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Might make a Fire God.

With the Zephyrites created, Zelios now fell into the role of teacher. Already, they had begun to form their own tribes which were scattered throughout Shadulun. He traveled amongst them, bringing them new knowledge or helping to expand on practices they had already begin to discover for themselves. Some of these he had seen during his travels to other lands, while others he had come up with himself using his divine intellect.

He taught them how to make fire, for although both he and they disdained the light, the heat was needed to cook food. He taught them to dig and extract metal and stone from the earth, for use in building. He taught them how to build with both stone and wood. He did not teach all of these things to every single tribe he had encountered, but he had no doubt the knowledge would spread on its own if given enough time. He also advised them on how to clear open spaces from which they could grow their own food, instead of having to forage or hunt out into the wilderness every time they hungered. He taught them how to build round discs - wheels - which they could use in transportation.

There was no need to teach them how to make tools; they were already perfectly capable of doing so from their own shadows.

However, there was one lesson he considered to be more important than any other. The lesson of freedom. Of individuality. Some of the tribes who had banded together already had leadership figures. Some had been elected, while others had seized the position through force. Zelios soon made it clear that the latter method of succession was unacceptable. A leader should have the love and respect of their people; not just the fear. The appointment should be something that the majority should agree on, and the minority should be free to leave if they are so strongly opposed. This tied into what Zelios saw as his new philosophy, and one that he instilled into every single tribe he came across:

"Do as you please, so long as you would not prevent any other Zephyrites from doing the same."

A disproportionately large portion of the tribes had formed around one of the rivers in the southern portion of Shadulun. Which was sensible - it was an easy source of fresh water and some of the tribes had already begun forging spears of shadow to catch the local fish. He considered what he would call this river, for every single tribe had given it a different name. The Sable River, he decided. It was simple, and the Zephyrites he encountered all immediately stopped using their preferred name for the river once they heard Zelios speak his own. So it had to be a good name, right?

He followed this river until he reached the sea. Then, he had a realization. How would his people contact him if they needed him? How would they know where to find him? He could not be everywhere at once, and they had no way of finding him. That needed to be amended.

What he needed was a permanent residence he could spend most of his time in. Something that could be seen from far away. Something so eye-catching, most would feel compelled to visit it. Something that was so impressive, word of it would inevitably spread.

Like a tower.

And so, on a hill overlooking the sea, the White Tower of Zelios rose from the earth. Built from marble inlaid with Obsidian, it was truly vast, with a size that could rival mountains.

And just like that, the God of Darkness had a home.


What to name it, what to name it...

This was a thought that had occupied his mind for far too long.

Then, it came to him.

"Shadulun," the God of Darkness proclaimed quietly to himself.

Despite the new - and what Zelios believed to be unique - aesthetic, the newly-named land of Shadulun seemed rather lacking. There was life, certainly, but it lacked... intelligence. He had nobody to talk to.

Such intelligent life existed to the west, but they were not his creations, and the few he encountered were rather rude toward him. It seemed they resented the fact that the land they voluntarily chose to live on was covered by perpetual night, despite Zelios being quite certain the Ringed Curtain was created long before they settled there, and also despite the fact that they could have chosen to live literally anywhere else.

There was also the species of rat-people he had created with Aethel. But he had done that on a whim, and it had been in an area he had found to be quite unpleasant. He was not eager to return there, even if he probably would at some point.

So he would need to populate this land with a new race. One that was distinctly and entirely his idea.

And so, he began to think.

He decided they would not be too different from some of the intelligent lifeforms which already existed. They would two arms and two legs, and were of similar size. However, Zelios felt compelled to give them certain liberties. Being confined solely to the ground seemed so restricting, so he would give them wings. Feathered wings, as they seemed to be more graceful and aesthetically pleasing.

He then paused and considered the idea further - if he put the wings on the back, they would not be able to fly properly. If he put the wings on the arms, then they might become an obstacle for other tasks. That was an obstacle... so he decided to simply ignore said obstacle. The wings would be placed on the back, but empowered with his own dark energy - they would grant the power to float and fly even when it shouldn't be physically possible. There was a downside to this, however - the power of the wings would be diminished in sunlight. That mattered little, as the sun did not fully shine in this land.

The bodies themselves would possess a natural grace and beauty. If he was to make a race of people, it seemed pointless to design them to be ugly.

He then decided he would instill a number of other darkness-related abilities for good measure. The ability to see in the dark, of course. The ability to turn themselves into incorporeal shadows, though light would become exceedingly harmful to them while doing this. And lastly, the ability to convert shadow into physical tools, weapons, and objects.

Yes, that would do.

The God of Darkness closed his eyes, and touched a hand to the ground. All throughout Shadulun, bits of dirt, stone, sand, clay, and gravel rose from the ground and began to take the shape of the species he envisioned.

Then, suddenly, he leapt to his feet and raised a hand skyward.

Several beams of black energy shot down from the curtain and into his hand, as he drew energy directly from the Ringed Curtain. Then, his hand crackling with power, Zelios punched the earth. A massive shockwave of pure shadow rippled outward, latching onto the artificial constructs he had made and enveloping them. Dirt, sand, and clay became flesh, while wings sprouted from backs and hair sprouted from heads.

All throughout Shadulun, the Zephyrites opened their eyes for the first time, and drew breath.


The God of Darkness had returned to the shadow of The Ring. The creation of the Rattus had given him much to think about. Was it right to leave them behind like that? There was surely merit in leaving things to their own devices and giving them a chance to grow, but it didn't sit right with him. It had been clear that neither he nor Aethel fully understood the species which the Rattus had been based on, which was just asking for unexpected complications. He couldn't help but feel as if he had made a mistake.

He would need to return, at some point. See what became of them. Perhaps lend a hand, or steer them back on course, if their situation had deteriorated.

In the meantime, however, there was work to be done.

He flew through the dark sky on his customary black wings. Although his attire often changed, the wings usually remained. He hovered in the air above a peninsula of grassland and forest, which had already been seeded with plantlife. It was so green. But then a thought occurred to him: why green? So much of this world was green. Could it not use a bit more colour?

He looked at himself, and chuckled. He didn't exactly wear a wide range of colours himself, but at least he wore more than one. Black, grey, purple. Okay... that was only three. Perhaps he should work on that. He didn't particularly like bright and gaudy colours, but there were surely darker shades of green, blue, and red he could consider incorporating into his outfit. Then he snorted. Now here he was contemplating fashion! Fashion was important of course, but had he not just decided to finally do some work?

So, work he did.

Closing his eyes, he shifted into his true form - a mass of shadowy arms and legs - and allowed himself to fall to the ground. He plunged black fist into the dirt, and the earth shook slightly as a shockwave boomed across the land. The grass upon which he had landed turned purple, and the colour began to spread across the land. When it reached the forests, the green leaves became a dark blue, while the bark turned to white, or dark grey.

Then, the shadowy mass rolled across the land, studying all the creatures he could find, and altering them to be more suitable for the night. Pretty much all had migrated here from other regions, and although they had already begun adapting to the dark environment, it not all were perfectly-suited just yet. For example, creatures who had been coloured green for camouflage purposes now needed to be made purple or blue, to reflect their new environment.

He also created new species: in the forests, he made apelike creatures who had no eyes, but a strong sense of hearing as well as batlike echo-location and a sense of smell that could rival a rat. In the plains and grasslands, he made four-legged creatures striped black and white which could run at great speeds, and possessed perfect night vision. Other more common creatures were added as well: panthers, wolves, bison, deer, and sheep, just to name a few. The winged creatures were mostly bats, owls, and parrots. These were far from the only creatures in the land.

He took care not to venture beyond the land that was not already covered by the ring, and instead focused on moving west. As he did so, the forests began to grow rarer and thinner, and he began to encounter intelligent lifeforms who were, somewhat understandably, terrified by his presence. Especially when he turned the very ground they were standing on purple. He would have to learn more about this creatures, especially since a fair few of them seemed to be heading further east. He continued on, until the forests almost vanished entirely while intelligent mortals became even more common, and then he proceeded no further.

He was not looking to turn the entire world purple. That would defeat the purpose.


The ring had been secured.

Well, as secure as a ring of loose ice, stone, and salt could be, floating in a vast empty void through which any god like himself could freely roam.

But it would do.

He needed a place. A place where there would always be shade against the sun. The sun was his creator's creation, and no doubt one his creator did not wish for him to interfere with. But this was not interference. It was merely a shelter. A shield. One that ultimately only covered a small portion of the world. Besides, there was beauty in darkness. His maker had to understand that. Otherwise there would be two suns, or the world would have been flat.

It was time to get to work.

He shifted into the inky black mass, and then began to expand himself along one section of the ring, filling the gaps in between the chunks. Then, he focused. A wave of black energy shot down the ring, generating a field of darkness down the entire length, and extending a fair bit beyond the ring's actual width as well.

This field served a dual purpose. The first purpose was to serve as a tether between the chunks of the ring, so that they could not be easily ripped away. The second purpose, however...

The second purpose was to serve as a shield against the sun. At night-time, there would be no difference; allowing the moon and the stars to remain visible. When the sun rose over a section of the ring, however, the shield would activate, and blot out its light. The heat and the energy would still be allowed to slip through, so that the vegetation below would not wither and die, but most of the light would be stopped. The sun itself would remain visible, but as a pale orange rather than a bright yellow fire; no brighter than the moon itself. This would in turn allow the stars to remain visible as well.

Constant night. And one that would not be completely without light, nor deprive the world of the sun's heat. Yes, that seemed fair.

"I name this the Black Ring," he announced, to no one in particular.

Satisfied with his work in the sky, Zelios finally descended down to Galbar.

There was other work to be done.


While all the other shards dramatically shattered and some even went so far as to damage the palace itself, one was considerably more... subdued.

Instead of shattering into a thousand pieces, or colliding with nearby walls and furniture, the quiet shard hovered in place. For a moment it looked as if it might not crack, as if it was a dud. Then, it began to slowly fill with a peculiar inky blackness, until the entire thing was as dark as an abyss.


The surface of the crystal was suddenly marred by a single jagged line; an imperfect crack in what had previously been a smooth surface. Then, black smoke began to pour from the crack. Instead of dispersing to fill the room, as smoke was wont to do, it instead remained concentrated. Instead of rising as high as it could go, it went straight to the floor, and began to accumulate there. Aside from the initial sound of the crack forming, all of this happened soundlessly. The darkness in the crystal, meanwhile, was beginning to drain.

Only when the crystal was empty did the mass of black smoke begin to shrink in on itself, before suddenly stopping as it took on the form of a black silhoeutte; a bipedal form with two arms. Then the blackness shifted once more, as a pair of what could only be wings extended from its back. Seemingly satisfied, the darkness finally began to transform into actual features: short black hair on a handsome pale face. A suit of fine silver armour with blackened trim. The dark mass of wings sprouted shiny black feathers.

The God of Darkness was born.

Turning around, he placed a gentle hand on his still-intact crystal, and slowly it floated down to the ground. Then he turned toward his creator, and approached.

"Rather rude to leave such great messes in your maker's home, is it not?" the God of Darkness asked the gods who were already gathering around the Monarch. Though his smile and the amused tone in his voice made it clear it was not intended as a true reprimand. "Ah, but I'm not one to talk! I haven't even introduced myself yet." He turned to the Monarch and offered a low bow. "I am Zelios," he introduced himself.

Might do a god of darkness.
Beyre and the Dwarves

The Surface-Gate of Kral-Norden, built against the side of a small mountain, was a formidable fortress, with tall stone walls, and a deep spiked ditch. The gate itself was impenetrable; it was made of thick wood reinforced with metal and enchantments, with a drawbridge and a portcullis as well. Dwarf-made cannons were mounted on the ramparts, and two banners were displayed proudly on the gatehouse. One was extremely similar in design to the banner of House Chakravarti, while the other was clearly of dwarven style, depicting the grey stone crown of the Clan Underking.

The gates were wide open today. Rarely had there ever been a cause for them to be closed, except at night. The city maintained close relations with the surface, and there had been no major incidents within living human memory. A pair of armoured dwarf guards flanked either side of the gate with arquebuses in hand and poleaxes on their backs, standing almost as still as statues.

A third dwarf stood amongst them, asking questions of those who wished to answer, and recording their answers in a book. If the visitors came with a cart, the two dwarves would stride forward to make a quick search of it. Once satisfied that they carried no contraband, the customs officer would simply ask them to take an oath that they would commit no crime nor harm against the Underking’s subjects while they were within the Underking’s realm. Only when that process was complete would they be allowed through.

In total, it was an immaculate system designed to control the inflow of guests and their role in the underkingdoms. Unfortunately, this only applied to mortality, and in the eyes of the onlooking Beyre -- it would be downright ridiculous to get caught in a queue meant for mortality.

Thinking herself sensible, Beyre quickly adopted a form neither here nor there, an ethereal body. Invisible to the corporeal realm and not bound by physical restrictions, Beyre took it upon herself to not only walk right in, but to pass directly through any mortals she would have had to wait in line behind, as a final sort of snicker at the idea of being stuck in queue.

Content, Beyre passed through the open doors. Within the walls was a small village, where humans and dwarves lived amongst one another. Most of the facilities here were intended either to service the influx of travellers, or the garrison that protected this place. But ultimately there was very little of note. Following the road through the small village, she would eventually come across the true gate, which led into the mountain itself, and from there, down into the depths of the Underkingdom.

Some time later…

For one not used to it, it was a hard journey to descend into the Underkingdom. One had to traverse what felt like hundreds upon hundreds of steps, passing through checkpoints and outposts, all of which were manned by dwarves. Some were friendly, others suspicious, but they allowed all travellers to pass. Fortunately it wasn’t too difficult to navigate - the corridors and stairways were illuminated by glowshrooms and enchanted lights, and in a few cases where the route became more complex than “just keep going down”, there were always signs to point the way.

Eventually she came upon the final door. This door was perhaps the sturdiest of all; it was made of solid metal, at the end of a long wide corridor of arrow slits and murderholes. Any who somehow managed to defy all odds and fight their way down to this point was assured to meet their doom here.

And when she passed through that last door, she finally emerged into the city of Kral-Norden itself. The vast cavern stretched on beyond mortal sight, although her divine senses could see the edges of it easily enough. The buildings were strong and sturdy, some of which extended all the way up to the cavern’s ceiling where they served as both housing and support beam.

There was more than enough light. A massive orange dome was mounted on the ceiling as well, glowing as if it were an artificial sun, and glowshrooms grew out of the cavern’s walls or in pots along the streets.

Sturdy walls separated the various districts - even so deep beneath the earth, behind so many fortresses and chokepoints, the dwarves were still concerned about defense.

At the far end of the cavern was a vast palace of granite and marble. A vast stairway lined with statues led up to its raised entrance, above which was a balcony which overlooked the entire city.

Squinting, Beyre tried her best to make out any holy buildings or places of worship. There were quite a few; ornate and sturdy temples of grey stone, scattered here and there. Standing on either side of the doorways were statues of the Underking Algrim and the Underqueen Arira, and directly above the door was the banner of the Underking Clan.

Picking the closest temple, Beyre took it upon herself to perform an inspection of sorts. Inside, despite its impressive construction, the temple was not particularly busy. Perhaps she had visited during its off hours, or perhaps the dwarfs prefered to honour their gods through crafts and architecture than actual ceremony. Either way, it was mostly empty; a vast stone room with rows upon rows of stone benches, which only a few dwarves sat upon. A robed dwarf priest was sweeping in the corner, although he was no mere civilian - a rather deadly-looking warhammer was hooked to his belt, and it did not appear to be ceremonial.

At the far end of the hall was a black stone altar with gilded edges and unlit silver braziers. Just behind the altar were two statues similar to the ones outside; one of the Underking, and one of the Underqueen. But there were other smaller statues beside them; some of which Beyre would recognize, while others were strangers. Their names, etched into the plinths upon which they stood, were as follows: Yaerna, Uwne, Chakravarti, Lonn.

Beyre knitted her ethereal brow. She ran her fingers across the smooth black altar, fingers passing through as she thought. Turning from the place of worship she called out to the priest, her form suddenly very corporeal.

“How do you honor these names?”

The priest jolted slightly. He had not seen her materialized, but her sudden interjection had nonetheless been unexpected. He was surprisingly young, at least by dwarf standards. His grip tensed on the broom and he looked up at her. Elsewhere in the room, one of the dwarves - an older looking man - muttered about the disrespect of humans; an orange eye glancing at him brieflyk.

Despite this, the priest took the question seriously. “Y’ stand in a Temple of the Pillars, lass,” he said. “Those monuments which ‘old th’ world together. These six are th’ builders and th’ keepers.”

He raised a hand and gestured to the statue of the Underking. “That is th’ Underking,” he said, his tone reverential. “Father and ruler to us all. Th’ pillars were ‘is idea, and ‘e ‘ad a ‘and in creatin’ each ‘un. Next to ‘im is the Underqueen, Keeper of the First Pillar. The Underking took ‘er as a bride, even though she was surfaceborn, and she rules beside ‘im.”

“As for th’ others?” he swept his hand to indicate the other four. “Lonn, Keeper of the Second. Chakravarti, Keeper of the Third, and the Underqueen’s mother. Yaerna, Keeper of the Fourth, and Uwne, Keeper of the Fifth,” he said. “We honour the others by maintainin’ these statues and rememberin’ their names, so that we never forget the duty they ‘ave embraced. Would be a damned rude thing, t’ forget somethin’ like that.”

The other dwarves nodded respectfully, and the priest continued on. “That’s not th’ only role they hold in our ‘earts, o’ course,” he said. “But in th’ context of this temple? That’s why they’re ‘ere. We ‘ave other gods too, who we honour in different ways, in different temples.” The young priest smiled slightly. “Do y’ understand?”

Beyre turned to the statues, pinching her chin in silent contemplation. A pregnant pause lingered between the question and Beyre, her gaze stuck flickering between the names until finally she opened her mouth. “What did they do?” She quickly added, “besides your father.”

The word was accompanied by the goddess’s own eyes lingering a second longer on Lonn’s name.

The priest did not seem to notice. “Before we Underkin walked under th’ land, the earth was unstable. No stability. Constant shakes and tremours. It would have come apart if nobody did anything. So, th’ Underking met th’ other gods ‘un by ‘un, and each ‘un joined their powers with ‘is. They ‘elped ‘im shape the pillars from the earth, an’ through the Underking’s might, they projected an aura of stability.”

“Some o’ these meetings went better than others, o’ course. According to our Prince, Lonn attacked th’ Underking on sight, not knowing who ‘e was. They say the Goddess o’ Families was so smitten by the Underking that she asked for ‘is ‘and, an’ ‘e refused. An’ the goddess Yaerna only agred to ‘elp ‘im after they worked together ta banish a mighty beast,” the Priest recounted. “Th’ meetings with th’ Underqueen and the Craftsman were uneventful, by comparison, but both went well.”

A certain light accompanied Beyre’s green eyes. “I think I understand.” A smile formed. “These subjects of your worship committed a helpful deed to you all, and so as such you honor them, yeah?” Beyre leaned in, studying the priest’s face eagerly.

“That’s aboot right,” the priest nodded. “Though it wasn’t just fer us. It was fer th’ entire world.”

Beyre folded her hands together, her thoughts spinnin quicker than she was listening. “If I did something nice for you, would you all honor my name as well?”

The dwarf priest blinked. “Well that depends on what ye do. Our scribes keep records, t’ honour those friends, allies, and ‘eroes who stand by us in our time o’ need.” He paused. “That is what y’ meant, right?”

“What do you like?” Beyre’s smile was wide and pearly, energy in her green eyes. “Do you like gold?”

The priest chuckled. “There isnae a dwarf alive who doesn’t like gold, ah don’t think. An’ I don’t think any o’ the temples would turn down a donation. Though, it’d take more than a donation or two t’ be honoured as a dwarf-friend. Who would y’ be, anyway? Is this yer first time in a dwarf city?”

Beyre nodded her head, eyes shimmering as they glanced off to nowhere in particular. Her smile turned soft before looking back at the priest. “It sure is! Oh, I’m excited, aren’t you?”

“Well yer not th’ first outsider I’ve spoken to, pretty as ye may be,” the priest said with a slight smirk. Which faded somewhat when the old dwarf shook his head and muttered something about the folly of youth; again a sneaky orange eye glared at him for a moment. The white-bearded dwarf paid her no mind, and instead got up to leave.

The young priest had not noticed the look in her eye, not until the old man had reached the temple door -- which swung wide as he approached. The stiff material of the door slammed into the old man, sending him and a tooth of his to the ground.

“Oh dear!” the old woman who had launched the door open gasped.

The priest rushed over to the old man and helped him to his feet. “Are y’ alright?” he asked, but the old man merely grumbled something unintelligible and stormed out of the building.

“How [color=orange]unlucky[.color],” Beyre said, every bit of her lips curling into a frown, save the very tips. Not wasting any more time on the fuss, Beyre approached the priest once more.

“What else do you like?”

The priest did not reply to her at first. Instead he consoled the old woman who had accidentally knocked the other dwarf over, before directing her to a seat. Only then did he turn to Beyre. “Sorry, lass,” he said. “It’s nice that ye’ve taken an’ interest in our ways - more than most surfacers would - but ah really need t’ get back t’ my duties. Yer welcome t’ stop by later, if ye ‘ave more questions, or yer free t’ take a seat if ye just want t’ think or pray.”

Wait,” Beyre said with a tense urgency. After she simply stared hard at the priest -- as if she was waiting too.

The priest stared at her for a few moments, his brow furrowed. When it seemed as if nothing would happen, he began to turn away.

Beyre grabbed his shoulders to hold him still. “[green]Wait![/green]”

The priest tensed, and the other dwarves still in the room rose from their seats. “Lass-” the priest began...

Before he could finish, the temple door whooshed open again; but this time a dwarf a shade younger than the priest came huffing through -- face redder than a ruby. He ran right up to the priest, paying no mind to the strange woman holding his shoulders and began to shovel words out between puffs of breath.

“Brother!” His eyes were wide with excitement. “I... whew! I... brother! You won’t believe it!”

Beyre let go of the priest, smiling wide and taking two steps back.

“Bloody ‘ell, what now?” the priest growled, his patience having finally faded. Instead of words, the younger brother simply slapped a yellowed piece of paper to the priest’s chest.

“Map... Grandfather... gold!”

“What?” the priest stared at him in confusion, before his expression turned to worry. “By the gods… ‘as grandfather’s madness taken ye as well?”

The brother stabbed his finger into the paper he already pinned to the priest’s chest. “Take a look fer yourself ye ass.”

Shaking his head, and looking more than a little embarrassed at the fact that all this was happening in his place of work, the priest pushed his brother’s hand aside and turned the map over so he could take a look. He stared at it for a few moments, as if trying to work out what exactly he was seeing. Then, realization struck. “By the Pillars…” he whispered.

The priest’s brother smiled wide, a silver tooth catching the light. He slowly nodded his head. “Gold. The lost gold vein Grandfather found.”

“Th’ map was real?” the priest asked, before noticing that the rest of the templegoers had begun to approach - clearly the idea of a map to secret gold intrigued them as well. The priest held the map to his chest so they could not see it. “Where did y’ find it?”

“Wouldn’t ye know it, I was cleanin’ the old sod’s basement whe’rin he laid Gramma’s old books she used to like before she passed n’ I stub me toe and this big old tome falls down and when I went to pick ‘er up, me thumb opened to a page where’in this map was saving place!”

“Very lucky!” Beyre chimed in.

The priest looked around, still conscious of the eyes on him. Then, he handed the map back to his brother. “Go home,” he said. “Keep it secret, an’ keep it safe. We’ll talk aboot this later.”

“UH HUH!” The younger brother held the map close to his chest and all but skipped out of the temple. A mad cackle could be heard as he ran down the streets, punctuated by the closing of the temple door. Already, Beyre was standing over the priest’s shoulder, a smile bigger than his brother’s.

Disappointed, some of the templegoers returned to their seats, while others left the building. Once things were settled, the priest turned back to Beyre. “I’d like t’ speak with ye outside,” he said.

“Okay.” Beyre was already moving towards the door. Passing through she stood completely still until the priest was also through, at which point she blatantly spoke, “Can I have my name on the wall now?”

But the priest only stared at her, keeping his emotions closely guarded. “Who are you?” he asked her.

“I’m Beyre, the lady of luck!” She rolled her eyes. “You’d think there would be some appreciation for chance around here already.”

The priests eyebrows rose. “So… yer a goddess, then?” he asked. “Truly?”

Beyre held a finger to her lips. “Just don’t tell everyone what I look like, yeah? I forgot to change before this and I need this one.”

The dwarf did not give much indication on whether or not he heard her. He spoke quickly, his words outrunning his thoughts. “Ye should introduce yerself to the Prince,” he said. “If ye are a goddess, or someone of great power, he’d be ‘appy to receive you. An’ if yer ‘ere t’ ‘elp, ‘e can tell you how. And…” he paused. “An’ thank ye for th’ map, if that was yer doing. I don’t know how ye would ‘ave done it, but… it may ‘ave saved my family.”

“That’s good luck,” Beyre agreed, “you’re welcome.” She looked around for a moment before looking back at the priest. “The other ones never helped you personally, yeah?”

“Personally?” the priest asked. “Well, aside from all th’ great deeds they performed… no, they never ‘elped me specifically…” he said his voice seeming to trail off, before he spoke with new urgency. “Not that they had much reason to, o’ course.”

“Ha!” Beyre seemed to be celebrating a small victory. “How short sighted of them.” Finished with her contentment she grinned. “Take me to your prince.”

The priest blinked. “Right now?”

“You’re the one who suggested it, yeah?” Beyre was quick to cross her arms.

“I… I did,” the priest nodded, though he was clearly taken aback by the enormity of what was just asked of him. “V-very well. Let’s go.”

“Yes!” Beyre shook the dwarf by the shoulder. “And when we get there, you can present me!”

The guards standing before the outer gate of the palace could have been mistaken for statues. They stood ramrod straight and perfectly still in their heavy armour, with halberds in their hands, swords at their belts, and large shields on their backs. If the priest had not addressed them, there would have been no indication that they were alive at all.

“I am Brother Ranulf of the Temple of the Pillars,” he said. He waved a hand to indicate his charge. “And this is Beyre… the Goddess of Luck.” He took a deep breath. “She wishes t’ meet his lordship; the Prince of the Underkingdom and the Tzar of Kral-Nordern.”

Beyre stood there, having changed her look about partway to the palace. She did away with the disguise of Nellie the Red in favor of a more transcendent appearance. Her dark red hair remained the same, as did her complexion -- but one half of her was stained orange, the eye on that half of her face as bright as a fresh citrus. Her Red City clothes were replaced with a long green dress pierced with stitchings of clover and heather -- something Nellie would never be caught wearing.

Her smile quickly faded, clearly expecting something more than the silence she was receiving.

Without saying a word, the two guards bowed in perfect synchrony. Then, with flawless precision, one of them turned and marched through the gate, up the steps to the Palace.

“The Silent Guard,” Ranulf explained. “They don’t speak a word. Not while on duty. Probably going to inform the Prince of your coming.”

“Well let’s hope they don’t trip on the way.” Beyre crossed her arms.

A minute passed in awkward silence. Then, the sound of footsteps and clanking metal could be heard as the guard returned. He nodded to the other guard, who nodded back, before turning to face them once more. They offered another bow, before one of them gestured for the two to follow. And with that, he went back through the gates again, while the second guard moved aside to let them pass.

And so, a goddess and two dwarves passed the threshold of the gatehouse and ascended the steps of the palace, under the watchful gaze of the statues of dwarven lords and heroes. They reached the top, where more guards stood at attention, but stepped aside to open the door for them.

Then they entered a grand entryhall, with carpets, candles, sculptures, and paintings. They carried on to a pair of doors at the far end, and upon passing through those, they entered the throne room. It was spacious, with a high ceiling from which two ornate chandeliers hung. A carpet led from the door to the throne, and on either side were crowds of nobles, merchants, military officers, and other prominent citizens.

Upon the throne itself sat a man who could only be the Prince. He looked young, as far as dwarves went. He wore armour that appeared to be made from silver with a golden trim, and had a luxurious red silk cape. His hair was short and blond, but his beard was at least a foot in length. Upon his brow was a crown, in the center of which was a large perfectly spherical emerald. And around his neck was an amulet with a sapphire of similar size. He would have been handsome, if not for the patch of stony skin on his right cheek.

As they approached the throne, the Prince rose to his feet, descended the steps of his throne, and offered them a slight bow. “Arvid Algrimson welcomes you, self-proclaimed Goddess,” he said.

The priest, Ranulf stepped forward. “This is Beyre, the Goddess of Luck,” he said, by way of introduction.

“And this is Ranulf.” Beyre put her hand on the priest’s shoulder. “Your best dwarf.”

Arvid’s eyebrows rose. “High praise,” he said. “What service did the lad perform for you?”

“Me?” Beyre let out a laugh not quite sarcastic but not quite genuine. “He brought to my attention, a literal Goddess of extreme power, how great your people are. So now I’m here, in all my might, impressed and happy with the dwarves.”

“Well it is good to know we ‘ave impressed you so,” the Prince went on. “Had we known you were coming, we would ‘ave prepared a better welcome. May I ask what brings ye to our city?”

“I was curious,” Beyre admitted easily. She started to walk around the room, eager to prod the decorations and gaze up at the chandeliers. Her pacing continued with her speech, “I was really wondering how you all handled chance and what you thought of me. Ranulf showed me that you enjoy me very much, for sure.”

“Always a risk involved in mining and trading,” the Prince said, “and those are the Underkin’s lot in life.”

“Yeah, well, um...” Beyre turned to the prince. “So you could sort of say I’m very prevalent in your society.”

“Is that what ye wish fer?” Arvid asked. “A place in our pantheon?”

“Seems only fair, doesn’t it?” Beyre lost her composure for a moment, a snap of orange breaking into her usual complexion. “I mean anything could happen anytime, anywhere and no one seems to really appreciate it when it does or doesn’t!”

“That does seem fair,” Arvid said, his lips curling into a slight smile. “And easy enough to arrange, though it’ll take time t’ build temples and recruit new priests. But, if ye can swear an oath to safeguard an’ protect the luck o’ my people, I can swear an oath t’ revere you alongside the rest o’ our gods, an’ do my best t’ convince my people t’ do the same.”

“Well now hold on.” Beyre raised her palms, “As pleasant as that sounds, not everyone is lucky. If everyone was lucky then no-one would be lucky... or something. Either way, I can only go so far as to promise luck to those in my favor, and whatever chance may have in mind for those who are a little to the side of my... favor. Makes sense, right Ranulf?”

Ranulf nodded somewhat hesitantly.

Arvid continued speaking. “Oh, I’m not askin’ for us all to ‘ave windfalls and bountiful ‘arvests. If such a thing were possible, the gods would ‘ave done so long ago. An’ if they did, we’d all be a lot softer an’ weaker than we are now. What I’m askin’, is if ye can make occurrences of bad luck less common.”

“Oh! I know how to do that for sure.” Beyre smiled. “Keep me as happy as Ranulf managed this afternoon and you can have all the luck you want, or something. I think this is a good turn of events, yeah?”

“Indeed it is,” the Prince nodded. “Yer more than welcome t’ dine with us tonight, though it won’t be until tomorrow that a proper feast can be arranged. Until then, I can arrange t’ give you a tour of the palace or the city. Or I can ‘ave some bards and poets share our songs and histories. We Underkin are a hospitable people.”

“Mm! I like it, though I have to make a quick trip to the underworld in the morning -- but after that, let’s do!” Beyre clapped Ranulf on the back. “I told you it was going to be exciting!”

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