point in this line (except in cases of philosophy or general inflation of curiosity) does a being ever ask what a dream is, without first already knowing.”

Arya listened to the Grand Poobah, hearing what he said, and trying her hardest to make sense of it. Spheres were homes for gods, she got that but a dream was another beast entirely. Somehow, she already knew what a dream was and...and...she was dreaming?

”So, this is a dream then? That’s...interesting. Huh.” she said.

“Well, if it is,” Idnes thought out loud, “Then you are in the wrong place. You need to go to the Palace of Dreams, that’s where all dreams proper go.”

”Oooh! That sounds right. But, how do I get there?” she wondered aloud.

“That way!” Idnes pointed in the distance, and suddenly, as if she had ignored it before, the impression of a palace was pressed against the dark-blue sky. The Grand Poobah crossed his arms, “Just be careful, dreams are strange things. In fact-” The bundle shook his head, “Well, I shouldn’t say.”

Arya looked to where the Grand Poobah pointed, and she saw the impression of the palace against the sky. How had she missed that? She began to walk towards it, but when the Grand Poobah spoke again she stopped and looked at the bundle again.

She cocked her head and asked, ”Shouldn’t say what, Grand Poobah?”

“Well,” Idnes puffed up as if he was about to solve a great mystery, “Have you ever noticed, or at least, will you have noticed, that in dreams there appears to be such a seamless logic and understanding that so carefully mimics that of reality, even if it shouldn’t, and yet we accept it as real? Well, some days I wonder if this is all a dream and not reality,” He waved his arms as if presenting his sphere, “But who is to say? Good luck on your journey, Disciple of Iceberg.”

She was about to speak what the thought, but stopped. If dreams weren’t really real, but felt real, then that meant…

Her eyes grew soft, and when she spoke her voice was quiet, ”Goodbye...Grand Poobah. Thank you, for your help.” and Arya turned, leaving the bundle of coats behind.

She took three steps and suddenly she wasn’t in the land of snow any longer. In the distance the palace remained, but all around her was a marketplace open to the sunny sky, causing her to sweat under the jacket. Tufts of grass broke through cobblestone roads, and many colorful booths were set up with hawking merchants. Beyond the booths wasn’t much else, besides endless pine forests.

A strange, skinny man looked over at her from his multicolored booth. He himself contrasted his wares, as he was as monochromatic as the land of snow, and bore nothing but white hair, skin and clothes, with only a set of black eyes and a spiral about his forehead to say any different. A long cigarillo perched between his lips, a wisp of purple smoke drifting off its glowing end.

This wasn’t the palace, in fact, it was still in the distance. All around her were strange things and stranger people. Growing hot, she slipped the jacket off and continued, letting it fall to the ground without even looking.

She noticed the dull man and walked over to his colorful booth. The contrast was very apparent as she got closer and it made for a very odd sight.

She spoke at once, but as she did, no sound appeared and instead a large bubble fell out of her mouth and began to float. In response the man reached out with his cigarillo and popped it, her voice coming from the subtle pop, ”Hello! Can you tell me where I am?”

Arya was bewildered at such a display. A flash of the first time she spoke wandered into her mind and how she struggled to speak. When the man popped the bubble she was relieved, but still perplexed.

The man put his cigarillo back into his mouth with a clamp of his teeth, and took a long draw. As he spoke, tendrils of purple smoke escapes his lips, “Now, now, it’s bad business to be buying what I’m selling.”

He pointed a finger at his sign, the words Questions for sale, written across it, “So how about it?” He continued, “Want to buy a question? Very cheap, a single answer for a single question, and then you can keep it forever.”

She squinted her eyes in confusion and scratched her head as she tried to wrap her mind around what the man had said. Buying a question? But how could one do that if they didn’t know the answer...wait just a minute! If this was a dream, then she wasn’t really anywhere but her own head. Right? There was really only one way to figure it out.

”Yes.” she stated, her voice popping from bubbles. ”I would like to buy a question.”

”I am in my head.” she said. That was an answer right?

“Where do you think you are?” The man handed a card to Arya, while taking her answer from her in the form of a bauble. His eyes sparkled, as if expecting more.

So she was right after all. She then took the card and looked it over, the question he had just said and she had previously answered written on it.

”This place is just a dream.” she answered again.

“What is this place?” The man handed her another card and took her answer from her again.

Her eyes smiled as she received her question. She thought again about what to answer and quickly came up with, ”I am on a journey to the Palace of Dreams.”

“Where are you going?” The man asked, handing her another card.

This time she decided to say something completely random, ”The pine trees are green, the sky is blue and your name is Bubbado” she said.

“What are two truths and a lie?” The man questioned, card in hand.

Clever, very clever she thought. But Arya realized she could probably keep answering questions for a long time and never really get anywhere. It was time to move on.

”It was fun but I must continue on. Thank you.” she said.

“What do you think of all this?” The man handed her a final card and then leaned back to smoke his cigarillo, flicking the ash. Arya nodded and continued to walk down the path, eyeing the market place as she did. Up on the horizon, the palace still beckoned.

A few steps forward and suddenly there was a loud clang. Her eyes flickered for a brief second. Slowly a welcoming array of horns and tubas met her ears with a sweetness punctuated by timely thumps of a playful drum. Violins wailed quietly, tying the orchestra together into a playful, and mystical dance.

All around her flowery dresses spun and twirled with suited gentlemen. Orbs of emotion and thought bobbed between the dancers in their own waltz. The room itself was a large dome, vibrating with the lure of the somber trumpets, and the story of the gentle flutes. Center of the scene was a great throned dias, on which sat a gentleman, who sat in front of a large piano, his fingers stroking the many keys in such a fashion as to lead the orchestra in a melody of sound.

Arya’s eyes went wide as she took in the world before her. It was beautiful, it was so beautiful and loud and wonderful. She couldn’t help herself as a few black tears fell down her face. The music, the lights, the atmosphere, the dancers with their dresses and suits- it was all so… all so blissful.

Her attention at last fell upon the dias, and the throne where a gentleman sat playing an instrument she thought was so elegant and alluring. She wanted nothing more then to dance as the dancers did, and play like the instruments played but most importantly she wanted to know who sat upon the throne and how he orchestrated the magic that flowed around her. So Arya found herself upon the dance floor, letting her body soak up the melody as she tried to mimic the dancers in their steps but even as she failed she did not grow unhappy but instead relished in the opportunity.

She at last made her way to the center and walked up the man and it was there she said, her voice like that of a blissful child, ”Hello!”

“Hello,” A grainy voice swirled around the pair as the song changed to the next dance, one of a higher tempo and quicker pace, the gentleman’s fingers nearly a dance of their own as they made work of the keys.

”This is beautiful, so, so beautiful.” she said aloud, looking around the room as the tempo changed.

The gentleman turned his head, revealing a wide cheshire smile, “I’m glad you like it,” the voice returned, despite the gentleman’s smile never opening.

His voice was unique, and that smile was anything but unnerving. It was pleasant, as a gentleman should be. Whatever that was. Suddenly, Arya remembered what she carried and looked down at the cards. An idea came to mind.

”Here you go!” she said and handed him the cards, ”I know it’s not much, but it’s the least I can do for letting me be here, to enjoy this.” she said softly.

A gentle laugh bounced between the two, and the gentleman took his fingers off of the piano. He pinched the cards between his index and thumb, accepting the gift. Took a quick moment to flip through the cards, the laugh bounced again, “A stack of questions? Why, thank you, young miss.”

With deft fingers, the gentleman slipped the cards into his jacket interior pocket, secured with a pat, “Shall I answer them for you?”

”Of course! But only if I ask the question.” she said playfully. ”Okay, Okay… What are two truths and a lie?” she inquired.

The voice hummed for a moment before answering, “The past can never be changed, yet a person is free to choose their own purpose, but a dream is just a dream.”

Arya hadn’t been expecting that answer. It was compelling and she wondered what what the lie could be. She thought about it for a moment before asking, ”This place is just a dream?” came her innocent voice.

“No, but it is a dream,” the gentleman answered.

”Hmm,” she said, ”Alright, how about this one? Where are you going?”

“Nowhere,” The gentleman maintained his smile.

She gave a small laugh, ”Clever, but obvious. Let’s try this one. What do you think of all this?” she asked.

“In the words of someone I hold very dear,” The gentleman started, “I like it.”

”Short and sweet.” she said quietly, a pang of longing echoing throughout her, quickly buried by the atmosphere. She rubbed her chin, thinking about what else to ask. Perhaps it was time to go outside of the cards? Yes, that was a good idea.
”What is your name?” she finally asked.

“K’nell,” The gentleman answered, his fingers settling back onto the keys.

”K’nell...K’nell…” she pronounced the name, ”Kalmar mentioned your name once I think. So that means your a god and this is your home...your sphere.” she let her voice drop to a whisper. Arya then sat down on the steps and looked up at K’nell.

”Can you teach me to dance, like the dresses and the suits, one day? I’d like that very much.” she said softly.

“If you want to learn, you will learn,” K’nell began to press his fingers down on the keys in melodic rhythm, “Just don’t forget to dream.”

”I don’t think I can. Forget, I mean. I think the words of the one you hold close describe my feelings best. I like it. I do.” And Arya listened to K’nell play and she watched the dancers dance and all was good. K’nell gave Arya a knowing look, and as the final song ended, her eyes opened.




0 MP/0 FP

&

Kalmar





Orvus stood in silence beneath the Mar Tree. It’s motes of decay danced around him as if they were attached to strings, but this was not his focus. He faced away from the tree, to the place where she had been born. He still couldn’t quite wrap his thoughts around how she had come to be, or what had given her life, but Orvus knew she was of him. A small part anyway. Her appearance was the only thing they shared in common, that much was true. For in the brief moment she had stood before him, Orvus realized he would only bring her pain and suffering if he remained in her life.

She had a soul, she had happiness, she had emotion. But most importantly, she had a desire to be everything he was not. That was why he had said those terrible things. That was why he made her cry. Why he made her feel so wrong. She couldn’t stay on Veradax, it would have killed her, the Mar Tree would have killed her, but perhaps the greatest threat to her life, was in fact himself. So he sent her away, to Galbar, easing the otherwise hard journey. An act of kindness, for though he told himself she would be better without him, it still hurt to watch her go.

Her screams for him were still haunting, but day by day they lessened. In time, maybe they would fade, but he wouldn’t forget her. No, because if he did forget, Veradax would claim her for its own, and that was a fate worse than death. Still, he was troubled. The dream constantly reminded him of what he wanted most- to feel and to be happy, but he knew it could never be so. She could have provided that comfort, but would have suffered for it. For fate was cruel and unkind, and he was growing tired of feeling.

Orvus turned around to the tree once more, and reached out his hand to touch it, but halted when a new voice spoke in his mind. Kalmar, God of Hunting wanted to talk? Orvus could only imagine why but he was in no mood to speak. Just like before, he sent message of his own, weighted down by his negative emotions and dark thoughts. Kalmar would feel just how uninterested Orvus was.

”Orvus,” Kalmar repeated, so unphased by the dark thoughts that he kept the exact same tone, ”We need to talk.”

So, it seemed his siblings were all stubborn. First Arae, now this one. Perhaps a more direct approach was necessary?

”I am uninterested in talk, Kalmar.” Orvus said without emotion.

”We need to talk anyway,” came Kalmar’s response, equally emotionless.

Growing irritated, Orvus spoke again, ”Then speak and be done with it.”

”We will speak face to face,” Kalmar insisted. ”On the northeastern corner of Galbar’s largest continent there is a tall mountain. No traps, no tricks, no fighting. I am waiting there.”

There was silence between the two gods for a very long time as Orvus contemplated. He had no great desire to travel to Galbar where he was weaker, and at the same time, he did not trust this one’s words. Yet, he was intrigued. Here was a god that matched him in tone, and commanded, not asked, for what he wanted. Did he have any idea who he was talking to? Or did he simply not care?

”Very well.” Came his short response, and with nothing else to stop him, he summoned the storm winds and they carried him up, off towards the gate. His return, for better or for worse.

Kalmar had not expected that to work. Yet it had. Interesting. All there was to do now was wait for Orvus to arrive, if he truly was on his way. So, wait he did. He considered the possibility that the god lied only to get him to stop talking, but decided Kalmar instead to give Orvus the benefit of the doubt.

When he arrived on Galbar, Orvus immediately realized that his gateway had been confined to one location. By who, or what, remained a mystery but it did little to calm his aggravation. In fact, he grew angry that such a thing had happened. It was meant to do what he could not in absence and such an affront would have to be corrected, but not now. He other duties to attend to as he fell to the ocean floor, and began to walk.

It did not take him long to find the correct heading, and so he walked, noting the new life that flourished beneath the waves. Oddly enough, he did not see any Leviathan Anglers, but it was inconsequential. They were merely an experiment and as such, he did not care what became of them. He made landfall at dusk, and so he walked on with purpose. Behind him, dark storm clouds followed in his wake. It would not be long now.

Kalmar felt the first drops of rain strike his hair and began to frown. Perhaps he would not come. Or perhaps he was deliberately taking his time. The thought annoyed Kalmar. But then, in the distance, a dark figure approached.

He saw the mountain first, then a top it, Kalmar. Up until that point, his body had been dull. The only illumination were his eyes, and as he neared, he erupted once more into his original form, painting the world before him with a small glow as the storm arrived. At the base of the mountain, his head snapped up to look up Kalmar, unphased by the rain. For a moment he stood like that before bending his knees, and jumping. The mountain was tall, so Orvus had to dig his weigh into several times as he used the momentum to fling himself up.

When he reached the peak, he landed with a consider thunk and slowly stood to his full height as he looked down upon Kalmar with an unwavering gaze.

”Speak.” he uttered in an aggravated tone.

Kalmar didn’t even blink. ”I am not here to coddle you, or to tell you that you are misunderstood,” he said, rather bluntly. ”I will not claim to understand you either, because I don’t. But before we begin, I have some questions. Why did you attack Phystene?”

Lightning flashed around them as the thunder rumbled behind. Orvus listened, his apathetic stare did not move as Kalmar droned on. But there was a certain way he spoke, blunt and to the point, that Orvus almost respected.

Curious, so this one knew what had transpired between he and the nature Goddess and it only confirmed to Orvus that they were plotting against him. But then why talk at all? After a moment Orvus spoke. His tone cold, ”Phystene created life that I cannot feel.” he paused, then added, ”I wouldn’t expect you to understand what that’s like.” before the rain was the only sound that could be heard again.

Kalmar was not sure what Orvus meant. ”Why did that anger you?” he asked. ”If you cannot feel it, that means you do not know what you are missing. So why?”

”I know exactly what I’m missing.” he said bitterly. His thoughts briefly turning towards the dream and his mood soured further. Why was this so important to know? Was it not obvious? ”Phystene represents life. I represent destruction. Must you know more?” he stated flatly.

”Yet destruction can be productive,” Kalmar pointed out. ”I am proof of that. And you do not even need to represent destruction. You can learn other skills.”

”Destruction, no matter how productive, is still destruction. Look to the moon, there is your proof.” he paused, letting the thunder reverberate around them. ”Balance. That is what Arae called it. I must represent what I was tasked with chief and foremost. Whatever would the Architect think of me if I did not perform to my utmost ability?” he said with a hint of sarcasm.

”Everything Phystene creates is intended to serve a purpose,” Kalmar told him. ”If you want balance, then your destruction needs to serve a purpose as well. Destruction for the sake of destruction serves no purpose.”

”You do not understand.” he said coldly. Lightning flashed, illuminating his body against the torrential rain for a brief second, ”I did not say I wanted balance, Kalmar. My destruction can only serve my own purpose. For each and every one of us, has their own perception of the word.”

”But how do you perceive the world?” Kalmar asked. ”What is your own purpose? Destruction may have been the first power you adopted, but the Architect also gave us free will. The power to grow and change. You can become something else, or you can take what you already know and apply it differently. Why not?”

Orvus was silent for moment, the air becoming palpable as it grew. The word, echoed in his head over and over again- purpose. It led to a choice. Creation, or destruction. That was what K’nell had asked, that was what he had asked himself. Now, Kalmar asked him the same.

”I can’t.” he said.

”You can,” Kalmar cut him off. ”This is your struggle. We all have struggles. Overcoming them is how we grow. It is how we survive. If you give in to your struggles, if you admit defeat, you lose.”

”And now, you understand.” Orvus said softly. ”We all lose in the end.”

Kalmar nodded. He already knew that. ”True. But small victories can be found before the final defeat. We must not give up. We must continue to exist. To give up is against our nature.”

”Our nature?” he said rhetorically. ”No, your nature. Come now, Kalmar. Don’t you see how ironic your words are? The God of Hunting, one whose purpose is exactly that- To exist. Do not preach to me of victories, of nature. It is meaningless to me. We all lose, and if I can speed up that process, the world will be better for it. Then we can all die and fade, together.” he spat vehemently.

”No it won’t,” Kalmar told him. ”Destroying something does not make it better. And not everyone wants to die. Most want to live. Why do you need to drag everyone down with you? Why not end yourself, and let the rest of the world move on?”

”I am selfish. I do not wish to end, not here, not now. Not until the world is quiet.” he spoke softly, his eyes expressing a terrible sadness. ”You wish to know so much, but I will answer all of your questions with this- My Soul is broken. Frayed. I cannot feel that which is whole. So I will not drag them down with me, they will be swallowed and broken and frayed and they will come willingly.” he finished.

”They will not.” Kalmar told him, eyes narrowing. ”Life resists. Life adapts. Life prevails. The entire universe could burn and something would still cling to existence. If your soul is broken, then fix it. If you can’t feel, then learn to feel. Otherwise, you are an obstacle and a threat, and I will kill you.” Lightning struck again. There was anger in Kalmar’s eyes, but he continued. ”You want to live, but you don’t want to admit it. This goal of destroying everything is just an excuse to justify your continued existence. Stop the excuses. Find another purpose, or die.”

Orvus looked away from Kalmar and up into the rain. He watched the droplets, they reminded him of souls in a way. So many, so vast, but the storm would end eventually, and when it did, the rain would come to an end. Once again, he was at the precipet of the choice. He was denying the truth, Kalmar was right in that regard. He wanted to live, that was true, but not like this. He could not fix his soul, and he could not feel because of it. Could that change? Could he find another purpose?

There were so many emotions, and thoughts, and desires, and choices, all spinning around in his head like a whirlwind of pain. What was stopping him from changing? What was stopping him from his purpose? What did he want? What did he truly want?

‘Creation or destruction. Creation or destruction. CREATION OR DESTRUCTION!’ screamed in his mind and he couldn’t take it anymore.

He looked back down and to Kalmar, his expression wide, portraying a variety of conflicting emotions. He was trembling ever so slightly, his lights growing brighter and brighter.

But then there was a flash of lightning and when the thunder boomed again, Orvus was gone, leaving Kalmar alone atop the world.








0 MP/0 FP

&

Kalmar
+
Arryn


&






Time passed, as Kalmar taught Arya the basics of survival. He taught her how to craft a crude mundane spear from wood, and then showed her how to fish with it. He taught her how to make a fire and cook. He even trained her on the basics of combat. He crafted a bow for her by hand, and showed her how to shoot it. “Every kill must serve a purpose,” Kalmar had told her. “You should use as much of it as you can, and you should never kill just for the sake of killing.”

“I believe you have mastered the essentials,” Kalmar finally told her one day.

”Are you sure?” Arya had asked, standing taller than ever before. She felt a bit of pride even. She had learned so much from him, and for that she would forever be thankful, even indebted. Kalmar had shown her kindness when she needed it most, and through the long nights she had even found a semblance of companionship, but something in her heart told her it wouldn’t last forever. So each and everyday, she had gotten the most out his teachings. And then that day came.

”There is still more to learn,” Kalmar continued. ”But I cannot teach it to you here - this land has only a swamp, a river, a lake, and a marsh,” he confessed. ”And it will be a long time before I can add anything more.” He paused, letting her digest that information. ”But there is another land to the southeast, with more ecosystems, and more to experience. If you want to continue learning, it would be best to go there.”

With a solemn expression in her eyes, she had nodded approvingly even if in her heart she wanted to stay. Kalgrun had grown on her in an odd way, it felt homely. But it wasn’t really her home, was it? Just as quickly her expression had changed to that of joy and she spoke excitedly, ”I understand. So when do we leave?”

”I will not be going with you,” Kalmar told her. ”I have another task to attend to,” he said, thinking of her father. ”We will meet again. But for now, I want you to practice what you learned without my help. Arryn will accompany you, and I will find you when my task is complete.”

Her eyes expressed sadness by the time Kalmar had finished talking, but once again, she understood. ”Very well, I will practice and I shall win. Thank you, for everything Kalmar.” She said, looking around for Ary. A nickname she had started calling the avatar.

Kalmar nodded. Arryn was perched on a nearby tree, and let out a sound to catch her attention. ”Grab your spear, your bow, and your arrows,” Kalmar instructed her. ”And I will leave you with one final lesson. Out there, you may feel fear. A feeling that you can’t handle what is in front of you, that you don’t know how to proceed. Do not listen to this feeling; if you do, then it will come true. Stay calm, remember what I taught you, and you will succeed.”

Arya nodded in return, grabbed her items and looked back at Kalmar as she raised her hand for Ary. She was happy, a nervous, and maybe even a little scared, but if she was ever going to get back to her true home again, she needed to grow.

”Kalmar,” she started as Arryn began to swoop down, ”You should smile more. I like that smile.” And then the avatar grabbed her, and the journey to new lands had begun.

Kalmar gave his thin smile as he watched her leave, and then felt a strange tug in his heart. It was… sadness? Worry? He tried to shake it off. She would be fine, and if she wasn’t… well, he did what he could, and she couldn’t stay with him forever. Yet still, the feeling did not go away. Instead he turned his gaze south, in the direction of the nearly erected, still barren continent, and took flight on a course of his own.

As Kalgrun became a blur beneath her feet, and the vast ocean sprang up to meet them, Arya couldn’t help but laugh, ”Come on Ary! Let’s go on an adventure!”

”SCREEEEEEE!”




The skies drifted lazily across the sky as the falcon rose and dove in accordance with the air currents. The air grew warmer as they floated eastwards, the steam of the Saluran Mendidih influencing the air even up here. The distant greens of the Nanhe jungles bloomed across the horizon, contrasted by a black column of ash and smoke from Mount Eldahverr cutting the horizon short at its very edge. The very southern tip of the continent betrayed a grey, barren spot - thankfully under assault from the surrounding forest, slowly being re-consumed by the unyielding life.

Her world was vivid canvas of new colors, sights and smells as Ary flew over rock and stone, plant and life. The small girl was completely astonished by everything she saw. Such things Kalmar had never told her about were even more so impressive. To the strange, distant steam rising from the sea between the vast rocks, to the distant smoke that rose up, up and up! But with all the life, she was taken aback by the large, ugly stain of destruction she saw that marred the land. For some odd reason, she felt a connection to it, but as she saw the swathes of green that slowly encircled the stain, even breaching it in places, she felt relieved and the connection faded.

“How peculiar,” a disembodied voice thundered around the duo, or more specifically - from behind. A flash of gold and glitter that nearly rivalled the sun blasted past the two, nearly casting their shadows onto the empty air in front of them.

Arryn stopped, hovered in place for a few moments, and turned Arya around.

Behind them was the colossal, snarling head of a dragon, coated in gold leaf. The head’s neck stretched downwards underneath what could only be described as an enormous ship’s hull, perfectly crafted with multiple shades of mahogany. The dragon’s head was flanked with golden railings adorned with pearls and small, draconic statues, and behind it rose first a tall spire, backed by a taller spire - both bejeweled with gold and stones to the point of redundancy. To crown this creation of divine excess, the roofs of the towers consisted of green jade tiles, with more golden dragon statues at the corners. On top of the dragon’s head stood a tall, red-scaled, serpentine humanoid and plucked at its braided beard.

“I have seen many sights throughout creation, yet none quite like this…” it said, evidently amused judging by the following chuckle.

The voice had startled Arya, and had broken her attention from the world below, up to what was around her. Then all of a sudden something massive flew by them, and for a brief moment Arya remembered the monster in the sea, and her eyes went wide. Could there be monsters that flew as well? But Kalmar’s words echoed in her head, she couldn’t show fear! She had to face it!

And when Arryn turned around, Arya came face to face with a monster! Its visage was horrific, but even though it wanted to eat her, because that’s what predators did, she noted how beautiful it looked. But then nothing happened, it didn’t attack her, or come any closer. It just sort of...died and she was curious. Looking past the dragon’s head, she saw what the monster truly looked like and slowly, she began to laugh, high melodious notes. It was not in fact a monster at all, but something else entirely, the ship Kalmar had mentioned! Then that meant…

And as Shengshi spoke, for that was who he was, her gaze turned to him and she marveled at his body. It was completely different then Kalmar’s Arryn’s and even her own. Not one to be rude, she spoke aloud merrily, ”Oh! Hello!”

There was a long quiet pause, the kind in which the air fills with a seething fume that alerts a possible transgression of norms. There was a long inhalation sound, the wiff-through-the-nose kind, and a pensive hum from the bow of the ship. The snake frowned in the girl’s direction.

“... Mortal,” he hissed. “Tell me, are you a gift, by chance?”

Arya cocked her head when Shengshi asked her that question. It was a strange one, and it brought back some memories. Unpleasant ones.

”Well…” she began softly, ”My father wouldn’t call me that. Quite the opposite, actually.” She finished with a hint of dejection in her voice.

There was another hum from the ship, then a snap. Suddenly, a limb of water shot out from underneath the ship, soaring towards the two in the blink of an eye. What happened next was a blur. Arryn tried his best to bank away from its course, but could not quite escape the grasp, and his right wing was caught a large fist of water. The two were carried towards the ship and gently placed down on deck.

One minute they were hovering in the air, then the next a stream of water grabbed Ary and pulled the both of them onto the ship. Once she landed, Arya immediately grabbed Ary and like a worried mother, began to soothe him.

”Oh Ary, are you alright! Are you hurt?” she mewled softly to the bird, before looking up at Shengshi, her eyes now expressing anger.

”That wasn’t nice! You could have hurt Ary!” she said upset, ”Why would you do that? If you wanted us on board, all you had to do was ask!” she finished, rocking the avatar like a swaddled child.

Arryn was quite alright. He shook free of Arya’s grip and flew up onto her shoulder, glaring at the lizard and protectively raising one of his wings. His master had told him about this creature, and though the lizard had not been described as a hostile threat, it had not exactly been a glowing account. His duty was to protect Arya, so that was what he would do.

The snake sneered at the girl, but cupped his hand in an inviting gesture. “I apologise from the bottom of my heart, young one,” he began, “I was perhaps a little rash in my action - I merely wanted you aboard so you could conserve your strength. Now, if you would be so kind as to humour me by answering three questions, my gratitude to you would be immeasurable.” He bowed to her to demonstrate his statement.

Arya was happy to see Arryn fly to her shoulder, he seemed quite alright, which was a relief. What would she tell Kalmar if something happened to him? Hopefully that would never happen. And so she listened to the snake speak, and she squinted her eyes, something wasn’t quite right about this one. He seemed… insincere yet blanked the air with an apology. How odd.

”Hmph.” she let out before saying, ”It’s nicer to ask instead of using force. Please remember that. Now, what are these questions of yours?” she asked while stroking Arryn’s cheek.

The snake dipped even lower for a moment. “Of course, young one - your anger is certainly justified. My action was unacceptable and I pray I may be forgiven in time.” He straightened himself back up, a blank expression tainted perhaps by a slight frown engraved on his face.

“Now, if you do not mind, I shall ask the first question.” He cleared his throat for effect. “Who are you?”

She nodded approvingly, still not quite believing the snake. He seemed, unhappy about something. But that was no excuse for not being polite.

”Well, that’s simple,” she said, ”My name is Arya, and this here is Arryn, but I like to call him Ary.” she stroked the bird again.

The snake nodded slowly, shooting the bird a particularly suspicious glare. “How splendid. What are you doing here?”

”Currently, I’m answering questions.” Arya mused.

There came an audible sigh that bordered on a groan from the snake, but apart from a slightly shaky fist, the creature remained unmoving. He even cracked what could generously be called a smile.

“Hah. A jester, I see,” he mused coldly. “Very well. I have one last question, if you would not mind.” He gave her a malicious wink.

Kalmar’s words echoed in her head once more, she couldn’t be afraid. But the snake was doing a very good job at making her frightened. She had to stand up to him as well it seemed. But first, she needed to ask her own question.
”Are… Are you going to hurt me?” she asked innocently.

The snake visibly recoiled with an audible scoff, placing a palm on his chest. “Hurt you? Oh no, no, no…” He slithered a little closer, his hands gathering behind his back. “That would be poor etiquette - a little bit like ‘not answering a question’, yes?” His forked tongue stabbed at the air mere inches from Arya’s face.

”Oh okay!” she exclaimed. ”Your scales are really pretty this close. So what was your final question?” Arya asked.

“Why, thank you,” he said and chuckled. “You are cute, I will admit as much - yet the final question remains.” He pulled back a little and looked to the side. “Do you know who I am?”

”Of course! You are Shengshi, God of Rivers and this is your beautiful boat! I don’t know it’s name though. Kalmar told me about all the gods when he found me but I guess he forgot to mention that. What do you call this place?” she asked cheerfully.

Shengshi’s face contorted into a mixture of every possible emotion, though the most evident ones were rage and confusion, as displayed by unevenly raised brows and grinding teeth.

“So, you mean to tell me that you were completely aware of who I was - and you still held that demeanor?” The snake’s voice could not decide either whether it wanted to scream in rage or inquire quietly.

Arya watched Shengshi’s face contort into rage, and her own expression became one of concern. She began to speak quickly, ”Oh! Are you okay? What did I do! Please, please don’t be angry! I don’t know what you mean. What demeanor? I’m sorry.” she began to tremble.

”Show strength,” Arryn’s voice - a voice he rarely used - advised within her head. ”He sees your fear.”

At once she felt calm, and her trembling stopped. She relaxed, and tried to reassess the situation. She couldn’t show her fear, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t be compassionate. The snake looked like he was hurting, and she hated to see that.

She took an audible breath, and spoke again. ”I apologize for any offense, Shengshi. I did not have time to think about any sort of demeanor after being forcefully dragged onto your ship. My priority was Arryn.” she finished, hoping she said the right thing.

The snake placed two index fingers on his lips and let out a long, very long sigh. “No, no, you are not at fault here, young one - you simply (how to put this delicately?) received your education from the wrong source.” His scowl turned to a warm smile. “You would naturally not know how to properly act towards-”

”Hold your tongue,” Arryn spoke sharply, not telepathically, but out loud.

The snake ran his eyes up and down the bird’s figure, letting out a single cold scoff. “I thought I smelled the unwashed spawn of that barbarian. Does he send spies my way to ensure my loyalty, now?”

”Hold. Your. Tongue.” Arryn repeated, the edge in his voice rising, with a hint if outrage. ”You had no right to drag us here, and you have no right to insult my creator.”

Arya was highly confused at the sudden outbursts on either side, so much so it did more to frighten her then anything else.

”S-Stop!” she said meekly, but neither of them seemed to notice.

“An interesting claim - ‘no right to insult my creator’,” the snake mused. He repeated it a few more times as if tasting the words. The ship had, at this point, already descended to the point where it was a mere hundred metres off the river surface of Nanhe. “Your creator, bless his heart, may be skilled in chucking spears and rocks and setting animal waste aflame...” The snake closed in on the two, completely ignoring the poor, little girl. “It should be no secret to him nor his creations that what love I have for him is cordial at best. He is more than welcome at my table; however, know this, little bird-” The snake stabbed a clawed finger into the air in front of the bird’s beak. “- My holy body will be rotting for eternity and my soul shattered into a billion fragments before I consider your creator anything above scum. Now… Get off my ship before I send him another carcass to skin.”

The bird glared back. A few tense moments passed, as Arryn locked eyes with Shengshi. ”Arya,” he said, his voice telepathic once more, so that only she could hear. ”When I strike, run to the edge, and jump. There is water beneath us. Do not hesitate, and do not look back.”

Arya had listened to Shengshi with black tears streaming down her face. He words were so… so cruel. What they both said was rude to the other, and she had no idea why they would act in such away. But it came obvious as Shengshi went on, the two Gods did not like one another, that much was true. They seemed to hate each other. And though she was afraid of Shengshi, and thankful for Kalmar, she saw the look in the snake’s eye. The rage, the anger, and behind it all- sadness. As to what she did not know, but she wanted to find out. Kalmar had taught her how to survive, and she wasn’t going to survive with a baby sitter, as much as he was cute.

So, Arya placed Arryn on the ground, then walked in front of him, in between the two bickering divines.

”No Arryn. You beautiful creature. No. I know that Kalmar wanted you to watch over me, and I know that you would faithfully, but how can I survive on my own if I have help? How can I grow? How can I learn if I have a guiding hand?” here eyes smiled softly as she paused, ”Please, go home Arryn. For me? It’ll be alright. I’ll...I’ll be okay. Tell Kalmar that… That I’ll win.” she said before turning around to face the snake.

”Do not speak ill of Kalmar, please.” she said defiantly, ”He took me in when I was lost. When I was afraid. When I was alone… He taught me how to survive, but his lessons only went so far. So I will ask you this, Shengshi, God of Rivers- Teach me. Teach me what he could not. So that I can learn more. So I can face my fears.” she asked as her eyes softened.

Arryn was betrayed. A moment ago, he had been ready to put his life on the line for the honour of his master. He would have clawed out the lizard’s eyes and presented them to Kalmar as a trophy. He would have gotten Arya away from his toxic influence. Yet Arya had turned on him. Shocked and devastated, he could find not words. He knew there was some truth in her words, and perhaps his master would have even approved of some of it, yet to leave like this...

The ship landed softly on the river. The snake’s bloodthirsty glare moved from the bird to Arya’s face like the face of the moon: menacingly slowly. However, at the mentioning of Arya’s loneliness, it seemed that something with those blazing eyes stirred, a movement that expanded outwards until all the fury in the snake’s visage had given way to pity. He let out a sigh.

“You are a piece of work, young one,” he said. After a short pause, he snickered softly and turned to give the bird a stern scowl. “Bird.”

”My name is Arryn.” The bird hissed defiantly, despite his heartbreak.

“I could write ten classics about how little I care. Your protectee has made her request - and we will both honour it. We may both share little but spite for one another, but she is guilty of nothing but being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Her wishes are above our feud.”

Arryn was silent. His will to fight was gone, and he wanted to leave, yet he also could not do so without another show of defiance, some sort of last word. ”You were of a different mind not ten seconds ago,” he said, and then he took flight.

The snake sighed, a tint of regret plaguing his voice. “I know… The river adapts… And I am sorry.” He turned to the girl and put his hands behind his back.

“You are certain about this, then?” he inquired softly, his face betraying nothing but weariness.

Arya had watched Arryn fly off until he was but a speck in the sky. One of her only friends, hurt beyond measure, because of her. She hoped what she was doing was worth it. She turned around as Shengshi spoke, fresh tears falling down her face.

”If I ever want to return home…” she said, glancing up at the moon, ”I have to learn and grow and win. So yes, I am certain.” Arya said with confidence.

The snake nodded somberly. He slithered closer and bowed before the mortal. He straightened back up and eyed her up and down.

“Three things before we begin: One, in my domain, there is only -one- religion: Hierarchy. I, your lord, am at the top. Where are you?”

”Beneath my lord.” she said, catching on quickly.

“Very good. Two, only the lord is worthy of addressing oneself as ‘I’ or, for the fancier lot, ‘we’. The servants, that being you, will address themselves as “this servant” or “Your servant”. Say ‘I agree’ if you understand.”

”I-” she let slip out before shaking her head, ”This servant agrees.” That was close, too close. She’d have to watch herself. That was going to be difficult.

The snake smiled warmly. “Very, very good. You are quite the quick learner, dearest. Thirdly…” He plucked at his beard. “You will need a new name.” He hummed ponderously. “Arya is coarse - painful on the tongue.”

Arya stood up straighter at the mention of a new name. Her eyes expressed a profound sense of sorrow. She liked Arya. She was Arya. Then again, Kalmar had also said that a name was just a name. One could take others, she would have to do the same. But in that moment, she promised herself, she would never forget Arya- her first name.

The snake snapped his fingers. Two water globule servants stormed out the gates of his palace with a sheet of rice paper and a calligraphy brush, already tipped with ink.

“Your name already has two syllables. That is a good number.” He let his pencil dance across the surface of the paper. “Your role is that of servant, but for your willingness to serve, you shall be granted a name befitting your sacrifice.” He wrote down two characters and then handed the paper to Arya.

Arya was surprised to see the water servants appear from seemingly out of nowhere, and produce such strange items for Shen- For her master. After a moment, he bestowed upon her the thin piece of material that held strange, black tears on it’s surface. She looked at it, very, very hard. Then back to Shengshi.

”This...This servant...is...grateful?” she said unsure of herself. How exactly did this pertain to a new name? It was nothing to her but strange.

“You will learn to read posthaste. For now, I will read for you.” The snake held his palm over her head and commanded proudly: “I welcome you into my court, my servant, and bless you with the name Anxin - ‘heart of peace’. Serve me well and endless wealth shall be yours.”

Oh! That made sense, somewhat. She had no idea what reading was, but it sounded like something one should know, but more importantly she had a new name. Anxin. It was… strange, but just like Arya, it fit.

”Anxin…” she said aloud, letting the words echo about her, before looking up at her master. ”This servant is humbled. Thank you, my lord.”

The snake nodded. “You learn fast, my dear. The servants will show you to your room. I advise you to rest up before we begin your lessons.” With that, the snake turned and slithered into the palace.

Arya watched him go, then looked back out across the horizon. As the water servants began to shuffle her away and inside, she let out a sad sigh, ”I never said goodbye…”

And then the ship swallowed her.




The Hunter’s Flight

The coast of Kalgrun vanished behind him, and the coast of Atokhekwoi came within view, though Kalmar did not know the continent’s name as of yet. He soared over it, flying up and down, scanning the fresh barren rock, searching for a suitable location.

He found one in the continent’s northeastern corner. A vast mountain. He did not know it, but it was called Mount Chop. The Hunter flew up to its peak and set himself down. From here, he could see in every direction. Nothing would surprise him. Content with the summit’s defensible position, he closed his eyes, and focused.

”Orvus.” The God of the Hunt said, reaching out telepathically, ”We need to talk.”











0 MP/0 FP


A nameless war raged in the quiet of Veradax. Amidst the scarlet lightning of fierce clouds the battle ensued as ash danced. It was a great struggle that only a few could truly see. For there were no combatants in this war, yet there was still casualties. The pull of the Mar Tree was not as great as the vortex, but then again, this soul ash was not yet decayed and so the tree beckoned them. It did not whisper sweet nothings, or promise power, it simply called them to join and such ash was easy prey. But not all came so easily. A few, resisted.

It was one such piece that fought for something greater. It had danced the dance of the pull, and ever closer it descended with countless others who it shared kinship with. For they had all burned anew in the pyre’s had they not? But this piece, whether it knew what was happening to its siblings or not, was destined for something else. A possibility.

And so it struggled against the pull, desperately without thought. As it came closer to the crown of the Mar, when all hope seemed lost and futile, a gentle wind carried away, past the tree. Down, down it went. Past a crippled God too consumed by thought to even notice such a small speck. Something glistened in the twilight upon the cold earth, multiple somethings, but one was far greater than the rest. It’s call was sweet and sincere, while the others were cold and sorrowful. That was were it landed, upon a tear cast aside, and then everything changed.




Movement. It was so subtle, he barely even noticed, but when Orvus looked to see if his eyes were playing tricks on him, he eyes widened. Before him, small things stirred in the dark. Little fragments of light...and he knew what they were- his tears. They were grouping together, faster and faster, each adding a small plink to the mass as their light grew in intensity. Orvus watched, perplexed by this as the light became blinding. He stood up, shielding his eyes with a hand. Was it some sort of attack by one of his siblings? He began to walk towards the light, fearing the worst before whatever it was doing reached fruition.

Then all at once, the light faded. Hesitantly, Orvus lowered his hand, preparing to go on the defensive. But he froze when he looked upon the figure that was before him. On its hands and knees, the core of its body glowed a soft white to its elbows and knees, were then it’s skin was inky black...much like his own. It had a small body, a trembling body, with short curly hair a top it’s head, draped down to cover its face. Hair made of the same glowing white. And then slowly it sat up and it- no she looked at him with large, inky black eyes. His own eyes, but of the opposite color, reflected back at him with an expression of confusion, mixed with fear. She was smaller then he, much smaller, and her body was that of a lithe figure. She blinked once, twice and began to stand up. But her legs were that of a new fawn, and quickly she began to fall but Orvus caught her before she fell completely. And when his fingers touched her skin, he felt nothing…




Her head was spinning. Maybe it hadn’t been a good idea to stand after all, but at least her father had caught her. His touch was frighteningly cold, but it was only a small relief when he let go, and she fell to her knees on the hard ground. Somehow, it was even colder. She looked up at her father, for this was who she knew him to be, somehow. Her eyes expressed hurt, while his were distant, painfully so.

There was a tense silence between the two of them, a silence she absolutely despised. It was too quiet, how could anyone think with all the quiet? She needed to break the silence, and so, she did.

”I-I-I-I-I!” Soft and high her voice shouted out. Her eyes seemed to grin as she bathed in the excitement of her own voice. But she noticed her Father’s watchful gaze, and now it was full of disappointment.

”I-I’m sorry for my outburst father.” she said softly, ”I’ve never spoken before, it was rather...exciting. I don’t know how you manage the silence, it’s so...so quiet.” she finished squinting.

The God before her said nothing for a moment, ”Daughter…” he whispered softly. His eyes briefly expressing wonder, before returning to the same impassive look as before. ”You should not be here.” he stated emotionlessly.

The words struck her like a physical blow, and she recoiled. Confusion welled up inside her and she began to stammer, ”W-What? What d-do you mean?” Why did her father not want her to be there?

”D-Did I do something wrong?” she asked.

He took a step back, ”Yes,” he said, ”Y-You exist.” he then turned around, and began to walk away.

She sat there, stunned, not really knowing what to say, or what to do. Something began to cloud her vision, something black that fell from her eyes. She tried to stand again, but fell and this time he did not save her from falling. She had no idea why she felt the way she did, but she knew it was something she didn’t like. She existed, and he did not want her.

What happened next, she barely understood. She saw her father underneath a great black thing, with twisting limbs. Each limp contained something that looked like a ball of some sort. The tree then pulsed, and the motes of light began to leave the branches. Her father looked up at the tree, then he looked back at her, his eyes going wide. The motes began to float towards her, they were very pretty but then a gust of wind grabbed and she felt herself being carried away.

She screamed his name, a wail of desperation but he did not answer. Up and up she went, the clouds opening up to reveal a distant sun, and then she entered the hole in the clouds and suddenly she was falling. Falling through another storm’s eye, down into a deep blue. She braced herself for the impact, but it never came. Another gust of wind caught her, and ever so gently guided her down into the water. When she entered, she felt warmth for the first time, and amidst the calm waters, she floated. Temporarily forgetting what had just happened to her. And it was there she was the moon for the first time, her home. Where her father was.

How was she ever going to get back?






0 MP/0 FP

&

Arae


MP: 7 | FP: 17


Arae’s voice was but a whisper in Orvus’ head, and one he barely believed to be real at first. His mind was clouded down by a great weight, it was hard to actually think about anything, other then ways to simply not exist. But Arae was a familiar name, one he vaguely knew to be more then some falsity. Thus he listened, and his foggy mind began to spin about and focus on what she was asking. She wanted his time? For a chat?

Orvus did not move from under his tree as he began to send her his own message. It was simple, and yet profound. Nothing words could convey, but feelings. An intense wave of anger, malice, and dread would wash over her for the briefest of seconds before vanishing into bone numbing sadness as it ended. For Orvus did not want to talk, nor did he want to do anything. He simply wanted to be alone in the quiet, where his thoughts might devour him whole.

As Arae emerged from the Dragon’s Crown, a plethora of negative emotions struck her mind as Orvus’ message reached her. She recoiled from the initial shock, but soon recovered, her mind filled with even more worry than before. Was Orvus… rejecting her? This would not do. She had to reach Orvus. Fortunately, Arae still had his familial bond to follow, so he was not difficult to track down.

What she had found, though, was rather unsettling. Arae had found the Gateway to Orvus’ sphere, but what encompassed it was a rather massive whirlpool and storm. It would be unpleasant to go through, but it would not stop Arae. She made the plunge into the center of the storm, passing through the Maelstrom.

Arae finally emerged into Veradax, seeing the land of eternal twilight for the first time. Normally, Arae would be glad about visiting a godly sibling’s Sphere, but this was not such a pleasant time. Veradax was also certainly not a cheerful place, and Arae had little time for such thoughts. Continuing to follow the familial bond, it was not long before she found Orvus himself. “Orvus,” Arae said as she landed close by, her voice full of concern. “What troubles you? Please, talk to me.

This time the voice was far more present in his mind, oozing with concern and disturbing his quiet. It had seemed his warning to Arae had gone unnoticed, or rather, ignored. Mentally he reached out to feed her more images, but he abruptly stopped when her presence was far closer then he could have ever imagined. She was on Veradax, and right before him.

Slowly his eyes began to glow white, refocusing his vision so that he might see. For though Orvus would never sleep again, his eyes had been shut and blinded to the world before him. Now they looked with crystal clarity at the Goddess before him. He began to stand, placing a hand upon the Mar Tree as he did, without ever looking away from Arae. His eyes expressed an emptiness, devoid of any feeling.

When he spoke, his voice was as equally unemotional, ”Why are you here? Was my message not clear? Must my quiet be interrupted by the likes of you?” he finished, and though his voice was flat, there was a certain spite that followed. He looked to Arae expectantly.

Of course I got your message, that’s why I’m here,” Arae said. “You are part of my family, and as a family member, I cannot ignore you. Three of our siblings, Ashalla, Kalmar, and Phystene, have developed unfriendly relationships to you, perhaps to the point of forming a whole alliance against you. I cannot aid you, though, without at least hearing your side of the story.

Orvus listened to the dragon talk of family, siblings, alliances… At least his suspicions were correct, others were coming together to plot against him, as they should. It was a natural occurrence that the weak unite against the strong and dangerous. But Arae did not know all, it seemed. She wished to know his story and if that meant she would leave, he would gladly tell it.

Orvus sighed softly, his eyes now expressing sadness. His voice remained much the same however. ”Your information is partially true. There is another that already…” he paused as the memories resurfaced, ”You forgot K’nell.” Orvus sat down then and placed his hands underneath his chin as he looked at Arae once again.

”You have fooled yourself into believing that you might bring some sort of assistance to me, Arae. Though I cannot speak for Kalmar, Phystene and Ashalla have every reason to hate and despise me. Did you know I defiled Ashalla’s realm with monsters? Or that I attacked Phystene for creating life that I may never touch? Or that I had the audacity to dream, only for it to be crushed before my own eyes?” Orvus paused again, letting his words sink in.

”So no,” he continued, ”I don’t believe you would have ever aided me, willingly or not. As it goes with families, there will always be favorites, and then those who are less desirable. Am I not right? Surely you cannot think us all equally? So tell me, which do you think I fall under, sister? A favorite, or a monster?” he asked quietly.

Arae listened to it all. The story of Orvus was not a happy one, but it was one that needed to be heard. When Orvus was done, a tear shed from Arae’s eye, falling onto the ground. She heard enough. “You are the one fooling yourself if you believe you are less equal or less important than anyone else,” Arae retorted, a tinge of sadness and anger in her voice. “You may have wronged our siblings, yes, but they have also wronged you. Just as they have been given their roles by the Architect, you have been given your role as the God of Desolation. You perform a duty that is just as important as theirs. While they create, you destroy, thus maintaining the balance between the two sides. It is a necessary evil that must be filled, whether our siblings like it or not. So don’t put yourself down like this, Orvus. You deserve a chance.

He listened to Arae speak, heard the anger and sadness in her own voice and sat silently, contemplating it all. She truly believed they were all equal, that their roles defined what they really were. And there it was again, the age old question that wouldn’t leave him alone. Create, or destroy? Worded like that was the only thing he would ever be capable of. Did she really think he wanted to destroy, or to maintain some balance decreed by the one who brought him here unwillingly?

No, Arae simply viewed things differently from his own perspective. She was blissfully unaware, almost childlike in her belief of family and roles. Thus, Orvus pitied her. He realized she would never be able to take sides, and she would suffer far more greatly then any of them when the fighting and conflict came. That was her role, to keep peace for all time and Orvus knew, it would break her eventually.

When he spoke, his voice was somber, ”K’nell showed me something in my dream, a possibility. I was a farmer, a mortal with a family and friends. A wife, children to call my own. And do you know what I did? I accepted it as my own reality as he forced memories of that possibility into my head, blocking out what I truly am. I had a life. I was happy and I knew what love was. And do you know what he did? He made me remember that it wasn’t real. That Rowan, Ava and Lily, weren’t real. Then he told me I had a choice. Creation, or destruction. And I awoke, wanting nothing more then to be with them in that false reality. He should have left me there, honestly.” his voice fell silent and he looked away to the floor.

He began to speak again but softly, ”I promised Phystene that we would die together, that’s why I was punished, because K’nell sees everything. But I realized something today, that would hurt you wouldn’t it? Probably far worse than either of us could inflict upon one another. For that, I am sorry.” he sighed once more, ”I didn’t want this, any of this, Arae. This existence. This constant torture. All I ever wanted was to fade away in the quiet of my birth. I tried to create, I did, but we all saw how that ended. So I came to the conclusion that I am meant to create things that destroy. Look at the monument before you. Do you know what it will do? It’s purpose is to fray souls, to bring about depravity. Soon enough it will.” his voice faded and he stood once more to face Arae within the shadow of the valley.

”Any chance I had, died when I entered this universe. I am evil, I am to be hated and despised, and I am unlovable. And I have embraced this. Now you know my story. So I shall tell you this: leave me alone in my grief of what never was. For it is better this way.” he finished with sadness in his voice.

Arae did not want to leave Orvus, but she wasn’t sure how she could help him at the moment. Her words would not reach him, and he would not reach out. She sighed in defeat, believing she should not push the issue now. It was time to go and let Orvus have some time to himself. Perhaps time was the only thing that could help him now. As she turned to leave Veradax, she muttered under her breath, almost inaudible even to herself, “You are not the only one to know suffering.” Then she took off, leaving Orvus to himself. The teardrop left by Arae on the ground continued to glitter softly under the dim twilight.






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There was quiet on Veradax, crushing and final, like the depths of the ocean. Not even the wind dared to blow, nor did the dust feel like moving. The storm clouds grew thick and heavy with silence, further blocking what little sunlight from Heliopolis managed to slip in, while bathing the land in eternal twilight. The scarlet lightning held bated breath, incapable of etching the skies with its anger. As the moon mourned, deep within a valley sat a grieving god underneath a blackened tree.

Orvus had awoken from his dream, hand outstretched in the air, trying to grasp something he never knew he had wanted. He sat upon his knees upon the dry soil like that for a long time, motionless. As the lights began to fade from his body, he brought his arm down and looked at both of his hands, teary eyed. Shadowy black stared back up at him, not a hint of flesh and bone would there ever be. His hands balled into fists as he let his head fall down to meet them, and there he rested in agony.

He wept silently, his shattering tears forming a canvas of light that mimicked stars. His body became dull, there was no more light emitting from it, even his eyes dimmed to a dark grey, and the shadowy vapor coalesced to his form, then vanished, leaving behind a pale image of what Orvus had been. As his body seemingly shut down, his mind ran rampant with emotions, thoughts, and the memories of a life that were never his is own. It was all consuming, like being perpetually spun around in a whirlpool, fighting to break free, hanging on the edge less he be swallowed whole.

The memories haunted him and defied his logic. It had just been a dream in the end, but Orvus struggled with the thought that it had felt so real. What had K’nell done to him, to make him so...so happy and then for it to be stripped away so that he could be reminded of what reality actually was? He had had a family, a life, a home...but it wasn’t real.

K’nells cryptic words echoed in his mind above the chorus of pain, over and over again. Of promises, creation, destruction, possibilities, repentance, sacrifice, a… a choice… But amidst K’nell’s grainy voice came one sentence above all others.

“They exist.”

Something broke in Orvus, and he let out a desperate, bone chilling wail as he punched the dirt before him, leaving a small crater. For a moment his hand was coated in the tan soil, reminding him of the flesh that the dream had created. He stared at it, then wiped it away. They did not exist, they never did, and they never would. K’nell had lied to him and hurt him in a way even Orvus thought he was incapable of feeling.

Slowly the god pulled himself closer to the tree, and there he curled into a ball at the base of the glowing trunk.

His thoughts felt heavy, and he was empty inside. Numb. So numb. His crying ceased, he had no more tears to shed. SIlent contemplation was all that remained for him. His first dream had shown him to create things that destroy, his second wanted him to truly pick. Creation or destruction.

Creation.

Or.

Destruction.

And that question would cripple his frayed soul to inaction, as he let himself be swallowed by the whirlpool.





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A red winged blackbird trilled loudly amid the scattered sounds of the other morning birds. Each song easing Orvus awake. With a sleepy sigh, his eyes finally peeled open. He stretched, and then froze in confusion. He was staring straight up, a wooden ceiling above him, and his arms that were held up to stretch had hands stuck to the ends of them -- the flesh kind. His back was perfectly supported on a cushioned mattress and a pillow supported his head -- The kind with short black hair!

The morning sun peeked through his glass paneled window, filling his quant room with the rustic smell of sun soaked wood.

Confusion jostled his groggy mind to alertness, as Orvus looked around at the unfamiliar room he found himself in. He looked at his hands with disbelief, as he balled his fingers into fists over and over. This was not how he looked, not some flesh covered creature. Slowly he brought his hands up to touch his face, and he felt...he felt hair. His chin was covered in thick, coarse hairs. A beard? When had he grown a beard? How did he even know what such a thing was? He let his hand feel upwards, and they gently felt his flesh. His skin was sunkissed, but still retained a semblance of youth. Orvus went on to feel his nose, his ears, and finally the hair atop his head. He drank in the sensations like a fine wine before letting out a satisfied sigh.

His hands fell down upon silky sheets and he took in the room again with new perspective. It was… homely and quant. A pleasant smell wafted throughout, and at the foot of the bed rested a small animal, sleeping quietly. That was not the only thing at the foot of the bed however, something else lay under the sheets, and Orvus turned to see that he was not alone in the room.

Beside him laid a woman, who he somehow remembered, from her mahogany hair to the band of gold on her finger. As he stared at her sleeping form, memories rushed through his mind, from meeting on the old bridge for the first time, to a very special winter seven cycles ago now. A fuzzy feeling tickled his chest as he stared and eventually the woman turned to him and smiled, “we slept in.” Her voice was like honey, and as she spoke, her name materialized in Orvus’ mind.

Quickly his eyes snapped the the scene outside, her words resonating. It was merely fourthsday, by no means the day of rest and outside he could spot some of his neighbors and work hands already tending to his fields, the black coated oxen straining.

“It doesn’t feel too warm,” Orvus’ wife sat up, shaking out a knot in her hair, “probably going to be a mild one today -- what?”

Her eyes pierced his as she noticed him staring.

“I…” Orvus paused, before a smirk set upon his lips which turned into a smile as he continued to stare.

“Rowan.” He spoke her name, letting it flow out of his mouth. The mere thought of her name made his smile grow wider. He probably looked like some fool, but he didn’t care. Why would he with the one he-

“What?” she asked, returning a smile that gave him butterflies still, even after all these years. She was older now, but like a fine wine, she grew more beautiful each passing day. He leaned in, placing a kiss upon her cheek, before pulling back to look at her again with a soft expression.

“Oh, nothing.” Orvus said, “I just had the strangest dream. Waking up felt…” He paused, unsure of what to say but quickly continued, “I’m just happy to wake up next to you.”

“They happen to the best of us,” She smiled as she slid out of bed. Standing up she stretched, letting her hand rest on a slightly pronounced abdomen, Orvus remembering her pregnancy. Her face suddenly twisted, “should we eat breakfast or lunch?”

Orvus watched her lithe figure, and his excitement grew as he saw her belly. Having a third child hadn’t really been planned, but who was he to go against fate? Besides, maybe this one would finally be a boy. Not that he had anything against women, or his own daughters, but there was just something right about having a kid to continue the family line.

He shook his head, and got up as well. He wrapped his arms around Rowan’s belly, embracing her with a hug as he placed his chin a top her head.

He sighed, “Nothing for me right now, dear. There’s too much work to be done. Me and the boys still have to plow the south field and don’t even get me started on the other chores. With any luck, the twins have started have milked the cows, fed the chickens, and fetched some water.” He said aloud, before the both started laughing.

“You know them,” Rowan began, “They probably saw us sleeping in and decided to go play in the forest or get into trouble. They have too much of their father in them I think.” she said smiling.

“Oh? And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” Orvus said playfully before tickling her on the sides, her weak spot. As Rowan began to squirm with laughter, desperately trying to escape his grasp, Orvus spoke between his own chuckling, “Trouble you say? I think the only person here in trouble is you my dear!” And they both fell back onto the bed in a tangle that eventually ended up with lots of kissing.

When they finally calmed down after a long, deep kiss. Orvus looked into Rowan’s amber colored eyes and felt a connection unlike anything he had ever felt. He began to speak, “I l-” but was quickly interrupted by a knock on the front door. That was most likely Hank, his lead farmhand wondering what in the hell was keeping him so long.

He let out another sigh, “I should probably go. I don’t want too, but, I don’t think letting Hank run the place is the best idea.”

She squinted at him playfully, “get yer ass to work.”

He got up slowly, reaching the closet for some worn work clothes. As he changed he spoke to his wife with his back turned. “Now, need I remind you to not do anything extraneous or have my constant bickerings finally found a home in that beautiful head of yours?”

Before Rowan could answer, there was another heavy knock on the door and the woman pursed her lips, “don’t worry about me, go see Hank.”

He made his way to the door, before looking back at Rowan again. Orvus smiled, and she smiled back as he walked away to the front door. The knocking came again, and Orvus shouted, “Come on Hank, can’t let a guy catch up on some sleep!” before he opened the front door.

“Well I’m sorry if the plowing doesn’t want to wait!” A large bear of a man growled in a voice much lighter than one would expect, “not that I doubt there was any lack of that going on in here.” He squinted his eyes before cracking a cheeky smile, summoning a blush from Orvus.

Big Hank waved a tree like arm, “come on, the new hands are shit and I gotta tell you my oldest’s dream he had last night, it’s a wild one.”

The two large men walked down the oak porch and onto a worn dirt path towards the large barn. As they meandered, he took in his little plot of land for the umpteenth time. It was modest but housed many green things. From apple trees, to berry bushes and a plentiful amount of sweet flowers. It was home and he had all he could ever want with it.

Orvus then looked at Hank, perplexed by the idea of another wild dream. He wondered if it was anything like his own, but that would have to wait a moment. There was other priorities to contend with first before stories.

“Hey you ain’t happened to see my own kids have you? Please tell me they did their chores, Hank. I don’t think I can handle another trip into the woods to find Lily’s missing doll. Only for it to be in the barn. I swear, those girls will be the death of me someday.” Orvus said warmly.

Hank furrowed his brow, “I think I saw them working on the chickens earlier, but then the new hand got his pants stuck under one of the screws on the plow and I had to go cut him loose, the moron...”

As Hank continued to droll on, something caught Orvus’ eye and has he turned to look, he noticed a dark figure sitting atop one of the grassy hills overlooking the cottage, a single large tree overhead.

Orvus stopped in his tracks and squinted to see who, or what was under the tree. Hank stopped with Orvus and then nodded, “Ah, yup, a wayward that one. Stumbled into town this morning, been enjoying the view ever since.”

Orvus looked at Hank, “Enjoying the view of my land? Of my house? Dontcha think that’s a bit… Oh I don’t know, strange?” he asked sarcastically. Still, he didn’t mind strangers as long as they kept to themselves, but he felt odd about this one. Hopefully his girls were somewhere out of his view.

“Eh,” Hank grunted, “Yeah, but he was awfully polite and yous are always saying to be nicer to travelers. Don’t you worry, old Keiran has been watching him from his rocker.”

“Not like he can do much else nowadays,” Hank muttered.

He felt a little relief at that fact and began to walk again, “Come on old friend, we got too much work to do to worry about that right now. Let’s just trust Keiran, for what’s it worth. I’m sure he’ll hollar if something is amiss, or he’ll falls asleep. Best not to worry about it.” Orvus finished with a half hearted smile. He couldn’t shake the odd feeling he had, but he couldn’t let it get in the way of the day.

The pair continued their walk, as they did every day, but instead of walking into the barn to wrangle the work horses, Orvus suddenly found his final footfall landing on a patch of grass. Confused the man looked around, he had unwittingly walked up the hill and now stood in front of the sitting man, he didn’t even remember doing it. Looking behind him he saw Hank in the distance, throwing a yolk over the beast of burden.

“W-What? How’d I get up here?” He asked aloud to no one, the odd sensation was growing stronger with each beat of his heart. He looked at the man and saw, a pale figure, dressed in gentlemanly black and wearing a big cheshire grin that unnervingly went up to his dark spiraling eyes.

“You walked, Orvus,” a grainy voice echoed between the two, though K’nell never opened his mouth.

“I walked...but I don’t remember…” He let his voice drop before asking, “Do I know you?” his voice suddenly unsure of itself, as he was slightly taken aback by the man’s appearance. Somehow, this man felt familiar to him, but he couldn’t quite place the voice, or the clothing.

“But of course. I’m K’nell, your brother,” The voice turned between them, “Uncle to your little ones, and In-law to your bride. I’m family.”

His eyebrows furrowed as the man talked. He was receiving some very unsettling vibes from the man. He was his brother? That wasn’t true, because Orvus had been an only child. No… wait… hadn’t he had a twin brother once? No, that wasn’t right either.

Orvus shook his head before speaking, “Look, you must be confused with someone else, I’m an only child.” He took a step back, “I… Uh… gotta get back. It was nice meeting you, K’nell.” he said shakening.

“You can’t leave yet,” K’nell shook his head, his grin never wavering, “you have work to do. A promise to fulfill.”

He stopped in his tracks, “Excuse me? I never made any promise with you. I’ve never even met you before! Now get out of here! I tried to be nice but I won’t be having this...this nonsense!” Orvus said angrily, barely recognizing his own voice.

K’nell sat unwavering, “It wasn’t a promise to me, it was a promise to yourself. I am here to see if you will fulfill such a promise, though I must admit I’m bias in my hopes that you don’t.”

“What are you even talking about? What promise?” Orvus asked perplexed. K’nell had ignored his request to leave. Perhaps if he heard him out the man would go.

“You had promised to destroy, to spread desolation and reverse all of creation,” K’nell answered, “befitting that of the God of desolation.”

As his words rang between the two, a sort of door was unlocked inside Orvus’ mind, and a tiny trickle formed across his subconscious. It was chilling and cold, but it was honest and true.

“So,” K’nell continued, “I am here to see if you will do such a thing.”

Orvus began to remember, his mind unlocking memories like the beginnings of a soft rain. He was a god. A being of destruction. But that wasn’t true! It couldn’t be! He fell to his knees, grabbing his head. He had a life here, he had memories. Good memories, happy thoughts. He was a friend, a husband, and a father! Not some...some monster.

His voice began to waver, “W-What have you done to me!” he cried out.

“I have given you an opportunity,” K’nell sat forward, “a chance. You made a choice once, you can now make it again.”

More memories flashed across his vision. Of anger. An asteroid. An explosion. A loss. A battle. Her screams. A...A promise.

He was Orvus. The God of Desolation, and he was crying. His hands fell forward and gripped the grass he could no longer feel. His voice broke as he spoke to his brother.

”N-No no no no… What… Wha-What have you done...Why have you...this- this isn’t real...why isn’t this real?” he cried softly.

“It’s a possibility,” K’nell answered, “it’s as real as your choice here and now. A seed of truth in every dream, a whisper of reality in every detail: but do you destroy or do you create?”

He waved a hand over the cottage, “do you live?”

Seemingly oblivious to K’nell’s comment, he spoke aloud anyways, .”Rowan...Lily...Ava…” his voice choked up, ”T-There not real. They never w-were.”

“They exist,” K’nell put a finger on Orvus’ forehead, “I found them.”

His mind was spinning with thoughts and emotions he had never even considered to be painful. Yet they were, and they hurt far worse than any physical blow. K’nell was...he was the god of dreams, so why then, did something that was going on in his head, hurt him so much? Orvus looked up at K’nell with raw eyes, tears still streaming down his face

”Why would you… how could you … to me? This dream… why? Why make me feel so… so wrong?”

“It is simply the result of a possibility. You now know both ends to both decisions,” K’nell stood up, “you could have all of this if you wanted, all it takes is one sacrifice, one repentance… but in the end... the choice. Is. Yours.”




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